The American Healthcare Bill Struggles in the Senate

By: Meghan Malas

The clash over philosophy, ideology, and the identity of America has been ever present in the debate over health care policy. Since the new healthcare bill passed the House of Representatives May 4, questions of morality and consequence have set forth among the public. Politifact reports the new bill proposes rolling back the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, major cuts to Planned Parenthood (which under current law, can’t use money for abortions except those in cases of rape, incest, or risk of mother’s life), loss of specific protection for veterans, less of protection of those with pre-existing conditions, and more power given to insurance companies over their insurance policy owners. Many Republicans have longed to rid the U.S. since it was in planning stage, but after more than seven years the bill has provided coverage for millions.

According to The New York Times, it is predicted that if the new bill passes, 23 million more people will be left uninsured in a decade. This is considered the wrong direction by many representatives, including Republicans. While Democrats will vote unanimously against the bill, Republicans have fallen onto both sides of the debate. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unsure whether the Senate can obtain the newly required 50 votes to pass the bill if Republicans are not united behind it. Recently, public outrage has diminished support for the bill further.

So, it is not looking optimistic for the leaders behind the new plan. But this is not to say that it will not pass, or a staggered version of it will not. Some Republicans may not like the current implications of the “Trumpcare” plan, but they are eager to get rid of the Affordable Care Act. It will be fascinating to see how members of Congress will vote given the bill’s unpopularity, and even more interesting to see how their votes might play a role in the results of the Congressional elections next year.

Summer Jam Suggestions

By: Meghan Malas

As summer inches closer and closer, the mindsets of the student body morphs from a (somewhat) motivated, organized demeanor to one of longing. Students pine for freedom from this 7:40 to 2:40 chasm of responsibility, and with this the infamous question manifests itself among the youth- what are you doing this summer?

If you are like me, you are probably at a loss, and a little overwhelmed when asked to articulate what your priorities and/or plans are for this break. As clueless as I am about my own intentions are for my post-school life, I do have a pretty good idea of what I will be listening to when I do whatever I do. Music defines the summertime. It can make or break how enchanting your bonfire is, or how delightful your drive to the local Walmart could be. With this in mind, and as a self-certified Person With Great Taste In Summer Jams™, I present my list of top boppin’ albums for this break:

Mac Demarco- This Old Dog

Tame Impala- Currents, Lonerism

Childish Gambino- Kauai

Triathlon- Lo-Tide

A Tribe Called Quest- The Low-End Theory

Grouplove- Spreading Rumors

Red Hot Chili Peppers- Californication

Passion Pit- Kindred

Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly

Beach Fossils- Clash the Truth

What to Know About the French Election

By: Meghan Malas

The country of France experienced one of two rounds of voting involved in its electoral process on April 23. The race prior to then was between five individuals representing separate parties, “the far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, scandal-hit conservative François Fillon, centrist newcomer Emmanuel Macron and far-left wildcard Jean-Luc Mélenchon” (CNN) were all competitive in the Round One, while Benoit Hamon of the currently established Socialist Party has struggled to gain popularity. This election’s results determined the two parties that will be competing for the presidency, concluding that far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and moderate liberal Emmanuel Macron will be the two opposing forces driving the final vote on May 7.

Nearly all polling sources had Macron crushing Le Pen in the vote on Sunday, May 7. But despite Macron’s growing appeal in economically dynamic areas and large cities, like Paris and Bordeaux and his large possibility of pulling in left-leaning voters from Hamon and Mélenchon as well as those leaning to the right that voted Fillon in the first round, both candidates represented an unprecedented wave of populism in France. Similar to the emergence of anti-establishment politics in the United States and Great Britain over the past few years, the people of France have now struck down the possibility of any previously-popular party from holding office.

Yascha Mounk, a lecturer at Harvard who follows European politics closely recently told NPR that this popularity of populists is due to a steady, growing distaste for establishment politics over time. “[The people of France have] been slowly rebelling against the French political mainstream for a long time. When Jacques Chirac left office, he was the least popular French president in history. Five years later when his successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, left office, he was the least popular president in French history. And now Francois Hollande has beaten all other records again.” Mounk also believes that the recurrence of anti-globalism, as presented on the platform of Le Pen as well in Britain’s Brexit and the United States’ election of Donald Trump, can all be connected, “To understand this particular moment, to understand why we have this sort of populist moment that’s in danger of turning into a populist age, you have to look beyond one country… you see slowly countries coming to grapple with the idea of what it means to live alongside people of different religions, different ethnicities, different cultural customs. And that’s a really difficult and tough process that a lot of countries are rebelling against.”

