Trump cruelly reinstates military ban on transgender people

As if Donald Trump couldn’t violate LGBT rights any further, today he spewed the following harsh announcement on Twitter.

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Trump’s decision rolled back the policy initially approved by the Department of Defense under President Barack Obama that would allow transgender individuals to openly serve in the military. Ash Carter, the Secretary of Defense under Obama, ended the ban on transgender troops in 2016, but allowed for a year-long review process to allow the Pentagon to determine how it would accept new transgender recruits into the military. Last month, current Defense Secretary James Mattis announced on the eve of the one-year deadline that he was delaying the implementation of the new policy, saying in a memo that he’s been debating whether accepting new transgender recruits into the military will “affect the readiness and lethality of the force.”

According to a 2016 Rand Corp. study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense, allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military would have a “minimal impact” on readiness and healthcare costs. Out of 1.3 million personnel in the force, only 15,500 service members identify as transgender. However, not all transgender vets in the active component will seek hormonal treatment–between 29 and 129 of them annually will seek gender transition related-care that could possibly interfere with their ability to deploy. When they do seek treatment for their transition–surgery, hormone medication, etc.–the cost ranges from $2.4 million to $8.4 million, which comprises an “exceedingly small proportion” of total healthcare expenditures, capped at $49.3 billion.

Barring transgender people from enrolling in the armed forces simply because they are a financial “burden” on the military in terms of healthcare when they pose no financial ramifications at all is just as cruel a decision as forbidding transgender students to use a bathroom that matches their gender identity. This decision has become akin to bringing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy out of the wood works.

Once Trump pisses off the LGBT community, he gets the entire country pissed off. We need to place harsher checks and balances on this pompous asshole because, quite frankly, he’s proven to me that he doesn’t care about anyone except himself. I had a feeling he was talking shit when he said he was going to fight for LGBT rights.

 

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The Future of Journalism: An Open Letter to CNN

Dear CNN,

I’m writing to share my concerns about the anti-journalism rhetoric that Trump and his Republican peers have been spreading in recent months. As a journalism student, I’ve been gritting my teeth at the very sight of Trump, who I refuse to call my president, writing every news media outlet off as “fake news” and an “enemy of the American people” and turning journalists away every chance they get at asking him questions about whether or not the Russians helped him cheat his way to the White House; the police arresting West Virginia reporter Dan Heyman for “willful disruption of state government processes” after asking Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price about the GOP healthcare bill;  and more recently, then Republican candidate for Congress Greg Gianforte body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for inquiring about the aforementioned bill the night before Montana’s congressional election.

Journalists work very hard to write and report the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the events they have witnessed to the public, and make sure that everything they report is accurate and fair. “Fake news” is considered “fabrication” in the eyes of every news organization in the country, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, who had to punish their fair share of fabricators and plagiarists (Jayson Blair played both roles during his tenure at the former company). Trump, on the other hand, considers “fake news” to be your reports about alleged communications between him and our communist neighbor overseas during his campaign, and he’s gone to great lengths to criminalize every reporter for their attempts at getting to the bottom of the greatest political scandal since Watergate, therefore unraveling the very tenet of our democracy as we know it.

Freedom of speech and the press is not only a constitutional right, but also a basic, inalienable, universal human right. It’s already a travesty that journalists in countries that limit or restrict the press are facing prison time or even death for reporting the atrocities of their governments to the public. It’s even more tragic that the very government that guaranteed our rights to free speech, expression, and press over 240 years ago is threatening to silence us for reporting his fraudulent practices inside the Oval Office and beyond simply because they believe that everything you’re reporting is a lie when, in reality, you’re reporting the truth.

I always told my family that I would never travel to a communist country since such countries are notorious for restricting freedom of speech and the press. Now I fear that the United States is turning into one in light of these attacks against journalists. It breaks my heart to hear that once I graduate from college and enter the news media industry, instead of receiving high praise from people for reporting on issues that matter most to them and myself, I will be met with bodily injury and/or even death by fear-mongering politicians and their supporters.

