Pray for Paris. But pray for Baghdad and Beirut, too.

The world remains grief-stricken over the bloody events in Paris on Friday night, details of which have begun to surface over the last 48 hours. The death toll has risen to 132, and many more remain seriously injured.

Residents of the French city have crowded around memorials dedicated to the victims, still in a state of shock and apprehension, as evidenced by multiple false alarms on Sunday that caused mourners to run in terror of a repeat attack.

The nation wasted no time responding. French warplanes have bombed Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of ISIS in Syria, making it clear that the world is on the brink of war, in some capacity.

Sympathizers worldwide have taken to Facebook to show their solidarity, which has allowed users to overlay their profile pictures in the colors of the French flag.

Beirut attack

Mourners in Beirut, Lebanon

Some disturbing rhetoric has manifested from people who crave justice. Many, like Republican presidential candidates, are blaming so-called lax policies during the migration crisis for the attacks, failing to comprehend that the people who are escaping Syria are fleeing from the very same thing that Parisian bystanders ran away from on Friday night. Others are unabashedly pointing to strict gun control laws in Paris as a contributor to the tragedy.

When unprecedented, tragic events like this unfold, it becomes easy to trick yourself into thinking that nothing else in the world is happening. That everything else stands still and that we should all focus our attention towards this one thing and one thing only.

But that would be a mistake. Because in the process, you’d be ignoring tragedies that happened in other parts of the world this weekend.

On Thursday, a suicide bomb at a funeral in Baghdad killed at least 17 and wounded 33. On Friday, the same day as the Paris attacks, suicide bombers in Beirut killed 43 and wounded 239. Both attacks, which ISIS has taken credit for, were targeting Shiites, which the Sunni terrorist organization sees as heretics.

The death tolls of both pale in comparison to that of Paris’s, but if the overlying message people have been declaring this weekend is that an attack on innocent civilians anywhere is an attack on all of humanity, than why should that matter?

Honoring Beirut hero, Adel Termos

Honoring Beirut hero, Adel Termos

The mass media is partly to blame, which has been focusing nearly all of its coverage towards Paris, and therefore impeding news of the Baghdad and Beirut bombings from reaching the general public.

An Indian blogger, Karuna Ezara Parikh, took to Twitter to voice her frustration over this disparity in attention by writing a beautiful poem that has been shared by thousands.

Ignoring these two deadly incidents also means ignoring one Lebanese victim of the Beirut attack, Adel Termos, who, while out with his daughter, tackled a suicide-bomber before he could enter a mosque, potentially saving hundreds of lives. The bomber detonated his vest in the struggle, killing himself and Termos. He’s a hero. There are mixed reports as to whether his daughter survived.

Everybody should know his name. Adel Termos.

Where’s the option on Facebook to drape your profile picture in Lebanese colors, some have lamented. Others point to the skin color of the victims resulting in the unbalanced coverage.

I think it’s inappropriate to compare the scale of these attacks to one another, or use them to fuel your own political bias. However, besides the higher number of casualties in Paris, it’s easy to understand why it’s getting more attention. It’s an iconic city that many people have visited and fallen in love with. A place of beauty and rich history. It’s among the most glamorous cities in the world.

The same cannot be said, unfortunately, about Baghdad and Beirut, two cities mired in the ever-worsening turmoil ongoing in the Middle East.

Pray for Paris, indeed, but pray for Baghdad and Beirut, too.

All three were attacks on humanity, in different parts of the world.

All three should bring us together as one.

The true aim of terrorism is only successful if we let it break our spirit

It’s a shame that I even have to make this post. It’s early on Saturday morning, and yet, here I am, not even out from beneath the covers of my bed.

Paris is reeling. More than 125 are dead in what was a series of coordinated, simultaneous terrorist attacks that ISIS is taking credit for.

What can you really say? This is an unprecedented tragedy and the entire world is mourning.

But here is what I’ve decided: terrorism, sadly, is something that may never go away. There will always be extremists out there who are disillusioned enough to believe that murder and chaos is the only means to an end in order to achieve the world that they desire.

Peace for ParisAnd while they gloat about and praise these cowardly acts, the only way to properly defy them is to let them know that nothing they can do will make us cower in fear. Nothing will let us change who we are. We will not subscribe our lives to the fear of terrorism.

They can’t win, ever, because they can not break our spirit.

