Divided Congress over Debt Ceiling may lead to the First ever US Default

national politics, Politics

Jorden McVeagh, Editor 

The political debate between Democrats and Republicans has been one that has stood the test of our country’s history. With both sides set in their ideologies, it has become almost a surprise when, if ever, the two parties meet in the middle to agree on something. This divide between the country’s two leading parties may lead to the first-ever US default. Many attribute this possibility to the Republican-led House of Representatives which holds control of the US credit rating. 

Debt ceiling: U.S. will default this summer unless Congress raises limit,  CBO warns

Amanda Andrade-rhoades | Reuters

As a result, they are using this control as a negotiation tactic for policies. Many are concerned about what this will do to our relationships with other countries, especially in Asia. In 2011, we had a similar political structure with a Republican-held House where members of Congress continually delayed increasing the borrowing limit needed for the US to pay off some of the debt it was carrying. As a result, the US was demoted from an AAA credit rating resulting in many of their benefactors losing money. Many of these benefactors were in Asia. As a result, many of the larger banks in Japan and China have reduced the amount of money they are putting into US-backed Treasuries. The Bank of Japan and the People’s Bank of China are just two of those that cut back on their Treasury investments. The US Federal Reserve knows what has happened in the past and has warned any investors with money in Treasuries of the risk they are taking on when leaving the money where it is. In a quote taken from a meeting log, one Fed official was quoted saying, “A number of participants stressed that a drawn-out period of negotiations to raise the federal debt limit could pose significant risks to the financial system and the broader economy.” Fed Chair Jerome Powell says that he and his team are more worried about the potential economic problems than the events in Ukraine. It is important to note that he is not talking about the overall implications of both events, but the timeliness of how this economic situation will be discussed in Congress. 

The US’s current debt stands at $31.4 trillion and losing financial credibility could prove to be costly. Former Fed Chair Janet Yellen and her team are in the process of implementing accounting measures to help Washington. While it was not mentioned what those measures are, they are only expected to hold for a few months, thus lawmakers need to act quickly. The article then went on to discuss how the division between the two political parties could be a disaster when other developed countries look at the US. Instead of looking at the US as one market, it will be segmented based on which sector you want to operate or deal in. President Biden realized the substantial impact this may have not only on the US economy but globally as well, saying a default would be a calamity for the global economy. This will be something to keep on the watchlist in the coming months, but according to economists at Goldman Sachs, this deadline will not come until at least August.

State of the Union Frames 2024 Election

national politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff 

This past week, President Biden gave the annual State of the Union address. The Speech is given in front of all of Congress. In the speech, the current President will address the state of the country, talk about the administration’s accomplishments of the past year, and speak about his upcoming plans for the next year. On Feb. 7 President Joe Biden gave his second State of the Union address and three important points he talked about were bipartisanship, the economy, and healthcare.

            Biden talked about wanting the Democrats and Republicans in Congress to work together. After the historic election of Kevin McCarthy to Speaker of the House, which took 5 days and 15 rounds of voting, Biden repetitively mentioned that he wants to continue to work with this new Congress as it starts a new chapter with McCarthy as Speaker of the House. Biden emphasized that his administration was working to end the zero-sum political game by saying, “and, in fact, I signed over 300 bipartisan pieces of legislation since becoming President, from authorizing the Violence Against Women Act to the Electoral Count Reform Act.” Biden continued “And to my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last congress, there is no reason we can’t work together and find consensus on important thing in this congress as well.”  

            President Biden talked about the economy and the historically low unemployment rate. He started off by talking about the importance of the middle class in America. He said, “that’s always been my vision of our country, and I know it’s many of yours: to restore the should of this nation; to rebuild the backbone of America, America’s middle class; and to unite the country.” Biden said that working to fix the economy is a large reason why he ran for President. He explained, “[He wanted] to make sure the economy works for everyone so we can all feel that pride in what we do.” Biden went on to talk about his administration’s employment record and his future plans to improve the economy. Biden said, “We’re not finished yet, by any stretch of the imagination. But the unemployment rate is at 3.4 percent – a 50-year low.” He referred to the inflation and high gas prices and supply chain shortages, vowing that it cannot happen again which was why he proposed and passed the CHIPS and Science Act that has “already created 800,000 new manufacturing jobs.” 

