Authors Posts by claytonolash

claytonolash

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Clayton Olash is a senior and a staff writer for ManualRedeye.

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You may genuinely believe George Zimmerman is innocent and that Trayvon Martin attacked him first with his lethally sour Skittles and deathly cold glass of iced tea, but even if you do, you simply cannot justify the Florida justice system’s response to the shooting. If a black “neighborhood watch captain” had gunned down a half-white, half-Hispanic, sixteen-year-old child while returning from the convenient store, I guarantee you he wouldn’t have slept in his own cosy bed that night like Zimmerman did; he would have slept on a cot in a jail cell like all people suspected of murder should until given bail by the court. But the Florida police in Sanford county sided with Zimmerman’s dubious alibi and got him off on Florida’s ambiguous Stand Your Ground law. 

I mean, seriously? A 26-year-old vigilante shoots an unarmed kid in broad daylight, and the police don’t even keep him detained overnight? The decision to let Zimmerman go was either the result of overt racism or incomprehensibly stupid judgment. The Stand Your Ground Law that Zimmerman got off on revolves around two presumptions the defendant most reasonably be able to argue:  

  1. The presumption that the defendant had a reasonable fear that deadly force was necessary; and
  2. The presumption that the intruder intended to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.

Considering Trayvon was found with no weapons on him, face down, with two bullets in his back, we see that there was absolutely no legal or logical reason to let Zimmerman off that night. Now, I’m not saying Zimmerman is guilty; all I’m saying is there’s no practical or legal justification for not arresting him for murdering the kid he admitted to shooting. Whether or not he truly is guilty of murder will be left to a jury of his peers in a court setting. My point is that if the races were switched in this shooting, the black shooter would have been arrested immediately. And if you can agree with this assumption, then you must agree that the Sanford county police decision was racist. 

This is the real racism in the case. The media tries to dramatize and sensationalize the question: was Zimmerman a racist? But that fact is relatively unknowable and irrelevant. What is relevant is whether the justice system racially discriminates against its citizenry under ambiguous laws that leave ultimate discretion up to the police. 

Thankfully, Zimmerman was later arrested and charged with second degree murder, but it took a national effort and outrage over the case to obtain justice. So the real question becomes: how many other cases just like the Trayvon Martin shooting have gone without national publicity and nationwide riots? How many other Zimmermans out there have gotten off without a trial? How many other Trayvon Martins have died in the streets?

Oftentimes, when a question like this gets raised, people angrily object that “We’re past these racial issues! Stop trying to bring us back to the past!” But no one is trying to—we’re simply addressing the different, yet still prevalent, issues of today. No one is saying the police in Sanford County were under orders to let all non-black suspects go, and arrest all blacks, but the fact is that subconscious racial stereotypes and prejudices play a role in the way our justice system works. 

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Shortly after the Stop Kony hysteria, many people discovered facts about the charity group heading the movement, Invisible Children, that not only discredited their validity, but at times made them appear to be an outright sham. Some of these facts included they only spent 31% of their earnings on charity, they refused to be audited, and received 2 out of 4 stars from an investigative group, Charity Navigator. On top of this, many of their funds went to the Ugandan army, a violent militia that is often accused of reckless violence and rape themselves.

So yes, the “charity” group Invisible Children is not credible and you probably shouldn’t donate to them. But does that mean there’s nothing to learn from the Kony movement? That no significance came from it, and it was merely a social networking fad? 

No, I dont think so. The premise of the video made by Invisible Children titled “Kony 2012″ was right. Where someone lives should not determine whether someone lives; injustice across the globe is the same as injustice in your backyard; and humans share a transcendent relationship with other humans that should make them care for one an another, regardless of divisive borders and flags. Whether or not the few people who made the video believed their message is irrelevant, because the millions across the world who saw it did. 

The fact that so many people affirmed these principles goes far beyond stopping one warlord in Africa. It shows that if the injustices of the world are brought to light, the people will know what’s right and care enough to do something about it. The obstacle comes when people get too caught up in their own lives to find the truth. There won’t always be a slick video that highlights the problems in the world. There won’t always be a mass movement to join. 

