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Movie minority

July 17th, 2014

Hannah Jones, an accounting major at UTPA, loves attending the movie theater. The Harlingen native religiously watches a new movie at least twice a week, a habit she picked up from her family which is Hispanic on her mother’s side.

“My family always sees going to the movies as a family affair. My aunt takes my cousins there every weekend,” the 23-year-old explained. “It’s a great way for all of us to get together and have fun for a few hours and relax.”

According to a July 7 report from pop culture magazine Entertainment Weekly, 2014 box office earnings are down 4 percent from this point last year. However, attendance from Hispanic moviegoers is on the rise.

The Motion Picture Association of America, or the MPAA, released its annual Theatrical Market Statistics March 27. Among the numbers that were reported, it was revealed that Hispanic audiences are becoming big consumers.

Despite the fact that Caucasians account for 54 percent of total ticket sales in 2013, they only watch an average of three movies per year, the lowest attendance of any ethnicity. Hispanic audiences made up the highest attendance by watching an average of six while African Americans and other ethnicities marked as “other” watch four films a year.

Jones’ views on moviegoing and family entertainment for Hispanic audiences is reflected in a January 2013 report from Nielsen Holdings. Nielsen, a New York based group that monitors what consumers buy and watch on a daily basis, found that Hispanic audiences were 86 percent more likely to attend movies with friends and family compared to any other demographic. 

Even though UTPA senior Arnold Fonseca hasn’t had a chance to go to the movies since the start of the spring semester due to schoolwork, he believes these numbers are important and reflect the rise of the Hispanic population, which is expected to nearly triple by 2060 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Hispanics are already the largest minority group in the country with 52 million people, or 17 percent of the American population.

“This culture isn’t going anywhere and we’re seeing how it’s affecting everything, even the movies,” the 25-year-old physics major said. “Attending the theaters is a form of escapism that’s perfect for hanging out with friends and family members and now we know that other cultures enjoy it, especially since there’s a lot of deals going on to make going to the movies relatively cheaper than usual.”

The average price of a movie ticket is currently $7.96, down from $8.35 in the previous quarter, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In addition, several Rio Grande Valley theaters are currently participating in “Discount Tuesday,” where tickets are on sale at $5.25 all day every Tuesday at selected Carmike and Cinemark theaters nationwide.

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

Despite representing 17 percent of the total American population, Hispanics made a huge contribution in total ticket sales last year, according to the MPAA. Of the 1.34 billion tickets sold in 2013, a full quarter were bought by Hispanic moviegoers alone.

A recent film that succeeded due to its Hispanic audience was the Spanish-language comedy Instructions Not Included, starring Mexican comedian Eugenio Derbez. The film was a “sleeper hit” when it opened last summer, as box office analysts failed to predict the film’s final gross of nearly $45 million domestically – even though it opened in less than 350 theaters nationwide, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie ended up becoming both the highest-grossing Spanish film and the fourth highest-grossing foreign film in the U.S.

In an attempt to recapture the success of Instructions Not Included Pantelion, the studio that distributed the film, is releasing the Spanish-language drama Cantinflas during next month’s Labor Day weekend. This is the same weekend Instructions was released in theaters last year. Cantinflas centers around Mario “Cantinflas” Moreno, the popular comedian who is often referred to as the “Mexican Charlie Chaplin.” The film depicts Cantinflas’ personal life as he films his American debut, the 1956 Academy Award winning film Around the World in 80 Days.  

Seemingly, studios tried another method of luring Hispanic audiences to the theaters this past spring by releasing Spanish-dubbed versions of several movies. These included the religious dramas Son of God and Noah as well as the biopic Cesar Chavez.

According to an October 2012 article from The Hollywood Reporter, Hispanic audiences flock to movies with religious themes as well as animated and horror movies. 

Jones, a Harlingen native, isn’t surprised when she heard such types of movies are most popular with this demographic, citing those are the genres she and her family watch.

The same article mentions that studios promote their movies to Hispanic audiences on Mexican radio channels and television stations such as Univision and Telemundo as well as in heavily populated Hispanic areas such as California, South Texas and Miami.

EXPECTATIONS

After hearing about these findings, UTPA student John Garza said the results were “eye-opening” and that he hoped it would lead to an increase in Hispanic actors. Nonetheless, he worried about what kind of message this could send studios, especially if they would decide to make more Hispanic-themed films.  

“Even though I’m Hispanic, even I wouldn’t want to see a movie that is minority-oriented because it would feel like pandering,” the 21-year-old senior said. “In most of the movies I’ve seen, Hispanics get the stereotyped roles like a cleaning person or the one who knows all about demons in horror movies. When are we going to get a movie franchise of our own?” 

This past March, Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron became the first Latino to win an Academy Award for best director for blockbuster film Gravity which may have given the Latino population in entertainment more credit.

Despite the large attendance from Hispanics, Hispanic-themed films aren’t immediate successes. Cesar Chavez ultimately ended up grossing $5.5 million despite the legacy of the civil rights activist. The crime-horror film Deliver Us from Evil, which features a Spanish priest in a secondary role, was released July 3 and has so far accumulated $25 million. Last August saw the release of the Matt Damon sci-fi film Elysium, which was set in Los Angeles and featured a supporting cast of Hispanic actors. With a budget of $115 million, Elysium underwhelmed at the box office by grossing $93 million domestically.

Brian Warren, a UTPA professor in TV/film/theater, speculated that those films disappointed at the box office not because of the emphasis on Hispanic themes, but because of their quality.

“As a biopic, a horror film and a sci-fi film, all three of them don’t look anything different than what we usually get,” the University of Houston alumnus said. “Those films may have failed because of how oversaturated the marketplace is with films of the genres, and they didn’t look like they provided audiences with anything new. Despite the audiences it tries to reach, films need to be good, or at least look like they’re offering something different.”

While the Iowa native thinks the findings of the survey are vital and reflect what audiences want in their movies, he believes people respond to good stories, regardless of the race depicted onscreen. 

 “I still remember seeing the film Gandhi and being mesmerized by it, despite the fact that the movie featured a lead character who was Indian. Story supersedes race,” he explained, “Movies tend to cross other barriers and can speak to anyone. They are a universal form of entertainment that people can enjoy despite who they see onscreen.”

