Alabama Senate election results

Today marks the first day in over 25 years that Alabama has elected a Democrat.

In a close election, Doug Jones has beaten Roy Moore to claim the state’s Senate seat.

According to statistics from the New York Times, Jones claimed 49.9% of the vote compared to Moore’s 48.4%.

Prior to the election, Trump gave the Republican candidate shrowded in sexual misconduct accusations his undoubted support. Shortly after the election, Trump tweeted his response:

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The victory helps to tighten the Senate seat gap between the two parties going into 2018 and will shorten the Republican’s majority which may have an impact on future decisions.

The controversial case of Cyntoia Brown

The case of Cyntoia Brown, a 29-year-old serving life for murder has recently come under the spotlight again.

Brown was sentenced to life in prison after killing 43-year-old Johnny Allen in 2004 aged just 16. The teen endured a rocky childhood and after running away was forced into prostitution. When taken to Allen’s house to perform sexual acts, she was unnerved by the guns as well as his army training, and feared they would be used against her as demonstrated in the quote below provided by Fox17.

“He was a sharp shooter in the Army. I’m sitting here thinking if he does something, what am I going to do?” – Cyntonia 

Since then, attention has since refocused on her after a post from Rihanna. The post reignited support for her from celebrities such as Kim Kardashian-West and brought her case back under the spotlight.

People supporting Brown’s release look at her case through the terror and abuse she endured while being subjected to sex-trafficking. They also bring attention to the prenatal damage done to Brown through alcohol use. Her alcohol-related neuro-development disorder may have had an effect on her unstable behaviour. People also have questioned the decision to try her as an adult.

People opposed make mention of the fact she left his house with a couple of his guns, his truck and trousers that included a wallet. It also appeared that Allen had been found in a sleep-like position by authorities. This suggests he may have been asleep when he was shot and makes Brown’s claim it was done in self-defence murky, (as previously mentioned, Brown was made nervous by Allen’s gun collection and training and was scared he would pull a gun on her).

In 2011 a documentary was made about Cyntoia Brown and her case and is available on Youtube.

 

 

 

The Paradise papers & collaborative journalism

Whilst, not a breaking news story, I wanted to take a moment to break down the Paradise papers and the impact such a set of documents could have upon collaborative journalism.

To provide some context, the Paradise papers released on the 5th of November investigated a number of (13.4 million) documents regarding the offshore investments of a number of businesses and people. Offshore investments can sometimes be used to reduce taxes and particular countries have come to be known as ‘tax havens’.

The Paradise papers (and predecessor Panama papers) were only made possible through a combined effort and incorporated nearly 400 journalists from around the world.

This extensive number of journalists allowed the large number of documents to be analysed, and each journalist (or group of) to focus on different people/businesses.  It also allowed different collaborations and people to come together that otherwise would not have the opportunity to work together.

Trying to keep things secret and under wraps can be difficult through collaborative journalism as there is such a large number of people working on the project and leaks are a real risk.

The Paradise papers (and earlier Panama papers) successful demonstrated how collaborative journalism can be used to break larger stories that would not be possible otherwise and will hopefully promote further work in the future.

To learn more about the Paradise papers themselves and their development, check out this behind the scenes Vice documentary.

Halloween

According to History.com, the celebration can be linked back to the Celtic festival of Samhain, where dressing up and lighting bonfires were thought to warn of unwanted spirits.

When all saints day (Nov 1st) was developed, some of the same traditions from this festival were incorporated, the night before this became known as All Hallows Eve and now referred to as Halloween.

Over time, Halloween has developed to what we know it as now, a celebration where people dress up and children wander the neighbourhood looking for candy, but is it still relevant?

A Christian group has recently made headlines by developing what is called “Jesus ween” where participants hand out bibles and dress in white to represent righteousness. In a quote provided by Huffington Post, The creator of the event Pastor Paul Ade told Gawker

“Halloween is not consistent with the Christian faith. Many people say they feel uncomfortable on that day. We think people should choose an alternative activity.”

The holiday has also caused much debate in other countries, such as my own (New Zealand), where some people have decided not to follow the overseas holiday and feel they should not have to comply with the Americanised celebration.

According to one NZ poll, 1/3 of respondents expected trick-or-treaters but only 20% were planning to decorate their houses.

There is also been discussion suggesting that the Mexican celebration of Dia de Los Muertos celebrated on the 2nd of November is losing its individuality by being pulled into Halloween.

