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reflections on the extended essay

Writer: Rachel Cohn

The Extended Essay! I’m sure the only things that come to mind when thinking about the EE is suffering and pain. Yes, the extended essay is a long and tedious process, but The Wood and the amazing seniors who finally finished their essays are here to help out all the first year IB Diploma candidates who are currently finding their research questions, or anyone else who is curious about the extended essay. 

To make the extended essay seem a little less intimidating, I sent out a survey to the IB Diploma seniors and asked them a couple questions including what their research question was, what the coolest thing they learned from their research was, and if they have any advice. 

I’ll start. I did a world studies paper, which means that I was able to choose two disciplines to write my paper about. World studies also has subcategories and I chose health and development. The two disciplines I used were biology and economics to answer the question, What are the barriers to HIV therapy adherence in Soweto, South Africa and how do these barriers limit effective control of the ongoing HIV epidemic in this resource-poor setting? I learned all about the super cool antiretroviral therapy adherence being conducted in Soweto to limit the transmission rates of HIV and lessen the symptoms. I also studied the many barriers that this therapy presents, including the cultural stigmatization surrounding HIV in South Africa that prevents adolescents from maintaining their treatment regimens. My advice for anyone scared to begin their extended essays is to choose a topic that you are super interested in because if you don’t like your question, the process will be miserable. Also, if you are passionate about your topic, you can use it in college applications to demonstrate your intellectual curiosity. 

Raina Grosswald:

What was your subject: Literature 

What was your research question: In Fahrenheit 451, to what extent does Ray Bradbury’s use of symbolism and futuristic ideas of the mid-Twentieth century exhibit the dependence of humans on technological innovations?

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: The uncanny resemblance between Bradbury’s innovations and the technology that exists today. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: The drawn out process, like the fact it was over a year. 

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Don’t stress too much, keep up with the assignments/checkpoints, write a great detailed outline.

Aubrey Charron: 

What was your subject: Language and Literature 

What was your research question: How Does Edgar Allan Poe’s use of unreliable male narrators in “Annabel Lee” and “Morella” draw attention to the unobtainable societal expectations placed on women in the mid-1800s?

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: I learned a lot about Poe’s Theory of Composition and why the development of women in poetry and prose was so different (and how that impacted my argument)!

What was the worst part of the extended essay: My essay didn’t exactly fit with the standard format of the essay (intro, body, counterclaims, reflective conclusion) so it was frustrating to figure out how to get all of those ideas in a way that worked for me. 

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Pick a topic you like! This is not going to be pleasant if you don’t… or as pleasant as the EE can be!

Any extra comments: You got this! It’s not as bad as you think if you stay on top of the deadlines. And write your rough draft over the summer! Don’t try to fit it in the first week of school!

Halli Friedman 

What was your subject: World Studies 

What was your research question: How do polygamy and the agricultural economy in Uganda affect HIV rates? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: It exposed me to an area of interest of mine that I didn’t realize I would enjoy learning about so much! World health and gender equality for healthcare is now super important to me. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: Knowing how to start and find the question. 

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Make sure you are really interested in your topic, because you will be spending LOTS of time with it! 

Lauren Cohn 

What was your subject: History 

What was your research question: To what extent were the requirements to become an astronaut in NASA’s early space program intentionally discriminatory towards women as opposed to being rooted in technical and physical limiting factors?

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: NASA was super sexist in their early space program. Some people considered the training of women a distraction from important goals of the space race while others thought that a woman’s only suitable role on a ship would be to fulfill the sexual needs of the men on board. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: Finding research was a little hard because I wanted to write about something that hadn’t really been done before, but with that, there’s not going to be a ton of research. I had to broaden my scope a lot in order to find anything helpful.

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Write about something you find super cool. If you pick something you aren’t passionate about, the process is going to be difficult. Write about something you care about because that will energize you to find research and share it with readers. 

