Only a week into the spring semester and I already have a heavy heart.
I hear so many people around me excited for another fresh beginning, to reconnect with friends they haven’t seen in weeks, to begin to plan in advance the weekend adventures they will go on, and the long nights they will have. But I couldn’t help choking back tears as my car pulled out of the driveway and I set off for school once again. And just like all of those people I hear discussing their lives and plans around me, I too am excited for a new beginning, new year, the ability to reconnect with my friends and teammates and the planning of exciting events. Yet only a week in and I feel guilty for having a heavy heart.
Before now, I thought that home was merely a structure. It was the place you slept in at night, that kept you out of the winter cold and dry when the Earth was crying. It was an establishment with 4 walls in which you kept all of your belongings and went back to after a long day. It was the place you ate your meals and washed the troubles off your skin. However, it isn’t until you leave home for a while and return that you learn home isn’t just a structure, but a concept.
Home is what makes you feel the most comfortable, where you feel at your safest; what puts your mind at ease, creating the same sensation as a never-ending hug. Home is warm, it is soft. Home can be a person, people even—maybe even people that don’t consist of your family. Home is like the first sip of coffee in the morning or the smell of freshly mowed grass. It is said home is where the heart is, which is true, for home is where, what, and who your heart connects with.
For me, my home isn’t here in Philadelphia, so leaving to come to school is never simple and rarely goes without a few tears. Yet home isn’t a place designed for you to leave for an extended period of time. Home is the place you’re meant to stay. A place you’re always meant to appreciate and to cherish.
Homesickness is the cause of my heavy heart. Remorsefully, here in Philly, I miss my home. Yet to be at school means to step outside of this comfort zone, to miss home and miss everything comfortable it brings with it in order to grow. No growth occurs in the places in which we are the most complacent. If the weather was only ever sunny, the grass would begin to dry and flowers would inevitably die. The discomfort of rain is necessary to maintain the balance and beauty of nature, therefore as a part of nature, discomfort is necessary for us to survive, and thrive, as well.
Homesickness creates for a heart as heavy as a wet rag, yet to feel this way is necessary. If you’re away from the things, places, and people that fill your soul with endless sunshine, I am proud of you. I am proud you are choosing to conquer a world of unfamiliarity and grow as an individual outside of your comfort zone, to choose to leave where your heart most strongly resides in order to find new places that feel like grabbing the last cookie out of the jar or singing along to your favorite song.
Leaving home is never easy, yet the easiest things aren’t always the most worthwhile, and the most worthwhile things aren’t always easy.
If you too are like me, guilty with an incomplete heart, know I am proud of you for making the worthwhile decision, and you should be too.
Corporations commonly get caught up in some hijinks. In the quest to pursue higher profits, companies tend to forget about human rights sometimes. Nike has been heavily criticized for years for using child labor and sweatshops, even though they claim to have cleaned up their act a decade ago, this still affects them to this day. Of course, there were reports of Apple employees in China working so hard for so little that eventually, they jumped off the very building they worked at. Rather than fix the working conditions, the factory put up anti-jump nets, which didn’t actually make things better. They just wanted to make sure people could not die, so they could scoop them up from the nets and put them back to work. Many Apple fans pointed the finger at Foxconn, the supplier that produces many of Apple’s devices along with several other companies. As a corporation, how would you resolve this issue and not run a working environment where people are driven to suicide? Pay people better? Improve the conditions? Let the employees have time off? Well, I guess you could do that, but what if instead you ensured that you were not exploiting humans by simply not using humans at all.
