International Floods Displace Thousands: Recent weather catastrophes have forced many to evacuate their homes.

Recent flooding across the globe is forcing millions of people to struggle for survival. Severe storms have targeted island regions such as the coasts of Australia and large parts of Hawai’i, including the popular beach regions of O’ahu island.

The eastern state of New South Wales in Australia remains the worst affected territory on the continental island. During a relentless week-long downpour in March, emergency helicopters and boats attempted to rescue stranded residents according to Aljazeera. Authorities in eastern Australia issued flood warnings and evacuation orders throughout the month of March while the heavy rains continued to devastate the region with nearly 40 inches of rain in a week in some areas.

Most notably, the capital city of New South Wales faced severe challenges amidst the flooding. Thousands of people were evacuated from Sydney as the flooding swept into its western suburbs. Relentless rain triggered flooding the likes of which the city had not experienced
in 60 years. Rivers and dams struggled to contain the flood waters throughout the month, as New South Wales emergency services released a statement saying, “Flooding is likely to be higher than any floods since Nov 1961” according to Aljazeera.

Further to the north in New South Wales, flood waters have severely affected the land. State Premier Gladys Berejiklian stated that the region was experiencing a “one-in-100-year event” during the heavy rains and floods, according to Aljazeera. In the town of Windsor, located northwest of Sydney, Aljazeera reporters found that flood waters have overwhelmed the town’s main bridge and several large buildings.

More than 40,000 people have been ordered to evacuate their homes as the flood waters become more erratic and more dangerous. Despite the catastrophic flood levels, few casualties have been reported as of Apr. 5, according to NPR.

Meanwhile, further north in the Pacific, Hawai’i declared a state of emergency after severe flooding damaged homes and raised concerns over a possible dam failure. Gov. David Ige signed a proclamation in early March to release state funds to help people impacted by the extreme weather event. Ige’s proclamation covers all of the state’s counties, along with the city and county of Honolulu, according to NPR.

Over half a dozen homes were severely damaged or destroyed by flood waters on the island of Maui. Due to the heavy flooding, two bridges in Wong’s Village, O’ahu collapsed as a cement truck drove across, according to KGMB (CNN). The mayor of Maui pointed out that homes and bridges have been damaged in the ongoing flood emergency.

“This has been unprecedented flooding, and we will be making damage assessments,” Mayor Victorino said in a written statement, according to CNN. Victorino added that residents have told him it was the worst flooding they had seen in over two decades.

With tens of thousands of people displaced by the recent flooding around the globe due to torrential rain, efforts to mitigate damages and prevent weather catastrophes have taken an important role in the international arena. Concerns of climate change continue to drive efforts to prevent severe weather events and assist those affected by these disasters.

Sources: Aljazeera, NPR, CNN.

Students File Class Action Suit Against The U.S. Dept. of Education: Following the concerning results of a survey of LGBTQ students at Christian colleges, twenty-five plaintiffs sue the Department of Education for the federal funding of discriminatory universities, Eastern University included.

A recent survey by College Pulse and the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP) detailed the harsh realities of LGBTQ+ students at Christian colleges. According to this survey, queer students at Christian universities are more likely to face harassment, isolation, and other adverse events, all of which create starkly different mental health outcomes than those of their cisgender-heterosexual peers.

The report was conducted between January 28 and February 6, 2021 on 3,000 LGBTQ+ students enrolled in four-year degree programs at Christian colleges and universities. Findings demonstrate that 12% of students identify as non-heterosexual, 2% of students identify as a gender minority, and most of these sexual and gender minority students are closeted.

The report details responses from queer students at Christian colleges, most of which are members of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU). Sexual minority students were three times more likely to report depression and anxiety, and just as likely to have seriously considered suicide.

Gender-nonconforming students are at an even higher risk; on average, gender minority students experience double the number of adverse experiences, are seven times more likely to experience sexual assault, and 22% have reported bullying. Nearly half (47%) of gender minority students at these Christian universities reported feeling they do not belong on their campus, compared to 29% of sexual minority students, and 17% of straight students. These realities contribute to vastly different collegiate and mental health experiences for queer students compared to straight students.

