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By Undergraduates for Undergraduates in the UF Department of Political Science Volume 3, Issue 2 â—? Spring 2013 Sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha

Table of Contents

Volume 3 Issue 2

1 Table of Contents 3 Letters From The Editors 4 Letters from the President

Current Crises


President Barack Obama Announces Plans To Withdraw Troops From Afghanistan by Drake CastaĂąeda


North Korea Raises Concern Over Nuclear Testing by Mehek Mirchandani

World Watch


The Future of Democracy in Egypt Under Mohamed Morsi by Alexandra Chopenko


On Gbagbo and the ICC by Richard Vieira


France and the Central Republic by Adelina Vasileva Tahir-ul-Qadri: Friend or Foe to Pakistani Democracy by Doris Guerva

16 Public Policy

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Pell Grant Changes for 2013 by Mariam Grigoryan The Battle Over Birth Control by Abbie Schepps


Morality of Machines: Robo-Ethics and Society by Ashley Inman


Pi Sigma Alpha Invades The Nation’s Capitol by Dillon Clancy



A Capital Semester by Trevor Myers

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The Political Voice Kristen Morrell, Editor-In-Chief Nathalie Dortonne & Alexia Fernandez, Designers Lauren Wilson, Art Director Editors: Dillon Clancy Darryl Arcales Jaewon Jang Richard Vieira Meghan Miller Stephanie Quintao Contributors: Mehek Mirchandani Drake Castaneda Andy Garcia Ashley Inman Abbie Schepps Mariam Grigoryan Richard Vieira Adelina Vasileva Doris Guevara Diego Sevillano Sasha Chopenko Trevor Myers Copy Editors: Tae Hong Cara Chiaramonte Alexia Fernandez Nathalie Dortonne Department of Political Science 234 Anderson Hall P.O. Box 117325 Gainesville, FL 32611 (352)392-0262 The Political Voice is sponsored by the Beta Gamma chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha.

Spring 2013


Letter From the Editor

Hello readers, I am so glad you have decided to read the Political Voice. The writers, editors, designers and entire PV staff work so hard each edition to provide you with a wonderful experience. We hope you are impressed with each article and walk away having learning something new. It is always challenging to simplify the events going on in the world or consolidate a complex political discussion. However, our writers rise to the occasion each issue to fairly and accurately report various topics. I am so proud of each student who has decided to use their political voice. I am also proud of you, the reader, who has decided to engage in a political read. Now turn the page and get started with volume 3 issue 2 of the Political Voice! Thanks,

Kristen Morrell Editor-in-Chief


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Letter From the President Dear Readers,

The Political Voice has created another jam-packed issue filled with the stories that address both domestic and global politics. As a publication we believe it is vital to bring these topics to the university as a whole and to bring them to the forefront of our own attention as students, campus leaders, and future leaders of our country. These topics, the war in Afghanistan, the tumultuous situation in Egypt, nuclear testing in North Korea, to name a few, will be the issues we will face as political practitioners of the future. As students of political science we believe that these questions need to be pondered in a more familiar arena, with our fellow students as writers, and I am proud to be a part of this publication with such a valiant goal. I hope that you find within these pages as much interesting, accurate and informative conclusions as I did about the most difficult politics we face. It is journalism like the Political Voice that truly encourages me about the civic engagement and positive possibilities of future for our generation. Happy Reading,

Alexa Lipke PSA President

Spring 2013


Current Crises PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA announces plan to withdraw troops from

Afghanistan by Drake Casta単eda



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poll by the Washington Post reported that 72 percent of registered voters in the U.S. support the ending of the war in Afghanistan. Of those registered voters, 53 percent strongly supported the ending of the war. NATO has also expressed a similar sentiment toward withdrawal efforts in Afghanistan by working alongside President Obama in accordance to his timetable, which outlines a plan to draw down troop levels until the end of the war has been reached. In October 2001, the U.S. and NATO began Operation Enduring Freedom in response to the September 11th al-Qaeda attacks on the United States. The goals of this operation have been to dismantle al-Qaeda and its influence on Afghanistan and to provide a smooth transition for Afghanistan – which will hold its next presidential election in April 2014 – in becoming a democratic state. While the war has had many casualties for all participating parties, the U.S. has made some great strides over its time in Afghanistan by largely driving out al-Qaeda and capturing or killing many of its leaders, most notably al-Qaeda founder and leader Osama bin Laden. During troop withdrawals, the remaining troops will pull back from their current roles and take on an advisory and training role for the Afghan military until the last withdrawal of troops by the end of 2014. However, not every remaining American troop will be returning home by the end of 2014. According

to German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said in a Brussels meeting that the U.S. will actually be retaining 8,000 to 12,000 troops in Afghanistan after the withdrawal. This was quickly refuted by Panetta, whose spokesman told reporters