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Prisoners of healthcare

July 17th, 2014

Veterans Affairs Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson testified in front of the VA Senate Committee Wednesday to discuss the progress and future of the ailing VA system. Reports of falsified documents and malpractice have brought negative attention to a department that Gibson called “poorly positioned.”

After former secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki resigned May 30 amidst rumors of malpractice within the healthcare department, the VA has begun its reform process to help bring the department back to working standards.

This was the first time since scandal arose within the department that Gibson met with the VA Senate Committee. During this meeting the committee discussed practices commonly found in the private sector of the medical field that could be helpful to follow when overhauling the VA department.

Another topic discussed at the meeting was the potential power given to the secretary of the department to fire officials that are performing poorly. In addition to these powers, allowing veterans to receive medical care outside of the VA was another topic that was touched on. This rule could mean medical care for veterans if no service can be given by the VA within 30 days.

These new rules for the VA are part of a bipartisan plan announced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in early June, less than one week after the malpractice rumors surfaced.

The Congressional Budget Office released a new analysis July 10 of the reform bill that will regulate the VA department in the 2015 fiscal year. The reformed budget, according to The Hill, reduced the cost of implementing the bill from $50 billion over three years to $30 billion, which the CBO saw as more reasonable, according to the Army Times.

The VA department’s healthcare division has been under fire throughout the year after a number of malpractice suits had been filed against it for charging long patient wait times and rumors of sexual harassment, racism and illegal drug use in facilities, according to Politico. The malpractice suits were costing the U.S. $845 million due to a “delay in treatment.”

A member of the ROTC program, who wished to remain anonymous, said his experience with the VA health department has not been a good one.

“It takes forever to get an appointment. It takes forever to get a letter back that says that they’re working on your claim,” the senior criminal justice major said. “Then you get people that do get a rating but it’s very low and doesn’t make sense with (the illness) they have. (The system) doesn’t make any sense.”

The long wait times for veterans to receive care are seen all over the country. A report by Patch, a community-specific news source, states that Maryland has the fourth longest wait time for veterans with an average of 81 days. The article also sheds light on an isolated incident at a Phoenix VA hospital where 40 veterans died while awaiting treatment. The Memphis VA Medical Center was also investigated and was found to have 50-day wait times for new patients.

The ROTC member said problems can even be seen in the Rio Grande Valley at the Harlingen VA Medical Center.

“You have nurses (in Harlingen) that aren’t even qualified to use the equipment they’re using,” the UTPA senior said.

According to the Washington Post, an internal audit performed by the VA department revealed that 57,000 veterans had waited more than 90 days to receive medical attention earlier this year. In addition, the audit found that VA employees at 24 sites felt “threatened or coerced” to record false information that would make patient wait times seem lower than they really were.

A report was also created by Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., last month that highlighted the shortcomings of the VA Department. In his report he included the instances of abuse and racism as well as noting that 1,000 veteran deaths have occurred in the last 10 years under the VA’s watch. He said that the deaths were not only “largely preventable” but cost the department more than $200 million in settlements.

Furthermore, Coburn noted that the problem of long patient wait times could be attributed to the amount of patients seen by doctors. According to Politico, Coburn’s report said private sector doctors see upward of 2,300 patients annually while VA doctors see 1,200. The report states that this is due in part to the lack of staffing requirements and regulation on doctor/patient numbers.

According to Sanders, one of the committee members in charge of drawing up a reform plan for the VA, said staffing is suffering because VA doctors get paid less than private practice doctors. One of Sanders’ ideas to help resolve this issue is to offer student loan forgiveness to young doctors who agree to work for the VA department.

The ROTC member said he feels there is another reason why the VA health system is not running properly.

“The problem is that you’ve got the VA who is supposed to take care of veterans but they hire a bunch of civilians that have no knowledge of the military,” the Army veteran said. “So of course they’re not going to know what they’re doing.”

In addition to the issues highlighted in Coburn’s report, the VA had first gone under the microscope earlier in the year when rumors of falsified wait times surfaced. According to Army Times, these tampered documents would in turn aid in larger performance bonuses for VA employees.

Gibson has been the acting VA secretary since Shinseki’s resignation. As of June, former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald was nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama to be elected as the new VA secretary. The VA Senate Committee will come to a decision on the position July 22.

There are a dozen individuals working within the House and Senate in a conference that not only created the reform bill but will review it before it passes. Among the people in this conference committee are Sen. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., and Sanders. Both men said they have faith that recent budget adjustments will help move the reform bill forward before the Congressional break in August.

“Our job as a Congress and as a nation is to make the necessary changes so that every veteran in the VA system gets the quality and timely health care they are entitled to,” Sanders said.

According to the VA website, the three main goals of the department over the next year are to improve veteran access to benefits, reduce the number of backlog patients and alleviate veteran homelessness.

The White House has noted improvements within the VA in recent months. This year 182,000 appointments have been made and $400 million has been allotted for accelerated care. Also, the previously noted 57,000 veterans awaiting care has been reduced to 46,000 as of June 15.

The ROTC member said he feels these advances in the system are merely patch work. He said the problems will continue until something more serious is done.

“(The problem) is not going to get worked out. It would get fixed if people were actually held accountable with criminal charges,” the ROTC member said. “As far as fixing the system, I don’t see it.”

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Border crisis

July 17th, 2014

A family of four rests in the corner, draped in donated blankets, on one of the approximately 20 plastic cots lining the sides of an off-white tent behind Sacred Heart Catholic Church in McAllen, where undocumented UTPA student Abraham Diaz has been volunteering for the past three weeks. The church is one of several places in the Rio Grande Valley that has been providing food, shelter and clothing for undocumented immigrants coming into the U.S. from Central and South America. According to The Los Angeles Times, approximately 57,000 unaccompanied youths have illegally crossed the border since October 2013.

Diaz, a junior bilingual education major, has been volunteering between work and other activities to do what he can. He was 9 when he came to the U.S. as an unaccompanied minor from Monterrey, Mexico, and knows all too well what current undocumented immigrants may be experiencing.

“I know what they are going through, these children,” said Diaz, the vice president of the Minority Affairs Council at UTPA. “At first you don’t fit in, you are the outsider. People knowing you are not from this country, they push you aside. It feels bad because you are unwanted. They bully you, you are mistreated because of your legal status…because of your language.”

