Outrage over Everard’s death


Sarah Everard was a 33 year old marketing executive for a digital media agency working in Brixton Hill, London, United Kingdom.

On Mar. 3, at around 9:00pm, she was walking home from a friend’s house. As she was walking back home, she had a 15 minute long conversation with her boyfriend, agreeing to meet him the next day.

The next day, on Mar. 4, Everard’s boyfriend contacted police to inform them that he has been unable to make contact with Everard since the night before and that she didn’t show up for their meeting that day.

Pink posters with the words “missing” on them quickly swarmed the streets of London as efforts were made to hopefully find the woman alive.

Six days after her disappearance, on Mar. 10, The Metropolitan Police reveal they’ve arrested officer Wayne Couzens, a 48-year-old man with a wife and two children, serving in the force’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command. They claim he was not on duty at the time of Ms Everard’s disappearance.

Detectives soon begin searching two locations in Kent including properties close to Couzens’ residence. A day into their search, they find human remains were found in a builders bag in Kent, which were identified to be belonging to Everard via dental records.

Everard’s death has since let to an outcry across the world, with women standing up against an unsafe environment where an act as simple as walking home at night is one that must be marred by caution and safety precautions.

Downloads for women’s safety apps increased tenfold in the aftermath of Everard’s death, pointing to a culture where great strides need to be made by legislators to effectively make streets safer for women. An eye opening statistic by United Nations Women also began making the rounds of social media, which says 97% of all women claim to have been sexually assaulted with 96% of those never having reported their experiences to the authorities because they thought it wouldn’t lead to any change and was an added hassle.

A vigil for Everard took place on Clapham Common on Mar. 13, quickly becoming the biggest vigil in her honor with hundreds of protestors and mourners attending. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, also attended, with Kensington Palace releasing a statement saying that the Duchess “remembers what it was like to walk around London at night before she was married”.

However, cops quickly descended on the vigil, arresting attendees for violating the Coronavirus Act of 2020 which gave the cops emergency powers to handle public gatherings to prevent the spread of the virus.

The way the cops handled the event drew widespread criticism from all sides of the political spectrum, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying he was “deeply concerned” after seeing the footage of the event.

Post heavy criticism, police response has changed dramatically. On 14 March, when more than 1,000 people marched from New Scotland Yard to Parliament Square in protest, the police response was described as “hands-off” and “markedly different” to that on Mar. 13.

Currently, Couzens’ trial is set for October 2021 and the acts of the police during the protest are waiting to be reviewed by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which oversees the police. However, no matter what the verdict of the trial, it is clear that Everard’s death has quickly turned into a movement for women’s safety which seeks to bring to women in a western liberal democracy a very basic right— the right to walk on the streets without fearing for their lives.

Bus accident in India leaves 46 dead


India, a country of almost two billion people, uses buses as one of its primary mode of transportation. Currently, 1.6 million buses are registered in the country which transport approximately 500,000 people to and from work every single day.

In light of this mammoth task at the hands of India’s transportation departments and the fact that India is known to have some of the world’s deadliest roads, with over 150,000 people killed in accidents in 2019, the safety and security of these buses and the qualifications of their drivers come in to question time and time again, as they did on the Feb. 16’ 2021.

On Feb. 16, a bus carrying more than 60 people in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh plunged off a bridge and fell into a canal. Several eyewitnesses to the crash have come forward to tell the police that it seemed as though the driver lost control of the vehicle and in an attempt to regain control, hit the boundary of the bridge before falling into Sharda canal.

Officials have reported that seven passengers and the driver managed to swim to the shore where rescue teams have successfully treated them. On the other hand, a vast majority of the passengers remained missing in the water body for long after the crash as rescue teams ramped up efforts to bring them out.

By the end of the day, 46 dead bodies were recovered from within the canal.

As the news of the accident spread across the country, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the Chief Minister of the state of Madhya Pradesh, took to his social media account to offer his condolences to the families affected by the crash and announce that two other minsters had left for the crash site to oversee rescue efforts.

By evening that day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi the announced that would be made available to the families affected- rupees two lakhs (approximately $2,500) from the Prime Minister Relief Fund for families who lost a member to the crash and rupees 50,000 (approximately $700) for those who were severely injured.

India’s yearly death rate by accident is the highest anywhere in the world and proportionate to population, it stands above the global average with men and women between 18-40 years of age making up 70% of the accidents. In these accidents, more than 300,000 people are permanently disabled every year.

