Trump reverses elephant trophy ban


The Trump administration reversed an Obama era ban on importing elephant trophies acquired from hunting in Zambia and Zimbabwe this Wednesday.

A provision of the Endangered Species Act allows the hunting of these elephants so long as there is proof that it is beneficial to the species. A spokesperson from the Fish and Wildlife Service cited this act in defense of such hunting, saying it helps by “… providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much needed revenue back into conservation.”

Critics of the decision were not swayed: Animal-protection groups such as the Humane Society and the Elephant Project called the decision “venal and nefarious” and “reprehensible” respectively. Another ethical concern they raised was the hoarding of elephant hunting rights by rich Americans who want only the ivory tusks, in a region where many poor and hungry Africans are strictly prohibited from killing them and using the entire animal for food and profit.

Still another criticism surrounded President Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric, who are known to be fond of hunting from photos posted on social media. No formal accusations of bias have arisen, but the thought is there.

USA Today was quite adept at showing the story’s importance as well as it’s opposing sides. What to many might look like a straightforward ethical dilemma. USA Today presented as an issue with two sides with equally compelling evidence. Their references to previous related events, such as that of Cecil the line, also helped tremendously in showing that animal rights is an ongoing and relevant issue.

Purge shakes up Saudi government


This past weekend, a slew of arrests were ordered by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The arrest targeted many influential people in the Arabian government, including Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the kingdom’s riches investor, and Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, the most potent threat to Prince Mohammed’s power.

The arrests were the result of orders from an anti-corruption committee formed by the Crown Prince just hours before the arrests. Through a royal decree, the committee reportedly had the power to detain individuals or seize assets without trial or due process.

According to USA Today, the Saudi Arabian news media praised the arrests as a long awaited cleanup. President Donald Trump also appeared to be in favor of the arrests, praising the Crown Prince’s modernization drive in a recent phone call.

There are also concerns abroad and in Saudi Arabia, however, that the Crown Prince’s domination of the Saudi Arabian political scene is a turn for the worst. Scholars, such as James M. Dorsey from Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, are concerned that international businesses will see a threat to their assets in the Crown Prince’s aggressive behavior, effectively driving away the very business he wished to attract. Former U.S. ambassador Charles W. Freeman expressed concern about the possibility of a government even more corrupt than before, now that the Crown Prince is in firm control of Saudi Arabia.

USA Today worked diligently to create a story that was both a sufficient cover and analysis of the current events in Saudi Arabia. The story told what happened, what it might mean, and provided a brief history of modern Saudi Arabian politics to support their analysis. The newspaper also included analysis from sources outside the conflict, bringing different perspectives into the debate. Appropriately enough, they did not provide a conclusion, saying only time will tell what will happen after these drastic events: a wise ending that gives readers plenty of room to interpret the situation for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

Judge blocks Trump transgender ban


This Monday, a federal judge temporarily blocked a White House policy barring transgender soldiers in the military.

Judge Colleen Koller-Kotelly of the Federal District Court found the administration’s justification for the ban to be lacking and likely unconstitutional. The ban, set to take effect March 2018, is a clear offense to the equal protection clause of the constitution, according to a thorough and strongly worded 76 ruling by Judge Kollar-Kotelly.

The Justice Department has voiced its disagreement with the ruling and is “… currently evaluating the next steps,” according to a statement.

The policy was originally brought to light by a series of tweets made by President Trump in July, expressly announcing that transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in the military. The announcement was a step to reverse Obama era policy decisions that allowed transgender troops to serve openly, and a shock to military officials already in the process of integrating transgender people into the military.

The ban was a relief for transgender soldiers and supporters of transgender rights alike. “Big news today,” said Lt. Commander Blake Dremann, director of Sparta, an active LGBT military group with more than 650 members. “A lot of people’s lives were put on hold. They thought their careers were ending. This means we can continue to serve with honor, as we have been doing.”

The New York Times and Fox News have been proficient in detailing not only what happened on Monday, but also the before and what may be the after. They have done so by providing an intuitive timeline of the events, as well as brief statements by various involved officials and individuals. They also provide statistics to help solidify the transgender case, though the outcome is left open for deliberation.

Battle for U.S. Senate in Florida is even


The U.S. Senate race between incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Gov. Rick Scott is too close to call, with the contestants being practically tied according to polls cited by The Miami Herald. According to these new polls, 37 percent of registered voters plan to vote for Nelson, while 36 percent are backing Scott.