And that’s what needs to happen moving forward. Petty disagreements surrounding political emails, oil, the South China Sea, and a piece of paper determining how many centrifuges Iran can spin need to be be put aside so we can look at the bigger picture.

What ISIS did on Friday night in Paris is an act of war. Now it’s up to the rest of the world to decide what they want to do next. We have truly reached a defining moment in history. And that’s where everyone’s focus should lie. How we react to this, both politically, mentally, and spiritually. Most importantly, it’s something that we all need to do together.

People are still haunted by the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any mention of sending troops overseas is met with backlash. When we send special forces to Syria, the predominant question is whether there will be “American boots on the ground?” No one wants any more Americans to die in a war on foreign land.

Thus far into his presidency, Barack Obama has refrained from starting a new war for that very reason. But to say that he hasn’t tried anything to stop ISIS is flat-out untruthful. A clandestine drone campaign has been ongoing for months. The operation just recently killed a notable ISIS executioner.

Will that policy change? It’s possible. Acts of evil can change the minds of even the most staunchest pacifists.

But that’s for world leaders to decide.

As for the rest of us, we can do our part by standing together as one. Never mind your religion, skin color, ethnicity, immigration status, salary, or political views.

Let’s unite under a more simple concept.

Humanity.

‘Hotline Bling’ is yet another cool, calculated and brilliant Drake marketing strategy

Aubrey Graham, known by his musical alias, Drake, is good at many things.

At the top of that list is obviously rapping. You don’t sell 10 million albums, chart eight Top-10 singles and receive 22 Grammy nominations by accident.

But what the 29-year-old lint-rollingBilly Jean King posing, Degrassi acting, ESPY hosting, YOLO inspiring Jewish Canadian is best at is marketing himself. And it all started with his stage name — Drake. Plain and simple. Fun to say.

And how can you really hate him? Even if you don’t like his brand of music, the man hasn’t really done much to draw derision from the general public.

Drake Hotline BlingIf anything, he comes off as wholesome and lovable. The type of guy you hear about and say, “Aww shucks, what’s that Drake up to, now?”

Unlike many other rappers, he’s never entangled in episodes involving guns or drugs, and the biggest “controversy” on his Wikipedia page concerns lawsuits for minor accusations of misusing copyrighted material.

Dare I say it — the man is actually a role model.

And every now and then he drops a single that attracts the attention of musical observers from outside his genre. Last month, it was “Hotline Bling.” You’ve heard the song in some way. On your friend’s stereo, the radio, in the mall, or maybe in an Internet meme.

But what has caught most people’s attention is Drake’s hideous dancing in the music video. And therein lies his genius. What he does in that video does not legally constitute dancing. Heck, I’m as white as they come, and I can move better than that.

But this is all about Drake rising above of what is expected. Was it a carefully planned ploy to elevate his brand? Maybe not. But it’s all part of his shrewd cleverness. He knows what he has to do in order to continue the enigma that is Drake, and Hotline Bling is another extension of that.

Plus the song is catchy.

And I know when that hotline bling
That can only mean one thing

It just lint-rolls right off the tongue.

A racial awakening on college campuses

We’re coming to a bit of a reckoning in America of institutionalized racism.

It’s always been there, but because of the ubiquity of cell phone cameras, the use social media to mobilize activists, and highly publicized deaths in Ferguson, MO and Sanford, FL that united people of all skin colors from across the nation, the issue has finally come to the forefront.

And now it’s hit college campuses.

Cries of pervasive racism at the University of Missouri in recent weeks, fed by a perceived indifference from the university’s administration, ignited protests and rallies on the campus that eventually led to the resignation on Monday of President Timothy Wolfe.

The disharmony on campus finally hit national newsstands in the last several days, and was highlighted by a student’s hunger strike, a long-winded Facebook post by the student body president, and the threat of the school’s football team to not play in its upcoming game.

Mizzou

Around the country, students in other universities showed their solidarity for Missouri. And other instances of alleged — and proven — racism have come to the national spotlight.

There’s a lot that Americans can learn from this. For one, we’re clearly at a point where racism and intolerance is not going to be accepted. If you want to spew hateful rhetoric, then you can, but expect consequences. We are all responsible for what we do or say, and we only have ourselves to blame if we face trouble for using offensive language.

