The following are articles I wrote while contributing to Examiner.com as a Social and Cultural Trends Columnist. Those not featured have been lost as Examiner merged with AXS Entertainment. (Dates may not be correct or listed at all.) Thank you, – Walter Kolo
9/22/14 – Rutgers Sophomore Female Found Dead After Frat Party At 3 a.m. a 19 year-old sophomore girl was taken to the hospital after she passed out at an all-night drinking party. By 3:19 a.m., she was pronounced dead. A sophomore at Rutgers University, Caitlyn Kovacs was an intelligent young woman with a bright future. Described by her friends as “energetic, upbeat and involved,” she was majoring in Animal Sciences at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
Unfortunately, her life was cut short early Sunday morning. She was attending a supposed “small gathering” at the Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity house when friends say they noticed she “appeared to be in distress,” according to New Brunswick prosecutor Andrew Carey. Police were notified at 3:28 — just nine minutes after her death — by hospital officials as their initial rulings showed her death to be alcohol-related.
Caitlyn Kovac was raised in Monmouth Junction, NJ, and a graduate of South Brunswick High School. Melissa Mielko, a friend she went to school with told the New York Daily News “She was always laughing, and making others laugh and smile as well. A good head on her shoulders.” Another high-school friend, who also attends Rutgers, Aaron Laserna, 19, reiterated her happiness, saying she was “always happy and fun to be around.” Aaron went on to say how involved she was with school events, even organizing a few. “I can’t believe she’s gone.”
The University has set up grief counselors to help students cope with the loss of one of their own. Rutgers President, Robert Barchi, released a statement: “Her passing over the weekend is a tragic loss to her family, her friends, and the entire Rutgers community. This is a difficult time for everyone.”
Right now the heat is on the fraternity where she partied that night. Delta Kappa Epsilon (or DKE, for short) may have to deal with an array of issues in the time that follows. Right now, it’s reported that their members (55 of them) are cooperating with law enforcement, and the Spokesman for the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said there was no expectation that charges will be filed in connection with the case. For now, at least.
Since the public has learned of Caitlyn’s death, there has been backlash within the community. Some are calling for the DKE chapter to lose their charter, which would effectively end their association with the university. Others, however, are outraged and calling for more action, such as murder charges to be filed.
It’s easy to point the finger at a fraternity, especially when cases like this occur — and DKE is no stranger to controversy. In 2011, at the Yale chapter of DKE, there was a hazing incident that went public, making headlines. A pledge-event that included “sexually-explicit chanting” caught the eye of the university. They were banned for a year from conducting fraternal activities on campus, including recruitment.
Fraternities, college-level athletic teams, and other groups have been targeted in the past, all over the country in many universities. Sometimes, action is needed to restore order. Other times, they are wrongfully accused and face draconian sanctions. It’s important to look at every incident with an open eye. Don’t let the one bad apple spoil the bunch. Are DKE to blame here? It’s too early to know right now. As police and the DA’s office continue to investigate this matter, the real story will reveal itself.
Right now, it’s important to remember Caitlyn for the individual she was, and to lend her family the support they need.
10/12/14 – Teenager Wins Nobel Prize 2014 isn’t exactly over, but yesterday was a historical day upon the announcement of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Surprisingly, this year’s prestigious award was jointly awarded to Malala Yousafzi and Kailash Satyarthi. The biggest shock: Malala is only 17, officially the youngest person to ever win the award. Her story is influential to any and all, and she’s praised as a hero — especially in her home country of Pakistan, where her saga began.
At the age of 11 in 2009, this northwest Pakistani girl anonymously wrote a blog for the BBC, detailing her life under the Taliban’s occupation of Swat Valley, as well as her views on promoting education for girls. A year later, New York Time’s journalist Adam Ellick traveled to Malala’s homeland to film a documentary about her life and struggles as the Pakistani military intervened in the region, culminating in the “Second Battle of Swat.”