            Biden talked about how his efforts to improve the economy are also a push for improved healthcare prices. He stated, “With the Inflation Reduction Act that I signed into law, we’re taking on a powerful interest to bring healthcare costs down so you can sleep better at night with more security. Biden says he will be working over the next year to bring down the prices of prescriptions in the US. He says, “We pay more for prescription drugs than any major nation on Earth.” Biden used insulin as an example saying that under Medicare, insulin prices will have a price cap of $35 per month for seniors. Biden emphasized his priority of making sure everyone is able to get the healthcare and prescriptions they need at an affordable price. 

Based on the State of the Union address it looks as though in the next year the American public will be seeing some increased efforts to bring down inflation which could include some adjustments to the tax code. Many viewers saw the State of the Union address as a signal of President Biden’s campaign strategy should he decide to run for a second term. In particular, Biden tried to draw a distinction between Democrats and Republicans concerning the handling of Medicare and Social Security. His claim that Republicans want to end/or limit both entitlement programs for seniors was met with jeers by the Republicans in the House chamber. Biden used the verbal outrage expressed by Republicans to claim that it looked like both programs would therefore remain untouched since both parties agreed on their ultimate importance. That was a rhetorical moment for the crowds watching on TV that was belied by the President’s actions on subsequent days when he claimed Republicans want to “sunset,” i.e., place an end date on Medicare and Social Security. The race for the 2024 Presidential election may have started at the State of the Union.

Lindsey Graham Abortion Bill

national politics, Politics

Ceara Grady, Staff


On Sept. 13, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a bill that would impose a federal ban on abortions after 15 weeks. Such a bill would allow laws in conservative states that ban abortion earlier to remain in effect but would impose restrictions on liberal states that do not currently restrict abortion. Abortion is an incredibly polarizing issue in the United States today, particularly since the overturning of Roe v. Wade with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in June. With the Senate’s current 50-50 split and elections in November with the potential to shift the majority one way or the other, including in Pennsylvania, debates around abortion draw more attention than ever before.  Considering that banning abortion is unpopular nationally and that, since Roe was decided, Republicans have argued that aboriton should be an issue left to the discretion of the states, there is very little support in the Senate for Senator Graham’s bill. Many Republican Senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have come out and said that Senator Graham’s proposed bill does not speak for the Senate GOP conference and that it is unlikely to garner much support. This distancing from Senator Graham’s bill without commenting on its content signals the Republican recognition that abortion is an issue on which they are in the national minority and one that will lose them important votes in their upcoming races.

Upon introduction of this bill, many Pennsylvanians turned their attention to their Senate candidates for the upcoming November election: Democratic nominee Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and Republican nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz. Fetterman did not hesitate to unequivocally denounce Senator Graham’s bill. He confirmed his position that he rejects any effort by the government to impose restrictions on abortion and that he, as a Senator, would support legislation to codify the right to choose. Dr. Oz has been more hesitant and less clear about his views on Senator Graham’s bill. A spokesperson for his campaign made the following statement: “Dr. Oz is pro-life with three exceptions: life of the mother, rape, and incest. And as a senator, he would want to make sure that the federal government is not involved in interfering with the state’s decisions on the topic.” Fetterman’s team was quick to highlight Oz’s roundabout answer to a question important to many voters. Pennsylvania voters can expect to see this topic, among many others, debated by Fetterman and Oz on Oct. 25.

Supreme Court draft opinion suggests Roe v. Wade reversal

national politics, Politics

Jakob Eiseman, Editor-in-Chief
Header Image: APNews

“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision…” states a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito which was recently leaked from internal Court communications to policy news outlet Politico. “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” reads the draft. 

Before diving deeper into the draft and the claims made therein, it is important to state that this is a draft opinion. While the draft was confirmed to be authentic, it does not yet represent any official decision or confirmation by the Supreme Court. While it is likely that the voting process ended with the majority opinion lying with an overruling, or at least altering of abortion laws as this opinion was drafted at all, the voting results are still unknown, and an opinion cannot be officially made public until a majority of justices sign onto the opinion claiming that it accurately reflects their determinations on the matter, and a Supreme Court ruling can have no affect on law until the official opinion is made public. 

Just the facts

While justices have changed their final votes between preliminary voting and final opinion, there is nothing to suggest now whether that will or will not be the case.

There is some speculation as to why Justice Alito would be tasked with writing this opinion, leading some to suggest that the draft does not reflect true discussions, this piece will largely avoid speculation and focus just on the facts of Alito’s draft opinion, and what its implications would be if it were accepted as is.