I commend your courage for continuing to hold Trump accountable for his gross misconduct during his six months in office. Your bravery in the face of political adversity gives me hope that someday I’ll be able to perform my job without the risk of cruel and unusual punishment from any government official. I can’t imagine myself living in a country where journalism is no longer a job opportunity for people who want to enter that field, so thank you for all you’re doing to keep that dream and freedom alive. I didn’t want to study journalism before I set foot in college, but now I don’t want to change that path for anything or anyone, especially the man who doesn’t deserve to stay in the White House. I refuse to let Trump make me feel as if everything I’m working for is at risk.
Sincerely,

Cristina Alexander

Unicorn Frappuccino: The Sugar-Fueled Rollercoaster Ride

Unicorn Frappuccino: The Sugar-Fueled Rollercoaster Ride

Starbuck’s latest frozen beverage, the Unicorn Frappuccino, hit stores nationwide Wednesday, and it’s become an Internet sensation. When I saw a picture of the pink and blue Frappe, which bears some resemblance to the cotton candy-flavored Trix yogurt we all enjoyed as kids, I was immediately transported back to my childhood days of carrying iridescent Lisa Frank folders to school and watching that one episode of Catscratch where Gordon lies to unicorn-obsessed Kimberly, whom he addresses as “Human Kimberly” because he’s a cat, about a unicorn roaming around the woods, so he gets his feline brothers Mr. Blik and Waffle to wear a unicorn costume and head for the woods in order to make Kimberly affirm her pre-pubescent belief that unicorns do indeed exist. Actually,  the only thing from that episode (“Unicorn Club” for my fellow animation nerds) that came to my mind was the “Fancy Pants Unicorn” song, which is exactly what I sang the moment I bought the Unicorn Frappe the next day.

The Unicorn Frappe tastes like cotton candy with a hint of mango–a perfect combination for a Miami-bred girl who’s favorite fruit juice is mango. My high school classmates reported some sourness in their Unicorn Frappes, but I didn’t catch a Sour Patch Kid swimming around in mine.

 

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The unicorn Frappuccino bears some resemblance to the cotton candy-flavored Trix yogurt we all enjoyed as kids. Photo taken Thursday, April 20, 2017.

I thought my usual Strawberries and Creme Frappe was heavenly, but the Unicorn Frappe really sent me to a Heaven where angels rode unicorns through rainbows and glittery, cotton candy clouds. The next morning, it sent me to Hell. I woke up with a burning sensation in my lower chest that came and went all day, nearly sending me into an anxiety spiral again. During my mani-pedi session, I discovered that my heartburn (or gastritis) was due to the sugar rush the Unicorn Frappe gave me. The drink packed a whopping 76 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to three Snickers bars and two cans of Coca-Cola. I don’t consume any of those products–especially Coca-Cola–yet I started to regret allowing myself to be lured into that sugar trap of a Frappuccino with a cutesy name. In retrospect, the maple syrup I ate with my waffles that morning contains 32 grams of sugar.

The Unicorn Frappe is available at local Starbucks until Sunday, while supplies last. And thank God, because I never wanna drink that much sugar ever again, no matter how popular it is. Katy Perry was wise to spit it out on her first sip. As for the baristas who were forced to drizzle blue dyes over the Frappes non-stop, I feel your frustration.

The Hypocrisy of Autism Speaks; A Searing Message to Donald Trump

Just as the Catholic Church is hypocritical about sex (particularly premarital sex), Autism Speaks seems to have turned into a hypocrite earlier this week during their annual Light It Up Blue campaign. I saw a couple of my relatives on Facebook plaster their profile pictures with a Autism Speaks filter that read, “Light It Up Blue for Love and Acceptance.” I was very skeptical about the organization’s change to their mission statement months ago, and the fact that members of my extended family chose to paint their Facebook profile pictures blue for the sake of autism awareness compounded my skepticism even further. “Autism Speaks seems to have changed their tone about autistic people, yet they’re still calling Code Blue on us. I don’t understand it,” I tweeted the morning of World Autism Awareness Day, which I call World Autism ACCEPTANCE Day. @LetsStimTonight, one of my followers, concurred with me as she replied, “I can’t trust their change of tone. If they took a moment to acknowledge the harm that they did, that they *were* in the wrong, and that those views no longer reflect their message, then maybe. Until then, I see them as the same ableist people with a more appealing mask.” This begs the question: What’s the point of a so-called “charity” like Autism Speaks vowing to do right by the group of people they claim to support only to turn back around and continue to demonize us for profit? It’s like a borderline obese man promising his wife to change his diet and hit the gym, slim down, and then two months later decides to eat a donut, a bag of Cheetos, and a hot dog, thereby reverting back to his unhealthy habits and pissing off his wife to the point where she files for divorce.

