AA for Affirmative Action?

March 6th, 1961,

Executive Order 10925: The establishment of President John F. Kennedy’s (1961-1963) Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.

“WHEREAS discrimination because of race, creed, color, or national origin is contrary to the Constitutional principles and policies of the United States; and 13 CFR 1960 Supp.

WHEREAS it is the plain and positive obligation of the United States Government to promote and ensure equal opportunity for all qualified persons, without regard to race, creed, color, or national origin, employed or seeking employment with the Federal Government and on government contracts (Kennedy).”

_____________________________________________________

One late winter’s afternoon 51 years ago, the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, establishing Equal Employment Opportunity. Racing on the heels of the civil rights movement, President ‘Crash Jack Kennedy’ encouraged Americans to “take affirmative action” in these changing times and offer advantageous solutions to the developing definitions of normal. His cleverly coined phrase, ‘affirmative action’ swept public household conversations, heated network discussions, and clouded congressional floor debates.

Originally defined as a methodology in redressing discrimination, redefining constitutional perspectives, and developing specific opportunities within the educational system and job market (Equal), affirmative action was initially well-received and widely accepted.

November 22, 1963 marked the tragic assignation of President Kennedy, sending the nation into a sea of sorrow and anguish. Many feared Kennedy’s assassination would overshadow his administration’s actions, but less than a year later the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. The act forbade discrimination in the hiring, firing, or promotional process on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Affirmative Action in its entirety was formally implemented by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 by Executive Order 11246. President Johnson stated, “We seek not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result (Brunner)”.

Coupled with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the establishment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), whom enforce the federal laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace. Jurisdiction of this commission began with the Equal Pay Act of 1963 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender in compensation for substantially similar work under similar conditions (Archives). This umbrella commission rapidly grew as further anti-discriminatory acts were passed like the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits employment discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older, as well as relatively recent acts like the 1990 Title I and Title V of the Americans Disability Act.

Less than one decade after the EEOC creation, however, the practice of the policies began to waver and the intentional benefits of the policies also began to expose the unintentional faults. ‘Reverse discrimination’ took the main argument and was brought to the forefront of political discussion during the 1978 U.S. Supreme Court Case Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (Ball).

Allan Bakke, a white male in pursuit of a medical degree at the University of California, was denied entry into the university, twice. Not long after, Bakke discovered that several academically less qualified minority applicants had been accepted into the university (Ball). Bakke also discovered that due to a clause established by the university after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the minority applicants had been separated from the general field of applicants and reviewed differently than the standard application (Ball).

The university had established that 16 out of every 100 entry spots were exclusively reserved for minority students (Brunner) and it was because of this clause that Bakke sued the university. While the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the ‘inflexible quota systems,’ that the university had established (Ball), it did uphold the legality of affirmative action by the narrowest of margins: 5-4. Justice Lewis Powell had been the divisive vote and had sided with both viewpoints. This resulted in Bakke’s admission into the school, but also the continuation of Affirmative Action (Ball).

As the cases against affirmative action began to multiply and steepen in effect, conservative whites began painting the policy as a zero-sum game in the 1980’s. Strident language like “preferential treatment” and “quotas (Brunner)” stung headlines across the nation and what was originally implemented as a promotional tool began to shift into a professional victimization act.

In early 2000’s, two landmark cases reached the gavel of the U.S. Supreme Court, both of which were brought against the University of Michigan. In 2001, Gratz v. Bollinger was a case filed against the advantageous position of specified “underrepresented minorities” applicants who gained an automatic 20+ percentage points for admission (Gratz).

Different in approach Grutter v. Bollinger was not a case for or against specified minorities, but acase advocating ‘diversity in character’ coming through diversity in culture. Again, affirmative action was upheld by the finest of margins (5-4) though the details in diversity were overruled (Grutter). This decision was met with great opposition by a group called BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) who immediately drafted a document called Proposition 2: The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary. This document challenged Michigan’s Proposal 2, which banned the use of affirmative action in college admissions in 2006. The U.S. Sixth Court of Appeals ruled Proposal 2 unconstitutional for its violation of the 14th amendment and BAMN has since gained heavy momentum across the states. Today (December 7th) at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, BAMN is hosting a rally and a march to gain further support for courts to reinstate all affirmative action programs across the state of Michigan.

The Supreme Court’s ruling during Grutter v. Bollinger redefined affirmative action to be no longer a past objective meant to protect future oppression, but an initiative to promote the “compelling state interest (Brunner)” in regard to diversity at all levels of society. This ruling heavily endorsed the idea of a broader racial representation across college campuses and it is this definition of affirmative action that has not yet been challenged.

Yet, 2013 could bring yet another explanation of affirmative action, as well as an updated methodology for university admittance and academic performance. On June 30, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court plans to render a decision on Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas. Abigail Fisher was a high school senior when she decided to sue the University of Texas after her admissions application was rejected (Mears). Fisher claimed the “individualized, discretionary admission policies violated her rights, and favored African-American and Hispanic applicants over whites and Asian-Americans (Mears).” Since Grutter v. Bollinger in2003, the Supreme Court judges have not shifted ideologically, but have begun to feel the social and legal pressure to put the issue to rest after a half century long battle (Mears).

As noted previously, President Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 in 1965 and stated, “We seek not just equality as a right and a theory, but equality as a fact and as a result (Brunner)”. The contexts after 2001 supported a war in the Middle East because of the tragedy of 9/11, the political rhetoric by the executive branch, and the national conviction that America had been attacked at home and a price must be paid.  11 years later, this doctrine is no longer supported by over two thirds of Americans and is on track to succeed the infamy of the Vietnam War.

There are a plethora of other points in history where the context of the situation was met with a contextual solution, but history as an enduring term has not occurred by magnanimous application beyond a situation. American history is defined by the details of time and the creation of change. The contexts of 1965 would support affirmative action in terms of equality because of the political and social equality generated by the Civil Rights Movement. But would it be blasphemous to consider this effort as an extension of a time that is no longer defined in situations of equality, but instances of inequality?

It is from this theory of relativity and the historical development of affirmative action that I have developed a theoretical link between defined affirmative action and performed affirmative action. My hypotheses examine the popular belief that affirmative action is endorsed by both minorities and majorities and also the belief that affirmative action remains relative to American values.

By noting both historical development and my own research analysis, what I shall define as my core conviction is this: defined affirmative action has remained favorable to both majorities and minorities, but performed affirmative action has rapidly declined in favorability of application.

I do not wish to project an opinion of affirmative action as much as I wish to promote the recognition of a trend over history. Contextually, affirmative action was well suited in the 60s and 70s, as were cigarettes, go-go boots, the Twist, and fallout shelters. But ‘the times, they are a changing,’ and as with all historical movements, the creation of new definitions of radical and normal come about. Equality is no longer a politically radial term, but a household vocabulary word referring to a state of normality.

Originally defined as a methodology in redressing discrimination, redefining constitutional perspectives, and developing specific opportunities within the educational system and job market, affirmative action was well-received and widely accepted. But like 90’s boy bands and Brittany Spears Barbie dolls, suburban backgrounds and innocent expressions no longer sell. One may define the 90s as the golden age of pop music, but when given the choice between pop artists Aaron Carter and Justin Beiber, it’s a global ‘Beiber fever’ that is trending worldwide, not an MP3 of “I want Candy.”

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America’s Most Important Congress? Number 66.

March 4th 1919- March 3rd 1920

“Wish me luck, as you wave me goodbye. Cheerio, here I go, on my way. Wish me luck, as you wave me goodbye. With a cheer, not a tear, make it gay…”

The end of the First World War has finally been declared. The summer of 1919 brings the Paris Peace Conference and an agreement to the Treaty of Versailles. With the doctrine of world peace seen as a viable opportunity, the proposal of a League of Nations has gained international attention, sending President Woodrow Wilson on a cross-country campaign to see to its creation. The campaign however, has a new target: women and if one believed congressional consensus was rare before the other half of the population was included, the 66th Congress of the United States could be juxtaposed as miracle workers..

The 66th Congress is the stage upon which all of these historical happenings occurred. With actors like Thomas Riley Marshall, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jeannette Rankin, and the later Alice Robertson, a political play opened to America’s audience—selling out on three main events: the ratification of the nineteenth amendment, prohibition, and the Merchant Marine Act. Between March 4th, 1919 and March 3rd, 1921, the 66th Congress of the United States played a dominant and active role in American politics, while unknowingly establishing the outcome of the nation we see today.

Riding off the tail end of the Progressive Era, the 66th Congress was prescribed with the tasks nursing the Prohibition and Suffrage movements. During their first of three Congressional sessions, Congress passed the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote, as well as the National Prohibition Act (“Teaching”), which established Prohibition.

The biggest challenge the President faced in unifying Congres came from his proposal of the Treaty of Versailles, which he sent to the Senate July 10th, 1919. Henry Cabot Lodge (Rep. Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Majority Leader, was heavily involved with the dismissal of the treaty; lodge felt that declaration of war was and should be under congressional control, and with the split factions of the Democratic Party, he was able to secure the majority necessary to defeat the treaty (Christianson).

Though Lodge offered a compromising proposal, Wilson made no such concessions and retreated to galvanize campaign for American public opinion approval; thus began his cross-country speaking tour to rally public support for the treaty.

However, the campaign was cut dramatically short when Wilson suffered a heart attack three weeks into the tour, leaving him incapacitated until early November 1919. The treaty was swiftly rejected by the Senate later that month and again in March 1920 (Christianson). As the 66th Congress progressed however, 28 other bills would be vetoed by Wilson, one of which included the Volstead Act.

With a consistent pattern of nomination, confirmation, and bill passage, which broadly characterizes the life of this Congress, it may first appear to be a nonchalant, quote ‘normal’ Congress. Yet where this Congress sits historically makes it of grave significance to the progress of the nation—namely for the advancement of women.

Within this Congress, not only were there substantial acts and bills proposed, but there was also was the first nominated female representative. With the ratification of the 19th amendment, Congress forever changed the structure, development, and magnitude of American politics.

Pioneer women had been fighting for women’s suffrage long before Jeannette Rankin entered the Congressional realm in 1916. Evolving from the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 where Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted a, “Declaration of Sentiments, Grievances, and Resolutions” (a document that shadowed the Declaration of Independence), and all the way up to the ratification of the 19th amendment, women’s suffrage was finally solidified in 1920 (20 Ehlers).

As the trunk of the women’s movement, the Seneca Falls Convention in July 1848 spurred many initial branches of the women’s movements including the elimination of social and institutional barriers, stereotypical family responsibilities, lack of educational and economical opportunities, as well as the exposure of women’s once politically hushed voices.

However, it was not until the wake of the Civil War when reformers would decide upon a clear, specific, less marginalized, “social issue” centered on voting rights that the movement would truly gain steam. It is here where the quest for a women’s right to vote commences and it is the 66th Congress whom ties the bow upon this mile marker in history (21 Ehlers).

