Abrams among Nobel Peace Prize nominees


Stacey Abrams–who rose to the forefront of American politics during the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election–was among nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize. The award is given out yearly to the person or organization deemed to have done the most to promote peace and democracy around the world.

Throughout the 2020 General Election, Abrams worked tirelessly through her non-profit, Fair Fight Action, which sought to increase voter turnout around Georgia, specifically with minorities who have long been oppressed within the state.

Through her efforts, Georgia flipped from Republican to Democrat during a presidential election for the first time since 1992 when Bill Clinton beat George H. W. Bush.

Additionally, she helped to lead Democrats John Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to wins in their January 2021 runoff election over incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, respectively.

“[Abrams] is being nominated for her work with voter registration…Voter suppression is illegal in this country, and there isn’t much, if any in Georgia in the year 2020,” said Matt Garland (‘23), a resident of Georgia.

“Were there to be legal voter suppression against American citizens and she did something about it, I’d feel a lot better about the nomination being given.”

According to Fair Fight’s website, they seek to, “promote fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourage voter participation in elections and educate voters about…their voting rights.”

“I find it inspiring that her loss in [2018] drove her to start Fair Fight Action and become the face and facilitator of promoting crucial nonviolent change via the ballot box in 2020,” said Maya Dora-Laskey, professor of English, when asked her thoughts on the nomination.

Abrams was nominated by Lars Haltbrekken, a leading member of the Socialist Party of Norway.

Rounding out the list of others nominated for the award were: The Black Lives Matter movement for their role in fighting for racial justice and spreading racial awareness in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police (among others), Greta Thumberg for her role in spreading awareness about the dangers of climate change, Alexei Navalny for standing up to an oppressive regime in Russia and Jared Kushner for normalizing relationships between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, as well as other Middle Eastern nations.

“The shortlist isn’t usually prepared until March, so this is the unfiltered list and presents us with a contradictory range simultaneously grim and risible,” said Dora-Laskey.

“On this year’s list we have Stacey Abrams and Donald Trump who have been public with their disagreements and do not concur on issues and policies from the confederate flag to taxation or voting rights.”

Previous winners of the award from the United States include Barack Obama in 2009, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Additionally, Al Gore won the award in 2007 and Jimmy Carter won in 2002, rounding out the winners from the United States during the 21st Century.

Beyond holding the distinction of being among few who have been named throughout history, the award also comes with a payout of 10 million Swedish Crowns (about 1.4 million dollars), a medal and the title, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

“The Nobel Peace Prize announcement is definitely a world-event and confers a lot of attention on the recipient(s),” said Dora-Laskey.

However, with a list of 210 people and 107 organizations nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize this early, that list has the opportunity to grow even more before the winner is announced in October.

“Given that thousands of people, including university professors, are able to nominate candidates, the nomination itself doesn’t account for much,” said Dora-Laskey.

“When we hear about the nominees it’s usually from the nominees or nominators–not from the Nobel committee, so the evidence to support their claims are somewhat circumstantial.”

Still, the list of nominees that was made public on Feb. 1 is drawing the attention of people around the world.

With 2020’s election results still looming, eyes are on Abrams to see what is to come. According to close allies of Abrams, she is strongly considering another run at Governor of Georgia in 2022, likely setting the stage for another election against current Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who won by a mere 50,000 votes the last time the two faced off.

Rochester Police pepper-spray 9-year-old


Two police officers in Rochester, New York have been placed on administrative leave and another has been suspended for their involvement in the handcuffing and pepper-spraying of a nine-year-old girl.

According to Rochester Deputy Police Chief Andre Anderson, the officers were responding to a report of “family troubles” at 3:20 PM on Jan. 29. The officers were informed that the girl had “indicated that she wanted to kill herself and [her mother].”

Upon police arrival, the girl attempted to run away and was chased down by one officer. Following this, the child’s mother arrived and the two began to argue. At this point, Anderson said the officers decided to take the girl, with the intention of bringing her to a nearby hospital.