To compound matters further, Donald Trump (I REFUSE to call him President) published a proclamation on the White House website two days before World Autism Awareness Day that celebrates the contributions autistics have made to society and calls for a greater understanding of us, yet encourages further research into treatments and a cure for autism. This statement coming from the guy who has spread countless falsehoods about autism and its causes on Twitter. He even went so far as to say that a child can develop symptoms of autism after undergoing multiple rounds of vaccinations, therefore the government should put the kibosh on the vaccination program, or at the very least, require doctors to administer smaller doses of vaccines to their infant patients. And for the first time ever, Trump lit the White House blue per the suggestion of Autism Speaks co-founders Bob and Suzanne Wright, the latter of whom is deceased.

And now, a heartfelt letter to America’s most controversial president.

Dear Mr. Trump,

My name is Cristina, and I’m a 23-year-old autistic woman currently in her junior year of college. There are multifarious reasons why I refuse to call you President. Your stance on autism tops that laundry list. Before you were elected into office, I was extremely anxious about the laws you would write and pass that would strip every autistic person’s right to live their lives freely and independently without discrimination for their neurology. Judging by the damning tweets you wrote about autism and your Autism Awareness proclamation published on the White House webpage, I was right. You’ve tweeted countless times before your election that rigorous vaccinations have increased autism rates. As the daughter of a pharmacist, I’d like to tell you that is not the case. First off, autism is caused by a genetic mutation, NOT vaccines, especially the MMR vaccine. Anti-vaxxers like yourself believe vaccines cause autism due to the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, even though the compound has been banned from usage since 2001. Second, autism rates have increased not because there are more autistic people than ever before, it is due to advances in diagnostic methods. Whether autism has been diagnosed in early childhood, adolescence, or even adulthood–some people don’t even know they’re autistic until they hit their 40’s–autistic people may be eligible for benefits from Social Security and health insurance. For some autistic people, attaining Social Security benefits can be difficult, even with comorbid disabilities seen or unseen, such as anxiety and depression. Meanwhile, you made a proposal for Congress to slash $15.1 billion from the Department of Health and Human Services, which would make it even more difficult for us to get the funding we need to cover our health expenses. I have three more years under my mother’s health insurance plan, and once I turn 26, I’m going to have a hard time shopping for an affordable insurance plan or even apply for Social Security benefits simply because you think autistic people, with or without comorbid disabilities, aren’t good for it.

It’s one thing for autistic people to experience bullying by their neurotypical peers in public school, but for you, the most powerful man in the country, if not the world, to bully us? By proposing such laws that discriminate against us–dismantling the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)–you’re turning the clock back 20 years, taking away all the rights and benefits we have fought so hard to attain. Rolling back protections guaranteed to us by the aforementioned acts can be detrimental to our overall well-being, even fatal. We’ve taken a lot of prejudice in school and at home (in some cases), but we’re not gonna take it from you. If you do anything that threatens our very livelihood, we will fight to have you impeached. That is a promise.

 

Sincerely,

Cristina Alexander

 

Project Sonic 2017 Officially Titled “Sonic Forces”

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Concept art for Sonic Forces. Courtesy: SEGA/Sonic Team

Four years feels like forever and a day for a new good Sonic game to be released, let alone announced. After Sonic Lost World, I steered clear of the Sonic Boom trilogy upon criticism for having ten times more glitches than Sonic ’06, especially Rise of Lyric, where Sonic and the gang shout out “RINGS! RINGS!” every time they pick up their golden Power Rings, Knuckles jumps higher and higher only to come back down and see his friends frozen in render model form, and the writing sent novelists like Stephen King, Meg Cabot, and Cory Doctorow running to the bathroom to barf. I mean, “An ambush with ice cream?” That’s the stupidest thing Tails ever said. And don’t get me started on Shadow’s drunken attitude.

Like some Sonic fans, I developed a neutral outlook on the future of the franchise–while I love Sonic with all my heart and soul, I was scared that the quality of his games was going to run further downhill. My mind was going through that balancing act until the 25th anniversary party at San Diego Comic Con, where SEGA released the trailer for Project Sonic 2017. I never thought I would see Sonic in his true modern form ever again because of the sports tape-laden Sonic of the aforementioned Boom series, but when Classic Sonic burst onto the scene, I thought, “Oh Lord, this game’s a sequel to Sonic Generations.” Takashi Iizuka, executive producer of Sonic Team succeeding creator Yuji Naka, made it very clear soon after the event that Project Sonic 2017 was not going to be titled Sonic Generations 2, which was a relief.

A couple weeks ago, SEGA announced at SXSW that the title of Project Sonic 2017 has been changed to–if it sounds corny, I apologize–Sonic Forces.

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The official logo for Sonic Forces. Courtesy: IGN

The next morning, I was lucky to catch a sneak peek of the gameplay for the game, and all I can say is, the graphics look delicious!