Many believe that the high rate of accidents in India are owing to the lax implementation of driving laws and underage driving while others believe the rate isn’t incredibly high to begin with. Considering India’s population, the second highest in the world, many claim India’s accident rate which is only slightly higher than the global average is no anomaly.

“For the government, each life is precious, whether poor or rich, urban or rural, male or female. The situation is alarming. There are more deaths by road accidents than by COVID-19,” said India’s Minister for Road Transport and Highways Mr. Nitin Jairam Gadkari.

He went on to say that the government was carrying out a “safety audit” of 40,000km (24,854 miles) of highways to find out whether there were any design deficiencies which were contributing to the accidents in light of the fact that in India, as high as 44% of households in rural areas reported at least one death after a road crash compared with 11.6% of households in urban areas. The report, done in collaboration with SaveLIFE Foundation, a non-profit group working on road safety, said more than 75% of poor households in India reported a decline in their income as a result of a road traffic crash.

Violence against Asian Americans


Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the harassment of and violence against Asian Americans has reached an all time high, giving rise to a twisted rhetoric against them.

The rhetoric of politicians and figures in power, including that of former President Donald Trump, have not helped the cause of the Asian American community, which is trying hard to fight the image making rounds in the country.

The Asian American community has reached a “crisis-point”, said Judy Chu, a California congresswoman who chairs the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. Community members were “terrified by the alarming surge in anti-Asian American bigotry,” she said. Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition documenting anti-Asian bigotry during the pandemic, said the organization had received more than 2,808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate from Mar. 19 to Dec. 31. According to the same organization’s data, physical assaults comprised 8.7% of these incidents, while coughing/spitting comprised 6.4%. Verbal harassment constituted 70.9% of these incidents; and shunning or avoidance were 21.4%.

An Asian American student from Alma’s campus came forward to tell their experience of racism in the pandemic’s environment, albeit anonymously. “At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, I remember receiving unwelcome stares. Not all stares are bad, obviously, but as an international student, I’ve learnt to distinguish the good ones from the bad ones. I had never experienced that at Alma. But as the pandemic progressed, merely standing in line at Saga became an ordeal. It made me feel out of place and unwelcome when I would notice people mumble something in their breaths after seeing me”. Their experiences are shared by many more international students, green card holders and first general Asian Americans across the country whose integration into American society is hampered by the fixed characteristics of their ethnicity. On Jan. 28, security footage of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee was shoved to the ground while taking his morning walk in San Francisco, an assault just two days after which he died. For the crime, nineteen-year-old Antoine Watson was charged in what many have come to consider an example of a hate crime against Asian Americans in the wake of the pandemic.

The assault caused widespread distress in the Asian American community and protests in San Francisco where citizens gathered to protest against and condone racism. Protests also took over Massachusetts where the Asian American community in particular took to the streets in an attempt to voice their opinions. Signs like “my ethnicity is not a virus”, “racism: the greatest pandemic” and “its time for facts, not fear” were seen soar across the streets.

The Asian American community has come to the United States in many waves, after having dealt with incredibly harsh conditions in their countries of birth. Upon their arrival, they’ve contributed to the American economy by becoming one of the highest earning minority groups and contributed to the American society by bringing in beautiful, diverse and colorful customs and practices. Today, there are countless of them that feel ‘un-American’ due to the rhetoric against them and the statistics represent this change in feeling.

It will require leaders and policy makers in positions of power to undo the damage done and take a stand against the words of their fellow leaders but it will also take ordinary citizens to change the way society has come to to view the pandemic and, in extension, members of the Asian American community.

Buccaneers win Super Bowl, make history



On Feb. 7 this year, two of the best teams for the National Football Conference and American Football Conference respectively played the Super Bowl under conditions unprecedented in its 52-year history.

The Super Bowl attracts millions of viewers less for the game and more for the experience and the ads in what remains media’s greatest marketing showcase, with advertisers paying roughly $5.5 million for each 30-second spot.

The annual championship of the National Football League culminated in the first week of February with 91.6 million viewers who tuned in to their TVs to watch, making it the lowest number of viewers for the Super Bowl since 2007 which sat at 93.2 million viewers on television.

Many have attributed the poor ratings to the lack of a competitive game which almost always draws in greater views.

