A Memo to Commander Mike Holt

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To: Commander Mike Holt

From: Marshall Miller

Date: February 25, 2011

RE: Student Taxi System

 

Nightlife at the University of Denver has a few serious problems. At night, especially on the weekends, students need to escape the small campus and relax. Many take to venturing around town. Nearby businesses and restaurants work hard to attract students by promoting discounts and specials. While this is a good thing and the students’ behavior should be encouraged, safety does come to mind. Whether it’s the busy streets, perverts hiding in the shadows, or intoxicated individuals, it seems that there is too much to keep track of when ensuring safety. I respect your job, and your time and I believe a simple system could be implemented to lessen your stress and help your department focus on other problems at hand. A nighttime Taxi system associated with the University of Denver Campus Safety Department, could benefit the students, the department, and the University as a whole.

Students being intoxicated is a big issue at the University of Denver, you know this. With several bars around campus, it is inevitable that students, underage or not, will find ways to consume alcohol. This is a relevant problem at all Universities. While we can agree that underage drinking is illegal and wrong, I think that enforcing and taking action after the fact is the wrong approach. Sending intoxicated students (no matter how much alcohol has been consumed) to the infamous “Detox” is expensive, unreasonable, and ineffective. The Campus Safety Department should continue to discourage underage drinking however if it is going to happen, different and more reasonable measures could be taken. The Taxi system I propose would allow students, intoxicated or not, to get to a destination safely. This would be beneficial because it could relieve the concern of the busy intersections, cold weather, and creeps in the street.

I think that we can find some common ground when saying that the Department of Campus Safety at the University of Denver is not supported by 100% of the student population. I don’t have to inquire much to find out from other students that sometimes it seems like the Department has a main goal of getting students in trouble. I would like to see Campus Safety viewed as the good guys who can be relied on. Establishing this Taxi system could help improve the department’s image and gain more support. It would be in your best interest to have the student body comfortable with your presence because it could lessen crime. What better way to say you are looking out for a student’s well-being than offering to get them out of the cold and to their destination safely, no questions asked.

I would like to lay out a roadmap of what I was thinking this Taxying system could look like. First off, if there is not enough staff available to carry this task out, the department should recruit willing students. Not only would this free up time for officers on duty, it could clear up any controversy as to whether an officer is doing their job not citing an intoxicated student. By possibly associating a student run driving system with the department, that “good guy” image could still be attained while officers can focus on cracking down on thefts and drugs. Although it has been established that we both agree on student safety being a primary concern at the University, this is an excellent opportunity to promote that. The system could prevent students from making poor judgments when crossing the street and ensure they get to where they should be and need to be.

Of course this service would cost money. Gas to drive the cars, signs or other forms of promoting the system, etc. The cost could be taken care of by charging a small fee. If more students end up using the system, this could be incentive and bring in more money to the department which could be put towards other resources. I think that students would be open to this idea and nearby businesses would likewise support the concept. It might even be possible to work with them to raise funds and awareness.

I believe that a late night Taxi System will create a stronger bridge between the Campus Safety Department and the Universities student population. Not only would it prevent accidents and injuries, it would improve the department’s reputation. As Commander of the Department, it is in your best interest to try and bridge this gap. I urge you to look into developing and implementing such a system. Thank you for your time and consideration.

 

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Digital Currencies and the Potential they Hold for Small Businesses

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“So my view’s quite clear. I believe cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin is the first example, I believe they’re going to change the world.” 
–Richard Brown, executive architect, IBM

The recent credit card breach at Target, is testament as to why modern currency needs reform. The crisis which resulted in the compromise of millions of customer’s credit card information, points to the fact that the typical “swipe and sign” method is becoming risky. By switching to encrypted digital currencies like Bitcoin, businesses can conduct safe and risk-free transactions.

Online companies like TigerDirect.com are now accepting Bitcoin in exchange for electronics and computers. This is a transition that leaves small businesses behind with nowhere to go but forward. To be a part of this future, these small businesses need to embrace and start accepting digital currencies.

Bitcoin is called “peer to peer money” and essentially, it is online cash. Anyone and everyone can use it anywhere in the world.

One highlight that should be taken away from this video is that Bitcoin is regulated by secure networks backed behind incredibly complex algorithms. These networks allow individuals to securely collect and trade Bitcoin using digital wallets. This is what sets Bitcoin apart from other services like Paypal.

