Is it really the Sweetest Place on Earth?: Hershey’s Chocolate’s poor response to child labor allegations.

Hershey Chocolate Factory is one of the most famous candy manufacturers in the world. Between the park and the factory, Hershey’s name is known throughout the globe. Although this huge company seems to be a family friendly place, there have been allegations of child labor in the Ivory Coast in some of the cocoa plantations. Oliver Balch, a reporter for The Guardian, has said that eight children have come forward and claimed they were used for slave labor at these plants.

“Ivory Coast produces 45% of the global chocolate supply”, says Balch, “the production of cocoa in West Africa has been linked to human rights abuses….and child labor.” Hershey has promised to review its labor laws, but has not said anything else on it.

Hershey Chocolate Factory should own up to its abuse of children in their factories overseas. The low wage and harsh working conditions these children face should not go unnoticed. According to Bob Fernandez, a reporter for the Tribune News Service, Hershey was asked to join in regulating child labor in 2020, but it is still unknown whether they support this deal in Washington or not.

A huge company like Hershey has the power to influence other companies using child labor, if Hershey itself did. Ignoring this will only let the problem continue. Hershey Chocolate Factory needs to be held accountable for its action, rather than to let it continue. Hershey and other chocolate factories had made a pledge two decades ago to stop using child labor, but as of 2020, the use of child labor continues. Peter Whoriskey and Rachel Sigel, two reporters for the Washington Post, point out that Hershey is unable to identify which of their factories uses child labor. 

Not being able to identify which factories are using child labor reflects poorly on the company. It can be hard to keep track of 17 different factories across the globe but when it comes to child labor, they should be inspecting and reinspecting all those factories overseas. Hershey has said they want to get rid of their child labor, but have not taken serious, legal action in order for that to happen. It is easy to say that they are taking steps towards this but it is another thing to  act.

Ions speak louder than words, so Hershey should take steps to ensure that they will make sure child labor will be no more in their overseas factories and not just say they are trying to eliminate it. 

The Hershey website has put out a section dedicated to the child labor laws overseas, but it says that it is a “complex issue” and that no children have been forced to work in their cocoa plants. 

The lawsuit Herhsey faces as of February 2021 says differently. Hershey says they are monitoring these accusations, but has told the media they are not sure which plants are using child labor. The rest of this section goes on to talk about the diversity Hershey will have in employment and the education the children overseas will receive in the year 2025. It quickly glances over the problem at hand and goes straight into how Hershey Chocolate Factory will have more representation in the workplace, which is good, however this is not the issue at hand.

The rest of this page goes on to talk about providing the children in their overseas factories with schooling in order to combat this child labor crisis but without knowing which factories are practicing child labor, it is hard to put those childern into the classroom. Hershey’s company says they will have these resolved by 2025, but they are not investigating the plants that are using children to harvest their cocoa beans. 

This company needs to take action now, rather than have a four year plan to stop it. Children are being forced into terrible work environments. They are missing out on being children and are forced into being adults. Hershey and many other factories should re-evaluate how their products are made overseas and take action now rather than wait when it comes to child labor. 

Sources: Hershey Chocolate Factory, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Tribune News Service 

President Biden’s Vaccine Mandate: A student shares why a vaccine mandate might not be the best choice.

On September 10, President Biden announced new measures to battle Covid 19. The Department of Labor will develop a new emergency rule requiring all federal employees and contractors to be vaccinated, as well as workers at any healthcare facility that receives Medicare or Medicaid. In addition to this, every company with over 100 employees is required to mandate vaccinations or test unvaccinated employees weekly.

There was an immediate backlash to these mandates; 24 states and the Republican party have threatened to sue if the mandates were implemented. In addition, countless other organizations have expressed disapproval as well. These groups claim the mandate violates both employees and employers’ freedom. But to understand if these mandates really are infringing on people’s freedom, it may be helpful to look at the reason for the mandate. On September 10th President Biden stated the reason, “The bottom line — we’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated coworkers.”