Allie Abbot 

What was your subject: History

What was your research question: To what extent was western fashion during the Cold War an example of Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization focus on culture driven consumerism and how was that consumerism and expression of the downfall of Khrushchev? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: The coolest thing I learned was how the growth of Soviet industry (as seen in the fashion industry) meant the growth of some capitalistic autonomy in satellite states which was a major contributing factor to the eventual downfall of the entire Soviet Union.

What was the worst part of the extended essay: The worst part of the EE was organizing all of my information into clear arguments that worked toward answering my question.

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: My advice would be to find a topic that you really like, find as many initial sources as you can, and when writing, make sure your sections only contain information that actually argues some part of your question.

Hana Ozaki 

What was your subject: Business Management 

What was your research question: What are the business implications regarding the inability of MARTA to expand into suburban neighborhoods? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: I learned how the lack of an efficient public transportation system in Atlanta was one of the main reasons that Amazon chose to not go with Atlanta as their second headquarter location and the potential jobs and revenue that was lost. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: Coming up with a topic you’re genuinely interested in and that has a lot of research available  

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Choose something you really care about because you’re going to have to work with it for a whole year! 

Dani Barnard 

What was your subject: World Studies 

What was your research question: How can technological advancements in water purification help alleviate the problems that occur as a result of non-potable water in developing sectors of the world such as Mogadishu, Somalia? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: I got to learn about different technologies that purify water. The most interesting one I researched was called Watergen, an air-to-water generator, that creates and purifies water from humid air.

Hannah Suggs 

What was your subject: Psychology 

What was your research question: To what extent can artificial intelligence teach empathy to those with Autism Spectrum Disorder? 

What is the coolest thing you learned from your research: There’s a term called the theory-theory that says that individuals can infer the mental states of others (beliefs, desires, emotions, etc.) on a very basic – almost naive level. I just thought it was interesting because something named theory theory is funny. 

What was the worst part of the extended essay: Turning the outline into a complete rough draft! The worst!! 

Any advice for people preparing to do the EE: Pick a topic you’re genuinely interested in or else you’re going to hate writing your EE– and if you’re going to hate writing you’re EE then it’s going to be a long year and a half. 

Any extra comments: Pick a strong mentor!

Your All inclusive Guide to IB vs. Ap classes

Writer: Lauren Cohn

First, let’s start out with the basics. IB stands for International Baccalaureate, and encompasses a program in which students are encouraged to think critically and independently. With an international presence, over 150 countries throughout the world utilize the program to create a more caring and thoughtful collection of students. Classes are arranged based on level, with standard level (SL) and higher level (HL). Higher level classes are more demanding and require extra work for credit.

Students can take any number of IB classes they wish through the IB certificate, or they can opt to become an IB diploma candidate and create a schedule featuring all IB classes. 

So, what is the difference between IB diploma and IB certificate?

  • With IB diploma, students must take at least 3 SL classes and 3 HL classes. Some students with a passion for certain topics decide to pursue 4 HL classes, as well. It is important to choose how these classes are arranged based on a personal assessment of interest in the class and ability to succeed.
  • With IB diploma, students must receive a sum of at least 12 points for both their HL classes and their SL classes, totaling to 24 points. Points are given on a scale of 1-7
  • IB diploma also comes with additional requirements, including an essay, project, and unique class
    • The Extended Essay is a requirement for all diploma students. After choosing a subject based on one of their HL classes (For example, History), students form a question about anything pertaining to that subject and answer it in, at most, a 4,000 word essay. Subjects can also be interdisciplinary, like world studies that examines different topics in a single essay. 
    • The CAS Project is also just as broad. CAS stands for Community, Action, and Service, and students must find some sort of leadership project that demonstrates two of the three components of the project. The project truly has no limits and students are encouraged to create something meaningful based on their passions.
    • TOK, Theory of Knowledge, is a class all students must take as IB diploma candidates. This class looks at how knowledge works, how it is created, and how it is pursued.
  • IB classes give credit, or points, based on an IA (internal assessment) and an end of the year exam
    • IAs are short essays that a student must complete in every class. They are similar to the extended essay in that they examine and answer a question. For example, science IAs consist of some sort of experiment while economic IAs apply economic concepts to real life situations. All IAs contain a research component.
    • Some classes, like economics, have more than one IA. Other classes have an oral assessment, instead, like literature and language. In these oral assessments, students must present an analysis to their teacher. 
    • Exams at the end of the year are writing focused, and oftentimes consisting of different parts.
  • If students wish to only take certain IB classes instead of pursuing the whole diploma, there is not a minimum requirement for scores. Sometimes, colleges award credit for IB diploma classes.
  • Some classes are two years, and exams and IAs typically begin at the start of the second year. Other classes, like IB environmental and economics are only one year, and so the exam and IA take place at the end of that time. 