“This is something Afghanistan has wanted for so long now.” -Office of President Karzai that these numbers represented the collective effort of both the U.S. and NATO forces. Regarding the mission over the next few years to wane American involvement in Afghanistan, Panetta stated, “We will continue to discuss with allies and the Afghans how we can best carry out two basic missions: targeting the remnants of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, and training and equipping Afghan forces.” Reactions of the Afghan government and its citizens

have been largely mixed toward the American plan for withdrawal. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has long been calling for a faster timetable for Afghan forces to take over, welcomed the withdrawal timetable with open arms. Just over two years ago, NATO also made the decision to remove its combat troops from Afghanistan by 2014. In addition, Karzai met with President Barack Obama last month and agreed to allow Afghan forces to take the higher role in security in the country. The office of President Karzai stated: “This is something Afghanistan has wanted for so long now. The withdrawal in the spring of foreign forces from Afghan villages will definitely help in ensuring peace and full security in Afghanistan.” The Afghan Defense Ministry also said they are well-prepared to take on the responsibility of their own security in 2013. While this is the view of the Afghan government, not all are in agreement with the

Spring 2013


Current Crises . withdrawal timetable and have such a positive outlook for Afghanistan’s future in terms of the country’s long-term prospects for security and stability. Amrullah Aman, a former Afghan army general, was surprised by the U.S. announcement of its withdrawal timetable. Aman said Afghanistan is not yet strong enough to provide its own defense. “I was surprised with this number, and I didn’t expect that 34,000 U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan. They don’t have equipment. There is no Afghan Air Force.” Military analyst and former Deputy Interior Minister Abdul Hadi Khalid is critical of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and also of its withdrawal timetable. “America decided to come to Afghanistan, they decided to stay in Afghanistan, and now they are about to make the other decision to leave Afghanistan. Their promises were that they will struggle and defeat terrorism and extremism and also help Afghanistan. But unfortunately they have not defeated terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan or the region, and now they are leaving us with more problems,” Khalid said. There are a number of Afghan citizens who fear another civil war similar to that of the one that occurred following the Soviet Union’s withdrawal in 1989. While a fair amount of global uncertainty surrounds Afghanistan following troop withdrawals, there is hope from NATO and all nations involved that the culmination of this timetable will result in a stronger Afghanistan that can provide for the security of its own citizens and create a stronger national identity that leads to better lives for all of its citizens in the wake of a weakening grasp of domestic and international terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban.


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Photo: AP Photo

Current Crises

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by Mehek Mirchandani

Following rocket launch tests in December 2012, North Korea has conducted its third underground nuclear test. Despite multiple sanctions from the international community, the country has done little to curb its activities. The United States has attempted to negotiate with North Korea in an effort to repair relations with the country after the death of Kim Jong Il. Multiple meetings have been made with leaders in the country, first in April of 2012 and then again in August. According to the Atlantic Wire, despite believing that the meetings would go well under new North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the United States made little to no forward progress on diplomatic fronts. In addition, China’s relationship with North Korea has been strained by the DPRK’s recent actions -the Chinese government has been working closely with the U.S. by working together with the United Nations to increase sanctions against the DPRK. While Kim Jong Un seems to be attempting to forge a different leadership style than his father – by trying to improve relations with the North Korean people as well as by increasing government transparency -- the recent nuclear test signals that the regime is more likely to stand against other countries and not back down after being instructed to do so. According to the New York Times, this poses additional challenges to the Obama administration; the U.S. has been attempting over the last two decades to make sure that North Korea does not become a full-fledged nuclear power.


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Photo Credit: AP

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North Korea has alarmed the international community by creating smaller devices, as this could be a sign that they are attempting to insert these devices into long-range missiles. Earlier tests done by North Korea in 2006 and 2009 were done with small plutonium devices. However, the most recent test in February 2013 was conducted with a uranium-based device that yielded 6 kilotons. For reference, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during the second World War yielded 13 kilotons of power. In addition, plutonium must be made in a reactor, while uranium can be mined and refined before it is useful. Pound for pound, plutonium yields more power. The international ramification currently facing North Korea is the further isolation of Kim Jong Un’s regime, the Korean Workers Party. Because the country also defied previous sanctions by testing the device, this will likely result in more sanctions against the country, which will cause economic instability and a hostile international political environment. Meanwhile, the U.N. Security Council is attempting to find a resolution, which may include travel bans on officials and stricter inspections of vessels. All eyes are on China to see what actions they will take in the coming weeks.

Photo Credit: AP/ A missile is paraded through Kim Il sung-Square in Pyongang, North Korea

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World Watch


fter the Egyptian revolution in 2011, which overthrew the regime of Hosni Mubarak, high hopes were placed on the transitional council to provide a new form of government that would satisfy the demands of the protestors and establish democratic rule in post-revolutionary Egypt. Mohamed Morsi, a member of the pan-Islamic Muslim Brotherhood movement, was announced the winner of Egypt’s first free democratic election in June. Since Morsi assumed his post, the situation in Egypt has seen little improvement with protests still rampant throughout the country. Morsi has been opposed by a great deal of Egyptian citizens who fear that his Islamic rule will bring limited change. In November, Morsi prohibited the newly drafted constitution from being challenged by the judiciary, which effectively protected his decisions from being prosecuted. A prominent opponent of Morsi’s rule, Mohamed ElBaradei, criticized his decision and said that he “usurped all state powers and appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh.” After outbursts from protestors in the historic Tahrir Square and scrutiny from Western media, Morsi agreed to annul his declaration. The opposition warned that the adopted constitution, backed by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, is a stepping stone for Islamic rule and an infringement on civil liberties.