The first initial step towards this defined goal was taken by Stanton and a woman named Susan B. Anthony, whom Stanton forged a lifetime alliance with as fellow women’s rights activists. The two created the National Women Suffrage Association (NWSA), which laid a platform devoted to changing federal law and opposing the 15th amendment, which excluded the recognition of a women’s right to vote.

While initially focusing on federal institutions for their sought after change, the group gradually adopted more state centered tactics including the hope for a gradual “ripple effect” that would ultimately influence voting rights on the federal level (21 Ehlers). However, some women such as future House Representative, Alice Robertson, condemned these women for acting inappropriately and incorrectly, stating women “have gone into politics the wrong way, beginning at the top. When a women shows she is fitted for office, she will receive the call to office just as a man does (22 Ehlers).”

Initially, much hype was given to the NWSA and even a few other women’s groups, including the American Women Suffrage Association (AWSA), but time would reveal serious hurdles for these active groups, most of which, ironically, stemmed from within the female community. Ida H. Harper and Anthony co-wrote, “In the indifference, the inertia, the apathy of women, lies the greatest obstacle to their (NWSA) enfranchisement.”

Though the groups were ultimately focused upon women’s suffrage, it could be said that their initial calling was to first educate women and instill the sense of importance and responsibility they lacked. A “crusade in search of a constituency (21 Ehlers)” wrote Stanton, the battle of indifference raged within the confines of the women’s movement.

A turning point of the women’s movement was on the horizon however. A surge of volunteers—mainly middle-class women—hit the states and promoted everything from progressive causes like prohibition and suffrage, to women’s clubs membership and activism among professional societies, to general participants in local civic organizations.

The new momentum spurred the joint of the NWSA and AWSA into one united organization, forming the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1890. By this time, finding a constituency was no longer the issue; finding a multitude of state to adopt their platform was.

In 1869, Wyoming was the first state to grant women complete voting rights. As is evident by the date, this preceded the formation of the NAWSA, but this state was alone in its hopes for quite some time. However, following suit after the founding of the NAWSA in 1890, three western states, Colorado in 1893, Utah in 1896 and Idaho too later that year, all granted voting rights to women (22 Ehlers).

Again, initial hype was given to the movement i.e. Wyoming’s premature declaration, but it would not be until 1910, after intensified lobbying efforts by the NAWSA, when the ‘ripple effect’ would truly begin to take effect.

In 1913, Alice Paul, a young Quaker activist, formed the Congressional Union (future National Women’s Party) and adopted more “militant tactics” of earning support for the women’s movement. Picketing, rallying, marching, posters etc. were conducted to raise public awareness, which attracted the support of younger generations of women.

Though different from the actions led by the NAWSA, the dissimilar angle of campaigning proved to revitalize the movement and in turn, heavily contributed to the conversion of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson. This rising generation of active women soon became seen as a rising generation of active voters, and with a split division within his own party, this sitting duck opportunity showed every potential for the uniformity and support Wilson so much desired.

In 1915, Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the NAWSA, implemented her “Winning Plan” strategy, which called for the dedication of the women’s movement solely to achieve state referenda on the vote— specifically on non-Western states. Two years later, the strategy proved successful! Arkansas and New York adopted partial (and later full) voting privileges in 1917 for women and from that point on, the floodgates for a national women’s right to vote were opened. Trickling down state by state, the dam was about to burst; enter 66th Congress.

If the crown jewels of 1917 were Arkansas’s and New York’s conversion, Montana’s Jeannette Rankin election to Congress that same year was the golden scepter. As the first women and first suffragists elected to Congress, Rankin stated, “I may be the first, but I will not be the last (37).”

Born in Missoula, Montana to a schoolteacher and a rancher, Rankin attended Montana State University (now University of Montana) and also graduated from New York School of Philanthropy (now Columbia University School of Social Work). Rankin moved back west and attended the University of Washington where she joined the women’s suffrage movement. It is here where Rankin became a professional lobbyist for the NAWSA and began her journey to Congress.

Rankin ran as a Progressive Party member for one of the two Montana House seats, focusing her platform upon women’s suffrage as well as social welfare issues. Much to the objection from the NAWSA, Rankin also presented a platform promoting pacifism—a position the organization did not support because it opposed the sentiments of their latest and greatest suffrage advocate, President Wilson.

In 1917, Rankin was called to an extraordinary April session of Congress after Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare. With her strong pacifists views, the NAWSA requested Rankin to caution her vote against the war, fearing it would tarnish the entire movement and perhaps negate the support of the President. However, Rankin till chose to vote against the war, “I want to stand by my county, but I cannot vote for war (38 Ehlers)”.

During the fall of 1917, Rankin called for the creation of a congressional Committee on Women Suffrage, which Rankin was appointed to after its creation later that year. Rankin did not run for reelection the following year but did run for her representative seat again as the crisis of war began to cloud the county in 1940. By this time however, much had changed for the women’s movement and as Rankin remarked, “No one will pay any attention to me this time. There is nothing unusual about a woman being elected (39 Ehlers).”

Still an avid pacifists, Rankin focused more upon the threat of war and less upon the changing women’s movement her second time around. Again voting ‘no’ to war, Rankin declared, “As a women, I can’t go to war, and I refuse to send anyone else.” The war resolution passed the House 388-1 (40 Ehlers). Rankin’s 90th birthday was in 1970 but at the time of her death May 18th, 1973, she was considering running for her old House seat in protest of the Vietnam War (40 Ehlers).

                 Serious ground was gained for the women’s movement January 10th of 1918 when the House of Representatives passed a voting rights amendment, though it was never endorsed by the 65th Congress. Yet only a year’s time would pass before another bill would sweep both the House and Senate. Passed by Congress June 14th, 1919, the 19th U.S. Amendment read, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on the account of sex (19th Amendment).”

August 26th, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to approve this amendment to the U.S. Constitution and with that, the once stumped, single trunked, known as the ‘women’s movement,’ had now come full circle and created a forest of national and congressional change (Christianson).

Some other early influential Congressional women included Rebecca Felton of Georgia, whom was the first women to serve in the U.S. Senate in 1922, as well as Alice Robertson of Oklahoma, who was the first women to preside of the House of Representatives that same year.

Though she was elected to the 67th Congress, Robertson was exceedingly different than Rankin in terms of female political development. De-emphasizing a lot of Rankin’s strides, Robertson did not negate the women’s movement, but she did repave and reroute the road Rankin had created.

Robertson was born in the Tullahassee Mission in the Creek Indian Territory and in turn served on the Committee on Indian Affairs during her term as a Representative in Congress (42 Ehlers). However, her work proved frustrating and nonproductive; Robertson claimed the committee to be lackadaisical in action and nonresponsive to Indian concern.

Robertson was also assigned to the Committee on Women Suffrage, which insulted many reformers due to her lukewarm support for the 19th amendment in 1920. Robertson was a well-known critic of various women’s groups, “or any other organization that will be used as a club against men (44 Ehlers),” remarked Robertson.

Encouraging virtues but condemning many suffragists for their solitary expression of fault, Robertson envisioned a traditional rise of female politicians. Robertson was interviewed by the Washington Post March 4, 1923 and stated women, “have gone into politics the wrong way, beginning at the top. When a women shows she is fitted for office, she will receive the call to office just as a man does (44 Ehlers).”

With her steadfast grit to shun feminists’ overtures, Robertson gained the respect of her male colleagues. This was a political position Rankin never claimed. “I came to Congress to represent my district, not women (46 Ehlers).”

Though Robertson was not reelected in 1922, she represented a different, but vital angle to Women’s Suffrage Movement—one that took on a varying shadow of movement following Rankin’s time in the 66th Congress.

For what it is worth, I find Robertson’s stance on the women’s movement most fascinating of all the women I have come to study and I commend her liberation of speech and authentic character. Robertson changed the traditional idea of women’s leadership to an idea of leadership by women and for this development, the women’s suffrage movement was supplemented into the pages of American history.

As for the literal make-up of the 66th Congress, lawyers, iron molders, stock raisers, a tree surgeon, two cheese manufacturers, and a glass blower—the professional backgrounds of those within the 66th Congress was vastly diverse. Though no head-on drama occurred while Congress was in session, the House did refuse to seat one of its representative-elects. Victor Berger of Wisconsin was ordered by Speaker of the House, Frederick Gillett not to take the oath of office due to charges against Berger for espionage. His seat remained open throughout the entirety of the Congress (Office of the Clerk).

A congress characterized by a three-way divided partisanship, a female representative, booby-trapped letters of the red scare, and the one and only National College Football Championship won by Harvard in 1919—the 66th Congress of the United States beheld a significant portion of U.S. history.

Heading off the heels of war and into a time of transition, the 66th Congress will forever remain a vital group of folks. As they exited stage right they all began to sing, “Give me a smile, I can keep for a while, In my heart while I’m away. Till we meet once again You and I wish me luck as you wave me goodbye.”

Enter 67th Congress.

Bibliography

Why the World Trade Organization?

What is the World Trade Organization (WTO)? Why do we need the WTO or better yet, who even is the World Trade Organization (WTO)?  A search online will reveil four consistant vantage 4 points of the WTO: 1) An assemblage of 153 countries with a common denominator of interest in trade; 2) A reincarnation and further development of the 1948 International Trade Organization (ITO); 3) An organization that operates a system of trade rules and affirms a solid vision of free trade verses protectionism; 4) A monopoly that is inevitable to avoid in membership and is neither beneficial nor developmental for nations. As it may be apparent, a simple description of the WTO varies depending on who you ask and at what point in history you direct the acquisition.

Let us return to the original question(s): what is/ who is the World Trade Organization? As we examine the first point, “An assemblage of 153 countries with a common denominator of interest in trade,” it is most notable to recognize the vast membership of this program. Of the 193 countries recognized by the United Nations, nearly 80% are also members of the WTO—indicating a massive support basin and acceptance of the values and stances this program represents—or so this high number suggest (WTO).

Moving along to the second section of this statement, “…a common denominator of interest in trade,” this too represents a strong classification of direction. Directly from the WTO Director-General, he defines the organization as “The international organization whose primary purpose is to open trade for the benefit of all (WTO).” Providing the legal grounds for international trade, the WTO acts as both judge and cop of global trade—a role it has played since its declaratory founding in 1995.

Stemming off the foundational year of the WTO in 1995, we can next examine the definition, “A reincarnation and further development of the 1947 International Trade Organization (ITO).” Historically, the roots of the WTO stretch back to the early 1930s, after the grave-ridden WWII had left an economic skeleton for most nations and shattered the trade relationships of nearly every major power in the world.

At the heart of the 1930s meltdown was later determined to be hectic and hasty move towards protectionism which had been caused by the large fluctuation of exchange rates and prohibitively high tariffs (Snow 173). Protectionism is defined as, “Government actions and policies that restrict or restrain international trade, often done with the intent of protecting local businesses and jobs from foreign competition (Protectionism).”

A snowball effect of reaction caused many countries to close their trade borders, protect and rely upon domestic goods, and restrict unpredictable international commerce (Snow 173). With the global economy in increasing havoc, a conference was called in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire in July 1944 to plan for a post war economic Band-Aid.

