Why the Australian Bushfires Are Actually a Big Deal

By Alexis Cope

An injured koala called Paul being treated at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital (Getty images)

Australia is on fire. 

The blaze that’s big enough to see from space (yes, really–NASA even released pictures) has been burning for weeks, with no sign of stopping now, covering the nation’s entire east coast — specifically New South Wales and Queensland. The fires have so far claimed six lives, destroyed nearly 700 homes, and affected 5.1 million acres of Australian bush. It recently has been moving closer to Sydney, closing the city’s ferries and businesses and covering everything in a heavy blanket of ash and smoke. 

But that’s not all it’s doing. Australia’s native and unique wildlife, along with their habitats, are being burned right along with everything else, and koalas, in particular, are at risk because of their dependency on trees. It’s been estimated that around 2,000 koalas have been killed by the fires, and nearly 75% of their habitat destroyed. And while koalas aren’t technically listed as endangered by the Australian state, their numbers have been hit hard and dwindling for the last century, and this slew of bushfires could be the very thing that knocks down them down at last.

Over the course of 2019 species such as, among many others, the Spix Macaw, the Northern White Rhinoceros, the Golden Toad, and Zanzibar Leopard were recorded as extinct. All of these were indigenous animals, hailing from every corner of the world, from Tanzania to Costa Rica; they all played critical roles in their respective environments and food chains, acting as predators or prey or even both. Now that they’ve been wiped out, their environments have been unhinged, thrown off balance. And there is nothing we can do to bring them back.

If this same thing were to happen with koalas, another indigenous species, we would lose much more than a cute face. We’d lose an extremely important link in Australia’s delicate balance of life, altering the continent forever. Altering it in such a way it might not recover, affecting many other species living there, plants and animals alike. 

So Australia’s bushfires, while an ocean away, are actually a very big deal. There’s more at stake here than just a few trees; there are millions of trees, thousands of animals, whole ecosystems, and now even cities on the line here. 

Our world is burning. From California to the Amazon rainforest, and now Australia, our planet is being destroyed. Whether by the negligence of citizens and national leaders alike or simply because of the recent extreme draughts, it is burning.

Want to help? There’s actually quite a bit you can do. 

To help with current fires, donate money to animal refuges and wildlife hospitals helping to treat and care for the injured animals through their established GoFundMe pages and websites. Port Macquarie Koala Hospital could especially use help; the money they raise will fund koala recovery and rehabilitation. The Rescue Collective is also raising funds and beginning a goods drive to help rescue and care for other affected wildlife. 

Perhaps even more important than donating funds is acting to lower the risk of more wildfires. While it’s true that we can’t control everything that could cause another round of destructive fires, such as weather or climate or even simply other people, playing your part can and always will help. Don’t leave campfires, cigarettes, fireworks, or any kind of lit fire burning outside when you are not supervising it. Make sure you completely extinguish any flame before leaving it. Do not build a large fire when you are around trees, and especially not when you are near brush or dry grasses. 

Simply put, be responsible when using fire. We all love a good night roasting s’mores over a campfire, but we have to remember it is just that. It’s an extremely dangerous thing if not handled carefully. It’s something that, if you neglect to take care of correctly, could send the next forest up in scorching flames. 

You don’t have to forgive. 

BY: EBENEZER NKUNDA

Let’s get one thing straight, it is okay to get mad, to get completely pissed, to get freaking angry. IT IS OKAY. A few weeks, we saw the brother, Brandt Jean, of the shooting victim, Botham Jean, hug murderer Amber G-. Now, this exchange has mixed feelings, some being with it and some being totally against it. This was just another example of how black forgiveness is something we feel as if we have to do, however, think about if the opposite happened, would a white person forgive and hug a black person. It’s evident that white people have the privilege of being forgiven, but do they actually deserve it? 