Photo Credits: AP Photo/ Egyptian Presidency


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Foreign policy has had little development under Morsi’s rule. According to a CNN report, Morsi called Israelis “blood-suckers,” “descendants of apes and pigs,” and the American people “enemies.” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called for a statement from Egypt’s president to “make clear that he respects people of all faiths and that this type of rhetoric is unacceptable in a democratic Egypt.” Currently, Morsi is supporting a peace treaty with Israel and continues to work with the United States. Two years after the historic revolution, police violence is still rampant and protestors are boycotting Morsi’s Islamist government.

“...Morsi is supporting a peace

treaty with Israel and continues to work with the United States.”


n the wake of these protests, President Morsi has called for talks with opposition leaders but warned the citizens that he will use force to stop protests if needed. Morsi also declared a state of emergency in three cities where protests are most prominent, which suspends all judicial rules and gives more power to the police force and the president. This resort to authoritarian measures is a worrisome signal that the post-revolutionary government is not what the protestors in Tahrir Square died for two years ago.

World Watch ON GBAGBO AND THE ICC by Richard Vieira

Last year, the Ivory Coast was plagued with turmoil as a result of political disagreement and corruption. According to the International Criminal Court, former President Laurent Gbagbo “bears individual criminal responsibility” regarding four counts of crimes against humanity including murder, rape and persecution. After a loss in the hotly contested 2010 election, Gbagbo and his loyalists clashed with the forces of President Alassane Outtara in an attempt to protect Gbagbo’s power. According to an article in the Telegraph, Gbagbo was arrested by Outarra’s forces in April of 2011 with the aid of France and the United Nations. A great deal of influential officials, like Kofi Annan and former Pope Benedict XVI, called for Gbagbo to step down and end the violence. The former president of the Ivory Coast will be the first head of state to appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, it is uncertain whether Gbagbo will be tried in The Hague. Al-Jazeera reported in February that a set of hearings will determine if the former

president is healthy enough to stand trial and whether there is enough evidence to try him in court. Gbagbo’s defense lawyers have suggested that the political violence that erupted in the Ivory Coast wasn’t an effort by Gbagbo to retain power. He referred to the fact that Gbagbo demanded a recount and is the one who introduced the multiparty-system to the country. They also argued that their client shouldn’t be charged by the ICC, but rather by the authorities of the Ivory Coast, where he was captured according to a BBC report published on February 19. The same report also stated that Gbagbo insists that his arrest is part of a French conspiracy to upset the balance of power in the world’s largest producer of cocoa. This may bring the intentions and authority of the ICC into question.

Photo Credit: AP/ A local resident wears an Ivory Coast flag as he celebrates news of Laurent Gbagbo’s capture near soldiers allied with Alassane Ouattara, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.


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Since its establishment in 2002, the ICC has released warrants for the arrests of suspected criminals in eight African countries. These warrants were subject to criticism and may be used as a basis for criticizing Gbagbo’s trial. Writing for the Telegraph in July of 2012, Courtenay Griffiths argues the intentions of these warrants as the ICC “has so far only tried black Africans” and acts as a proxy for its British sponsors in order to “exert their power and influence, particularly in

Photo Credit: AP/ Laurent Gbagbo

“The former president of the Ivory Coast will be the first head of state to appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Photo Credit: AFP/Pro-Gbagbo supporter holds a newspaper bearing the former Ivory Coast president’s image ahead of his trial.

Africa.” Griffiths also argues that many of the cases brought before the ICC have been based on very biased evidence if not a lack of evidence. However, this isn’t the first time the institutions authority has been challenged. In March of 2012, Jon Silverman of the BBC illustrated that many criticize the ICC based on high costs compared to its number of convictions. Another report published by the Economist in May 2010 highlights the criticism that the ICC is too slow when bringing alleged criminals to trial. All of these may resurface as Gbagbo faces the possibility of trial and has strong support from many loyalists in his native Ivory Coast. It is unclear whether such objections will force the ICC to issue a moratorium for the trial of the 67-year-old former president or whether he will be tried and found guilty in an international court. Gbagbo’s health and the amount of evidence against him are also likely to sway the decisions made by the ICC. However, as yet another black African is brought to the ICC with the help of a former colonial power, the court and its supporters are likely to draw objections and criticism. With governments, media and private citizens serving as critics on both sides, the tension over what should happen to Laurent Gbagbo is likely to heighten.

