Atlanta shooting and anti-Asian hate crimes

ALIVIA GILES
STAFF WRITER

Eight people are dead following shootings at three Atlanta-area spas. Six of the victims were identified as Asian American women, raising concerns that the murders were racially motivated.

The first shooting took place shortly before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 16 at Young’s Asian Massage located in Woodstock, Georgia, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta.

The individuals killed have been identified as Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan and Daoyou Feng, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim and Yong Ae Yue.

A GoFundMe has been made for Elcias R. Hernandez-Ortiz, the only surviving victim of the attacks. He is reportedly in intensive care after being shot in the forehead, lungs and stomach.

Authorities arrested a suspect, 21-year-old, Robert Aaron Long. According to the agency, the FBI was “assisting the local investigations.”

Long was a customer of at least two of the massage parlors he attacked. Capt. Jay Baker of Cherokee County brought to light the murderer’s self-described “sex addiction,” and his claim that the attacks were not linked to racial motivations.

Baker faced criticism for appearing to sympathize with Long, stating that the attacks had been the result of “a really bad day for him.”

Long has been charged with eight counts of murder as well as one count of aggregated assault. He is being held at the Cherokee County jail.

Anti-Asian hate crimes continue to be on the rise in the United States, the UK and Australia. Tensions rose as politicians – most infamously former president Donald Trump – placed blame for the COVID-19 outbreak on China.

According to the research forum Stop AAPI Hate, there were nearly 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents – including shunning, slurs and physical attacks – reported over the past year. At 68 percent, women make up the majority of the reports.

Growing up Asian-American, Kristina Her (’22) has often felt surrounded by racism. Her serves as the president of the Chinese club and was president of the International club for two years. She is also currently working on an Anti-Asian debrief panel with faculty members from the college.

The first time Her remembers experiencing racism was when she was in the first grade. In high school, Her noticed that her teachers were quick to insinuate her good grades were due to her race, rather than her studying habits.

Over the years, Her noticed how often her friends would joke that she was “rich” or “perfect.” “These stereotypes that seem inherently complimentary implied I do not struggle and live a perfect life,” Her said.

When Her first began her time at college, she wasn’t sure Alma was the best place for her, “Personally, I felt like Alma College did not offer anything for Asian students and was seriously considering transferring because I felt so alone.”

Her feels the best way to be an ally to the Asian community is by listening to your Asian friends and family, “Let them know you are aware what is going on [and] offer support … Give space and time for Asian Americans to mourn, to process everything that has happened [and] heal.”

“I advise you to become more self-aware of how you view Asian Americans,” Her said, “Do not wait for a person of color to teach you about white terrorism, Anti-Asian violence, xenophobia etc.”

Her’s next project is starting an Asian Student Union here at Alma. Her encourages anyone interested in joining to reach out to her. “To my fellow Asian students, do not allow others to minimize and invalidate your feelings,” Her said.

On March 24, Alma College President Jeff Abernathy sent out a statement via email in support of a message put out by the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board and Women’s Issues Advisory Board.

“We must, as a country and as a community, condemn hate and violence against one another,” Abernathy said, going on to add “Every member of our community is valued, and I am committed to ensuring Alma College is a welcome and safe place for all.”

Gov. Cuomo facing multiple harassment accusations

ELLA BRIGHT
STAFF WRITER

Andrew Cuomo, the 56th governor of the state of New York, has recently been facing sexual harassment allegations from multiple women over the course of the past few weeks. Most of New York’s congressional delegation across the country are demanding his resignation.

The accusations towards Gov. Cuomo include sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior, stemming from multiple women, including both current and former state employees. Letitia James, New York’s state attorney general, has opened an investigation into the claims and named two outside lawyers to lead them.

Gov. Cuomo has refuted every single one of these claims and resisted the calls for his resignation, surmounting it to a result of political differences and the negative effects of a newly emerging ‘cancel-culture’. The only apology he has issued thus far is for “acting in a way that made people feel uncomfortable”.

While some of the claims against the 64-year-old governor include only verbal harassment, others are more physical and explicit. In October 2017, Lindsey Boylan, a former administration aide, wrote in an online essay a myriad of uncomfortable and inappropriate interactions she has had with Gov. Cuomo spanning from 2015 to 2018. Boylan wrote that Mr. Cuomo told her they should “play strip poker” during a flight from an event in Western New York.

Boylan also wrote that, in 2018, Cuomo gave her a kiss on the lips that was unexpected and not consented to.

“As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips,” wrote Boylan.

She also wrote that he had gone “out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs.”

The governor’s office has denied these allegations, as well as the several others that have surfaced.