 

According to Iizuka, Sonic Forces will run on Hedgehog Engine 2, a refined version of the game engine used in Sonic Unleashed and Sonic Generations. They updated the engine just in time, because Sonic sped through the apocalyptic cobblestone town as fluidly as a river.

I know that Sonic Forces won’t be released until sometime around Thanksgiving, but I’m optimistic that the game will turn out to be fantastic, especially since Sonic has gone multi-platform for the first time since Sonic UnleashedForces will be available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch. Great things take time, and Sonic Forces is definitely worth the four-year wait. I just hope I get the PlayStation 4 by then.

 

Feeling Tongue-Tied

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I’ve loved reading books and articles aloud since grade school, where my teachers were impressed by how impeccable my reading and speech patterns were compared to those of my classmates. For the past couple months, however, my reading and speech patterns have been anything but infallible.

It’s one thing for a stroke patient or someone born with a speech impediment to stumble over words or lose their train of thought while reading aloud or engaging in conversation, but I’ve never heard of someone with no speech difficulties at all as a kid suddenly starting to experience them as a young adult–especially someone like me who loves to read and talk about interesting subjects with others. Every time I would read something out loud, I would do so without any issues. My reading pattern was so perfect, I could see myself recording audiobooks! Now, when I read my textbooks for school–even stories for American Lit class!–I find myself either stumbling over my words or saying something completely different. Take this paragraph from James Purdy’s short story “Reaching Rose.”

“Richard was one of the few persons whom Mr. Sendel actually knew any more. Everyone else, somehow, was somebody you talked generalities with, but occasionally he and Richard managed to say some particularity that made up the little there was of meaning.”

Now, take a look at how I read this paragraph.

“Richard was one of the few persons whom Mr. Sendel actually knew any more. Everyone else, somehow, was somebody you talked generalities with, but occasionally he and Richard managed to say some particul- particularity that made up the little there was of meaning.”

Notice that I started reading this paragraph perfectly fine. When I reached the word “particularity,” I unconsciously paused before I could even finish saying the word.

Allow me to move on to a paragraph or two from a 2015 op-ed article from the Sun Sentinel in which the author implores Marco Rubio to resign from the U.S. Senate, since I have to read it for my News and News Reporting class on Tuesday anyhow.

“Rubio has missed more votes than any other senator this year. His seat is regularly empty for floor votes, committee meetings and intelligence briefings. He says he’s MIA from his J-O-B because he finds it frustrating and wants to be president, instead.”

Here’s how I read it.

“Rubio has missed more votes than any other senator this year. His seat is regularly empty for floor votes, committee meetings and intel- intelligence briefings. He says he’s MIA from his G-O-B because he finds it frustrating and wants to be president, instead.”

Again, I paused on the word “intelligence.” And I misspelled “JOB” by replacing “J” with “G,” which was extremely embarrassing because someone who’s so good at spelling even though she never participated in a spelling bee, let alone auditioned for one in 7th Grade, shouldn’t make such a big mistake as misspelling one simple three-letter word.

My anxiety has been somewhat diminished, but the fact I’ve been making speech errors more frequently than I like to seems to be telling me otherwise. It’s making me feel like I should either visit a neurologist to see if my anxiety has caused some damage in the Broca’s area of my brain or undergo speech and language therapy again. But then, my school putting me through speech and language therapy from pre-K to 8th Grade was less about correcting a speech impediment (because I didn’t have one to begin with) and more about improving my social skills.

I believe that this speech problem can be fixed either by myself or with some psychological help, but I’m scared that I’ll talk like Porky Pig for the rest of my life. That wouldn’t sound good for audiobooks, now  would it?

 

Christmas Gratitude

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2016 was a turbulent year for us all. As we reel in from the insanity of watching the unreal election of a politically inexperienced billionaire and the intermittent rash of terrorist attacks here in the U.S. and abroad, we need to pause and express gratitude for all that we have and pray for those less fortunate.

Here’s a list of things I’m most grateful for:

1. A loving family. They may drive me crazy sometimes, but I love them just as much as they love me.

2. A good education. College may be mentally and emotionally challenging for some people, especially at the university level, but it’ll all be worth it once graduation comes.

3. A supportive boyfriend. Throughout my most difficult time adjusting to a four-year university, Kristoff has always been there for me to vent out my worries and to share my accomplishments. He makes me the happiest girl in the world!

4. Good friends. Need I say more?

 

All these and more make me feel like my life has a purpose, so from 2017 on, I’m gonna put my past behind me, leave my future in God’s hands, and live every precious moment with a positive and open mind.