Since the beginning, black people have been made criminal just because of the color of their skin. From 1619 to fugitive slave laws to Jim Crow and to the current constant murder and criminalization of innocent unarmed black people. I am tired of seeing stories of people being killed when they are just playing in the park, walking home, playing video games with their nephew; I mean when will it stop. It’s constant. Black people are constantly harmed— generational harm— so please stop asking us to forgive, but at this point, it is like we are no longer being asked, but expected. Black people have the stereotype of being aggressive, so if someone does us wrong, we’re looked at closely; people are examining how and if we are going to retaliate. The forgiveness narrative is so harmful. Black people are being murdered and people are only thinking about giving hugs and being polite to the murderers. Why does the public vilify the Ferguson protesters but praise Brandt Jean? This is the system that white supremacy oversees: the oppressed are told to forgive and forget, whereas the oppressors feel good knowing that what they did was not wrong enough and that there’s no resentment towards them. Black people are not allowed to be mad, to show anger, to show the hurt caused by the systems, policies, and hands of others but it shows the unjust. It shows that something is broken, so honestly show it. 

Socialized Healthcare: Innate Right or Avoidable Wreck?

BY: JACK MORGENSTEIN

Note: All sources can be found at the bottom of this article

One of the biggest political debates today surrounds the issue of socialized healthcare, also known as medicare-for-all. With most major democratic candidates supporting the idea and most conservatives staunchly against it, the policy is guaranteed to be a major issue in the next presidential election. Before understanding the consequences of such a plan, what is socialized healthcare? Socialized healthcare, also known as single-payer health care or universalized healthcare, is a term for a policy in which the government would provide mandatory medical insurance for all its citizens through a mixture of taxation and subsidies. Many supporters claim that healthcare must be seen as a fundamental right and a socialized policy is the only way this right can be upheld. Research has shown a socialized policy is simply unimplementable as it is exorbitantly expensive.

According to the Washington Post, a single payer system would cost the US government $33 trillion by 2031. This number figures out to additional government spending of $2.8 trillion annually. It’s worth noting that the entire US budget in 2019 was $4.45 trillion. The establishment of medicare-for-all would increase the national budget by approximately 63%. This money can’t come from nowhere, and the sourcing of these funds is one of the biggest problems facing the plan. The most commonly cited plan is simply taking money from military/ defense spending. The main problem is that the US Military received less than $700 billion in 2019. If 100% of these funds went directly to funding medicare-for-all, it would foot less than a fourth of the annual bill. 

In order to implement a socialized medicare plan, there is no side stepping the fact a majority would need to be paid for through increased taxes. A common plan, and one spear headed by Elizabeth Warren, is simply raising taxes on the rich. A report from the bipartisan research organization CRFB found than even if the tax rate of the top two tax brackets was raised to 100% (which is by itself impossible) there still would not be nearly enough money to fund medicare-for-all. A study from the Mercatus Center found that even if all individual AND corporate taxes in the entire country were doubled, the funds would still be insufficient to reach 2.8 billion annually. Bernie Sanders, the politician who introduced the medicare-for-all bill, has stated that “It is appropriate to acknowledge taxes would go up.” So the question is raised: are all Americans prepared to face a significant tax hike? The answer is a resounding no. According to a Gallup poll, 45% of Americans felt their taxes were too high, 48% felt they were about right, 4% felt their taxes were too low, and 3% had no opinion. With stark statistics like this, the chance of any significant tax hike being passed is extremely unlikely in a representative democracy such as ours.

As appealing as a single-payer system is, there’s no avoiding the fact that our democracy is simply unable to fund such a project. One of the most important skills in our modern political era of Twitter and “fake news” is the ability to fact check politicians. Next time a politician proposes a plan too good to be true — it probably is.

Protesting ICE: A Perspective From the Frontlines

BY: BEC HOROWITZ


My siblings and I left home at 11:30. We arrived in Graham after the hour and a half drive at 1. The speeches began at 1:20. The crowd marched at 2:00. The crowd was stopped by police barricades at 2:05. We sat Shiva, a Jewish mourning ritual involving song, prayer, and kneeling, for the lives lost in US detention centers in the middle of an intersection at 2:30. The riot gear emerged at 3:00. Sound cannons went off at 3:15. Tear gas was threatened at 3:45. At 4:00, the arrests began. We retreated to private property. At 4:12, a girl in front of me was pulled from the curb into the road by an officer and arrested. At 4:15 we resumed singing, louder than the sound cannon could ever blare. We faced off with the police for another hour, face to face. And they had clubs. 

This is the reality of peaceful protests in 2019. 

