By Jonathan Nemetz
On September 12th, the technology juggernaut, Apple, revealed its newest generation of iPhones, including the iPhone X. The phone comes with facial recognition, a 5.8 inch retina screen, and a controversial one thousand dollar price tag. Most of the people taking selfies and texting on their new phones never think once about the complex machinery beneath their new super retina screens. Complex machinery made in… Germany?
On the back of many iPhones you will find a label that boasts its assembly from the People’s Republic of China. And that is not incorrect, finished iPhones come almost exclusively out of Chinese factories. However, if you were to open up your iPhone, you might find circuits and machinery proudly manufactured by companies like Blaupunkt and Metz. These are Germany’s economic powerhouses, headed by refined manufacturers and engineers who create electronics, robotics and machinery that power and assemble everything from the country’s famous automobiles to the parts in refrigerators, air conditioning units, and iPhones.
This economic model is a strange case for a European economy, especially one that has such wealthy and powerful prospects. Many people would agree that moving away from manufacturing and into creative or service industries is a sign of economic progress for a nation. Yet, Germany seemingly rejects this idea, as one of the richest and most influential nations in Europe with a manufacturing-powered economy. Despite being roughly 1/90th of the world’s population, German exports make up about 1/10th of global exports. Germany has also achieved astonishingly low unemployment rates even by European standards. However, this dominance is beginning to wane. An aging population and economy is causing many to worry about Germany’s future as a competitive part of the manufacturing world.
Many of Germany’s problems stem from the often praised system of Mittelstadt. These are small, manufacturing-based businesses that often specialize in high-quality, precision manufacturing. These companies will train youths in an apprentice-like school, from which the students are often hired into the manufacturing companies for those they apprenticed. Mittelstadts are also often praised for their willingness to work with labor unions. These compromises with labor unions allowed Germany’s employment level to stay relatively stable during the 2008 financial crisis. In addition, a calm and steady German currency made investment into the country easy for many years. Then, when Germany joined the Eurozone and adopted the Euro, Germany’s high-tech companies were released with no tariffs on the rest of Europe, turning even small companies into powerful and profitable businesses around the world.
However, even with successes in the past, the system of Mittelstadt is beginning to show its cracks. Most importantly, the economy and people are beginning to age. For many years, jobs in manufacturing were more respected and seen as “true” work as opposed to jobs in finance and large corporations. However, more and more, the German youth are looking for white collar jobs like those in the United States and United Kingdom. Students have begun pursuing more degrees in finance and business, leaving many Mittelstadts without apprentices who would become the next generation of workers. Despite the new demand, German public schools are unprepared to teach subjects like finance and business in the depth required for those planning on attending university for those degrees.
The problematic lack of workers is amplified by Germany’s decreasing population. Although German birth rates have been on the rise in the past few years, they’ve only passed a low bar.. For decades, birth rates in Germany, especially on the eastern side, have been at rock-bottom. Now they have risen to 1.5 births per woman, which is still below the rate for a stagnant population at 2 births per woman4. It is expected that this trend will continue, and the population of Germany will end up decreasing by about 10 million people by 20604. The German economy will have to adjust to stay viable and relevant with fewer and fewer people working every year.
Merkel’s government is attempting to address many of these issues. With her recent re-election as Chancellor, she has promised to continue to build upon many programs aimed at modernizing the infrastructure and economy of Germany. She has decided to increase programs that promote the construction of renewable resources. Not only do these programs drive growth in more modern industries, but they also help combat the country’s problems of high energy bills and poverty. For many years, German power has come from coal plants that have begun to age and are now inefficient and expensive to maintain. This has led to many problems with providing sufficient and affordable power, something that renewable energy has a real chance of remedying. In addition, problems with internet availability are being fixed with bipartisan support for legislation which will make broadband internet more widely available. This may help German students pursue more advanced education opportunities and provide another method of schooling for students, ultimately impacting the economy positively.
These are certainly great starts but many see it as too little too late. With a changing population and an outdated system of education, the German economy is beginning to face its biggest challenge since the reunification.
By Shiam Kannan
On October 1st, 2017, a gunman opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel onto a crowd gathered for a country music concert, killing 59 people and injuring hundreds of others. As such, it has become the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, having surpassed the death toll of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in June 2016. As seen with previous mass shootings, the Las Vegas massacre has sparked a push from the Democrats for tightened gun restrictions. However, the question we should really be asking ourselves is, are guns really the root of the problem? Will gun control actually help curb gun violence?
The answer is a resounding “no.” Take the city of Chicago, for example. While we can all agree that the Las Vegas shooting had a terrible death toll at 59, the highest of any mass shooting, this number is either met or exceeded by the gun murder rate in Chicago, every month. In June of 2017, there were 84 murders. In September, there were 59, the same as in the Vegas shooting. And Chicago just happens to have some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, on par with those of Los Angeles and New York City. And if that isn’t enough to dispel the theory that more guns equals more crime, according to a CDC report, between 1993 and 2013, gun ownership in the United States rose by 35 percent, however gun violence decreased by 50 percent during the same time period. These facts only further help to reinforce the claim that guns in the hands of civilians do not contribute to crime and violence.
