Obama hosts leaders to discuss peace in the Middle East

by Amy McLeod

President Obama will spend the next few weeks meeting with leaders from Israel,Palestine and Egypt in hopes of fostering peace in the Middle East.   Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will all visit Washington to discuss the  prospect of peace with President Obama.

Trying to find common ground

    President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will talk today about the prospect of peace in the Middle East. photo taken from www.bbc.com

President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will talk today about the prospect of peace in the Middle East. photo taken from http://www.bbc.com

Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu today and hopes to establish some common ideas for peace in the Middle East.  Netanyahu said this morning that he does not support a two-state solution, an idea that has been supported by many, including the Obama administration.

“The new Israeli government is definitely more skeptical of peace right now,” said Safia Swimelar, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Elon University. “Netanyahu said he wants a fresh start and new plans.  It’s kind of ironic that now that we have a U.S. side that seems more engaged in the process, there is an Israeli side that is more skeptical toward the peace process.”

Listen to Professor Safia Swimelar talk about the peace talks.

Centuries of conflict

The conflict in the Middle East has been a problem for centuries and attempts to rectify it have been countless.

“I just finished a class called the Spirit of Israel and we talked mostly about Zionism,” said Elon student Meghan McCrystal, “and the conflict that is now present between the Israelis and Palestinians.  I’d be impressed if Obama can fix it because the issues are so personal to many people and they have been around for so long.”

The tensions are primarily related to land ownership and religious differences.

“Of course the conflict between Israel and Egypt can be traced back to when Israelites were help as slaves in Egypt,” said Reverend George Shive. “And tensions rose between Israel and Palestine in 1948 when Israel was established as an independent nation on Palestinian land.”

The conflict between Egypt and Israel seems to have been resolved.  Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab states who have had peaceful relations with Israel and they are being included in these discussions as a form of mediation.

Egypt as a tool for mediation

“I wouldn’t say that they are best friends with Israel,” said Swimelar, “but they’re clearly not enemies. So they are seen as key actors in the diplomatic arrangement because they do have this ability to talk to the Israelis but also be on the side of the Palestinians given their identity.”

The mediation that Egypt’s President Mubarak could provide a forum in which both the Israeli and Palestinian parties are willing to talk.

“Something that happens a lot in Middle East peace negotiations is that a third party is brought in to help mediate,” said Paul Findle. “It’s a function of the process of mediation and when so much is at stake, especially religious or political difference, that mediation is welcomed.”

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter hosted the Israeli Prime Minister and the President of Egypt to discuss the issue of peace in the Middle East in which strides were made toward peace. The parties all signed agreements known as the Camp David Accords.

Will these talks be successful?

This famous image of President Jimmy Carter and Israeli and Egyptian leaders at the Camp David Accords gives hope for peace in the Middle East

This famous image of President Jimmy Carter and Israeli and Egyptian leaders at the Camp David Accords gives hope for peace in the Middle East

The success of these most recent peace talks remains to be seen.

Political Science professor Rudy Zarzar is optimistic about Obama’s efforts and believes that this is a high priority on his agenda

“He already expressed interest and support for the two state solution,” said Zarzar. “He has declared before the world that solving this problem is a matter of national interest for the United States. He already has former Senator George Mitchell sent to the Middle East to serve as a mediator between the two sides and with the Arab States. And, finally he already asked some key figures in the conflict to come to the U.S. for discussions.”

Though the new Israeli government seems less inclined to work toward the peace process at this time, there is hope that because of the power of the Obama administration.  Many Israeli and Palestinian citizens are also optimistic about peace in the Middle East.

“I really think that the negotiating power and diplomatic power of the Obama administration is going to make things better,” said Swimelar.

Obama’s administration has always operated on a platform that seeks to create communication and connections with foreign nations. Obama hopes that creating peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will lead to more peaceful relations with all of the Middle East.

Listen as Obama discusses his policy for foreign affairs and the Middle East.

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The Face of Journalism

by Amy McLeod

There is and always will be a need for journalists.

In a world so interconnected by wires and satellites, the exchange of information occurs at a rapid rate – thanks to journalists.  In a society whose success is heavily dependent on an informed public, opinions are shared and voices are heard – thanks to journalists.  In a culture intrigued by the lives and stories of others, those stories are broken in a moments notice – thanks to journalists.

The question is, in this new technological and cyber-obsessed culture, where do journalists stand?  How do they stay relevant and how do they meet the needs of their audience?

