Bernie Sanders endorses Hillary Clinton

Published: Fresh U. July 12, 2016. Viewable here.


 

Earlier today, in Portsmouth New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders declared his endorsement for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, thus uniting the Democratic party around her as sole candidate. In his speech, Sanders stated that he hopes to do everything in his power “to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.”

Live video via The L.A. Times

“I have come here today not to talk about the past, but to focus on the future,” Sanders said in the speech. “That future will be shaped more by what happens on November 8 in the voting booth than what happens on any other event in the world.”

The speech took place at a joint rally that was attended by both Clinton and Sanders in a state that Sanders won in February, making history for winning the most votes ever in a New Hampshire primary.

In his endorsement speech, Sanders made clear that his act was for the greater good of both the party and the people.

“During this last year, I have had the extraordinary opportunity to speak to more than 1.4 million Americans at rallies in almost every state in our country … and the profound lesson that I have learned is that this campaign is not really about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders or any other candidate who sought the presidency, this campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crisis that we face,” Sanders stated. “And there is no doubt in my mind, that as we head to November, Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that.”

The Green Party’s candidate Jill Stein has taken to Twitter to voice her disapproval of the endorsement and attract possible new voters.

Libertarian candidate for president and New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has also taken to Twitter to speak to supporters of the Vermont Senator who are now faced with either supporting Clinton or finding a new candidate.

Bernie Sanders supporters are also using social media platforms to discuss their thoughts on the endorsement, and many are distressed and disheartened.

Clinton also spoke at the joint rally, saying that, as a team, they “are joining forces to beat Donald Trump.”

“You know what?” Clinton asked, “We are stronger together.”

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The dangers and annoyances of Pokémon Go

Published: Fresh U. July 10, 2016. Viewable here.


 

  Pokémon Go, a new app released July 6, blends the lines between the real world and the virtual world of catching and training Pokémon. Using the app and camera devices on their phones, users can catch over a hundred different types of Pokémon in real world settings. In order to find different Pokémon, fanatics alike travel to places such as parks in efforts to find new species – for example, some water-type species only appear near bodies of water, thus prompting users to venture out to find them.

  The new app, an adventure unto itself, has proven to be not all fun and games for some.

  In Riverton, Wyoming, Shayla Wiggins was using the app when she stumbled across a floating dead body in the Wind River, according to County 10 news.

  “I was trying to get a Pokémon from a natural water resource,” the 19-year-old told County 10 news. “I was walking towards the bridge along the shore when I saw something in the water. I had to take a second look and I realized it was a body.”

  The Pokémon Go app cautions users to stay conscious of their surroundings, but since the purpose of the game is to stare into your phone awaiting Pokémon to appear, it is easy to become entranced. The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the death, but believes the death to be a drowning accident, although the water in the Wind River is only three feet deep.

  Other problems with the app itself arose after millions of users attempted to download the app in a small window of time. These issues include a quick depletion of battery life, errors with servers, messages about the app not being available in certain countries and failures to recognize login usernames. Pokémon Go has also begun crashing because of a major system overload.

  Aside from the app’s multitude of errors, researchers at Proofpoint  have discovered a fake Android version of the game installed by “sideloading” the game through a backdoor. Downloading this unverified app increases the chances of accidentally downloading a virus.

  Users can separate the real app from the potentially-harmful app by accessing their Settings and scrolling through the Permissions stated for the Pokémon Go app. If, under Permissions, the app lists that it is allowed to “read your Web bookmarks and history” or “view Wi-Fi connections” it is not the verified Pokémon Go application.

  Seemingly harmless, the app is carelessly enjoyed by most. Omari Akil, however, wrote a warning for black men using the app. Akil, an editor of Autora Ink and black man himself cautioned black males using the app to watch out for their lives in this article written for Medium.

  Akil writes that while playing the game, being a Pokémon fan himself, he was “distracted from the game by thoughts of the countless Black Men who have had the police called on them because they looked ‘suspicious’ (and wondered) what a second amendment exercising individual might do if I walked past their window a 3rd or 4th time in search of a Jigglypuff.”