The measures that liberal politicians have been calling for in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting include seemingly-sensible measures, such a ban on bump-fire stocks, devices used by the Vegas shooter to fire his semi-automatic rifle in the manner of a fully automatic one, dispersing multiple rounds per second. However, such regulations would be useless, as bump-firing is a technique that can even be performed using your pant’s belt loop. To make bump-firing illegal, democrats would need to ban pants and shorts with belt loops, which is just as preposterous as it sounds. Other measures that would either be useless or impossible to enact include the ubiquitous and infamous “assault weapons” ban, which would make semi-automatic rifles, self-loading weapons that only fire one bullet per trigger pull, illegal, nevermind the fact that there are over 3 million such weapons in circulation as of now, making them virtually impossible to confiscate.
Not only are gun restrictions ineffective, however, but they are also unconstitutional. The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution quite clearly states that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Although there has been much bickering over whether the Second Amendment protects an individual or a collective right, due to its use of the word “militia,” the Supreme Court has effectively nullified that argument by ruling in the landmark 2008 case, DC v. Heller, that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right of the people to keep and bear arms, unconnected to service in a militia.
Our Founding Fathers included this sacred right in the Constitution because they understood that the only bulwark against a tyrannical government was an armed citizenry. And to those voices that claim that tyranny can never arise in a republic, it is important to keep in mind that it has, at least twice, over the course of history: once in Rome, when Julius Caesar took power, and once more in Germany, where Adolf Hitler had the Nazi party elected to Parliament in a landslide in 1933, and then proceeded to slaughter 6 million Jews in one of the worst genocides in recorded history. It is also important to note that Hitler outlawed Jews from owning guns before he implemented the Holocaust. And God forbid a tyrant gets elected here, in the United States, even the liberals will be thankful for those 80 million American gun owners with over 300 million guns in their hands.
One major benefit of gun ownership that liberals seem to ignore is the ability to defend oneself. Indeed, in 2013, between 500,000 and 3 million gun uses were in self-defense, according to a CDC study. The same study also showed that in 2013, there were 11,208 firearm-related homicides and approximately 414,000 illegal gun uses. Even if using the lower estimation for defensive gun use, it is clear that guns are used much more commonly in defense than in offense. So when guns are used so much more commonly by innocent people to protect themselves, it is unfair and wrong to make it harder for law-abiding citizens to acquire firearms, due to the actions of a few.
All this leaves us with the question: if gun control won’t stop gun violence, what will? While we can never really eliminate gun violence (or any violence, for that matter), we can take steps to reduce gun violence casualties greatly, all while respecting our absolute right as individuals to keep and bear arms. Perhaps the most crucial step is to promote law-abiding individuals in public places to carry a weapon. This will deter potential shooters, and will also give citizens the ability to neutralize a shooter in the event of a mass shooting, thus preventing him from killing as many people as we have seen in recent examples. We should also push for the removal of all “gun-free zones” across the country. These places prevent law-abiding citizens from arming themselves, making them prime targets for shooters who seek an area where they are guaranteed to be met with no resistance. To prevent school shootings, we should allow for teachers to be armed on school grounds, so as to enable them to defend our children using deadly force if necessary. These common-sense solutions will keep criminals at bay, while allowing us to exercise our Second Amendment freedoms.
After every mass shooting, we hear those familiar voices from the left: we need to ban all guns! Confiscate on semi-autos! Abolish concealed carry! It is imperative that we don’t follow these knee-jerk reactions to such tragic events. We need to be smart about what we do as a nation to curb gun violence, rather than following those who lead using emotion rather than reason. Disarming law-abiding citizens is not the answer. Disallowing us from carrying in public for self-defense is not the answer. Instead, we should promote open and concealed carry in public, so that citizens can respond with deadly force if a mass shooting does arise. We should arm teachers to curb school shootings. But emotionally-charged reactions that have little to no basis in fact are not the way to go.
By Kevin Tang
The first major hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, Hurricane Harvey struck the Lone Star State, inundating the area with trillions of gallons of water. It not only disrupted thousands of lives, but also it devastated the economy. The storm damaged billions of dollars' worth of property and crippled the chemical, energy, and shipping industries, leading some to call it the most expensive storm in American history, at a total of $190 billion.
Last year, Texas accounted for nearly 8 percent of American output with GDP of $1.5 trillion. The US economy was projected to grow by 2.8% before Harvey but now, it is expected to decrease by 1-1.8%.