This brings us to HelloFresh. You remember them, right? You spend like $20 a meal for about $10 worth of ingredients and a recipe you could’ve found online for free and then you still have to cook it yourself. Anyway, the meal kit delivery service HelloFresh was recently accused by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) of using coconut milk obtained from monkey labor in Thailand. Some days you wake up and see a story on the Internet and you think this can not be real; it has to be a joke. This is one of those stories. It’s just too absurd, but it’s apparently true. Thailand is the 9th largest producer of coconuts worldwide, behind Indonesia, India, the Philippines, and a few other countries. And I guess, when you’re that far down the list, you have to give yourself a competitive edge, plus humans are whiny. Coconuts grow on trees. There’s no way around that. So, for people to harvest them, they need ladders, they need safety equipment, they probably want breaks and if they get hurt you have to train a new employee. What if there was a natural solution to this problem? What if you could find a worker that could not only climb trees, but leap from treetop to treetop and pull the coconuts down with a speed unlike any human. PETA says that “57 operations in nine provinces of Thailand” still use monkeys to do this and claims that HelloFresh buys their coconut milk from those companies who get their coconuts from one or more of these 57 operations. HelloFresh released a statement saying, “HelloFresh strictly condemns any use of monkey labor in its supply chain, and we take a hard position of not procuring from suppliers or selling coconut products which have been found to use monkey labor. We have written confirmation from all of our suppliers — in the U.S. and globally — that they do not engage in these practices.”
Now I want to know who at HelloFresh is in charge of sending the form to suppliers saying that “hey, just a formality, but can we get a signature saying that you don’t have monkeys working for you?” Curious George is not on the suppliers’ payroll, so they’d probably be confused.
Now you’re probably wondering if it’s a job that’s very dangerous for humans, isn’t it actually good that they are using monkeys? Don’t they like climbing trees? Well…
The following emailed statement is from PETA and it’s pretty rough.
These companies basically go into the jungles and abduct monkeys from their families, cage them, beat them, and force them to work. When the monkeys are no longer able to work anymore, they do not exactly get thrown a gold watch and a retirement party. They get tossed back into the jungle, where they can not really survive anymore because they have spent too much time in captivity. Now I do not think PETA would go for any animals being used as laborers, but what if the monkeys were not caged, collared and beaten, were fed well and maybe got weekends off? You do not hear anyone complain about seeing eye dogs being forced to stop blind people from walking into traffic. Just when you think the world can not get any darker, you wake up one day and find out someone’s whipping monkeys for coconut milk.
A few months ago, I told my friends that if Elon Musk bought Twitter, he wouldn’t actually fix it the way people wanted. That’s because what people wanted was a completely unmoderated utopia (or dystopia) for people to say whatever they wanted and for Elon to bring all of the banned accounts like Donald Trump and Andrew Tate back. Since then, he’s tried to back out of the deal, got sued by Twitter and settled the suit by effectively saying “if I buy it, will you stop suing me?” (Not a real quote) He was going to lose and effectively buy the site anyway and probably pay some extra penalties as well.
On Oct. 26, the day before the deal was official, Musk went to Twitter HQ with a sink, filmed it and tweeted it. Now it’s been about three weeks since he took over Twitter and what’s happened since then? Well, not only did he not immediately reinstate all the banned accounts, which really set off Lavern Spicer, he said he was forming a “content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints” and that “no major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes.” He added that this group would include the civil rights community and groups that face “hate-fueled violence.” Also on day one, he tweeted a post captioned “Dear Twitter Advertisers” and included two screenshots of text, trying to reaffirm to them that the site won’t become a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences. This is what I predicted would happen, because he must appease the people who pay the bills, at least in the short term, while he figures out another revenue stream.
One thing I didn’t predict is that his purchase of Twitter would cause much of a trainwreck this quickly. First off, a bunch of advertisers left, and Musk had a fit, claiming that they were “trying to destroy free speech in America,” and threatened to name and shame them if they didn’t stop. Yes, advertisers will definitely spend money if you threaten them. Good plan! He admits the site experienced a massive drop in revenue, which means he needs another way to make money. The solution? Well, Elon Musk, the richest man on Earth who hangs out on yachts for fun, decides blue checkmarks are too elitist and wants everyone who isn’t a celebrity, politician or important person of note to have a blue check next to their name. So, he tweaks Twitter Blue, a product that already existed. You can’t make this up. He originally said that it would cost $20 a month. Stephen King made a comment saying he would never pay $20, saying that the site should pay him. Elon responded with a suggestion to charge $8 instead of $20. I imagine Elon considers Stephen King a personal hero. After all, the guy wrote a book about a self-driving car that kills people and Elon Musk has made that a reality!