Since being introduced in 2008, Bitcoin has gained popularity, making it a more prominent payment method. This chart from Quandl.com depicts the increasing number of Bitcoin transactions since August 2010.

Number of Bitcoin Transactions

To counter the argument that these transactions are being made by the same few people, Quandl.com also provides a graph showing the amount of different Bitcoin addresses used.

Unique Bitcoin Wallets

With a unique system as simple as this, why wouldn’t a business want to implement it?

In tech savvy cities like San Francisco, you can even use your Bitcoin at the Farmers’ Market. This type of advancement benefits businesses in several ways. By inviting customers to make a purchase with Bitcoin, the business has just attracted a new range of customers. Services like www.Coinmap.org display nearby retailers who invite Bitcoin bearing shoppers. In November, 2013, the number of businesses on Coinmap increased 81%. This is a great tactic for free advertising which can drive more interest and discussion in a business.

Another added benefit: there are no transaction fees associated with Bitcoin like there are for credit cards or PayPal. Setting up BitPay (the software used to manage Bitcoin transactions) costs very little and is easy for any employee to use.

With all the advantages of using Bitcoin, are there any drawbacks? In short, yes.

A big concern is its volatility. At the time this article was written, the exchange rate of one Bitcoin was equivalent to $638.8 USD. The fluctuation draws criticism from many including investment guru Warren Buffett. While this is a reasonable cause for speculation, it is most important to note that digital currencies just begun to take off. There is no doubt that over the next decade, kinks will be adjusted and digital currency will be even more feasible and safe.

For small businesses in non tech savvy cities, this concept is hard to embrace and might be out of the question. Digital currency is the future. With minimal costs, easy to use software, and an increase in brand awareness, it is a practical next step for small businesses. If more companies adapt and integrate this system, it could help change the world, making consumer transactions easier and safer.

 

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Zoloft is the True Culprit Behind Youth Violence

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To the average person, when discussing the topic of school violence, the first things that come to mind are gun laws, violent movies, video games, and even child abuse. While these are all valid factors that contribute to violence in schools, there are numerous other aspects that are just as critical and should be brought to attention. Over the past decade, the number of school shootings has increased dramatically. All over the media, conclusions are being drawn about the root of this statistic. Perhaps not enough energy is being focused in the right area. Perhaps the correct corresponding statistic is being over looked. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)[1] published that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can be diagnosed in a child at an age as low as 4. The ADHD diagnosis rate rose from 7.8% of children in 2003 to 11.0% in 2011[2]. The national Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) recently reported that the use of antidepressants by teens in the United States has exceeded almost 400% since the late 1980s[3]. The act of prescribing psychiatric medications such as Zoloft and Prozac to treat ADHD, depression, and anxiety at young ages is causing the development of irrational neurological effects which are responsible for an increase in school violence.

The fact that medication could be linked with school shootings is not unknown. Seung-Hui Cho, the man who killed 32 innocent people at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 2007, was prescribed Prozac prior to his rampage. James Holmes, responsible in 2012 for the mass shooting in Aurora, CO, had possession of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications in his apartment. Eric Harris, one of the well-known shooters at Columbine High School, had been prescribed Luvox. This cannot be a coincidence. In fact, these types of medications have been linked with over 30 school shootings[4].

Prozac, a common SSRI (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) is used to treat depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. SSRI’s work by manipulating the flow of neurotransmitters (specifically Serotonin) which is responsible for regulating mood and emotions.  In 2011, an Article published by Time Magazine rated Prozac as the number 2 prescribed drug linked with violence and even went as far to say that, “Prozac is 10.9 times more likely to be linked with violence in comparison with other medications.”[5]

In the early 2000s, after extensive studies on the effects of antidepressants, the FDA went as far as to place a Black Label Warning on antidepressants. This meant that taking such medications could increase the likelihood of suicide and violent thoughts. Clearly, if these medications are associated with violence and suicide, they should not be prescribed. An occurrence that confirms this happened in 2001. Christopher Pittman, age 12, felt a burning sensation in his skin after taking his prescribed Zoloft. Not long after, he was driven to shoot both of his Grandparents and set fire to their house. Pittman faced a charge of voluntary manslaughter and is serving a 25 year sentence. These events are not random. These are not just troubled young souls acting out, there has to be something pushing them over the edge. The effects of antidepressants impact neurological function. If the goal is to eliminate depression, there should not be an associated risk of amplifying the symptoms. There needs to be alternatives and solutions to this issue.