Most of the losses were due to damaged uninsured property. In situations like these, after natural disasters, it is common to see more unemployed people who are willing to help rebuild; however, Texas is a special exception. In Texas, a disproportionate amount of the construction workforce is comprised of illegal immigrants. Due to the state's harsher stance on immigration, many would not help rebuild for worry about deportation. This not only spells longer reconstruction times but also a longer time for Texas's economy to bounce back. Without the necessary infrastructure, the affected industries cannot operate properly and contribute to the state's already declining economy.
Furthermore, the cuts in Texas's manufacturing capacity in 2008 have dire consequences today as there is a shortage of building materials. Due to these factors, investors are wary and prudent, therefore unwilling to help out. This stinginess will only elongate the time needed to rebuild.
Ultimately, the oil industry is taking a big hit. While it used to account for 24% of America's oil, Texas was forced to shut down its facilities recently. This both exacerbated the unemployment problem within the state and increased gas prices across the entire country. "It may take weeks for refineries to repair and replace damaged equipment, " Mr. Dye, a chief economist at Comerica Bank, said. "Port facilities have also been damaged, and this may result in an export bottleneck." Until Texas's infrastructure is rebuilt, all Americans' will directly see the impact of Harvey through their gas prices.
Those not in Texas still face the broader ramifications. The hurricane toppled thousands of bridges and ruined major freeways. A month later, transportation is still at a standstill as road closures persist, lengthening what would be short commutes by hours. Only with continued funding from FEMA and help from other organizations can Texas recover.
By Caroline Sha
On September 14th, Bitcoin, the most famous cryptocurrency in the world, saw its value decrease by more than 20% percent after BTC China, one of the largest exchangers of bitcoins, announced it would no longer allow the trade of the cryptocurrency. This comes after Chinese officials’ recent proclamation that they would be cracking down on the digital currency’s trade. Understandably, the new announcement frightened many bitcoin owners and brought down its value from almost $4,000 to about $3,300, launching it into the mainstream media’s gaze once again. But what exactly is this mysterious currency and how does it work?
Bitcoin was created in 2009 by a mysterious figure under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. In a publication he posted, Nakamoto explained how the currency system intended to remove the middleman of banks during transactions would work. In essence, when someone buys Bitcoin on an exchange or receives it from someone else, it goes into a digital wallet that is stored on the cloud or in the user’s computer. They can then exchange their bitcoin for goods and services, similar to the process of sending cash through apps such as Venmo.
The real genius behind this cryptocurrency, however, is found in the public ledger, or block chain. Many people have tried to create things similar to Bitcoin before, but they could not get past the problem of ensuring that no one was using counterfeit money or taking advantage of a manipulatable digital system. Nakamoto's solution was to introduce the blockchain, a public record of the balance in everyone person’s wallet. In the most basic terms, everyone who has bitcoin has a pseudonymous account made up of a combination of letters and numbers. Everyone in the system can see how much an account has in it and through a process called bitcoin mining, bitcoin users can solve mathematical problems to determine if a spent bitcoin is counterfeit. Then can then turn that transaction they just verified into a “block” that is sent out to other miners that can add that block to their ledgers. To incentivize people to actually do this seemingly complicated task, the bitcoin system gives a certain amount of bitcoin for each “block” or problem mined. This number decreases every four years to control how much bitcoin is available in the world.
Proponents of Bitcoin have praised the lack of a central authority. Without a bank being the entity that transactions go through, no organization can take a cut of the money sent, potentially lowering prices for items. In addition, many people, particularly libertarians, enjoy the fact that the government would have a lesser role in the financial system if bitcoin became the main currency in use. Because the treasury cannot control the flow of bitcoin, they would have no way to change the value of the dollar. Moreover, advocates of Bitcoin have also asserted that inflation will not be a problem in the future for bitcoin. Inflation is the increase in the average level of prices, leading to a decrease in the purchasing power of a dollar; for example, $25 dollars in 1940 would be equal to $413.13 today. Bitcoin avoids this problem with a limit on how much money can be put out. As the amount of Bitcoin from mining will get smaller with time, the maximum of 21 million Bitcoin will never be reached, so there will always be almost the same amount of Bitcoin going around after a while, preventing inflation from happening. Finally, bitcoin has the ability to transcend national currencies, deleting exchange rates from the code of society. People from all around the globe would easily be able to trade with each other without having to worry about euros or yen or so on.