World Watch France and the Central African Republic by Adelina Vasileva According to The Guardian, France roots – the Seleka Coalition in the has militarily intervened in its Af- C.A.R is made up of three local rebrican colonies over 50 times since el groups (The Union of Democratic 1960. So when two of its colonies Forces for Unity, the Wa Kodro Sa-Mali and the Central African Re- lute Patriotic Convention and the public- asked for help last year it Convention of Patriots for Justice came as a great surprise to many and Peace), while the Mali rebels that France ignored the pleas of the are backed and trained by Al-QaeC.A.R’s President Francois Bozize da. The C.A.R conflict seems very for help, while troops were swift- similar to the civil war in Sudan that ly deployed into Mali as Opera- resulted in a partition, while Mali tion Serval initiated. Both scholars looks like it can potentially turn into and citizens began to wonder why a terrorist-controlled rogue state. France intervened in Mali and not Larson implies that the missions of in the Central African Republic. the two interventions are quite difTwo leading hypothesis emerged- ferent. In the C.A.R, French forcone popularized by Associated es would prevent the rebels from Press’ Krista Larson and the oth- taking over the capital and provide er by The Guardian’s Amit Singh. Larson suggests that the different natures of the two conflicts are at the root of the French choice, while Singh proposes that the Central African Republic nonintervention decision is the first sign of a movement away from the post-colonial policy of “Francafrique”. Both former colonies are extremely poor, resourceful, landlocked countries with rebel forces sowing chaos in the North and slowly moving towards the capitals of Bamako and Bangui in the South. These might look like enough similarities to prompt analogous French responses in the two regions, but according to Krista Larson the two situations are drastically different than they may appear. The Photo Credit: Global Research Center. two rebel forces have very different


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stability, while in Mali they would have to return the lands seized by Al-Qaeda sponsored rebels back to government controlled areas. The Malian mission is much more ambitious; however it is much more likely to attract foreign support because it is based on a security concern; preventing the spread of militant Islamic fundamentalism around the world. An intervention in the C.A.R may appear as a deliberate attempt to undermine the internal matters of the state and an infringement on national sovereignty. Finally, the two insurgencies are driven by two very different causes. The Seleka Coalition is motivated by the be-

lief that the Bangui government has systematically neglected the North, while Malian rebels are fighting a war based on religion. Amit Singh’s proposition focuses more on a changing French foreign policy than the actual conflicts in the C.A.R and Mali. As Maja Bvocon from the European Journal of International Relations points out, Francafrique in its most basic interpretation emphasizes Africa as France’s sphere of influence. In 2007 President Sarkozy called for the abolition of this policy but his intervention in the Ivory Coast proved otherwise. The new French president, François Hollande, has

also shown a similar sentiment and Singh believes that the refusal of intervention in the CAR signifies a shift in French foreign policy away from Francafrique. In his eyes, this is France declaring that it will not meddle in the internal affairs of its former colonies. Where does this then leave Operation Serval in Mali? Singh, just like Larson suggested in her article, puts the Mali conflict in the broader context of the growing influence of militant Islamist groups in the world, especially in West Africa. It is not just a French interest, however; many Western countries have growing concerns about the issue.

Regardless of the reason for the French refusal to intervene in the Central African Republic, the importance of this conflict should not be overlooked. According to the United Nations the conflict has affected 1.8 million people, 800, 000 of which are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance and 192,000 people who have been internally displaced as a result of the conflict. The most vulnerable groups of the society, women and children, have been hit the hardest – 12 percent of children under the age of five are malnourished, while the female mortality rate is 435.96 per 1000 female adults.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Hundreds of people protested outside the French Embassy in Central African Republic.


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World Watch Tahir-ul-Qadri: Friend or Foe to Pakistani Democracy? By: Doris Guerva


fter almost seven years of self-imposed exile in Canada, Pakistani religious cleric and former parliamentarian Tahir-ul Qadri has returned to his home country. Since Mr. Qadri’s arrival in December, he has made several demands, such as the establishment of a caretaker government and the dissolution of the assemblies and the Election Commission. According to an article in the Washington Times, in 2010 Mr. Qadri wrote a 600-page fatwa against terrorism,which gave him international recognition. In December, Mr. Qadri held an anti-corruption rally in Lahore and another one two weeks later in Islamabad.

“Qadri’s objective is to bring down the current democratic system”

Although Mr. Qadri’s demands for clean politics are within reason—according to a recent story done by Reuters more than 70 percent of parliamentarians did not pay their taxes (including President Asif Ali Zardari) as well as defaulting on loans—several people believe that his demands will not be met. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, there is also speculation that due to the pressure Mr. Qadri is exerting, the caretaker government, which must oversee the election as the Constitution requires, could be composed of pro-military members who might find an excuse to postpone elections.

Photo Credit: AP/Supporters of Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri chant anti-government slogans at a rally en-route to Islamabad, in Jhelum, Pakistan.


