Well, it's been a busy week so far. Let me fill you in on some of the stories you might have missed. Monday was Martin Luther King Day, which is a holiday more about the recognition of a great civil rights leader than football, unless you are the social media director for the Seattle Seahawks, who equated the two in a rather insensitive social media snafu. In international news, ISIS has taken two Japanese hostages. What could this mean for the pacifist country? I’ll give you the details.
Did you see the State of the Union Address? What did you think? Discuss it or any other news story in the comments or tweet me directly @AmandaLauren.
The Seahawks Are Probably Hiring A New Social Media Director
While becoming NFC Champions on Monday was a huge victory for the Seattle Seahawks, it wasn’t as victorious as, for example, the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Perhaps their social media director was way too into the game when a graphic of quarterback Russell Wilson crying accompanied by to the quote, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step,” along with the hashtag MLKDay and “We Shall Overcome,” was tweeted on Monday.
Most reactions weren’t positive.
This is disgusting. – Drew Olanoff (@Drew)
Seahawks posted (then deleted) this MLK Day tweet. Equating the civil rights struggle with a football game? Good god. - Bart Hubbuch (@BartHubbuch)
Less than an hour later, they realized the tweet might not have been perceived as they had originally anticipated, so it was deleted, but not without the standard e-mea culpa:
We apologize for poor judgment shown in a tweet sent earlier. We did not intend to compare football to the civil rights legacy of Dr. King.
ISIS Takes Japanese Hostages
ISIS is threatening to kill two kidnapped Japanese citizens -- Haruna Yukawa, a private security contractor and Kenji Goto, a freelance journalist -- unless the country ponies up $200 million to the terrorist organization. So why Japan and why now?
Last week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was on a six-day Middle East tour when he pledged $200 million in non-military (humanitarian) assistance to support countries that are fighting ISIS. ISIS perceived this as a direct threat and clearly wanted to even the score.
The host of the video, who is believed to be “Jihadi John,” the person who is responsible for the beheading of journalist James Foley, had a very specific message to the Prime Minister of Japan:
To the prime minister of Japan: Although you are more than 8,000 and 500 kilometers (5,280 miles) from the Islamic State, you willingly have volunteered to take part in this crusade. You have proudly donated $100 million to kill our women and children, to destroy the homes of the Muslims.
Our top priority is saving their lives… The international community needs to cooperate and take action without yielding to terrorism.
But the Prime Minister is between a rock and a hard place. Japan is a pacifist nation and negotiating or fighting ISIS walks a thin line, potentially being against the country’s constitution. The other problem is that Japan just doesn’t have the infrastructure to carry out an international rescue of this caliber.
Either way, things aren’t looking good for the lives of these hostages. They had 72 hours as of Tuesday and the clock is sadly ticking.
State of The Union
Last night, President Obama delivered the State of the Union address. A copy of the speech was actually released to the public early by the White House, hours before the broadcast. Normally, members of the press receive an advance copy, but are forbidden to discuss it until a particular time.
While there was a lot covered, one especially relevant topic was Obama’s plan to make community college free for those willing to maintain their grades and graduate on time:
Forty percent of our college students choose community college. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt. Understand, you’ve got to earn it – you’ve got to keep your grades up and graduate on time. Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today. And I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.
He also discussed cyber security, referenced the Sony hack and stated invasion of privacy issues needed to be taken as seriously as terrorism:
No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism.
He also urged Congress to prioritize this issue:
And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information. If we don’t act, we’ll leave our nation and our economy vulnerable. If we do, we can continue to protect the technologies that have unleashed untold opportunities for people around the globe.
The President also addressed the Ebola pandemic and what we can learn from the challenges of dealing with the disease in recent months.
In West Africa, our troops, our scientists, our doctors, our nurses and healthcare workers are rolling back Ebola – saving countless lives and stopping the spread of disease. I couldn’t be prouder of them, and I thank this Congress for your bipartisan support of their efforts. But the job is not yet done – and the world needs to use this lesson to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.
Obama briefly discussed abortion and a woman’s right to choose.
We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.
The President also addressed police brutality in relation to the events in Ferguson and New York, and how both the government and citizens need to work together.
We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.
Raising minimum wage was another hot topic.
…Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time. We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned.
The President challenged members of Congress who don’t see the importance of raising the minimum wage to try and live on it themselves:
And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.
· We all know that alcohol is a great way for some people to calm down, but not so much for our pets, right? Well, this wasn’t so apparent to the folks at Petco. They were selling a supplement called Good Dog, which turned out to be pretty bad for your dog. The product contained 13% alcohol, which is basically like giving Fido a glass of wine. Strangely, alcohol was listed as an inactive ingredient on the label. After a petition asking the retailer to pull the product from the shelf went live, Petco relented pretty quickly and is no longer selling Good Dog. No word on whether they received a treat for correcting their behavior.
· Greg Plitt, star of Bravo’s Work Out and Friends To Lovers, was killed tragically in a bizarre accident over the weekend, getting hit and run over by a Metrolink train in Burbank, California. Plitt and two crewmembers were shooting a video for his website without a permit, which was reportedly an endorsement for an energy drink. He wanted to prove the drink made you like Superman, “more powerful than a locomotive.”
· First books, then toilet paper and everything else you absolutely need, then television shows, and now Amazon has announced they will be producing 12 original films a year. The projects will be released theatrically and then on Amazon Prime. VP of Amazon Studios Roy Price hopes this program will not only benefit movie goers, but also filmmakers, “Not only will we bring Prime Instant Video customers exciting, unique and exclusive films soon after a movie's theatrical run, but we hope this program will also benefit filmmakers, who too often struggle to mount fresh and daring stories that deserve an audience.”