On November 24th, Never Again action, a Jewish organization sponsoring protests against ICE detention center across America, held its first event in North Carolina. Approximately 300 Jewish, Latinx, and black activists and their allies met at the Center for Spiritual Living in Graham to end Alamance County’s $2.3 million contract with ICE, signed by Sheriff Terry Johnson. For months, Johnson’s policies have terrorized Alamance communities, resulting in the arrests and detainments of hundreds of immigrants in deplorable conditions. One speaker recounted his detainment before we began marching. He described the injuries he received there, sexual abuse he suffered, and the complete absence of health services. Another speaker explained that when she was arrested for a traffic violation, the police took her passport and work visa. It took weeks for her to get those documents back, weeks she lived in constant fear of deportation. 

As my sister and I stood at the frontlines, facing the armed and armored police directly, we began to get a small glimpse of the all-consuming terror immigrants feel day-to-day living in Alamance County. We felt it creep up on us as police apprehended and arrested two women simply standing on the public sidewalk across from our group, watching and filming the protest. I saw it in the flash of fear in the eyes of a woman behind me, who told me I reminded her of her daughter before handing me a small mask to cover my nose and mouth when we heard the police threaten that they had tear gas ready. It gripped me in the smallness, the unimportance, I felt as we sat Shiva, the mourning prayer of my people, and the police laughed at us, trampling over our strong silence. 

November 24, 2019 was the first day I felt truly connected to my Jewish community. It was also the day I lost all trust in the police. I wish I could have experienced the spiritual empowerment of our gathering without the violence and horror of the police response. Peaceful protest should never be met with unflinching brutality and fear tactics. Especially not when the majority of those demonstrating are minority groups. My involvement in this event taught me one very important thing, a lesson clear in the stark imagery of armed police lined up before strangers hugging and crying and singing as one: violence is the weapon of the oppressor, but love creates change.    

Pictured: Bec Horowitz (in orange pants) and their sister (in green plaid) listen to speakers before marching. 

Photo Credits: Anthony Crider

Cr: Anthony Crider

Bec Horowitz (author) pictured right. Cr: Anthony Crider (above and below)

Thanksgiving: A One-Sided Story

By Ebenezer Nkunda

What do you know about Thanksgiving?

There are always two sides to a story. However, in regards to Thanksgiving, American citizens are taught a one-sided history. The vast majority of our cultural understanding and history of thanksgiving derived directly from the perspective of white colonialists who landed close to Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts in 1620. In this version of the Thanksgiving story, the holiday commemorates the peaceful, friendly meeting of English settlers and the Algonquin tribe; celebrating with three days of feasting and thanksgiving in 1621. The version of the Thanksgiving story that is most commonly told instills an image of heroic, Christian settlers coping with the perils of the New World—and with the assistance of some friendly Natives— discovering a pathway to a new life and community.

 When nearing the time of Thanksgiving, many teachers and institutions focus in on this happy story, resulting in students crafting “Indian headdresses” out of paper and holding Thanksgiving reenactments in their lecture rooms.

Very few teachers understand that construction headdresses and  re-enactments produce a stereotype that Native Americans all wear equivalent regalia. These activities conjointly encourage young students to assume it’s okay to wear culture like they are playing dress-up, making it extremely difficult for them to understand the range and complexity of the culture of Native American tribes. They normalize the mimicry of Native wear, traditions, and culture— never understanding its religious significance.

 Very few teachers inform students of the massacres of Native tribes, such as that of the Pequot that occurred within the years following colonists’ arrival. Our education and culture fails to accept that English settlers robbed Algonquin graves and stole food to simply survive the first couple years on this new continent. There are a number of the explanations why Thanksgiving could be considered a complex holiday and one that every American needs  to approach with larger sensitivity. It’s necessary to understand that for many Native Americans. Thanksgiving could be a day of mourning and protest since it commemorates the arrival of settlers in North America and the centuries of oppression that followed. Thanksgiving day is a reminder of the murder of Natives, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants in the National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples. It is okay to celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a holiday that has been a tradition in American culture for years, and to American citizens, is no different than any other celebration; however, just know what you are celebrating, because to our Natives peers it is not just a day. Everyday is a day of remembrance and protest of the lives and land that were taken.