What does it mean to protect vaccinated individuals from unvaccinated individuals? If a vaccine is fully effective, why would an unvaccinated person pose a risk to a vaccinated person? According to the CDC, “COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick.” If vaccines are “effective”, what does a vaccinated person have to fear? According to scientists, variants, such as the Delta variant, originate as the virus gets spread around from person to person. In an article in Healthline magazine, Dr. Purvi Parikh said, “If everyone is vaccinated, eventually infections drop to zero and so do variants, but if the virus has an easy host, such as an unvaccinated individual, then it is easy for it to mutate into a more contagious and virulent form.”

The logic is, that if people are not vaccinated a virus can mutate into being more deadly or contagious as they spread it around. A virus becoming more contagious is not necessarily an issue, what should be a worry, is it becoming more harmful. Some viruses actually become less harmful. The 1918 influenza pandemic mutated into one of the strands of the common flu we have today. Why do we not seem to be worried about the flu mutating into something more deadly?

For many people, the vaccine makes a lot of sense, especially for the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions for whom Covid-19 can be very dangerous. But if you are under the age of forty, you have a .04% chance of dying of Covid, and the younger and healthier you are, your chances of getting sick decrease dramatically. For people in these categories, a vaccine barely seems necessary, especially with many warnings from doctors about the insufficient testing of the vaccine, and the rare but dangerous side effects, such as blood clots.

         I don’t pretend to be a doctor.  But here is the point I want to make. With so much conflicting data and opinions, personal choice is essential. Medical professionals should be allowed to share their opinions on Covid. Hospitals should be allowed to offer alternative cures. Patients should be allowed to choose treatment. Employers should be allowed to decide the rules for how to keep their employees safe. And employees should then be able to make their decision and negotiate with their employer. President Biden’s mandate, however well intended, will eliminate the freedoms of both employers and employees. The more we limit freedom, the more science, which operates on the basis of freedom, will be suppressed. If we allow that, we will become controlled by the whims of power-hungry individuals, and an ever-growing government. 

AOC’s Met Gala Dress: Did AOC choose the right dress designer?

The Met Gala is known for being one of the biggest events in fashion and isn’t a stranger to controversy. Many celebrities use this publicity-rife event as a chance to leverage their voice, like Billie Eilish, who only agreed to wear Oscar de la Renta if the fashion label went completely fur-free, and she stunned in their Marilyn Monroe-inspired dress. However, other outfits, like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Tax the Rich” dress generated far more discourse on both sides of the aisle.

Many conservatives criticized Ocasio-Cortez on the basis of false claims, accusing her of spending large sums of money to attend the event and buy the dress. However, though tickets for the Met Gala can cost anywhere from $35,000 to $300,000, Ocasio-Cortez was invited along with many other New York elected officials as guests of the museum who do not pay for their ticket. Likewise, the dress was borrowed, not bought. On the other hand, those on the left criticize Ocasio-Cortez for attending at all, given that she was rubbing shoulders with the wealthiest members of American society rather than serving the working-class people she often claims to champion.

I think Ocasio-Cortez knew exactly what she was doing when she wore that dress to the Met Gala. She wanted everyone talking about her dress and her platform, and that’s exactly what happened. To me, that seems like a well-played move, and it’s gutsy for her to walk into the upper echelons of the New York elite and start these kinds of conversations. If she’d paid for the ticket and the dress, I’d agree that that would be hypocritical, but she didn’t. Instead, she took the chance to boost her message and keep conversations that she cared about going. That, I can respect.

However, rumors are circulating that Ocasio-Cortez’s designer, Brother Vellies, may be in hot water regarding their own taxes. British tabloid Daily Mail, along with several other conservative newspapers, claims to have dug up information that indicates the fashion brand still has outstanding tax warrants from before the pandemic, along with six federal liens, meaning that the government has a legal claim against your property when you fail to pay a tax debt. Brother Vellies is not exactly low profile either; while Ocasio-Cortez said on the red carpet that “We really started having a conversation about what it means to be a working class women of color at the Met,” the brand she wore is known for dressing plenty of other celebrities such as Beyoncé, Meghan Markle, Zendaya, Rihanna and Lady Gaga (though it’s worth noting that almost all of these celebrities are women of color). The designer, Aurora James, is a woman of color who founded 15percent Pledge, a nonprofit that asks brands to devote 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned brands. 