 In the event that police show up in response to a suspicious-looking black man, Akil referenced statistics – that he is more likely to be approached by law enforcement aggressively even when no laws have been broken, that he is more likely to be shot reaching for his identification and that if he is shot multiple times he will likely be dead before medical emergency assistance arrives, because of his skin color.

  In regards to system errors, the Pokémon corporation issued this response: “The enthusiastic response to the launch of Pokémon GO has been tremendous and inspiring. We’re aware of the server issues that our players have been experiencing and are working around the clock to resolve them as soon as possible.”

  For users nationwide, the Pokémon Go app can be enjoyed – if and when it works like it’s supposed to – with safety and caution.

Bathroom policies and their effects on the rise of social media social justice

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 8. Friday, May 20, 2016. Can also be read here.


 

  The heated, national controversy spurred over the creation of public bathroom policies in relation to who, depending on how gender is determined,  may use either male or female bathrooms, has been intensified by impassioned arguments from groups on either side of the issue.

  Although there are more inclusive facility alternatives, such as family or non-gendered bathrooms, often public places such as schools offer only female or male bathroom choices. In determining gender lays the controversy: North Carolina’s House Bill 2 upheld the definition of biological sex, that “stated on a person’s birth certificate” to determine gender; whereas Target, after announcing a new national bathroom policy at its stores, has declared that employees and customers alike are free to use the restroom which corresponds with their gender identity.

  “I believe policies protecting the rights of transgender individuals are important to ensuring their safety – even in the restroom,” said senior and Granite Bay High School Gender-Sex-Alliance club president Marty Kantola, who is a transgender male. “The point is, there shouldn’t be a debate about this.”

  North Carolina’s House Bill 2 was found to be discriminating against transgender individuals, and thus in violation of Title IX, which ensures the absence of gender discrimination in federally-funded education programs or activities. The Department of Justice told the state’s government officials to immediately stop enforcing the legislation, or risk losing billions of dollars in funding for North Carolina’s education programs.

  Now it seems North Carolina and the Department of Justice are embattled in a mainly philosophical dispute. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory filed a lawsuit at the end of the allotted time period given by the Department of Justice to eradicate HB2. The Department of Justice has filed its own lawsuit, citing the law’s discriminatory policies.

  Target, however, was met with public backlash for their implementation of a more progressive bathroom policy. At this time, almost 1,200,000 people have signed the American Family Association’s petition to boycott Target stores, claiming it “endangers women and children by allowing men to frequent women’s facilities.”

   “I think the main reason people are against open bathroom policies is (because) they’re afraid of people who may take advantage of the policy to sexually assault someone,” said junior Reagan Tran. “But the thing is, if someone has intent to sexually assault anybody they obviously don’t care about the law and will find a way and a place. Open restroom policies don’t promote sexual assault – they merely allow transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they most comfortably identify.”

    In California, after the passing of AB 1266, transgender students who attend public school in grades K-12 may use the bathroom which corresponds to the gender they identify with, as well as play for a gendered sports team according to the same criteria.

  Jessup McGregor, a GBHS assistant principal, said the administrative staff is looking at all parties involved to be as inclusive as possible before implementing a uniform bathroom policy.

   “We are trying to move slowly because it’s charged, and I think whatever … we do, we get (complaints) from somebody,” McGregor said. “Our goal then is to … make sure we’re in compliance with what we need to do. So we work with our lawyers and have meetings about this kind of thing to make sure that we’re complying, which is good, but that’s really not the big thing. The big thing is how do we accommodate to people’s needs? How do we then (provide) service to every student on our campus?

  “You have folks who are in various stages of transition also, emotionally, physically and mentally. Each one we take as a single case basis. We have not outlined a specific (protocol), like Target has, for example. We also have to balance out with the needs, wishes and desires of everybody on campus too. So it’s hard to come up with a blanket policy just yet, so we’re going slow. We’re taking each student individually and trying to (ensure) they have a hospitable environment to go to school in and get their education in.”

  Marty Kantola pointed out that he has the right to use the bathroom that corresponds to his gender identity because he resides in California, but would still feel more comfortable in a gender neutral bathroom.

