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The Presidential Pardon for Turkeys

by Sarah Berry

Considered the least favorite holiday of the year (for turkeys at least), for two turkeys the holiday is worth celebrating, thanks to a presidential pardon. Headed by the National Turkey Federation, two turkeys are selected for pardoning based on their appearance and temperament.

Afterwards, the birds reside on a farm for the remainder of the lives. Often though, the turkeys only live one to two years due to their breeding and care prior to being pardoned. For example, the diet of factory farm turkeys is designed to fatten them, which strains their organs and wears on their bone structure.

While organizations like PETA have voiced concern over these farming practices and White House ceremony, the National Turkey Federation has remained staunch in its support of the event.

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Prior to the presidential turkey pardoning, turkeys were pitched by Benjamin Franklin to be the national bird of the United States.

 

Thus, President Obama will be pardoning the final two turkeys of his presidency this week, before the turkeys are moved to Virginia Tech where they will be chaperoned by a poultry immunologist from the college’s Agriculture and Life Sciences Department.

To learn more about the presidential turkey pardon, check out the links below:

Movie Monday: Her

by Sarah Berry

Featuring  Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson, “Her” follows soon-to-be divorced Theodore Twombly and the beginnings of his romantic relationship with Samantha, an artificial intelligence operating system that serves as Theodore’s personal assistant.

Nominated for several film awards, “Her” was awarded Best Original Screenplay by the Academy Awards for its humorous, yet heartbreaking exploration into romance in the digital age.

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“Her” is available now on Swank Digital Campus. If you are accessing Swank Digital Campus off-campus, view our blog post, Accessing Library Resources Off-Campus, for more information.

#ThrowbackThursday: Snapshot PA

by Sarah Berry

Take a look back on the Rohrbach Library’s SnapShot PA video, which aimed to create a “snapshot” of a day at the Rohrbach Library. In addition, the library surveyed students about their library usage and gathered data on items checked out, questions asked, and more.

Check out the complete survey results below!

The More You Know...

If you walked through Rohrbach Library on October 15th, you likely saw the table and video camera set up just beyond the Elusive Sea Cow, near the stairs to the top floor. Those who stopped heard all about SnapShot PA and its purpose and importance to libraries across the commonwealth! We want to thank everyone who took the time to fill out our survey and also offer an especially enthusiastic thank you to those who were brave enough to go on camera and tell us why you were visiting the library that day!

For those who missed us, here’s the low-down on what the event was about:

The goal of the project is to create a “snapshot” of one day in the life of Pennsylvania libraries. From school and public libraries to academic libraries like our very own Rohrbach Library, we wanted tangible evidence of the impact PA libraries on their respective…

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KU Conversations 8- The Syrian Civil War

By: Courtney Aaron

Good morning KU students and welcome to our 8th KU conversations posting. Today we are going to discuss the Syrian Civil War and the refugee crisis. To start us off we chose an article from the New York Times. Lately some of you who have been watching the intense election season this year may have heard about the scandal surrounding the Libertarian party candidate Gary Johnson. While being questioned on the talk show Johnson was asked what he would do about Aleppo if he were elected. In response Johnson asked the question “What is Aleppo?”, bringing heavy doubt to his knowledge of foreign policy and hurting his chances of being elected. After hearing about his interview blunder anybody who didn’t already know about Aleppo wondered what Aleppo was themselves. Here’s a short BBC article discussing the second largest city in the country of Syria, and the difficulties the country has faced through out the years. Like many cities and towns within Syria, Aleppo is also experiencing the horrors of the Syrian Civil War. The city eventually became divided in half, the eastern side of the city controlled by the opposition and the western side controlled by the Syrian government. In mid-2016 things changed when Russia assisted the government forces with airstrikes stopping the rebels route east and laying siege around 250,000 people. The resulting destruction pushed Aleppo into the media spotlight, making the city a major topic of discussion concerning the Syrian War.

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Photo provided by United Nations Cartographic Section

According to Biography in Context, Syria has been under the authoritarian Assad Regime since 1971 when Hafez al Assad overthrew the previous president Nur al-Din al-Atasi in a military coup. Hafez al Assad often used military dictatorship methods to handle the multiple opposing political parties within Syrian. Hafez al Assad passed away in June of 2000 of heart failure, his second son (and current president) Bashar al Assad became president. Tensions truly began to rise in 2011, leading into the now 6 year civil war. In the beginning years of the civil war, as further explained by the  Encyclopedia Britannica, there were multiple pro-democracy protests (the Arab Spring protests) that took place across northern Africa and in the Middle East.