Malala’s stock soon rose with every media outlet reaching out, granting her interviews in both print and television. Before long she was the poster-child of female education. African activist Desmond Tutu nominated her for the “International Children’s Peace Prize.” It was around this time when fate intervened, forever changing her life.
After boarding a school-bus on October 9th, 2012, a man followed her aboard and asked for her by name. He then proceeded to fire three shots at her. One of the bullets hit the left side of her head, and then traveled underneath her skin and through her face before finally stopping near her shoulder. Physicians told her parents that she was unconscious and in critical condition, but she somehow survived. Once stable, she was transported to Birmingham, England to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital where she went through extensive rehabilitation.
If she wasn’t known before the attempted assassination, she was then. There was an outpouring of support, the attempt at her life sparking world-wide attention. After her recovery she traveled back to Pakistan, to “prove I’m not afraid.” 2013 would prove to be a successful year for her.
On July 12th, 2013 she spoke in front of the United Nations, calling for worldwide access to education. She fought for students’ rights to be able to get an education, no matter where they’re from. In September of that year she also opened a library, and was pictured on the cover of Times magazine. The April 29th issue listed her as “one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.”
Yesterday, October 10, 2014 she became the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, sharing the honor with Kailash Satyarthi from India “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people, and for the right of all children to be able to seek education.” Ms. Satyarhi is an Indian’s children activist who founded the Bachpan Bacheo Andolan (better known as the Save the Childhood Moment) in 1980, and who has protected the rights of over 80,000 children.
The judges had this to say: “The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim — an Indian and a Pakistani — to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”
10/13/14 – Ebola Virus Global Pandemic Unless you’re living under a rock (or maybe a cave), you’ve undoubtedly heard about the Ebola virus that is causing a global pandemic. Unfortunately this is no laughing matter, and as of today there are two confirmed cases in the United States. Right now it’s contained in the States’, the two reported cases in the Dallas, Texas area. Hospital officials, as well as the Center for Disease Control and Protection — better known as the CDC — have released a statement concerning this. Safety protocol had been breached in this Dallas hospital, and there are very few details as of this morning. All we know is that this is the second confirmed person infected with the Ebola virus. Details are sketchy but we do know that a female healthcare worker began to develop symptoms on Friday before testing positive for this deadly virus sometime Saturday.
Dr. Tom Frieden briefed reporters late Sunday, releasing this statement: “If this individual was exposed, which they were, it is possible that other individuals were exposed.” For now, the hospital is taking extra precautions (including hiring a full-time infection control officer) as healthcare officials and the CDC work to find a long-term solution.
What exactly is the Ebola virus, and why is this fatal disease only now stirring up headlines? It rose in prominence only a few years ago. Upon initial discovery, scientists and relevant medical personnel thought it may be a new strain of the Marburg virus because of it’s closely related signs and symptoms.
Originating in what is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo, a unique story exists behind the virus’ name. It is attributed to the Congo River, which (in French) is pronounced Ebola. To avoid confusion, in 2010 it was designated the “Ebola-virus.” This is an artificial contraction of the words “Ebola” and “virus,” written without the common diacritical mark, allowing it to be easier pronounced when speaking of it in scientific terms.
In this area of the world, it was also called the Zaire ebolavirus, and it was the deadliest strain of this virus known to man. Believed to be transmitted to animals and humans by bats, “fruit bats” to be specific, the 2013-2014 epidemic of the virus in West Africa resulted in more than 4,000 fatalities. No longer contained, it’s reached Europe, and has more recently surfaced in the States. If this virus breaks containment here, there’s no telling how far it will reach, or the impact it will make.
With two official reported cases in the States, it’s important for the situation to be properly dealt with. Not calling for everybody to go on lock-down, and hide from their daily lives, but it is a serious virus with the potential to cause death. Right now, it’s contained to one hospital and, as previously stated, the CDC and others in the medical field are hard at work, trying to find a solution to the virus, or at least, provide the public with answers.