The conference convened with 44 countries gathered at the Washington Hotel at the base of Mt. Washington, and a series of agreements were melted into existence. Two major international organizations were established at the conference, both of which have lasted to this day: the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD or World Bank).

Dealing directly with the currency fluctuations and the granting of loans to war-poor countries (Snow 174), the IMF and World Bank were seen as major milestones for needed international interaction—and what many believe to be the beginnings of the current universal theme song: globalization (Snow 177).

However, the emergence of regulated free trade was not as well embraced by the Bretton Woods countries. There are a multitude of reasons as to why this coalition did not endure (become ratified), but one major speed bump was vastly clear: the designation of ‘proper authority’ for trade agreement enforcement was not agreed upon (Snow 175). Is it just to allow one organization to hold such power? Can there ever be a legitimate, unbiased source of power? It is beneficial to note the history behind this problem, all of which began and ended with the United States of America.

Championed by the U.S. government, explicitly by the Truman administration, the mission for the ITO initially gained headway in the U.S. Department of State. At the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 1946, the Truman administration proposed the idea of drafting the outline for an International Trade Organization—one that would act as a backbone for the all-body issue of free trade (Snow 175).

There were two staples of ITO as initially proposed: 1) the organization would “provide an institutional base for the reduction of trade barriers and tariffs (Snow 175).” 2) (the most controversial issue) the creation of a just authority figure to enforce the agreements of the free traders (Snow 175).

This second quality was questioned by both opponents and proponents of free trade due to its infringement on national and individual sovereignty (specifically, American sovereignty). However, looking back at the history books now—even this con of the ITO could have possibly been overturned if the proper amount of time had been allotted to the proposal. However, an alternate political agenda stole the lime light from the ITO that very same year: the North America Treaty Organization (NATO) proposal—“the first peacetime alliance in American history (Snow 175).”

The story concludes here, with the ITO never reaching ratification. A year later however, at meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) was ratified. Where did this come from? Proposed as a short-term, temporary solution to the free trade issue, GATT was originally supposed to act as an interim for the proposal of an ITO—till it could be agreed upon and internationally accepted (Snow 176).

Thus, because the organization needed ratification, the major discrepancies were avoided, like the lack the enforcement capability that the ITO had proposed, which had ultimately led to its demise. A safe, vague resemblance of the ITO resulted and came to be known as the GATT.  However, what was meant to last only a couple of years till formal agreement upon free trade disciplines eventually transformed into the standard operating procedure for trading amongst nations till the creation of the WTO in 1995—almost 50 years later (Snow 177).

As two of the three original Bretton Woods proposals were ratified and enacted (IMF and World Bank), the idea of an international trade organization (with power) was forgone and held more as a potential ideal for future trading. Acting a safety net for global free trade, the GATT did uphold the core idea of most favored nation (MFN) and the four branches of action that stem from that: nondiscriminatory, transparency, consultation/dispute settlements, and reciprocity—all of which were presented in the ITO (Snow 176). However, what the GATT lacked was the ‘action’ part of these branches AKA what the ratified ITO would have remedied.

Half a century later the last, or Uruguay, round proposed the founding of the World Trade Organization or the International Trade Organization “reincarnated (Snow 176).” With the promotion of free trade and the necessary mechanisms of enforcement, the WTO was ratified in December 1994, and enacted in January 1995 (WTO). Defined as an economic agreement—not a trade treaty—which is what the ITO had been proposed as—the WTO was met with astounding support and again championed by the U.S. (Snow 176).

The WTO as an economic agreement was vitally important in implementation because it isolated the proposal as a single, finished entity—not something that could be changed or tampered with before ratification. This also meant that only a simple majority was needed from both houses, not a 2/3 vote, which could have resulted in another disoriented, un-compromiseable affair (Snow 176). But as I will discuss later, perhaps this was only the beginning of the ‘cutting of corners’ and irregularity of the organization.

After 50 years of promoting a paper-frail treaty of trade that looked grand in theory but lackadaisical in action, the GATT (ITO) had finally upgraded to a powerful and influential agreement known none other as the World Trade Organization.

“An organization that operates a system of trade rules and affirms a solid vision of free trade verses protectionism.” From 70 members in 1995 to 153 members in 2008 (not including 30 nonmember countries that are currently in the five year process of gaining entry), the WTO is currently in control of 97% of world trade (Snow 177). With figures that claim almost global acceptance, the World Trade Organization appears powerful, influential, acceptable, and reputable…

When I initially began my research on the WTO, I started compiling information from the organization’s site itself first, for obvious reasons. I found that familiarizing myself with the goals and visions of the program itself was extremely helpful in my initial quest for knowledge because it offered the ‘ideal version’ of what the organization has set out to accomplish. Below, I have listed the set of activities that the WTO sets out to accomplish each session (WTO):

— Negotiating the reduction or elimination of obstacles to trade (import tariffs, other barriers to trade) and agreeing on rules governing the conduct of international trade (e.g. antidumping, subsidies, product standards, etc.).
— Administering and monitoring the application of the WTO’s agreed rules for trade in goods, trade in services, and trade-related intellectual property rights.
— Monitoring and reviewing the trade policies of our members, as well as ensuring transparency of regional and bilateral trade agreements.
— Settling disputes among our members regarding the interpretation and application of the agreements.
— Building capacity of developing country government officials in international trade matters
— Assisting the process of accession of some 30 countries who are not yet members of the organization.
— Conducting economic research and collecting and disseminating trade data in support of the WTO’s other main activities.
— Explaining to and educating the public about the WTO, its mission and its activities.

(Refer to WTO)

From this list, a summary of the actions of the WTO may include a forum of governments that negotiate, define, and enforce trade agreements as well as settle trade disputes. By formalizing the rules of trade among nations, it is the WTO’s heart to ensure the multilateral trading system and level the playing field of international commerce (WTO). Writing contracts that guarantee beneficial trading rights for all and binding governments to keep these trade policies within the agreed limits is the ideal aim of the WTO and what they have deemed necessary to ensure and improve the welfare of the peoples of the member countries.

It must be understood though, these are the ideal actions of the organization—not necessarily the true actions (Beattie). By simply reading these statements, I can equate them to the rules of my Sylvanian household: my parents set and enforce the rules, seek to know my whereabouts all the time, trust that I am where I say I am, and present consequences to the actions I take that they define as ‘corrupt’ or poor in judgment.

But 19 years later, I have learned that parents do not always uphold their defined rules; they bend with the right techniques applied. They enforce rules that they see beneficial to them and they can yearn to know my whereabouts all the time, but I can ultimately go wherever I want now. Even the consequences I face coming home may be malignant, but by the next day or week— the fight is benign and just another lesson to have been learned.

Through this comparison, it is evident that both actors can act ‘out of ideally.’ What remains important is the understanding and relationship between these self-driven groups. The WTO has been faced with a massive account of disapproval from various groups—including the enormous public protest that occurred in Seattle, Washington in 1999 (Beattie).

This anti-globalization movement aroused over 40,000 people to the scene of a Washington hotel (WTO) and even carried over into other international organizations mentioned in this essay i.e. IMF and the World Bank conferences. But is this protest the reflection of the WTO itself or the fact that it is an international, globalization-promoting program (Beattie)?

Perhaps the two questions should not be disjointed, but in fact harmonized. The last definition of this organization I presented to you stated, “A monopoly that is inevitable to avoid in membership and is neither beneficial nor developmental for nations.” As a Ricardian principle (Snow 178), free trade promotes comparative advantage and benefits the consumer. However, this is under the assumption that all players can be competitive AKA find domestic products and services that are advantageous to capitalize on.

As a “handmaiden of the process of economic globalization (Snow 180),” this intertwining of policies and relationships may cause shadiness and a sort of forgetfulness of the individual state and a focus on braided, macroeconomics (Snow 179).

As an organization that encompasses almost 80 percent of the world’s nations (and rising) (WTO), is this monopoly even realistic to halt or even bicker with? Multinational corporations see the mass of interconnection as a valuable asset to their profit motive businesses, yet critics of the system claim the entire WTO to be an “unaccountable, corporate-based, government (Snow 180).” So who is correct? Or are perhaps both?

It is important to recognize the economic base of all of these negotiations and to note the difference between an economic treaty and government treaty, for the sake of discretion of influence. “The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business, while allowing governments to meet social and environmental objectives (WTO).”

In other words, this organization is not meant to ensure the security of every member nation—it is only meant to extend formalized authority over deemed trade regulations to ensure economic transparency—not security. Thus, as a regulator of the relationship between foreign direct investment and trade, the WTO is not held accountable for any by-product of security centered dispute between nations.

It is also important to note that of the 156 members of the WTO, 117 are developing nations, or nearly two thirds (WTO). This speaks loudly of the ideal visionary hope of the program, which is to equalize trading opportunity, no matter government structure, militaristic action, social dissimilarity, or religious affiliation.  Special provisions are available to developing countries, including more flexible deadlines, implementations, and measurements of progress. In addition, the WTO offers hundreds of technical programs that are designed to aid new or developing trade networks (WTO). This program is often called the “Aid for Trade” and hopes to develop the efficiency and infrastructure of the developing nation (WTO).

Consumers and producers are the only applicable terms that can legitimately be used to describe the society of the WTO. Nouns like American, Asian, Caucasian, German-speaking, Jewish, or third-world are irrelevant in the context of the WTO because it does not seek an identity form within; it seeks an identity throughout. Every member nation has these terms that represent its body of beings, but the WTO is not a body of beings; it is a body of beliefs and those beliefs rest in the heart of free trade.

With all of these differing backgrounds, languages, government structures etc., it is a wonder how this organization even exist in harmony, much less add contributable productivity. So how does this happen? We have already discussed an outbreak of dispute that occurred in 1999, only four years after its founding. But as it has been stated, the WTO is run by its member governments—all decisions being approved/denied by a group of designated governmental ministers, known as the Ministerial Conference (WTO).

Every two years or so, these ministers meet in Geneva, Switzerland, where the headquarters of the WTO stands, to discuss bids for treaties, negotiations, and Dispute Settlement Understandings (a specially appointed group of independent experts that base infringement of trade agreement upon their singular interpretation of the commitments) (WTO).

Within those two years, a group of ambassadors and delegates from all member governments, known as the General Council, meet regularly and discuss proposals, ideas, and developments (WTO), all the while keeping tabs and a close watch on the current trading systems in place. Specialized subsidiary bodies such as the Councils Committee and other sub-committees administer and monitor the implementation of agreements between WTO members, reporting actions they deem as ‘corrupt’ or poor (WTO).

While the WTO is driven by its member states predominantly, it would be hard to omit the work and coordinated function of the Secretariats, who present a united front for the progression of the WTO (WTO). With over 700 staff members including experts, lawyers, statisticians, economists, communication experts, and so—these people assist delegates day in and out (WTO). Whether compiling information, following trends, coordinating trade activities, or observing the established negotiations in action—these employees provide invaluable services and resources for member nations.