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Photo Credit: AP Furthermore, CNN went as far as to say that when Mr. Qadri stressed the importance the military and the judiciary had in selecting a caretaker government another red flag was raised for some, who even began to believe that he was working with the military. Nevertheless, this time the military has promised not to interfere and allow democracy to prevail. Mr. Qadri’s sudden appearance in Pakistan comes at a time when gas shortages, blackouts, bans on cellphones, and daily terrorist attacks have become synonymous with the present government. According to BBC News, Pakistani forces have been part of an ongoing effort to exert control over the regions along the border with Afghanistan, where militants associated with the Taliban are located. Nonetheless, the terrorist attacks are no longer limited to the Afghan border. Minority groups across the country have become constant targets of terrorist violence, as seen a few weeks ago when 93 members of the Hazara community were killed by a bomb attack in Quetta.

In the days following the bombings, Mr. Qadri addressed an audience where he called those acts “a conspiracy against the integrity of Pakistan.” He demanded of the government to protect their citizens and stand firmly against terrorism, as reported by GeoNews. Starting in 2009, the Pakistani government has been conducting military campaigns to get rid of the militants operating in the tribal areas.

“The terrorist attacks are no longer limited to the Afghan border” Nonetheless as the years passed by, citizens have been grown tired and fed up with the unfulfilled promises made by the government as well as the bad economic situation of the country under Pakistan

Photo Credit: AP/Pakistani Muslim scholar Tahir ul Qadri joins hands during a public rally in Karachi on Jan. 1

The Economist has noted that the problem, however, is that while President Zardari may not be the best option; neither is Nawaz Shariff, the opposition leader and former prime minister. Thus, as The Independent reports, some might see in Mr. Qadri a civilian savior who brings along the opportunity for change. Now the question is whether Mr. Qadri’s revolutionary tactics are necessary or if there are other roads toward change after all.


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Public Policy Pell Grant Changes for 2013 by Mariam Grigoryan

Pell Grants are need-based assistance grants provided to low-income undergrads in order to promote education beyond high school. The Pell Grant program was formed in 1980 after the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Since then, the program has provided federal aid to students to help pay for the costs of attendance of higher education. These needbased federal grants do not need to be paid back and depend on financial need, costs of attending school and plans of attending school for an entire year as a full-time student. Pell grants are usually given out to non-white females who are generally the first in their family to attend college. With the recent reelection of Barack Obama and the divided Congress, Washington D.C. still looks the same, but legislation put in place will change how college students receive financial aid. The funding for federal Pell grants come from a fiscal budget request, but this budget will soon be facing downfall. In a study recently conducted by the University of Alabama Education Policy Center, both Iowa State and Mississippi State University experienced changes in Pell grant eligibility requirements. The Education Policy Center shows that 4,731 students lost their grants due to a new eligibility restriction approved by Congress in June. This study found that changes in the eligibility requirements for Pell grants have substantially affected students in some of the countries poorest and least educated states. The study did research and found facts and data on the amount and


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percentage of Pell grants received by students in these three states. The study also found that the striking numbers of Pell grants awarded, in terms of numbers, percentages and a percent of total full time enrollment. The study found that nearly 9 in 10 Pell grants are given to students attending public institutions. Pell Grants currently cover the smallest portion of college costs since their inception in the 1980s. Due to a divided Congress and the budget fights that occurred in 2011, the government reduced the eligibility for grants. Obama cut spending on Pell grants, eliminating them for summer classes as well as making loans for graduate students begin acquiring interest immediately. David Leonhardt said these changes “intended to help save $100 billion over 10 years to offset the costs of maintaining Pell grants for nine million students, according to administration officials.� It is important to note that the Pell Grant maximum level has risen in the past few years and will remain the same if changes in eligibility requirements and cuts are made. However, many financial administrators would rather have a lower maximum amount in exchange for fewer restrictions on eligibility and how students use the money because this would mean the money is reaching more students. The study also found that enrollment has declined in 47 of the 62 community colleges in Arkansas, Mississippi and Alabama. Other statistics showed that

due to the eligibility changes in Pell grants, 5,000 students lost their Pell grants in 2012 and another 17,000 will lose it this year. Based on U.S. Census data Mississippi ranks second for the country’s least educated state. Arkansas comes in third and Alabama in sixth place. Mississippi is also the poorest state in the nation with Arkansas coming in second and Alabama falls in ninth. Therefore, cutting the Pell grant program will hit these states and other states in the same predicament in the hardest. Making these cuts may help the country’s deficit, but it might hurt economic growth in the long run because today’s graduates fuel tomorrow’s economy; without Pell grants, many

students would no longer enroll in post-secondary education. The last few years prove the importance of a college degree in the world we live in today. With the economy touching new lows and millions of Americans being left jobless, a college education is vital. However, without financial aid, such as Pell grants, a college education might not be possible for many Americans. For students who cannot afford a college education, Pell grants become a ray of hope. Financial aid can help relieve the burdens that might prevent a student from being successful academically. It can help pay for enrollment fees, textbooks, class supplies and even housing and transportation costs. These expenses often make a

difference in whether or not students are able to attend college; therefore, taking this financial aid away would be extremely unjust to the students who could not otherwise afford a college education. If these students could not attend college anymore, what would happen to our country? Rebuilding the education system should be a top priority for the government and continuing to provide financial aid will be beneficial in the future, especially when the college graduates contribute to our society and the economy. Investing in financial aid now could prove to be a huge bonus for our country in the future.