As quoted above, the opinion contains several sections that outright denounce Roe v. Wade, a landmark Supreme Court decision from 1973 that has repeatedly served as precedent on abortion cases. The main stipulation of the case is that criminalizing abortion violated women’s right to privacy as protected by the Constitution. The opinion also suggests an overturn of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, a 1992 case which made several changes to how abortion laws were interpreted in the United States, as well as instituting an undue burden standard into law that any state law that would impede a woman from receiving an abortion before their pregnancy progressed too far would be invalid.

Alito’s draft was first presented to the justices in February, but the information leak happened on Monday, May 2. The main repeated claim from the draft opinion is that Roe v. Wade protects women under a right that is not expressly protected by the Constitution. Claiming that the case has had “damaging consequences,” Alito calls for a full reversal, allowing for any state in the union to allow abortion procedures to take place within established frameworks, but also allowing states to place bans on the procedures or criminalize them.

Alito also hammers in on the idea of fetus viability, citing several critical works against Roe v. Wade and stating that one of the ruling’s weaknesses in regards to maternal health was in relation to its determination of “viability.” In the draft, he details the tenants of Roe v. Wade that directed state’s abortion regulation by trimester, stating that during the first trimester, the abortion should be approved by a physician, but gives the right to the pregnant woman to receive an abortion, during the second trimester, a state can regulate abortions by using maternal health laws and regulations at the state level, so long as it does not delay the procedure from happening until the window has passed and the third trimester grants states’ the right to ban abortions unless the pregnancy threatens the life of the woman herself.

Alterations have been made since, but using parts of Roe v. Wade as a reasoning for its overturn, Alito describes the framework set out by the ruling stating “Neither party advocated the trimester framework,” reads the draft, “nor should either party or any amicus argue that ‘viability’ should mark the point at which the scope of the abortion right and a State’s regulatory authority should be substantially transformed.” 

A concession that is made in the draft is that this overturning does not concern any other laws or rights other than those directly related to the termination of pregnancy, and that the precedent that would be set by the opinion cannot be applied to any other rulings or overturnings. 

What does it mean?

While Alito’s draft mainly targets Roe v Wade’s regulations for their constitutionality, reversing that ruling would likely result in a massive schism of states who ban or strictly regulate abortion procedures, and those that continue to allow them, likely along party lines.

The reasoning for the reversal is wholly political, but the ramifications should this draft come to fruition are medical, social, financial and societal in nature. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the protections that women have held for years will vanish in states whose representatives are actively seeking to put an end to reproductive rights.

Several states have “trigger laws” which would ban abortion in almost all cases if the Supreme Court goes through with this draft, with some going into effect immediately and others having a ticking timer. Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisiana and South Dakota are often looked to when discussions of abortion bans come up, as their trigger laws would ban abortion throughout the state immediately. 

It is important to note that almost every state in the union that has trigger laws or that has historically banned abortion makes medical exceptions should the life of the mother be at risk due to pregnancy. However, there is also a history of laws in these states interfering with treatment in any case, making it difficult, and forcing women to move across state lines to receive the care they need to survive. Very few abortion banning states currently have concessions related to pregnancies caused by rape.

A conversation has sparked as a result of this leaked document discussing the true tolls this reversal would take. Many point to the fact that if abortion bans are left up to the states, that wealthy women, or those with support, will be able to fly or be driven to a state that allows abortions and receive help, while those that are in dire financial situations will be unable to receive this care, even in the case that they were raped. 

Some have been pointing to a Tennessee bill proposed this spring that would allow citizens to sue anyone suspected of receiving or assisting in an abortion. Should Roe v Wade be overturned and bills like this passed in certain states, risky or illegal abortions would now carry an even greater risk. While this is a specific case, this law would also allow a rapist to take their victim to court if they abort the fetus in Tennessee.

According to a data analysis by NBC News, 21 states and/or territories would likely continue to protect abortion rights, nine would restrict abortions with various laws, including Pennsylvania, and 23 would ban abortion altogether or except in situations where it is medically necessary.

Editor’s note: Please allow concessions as we are currently in preparations for final exams and simply do not have the time to perform such an analysis ourselves. We implore you to read further on quality news sites to get the big picture, and just use this as a jumping off point for your understanding of the draft and its implications, not a whole summary.

Biden administration rescinds Title 42

international politics, national politics, Politics

This article was written in collaboration with the Foreign Policy Youth Collab (FPYC) , an organization striving to bridge the gap between politicians and teens across the political spectrum.