Body camera footage released by the police department shows the officers restraining the nine-year-old, attempting to get her into a police vehicle, as she cries and calls for her father. She can be heard screaming as the officers put her in handcuffs.

One officer in the video can be heard saying, “You’re acting like a child,” to which the young girl responded, “I am a child!”

At a later point in the footage another officer can be heard telling the girl, “This is your last chance, otherwise pepper spray’s going in your eyeballs.” Approximately a minute later, another officer said, “Just spray her at this point.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has directed Anderson to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident, calling the events “simply horrible.” “Unfortunately, state law and union contract prevents me from taking more immediate and serious action,” Warren said.

On Mon. Feb 1, New York Attorney General Letitia James tweeted that her office would also be looking into the incident, calling the situation “deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighed in as well, stating that within the state of New York and the nation, the relationship between the police system and the community is “clearly not working.”

“Rochester needs to reckon with a real police accountability problem, and this alarming incident demands a full investigation that sends a message that this behavior won’t be tolerated,” Cuomo said.

Elba Pope, the mother of the nine-year-old involved in the incident is now speaking out. In an interview with The Washington Post, Pope announced her plan to sue the city over the events on Jan. 29.

On Tue. Feb. 2, Pope and her attorneys filed a formal notice, stating their intention of suing the city of Rochester for “emotional distress, assault, battery, excessive force, false assert and false imprisonment,” as well as potential violations of “constitutional rights.”

Pope also stated that she had advised the officers involved to call a mental health specialist. According to Pope, her daughter had experienced a similar breakdown just months before and had been denied help that time, as well.

This incident is not the only example of Rochester mishandling situations within communities of color where mental health issues were involved. Daniel Prude died at the hands of Rochester

police in September after being placed under a spit hood while experiencing a mental health episode.

Protests broke out in Rochester on Mon. Feb. 1, with people gathering outside of the police headquarters. Protesters could be heard chanting, “Look what you did, you just maced a little kid.”

Alma student Claire Wittlieff (’24) is frustrated by the lack of attention surrounding the events. “I did not even see any coverage on this incident until I was asked about my thoughts on it,” Wittlieff said. “That in itself speaks volumes.”

Wittlieff feels that suspending the officers involved in the incident is not enough. “I believe that further steps should be taken to ensure that something like this never happens again,” Wittlieff said.

Power to the People: the GME short squeeze


The price of GameStop (NYSE: GME) grew dramatically over the period of just a few days in late January of this year, as well as a few other securities. At its peak, the stock reached a price of $500 per share, creating a stark contrast between its $17.25 value at the beginning of the year, according to data from Yahoo Finance. This was not due, however, to the release of a highly anticipated game or some other similar innovation from the company itself. This arose because of activity on reddit.

The subreddit r/wallstreetbets includes around 3.8 million members, all who could be classified as casual or “retail” investors. Members of this subreddit looked at the GME and recognized that it was being shorted (expected to depreciate in value) by short sellers.

From this observation came the idea that by buying up the shares available for public purchase, the members of the subreddit can trigger a short squeeze, which ultimately forces the value of the stock up very quickly.

A short squeeze can be triggered when short sellers, investors who borrow stock they don’t have at a high price to sell and later hope to buy the stock back for less than they borrowed it for, are forced to buy back their stocks at higher prices than what they originally sold it for in order to not lose more money.

This is bad news for the short seller, but good news for the stock. The buying back of these positions at high prices forces the stock to even higher prices, which meant high returns for members of the subreddit.

This short squeeze also had negative implications for hedge funds, which offsets risky investments by making counterinvestments that aim to cover the losses potentially incurred by said investments. Losses incurred by American firms exceeded $70B, according to a 2021 article by Reuters.

These large losses, and the way this squeeze came about, sparked the interest of Congress and the international community. “This really the first big case of what is essentially a social media group causing a big move in stock prices,” said Robert Cunningham, adjunct professor in economics here at Alma College.

“The hedge fund industry is very purposefully opaque in how it operates, and really only a relatively small number of people benefit from it. [Retail investors] joined up and made decisions that negatively affected a hedge fund’s profits—[that] is something worth following,” said Cunningham.