Another function of these employees is to maintain regular dialogue with other governmental organizations and parliamentarians, as well as non-governmental organizations. The media and general public usually fall under the ladder of home governmental press, but with modern technologies, it is becoming progressively easier for general citizens to gain access to full WTO briefings, treaties, and communication warehouses, all in the “…aim of enhancing cooperation and increasing awareness of WTO activities, (WTO).”

As the columns of the ideal WTO include “non-discriminate, transparent, competitive, and beneficial agreements (WTO)”, it may seem a wonder that so much opposition to its participation has occurred since its founding 17 years ago. The IMF and World Bank have both evolved and changed somewhat since their beginnings in 1947, but their foundations have held strong and fit. Yet as a predecessor to the WTO, the ITO was shut down before it even reached open status.

There are many varying views as to where and what the World Trade Organization will become and proceed (or perhaps recede) to, but one outstanding feature that has and will remain constant throughout this entire process of evaluation: globalization is on the mount and as the first cousin to this trend, free trade ought to keep climbing—that is, till it is forced to face a consequence bigger than its intended actions.

Bibliography

  •   Snow, Donald M.Cases in   International Relations 5tf ed. “Free Trade: From ITO to WTO and   Beyond.”, Pearson Education, Inc. 2012

Yielding to Yemen: an International Call.

It may be well and good to state that a roaring economy will be the key to development, but how can an economy 90 percent based on drying oil wells begin to diversify? Like many other middle eastern countries, Yemen faces a challenge that cannot be exported like most of its current economy. The answer may be discovered after an examination of Yemen’s country profile and local community infrastructure development.

The world manufactures eight million new guns every year, adding to the 875 million known firearms that are circulating internationally (MacInnis). Of that figure, 270 million belong to U.S. citizens and according to the Small Arms Survey by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies, another four and half million of those newly manufactured guns will be added to the U.S. by Christmas (MacInnis).

Of course, weapon ownership may correlate with stability, wealth and development, a claim assuredly evidenced by India’s and China’s second and thirdly ranked civilian gun arsenal ownership (MacInnis). One would assume that on a per-capita basis that the U.S. too would triumph—a recognized truth (MacInnis); yet actors like India and China disappear from the stage.

Enter Yemen: a country ranked second in most heavily armed citizenry with estimates placing 61 guns per 100 people (MacInnis). A country bleeding with historical discord, political division and economic volatility, Yemen faces a mountainous challenge acquiring constructive and conducive development.

Strategically located on the ancient spice routes connecting Africa, the Middle East, and Asia (Yemen Profile), Yemen sits at the southwestern end of the Arabian Peninsula (NY-times). Assumed to be one of the possible locations of the Biblical kingdom of Sheba (Yemen Profile), Yemen was known to the Romans as Arabia Felix or Happy Arabia and Augustus Caesar himself sought to annex it (NY-times). Caesar’s failed attempt led to the Islamic caliphate rule in the 7th century and solidified continued Islamic imam’s theocratic political rule—a system that endured for centuries (CIA).

Northern Yemen became part of the Ottoman Empire until 1918 and claimed itself a republic in 1962 (Yemen Profile). Southern Yemen was ruled by the British until 1967 (CIA) and three years later when Marxists claimed rule over Southern Yemen, an exodus of hundreds of thousands occurred, pouring people into Northern Yemen (CIA) and triggering a Civil War that lasted two long decades (Yemen Profile). This conflict also served as a “proxy conflict (NY-times)” in the cold war, salting the Soviet Union and U.S. battle wound (NY-times).

The ‘unified’ Republic of Yemen was officially born in May 22nd, 1990 (CIA) and represented a mismatch of traditional North Yemen with Communist Southern Yemen (Yemen Profile). After a short civil war that ended with the defeat of the southern separatists in 1994 (Yemen Profile), slight progress was made in 2000 when Saudi Arabia and Yemen agreed to a ‘delimitation’ of their border (CIA). However, fighting in the northwest between the Yemen government and the traditional Zaydi Islamic Huthi rebels (CIA) returned the rugged landscape to an unpromising battle arena (NY-times).

The boiling point of Yemen political madness (thus far) came in late January 2011 when anti-President Saleh protestors (NY-times), inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, refueled their separatists agenda and called again for succession (CIA). Yemen President Abi Abdullah Saleh has ruled authoritarian style for 33 years and has gained an increasing amount of control over the Yemen government, while the country itself has continued to decline.

Pointing to high unemployment, poor economic conditions, and corruption (CIA) as evidence of the failings of President Saleh, tens of thousands of demonstrators assembled noonday on March 18 and were opened fired upon by government officials (NY-times).

Three days later, five Yemen army commanders and one of Yemen’s most important Islamic tribal leaders shifted their allegiance to the protestors (NY-times) and the Gulf Cooperation Council called for Saleh’s immediate transfer of presidential powers in exchange for prosecution immunity (CIA). Saleh’s initial rejection to the proposal was shortly curbed after an explosion in June occurred, leaving Saleh injured (CIA).

With presidential power hesitantly transferred to Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in April 2011 and officially granted in February of 2012 (NY-times), hope for democracy in Yemen has made progress. However, national dialogue surrounding a new constitution will ultimately prescribe symptoms of development in this globally pivotal country (NY-times).

Pivotal country? How, one might ask. Yemen has become a major player in Al-Qaeda’s quest for secure base locations. After the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and training base closings in Pakistan, Islamic militants (Yemen Profile) have sampled and selected Yemen as one of (if not the) origin of continued al-Qaeda clout.

As early as 2009, after the failed Christmas day airline attack by the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda surfaced, greater strides have been made to halt insurgents and resurgent’s (Yemen Profile). However, anti-governmental influences have allowed al-Qaeda hawks opportunity to swoop in and establish positions in once-secured locations, like the Abyan province in 2011 (NY-times).

Though Mr. Hadi holds the title Chief of State, former President Saleh’s influence continues to create a stench of credible government initiatives, even those led by Hadi. Saleh’s power is most affluent through his remaining relatives in positions, which are most dominant in Yemen military sectors and copious government security agencies (NY-times). Hadi has been cautious and even reluctant in shedding positions from Saleh’s regime of family and supporters, thrusting doubt into the eyes of a nation nearly blinded with bitterness and distrust of government. Why the hesitant approach by Hadi to reform the government if Saleh’s surviving society is such a dilemma?

An accelerated solution to this question came on September 11th, 2012 when the fifth assignation attempt on the Defense Minister Mohammad Nasser Ahmed (appointed by Saleh) left 12 dead (2 Dawood). The defense minister is listed among Al-Qaeda and the former regime’s most wanted persons, according to Nabeel Al-Sharjabi, a political science professor at Sana’a University (2 Dawood). The bombing took place in Yemen’s capitol city, Sana’a, in a location considered to be one of the most secure in the city because of its vicinity to the Russians embassy and many Yemen government institutions (2 Dawood).

Swiftly issuing a half dozen other position decrees including the replacement of several governorates, Intelligence Department officials, and the Defense Minister himself, Hadi claimed that all of these changes had were part of his original agenda, but were hastened by possibility of political corruption within Hadi’s own Cabinet compound (Dawood). Properly noted however, officials chosen were not new faces in government; all were recycled leaders of the same appropriate sector—or Saleh infused contracts.

Doctor Mahmoud Bokari, a political sociology professor at Sana’a University, commented in the Yemen Times that Hadi’s decrees “reflect his (Hadi’s) wish to uproot the belief that a position is the propriety of the person in charge and that new people instead of known figures be chosen (Dawood).” Yet Ahmed Saif Hashid, a member of the Yemen parliament and a political activist, stated that security and stability would never be achieved without the dismissal of essential, Saleh loyal, militant leaders.

Hashid pointed to  Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, commander of the First Armored Division, and Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, commander of the Republican Guards, as prime targets for dismissal (Dawood). “Unless these two are dismissed of their positions, the decrees are of no value because they are the real danger to Yemen’s future (Dawood).”

This turmoil occurred two weeks ago, yet the wound had barely been wrapped when the worst of Yemen’s destruction ripped through the country early the next morning. Igniting a sentiment of pure outrage throughout the Arab world, the American-made video that insulted Islam’s founder, the Prophet Muhammad, spread like wildfire throughout all of Yemen and called hundreds of protestors to storm the American Embassy, like the actions of protestors in Libya (Arrabyee). Muslim cleric and onetime mentor to Osama bin Laden, Abdul Majid al- Zindani, called for the immediate storm surge of Islamic followers; al-Zindani has been named to the “specially designated global terrorist” list of the U.S. Treasury Department in 2004 (Arrabyee).

Keenly aware of Islamic sentiments, the embassy staff had previously evacuated when the protestors stormed the embassy security officials; five Yemeni’s were killed by Yemeni Security Forces and Yemeni government officials hurriedly apologized to President Barack Obama (Arrabyee). President Hadi offered his “sincere apologies to President Obama and to the people of the United States of America (Arrabyee)” for the attack and ‘avowed to bring the culprits to justice (Al-Haj).’ Hadi also appointed the “rowdy crowd” as part of a conspiracy to flex the close relations between Washington and Yemen (Al-Haj).

The Yemen political system has been defined and described by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as both a transitional government and unified government. Two seemingly contradictory statements, the Government of National Reconciliation is projected to formally end its ‘transition’ and ‘unification’ process by February 2014 when the implementations of the new constitution are enacted, i.e. legislative and presidential elections (Overview).

On track to comply with all of the requirements established by the GCC, Yemen seemingly appears headed in the right direction though it’s track record is lousy to bet on. However, the reestablishment of two of supreme IFI’s may make the development race to Yemen a bit more appealing to both domestic and foreign expansion (Development).

The point blank cause of instability in Yemen historically, may directly slant toward failed politics and government corruption, but the underlying cause of the current instability in Yemen can be directly attributed to social and economic strife (Overview). Post-revolution Yemen presents many challenges such as reduced availability to fuel, which have caused electrical and water shortages, as well as increased cost of agricultural, industrial, and service sectors, causing job loss and  business closures (Development). With 47 percent of Yemeni’s surviving on less than $2 per day (Overview) and poverty levels continually increasing (more than 10 percent in less than a decade), can there be optimism in Yemen development (Development)?

The answer to that question is an absolute yes, but with a ‘but’ attached. Yes, development in Yemen is possible though 36 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water and Sana’a aquifers will deplete in the next 20 years (Development); yes, development in Yemen is possible though the population is growing at a rate over 3 percent per year (compared with a regional average of 1.7 percent) and contains a population where over half of the people are under the age of 15 (Development); yes, development in Yemen is possible even with 0.6 percent of the workforce comprised by women with women earning an average of 1.3 years of formal schooling (Development).

Yes, development is possible, BUT 1) it will not happen without the help of foreign agencies and 2) it must occur hurriedly, as in within the next five years, to have any hope of independent sustainability by the Yemeni’s.