  “When it comes to Granite Bay (High School), I know that I’d be physically safe using the restroom I feel comfortable in,” Kantola said. “Personally, I’d rather use a gender neutral bathroom. For example, Del Oro actually has a two stall, gender neutral bathroom on campus, which is awesome. As for using restrooms on campus, I actually avoid using the GBHS bathrooms at all cost, because when I go in either bathroom, I’m always afraid that someone will tell me I’m in the wrong place, when all I need to do is pee.”

  Madison Shroyer, a Del Oro High School junior who transferred after attending GBHS, verified the existence of gender neutral bathrooms in the middle of campus which are open to anyone. Shroyer said she thinks it might be easier for students who are either transgender or struggling with their gender identity to use gender free bathrooms.

  GBHS, however, has no gender neutral bathrooms.

  “I think, across the education (system) in general, there’s going to be some shifting around, in terms of how we build our schools,” McGregor said. “But we have what we have right now and we have to adapt our facilities to (fit) the needs of our students.”

  In regards to improving the comfortability of students using the facilities provided at GBHS, McGregor and Kantola both said neither the GSA or administrative staff have attempted to talk to one another about the bathroom policy at GBHS.

  McGregor said that the district works with each student on a case by case basis to come up with an individual plan the student feels comfortable with.

    “(We) have a vested interest in providing students with the best services possible, regardless of what they’re coming to us with,” McGregor said. “So we would absolutely be open to having a conversation, having even forums, potentially, to make sure that everybody feels like they have a voice and has access to the decision-making process. All students have an interest in their privacy and their ability to access facilities so we’re open to hearing from everybody, certainly.

  “I think we’re all anxious to make sure that we get it right, and concerned about the implications if we get it wrong, either out of innocence or ignorance or otherwise. We all want to do the right thing by people, but it’s really hard because … a lot of people have a lot of very charged opinions. I hope that our student body has patience with us as we go through this and try to get it right.”

  Nationwide, however, schools, companies and even states are struggling to find an inclusive policy which works for everyone. The difficulty lies in meeting everyone’s needs, and when bathroom policies fall short of expectations or personal desires, the American public is using the internet as an outlet to vent their concerns.

   In regards to both Target’s newest company policy and North Carolina’s legislation, individuals took to social media or other online platforms to petition or support the policy. The AFA’s online petition is one example of mass online protest.

  The future of grassroots social movements – movements started by the public – might be more concentrated online.

  “I  think it is just in keeping with everything else in society, no one writes letters of any kind anymore – it is easy to post something to Twitter and reach tons and tons of people, so naturally people are doing that,” said Sacramento State University Government Professor David Barker, who has expertise in media and politics. “Traditional forms of protest take a lot more effort (and) organizing, and naturally most people don’t have time for that.

  “I don’t think that people don’t protest … in traditional ways. I think they (do). But again, you can’t do it that quickly because someone has to organize it. It is easy and fast to get a bunch of signatures via social media, and we have now gotten to a point when a big majority of the population is on Facebook and a substantial percentage is on Twitter.”

  Undoubtedly, the online presence of teens is particularly high – according to a study published in 2015 by the Pew Research Center, approximately 92 percent of teens surveyed said they engage in daily activities online. Teens may or may not choose to become politically active online, but if they do, is social media social justice effective?

  “I think both forms – traditional and modern – … will continue to be important,” Barker said. “Social media may be easy and it may be impactful, but it is nothing like a march. People still need to take to the streets in large numbers to really get noticed. It is bang for your energy buck: you get a lot of bang for not much effort. That is why you are seeing it used so much now.”

 However, Tran, who said she promotes her own political ideologies on her personal social media accounts “pretty often,” said she thinks social media is an effective way to make change.

  “I think social media has a larger outreach than any other form of protest does – it raises awareness in a way that is totally unique and accessible to people everywhere around the world,” Tran said. “I’d dare to say that social media is more effective than traditional organized protests or letters. Discussions about topics pop up everywhere and allow so many people to see it and really promote more people to talk about topics, especially when things get trending and hashtags get started.