Nelson also has the upper hand with non-party affiliated voters and other partisans, with support from 32 percent of those surveyed. Scott, on the other hand, has only 28 percent supporting him, though he boasts a 59 percent job approval rating from surveyed voters, a huge surge from the ratings he received in his time as governor, which tended to stay below 50 percent. Nelson has only a 35 percent approval rating in comparison, down from 42 percent in February.

Another noteworthy factor is Donald Trump and how divided Florida is about his performance as president. The divides are mostly along party lines, with 91 percent of Democrats disapproving and 71 percent of Republicans approving. In total, however, 59 percent of those surveyed disapprove, compared to 35 percent that approved, a fact that will no doubt benefit Nelson on election day.

Overall, the competition for the Senate seat next year will be down to the wire until the very last day and The Miami Herald did a praiseworthy job of showing this through their coverage of the race. Their use of statistics that favored both sides in different areas was a good way to show how divided and complex voting is in the modern age of politics, and the statements they had from public polling institutions did well in emphasizing that fact.

Additionally, there was no evident bias in the numbers or the tone of the article, leaving readers with nothing but the facts and their own thoughts on the present state of affairs.

‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ banned … again


The Biloxi School District of Mississippi has chosen to remove the controversial “To Kill a Mockingbird” novel from the eighth grade curriculum. The move was done after the county received complaints about the book’s language being uncomfortable and inappropriate for a classroom setting.

In response, several acclaimed writers and literature enthusiasts took to Twitter to express their disdain. They upheld that the book’s primary purpose was to make the reader uncomfortable: only then would the book’s setting and culture (1930s in the deep south of the United States) be significant and impactful. Quotes supporting this idea include:

“If to Kill a Mockingbird makes you uncomfortable you may want to contemplate your life & search your soul.” (@marybschneider)

“If To Kill a Mockingbird makes you uncomfortable, you are the target audience” (@WIBC_StanLehr)

“If we are going to solve the racial problems we have in our county now, we have to confront the truth of how we got to where we are.” (Barbara Shoup, novelist)

USA Today did well to cover both the event and the outcry over it on Twitter. Its coverage provided details of the event and the book’s controversial history, for those unaware that the book had been banned before. They also gave a basic synopsis of the book and why it was unsettling to some, which was a good transition to the public response to this kind of reaction.

The Twitter outcry provided good insight as to why many believe the book is important and should be taught in schools, so including a variety of tweets in the story was wise of the USA Today writer (Shari Rudavsky). It gave readers a decent understanding of the other side of the debate, providing them with plenty of room to form their own opinion on the complicated matter.

New exec order issued on healthcare


This Thursday, President Trump signed a new executive order that could mean big changes for the nation’s healthcare system.

The order lays the groundwork for cheaper health insurance plans with fewer benefits to enter the marketplace. These new products may be exempt from certain regulations laid out by the Affordable Care Act, a factor that is already sparking heated debate in Congress.

According to President Trump and other prominent Republican lawmakers such as Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, the order is a step towards diversifying healthcare, giving consumers more coverage options at a lower price than was ever possible before.

Prominent Democratic lawmakers, such as New York Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, do not share this view. They are instead concerned that new health coverage plans like the ones outlined could drive up costs for the poor and sick. Because the new plans are targeted towards healthy individuals able to pay for them, the older, more strictly regulated plans would be left to them, with many of the poor and sick being unable to pay for them.

The New York Times does a solid job presenting how both sides could be correct. The coverage includes a statement from Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who warns of the dangers of association health plans. It also has a statement from Dirk Van Dougen, president of the National Association for Wholesaler-Distributors, who is elated at the possibilities the order opens up for small insurance businesses.

Additionally, The Times includes a brief summary of Obama administration policies and stances on healthcare, in relation to the Trump administration policies and how they have been changed. It is an in detailed account of the current events that leaves plenty of room for the reader to form his or her own opinion on the matter.

Nobel awarded for fruit fly research


This Monday, the Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded to Drs. Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Robash and Michael Young in recognition of their research pertaining to circadian rhythms.

After years of research, the trio was able to identify a molecule (called a “period”) that is linked to our bodies’ energy levels. As the day goes on, period levels drop, giving us the energy to get through the day. As night approaches, period levels increase, prompting us to call it a day.

The period molecule functions in all animals and is responsible for their daily cycles of wake and rest. But the model organisms this year’s Nobel Prize recipients used was none other than the humble fruit fly.

Being a cost-and-time efficient test subject, fruit flies are also genetically very similar to humans. As such, they have been the stars in numerous important areas of research, five of which led to past Nobel prizes.