Still, it’s important to keep yourself from potentially infected people, mainly those who travel overseas. The Ebola virus is transmitted from human to human from direct contact with bodily fluids, such as, but not limited to: blood, saliva, mucus, sweat, feces, urine, semen, and breast milk. It’s also important not to touch used medical supplies, be it gloves, needles or syringes. The entry points for the virus are the nose, mouth, eyes, open wounds, cuts or abrasions. For those who were at one point infected and survived, they are being advised their semen can still be contagious. Even after a full recovery.
In Guinea, the outbreak has had deadly effects for nearly two-thirds of those infected. This is thought to be due to their burial rituals, because many believe they have contracted Ebola from corpses.
There are five known types of the Ebola virus, all but one originating in Africa. The four most common strains are as listed:
– Ebola-Ivory Coast
The fifth and final strain of the virus is named the Ebola-Reston, which — unlike the other four types — originates in the Philippines. This Ebola-Reston type is very different than the others, but if one were to catch it, the symptoms would not affect them. Animals, however, feel the power of this type and will get sick, and could potentially die.
The symptoms of the Ebola virus that’s affecting the public (and the one which is the global focus) are quite severe, and as explained earlier are no laughing matter. You can become infected and not know it for weeks, displaying no side-effects or symptoms, but normally it appears anywhere between 2 to 21 days after the transmission. Early symptoms aren’t fatal, but if you have these illnesses, it’s advised you immediately seek treatment in order to be diagnosed.
Early signs include:
– joint and muscle stiffness
As the fever from Ebola progresses, the symptoms become more severe. There’s no time-table for an infected person to start displaying more serious symptoms. Most report vomiting and consistent diarrhea, becoming worse with time. Ebola is a monster illness that can literally eat your skin. Redness of the eyes become more apparent, and the body may start to bleed — both internally and externally. Other symptoms include the swelling of genitals, and a rash may begin to spread.
These are ugly and nasty signs and symptoms. That’s why such measures are being taken to keep the virus quarantined in the United States. That’s why it’s important to take proper measures, especially for those traveling overseas. It’s advised to stay away from problem areas, and regular bathe and groom, wash your hands frequently, and last but not least: for those working in the medical profession, it’s mandated to use proper security measures because you never know when somebody with Ebola may walk into any given hospital.
For now, in the United States, it’s contained to one hospital in Dallas, Texas, with two confirmed cases thus far.
11/14/14 – ‘Cannibal Cop’ a Free Man In New York City in the year 1991, chaos was unleashed in the form of a man named Patrick Bateman, the “American Psycho.” He dreamed up vicious plans to maim, kill, and eat his victims. Fortunately, that was fiction. Unfortunately, in 2012 a new monster surfaced, but unlike the fictional Pat Bateman, this man is the real thing – a walking personification of evil.
In 2012 a six-year veteran of the NYPD was shocked when the cuffs were slapped on him. Gilberto Valle, 28, was arrested by the FBI after a plot to kidnap, torture, rape, kill, and commit cannibalistic acts to over 100 women. Upon the realization Officer Valle’s fantasies were turning into reality, the Feds took him into custody.
Authorities were tipped off to Valle’s deranged activities by his estranged wife, when she uncovered written documents, detailing his future plans. They began monitoring his online activities, retrieving a trail of emails, instant messages, and chat-room dialogues. In one online chat, Valle wrote “I was thinking of tying her body on to some kind of apparatus, cook her over a low heat, keep her alive as long as possible.” In another, he spoke of fitting the woman’s body in the oven, writing “her legs would have to be bent.”
There were also over a hundred documents recovered from his computer, further detailing the grisly acts he planned. One document was titled “Abducting and Cooking (Victim 1): A Blueprint.” The file contained the woman’s date of birth and other personal information, including her height and weight – even her bra size.
One woman admitted to investigators she and Valle had met for lunch sometime in July. Another woman he allegedly stalked claimed he did so in his police cruiser in an “intimidating fashion.” He stood accused of using law enforcement databases, as well as his position as a police officer to stalk his potential victims. At least ten of his would-be victims said they knew Valle well, and were stunned to learn of this heinous plot targeting them.