Black words on a white page no longer constitute the most effective journalism.  The morning routine of reading the paper with a cup of coffee and the smudges of ink on our fingers are becoming a thing of the past, left to our grandparents’ generation.

Also long gone are the days when journalists were simply reporters and writers.  They are now innovators, photographers, designers, videographers and seekers.

Designing layouts, shooting videos and uploading stories on the road are now in the job description of a journalist and the new responsibilities will continue to be discovered.

Audiences today have been conditioned by the fast-paced nature of today’s culture and the ability to instantly access any and all information one could ever desire.

“Our assumption had been,” Jeff Jarvis says, “that if it appeared in a major newspaper or magazine, that was the definition of attention. It assumed that the world paid attention to our news. So under this argument, we could be seeing an admission that papers and magazines have lost their juice.”

Print journalism is still in use but readership is declining and the effectiveness lacking.  Having to wait until the morning publication or the weekly issue is too much for this society.

The face of the journalism industry is changing.

Internet. Blogs. Multimedia elements.  Videos. Interactive media.  Graphics.

This is the new face of journalism.

Elon University the site of drug busts, fire alarms and arrests in the weeks before finals

by Amy McLeod

As Elon students complete final projects and prepare for the end of the semester exams, there are many things happening on campus that could serve as distractions.

This morning around 9:00 fire alarms at Belk Library went off and students and staff were rushed outside.  The Elon Fire Department responded to the alarm. Students waited outside while fire fighters checked the building.  bunny

The alarm was found to have been set off by a malfunctioning fire detector.

“I had just sat down to start a paper when I heard the alarm,” said junior Justin Marks. “I’m glad it isn’t a real fire but I’m a little frustrated that we’re waiting out here for nothing.”

Also today, two apartments of Elon students in the off-campus Sheridan Apartment complex were searched by police along with the on-campus Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house.  These searches were part of a recent string of drug busts that have been occurring on campus over the last week.

Four Elon students, Tyler Reynolds, Nicholas Siciliano, Derek Schwarz and Meredith Haggerty, are being held in the Alamance County Jail on drug related charges.

For details on these students and their charges, visit the Phoenix14News Web site.

Leigh-Anne Royster, a counselor at Elon University

Leigh-Anne Royster, a counselor at Elon University

Elon’s coordinator for personal health and community well-being, Leigh-Anne Royster, was arrested on April 29 for resisting a public officer.  Responding to a case of sexual assault, Royster refused to give information to a police officer because of confidentiality agreements she maintains as a counselor.  The case has since been dismissed.

“I can’t believe she was arrested just for doing her job,” said sophomore Jenn McHugh.  “I work with her very closely and feel so badly for her.”

The “bubble” of Elon University has been caught off guard by these events.

“Nothing like this ever happens to Elon so I think the whole campus is definitely taking note now,” said Craig Burns.

Good news about the swine flu, Elon students remain concerned

by Amy McLeod

The federal government has been holding daily press conferences to update Americans on the status of the H1N1 “swine flu” outbreak.

At Monday’s press conference, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said “we have started to see encouraging signs that this virus may be mild and that its spread may be limited.”

‘Cautiously Optimistic’

“We are cautiously optimistic,” Napolitano said, “but we realize that this is not the time to rest.”

Many students have visited Elon's health center because of the swine flu scare.

Many students have visited Elon's health center because of the swine flu scare.

Despite this good news, Elon students are still very aware and nervous about the possibility of catching the swine flu.

“Every time I hear someone cough or say they don’t feel well,” said sophomore Taylor Burns, “I immediately think they have the swine flu and I make a mental note to stay far, far away from them.”

In North Carolina, there is only one confirmed case of the H1N1 strain with seven probable cases.

“I was in the health center today for a sinus infection and it was packed with people,” said sophomore Kate Balderston. “I think everyone is scared of the swine flu.  Anyone with a cough or cold is getting checked out.”

How to avoid the ‘swine flu’

With 15 confirmed cases in South Carolina, those students who traveled south of the border for fraternity banquets this weekend made sure to stay cautious and careful.

“I thought about taking a mask with me,” joked sophomore Aaron Richards, “but I thought it might just be easier and less awkward to take some hand sanitizer.”

The key to keeping the virus contained is a joint responsibility of individuals, families, businesses and the government at all levels.swine1

“Individuals have a responsibility to cover your mouth with you cough,” Napolitano said, “to not go to work or send you child to school if your child is sick or are sick, to wash your hands continuously or use an alcohol gel.”