Photo Credit: The Independent Florida Alligator Spring 2013


Public Policy The Birth Control Battle by Abbie Schepps In June 2012, the Supreme Court upheld that the healthcare act was constitutional. Lately, the battle over oral contraception has made headlines. The Obama administration has mandated a rule requiring all health insurance programs to cover women’s contraception without co-pays, sparking quite a heated battle, particularly from Republicans and religious organizations. The birth-control bill requires all employers, including church-affiliated organizations that object to contraception based on religious grounds, to cover birth control in the worker’s health plans for no fee. Only exclusively religious groups, such as churches, were originally exempt. This battle is heading to the US Supreme Court in hopes of overturning the birth control bill once and for all. Last year, the Supreme Court found the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be constitutional. Under this act, employers are required to provide women with coverage at no cost for “preventive care and screenings,” which included contraception under most plans. As the battle over the current birth control bill continues, we may be seeing another turn to the


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Supreme Court. Due to this backlash from the religious community the Obama administration issued a compromise on February 1. This compromise exempted religion-affiliated universities and charities from having to pay for birth control coverage. Female employees of these organizations are still eligible for free contraception, but through a separate insurance plan from their employer’s, which will recoup their costs from federal credits and, in the long run, the lower birth rate. This compromise has not really changed the position of the religious group and many Republicans because they still hope to reach the courts. The Association of US Catholic Priests is arguing that providing contraception violates their moral conscience. Compromise or no comprise, they are preparing to fight this bill with the hopes of seeing it put to rest. In order for the religious organizations, conservative Republicans and the like to win such a case, they must overcome a precedent. The Supreme Court found that if a law is not specifically targeting a religious group, then they must comply even when it imposes a burden on their free exercise of religion per Employment Division v. Smith (1990). Even the conservative Justices of the Supreme Court found this to hold true. Justice Antonin

Scalia said it would make “religious belief superior to the law of the land.” This precedent has been used in many high courts to block First Amendment challenges to contraceptive-coverage laws that parallel the federal contraceptive bill. The Plaintiffs are citing certain exceptions to show that the law is not generally applicable. Effective and safe methods of birth control have been available since the twentieth century. Religious organizations have constantly claimed moral issues and attempted to decrease the use of birth control and contraception. However, birth control and contraceptives have very serious positive effects on the economy, as well as the health and wellbeing of women. Birth control positively attributes to economic growth because there are fewer dependent children and less expense from medical costs. By guaranteeing women access to birth control we can ensure that women are never denied the right to make responsible decisions about their reproductive health.

Morality of Machines: Roboethics and Society by Ashley Inman

As technology rapidly evolves, society finds itself enthralled with the potential new benefits that come from advanced machinery and robotics. Envisioning self-driving cars, automatically cooking stoves and other programs designed to make life easier and more leisurely, humanity finds itself inadvertently neglecting the risk of technology developing at a faster rate than society can comprehend. In the popular video game “Portal,” character Chell finds herself as a labrat navigating her way through a series of chambers armed with a physics-defying portal gun. A computer robot named GLaDOS (short for Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) serves as her only guide instructing her in the mannerisms of the chambers and the portal gun. However, the initially friendly and seemingly-helpful GLaDOS steadily begins to reveal a more sinister purpose: luring Chell to her death with false promises of cake and guilt-tripping remarks. When Chell finally removes and incinerates one of GLaDOS’s main components, GLaDOS reveals that it was her “morality core,” installed to prevent her from killing innocents with a deadly neurotoxin, which she then promptly attempts to assassinate Chell. The morals of machines do not have to be the life-or-death situ-

ation of “Portal,” but such dilemmas are quickly moving out of science fiction and into reality. It is important to note that as machinery advances and becomes increasingly self-governing, computer-controlled robots may find themselves facing ethical dilemmas. Military technology has seen immense and vast developments in the realm of artificial intelligence and highly-advanced robotics. Currently, devices exist such as the SUGV, which can identify and pursue a man in a crowd, and RISE, a robot cockroach that can climb walls. However, as technology expands in both intelligence and pervasiveness, the issue of making moral and ethical decisions may find itself coming to the forefront of these devices. Should a machine fire upon a target if it risks endangering innocents? Should a device take out obstacles, be they physical hindrances or actual people, who intend to protect its target, as a way of carrying out its task? Such questions are not only posed on the battlefield. As driverless cars emerge (such as Volvo’s new V40 hatchback), driverless trains become commonplace and civilian technology finds itself being able to complete an increasing variety of tasks, society is thrust into the forefront of machine morality as well. Should an automatic car strive to protect its occupants, or Spring 2013