So, $8 is where it ends up, and Musk’s rationale is that “it is the only way to defeat the bots & trolls.” Yes, trolls could never find a use for being able to have a verified checkmark next to their name, right? Many people started making a bunch of Elon Musk impersonation accounts, with many of the users already being verified.
Rich Sommer, who plays Harry Crane on Mad Men, changed his name and profile picture to Musk’s and sent out a tweet mocking the Tesla CEO.
Comedian Kathy Griffin and YouTuber Ethan Klein were both banned for changing their name
to Elon Musk and shitposting.
Comedian Kathy Griffin and YouTuber Ethan Klein were both banned for changing their name
to Elon Musk and shitposting.
Then there were the people who did start buying blue checkmarks just to make posts. Here are some of my favorites:
Here’s one for the Canadians:
And in perhaps the most damaging use of $8 ever, someone impersonating pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Company tweeted this:
When the real Eli Lilly and Company tweeted an apology, people started mocking them for not apologizing for the cost of insulin. If that wasn’t enough, their stock dropped rapidly. There’s lots of speculation as to how this could happen, but the fact is that right after the tweet, the stock had a $20/share drop. That’s a lot in one day. A few days later, the Twitter Blue program got suspended, and you didn’t need a Nostradamus to see this coming. This raises an interesting question: could Eli Lilly sue Twitter for allowing this to happen? Probably not, but it does lead to why verification exists in the first place. It’s a bizarre story that involves baseball manager Tony La Russa, who tried to sue Twitter back in 2009 because someone was impersonating him. La Russa claimed they settled, but Twitter denied this. As a measure to fight this impersonation problem, Twitter put a Verified feature in place for famous people. You were required to send someone a scan of your ID to get it. That is how verification should work. Just letting anyone buy a blue checkmark with no real verification was absolutely going to result in this.
An email from Elon leaked onto the site, where he mentioned that 50% of the revenue still needs to come from advertisers, even if Twitter Blue worked. He also told his staff that Twitter might not survive the upcoming economic downturn, he’s already teasing an impending bankruptcy. Here’s the problem: he doesn’t know how to run a business that’s funded by advertising and subscriptions. He only knows how to run businesses that are allegedly heavily funded by government grants and subsidies. Elon has declared that “comedy is legal” on Twitter, but this opens another potential problem that he needs to avoid. Straining relationships with Visa, Mastercard, his old friends at PayPal and other payment processors. This is because I guarantee that once the fake accounts are banned, the owners of them will issue chargebacks against Twitter. This isn’t the first time this happened, the payment processors almost stopped dealing with OnlyFans and one of the reasons was chargebacks, as they feared credit card companies would stop working with them. Visa doesn’t need Twitter, Twitter needs Visa. On Nov. 16, he sent an email to his remaining staff, telling them to pledge their lives to the company or resign. Guess what most of them did? The next day, TwitterHQ shut down because Elon was afraid of the service being sabotaged by the service and that the offices would reopen on the 21st, giving Elon a weekend to figure out if he has any staff left and who among that staff he can trust. This all sounds awfully familiar. I don’t want to say a certain someone’s name, but…isolating from everyone and not knowing who you can trust at the very end is very similar to how things wrapped up in 1945.
Elon once again proved me right on Nov. 18, when he tweeted, “New Twitter policy is freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach. Negative/hate tweets will be max deboosted & demonetized, so no ads or other revenue to Twitter.” He’ll effectively be shadow banning posts deemed “negative” or “hate,” they won’t appear in feeds, they are only accessible through a person’s Twitter page directly to see them, which many people don’t do. He did reinstate the accounts of Christian conservative satire site The Babylon Bee, Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and I guess for “balance, ”Kathy Griffin. He gave a hard “no” to Alex Jones, so it seems the “free speech absolutist” has his absolutes. Former president Donald Trump got his account reinstated after a poll created by Elon that was about 52/48 in Trump’s favor. Trump has repeatedly stated he won’t be coming back to Twitter, so we’ll see how long that will last or whether a post will be “deboosted” under the site’s new rules.
