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Opinion

The Brownsville States-Graphic page

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Calvin's Corner

By Calvin Carter, Staff Writer

Show me the Data

It was always pounded into my head, during my time at UT, that your story is only as good as your source. It was also said that we should adhere to the mantra of fact not opinion, and whether or not it’s wrapped in controversy, the public has the right to know the truth. Online, it feels as if those lessons are being examined to their fullest. If you haven’t heard, the news, the world is buzzing over, whistle blowing website, Wikileak’s release of 75,000 documents on the war in Afghanistan. Apparently, the site actually managed to get its hands on 92,000 reports with a timeline ranging from January 2004 to December 2009. News organizations, like the New York Times, and England’s the Guardian have already found themselves kneedeep in the reports, noting that they presents a much grimmer picture of the war, than what has initially been let on to the public. The Times writes: “…A war hamstrung by an Afghan government, police force and army of questionable loyalty and competence. And by a Pakistani military that appears at best uncooperative and at worst to work from the shadow as an unspoken ally of the very insurgent forces the American— led coalition is trying to defeat.” The reports are specific snapshots that reveal quite a few items that may not have been knowledgeable to the public. For example, there are some reports that note the use of portable heat-seeking missiles against allied aircrafts, secret commando missions going wrong and resulting in civilian deaths, and drone aircrafts missions not being as successful as originally reported and of course the Taliban

actually growing more in power and influence. Some are already crying foul for Wikileaks releasing classified material to the public, and potentially further endangering our troops. White House officials are of course denying that they provided an inaccurate picture of the war. They also managed to attack the Wikileaks’ decision to release the classified material. Gen. James L. Jones, White House national security adviser, said the U.S. “strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security.” The question right now to look at is if Wikileaks is truly endangering our national security or are they simply trying to give people the truth? I don’t know. I’ve only managed to look through a few of the reports myself— nine down, 74,991 to go—and from the few I have seen, there isn’t anything that appears to be compromising, other than possibly, our country’s morale. Of course I’m not a military analyst, so I don’t know. But let’s also keep in mind that Wikileaks is still holding a portion of the documents they received to remove anything that might be a possible dangerous security compromise. Also, the data presented is old, and I doubt that it details any current missions or strategies. As I said before, the only thing this release—which many are saying is the second coming of the Pentagon Papers—may damage country morale, and raise suspicion about our government. Still this could potentially endanger possible informants,

but again, I don’t really know. My question however—besides who was the source(s) that leaked this information to Wikileaks—is if these documents were so classified, wouldn’t there have been stronger measures to make sure that no one could have leaked it? Or am I to be under the impression that our intelligence is that easily compromised? Authorities have already caught one suspect for the leak of various materials, including the infamous “Collateral Murder” video, which showed an American airstrike that carelessly struck civilians while apparently “going after insurgents.” Bradley Manning, who served as an Army Intelligence Analyst, was turned into authorities by Adrian Lamo, an ex-hacker, he had been communicating with for a brief period of time. Manning is currently in pre-trail detention in Kuwait. The maximum Manning could face in jail is 52 years. Manning, noted the ease of leaking information in the military and had proclaimed that he leaked a lot of information to Wikileaks. Wired magazine, has transcripts of some of the conversations online, between Manning and Lamo, on the website, and I highly recommend that you check them out. To me, the transcript paints a tangled picture of Manning. On one hand, you have this image of a man, so jaded and defeated who sees himself as a light to the public in opposition of an evil shadow veiled over our government and the military. On the other hand, Manning appears, almost boastful, arrogant of how easy it was for him leak this information. He also can come off as disturbed and perhaps even lonely. It’s a mix bag, and perhaps something that would have only been thought of as Hollywood fodder. You must also keep in mind that this is only what Wired has shown, which is a sliver into what Manning may really be like. Add in the fact, that Lamo hasn’t exactly presented himself as the most trustworthy of sources in this fiasco—it seems he’s still holding back more information on their chats—and well, it all becomes more confusing. And as his trial rolls on, the reports are read, and the wheels of media begin to spin, Manning will either end up as a champion of exposing the truth, or a betraying leper to his own country. To some people, Manning could wind up as both. Whether it was right or wrong, no one can deny that the leaks may very well be a historical point for digital journalism. Good or bad, the Internet has just shown us that this truly is the information age. And if you think that you can continue to hide your skeletons in the closet, you’re sadly mistaken.