But the state of immigration has changed since Diaz came to this country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of undocumented immigrants was about 8.7 million in 2000. Today, that number is approximately 20 million, as stated by Zach Taylor, chairman of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers. With the increase comes safety, economic and humanitarian concerns from politicians, local residents and UTPA students.

PAST AND PRESENT

In an article published earlier this month by The New York Times, the surge of immigrants can be attributed to the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, passed by then President George W. Bush.

“Originally pushed by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers as well as by evangelical groups to combat sex trafficking, the bill gave substantial new protections to children entering the country alone who were not from Mexico or Canada by prohibiting them from being quickly sent back to their country of origin,” the article states.

The piece of legislation stipulates that these unaccompanied minors be turned over to the Department of Health and Human Services and be given a date for a future court hearing regarding their legal status. They are also given short-term shelter while the department works to reunite these children with family. If the child has no family in the U.S. they are turned over to a sponsor.

According to a July article by digital news source Mashable, the unaccompanied children from Central and South American countries began coming to the U.S. as early as 2011, but as poverty and violence increase in these countries, the numbers continue to rise. The number of minors crossing the border from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is expected to reach as many as 90,000 by the end of 2014, the article said.

To address the growing crisis and provide additional resources to the border, U.S. President Barack Obama requested $3.7 billion from Congress in a spending bill July 7. However, as of July 16, the bill has not been passed.

Republicans are opposing the bill for being too costly and not enacting tough enough immigration laws, as stated in a July article by USA Today. As part of the bill, Republicans want to enact legislation that would expedite the return of unaccompanied minors.

BORDER SECURITY

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, there was a large increase in illegal migration in the 1980s and 1990s. Numerous actions were taken to address the situation, including the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Put into law by President Ronald Reagan, IRCA is still often cited as one of the most effective immigration laws, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The primary goal of the act was to increase border security and establish penalties for employers who hired undocumented immigrants.

But despite past efforts, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said the U.S.-Mexico border still isn’t secure.

“The rapid influx of illegal immigration has strained the Border Patrol, the resources that they have and the resources we have put on ourselves as a state, and frankly they are already insufficient for the task at hand,” Perry said at a field hearing held by the Committee on Homeland Security earlier this month. “Officials who should be guarding the border are dealing with the overflow instead of fulfilling their primary tasks. As a result, the border between the U.S. and Mexico is less secure today than at any time in the recent past.”

At the hearing, titled “Crisis on the Texas Border: Surge of Unaccompanied Minors,” Perry elaborated on safety concerns residents of the RGV face due to immigration, including drug cartels, gangs and terrorism.

“We know that drug cartels and transnational gangs are already seeking to take advantage of the situation, attempting to circumvent security and spread pain and suffering on both sides of the border through their criminal activities,” Perry stated. “We’re also in danger at the hands of those who might be slipping through from countries with known terrorist ties. With a range of potential threats facing us from abroad, this is not the time to be distracted by something else.”

According to The Washington Post, since Border Patrol agents are occupied with controlling the influx of immigrants, Mexican cartels have had an easier time smuggling drugs across the border. When agents are pulled away from their patrol stations, gaps are created along the border that the traffickers can exploit, said Chris Cabrera, the vice president of the National Border Patrol Council Local 3307.

During the field hearing held at the South Texas College Technology Campus July 3 Perry asked federal lawmakers to send the National Guard to the border to assist local law enforcement with this issue. The former lieutenant governor of Texas stated that there is simply not enough manpower and resources to secure this sector of the border.

“When you look at the United States border from El Paso to California, there are 17 border patrol agents per mile dedicated to that region of the United States,” he said. “From El Paso to Brownsville, it is seven border patrol agents per mile.”

Joshua Rojas, the president of the College Republicans at UTPA, agrees that protecting sovereignty should be the government’s primary concern.

“We need to secure the borders,” said the junior finance major. “Until that happens we can’t discuss any type of amnesty for anyone here illegally.”

ECONOMY

Another concern for Rojas is the impact immigration will have on the local economy. In 2013, Brownsville and Harlingen were named the poorest cities in the country by the U.S. Census Bureau and economic website 24/7 Wall St.

“We have so many poor people here that if we bring in more, it’s only going to hurt us even more, it’s going to be harder to find jobs,” he said.

As the son of an undocumented immigrant, Rojas is familiar with the struggles these migrants are facing but believes the economic burden should not fall on the shoulders of current legal citizens.

 At the Congressional field hearing, U.S. Representative Lou Barletta, R-Pa., echoed similar concerns. His hometown of Hazelton, Pa. was being considered as a location to house unaccompanied minors.

“As a mayor of Hazleton for 11 years, I saw firsthand what burden illegal immigration has on local government,” Barletta said. “When I saw our population grow by 15 percent but our tax revenue stay the same, realizing we had an illegal immigration problem, quality of services suffered. I helped sound the alarm to stop potential relocation of unaccompanied minors to a property in my hometown in downtown Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which had been identified as a potential housing facility.”

According to a February 2013 article by The New York Times, labor economists found that undocumented workers lowered wages of U.S. adults without high-school diplomas, approximately 25 million people, between 0.4 and 7.4 percent. However, that same article states that undocumented immigrants could be beneficial to skilled laborers.

“From 1990 to 2007, undocumented workers increased legal workers’ pay in complementary jobs by up to 10 percent,” the article said. “In states with more undocumented immigrants…skilled workers made more money and worked more hours; the economy’s productivity grew.”

In addition, chief actuary at the Social Security Administration Stephen Goss states in the article that undocumented immigrants contribute about $15 billion a year to social security through payroll taxes, state and federal taxes that employers are required to withhold and/or pay on behalf of employees. The article goes on to explain that undocumented workers have contributed up to $300 billion, or nearly 10 percent, of the $2.7 trillion Social Security Trust Fund.

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra brought to light one aspect to the humanitarian crisis at field hearing – immigrant deaths. According to Guerra, there were 19 immigrant deaths the sheriff’s office responded to in 2012. In 2013, they responded to 25 immigrant deaths. This year they have already responded to 14 immigrant deaths.

“There are dozens of immigrants that have lost their lives trying to fulfill their hope of finding freedom and opportunity here,” Guerra said at the field hearing. “Bodies are found in the river or in the brush, many in deplorable condition. Many of these immigrants die from drowning or heat exposure. The hardest to take, is the death of children. Most recently we responded to the death of an 11-year-old boy from Guatemala. His decomposed body was found in the brush just a quarter mile away from a residential neighborhood where he could have sought help.”

