Amnesty Spreads the Word on Solitary Confinement

’18by Soorya A’18

On February 3, 2017, QHSS’ Amnesty International presented the issue of solitary confinement in prisons. The project was done in collaboration with Mrs. Majumder-Afzal, Mr. Kalamaras, and Mr. Sweiven. The President of Amnesty, Mohamed M’17 (nicknamed as Momo) explained that the members “[aimed to find a topic that would] target a large part of our criminal justice system and address its effects on our society.” From there, students created a presentation designed to convey the seclusion of solitary and its detrimental effects on the prison populations, as well as focus on the youth involved in the practice. As Valerie F’18 described, Amnesty’s primary goal was to raise awareness of the subject to the students of QHSS. They’ve accomplished this not only by their elaborate presentations, but also by their bold outfits,  displaying the attire commonly worn in prisons.

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Momo M. (‘17) and Nia R. (19’) answering a question during presentations.

For those who may have missed the presentation, solitary confinement is the isolation of prisoners in a cell, anywhere from 22 to 24 hours a day. In order to express the severity of the practice, presenters began by gauging a range of the students’ prior knowledge, asking questions such as, “What do you know about it?” and “What do you think it accomplishes?” In one class, all of the students in the audience were actively participating, both asking and answering questions. According to one presenter, Arwa R’18, the orange jumpsuits themselves sparked interest in students and were “vessels [for students] to ask questions on the topic.”

Amnesty members discussed aspects of solitary confinement such as which countries uses it, what it hopes to accomplish, who is held under solitary, and what its effect is. What seemed to be the climax of the presentations was when the students were shown a 360° interactive video on the effects of the practice. During her presentation, Valerie F’18 found that students “grew wide eyed and had interesting opinions to share with the class.” The video rendered the class silent, as many began to comprehend the severity of solitary. It seemed to be one of the defining moments of the presentation.

The presentations closed with “steps to move forward,” as the presenters explained to the audience the importance of staying involved in the our society. Amnesty members confidently concluded that they “all effectively delivered our message to our intended audience and learned a great deal from the experience” and  “that there were a number of people, regardless of grade, who learned something regarding the experience of solitary or the effects of it.”

Arwa R’18 went on to say, “This experience was valuable to me as well, as I did not know much about the issue of solitary confinement before. This experience allowed me to be actively involved and truly feel that I was helping in the cause.”

Elizabeth Warren Silenced in the Senate

img_5437By Ashley G’18

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts was recently silenced after denouncing Republican Senator Jeff Sessions for being unworthy of the position as U.S. attorney general. The Democratic Senator referenced Senator Edward Kennedy and, widow of Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King’s letters that condemned Sessions as federal judge back in 1986. In objection to Warren’s statement, majority leader Mitch McConnell accused Warren for having “impugned the motives and conduct” of Senator Sessions, a violation of rule XIX of the Senate rules. According to Senate rule XIX,“no Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.” Although Sessions’ nomination for federal judge was withdrawn after Kennedy and King’s letters, Warren’s reading of the same words resulted in being silenced on the senate floor.  Following a party-line vote of 49 to 43, the Senator was asked to be seated and silent on the matter of Sessions’ nomination until a decision was made.

Warren quoted King’s previous assertion that Sessions, “used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge.” She also criticized Sessions using Senator Kennedy’s words, stating that he is a, “disgrace to the Justice Department and he should withdraw his nomination and resign his position.” Senator Warren brought to attention King’s letter that criticized Sessions for restricting African-Americans from the right to vote to question whether he is suitable for his position as attorney general. Her main intent was not to discuss whether his actions in the past were right or wrong, but to re-evaluate, taking into consideration the information given, Sessions’ nomination.

Being silenced on the senate floor, however, did not stop Warren from reading Coretta Scott King’s full letter on a broadcast through Facebook Live. The Senator claims she wants to bring awareness to the people, especially the Republican senators who are considering nominating Sessions, of his character as shown through past events and opinions when he was U.S. attorney of Alabama. Warren deemed it important to make her case because, “the integrity of our Justice Department depends on an attorney general who will fight for the rights of all people. An honest evaluation of Jeff Sessions’ record shows that he is not that person.” Congressman Cedric Richmond from Louisiana agreed, “Mrs. King’s characterization of then U.S. Attorney Senator Sessions was accurate in 1986 and it is accurate now.” Warren also spoke out on Twitter:

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In addition to more than five million views on Facebook, the public showed immense support for Warren on Twitter, where they shared Coretta Scott King’s letter along with the hashtag #LetLizSpeak. Warren’s stand both gained support and spurred debate among the people and Senators alike.