Caught in the controversy is Robinhood, a financial services company with an app popular with retail investors. Despite having famously said “let the people trade” in a 2016 tweet, they suspended the trading of GME and up to 13 other securities during the squeeze. Robinhood claimed that it did not have the required collateral to execute the high trade volume, but they also have contracts with hedge funds.

“One of Robinhood’s revenue sources is its ability to sell trading information to hedge funds, so I think Robinhood had to weigh the costs and benefits of executing trades on behalf of retail users, versus the costs and benefits of upsetting its large hedge fund partners,” said Cunningham.

Senator Ted Cruz and House Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez came out in opposition to this move by Robinhood.

“This is unacceptable. We now need to know more about [Robinhood’s] decision to block retail investors from purchasing stock while hedge funds are freely able to trade the stock as they see fit. As a member of the financial services committee, I’d support a hearing if necessary,” said Ocasio-Cortez in a tweet.

There will be a hearing on this matter hosted by the Financial Services Committee in mid-February.

Technology is constantly and consistently changing the world around us. For this reason, “average” citizens can communicate much more freely their ideas and make such things happen.

Former MI governor, others facing charges


On Thursday, Jan. 14, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office announced they would be charging former Michigan governor Rick Snyder for his role in the Flint water crisis.

Along with Snyder, seven former officials and one current Michigan official are also being charged for their roles in the crisis. Together, they’re all facing 42 counts, ranging from perjury to misconduct in office to involuntary manslaughter.

Former Republican Gov. Snyder is facing two counts of willful neglect, both of which are misdemeanors which will lead to a maximum of one year in prison and a fine up to $1000. This is the first time in Michigan’s history that a current or former governor is facing charges for alleged misconduct while they are in office.

According to NPR, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said the investigation included pouring over “literally millions and millions of documents and several electronic devices.”

“Our work on this case begins with the understanding that the impact of the Flint water crisis cases and what happened in Flint will span generations and probably well beyond,” said Worthy.

The Flint water crisis began in 2014 when the city switched its water supply. Almost immediately, the residents began complaining about the quality of the water, but city and state officials denied for months that there was a serious problem. By then, the supply pipes had gone through major coercion and lead was making its way into the water of Flint, a city where about 40 percent of residents live in poverty.

Finally, after preliminary testing revealed “dangerous” amounts of lead in the water, and an increase in lead levels being found in the children of Flint, the city reverted back to the old water supply. Unfortunately, the damage made to the pipes was irreversible. In Jan 2016, then Gov. Snyder declared a state of emergency in Genesee County, and shortly after then President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency, authorizing additional help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

But the damage had been done. It was estimated that 6,000-12,000 children in Flint were exposed to lead, and the whole crisis left 12 dead and over 80 sick with Legionnaires Disease.

Snyder’s attorney referred to the charges to the Detroit Free Press as “a politically motivated smear campaign”. The Detroit Free Press also reported that Snyder entered a not guilty plea that same Thursday from a Genessee County jail booth, appearing with his attorney over Zoom.

When asked about their thoughts on the charges, students at Alma College had many strong feelings.

“The Flint water crisis is still a relevant issue that this city is facing, as many people in the community were impacted,” said Maria Vostrizansky (‘24). “Even though this event took place seven years ago and was under a different administration, it doesn’t mean that those who neglected to take responsibility cannot still face the legal consequences.”

“The Flint water crisis was a tragic, easily avoidable time period caused directly by the actions of former Governor Snyder,” said Brenna Smith (‘24). “After contaminating a city with nearly 100,000 people, the punishment Snyder will only potentially be facing is laughable. Flint’s population is largely made up of people of color, many of whom already face difficulties due to housing, discrimination, poverty, and more. Snyder’s negligence was both intentional and destructive to a community struggling under the effects of systemic racism.”

On Jan 25, Snyder’s attorneys filed a formal request to dismiss the charges against him. According to the Michigan Attorney General’s office, the next court appearance for the other defendants is Feb 18.