AP stands for Advanced Placement and is a program from the College Board that provides college-level curriculum to high school students. Students can take any number of AP classes they wish, and many of Riverwood’s social studies classes are offered as advanced placement. AP classes are only available in the United States.

So, what specifically does AP entail?

  • AP has a different curriculum than most classes, setting students up for a final exam at the end of the year for college credit.
  • AP exams are scored on a range of 1-5, with 3 regarded as “passing”. However, these exams do not constitute a Riverwood grade, and therefore do not affect one’s GPA. They are used for college credit.
  • Some AP classes have DBQs (document-based questions) where students have to answer questions based on analyzing a source. Students will practice with these types of questions throughout the year, since they will appear on the final AP exam.
  • LEQs (long-essay questions) are a sort of essay, while SAQs are short answer responses.
  • FRQs are free response questions similar to the structure of an LEQ
  • Students can begin taking AP in their freshman year, and each grade has a varying level of AP classes available. 
  • There is also an emphasis on multiple choice, so exams during the year as well as the final AP exam are very multiple-choice oriented

How do I know if AP or IB is right for me?

  • AP focuses on multiple choice, while IB consists of much more writing
  • IB asks you to think of concepts beyond just the curriculum through the internal assessment, while AP very strictly follows the curriculum in place.
  • The credit you receive at the end of the year for IB classes consists of assignments that you work on throughout the year, while AP is only based on the single exam taken at the end of the year
  • IB diploma fosters a very unique community, since all students have similar expectations and typically take some level of the same classes. On the other hand, because students can pick and choose IB certificate and AP classes, one schedule may feel very distant from another
  • Because many IB classes are over the course of two years, much of the work has very distant deadlines. Students are assigned a project or essay and sometimes have months to work on it. With AP, there is no overarching “big” project or assignment, so the work is due at the time it is taught
  • If you are much better at multiple choice, AP may be more suitable for you. IB requires better time management since work takes much longer to complete.

Am I prepared enough to take on the course load and expectations that come with these types of classes?

  • Pick classes that you are genuinely interested in, as AP and IB requires a lot of critical thinking, and passion for the topic results in better engagement.
  • If you are having trouble understanding the curriculum and applying concepts, taking an AP or IB class in that subject may not be best. However, if you are simply struggling with keeping up with assignments, understand the different time management required for both AP and IB and assess whether or not you can maintain your assignments.
  • Challenge yourself! But, don’t put yourself in a position to fail if you feel very insecure about the subject and the course load. Understand what works best for you.
    • However, what is good about both AP and IB is that there is a lot of flexibility. If you decide to take a class but then find it too challenging, you can alter your schedule and pursue different classes that cater to your needs.

Coming from an IB Diploma candidate, I fully recognize the difficulty of taking such classes. As a senior, I am often drained after particularly daunting assignments and sometimes find myself unmotivated to continue with my work. While I cannot lie and say that pursuing this route isn’t stressful, I have definitely seen rewards that outweigh any sort of challenge. With the IB diploma, I feel much more engaged in my classes and have also developed better relationships with teachers. AP classes have set me up for college in a really valuable way by preparing me for the rigor to be expected after graduation.   