There are 286 cases of the H1N1 strain in 36 states and approximately 1,000 cases nationwide.

While this flu is discovered to be no more dangerous than the normal influenza strain, there is a chance that the H1N1 epidemic could die down this season and come back in fall with flu season.

Elon students grade Obama’s first 100 days as president

by Amy McLeod

As President Barack Obama finished his first 100 days in office, political analysts are grading the work he has done and the progress he has made.

Elon students are also getting in on the action.

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Elon students give President Obama high marks

Freshman Grant de Roo gave President Obama a “solid B+.”

“I think he’s done a good job,” de Roo said. “He’s gotten a little sidetracked by smaller things like these Guantanamo trials, but overall I definitely think he’s doing well.”

De Roo voted for Obama in the November election. Freshman Gina Maini did not vote for Obama but is also pleased with the job he has done for the first 100 days.

“I think Obama has done very well in the diplomacy front,” Maini said. “They’ve completely changed from how the Bush administration handled diplomacy to how they’re doing diplomacy now, which I like.”

With all the campaign promises that politicians make, the first 100 days can be a time where those promises are realized or are disregarded.

“I think, as far as the war goes,” said Elon junior Beth Pazar, “he’s maintained what Bush was doing.  He hasn’t done anything drastic like he said he would.  Our economy is recovering from the downward spiral it was in for the past eight year.  I think it’s just a matter of time before it’s healthy again.”

Pazar gave Obama an “A-” for his first 100 days in office.

“He’s not doing any damage and that’s a very good thing,” Pazar said.

Elon sophomore Matthew Woodward praised Obama for the job he has done.

“I think he’s done well,” Woodward said, “especially for the magnitude of this election.  He’s handled himself well and has gotten off to a good start.  I’m excited for the next 4 years.”

What do the experts think?

Elon students seem to be on the same page as many political analysts.  CNN gave the president a “B,” and a “B+” for the way he has handled the recent swine flu crisis.

According to Fox News, a stereotypically conservative news organization, Obama has done well his first 100 days.

Obama’s approval ratings and grade after his first 100 days are very similar to the numbers George W. Bush had in  2001.

Listen to what Gina Maini has to say about Obama’s first 100 days in office.

Gerald Whittington is responsible for business, finance and technology at Elon University

Gerald Whittington has his hands full with Elon’s constant construction, ahead-of-the-times technology and money that is more precious than ever.

by Amy McLeod

Elon is rapidly climbing its way to sit among the best and most prestigious colleges and universities in the nation. Elon’s campus is constantly growing and developing, new buildings and features with every blink of the eye. Elon is dealing with the national financial crisis with better success than most other institutions of higher education. Elon is known for being at the cutting edge of technology, both in terms of technology on campus and the technological education that students receive.gerald_whittington

You can thank Gerald Whittington for that.

Whittington is Elon’s Vice-President of Business, Finance and Technology, meaning that he oversees all business and financial operations of the university. He is also responsible for all of the physical assets of the university, meaning buildings, grounds and any new construction as well as all technology on campus.

‘This place was getting ready to explode”

“When I came here to interview I got the sense,” Whittington said, “just right off the bat, that this is a place that was getting ready to explode. And I thought you could probably help out somewhere and be a part of that. And that’s why I decided to come to Elon.”

And explode it did. Under Whittington’s direction, Elon’s campus has doubled in square footage and its national recognition has increased greatly.

“The size of the campus has gotten a whole lot larger. The number of students here has grown tremendously. The quality of the student body has continued to increase year over year. And that’s pretty gratifying. The recognition of the university since 1992 has just skyrocketed.”

How Whittington and Elon stay ahead of the technological curve

On top of the operations of the university, Whittington is also responsible for all the technology on campus. Elon has employed a series of three-year plans in regards to technology that increase the campus’s understanding of technology, apply technology to all programs offered at Elon and provide students with the knowledge they need to successfully use technology in the real world.

“They’ve worked for us. Each three-year plan that we’ve done keeps up ahead of everybody else, so right now this plan is well in advance of what anybody else is thinking about. We’re trying to keep ahead mainly so that our students and faculty have a leg up.”

Watch Whittington discuss Elon’s stance on technology.

How will Elon deal with the nation’s economic crisis?

With the economic crisis on the minds of all Americans right now, Whittington is also forced to think about how Elon will cope with the uncertainty of the future.

