Russia cuts its gas from Europe

WESTON HIREVELA
GRAPHIC DESIGNER

MARIA KOLB
STAFF WRITER

9/19/2022

On August 31, Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom halted gas flows to Europe via a major pipeline, Nord Stream, citing maintenance works on its only remaining compressor.

This is believed to be in response to new sanctions levied against Russia by the G7 nations, an informal group of seven of the world’s advanced economies, due to the Ukraine Crisis. 

These sanctions imposed on Russia include the following: a full block on Russia’s largest financial institutions, Sberbank and Alfa Bank; the prohibition of new investments in the Russian Federation and making debt payments with funds subject to U.S jurisdiction; full blocking major Russian state-owned enterprises, as well as Russian elites and their family members; and prohibiting outside commitment to supporting sectors essential to humanitarian activities in Russia.

These sanctions have prompted retaliation by the Russian government, who cut off gas to Europe due to European dependency on Russian fossil fuels.

“Historically, European countries have relied on relatively cheap natural gas from Russia. Ninety percent of [their] natural gas is imported, and forty-five percent of that comes from Russia. So, the reduction in that supply… has driven up energy prices across Europe and led to what many are calling an energy crisis in Europe,” said Robert Cunningham, professor of economics.

In the perspective of the Russian government, “when Europeans have suffered enough, they will pressure their government to lift the trade embargo against Russia over the Ukraine war. [However, in the long run] Russia doesn’t benefit from this since they’re not selling their gas, so they’re causing themselves to suffer while also causing Europeans to suffer…it’s like a game of chicken.” said Britt Cartrite, professor of political science. 

This might not be all bad for Europe. The reduction in Russian natural gas and fossil fuel exports can benefit the environment. As of 2020, Russia’s oil and gas industry led the world in methane emissions, according to the International Energy Agency.

If Europe loses its dependency on Russia’s natural gas, “this will accelerate their movement away from reliance on fossil fuels and prompt investment and innovation in alternative energy sources… [this will be] good for [Europeans] in the long run,” Cunningham said.

In brief, Russia has displayed numerous defensive and offensive actions politically, militaristically, and economically this year. This situation has brought a new light to modern warfare.

“Russians overestimate their capacity and underestimate Ukraine’s ability to resist, [due to] new technology, new tactics… every war kind of updates, but [the Russian government] got it really wrong,” said Cartrite.

The Russian government’s recent actions have undoubtedly caused unfortunate events amidst the citizens of Ukraine, Russia and some countries in Europe affected by the gas cuts. “We will continue working with our European partners to reduce dependence on Russian energy and support their efforts to prepare for further Russian destabilization of energy markets,” said Press Secretary Jen Psaki and a Deputy National Security Council spokesperson for International Economics.

January 6 and Mar-a-lago update

CLAIRE WITTLIEFF
STAFF WRITER

9/19/2022

On January 6, 2021, the United States capitol building was insurrected by a number of Americans, anywhere between 3,000 and 20,000 people. Since the day of the insurrection, a string of hearings has taken place that have concentrated on the January 6 incident. 

Along with the hearings, an investigation of former president Donald Trump’s resort, Mar-a-Lago, took place on August 8, 2022. The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who first executed a search warrant.

The Mar-a-Lago, located in Palm Beach, Florida, was investigated for the purpose of finding any concealed records regarding the intention to hinder federal government activity, possible violations of the Espionage Act, and illegal removal of government documents.    

As of September 9, 2022, the United States House-Select Committee to investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol has not announced the next steps of the hearings or how many more hearings can be expected. 

Dr. Benjamin Peterson, a History and Political Science professor at Alma College, expressed his thoughts on the matter. “Smart historians never make predictions and smart political scientists never make predictions without sufficient data. My sense is that the center of effort among the Democrats has shifted to passing legislation and preparing for the midterms, so it is hard to say when it will return to the January 6 investigations. They may also be waiting to see how things work out with the classified files,” said Peterson.               

