Grammy Awards update

ALIVIA GILES
EMILY MCDONALD
STAFF WRITERS

WESTON HIRVELA
GRAPHIC CREATOR

Due to Covid-19 precautions, this year’s Grammy Awards looked very different from that of previous years, but the show still managed to produce plenty of historic, controversial and memorable moments.

As pre-show coverage began, many viewers were excited to see what their favorite performers were wearing. Pop artist, Dua Lipa graced the red carpet in a Versace gown, while Taylor Swift opted for a floral Oscar de la Renta mini dress and Louboutin heels.

For Alma College Fashion Club president, Karmella Williams (’23), the red carpet looks were a very important part of the event, “Dua Lipa and Erin Lim were the best-dressed artists. My top favorite was Dua Lipa.”

The event kicked off with a monologue from host, Trevor Noah. English Harry Styles sang his pop hit, “Watermelon Sugar,” followed by performances by Billie Eilish and Finneas and HAIM.

Williams felt that all the artists featured gave strong performances but was partial to Harry Styles’, “I liked the ‘Watermelon Sugar’ performance, [but] I did not dislike any of the performances.”

Among the night’s biggest winners was Beyoncé. Alongside her nine-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy and WizKid, the music icon took home the award for Best Music Video for “Brown Skin Girl.”

Beyoncé went on to win three more awards over the course of the night, including Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance and Best R&B Performance. With 28 wins, she broke country artist Alison Krauss’ record and made history as the most-awarded woman in Grammys history.

Actress/comedian Tiffany Hadish received her first Grammy for Best Comedy Album for “Black Mitzvah,” while television host and political commentator Rachel Maddow won Best Spoken Word Album.

Bad Bunny won Best Latin Pop or Urban Album for his debut album, “YHLQMDLG.” Accompanied by Jhay Cortez, the Puerto Rican star performed his hit single “Dákiti.”

Megan Thee Stallion was awarded Best New Artist, making her the first woman rapper to win the award since Lauryn Hill in 1999. She also took home Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song.

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B took the stage to perform their hit “WAP” for the first time on television. The racy performance garnered a fierce response from viewers as well as conservative news sources, such as Fox News.

The Grammy for Song of The Year went to Dernst Emile II, H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas for “I Can’t Breathe,” while Harry Styles took home Best Pop Solo Performance for “Watermelon Sugar.”

Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande received the award for Best Duo/Group Performance for their song “Rain On Me,” while Fiona Apple was awarded with Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rock Performance and received a nomination for Best Rock Song.

K-Pop group, BTS received their first Grammy nomination for their hit “Dynamite.” While the group had presented at the show in 2019 and made a cameo in Lil Nas X’s performance last year, this year marked the first time a South Korean act had ever performed one of their own songs at the Grammys.

Miranda Lambert was honored with the Grammy for Best Country Album for “Wildcard,” while Dua Lipa won Best Pop Vocal Album for “Future Nostalgia.”

Taylor Swift, accompanied by collaborators Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff took home the Grammy for Album of the Year for their album “Folklore.” The win made Swift the first woman to win Album of the Year three times, having previously won for her albums “Fearless” and “1989.”

The final award of the night, Record of The Year, went to 19-year-old pop artist Billie Eilish for her album “Everything I Wanted.” Eilish dedicated her acceptance speech to Megan Thee Stallion, who she felt “deserved” the honor, before ending by thanking the Academy.

Syrian Civil War reaches decade mark

ZACH CARPENTER
STAFF WRITER

WESTON HIRVELA
GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Following a recent escalation in violence Syria is again in the spotlight of world politics. On Feb. 27 President Joe Biden ordered an airstrike on two locations in Syria in response to an attack carried out by Iran against U.S. backed forces in Iraq.

One of the two airstrikes was called off at the last minute by Biden after intelligence received a report that there were women and children present at the location. The attack that was carried out left one ISIS fighter dead and another two injured.

The airstrike marks the first time Biden has chosen to use military intervention overseas and comes at a time where he is trying to keep the delicate balance of power within the region.

Congressional Democrats were quick to criticize Biden for authorizing the attacks while Republicans applauded the action. Progressive Democrats have called for a deescalation of U.S. involvement in the Middle East citing the staggering cost of life caused by the seemingly never ending wars.

Biden defended his decision to go ahead with the airstrike citing that he did not wish to further escalate tensions in the region but did wish to protect U.S. interests in the region.

The U.S. has had a long history in the region going back to the first invasion of Iraq following their takeover of nearby Kuwait in 1990. More recently ISIS has dominated the region, specifically Syria, creating a major humanitarian crisis and displacing millions from their homes.

According to the International Red Cross 13 Million Syrians currently rely on humanitarian aid for survival, a staggering three-quarters of the war torn country’s population. Many have been forced to become refugees in far away European countries.

Recent reports from Save the Children a not-for-profit organization that focuses on humanitarian aid for children reported that 33% of children interviewed in Syria would rather live in another country and 86% do not wish to return to their home.

Complicating efforts for a deescalation of violence in the region is the growing threat ISIS once again poses. Although their physical Caliphate was defeated in Dec. 2018 following a yearslong offensive by U.S. backed Kurdish forces to reclaim large swaths of land that had been captured in 2014 and 2015 by ISIS fighters.