Header Image: US News

On Friday April 1, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that May 23 will usher in an end of Title 42, this being an arguably nontraditional marker by the CDC of the U.S. emerging from a two-year-long pandemic. Title 42 was enacted for the first time in the nation’s history on March 20, 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by the CDC as ordered by former Vice President Mike Pence. With an end to Title 42 in sight, it would be important to clarify what is to come next in immigration trends, and furthermore, an evaluation of whether Title 42 achieved its intended purpose in the first place.

What is Title 42?

The Title 42 Health and Public Wealthfare Act was originally passed in July of 1944 in response to the influx of soldiers during WWII returning to the United States when they were infected by tuberculosis and influenza. Thus, Title 42 addresses the “regulations providing for the apprehension, detention or conditional release of individuals to prevent the introduction, transmission or spread of such diseases,” according to section 264 b of the act.. Under Title 42, the president and CDC have the right to order a halt, holding or denial of immigrants from entering a country during a period of high risk infection. Some persons can apply for exclusion from the title in extreme circumstances, however, the plaintiff requires a medical screening if the excuse is to be applied. 

Similar practices of health screens had been put in place at ports of immigration even prior to Title 42’s enactment. During the Spanish Influenza in 1918, for example, although immigration rates were already much lower than in previous years, inspections of health were put in place in high concentrated migration ports, such as Ellis Island. However, the National Library of Medicine reports that rejection rates of immigrants on medical grounds in 1918 were estimated to be only 2 percent to 3 percent. The low rejection rates of immigrants, even in the height of a pandemic, in 1918 contrasts what we are witnessing today. In 2020, it was reported by the Migrant Policy Institute that over 1.7 million expulsions (or apprehension of immigrants at the U.S-Mexican border) were carried out. This means that immigrants and asylum seekers alike were expelled back to Mexico, or their countries of origin, by the United States without the opportunity to argue their case. This is the highest record of apprehensions at the U.S-Mexican border recorded in history.

What are Title 42’s consequences?

The most important result to note is that immigration into the United States has not decreased one bit, but instead, it is the manner in which immigrants are entering the U.S. that has changed following Title 42. One way in which entry has changed under Title 42 is that it can occur repeatedly. Under Title 42, immigrants are not deported, but simply returned back to Mexico where they have the opportunity to try to enter several more times, sometimes even on the same day. That is why the highest record of apprehensions of immigrants in one year in the United States was reached under Title 42. In October 2020, 40 percent of all immigrants apprehended had crossed the border repeatedly; while in 2019, this figure stood at just 7 percent. In this way, Title 42’s attempt at preventing border apprehensions had an inverse effect. 

The other way in which immigration has changed is how immigrants get into the country, even under Title 42. Undoubtedly, Title 42 did not discourage “illegal” entries into the United States, as higher concentration and regulations in safe points of entry at U.S. borders only corral immigrants into less regulated points of entry, at times dangerous ones.  

When the title was enacted in March of 2020, the United States and Mexico agreed that adult migrants who were denied entry into the United States would be turned back to Mexico. Shortly after, the Biden Administration took over in 2021, and in February, Mexico announced that they no longer would accept families with children under seven who were set to be expelled from the United States during Title 42’s application. As a result, the Biden administration was either forced to fly these families back to their country of origin aside from Mexico, were permitted asylum in the U.S., or were placed into ICE detention centers for months at a time. This is what resulted in Vice President Kamala Harris announcing to potential immigrants and asylum seekers during her visit in Guatemala to not come in the summer of 2021. 

What are the concerns about Title 42 and lifting it?

Lawsuits against the U.S have been taken up on each side of the aisle about receding Title 42, however, for different reasons. In summer of 2021, The American Civil Liberties Union, Texas Civil Rights Project, RAICES, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Oxfam, ACLU of Texas, and ACLU of the District of Columbia​​ filed suit against the United States after the negotiations to end Title 42 with the Biden administration turned sour. In September, the federal court ruled that found that Title 42 expulsions are “likely unlawful” . The Biden administration was quick to appeal that ruling in hopes to continue turning away refugee families from the border. This appeal has reached a D.C circuit court with the case continuing into the first year anniversary of President Biden’s inauguration. Democrats, human rights advocates, and even the CDC itself push for the executive branch of the United States to rescind Title 42 has been a long time coming, bearing in mind all of Title 42’s effects. 

The act faced scrutiny as human rights advocates describe that pushing immigrants out of one disease inflected country into another does not properly address the issue of the migrants safety, nor America’s safety. Rather, it is a short-term solution by politicians to “protect” the citizens of one country at the expense of the safety of the ones trying to enter.  