Critics of Bitcoin, however, have a different view on its possibilities. Many point out that because there is no way to track the purchases made, anyone, including criminals, can buy dangerous items such as weapons. In 2013, The Silk Road, a dark web site which used Bitcoin as its payment method was shut down by the DEA. On the website, visitors could buy a wide range of illegal items ranging from marijuana to cyanide with the anonymity that Bitcoin gave. This raised questions such as what would happen if a terrorist used it to buy weapons or even bombs? How could law enforcement find killers if they couldn’t trace purchased weapons back to anybody? In addition to the security risk posed, others have also used the ever changing price of Bitcoin to say that Bitcoin could never be stable enough to be a legal tender. As the value crash in September showed, the worth of Bitcoin is extremely volatile and any external factor could cause a rapid increase or decrease in value. Lastly, the virtual aspect of Bitcoin has also been called in question. Because Bitcoin has no physical backing, a virus or an accidental deletion could easily destroy all the Bitcoin off of one’s computer. In addition, if a hacker were to steal a person’s Bitcoin, there would be no easy way to get the money back since Bitcoin cannot be traced like a credit card. Or, because of the lack of transaction reversals, a conman could easily scam someone out of his or her money without having to pay it back.
Hypothetically, if we were to assume that Bitcoin’s flaws could be fixed, Bitcoin truly could become a new system of payment that would change the entire world. On the extreme, Bitcoin could completely remove government and corporate control from economics. The market would become completely free, with people buying and selling anything they wanted without any regulations restricting them. Items could be moved across borders more and more easily since currencies won’t have to be exchanged, resulting in companies such as Western Union losing business. Banks could even be shut down since more people will be storing their money in their personal digital wallet and not in banks. The balance of power would drastically shift from big businesses to the common people. But that’s just one possibility.
Is there a way to solve all of Bitcoin’s weaknesses? Could enough people be on board with this currency to make it the next big thing? Will another cryptocurrency take Bitcoin’s dominant role in the internet world? Will an economic digital revolution happen? The answers to these questions are as unpredictable as Bitcoin itself. With sources saying different things, there is no leading prediction. Time will only tell whether Bitcoin succeeds and revolutionizes economics or if it crashes and burns into the oblivion where all failed currencies go.
By Mason Krohn
“I want to say to the speaker, don't you fly over our country in your luxury jet and lecture us on what it means to be an American.” In 2010, Tom Price, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, made this criticism against Nancy Pelosi because of her use of a private jet to fly to DC from her state of California. Yet, last week, Price was forced to resign for doing the same thing, except with taxpayer dollars. Politco was the first to report on Price’s unjustified conduct by finding internal Health and Human Services documents revealing at least 24 separate flights that Price has taken to conduct HHS business in the past four months. Tom Price’s behavior called into question the privileges that the American government gives to its officials and the Trump administration itself.
Price’s reckless use of taxpayer money led to frustrations across the aisle. The cost of his 24 flights exceeded $1 million, but in order to make amends Price offered up just $50,000 to reimburse his seats on the charter and military planes. President Trump expressed a somewhat blasé view by claiming, “I'm not happy, I can tell you that. I'm not happy,” right before he took off for a weekend of golfing in Bedminster. Among the few sad to see Price go, Paul Ryan comended that “He was a leader in the House and a superb health secretary.” Most recently, Ryan asked the White House to reconsider Price’s removal. In addition, Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who attempted to dissolve the Affordable Care Act alongside Price, commented, “Secretary Price’s loss will be felt.” Despite these three takes on Price’s actions, the vast majority of America was happy to see Price out of office because of the plane scandal and other baggage he lugged around Washington D. C.
While Democrats are angry, even moreso Trump supporters saw his flights as a betrayal of Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp”, a euphemism for removing corrupt career politicians from Washington and replacing them with outsiders free from lobbying and self interests. Due to Price’s scandal, a plethora of investigations have launched against White House officials believed to be guilty for the same crime as Price-- racking up the government’s budget with exorbitant trips. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin used a government plane in August to fly to Kentucky with his wife for an optimal view of the total solar eclipse. When questioned about this violation, Mnuchin told NBC that, “It was approved by the White House and there were reasons why we needed to use that plane that are completely justifiable.” His Kentucky adventure does not stand alone as a sign of his corrupt usage of government property because Treasury investigators are also looking into his request to use a $25,000-per-hour military plane during his European honeymoon. In addition, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke used a charter airplane for multiple flights including a trip to give a speech in Las Vegas celebrating their new hockey team which racked up to $12,000. Finally, Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the EPA, joined the list by spending more than $58,000 on chartered and military flights. Right now, it is unclear whether these members of Trump’s cabinet will face consequences for their excursions or even if Trump will condemn them given his relative silence on Price’s misuse of government property. But, it can be certain that the American public’s anger will weave through these corrupt officials who essentially epitomize the “swamp”, and perhaps even Trump’s constant vacations to Bedminster and Mar-a-Lago will catch up to him.