The sheriff also remarked that the immigrants are often victims of crimes themselves but due to their legal status, these crimes go unreported.

“For the most part, the offenders are not the undocumented immigrants coming into the United States, they are the victims,” he said. “At times, human smugglers sexually assault the women, who are victims and often feel they have no voice because of their legal status so the crime goes unreported. There are instances where criminals will hold ransom undocumented persons- once again, some of these crimes will go unreported.”

Another aspect to the humanitarian crisis discussed at the hearing, and the initial reason it was held, centered on undocumented children and the dangers they face crossing the border.

“Here in Texas we are facing an escalating refugee and national security crisis. Since October, more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors have crossed our Southern border into the United States– nearly two-thirds of those crossed here in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Michael McCaul, chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, at the field hearing. “These children are being exploited by the drug cartels who are turning a profit by smuggling these kids to the U.S. at a cost of $5,000 to $8,000 per child…These children are often subjected to beatings, starvation, sexual assault and are at risk of being trafficked.”

U.S. Representative McCaul, R-Texas, highlighted humanitarian concerns due to the immigration influx, focusing on unaccompanied minors. McCaul and Perry both favored returning the children to their native countries.

“To break this cycle we need to add in some real deterrence – first, mandatory detention and then we should explore ways to promptly return those who come here illegally,” McCaul said. “Not doing so puts more young lives at risk of exploitation.”

However, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, disagreed with these proposed actions.

“A massive deportation policy for children and a mandatory detaining for children is not a humane thing to do,” Jackson Lee said at the field hearing. “This is not a national security crisis, this is a humanitarian crisis.”

According to The New York Times, more than three-quarters of unaccompanied minors are from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. According to Jackson Lee, these three central American countries have among the highest per capita homicide rates in the world with Honduras topping the list and the two other nations in the top five.

UTPA alumna Kayleigh Garcia agrees with Jackson Lee. Garcia, who earned her master’s in public administration in 2013, said she can’t imagine sending these immigrants back to the countries they are fleeing.

“They are coming here as refugees, we can’t send them back to their deaths like we did when the Jewish community came to us on a boat from the Nazi regime telling us they needed help back in the ‘40s and we turned around and sent them back…we sent them back to their deaths,” said Garcia, president of the Hidalgo County Texas Young Democrats. “I refuse to be a part of that.”

Diaz, who will continue to volunteer at Sacred Heart Church during this immigration crisis, agrees with Garcia.

“Some of the DREAMERS have gone through these situations…and we know what it feels like, we’ve been in their shoes,” he said. “When we didn’t get help, we know what it felt like to be neglected and now that we have the opportunity to give help to them and change the way they see things, we can make an impact in their lives.”

“DREAMERS” is a term often used by undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were young and are now pushing for immigration reform. The name originates from the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, a stalled legislative proposal that would have helped undocumented immigrants in college become legal citizens.

Diaz is one of approximately 645 DREAMERS at UTPA and is also a participant in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. According to the Department of Homeland Security, those who are part of DACA are not conferred legal citizenship, but are allowed to stay in the country while they attend school. DACA recipients are also eligible for work authorization, which allows them to be lawfully employed in the U.S.

While Diaz has been able to make the best of his situation, he acknowledges that not all the minors entering the U.S. will have the same path he has. He hopes to do what he can to help, no matter what the outcome may be for these children.

“You have to think about what is the humane thing to do,” he said. “If one of these people were my family members, what would I do for them? Personally, I would give my life for my child, just like these families are. So as a human, I want to give as much as I can.”

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Net nightmare

July 17th, 2014

UTPA freshman Sergio Nuñez watches Netflix on his laptop at the Student Union while drinking a latte. He checks his phone, connected to UTPA’s wireless network, before heading to class.

“I use UTPA’s Internet for everyday use including web, music and videos,” the 19-year-old said. “If the Federal Communications Commission passes (the net neutrality) law, I might be spending more time at the University because of the limited connection I have at home.”

Nuñez referred to the FCC’s proposed “net neutrality” rules.Open Internet Rules, the current net neutrality rules that have been in effect since 2005, are a set of three rules Internet Service Providers must follow, according to the FCC. The first rule states ISPs must provide proof on how they manage their networks. Secondly, they are prohibited from blocking legal content to applications such as Netflix. The last says ISPs should not discriminate against their competition by slowing their service to benefit their own offers.

Slow speeds are exactly what Comcast customers complained about in 2007 when subscribers argued the Internet company was deliberately slowing its Internet speeds when trying to access the peer-to-peer application BitTorrent. The FCC immediately took action and ordered Comcast to stop the practice. Comcast filed a lawsuit to overturn the order, claiming the FCC had no jurisdiction as to how ISPs should manage their networks, although the Open Internet Rules say otherwise.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found the trio of rules illegal. The FCC then proposed a new set of rule. ISPs will still be forbidden from slowing traffic to websites, but they can now create “fast” lanes for companies willing to pay more.

The FCC’s website closed its comments section July 15, which had allowed the public to voice their opinion on net neutrality. This will be followed by a 120-day consultation and response period where the FCC will address the public’s questions on how Internet usage will change for users, businesses and educational institutions.

According to Anne Toal, a technology assessment officer for the Division of Information

Technology at UTPA, the University is committed to ensuring students have high-speed Internet regardless of what the outcome holds for net neutrality. UTPA gets its Internet bandwidth from the University of Texas Office of Telecommunication Services in Austin then distributes it across its campus. The way students experience the Internet on campus would remain unaffected, Toal said outside of campus is a different story.

“Many students come to UTPA to watch Youtube or Netflix videos because its faster,” Toal said. “If their ISP at home decides to start charging more to services like YouTube or streaming movies, it would slow down because Google and Netflix might not want to pay more.”

Nuñez, who experiences spotty Wi-Fi service at home, leaves all the web browsing, downloading and streaming to UTPA. He sometimes makes trips to the University from McAllen solely to use the Internet, even when he doesn’t have class.

“It’s just way faster and more convenient,” the McAllen native said. “If I have to pay more to access Netflix or YouTube or if my Internet slows down at home, then the UTPA staff might start knowing me on a first name basis.”