“We’re not immune from this,” Whittington admits. “The effects, however, for the university are significantly less dramatic than other institutions. “

Because many of Elon’s programs and operations are supported by students’ tuition as opposed to a large endowment, most programs will remain intact and Elon will not feel the effects nearly as much as other colleges and universities.

Gerald Whittington talks about the impact of the economy on Elon

Life apart from Elon

With having to think about Elon’s financial future, countless construction projects and equipping students with the technological knowledge necessary to be successful in the real world, does Gerald Whittington have time to do anything else?

You’d be surprised.

Whittington was born in Washington, DC but spent time growing up in Europe. He currently lives in Chapel Hill with his wife Roberta. Whittington is the father of two sons, both of whom live in Atlanta. Roberta is the president of Hinshaw Music Publishing Company, whose international headquarters is located in Chapel Hill.

Before marrying, the two sat next to each other for 16 years in the choir of the Chapel of the Cross Episcopal Church. Whittington also performs 15 to 20 times a year as a professional singer with the Bel Canto Company.

Whittington plays bridge “moderately well” and reads “voraciously.” He is an avid sports fan, his allegiance lying with the Tarheels of UNC, his undergraduate alma mater.

Sharing advice with students

When asked about the best pieces of advice he has ever been given, Whittington recalled bits of wisdom that had been passed down to him.

The first piece of advice that Whittington shares deals with working one’s way up in the world.

“Way back yonder somebody told me, dress for the job you want, not for the job you have. Dress so the people above you can see you as one of them.”

Whittington’s second suggestion involves relationships and how to respectfully begin relationship, particularly with elders.

“A piece of advice that I got from a dean at UNC is always give every person their ‘propers’. And that means that you always address someone as ‘Mr.’ or ‘Mrs.’ or ‘Ms.’ You always begin a relationship in a respectful and proper and formal way.”

Pointing to a plaque on his shelf, Whittington noted the final piece of advice. The plaque, written in Latin, read, “small matters do not worry a judge.” Colloquially, Whittington translated, “don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Whittington shares the best advice he has ever been given

Elon students prepare for Earth Day, work to conserve and educate about environmental issues

by Amy McLeod

As Earth Day approaches, Elon students gear up in an effort to conserve energy, recycle more and educate about environmental issues during the campus’s “Earth Week.”300_500195

The Green Team and the Sierra Club chapters at Elon University have joined forces to create a week’s worth of events and presentations centering around Earth Day, which occurs on Wednesday, April 22.

For a full list of “Earth Week” events, click here.

In an informal survey of 141 Elon students, 88.7 percent said that they would consider themselves to be environmentally aware and nearly 64 percent said that their Elon education has made a difference in their awareness.

“Coming into Elon I wasn’t very aware,” said sophomore Tamara Burnett, “but for our Global Studies class we were all required to read An Inconvenient Truth.  That book really opened my eyes to a lot of the problems plaguing our environment and the severity of them.”

There are many different ways to be environmentally conscious. The majority of students polled, 61 percent, try to follow the three step process: reduce, reuse, recycle.

Not all students are so willing to make the effort. Sixteen percent of students surveyed said that they have taken no action to preserve the environment.

“To be honest,” said sophomore Chris Myers, “I know it’s a problem but I don’t really have the time or the energy to care or to change my lifestyle to make a difference.”

As some students have realized, it does not necessarily take a huge effort to make a real difference.

“I try to remember to do the little things,” said Jenn McHugh. “I try to turn off the lights and water when I’m not using them.  It’s a work in progress but I think I’m getting better about it and every little bit helps.  This is the only planet we have and if I can make a difference for my kids and my grandchildren, I’ll do what I can.”

“Landfill on the Lawn” demonstrates students wasteful behavior

The Earth Week activity planned for today is Landfill on the Lawn.  Physical Plant brought trash from dormitories and academic buildings to the Moseley lawn.

Earth Week's Landfill on the Lawn at Elon University

Earth Week's Landfill on the Lawn at Elon University

Student volunteers and members of the Sierra Club and the Green Team then dug through the trash, sorting out recyclables such as newpapers and water bottles.

“There’s always a lot of water bottles,” said Elon junior Kim Krumm, “because people will buy water bottles, drink them and throw them out and that’s not very sustainable. Elon did give out new water bottles and that’s great. In fact, we did find a couple of them in the trash.”

From water bottles to jeans and textbooks, the piles of trash at Landfill on the Lawn were full of students garbage, much of which could be recycled.

Listen as Kim Krumm discusses Landfill on the Lawn and the importance of recycling and sustainability.