While I respect Ocasio-Cortez’s political move to get people talking about her platform and her political stances, I do think she made a mistake when choosing her designer. Whether or not Brother Vellies does have outstanding tax warrants like several sources claim, the brand is not exactly a low-profile small business, and Ocasio-Cortez does not seem to be supporting the underdog as much as one might hope. As is often the case with controversy, Ocasio-Cortez’s “Tax the Rich” dress is not a black-and-white issue, and the ethical questions raised are worth discussing for people of all political leanings.

Sources: AOC’s ‘Tax the Rich’ dress designer’s firm ran up tax arrears of $130,000 | Daily Mail Online; AOC’s ‘Tax The Rich Dress’ – Ultimate Fashion Statement Or Display Of Hypocrisy (forbes.com); Why A.O.C.’s Met Gala Dress Made People Mad – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Which Jonas Era is Better?: Comparing the Jonas Brothers before and after the split.

Remember 10 or 11ish years ago? When we are jamming out to “Burnin’ Up,” and “Fly with Me” by the Jonas Brothers. From “SOS” to “Year 3,000”, the Jonas Brothers have created so many songs that the Gen Z generation knows and loves.  Some fans still know the songs by heart, while others smile when they remember the good old days.

         In 2012, the Jonas Brothers announced they were splitting up.  From that moment on, the Jonas Brothers did not release any more music together. Each brother went on to do their own separate projects.  Nick had a successful solo career, Joe’s band DNCE did exceptionally well, and Kevin was able to start a family.  During the hiatus, each brother worked hard to find what they were passionate about.  They were able to grow individually, so they could create things that represented who they were.

After a six-year hiatus, the brothers announced they are getting back together. Along with the announcement, the brothers released their song, “Sucker.” This song sounded completely different from the music they released 10 years ago.  Since the brothers spent time working on themselves, the music they made together was so much stronger.  Each brother had found the sounds that they love separately and were able to put it together to create something brand new.

There are different opinions on which era of the Jonas Brothers is better, and I believe it is the here and now. I still remember the words to every song from 10 years ago, but the music they are releasing now is so more well-crafted.  With each release, you can hear how each brother worked hard to bring their own style or flair to piece. In their new song, “Whos In Your Head,” you can hear the DNCE sound mixed together with Nick’s solo career sound. 

The brothers worked hard while they were on their own and they are bringing those skill to the band to make something astounding. 10 years ago, we received the songs of our childhood.  But now, the band we know, and love is creating the songs of our adulthood.  Their old music is something fans of the Jonas Brothers can cherish forever, but their new sound is unique to them.  When you hear their music, you hear the sounds of three brothers having the time of their lives.

Settling the Debate: TikTok or Vine?: A student joins in on the Tiktok or Vine conversation.

I believe all of us here at Eastern are old enough to be familiar with the Vine app. For those who might not be, Vine was a social media app established in 2012 that allowed users to share six second video clips online. It did not take long for the app to gain a huge following, and in just one year it garnered over 100 monthly users worldwide. This social media giant held its place as one of the biggest social media platforms for a little over a year, but just as quickly as it rose to popularity, the app died shortly after when instagram launched its video sharing feature in June of 2013.

In September 2017, a new video sharing app was launched, TikTok. It included a lot of similar features that Vine had, such as being a video exclusive app and allowing users to edit their videos. This time however, instead of six second videos, users were able to upload thirty second videos while incorporating the sound feature. For those who are not familiar with the sound feature, this allows users to take a popular audio and place it over their video. The two compare in various aspects in function, but which one was better? 

As millennials and older Gen Z adults, we are all apart of the giant inside joke of vine references. Even today, we still hear a multitude of these references, with one of my favorites being “Road work ahead? I sure hope it does!” This, along with hundreds of other quotes have been engrained into the back of our heads. Why? Because they are simple and short. The simplicity of Vine has made these quotes easy to remember and still remain iconic after almost a decade later. TikTok on the other hand, does not include short and simple quotes. Rather, it seems as if the users are taking already existing audios and just creating video trends or challenges out of them.  We reference TikTok just as much as we reference Vine, but how many of those sounds are actually produced by a creator, rather than a movie or a song? I have to say, TikTok lacks originality in this aspect when it comes to creative content.