This survey was commissioned by the REAP, an organization dedicated to advocating for the empowerment of queer students at taxpayer-funded religious colleges and universities. REAP is led by Director Paul Southwick, a queer lawyer who attended a Christian University and represents LGBTQ+ students, children, and employees in civil rights matters.

“This discrimination and abuse is funded by taxpayers. These findings should serve as a wake-up call for all higher education stakeholders to address the ongoing abuse taking place at publicly funded institutions,” said Southwick. He also explained that many Christian schools, while private, still receive federal funding in the form of grants and student financial aid.

LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination protections in education were greatly expanded under Title IX during the Obama administration and the Biden
administration’s recent order to federally protect sexual orientation has put this issue under increased scrutiny. However, private colleges that receive federal funding can still claim an exemption on religious grounds. This poses a concerning fate for queer students at Christian universities and holds implications for our own private Christian university.

Eastern University receives funding from the CCCU as well as the federal government. Eastern has very unclear narratives for queer students who attend the university, as well as for its faculty and staff members. Our queer students are not exempt from the statistics revealed by this report and are not fully protected by our student codes of conduct. Though students at Eastern University are permitted to be out on campus, the university’s stance on the LGBTQ+ issue is ambiguous. Class after class of students have raised concerns on the implications of this stance for the safety and well-being of queer students attending Eastern University.

A class action lawsuit has been filed against the Department of Education over this rights violation, including students from Eastern University and associated colleges.

For more information about the Religious Exemption Accountability Project, or to join the fight, visit reap.org.

Sources: REAP.org, NBC, The Collegiate Post, Metro

Seuss Company Pulls Offensive Books: Six Dr. Seuss books have been discontinued due to racist illustrations.

Dr. Seuss is one of the most well-known and beloved children’s book authors, and has been for generations. He has written and illustrated over 60 books in his career, many of which continue to be read and adored by families today.

However, Dr. Seuss Enterprises has recently made the decision to pull six of his books from shelves. The decision was driven by racist portrayals of minority groups, specifically the Asian and Black communities, in their illustrations. The books being withdrawn are “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”, “If I Ran the Zoo”, McElligot’s Pool”, “On Beyond Zebra!”, “Scrambled Eggs Super!” and “The Cat’s Quizzer”. The works have been deemed “insensitive” and “hurtful” since they portray explicit ethnic stereotypes.

This decision has caused tension due to many Dr. Seuss fans saying Seuss’ legacy was being erased, and that history was being erased. Dr. Seuss Enterprises acknowledged the criticism and stated the situation should be seen as a product recall rather than an example of “cancel culture.”

Many people defending the decision to withdraw the books have stated it was not from public pressure, but was solely a decision made by the company itself. The statement created by Dr. Seuss Enterprises states, “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”

Companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble have since experienced a spike in sales of Dr. Seuss books. Third-party sellers on Amazon are able to sell the 6 withdrawn books, which have people wondering if the company will stop those sales.

Many people, including students here at Eastern, were raised reading a variety of Dr. Seuss’ books and consider them a beloved part of childhood. Different views have been shared within the campus community, and a variety of people agree with the decision to pull the books from store shelves permanently. “It’s understandable. Racism is still alive and well in the country today, so we have to be careful what we show the younger generation in books they read,” one student shared.

“I wouldn’t call it erasing history, but the books should still be made available so we can learn from [Dr. Seuss’] mistakes,” another student shared, against the idea of taking the books off the market.

As a school, Eastern focuses on seeking justice for others and attempts to encourage students to have conversations, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Social justice and diversity are key aspects of what Eastern stands for, so it is no wonder why students have strong views on such topics.

Sources: New York Times, Seussville, Wall Street Journal

Myanmar Coup Protests Turn Deadly: This Southeast Asian country experiences widespread, fatal unrest.