A straightforward game like the one we saw between The National Football Conference champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the American Football Conference champion Kansas City Chiefs failed to captivate audiences with mystery and unpredictability the way past games have. This was visible in the result of the game, a shocking 31–9 win for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

This year’s game started with a note to the audiences delivered by the NFL. The public-service announcement was regarding the NFL’s financial commitment to a campaign against systemic racism. Despite the NFL’s well meaning attempt at addressing America’s recent reckoning with its racist history, the organization’s failure to make any reference to Colin Kaepernick- the civil rights activist and football quarterback- felt like an oversight to many.

In what can be considered a lowlight of the game, Kansas City, despite entering the game perfectly capable of winning, undid their prospects of winning because of their offensive oversights and significant penalties.

In what was a rather anticlimactic game for the Chiefs, led by Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs failed to score a touchdown despite their frantic efforts and lost by double-digits, making them also the third Super Bowl team to not score a touchdown. Not just that, but by the end of the four hours, the Chiefs had committed 11 penalties, including a record eight penalties in the first half.

On a brighter note, for the Buccaneers, their victory set their name in history by making them the only other team (with the Baltimore Ravens) to be undefeated in multiple Super Bowls.

Veteran quarterback Tom Brady was awarded his record fifth MVP also making him the oldest player to receive the honor.

“This was the first time I ever watched the Super Bowl because this is my first year in the United States. As an Indian, I’ve only known of the Super Bowl from American TV shows,” said Aditya Shankar (’24). To be here, live the passion people have for the game and watch it firsthand made me feel as though I am part of a cultural moment unique to this country. It was a very interesting game to watch, at least for a Super Bowl rookie like me, but the disappointment in the eyes of my peers was visible. It’s an incredibly unique game with a lot of moving parts and it takes a while to understand, but once I took notes of the basics, I knew I’d be joining the madness yet again next year”, he continued.

Despite the ups and downs of this Super Bowl season and the unprecedented conditions of a global pandemic under which the game was played, Super Bowl will be back in February of next year to capture the hearts and minds of millions of Americans once again and perhaps provide to its audiences a more dynamic game that will soar ratings like the past.

Rioters storm the Capitol


209 years ago, the United States saw one of its most violent attacks on what was symbolically the most significant building standing on its land- the US Capitol. The British knew the importance of the building, chose to burn it to down after looting it for that very reason.

209 years passed since the attack, and the nation protected and revered its Capitol with all of its might. It housed elected representatives that changed the course of American history, it was the venue chosen to draft documents that helped define the very essence of America, and it stood as a representation of American democracy.

209 years later, on the morning of Jan. 6’ 2021, history repeated itself.

Thousands of supporters of the now former President Donald J. Trump collected in front of the Capitol on Jan. 5 and 6 to protest the declared victory of Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

While outside the Capitol, the rioters changed “Hang Mike Pence” for the Vice President’s inability to reject the final vote of the electoral college. Eventually, the protestors broke police barricading, claimed the walls protecting the Capitol, broke its doors and windows and entered to vandalize the building, loot the votes stored within and possibly hold hostage the officials present inside since many of them were carrying handcuffs.

Pictures from the time the rioters spent inside the building prove most invaluable in depicting the dystopian reality of what has come to be called an insurrection attempt on the American democracy. They show rioters hang from the balcony of the Senate Chambers, a weapon carrying protestor sitting on the desk of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and a protestor with a Trump cap carrying a lectern with the Speaker’s seal on it.

Eventually, the ordeal ended with law enforcement successfully evacuating the officials within the building, firing tear gas, and even entering an armed confrontation with the protestors which resulted in four casualties, and one critically injured individual.

However, the incident wasn’t an impulsive reaction by a mob fueled by group think and polarization.

For months now, the rhetoric that the elections are rigged, will yield an illegitimate result, Trump’s loss will simply not be accepted have made the rounds of even the most prominent right wing circles. Had the former President, and his cabinet denounced these rumors early on, the situation may very well have not escalated. While the riots went on, the President failed to denounce the rioters effectively leading to him being banned from several of the world’s biggest social networking platforms, including Twitter and Instagram.

Post what the country saw on the morning of Jan. 6, many were certain the lawmakers, even those belonging to Trump’s cabinet, would move swiftly to impeach him. However, they have been left disappointed for more reasons than one.