Furthermore, human rights advocates argue that Title 42 does not address the crisis asylum seekers are fleeing as a result of even amidst a pandemic. Reflecting back on all the major conflicts that occurred even during the two year pandemic such as the earthquake and assasination of the president in Haiti, ongoing violence in Central America, and now the struggle of Ukranians, asylum seekers have not stopped seeking asylum because of the pandemic. It is sighted by human rights advocates that Title 42 in fact is a violation of international law on the part of the United States as it is actively denying the acceptance of asylum seekers which all countries must uphold. Article 33(1) of the 1951 Refugee Convention protects any “refugee” “against refoulement if his or her ‘life or freedom would be threatened because of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’.”

As summarized in the legislation, immigrants are guaranteed the right to have their application for asylum reviewed when they request it at a U.S. port of entry. However, under Title 42, all immigrants, including asylum seekers, have been turned away from U.S. ports of entry without question of their situation except for some special occasions. The Trump and Biden administration alike have argued that Title 42 supersedes the Article 33 provision’s guarantee of rights for asylum seekers. Considering this is the first time in the nation’s history in which Title 42 has been put to work, there are still a lot of questions surrounding the extent and power of the title. A webinar was held in May of 2021 by the Physicians for Human Rights on the issue of Title 42 where a wide range of experts from human rights organizations around the country contributed answers to this question. 

One of those experts was Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. Gelernt commented that even in Title 42’s creation back in 1944, it did not authorize expulsions, especially of asylum seekers. As further stated by Gerlernt, “[Title 42] has never in its history throughout the worst pandemics ever been used to send people back… Even if it could somehow be construed to authorize deportation, it cannot override asylum laws.” Gelernt’s comments reign true as at the time the title was enacted in 1946, Title 42 only addressed the prevention of immigrants posing the risk of infection from entering a country, not what would happen when they are within the United States.

Title 42 has also been criticized by progressives as not addressing the safety concerns for denying immigrants entry into the United States as well as the threats posed when forcibly returning them to their country of origin. It is cited by the Human Rights First organization that of the 1.7 million expulsions occurring under Title 42, of which at least 9,886 cases of kidnappings, tortures, rapes and other violent attacks on people occured as a direct denial of entrance into the U.S. These figures do not even yet take into account the expulsions where an immigrant was deported to a country they fled from for fears of persecution. 

Conservatives feel just as strongly as liberals about rescinding Title 42, however, in a contrasting way. On the other side, conservatives are concerned that rescinding Title 42 would result in an increase in infection rates by permitting COVID-positve illegal immigrants into the country, as Texas Governor Greg Abbott put it. In fact, on Sunday April 4, the state of Louisiana, in conjunction with Arizona and Missouri, filed suit against the Biden administration for rescinding Title 42 for what it claims is “an imminent, man-made, self-inflicted calamity: the abrupt elimination of the only safety valve preventing this administration’s disastrous border policies from devolving into an unmitigated chaos and catastrophe,” as quoted in the filing. What the GOP attorneys write into the filing is a concern echoed throughout the United States. However, what the filing does not address is what should instead be the answer. Eventually the COVID-19 pandemic will formally conclude and the recession of Title 42 would be consequently imminent. Title 42 is not meant to be a permanent solution to migration into the U.S. as it is only a preemptive measure to protect the integrity of health in the U.S. during increased times of infections.

The CDC fought against enacting Title 42 when it was first discussed considering evidence remains unfound that prohibiting immigrants from entering a country has any real effect on the transmission of a virus. Dr.Fauci echoed this message as well as further epidemiologists and health experts. The Columbia University Public Health program found that “the Omicron variant highlights that community transmission within the US, and not introduction of the virus from Mexico, is driving the spread of COVID-19, and that public health authorities need to focus on mitigation measures that are known to work. Title 42 is not among these measures and, if anything, makes matters worse”. Nevertheless, stigmatizations and scapegoating immigrant populations as the contributor to high infection rates is not uncommon in American culture. A poll by Axios was released in the summer of 2021 which observed a trend between vaccinated and unvaccinated persons’ placement of blame for high infection rates of COVID-19. Interestingly, 75 percent of vaccinated Americans blamed unvaccinated Americans for high infection rates, while unvaccinated mostly blamed COVID-19 transmission on foriegn travelers with over 25 percent agreement. Not only are the results of the Axios poll demonstrative of today’s political climate but further telling of attitudes towards immigrants and their role in American public health that can lead to stigmatization.