Following the military coup d’etat in the beginning of February, Myanmar (also known as Burma) has seen numerous protests turn violent. The National League for Democracy (NLD) and the party’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, were stripped of their political power during a military take-over of the nation’s government last month. On Feb. 1, 2021, Myanmar’s army stormed the nation’s capital after claims of election fraud and detained Kyi while removing the elected government from office. Numerous military generals have been implemented into leading government positions.

Since the coup began, two NLD party figures have died in the military’s custody, while more than 60 protesters have been killed. Zaw Myat Linn and Khin Maung Latt, the NLD party members who have died in the military’s custody, were both arrested during anti-coup demonstrations in early March according to Aljazeera.

Large protests have swept the country as the state-run media warned anyone involved in the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) are committing “high treason” and could be sentenced to 22 years imprisonment or death. The military coup has upended daily life in Myanmar, causing hundreds of thousands of people to express frustrations and disapproval in the streets.

Meanwhile, civil servants and other essential workers have stopped working in protest against the army. According to Aljazeera, an alliance of influential worker unions has called for an extensive nationwide strike with the intention of causing a “full, extended shutdown” of the nation’s economy.

The widespread protests in the Southeast Asian nation have been met with extreme force. At least five people were wounded on Sunday, March 7, in Bagan, the nation’s former capital according to eyewitnesses. Security forces have killed over 60 protesters, often using live ammunition, as the civil unrest continues to increase, according to Aljazeera and the Irrawaddy, Myanmar’s popular news source.

Following protests in the Sagaing Region of Myanmar on Thursday, Mar. 18, thousands have fled their homes in Depayin Township. According to the military-controlled state media, three police officers, including a police captain, were confronted by protesters while on their way into the township. Two officers died as a result of the subsequent conflict between the two groups. This prompted the military to carry out a violent raid in Tei Taw village in the Sagaing Region, according to the Irrawaddy. Six people were arrested and two houses were burned as a result of the raid Thursday night.

Early on Friday, Mar. 19, two-hundred police officers and soldiers stormed a monastery in Thapyay Gone village. During their raid of the monastery, other officers were deployed back to Tei Taw to search abandoned houses for any remaining villagers. These actions have prompted several thousand people in surrounding villages to flee their homes in preparation for more military raids.

As of Mar. 19, the nation’s death toll during the protests has reached 231 people. Many people in Myanmar are seeking help from neighboring nations in their fight against the military coup and the resulting actions of violence.

Sources: Aljazeera, The Irrawaddy

An ‘Epidemic of Violence’: Trans women are violated at an alarming rate in Philadelphia and across the nation.

Early Saturday, March 20th a few Philadelphia police officers responded to reports of a fight. Upon their arrival a bloodied woman in ripped clothes fell at their feet. This woman had been victimized with attempted sexual assault and multiple stab wounds. She was brought to the hospital sustaining these critical injuries.

Trans women in Philadelphia are suffering an “epidemic of violence,” according to authorities. This statement was made after the events that occurred September of last year when a 29-year-old Black trans woman named Mia Green was found shot in the neck. Her body was found in the passenger seat of her alleged killer’s vehicle when he was stopped for driving through a stop sign. The police escorted the driver to the hospital where Green was pronounced dead.

Months before these events, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, another trans woman of color, was murdered. Her body was found dismembered in the Schuylkill River. Both State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta and Mayor Kenney recognized Rem’mie’s death for the tragedy it was, while many others of the city took to the streets to protest anti-LGBTQIA+ violence.

This violence seen in Philadelphia is the same violence that many trans people face every day across the nation. Specifically trans people of color are one of the most discriminated against groups in the country. In the U.S., Black transgender people have been recorded with an extremely high unemployment rate of 26%. This percentage is two times the rate of the overall transgender sample and four times the rate of the general population. Additionally, 41% of Black trans respondents of the same study said they had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives; more than five times the rate of the general U.S. population. Startlingly, 49% of all Black trans respondents had attempted suicide at some point in their lives.