Although Public Defender Julia Gatto tried arguing he was only guilty of a “deviant fantasy,” bail was denied. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadasse Waxman, Officer Valle was arrested because he was too close to carrying out the “grotesque” plots. His “plans to kidnap, rape, torture, kill and eat the body parts of young women,” were not just a fantasy. They were reality – and he faced a possible life sentence if convicted.
Originally found guilty of the conspiracy charge in 2013, U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephne overturned the verdict in July, essentially freeing Mr. Valle from jail after 21 months behind bars – seven of which he served in solitary confinement. While the major conviction of conspiracy was thrown out, he still faced sentencing on the lower, misdemeanor charge of unauthorized use of law enforcement records. Until Wednesday’s sentencing he lived under house arrest at his mother’s home in Queens. Judge Gardephne sentenced him to time served, and one year of supervised release, along with continuing his mental health counseling. For somebody who initially was facing life in prison, all seemed to work out in Valle’s favor.
After walking out of the Manhattan federal courthouse Wednesday he told reporters that this was “the best thing that ever happened to me,” claiming the experience left him a changed man. “My legacy,” Valle said “will not be the story of the cannibal cop.” The former policeman said these events have led to him wanting to pursue a different path in the legal system – as a criminal defense attorney.
6/23/15 – Vine Star Carter Reynolds Pressuring Underage Girl Into Sex On Leaked Video Twitter feeds have been buzzing since yesterday afternoon after a video of (presumably) Social Media Star Carter Reynolds pressuring his underage ex-girlfriend into forced oral copulation leaked online. Nineteen year old Carter Reynolds blew up in 2014 after getting recognition on the Vine app service as a member of the former “Magcon Family” – a group of twelve teenagers, eleven boys and one “accessorized girl” that together had more than 25 million followers on Vine, surpassing the likes of traditional celebrities like Ellen and Miley Cyrus. (Vine, a relatively new social media platform owned by Twitter that launched in 2013, is a video sharing service where users share six-second-long looping video clips.) Carter currently has 4.3 million followers on Vine, 2.9 on Instagram and 2.3 on Twitter.
The video that leaked shows seventeen year old Maggie Lindemann (herself a Social Media Star) talking to, allegedly, ex-boyfriend Carter Reynolds who persistently tries to get her to engage in oral sex with him. Maggie says multiple times that she’s uncomfortable and that she doesn’t think she could do it. He exclaims “DO IT!” loudly while laughing and pulls out his penis. The camera angle suggests that Reynolds (or possibly someone else standing near) is filming it. Again as Maggie says no, Carter replies “Oh my gosh, Maggie, oh my gosh,” in an unnerving voice. His face does not appear in the video.
Shortly after the leak he took to Twitter with multiple responses. His first tweet, presumably about the video, reads: “people who assume without asking < people who are slow at texting < people who get mad easily <” then “I’m going to explain everything but I want to talk to everyone involved first. I want to make sure u know the full story about what happened.” The fact he tweeted “everyone” seems to imply that there’s more people involved. This could strengthen the idea that it wasn’t just him and Ms. Lindemann; there could’ve possibly been another person in the room.
Throughout the day tens of thousands of his loyal “followers” took to Twitter to express their outrage, many calling him a “rapist,” a sexual predator who forced a girl to do something she didn’t want to. Yet there is another party out there, one that are standing by their idol. One tweet from a devoted fan reads: “Millions of people are cursing and judging me because I still love Carter. I LOVE You!”
He finally released a statement, a snapshot of a letter he wrote to “his fans.” In it he claims that this was taken a long time ago and that somebody hacked into his iCloud and ‘illegally’ shared it. He spoke that these allegations that he forced himself on her are completely false. He also stated that “Couples do stuff like that all the time … and no I’m not saying it’s right but it’s the truth. It was supposed to be a private video for no one to see and I had no intention of sharing it at all.” Will he retain his “Star Status” of Social Media? Only time will tell.