  “Organized protests, even when televised, only reach so many people locally. The internet and social media are constantly checked by people, and when topics start to trend they do end up on television and other news sources. Social media really has the biggest reach of any other type of protest or discussion about a topic.”

No taxation on my menstruation

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 19, Issue 7. Thursday, April 14, 2016. Can also be read here.


 

   The debate over the so-called “tampon tax” –  the argument over whether or not feminine hygiene products should be exempt from sales tax – has inspired two female members of the California State Assembly, Cristina Garcia and Ling Ling Chang, to introduce a bill which would eliminate the sales tax on all tampons and sanitary napkins, period.

  While California is not the first state to introduce such a bill, it is by no means a minority in the taxation of tampons  – 40 states, plus the District of Columbia, have such a “tampon tax.” In general, sales taxes are under the authority of states and are, most often, implemented automatically on all goods and services unless otherwise noted by a state government.

  Maryne Matthews, a Granite Bay High School sophomore and president of the Feminist club, said she completely supports AB 1561.

   “It being taxed is ridiculous,” Matthews said. “Let’s say someone buys a box of tampons every month, and this goes on for, let’s say, age 12 to 50 – that’s almost 40 years worth (of buying tampons). It adds up, and it’s not like you can control that.”

  The Huffington Post calculated that – assuming four tampons a day on a five-day period from a $7 box containing 36 tampons – a woman will spend almost $1,800 on tampons over her lifetime. She will use approximately 9,120 tampons, or 253-plus boxes of 36. In the course of a year, she will have spent about $47.

  Using this logic, and the findings from obgyn.net that the mean age for a first-time period is just under 13 years old, the average female will have spent about $235 on just her tampons alone by the time she is 18 and a senior in high school. This cost does not factor in the price of birth control, menstrual medication such as Midol, heating pads or the occasional chocolate bar.

  For the entire state of California, assemblywoman Garcia’s office found that the state would lose about $20 million of sales tax revenue per year if this bill passes.

  “Given that the size of the loss in tax revenue is small – an estimated $20 million loss to a proposed budget of approximately $170 billion – it is unlikely that removing the tax would be significantly detrimental to California’s economy,” said Sacramento State economics professor Kristin Van Gaasbeck. “While the loss of $20 million will certainly affect spending on certain programs, … the loss in revenue is very small when compared with the overall size of the budget. It accounts for only 0.01 percent of the overall 2016-2017 budget, and only 0.77 percent of sales tax revenue.”

  Professor George Jouganatos, an economist at Sacramento State University, said this loss in tax revenue will be minimal, especially because the money saved – which would have been spent on the sales tax – will likely be spent elsewhere.

  “It will be a decrease in revenues from this particular product, (but) it may not even be $20 million if the savings are spent on something where there is a sales tax,” Jouganatos said. “Let’s say (it’s a loss of) 50 cents per month per woman … what is she going to do with this 50 cents now? Spend it elsewhere. There will be sales tax, perhaps, on that item (she buys).”

  The idea of a multiplier effect – that there is a ripple effect created from purchases because one person’s spending becomes another person’s income that multiplies the effects of the original spending – helps explain why the loss of tax revenue might not be $20 million. If a woman spends her sales tax savings, that becomes someone else’s income, which then gets spent somewhere else.

Savings by schools

  Most high school females are responsible for purchasing their own menstrual products, but products such as these are sometimes made available to students.

   According to Kris Knapp, the Roseville Joint Union High School District’s assistant director of the maintenance and operations department, site nurses at schools in the district are responsible for purchasing their own feminine hygiene products which are then made available to students.

  At Oakmont High School, these products are not purchased but are instead donated by Kotex. This was the case at Granite Bay High School until recently.

  According to GBHS nurse Jenny Serrano, the school stopped receiving donations about six months ago. She said she purchases about $60 dollars of tampons every three months to stock the restroom in the office.

  Placer County’s sales tax is 7.50 percent. Given that GBHS purchases about $20 of tampons per month, after the sales tax exemption the school would save about $1.50 – or, $15 per year.

  Not very significant, but savings nonetheless.

Fairness of the pink tax

  Sales taxes, in general, are regressive.