Aside from the airplane trip scandal, through his years as a senator and the Secretary, Price was involved in numerous cases of corruption that predominantly surrounded the pharmaceutical industry. Accordingly, his absence in the Health and Human Services Department was celebrated by many advocates for medical reform. For instance, prior to taking office, Australian biotech firm Innate Immuno sold nearly $1 million in discounted shares to him and Representative Chris Collins. Price said he would sell the stock within 60 days of becoming a part of Trump’s cabinet, but already saw a 400% paper gain even before he took the position. Price had a history of being prone to medical and pharmaceutical corruption as a Representative in congress. Look no further than May of 2016, when Price purchased between $1,000 and $15,000 in stock in medical-device company Zimmer Biomet only 2 weeks before he introduced a bill to delay Medicare value-based purchasing rules that decreased payments to Zimmer Biomet. Then, later in 2016, that very same corporation’s political action branch donated $1,000 to Price. In a nation where Epipens cost upwards of $600 and an opioid epidemic kills thousands of citizens annually, seeing a man who pulled strings for corporations at the expense of American health leave office was relieving if not uplifting.
With an empty seat for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the next question is: who will be Price’s replacement and what will that mean for America? One possibility is that Tom Price’s successor will be Tom Price, because as aforementioned, Paul Ryan is pushing the White House to rehire Price to his position. However, given the Senate Democrat’s views of Price such as Chuck Schumer’s statement claiming, “The next HHS secretary must follow the law when it comes to the Affordable Care Act instead of trying to sabotage it,” Price’s confirmation would be unlikely. With Price out of the equation, the leading candidate for his position is Seema Verma, a former healthcare consultant who currently heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and at one point worked under Mike Pence in Indiana. Verma sees the Affordable Care Act as flawed, but despite her conservative opinions, she has worked to expand Medicaid in Indiana and crafted the Healthy Indiana Plan, which expanded health coverage in the state by about 40,000 people. Yet, Verma is willing to take out Obamacare policies and slash funding for Medicare and Medicaid, as evidenced by her work with Pence to lobby legislators towards passing the Graham-Cassidy bill. While Verma still opposes the ACA, she will swing the Department of Health and Human Services to a more centrist approach rather than the obstinate and antagonistic ideology that Price held.
While news of Price’s corrupt excursions outraged the American public, his hypocrisy may actually result in better leadership. The reveal of Price’s taxpayer-funded private jets launched a multitude of investigations of Trump’s cabinet that will not only increase government transparency, but set an example that deters future officials from abusing their power like Price did and Zinke and Mnuchin might have. Furthermore, Price’s exit provides for Seema Verma’s entrance which will harbor greater compromise on health care debates that have been unsuccessful because of partisanship. In the end, Price’s resignation was a win for Americans because he was right-- people who fly over our country in luxury jets (that American taxpayers have to pay for) cannot lecture us on what it means to be American, or dictate our health policy.
By Katherine Wang
For weeks, The Berkeley Patriot, a conservative student-run campus publication, meticulously planned out its long awaited event, Free Speech Week. Milo Yiannopoulos, the leader of this event organization, had invited notable speakers including political activist Pamela Geller, conservative commentator Ann Coulter, and fired Google engineer James Damore -- as well as other right-wing figures. His intent was to use free speech to “radicalize white youth” by opposing “academic leftists, social-justice organizations, and minorities”. Everything in this right-wing speaking event was going according to plan -- or so it seemed.
On the morning of event, the university sent out a message written by Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof: “It is extremely unfortunate that this announcement was made at the last minute, even as the university was in the process of spending significant sums of money and preparing for substantial disruption of campus life in order to provide the needed security for these events.” The first few words of the message only revealed a glimpse of the mounting disappointment towards the school’s lack of organization and dedication spent into preparing for the event.
Was the cancellation of this event a mere mistake on behalf of the school administration, or was it a purposeful action taken to limit Yiannopoulos’ campaign? This question pervaded the minds of students and citizens alike. Yiannopoulos brought further accusations against the school by stating that Berkeley had set unreasonable deadlines to secure indoor venues and pressured the students to cancel the event. He argued that the school had never intended to permit the event in the first place.
However, Mogulof defended the university’s intentions by stating, “Claims that this is somehow the outcome desired by the campus are without basis in fact. The university was prepared to do whatever was necessary to support the First Amendment rights of the student organization.” Berkeley, in fact, had already spent $600,000 on a speaking event last week, and it was willing to spend $1 million more “to make these events safe”.
Although figuring out the true intentions behind the university is difficult, the future implications of this event are more uncertain. To many, this cancellation can be seen as a small-scale obstacle in the school’s long-lasting struggle for free speech.
Looking back on the history of free speech in Berkeley, it is evident that free speech is facing more disruptions than ever before. In 1964, the students of Berkeley University planted their first seeds of protest for freedom of speech -- the Free Speech Movement. This movement, which was inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, rapidly spread to other college campuses; before long, the nation witnessed university students participating in an unparalleled wave of political and social activism. However, campus disruptions set a pattern for the last few decades of the 1900s, and by the time the 21st century arrived, there was a spike in the sensitivity of students, which led to an increase in disinvitations and shout-downs. This downward trend of free speech has led to increased awareness; as a result, the recent cancellation of Free Speech Week has prompted rising concerns towards the democratic nature of our society.