“One thing that hasn’t received enough attention is that the recent special master was appointed to review not only attorney client issues, but also issues of executive privilege. Over the past three decades executive privilege has been expanded beyond being a narrow protection in exceptional situations.”

“The concept that a former president somehow has the ex post facto ability to claim executive privilege strikes me as the largest and most bizarre expansion yet. But we will see how that plays out in appeals,” said Peterson.     

Jacob Keeley ’24 also gave insight into the situation. “What will come of the Jan. 6th hearings are unclear to me at this time. As for the Mar-a-Lago investigation, it is almost certain that former President Trump will be indicted for the national defence information documents that were taken and then improperly stored. 

Indictment is a simpler case for the Department of Justice to levy. As for criminal charges coming out of the indictment, the answer is less simple. 

There is certainly an on-going conversation right now regarding whether Trump agreeing to ‘back-off’ a 2024 Presidential run and step away from the political scene would affect the force of the investigation. 

Personally, that view of the DOJ and our system seems wildly inaccurate and cynical. Even if the purpose of the investigation were to take Trump out of the Presidential election in 2024, the best way to do that would be through a proper and fair investigation. The evidence does not lie in this case,” said Keeley. Many Americans will be interested to see the conclusion of this case. 

Biden announces student relief plan

ALIVIA GILES
COPY EDITOR

9/9/2022

On Wednesday, Aug. 24, President Biden revealed a plan to cancel tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt for a subset of Americans. The announcement came just ahead of another deadline for the restart of payments for the nation’s $1.7 trillion in federal student loans.

Biden’s loan forgiveness plan, which is explained in detail on a post uploaded to the President’s official Twitter, focuses on individuals earning less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000 as a household, in the 2020 or 2021 tax year.

“An entire generation is now saddled with unsustainable debt in exchange for an attempt at least at a college degree,” Biden said in a press conference, “The burden is so heavy that even if you graduate, you may not have access to the middle-class life that the college degree once provided.”

The impact of the Covid pandemic continues to weigh heavily on the nation. Many middle-class Americans cannot afford to buy a house or are putting off starting a family due to their financial situation.

Americans who took out Pell Grants – grants provided to low-income borrowers – are eligible for up to $20,000 in debt relief. Student loan borrowers who do not have Pell Grants will have loans forgiven up to $10,000.

“If all borrowers claim the relief that they’re entitled to, 43 million federal student loan borrowers will benefit, and of those, 20 million will have their debt completely canceled,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters on Aug. 24.

According to data from the White House, 60% of student loan borrowers have Pell Grants, so most borrowers will receive the largest forgiveness.

In addition to Biden’s student loan debt forgiveness plan, the President announced an extension of the pause on student loan payments through Dec. 31, 2022.

Biden defended the major decision, saying in a statement on Aug. 24 that there is “plenty of deficit reduction” to fund the proposals. “I will never apologize for helping people and middle-class Americans,” Biden said.

While many Americans have viewed the loan forgiveness plan as a victory, the president’s announcement has received pushback from others, including several Republican politicians and even some notable Democrats.

“Pouring roughly half trillion dollars of gasoline on the inflationary fire that is already burning is reckless,” Jason Furman, former top Obama economic official said in a tweet on Aug. 24.

Some Republicans, such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and GOP Senator Ted Cruz, feel that the relief plan is “unfair” to individuals who paid off their student loan debt or did not attend college.

Benjamin Schall (’24) is supportive of President Biden’s plan. “I was happy and excited to hear that there was something being done to help with college affordability,” Schall said.

“I thought ‘it’s not forgiveness of the full debt like was promised, but it’s something,’” Schall said. “I was curious how to get it myself.”