Absolutely anything is possible. There is not a single thing you cannot achieve. Wake up early, eat a healthy breakfast, make sure you attend all of your classes and get a workout in. Make sure you complete all of your assignments to the best of your ability, your room is clean, your bed is made and your laundry is done. Make sure you practice a multi-step skincare routine after you shower, achieve your step goal, meditate, journal, plan your papers in advance, study hard, attend every meeting. Make sure to make the extra effort to call home every day, keep in touch with old friendships, socialize with current ones and attempt to form new ones. Make sure you look good for the day, your hair is done, your outfit is comfortable, but simultaneously stylish. Make sure you smile often, stand up straight and above all, never let anyone see the one lonesome tear strolling down your face because you have simply had enough; but anything is possible, right?
Perfection is a concept unfairly driven into the minds of children at a young age. We are taught that there is a standard that we must meet in order to be good enough, that there is this “realistic” expectation held. And as we see other people meet this expectation, it becomes a sort of protocol, routine. There is this assumption that we must be able to reach this now standardized goal or else we fall short and fail. Inadvertently, one forces themself to try that much harder to fulfill this expectation in fear of falling short, the fear of messing up forever imprinted into the minds of those who will not stop pushing themselves until they break. Yet the reality is, anything is not possible, for this vast category of “anything” includes the notion of perfection, and what is realistic is that there is no such thing.
Perfect denotes zero mistakes, the absolute best one can be 100% of the time, however, to do this is to be merely inhuman. Robots are programmed to be perfect, not people, and oftentimes even robots make mistakes. Have you ever had a computer glitch, or something go wrong on your phone that was not caused by user error? Even what is intended and designed to be perfect cannot fully fulfill this definition, so why would you, a human, ever think it to be possible?
The fact you cannot ever be entirely perfect does not mean you should not try your best to be the best YOU can be, but it does mean it is not worth it to run yourself into the ground trying. A balance between discipline and cutting yourself slack is imperative to a positive wellbeing. As much as you might need to study a little harder for an exam or work late one night on a paper, you also need to watch a movie or take a nap. As someone who struggles with finding this balance, feeling immense amounts of guilt when I do ease back on myself, denying myself the credit I deserve for the hard work I do, I understand the difficulty in being simultaneously motivated and relaxed. However, it is necessary to strive for progress, not perfection.
Get up early, eat a healthy breakfast and go to your classes, but it is okay if you are not able to get a workout in. Do your work and make sure you do your skincare after you shower, but if that means you cannot do your laundry, so be it. You deserve to be in a neat space, so get that room cleaned up, but if you only have energy to make your bed, that is okay too. Maybe in order to call your parents you had to stay up late writing a paper; reward yourself with sleeping in the next morning.
Even if all of this is not enough to lighten the load of what feels like the entire world on your shoulders, it is always okay to let that tear trickle down your face, for you are not that “perfect” robot, but a human. A human who is loved, important, valued, and above all, perfectly imperfect. As hard a pill as it is to swallow, know perfection is unattainable, therefore, you will forever be chasing a goal that cannot be reached, falling short every time. For this exact reason it is important to not strive for perfection, rather progress. And know too, at the very least, I will be beyond proud of you for this progress.
October is slowly transforming into November, the leaves changing color, the air growing colder. As midterms find themselves coming to end, there becomes this point in the semester where motivation finds itself at an all-time low, the earlier darkness of the night sky a reflection of how many students’ feel as the days progress. There are some people who don’t suffer from this constant pressure or lack of drive, but it’s important we must not compare ourselves to those who appear the strongest, for everyone is dealing with something internally, behind closed doors.
Everyone begins holding an empty glass. As our days continue and both trials and tribulations create temporary stop signs in its progression, our glasses start to slowly fill up with water. Eventually, through continuous daily and long-term adversity, the glass starts to grow in weight, no longer a mere empty glass. Some people might have glasses barely full, others halfway, some overflowing. Yet no matter the amount of water in your cup, it’s okay to set it down, even if someone with a glass fuller than yours is continuing to hold it up; for if your glass feels heavy, forcing your arm to go numb and feel stuck the more time goes by, it is illogical to continue holding it.