Statistics such as these reveal exactly what has been recognized recently in Philadelphia: trans people are dying at an alarming rate. Trans women of color are especially vulnerable, as statistics show they have an average life expectancy of 30-35 years. All trans people are withheld opportunities and necessities in most spaces. Hate crimes against transgender people are some of the most common kinds of these crimes, but are also some of the least visible in the media.

Many Philadelphians have been encouraged to see city authorities, as well as leadership such as Mayor Kenney, speak out against this epidemic of anti-trans violence. However, it is likely that Philadelphia and the nation will continue to mourn the tragic deaths of their trans community members unless a real effort is made to protect and value trans lives.

To support trans women in Philadelphia visit the Trans Justice Funding Project online at transjusticefundingproject.org.

Sources: NBC, NBC Philadelphia, Philly Voice

Vaccination Site Opens At KOP Mall: Montgomery County sets up a COVID-19 vaccination site at the mall.

As COVID-19 vaccines are becoming increasingly more available to the general public, Mountain Productions, a Pennsylvania-based staging company, is anticipating a flood of vaccine availability within the next few weeks and has begun to set up a massive vaccination site in King of Prussia to facilitate Montgomery County’s vaccine distribution. Although the company traditionally uses their equipment to set up large stage productions for music festivals and other events of that nature, Mountain Productions has had to readjust their business strategy in order to remain afloat during the pandemic. Over the past year, they have done this by constructing various testing and vaccination sites across 12 states.

This vaccination site is located just outside the King of Prussia Mall, in the parking lot of the former Babies R Us. The two main structures being built are sized at 30 feet by 140 feet, and are each designed to accommodate a 10-lane carport. They are also in the process of constructing more carports which will provide an additional four lanes to facilitate extra drive-through testing and vaccinations. Additionally, multiple shipping containers have been set up in order to safely store the vaccines. Assuming it receives an adequate number of doses from the state, the pop-up site will be able to administer around 3,000 vaccines a day. The drive-through method will allow for a safer, and more efficient vaccination process.

15 to Know is a locally based COVID-19 testing company who is sponsoring the facility. Although they have not received the official clearances or supplies from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the rapid-testing company is optimistic that soon, the King of Prussia site will be able to open at full capacity for both testing and vaccination needs in the Montgomery County area.

Currently, there are two vaccination sites in Montgomery County: one is located at Montgomery County Community College Blue Bell, and the other is at Norristown Area High School’s gymnasium. Each site can administer around 1,000 vaccines per day. The Pennsylvania State Department has not confirmed that the King of Prussia testing site will be available for drive-through vaccinations, as only community clinics have been given the clearances to administer the vaccine at this time. However, Mountain Productions CEO Ricky Rose remains hopeful that as the federal government allocates more doses, the King of Prussia site will be fully equipped to handle the flux of vaccines.

While both 15 to Know and Mountain Productions have taken the preliminary steps to secure a safe and efficient vaccination site for Montgomery County residents, both companies are aware that right now, it is still a waiting game. With so much uncertainty regarding dosage availability from state to state, there is no guarantee that their site will be utilized for vaccinations. Until their site is approved, it will be continued to be used as a testing site, but the expectation is that soon, they will be able to dually administer tests and vaccinations once large-scale vaccination clinics are permitted to operate in the Montgomery County area.

Sources: The Philadelphia Inquirer, FOX 29 Philadelphia.

The Olympic Dilemma of 2020: Leaders in the International Olympics Comittee stay optimistic about the 2020 Games.

Last summer, Tokyo was supposed to hold the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. Due to the outbreak of COVID in the months prior to and during the set months, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to postpone the games to the Summer of 2021. However, things are not looking too bright for the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee. Between a sexism scandal in the leadership team and the spike in COVID cases, one might not be optimistic for a 2021 Olympic Games that goes as smoothly as it was set to happen.

On March 24th, 2020, the Japanese government postponed the games that were scheduled to take place in July and August 2020. In a press meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that the games were postponed “in order to ensure that athletes from all over the world are able to compete in their best condition, and also in order to ensure the utmost safety for the spectators.” This decision was a collaborative effort between the Japanese government and the IOC (which is headed by Thomas Bach).