Although Schall is happy some of their student loan debt will potentially be forgiven, they will not receive the same amount as some borrowers. “It’s somewhat disappointing for me, as I don’t have a Pell Grant, because that doesn’t mean that I don’t have to work a lot to make sure I can pay for college or that I won’t struggle to repay loans in the future,” Schall said

“I am happy about what this means for low-income individuals with student debt, though it seems unclear to me whether it will continue to be renewed for future students who would qualify and future debt that current students will accrue,” Schall said.

Schall is hoping the recent student debt forgiveness announcement will get the ball rolling on other major plans.

“The ship seems to have sailed but pushing for better coverage for some of the ideas in the recent Inflation Reduction Act would help Americans financially in the long run, in the case of the climate sections, and in the present, like with the section tackling prescription costs,” Schall said.

Trump’s communication explains time in office

By Caden Wilson

News Editor

Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, American presidents have capitalized on technological innovations to communicate with their citizens and promote their systems of belief.  

Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats of the 1930s and 1940s nursed the nation through the Great Depression and most of World War Two. John F. Kennedy’s appeal on national television secured his victory against Richard Nixon, just as Barrack Obama’s utilization of social media did against John McCain in 2008.   

Saturday will mark the end of the first year of President Donald Trump’s administration. Like his predecessors, Trump’s use of modern communication technology has greatly influenced the political atmosphere, although in the sitting president’s case it may not be for the better. Donald Trump’s first year in office is most telling through his biggest obstacle- communication.   

Dr. Joanne Gilbert, Chair of Communications and New Media Studies at Alma College expressed concern with the White House’s rejection of the example set by previous administrations.  

“The Trump dministration does not so much communicate with the press and the media as it condemns them so I find it deeply troubling and problematic because the messages I see coming out of the Trump administration are generally not founded on truth,” Gilbert said.   

David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson of the New York Times, a publication often criticized by the sitting president, have kept a comprehensible list of every untruth or falsehood expressed by the White House since Trump’s inauguration in an article entitled “Trump’s Lies,” which cites sources refuting every inaccurate statement.   

“We are using the word ‘lie’ deliberately. Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump’s part. But it would be the height of naïveté to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes. He is lying,” Leonhardt and Thompson stated on the NYT website.   

January 20 to November 11 of 2017, Leonhardt and Thompson refuted 90 lies. They state that there are many more untruths or exaggerations, which are not directly lies and may include unfounded evidence. It is stated that from January 20, Trump’s first day without misleading the public was March 1.   

Gilbert cited this rhetoric as: “potentially extremely damaging to deride anything the media say as false because I believe that Americans will be confused about who exactly to believe and whether or not facts are up for grabs.”  

The New York Times reports that of the days in which the president said nothing misleading, he is usually absent from Twitter, golfing, or vacationing at Mar-a-Lago.  

Unlike President Barrack Obama, Trump prefers his personal Twitter account over the official president’s twitter and mostly rejects the possibility of a social media manager, letting him convey his thoughts instantly with his 46.6 million followers.   

“The current president’s twitter feed has been and perhaps will be the downfall of his administration,” said Gilbert. “I think discourse that is based in ignorance, fear mongering, hatred, and vitriol does nothing to communicate important information but rather emboldens the very worst instincts of people and enables them to feel justified in actions that range from ugly and abusive to absolutely unconscionable or reprehensible.”  

Trump’s frequent outbursts caught the attention of the world as the creation of a call-out culture never seen before by a sitting president.   

“Rather than communicating about specific policies and issues, much of the information that comes out of the Trump administration is name calling,” Gilbert says.  

Gilbert cites Ad Hominem, a phrase used by many involved in the communications field, which translates from Latin into “mud-slinging.”  

Jasmine C. Lee and Kevin Quealy of the New York Times assembled an article entitled “The 424 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter: A Complete List.” It does as the title says, up through January 3, 2018.   

Gilbert states that she believes there is intentional hostility on part of the White House against the mainstream media and anyone else who contradicts the president.   

“I do think that an administration that uses phrases such as ‘Alternative Facts’ should be deeply suspect and should be a great concern to all of us regardless of the side of the aisle we’re on.” 

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