Teachers at Riverwood are so happy to help you figure out what works best for you and your goals. Ask your current teachers about IB and AP and you can also reach out to teachers you may have next year. The IB coordinator, Mrs. Kopkas, is so helpful at working with students to develop plans for junior and senior year of high school, and Mr. Gribble, a Theory of Knowledge teacher, provides excellent assistance in developing Diploma schedules with interested sophomores.  And, feel free to reach out to current students taking classes you may be interested in! They have great insight into the benefits and disadvantages, and would love to offer anyone an honest reflection of their experience. Know that decisions made right now can be changed later, and if you do decide to pursue these higher level classes, know that there is a huge support system behind you, helping you along the way.

The Climate crisis: what can you do?

Writer: Dani Barnard

Why is it important to educate yourself on the environment?

We only have one planet! With the technology and knowledge we have today, environmental concerns should be a priority. Not only is the planet in danger, but so is biodiversity (the variety of life in the world).

So, what can you do?

Start with the basics: The 4 R’s

  1. Reduce your consumption. Reducing your overall consumption is the first step in becoming more eco-friendly and sustainable. The US is the most wasteful country in the world with a “up to 239 million tons [of waste produced] annually” 1.
  2. Reuse. Did your food come in a plastic container? Did your jam come in a glass jar? Clean them out and use them again, increase their lifespan and reduce the waste you contribute to landfills. 
  3. Recycle. To be honest, we do not have a great recycling system in GA and we usually have to pay more money to have a recycling bin. If you are unable to recycle at your home, the Sandy Springs Recycling center accepts all types of recyclable materials and more! (Click here for a link to see what items they accept)
  4. Rot. You may not have heard of this one before but it is equally as important. “According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 20 percent of what goes into municipal landfills is food.”2 Food is the largest contributor of waste in US landfills. To reduce your food waste, start a compost bin. If you have a garden, compost can enrich your soil. If not, you can drop off your composting at the Wylde Center in Decatur, or at any of their community gardens around Atlanta. To ensure it doesn’t attract bugs or produce a smell, you can store your compost in the freezer.

5 more ways to reduce your impact & combat climate change:

  1. Vote! Voting is one of the most important ways to combat the climate crisis by electing the right people to create laws and regulations to hold everyone accountable.
  2. Stop supporting fast fashion brands and reduce your consumption of fast fashion. Fast fashion is the second most polluting industry as “about 85 percent of textile waste in the United States goes to landfills or is incinerated”3.
  3. Support local farms and businesses – go to the farmer’s market!
  4. Try to reduce your consumption of animal products by incorporating: Meatless Mondays, or more plant-based meals in your daily life. “The biggest intervention people could make towards reducing their carbon footprints would not be to abandon cars, but to eat significantly less red meat”4.
How Does the Carbon Footprint of Protein-Rich Foods Compare?
  1. Plant a tree or donate to organizations like https://onetreeplanted.org/. Trees, natural climate solutions, are the most simple way to take CO2 and greenhouse gasses out of the air and produce more oxygen.

“We need to Protect, Restore, and Fund” – Greta Thunberg

Climate solutions do not end here, please continue your research and use the resources below to learn more:

Websites/Articles:

Videos: 

Sources:

  1. https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/united-states-most-wasteful-country-world

2. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/11/17/364172105/to-end-food-waste-change-needs-to-begin-at-home

3. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/03/books/review/how-fast-fashion-is-destroying-the-planet.html

4. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/21/giving-up-beef-reduce-carbon-footprint-more-than-cars

Christmas Albums: A definitive ranking

Writer: Liza Miller

#10: “The Andy Williams Christmas Album” by Andy Williams

This Christmas album is a classic and perfect for a cold day when you just want to cuddle up with a warm drink and get in the Christmas spirit! It is the perfect introduction to the Christmas season that gets you in a jolly mood. 