The New Steeple By 28th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Clayburn Peeples So I’m leaving the courthouse in Alamo the other day, headed home, and I glance to my right as I drive out of the courthouse square. And there through the trees, I see something wonderful — the new steeple atop the bell tower at the First United Methodist Church. What a marvelous thing the Methodists have done, and not just for themselves, but for the community at large as well. The church building, long a graceful feature of the Alamo community, just got even lovelier with the addition of a beautiful, copper covered, cross topped steeple, and there is now another dramatic, visible reminder that Alamo is a community of Christian people. I heard a minister refer to a church steeple as a “life mark” rather than a “landmark”, and that’s a good metaphor. But whatever spiritual significance church steeples may serve to the people who worship beneath them, they also serve as landmarks for the larger community beyond the congregation. Historically, churches were among the first buildings erected in America when towns were formed, usually near the town’s center, and as travelers approached, the steeples would tell them not only where the center of town was but also that they were approaching a community of faith. There are, of course, all sorts of church towers and steeples, and they all descend from towers built as adjuncts to early churches. Beginning in the 600’s, early Christians began to build bell towers to announce worship times to the community, and also to advertise the location of the church. Since many churches were built of stone, the towers also served as refuges in times of attack, and they afforded townspeople early warning that attacks were coming, and from which direction. As time went on, these towers became less and less defense oriented and more and more inspirational. Because they were evolving in hundreds of places at once, all sorts of different obelisks, spires, cupolas, spires and steeples came into being. So why are nearly all steeples on American churches similar? Well, the steeple as we know it in America came into being as a result of the Great London Fire of 1666, a four-day conflagration that left 13,000 homes and 87 out of the city’s 106 churches, including St. Paul’s Cathedral, burned to the ground. Afterward, King Charles II commissioned

Sir Christopher Wren to oversee the redesign and rebuilding of the city’s churches, and over the next several years Wren directed the building of more than 50 churches. A trademark of most of them was a towering steeple of elaborate construction. When the first of his tall steepled churches was completed, St. Mary-le-Bow, in 1680, its 223-foot steeple took London by storm and the idea was copied over and over. As more and more churches copied Wren’s steeple it became the architectural standard for Christian churches throughout the world. As colonists came to America, naturally they brought new British architectural ideas with them, and after a brief period of Puritan austerity they began to build their own flamboyantly steepled churches. One such church was Christ Church, in Boston. Built in 1723, it was a center of Tory loyalism. The King of England himself had donated communion silver and a Bible to the church, and they said a prayer every week for him. But on the night of April 18, 1775, the church’s steeple, the tallest in the city, at 191 feet, would become the most famous in American history when it would be used to transmit a message to American patriots at the very beginning of the Revolutionary War. It was on that night that the church sexton and another patriot, on orders of Paul Revere, climbed the 154 steps to the top of the steeple and briefly lighted two lanterns in

the belfry as a signal to other patriots across the Charles River that British troops were crossing the river on their way to Concord to destroy the city’s arms supply. Paul Revere himself was spreading the word on horseback, but he knew he might be captured and detained so he set up the lantern warning as a backup. Knowing the Redcoats’ route gave the patriots time to prepare accordingly, and a good thing it was, because the very next day the American Revolutionary War began. By the time Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalized the church, in his poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” (1861) it was known as the Old North Church. A sign on one of the collection boxes in the church today says, “If it weren’t for Old North Church, you might be making your donations in pound notes.” Indeed. The new steeple that now graces the First United Methodist Church in Alamo will almost certainly never be as famous as that of the Old North Church in Boston; it’ll probably never be famous at all, but what it will do is add grace and loveliness to the Alamo skyline for as long as it stands, pointing the way to heaven and proclaiming today, and for future generations as well, silently but eloquently, the faith and fidelity of this generation of the Alamo people who call themselves Methodists. Excelsior.

Brownsville

STATES-GRAPHIC Scott Whaley,

Vicky Fawcett,

Terry Thompson

Editor & Publisher

Office Manager

Sales Manager

Scott Whaley, Calvin Carter, Editor & Publisher

Staff Writer

Julie Pickard, Staff Writer

Ceree Peace Poston Receptionist

Matt Garrett Graphic Designer

Calvin Carter,

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Julie Pickard, Matt Garrett Terry Thompson Calvin Carter, Sara Clark, Josh Anderson Graphic Design Scott Whaley, Vicky Fawcett, Terry Thomps...

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