After Yemen agreed to the requirements of the GCC, two supreme IFI’s to return to the scene: the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). After eight months of suspension by the World Bank due to the political insecurities and human rights failings (namely for women), the bank was able to resume activity after the united government was installed in 2011 (Development). The entry and exit conditions of an IFI are often an accurate indicator of country stability or instability and Yemen is no exception.

With this reemergence of foreign development, the optimism and hope for inclusive change in a post-revolution country could not be more evidential of potential development. However, the fragile and underlying reality of the situation is: development must materialize quickly due to fragile, political unrest and the new government must remain united and stable, two traits Yemeni’s have never possessed without corruption.

The economy of Yemen has been frail for the majority of the countries existence. Today, oil represents one third of the GDP, almost three quarters of government revenue, and 90 percent of Yemen exports (Development). Yet at their current rate of extraction, Yemen oil reservoirs will go dry in 10-12 years (Development). Because of their need for exportation and their countries lack of natural resources, oil has been the crown of the economy, leading to domestic shortage of fuels, i.e. diesel.

This has contributed to the electrical and water shortages dispersed throughout the country, leading to heightened cost of agricultural, service, and industrial sectors that must now require irrigation, transportation, and domestic marketing strategies, which in turn added to the decrease in across-the-board production and virtually erased the chance for diversified exportation (Overview). Perhaps the only silver lining in this dark cloud has been the stability of the exchange rate throughout these crises, along with global financial crisis (Overview). Do not be fooled long; Yemen still remains one of the most food insecure countries in the world with 46 percent of children age five underweight due to malnourishment (Development).

Yemen presents a list of monumental problems, but the largest and most daunting task may be the sheer infrastructure of communities, or lack thereof. When young women are forced to travel four to seven hours every day just to fetch drinkable water (Local), even the best political development will not compensate for the lack of basic human necessities. Widespread economic & social exclusions and exhaustions are at the root of the Yemeni dilemma, but a recently introduced program by the World Bank aims at providing basic public services to all, while also creating short-term employment—and the best part is it is fast, all-encompassing, and led by the Yemeni government.

The Labor Intensive Public Works Project works like this: World Bank Senior Operations Office, Ali Khamis, a native of Yemen, will head the project knowing the countries unique geographic, demographic, and developmental challenges first-hand (Local). The project most readily aims at improving basic needs of the population and increases employment opportunity for all, but tackles this by way of cooperation between local communities and the new united government (Local).

An improvement within the social contract between the citizens of Yemen and the government is the long-term effect, but the services and programs are immediate, ready, and instantaneously seen by the population (Local). Khamis stated, “Direct beneficiaries of the project will be the people that live in dispersed, sparsely populated, rural settlements, where 80% of the investments will be made, as well as poor communities in urban areas (Local).”

The project was one of 17,000 request sent to the World Bank by the Yemeni’s, but the US $65 million that backed the project will contribute to the cost needed to allocate such basic resources throughout the entire country. The project platform cost has a two step allocation process: Yemen’s 21 governorates (Figure 3) will submit their population size, remoteness, and poverty index (Local), then the sub-projects will be screened specific to a designated area (Local).

Without the one-size-fits all approach, the project is aiming to alleviate World Bank dependency and invigorate local community development, while also solidifying Yemen governmental legitimacy through project follow-up. Khamis and World Bank officials predict that one million people will directly benefit from the services enacted by the project, 120,000 being the temporary-employed, but the social benefits from having a government in support of the opportunity for independent Yemeni development will likely affect all 24.8 million inhabitants in one form or fashion (Local).

The World Bank group works very closely with the IMF on macroeconomic dialogue, but also with the International Finance Corporation, Arab States of the Gulf Secretariat and many bilateral agencies from the sub-region (Overview). The Interim Strategy Note (ISN) is the lead source of development strategy that these organizations support and it is guided by three principles: intensifying participatory democracy and inclusion, strengthening government transparency and accountability, enhancing the operational flexibility of foreign programs (Overview).

Every development program is uniquely aimed at short-term gains, but long-term groundwork. Expanded social media tools have been exaggerated in all ISN programs specifically for the hope for remaining true to not only these principles, but also in preparation for Yemen governmental research and development (Overview).

Back in 2010, Mr. Masood Ahmed, Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department of the International Monetary Fund, visited Sana’a, Yemen’s capitol. At the conclusion of his visit, he stated (IMF):

“Yemen is embarking on a three-year economic program that aims to achieve high and sustained growth and durable poverty reduction over the medium-term. The program reinforces macroeconomic stability in the face of a difficult global environment and declining oil production.”

Now in 2012, these goals have shifted from medium-term to immediate and there are now but three main areas of recognition that developmental hopes must implement readily, or fear another political uprising: the need to improve basic services, restore the economy, and build modern institutions. Restoring the economy must come first to political solidarity because without legitimacy and recognition of authority, serious reform will cease to take place, as history has shown.

How can this be checked? The ‘political space’ that is needed for the transitional government to be successful will come out of the new constitution, positive national dialogue among Yemeni’s, and corruption-free elections in 2014. Modern institutions will be a symptom of economic development as well, but are best if home-grown or accentuated by private business and domestic initiatives—not foreign or governmental.

It may be well and good to state that a roaring economy will be the key to development, but how can an economy 90 percent based on drying oil wells begin to diversify? The answer can be returned to local community infrastructure development. When international actors (IMF, World Bank etc.) prep and allow national understudies to perform, domestic legitimacy and direct influence occur. Thus groups like civil societies, youth organizations, academia, and think tanks must be utilized and prompted to engineer community development.

“…we are prepared to export to you the best kinds of Yemen (Mocha) green coffee at competitive prices for the benefits of our both firms… we shall provide you with all the information needed on various kinds of coffee and their prices, taking into account that you know very well that Yemen (Mocha) coffee is the most famous and well reputed coffee all over the world…hmmm.. al-Hamdani coffee!

(Yemeni)” Yemeni Mocha Coffee Association has been established since 2007 and supremely encourages coffee farmers all across the republic. al-Hamdani mocha coffee has been a family owned business in Yemen for 130 years and was a pillar in the founding of the Yemen Mocha Coffee Association (Al-Hamdani). This company is also the staple Yemeni Mocha coffee exporter as well as the local supplier for domestic coffee firms in Yemen (Al-Hamdani).

They were ‘the first name in the world of Yemeni Coffee’ and they have been making it ever since. Yemen has every potential to become part of this ever-developing world. A little spice from their biblical days and a bold cup of Yemeni Joe, and the Republic of Yemen should be up and ready to take on this new day.

Bibliography

A Shot in the Dark (or Light)

“Bad things happen to good people. It’s a part of life I’ll never understand but it’s a reality. Some people blame violence on weapons, but I tend to blame violence on human nature.”

Robin Fraizer, 47, is a mom of three adolescent boys, wife of a successful real estate agent, and owner of three licensed firearms and two concealed hand guns. Durham County, North Carolina resident and Gwinnett County, Georgia, native, Fraizer represents one of many attitudes surrounding the topic of gun control in North Carolina.

“Criminals will always a find a way…It’s funny to me when people think that gun control will end violence. Criminals steal their weapons, so gun control in effect penalizes law-abiding citizens.”

An advocate for statewide licensed distribution of guns, Fraizer was raised in a middle-class southern home with parents who preached the topic of guns as both a protective mechanism for existence, yet also as a sporting event.

“I own guns and I own them for several reasons. First of all, shooting is a lot of fun! It’s a tradition in my family and if you know basic gun safety, it’s a great time. I also own guns because I know that there are evil men in this world.”

The issue of gun control expands into every level of American government and does not stop at the borders of the U.S.. With eight million new guns manufactured worldwide each year (over half of those guns purchased in the United States), gun control (or lack thereof) plays a relative and dominant role in the lives of every global citizen.

According to a Small Arms Survey in 2007 that was conducted by the Geneva-based Graduate Institution of International Studies, “There is roughly one firearm for every seven people worldwide. Without the United States though, this number drops to about one firearm per 10 people (Maclnnis).”

A public poll conducted by the Brady Campaign (BC), a pro-gun control non-profit that rivals the National Rifle Association (NRA), found that 70 percent of American voters mistakenly believe that a system of licensing and registering already exists in the U.S.. Yet, the Small Arms Survey found that only around 12 percent of civilian weapons are registered with authorities.

Scored by the BC in 2011 as rating a16 out of 100, 100 being strong gun control, North Carolina proved to be anything but deliberate with gun control laws. The one-star rating by the BC stated North Carolina as a state with, “weak gun laws that help feed the illegal gun market and allows the sale of guns without background checks and put children at risk (Brady).” Yet Senator Kay Hagan stood by these lax gun laws stating, “I am a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights. My children received lifelong hunting licenses when they were born, and hunting has been a favorite pastime of our family. Responsible gun ownership is not only part of the fabric of my state, but it is also a fundamental Constitutional right (Hagan).”

In the same public poll by the BC mentioned above, 87 percent of non-NRA gun owners and 74 percent of NRA gun owners support require criminal background checks on anyone who wishes to purchase a gun. Republican pollster Frank Lutz stated,  “Gun owners have misperceptions of current gun laws, with over half (53%) of non-NRA members and 57% of NRA members believing that the statement, ‘Everyone who wants to buy a gun has to pass a background check to complete the purchase’ is true.  This statement is false (Lutz).” Lutz went on to say that approximately 40 percent of gun sales are not subject to a Brady background check (Lutz).

In 2008, Governor of North Carolina, Beverly Purdue voted to “maintain all state registration procedures and state restrictions on possessing firearms (Perdue),” and “Continue to allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed firearms (Perdue).” Yet as depicted above, what are the legal state registration procedures and state restrictions surrounding gun control in NC and how might these be misconstrued or ill-perceived by the majority of the population?

The cold hard facts of this case seem to be missing, but how?  Why is this big-screen production, one that is filled with star-studded actors such as the NRA and BC, offer no national consensus on gun control, nor a polarized, partisan opinion?

Examining current legislation and elected North Carolina political actors voting records could perhaps offer an authentic and certifiable definition of what gun control in North Carolina truly means. Yet a less political and more reliable source exists on this topic. North Carolina Attorney General, Roy Cooper last revised the NC Firearms Laws in December 2011. Below are multiple excerpts from his North Carolina Department of Justice Law Enforcement Liaison Section. These sections will be most helpful in defining the current state restrictions and flexibilities surrounding gun ownership in NC:

  • “Requirements for the purchase of firearms (page 1)”
      • On February 28, 1994, the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act became law…established numerous procedures to govern purchases of firearms…
      • …establishment of National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) that federally licensed firearms dealers must contact before transferring any firearm (handgun or long gun) to individuals. The NICS system is operated by the FBI…North Carolina’s handgun purchase permits will suffice as a suitable alternative method for the purchase of a firearm in NC from a federally licensed firearms dealer under Brady.