This Kony movement reaffirms the idea that people care, but it also shows how much people don’t know. Kony has been around for decades now abducting children, and this is not “news,” but to millions of people who saw the video, it was completely new to them. This is because most people passively receive news. They either hear it through gossip and network television, or they don’t hear it at all. If more people took it upon themselves to seek out pertinent news around the world, our citizenry would not only be more informed, but more involved with stopping the injustices around us. 

 




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Whenever the issue of politics being taught in schools is brought up, parents generally tend to get worked up. Worked up because they’re afraid some teacher or administrator will impose a political agenda, opposite to theirs, on their children. That some kooky far-right or far-left teacher will pollute their innocent child’s brain with political nonsense instead of teaching them the basics of literature, math and history. They believe school is for teaching kids facts and exercising their brains so they are able to make these decision later in life for themselves, not a teacher telling them what to think at a young, impressionable age.

And I agree with them. That’s not the proper purpose of a school, and parents have every right to be skeptical of this.

But politics in school doesn’t have to be like that. It doesn’t have to involve partisanship or party bias. It doesn’t have to involve pushing an agenda or skewing facts.

A well-taught class on politics could and should, in theory, be taught like a history class, where facts and science are presented and students are left to draw their own opinions on which side was right or who to support. It should inform every student of how their democracy works and how they can play an instrumental part in changing or helping it.

This is why I believe a required political class for each high school would be greatly beneficial to our students and citizens as a whole moving forward. A class on politics could show students modern day facts about current politicians and current political cases. In a way, this class would hold our current political leaders accountable for their actions by, at the very least, letting the students know what political leaders were and are doing in Washington.

It would pick up where the media has failed in informing the people and presenting unbiased facts to the masses. It’s no secret that the media has not adhered to its journalistic “watchdog” principle of holding politicians accountable for their actions. The major news networks suffer from many biases including partisanship bias, profit bias, and corporate bias, and these biases would not be present in a school setting.

It wouldn’t have to take away from core content learning either. Similar to a humanities class, where in Kentucky every student has to take at least one art class before graduation, this class would simply take the place of one elective or “optional” class before graduation.  

Pew Research has released a poll which shows that only about 40% of Americans are knowledgeable of political affairs. This means the other 60% are either misinformed or just don’t care.

And I get not liking politics. It’s full of crooks, liars, and self-centered imbeciles; but if you don’t know enough about the system and about what the crooks, liars, and self-centered imbeciles are doing, you’re giving them leeway to engage in corruption that could end up hurting and squashing your vocation or future aspiration. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to have a basic understanding of politics and what’s going on in Washington.

If you don’t like politics, that’s probably a good thing, but a democracy relies on the participation of everyone. Otherwise, the democracy turns into an oligarchic system of manipulation and control by a few affluent, self-interested elites. 




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The UK vs UL Final Four show down this Saturday is not as important as the Superbowl. It’s not as big as the NBA finals, the World Series, or the World Cup.  

But don’t tell that to someone in Lexington or downtown Louisville. Don’t tell it to the UK students burning furniture in the street. Don’t tell it to the kidney failure patients at the Georgetown dialysis center that got into a fist fight over the game. To them, this game means everything. It means history. It means politics. It means life.

To the rest of the nation, this game represents a contrast in coaching style. Kentucky goes to unprecedented levels to get the very best talent out of high school, and as a result, are accused of making a business out of one-and-dones. UL, on the other hand, gets mediocre talent out of high school and relies on maturation to make them great players by their final years. The outcome of this game will reveal the inherent weaknesses in one of the strategies. It’s an important game, from a basketball standpoint, for this reason. But for the citizens of Kentucky, this game has implications that go beyond the sport itself. 

This game transcends the mere intricacies and fundamentals of basketball and deals with the livelihoods of millions across the state. People who work long, hard, mundane hours to come home and live vicariously through their sports heroes. This is not just an average rivalry game. This is a 99-year-old battle that crosses cultural, racial, and sometimes religious lines. It’s a battle that represents a stark contrast between culture, coaching style and even politics.