In Eric Harris’ Journal, he angrily references Luvox, a drug used to cope with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which his doctor had prescribed, “My doctor wants to put me on medication to stop thinking about so many things and to stop getting angry…” [6]  This quote clearly emphasizes that the medication was affecting the way Harris’ thought process. Throughout the journal, there are numerous entries in which he discusses the ideas of violence and suicide. Although there was never real actual evidence that Harris had been diagnosed with OCD, he did indeed take the drug prior to the Columbine tragedy. Before Luvox, Harris had been also prescribed Zoloft. This situation is testament that once psychiatric drugs are added to the equation involving a troubled child, violence or suicide will result. Had Eric not been prescribed these medications, there remains a likelihood that his thoughts and actions would have been more benign. While that chance might be small, all other factors of youth violence must be considered. I propose that that these psychiatric drugs can push an individual over the edge, resulting in more harm than good.

When looking at the argument that antidepressants and other psychiatric medications should not be prescribed to children aged 4 – 17, naturally some disapproval arises. One might argue that the act of not prescribing a child medication to deal with troubles is insensitive. After all, in the majority of cases, these medications can cure mental issues. Unbiased studies reveal that Zoloft and other medications can improve symptoms of depression in two-thirds of patients. I believe that with the rapid development of a child’s brain during maturing, it is easily plausible that these drugs are causing neurological disadvantages. If alcohol has the ability to affect the development of one’s brain, so could a psychoactive drug. To refute that alcohol is a drug and is not used by many as a crutch to deal with depression would be comical. Throughout the process of mentally maturing, a child should abstain from substances. This is even the reason for a drinking age of 21 in the United States. To ensure a healthy cognitive development and conquer mental illnesses, alternatives should be introduced. Several natural remedies have proven effective. First and foremost, diet should be evaluated. Deficiencies in B-Vitamins can lead to poor production of neurotransmitters.  Another valid RX is exercise. Dr. Madhunkar H. Trivedi, a Psychiatric Professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical center conducted an experiment involving patients who experienced depression and were taking SSRI’s. He prescribed doses of exercise and success to some degree was achieved[7]. These alternatives provide a natural remedy, working as the human body was designed. Also these alternatives are more cost efficient.

Another argument that could be brought up is the fact that Doctors are professionals. They know what is best for their patients and should therefore be trusted. If the drugs were not safe, they would not be prescribed. While this too is a valid refutation, there are some flaws. There are risks to taking any sort of medication. Listen to the ads on television and you will hear a list of side effects that sometimes add up to sounding worse than the original problem. While Doctors should be trusted, their profession is called a Practice. It is impossible to argue that medication works equally on all patients. For instance, take the concept of an allergy: One person can eat peanuts all day and enjoy them to their hearts content. While peanuts are delicious and should be enjoyed, 0.6% of the United States population could have fatal reaction during consumption. While this idea translates over to medication, it should be brought to attention that not all Doctors prescriptions are beneficial to patients. In the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, published in April, 2013, a study concluded that 38.4% of patients used in the study did not qualify and meet certain criteria pertaining to a depression diagnosis benchmark. It was stated that over 5,000 patients had been misdiagnosed[8]. One would think that better care would be taken when evaluating patients and prescribing doses of psychoactive drugs that are linked with violence and suicide.

One other significant argument is that other factors are far more influential in school violence/shootings. These other factors might include western culture, violent movies, video games, or abusive parents and home life. These are all plausible factors and I do not refute that they play a role. James D Garbarino is a national expert regarding the impact of family and community on youth violence. He refers to the outbreaks of youth violence and suicide as an “Epidemic.” In his paper titled, The Epidemic of Youth Violence, Garbarino mentions a “tipping point” – a social epidemic which he portrays as a germ increasing the rate of infection. This section of his paper goes into detail about how violence arises in inner-city “war zones” where there is the presence of gangs and poverty. This connection is valid and it may be indeed the factor that contributes to youth violence in urban areas. I believe however, that the true “tipping point” is psychiatric drugs. Not all shootings and acts of school violence occur in urban areas. Several of the most significant incidents (i.e Columbine, Aurora CO, Clackamas Oregon) occurred in suburban areas where there is a strong sense of community and family value.