Human rights advocates highlight that politicians play into the attitudes exemplified in the poll when naming a disease and or virus after an entire ethnic group or country as witnessed when influential politicians referred to COVID-19 as the “china-virus.” Human rights advocates argue that naming a virus after a country can pose real harm especially to people of that nationality. This was witnessed throughout the pandemic when the FBI found that in 2021, hate-crimes directed at Asian Americans spiked at a rate of 73 percent and the rate of other hate crimes rose by 13 percent that same year. 

What lifting Title 42 in May means

The most encouraging takeaway about the rescission of Title 42 is that the world may be emerging from the tail end of a two-year pandemic which has rattled the lives of billions. One side however, argues that rescinding Title 42 signifies chaos ensuing as immigrants entering the United States will increase COVID-19 infection rates while the other side argues that this is a step in the right direction for human rights. Although there is still no conclusive evidence that the immigrants seeking asylum or entrance into the U.S. will restimulate infection rates of COVID-19 in the U.S., conservatives are not wrong in stating that the application of Title 42 has been leaving a storm of migration building up behind its border wall for two years. The commissioner of ​​Customs and Border Protection (CBP) aired his concerns after the announcement from the Biden Administration that lifting the policy will “likely cause an increase in encounters with illegal immigrants along the southern border”. However, many experts who disavow Title 42 argue that the potential numbers of encounters from rescinding Title 42 could not be more than the record high expulsions that occurred under the title. Furthermore,  it is important to highlight that the mass of people waiting for entrance into the U.S. is not more than to be expected at this time of year as there usually is a yearly trend of an increase in immgration to the U.S witnessed every spring. What remains up in the air is the Biden Administration’s handling of pending suits filed against it that advocate for and against Title 42’s rescission. How the administration seeks to navigate these legal battles will be especially pivotal for the legacy of the Biden administration and furthermore indicative of whether Title 42 can be applied in the future.

Three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery convicted of federal hate crimes

national politics, Politics

Jada Urbaez, Staff

The three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery, Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., were convicted of federal hate crimes last week. 

The murder took place on the coast of Georgia on Feb. 23, 2020. Brunswick, GA had been home to Arbery and his family since his “peewee football days,” says Aaron Morrison, a reporter who sat with the victim’s family. 

On that February day, Arbery, 25, was going on an afternoon jog in a surrounding neighborhood known as Satilla Shores. Gregory McMichael reported to police that Arbery had fit the description for the suspect who allegedly committed break-ins in the area. The suspects claimed to have been doing a citizen’s arrest. The police confirmed there had been no break-ins, and therefore there was never a suspect. 

Travis and Gregory McMichael were both armed with a pistol and shotgun when they surrounded Arbery with their truck. Bryan Jr. joined the McMichaels in this encounter, utilizing his pickup truck, and three shots were fired by Travis McMichael, killing Arbery. 

The McMichaels were arrested over two months later, on May 7, and Bryan Jr. was arrested on May 21, 2020. The three men were indicted by the state of Georgia on nine counts. These include: one count of false imprisonment, four counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of malice murder and one count of criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. 

According to Georgia state law, malice murder is commited when one, “unlawfully and with malice aforethought, either express or implied, causes the death of another human being.” Travis and Gregory McMichael are sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. Bryan Jr., the third suspect who later joined and filmed the Arbery encounter, would be eligible for parole after thirty years. 

Last week, however, a federal jury found the three murderers guilty of federal hate crimes. To convict someone of a hate crime, the jury must see if the actions of the suspects were racially motivated. 

What aided in this conviction was a suspects’ internet usage that shows a history of racial slurs, offensive/racist memes and conversations. For many consecutive years, Bryan wrote content that mocked Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Travis McMichael left a comment in a 2018 Facebook post, “I’d kill that (expletive).” Gregory McMichael shared a post that implied disregard for slaves’ suffering in the U.S. The post said that Irish slaves suffered more than any race in American history. 

In addition to internet use, there is direct evidence provided by witnesses who testified and shared that they heard the suspects make racist comments and slurs. 

The case’s prosecutor, Christopher Perras, stated that there was no evidence that 25-year-old Arbery was a threat, but the suspects assumed so because he was Black. The suspects pleaded not guilty to the hate crime charges, but were found guilty and must serve their respective sentences for their murder charges.