Advocates of Warren claim that rule XIX has been implemented selectively.  Democrats have brought up past occurrences of Republicans who condemned other senators on the senate floor but were not silenced as Warren was. In particular, Senator Ted Cruz criticized McConnell for repeatedly lying about the Export-Import Bank. In another case, Arkansas’ Senator Tom Cotton portrayed and labeled Senator and former Democratic leader Harry Reid’s leadership as “cancerous”. Republicans, on the other hand, argue that the opposition is a result of the Democrats’ refusal to accept the outcome of the presidential election.

Republican Senator John Cornyn  suggested that Ms. Warren was silenced due to her citing of Senator Kennedy’s remark. However, Republican Senator Mike Rounds informed that Ms. Warren was warned while reading Kennedy’s letter, but was silenced over King’s letter. Warren responded with shock that, “the words of Coretta Scott King are not suitable for debate in the United States Senate.”

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The silencing of Ms. Warren seems reminiscent of a resolution proposed by Representative James Hammond of South Carolina dating back to 1836. That year, the House of Representatives passed the “gag rule”, which forbid the consideration or discussion of abolition petitions. Essentially, it was a silencing on the issue of slavery, as it urged that, “all petitions, memorials, or resolutions regarding slavery should automatically be tabled and that no further action be taken upon them.” Representative of Massachusetts and former president John Quincy Adams protested against the gag rule, proclaiming it to be a violation of the right to freedom of speech and freedom to petition. In spite of Adams’ numerous attempts to oppose the rule, the gag continued to be enforced until it was repealed in 1844. Some historians say the gag rule diverged from its original intention. Rather than deviating attention from the discussion of slavery, the rule brought more publicity to abolition petitions as people began to question their right to debate slavery.

On February 8, Senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed as U.S. attorney general after a 52 to 47 vote that was predominantly along party lines. Although Warren’s cause did not result in the desired outcome, it did bring about awareness and debate regarding the established procedures and practice of the regulations in the Senate. Similar to the congressional gag rule on slavery in the 19th century, Warren’s silencing reminds us of the prominence of the discussion of our civil liberties and representative government.nt

The Grammy’s Golden Girls

By: Rebecca P’18

The 59th Annual Grammy Awards was a star-studded night full of performances and buzz-worthy moments. From the hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest’s politically charged attack on President “Agent Orange” to Bruno Mars’ stellar tribute to the late Prince, there was a lot to talk about at the Grammys. However, the talk of the night was centered on two women in particular – Adele and Beyonce.

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A Tribe Called Quest delivered a heated performance at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards.

The two women had delivered stunning performances throughout the show. Adele opened the ceremony with her smash hit “Hello” and later returned to the stage to honor the late George Michael with a rendition of his “Fastlove.” Despite having a bumpy start, she successfully completed her performance to a standing ovation. After Adele’s performance, Beyonce blessed the audience with a dazzling performance of “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles”. The performance was an ode to motherhood, which was more than appropriate considering that she is expecting twins later this year. Accompanied by holograms of her mother and daughter, Beyonce was decked out in a gold outfit that alluded to divine figures in various mythologies.

The mononymous divas were among the most nominated artists of the night –  Adele with five nominations and Beyonce surpassing hers with nine. They faced off for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and the prestigious Album of the Year. In the end, Adele came out on top, winning all five of the awards she was nominated for. She graciously accepted her Grammy for Album of the Year but also acknowledged Beyonce’s phenomenal achievements.

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Adele and Beyonce at the Grammy Awards.

The variance between Adele and Beyonce highlights an important struggle for the Grammys and for music in general. These women are very unique artists. Known for her powerful vocal ability, Adele is a more traditional singer. Her album 25 is heartfelt and mostly apolitical. Conversely, Beyonce is a more experimental artist who addressed topics such as womanhood and black identity in her Lemonade. Both albums were met with critical and commercial acclaim, yet both focused on different subject matters. So how does one compare the two? How does the Recording Academy determine which is more worthy of being the Album of the Year?

According to Adele, the impact an album has on society should be the deciding factor. When receiving the award for Album of the Year, she acknowledged how an album like Beyonce’s Lemonade made her feel. In particular, Adele highlighted the empowerment it inspired in her black friends. This is an important distinction to be made. Lemonade was made to empower all women, especially women of color. Adele recognized that the album was intended for an underrepresented audience and included the factor of an album’s impact in her acceptance speech. She even broke her Grammy in half to offer a piece of the award to Beyonce. The entire affair was a beautiful instance of women supporting each other despite being distinctively different artists and an example of reconciling the ever-growing gaps in music.

Why Everyone is Deleting Uber

by Catherine (Ching-Yuan) W’17

The #deleteuber campaign trends as netizens around the world scramble to delete their accounts from the popular taxi app, Uber.