March 30, 1981 marked the beginning of a 10 year battle when twenty-five-year-old John W. Hinckley, Jr., loomed in the shadows of
a Washington, D.C., hotel, waiting for President Ronald Reagan to emerge. As President Reagan approached his limousine, Hinckley fired off six rounds with a .22 caliber Rohm RG-14 revolver (Patterson). The president was hit in his lung, but the battle came from the three others accompanying him who  were wounded. Reagan press secretary, James S. Brady, sustained a wound to his forehead that disabled him permanently, igniting a passion in his wife Sarah Brady that spread to a wave of gun control sentiment throughout the country (Sugarmann). Though the NRA was successful in torpedoeing the bill for over 10 years, 1993 brought the first federal law passed in hope to regulate gun distribution throughout the US.

    • Federal Requirements (page 2)”
        • The NICS databases will include: illegal/unlawful alien files, controlled substance abuse files, dishonorable discharge files, citizenship renouncing files, mental commitment files, wanted persons files, domestic violence protection order files, criminal history files…
        • This information will then be used in determining if a person can purchase a firearm… Firearm dealer must have purchasers complete and sign BATF From 4473, Firearms Transactions Record…examining a government issued photo identification card…”
        • Multiple long guns may be purchased with a single pistol purchase permit however they must be purchased in a single transaction.
        • …a valid North Carolina Concealed Handgun Permit may be used as an alternative to a NICS check…preceding five years.

In other words, if a dent exist on a person’s record, it will become extremely hard for them to obtain a gun. This in theory may sound appropriate and legitimate but perhaps examining the demographic of gun users in North Carolina will show a flaw in the system. The owners of four or more guns (about 10% of the nation’s adults) are in possession of over 77% of the total stock of firearms in the entire nation. Yet only 17.5% of these guns are sporting (hunting) firearms (Spitzer). Below are the age demographics of gun owners in NC.

Less than high school (N=358) 74.1

High school (N=858) 65.7

Some college (N=73 1) 71.2

College degree (bachelor’s) (N=291) 78.5

Some post-college (N=70) 84.3

Advanced degree (N=224) 67.4

  • “North Carolina Requirements (page 3)”
    • NC pistol permitting an concealed carry permit laws qualify as an alternative to the requirements of the Brady Law… it is unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to sell, give, away, transfer, purchase, or receive, at any place in the state, any pistol, unless the purchaser or receiever has obtained a license or permit to receive such a pistol by the sheriff of the county where the purchaser or receiver resides, or the purchaser or receiver possesses a valid NC issued concealed carry permit.
    • A violation of this pistol permit law is a Class 2 Misdemeanor under NC law. Specifically exempt from the provisions of this permit requirement are the transfer of antique firearms or historic-edged weapons (before 1898)…the fee for pistol permits is set by the statue and is $5.00 per permit.

    Spitzer also concluded that one in three hand guns and one in six long guns (sporting/hunting guns) is kept loaded and unlocked, while nearly 1/5 of gun owners have no formal gun training (Sugarmann) and support no registration requirements thorughout states.

    • “Eligible Persons—Federal and NC (page 4-5)”  Ineligible to receive or possess a fireman under federal law: persons under indictment, convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, a fugitive from justice, a person who is an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana, or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance, a person who has been adjudicated mentally defective, discharged dishonorably from the U.S. armed forces, a person illegally in the US, or a person having been a citizen of the US, but has renounced his or her citizenship.
  • Effective September 30, 1996…”Lautenburg Amendment” to prohibit the possession of firearms and ammunition by anyone convicted of a misdemeanor under federal or state law which has an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or threatened use of a deadly weapon…”
  • A county sheriff is only authorized under NCGS to issue a permit to receive or purchase a handgun when an application is submitted by a person who is a resident of his or her particular county (page 6).
  • (Page 10) A citizen of this State may purchase a firearm in another state if the citizen undergoes a background check that satisfies the law of the state of purchase and that includes an inquiry of the NICS.
  • “Possessing and Carrying Firearms; carrying concealed weapons (page 10)”
    • …it is unlawful for any person in NC, except when on his or her own premises, to willing and intentionally carry concealed, either on or about his or her person, any “Bowie Knife, dirk, dagger, slingshot, loaded cane, metallic knuckles, razor, shurikin, stungun, or any other deadly weapon of like kind.”…ordinary pocket knives are specifically exempt.
    • Whether, in a given case, a weapon is concealed from the public is a question of fact. By using the phrase, “concealed about his or her person,” this law makes it illegal to have a weapon concealed not only on a person, but also within a person’s convenient control and easy reach.
  • “Concealed Handgun Permit (page 12-13)”
    • In order to acquire a NC permit, an individual must apply to the sheriffs office in the county in which he/she resides. As part of the application process, the applicant must accomplish the following:
      • Complete an application, under oath, on a form provided by the sheriffs office; pay a non-refundable fee of $80.00; allow the sheriffs office to take two full sets of fingerprints, which may cost up to $10.00; provide an original certificate of completion of an approved handgun safety course; provide a release authorizing disclosure to the sheriff of any record concerning the applicants mental health or capacity.
        • For approval: must be a citizen, have been a resident of NC for not less than 30 days immediating preceding the filing of the application, be at least 21 years of age, not suffer from physical and mental infirmity that prevents the safe handling of a hand gun, and have a successfully completed an approved firearms training coarse.
        • …he/she must renew the permit every 5 years.. at least 45 days prior to the expiration date.
        • (page 16) In emergencies, a sheriff may issue a temporary permit to an individual when the sheriff has reasonable belief that the individuals safety, or the safety of his or her property, or family, is in immediate danger…emergency situations exists.
        • (Page 17) Not only must the individual carry the permit along with proper identification whenever the handgun is being carried concealed, but he/she must also inform may law enforcement officer who approaches him/her that he/she is in possession of a permit and a concealed handgun. Failure to do so is an infraction. However, in lieu of paying the fine for the first offense, the individual may choose to surrender his or her permit. Any individual who violates any other standards for the carrying of a concealed handgun with a permit is guilty of a Class 2 Misdemeanor. Any person who has not been issued a valid permit but carries a concealed handgun unlawfully, is guilty of committing a Class 2 Misdemeanor for the first offense, and any subsequent offense are Class I Felonies.
        • Areas of prohibition: school grounds, areas where alcohol is sold and consumed, state property, legislative buildings, and public gatherings, such as parades.
        • (Page 18) Any person who ahs a concealed handgun permit may carry a concealed handgun on the grounds or waters of a park within the State Parks System as defined in G.S… it is lawful to carry any firearm openly, or to carry a concealed handgun with a concealed carry permit, at any State-owned rest area.
        • No political subdivisions may enact ordinances, rules, or regulations concerning legally carrying a concealed handgun.
        • It is unlawful for the permittee to carry a concealed handgun while consuming alcohol…however, a permittee does not violate this law if a controlled substance in his or her blood was lawfully obtained and taken in therapeutically appropriate amounts.

North Carolina laws can be summed up in two words: contradictory and confusing. Every section seems to have a lining or an exception– no wonder North Carolinians hesitate to support or deny gun control when the options present no valid claims. After researching this topic, it is hard to draw a clear conclusion on what gun control in North Carolina will look like in the future, but what is clear is that the topic is very much so an individual one. As gun laws clearly exhibit, there is no one way to approach gun control or lack thereof. Interpretations extend all the way up from the local level to international.

“I have a very strict gun control policy: if there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.”
– Clint Eastwood, RNC speaker (NRA member).

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Not Today

By: Katie Spiro, Gardner-Webb Media Student

        A cold, crisp November morning had brought a blanket of fresh frost to the beds of Julie’s summer flower garden. The fabulously frosted sparkles covered every inch of foliage remnant, masterfully disguising the wilted and lifeless blossoms that crouched below. Julie’s gaze began to gloss as her sentiments dwelt with the inert bulbs, allowing the usual comatose to begin.

Like her garden, her life had once been filled with radiant roses and delightful daises; a home of happiness and a story of success. Yet also like her garden, her life was now left dreary and frozen, masked by an expired glint of a past that would never survive another harsh winter.

Julie shook her head and turned away. Not today. She walked into her kitchen, carefully tip-toeing around the creaky boards in the foyer, as not to wake her daughters from their rare holiday mid-morning slumbers. The house had been built in 1908 and was first owned by Mrs. Lenora Moore, the widowed wife of a civil war confederate army general.

The house, a Queen Anne style home with 2600 square-feet of pine-bead floors, was also on the National Register of Historic Places list—bringing in frequent foot traffic that forced Julie to keep it presentable. With Doric columns, a wrap-around porch, and a vivaciously red door, the house was unmistakable in the old town of Webster, North Carolina and has been the site of the town picnic since the time of Lenora herself.

With history embedded within the walls of the house, little had been done to modernize or update the southern gem and as a result, years of abandonment and emptiness had certainly weathered its luster. But an economy of low-priced housing had degraded the neglected jewel even more, allowing Julie to buy the house at a bargain price. Declaring the house in a desperate need of renovation, 3 months and one cashed IRA later, she had her own southern living home—complete with 3 daughters, one golden retriever, and total independence from any man known by the name of Jay.

Julie turned on the coffee pot and placed her oldest daughters’ favorite coffee mug on the cherry wood breakfast nook that sat in the corner of the window-filled kitchen. The hand-painted golden retriever pictured on the mug had been Katie’s favorite cup since she was eight years old. Santa Clause had placed it in her stocking, giving Katie her first “grown-up” gift—a running joke that seemed to resurface every Christmas. However, as Julie retrieved the cream and sugar from the cupboard, this jovial memory faded and an unpleasant, recent recollection began to taint the handsome mug.

It had happened one month earlier. Julie had stopped by her former residence to retrieve the last few remaining items she thought she could rightfully claim as her own. 18 years of marriage had not only left her heart dormant, but also her willingness to argue. She prayed no one would be inside. Arriving at the house, she saw no sign of activity.

Entering through the side door, Julie weaved through the house, having one last look through and that’s when she had found the cherished mug.  Smiling at the happiness represented by the ceramic cup, she placed the mug into her last box of items, believing it would go unmissed and unnoticed. Leaving the box upstairs, she descended to the lower level of the house to finish her walk through.

Ten or so minutes passed and as Julie climbed the stairs holding her last few possessions, she heard a familiar sound and stopped before she completely resurfaced. Creak-creak-crack. Recognizing the sound as the opening of the coffee mug cabinet, she thought, Surely not… Finishing her climb, Julie rounded the corner to find him closing the cabinet door—no mug to be found.

“Jay, I didn’t think you would mind if I took that one. We have so many in that cabinet.”

“Yes, Julie we do. But we don’t have two golden retriever mugs. You know this is Katie’s favorite. That’s why you want it, so she can only have it at your house. Well, this is her house.”

The words stung. “I picked that mug out for her because despite her begging us for a real golden retriever throughout her childhood, you refused to allow it, just like everything else in this house. It was all hand-selected and approved by you.”

Filling with anger, Jay slammed open the cabinet and grabbed the mug. “Fine, take it! Take the fucking dog too!”

The memory hurt. Julie winced and turned away. Not today.