Regardless of whether you support Halloween or not, the candy-centred holiday does not appear to be disappearing fast. Time to start carving some pumpkins and stocking up on those sweet treats.

 

 

Breaking down: Google maps cupcake controversy

What is it? 

Google recently updated their map application to tell users how many calories they would lose by walking to their destination instead. But before you pull out your devices and look for it… it is already in the process of being revoked.

Why was it criticised?  

Criticism was cropped for the update from a “mini” feature. This feature measured a number of calories the user could lose and compared it to mini cupcakes.

The feature was considered potentially harmful towards those with eating disorders and overall a bit judgemental.

A response provided to BBC  (excerpt below) reflects this criticism also touching on the internal competitiveness and feeling of shame that could unintentionally be brought on through it.

“Although it is good to encourage people to walk more, having the calories used on Google Maps does not seem to be the best way to do this… if people want to count their calories then they should be given the option to do this, rather than it being enforced.”  – Priya Tew, The Association of UK Dietitians

According to The Verge,  A Google spokesperson has indicated that “based on strong user feedback” the update will start to be removed.

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking down: Australia’s same-sex marriage referendum

Australia is currently undertaking an important vote regarding the legalisation of same-sex marriage. The result of this referendum will then be taken into government where they will make a decision.

So why is this important for people pro-gay marriage and what is their viewpoint?

Having this initial referendum support them would give their cause an edge when the government looks into the case.

Australia would also make moves forward towards many English speaking countries that have also already legalised gay marriage such as their neighbour New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and America. With many nations (particularly Western and some South American) legalising or at recognising same-sex marriage, more acceptance has developed across the western world and it has become less abnormal. Legalisation would give gay couples the same rights other countries have permitted for years.

In this referendum, the “yes” campaign has had to remind people what they are voting for. There has been confusion developed from the “No” campaign and their suggestion that legalisation would lead to a “sliperly slope” (discussed later). Those who are pro-same-sex marriage, have had to re-emphasise that this vote is about marriage equality and not other things.

Why is this important for people anti-gay marriage and what is their viewpoint?

Similar to before, being able to say the public does not support the legalisation of gay marriage would give their viewpoint an edge in parliament.

Many arguments opposing gay marriage have religious roots, suggesting it is unbiblical and against the will of God. Australia originally colonised by England has a Christian heritage and this would go against this. Some scientific arguments suggest the fact homosexuality does not lead to reproduction is an indication that it is therefore unnatural.

A key argument that has surfaced during this referendum is that the legalisation of same-sex marriage will lead develop a “slippery slope”. This has been linked to the safe schools program being introduced around the country, to aid schools and staff in making their campuses a safer and more friendly environment for those in the LBGTQ community.  There are concerns that gender education will become compulsory like it has become in some areas of Canada and parents will no say over their child’s participation.

What way do the votes appear to be heading?

According to news.com.au, a poll conducted predicts the vote will be a solid “yes” (61.5%) in support opposed to 17.5% against. Special Minister of State Scott Ryan believes the result will reflect something similar with two-thirds of votes also saying yes.

The same poll interestingly found that younger voters (18-24) were more likely to vote yes (80+%) with the percentage dropping as age increased.

 

 

Breaking down: The controversial Dove advert

For those who have not caught up, Dove recently revealed a new facebook advertisement. However, the short clip has created a controversial response after seeming to depict a black woman removing her skin and becoming white. Dove has since removed the clip and apologised.

So what were Dove’s intentions? 

Dove intended to demonstrate diversity through the clip and illustrate that their product was for all women of all nationalities and ethnicities. Their full response can be seen on their Twitter page.

How else was it viewed? 

However, not everyone saw it this way, and the advert was called “racist” by some as it appeared to illustrate white-washing and ethnic preference towards whites.

There was also an emotional response from some, Sonia Thompson writer for Inc.com discussed “tears of pain in response to what seemed like a brand I loved telling me there was a problem with my skin.”

What is the culture surrounding this? 

There is a strong culture around what is considered “whitewashing”, where pale skin is considered “more beautiful” than other skin tones. This has developed a skin whitening/lightening market and industry particular in Asia region. For more information on this inquirer.net provides an interesting read.

Lighter skin has also historically been associated with nobility and wealth in a range of cultures from Asian to European.

Skin tone has also been known to be altered digitally and physically for media, advertising, entertainment and other purposes. This has attracted criticism for distorting reality and developing negative definitions of beauty.