However, once the Olympic Organizing Committee began having meetings again in their Tokyo headquarters, an unforeseen scandal was afoot. The Organizing Committee’s president, Yoshiro Mori (an 83-year-old former prime minister of Japan), stated in a private meeting that women should not be allowed to speak, because he believes that they waste time and they will “never be able to finish”. This caused backlash from women all over the world, and many demanded his resignation. At first, Mori refused to resign, but he eventually stepped down after the international scrutiny he faced.

Mori’s successor as Olympic Organizing president is 56-year-old female cabinet minister Seiko Hashimoto. Hashimoto is not new to the Olympic Games; she medaled in speedskating at the 1992 games in France. With a background in politics (she was in Japan’s house of parliament for over 20 years before accepting her position with the Olympics) and athletics, Hashimoto’s ascension to the top of Japanese athletics has started a conversation about the importance of women in Japan, one of the world’s most male-dominated countries.

Before Hashimoto’s appointment but the Organizing Committee, another candidate was set to take her place. This other candidate, who was hand-selected by Mori and the rest of the all-male Organizing Committee, was Saburo Kawabuchi, an 84-year-old former Japanese soccer player. However, the committee was met with yet another round of criticism for their decision, as Kawabuchi is only a year older than Mori.

While there is still no guarantee that the Olympics will occur this summer, Hashimoto has vowed to try her hardest in protecting the athletes, international fans, and Japanese fans to stay healthy and safe. Her first priority is making sure “both the Japanese people and people from abroad will think that the Tokyo Games are safe and secure.” Only time will tell if the Olympics are as great as Hashimoto expects them to be.

Sources: NBC News, New York Times, IOC

Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Rise: Anti-Asian violence has risen across the nation, bringing with it discourse and protests against Anti-Asian racism.

On Friday, Feb. 19, Ying Ngov, the owner and operator of Mama Venezia’s Pizzeria in Norristown, was brutally beaten and her shop robbed. Ngov, a fifty-six year old immigrant from China, chased the group of men after they had stolen beers and ran from the store. Ngov grabbed a neighbor’s shovel to protect herself, but was beaten until she fell to the ground and lost consciousness.

Ngov is known by her community for being a kind and generous soul, and neighbors have come forward to testify that she has always accommodated those who cannot afford food. This incident, however, was not a robbing motivated by need. Ngov’s son-in-law and marine veteran, Brian Skipper, hopes this attack was not racially motivated, but worries for the safety of his family and community.

Since the violence, three teens have been identified as the assailants: twins Justin Cassidy and Kevin Cassidy of Aston, PA, along with Justin Croson of Seven Valleys, PA. All three have been detained by the police.

This attack is even more alarming in light of the recent murder of Christian Hall, a nineteen-year-old multiethnic Asian, by a Pennsylvania State Trooper on Dec. 30, 2020. The police were called to respond to reports of a suicidal teen on the edge of Route 33 southbound overpass in Monroe County, Pennsylvania. The State Troopers claim that Hall had a gun, presumably to commit suicide, and pointed the gun at the police officers before they shot and killed him.

However, video footage captured by bystanders shows Hall standing on the edge of the overpass with his hands empty and raised. Hall is then shot seven times by the officer and falls to the ground. The Pennsylvania State Trooper remains unnamed, but it has been confirmed that he was permitted to return to work.

The family of Christian Hall are understandably devastated by this loss and are working diligently to raise awareness and seek justice for their son. They have found support from the Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance, which will be hosting a town hall to make space for the community and address the surge in anti-Asian violence in Pennsylvania and the nation. The family is represented by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who has previously been representing George Floyd’s family.

Both of these events, in light of the national conversation on the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, have put Pennsylvania in the national spotlight. The national discourse has resulted in a greater analysis of Pennsylvania law enforcement and local community cultures.

For Eastern University students these tragedies hit especially close to home, as with any violence in our community. The Waltonian urges students in need of mental health care and support to reach out to the Cushings Center for Counseling and Academic Support.