Aside from memes and trends, Vine and TikTok are very similar in nature. Although both platforms were used for sharing videos, TikTok seems far more advanced when it comes to the production behind these posts. TikTok allows users to use special effects such as a green screen or interactive games within their videos. The app also includes beauty effects such as makeup filters so users can change their appearances as they like. It is clear that TikTok excels in overall function and aesthetic as Vine videos were often uncut and without filters. 

Although Vine and TikTok are very similar yet different in nature, there is no clear say in which is better. One may argue that Vine is better because it is more iconic, while others may argue that TikTok is better based on the features that the app provides. Although some may argue that one is better than the other, it is safe to say that Vine was the iconic blueprint, opening the door for modern day video sharing apps, while TikTok is the newest, best, big thing, as it incorporates newer features in its app everyday. 

Eastern’s Covid Protocols: A honest look at the universities COVID policies.

As we begin another pandemic school year, Eastern University’s COVID-19 policies are much more flexible than last year.  Last year, the COVID policies were clear cut.  Masks were required everywhere, off-campus travel was prohibited, and freedom of choice was non-existent.  This year, Eastern has a much different approach to navigating COVID.  Since vaccines are so widely available and highly effective against COVID-19, the university has provided more wiggle room when it comes COVID policies. 

Last year, masks were required everywhere; no exceptions. Now, students have the option to choose what makes them feel the most comfortable.  With only a handful of offices and departments requiring masks, students are able to choose whether or not they wear one.  In addition, unlike most universities, Eastern has not required the COVID-19 vaccine.  Again, this allows students to decide what is best for their health.  

This choice by the university is a step in the right direction because it allows students to do their own personal risk assessment.  In the middle of a health crisis, individuals should be able to make their own choices based on their medical history, experiences and insights from their doctor.  Eastern’s COVID policies open the door for students to take responsibility for themselves. 

However, the university is highly recommending the vaccine for students. If students are fully vaccinated, they are no longer required to quarantine. Instead, in the event they are exposed, they only need to wear a mask for 14 days.  However, if an unvaccinated student is exposed COVID-19, they need to observe a seven day quarantine and provide two negative tests.  In that regard, vaccines not only protect you from the virus, but they also keep you on campus and out of quarantine.  

These policies provide much more freedom to the student, however, the university has failed to clearly lay out their policies.  When asked about the COVID policies, a student said, “I honestly am not entirely sure what the protocols are, I just do what everyone else does.” Since students do not fully understand the policies, Eastern should strive to clarify their policies. 

Looking at the university as a whole, Eastern has created an environment for personal choice.  Since the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in people’s lives, it is important that students are able to make their decisions for their health.  Compared to last year, Eastern is giving students a much more college-like experience and more freedom to choose. So, all in all, the university is in a much better place, but should strive to clearly lay out their protocols, so students can be confident in their personal health decisions. 

 

The Cost Of Child Protection: Is Apple fighting child pornography for the right reasons?

On August 5, 2021, Apple announced they will be releasing an update which will focus on combating child abuse.  This new update aims to mitigate the spread of digital content which depicts children involved in sexually explicit activities. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) has increased by 28% in 2020. Due to rising CSAM concerns, Apple’s new IOS 15 update scans users photos, messages, and email attachments for CSAM. Despite their noble effort to reduce the sexualization of children, Apple’s update poses many user privacy concerns. This article will focus on why Apple’s CSAM feature should not be released and the negative impacts of such a system on society. 

Most people would consider their photos, messages, emails, and searches to be sensitive information. Although Apple is trying to limit the sexualization of children on their devices, there are inadvertent consequences to designing algorithms which can limit and report on the transmission of information. Apple is currently deploying this technology for a noble cause, however, there is nothing stopping them from using the same systems to inhibit other types of data. For example, Apple could branch off and sensor political movements, groups, or anything they deem a threat. Apple users could find themselves flagged for having a conversation over text or doing research on a political issue.  