Although the comment section of the FCC’s website is now closed, the public is still able to respond to comments that others have made. Toal encourages students to make their voices heard by participating in the discussion on the FCC’s website.

“In the present world of net neutrality, you have a faster network connection. In a world of no net neutrality, ISPs can slow down networks that don’t pay more,” Toal explained. “They have that power, and it would affect Internet users everywhere they go.”

 

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Nearing equality

July 17th, 2014

When the U.S. first passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, women throughout the country were earning 59 cents for every dollar a male made. Today, that has increased to 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The “gender wage gap” has narrowed, but it has not vanished. A study released by personal finance information website  NerdWallet in June suggests that wage equality might actually depend on the city.

The “gender pay gap” refers to the difference in average income between men and women. According to the Department of Justice, one of the factors in women earning less than men is that there are a lack of accommodating work arrangements. This can apply to all employees, but affects more women who have dependent children.

NerdWallet analyzed 522 U.S. cities and determined the best places for women to work. Of the 522 cities, Pharr was ranked number one as the best small city for working women and Edinburg was number four.

Other cities on the list include Sandy Springs, Ga., in the second ranking, followed by Hesperia, Calif., in third.

The cities were broken down into three categories: large, medium and small. There were 61 large cities with populations of more than 300,000, 241 medium cities with populations of from 100,000 to 300,000 and 220 small cities with populations under 100,000.

NerdWallet included the median salaries for male and female full-time and year-round workers, “median gross rent,” population growth and other statistics from the Census Bureau American Community Survey. “Median gross rent” is the monthly rent agreed or contracted for in addition to the estimated monthly cost of utilities.

All the cities analyzed for the study were based on census data. UTPA Economics Professor Marie Mora was not surprised that two Valley cities made the grade list, saying that she was excited to have the area on a list of something positive for a change.

“To me what it means is that (the Valley) is a friendly place for women to work and that the same type of barriers that women might be facing in other cities might not be present here,” Mora said. “The numbers also suggest that there may be a lot of opportunities for women.”

According to the website, Pharr was placed at the top due to female employees earning 112 percent of a man’s average income. Rent was below the national average as a result of the 10 percent increase of population from 2009 to 2011. NerdWallet reported the average household median at $631 a month.

“This area is definitely one of the fastest growing cities in the entire country,” Mora said. “It’s not just in the state, so that does bode well in terms of future job opportunities.”

Pharr’s median income for full-time female employees came in at $29,189. Sandy Springs was next in the ranking with $46,432 and Hesperia with $36,880. The median income for Edinburg came in at $50,051. Edinburg was ranked in the top five because of a 12 percent increase in population since 2012, low rental costs and strong income equality between men and women. NerdWallet reported $651 as the city’s median gross rent and women’s earnings as a percentage to men’s is about 94 percent.

NerdWallet reported the numbers of working women in the U.S. has steadily increased in the past 50 years, growing from 29 percent to nearly 50 percent. In 1960, one in 10 mothers in the country were the sole or primary “breadwinner”. In 2011, that number went up to four in every 10. A “breadwinner” is a person who earns money to support a family.

“It surprises me to see how different things were just a short 50 years ago,” said Marilynn Feria, a UTPA junior political science major. “It’s amazing to think that if I had been born at a different time my life would be completely different as a woman in the workforce. Of course, I’m proud and glad that many women having been pushing to see these changes and have been striving for the opportunities and gratification of being self-sufficient.”

According to Feria, the ranking came as a surprise to her but she’s happy to see the number of women in the workforce increasing.

“It did surprise me, but in a good way,” Feria said. “These are the things that I like to see our home cities recognized for. It means that people are taking the initiative to provide equal opportunity to both sexes, especially in an area with very conservative views.”

 NerdWallet reported education, trade, transportation, health services, utilities and the government as being the industries with the biggest presence in Edinburg. The city’s largest employers are UTPA, Edinburg Regional Medical Center, Hidalgo County and Doctors Hospital at Renaissance, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corp.

Mora stated that she has never sensed negative feelings against Valley women who work at different businesses and believes it is because Edinburg is a family-friendly city.

“I’ve always believed that women are just as capable and responsible and have the same amount of vision and passion as men do for work,” Mora said. “So it never has made sense to me that women would earn less for equal work.”

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Economic upturn

July 17th, 2014

This June marked five years since the U.S. economy ended its longest recession since World War II and local people have taken note. According to an analysis by personal finance information website NerdWallet, two of the top 10 most improved cities in the country are in the Rio Grande Valley.

The Great Recession officially began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research which determines the beginning and end of U.S. recessions.

Using data from NBER, as well as figures from the labor and housing markets, NerdWallet compared changes in unemployment, household income and home values among 510 U.S. cities. The study determined that the most improved city in the nation was McAllen. Edinburg came in ninth.

The median household income from 2009 to 2012 in McAllen increased by 31.69 percent, the second highest rate of any city in the country. According to NerdWallet, McAllen tops the list because of that growth in income – in addition to a nearly 16 percent increase in median home value.

James Boudreau, an assistant professor of economics at the University, said he thinks the ranking is a reflection of the positive things that are happening in the Valley and credits the rankings to its residents.

“People generate economic activity and the Valley has seen its population grow quite a bit over the last decade,” said Boudreau, who has been at UTPA for five years. “I’m not sure of the exact ranking, but the McAllen metro area ranks quite highly in terms of population growth as compared to other places in the U.S. It also helps that the Valley’s population is on average quite young and young people tend to do more spending than older folks.”

McAllen had an unemployment rate of 4.35 percent along with a 31.69 percent increase in median household income. The national unemployment rate in April was 6.3 percent. There was also a 15.61 percent change in median home value. “Median house household income” refers to the income level earned by a given household. The national unemployment rate is 6.1 as of June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Many places in the U.S. are experiencing negative growth, so in comparison this is obviously very good news,” Boudreau said. “The Valley is young, vibrant and growing… People sometimes disparage the Valley unfairly, as if it’s a small town or somehow inconsequential. To the contrary, I believe it’s one of the more up-and-coming places in the U.S.”

Eight of the top 10 cities on the list are in Texas, including Midland, San Angelo, Bryan, College Station, Odessa and Amarillo.

Edinburg’s most important factor was median household income. With a nearly 20 percent increase in the three-year period, median home value also grew by 6.50 percent.