other drivers and pedestrians? Should a plane land itself in an emergency if it risks harming citizens below? These and other questions have led to the rise of the field of machine ethics. Machine ethics, also known as machine morality, is the arena of research concerned with designing Artificial Moral Agents (AMAs), robots or artificially intelligent computers that behave morally. Concomitantly, the term “roboethics” was invented by roboticist Gianmarco Veruggio in 2002, referring to the ethics of how humans plan, make, use and behave toward robots and other artificially intelligent beings. Roboethics and machine ethics are quickly becoming the pinnacle of new industrial endeavors, bringing a combination of legal, ethical and technological facets to the issue. For anyone who has read Isaac Asmivov’s “I, Robot” series (or, more likely, seen the popular Will Smith cinematic version), we are familiar with the “Three Laws of Robotics” and how they attempt to govern artificial intelligence, but more importantly, how they fail to do so. If we program robots to strive for the protection of humans, how can that be achieved while avoiding the tyrannical results that occurred in science fiction? Oftentimes, building robots intended to do one function, but giving them the ability of discretion and intelligence leads them to perform another. For example, the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems in the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale in Switzerland undertook a 2009 experiment. In this, robots that were programmed to cooperate with one another whilst


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looking for a beneficial resource and eluding a lethal one learned to lie to each other and to conceal the truth in hopes of hoarding the beneficial resource. A theory popularized in the Terminator movies, Vernor Vinge predicts the possibility of “the Singularity,” a period when machines become smarter than the humans who invent them, possibly becoming dangerous for human beings. Academic and technical experts agree that a computer becoming autonomous and able to make choices on its own is transitioning from hypothetical to extremely possible — potentially posing threats to humankind. In a 2009 conference, scientists acknowledged the capability of machines to achieve several degrees of partial sovereignty, encompassing capacities to both autonomously choose and fire upon militaristic targets, to find power sources, and to develop evasive maneuvers. However, how much speculation through science fiction movies can actually predict the volatility of future machinery? Although many suggest that one method of dealing with the problems posed by teaching machines right from wrong is to eliminate such machines altogether, such as banning autonomous bots, others attest to the unending benefits such machines can bring to humankind. Android soldiers would not rape, destroy a village in anger or become irrational amidst the strain of battle; likewise, driverless cars are likely to be far safer than ones susceptible to human error.

With such complex issues arising in the field of machine morality and roboethics, the question arises on how to teach robots to become AMAs while simultaneously avoiding the pitfalls and hazards echoed in science fiction. When ethical systems are programmed into machines, they must parallel the morals of the majority of society. With this comes the concern of implementing algorithms into machines and whether they should be decision trees or neural networks. Although Chris Sangos-Lang says neural networks and genetic algorithms allow for changing societal norms and an ability to evolve the decision-making process is necessary to progress, others argue that decision support tools that uses a tree-like model of options and possible consequences will habitually follow collective standards of accountability and predictability, eliminating the margin in which machines could make their own — perhaps “incorrect” — decisions. Technology has propelled societal progress, but society has also impelled scientific advancements. There may not currently be a precise formula for a perfected “morality core;” but, the sooner the precarious quandaries of AMAs are answered, the sooner humanity can relish in the remunerations advanced machinery will certainly bring to society.




ine members of UF’s chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha traveled to Washington, D.C., for two days of exploration and bonding. The excursion’s participants included myself along with Jeff Abalos, Sasha Chopenko, Ama Gyimah, Alexa Lipke, Carlos Marquez, Corrado Minardi, Kristen Morell and Kyle Olson. The purpose of the trip was to help us gain an appreciation for the functioning of American democracy. Due to the fact that a great deal of us want to have careers in Washington, D.C., after graduation, we hoped to get a taste of what it is like to live and work in the area. The voyage began on the morning of Feb.15. The group started on what was a tiring drive from Gainesville to the nation’s capital. Two members of Pi

Photo credit: AP


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Sigma Alpha went to Orlando and from there they flew to D.C. Everyone arrived safely in Washington, D.C, on Friday night. Despite the lengthy trip, we appreciated the opportunity to get to know each other better. Kristen Morell, the editor-in chief of the Political Voice, said the best part of the trip was being with good company. “When you have good friends and good conversation the drive isn’t really that bad,” she said. After recuperating from a long day of travel, we set off Saturday morning to do our first planned activity: a visit to the National Archives. We saw the original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. There was also an original copy of the Magna Carta.


