News update: USD student deaths, same-sex marriage, and southern tensions
Brooklyn Dippo | Staff Writer
USD IN THE NEWS
Former USD student Vincent Kraig passed away in early June due to natural causes. Kraig pursued a bachelor’s degree in psychology during his time at USD. Assistant Vice President Donald Godwin alerted the campus community of Kraig’s death with an email on June 5. Godwin informed the community that a service would be held the next week in Founders Chapel to remember Kraig’s life and pray for his family. Funeral services were held on June 12 in his hometown of Chicago, Ill, according to the Chicago Suburban Daily Herald.
Michael Harris, a USD alumni died in a boating accident this past Sunday. Harris, graduated from USD a few years ago, and had earned his masters from Santa Clara University. Harris is the son of Peter Harris, the former chief executive officer of the San Francisco 49ers. Harris had been out boating off Catalina Island, with his girlfriend, according to many local news sources. After a collision with another boat, the passengers were taken to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
US AND CUBA RESTORE RELATIONS
The United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism grew a little shorter over the summer. After announcing plans to renew relations between the United States and Cuba last December, President Barack Obama and Cuban President Fidel Castro were successful. On May 29 the Obama Administration signed orders removing Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism after being on it for 33 years for supporting armed revolutions in Latin America.
The list is made by the Secretary of State and includes countries that have consistently supported international terrorism. Countries on this list face “restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions,” according to the U.S. Department of State website. There are only three countries on the list now: Iran, Sudan, and Syria.
There is still an economic embargo in effect on Cuba that cannot be reversed without a vote in Congress, but travel allowances to Cuba have expanded greatly this year. Americans are still banned from travelling to Cuba for tourism but can now go for humanitarian work, educational purposes, research, athletic events or concert performances. And for those who make it to the island, the US is allowing travelers to return through customs with $100 worth of Cuban Cigars.
MORE MASS SHOOTINGS
Gun violence continues to be a problem in America with more mass shootings over the summer.
On June 17, a young man opened fire during a prayer meeting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine people including Reverend Clementa Pickney. The suspect, Dylann Roof, is a 21-year-old white male who expressed his racist views online. He targeted the historic black church in an attempt to start a race war and is being federally charged for hate crimes and obstructing the practice of religion in addition to nine counts of murder.
Just a month later on July 16, Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez went on a shooting rampage with several automatic weapons in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He started shooting from his car at a military recruiting center and fired over two dozen rounds; the marines inside jumped into an active shooter drill after hearing the first shot, and nobody was injured. Then Abdulazeez drove to a Naval and Marine Corps center and opened fire again, this time killing four Marines and injuring others before being shot and killed by police.
One week after the criminal conviction of James Holmes, the gunman in the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting, there was a shooting in a Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater. The gunman, 59-year-old John Russel Houser, was at an evening screening of the comedy Trainwreck on July 23 when he opened fire about 20 minutes into the show. Using a handgun he killed two and injured nine others before taking his own life.
SUPREME COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
On June 26th The Supreme Court case of Obergefell v. Hodges became a landmark victory for Gay Rights Movement. The Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that under the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, same-sex couples are guaranteed the fundamental right to marry. This decision not only requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples but also requires them to recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in other states. There has been pushback from some, including a Kentucky clerk who has refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses and was held in jail for contempt-of-court, until this past Tuesday.
SOUTH CAROLINA TAKES DOWN CONFEDERATE FLAG
The Confederate flag symbolizes more than the battle between the North and the South in the 1800s. The flag symbolizes the slavery that the South was fighting to keep and when the battle ended the flags did not come down. Racial tension is still present in many areas of the South as witnessed this June in the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting.
However, a month after that attempt to spark conflict between the races, South Carolina passed a bill to take down the Confederate flag flying at their Capitol building. Governor Nikki Haley signed the bill on July 9th and the next day the flag was taken down and moved the State Museum where it was placed in the Confederate Relic Room.
Though many were celebrating the removal of the Confederate Flag from the Capitol, the state issued a ban on weapons near the grounds for a month in response to hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and the New Black Panther Party, who planned rallies at the Statehouse.
CONGRESS ENDS OF BULK COLLECTION OF PHONE RECORDS
The USA Freedom Act passed Congress and was signed into law on June 2nd just a day after the 2001 Patriot Act expired. The Patriot Act was an anti-terrorism act that allowed for massive government surveillance including the collection of phone records. President Obama extended the act for four years in 2011 before Edward Snowden, a former CIA whistleblower, released classified information about the NSA’s controversial data collection which included millions of Americans phone records, not restricted to those tied to terrorism.
Congress lacked the support needed to renew the Patriot Act in 2015 so they reformed the surveillance bill. The USA Freedom Act limits the access that intelligence agencies have into the lives of everyday Americans. Most notably, the new act will end the bulk collection of phone records. Some congressmen are still pushing for more limitations on the NSA in the future.