“The main distinction between this and other rivalries that I’d draw is that fandom often is about identity but rarely is it about identity politics. And there’s a lot of the latter in the UK-UL rivalry. It’s sort of European in that sense; think of the Old Firm (Rangers/Celtic) soccer rivalry in Glasgow,” said Robert LeVertis Bell, University of Michigan graduate student and Ph.D candidate in American Culture. 

Based on The Courier-Journal’s Bluegrass Poll, which was conducted in February 2005, 67% of fans in the state were UK supporters. But despite many misconceptions, Louisville was not split 50/50 between UL and UK. In the same poll, it showed that 57% of the city was UL fans while just 33% supported UK. This steep difference in support helps explain many of the sociopolitical, demographic differences between the two teams. Louisville has a 33% Black population; Kentucky as a whole has just 7%. Louisville is estimated to have around 8,700 Jews, while the entire state is estimated to have just 11,300. Louisville was the only city in Kentucky that President Obama won in the 2008 elections. 

Historically, UK is known for a rich tradition of basketball success, but is also tinged with shameful racism (not allowing a black player to wear a Kentucky uniform until 1969). They represent the rural majority of Kentucky, and the conservative, evangelical constituents. While UL, on the other hand, is known for being the urban, progressive school who’s labeled as the jealous baby brother. 

The video “How To Be a Louisville Fan” is a perfect example of how UK fans perceive UL fans. The Kentucky fans in the video are clearly mocking UL fans for being too urban, mentioning sagging pants, tattoos and flat-bill hats as characteristics of all UL supporters.

Similarly, this Louisville fan-made poster casts Kentucky as the giant evil super power, and Louisville as the smaller, improbable savior. It reinforces the idea that even Louisville fans see themselves as the underdogs to the bigger state rival, Kentucky.  

While many of these characterizations may not be entirely true, it’s irrelevant, because it’s true to the people of the state. And the average people, not the players, are what makes this rivalry so unique.

In this state, we don’t ask if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, a Protestant or Catholic; we ask if you’re a UK or UL fan. The answer seems to mean more. It’s a way of identifying people. The second you declare your loyalty to one team, a thousand stereotypes associated with the team and its history are associated with you. It’s broken friendships and created black eyes. It’s sparked more debates than a presidential election. There’s a reason why people are calling this game “The Civil War”.




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Senator Rick Santorum’s recent surge in the GOP polls has made me realize that he could actually win the Rebublican nomination. His legitimacy is no longer in the realm of “what-ifs” and the notion of him running our country is no longer just a nightmare. 

It’s now becoming a living nightmare.
  
There are many things to hate about Rick Santorum, such as his fight against gay rights, his view on contraception, and his racist idea of welfare. But Rick Santorum’s past remarks on how he sees the world and how he would treat countries whose people have beliefs different to his scare me the most.

Rick Santorum once said the Christian Crusades were justified and that anyone who thinks otherwise is part of the American left.  “The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical,” said Santorum in 2011 to an audience in South Carolina, before he began in presidential campaign.  

The Crusades, by the way, were the Christian massacres of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in the eleventh century. The statement that it was not an act of aggression and that thinking otherwise is anti-historical, is akin to a German politician saying the Holocaust was not violent and anyone who disagrees is part of the Jewish spin.

This statement is so absurd that he should be booed and laughed out of every political gathering.  It doesn’t only reflect a fundamental ignorance to reality and the history that composes it, but it’s a scary testament to how blinding his religion is to him and how he feels that literally anything is justified if he feels “his” God is behind him. 

And the scary thing is his language still reflects this kind of violent religious zeal.

Santorum has said numerous times that he would not hesitate to invade Iran if they did not comply to any of his commands. He consistently disregards and mischaracterizes all foreign animosity as “hating us for our freedoms and wealth,” and refuses to acknowledge when the U.S. goes too far in foreign intervention (such as U.S. drone bombings that take civilian lives). This dehumanization of all people different from a political views, nationality, or religion is an incredibly scary and dangerous characteristic for anyone of political authority and especially, above all else, a president to possess. 