Standing over the stove stirring the freshly made banana-nut oatmeal, Julie reached for a pad of paper and a pen. What needs to happen today…? She thought, Let’s see… finish the laundry, thaw the turkey, chop the pecans, put up the tree, put salt on the walkway… As she categorized the tasks by estimated allotted times and urgency, she added honey to the pot of oatmeal, an old habit that Jay and Katie both loved. Entitling the list “First Thanksgiving To-do’s,” she had to make she everything was in order. Her first Thanksgiving without him was going to be perfect, right down to the whipped cream and cinnamon on the pumpkin pie.

As Sarah descended the stairwell, she smelled the sweet aroma of hazelnut coffee, a smell that signified that Mommy was up and that her sister, Katie was home. The middle sister of three, Sarah was never too loud nor ever too quiet. She loved to read, but hated to write and on any given day, you could find her reading her bible—making notes and highlighting verses in every which direction.

Since Katie had been home, Sarah had noticed a change in her mom’s new house. Julie was singing, making her old favorite dishes, and even buying random sweet treats for her and her sisters. The changes had all been positive, but Sarah had begun to wonder if they would last when Katie went back to college. Mommy never offered to make coffee for me…so what if I don’t like it? She could at least offer? Why does Katie get special treatment? Abby and I are here too… As these thoughts crowded her brain, she tried to bury them away as quickly as they had surfaced. She is happy, thank God. And that is all that matters…

“Good morning Sarah Bear!” beamed Julie, “I am about to pour Katie’s coffee and bring her breakfast upstairs. This is her first morning waking up in the new house. Will you help me carry some things?” asked Julie.

I have never been served breakfast in bed here before… “Sure Mommy, I’ll get the tray.”

As they made their way through the foyer and up the stairs, Sarah caught a line of the song playing on the XM radio channel in the living room, “But here, under the rainbow, people pass us by. But we laugh at the way they laugh at you and I…” It was a chorus line from country singer, Trisha Yearwood’s song, “Under the Rainbow.” Her grip immediately softened on the tray as the flashback began.

“Okay Sarah, we have to make this a good performance because Mommy and Daddy will be watching us! Abby doesn’t deserve all the attention all the time. Let’s show them we are just as important,” hyped Katie. They were nine and six years old and Abby, the youngest of the 3 sisters, had just been born. With a new baby in the house, the two sisters had been feeling rather invisible to their parents, seeing as they could feed and pee on their own, so that day they had decided to win back their parents via performance. Who knew the dance would make for such a grand memory.

“The wordy parts are the easy ones, Sarah. We can simply act those out. The chorus is where we have to be together and on queue. Let’s practice one more time.”

Katie pushed play on their “fancy sterobox”, a named coined by Katie, a typical product of the 90’s child and as the song began, the sisters acted and danced independently, each trying to out-do the other with polished moves and dramatic lip sync. Katie whirled and flipped around the room, performing daring backbends over toys and one-handed cartwheels between the couch and footrest; she had taken gymnastics since she was five years old. In an attempt to counter-balanced Katie’s abilities, Sarah dominated the front of their jump-rope lined stage with theatrical, brush-microphone singing, accompanied by spectacular hair flips and the spunky catwalk.

As the song played, the chorus approached and the two girls hurried back to the center of the room. The practiced moves had become second nature to them as the sisters executed their motions in total synchronization. “…the world is spinning around and around. Everybody’s is looking for higher ground…” They ran over to the stairwell and climbed the steps for ‘higher ground’ then retreated back to center stage where they took their final positions, “…but here, under the rainbow, dreams fall from the sky…from the sky.” With fingertips moving as raindrops from the sky, the girls slowly laid on the floor, posing as ‘fallen dreams.’ The song concluded and Katie whispered, “We are ready, Sarah. Let’s go win them back…”

Sarah smiled sweetly, I am so glad my co-actress is home. Climbing the stairwell behind Julie, they reached the top floor and silently peered through the cracked entrance of Katie’s light-green room. Still sound asleep, Katie rested on the right side of her bed, a long-since habit she had had for as long as Sarah could remember. Julie slowly pushed open the pine door and tip-toed into the room, motioning for Sarah to do the same. Creekkk… a loose board ached. Katie stirred and reluctantly opened her eyes; Sarah had never met a lighter sleeper.

“Good morning Snugglebunny,” whispered Julie; the name had been Katie’s since she was born.  A colic-bearing child, Katie would cry ceaselessly day and night and it was only when she was placed into her parents’ arms and allowed to snuggle tightly that she could fall to sleep. The name had stuck around ever since.

Katie reluctantly opened her eyes and let out a high-pitched moan as she stretched out her curled body. She sniffed the air and took a long breath in, smiling. “Hmmm….You made hazelnut coffee!” celebrated Katie.

“And banana-nut oatmeal with honey,” added Sarah slowly, still jealous of the specialized treatment.

“We wanted to make your first morning home perfect,” beamed Julie. Katie took the handle of her favorite mug, bringing the rim to her nose and inhaling another long breathe. Sipping the hotness slowly, Katie seemed to slip into another world, driven by endless flavor and homely comfort.

“Katie, guess what song was playing downstairs?” asked Sarah. Katie’s eyes flickered open as she was brought back to reality. “Under the Rainbow! Do you remember when we performed that song for Mommy and Daddy?”

Katie laughed, “Oh you mean the song we used to win Mommy and Daddy back from evil Abby? Yes, I remember!” The two broke into an uncontrollable fit of laughter while Julie stood puzzled.

“Evil Abby? She was barely born, girls! How could she have been evil before she could even talk?”

“Trusts us, if you think she is evil now that she can talk, you would be surprised…” spout Sarah. All three girls went into another fit of giggles. This feels good again… reflected Sarah, not wanting the moment to end.

As the day continued, Katie, Sarah, and Julie prepared for their first Thanksgiving. Julie dwelt in the kitchen and concocted dish after dish, filling the room with sweet smells of glazed ham, cheery cinnamon spice, and ending with a heavenly aroma of rich pumpkin pie. As she worked, her contentment increased and the frosty feelings of the morning were soon forgotten. The turkey laid softly in a bed of stuffing and spice, glistening with cinnamon-roasted almonds and buttered potatoes.

As Julie admired her finished product, she thought to herself, Mom, if you were here, you would be darn proud of this turkey! The thought warmed her dormant heart, though it had been years since her mom had passed. It had also been years since she had baked a Thanksgiving turkey or glazed her own ham. Frankly, it had been years since she had decided much of anything on her own. Julie thought about this statement for a moment, swishing it around, and then releasing it.  Not today…

Katie and Sarah had tackled the tasks of putting up the Christmas tree. The directions had been thrown away as soon as the box had been opened and now the girls were quizzically starring at the multitude of parts included for tree assembly.

“This is where Daddy would really come in handy,” complained Sarah, “all we are good at as decorating the tree, not putting it together.”

“I can figure this out, Sarah. I am in college, remember?” winked Katie. The three year age gap had never seemed to play a factor into the sister’s tight-knit relationship, and even when Katie had gone to college, the two had remained close. It was going to take more than 203 miles, 5 counties, and 2 hours to pull these two apart.

A few hours passed and the tree was finally on display. Julie had just finished topping off the pie when the phone rang. She answered.

“Oh hello Papa…yes the girls just finished the tree and I am setting the table now…okay see you in twenty minutes.” Click. Julie went into the foyer and yelled up the stairs, “Girls, Papa will be here in twenty minutes. What do you all want to drink?”

As if on cue, both Katie and Sarah yelled, “Eggnog!” Julie shook her head and smiled.

She walked back to the kitchen and began to pour the drinks, and then the wall hit. Her merry smile faded, her blue eyes began to blur, and before she knew it, Julie’s knees hit the kitchen floor; reality struck. The tears over took her, swallowing her spell of happiness as they returned Cinderella to her life of depressed darkness and sheer brokenness.

Time stood at bay as her emotional floodgates opened, thrashing forward a suppressed ocean of sentiments and disregarded follies. Lifeguarded by a man who had never learned to swim, Julie felt the weight of her failed marriage and the reality that her father was the only man she would ever be able to trust.

With her life transfixed in a state of wreckage, Julie wept for her shattered past, but was awoken from her coma when a small, light hand rested on her bowed head. A body crouched in front of her folded body and laid another hand on her shaking back. Soon enough, another set of hands took her own in theirs and cooed a whisper of warmth that breathed life back into her broken spirit.

Katie and Sarah had heard their mom cry before, but this silent sob had been different. The tears that came were quite and overflowing, as if years of leaking had finally given way and released, leaving their mom empty and poured out.

Julie slowly lifted her head and met the eyes of the two angels holding her. Two blue eyes and two green eyes starred back lovingly, silently producing an overwhelming sense of serenity—a feeling that had been vacant from Julie for many years. No words were needed, no expression required. From that moment on, Julie knew that the future was here with her girls and that the her past was no longer today.

Date Night

The last problem lay unfinished on the college-rule notebook paper:         . Given the ratio concepts and complexity of the integers, she estimated she had approximately 12 minutes left with him. Add in one minute to pack up and two additional minutes to walk and depart ways in the parking lot, and she was down to 15 minutes. That wasn’t enough; she needed more time.

The minutes ticked away and he methodically found his way through the problem, quicker than she had anticipated. Why do I have to be such a good tutor! He beamed as he correctly answered the problem, thanking her over and over again, while she sat smiling for all the wrong reasons.

They walked outside and the moment of truth arrived. He awkwardly thanked her once more and reached for her door handle, but suddenly hesitated and pulled back his hand. His eyes glistened as he searched hers, begging for the right words, yet only drawing forth somber silence between them. His warm breathe succeeded and his low, soothing voice finally spoke softly. The moment had been dreamt, the feeling had been anticipated, but the question had never sounded so sweet: “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow night?”

Sarah had been Johnny’s calculus tutor for the past three months. Both college students heading into their spring semesters of their sophomore year, Sarah and Johnny had come from two completely different backgrounds. Sarah, the salutatorian of her high school graduating class, had made it to college on a full academic scholarship. Johnny had signed to play baseball as a Division-One student-athlete, though the title was often reversed. She had grown up in a middle class family and had worked a summer job since she was 13. He had been the born the son of a well-known defense lawyer, playing baseball all summer long and fearing no one above or below the law.  The two were more different than a sack of wild apples, yet each drove the other crazy.

With studies as her main priority, Sarah had never slowed down, which had more than likely contributed to her absence from ‘the crowd’ and produced a dating life that was virtually nonexistent. It wasn’t till three months ago that Sarah had ever considered this a problem, but since the day she had met Johnny, Sarah had wanted nothing more than to remedy her social stigma and finally slow down.

Exams were rapidly approaching and Sarah had never had so little focus or motivation to study-up. As much as she tried to memorize the lines of her final Shakespearian drama play, she found her mind drifting and settling with the image of Johnny. This was not like her; studying was like breathing. It was simply something that had become second nature to her and was an area she was beyond comfortable in. But this mindset was foreign and unchartered, scary yet completely invigorating and as Sarah prescribed, it was not her head case that was the condition to blame, but her vulnerable heart that was immune to all others, but sickly for him.