If Apple users are flagged, they could find themselves in a situation where they are not able to freely converse about certain topics, or do their own research on what is happening around the world.  In this situation, Apple would be deciding what users can and cannot talk about.  This would cause Apple users to lose their freedom to express their opinions and learn about the different issues in our society.  Fighting against child abuse is a noble cause, but should it be at the expense of the user? 

Apple’s new CSAM feature highlights a central question– how must we monitor and govern our technology in a way that promotes freedom and remains ethical. Although it is important to fight against the mistreatment of children, this cannot come at the expense of personal freedom. If Apple releases this update, they need to ensure a proper implementation of the software.  The concept of user information being monitored can make an Apple user feel violated.  Apple’s goals are in the right direction, but they need to confirm their software will not breach that privacy of the user. 

Celebrating Bi Visibility Day: A thoughtful reflection and affirmation of bisexual and biromantic folks.

September 23rd is Bi Visibility Day, a day where we can acknowledge and affirm bisexual and biromantic folks. A quote from the Washington Post reads, “One in six adults in Generation Z identifies as LGBT” and of that, 72% identify as bisexual. To delve more deeply into this identity, we talked to Sophia Hunter (she/they), who identifies as genderqueer, bisexual, and biromatic.

When asked to define bisexuality, Hunter said, “‘Bi’ is an evolving term! It means something different to each bi-identifying person.” She added that “The prefix ‘bi’ means ‘two’. Usually, ‘bi’ implies attraction to both men and women. However, with progressive understanding of gender changing and largely eliminating a default gender binary of man and woman, and with my own non-binary gender identity, I have heard some bi folks suggest we accept a definition of bi as being attraction to both cis people and trans people, regardless of particular gender”.

Bi folks experience a variety of marginalizations, both within the queer community and outside of it. “We experience biphobia from larger straight-normalized society that expects heterosexuality from us, and also from monosexual (i.e. attraction to only one gender) queer people, who sometimes expect us to pursue relationships with people of the same gender in order to call ourselves queer. All of this can be summed up in one statement: not being straight enough for straight people, and not being gay enough for queer people. This reality we face can be extremely isolating. In fact, bi individuals face greater risk for mental health problems than both straight people and lesbians and gay men,” Hunter said. 

However, many bisexual and biromantic people find great joy in their identities as well, despite the struggles they face. Hunter said, “The experience of discovering I love in more ways than one is filled with indescribable joy. It’s so hard to describe to someone that’s never had to realize they love differently than the norm does. I’m so thankful that I was created bi. Knowing my capacity for love extends farther than what is normalized in our society is thrilling and humbling, and as an out bi person, I look at the world with so much more devotion than I ever could or did before. All love is beautiful. All love is love. Coming into and coming out to the fullness of how my love was created to be is astonishing.”

The support of allies matters. Hunter gives several clear ways that everyone can support bisexual and biromantic folks around them: “Acknowledge Pride month and bi visibility month!…because we are attracted to the opposite gender as well as the same– we’re not just in queer spaces. We’re in straight, “normal” spaces too, and you’d never know. Be aware of that. In general, if you or someone you know holds assumptions about bi folks like I mentioned earlier, please please do unlearn them. There are so many resources on bi experiences available online, and a couple of Google searches should help you correct this thinking… Hold us in loving and explicit affirmation. Make space for us to be and talk about all that we are. Accept that we are who we say we are; accept that we are capable of knowing who we are. Celebrate who and how we love: including when we love ourselves. Love is the best thing to have and experience in this hell of a world, so celebrate it and affirm it wherever it is.”

Is It Really Pro-Choice?: A critical review of the pro-choice movement.