This isn’t the only scandal the governor is facing. Earlier in the year, it was released in a 76-page report that New York’s Department of Health underreported the deaths relating to the coronavirus as much as 50%.

The report contains allegations that the nursing homes failed to isolate residents who tested positive for COVID-19 and also demanded that employees who reported symptoms of feeling sick had to continue to come to work, under the threat of termination.

The report also claims that nursing homes in New York had insufficient protective equipment for their staff, insufficient testing materials for their residents, and lack of compliance with an order requiring communication with residents’ family members.

This scandal is, along with the sexual assault allegations, is currently being investigated.

One of the most interesting facts of these scandals and allegations plaguing Gov. Cuomo is that the demand for his resignation is bipartisan. In a country currently gripped by political unrest, extremely divided with their citizens on “one side or the other,” both elected officials of the Republican Party and Cuomo’s fellow Democrats are calling for him to step down. On March 12, nearly every Democrat in New York’s congressional delegation said that Mr. Cuomo had lost the ability to govern.

Women at Alma College are also voicing their displeasure with the conduct of New York’s governor.

“Men can be so disgusting in terms of how they use their power,” said Sophia Liolli (‘22). “If they have too much power, they can pull terrible events like these, which can traumatize a victim for years or even decades.”

“I think it’s sad to say that I’m not surprised that Cuomo is being accused of sexual assault,” said Racheal Vanloo (‘24). “It seems that almost every man in power is getting a light shined on him and now we’re finding out the disturbing truth.”

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.

Outrage over Everard’s death

AISHWARYA SINGH
StAFF WRITER

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.

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.

Covid-19 Relief Bill set to pass

ELLA BRIGHT
STAFF WRITER

The United States Senate voted 50-49 in favor of passing the final version of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill on Saturday, Mar. 6.

The voting session lasted for 24 hours. Of all the votes, every single Democrat in the Senate voted for the bill, and every single Republican in the Senate voted against it. Republican Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska was absent for the vote due to being away at a family funeral.

The relief package, also known as the American Rescue Plan and one of Biden’s largest campaign promises, is set to provide a new round of payments to Americans struggling financially due to the pandemic.

The package is also set to provide an increase to the child tax credit, and an extension of supplemental unemployment benefits lasting until Sept. 6, 2021. The bill is currently being prioritized due to the fact that current federal unemployment benefits are set to expire Mar. 14.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stressed how important bi-partisan support on the bill was in order to “save lives and livelihoods” on Saturday. However, bi-partisan support is extremely scarce. Most all Republicans in the Senate have ruthlessly criticized President Biden’s relief package, as well as the Democrats’ strategy of pushing the bill to the Senate by way of budget reconciliation, passing the package without the support of any Republicans.

“Democrats decided their top priority wasn’t pandemic relief,” said Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in an interview with CNBC. “It was their Washington wish list. It was jamming through unrelated policy changes they couldn’t pass honestly. A colossal missed opportunity for our nation.”

Despite this criticism, President Biden is thrilled with the passing of his bill.

“When we took office 45 days ago, I promised the American people that help was on the way,” said Biden. “Today, I can say we’ve taken one more giant step forward in delivering on that promise.”

Biden also stressed the importance of the package, noting the unfortunate milestone of 500,000 American lives lost to COVID-19. He also noted the closings of hundreds of small businesses, millions of American citizens out of work and so many families struggling to pay for food and rent.

“It obviously wasn’t easy, it wasn’t always pretty, but it was so desperately needed,” said Biden.

The Senate version added a provision to the bill that makes any student loan forgiveness passed between Dec. 31, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2026, tax-free, instead of treating the forgiven debt as taxable income.

Over $128 billion in grants to are set to go to state educational agencies, with 90% of this money allocated to local educational agencies. $39 billion is set to go to higher education institutions, like Alma College.

“I think [the bill] is a step in the right direction,” said David Troyer (‘24). “I’m glad about it. I know a lot of people didn’t get a lot of income this year, because no one really knew what was going on, through no fault of our own.”

Though getting it to pass through the Senate was the big hurdle, the bill has not reached the end of its journey. It is set to be taken up by the House of Representatives the week of Mar. 8, then to President Biden’s desk for his signature.

“I find it considerate that the government is trying to help,” said Troyer. “They’re trying to make sure that us ‘common folk’ are alright, especially those of us who are trying to get ourselves educated in an economy that’s becoming more increasingly demanding.”

Bus accident in India leaves 46 dead

AISHWARYA SINGH
STAFF WRITER

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

AISHWARYA SINGH
STAFF WRITER

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.

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