Carlos Ramos, a business finance major, said that having Edinburg and McAllen beside larger cities like Washington, D.C. -which was the most improved largest city among the 50 analyzed – has the potential to spark interest in more individuals.

“As you drive around you can see various business and plazas opening up or being constructed and there is definitely growth,” the 20-year-old said. “I know it will take time but I’m sure Edinburg and McAllen will continue to grow to become big cities.”

According to NerdWallet, since the end of the recession in 2009, Edinburg has seen improvements in its workforce and housing market. The Edinburg Economic Development Corporation reported that since 2008 most local jobs are in education and health services, with the city’s school district and regional medical center as the top employers.

“It does bring a sense of pride seeing your city’s name on that list,” Ramos said. “It feels like the small town I grew up with is starting to become something bigger. 

According to the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas added more than 56,000 jobs in May. In addition, unemployment in Texas dropped to 5.1 percent. In a press release published June 20 Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that Texas continues to be the epicenter of job creation in the U.S. He also said Texas is the best place in the country to find a job.

Boudreau, who received his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut in spring 2009 stated that continuing positive demographic trends, along with the boost the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley will provide, should mean things will keep improving in the Valley. The new university will have a large impact to the region’s economic growth and job market and is expected to add thousands of jobs to the region, according to a Project South Texas report.

“It may sound cliché, but the Valley has a young, dynamic population and that’s why it’s growing,” Boudreau said. “I would say it’s a very good thing both in terms of what it says about current population and what it means for the population’s future.”

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45 years after ‘one giant leap’

July 17th, 2014

As 38-year-old astronaut Neil Armstrong emerged from the Apollo 11 spacecraft on the moon and declared the mission a “giant leap for mankind,” 600 million people watched from Earth more than 238,000 miles away. One viewer of the July 20, 1969 event was retired UTPA speech communication professor George McLemore, who was in his mid-20s at the time. He said it was a “welcomed relief” in the midst of the Vietnam War.

After more than 30 years at the University, 71-year-old  McLemore who now lives in Austin, said the moon landing helped Americans temporarily forget about the thousands of overseas casualties printed in the newspapers every week. He painted a picture of what it was like to live in Houston at the time of the event.

“I was so excited about the July landing on the moon that I made my girlfriend wake up in the middle of the night to watch those grainy black and white images of the (Lunar Excursion Module) touchdown,” McLemore explained. “Of course, because I lived in Houston at the time I was exposed daily to the heroic attentions paid to the astronauts in the press, on freeway billboards and on TV specials.”

While McLemore gazed at his screen in awe, a 2-year-old boy named Nicolas Pereyra bounced around his New Rochelle, N.Y. home, unaware of what all the fuss was about. That toddler grew up to be an astronomy and physics professor at UTPA. The 47-year-old said he doesn’t recall watching the event, but believes that having achieved such a feat in the late ‘60s is astounding.

“Walking on the moon in 1969 has been one of humanity’s greatest achievements,” the Venezuela native said. “Having achieved this several decades ago, with less advanced technology than we have today, gives humanity even more merit.”

Astronomy and physics Professor Hector Leal said he was always interested in the stars and sky as a child. Even though he was born nine years after the moon landing, not being alive for the event had not lessened his appreciation for it.

“It means a great step was achieved towards technological advancement in many fields (such as) medicine, science, technology, communications and engineering,” the 36-year-old explained. “It opened the possibility of exploring other parts of our universe not only with probes, satellites and telescopes, but human travel to other places outside of our planet.”

BOCA CHICA BLAST OFF

With the anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon a few days away, the nation’s first commercial rocket launch facility – possibly being built on Boca Chica Beach near Brownsville – has become an increasingly frequent topic. According to The Brownsville Herald, the city is the leading contender for the site of private rocket company SpaceX’s new launch pad. After having the area approved by the Federal Aviation Administration earlier this month, SpaceX can move forward with its plan of applying for a license to begin construction in 2016.

In fall of that same year, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will open and students will begin leaving UTPA and the University of Texas at Brownsville in the past. The University of Texas System has not released any statements involving SpaceX, but there is some support from the UTPA community.

Although the University offers astronomy as a minor, Leal said UTPA astronomy faculty members in the Department of Physics and Geology have looked into making astronomy a major as well; he wants SpaceX to select Boca Chica Beach so it will have a domino effect on the Valley.

“I hope that in the future, UTRGV will be able to offer the astronomy major, master’s and even a doctorate program,” the Mexico City native said. “If SpaceX does go forward with its new project in Brownsville, it will increase the demand for these courses through the creation of local jobs in the field of astronomy…and it will hopefully increase the interest of the Valley community in science and engineering in general.”

Pereyra believes if SpaceX selects Boca Chica, an array of new major areas of study would become available at the new university.

“UTRGV should support this effort by developing new programs through its science and engineering departments aimed towards astronomy, astrophysics, aerospace engineering and other space-related fields,” he said. “This would strongly benefit SpaceX, UTRGV and most importantly, the Rio Grande Valley community.”

ANNIVERSARY TRIBUTE

In honor of Apollo 11’s voyage to the moon 45 years ago, one crew member has taken to Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites to promote the celebration of the landing by using #Apollo45. Buzz Aldrin, now 84, teamed up with several celebrities to expand his campaign’s reach. Academy Award winner Jared Leto, Grammy-winning Producer Pharrell Williams, science educator Bill Nye and Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson are some individuals who make an appearance in Aldrin’s YouTube video promoting the anniversary as well as showing appreciation for space exploration.

According to Pew Research Center, interest in space travel has been declining for decades. Less than one year after the moon landing, a survey showed that 56 percent of Americans thought the mission was not worth the $20 billion spent, which would equal to $150 billion today, according to NASA.

Further research conducted by Pew in 1999 asked Americans what they thought the greatest accomplishment of the 20th century was with 18 percent specifically citing the moon landing. A new survey conducted a decade later asked what the largest accomplishment was in the last 50 years and 12 percent answered space exploration. Success in civil and equal rights garnered the most votes with 17 percent, leaving outer space in second place. In comparison, 10 percent said it was the election of a black president and breakthroughs in computers was last with 2 percent.

In an attempt to raise these numbers, Aldrin’s #Apollo45 campaign has garnered thousands of responses from individuals of all ages around the world. As July 20 nears, memories of Apollo 11’s landing keep pouring in to the former astronaut.