Santorum’s view of the world is similar, though far more extreme and warped, to President Bush’s during his presidency. President Bush broke the world down into two clearly defined spheres of people: good vs. evil. Those in America or on our side were automatically good, and anything we did was justified because we were inherently right and guided by God. Conversely, those opposing us were inherently evil and anything they did was wrong by nature. The real world is not like that. There is gray area. Simply because someone is different does not make them “evil”, the U.S. is guilty of many of the same crimes we accuse other nations of, and a small minority of radicals should not be used to characterize an entire religion or culture. 

This is the ignorant, misguided mindset that leads the U.S into preemptive wars based on faulty evidence which inevitably ends in thousands of innocent deaths and global animosity. Sound like a recent war? The last thing the U.S. needs is another Iraq War with a dumber, crazier, and far scarier commander and chief leading the charge. Santorum is licking his lips to invade Iran and fulfill his extremist religious agenda, despite U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Pannetta saying numerous times Iran is not currently pursuing nuclear weapons. 

To put it bluntly, Rick Santorum would attempt to turn the U.S. into a theocracy of militaristic authority and global rule. He would look to strip the constitution of all limitation on his religious zeal, and essentially regress the nation’s progress on separation of church and state a few hundred years.

If you think this is hyperbole, look up what the man has said. You might be surprised.  

This column is the sole opinion of the author. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of the RedEye staff, duPont Manual High School, its students, faculty or administration.




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My attendance of the mountain top removal protest in Frankfort last Tuesday has drawn my attention to a different, yet extremely important political issue: how we deal with the environment.  

It is easy to get caught up in the horse race journalism of the GOP primaries and the reelection hype of Obama’s campaign, but we can’t lose sight of the issues right beneath our feet—literally. 

The environment is an issue that affects everyone. A fancy car and huge house may shield some from it for a while, but mother nature is far more powerful than any man-made invention. Either human beings will learn to preserve the integrity and beauty of nature, or we will suffer the consequences of a harmfully depleted atmosphere and world. 

This is the underlying premise of nearly all green legislation being proposed on both the state and federal level. On my visit to Frankfort, I got the chance to learn about a few pieces of legislation currently being proposed by Kentucky legislators.

House bill 231, also known as the stream saver bill, would prohibit the dumping of mountain top waste into nearby rivers and waterways. When the coal mining industry dumps this waste, it has environmental and health consequences far greater than most would suspect. 

There have been nearly 20 peer-reviewed scientific studies published over the past two years on the effects of mountain top removal. The KFTC, which organized the protest, highlighted three of the major findings.

One pointed out that mountain top removal and coal mining costs the state over 70 billion dollars in health care costs each year, and another showed that mothers who lived close to these sights had a 42% higher chance of giving birth to children with birth defects. 

Perhaps the most shocking study was done by Dr. Michael Hendryx, director of the West Virginia Rural Research Center at West Virginia University, which found that 60,000 cases of cancer in Appalachia are linked to the mountain top removal. It concluded that those living near mountain top removal sites had a doubled risk of getting cancer. The study was published in the Journal of Community Health in February of last year. 

This is, and should be, a nonpartisan issue. Objective scientific studies that link mountain top removal to birth defects and cancer shouldn’t have political partisanship.

But as Rep. Jim Wayne explained to us last Tuesday in the state’s capitol, big money and corporate interest is fettering the progress of any green legislation being passed. Similar to the fight against the tobacco industry in the 90’s, the coal mining industry is stubbornly standing in the way of the people and the victims who have proposed this legislation. 

But trying to convince the coal mining CEO’s and corporate lobbyist of the health and environment concerns is futile. Instead, the people must unite in solidarity, like they did in Frankfort last Tuesday, and stand up to the big money buying politicians. If the people can gather in big enough numbers and show politicians they care, the people can tip the scales of influence back to their side and out of the elites’ money filled hands. 

The fact is corporations are not people and do not have the same concerns as people. Corporations care about one thing and one thing only: money. Humans, on the other hand, care about our waterways, our trees, our birds, our bees, and most of all, other humans. This is why we must stand together in solidarity, and show support for new legislation to save our environment and the victims of reckless, apathetic destruction. 