Following the surprising quick success of Tunisia and Egypt’s protests, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, and Syria also began protests of their own. However, unlike Egypt and Tunisia, Syria protests won’t be resolved so quickly. In the city of Dar’a multiple teenagers and children who used graffiti to write anti-government messages were arrested causing protests in the city. The protesters were fired upon by the governments security forces. Further protesting happened in Damascus (Day of Dignity) for the release of political prisoners. Protesters continued to resist even after the government cabinet was dismissed and president Assad claimed reform would happen gradually. A new cabinet was introduced and the country’s 48 year state of emergency ended along with Syria’s Supreme State Security Court (which tried people who were accused of opposing the government), but the government increased it’s use of violence protests with larger forces (including the use of tanks in multiple cities). Even the government forces themselves weren’t entirely safe, government soldiers who disobeyed orders to shoot protesters were also shot in retaliation for their in-action.

Organizations outside the country began to get involved mid 2011. The European Union imposed sanctions against multiple government officials and a weapons embargo on the country, starting the decreasing support of Syria’s allies and beginning the call for the end of Assad’s presidency. Later the EU decided to expand those sanctions and extend them to include Assad himself. Between late 2011 and mid 2012 there were two attempts at resolving the civil war and deployments of observers to ensure the attempts were working. The first was employed by the Arab League in December of 2011. The Arab league created an initiative where the Syrian government would release political prisoners, stop violence against protesters, and remove armored vehicles and tanks from the cities. The Syrian government agreed to the initiative but it was later revealed in January of 2012 that all of the reports claiming the initiative was working were lies and that the observers from the Arab League were being shown orchestrated scenes and didn’t have full access to all areas. The second group of observers were sent to oversee a ceasefire sponsored by the United Nations.While there was a brief decrease in violence in the spring, the ceasefire failed by the summer and violence picked up again. Between 2012 and 2013 each side began to reach a stalemate and began openly receiving assistance and funding from other countries.

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A poster of Syria’s president at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus, Jan. 14, 2014. Photo by: Elizabeth Arrott a Middle East correspondent.

Then the unthinkable happened on August 21, 2013. On this day there was a suspected chemical weapons attack on the capital city of Damascus. The Syrian government denied the presence of chemical weapons while the opposition accused the government of using them. The chemical is called Sarin and we have a brief Gale Reference passage explaining the effects of Sarin and other well known instances it’s been used in history. At this point the U.S., Britain, and France all began to consider assisting the opposition against the Syrian government while Russia, Iran, and China decided against military action. The U.S., Britain, and France ultimately decided against military action but on September 14, 2013 Syria, Russia, and the U.S. agreed to place the chemical weapons under international control. We have further information about the later half of the Syrian conflict from this CNN timeline. Later on October 6th 2013 the Syrian government began to dismantle their chemical weapons program. This lead to another attempt at peace negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland to identify any war crimes in Syria and attempt to reach a peaceful conclusion to end the civil war starting in January of 2014. Like the other attempts at ending the civil war, this round of negotiations were unsuccessful.

In the beginning of June 2014 president Assad was re-elected for another term. In late September the U.S. and other allies began to get inadvertently involved by doing airstrikes in the city of Raqqa aiming for ISIS targets. Here is another CNN source explaining how ISIS is involved with Syria and more information about their rise in activity during 2014 and 2015. Unfortunately in March 2015 there is another instance of chemical weapons use through chlorine gas in the town of Sarmin. Later in the year Russia begins to get directly involved with the civil war by setting up a base in western Syria to support the Syrian government in its fight against ISIS. However, skeptics believe Russia’s real intent is to help the Syrian government against the rebels, among other alarming theories. The U.S. also made the decision to deploy a small number of special operations groups. Eventually in February 27th 2016 a tentative ceasefire was put in place for the Syrian conflict (not including battle fronts against ISIS and other terrorist organizations). However, the ceasefire has been mostly unsuccessful due to multiple violations to the ceasefire.

How long do you think it will take for the Syrian Civil war to end? Will Syria reach a resolve on its own or will other countries and organizations mediate a resolution? Feel from the discuss your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below or on our Facebook page post!

Movie Monday: Exit Through the Gift Shop

by Sarah Berry

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2011, the humorous British documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop” does not disappoint.

