Happy Sankranti to all of you who celebrate it!

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week was a very special celebration in most of India and Nepal. Each year on January 14th, Sankranti is celebrated. This festival is also known as the harvest festival and symbolizes a new year. Different regions of India have certain traditions associated with this festival. The festival also has religious symbolism. In Andhra Pradesh, a south Indian state, this is a three-day festival. The first day, January 13, is called Bhogi. On this day, families light small bonfires at dawn. Small twigs are used to fuel the fire and old wooden furniture is also burned to symbolize the New Year. The temperature around this time is about 50°F.

The other day, as my mom greeted me happy Bhogi, she fondly recollected her childhood when everyone wrapped blankets tightly around themselves and stood by the bonfire, on Bhogi, trying to warm up. After the fire had built, her mom would make a sweet Pongal, a sort of rice pudding, over this fire. Following the bonfire, everyone took a cleansing bath to start the new year fresh.

The main day of the festival is Sankranti, January 14. On this day, any house maids and workers are treated exceptionally well, and given gifts and a huge feast as a token of appreciation for all the work they do year round. A large variety of sweets are made including aritulu, ladoos, and piasm.

On January 15, Kanuma is celebrated. On this day, farmers decorate their livestock, including cows and bulls, and races are often held.

Another tradition during this time of the year, drawing a muggu outside the house. These are designs that are done in a variety of colors. The day of Sankranti, neighborhoods often hold competitions to see who has the neatest and most intricate design.


Newly wed couples make sure to return home for the holiday and are often spoiled by the parents.

Here in America, while we can’t participate in all of the festivities, many individuals prepare traditional dishes and invite friends over to share the joy and celebration. When I went to a family friends house on Friday, we did the traditional Bathukama dancing, children got money and blessings from their elders, and everyone enjoyed the traditional sumptuous food!


Have we Take Freedom of Speech too Far?


Faria Mardhani wrote a column titled Have we Taken Freedom of Speech too Far? This was published shortly after an ad was displayed across subways in New York City, stating “in any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad” in 2012.

In this piece Mardhani uses a passionate and declarative tone. She begins the piece by clarifying the meaning of the ad. In using the format of bullet points, she quickly draws her reader to her main points about the meaning of the ad.

She strongly states that the ad implies that:

  1. The battle for Israel is a war against all Muslims.
  2. All Muslims are savages.
  3. All Muslims are anti-Israel.
  4. The term Jihad can loosely be defined as the Palestinian perspective on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

By aligning the reader’s viewpoints with her understanding of the ad, she is able to state her points more effectively. The author also refrains from the use of anecdotes and emotional stories, trying to use facts to prevent the reader from getting the impression that the author is not fair-minded in her analysis of this issue.

Mardhani employs logos by starting the discussion with the ill generalizations made by the creators of the ad. She clarifies that Jihad is not simply a Holy War and that true Islam does not promote violence. She completely obstructs the credibility of the creators of the ad by stating “They clearly lack accurate information about Islam and are hoping to prevent others from obtaining it with these ads.”

Later, when addressing to obvious question of the First Amendment, Mardhani states that America is a democracy first and needs to protect its citizens. The author also cites history saying that in the past Jews, the Japanese, African-Americans, and homosexuals have been targeted by hate speech that has gone unregulated by the government. She went on to say that now Muslim-Americans are being added to the list of individuals persecuted against in America. By asking the reader if this is the tradition we want to carry on in America, she appeals to the reader’s emotions.

Faria Mardhani ends this piece with the strong statement that if the United States continues to fail to regulate hate speech, it will be doing injustice to its current title of a democracy. This strong ending forces the reader to contemplate whether freedom of speech is more important than protecting democracy and equality for all Americans. Effective rhetorical analysis skills were used in to composition of this column.

The Right to Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech has been largely debated recently due to the terrorist attacks in France, the delayed release of The Internship, and Malala Yousafzai being shot.

Earlier this month, with the Je Suis Charlie incident, The News Tribune published an opinion article called Bloodbath in Paris has Escalated War on Free Speech. This article strongly argued that freedom of speech is an inherit right that shouldn’t be regulated no matter how offensive it may seem.

The author begins by appealing to the reader’s emotion by referring to incidents like the 15 year old Malala being shot for “championing female education” and the two American journalists who were killed in by the Islamic state last summer.

The diction choice carries a highly negative connotation, to emphasize the injustice the author feels regarding the restriction of freedom of speech. When referring to the American journalists, the author states that they were “beheaded” by “Islamic State goons.” The use of the word beheaded conjures a stronger, more vivid mental image of the brutality faced by advocates attempting to speak the truth. By referring to the Islamic State as goons, the author reduces them to mere hooligans with no purpose or cause. Lastly when referring to the death of the 12 journalists, cartoonists, and police officers in France, the author uses the word massacre, implying a mass, cruel killing.

Anecdotes dot the entire story, adding facts and emotions to convince the reader of the opinion portrayed.  Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris is mentioned. She published cartoons that “poked fun at” the Islamic prophet Mohammed. For this, she received many serious death threats, and was ultimately forced to go into hiding and change her name, for her own safety. As I was reading the story, I definitely felt the unjust the author felt for Norris. Again, with diction, the author says the cartoonists poked fun at the prophet, which hints at a small joke, rather than any serious offense.

Next the author discusses hate speech simply stating “freedom of speech requires that we put up with the speech we hate.” The author further argues that violence is not the answer to hate speech. Credibility is added because the author refers to Sweden’s policy of outlawing Charlie Hebdo’s content, illustrating that time and effort has been spent to understand various policies that don’t resort to violent extremism.