COVID-19 standards in the military

national politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

Recently amidst all the negative news and the war raging in Europe, some positive news has come to light in Philadelphia — no more mask mandate. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced that on March 2, 2022, the city is moving into the “All Clear COVID-19 Response Level.” This change means the indoor masks mandate is dropped effective immediately. 

Military bases have been instructed to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) community COVID-19 guidelines. These guidelines will indicate whether active duty military, civilian employees, and visitors need to wear a mask on military bases. The CDC has determined that masks and screenings are no longer mandatory when the Community Level of COVID-19 is determined as low. When deciding this level, they take into consideration the hospital admissions, the percentage of inpatient beds taken by COVID-19 patients, and the number of new cases in a given community. Where Community Levels of COVID-19 are considered medium, the screening will continue but indoor mask mandates may be dropped. This means that DOD employees and service members can remove their masks based on where they are stationed.

The issue of military base locations is complicated in places such as the Army’s Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, and Marine Corps bases in Coronado, Point Loma and Camp Pendleton in California. These bases are spread over three or more counties each. These are some of the largest military bases in the U.S. and they will be waiting for further instruction from the CDC. For example, Fort Bragg covers four counties that are in a variety of ranges for COVID-19 Community Levels. 

As military bases reach lower COVID-19 levels their facilities are being opened up to include more people per building. The Pentagon has increased the occupancy of buildings from 25 percent to 50 percent. This can have an impact on efficiency as well as morale, such as when the service members express excitement for “more options for seating in the food court,” as mentioned in an email circulating to base personnel.

As for COVID-19 vaccines in the military, the Pentagon has announced they are going to be investigating COVID-19 exemptions. The Pentagon’s Inspector General has announced that he will inspect exemption requests, and if they are unsatisfactory proper punishments will be handed down. He stated that punishments are “in accordance with Federal and DoD actions.”

An intense conflict has arisen as federal legal cases have been filed by service members who have refused the COVID-19 vaccine. The judges reviewing the cases have stated that there may be issues stemming from flaws in the exemption process. Those who are petitioning have stated that “the record creates a strong inference that the services are discriminatorily and systematically denying religious exemptions without a meaningful and fair hearing.” In Texas, actions against a group of special forces sailors were stopped by the judge based on how their exemptions were handled by the Navy. In court, Navy Seals claimed that “ their accommodation requests are futile because denial is a predetermined outcome.” 

As civilian vaccines and boosters are available, the mask mandates are being lifted day by day. For our service members, rules on masks will apply based on the location they are stationed. As their mask restrictions are lifted, a struggle continues between the Pentagon and DOD for service members who do not wish to receive the vaccine or have a religious exemption. 

Asian Americans are still victims of violent crimes

national politics, Politics

Jada Urbaez, Staff

Header Image: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images
Asian American social justice protestors at a San Francisco assembly at Embarcadero Plaza on March 26, 2021.

Although the “Stop Asian Hate” movement gained less traction after its spike in engagement last spring, Asian Americans and people of Asian descent across the world are still victims of violent crimes. Christina Yuna Lee, 35, a Korean-American woman, was killed in her New York City apartment this past weekend. Lee was getting out of a taxi and was followed up six flights of stairs by suspect, Assamad Nash. 

Lee was stabbed more than 40 times, and neighbors called 911 after hearing screams from the apartment. When police arrived, Nash allegedly changed his voice to sound like a woman to say police were not needed. An hour later, officials knocked Lee’s apartment door down, and found her shirtless and slain in the bathtub. 

Nash has a history of charges in New York and New Jersey, including assault and possession of stolen property, and has been arrested six times since 2015. For the killing of Lee, Assamad Nash has been charged with burglary and murder. 

New York City has what some may consider an alarming hate crime report rate. In 2021, the New York Police Department received a collective 524 hate crime complaints, and made a total of 219 hate crime related arrests. It is known that Asian American New Yorkers are the victims at the heart of hate crimes throughout the city, experiencing over a 300 percent increase from 2020 to 2021. 

Another headlining murder of an Asian American woman happened on the New York City subway on Jan. 15, 2022. Michelle Go, 40, was pushed into the tracks by Martial Simon while a southbound R train was approaching the station. A 75-year-old Korean-American woman was attacked in Queens earlier this year. The elderly victim suffered face injuries including an inflamed left eye and a bleeding head, and told news sources she is “lucky to be alive.” A South Korean diplomat, 53, was punched near East 35th Street and 5th Avenue earlier this month and suffered a broken nose. The suspect fled the scene. The New York City Police Department has stated the Queens and Midtown attacks are not hate crimes.