  “Regressive (means that) the lower the income, the bigger the burden the tax is,” Jouganatos said. “The sales tax depends on the county, but that (designated sales tax) impacts a poor person a lot more than a rich person.”

 Mathews, the GBHS feminist club president, said it’s the equivalent of taxing those with a uterus … merely because they happen to have a uterus.

  So what determines whether or not products such as this one are taxed?

  “It is difficult to draw lines as to what should and should not be taxed,” Van Gaasbeck said. “That being said, I think it is clear that feminine hygiene products are a necessity. There are good reasons to exempt these products from sales taxes. The sales tax is regressive and disproportionately affects lower-income individuals. Since these products are used only by women and they are a necessity, the tax also disproportionately affects women.

  “Taxes on feminine hygiene products are certainly regressive and disproportionately burden lower-income individuals because they are a necessity rather than a luxury. While one could argue that these products are not absolutely necessary, I would argue that they are at least as necessary as orange juice, ice cream or popcorn – all of which are exempt from sales tax in California.”

Alternatives to regressive taxes   

  In the case of the pink tax, Assembly members Garcia and Chang have decided to attempt to eliminate the sales tax completely. But there might be different options.

  For example, there are ways of making a sales tax progressive – meaning that the financial burden of the tax increases as income increases, poorer classes pay less and richer classes pay more.

  “There would be ways, yes, (to make a) sales tax progressive,” Jouganatos said. “It would be complicated, and maybe not feasible. For instance, you would have a luxury tax on goods that are for luxury consumption, a higher tax rate on yachts, really expensive cars, that sort of thing. We (could also) have a return – after the poor person pays the sales tax, which is regressive, then we return the money in a different form to those who qualify. That would be a way to reverse the (inequality).”

In defense of periods

 The bill will be examined by California Assembly legislative committees and might eventually be voted on, perhaps even becoming law and thus eliminating the tampon tax.

  “I hope the bill gets passed,” Matthews says, “and that people see it as something that needs to be done.”

Students’ views on the death penalty

Published: Granite Bay Gazette Vol. 18, Issue 8. Friday, May 22, 2015.

Category: Writing

Reason for publication: With the upcoming trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, I thought it would be interesting if I examined the controversy of the death penalty.


 

   On April 15, 2013, two Russian brothers permanently changed the lives of over 260 people and took the lives of three when two bombs exploded at the annual Boston Marathon. The brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, planted the bombs near the finish line, and have been notoriously remembered since as the perpetrators of an infamous day that will stand out in America’s history.

  After the explosion, the two brothers killed a police officer and hijacked a car. During the manhunt and succeeding shootout with the police, Tamerlan was pronounced dead after receiving gunshot wounds from the police and injuries after being run over with the stolen SUV by his brother, Dzhokhar.

  Shortly after the shootout, Dzhohkar was found and detained by police. Recently, a jury found him guilty on the 30 accounts he was tried for and now faces the death penalty.

  The death penalty – otherwise known as capital punishment – dates back as early as 1608 in America, with its popularity peaking in the 1930s when the average number of deaths as caused by capital punishment was 167 per year.

  Capital punishment is still legal in California, but support from Americans for capital punishment has been slowly decreasing. A recent study done by the Pew Research Center found 56 percent of Americans support capital punishment, in general, but 71 percent of Americans from the same poll said they believe there is a possibility an innocent person could be found guilt for the death penalty.

  “(In) modern day America … I would probably say (support for the death penalty) is lowering,” Granite Bay High School senior Jude Battaglia said. “Because in today’s society, where human rights are on the table and being discussed openly when it comes to LGBT rights, when it comes to people of color’s rights, I believe human rights are being discussed. And when people are fighting for equality, that is influencing the value of human life (as well as) the punishments that go along with it, and I believe that people are no longer passive about the subject of the death penalty, but are opposed to (it).”

  Battaglia, who said he is in support of the death penalty as a form of punishment for crimes such as premeditated murder, rape and molestation, also said he believes the Granite Bay community as a whole is opposed to the death penalty. However, Battaglia said that death as a form of punishment will better help discourage people from committing crimes.