McLemore applauds Aldrin’s efforts and believes interest in space exploration has decreased because of today’s expectations for technology, brought on by movies and television.

“Because the moon landing occurred nearly half a century ago, ‘space travel’ to most people alive today seems to be a rather mundane and ‘not to be taken very seriously’ activity, and this is a good way to change that view,” McLemore said. “Over recent years, so much popular culture, especially 3D video games and movies like Avatar, leave the impression that travel and exploration beyond Earth has now been done. Well, of course it has not.”

Leal believes Aldrin’s campaign is playing a needed role in keeping space exploration alive, which he said would lead to progress in other fields.

“Unfortunately after we reached the moon, interest in space exploration has decreased more and more every year,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize that thanks to humans trying to reach the moon, we have had so many advancements in technology, science, engineering and medicine since then through research that was done at the time.”

Pereyra said space exploration remains a fundamental endeavor after decades of progress and he believes Aldrin’s efforts are “very well placed.” He also spoke of what he feels the future has in store for human involvement with outer space, including populating the universe beyond our world.

“As new technology and new science discoveries are achieved, space exploration will become safer and less expensive. We will likely return to the moon within the next few decades, but this time with the intention of colonizing and keeping permanent or semi-permanent human populations there,” he said. “We would most likely eventually colonize Mars and other natural targets for exploration, after reaching Mars, are the large moons of the gas giants and beyond.”

McLemore said colonization across the universe would prove difficult because reaching agreements on large decisions has become a huge obstacle. He then referred to a current social issue as an example.

“The moon landing in 1969 does demonstrate what this nation can accomplish when it is committed – both politically and socially – to an endeavor in which we are all invested,” he said. “I fear that we shall not see or experience such national commitments again. The American space program represented a collective willingness to pursue a worthy goal. Now, we cannot even agree whether we should provide food and shelter to young children crossing the Rio Grande to escape violence and oppression in Central America.”

Lara also believes further space endeavors would be tough, citing that it takes more than technology, science and compliance.

“There is so much more to be done and so much to learn about the universe around us. Our probes and satellites have not even left our solar system and humans have not travelled further than the moon,” he said. “The possibilities are only limited by our imagination, our curiosity and our willingness to put the time, effort and resources needed to set our goals and make them a reality. There are many risks and dangers, but if we don’t try we will never succeed.”

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UT-Austin president to resign

July 9th, 2014

University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers submitted a letter of resignation today to University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa. The letter of resignation, which Cigarroa accepted, will be effective June 2, 2015.

According to a UTS statement, Powers said he hopes to guide UT-Austin through their legislative session, which begins January and aims to carry out a smooth transition to the university’s new leadership before his departure. In the statement, Cigarroa said his decision to ask Powers to resign was due to “long history of issues with communication, responsiveness and a willingness to collaborate.”

Powers is the 28th president of UT-Austin. Before taking office February 1, 2006, he served as dean of the university’s School of Law. Powers joined the law school faculty in 1997 and was named to the university’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers in 1997, according to his UT-Austin biography.

Board of Regents Chairman Paul Foster plans to begin a national search next month for the selection of UT-Austin’s next president. The press release also stated that a search advisory committee will assist in the search and will incorporate representation of deans, faculty, students and community representatives of the university. The committee will also have at least two current presidents from UT institutions and at least one member of the Board of Regents. The press release did not reveal if the presidents or Board of Regents member had been chosen.

“I truly believe that it is time for a fresh start and a chance to build a strong relationship,” Cigarroa said in the statement. “We will all be successful if we keep the future of UT in our hearts and minds. I sincerely thank the UT Austin faculty, students, staff and the UT System’s Faculty Advisory Council for their important input over the past week.”

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Applying again

June 19th, 2014

The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, the result of the merger between the University of Texas at Brownsville and UTPA, officially enrolls its inaugural freshman class in one year and two months but the faculty that currently work at the University begin their application process this summer.

The hiring process is divided into two phases: Phase I, which is exclusively for UTPA and UTB tenured and tenure-track faculty members and Phase II, which opens the application process to UTPA and UTB faculty members who were not accepted in Phase I, lecturers and all external applicants. The Phase I application opens to eligible faculty July 21.

According to Thomas White, who served as chair of the Faculty Senate for the past two years, a select group saw the drafts of the process in April. The group consisted of two faculty members from both UTPA and UTB, two lawyers from the University of Texas System Office of General Counsel, UT System Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Pedro Reyes, and Dan Sharphorn, the UT vice chancellor for legal affairs.

When the information regarding the UT-RGV hiring process made its official debut last month, after approval from the UT Board of Regents, there were mixed reactions from faculty, according to White. However, the process is required due to the fact that UT-RGV is a new institution.

“I know a lot of people were very disappointed that it wasn’t just completely automatic- everyone on board,” said White, who is entering his sixth year with the UTPA Faculty Senate. “But according to the lawyers, there has to be some type of application process.”

According to a document sent to faculty, the first step in the hiring process was to determine the programs UT-RGV will offer, which academic units will host these programs and how many tenured and tenure-track faculty will be needed for each program. In late May, a list of tentative UT-RGV programs was revealed, but the specifics regarding how many faculty positions will be allocated for each will not be determined until July.

“So there’s allocations being made on the basis of what they’re calling ‘program units’- departments, programs, basically any concrete unit,” White said. “(UT-RGV President Guy Bailey), with his transition team, is supposed to be  allocating faculty and determining the numbers this month. The (UTPA) provost, Havidan Rodriguez, has been optimistic…there should be plenty of positions, but we just don’t know until there’s actually an allocation.”

In addition, certain criteria for the first phase of the hiring process raised questions. Faculty members must have a terminal degree, or what is commonly considered the highest degree, in his or her field, to be hired during Phase I. But this may vary depending on the field.

A doctorate may be commonly considered the highest degree achievable in a given field, such as philosophy or engineering. But the term may hold a different meaning for fields where the highest degree achievable is unclear. According to Master-Degree-Online.com, a website that provides information on graduate programs, the term “terminal degree” may be used when referring to the highest level of education that needs to be obtained to gain employment in a certain field.

For example, a bachelor’s degree may be considered the terminal degree for teachers since it’s the highest level of education a student will most likely achieve to gain employment, according to the website.

“There’s some discussion about what is a terminal degree because they are not always doctorates,” he said. “Like there’s many in the health sciences where the terminal degree is a master’s degree. There’s also some of the arts where the terminal degree is regarded as a master’s degree.”