It’s about the dying and suffering animals; it’s about the once-flowing waterways of our past; it’s about the child who will suffer with birth defects the rest of his life, and the child who’s yet to be born into them; it’s about the family at the doctor’s office who just got word of their mom’s cancer. These are the issues of tangible reality that transcend hypotheticals and conflicting party ideology. These are the issues we should be concerned about. These are the issues that matter. 

To fight this cause directly, call up your Kentucky representative and let them know you support this recent bill. Several representatives told us Tuesday that only a handful of calls can seriously change the stance they have on a bill. If these issues matter to you, influence your democracy and give them a call; it could make a big difference down the road.  

 


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The buzz over President Obama’s State of the Union Address last Tuesday was phenomenal. Millions of Americans around the country watched as the president laid out his plans for working with Congress and essentially kicked off his re-election campaign for 2012. The address was broadcasted by all the major news stations and the topic even swept across social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

First, let me just say I can understand the buzz. Obama came out and said exactly what he needed to say. He addressed the economic inequalities of our country; he talked about diminishing corporate influence on politics; he advocated cutting wasteful spending and bringing troops home; he addressed the need for educational reform; he expressed the importance of moving towards renewable resources; and he put the focus on the people, not petty, bipartisan politics. All of these are relevant and imperative issues facing our nation right now.

But the speech fell miserably short in one crucial respect: credibility. If you recall, Obama’s 2008 election campaign was filled with many grand promises that were flatly and pathetically dropped during his time in the White House.

According the website PolitFact.com, which specializes in fact-checking politicians, Obama neglected his promises to close the secret off-shore prison Guantanamo Bay, raise capital gains and income taxes for high-income tax payers, create a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners, repeal the Bush tax cuts for higher incomes, withdraw troops from Iraq, sign the Employee Free Choice Act (helping unions unionize), forbid companies in bankruptcy for giving bonuses… the list goes on and on. For the full list, which is pages long, you can visit the website yourself.

While some of the blame can be place on a divided, incompetent Congress, many of these broken promises are his fault and simply inexcusable. The president could have lobbied to end the Bush tax cuts; he had sole power to withdraw troops from the constitutionally undeclared war in Iraq; he simply neglected to sign the Employee Free Choice Act; and he took steps backwards on ending corporate corruption. These broken promises are so inexcusable that even the most fervent Obama supporter is forced to ask, “Does he really mean it this time?”

You can cross your fingers all you want, but I prefer to put my faith in a movement that doesn’t just preach change, democracy, and justice—it lives it.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement, which has been going on since mid-September, is the entirely grass-roots, non-partisan movement calling to get money out of politics and restore justice on Wall Street.

A major reason why Obama has defaulted on so many of his campaign promises is that once in office he felt obligated to repay the financial institutions that funded his campaign in the first place. Goldman Sachs contributed over 1,000,000 dollars to Obama’s campaign through Super PAC funds, and then Obama, despite campaign promises, bailed out the financial institution when it went under for corruption and exploitation of the working class. Goldman Sachs and other financial institutions like it played a huge role in creating the economic collapse just years earlier, but Obama, because of corporate influence, was held accountable to the top 1% and not the 99% who elected him.

This is why the Occupy movement is so important to everyone. Obama’s speech was great, but it doesn’t mean anything until the loyalty of politicians is redirected to the people and not the corporations who fund campaigns. That’s why so many people are out in the streets protesting and fighting despite humiliation and media mischaracterization.

The movement has even caught the attention of some legislators. Last Tuesday on the House floor, Rep. Dennis Kucinich proposed House Joint Resolution 100, which would overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Elections Commissions. This constitutional amendment would require that all federal campaigns be financed by public funds and would effectively ban the influence of interest groups on elections.

As Rep. Kucinich said himself on the floor last Tuesday, “I urge my colleagues to support H. J. Res. 100 so that we can break the golden shackles which are imprisoning this government right now and get rid of corporate influence once and for all.”