Your glass is your mental health. Just because you think someone might be going through more than you are- taking more challenging classes, swamped with more commitments and assignments, doesn’t mean the weight of your own anxiety should be diminished. Everyone has their own breaking point, the point in which the weight on your shoulders feels too heavy and even the simplest tasks feel impossible. In these moments, it’s imperative to be kind to ourselves. For even if someone else’s glass is fuller, if yours is too heavy for you, you’re only hurting yourself by continuing to hold it.
As the seasons continue to change and the semester continues to unfold, treat yourself with the same kindness you would to other people, for you too are human. When you overwork yourself, compare your struggles with those of others, or speak down to yourself, consider whether you would allow yourself to treat others in this same way. You deserve love and you deserve to be the one to give yourself this love. You deserve to take care of yourself in a way where you set your glass down, despite pride or the sentiments of others. There will come a time where you find ways to allow this glass to not fill as quickly or with as much water, but until then, I hope you choose to be kind- to your mind, your body, your spirit. Care for yourself this fall while still trying your best; relax, take a deep breath, and know this will always be enough.
Shayna Mercier, class of ‘22, studied full time in La Salle’s psychology program. After joining the nursing department during her sophomore year, she began to find another passion leading her towards psychology. This is her story of her life, obstacles she overcame and the path that La Salle University offered her to catapult her into the next chapter of her life.
Mercier was born in Miami, Florida, the middle child of eight siblings. After conflict between her parents arose, her father left when she was eight years old. When Mercier was around 11 years old, her mother then moved to Philadelphia taking her and two of her siblings with her. She was going through family dysfunction and began to deal with trauma and harassment from her mother. Mercier said her mom would tell her things like “Your dad left us because of you.” She said those moments caused her to shut down. “I didn’t have a voice, and even now in relationships with friends, significant partners etc. I still struggle with this,” said Mercier.
“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”
– Maya Angelou
La Salle University stood out to Mercier when applying to colleges because of her getting a scholarship, as well as the colorful, serene atmosphere on campus. Mercier shared that she was once a “troubled” kid that needed support and wants to be that support system for future and present children and adolescents who find their voices unheard and are getting into trouble because an environment of chaos and violence is all they know. Mercier has that experience with lashing out, and after shoplifting and getting arrested as a juvenile, she realized that’s not the path she wanted to go down. She wants to give back to those who are stuck in situations similar to her’s and help those in need using what she learned here at La Salle.
Now, a senior in psychology, she has surpassed multiple obstacles and has made a difference in her own life and is on a path to change others’. Her nieces and nephews are her inspiration for wanting to become a child psychologist or work in speech pathology. What also inspired her was negativity from outsiders, and her wanting to prove their narratives wrong.
Graduating will be one of many great accomplishments for Mercier and her family. It has shown her strength, willingness, tenacity and grace to continue on through life and overcome those trials and tribulations that she came across. “I want to be a speech pathologist to help those in need who can’t express themselves and feel that their voice is unheard,” Mercier added.
She has inspired her siblings and friends and hopes that one day her story will touch the children that she’ll work with and help to propel her legacy. “I want to be a boss lady who devotes her life to better other people’s lives, even those who have hurt me,” Mercier said. She ultimately overcame her family struggles, and communicating with her mother is more positive now.
Mercier is now excited to walk across the stage with her diploma on Saturday. “It would have been easy to give up, and to give in to everything around, but I knew I had to continue to go forward and now I made it,” Mercier said. Mercier is a doer, and she has shown people that through hard times comes motivation and that troubles don’t last always. She has truly been a light, and her strength and resilience have bolstered her into a world full of possibilities and her future endeavors will create more success in a world that has many rooms to fill.
PHILADELPHIA, PA — La Salle University chemistry student, Jonathan Jonassaint, is one of two in the nation to be awarded the first annual Diversity Scholarship of $40,000 toward his final undergraduate semester provided by the biomedical engineering company, PeproTech, in East Windsor, New Jersey as they rollout their new heightened diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives seeking to make the scientific community a more inclusive one.