But according to a statement provided to The Pan American by Jenny LaCoste-Caputo, the UT executive director of public affairs, this concern and many others will be dealt with in the coming months as the full hiring process has not been finalized yet.

“The creation of a new university and abolishment of two is unprecedented in this state,” LaCoste-Caputo said in an email. “It does take time to develop processes that facilitate the employment of as many staff and faculty members from the current institutions as possible.”

However, if a tenured faculty member does not wish to undergo the hiring process, a voluntary buyout option was made available to them in May. UTPA President Robert Nelsen announced the option, called the Voluntary Incentive Separation Program, via email May 21. The University offered to pay half of a nine-month salary to those who qualify under the Rule of 80, which is about 100 faculty members. The rule stipulates that the tenured faculty member must have a combined total of 80 years between age and years of service at the University as of May 15, 2014, according to The Monitor. Those who accept the offer will leave the University May 31, 2015.

According to the timeline provided to faculty, they will know  their fate  by November when they will receive the final Phase I decisions. But UTPA Faculty Senate member Danika Brown doesn’t predict a great deal of change.

“I can’t imagine there’s going to be a lot of retraction,” said Brown, who has served on the faculty senate on and off for a decade. “If  anything, we’re growing.”

UPDATE

After the publication of this article an email was sent to faculty July 18 with an updated timeline. This new timeline is reflected in the accompanying picture.

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PS4 vs. Xbox One

June 19th, 2014

When the Xbox One and Playstation 4 launched last November, it had been seven years since a video game console had been released with the PS3 debuting in November 2006. At this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, an annual video game convention held June 9-12, Microsoft and Sony tried to convince gamers why their respective system should be the one sitting in consumers’ living rooms.

 

Sony announced the Playstation 4 at a press event in New York City Feb. 20, 2013. Three months later, Microsoft countered with its announcement of the Xbox One and its updated motion tracking device, the Kinect. When bundled with Xbox One, the improved Kinect can monitor the player’s heart rate during gameplay. The PS4 and Xbox One feature improved online services and realistic graphics.

 

Now that the dust has settled, E3 2014 has given the gaming community at UTPA a clear roadmap of prices, services and games before making the decision of which next generation console to invest in.

 

PRICE MATTERS

After both systems launched worldwide in November of last year, the PS4 has overtaken the Xbox One in terms of sales. Microsoft announced May 13 that the Kinect was no longer part of their console’s package, which dropped the Xbox One’s price to $399 June 9. The new price will allow Microsoft to be on even footing with Sony.

 

The Xbox One is the console of choice for Jose Padilla, a computer science major at UTPA. He prefers to play against other players online on Xbox Live over Playstation’s PS Plus service and finds Kinect’s motion tracking technology useful.

 

“I log into my Xbox account using Kinect’s face recognition,” the 21-year-old said. “I also frequently used the voice gestures to launch apps without having to use the controller.”

 

Yet given a choice between the two Xbox bundles, the Weslaco native said he would opt for the cheaper Kinect-less version. He enjoys the early access to downloadable content that Xbox Live offers for games, like Call of Duty: Ghosts.

 

Xbox Live Gold and Playstation Plus are premium subscription services that each company offers to online multiplayer games. Playstation users can purchase a year-long Playstation Plus subscription for $50 while Xbox users get a year of Xbox Live Gold for $60. However, a PS Plus or Xbox Live Gold subscription isn’t required to access apps such as Hulu Plus and Netflix.

 

The difference between the two online services comes down to early access for downloadable content and games. PS Plus offers two free game downloads a month, downloadable content discounts and exclusive early access to games that haven’t been released. For example, throughout the month of June, PS Plus members will have access to the first person-shooter game Destiny for free. It is scheduled to be released September 11. Xbox Live Gold, on the other hand, also offers two free games a month and timed exclusive DLC for games like Call of Duty: Ghosts. Xbox Live Gold members also have access to multiplayer content, such as new maps for Call of Duty: Ghost before anyone else.

 

GAMES AT E3

At this year’s E3 in Los Angeles, Sony took its formula for catering to the hardcore gamer by releasing new trailers to PS4 games such as Uncharted 4 and The Order: 1886 from Sony-owned studios Naughty Dog and Ready at Dawn.

 

Sony also debuted a white PS4, which will include Destiny in its bundle. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic future where humans are on the brink of extinction. Sony also announced early access and exclusive content for Far Cry 4, Dead Island 2 and Batman: Arkham Knight.

 

Robert Garcia, a pre-med biology major, plans on getting a next generation console but is waiting for a price drop on the PS4. Garcia frequents the Student Union’s Game Room, located on the building’s second floor where students can use PS3, Xbox 360 and play billiards. The McAllen native viewed this year’s E3 and is leaning toward a PS4. He currently owns a PS3 which he also uses to watch high-definition movies.

 

“I have always considered Playstation systems ahead of the curve,” the 24-year-old said. “My PS3 can play Blu-ray movies and PS2 games, plus Playstation games are better than what Xbox One has to offer.”

 

This year, Microsoft focused on their games, as opposed to last year, in which the company made Xbox One’s TV integration and Kinect its centerpieces. Game company Harmonix debuted the Kinect game Dance Central Spotlight. Insomniac, another company, showcased the Xbox One-exclusive Sunset Overdrive, which is set in a dystopian world where players can team up with eight friends against hordes of zombies.

 

Microsoft announced that Call of Duty: Advance Warfare, The Division and Dragon Age: Inquisition will be getting add-on content on Xbox One before its competitor Sony. Microsoft also reminded the audience that their product was now $100 cheaper.

 

ONE OR NONE

Victoria Olivarez, a computer information systems major, finds both systems too expensive. Olivarez is still clinging to her Playstation 2, which was released Oct. 26, 2000, but might consider buying a new system if the price is right.

 

“Both systems are beyond my budget right now,” the 19-year-old said. “Maybe once they price them around $250, I might consider it.”

 

Olivarez is already looking forward to next year’s E3 with hopes of another price drop. The La Blanca, Texas native is also keeping a close eye on this year’s Black Friday sales for any possible deals.

 

“I’ll definitely be the first in line if there’s any deals on Black Friday,” Olivarez said. “I want a next gen system like everyone else.”

 

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