Centered around graffiti artist Banksy, the documentary soon shifts focus to the film’s incompetent and clumsy filmmaker, Thierry Guetta. Obsessed with street art and their artists, Guetta begins an unexpectedly successful career mimicking the work of other street artists, including Banksy.

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While thought to be a farce or mokumentary by reviewers, both Banksy and artist Shepard Fairey (who was also involved in the film’s production) maintain that the documentary is, in fact, real.

“Exit Through the Gift Shop” is available now on Swank Digital Campus. If you are accessing Swank Digital Campus off-campus, view our blog post, Accessing Library Resources Off-Campus, for more information.

Wrongful Conviction- KU Conversation 7

By: Courtney Aaron

Good morning and welcome to our seventh KU Conversations post! This week’s topic is wrongful conviction. Some of you may have noticed that in recent years there has been a lot of news concerning wrongfully convicted people being released from prison after better forensic technology and organizations like the Innocence Project helped overturn their convictions. For that reason, we decided to look into the subject to learn why wrongful convictions happen; the effects they have on the wrongfully convicted; and ways to prevent and compensate for wrongful convictions.

To start off we have a book from JSTOR called “Wrongful Conviction: International Perspectives on Miscarriages of Justice.” This book focuses on the international perspectives and issues concerning wrongful convictions, specifically in the second (North American Perspective) and third (focuses on European and Israeli perspective) parts of the book. It goes in-depth by discussing the procedures some countries use that lead to wrongful convictions, mistakes that have been made, and even how susceptible some countries’ laws are to wrongful conviction. The book also provides some background history on wrongful conviction and the use of DNA evidence.

Next we are going to focus on the multiple causes of wrongful conviction. One major category is issues with the prosecutorial process. These issues can be unintentional or purposely malicious in nature. One example is prosecutorial misconduct. In this article from Legal Collection called “Prosecutorial Misconduct in the Digital Age”,  prosecutorial misconduct is defined as “… when a prosecutor deliberately engages in dishonest or fraudulent behavior calculated to produce an unjust result.” The article further explains that prosecutorial misconduct is hard to prove and to discipline. There are many reasons for this. Evidence of prosecutorial misconduct usually is revealed in longer trials. Also, the best people to report prosecutorial misconduct (other prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges) all have reasons not to report their fellow colleagues. The article also talks about how much easier it is to commit prosecutorial misconduct in the new digital age.

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Photo provided by Joe Gratz

Seemingly harmless resources like social media can contribute to prosecutorial misconduct. We have an ebook from the Rohrbach Library called “Prosecution Complex: America’s Race to Convict and it’s Impact on the Innocent” by Daniel S. Medwed. In this book Medwed uses his experience in the courtroom and in the classroom to explain how prosecutors are told to convict criminals but also to protect the rights of defendants. He explains that this creates a “prosecution complex” meaning that having those dual goals can lead to a district attorney wrongfully convicting innocent people. The book follows the pretrial, trial, and post trial conviction phases of the process and examines how certain rules and biases can lead to wrongful conviction. Here is another book from the Rohrbach Library called “The Supreme Court on Trial: How the American Justice System Sacrifices Innocent Defendants” by George C. Thomas. This book focuses on the justice system as a whole and how the procedures the system uses can lead to wrongful conviction. Thomas explains that the system is too focused on procedures and not enough on substantial justice. Thomas suggests that the American Justice System imitate some of the French Justice System’s methods in that they create a separate court to review the claims of people who believe they were wrongfully convicted and evaluate new evidence for those cases.

Interrogations leading to false confessions are another major cause of wrongful convictions. “Police Interrogation and American Justice” by Richard A. Leo is an ebook in the Rohrbach Library that discusses police interrogation and how it can be misused and result in a false confession. Leo explains that while there are fair interrogations that lead to catching criminals there are also suspect interrogations that lead to false confessions and wrongful convictions.

There is also the supposedly infallible DNA evidence and fingerprinting. Surprisingly both of these can lead to a wrongful conviction. This article from JSTOR walks through the case of Stephan Cowens, the 141st person to be exonerated by forensic evidence. Cowen was actually wrongfully convicted because of fingerprint evidence and eyewitness testimonies. The article walks through all the different human errors that either were or could have been involved in causing Cowens wrongful conviction. Starting with how forensics didn’t match his prints until the second time and ending with how it was possible that the police accidentally implied that Cowen was a suspect while talking to the eyewitnesses. It raised multiple questions that challenge the infallibility of fingerprinting and eyewitness testimonies.

