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Five ideas

What people should be talking about
Sunday, April 29, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:58 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

[1] EXIT STRATEGY

President Bush has vowed to veto a Senate proposal passed Thursday that would require American troops to begin leaving Iraq by Oct. 1.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the legislation is “in keeping with what the American people want.” However, the White House immediately labeled supporters of the bill as defeatist and announced that the measure “is dead before arrival” on the president’s desk. Indeed, members of both parties are already starting work on a new bill. Thursday’s legislation passed 51-46 along largely party lines, suggesting that Democrats do not have the two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto.

Meanwhile, the troop “surge” that Bush authorized three months ago has led to improvements in Baghdad and the Anbar province, said Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. military commander in Iraq.

Thursday’s vote came almost four years after Bush announced the “mission accomplished” in Iraq. More than 3,000 U.S. troops have died in the conflict, which no longer has the support of the majority of Americans.

Why do you think President Bush has refused to accept a timeline for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq?

[2] MENTAL HEALTH

National debates over gun control and campus security were sparked by the April 16 shootings of 32 people at Virginia Tech. Another issue — the mental health of college students — arose after it was learned that the gunman, Seung Hui Cho, had a history of mental illness.

In 2005, a female student filed a complaint against Cho, alleging he continually contacted her. Another student told authorities that he seemed to be suicidal. Moreover, Cho’s dark, violent writings bothered his classmates and professors. Subsequently, he was served a detention order and spent two nights in an independent mental health facility for evaluation.

In the midst of his shooting rampage, Cho apparently sent a package of audio, video and written manifesto to NBC. The videos show an angry, clearly disturbed young man intent on exacting revenge on those he considered his tormenters. Virginia Tech has since been criticized for failing to deal more aggressively with Cho’s mental health although it is not clear what the school could have done until his behavior crossed over to the criminal. By then, of course, it was too late.

How can universities address the issue of student mental health more effectively?

[3] EARTH CARE

Last week, the Missourian ran a series of stories on Columbia residents who live “green” lives.

Members of one family ride bicycles for both pleasure and basic transportation, only using their car in bad weather, for long-distance travel or to haul equipment. The family remodeling business uses recycled materials and salvages as much as they can from the work sites.

A local intentional community raises its own food, walks almost everywhere and buys used clothing and furniture.

The president of Sustain Mizzou helped plant 200 trees along Hinkson Creek, set up a bike-repair event and participates in the Tiger Tailgating Recycling project, among other activities.

April 22 marked Earth Day, which prompts many people to reconsider how they interact with the planet and the environment. In Columbia, residents flocked to Peace Park to wander among booths stocked with information about the environment and how to contribute to living a more earth-conscious lifestyle.

What can you do to live a more “green” lifestyle?

[4] SEX EDUCATION

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, and the Missouri House recently passed legislation that, in addition to putting stricter regulations on abortion clinics, would also allow public school districts to teach an abstinence-only sex education course.

Meanwhile, MU continues to debate whether students should have access to free or low-cost condoms in their residence halls. The initial proposal was shot down by campus administrators last fall, but a new proposal could be ready for students when they begin classes in August.

The latest version of the initiative would reduce the number of dispensers in the residence halls. The proposal also considers charging students a nominal fee for each condom. However, the feasibility of the initiative is still an issue; charging for condoms could detract some students from using them and may pose a problem for people who carry more plastic than cash.

How do you feel about legislative or bureaucratic measures that attempt to influence people’s behavior?

[5] AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

Last week, Missouri opponents of affirmative action announced a plan to put a referendum on government-sponsored preferences on the November 2008 ballot.

Proponents of the action see the measure as a way to “liberate our society from the last legacy of bondage on our shoulders from the era of segregation.” The ban would eliminate “preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”

The organization seeking the ban, Missouri Civil Rights Initiative, has the support of California-based American Civil Rights Institute, which helped pass similar referendums in California, Washington and Michigan. Although MU Deputy Chancellor Micheal Middleton declined to say specifically how the initiative would affect the university, he did note that its passage could impact employment decisions and the awarding of scholarships. The initiative could also potentially disallow universities’ aid from special donors.

What impact would a ban on certain admissions practices have on the diversity of university campuses in Missouri?


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