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On Saturday night, Jan 28, 2017, between 6 and 7 p.m., the New York Taxi Workers Alliance went on strike, halting taxi rides from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The protest was prompted by the recent executive order signed by U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday, which called for a temporary travel ban from seven majorly Muslim countries and the suspension of refugee admissions.

The alliance went on Twitter to inform U.S. citizens about the strike. Around two and a half hours after the alliance released the statement, Uber tweeted that the surge pricing (the increase of price when an increase in demand occurs) at the airport would be disabled.

The tweet caused an uproar among users. Customers accused Uber of advocating President Trump’s ban, and others disapproved of Uber’s ignorance, ultimately leading to the boycott against the app. Many users tweeted screenshots of themselves deleting their accounts and signing up for other ride-hailing companies with the caption “#deleteuber.”

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Five hours after the initial tweet, Uber posted another tweet, stating that they oppose the travel ban and did not mean to undermine the taxi driver’s strike. However, the tweet did not prevent Uber from sustaining a significant loss. According to the Times, over 200,000 customers deleted their accounts.

Following the campaign, Lyft, a lead competitor of Uber, announced that they would donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union over the course of four years.

On their official blog, Lyft co-founders stated that “banning people of a particular faith or creed, race or identity, sexuality or ethnicity, from entering the U.S. is antithetical to both Lyft’s and our nation’s core values. We stand firmly against these actions, and will not be silent on issues that threaten the values of our community.”

Since the pledge, Lyft has undergone a sharp increase in customers and, for the first time, surpassed Uber in app downloads.

A Recap of Golden Globes 2017: A Night of New Records, Mixup Titles, and Meryl Streep

By: Valerie F’18

On Sunday, January 8th, Jimmy Fallon hosted the 74th annual Golden Globe Award Show. The dazzling award ceremony was held at the Beverly Hills Hilton in Los Angeles. Fallon was greeted by a room full of famous faces from well known T.V. shows and the latest popular films.  The Golden Globes, though known as the more lively and relaxed brother to the more prestigious and serious award shows, was a lively and enjoyable way to kick off the award show season.

The award ceremony had a number of memorable moments, from Jimmy Fallon’s flamboyant opening musical number to director Damien Chazelle’s domination of the night with his latest jazz-infused film. Chazelle’s critically acclaimed film ‘La La Land’ triumphed with a record breaking seven awards, defeating the previous tied records holders “Midnight Express” (1798) and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) who each obtained six awards.

While making his acceptance speech after winning the award for Best Director of a Motion Picture, Damien Chazelle expressed his content and appreciation: “I’m in a daze now officially…”

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Damien Chazelle’s La La Land made Golden Globe history by winning a record breaking seven awards.

Along with La La Land’s success, another notable occurrence was Meryl Streep’s politically charged speech. Meryl Streep, a thirty time nominee and eight time winner, was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. Though spoken in a scratchy whisper, for she had lost her voice in “screaming and lamentation,” Streep’s acceptance speech spoke volumes. She seized the moment to comment on the recent presidential election. While she never mentioned Donald Trump by name, Streep’s stirring speech was an apparent statement on the political climate that Trump has fostered.

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Meryl Streep delivered a fiery speech that condemned President Donald J. Trump – without mentioning his name.

“Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose,” said Streep, condemning Trump for acceding bullying.

Streep continued by highlighting the importance of foreigners to American culture, the role of the press in “safeguarding the truth,” and the privilege of being an actress.

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President Trump’s response to Streep’s Golden Globes speech.

Ending her speech on a powerful note, Streep paid a touching tribute to her close friend, the late Carrie Fisher: “My dear, departed friend Princess Leia once told me, take your broken heart, make it into art.”

Streep’s speech was undoubtedly a memorable moment; however, one of the more unnoticed moments of the Golden Globes was the kiss that Ryan Reynolds and Andrew Garfield shared as Ryan Gosling walked to the stage to give his acceptance speech for winning the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture. Reynolds and Garfield, who were seated adjacent to each other at the ceremony, were nominated for their roles in Deadpool and Hacksaw Ridge, respectively. Once viewers noticed the charming moment shared by the two respected actors, social media was ablaze with excited and hilarious responses. In a later interview with metro.co.uk, Gosling joked: “ I’m happy for them. I’m happy they found each other.”

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Ryan Reynolds and Andrew Garfield share a kiss, a moment that was largely unnoticed by Golden Globe viewers. 

Charming moments, such as that shared by Reynold’s and Garfield, are common finds in popular award shows. Similarly, award shows often contain flubs made by presenters or performers. Throughout the night, the prominent blunder that kept coming up was the confusion of the titles of the two films Hidden Figures and Fences, films that both feature largely African-American casts.