#9: “A Holly Dolly Christmas” by Dolly Parton

Living in Georgia, every once in a while it’s nice to hear an album with a touch of southern flare. Dolly captures this mood perfectly with the iconic southern twist she puts on the holidays. This album came out a few weeks ago and takes the ninth spot due to its recent entrance into the world of holiday albums!

#8: “The Kacey Musgraves Christmas Show” by Kacey Musgraves

This album is a modern twist on southern style Christmas music that incorporates pop, rock, and holiday tunes. In addition to the music, this album contains great commentary from Kacey and other celebrity friends. Overall, a great modern holiday album!

#7: “Everyday is Christmas” by Sia

This album is great if you’re getting tired of the same old Christmas songs and you want a new, unique and modern album. Sia’s “Everyday is Christmas” includes 13 original songs that are all Christmas themed! In this album you can find tons of new holiday favorites with tracks such as “Snowman” and “Puppies Are Forever.”

#6: “Merry Christmas” by Mariah Carey

This album is simply a classic adored by all. It is most famously known for its track “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Because this one song is played at almost any holiday party you will ever attend, it completely outshines the other songs on the album. This album takes sixth place because its other songs just aren’t even comparable to the success of “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

#5: “Christmas Is Here!” by Pentatonix

Pentatonix is an acapella group who first gained popularity from television singing competitions. They have later gone on to make not one, not two, but five Christmas albums. Here I have chosen to discuss their Christmas album from 2018. It has the perfect mix of holiday favorites and religious tunes. They have a variety of holiday songs that they cover and they create a really interesting sound with their lack of instruments that can totally get you in the holiday spirit! Overall, it’s a creative, original, and modern album that still touches on the classics!

#4: “Christmas Kisses” by Ariana Grande

I’m not sure if this is allowed, but I just had to include it. This album contains only 4 songs and I’m not totally sure If it can be classified as a holiday album. But it earns its spot at #4 for its holiday songs that hold the perfect mix between Ariana Grande’s unique voice, catchy beats, and Christmas spirit. Most notable is her song “Santa Baby” which, in my opinion, has become one of the most iconic Christmas songs of the 21st century. Definitely give it a listen!

#3: “Under the Mistletoe” by Justin Bieber

If you’re anything like me, this album is special to you. It doesn’t get much better than 2011 Justin Bieber serenading you with Christmas songs. Justin does a great job of carrying his signature swagger style into this Christmas album. Even while singing the most classic holiday tracks, he is still a heartthrob! Some of his most notable songs in this album include “Mistletoe” and “Santa Claus is Coming To Town.” If you haven’t listened to this album yet, then you’re missing out!

#2: “Sinatra Ultimate Christmas” by Frank Sinatra

If anything has become apparent to me while ranking all of these Christmas albums is that you just can’t top the classics. Frank Sinatra’s voice and renditions of Christmas songs are simply unmatched. This album will make you want to drop everything, pack your bags, and move to a Hallmark Christmas movie. Nothing will put you in the spirit more than Sinatra’s Christmas tracks. I definitely recommend!

#1: “Christmas” by Micheal Buble

You didn’t think I would leave out the king of Christmas did you? No way. Michael Bublé earns the top spot in this Christmas album ranking. His album is the perfect mix of classic Christmas and a smooth modern sound. It just would not have been right to place Michael Bublé anywhere else as he has made guest appearances on countless Christmas albums in addition to the three of his own. This man knows Christmas inside and out and earns my top recommendation for Christmas music!

Bringing the black lives matter movement to riverwood

Writers: Aolani Vann and Nyla Ward

What’s happening and why should it matter to you? 

