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The Media and the Refugees

Europe’s migrant crisis is being tossed around between nations like a stick of dynamite that no government wants to take responsibility of even though all are in some way affected. I was taken aback when former British Prime Minister David Cameron criticised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for meeting with and conversing to as he so condescendingly put it: “a bunch of migrants”. Prior to this instance Cameron referred to the flow of migrants crossing into Europe as “a swarm”. In Cameron’s position it makes political sense to objectify and dehumanise migrants because by getting the public thinking in the same vain they’re less likely to press for a resolution. By using such objectifying terms he not only shows contempt for constructive international policy but also for the human side of the migrant story.

I was awoken to the human side of this story when I saw a photo on the internet last September. The photo depicted three-year-old Alan Kurdi lying face down on a Turkish beach. He looked so still and composed. He lay in the sand, eyes shut, as though he were asleep. If only that were the case. The harsh reality is that Alan had drowned among many others, including his brother Galib and mother Rehana, trying to reach the Greek island of Kos. The effect of such a tragic photo on human emotion is intense and provokes a multitude of questions. It strikes deep at our inner humanity. Alan Kurdi has come to represent the thousands who’ve lost their lives in the Mediterranean attempting to make it to Europe.

When we attempt to contemplate the current refugee crisis we are attempting to contemplate the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War. It’s easier to measure it in terms of numbers and statistics as they’re simpler to comprehend, don’t require any internal moral conflict and can be flung onto any corporate PowerPoint with ease. The refugee crisis is simply too big at this stage to be swept under the rug but the refugees themselves should not be unfairly scapegoated lest history repeat itself. There’s good and bad in person, in every group, but a lack of true understanding leads to an unfortunate intolerance. As the photo of Alan Kurdi has illustrated to the masses, there is so much more to the crisis than that. Alan shows us the value of one life in a tragic narrative where lives are so easily disposable. There are too many like him who haven’t been photographed.

Medical Privacy vs. Freedom of Information – The Presidential Dilemma

I recently read an article in The Atlantic that described John F. Kennedy’s attempts to conceal his poor health during the feverishly contested fight for the Democratic nomination in 1960. Entitled “The Medical Ordeals of JFK”, it brings forward previously disclosed medical documents from 1955-1963 about Kennedy’s health in great detail. These records show that “during his presidency—and in particular during times of stress, such as the Bay of Pigs fiasco, in April of 1961, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, in October of 1962—Kennedy was taking steroids for his Addison’s disease; painkillers for his back; anti-spasmodics for his colitis; antibiotics for urinary-tract infections; antihistamines for allergies; and, on at least one occasion, an anti-psychotic for a severe mood change believed to have been brought on by the antihistamines”.

At the time very little of these conditions were known to the electorate. One imagines that Kennedy would have deemed widespread knowledge of his physical frailties as being detrimental to his bid to secure the nod for the Democratic nomination and consequentially, his running for Presidency. Despite any views or consensus that Kennedy was a good President one must consider the ethics of his choice to withhold this valuable information about him. It is my personal opinion that withholding this type of information is unethical and that is why I am addressing the issue of medical records.

It is my belief that both physical and mental health play a vital role in a candidate’s ability to faithfully execute a position of high national office as well as their ability to make informed decisions. Right now Donald Trump’s mental health is being called into question and lest we forget Hillary Clinton’s fall on the campaign trail a few months prior.  I would propose that an independent, non-partisan medical evaluation of each candidate running for high public office be released to every citizen eligible to vote. It ought to be the well-informed opinion of each citizen to determine suitability for office even if their results return as medically damning. It’s just always a nice thing to be as informed as possible.

A Meeting with Jetmira

I’m recently just back from Erasmus in Bulgaria and as part of my classes I got to meet new people and discover a whole series of outlooks and approaches to media. The following is a reminiscence of an encounter I had with student Jetmira Allushi, host of “Wednesday Night Tutorial” at Radio AURA in the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG).

After fiddling with countless dials, widgets and performing a quick sound check one minute prior Jetmira enthusiastically announces: “Hello listeners and welcome to this week’s edition of Wednesday Night Tutorial”.  “I’ve been hosting Wednesday Night Tutorial for three years now”, she explains. “It all started off with our faculty advisor Professor Leonard, I would co-host with him, play ska music (which was his favourite genre) and we had an array guests. I only started hosting the show in its second year”.  The show has stuck to its roots over the course of that time. “The format nowadays is more or less the same, just less ska” she jokes. “Anyone associated with AUBG can be a guest on the show whether they’re a professor who just wants to chill, a student with something interesting to share or even the president of the university itself.” The drive to host the show is simple: “Hosting a radio show is something that I did and continue to do simply because I like doing it”.

What sets her show apart from other guest shows is the manner of speaking and natural approach that Jetmira has with every guest. “I don’t ask the obvious questions that people expect me to ask, it can make the guest feel like they’re being interrogated”. She stresses that asking guests about the little things that are going on in their daily lives makes for fresh radio, opens guests up, “humanizes them”. She even lets her guests make song suggestions, but always at her discretion mind you! It’s clear that the little rectangular radio studio, housed on the second floor of AUBG’s main building, is a place who’s walls have heard many stories and broadcast a lot of happiness to many listeners. Jetmira looks toward the future of radio and concludes that it will defiantly persevere: “Radio is something that’s hard to get away from. Yeah sure you can have your Spotify playlist or YouTube videos but radio continues to have a huge audience reach. From listening to the radio when you’re in the car on a road trip to online radio. It’ll always be around and always evolving.”

I guess what I garnered from my experiences with media abroad is that if there’s a particular branch of media that you yourself are particularly interested in, then pursue it wholeheartedly! Just one of the many things I took back from the small Bulgarian town of Blagoevgrad.

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