Classified pages in 9/11 report could indicate Saudi involvement

Since its completion in December of 2011, the full report from Congress’s investigation into the 9/11 attacks has yet to be published. This is due to suspicions that the 28 pages that are still being withheld contain information that could reveal that the Saudi government and citizens played a role in the terrorist attack.

Pressed by a number of victim’s families, lawmakers and U.S. officials, President Obama asked intelligence officials to complete a review of the redacted report. In a recent interview with CBS News’ Charlie Rose, the president said that by his understanding the director of national intelligence, Jim Clapper, is close to completing the process. Although this is true, 14 years is entirely too long for this vital information to have been kept under wraps. Because of this, many questions about this tragic event have been left unanswered.

Watch the interview here:

It is still a mystery as to why 15 of the 19 hijackers from al Qaeda who were involved in the attack were Saudi citizens. Many, including myself, wonder if this has any indication that the Saudi government and its powerful religious establishment had a hand in supporting the plot for 9/11. Ex-Senator Bob Graham, who was co-chairman of the 2002 congressional investigation into the attacks, has repeatedly claimed there is evidence of support from the Saudi government to the terrorists and said the FBI has “gone beyond just covering up” this information in what he calls “aggressive deception.”

22fri1-superJumboContrary to this view, the 9/11 commission, an independent bipartisan panel that conducted a separate investigation in 2004, said in that although Saudi Arabia had been considered the primary source of funding for al Qaeda, they found no evidence of this being true. They also reported that they did not denounce the likelihood that charities sponsored by the Saudi government diverted funds to the terrorist group. So still, the question remains about the Saudi’s role in the attacks; a question that could be answered by the 28 classified pages of the congressional report.

The push for the release of the full report is part of a larger effort to pass a bill that will allow the U.S. government to sue members of the Saudi royal family for any involvement, including funding to terrorists, that they may have had in the attacks. The bill has met opposition from both the Obama administration and the Saudi royal family. If the bill is passed, the Saudi government has warned that it will sell off $750 billion worth of American assets held by the kingdom, which is seemingly problematic for the United States. With the large amount of investments that the United States has in Saudi Arabia, it does not seem wise to pass the bill. Although the redacted pages may reveal participation by the Saudi government in the 9/11 attacks, such an extreme decision could result in major damage to the U.S. economy. President Obama has also voiced his concern that if the U.S. creates the opportunity for individuals and the country to sue other governments, there will also be an opportunity for other individuals in other countries to sue the United States.

Read more: Saudi Arabia Warns of Economic Fallout if Congress Passes 9/11 Bill

It does not help that Saudi-American relations have been badly damaged by disputes over Iran, Syria and opposition by Americans of Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia’s dominant faith, the same extremist form of Islam that inspired Bin Laden, al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Even though this is true, Saudi Arabia has been a country which has traditionally aided the U.S. on counterterrorism and security. If there is in hope in repairing ties with the Saudi government, all remaining facts about 9/11 must be released to the public.

U.S. Ambassador to Iceland asks “How can we do better?”

Ambassador Robert C. Barber’s presentation at the Celebration of Inquiry challenged others to think of unique ways to create and use renewable energy.

Ambassador Robert C. Barber

Barber, who has been ambassador since January 2015, met opposition when first nominated by President Obama in October 2013.

A former Massachusetts Super Lawyer, Barber was criticized for his perceived lack of experience, not only by members of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee but by popular comedian Jon Stewart as well.

Barber was not phased by this hostility.

With previous experience working with the issues of start-up small and medium-sized companies as well as having raised over $2.9 million for President Obama’s campaigns, Barber expressed his belief that he was qualified for the position due to his ability to connect people with similar economic interests and goals.

Since given the opportunity, the ambassador has made tremendous effort in bettering both Iceland and America.

Barber said that both countries have something to learn from one another.

“Through these shared experiences, I’ve seen how both we as Americans have a lot to learn from Icelanders but also how Icelanders can learn a thing or two to learn from us,” said Barber. “Both can benefit from the way each approach and solve problems differently.”

According to Barber many studies shows that the most prevalent problem at hand is the immediate need for renewable energy due to the state of the environment.

With natural resources finite, Barber said that the necessity for renewable energy is prevalent.

“We have to come to terms with the reality that certain traditional, natural resources are finite and limited. It is important that we realize the need for renewable energy. So, I dare to be so bold as to suggest that we should constantly be asking: how can we do better?”

According to the ambassador, Iceland is a pioneer in harnessing Earth’s energy through geothermal power production.

“As you already probably know, clean and renewable energy is nothing new to the Icelanders. In fact, Iceland’s first hydro power plant was built in 1904. Today there are 48 hydro-electric generating centers in the country and 5 major geo-power plants, which are publicly and privately owned, including the third largest geo-power plant in the world.”

Ambassador Robert C. Barber speaking at Coastal Carolina University’s 2016 Celebration of Inquiry

Many statistics illustrate Iceland’s commitment to innovative renewable energy.

The National Energy Authority (NEA) of Iceland reported that in 2014, 85% of primary energy use in Iceland came from renewable resources, with 66% being geothermal energy.

With a lot of experience harnessing its own renewable energy resources, Barber said Iceland is now spreading it’s knowledge and capabilities to other parts of the world.

“The U.S. Icelandic firm called Reykjavick GeoThermal is now working with the government in Ethiopia to build Africa’s largest geothermal power plant, said Barber. “Together the U.S. and Iceland are working to invest in Africa as well as in a cleaner, more secure future for the people of Ethiopia.”