Every day, African Americans face harsh discrimination and police brutality in a gruesome fight for our rights just to be alive. The systems that promise to protect us are the same sentencing us to death before we get a chance to defend ourselves. Since this pandemic started, and the tragic death of George Floyd, the Black community and allies have used all platforms to fight for justice, spread love, and correct misinformation and slander, now more than we ever could before. We call for all students of Riverwood to do the same, use your voices, and take a stand. 

What are youth doing now and why is it important? 

Three teens from Katy, Texas, raised from 3 different ethnic backgrounds, created an activism group named Katy4Justice fighting for the Black Lives Matter movement. In 4 days, they got most of the youth in their town to join and organize a protest to bring justice to George Floyd. This was a beautiful example of looking past differences and cultural and political adversities to come together to do the right thing. This was especially heartwarming for 16-year-old Foyin Dosunmu, one of the original 3 students, and born to 2 Nigerian traveling engineers. She explained that growing up in schools full of only Arab or white students, it was important for her to feel like her voice was heard and people understood her struggle. It is so important to listen to the struggles of your friends and hear what they need because often our voices are looked over and diminished because of what society thinks of us. The youth must take the movement into our own hands because we are the future and the strongest generation yet. 

Young actress, Yara Shahidi created a summit called Eighteenx18 because youth deserve to understand what is happening in politics before going into the polls. She then founded the WeVoteNext organization to focus on informing eligible voters of the importance of voting as much as they can, knowing their rights, and controversial current political issues. She is also an outspoken activist when it comes to major issues in the Black Lives Matter movement. She’s petitioned for subjects like properly treating black Covid-19 patients, defunding the police, and implementing more money into the healthcare and quality of living in the black community. She is now only 20 years old and working with advocates like Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. She is proof we can use any influence we have to grow support and speak out about what is important to us. 

Sources: The New York Times 

WeVoteNext 

Kayhan Life 

What can you do? 

The first step is communication and keeping up with what youth in the black community are already doing for the cause and giving them a helping hand. It is vital to make sure we are all heard in an organized, peaceful manner. 

The second step is to filter out media and influencers with false information or negative biases on the movement and seek out primary sources or secondary sources with proven facts. This is a real organization, not an angry collection of riots as some sites may portray. 

Thirdly, you must educate yourself, sign petitions, join protests and donate if you can, create flyers or posters, spread the word on social media, and encourage people to get out there and VOTE!!! We need as much support as we can get which includes that of people in positions of power. 

Additionally, you also have the power to create organizations, fundraisers, and protests yourself to be even more hands-on in your activism journey. You have more power than you may think. 

Here are some more sources for more information and resources for other issues: 

0:00 https://blacklivesmatter.com/ 

1:00 https://marchforourlives.com/ 

2:00 https://www.change.org/t/black-lives-matter-en-us 

3:00 https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/ 

4:00 https://sites.google.com/view/black-lives-matter-masterlist/petitions?authuser=0 

5:00 https://www.futurelearn.com/info/blog/black-lives-matter-resources 

6:00 https://neaedjustice.org/black-lives-matter-school-resources/ 

7:00 https://libwww.freelibrary.org/explore/topic/black-lives-matter 

8:00 https://vm.tiktok.com/ZMJmnMDFt/ 

…and 46 seconds to save a life 

Remember that you have power in your words and power in your individual opinions. Use that to support your peers and create greatness. Each of the students of Riverwood has the privileges and resources to create our own chapter of this movement. This is not the time to pick fights, make excuses, or stay ignorant. It is the opportunity to do actively and consistently what you know is right. 

After reading this article please take the time out to consider our message and take this survey so we know where you stand on this.  

Remember your voice always matters especially when you’re using it for good: 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdDTgEPRcl9kZKiAxrLx4cWJlcUrBxcMFqcez-Q4GEoB4dqtw/viewform?usp=sf_link

Community Service opportunities, even in a socially-distanced community

Writer: Hannah Tourial

During the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s been hard to find ways to continue giving back to the community. Riverwood’s Beta Club is working hard to find these opportunities and incentivize participation. Even if you’re not a member of Beta Club, using their resources to find new service opportunities is a great way to do some good.