personally got chills whenI looked at the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is one thing to read a textbook and understand the meaning of the documents. But to see the actual ink on parchment was quite a memorable experience. Following the National Archives tour, we made a brief trip to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and then had lunch with Taylor Plumer. Taylor is a UF alumnus and former PSA member who is now working in D.C. for a non-profit organization. He was able to provide us with an insider’s look at what life is like for a recent college graduate living in the District. We asked him a great deal of questions ahout finding jobs, housing, and the day-to-day experience in Washington, D.C.. My favorite part of the conversation was when Taylor explained what to do after you land a job. “Carve your own niche,” he said,“and make yourself indispensable.” In other words, find ways to add value to the organization you are working for and distinguish yourself from your peers. After lunch with Taylor, the group

headed to the Capitol and the Library of Congress. We went back to the hotel and rested (they don’t call the Capitol “The Hill” for nothing!). The group traveled by Metro to the Dupont Circle neighborhood, where we met Shane Landry, a friend of Jeff ’s who went to college in D.C. at American University. We shared dinner with Shane, who then took us on a walking tour of the area. OnSunday morning we visited the Smithsonian Museum of American History, where we spent several hours touring exhibits on the history of slavery in America, the military and pop culture. After lunch, we walked to the White House and came across a large protest. Jeff Abalos said said seeing the large and diverse group of Americans exercising their first amendment rights in the heart of the federal district was one of the most intersting parts of the weekend. The group split up Sunday afternoon so each person could to go to a place that personally interested them.

“Carve your own niche”

A handful of us visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, the National Gallery of Art and Georgetown University.

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“D.C. is a city of professionals, so it was really nice to see a place where people my age live and work, to see a college campus just outside of this big city,” Morrell said after the Georgtown University trip. She said that the visit to Georgetown was the highlight of the trip. After being separated for the afternoon, the group came back together for a night-time visit of the Lincoln Memorial. Despite the sub 20-degree weather, we braved a walk of the National Mall and paid our respects at the Vietnam Veterans, Korean War Veterans and World War II Memorials. The majority of the group departed for Gainesville on Monday morning. Kyle and I were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take a tour of the Capitol and the Library of Congress, which served as an excellent end to a wonderful trip. It is easy to speak of “Washington” and our nation’s government in abstract terms. I was thoroughly humbled to walk through the center of what French historian Alexis de Tocqueville called “the American Experiment” in 1835. I never grew tired of seeing the shining dome of the Capitol. I was humbled. And I cannot wait to take my place in that magnificent city.



A Capital Semester by Trevor Myers

If you asked me a year and a half ago where I envisioned myself today, I bet you I wouldn’t have said Washington, D.C. But that’s the funny thing about life – you never know where it’s going to take you. My journey began eight months ago, when I was casually doing a Google search on internship opportunities at the local, state and federal levels. I stumbled upon the website of The Fund for American Studies (TFAS), an educational non-profit that places students in competitive internships in and around D.C. while they take classes at Georgetown University. Initially, I was reluctant to apply because I felt I was under qualified, but after thinking it over for about a month, I worked up the nerve to apply to their Capital Semester program – a 15-week long experience offered in Fall and Spring. In early August 2011, right after I had finished my final exam for Introduction to Public Administration, I received an acceptance letter to the program and a $5,000 scholarship in the mail. I couldn’t believe it – I was going to Washington in January! Over the next few months, I worked with the

program director to figure out what internship would be best suited for me. After compiling a list of my top three choices, the director forwarded my resume and credentials to each of them. It was in mid-November when I found out the U.S. Department of the Treasury wanted to hire me for the semester. I moved into a furnished apartment inside a brownstone house in the historic Capitol Hill neighborhood of D.C., six blocks behind the U.S. Capitol Building and Library of Congress, in mid-January. I went straight to work at the Treasury Department in the Office of Emergency Programs under the Assistant Secretary for Management. Our office was responsible for implementing emergency preparedness initiatives and drafting continuity policy. I had the opportunity to work closely with emergency program and information managers, while engaging in independent projects based on some of my own generated ideas. Plus, I got to work in one of Washington’s most historic and beautiful landmark buildings each and every day.

The western wall and Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem./Myers.

And when I finished my internship at the end of the day, I would head over to Georgetown University’s campus and take three classes as part of the program: Theories of Constitutional Interpretation, Economics and Public Policy Issues, and Public Affairs Internship Seminar. The professors, whose day jobs included working at think-tanks or for members of Congress, were engaging and proficient in each of their disciplines. We would earn class credit by attending exclusive briefings at the World Bank, IMF, State Department and The Pentagon arranged by our program director. They even encouraged us to attend voluntary events, such as tours of the White House, Capitol Building and Supreme Court. One of the things I took advantage of from the beginning was the TFAS Mentor Program. My mentor, an alumnus of the Institute of Political Journalism program, was a journalist for the publication, InvestmentNews. Whenever we met up for Friday taco night or lunch at the National Press Club, we would always have a deep and thoughtful conversation about life, careers and goals. I always left with a piece of new advice and a sense of self-assuredness. The most important piece of advice I learned is to never burn your bridges with anyone. It is because of this that I had the opportunity to interview in-person for a State Department summer internship – an internship that I was formally offered one week ago. So, as cliché as it might sound, it truly is the journey, not the destination, that really matters. If the opportunity presents itself to live, learn and/or work in a new place, take a chance because you never know what can happen as a result. Everyone has a potential for greatness, but it is those who take the first step out of their comfort zone that separates them from the rest. Spring 2013





Volume 3, Issue 2 ● Spring 2013 Sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha

The Political Voice Spring 2013  

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