These “golden shackles” are what make speeches like the one Obama gave last Tuesday hard to believe in. After hearing the president’s State of the Union Address, you might think occupiers and Obama have much in common. They both preach change, justice, and equality; the only difference is that when an unemployed mom of two says it on a freezing street corner, she really means it.

 


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It has been 10 years since I went to school with a backpack full of crayons and coloring pencils. Ten years since I carried my cartoon-themed lunch box into my first grade classroom. Ten years since the planes hit.

There is something unique about being a part of the generation that experienced 9/11 as a very small child. It was our innocence that separated us; our lack of understanding that makes our memories distinctly different. We didn’t understand terrorists or their irrational ideologies.We couldn’t comprehend the philosophical motives behind such acts. We were just kids beginning to learn the basics of reading and writing. For us, it wasn’t a political message. It was just pure fear, confusion, and terror. We were America’s innocence and America was brutally raped that day.

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license by Flickr user TheMachineStops

Many of us tried to make sense of it, but we were used to situations playing out like children’s stories where there is a definite good, a definite evil, and a definite solution. This was no such story. If there was a good, it was hidden behind the terror and uncertainty. If there was a definite solution, no one knew it.

Curled up at the top of the stairs, my suffocated teddy bear in one arm, I overheard my parents talk that confusing night.

“This is bad. Who knows what could happen? Who knows if this is just one of many attacks? What if this is a start of a world war? How will we tell the kids?” my dad said with a never-before-heard shakiness to his voice.

It was then that 9/11 hit me. My very own parents, the invincible duo of strength and knowledge, confessed they had no idea what was going to happen. It was the only time in my life where my parents couldn’t complete the bedtime story; they had no answer—they were as scared as me.

Watch RedEye video interviews with students recalling their memory of the day.

During this confused, scared state, many grown-ups didn’t want to talk to us about it. My elementary teacher told our class the planes hit the World Trade Center by “accident.” They thought they could keep our innocence by lying or not explaining it. This method, however, did nothing but leave us more hurt when we found out the egregious truths. A few days after the attack, I walked into a room with the news on television and witnessed a woman jumping from the flame-engulfed World Trade Center. Immediately, I tried the same tactics of defense I had used when things like the boogie man scared me—closed my eyes and covered my ears—but it didn’t work. This fear was real.

Nine-eleven was our first taste of what people tend to call “the real world.” Before, our fears were all made up. The monster under the bed, the man in the shadows—none of them were real and so we could escape them by reminding ourselves of their intangibility.

Nine-eleven proved to be an excellent educator of darkness. It taught us death, it taught us fear, it taught us cruel reality. But that wasn’t all it taught. Nine-eleven eventually showed us some light.

In the ensuing months after 9/11, Americans united like they hadn’t since Pearl Harbor. American flags were flown above house tops, Democrats and Republicans joined forces, and there was an overall sense of unity. As small, impressionable children, this sent a strong message. We saw the ideal America: everyone working together for a common goal, everyone motivated, and everyone patriotic. There was no partisanship, no internal division. We truly were the “United States.”

Nine-eleven has affected every demographic of people differently. My generation experienced it at the youngest age possible to still remember it. Consequently, the memories have defined us. We’ve seen the horror. We now understand the motives, the specifics. As we transition to adulthood, I believe we will have learned from our elders’ mistakes. We saw the patriotic surge right after 9/11, but does our generation only want to see that unity after terrorist attacks or national disasters? Do we want to let our patriotism lead to politically rash or whimsical moves?

Terrorists will always be around, and it will soon be our generation’s time to handle them. In doing so, it’s important to remember what the terrorists of 9/11 taught us. Responding to them with uncontrolled, large-scale violence would be foolish; more people and children would be confused and horrified just like we were. Responding rationally, ethically, and with the consent of global communites, however, would isolate and expose the terrorists for who they really are: a minority of insane individuals whose ideologies cannot survive amidst the surrounding rational thought.

Respond with a greater brain, not a greater plane. That’s what my generation learned. Sounds almost like a children’s story.

 

Clayton Olash is a senior and copy editor for Manual RedEye.