The main change this year was the introduction of the Beta Club Instagram. Here, the Beta leadership team is compiling flyers of opportunities both inside and out of Riverwood. By reposting others’ posts, followers of the Instagram page can see the latest opportunities to give back. This also makes it easier for other Riverwood clubs to share their service opportunities. The Instagram page can be found here

Beta Club also has an ongoing list, found here, of ideas and opportunities for community service. Some of these are simply general concepts that students can take and expand on in their own time; others are more specific and organized events to participate in. If you have any events you want to add to the list, contact Elizabeth Grant, Beta Club president, at ehgrant@gmail.com for more information. 

How do you even do community service when there is a pandemic? Safety is important. There are tutoring opportunities over Microsoft Teams; the Spanish Club is looking for tutors in all classes for ESOL students. There are also food drives. HOSA has placed drop-off bins around the school for students to drop off canned food and non-perishables. Certain clubs have also hosted one-time, socially distant events. Make sure you feel comfortable with the guidelines for that event before attending, and if not, there are plenty of fully online options.

Even without a Beta Club membership, community service is important. Colleges love to see community service on applications, and the feeling of doing a good deed is always nice. And by no means is this a complete list of every opportunity. In the end, no matter who you are, there is always a way to put some more good into the world.

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

How to have a safe (and fun) halloween!

Writer: Liza Miller

Hello all Halloween lovers! October 31st is approaching, and here are some absolutely terrifying costume ideas: You could be a vampire, a ghoul, or possibly a beheaded monster. Or… you could be the scariest of all, the terror that is haunting this upcoming holiday, Coronavirus. 

Oh, sorry, I actually don’t think you can be that, but you can certainly catch it! So how do we stay safe from this monster that’s making its way through every neighborhood on Halloween night?  

Well, I’ll let you in on some helpful secrets about this monster’s methods. Its invisible, so we can’t hear when its coming, and once it gets you, you’re pretty much doomed for the next few weeks. Ok, those probably weren’t so helpful. I advise you instead to take tips from the professionals: the CDC. They encourage mask wearing, social distancing, and remaining outside in open spaces. Luckily, Halloween is the time of year where mask wearing is socially accepted by all, no matter your stance on the virus. I say we look at the bright side of this virus and get a little creative with our mask wearing. I encourage you to see how well you can use your CDC certified mask to contribute to your costume as a whole. Decorating your mask is a fun way to get in the holiday spirit and add a fun touch to your costume.  

At Riverwood, I know many people love a good Halloween party. Music, food, costumes and more all contribute to an unforgettable Halloween night. With Halloween falling on a Saturday this year, there are no limits to the fun in store! Well, except for the obvious one, a pandemic making its way around the world causing massive devastation. But, it doesn’t have to ruin anything! Let’s just all agree to keep these parties to 10 people or under. And hey, nothing compliments a crisp October night like an outdoor event. A fire pit, smores, carving pumpkins, and outdoor movies are all safe ideas to get in the spooky spirit while outside! Get creative with your friends and see who can have the scariest costume. No one’s going to want to come within 6 feet of you if  you’re covered in fake blood!  

If you prefer to observe the holiday from home, in sweats watching Halloween movies and eating your weight in candy, then I’ve got some tips for you as well. Try making little bags of candy that you can hand out to trick or treaters individually. This will help you avoid all the sticky hands touching to desperately get candy from a bowl. Ewww! A line that is around 6 feet from your doorway allows some space between others and yourself. There are many ways to get creative with a line. Maybe it marks the start of deathly lava? The entrance to a graveyard? Either way, you can be safe without losing any of the fun of Halloween night. Remember to stay safe Raiders, or else you’re in store for a visit from the Corona Monster! 

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