New York Times‘ open-ended contributor David Bilder did a thorough job covering not only what happened, but why it is relevant and what are its consequences. He explained in simple terms what the research was and how it applied the ordinary person. He also called attention to the danger that research like the one that is the topic is in, with looming budget cuts from a Congress that does not understand the importance it holds. This also served the purpose of being a call to action for fascinated readers.

He also offered a brief history of the research behind the fruit fly, as a supplement to his urging readers as to the importance of this type of research. Overall, he provided enlightened and complete coverage of the event.

Sen. Collins sinks Obamacare repeal


This Monday, Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins announced her opposition to the latest GOP bill meant to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The Graham-Cassidy bill, named after sponsoring senators Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham, had already lost the support of Republican senators John McCain and Rand Paul, with Ted Cruz indicating through aides that he was also favoring the opposition.

With the 52-48 Senate majority the Republican Party currently holds, Republicans can only lose two votes if they desire to bring a bill to life, with the help Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote. Collins, by being the third Republican senator to officially oppose it, effectively doomed the bill, along with any hopes the GOP has for removing Obamacare for the time being.

Both USA Today and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch adequately described the basic implications of the Graham-Cassidy bill, in addition to its intended and possible impact on the current Affordable Care Act. More notably, however, they were both able to capture voices from all sides of the discussion, from Sen. Collins herself to Bill Cassidy, the bill’s most ardent supporter, in addition to notable Democrats on the issue such as Sen. Ron Wyden.

Both sources also did not forget to mention neutral parties, such as the Congressional Budget Office, whose limited analysis of the bill helped persuade Collins to take a side. Both stories are well rounded overall in the sense that readers get a clear idea of both the facts and emotions of the case from various angles, leaving the political and economic situation up for interpretation and further analysis in the future.

USA Today reviews access to president


The Trump empire has far from fallen off since Donald J. Trump took office and some of its most profitable locations have been the president’s private golf clubs. President Trump has visited the clubs in Bedminster, N.J., and Palm Beach, Fla., among others, several times since becoming president.

Apart from being a getaway for the president, his clubs raked in $600 million in 2015 and 2016. And the upper class’s interest in the clubs has only increased in recent times.

According to USA Today, 71 of the members in his private clubs are executives from companies that hold federal contracts, lobbyists and trade group officials. Of the 71, two-thirds of them have played on one of the days that the president was visiting. This membership, which grants them open access to the president through a service that enriches him, is perfectly legal.

Despite being legal, however, it does bring up ethical concerns, primarily in regard to the possibilities for bribery and unfair access, since most people cannot afford the $100,000 initiation fees that many of the club members can. Another such case is that of Jay Vroom, CEO of a pesticide trade group that convinced the government not to ban the insecticide chlorpyrifos, which has been linked with neurological development delays in children. Vroom admitted to seeing the president once since he took office.

USA Today did a thorough and detailed story on Trump. In a section at the end of the article entitled “How we reported this story,” editors explained how reporters tracked down and interviewed as many members of Trumps clubs they could find, making use of a public golfing website where players keep track of their scores, among other sources such as social media posts and news stories. They also interviewed both sides of the story, for the sake of being objective.

From Walter Shaub, resigned director of the Office of Government Ethics, who called the situation “new territory” and expressed concern for the easy access, to Jay Vroom, who claimed to have not spoken to the president about his company’s interests at all. Overall, USA Today excelled at covering every angle of the story in great detail while remaining impartial to either side.

FDA OKs ‘living drug’ in leukemia fight


On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new and unconventional treatment that is expected to have an incredibly positive result on children with leukemia.

The treatment genetically alters the patient’s cells to be anti-leukemia specific cells, although experts are hopeful that it will also be useful against other forms of cancer. It is the first treatment of its kind to be approved by the FDA and its genetic nature has led writers from The New York Times to dub the cells it produces a “living drug.”

The treatment, named Kymriah and licensed to the Novartis pharmaceutical company, is predicted to cost $475,000 per patient and will be available in a specified chain of hospitals in as early as three to five days.

Both The New York Times and The Washington Post do well in covering the specifics of the treatment and the movement surrounding it, particularly in regard to sources. They cover people whom the treatment will affect, such as the sickly 12-year-old Emma Whitehead and her family, as well as health professionals and experts on the topic.

They go through people involved in every stage of the treatment’s development, from the University of Pennsylvania professor who pushed its development to the FDA officials who had the final say in getting it approved.

The newspapers also did their research and included explanations of how the treatment works, why it’s so costly and time consuming to produce, and how patients would be covered in the unlikely case of failure. Both news outlets seem to have covered all their bases while remaining factual and unbiased, making their articles both informative and professional.