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Picture provided by Public Domain Pictures.net

DNA evidence can lead to false results due to human error. This article from Criminal Justice Abstracts Database discusses “leaping DNA“. The article explains that DNA is transferable and can suggest that a person  was somewhere they weren’t. A group from the Victoria Police Forensic reenacted scenarios where real convictions were made because of DNA being found on victim’s clothing or murder weapons. They confirmed that it is easily possible to transfer DNA from one surface to another.

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Cell Block D Isolation cells on Alcatraz Island, photo provided by Library of Congress

The effects of wrongful conviction are as alarming as the causes. There are effects not only to the victims of wrongful conviction, but to their families, and society. Effects can include separation of families, break-ups, divorces, job loss, and other short term and longterm effects. This is expressed in this article from Criminal Justice Abstracts Database. The article discusses how studies on wrongful conviction should be a higher priority in the academic criminology scene to better prevent and handle wrongful convictions. We have an ebook from the Rohrbach Library called “Life After Death Row Exoneree’s Search For Community and Identity” by Saundra Davis Westervelt. This book focuses on people who were convicted of capitol crimes, sentenced to death, and later exonerated. This book goes into the effects of wrongful conviction, as well as how the people cope, survive, and try to build new lives after exoneration. This article from Legal Collection focuses primarily on the social effects of wrongful conviction and discusses the idea that wrongful conviction means that the true criminal is still at large.

In light of the rising amounts of wrongful convictions there are many people wondering what can be done to prevent wrongful convictions and to compensate for them. This article, from Legal Collection, discusses false confession and how to better prevent them via legal counsel. There is an extensive list naming key moments in history where the law has changed to avoid situations like false confessions. It also mention other methods like making sure the video recording of the interrogation catches the whole interrogation and not just the confession. There has also been discussion about how to better improve forensic evidence and how it’s handled. We have both and ebook and print book of “Strengthening Forensic in the United States: A Path Forward” by multiple National Research Counsel (U.S.) Committees.

In terms of compensating people who have been wrongfully convicted we have an article from Criminal Justice Database that explains the different types of compensation that could be awarded goes into how there are issues with compensation for wrongfully convicted people. While roughly 37% of all wrongfully convicted people have been compensated there are states that don’t have any type of protocol to follow for people to receive compensation. All of the current methods of compensation have issues. For example, the lawsuit method can work but the officials involved are typically protected and the lawsuits are hard to win. The rest of the article offers suggestions and ideas on how to better improve compensation methods and better alternatives. It is alarming how hard it is for wrongfully convicted people to receive compensation considering it is publicly agreed upon that these people deserve their compensation. We have a study from Legal Collection that the public believes that wrongfully convicted people should receive compensation based on how long they’ve been incarcerated and how damaging the conviction was. The study also showed that the public believes that it would be in the criminal justice system’s best interest to do a public apology to the wrongfully convicted people, and that the public is deeply concerned about the escaped guilty parties.

There are many organizations and firms that are dedicated to taking on cases of wrongfully convicted people and helping them get exonerated. One of the most commonly recognized is the Innocence Project. It is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1992. Not only are they dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted peoples, but they also advocate for criminal justice reform to prevent further wrongful convictions. We found other organizations that are also dedicated to the same goals. There is the Center on Wrongful Convictions, the Center on Wrongful Convictions for Youths, the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted (a non-profit based in Canada), and many others around the world.

How do you think compensation should be handled? What do you think is the biggest cause of wrongful conviction? Feel free to discuss in the comments section here or on the Rohrbach Library’s Facebook post!

Movie Monday: Miss Representation

by Sarah Berry

A play on words, “Miss Representation,” focuses on the portrayal of women in mainstream media. Often, media representations of women focus on their appearances, versus their skills or personality.

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In turn, “Miss Representation” presents a compelling argument, through numerous facts and statistics, as well as interviews with notable women in leaderships roles, such as Gloria Steinem, Condoleezza Rice, and Katie Couric, that the media’s portrayal of women has become a contributing factor to the small amount of women in leadership positions in the U.S.

“Miss Representation” is available now on Kanopy Streaming. If you are accessing Kanopy Streaming off-campus, view our blog post, Accessing Library Resources Off-Campus, for more information.


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