  Recently, Texas passed its controversial “heartbeat” law, banning all abortions after a baby’s heartbeat can be detected. As usual, with any law involving abortion, the winning side, conservatives, praised the law, and the losing side, liberals, criticized it. The usual phrases, murder, constitutional right, fetus, child, pro-choice, pro-life, have all been thrown around in the media. As I drove home from college, I turned on NPR, and heard reports of doctors crying because they could not complete the number of abortions demanded at the last minute by mothers. “What will these desperate women do?” a worried NPR anchor said. What she seemed to be saying was, “these women will be forced to raise their unwanted children”. 

 Our society has decided that abortion is the best option for an unwanted pregnancy. According to Planned Parenthood, 4 in 10 women with unplanned pregnancies choose an abortion, and 1 in 4 women have an abortion by the age of forty-five. Abortion is considered normal, rational, and even loving, as suggested by Planned Parenthood’s website. But is it really? Many women regret their abortions and suffer emotionally from their decision for years. There has not been a clearly defined statement released by the government as to when a human becomes a human and is given rights. The legal question remains: up to what point can an abortion be performed? Can a full-term newborn baby be killed if the parents do not want it? Finally, the actual facts about what an abortion is, how much pain a fetus suffers, and what is used in the process of aborting babies, is often not explained to the mother receiving the abortion. In addition, the physical pain, health hazards and emotional fallout for the mother are mostly ignored. 

Despite these facts, our government continues to put abortion first and foremost in its funding. According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, Planned Parenthood receives 543.7 million dollars through a combination of title X, Medicaid, and multiple other government programs. By contrast, the government’s main way of funding adoption, which many argue is a better option to abortion, is through tax credits.  Parents who adopt a child receive a onetime $10,000 tax credit, but the government gives very minimal, if anything at all, to the adoption agencies themselves. In a nation where 47% of the population identifies as pro-life, according to Gallup polling, the government continues to direct most funding solely towards abortion. If the government is going to spend millions of dollars on unwanted pregnancies, maybe they could distribute it a little more evenly between the options of abortion and adoption. A private adoption costs around, $20,000- $45,000, while an abortion costs between up to $1,500. 

     Many women struggle to find alternatives to abortion. The very name pro-choice would suggest offering more than one choice.  But how can a woman make the right decision if she is faced with the option of only aborting or raising her child alone? If we are going to become the pro-choice, open society, we are encouraged to be, we must first, be honest and open about what abortion really is, and second, we must give women alternatives to abortion, so that they have all the information and options to make an informed and ethical decision. 

Unstable Patterns Of Fast Fashion: The struggle between quality and affordability.

Fast fashion is one of the easiest ways for college students to get cute, affordable clothing for cheap prices compared to name brand companies. Fast fashion, as said by Rashmila Matiti, is described as “cheaply produced and priced garments that copy the latest catwalk styles and get pumped quickly through stores in order to maximize current trends.” This may seem like a great way for college students to save money when they are already spending so much for school with textbooks, tuition and supplies, but fast fashion does more harm than good for the environment.

 

H&M, Zara, Shein and Forever 21 are well known fast fashion companies that many people shop at, especially college students. While the clothes may be cheap and fashionable, the way they are produced is harmful. These companies, according to the UN Environment Programme, are the second biggest water consumers and they are responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions. To put this in perspective, they produce more carbon than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. 

 

Ngan Lee says that “these companies use 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton shirt and 2,000 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans.” They also dump the water from the textile dyeing factories into the streams and rivers leading them to pollute the water.

 

Not only do these companies have a negative impact on the environment, they also are made of low quality materials to make production cheaper. College students may be saving money, but the odds of these cheaply made clothes lasting a long time is slim. Since trends are constantly changing, consumers are buying more clothes than they need to “fit in”, says Lee. The clothes that go to waste are then sent to a landfill and then burned, releasing pollutants into the air. At the end of the day, these companies have unethical production practices and there are better alternatives for college students to save money by buying name brands. 

 

Since sales racks have such good deals, they are a great place to check out when shopping. In addition, the clearance rack is another great way to save money on clothing. Thrift stores are another way to save money and thrifting is a huge trend in the media currently which appeals to college students. If students have found themselves not wearing certain clothing items, they can sell them online to get more money to save and spend. These ideas are easier ways for college students to save money, support ethical brands and buy cute clothing.