  “My thoughts on the death penalty are (that) I believe it is a valid and viable punishment,” Battaglia said. “Mainly because there are certain situations where incarceration is not going to have any effect on the person committing the crime. If somebody is going to a commit a crime, anybody who has second thoughts on it is going to be less likely to commit the crime if the punishment is death, but anybody who’s going to commit the crime regardless of the consequences is going to not have any sway on the matter.”

  Maddie Peterson, another GBHS senior, also said she is in support of the death penalty because she believes people who murder other people are often not fully mentally stable and, unless deserving of mental treatment via a mental health facility, should be punished with the death penalty.

  Sacramento State Assistant Professor and expert on international law and human rights James Rae said that historical events have greatly impacted the level of international support for the death penalty as a form of punishment.

  “With the end of World War II, the death penalty has dramatically declined as a form of punishment in modern democracies,” Professor Rae said. “It is virtually non-existent in Europe, and no international court allows for the death penalty today. Part of that is a reaction to intentional mass murder by the Nazi regime and a general societal change in Europe that came to see capital punishment as inhumane and uncivilized. The movement in the 1960s and 1970s that led briefly to its abolishment in the US reflected greater skepticism toward the government and more support for civil rights.”

  Another semi-recent event, the 2014 botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, reignited the debate over capital punishment as an ethical form of punishment.

  Junior Naseeha Islam, who said she is in general opposition of the death penalty but believes it should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, said she thinks more people are in opposition of the death penalty after Lockett’s mishandled execution, which showed an inhumane side of the topic. Islam is also against the death penalty as a punishment for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, unlike Battaglia and Peterson – both in support for Tsarnaev’s case.

  “Honestly, (his punishment) should probably be life in prison,” Islam said. “Because if there’s a death of four, why would you make it death of five? I understand that everything he did was completely unpardonable and disgusting and horrific, but at the same time is modern civilization going to stoop to that level and kill another person (because) they committed these terrible crimes? There are certain (cases) where you think they deserve the death penalty, but at the same time, if you’re trying to be a forgiving society, why not lead them towards rehabilitation?”

  Additionally, Professor Rae said it is unclear whether or not there is a clear difference in support for the death penalty throughout different age groups.

  “We may assume older people may more support it due to traditional religious values,” Professor Rae said “(While) younger people are more influenced by skepticism toward the authority and power of government. Yet among my students, many, if not most, voice support for the death penalty for ‘terrorists’, and those who may be considered out of the bounds of acceptable behavior. Many other young people suspect bias in the application of the death penalty and are suspicious of poor performance of duties by those in institutions of power.”

  Islam also said, because of the discrepancies and changing trends in public support or opposition for the death penalty, it has become somewhat of a difficult topic. The government may not know whether the American public is in support or opposition of the death penalty in a certain case which makes it even more of a difficult topic, Islam said.

  Furthermore, opposition for the death penalty has been shown to be slightly increased for those who attend church regularly, according to a poll done by Gallup. GBHS junior Jacob Calton who practices the beliefs of Protestant Christianity as well as following  his own self-determined beliefs shaped by personal morals and ethics said he thinks his beliefs on the death penalty have not changed completely, but have been influenced by his religion to a certain degree.

  “I think I’m more gracious (with) giving the death penalty because I’m a Christian,” Calton said. “But I don’t think I believe it’s necessarily wrong (just) because I’m a Christian. I would say, (for Tsarnaev’s punishment), probably life in prison. I think because he took so many people’s lives or threatened to … he should almost sit in prison to … gain respect for life itself. If you have life in prison you’re obviously going to realize life is a long time … to take from other people.”

 The jury in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s case must now deliberate his punishment, but they ultimately hold his life in their hands. The primary understanding when deliberating on the death penalty is the knowledge one’s life is on the line, and whether or not their crimes are deserving of death.

  “People want that individual to pay for what he’s done,” Islam said “But at the same time you want to be humane about how you punish that person, not bring yourself to the same level that the criminal was (on.) So, I think that’s where the discrepancy comes in – it’s like two sides to your own brain.”