“A $1000 fine and a year in prison is not nearly enough accountability for a man who effectively poisoned an entire city,” said Smith. “His meager punishment is a prominent display of white privilege. Snyder must have more accountability for the life-long effects his actions have caused for the people of Flint.”

Biden-Harris Inaugurated


After a tense election, followed by opposition from outgoing President Donald Trump and his supporters, Joseph R. Biden and Kamala D. Harris began their first term as president and vice president on Wed, Jan. 20.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic and concerns of another event like the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the inauguration committee was tasked with creating a smaller, safer celebration.

Security at the event was top priority, with over 25,000 members of the National Guard on duty for the inaugural ceremony and many areas of downtown Washington fenced off.

Tickets for the ceremony were limited and a public art exhibition on the National Mall took the place of the usual crowds.

The 59th Presidential Inauguration began with a prayer service at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral, the Catholic church where President John F. Kennedy’s funeral was held. Bishop William J. Barber II delivered the homily, joined by musical guests: Josh Groban, Patti Labelle and the Clark Sisters.

The Inaugural ceremonies began at about 10:30 a.m. Lady Gaga sang the national anthem, followed by a rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” performed by Jennifer Lopez.

The event went on to welcome Amanda Gorman, who recently became the first national youth poet laureate. Gorman read an original piece entitled “The Hill We Climb”. Country artist Garth Brooks also contributed to the celebration with his performance of “Amazing Grace”.

The new president and vice president were sworn in shortly before 12 p.m. Vice President Kamala Harris was delivered the oath of office by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first woman of color to serve on the Supreme Court.

Harris was sworn in using a Bible that had belonged to Supreme Court justice and icon of the Civil Rights Movement, Thurgood Marshall.

As vice president Harris is the highest-ranking woman in United States history. She is also the first black person and first person of South Asian descent to hold the office.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. administered the oath to Biden, who was sworn in using his family’s 128-year-old Bible.

President Biden completed the oath of office at 11:48 a.m., with his term officially beginning at noon (the 20th Amendment states that “terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of Jan.”).

Post-inaugural events followed, including the traditional “Pass in Review,” a ceremony that reflects the transfer of power to the incoming president.

The historic day finished with a primetime special hosted by actor Tom Hanks. President Biden and Vice President Harris delivered remarks. The special featured appearances from John Legend, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bruce Springsteen, Demi Lovato and more.

The program acknowledged frontline workers and other Americans who have given back to their communities throughout the pandemic. The event also featured the first American to receive the Covid-19 vaccine outside of clinical trial.

Almost 40 million people tuned in to President Biden’s inaugural address, including Alma student Heather Kaatz (’24).

One of Kaatz’s favorite parts of the inauguration ceremony was listening to Amanda Gorman speak. “I thought [her poem], ‘The Hill We Climb,’ was very inspiring,” Kaatz said.

For Kaatz, the event brought a mix of excitement and relief. “As a country, we still have tons of work to do, but I feel we are taking a step in the right direction toward unification,” Kaatz said.

Kaatz is interested in how the new administration will approach the Covid-19 pandemic, “I think added restrictions and mask mandates will help allow us to get ‘back to normal,’” Kaatz said.

Samuel Nelson (’21) made sure to catch some of President Biden’s inaugural ceremony live. “[What I watched live], combined with coverage I saw through the day, struck me with a strong sense of trying to create something ‘normal’ again,” Nelson said.

For Benjamin Schall (’24), one of the best parts of the inaugural ceremony was the sense of optimism it inspired, “[It] made me feel hopeful that this administration will lead to true healing,” Schall said.

Schall is looking forward to President Biden’s approach to climate reform. “Biden is America’s current best hope for our future on this planet, and I hope that he leads the other Democrats in discussion and eventual action with finally implementing a Green New Deal,” Schall said.

Pandemic affects mental health


COVID-19 has easily taken so much from everyone. Indoor dining in restaurants has been restricted, public and recreational facilities are closed and some schools have moved their students online. Because of these limitations, many people are stuck inside of their homes to prevent spreading or catching the coronavirus.