The mistake first arose when NBC’s pre-show host Jenna Bush asked producer and composer Pharrell Williams about the musical score of Hidden Figures, mistakenly calling it Hidden Fences. Later on, during the award show,  actor Michael Keaton echoed Bush’s mistake when he referred to Hidden Figures as Hidden Fences when presenting the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture. Viewers quickly realized Bush and Keaton’s blunders and seized the opportunity to make the gaffe a popular joke on social media.

The morning following the Golden Globes, Bush apologized for her blunder, saying “I had an error in the night which I have to apologize for; when I was interviewing the incomparable Pharrell, who I adore, I accidentally in the electricity of the red carpet, which I had never done, called Hidden Figures, Hidden Fences.”

Keaton also apologized for his mistake when speaking to reporters before the Los Angeles premiere of his new film, The Founder, saying “I screwed the line up. I was nonchalant about it. I actually, now, I totally understand … It makes me feel so badly that people feel badly. If somebody feels badly, that’s all that matters.”

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Jenna Bush and Michael Keaton’s “Hidden Fences” flub prompted many to poke fun at the mistake.   

This year’s Golden Globes celebrated 2016’s achievements in cinemas, in both a light and serious atmosphere. With 2017 ahead of us, we should look forward to new and exciting feats the movie industry will bring, along with next year’s Golden Globes ceremony.    

The Women Behind the Screen: QHSS’ Third Movie Day!

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By: Pelumi Omotosho

On February 17th, at 9:00 am, our school will be venturing on a day trip to see the movie Hidden Figures at Jamaica Multiplex. Much like similar outings a couple of years ago, during which we saw the movies The Great Gatsby and Selma, this “Movie Day” aims at entertaining and informing QHSS students. In its 127 minute runtime, Hidden Figures tells the untold story of three female African American mathematicians whose calculations were imperative to Project Mercury, the first human spaceflight program of the United States.

Hidden Figures, which is based on the book, chronicles the impacts of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, as they broke barriers in space and their professions.  

In the midst of pressure caused by a successful Russian satellite launch, Katherine Johnson was assigned to the Space Task Group, which made her not only the first African American woman on the team, but also the first in the entire building. Katherine would go on to aid in the dissolution of segregation within the Space Task Group and calculate the trajectory for the spaceflight that landed the first two humans on the Moon: Apollo 11.

Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson experienced similarly impressive breakthroughs. Dorothy Vaughan became supervisor of the West Area in 1949, making her the first African American woman to supervise staff at the center. She also prepared for the introduction of machine-computers that can perform the jobs of her and her colleagues by teaching herself and her staff the programming language FORTRAN. Her knowledge in the area would lead to her heading the programming section of the Analysis and Computations Division. Mary Jackson became NASA’s first black female engineer in 1958 and, after 34 years at NASA, would earn the highest title for an engineer. Her focus later turned to highlighting the accomplishments of women in her field.

Despite their very impressive feats, the stories of these women have been concealed for several decades. Hidden Figures aims to bring the undervalued achievements of these women out of the dark by telling the story in a way that could only be captured on the big screen. Hidden Figures makes it so that the incredible impacts of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson aren’t hidden any longer.

 

New York to Move Towards Free College Tuition

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) with U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaking to students at LaGuardia Community College.

By: Kevin Megnath

On January 3, 2017, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a plan to fully cover the cost of tuition for college students in low to middle income households. New Yorkers who are accepted to state or city universities, and whose household earns less than $125,000 per year are qualified to receive this government aid.

This plan resembles the proposed policies of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who appeared with Mr. Cuomo at LaGuardia Community College to discuss the plan. If the plan passes the state legislature, New York will join Tennessee and Oregon as the only states in the country to offer free tuition to students of community colleges. Not only that, New York will be the first state in the union to offer this program to four-year colleges. Senator Sanders also hopes to expand the idea of tuition-free colleges to middle-class families nationwide and believes that New York’s adoption of the plan will convince other states to get onboard.

Current tuition costs average roughly $6,470 (and $16,320 for students on campus) per year for SUNY schools, and $6,330 per year for CUNYs. According to Cuomo’s administration, the proposal is estimated to cost the state $163 million per year. Governor Cuomo expects this plan to roll out as soon as this fall, and hopes that every qualifying family will be able to receive this benefit by 2019. He projects that 80% of New York families are entitled to free college tuition.

However, there is some opposition towards Governor Cuomo’s proposed system. Opponents argue that free college tuition has little to no effect on New York households. While families would be entitled to free tuition, students will still need to pay approximately $14,500 in other fees. The costs of commuting to school, boarding, food, and other expenditures are not covered by Cuomo’s plan. Additionally, tuition-free college is limited to only full-time students, meaning many students who attend college part-time are not entitled to this benefit.

Nonetheless, Governor Cuomo still intends to roll out his plan as soon as possible. Stated as a “revolutionary idea for higher education” by Bernie Sanders, the establishment of tuition-free college in New York and across the United States would be groundbreaking.