Along with the politics of this election, the predictability of next French president was unprecedented. Though there was always a possibility for an upset (of the nine elections since the first direct presidential election in the Fifth Republic in 1965, three have seen the winner of the first round lose out in the second), recent polling by Elabe claimed that Macron would take 65% of the vote in a second-round against Le Pen. This is a another example of a new wave of politics that transcends nations, but rather acts on a worldwide scale. Many fear Le Pen’s anti-immigrant, anti-global platform is thinly-veiled racism and prejudice, while others see the conservative candidate as the only hope for security in an age of increased terrorist threats.

Opinion: The Lack of Discourse Surrounding Syria

By: Meghan Malas

When knowledge of Bashar al-Assad’s chemically induced massacre on citizens of his own country of Syria hit the public this past April 4, everyone, including the President of the United States, was stunned by the grotesque imagery of countless innocent lives suffering at the hand of a man who is supposed to be their leader. This event triggered immediate reaction by both government and public entities, and in less than 65 hours after Assad’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun, the United States responded militarily to Assad’s heinous acts, firing 59 missiles into a Syrian airfield. (The New York Times)

When we speak of Syria in the United States, we tend to politicize its existence and in the process, forget about the reality of its past and present situation, as well as its complicated nature. We remove ourselves from the idea that Syria is in chaotic position because of a variety of confusing yet concrete facts because it is easier to discuss the devastations of Syria, and our global role in protecting its people, by means of reactionary oversimplification.

The White House has fallen subject to this self-removal of careful consideration in a significant way. When President Trump spoke publicly Thursday, April 6, he cited the “use of deadly chemical weapons” as his reasoning for the use of missiles in retaliation. On the previous day, he stated that the images of “innocent children, innocent babies” choked by poisonous gas caused him to “reevaluate” his approach to Syria also noting repeatedly that “that crosses many lines…many many lines.”

When analyzing this justification, it is important to consider the definition of this supposed “line” President Trump is talking about, as well as his approach to Syria prior to April 4. First, the emphasis on the fact that the horrid acts by Assad have “crossed a line” specifically because they involved the use of chemical weapons is not objectively rational. In the global scope, we view chemical warfare as particularly terrible: it is an illegal act of war. This is most likely because the deep trauma the images of victims of chemical warfare produce is universal. But, it’s important to note that other types of abuse and suffering are determined “fine” in the eyes of the public not because they are less vile, but because often the images of those victims are too grotesque to show on a large media platform.

Consider the fact that Assad has been killing hundreds of thousands of his own people for years (CNN), just not by means of chemical weapons. Just 80 of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives were taken on April 4–a horrific, tragic event no doubt–but to constitute Assad actions that day as an isolated event of injustice is wrong. If the realization of the abuse of innocents in Syria was the main justification by the president for responding in the way he did, then that does little more than clarify the fact that he has the ability to empathize. In fact, it alludes to a confirmation of complete lack of understanding of what the Syrian conflict is and how it has affected so many. This is not surprising when acknowledging President Trump’s rhetoric towards Syrian refugees on the campaign trail (“Refugees from Syria are now pouring into our great country. Who knows who they are – some could be ISIS. Is our president insane?” Twitter, 2015), his executive order suspending any Syrian refugees from entering the United States, or his critiques of President Obama’s policies toward Syria (“We should stay the hell out of Syria.” Twitter, 2013).

It is unlikely that humanitarianism was the prime motivator for the decision to attack Syria, unless there is a severe discontinuity of logic in this administration’s decision making process. So, we are left with a logical fallacy as the reason for intervention, and a complete lack of discourse between our representatives about this subject all together. It seems as if we are waiting to see how Syria reacts before considering the consequences of our own actions.

The media coverage of this event acts as a catalyst for oversimplification and irrational argument. No conversation about the implications of intervention in the long-term or short-term were discussed extensively by our leaders in the House or the Senate (the president did not consider seeking congressional approval), and limited context about Syria and the Syrian conflict has been adequately produced by mainstream journalists or political commentators. This is bothersome. Have we become so disoriented by the “patriotic” nature and partisan games of war that we cannot simply discuss how our actions may affect the future? Action in Syria is tedious, but some want to behave like our strike against Assad is not one with consequence, but one of heroism and victory. What will happen when thousands more Syrians are displaced from their homes due to growing tension between their leader, ISIS, and now the world community? Will we save them from further persecution? Or will we continue our policy of hypocritical abandonment?

I do not know the extent of action needed to be taken in Syria. I am by no means an expert in foreign relations, international affairs, or the Syrian conflict. But I do think that discussion, planning, consideration, and meaningful discourse on societal and legislative levels is essential to not only policy, but to democracy. We cannot reduce Syria to a few minutes of a vague, descriptive tragedy, followed by a heroic American intervention, and a snippet of a buzzword babbling administration. We cannot continue to live in a reactionary age of minimalistic comment lacking informational capability. In essence, war is easier to begin than to end and to survive in a world plagued by evil and violence we cannot resort to single statement justifications for dangerous intervention.