While it is important to stay home when feeling ill, physical health is not the only health COVID-19 has affected. Studies are showing that mental health has been greatly altered. Healthing.ca stated that more than 50 percent of people have reported substantially high levels of distress specific to the pandemic.

Looking into specifics, research shows that more people are panic buying, excessively avoiding public places, and using unhelpful coping mechanisms, such as overeating and overusing drugs and alcohol. The pandemic has also been linked to a significant increase in anxiety and depressive disorders. Psychologytoday.com explained that university students show high levels of depression and increases in stress and loneliness.

“I believe that COVID-19 has, at times, negatively impacted students mentally,” said Kaelyn Wojtylko (’22). “Many students, especially those without roommates or a solid friend group, seem to be the ones impacted the most.”

UNR.edu conducted a study where they found that students are more easily bored, anxious, and frustrated during their now mostly virtual classes. It is evident that many students have lost or forgotten what their education means to them.

“So many students are having a lot of trouble learning with an online setting versus in person,” said Megan Hope (’24). “It is a lot more to keep track of.”

Many students struggle with trying to find motivation to keep up with classes and extracurricular activities. Having to keep a distance of at least six feet, constantly wearing masks, and avoiding large crowds or contact with others has caused many to feel much more disconnected from the world.

“It is super stressful trying to find ways to hang out with friends without getting in trouble for something that would normally be fine,” said Hope.

Schools and universities have had to implement restrictions and rules that many students are struggling to keep up with. It is hard to tell if these constraints will be permanently implemented, or if they are just a temporary approach to combat the coronavirus.

“I honestly hope that the restrictions are only for while we are learning more about COVID-19 and that we can go back to normal one day.” Said Wojtylko. “I find myself thinking about how things were last year compared to this year, and it kind of makes me sad.”

Not only has COVID-19 caused many students a lot of stress and mental deterioration, but it has also caused a decrease in enrollment for higher education. It is apparent that many students do not feel the need to continue to undergraduate or graduate school.

“Enrollment will likely decrease because of students not being able to keep up with the difference in learning,” said Hope. “I know some do not find going to college worthwhile if they cannot learn in person or be able to hang out with friends.”

With all that has been affected, researchers are coming out with more methods people can use to help cope with these new restrictions. The CDC released an article that provided healthy ways to

handle stress. They contributed methods like taking deep breaths, meditating, getting plenty of sleep, and taking time to unwind.

While it is very important to take care of yourself during these unprecedented times, it is also important to check in on friends and family to see how they are holding up. Although in-person contact is not recommended, things like phone calls or video chats can really help a loved one feel less lonely. Try to be there for those who have loved and cared for you.

COVID-19 affects grad school applicants


Each year around this time, college juniors and seniors all across the country are working diligently on their applications to a variety of different graduate programs. However, COVID-19 impacts many different aspects of the application process. Applicants should expect to be highly flexible throughout their application process, as it could look very different from previous years.

“Many interviews are now done online and campus visitations are virtual,” said Dr. John Rowe, chair of the biology department. “Many graduate programs, as well as med and vet schools, have been emphasizing student experiences and personal attributes rather than basing admissions solely on transcripts and standardized tests.”

One major aspect of the graduate program application process affected by COVID-19 involves the various entrance exams for different programs, such as the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, and MCAT. Many graduate program applicants have been preparing for these exams throughout the entirety of their academic careers.

“Some graduate programs seem to be following the expanding number of undergraduate institutions, like ours, seem to be dropping entrance exams such as SAT and ACT at least for the time-being,” said Rowe. “The Educational Testing Service has modified its formatting for at-home administration of the GRE and some graduate programs have waived or dropped the requirement altogether. Some med schools are granting leniency to applicants who have not submitted their MCAT scores in a timely manner given test date cancellations while some programs are not requiring the MCAT.”

Many juniors and seniors may be grappling with the decision of whether to apply to graduate schools now in accordance to pre-pandemic plans, or wait to apply after the pandemic ends.