The Philadelphian student awardee, Jonassaint, is known by La Salle University professors and peers as simply J-Jay, but J-Jay’s story is far from simple. He spent his younger years in Haiti until moving to Reading, Pennsylvania. At 13, J-Jay’s mother, Marie, suffered a knee injury and further malpractice upon treatment that dealt her permanent nerve damage. J-Jay has since been his mother’s caretaker. With his mother wheelchair-ridden and unable to work, the family experienced a period of homelessness.
After high school, J-Jay enrolled at his closest college option, La Salle University. “I did not really choose La Salle, but after reflecting on my experiences here, I believe La Salle chose me,” J-Jay said. He chose the pre-medical school path, chemistry and biology, because of his passion toward rehabilitating his mother. “I don’t want another child to see their mom deteriorate like I had to. I feel like it’s my personal responsibility to become a resource for others to rehabilitate themselves.”
J-Jay, who will walk for graduation in May aspires to become a rehabilitative sports physician. The senior La Salle student believes that through his Professor’s efforts and their belief in him, he was able to continually succeed and grow in his courses. “My professors let me be unapologetically myself, they believe in me and I am eternally grateful for my relationships with each of them,” he said. Apart from his support, J-Jay gave back to La Salle during COVID-19 through hours of volunteer work at the on-campus testing site and student wellness center under his mentor Dr. Scott Cook. He also became a Resident Assistant and acted as a student leader to unify student communities at school.
J-Jay applied for the PeproTech Diversity Scholarship and won over the summer, allowing him to enroll in his final semester at La Salle University this year. PeproTech launched this scholarship to demonstrate commitment to a more equitable and inclusive future for life sciences. The scholarship aims to foster an inclusive future and sought self-identified minority student applicants. Out of 400 applicants, PeproTech said to have chosen J-Jay upon his story “demonstrating great passion, drive and unique hardships,” and have since published an article on their website with J-Jay’s story. For more information on PeproTech, visit their website or send them a message through their contact page.
About PeproTech PeproTech is a biomedical engineering company located in East Windsor, New Jersey, that researches cell signaling proteins, cytokines, and manufactures over 2,000 high-quality supplies to the global health industry. The company was started by three visionary scientists in 1988 and has developed into a competent and widely trusted brand. PeproTech has over 100 employees and several offices around the world. Most importantly, the company is newly developing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to encourage diversification and inclusion in the larger scientific community. For more information on PeproTech, visit their website or send them a message through their contact page.
As the war in Ukraine enters its fourth week, the lingering questions are whether the Russia-Ukraine War could expand into a war between NATO and Russia; and, if it did expand, could a NATO-Russia war escalate into a nuclear war. But more poignant and salient is how could a nuclear exchange between Russia, the U.S. and its NATO allies impact Philadelphia and the surrounding area.
To the first point of whether the Russia-Ukraine war could expand into a NATO-Russia war, Dr. Mitchell Orenstein, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has contended such a war is unlikely. Such thinking is either delusional or wishful thinking. There are three possible outcomes for the current war in Ukraine: 1) The war becomes a quagmire for Russian forces and remains confined to Ukraine; 2) Russian forces turn the tide of war and gain control of Ukraine or 3) Russian forces withdraw either completely, or, more likely partially, enough to create a land bridge between the Donbas to the Crimean Peninsula. Of the three possible scenarios, only the third, e.g. a Russian withdrawal, excludes the possibility of a direct confrontation between NATO and Russia. Scenario one likely will entail Russian bombardment of NATO and NATO member-state logistics-supply routes from the west to the east. In the second scenario, buoyed by its success in Ukraine, Russia invades southern Lithuania based on its geo-strategic need to (re)establish a land-bridge between Russia and Kaliningrad, the headquarters of Russia’s Baltic Fleet and of the Russian Army’s Kaliningrad Military District. Scenario three, which may not occur immediately but is surely a matter of when, not a matter of if, could also include incursions into Latvia and Lithuania so Russian can regain control of the Baltic Sea, where it has one of three warm-water ports, the other two at Sevastopol (Crimea) on the Black Sea, and Vladivostok on Russia’s Pacific coast.