Sources: 6abc, Justice for Christian Hall, Asian Pacific Islander Political Alliance

Assault Weapons Buy-Back in Canada: How Prime Minister Trudeau changed the Canadian ban on assault weapons.

In May 2020, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced a piece of legislation that effectively banned assault-style weapons. After a brutal mass shooting in April, Trudeau was swift in executing the legislation (the ban was announced a mere two weeks after Gabriel Wortman shot and killed 18 Nova Scotians). On February 16th, the Canadian government introduced a new bill; an addition to the law that will “allow municipalities to ban handguns and increase criminal penalties for gun smuggling and trafficking”. While the new addition to the legislation is seen as a positive in the eyes of the liberal Prime Minister, conservative members of parliament see flaws in the bill.

Trudeau stated in a press conference that these laws have not been put into effect to criminalize law-abiding hunters and sport shooters. “The measures we’re proposing are concrete and practical”, said Trudeau, “And they have one goal and one goal only — protecting you, your family and your community.” The new additions to the law would create “flags” for friends and family to report assault weapon owners to the government. Trudeau also introduced higher punishments for those who traffick assault rifles.

Another addition proposed in the bill is the introduction of a buy-back program. Before the buy-back program, Canadian gun owners would be encouraged to abide by the codes set in place by the government, such as not using the weapons or bequeathing them to anyone else. While the buy-back program is still being developed, the Liberal Party estimated that the program could cost the Canadian government hundreds of millions of federal funding.

Conservative lawmakers do not believe that these laws will change the rate of gun violence in Canada. Conservative party leader and member of parliament Erin O’Toole stated that Trudeau is ignoring the problem of “shooting and criminal gang activity in the big cities’’ and that these laws are “ignoring the real problem and it’s dividing Canadians.” On the other hand, gun control activist groups in Canada seem to be disappointed in the information that the government has provided. While assault weapons have been banned, the buy-back program would not be mandatory as they had hoped. Since the 2019 election cycle, these activist groups have been hopeful that the buy-back programs would be mandatory.

While Canada is moving forward in their gun control legislation introduction, Canadians are hopeful to keep their families, communities, provinces, and country safe from gun violence regardless of political divide.

Sources: New York Times, CBC News

Eastern Tuition Plan for Military Students: Recognizing students in the military, Eastern announces new tuition price.

Being in the military is incredibly hard work, and that is quite the understatement. It takes bravery, strength, determination, loyalty, and dedication to serve and protect our country. It takes even more to pursue a degree at the same time. That is why Eastern University has made the decision to cut tuition rates for students who are currently serving in any branch of the military, a decision that was implemented this January.

Eastern has always welcomed military students through programs like the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) which allows students to train and gain leadership skills before joining the armed forces. In partnership with Valley Forge Military Academy and College and St. Joseph’s University, Eastern aims to foster a supportive environment for military students, something that is especially necessary at a small university.

There are also scholarships, awards, and benefits given to eligible military students and veterans when they apply. These depend on the degree the student is pursuing and the student’s living situation, much like any other scholarship and award. There are grants for active military families, scholarships available to families of military members who passed away while serving, and for members of the military discharged with a service-connected disability.

Though military students have always had a place at Eastern University, this new discount on tuition is meant to encourage more current military members to enroll at the university. With this discount, current military students will be able to pay a lower rate of $250 per credit as a thank you for their service to our country. Students who are eligible for this new discount must be currently enrolled in any branch of the military, and they can be in active duty, in the National Guard, or in the Reserves.

As online programs and classes, such as Eastern’s new Masters of Science program in Data Science, draw in more current military students who are interested in pursuing a degree from anywhere at any time, efforts like this one to make education more accessible and affordable to military students are crucial in maintaining student engagement. Especially this year, when stress and tensions are at an all-time high for everyone with pandemic guidelines and quarantine protocols, ensuring that every student, regardless of their situation, feels supported and appreciated is necessary, and military students are no exception.

To all of Eastern’s military students, thank you for your service to our country, and best of luck in your academic journey.

Source: Eastern.edu