Thanksgiving: Ranked

by Alexis Cope and Jack Morgenstein

Thanksgiving is a holiday unlike any other. It’s the one day a year where families and friends gather around a table, groaning under the weight of a meal that has taken hours upon hours to prepare. A meal filled with everything from marshmellowed potatoes to cranberry sauce that will stretch on into the next week, and then the next. It’s a holiday where anyone and everyone can eat anything and everything, no strings attached, no judgement. 

It’s a foodie’s heaven, and so, naturally, we two poor, humble eaters (me, Alexis, and me, Jack)have offered up our opinions on classic Thanksgiving Cuisine. Welcome the Thanksgiving Food Hall of Fame: 2019 inductees edition. 

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Best Vegetable:

Candied Yams

Thanksgiving is the only time of the year where I reach for the vegetables before anything else. Even with such a contested field, one dish stands head above the rest. Candied Yams are my vegetable of choice for the Thanksgiving season. With enough sugar to kill a small cow, these yams are almost more desert than vegetables – and that’s just how I like it.

Worst Vegetable:

Green Bean Casserole

    You know that one person in your life that always butts in and won’t stop talking even though you really REALLY would rather be doing anything else? Green bean casserole is that person at the Thanksgiving table. A staple of thanksgiving since 5 billion BCE, I wish it had died alongside the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Tasting like a mix between sawdust and expired spinach, I urge my fellow author to schedule an appointment with the oral pathologist.

Best Side:

Green Bean Casserole

I absolutely love veggies and honestly almost anything savory. So, of course, the winner of my heart is the one and only green bean casserole. Made with green beans slathered in creamy mushroom sauce, topped with crunchy, crispy onions that add both a flavor and texture undertone, it’s simply delicious, just as it always has been, a fact my fellow food critic hasn’t yet been able to realize. 

Worst Side:

Collard Greens

Among the world of greens there are some winners and losers, and collard greens are definitely a loser. When you fry this cabbage all it gets is slimy, wilted, and just plain sad. You could add bacon or onions or even both, but still, this dish is on my Do Not Touch List.

Best Southern Food:

Cornbread

    Cornbread always hits the palette like a warm bed after a long, cold day. This icon of southern cooking is among good company at Thanksgiving. One of my favorite foods to make, cornbread is quintessential comfort food. Straight out of the oven with a crispy, golden-brown crust, cornbread is as appealing to the eyes as to the mouth. The inside is soft, crumbly and sweet. The perfect palate cleanser between dishes, you’re doing it wrong if you don’t have cornbread at your Thanksgiving meal.

Best Southern Food—Runner Up:

Biscuits

    A close second, buttermilk biscuits are a sure crowd pleaser at Thanksgiving. Puffy, sweet, and delicious, buttermilk biscuits are great year round. There’s no food which quite perfects an inner spongy softness the way biscuits do. Too lazy to bake your own? A quick run to Bojangles and your southern Thanksgiving meal will be well on its way.

Best Meat:

Turkey

    It would be high treason to declare anything other than turkey the unequivocal best meat of Thanksgiving. It’s been the star of the show for hundreds of years. A uniquely North American bird, Turkey is chicken’s larger, better-tasting cousin. Cooked just right, juicy and soft, turkey with gravy is impossible to turn down just one more helping. Even though it’s majorly responsible for my 10 pound gain at this time of the year, turkey resoundingly wins the category of best meat.

Best Potato Dish: 

Mashed Potatoes 

Potatoes. I love ‘em. From yellow to orange to blue to white they are great, none more than the king of Thanksgiving potatoes: mashed potatoes. Not the instant kind, but the boiled, mashed, creamy, spiced and seasoned kind. They are the heart and soul of the Thanksgiving table, and let’s be real, when you run out of mashed potato leftovers, that’s when Thanksgiving really ends. 

Best Dessert: 

Apple Crisp

While pumpkin pie is the classic Thanksgiving dessert, I’d have to say that a good apple crisp can beat that any day. Apples are a favorite of mine, whether on their own, baked, or made into butter, so this was my obvious winner. And when they’re this warm, sweet, cinnamony, covered with that wonderfully crumbly top, and served with a good scoop of ice cream, who wouldn’t love this awesome dish?