In either the first or second scenario, NATO has two options: Respond with sanctions, essentially appeasing Russia for its new aggression or resort to the tried-and-true logic of nuclear deterrence and Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Given NATO’s Article 5 commitments and the risk of losing its credibility of defending democracy as well as national sovereignty if it does not respond militarily; and given Putin’s mindset; and basic tactical tenets of Russian military doctrine, NATO must respond and the prospect of nuclear war becomes more likely than even in the most tense days of the Cold War, minus the strategic miscalculations which almost led to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) and Able Archer (1983).
So, what is the likelihood Philadelphia will suffer during a nuclear war? First, we must distinguish between the two types of nuclear attacks: a counter-force strike and a counter-value strike. A counter-force strike is one in which the attacker seeks to destroy the opponent’s ability to wage war, both conventional and nuclear. A counter-value strike is one in which the attacker targets the civilian population in an attempt to eliminate the popular will to wage war. Given many counter-strike targets are often collocated to highly populated areas, the difference between a counter-strike and counter-value attacks blurs considerably.
In any case, for better or worse, Philadelphia is likely not high on the Russian nuclear target list. Why for the worse? To be ranked high on the target list, a location has to have either a significant military presence, or a technological or industrial base which contributes substantially to the national defense. Due to poor decisions by federal, state and local officials over the past several years, Philadelphia has neither. That is the good news insofar as Philadelphia will likely not be hit by a nuclear warhead in a counter-force strike.
The fact that Philadelphia is not a counter-force strike target belies the fact that destruction of property is the least of the types of damage which nuclear weapons cause. Given its central location between New York and Washington, its close proximity to significant military bases and logistics hubs in outlying areas of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and its general proximity to one of three of the U.S. government’s major underground continuity of operations sites, all of which are viable counter-strike targets, depending on whether or not the Russians want to allow the U.S. leadership to survive after the first strike so they can stop the war, Philadelphia will mostly likely suffer from the two most deadly and most long-lasting sources of death and mayhem following a nuclear strike. The most well-known of the two is radiation poisoning, which will decimate plant and animal life across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey depending on the wind direction and whether the nuclear fallout reaches the jet stream.
The third type of damage is the technology-killing effect of the high energy electro-magnetic pulses (EMP) which a nuclear blast emits. Such an after-effect only requires a single well-placed strike or a high enough altitude blast. With one such blast, either close to any city within a 500-mile radius of Philadelphia will disable any appliance or device which does not rely on vacuum-tube technologies, or which is hardened against EMP, making them into high-cost paper-weights. In layperson’s language, the EMPs will knock out all devices upon which U.S. society and economy depends to do its day-to-day functioning: computers, cell phones and I.T. networks will fail, with the catastrophic ripple effects across any sector of the U.S. critical infrastructure which relies on digital technology. Briefly, there is not a single sector of society which does not rely on digital technologies. The EMP will essentially disable the emergency service sector, the communications sector, the financial sector, the commercial facilities sector, the transportation sector and the agriculture and farming sector. A single, low-radiation nuclear blast would essentially catapult Philadelphia from the 21st Century to the 17th Century.
Is such a scenario avoidable? Yes, as long politicians remember the Cold War tenets of MAD, despite a successful pre-emptive counter-force strike, the other side still retains sufficient capability to destroy countervalue targets in retaliation. The crazy logic behind MAD is what many believed deterred Russia and the U.S. from launching nuclear weapons during the tensest days of the Cold War. It is also the fear of NATO escalating the war and respecting its Article 5 commitments which could end the conflict now. First, it would give Russian leaders a moment of pause to consider the consequences of Putin’s aggression. Second, a critical tenet of Russian military doctrine is protecting the Russian homeland from destruction, a tenet to which the Russian military leaders and intelligence leaders have closely abided since 1953. The last Russian leader who placed the Russian homeland at risk was Nikita Khrushchev, whom the Russian generals and intelligence chiefs, in collaboration with Communist Party leaders, e.g. Brezhnev, quietly removed from power. I think Putin is catching a cold. Perhaps a bad case of COVID-19 is in his near future.