The Syrian Civil War itself began in 2011 as a facet of the greater Arab Spring movement in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Protesters across the region rose up against oppressive dictatorial regimes, resulting in the overthrow of some and violent responses by others, such as Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria.

In recent years, the U.S. has faced an uphill battle containing the spread of ISIS and attempting to stop the Assad regime from committing more human rights violations against the residents of Syria.

The U.S. has also had the support of such allies as Britain and the greater European Union but other countries such as Russia have complicated efforts by backing the Assad government.

On Mar. 7 a Russian warship bombed an oil drilling site in Northern Syria further complicating peace efforts in the already delicate region. At least four people were killed in the blast and 24 others were injured.

Another factor complicating the civil war is COVID-19. The virus has struck the entire world sparing no one, including war-torn Syria. On Mar. 8 both President Asad and his wife tested positive for COVID-19. An additional 26,000 people have been recorded as positive in the country and a little over 1,000 have perished.

Although the numbers seem low it has been difficult for officials to compile accurate numbers due to competing forces controlling different regions within Syria’s borders. Vaccine distribution has also been slow in the country due to the competing factions.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonia Guterres on Mar. 10 called the situation in Syria a” living nightmare” and highlighted the need for more humanitarian aid to go to the region, especially during the pandemic.

Texas faces loss during winter storm

ALIVIA GILES
STAFF WRITER

WESTON HIRVELA
GRAPHIC CREATOR

At least 26 Texans are dead after a week of historically low temperatures. Since Feb. 11, millions living in the Lone Star state have been without power and left searching for food and water.

On Monday, Dallas dropped to five degrees Fahrenheit – the coldest temperature the city had seen since 1989. For the first time in over 30 years, Austin and San Antonio saw single-digit temperatures.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) – a grid operator that controls roughly 90% of the state’s electric load – announced it was experiencing a “record-breaking electric demand.”

Many Texas residents took to bundling up and staying in their cars, as state leaders opened about 135 warming centers and deployed the National Guard to conduct welfare checks.

By Tuesday, over four million state residents were without power. “[ERCOT] has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said.

While Texans tried to stay warm, officials reported a rising death toll, with fatalities linked to both the frigid temperatures and carbon monoxide poisoning.

By Wednesday morning, about 3.4 million customers were still without power in the state of Texas, leading Gov. Abbott to look into an investigation of ERCOT.

ERCOT CEO Bill Magness stated that the issue was primarily a lack of energy supply as low temperatures closed power facilities. According to Magness, the controlled power outages helped prevent the system’s collapse.

“If we had waited, and not done outages, not reduced demand to reflect what was going on, on the overall system, we could have drifted towards a blackout,” Magness said. “People feel like what we’re seeing [is] a blackout, but the blackout that [could have occurred] could last months.”

Meanwhile, Texas Senator Ted Cruz arrived at Cancun International Airport shortly before 8 pm on Wed. Cruz was met with backlash online from Liberals and Conservatives alike.

As the airport photos circulated on social media, Cruz’s team quickly released a statement.

“Like millions of Texans, our family lost heat and power too,” Cruz wrote. “With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon.”

Cruz went on to say he and his staff “are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas.” The explanation sparked further controversy, as many criticized Cruz for seemingly placing the blame on his children.

Shortly after noon on Thursday, Edward Russell, who works as the lead airlines reporter at Skift, revealed the senator had rebooked his flight back to Houston that morning. He had not been scheduled to return from Cancun until Sat.

On Thursday evening, text messages between Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz and her friends surfaced. “Our house is FREEZING,” Heidi Cruz wrote, going on to say their family “couldn’t stand it anymore,” before sending information on flights out of Houston.

By Thursday, nearly 290,000 people were without power, a substantial improvement from the millions affected by outages earlier in the week. However, the low temperatures continued, delaying a full recovery.

About 13.5 million Texans dealt with water disruption, as roughly 800 water systems reported problems such as broken or frozen pipes.

As bottled water became difficult to find in stores, some businesses began giving it out for free. Senator Cruz took to social media to share pictures of himself passing out water.

By Friday, Texas had seen little improvement, with almost half of the state’s population still experiencing water service disruptions. Approximately 190,000 homes and businesses remained without power.

Hospitals were heavily impacted by the week’s events. President and CEO of Houston Methodist Dr. Marc Bloom, who oversees seven hospitals around the city of Houston told CNN two facilities did not have water at all for days.

On Saturday, as 85,000 Texas homes were without power and water disruptions and decreasing supplies remained a threat, President Biden approved a major disaster declaration, which provides more federal resources to the state.

Power has now been restored in many areas of the state, but residents are still struggling to get clean water. President Joe Biden is set to travel to Houston, Texas on Friday, Feb. 26. He will be accompanied by first lady Dr. Jill Biden.

The past week has left many wondering what steps Texas should take to be prepared for severe winter weather in the future.

“Texas has to invest far more in basic infrastructure, that clearly is missing,” said Derick Hulme, Professor of Political Science. “And there has to be a commitment by the state to move forward aggressively [with renewable energy].”

Buccaneers win Super Bowl, make history

AISHWARYA SINGH
STAFF WRITER

WESTON HIRVELA
GRAPHIC CREATOR

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.

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