Therefore, our question should not be “Why did Berkeley cancel the speech event?” but “How are we going to fix this downhill trend of free speech on college campuses?”. Rather than focusing on minor events such as this current cancellation of free speech, we must step back and view the big picture; as a society, we must evaluate our current educational institutions and the importance they place on free speech.
By Ranen Miao
I could easily reduce this article to a death toll, the number of people injured, and the location: 59 people dead and 527 people injured in Las Vegas. But let me show you the full picture, which is beyond any statistic.
Gunshots. Screams. Blood. Panicked people, fleeing from the sounds of death. Sirens ringing in the distance. This is what a mass shooting looks like.
I am tired of hearing statistics like 26 murdered in Newtown Elementary in 2012, thirteen killed at Columbine in 1999, or 49 massacred at the Pulse Night Club in 2016. We hear these statistics far too often, yet our representatives never do anything to change it.
It has been less than a year since the last worst mass shooting in American history. After Pulse in Florida, we grieved, we sent out our thoughts and our prayers, and we told ourselves this can never happen again. Since then, nothing has changed.
There are no universal background checks. The last time they were brought up in Congress was in 2016, when two bills were brought forth after the Pulse nightclub shooting, one by Republican Senator Grassley. It failed. The other was proposed by Democratic Senators Booker and Schumer. It also failed.
There is no ban on assault weapons, designed to massacre groups of people, not to hunt animals or defend your family. The Assault Weapons Ban Act of 2013, proposed by Senator Feinstein after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting and the most recent attempt to do so, failed in the Senate, 40-60.
Today, even the people on the terrorist watch list who are deemed a threat by the federal government, are granted access to guns. In 2016, Republican Senator Cornyn’s bill to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons, failed in the Senate. A similar bill, proposed by Democratic Senator Feinstein, preventing people on the terror watch list from buying guns--say it with me now--failed.
Time and time again, opinion polls show that a majority of Americans want change, yet that change never seems to manifest itself. We need to stand up for what we believe in, call our legislators (and critical legislators from other states too), and prove that our voices matter. In the status quo, only the loudest, most radical voices are being heard. It is our job to bring back sensibility and moderation to our politics. This is not partisan: this is common sense. We don’t need to be Democratic or Republican to think that mass shootings are bad, and that something has to be done. We just need to be human.
Sign up for advocacy groups and protests. Donate to and join organizations like the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Research about why mass shootings happen, and call your congresspeople (Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker, and Representative Leonard Lance) to advocate for these policies, everything from banning assault weapons and bump stocks to implementing background checks against criminals, the mentally ill, and terrorists. Never forget that your voice can make a difference, and keep on fighting for a better, safer future.
In the words of comedian Trevor Noah, even though the Las Vegas shooting was deemed the worst in American history, “every shooting is the worst for someone.” Let us honor those who lost their lives in senseless tragedies in the past. Let us speak up and make change in our country and our community. Most importantly, let us not forget that this is not normal.
By Injae Lee
In the past year, the free world has stoically endured several elections and their unexpected results. Controversial and widely unpopular Donald Trump and his Republicans seized control of the U.S. presidency and Congress. Impeached South Korean President Park Geun-Hye’s Liberty and Justice Party in Korea crumbled as Moon Jae-in and his opposition Democrats rode a wave of popular fury to securely capture the presidency and the National Assembly. Firebrand opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and his moribund Labour party, reinvigorated by Prime Minister Theresa May’s missteps, gave the Right Honourable and her Conservatives a bloody nose in the British snap election. Political novice Emmanuel Macron and his En Marche! movement seized the National Assembly and the executive office by landslide margins. All of these elections, and several more in the past year, rode on the waves of populism - on both left and right - that has rocked the globe. Perhaps weary of such instability, many hoped that the German election would provide a return to stability. In some ways, their hopes were fulfilled. The German election was a relatively quiet affair, and die Deutschen gave Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Christian Democrats both the largest share in the Bundestag and her mandate to rule once more. However, the promise of stability ends there. With a weakened presence in Parliament and the return of the far-right over seven decades after the fall of the Nazis, Germany, once a beacon of progress, sees its future clouded by uncertainty and fear.