The ambassador said that this project will serve as a poster child for future partnerships.

“This project will serve as the foundation for future collaboration that will open doors for renewable energy projects around the world.”

Overcrowding causing growing pains for Coastal Carolina University

As student enrollment and faculty employment continues to climb, overcrowding is becoming a prevalent issue at Coastal.

With multiple construction projects aimed at fixing issue, CCU administration has had to be creative with space allocation.

Many lecturers are losing their offices for the fall semester and are being forced to hold office hours online or elsewhere on campus.

Lecturer of Communication, Dr. Andrea Bergstrom, said that this will be a big change for everyone affected.

“I think it will be a pretty big adjustment for students and faculty,” said Bergstrom. “Lecturers carry a large course load and in any given semester one might have 150 students. Those students are now not going to have the same access to faculty. Since there are 6 lecturers in comm and each have around 150 students a piece, there are a lot of students that are going to have less access to this particular group of faculty, which I am a part of.”

Due to the lack of space, lecturers are having to move office hours online or by appointment only.

Bergstrom said that this could shift the relationship between students and faculty.

“We’re going to have online office hours but it really impacts the student/faculty relationship,” said Bergstrom. “The type of conversations and interactions we have via g-chat versus a face-to-face office setting are very limited. Some topics really require a face-to-face interaction.”

While some feel that students and faculty will be negatively affected, Associate Professor of Communication and incoming chair of the department, Dr. Wes Fondren, said he thinks it could be a positive situation.

“I think this, in some ways, might help student retention,” said Fondren. “Faculty members will end up being more available online and if you think about how most students want to meet with the faculty members, they want someone they can chat with or can logon to the Moodle forum or they can email. Faculty will also have office hours in the library, dorms, or other areas on campus. As odd as it might sound, one of the surprise effects might be that the faculty members end up being where students are at more, rather than them having to come to us.”

Offices are not the only thing being impacted by the lack of space.

Some classes are being held in the library, student union and even in the dorms.

Fondren said that these locations offer a unique classroom experience.

“I have been extremely impressed with how the university has tackled this problem,” said Fondren. “I teach a class in the movie theatre and it’s a super cool room. I’m able to show movie clips and have great sound, which you wouldn’t have in a normal classroom.”

Because of the immediate need for space, even Coastal’s administration has to make sacrifices.

According to Fondren, the Dean of the Edwards, Daniel Ennis is doing all that he can to help the issue with space.

“Even the dean had a temporary wall put up in his office to cut it in half so that he could share his office with someone else,” said Fondren. “Even from the top-down, his willingness to do something unusual for a while to get through this is very encouraging.”

Although inconvenient for some, the overcrowding is temporary.

The current projects geared at helping with the lack of space are estimated to be completed in the next year.

Construction of Britain II and a $7 million renovation to the Smith Science Building are set to be finished in the summer of 2017, while the Science annex is predicted to be completed by the end of May 2016.

While Coastal may be experiencing “growing pains,” data from the National Student Clearinghouse in 2015 showed overall college enrollment in a decline.

The study found that enrollment at postsecondary institutions had decreased by 1.7% from the previous year.

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Bergstrom said that she has experienced the decline first hand.

“Having worked previously at a university that had major retention issues and a declining student body, we had a lot of space but not the students to fill them,” said Bergstrom. “I think that it is a good problem to have as far as problems go. It means that the school is growing and is high demand and that is obviously good for our university and for our majors.”

Fondren also stressed that, although it may be uncomfortable, growth is a good problem to have.

“I have friends at other schools where their problem is that they have empty classrooms and their universities aren’t growing,” said Fondren. “We’re seeing a lot of universities get smaller but what is happening here for us is that we are experiencing the painful positive of growth, like when a kid’s shoes are too tight. In a weird sort of way, this is exciting. The problems that we have are the problems that you want to look for in a school.”

Bernie Sanders’ bird encounter inspires new trending hashtag

Bernie Sanders’ surprise winged visitor at his rally in Portland, Oregon last Friday has social media buzzing with a catchy new hashtag.

Watch the video below:

Moments after the bird made its appearance on Sanders’ podium, #BirdieSanders was already trending on Twitter.

Sanders’ campaign also took advantage of the unique situation by tweeting out a new image the following day that depicts the Democratic presidential candidate’s profile smiling back at a green bird that is flying in front of him with the word “TOGETHER” in the top left corner.

With how controversial the 2016 presidential race has been, a light-hearted moment like this was not one to be ignored by social media.

Sanders’ supporters seemed especially eager to spawn a new, more gentle and princess-like persona for the candidate.

Many took the internet to create memes that depicted Sanders’ as various different characters, including some popular Disney Princesses

The artist who produces the webcomic The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman, created a meme specifically for those Bernie Sanders fans who also share the love for Disney movies.

Artists were not the only ones to create retweet-worthy memes.

Many everyday Twitter users saw an opportunity to be creative and funny while also promoting Sanders’ campaign.

As if the coincidental rhyming, perfect timing and symbolism was not exciting enough, the location has fans of IFC’s show “Portlandia,” especially amused.

The popular sketch-comedy show, starring Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, featured a sketch titled “Put a Bird On It,” in the first episode.

In the sketch, the actors insist that every thing is better if you “put a bird on it,” and after last Friday’s rally, Sanders supporters seem to agree.

Watch the sketch below: