Category Archives: News

The Senate Confirms Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court

Writer: Andrew Wyatt

October 26 2020     In a 52-48 floor vote, Judge Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed by the Senate to serve on the nation’s highest court, likely tilting the ideological composition of the Court to the right. After being nominated by President Trump nearly a month ago shortly after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barrett’s confirmation comes just a week before election day. Furthermore, the nomination represents how contentious controlling the judiciary has become to both Democrats and Republicans.

Barrett’s first encounter with law involved her observing her father serve as a lawyer for Shell Oil, and she has immersed herself in the discipline since. After graduating Rhodes College with a Bachelor’s in English, Barrett attended Notre Dame Law School and graduated top of her class. Fresh out of law school, she clerked for Judge Laurence H. Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and then later clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. In 2002, she returned to Notre Dame to serve as a professor at the University’s Law School. Lastly, in 2017, she began serving as a judge on the Seventh Circuit of Appeals until being nominated to serve on the Supreme Court in September.

A devout Catholic and an apparent strong conservative voice, Barett has been a controversial pick for the Court. This is especially because Barrett is replacing the liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg who was a consistent and ardent defender of progressive ideals. Not to mention, Barrett’s confirmation further cements a conservative majority on the high Court from the previous but loose 5-4 majority conservatives controlled before the death of Justice Ginsburg. Though scholars argue it is hard to predict how a justice will vote before they begin to serve on the Court, having a collection of academic writing from when Barrett served as a law professor, many have identified the conservative leaning she seems to have. For instance, in 2012, after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the landmark healthcare law colloquially referred to as ObamaCare, Barrett criticized the Court’s decision as “push[ing] the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.” Additionally, from her time serving on the Seventh Circuit of Appeals, Barrett has collected a compendium of opinions which indicate broad support for largely conservative ideals, such as gun rights and religion in daily life. Even more so, when serving as a professor at Notre Dame, Barrett was a member of an anti-abortion faculty group. She has also spoken publicly about her support for the judicial philosophy of originalism which, more often than not, leads to conservative opinions.

Nevertheless, Barrett’s confirmation is the first time in 151 years that a justice has been confirmed without a single vote from the minority party: all Senate Democrats and one Republican voting “Nay” on her final confirmation vote. Addressing the nomination at Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Democrats scorned the abnormally quick nature of attempting to confirm Barrett right before election day. Democrats also derided Republicans as hypocrites for going through the confirmation process, when four years ago, Republicans refused to even consider former President Barack Obama’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Republicans claimed that Americans were in the middle of the primary process to select the next President and that the next President should choose the next justice to the Court. Though, Democrats had little power to slow down or halt Barrett’s confirmation in the first place because they currently only control 47 of the Senate’s 100 seats while Republicans control 53. On the other hand, Republicans claimed that they had the right to move forward with Barrett’s confirmation because they controlled the Presidency and the Senate, unlike in 2016 when the Presidency was controlled by a Democrat and the Senate was controlled by Republicans. 

Nonetheless, Barrett’s confirmation has led to some progressive calls for Democrats to expand the amount of seats on the Supreme Court should former Vice-President Joe Biden be elected President and Democrats also take control of the Senate come November 3rd. However, Biden has not indicated his stance on packing the court with liberal justices to dilute the conservative majority. The Biden campaign has indicated that he will reveal his position on the issue after the election, this being a move by Biden to not alienate progressive voters should he be against the measure or seem too radical to Independents and swing voters should he support the issue.

Barrett begins her likely decades long tenure on the Supreme Court Tuesday, October 27 after having her swearing in ceremony at the White House Monday night.

Your Official Debate Recap

Writer: Lauren Cohn

With the presidential election just days aways, voters should hopefully already have a pretty good idea of how they plan on voting. After two presidential debates, two competing town halls, and one vice presidential debate, there’s been ample opportunity to learn about the candidates and make informed decisions. For anyone who hasn’t watched the debates, I recommend you do so; if not for the actual content of the candidates’ policy proposals, then so that all the jokes on SNL actually make sense. That being said, it’s not too late to learn about the candidates for anyone who may still be undecided. So, if you aren’t in the mood to rewatch hours of interruptions and question dodging, take a look at our official debate recap, highlighting all the important moments and all the ridiculously unimportant ones too.

There were two presidential debates between Trump and Biden, one vice presidential debate between Pence and Harris, and two separate town halls for the presidential candidates that aired at the exact same time.

First presidential debate:

  • Trump didn’t hold back, and at certain points, he took it a little too far.
  • Biden shared a compassionate and sincere moment with the American people after Trump criticized his son’s struggles with addiction by looking in the camera and honestly reflecting, “My son, like a lot of people you know at home, he had a drug problem… He’s overtaken it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it. And I’m proud of him.”
  • Trump did not explicitly denounce white supremacy when asked by moderator, Chris Wallace, instead telling a far-right extremist group, Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by”. Interestingly, he denounced what he refers to as the “radical left”.
  • Biden did not answer the question of court-packing in the case that Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court. Court-packing is the endeavor that members of the Democratic party have discussed as a response to the now 6-3 ratio of supreme court judges by adding additional justices to balance the federal judiciary. 
  • Biden attacked Trump’s late and irresponsible response to the COVID-19 pandemic, stating, “a lot of people died, and a lot more are gonna die unless he gets a lot smarter, a lot quicker.” Trump, alternately, assured viewers that it wouldn’t be long until a vaccine is widely available. Trump also mocked Biden for wearing masks, saying, “I don’t wear masks like him. Every time you see him, he’s got a mask.”
  • Trump fixated on Hunter Biden’s alleged interactions with Russia and returned to the issue after Biden asserted that “this is not about my family or his family, this is about your family — the American people,”
  • Trump continued to assert that the election will feature significant amounts of fraud, and did not speak on whether or not he would encourage his supporters to be peaceful if election results are unclear
  • On the subject of the supreme court, Biden pointed out the hypocrisy in confirming a new judge and pivoted into a discussion about the uncertainty of the Affordable Care Act enacted in 2010 by the Obama administration and its protections for those with preexisting conditions. He also discussed the potential fate of Roe v. Wade
  • Biden did not keep his lack of respect for Trump to himself, getting in various quips like, “will you shut up, man?” and calling him a clown.

BIGGEST TAKEAWAY: The debate was a disaster, doing nothing to truly reach that middle section of voters each candidate needs to persuade. Interruptions and yelling made it virtually impossible to understand the goals of either candidate.

First Vice-presidential debate:

  • There was a fly on Pence’s head for several minutes, which instantly became a joke, with the Biden campaign even selling fly swatters that state, “truth over flies”. Clever.
  • The last question came from an 8th grader asking about unity amidst such great political division. While Pence criticized the media for a false portrayal, Harris took the time to discuss some moments that highlight this division and promote Biden as the candidate who can unite the people.
  • When asked whether Breonna Taylor received the justice she deserved, Pence believed that it had been served in her case and that saying that “law enforcement has an implicit bias against minorities is a great insult to the men and women who serve in law enforcement.”
  • Harris did not answer the question of court-packing, similar to Biden did last week
  • Pence blames China for the Coronavirus pandemic, while Harris blames Trump’s response for all of the American lives lost
  • Harris says that Trump and Pence are “coming for” anyone with preexisting conditions
  • Harris calls the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country” and emphasized how Trump minimized the seriousness of it early on.
  • While Pence cut off Harris, she quipped back, “Mr. Vice President– I’m speaking”

BIGGEST TAKEAWAY: The fly on Pence’s head took over any discussion of the actual debate, turning otherwise valuable conversations about the candidates’ respective policy goals into memes.

Town Halls

  • The presidential debates morphed into two competing town halls after Trump refused to engage in a virtual town hall with Biden due to COVID concerns and Biden planned an individual time with ABC. Concerns over health followed Trump’s positive COVID diagnosis.
  • After the host of the town hall with Trump, Savannah Guthrie, asked about the conspiracy theory, QAnon, Trump refused to denounce it, saying, “I know nothing about it. I do know that they are very much against pedophilia”. The theory describes an ongoing battle between Trump and a “deep state” child sex trafficking ring run by Democrats. He instead pivoted to a discussion about antifa and the “radical left”
  • Biden gave a clearer answer on his stance on court packing, saying, “I’m not a fan, but it depends on how this turns out”. He said that he would indicate his position before election day.
  • Biden called his support for a decades-old crime bill blamed for increasing incarceration a mistake. He defended parts of the legislation like drug courts, but said he regretted what the states did locally
  • When asked by the host, Trump did not really know if he had been tested for COVID before the first debate
  • Biden’s town hall was 90 minutes while Trump’s town hall was only an hour
  • Biden spent another half hour after his town hall talking directly to the people there, continuing to answer questions from those who didn’t  initially get the opportunity
  • Trump suggested that the reports that reveal he has more than $400 million in debt are wrong
  • Biden responded to a question about foreign policy, saying that “America first has made America alone”
  • A woman sitting right behind Trump continued to nod her head at every answer in an almost cartoonish way, instantly becoming a meme
  • A lady flirted with Trump, complimenting his smile, before asking her question

BIGGEST TAKEAWAY: There was a very clear and stark difference between the two town halls: a calm and concise town hall with Biden and a loud and slightly chaotic one with Trump

Second Presidential Debate

  • Biden and Trump were much more restrained than the first time.Both their microphones were muted during the other candidate’s two minute response, preventing them from speaking over each other and promoting calm attacks 
  • COVID took center stage, with Trump saying that a vaccine would be ready “in weeks” and using his own experience with the virus to support the power of new drugs
  • Instead of focusing on his own treatment of undocumented immigrants and the separation of children, Trump talked about the Obama administration’s creation of the detention facilities
  • Trump responded to an attack from Biden by saying that the children separated from their parents are “so well taken care of” in “facilities that are so clean”
  • Trump touted his criminal justice reform and used this to attack Biden’s initial support of the crime bill in the 90s that led to a sharp increase in the number of black Americans in prisons.
  • Trump repeatedly emphasized how he has accomplished more during his 4 years as president than Biden has in 47 years
  • While Trump called himself the “least racist person in the room”, Biden referred to him has “one of the most racist presidents”

BIGGEST TAKEAWAY: As the last opportunity to hear the candidates talk about their policies in such a manner, the last debate highlighted how crucial it is to vote in November regardless of any perceived fraudulence or civil unrest.

Please, please, please vote by or on November 3rd if you can!!! Regardless of outcome, November 4th scares me because of the intense division of our country over the past four years. This may be one of the most important elections of our lifetime, especially as young adults who will have to grow up in this different and new climate. Nevertheless, if we all come together to exercise our right to vote, we can all come together to face any challenges that will inevitably come our way in the last few months of the year. 

For voting information and resources specific to Fulton County, visit this website, created by me and Tess Berman!  https://tinyurl.com/allthingsvotingga

Australia Fires

By: Sahil Bashir

This newspaper has covered global warming in the past. In the previous issue, we discussed the Paris agreement, Trump’s decision, and what those mean for the rest of the U.S. citizens. In this issue, we will continue the discussion of global warming, but we’re going to look at a more severe, impactful problem occurring right now in Australia. This is, of course, the bushfires. 

The Bushfires, starting in September 2019, are currently ravaging Australian forests and towns. Fueled by the drought Australia faces and sparked by both human and natural causes, lightning has been observed as the main cause. Dry lightning was particularly responsible for fires in the Victories East Gippsland region in late December. That fire then went on to travel 12.4 miles in just 5 hours. There have been incidents where many humans had attempted to start fire. It was speculated that 75% of the fires were caused by arsonists, according to Heather Wheeler, a foreign office minister, but this was quickly corrected by Kerry McCarthy, a Labour MP. She stated that the true figure of arson was less than 1%. Most of these cases were unintentional, such as children “playing” with fire or people who don’t take proper precautions. However there are cases where those who intentionally start fires. These cases usually see arsonists with psychotic tendencies, and the situation allows them to be able to act upon them. Dr. Paul Read, co-director of Australia’s National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson, explained that “The general mayhem of fighting bushfires, the evacuation of people, enables them to be furtive [attempt to avoid detection]. They know they’re not likely to be identified. It’s like planting a tree in a forest.” CNN states that at least 24 people have been charged by the New South Wales police for intentionally starting bushfires, and an additional 183 people are being taken to court for fire-related offences since November.  

The fires have claimed at least 28 lives, 300 homes, and 10.4 million hectares of land, according to Global News. The sheer size and damage of the bushfires makes it six times more deadly than the 2018 California bushfires and almost twice the damage of the Amazon fires. New South Wales has been the most affected Australian city, and it’s most populated. Almost every state has been affected, including Sydney and Melbourne.  

People are not the only casualties of the fires. Around half a billion animals have been affected with millions dead. Ecologists claim the total amount of affected animals could be over a billion. These include birds, reptiles, mammals (excluding bats). Almost a third of koalas have been killed, and they lost around a third of their habitats. Certain animals, such as the koalas, are not at too much risk from becoming extinct due to widespread bushfires, but other animals in more niche environments, such as frogs or birds, are at a higher risk, according to BBC. 

The fires have also brought other hazards to Australia. Canberra, the capital, has been hit with hail storms that have damaged buildings, businesses, and homes, as well as flash floods. In the western region, covering Broken Hill, Dubbo, and Nyngan, is a 186 mile wide red dust cloud carried by 66 miles-per-hour winds. Flash floods rained down on Brisbane and Queensland state, though these rains have not put out the fires. Below is a picture of the dust storm.

So what is being done to stop the fires? According to the BBC, around 3700 firefighters, including volunteers, are deployed around these areas, as well as another 3700 army reserves, 440 emergency personnel, and 240+ firefighters from the US, Canada, and New Zealand. The NSW Rural Fire Service has around 100 aircrafts in the air when fires are bad, and the Victoria Country Fire Authority has 60. 

As for what you can do at home, there are many websites that take donations such as UNICEF, WWF, or people can donate directly to the fire stations in Victoria and New South Wales. These donations help the firefighters by purchasing equipment, medical kits, and gear. Simply talking about the issue is a great way to help. By spreading word of the issue and raising awareness, you’re bringing the issues to light and making more people aware of what is going on. This has many benefits. People who are aware of the issues in Australia would be more careful and take more precaution while people around the world will take action, through donations and even through volunteering.

Impeachment

By Lauren Cohn

By now, I’m sure everyone has heard of President Donald Trump’s recent impeachment, at least to a degree. Whether you have just heard the word tossed around or have been scouring the news for updates, it is clear that this announcement has left its mark, but what exactly does it all mean? What is impeachment and what are the next steps? 

For starters, an important distinction must be made between impeachment and removal from office, as they are often confused for one another despite their differences. When a president commits a high crime like treason or behaves in unconstitutional ways, the House of Representatives can begin the process of removing him from office through impeachment. Essentially, impeachment acts as a final check on the president’s power, but does not necessarily imply that he will be removed from office as it is only the first step of the process. Donald Trump is the third president in United States history to get impeached, which only goes to show how momentous these past few months have been

Reaching impeachment can take a long time, as evidence needs to be collected to prove the wrongdoings of the president and representatives must be meticulous and careful when going about the process. Before a president can officially become impeached, the House of Representatives must draft the articles of impeachment, describing what the president has done that warrants this action. In President Trump’s case, the House, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, moved to impeach him on two counts: abuse of power and obstruction of congress. The House accused Mr. Trump of blackmailing Ukraine by withholding aid and preventing Congress from investigating, but those who support the Republican party and Mr. Trump have denounced the accusations, calling the process a “hoax”.

All of these time consuming steps culminated in the House with a vote, one that was greatly divided primarily along party lines. However, because of the Democratic majority, the articles were approved. President Trump was officially impeached.

At this point, the articles have been sent to the Senate, where there will be a trial and another vote to determine whether or not President Trump will truly be removed from office. So, while the president has been impeached by the House, there is no guarantee that the Senate will agree and actually remove him. The Republican party rules the Senate, so chances of removal are extremely low given party loyalty; yet, this event still marks an important milestone in American history, representing a call to action by those who disapprove of the current administration and the further polarity of political parties as the process continues to divide the nation.

UPDATED February 5, 2020: The senate has voted on whether to remove President Trump and the result is exactly as expected. Members of the Senate voted along party lines, with the exception of one Republican, Mitt Romney, who voted for removal. So, the president will not be removed from office and has been acquitted on both articles of impeachment, marking the end of this historic trial.

Paris Peace Accord

Writer: Sahil Bashir Editor: Lauren Cohn

President Trump has surely had his moments. From declaring to build the wall along Mexico to the Russian investigation, Trump’s presidency is a spectacle to behold. However, his latest plan as president is quite a shock to environmentalists everywhere.

Trump has decided to remove the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. Signed by President Obama in April 2016, the Paris Agreement is a plan to deal with climate change through the decrease of carbon emissions and heat-trapping gasses.The goal is to keep the average world temperature from increasing more than two degrees Celsius by the end of the century. Corbin gasses can come from a variety of sources such as vehicles, factories, power plants, etc. Every country has signed the agreement, even isolated countries such as North Korea and Syria. Mike Pompeo, the United States Secretary of State, attempted to justify the action, explaining that this the Paris Agreement is an “unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses and taxpayers.”

There is still one complication that Trump must face. Due to the fact that it will take 12 months for the United States to officially leave the treaty, and Trump’s term ends in less time than that, he must be re-elected as president before he can officially carry through. Because of this, if another candidate is elected, they can easily rejoin the agreement.

Former Vice President Al Gore, now a global warming activist, has made comments on the event, as well as how the US has been keeping up with their half of the agreement. According to Gore, “… the US will not only meet but exceed the commitments it made under the Paris agreement.” He also praised the agreement, stating that “The Paris Agreement was a fantastic and historic breakthrough-every nation in the world committed to go to net zero global warming pollution by mid-century.”

So, what does this all mean for the United States and its people? On the one hand, the Paris Agreement is an amazing call to action against climate change. On the other hand, as long as the US continues to uphold their own against the issue, there should not be any problems. It seems that the future of America’s involvement in this global initiation is, at the moment, unknown.