“There is some evidence that suggests that some students may delay their application to graduate programs until they can enter under ‘more normal’ and certain times,” said Rowe. “I saw a survey that indicated that about 50% of potential grad student applicants were considering delaying their application to grad school, but many students will continue on as planned prior to COVID…time will tell.”

Students who are on the fence about their decision to apply to graduate school now or postpone until later have a lot to consider, especially as the application process requires a lot from applicants.

“Before embarking on the strenuous and time-consuming application process, however, students should look into their program of interest in order to glean as much information as possible about entrance standards, dates, and deadlines, said Rowe. “There could be some

information on predicted application rates that could be useful when deciding on whether to apply or not.”

Regardless of whether students decide to apply to their graduate programs of choice now or take a rain check for after the pandemic, they should remain vigilant in achieving their current academic goals and striving to do their very best during these difficult times.

“Becoming acclimated to our new learning environment is critical for both students and faculty alike,” said Rowe. “I think that students should embrace these times as we pursue new directions in learning. It is quite possible that portions of graduate school learning will occur online in the near future and students should be ready for that reality. Also, professional schools, internships, shadowing and service opportunities are difficult to land but should be actively pursued when possible.”

Child trafficking cases rise in the U.S.


The year 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the first publishing of the Trafficking in Persons Report. Over 25 million children have been bought and sold into slavery, thus violating their civil liberties as a human being. Young girls and boys are subjected to sexual labor at an alarmingly increasing rate. In 2019 alone, the United States alone had 220 child trafficking cases according to the US Department of Justice. “

The idea of child trafficking is an underlying fear anyone with kids always has in the back of their head when they take their children out in public,” said Miranda Avolio (’24).

 “In America, the sentence for a child sex offender involved in human trafficking is not enough time for the hell they put both the victims and parents through. Human trafficking is not only degrading physically, but mentally as well.”

Of these cases, child traffickers were prosecuted anywhere from a one-month sentence to a lifetime. The vast majority of sentences ranging in five years or longer; however, some traffickers were sentenced only to probation which sparked major controversy in both media and activist groups. It is estimated that 80 percent of all child trafficking violations have involved American citizens according to the Federal Bureau.

While child enslavement is not a new offence, it had recently gained large attention of mass media with the introduction of the Jeffery Epstein case. A case involving 36 girls ranging with the youngest of the victims being fourteen, Epstein subjected these young girls to various levels of sexual assault and rape.

While this case is one of the larger ones publicized, many young men and women across the United States are being subjected to sexual labor on a daily basis. These offenders range anywhere from wealthy businessmen to gas station employees. Yasmin Vafa, a worker for RIGHTS4GIRlS explained that their organization has cared for victims as young as ten years old within in the last three months according to a PBS News segment.

“I have a younger sister that is 10 years old,” said Abby Strait (’24). “As a protective older sister, I fear that I am not able to save her from child trafficking as it is an ever-growing problem within America.”

Nonprofit organizations have released a barrage of facts, and preventative measures young women can take in order to better protect themselves and others around them. Of which include, traveling in large groups, avoiding malls and other shopping centers after dark, carrying pepper spray and informing parents or legal guardians of their location at all times according to Help Save the Next Girl.

“I do not ever feel comfortable going to local malls and stores near me by myself because of the numerous reports of child trafficking that have been reported in my area,” said Avolio.

It is understood that 1 in 6 girls have experienced sexual assault before the age of twelve, according to RIGHTS4GIRLS.org.

“I protect myself when I go out by keeping my phone and keys in hand,” said Strait. “Checking surrounding and staying up to date with social media and other news channels in order to be aware of new tactic sex traffickers are using.”

Sex trafficking is a growing pandemic that effects young men and women across the globe. In order to keep yourself and others safe, you must stay up to date on new efforts made by sex traffickers. Some methods to know include honey or a sticky substance on your windshield, leaving notes claiming “damage” on vehicles and zip ties on your property and or vehicle.

For more information or to donate visit RIGHTS4GIRLS. Org, Change.org and Help Save the Next Girl.com.


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