Last semester, I experienced issues with La Salle’s shuttle system and wrote an article expressing my concerns about the lack of proper communication regarding the shuttle hours. I had explained that my friends and I went downtown and had followed the shuttle service hours posted on La Salle’s page, which stated that the shuttle would be running until 3 a.m. Unbeknownst to us, the shuttle hours were changed, and they were no longer running at the time that we were hoping to get a ride. Had the updated hours been posted, and the shuttle tracking app wasn’t removed, we wouldn’t have been left waiting in the dark on the corner of an unsafe street for a shuttle that was not going to arrive.
Following the article, the updated hours were posted online and the shuttle tracker app was made available again, which I am happy about. However, not long after that, my friends and I had walked to the station, as it was still bright out, but were followed on our walk by an older man that we do not know. Luckily, a shuttle driver noticed and pulled over to pick us up. We were happy to have been given a ride, but were uncomfortable with the fact that we had been followed, so we have felt a bit unnerved at the idea of walking to and from the Septa station on our own since then.
On a recent Friday afternoon we wanted to go downtown, so we tracked the shuttle on the La Salle app to take us to the Septa station. We were waiting on campus when the app said the shuttle had arrived nearby, although it had not. We called public safety and asked to be picked up. When we got on the shuttle, we asked how late they would be running later that night to make sure that we could get back in time so that we would not have to walk home in the dark, just in case we got there later than the posted times. We were told that at any time during the day or night we could call 215-951-1300 and that a shuttle would be sent out to us.
When we got back to the Olney station later that night we used the shuttle tracking app, and, again, it said that the shuttle arrived at the station even though it had not. It was only 7 p.m. at that point, and the shuttle is supposed to run normally until 9 p.m., so we assumed there would be no issue getting a ride if we called the number we were given earlier.
We called and were told that unless we had a medical emergency, a shuttle could not be sent out to us. I explained that we were given that number earlier in the day and were told to call at any point for a ride and was again told that a shuttle would not be sent unless there was a medical emergency. We walked back in the dark in 20-degree weather, still uncomfortable about the fact that we had previously been followed and were in an unsafe neighborhood to be walking around in at night.
I have had no problems with the shuttle drivers themselves as they have consistently expressed how much they value La Salle students’ safety, but I am extremely disappointed in La Salle for their lack of communication and their irresponsibility. My primary purpose in writing this article is to make it known that there needs to be more consistency, communication and emphasis on student safety. La Salle may claim that student safety and well-being is a top priority, but they have continuously proved otherwise. There is consistently better communication regarding the beloved basketball team than about something as crucial as public safety — or anything else, for that matter.
“For when two or three gather together in My name, there I am with them.” Matthew, 18:20
As a Catholic University, we are blessed to be able to celebrate Mass every day, Monday through Thursday, in our beautiful Chapel. Daily Mass is at 1 p.m. and it takes only about 20-25 minutes. As your fellow Lasallian, I invite you — students, faculty and staff — to make a habit of going to daily Mass at our Chapel, even if just once a week.
Mass has always been an important part of my life since I was a young boy. I am originally from Tanzania, East Africa. Faith is what held people in my village together. When I was in my last two years of elementary school, my best friend, Alphonce Marandu, and I went to Mass every morning. Our mothers would wake us up at 5 a.m. and we would walk (past our school) for an hour to get to our church which was four miles away. After Mass, we would walk back two miles to our school. Alphonce was praying that he would be a priest and I was praying that I would be admitted into secondary school. Less than five percent of students who finished elementary school at the time were selected to go to secondary school. The national exam I took at the end of my elementary school education is the most important exam I ever took in my life. Our prayers were answered a millionfold!
Every time I walk from Hayman Hall to the Chapel, I marvel at God’s goodness and generosity. Now, a three-minute walk gets me from my office to Mass. I find this quite amazing.
Mass is a wonderful opportunity to worship and pray together. We all need prayers — all the time — both as individuals and also as a community. Surely, Mass is not the only way one can pray, but as a Catholic, I don’t know a more powerful form of prayer.