Second, this is the age of activism. As I mentioned, social media has become a launching pad for people to rally behind a cause. Large-scale protests in Ferguson and Baltimore have emboldened others to act and awakened the world to the powerful effect of a united front.

Third, what is with this reoccurring campaign slogan among Republicans of “making America great again?” Protests stem from injustice, no doubt, but they usually lead to progress. And that’s what we’re seeing now. Progress.

Ask any black person, minority, transgender or homosexual in America when in the past they thought this country was “great,” and see how they respond.

Lastly, it absolutely cannot go unnoticed that the University of Missouri’s student newspaper is called the Maneater. 

I don’t know what a Maneater is, why their newspaper is called that, or how readers of it can expect to be taken seriously when the paper they’re holding says “The Maneater” in giant letters across the top.

If you’re going to be in the national spotlight, at least change your newspaper name temporarily to something a little more elegant. Like the Missouri Herald. Or the Missourian.

Or even better, the MissouriBlog, the official Midwestern sister publication to the Weinblog. I’ll have my lawyers (my cat Marbles) send the paperwork in the morning.

I’ll let the university sit on that proposal.

Barack Obama’s life events on Facebook are much cooler than everyone else’s

Do you like Barack Obama? well now you have the chance to like him even more. By physically clicking the ‘like’ button on Facebook.

By doing so, you’d join the more than 900,000 people who have already done so as of around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday night since our president joined Facebook for the first time yesterday afternoon.

It’s almost a little surprising it took so long considering Obama has already proven that he’s social media savvy, and has made concerted efforts in the past to appeal to younger generations.

But nonetheless, nearly seven years into his presidency, Obama has arrived on the ‘book. He can post emojis with the best of them. He can tell us he’s #sorrynotsorry, or he can post about what half of your friends already do on Facebook: telling us how much they hate Obama.

Obama FacebookHis first post provided us with a virtual tour of the White House backyard, with the president taking the opportunity to share his thoughts and encouraging others to talk about climate change.

The post already has more than 38,000 comments, including one by Mark Zuckerberg. But what’s probably coolest about his new page is the addition of “life events,” beginning from his day of birth to now.

We all have the opportunity to share life events on Facebook. So I thought I’d take the time to compare my most significant moments to President Obama’s, listing them side by side.

Obama’s first life event: Born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

My first life event: Born on April 7, 1987 in Long Island, New York.

Pretty even. As of now, Obama and I are on an equal plane. Either of us could grow up to be president. And for my part, I’m not actually lying about being born in the U.S.

Obama’s second life event: Married Michelle Robinson in Chicago.

My second life event: Asked a girl out through instant message.

I’m not going to discredit myself too much here. Obama is a well-spoken, smooth singing, 6-foot-1 lad with a winning smile. He’s the definition of tall, dark and handsome. And for the record, I actually asked a friend to ask the girl out for me through instant message. Needless to say, it was an instant fail.

Obama’s third life event: Sworn in as Illinois State Senator.

My third life event: Saved my first Tamagotchi from dying. Tamagotchi

I remember it well. I forgot to bring the electronic pet to school, and when I got home I immediately noticed he was laboring. I cleaned him up, fed him and sang him a lullaby. Basically, I was doing God’s work.

Obama’s fourth life event: Sworn in as U.S. Senator.

My fourth life event: Completed first college bar hop without passing out.

Bar hopping is an extremely fun thing to do, especially with a group of friends. But the problem is no one ever remembers it from start to finish. However, when you put in the work and build up a tolerance, and make it through from the first bar to last, and keep your wits, man, that’s an accomplishment. With all due respect to Mr. Obama, that’s something that not even he can probably say he did during his time at Harvard Law School. The only bar the geeks there know about is the bar exam. Rim shot.

Obama’s fifth life event: Sworn in as 44th president of the United States.

My fifth life event: Reintroduced Cocoa Puffs into my breakfast repertoire.

Alright, fine, this one isn’t really up for debate. Leader of the free world versus a flavorful morning snack.

I win.

There’s many reasons to hate Starbucks, but these red holiday cups are not one of them

I’ll be the first to admit that hating on Starbucks is fun. And not just a little fun. A lot of fun.

With their steep prices, pretentious use of a foreign language to identify drink sizes, and overall precocious ambiance inside each and every one of their coffeehouses, the Seattle-based corporate giant is an easy target. Especially when they misspell your name on your cup.