The process in which today’s youth are diagnosed and prescribed strong medications for mental illnesses needs to be reformed. A child’s brain has not yet fully developed and is not able to sustain a healthy development process while being affected by potent medications. Not only has the rate at which children are being prescribed these medications increased over the past decade but also so has the amount of incidents involving school violence. This correlation of data is vital and should not be overlooked. While Doctors may have our best interests at heart, society should not be so quick to decide that psychiatric medication is best remedy to cure depression. Several alternatives have proved to decrease symptoms of mental illnesses. These include 5-HTP (a supplement for enhanced mood), diet, and exercise. While there are many factors that contribute to the epidemic of youth violence, the medication variable is one, if not the most significant. If these medications were taken out of the equation, incidents and reports of violence would surely decrease to some extent. When the lives of innocent people are at stake, it is time for doctors and pharmaceutical companies to work carefully, diagnosing accurately and produce safe medications. Antidepressants and other pills that affect neurological behavior should be treated like alcohol, which has proven to interfere with brain development. After 30 school shootings/ acts of violence being connected with medication, it is time to decrease the dosing and lower the risk of future fatalities. By eliminating one variable with troubled youth, new opportunities for evaluating other ones can be presented. After reviewing these studies, it is apparent that the NRA or gun laws are not fully responsible for the acts of violence. It is apparent that it is not the guns that people are holding which have caused so much grief but really, it is the people that are holding the guns.


[1] Marks, Hedy. “Does Your Preschooler Have ADHD?.”WebMD. (2012): n. page. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/features/adhd-in-preschoolers&gt;.

[2] United States. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention. Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). 2013. Web. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html&gt;.

[3] Wehrwein, Peter . “Astounding increase in antidepressant use by Americans.” Harvard Health Publications. (2011): n. page. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/astounding-increase-in-antidepressant-use-by-americans-201110203624&gt;.

[4] “31 School shooters/school related violence committed by those under the influence of psychiatric drugs.”Citizens Commissions on Human Rights International . N.p.. Web. 22 Jan 2014. <http://www.cchrint.org/school-shooters/&gt;.

[5] Szalavitz, Maria. “Top Ten Legal Drugs Linked to Violence.” Time Magazine . 07 01 2011: n. page. Web. 21 Jan. 2014.

[6] Langman, Peter. “Eric Harris’s Journal.”schoolshooters.info. N.p.. Web. 21 Jan 2014. <http://www.schoolshooters.info/eric-harris-journal.pdf&gt;.

 

[7] Reynolds, Gretchen. “Prescribing Exercise to Treat Depression.” New York Times. 31 08 2011: n. page. Web. 22 Jan. 2014. <http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/31/prescribing-exercise-to-treat-depression/&gt;.

[8] Mojtabai, R. United States. US National Library of Medicine. Clinician-identified depression in community settings: concordance with structured-interview diagnoses.. 2013. Web. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23548817&gt;.

Staples, Garbarino, & Harris

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The first big connection I saw between Harris’ journal and the readings was related to the idea brought forward by Staples about epiphanies. Staples said that life can be dull and we search for and are excited by moments of enlightenment or meaning. I think this connects to Harris’ journal because he believed conformity prevents people from actually being themselves. Harris wanted to express his individuality but he was ridiculed for it. An entry that examples this is the one from 4/12/98. In it, Harris discusses how societies definition of the “real world” is different than what it actualy is – conformity and social norms. I think that both Staples and Harris would think that in this search for meaning in the “real world,” people can lose a true sense of individuality. This is why epihpanies are important: they provide an escape from the “real world” and provide a sense of self awareness and clarity. Harris even says (in the 4/12/98) entry, “We are humans, if we don’t like something we have the fucking ability to change!”. This ability to change, I think, is in the form of epihanies.

I was also able to relate Harris’ journal to Garabinos’ section called  Who Cares About the Child Inside the Killer? Garabino essentially says that although youth who commit violent acts are deemed dangerous or monstrous, underneath they still have youthful and interesting passions and characteristics. I think that Harris was the same way, although the writing explicit and vulgar, there were parts that had intellectual value such as his opinions on society. For instance, in the entry under 5/9/98, Harris provides philosophical insight into social acceptance. Harris’ journal proves that he was not just some mindless anarchist, he actually studied and formed his own intellectual beliefs.