The piece concludes with the author strongly asserting that the biggest fear associated with the terrorist attacks in France is that it will instill fears in journalists to not use their freedom of speech to express certain thoughts and view point.


When humans began migrating at the formation of civilization, cultural assimilation was inevitable. Over the years, as transportation has become ever easier, the globe is turning into a melting pot where enclaves of individual cultures are becoming much harder to find. Part of the outcome is a variety of rich culture and heritage that everyone is able to experience, however, unfortunately, part of this is also includes animosity among cultures and religions as extremist attempt to exterminate anyone with opposing views.

This latter of the two outcomes became evident in this past week with the terrorist attacks in France. As many of you already know, the satirical magazine company Charlie Hebdo published a caricature of the Muslim prophet Muhammad that was offensive to many Muslims. A few extremists, in the name of Islam entered the company headquarters early this week and opened fire, killing 12 people. Awaking other sleeper cells in the region, that Thursday, hostages were held at a supermarket. The sudden outbreak of violence has shocked the work and put the French government on high alert. Above all, these actions have raised the debate of freedom of speech once again. This right so coveted globally has caused many lives to be lost unjustly. Thus, people are marching in streets all around the world chanting Je Suis Charlie to emphasize the importance of freedom of speech.

je suis charlie

If you find yourself in Paris, France this week, expect to see world leaders, and French citizens filling the streets. These people have come to show the terrorists that unity is stronger than hate. The marchers’ moods turn from somber during the day, in lui of the 17 lives lost this week, to cheerful at night as people refuse to let the terrorists instill terror into their daily lives.

Even amongst the profound events of this last week, life goes on in the vibrant city of Paris. As NPR correspondent mentioned, while observing the marches midway up the Eiffel tower, a Spanish man proposed to his girlfriend. Though to an outsider this may seem inappropriate for the current times, this is what the city of Paris wants. Many other tourist attractions remain open in the city of life and love. The goal is to promote equality and liberty by continuing to live life as it should be.

Restored Alliance with Cuba

In December President Obama announced that relationships will be restored with Cuba. After over half a century of hostility, following the Cold War, it has finally been deemed that the outdated, detrimental policy that severed ties between the two countries will be replaced by attempts to form a solid alliance.

Cubans are rejoicing this declaration. When the announcement was made, classes were stopped and students we told the ground breaking news. Some have even begun to hang American flags alongside their Cuban flags at home. Many are excited at the opportunity to modernize and get things we view as common necessities like Wi-Fi. Students at an American-run music school expressed their eagerness to begin commerce with America so they could get new instruments and reeds for their instruments that are not 45 years old. The citizens of Cuba are now eagerly awaiting a progressive and modernized society.

For American’s this change means the ability to travel to an island that has made a conscious effort to restore vintage looks and commodities. While the islands preservation of an antiquated life style up till this point has hindered its own progress, it is a fascinating experience for any American.

In lui of the recent events, if you are planning a visit to the island, there is much to do. Simply by walking down the street and observing the architecture and vehicles, Americans can learn a lot. The vehicles in operation have stopped production over 50 years ago, so walking in the streets you may see one of these…

vintage car

The beautiful beaches are also open for a peaceful days at the unpolluted lakes. Many water sports are offered at these locations. The water is so clear you can see your feet when you are standing.


Exploring the local plaza with overwhelm you with a mix of lively music, dancing, and quaint stores.


If you are seeking an outdoor adventure, you can go bird watching, diving, fishing, and more in the well preserved natural forests and lakes. You can even take an adventure on horseback, which is a common way to view the countryside in Cuba.


The location of Cuba gives it a unique atmosphere, perfect for your tropical vacation. And while all of this seems amazing to travelers, the local economies will be boosted with the new industry. Thus rebuilding ties with Cuba will be mutually beneficial.

Money Laundering Crisis

Often on this blog I talk about our ‘increasingly interconnected global economy’. Products are shipped around the world and wire money transactions are constantly taking place. The money transfers are vital for businesses that rely on international customers. This is the case for many business owners in Mexico who rely on American customers. Whether it is a restaurant owners or cattle sellers, many Mexicans rely on transactions with Americans daily, and the most effective method to transfer money legally is by having accounts in American banks.

Recently while I was driving I heard story on NPR that Chase Bank has been has been attempting to comply with the US anti-money-laundering regulations by closing the accounts of several small-business owners on the Mexican side of the border.  By sharing the stories of a restaurant owner and cattle importer who have been impacted by this new policy I immediately sympathized. Here were legitimate businesses that hadn’t committed any crime, yet they were still being punished. Furthermore the cattle importer, Juan Carlos Ochoa, made the valid point that if he couldn’t keep a bank account at Chase, he would be forced to deal with messy paper money transactions. These would be far me difficult to keep records on and could ultimately increase the concern of money laundering, counterproductive of the initial intent to reduce money laundering.

I was convinced. By the end of the 5 minute story, I not only sympathized with the business owners but felt upset about the injustice.

The following day as an AP Language and Composition student currently learning about rhetorical analysis, I felt the urge to break apart the argument and analyze how it had appealed to me as an audience member. I realized that I was initially intrigued by the story because it played on my ethos. The interview of Alicia Martin, the restaurant owner, made me want to continue to learn about the issue. Later, Juan Carlos Ochao appealed to my logos by making the clear point that paper money transactions leave more room for error than a wire transaction. Furthermore, credibility was added to the story because it analyzed both sides of the issue. The story not only supported the Mexican business owners suffering from the new policy but also examined the difficulty bank owners are facing as they try to reduce money laundering and not cracking down on the wrong businesses. Either they hurt many people including innocent business owners, or the banks themselves face steep fines.

Overall, I appreciate NPR’s practiced and educated way of making a complex argument.