And speaking of which, how can we forget their absurdly overambitious attempt earlier this year to change race relations in America by simply writing “Race Together” on cups?

I think what pissed people off most about that campaign was Starbucks’ implied assumption that it is important and relevant enough in our culture that it can effect change that easily.

Whereas Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had to be joined by thousands of Americans in 1963 for the famous March on Washington to advocate for equality, Starbucks thought it could be accomplished by writing letters on a coffee cup.

But I digress.

Starbucks holiday cupsI can’t be too hypocritical, either. Because although I prefer to purchase my morning coffee from local bagel shops, since they always brew it the best, one of my favorite weekend hobbies is sitting in a Starbucks and reading for a couple of hours. It’s oddly calming. Also it’s a good way to track the hotties in your neighborhood. Did I really just use the word hotties?

Anyway, people are mad at Starbucks for something else. And this time, I can’t really jump on board. Those who ordered one of the company’s seasonal holiday drinks lately may have noticed that they were prepared and delivered to you in a plain red cup.

They’re void of any seasonal decoration: no snowflakes, no reindeer, no snowmen or Christmas tree ornaments. Just red.

Some complain that Starbucks is being too politically correct, not wanting to convey bias towards their Jewish or Catholic customers. (Or those who celebrate Kwanza. LOL, just kidding, that’s obviously not a real holiday.)

Starbucks’ explanation? The plain red cups — which they already described as “iconic” — are a symbol of their coffeehouses’ simplicity and quietness. They’re “a sanctuary” during the holidays, Starbucks said, and want the red cup to represent a blank canvas for their customers’ creative doodling.

Seriously, can Starbucks say anything without sounding like pompous toolbags?

Nonetheless, the outcry is silly. It’s faux outrage. Anger for the sake of anger.

If people actually harnessed their angst for this trivial detail towards something meaningful, like the Syrian refugee crisis, or the transformation from military oppression to Democratic rule in Myanmar, imagine the global light we can actually shed on topics that matter?

Or perhaps I favor the design because it reminds me of a red Solo cup, thus bringing me back to my college glory days playing beer pong.

I may not have ended up with a high GPA or even a useful degree, but gosh darn it, hand me a ping pong ball and put me in front of a folding table and I am the second coming of Jesus.

Houston, we have a problem

This year’s election may have seemed like the calm before the storm, with an eclectic band of misfits set to be put to the ballot next year for president.

In fact, Tuesday felt like the least electiony Election Day ever. It’s supposed to be the day where we exercise democracy and bring about political change — for better or worse. But the day came and went, and absolutely nothing feels different. We were deprived of drama. A day that should be the Super Bowl of politics ended up being quite boring.

Except in Houston, that is.

The city overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would have provided legal protection for discrimination against 15 classes of people, including gays and transgenders. Sounds pretty bad, right? It only gets worse when you learn why it failed.

HEROThe bill, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, was passed earlier this year by the City Council, but then was put to a referendum after its opponents successfully fought it in court.

The goal of the legislation was to prohibit bias against certain classes of people regarding employment, city contracting and business services. The bill was pushed hard by Houston’s governor, Annise Parker, who is a lesbian.

So why exactly did this bill fail by a wide margin of 61 to 39 percent? Who could be possibly be against discrimination of gays and transgenders?

It’s because opponents of it ran a successful marketing campaign making people believe that if it was passed, some men — specifically sexual predators and pedophiles — would walk into a women’s bathroom, claiming they were gender confused, and target young girls.

Even television ads depicted this radical idea as a fact; saying that if you voted in favor of this law, you are endangering young girls. Heck, the legislation in Houston became known as “The Bathroom Bill.” And it’s absurd.

In any and all circumstances, rape and child molestation are indisputably illegal. So any belief that this law might have brought about a spike in such crimes is ridiculous.

And who was one of the people spewing this nonsense? Former Houston Astros star Lance Berkman. Let’s all hate him forever. Sound good?

“This was a campaign of fear mongering and deliberate lies,” said Parker after the bill failed. “This isn’t misinformation. This is a calculated campaign of lies designed to demonize a little understood minority.”

I honestly wish people would just come out and be honest; that they didn’t want this bill to pass because they don’t believe gay people and transgenders should have equal rights. At least that way, they’re being forthright with their dissent. But to mask it behind some ludicrous idea that were protecting people by voting it down is disingenuous at best.

One can only hope that the next generation will not be so obtuse.