New York Mayor, Eric Adams, was interviewed by Eyewitness News, regarding the pattern of these crimes throughout the city. When discussing Michelle Go’s murder, Adams stated, “People want to walk around and say, ‘Oh, he targeted someone else first, then he went to Ms. Go.’ Maybe that is the fact, but that is not what I feel.” Adams also shared that the NYPD has been “reluctant” to identify these crimes as hate crimes, and he does not agree with the incidents’ classifications. 

Democrats demand the release of student debt memos from the White House

national politics, Politics

Rachel Phillips, staff

Header Image: Chuck Schumer via Twitter

Dozens of Democratic leaders, including House majority leader Chuck Schumer, are calling on President Biden to fulfill one of his largest campaign promises: to cancel student debt. Despite the president’s previous interest in a loan forgiveness program, he expressed skepticism at his legal ability to implement wide-scale cancellations last year. 

Since then, the president has been working on memos with the Department of Education and the Justice Department about his legal authority to cancel the debt or implement a partial forgiveness program. However, these memos have yet to be shared with the Democratic leaders, who are asking for the report, or the general public. In a letter to the White House, led by Sen. Warren, Sen. Schumer, Rep Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D. Mass), Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) and backed by 85 House and Senate Democrats, Biden was asked to release the memos immediately. 

“Publicly releasing memos outlining your existing authority on canceling student debt and broadly doing so is crucial in making a meaningful difference in the lives of current students, borrowers, and their families. It has been widely reported that the Department of Education has had this memo since April 2021, after being directed to draft it,” reads the letter.

 Statements have also been made by individual progressive leaders, with the most recent being Rep. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez. In an interview with the New Yorker, AOC called out the hesitancy of the current administration, stating “this really isn’t a conversation about providing relief to a small niche group of people. It’s very much a keystone action politically. I think it’s a keystone action economically.” 

With the midterm elections quickly approaching, many progressive leaders are also emphasizing the political and economic implications of delivering on this major platform promise. However, despite the increased pressure from Democratic leaders, the Biden administration has still not released information regarding the reports. In addition, when asked about the cancellation of student debt in a January press conference, Biden did not provide any concrete answers, but rather reiterated that the issue remains a priority that is being continuously researched. 

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona also reiterated the efforts of the president and his team, stating, “the administration is continuing to have conversations about broader loan forgiveness even as it touts the debt it has canceled by expanding or improving existing programs, such as those for public service workers or student borrowers who have become severely disabled.”

Biden prepares to make history by appointing the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court

national politics, Politics

Rachel Phillips, Staff

After 28 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Breyer has announced his retirement and will officially step down at the end of the current term, occurring in late June or July of 2022. Over the years, Breyer has been known as a moderate on the Court, with his history of voting only indicating a slightly more conservative outlook than his Democratic peers. However, following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Breyer became the Court’s senior liberal, and his soon-to-be-vacant seat presents an opportunity for the Biden administration to introduce a potentially more progressive candidate. While the new Justice will not change the current 6 to 3 ratio of conservative to liberal judges in the Supreme Court, it does ensure that the seat will be filled by a Democratic preferred candidate who could potentially serve for decades. The timing of Breyer’s retirement also confirms that the seat will not be vacated during a future, potentially Republican, administration, where their chosen candidate could further sway an already conservative court majority. President Biden has yet to decide on his nominee, but the predicted timeline indicates the name could be announced as quickly as the end of February 2022. Democrats have adamantly stated they expect an efficient search and transition, hoping to parallel the speed of Republicans during the Amy Coney Barrett nomination in October of 2020.

The President is also hoping to deliver on a promise he made during his 2020 presidential campaign. Like the pledges of both Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump,  who vowed to nominate women, President Biden is planning to nominate the first Black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. Currently, the front runners include Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, Judge Candace Rae Jackson-Akiwumi who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Judge J. Michelle of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. This list, however, is likely to expand in the coming weeks, as President Biden has stated that he is preparing to meet with an increasing number of nominees, as well as consult with lawyers, scholars and Vice President Kamala Harris throughout the decision process. In addition, Biden is also willing to hear suggestions from senators of either party regarding potential candidates. While the response to President Biden’s search criteria has drawn the criticism of many Republican leaders and accusations of “identity politics,” it is unlikely his position will change. Jen Psaki, Biden’s press secretary, confirmed during a White House briefing that “the President has stated and reiterated his commitment to nominating a Black woman to the Supreme Court and certainly stands by that.”