Worst Dessert:

Coke Salad 

I’d never heard of this monstrosity until recently, and oh boy, it really is a monstrosity. There are way more recipes for this dish than I ever thought there’d be, and according to most of the ones I found, to make a classic cherry coke salad you will need: cherry jello, cherries, pineapple, cream cheese, coke, and sometimes pecans. Yeah, I think that list speaks for itself. 

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A Recap of the Fifth Democratic Debates

(Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times)

BY: SARAH GOVERT

The fifth Democratic debate took place on Thursday, November 20th with ten hopefuls still vying for the Democratic nomination in the upcoming 2020 presidential election. The remaining candidates and debaters include the following: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttigieg, California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobucher, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire activist Tom Steyer. At the start of the debate, the frontrunners were considered to be Warren, Sanders, Biden, and Buttigieg. Following the debate, these four remain at the top. MSNBC and the Washington Post co-sponsored the debate. Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Ashley Parker, and Kristin Welker moderating. Maddow is the host of the MSNBC nightly news show The Rachel Maddow Show and a political commentator; Mitchell is the NBC news foreign affairs correspondent and host of “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on MSNBC; Parker is White House reporter for the Washington Post; Welker is NBC News’ White House correspondent.

We chose three main topics of the debate that caused disagreements between the candidates, highlighting some of their fundamental differences. Let’s take a look at these categories and see what each candidate had to say.

The Impeachment Inquiry:

Warren began the debate, focusing on the Mueller report and the evidence it provides to show that the president attempted to obstruct justice. She also discussed Ambassador Sondland as an example of the corruption in Washington, seeing that he has no qualifications for his position. Klobuchar responded with an attack on President Trump, saying that he “is a president that not only with regard to his conduct with Ukraine, but every step of the way puts his own private interests, his own partisan interests, his own political interests in front of our country’s interest.” Sanders focused on the American people—specifically those struggling within the country. Following the first three speakers, Senator Harris and Mayor Buttigieg both contributed to the discussion of the criminal conduct on the President.

Medicare:

Division of the Democratic Party over Medicare was a large topic of the night. Senator Warren and Senator Sanders are running on Medicare for all and former Vice President Biden is running on rebuilding Obamacare. Warren discussed her plan to bring down the cost of prescriptions, defend the Affordable Care Act, and bring 135 million people into Medicare for free in her first 100 days as president. Sanders followed Warren’s plan with his own—to introduce Medicare for all in the first week of his administration. Biden rebuked both of these plans, saying that they would never pass in the Senate with the Democrats right now. He provided his plan to build on Obamacare, add a Medicare option, and allow the people to choose what they wanted. 

The Climate Crisis:

Climate change was another big topic of the evening, especially on the candidates’ plans to ensure bipartisan support would be there to continue the fight against climate change. Gabbard discussed one of her plans for the first time that evening, stating that she would “[transition] our country off of fossil fuels and [end] the nearly $30 billion in subsidies that we as taxpayers are currently giving to the fossil fuel industry, instead investing in a green renewable energy economy…” She continued on to say that the United States should invest more in local agriculture. Moderator Maddow gave Tom Steyer the chance to jump in because one of Steyer’s main political points is climate change. He was quick to say that he would declare climate change a national emergency on day one of his presidency, and that he would “make sure that [his] climate policy was led by environmental justice and members of the communities where this society has chosen to put our air and water pollution.” Biden responded by stating that he believes climate change to be an existential threat to humanity, adding that he “[passed] the first climate change bill… managed the $90 billion recovery plan, [invested] more money in infrastructure that related to clean energy than any time we’ve ever done it.” Sanders interjected to state that climate change is happening now, and that we don’t have decades to do something about it. He also said that he will possibly prosecute the fossil fuel industry, to let them know that “their short-term profits are not more important than the future of this planet.”

Additional Resources:

Candidates’ websites:

https://elizabethwarren.com/, https://berniesanders.com/, https://joebiden.com/, https://peteforamerica.com/meet-pete/, https://kamalaharris.org/, https://corybooker.com/, https://amyklobuchar.com/, https://www.tulsi2020.com/, https://www.yang2020.com/, and https://www.tomsteyer.com/

The full transcript of the debate: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/read-democratic-debate-transcript-november-20-2019-n1088186?yptr=yahoo