What a crazy week....and it isn't over. We've been discussing Emile Durkheim in Classical Sociological Theory. One of the books we read is his take on religion. Not meaning the contemporary religions we deal with now, but religion as a whole, as society. We discussed that as sociologists, science is our religion. Education is one of our values, science is our religion, and we set aside places of "positive rites," which in other cases are like temples. In our case, our "temple" is a research university, where we learn about sciences. At one point in the book, we talked about symbolism, as in, how the American flag can mean so much more to people than just a piece of cloth. (Our professor let his political values slip out at bit at this point, calling out "This is why Republicans win! They just call on the flag as symbolism and people join in! Oops.. I guess I just showed you my politics." We all laughed, but it's true.) We looked over authority figures, and how religion forces people to obey them, not because they are right or wise, but because we respect them due to the symbolism they acquire as being a force of protection for American values. I asked, "Is that why, when protesters and police clash, even if the police are in the wrong, people will say things about protesters deserving it?" "Exactly," came the answer. People take these authority figures, the police, for granted as being a piece of American values. "Protesters will always have an uphill battle," my professor said. Society doesn't like it when you challenge their taken for granted values. I don't like many of Durkheim's theories, but I must admit that there are some that do make plenty of sense.
On to the news.
-- Officials at UC Berkeley are considering a settlement with the students who were victims of last year's pepper spray incident. The officer involved is no longer with the UC Police force, and the attorneys and Berkeley officials refused to comment.
-- [Charles] Activists were arrested outside the DNC on Tuesday after traveling cross-country in the UnDocuBus. The undocumented immigrants are pushing for immigrant rights, and several now face deportation after being arrested at the protest.
-- This blogger for HuffPost noticed something missing at the DNC. While Occupy has changed the way Americans think, the way corporations act, and the way the government works, there was no gratitude for them from those attending the convention. The author takes it upon himself to thank the Occupiers. It's a good, short read.
-- [Charles] A group of people allegedly gained access to PricewaterhouseCoopers' offices in Tennessee and made copies of Mitt Romney's tax forms, sending them to the county's local Democrat and Republican offices. They also are demanding that Romney pay them a million dollars to keep the forms secret, or that someone else pay to have them released to the public. The Secret Service is attempting to track them down. (No word yet on why they are calling this a "hacking" incident, considering the people claim to have made access to the documents in person, rather than electronically.)
-- Hong Kong now has another encampment, even as the one outside of HSBC Bank remains. The new Occupying group is made up of students and teachers who are angered at the patriotism syllabus that will be made mandatory in 2015. Some schools have already picked up the program, which requires students to take lessons on the Chinese national anthem, salute the flag, and take history lessons that are drastically altered, with things like Tienanmen Square being left out, while teaching the superiority of a single-party government. The protesters are performing hunger strikes, with one teacher needing to be taken away on a stretcher.
-- Lastly, we have an interesting piece about genetic scientists who are "the 99%." Or, rather, they are studying it. The ENCODE scientists got their nickname after they refused to give up studying the other 99% of genetic DNA code, which is often referred to as "junk DNA" because it does not code for proteins. They have found plenty of interesting data, such as diseases that are seemingly unrelated, but are formed by the same code, meaning that a drug developed for one disease could potentially help with all those found in that code.
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