“To me the most disturbing thing about the capitol violence was not the assault on the capitol — although that was very troubling — but rather what happened after the assault. About two-thirds of Republicans in the House voted against certifying the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania,” said William Gorton, Associate Professor of Political Science. This signaled that they were quite possibly willing to nullify the results of a free and fair election. That’s the sort of thing that happens in failing democracies and autocratic regimes. One wonders what would have happened had the Republicans controlled the House and Senate. Would they have nullified Joe Biden’s win? Unfortunately, it’s quite imaginable that something like that might happen in future presidential races. American democracy is in a very precarious state.”

Winter is coming


As the Northern Hemisphere of our planet tilts further away from the sun, cold and freezing winds have already started to take over our days. The windbreakers are out, the socks are never off and a warm bowl of soup has become a Saga staple. But as the season to be jolly rolls around this year, there is a unique worry on our minds- COVID-19 cases all around us are getting worse.

Alma College saw its highest spike in cases ever since the semester began (28 positive cases) and the state’s trends reflect the same. The number of new coronavirus cases in Michigan has increased 39% in the past week, with many cities seeing their highest spike ever.

With this sudden and sharp rise in cases, scientists from all around the country are speaking up about the the impacts of the winter on the coronavirus. “This virus is going to have a heyday,” says David Relman, a microbiologist at Stanford University in California. “We are looking at some pretty sobering and difficult months ahead.”

In the past, a number of the most dangerous viral infections we’ve experienced have shown seasonal trends and while it may be too early to determine seasonal trends for COVID-19, its predicted the winter will only make things worse. For example, laboratory experiments revealed that SARS-CoV-2 favors cold, dry conditions, particularly out of direct sunlight; the 1918 influenza outbreak, the only pandemic that killed more Americans than COVID-19, was five times higher during the winter than other seasons. Even the flu gets significantly worse during the winter with 40 times more cases during fall and winter than in spring and summer.

While this virus may just like the winter better, that isn’t the only reason why COVID-19 cases might rise in the upcoming season. As winter comes along, indoor activities increase and more people gather together in confined spaces, many times with poor ventilation, to meet with each other. In times like these, the importance of social distancing and mask wearing has become more prominent than ever.

If these predictions come to fruition, the United States is likely to see another 400,000 deaths on top of the current death toll of 230,000. Just the current number of COVID-19 cases in the US (nine million as of October 29) have made it home to 25% of all positive cases in the world while it is home to only 4% of the world’s population.

States like Michigan which experience cold and long winters, a subsequent rise in indoor activities and an already existing high number of cases (the seventh highest out of all 50 states) have a task ahead of them, a task the college must undertake for its students too. The state must incentivize mask-wearing not just in public spaces but also in private spaces. The college, too, must continue with its Phase-I policy of minimal contact among students and regulated events around campus.

While Alma College only has only three weeks of classes remaining, our collective fight against the virus is far from over. Winter is coming and it’s time to prepare!

Pollution damages the Pine River


“It’s startling to watch birds drop from the air, flop around and die”, were the words of a St. Louis, MI, resident who was one of the many that came forward to report dystopian consequences in a town where a former industrial site once stood. Fifty years after The Velsicol Chemical Company, also known as Michigan Chemicals, was simply knocked to the ground and buried under a slab of concrete the people living around the former chemical plant are raising alarm.

The reason for birds falling to the ground, sky rocketing cancer rates and the need for an alternate water source all have a single reason behind them—the insecticide DDT. This pesticide is one of the best-known examples of how synthetic chemicals can harm an ecosystem, threaten human health and endanger the very existence of important species.

Banned in the United States in 1972, the chemical is infamous for persisting in the environment for abnormally long periods of time. It’s pollution of the Pine River is so colossal that it has led to the largest and one of the most expensive pollution cleanup projects in the state’s history. Ironically, the presence of DDT may have made it harder to deal with the original target pests.

For the 2020 worldwide synthetic biology competition, iGem (International Genetically Engineered Machine), The Alma College iGem team has proposed a way to help solve this perennial problem that plagues the perennial river.

“The iGEM Foundation is an non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of synthetic biology, education and competition, and the development of an open community and collaboration,” said Conner Arens (’23), a member of this year’s iGem team. “This is done by fostering an open, cooperative community and friendly competition. The goal of the jamboree, or competitions are not pitting teams against one another.”

The team that has competed with universities like the University of Michigan was ranked the highest of all midwestern universities participating in the 2019 competition and bagged the silver medal.

This project by the college team could be the be a new hope for a tale of pollution, destruction and environmental degradation that is bound to have everlasting impacts for many more generations to come.


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