The next morning, Sarah woke to the sound of her singing alarm, signaling her body into motion as she pulled on her sweats and tennis shoes. As she headed out the door, she was met with a cold kiss of early winter air, awakening any further slumber left in her body and forcing her into rapid motion.

Sarah hurriedly descended down the stairs of her campus apartment and began to jog up the one-lane road. The sun had risen over the mountains and had left streaks of orange and pink as it moved across the sky, painting a scene of tropical enchantment as the winter air crashed like waves in her lungs. The brilliance of the morning had never appeared so magnificent and as Sarah continued to jog, her thoughts began to submerge in their newfound harbor, floating to the onset of the night that lay ahead.

Thirty minutes later, Sarah climbed the stairs to her apartment, breathing heavily and red-cheeked from her run. Fidgeting through her pockets, Sarah realized that she had left her key in her room. Great. Debating whether or not to knock, she tapped lightly on the door, hoping one of her roommates was in the living room and not asleep. As she waited, her thoughts returned to her anticipated evening. What am I going to wear? Does he even know where I live? Should I…the door flew open, sending Sarah stumbling to the ground. Snapping back to reality when she saw her roommate suppressing her bountiful laughter, Sarah peered up at Katie, “Good morning?”

“Whoa there, champ! Are you just now getting in!?” squealed Katie, as she helped Sarah from the ground. “I thought only Nancy could do that!” Nancy was the wild one of the three college roommates.

“Very funny, and no! I just finished my jog and forgot my key in my room. See, my cheeks are red,” she said pointing to her face, “I knocked but…”

“…but you didn’t want to wake the mice of the house. You know we are sleeping giants, Sarah. And since when does having red cheeks justify a night out? Rough jog? Or rough night?” winked Katie. The comedian of the group, Katie was always poking fun at Sarah’s easy targets: studying and school, lack of a social life, lack of any life, and though she claimed to always be kidding, Sarah recognized the truth behind her jokes and had accepted them as a reality long before Katie had used them as ammunition.

Once more, Katie was also viciously stubborn and was not one to give up or give in to any situation she felt part of. Sarah had already concluded that by Katie opening the door, Katie had automatically inserted herself as part of the situation and it was better off to tell her now rather than in twenty minutes after she had guilted Sarah into it anyway.

“Well, I kind of, maybe, sort of, slightly, have a date tonight…” eased Sarah, anticipating the reaction. “AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH….WHAT?!” Screamed Katie. Called it, she thought.

“Who, where, when, why, and how! Tell me everything, Sarah!” bellowed Katie. The words came out in such hast, Sarah wasn’t sure if Katie had completed each word.

“Well, I have been tutoring this guy for a while now and well…he asked me out to dinner last night after our session. He is sweet I suppose…” The truth of the matter was Sarah was screaming for glee like Katie on the inside, but her psychology book had taught her to never show too much emotion about any one person too soon, “women take emotion out of context subconsciously while men hardily abuse their influence, consciously.” Plus, Sarah didn’t want Katie to know she had been crushing on Johnny for months now and not made a single move on him. Well, other than moving quantifiers to their correct arrangement on his paper.

“What is his name? Does he go here? Sarah coooome on…details!”

“Don’t you have class or something?” laughed Sarah, “I can tell you all this later tonight when I am searching through your closet for something to wear to…La Balme…” she held her ears.

“AHHHHHHHHHH…” shrieked Katie.

I am too good, snickered Sarah.

“Fine, tonight it is, but you better not leave out an ounce of details missy, else I’ll dress you up like a rag doll and make you feel like a plush princess. Beware of my persuasive powers!” Katie picked up her backpack and ran from the room producing an eerie laugh as she slammed the door shut. Sarah shook her head and headed for the shower. She wondered how Katie would keep up with her head some days if it wasn’t attached to her. As she stepped into the shower, she debated on going to class. They were going to be a drag, but they would serve to speed up the time in the day, she concluded. Only 12 hours to go…

The day floated by in a haze. British Literature had resulted in an outdated Beowulf movie and her usual Religion and Culture professor had let his overactive TA teach for the day, resulting in ‘on-the-spot discussion’ and a readily produced a pop quiz when no one responded. Sarah had briefly skimmed the chapter the night before (which normally she would have wigged out about, but academically excused it because it had happened after her conversation with Johnny), but knew she had not done her best.

The sub-par day had ended when her Microbiology lab had forcibly ended an hour early after a compound element fire on the chemistry floor sent fire trucks flooding to campus. With her afternoon approaching just two o’clock, Sarah grabbed lunch and walked back to her apartment, wondering if an attempt at homework and a nap were even applicable to her current state of zeal.

Six failed attempts at a paper and 25 minutes of wide-eyed ceiling view time later, Sarah had exhausted just one hour. Only four more to go… As Sarah made herself a cup of apple cider, she thought about her last date preparation. She had done the bare minimum: a shower, blue jeans, solid blouse, and pearl earrings. The boy she had gone on the date with had been a Chemistry/Biology double major, and had been quite handsome, but he had decided to transfer after one semester of their freshmen year. Sarah had always wondered if she had had anything to do with that decision…

Well this time, there would be no thought of transferring because Sarah was determined to not only look her best, but also look someone else’s best. She had resolved about ten minutes after Katie had left that morning that Katie was going to be the key to her look. Going out almost weekly, Katie was no stranger to the ways of looking good. She had been in a long-term relationship for almost two years now, and every other Friday evening, her boyfriend would take her out on a date as if it were their first— showering her with gorgeous flowers, frequent compliments, and extravagant dinners; the routine was usual but the novelty had never worn off as far as Sarah could tell. Katie still blushed and giggled when she saw him and Joe still starred and stuttered in awe as Katie appeared in his doorway.

Sarah had never met a more ‘in-love’ couple her age and knew that if anyone could spot a keeper—it would be Katie. Sarah could not wait for her to meet Johnny; not an ounce of hesitation or doubt came with the thought. I know she just will love him…

Two hours remained and Sarah had just wrapped a towel around her showered and shaven body when she heard the lock turning on their front door. She ran to the living room and waited for the figure to emerge, but two came in: Katie and Joe.

“Oh, shoot! Sorry!” Sarah yelled as she ran back to her bedroom. “I thought it was just you, Katie, I swear!”

Katie laughed and peered over at Joe who seemed to have not taken notice to the scene. “I think he may be scarred for life, but I’ll take care of him later…” Katie winked and lightly brushed Joe. She walked towards Sarah’s bedroom, leaving Joe mesmerized by the flickering TV showing a game on ESPN.

“Are you ready for your spa treatment my innocent fawn?” teased Katie.

Sarah opened her door and revealed her athletic body covered by her latest purchase from Victoria’s Secret, “Just called me a pampered doe…” swanked Sarah.

“OMG, OMG, OMG! Who are you and what have you done with my shy and studious Sarah!”

The girls broke out in a fit of laughter and squeals. A year and a half of being roommates had brought them closer to one another than anyone in their lives, adding and subtracting qualities to form the perfect, balanced friendship. As the night wore on, Sarah realized that Katie was the type of best friend that she could see as her maid of honor and pronounced godmother of her children. Never growing up with a sister, Sarah knew now that she no longer needed one; Katie was better than a sister and she would always love her no matter what.

It would not be till less than one hour later that Katie and Sarah would be forced to test the strength of their sisterly relationship.

“Which color should I paint?” Sarah was holding up two bottles of light pink nail polish that looked nearly the same.

“Well, that one screams, ‘I raided my grandmothers bathroom’ and the other screams, ‘The other bottle was goopy, so I went back for more.’” snorted Katie, “Hun, if you want to impress, you cannot go subtle; make a statement and go bold!” She tossed Katie a bottle of bright pink polish. The color looked like a tube of crushed highlighter ink.

“I don’t know, Katie. Will it match all this other stuff I am wearing?” Sarah pointed to the pile of clothes heaved on her bed. Katie’s closet was still practically full, though Sarah swore she had tried on over 20 outfits. Thank god we are in her room for this…

“So you never told me this lucky guy’s name, Sarah. Is he a total nerd-o like that last boy of yours?”

Sarah blushed, “No, he is not thank you. I’ll have you know he is actually really bad at calculus.”

“Oh, God forbid…” taunted Katie, “What did he do to earn your approval? Cure AIDS? Find the arc of the covenant?”

“Excuse me; he is actually a very nice guy! Since when do I set standards that are so unrealistically high? I don’t pay guys an attention because they pay me none, so sue me.” Spat Sarah as she squeezed into Katie’s extra small shirt.

“Oh come on Sarah, they all look at you, but because you don’t acknowledge them—they give up. Frankly, I applaud you. You have a full-proof system to ward-off all the insignificant assholes of the world.”

Sarah contemplated this statement for a moment. Was it true? Had she really been blind to the looks? Shaking her head, she dismissed the idea. If they had wanted to talk to me, they would have. Johnny did and look what happened…

Katie pulled the last strand of Sarah’s thick, curly brown hair through her stemming straightener. Sarah’s hair had taken thirty minutes to de-curl and the task that had left them short on time. As she stretched her fingers through her hair, Sarah couldn’t believe how different she looked.

“Why don’t you ever do this to your hair more often? It looks so sexy!”

Sarah blushed again and starred at her reflection in the mirror. Her eyes wore mascara, her lips were plushed pink; Sarah had never been one for make-up, but if Johnny liked her new look, maybe she would keep it. She put on her favorite earrings that her Father had given her for the 18th birthday and walked into the living room. Katie had started heating up leftovers and Joe was still glued to the TV, but as Sarah surfaced, both of their gazes gawked at her.

“This is why you are my best friend. You look so hot, Sarah!” exclaimed Katie.

Joe stood and walked over to Sarah, keeping her eyes as he walked. He reached her and held up one of her hands, giving it a light kiss.

“He is not going to know what hit him, Sarah. You look great.” Joe gushed.

Sarah flushed and immediately turned to Katie, red-faced and embarrassed. “Are you sure it isn’t too much, Katie? This is only our first date.”

“Yes my darling, so it is the most important. Do you think Joe would have fallen for me had I not looked gorgeous the first night? Look how he reacted to you!” sniggered Katie, “you look perfect. He is going to be awe-struck when he sees you, I promise.”

A light knock on the door followed Katie’s speech. Katie loudly whispered, “Sarah! Go back to your room for three minutes and pretend you are still getting ready! He deserves a grand and awaited entrance.”

Sarah hurried back to her room and quickly shut the door. Holding her ear to the wood, she listened for Johnny to enter, hearing Katie open the door and Joe’s deep voice invite him in. The minutes seemed like hours as Sarah waited and as the third minute struck, she knew the time was now. As she gripped the handle of her door, her hand lay shaking and surely rattled the entire door. Sarah emerged from the room and was immediately swept by a wave of scattered doubts and uttered fears. Her heart raced like kerosene to a fire and her eyes shown wildly.

She rounded the corner of the long hallway and appeared in the living room.

Locking eyes with Johnny, she felt all worries and fears fade…