For Angela Merkel, the election is her most impressive victory and her greatest defeat. The refugee crisis of 2016 almost tanked her political career, yet she survived, and Germany slowly began to accept and assimilate refugees. As the refugee crisis wound down, a more serious threat to Merkel’s chancellery rose-the Social Democrats (SPD). Merkel’s Christian Democrat (CDU) party had controlled the government in the Bundestag only through a grand coalition with the second-largest party, the SPD. However, the Social Democrats, tired of constantly coming in second to their senior CDU partners, rebelled. Party members unanimously chose Martin Schulz, the charismatic former president of the EU’s Parliament, as their candidate for chancellor. Early polls showed Schulz and his SPD having a slight edge over Merkel and her CDU, and it seemed that the man could cause another tremor in the politics of the free world. Yet, as election day neared, the Social Democrats fizzled, faced with the awkwardness of criticizing the policies of the very coalition of which it is kingmaker. Schulz’s lackluster performance in his televised debate with Merkel did not help him either in securing control of the Bundestag, and when the polls opened on September 24th, the results were clear. Schulz and his Social Democrats suffered their worst result since the Second World War, garnering only 20% of the vote. However, Merkel and her Christian Democrats fared little better, winning only 32.5% of the vote, a drop of 8% since the previous election and the worst result for the CDU since 1949. While Merkel has achieved an unprecedented fourth term as chancellor, cementing her legacy, the challenges she faces has left both her supporters and critics wondering what exactly that legacy will entail.
Merkel faces a tough term moving forward. The grand coalition that had handed her a majority has dissolved, with Schulz and his SPD now going into opposition. To further complicate matters, Merkel now faces an enemy thought to have been vanquished in Germany long ago--the far right. The Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), a far-right, anti-immigrant party, has entered the Bundestag as the third party, with 12.6% of the vote. While their influence is small, the very presence of the AfD is ominous - a party many have called “neo-Nazi”, riding the waves of anti-immigration and anti-globalization, has the power to topple yet another government. While all parties have openly ruled out working with the AfD, their presence could undermine Merkel’s agenda. Trapped between the SPD’s opposition and the AfD’s extremism, Merkel has but one option. The Chancellor has been forced into seeking what is known as a “Jamaica Coalition,” a coalition government between her Christian Democrats, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), who have returned to the Bundestag after some time out of power, and the progressive Green party. The Jamaica Coalition is known as such because the colors of the three parties - black for the CDU, yellow for the FDP, and green for, well, the Greens - comprise the flag of the Caribbean island nation. However, while Jamaica is known for being cheerful and sunny, Merkel’s political future seems anything but. She may have weathered the populist storm better than the political establishment in fellow democracies, but as she moves ahead into a cloudy future, all eyes are on the infallible Chancellor to hold the tide, stay the course, and keep north.
By Mark Stachowski
As the peak of hurricane season comes to a close, we must take time to understand what’s happened so far and why. The extent of damage wrought by recent hurricanes this year is historically unprecedented. The most significant, however, are Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma. Because of these Category 4 and 5 hurricanes, countless lives have been lost, and the time it will take to recover from damages can merely be a figure of imagination. As for now, people can only hope that their lives will be able to return to normal after the extensive damage as a result of these recent hurricanes.
Hurricane Harvey, the first major hurricane to make U.S. landfall this year, started out officially as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa on August 13th, 2017. A tropical wave is a storm system that starts out off the coasts of Africa, caused by a combination of temperature fluctuations and winds. As Harvey continued to alternate between tropical wave and tropical storm, August 23rd was when it looked to hit the state of Texas dead-on. The next day, the storm rapidly strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane, right as Texans were first learning about the storm. They had so little time to evacuate because of the extremely rapid progression of the storm. The storm first made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in Texas on August 25th, and lingered over Texas for another day. The top wind gusts reported were 132 mph, and the highest recorded water levels were 9.33 feet above normal. AccuWeather estimates that the damages will cost a total of $190 billion. If so, this could be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Risk Management Solutions, one of the top companies dedicated to risk calculation of natural disasters, estimated economic losses could be between $70 billion and $90 billion. Death toll estimates are as high as 82 people, although it will take weeks, if not months, to determine the exact number. As the high water levels recede, it has been revealed that 200 million cubic yards of debris is left behind to be cleaned up. A $15 billion disaster relief package has been passed by Congress to aid Texas and its recovery.
Also starting out as a tropical storm off the coast of Africa was Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane that took a different path than that of Harvey. Irma’s progression as a storm was even quicker than Harvey. On August 30th, it was a tropical storm, and intensified into a hurricane in one day. Five days later, Irma became a Category 5 hurricane, the highest classification possible for hurricanes. Its path looked to hit the caribbean islands straight on. It first made landfall in Barbuda on September 6th. As it just nearly missed Puerto Rico, Haiti, and other countries in the Caribbean, Irma made sure to hit Cuba before making landfall in the U.S. When it first made landfall in Florida, it was a Category 4 hurricane, with winds reaching up to 115 mph. The highest wind speed recorded was 185 mph. Irma only degraded to a tropical storm as it was leaving through the panhandle of Florida and into Georgia. As a result of this historic hurricane, at least 72 people have died. Over 6 million have lost power, while other reports have that figure at 9 million. One estimate for the cost of cleanup for Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is between $150 and $200 billion, potentially making this hurricane season the highest in cleanup costs in U.S. history.
Hurricane Maria, although affecting fewer countries, was a storm of equal damage and power as Harvey and Irma. Maria hit southeast Caribbean Islands as a Category 5 hurricane, with islands such as Dominica and the Virgin Islands taking a direct hit. It then made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 hurricane, and as it raged straight through the island, it caused extensive damage. In this storm, the highest wind gusts were recorded at 155 mph, and the storm surge was reported to be five feet over average high-tide levels. Parts of Puerto Rico saw 30 inches of rain in one day, equivalent to the amount that Texas received from Harvey in three days. 6 days after landfall, 44% of all Puerto Ricans do not have access to clean drinking water, and only 15% of the nation’s hospitals are open. 4 days later, 55% of all Puerto Ricans do not have access to clean drinking water, a harsh increase from before. The storm has killed at least 34 people in Puerto Rico alone, with countless others in Caribbean Islands still needing to be accounted for.
Why? Many are asking why this hurricane season has been arguably the worst on record, and people have different explanations. Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says there are two main variables that have allowed for this hurricane season to be so active. He says that the wind variability is one big reason. Because the wind speeds between the air above the ocean and the air miles up in a hurricane is relatively the same, this allows the hurricane to maintain its strong wind gusts and keep it going. He also says that the warming of the atmosphere of the Atlantic Ocean creates better conditions for the formation of strong hurricanes. On the other hand, some argue that this is simply the result of the peak of hurricane season, which generally lasts from about mid-August to late October.
Whether one believes this catastrophic hurricane season is the result of global warming or just the regular peak of hurricane season, we all must realize that there are so many who are going through pain and suffering, having lost their home, their family, and so much more. The total amount of time and money it will take to fully clean up these hurricanes may be defined by a number, but the grief that people who have lost everything are going through is simply immeasurable.
By Emily Wang
A recent shooting at a Sunday church service once again brings to light the debate over gun control in America. Although undercovered by the media, this attack remains central to the issue of gun control laws throughout the affected nation.
On September 24th, a mass shooting occurred in an unlikely place: the quiet town of Nashville, Tennessee. During the weekly Sunday service, a masked man carrying a .40-caliber handgun shot a woman who was on her way to her car in the church parking lot. He then proceeded to enter through the back door of Burnette Chapel Church of Christ and shot six other victims before a church usher tackled him down prompting the shooter to accidentally shoot himself. Currently, Samson faces a state murder charge, and the FBI and U.S. attorney's office in Nashville have opened a civil rights investigation for the Tennessee attack.
The gunman, Emanuel Kidega Samson, was a seemingly innocent person, having even attended services at that particular church a year or two ago. However, similar to most mass shootings, this attack was not an impulsive decision made during the spur-of-the-moment, but rather, a deliberate act of violence that had been planned for quite a long time.
Even though investigators have not officially identified the motive behind the shooting, police found a note in the attacker’s car that suggested that he may have been attempting to avenge the 2015 shooting at Emanuel AME, a black church in Charleston. In that particular shooting, a white supremacist fatally killed nine black victims, with no public remorse for his devastating act of violence. As a U.S. citizen who immigrated from Sudan to the United States during his childhood, Samson’s quest for revenge holds validity: Samson was trying to avenge his people. He even stated in an earlier Facebook post that “rage is my preferred state of mind.” However, his shooting is not justified regardless of his motives, as he took out his anger on an innocent and unsuspecting group of people. Even more, although the majority of Emmanuel AME Church was black, the Burnette Chapel Church had a diverse congregation with a myriad of ethnicities, further proving that he had no justification for his violence.
This mass shooting, like many others, brings to light the issue of firearm safety in America. Before taking sides, it is crucial to understand the role of guns in the attack. After the shooting, investigators discovered four guns that were bought legally from in-state retailers: the 40-caliber handgun allegedly used in the attack, a military-style AR-15 rifle found in a case in Samson's car, and a 9mm handgun found in the church. As a result, many claim that handguns should be banned, as they were the sole cause for the numerous amounts of innocent deaths; however, it is important to take into account the entire scene of action, similar to the way in which the jury attempts to thoroughly understand both sides of the case before making a verdict. In reality, the church usher who grappled with the shooter was successful due to his possession of a gun. As the two men struggled, the gunman accidentally wounded himself, giving time for the church usher to retrieve his own weapon and hold the gunman back at bay. Evidently, without a handgun to stop the attacker, the shooter may have killed even more people.
Because guns can be used for both self-defense and attacks, guns themselves cannot be labeled as either good or bad; the ethical implications of owning a handgun is entirely premised upon the person who uses the gun, not the gun itself. In truth, it is not so much the issue of handguns being a harmful tool as it is the issue of gun control laws. While that debate over gun laws continues, Congress is increasingly pushing for the passage of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which would allow an eligible person to carry a concealed handgun in any state where it is legal.
Although attacks like these traumatize the nation, it serves to reshape the American view on safety, urging all citizens to unite together to not only overcome life-changing obstacles, but to stand even stronger in the face of adversity.