Cirque du Soleil Performs in Dayton

By: Meghan Malas

The entertainment giant, Cirque du Soleil, recently paid a visit to Dayton’s Nutter Center as a part of their worldwide tour Sunday, March 26. The show featured was one acting as a prequel to the 2009 award winning film, Avatar. The show, titled Toruk: The First Flight, follows a loose plot line consisting of five unnamed characters who represent members of the indigenous Na’vi trying to save their people by fighting a beast known as the Toruk. The show also features several other members of the Na’vi that only act as part of the choreography.

Though the performers bare an exact resemblance to the beings in Avatar, and there are elements of the movie that are present like the Toruk, the life force tree, and the “rituals” held by the tribes, the performance lacked the antagonist and plot-based depth the movie possessed. Instead there was a strict emphasis on aesthetic appeal, as is common in a Cirque du Soleil show. Aerobatics and dancing run throughout the entirety of the show, and a projection-based set allowed for astounding effects. The visual stimulation alone compensate for the lack of storyline and it is often difficult to know where to look as there is something going on in every corner of the stage.

Above all, if one appreciates Avatar strictly for its sensory appeal, then the show could be deemed worthy of a watch. But, if one needs to experience a level of emotional interest in a show that is two hours long and over $30 for a trip to a performance to be worth it, than it would not be too far to say that this show falls short of expectation.

Nintendo’s Newest Console: Thoughts and Opinions by Local Nintendo Enthusiast

By: Meghan Malas

On March 3, Nintendo released its highly anticipated gaming console: The Nintendo Switch. Since then, sales and profit levels have been at record level for the Japan-based company. This unprecedented success intrigued me, and I wanted to see what was so fantastic about this entertainment device, so I caught up with Michaela Pittman, a junior at Bellbrook High School, an avid video game player and recent owner of the Nintendo Switch.

Q: Welcome Michaela, thank you for joining me. I understand that you are familiar with recent release of the Nintendo Switch. What first convinced you to purchase this gaming console?
A: Well I was really excited for the new Zelda game, and I had been waiting to play it for a while. So, my mom pre-ordered the console.

Q: Do you consider yourself a Nintendo enthusiast?
A: Yeah, we own a lot–actually all–of their consoles. My family plays a lot of video games. We have a very large family and we like to bond over different Nintendo games. For example, Mario Party allows for many players and it can be fun for a wide range of ages. Other games like Mario Kart, Super Smash Brothers, those came out on the Nintendo 64 and we enjoyed those a lot.

Q: You mention that you have some experience with a lot of the Nintendo consoles. What are some of the things that make the Switch different from these other gaming stations?
A: Well, I would say that some of the main differences, well with the Wii they first had wireless controllers but they were essentially just little sticks. And then on the Wii U they came out with actual game controllers, but the controllers with the Nintendo Switch are actually two separate controllers. So instead of using a Wii remote controller and a detachable “nunchuck” with it, the new controllers two separate entities that are motion sensed and they are also wireless.

Q: Very interesting. The cartridges of the new console have been a recent topic of interest for internet based communities. Can you elaborate a little on this whole cartridge craze we have been seeing?
A: Nintendo originally started out with cartridges, and then they moved to small discs for the Gamecube, and bigger discs for the Wii and the Wii U. But for the Switch, they have transitioned back to cartridges. But these new cartridges are literally no bigger than the size of the tip of my thumb. And since Nintendo is such a family friendly brand, and a lot of young kids play the games, they thought the new cartridges may become a choking hazard. So, Nintendo put a bittering agent on the cartridge, so if a child puts the cartridge in their mouth, they spit it out immediately.

Q: What have you enjoyed the most from playing the Nintendo Switch?
A: I really have enjoyed the new controllers, the graphics are definitely better, and the setup is much easier than other Nintendo consoles. I will say, though, that there are not very many games yet for the Switch, so I have not gotten to experience a wide variety of different games.

Q: So what are the games that you have played?
A: I have only played “Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” and I have only played it with the system connected to the TV, because, like I said, I think the graphics are a lot better.

Q: Were you disappointed in any aspect of this new gaming system?
A: I was not really expecting anything different than what they advertised for. But like I said, because not many games are out I cannot say that I will dislike anything in the future. The battery life can sometimes be short, depending on what game you are playing and if you are transporting the console around. But one problem I tend to run into, not with the Switch but with Nintendo as a whole, is that their supply often fails to match the demand of their customers. They have a problem producing enough consoles. This causes a drastic increase in price oftentimes. For the NES system that was released a while ago, it should not have been more than fifty or sixty dollars, but the supply was so short that you had to order them from an outside source. Then the cost was closer to two hundred dollars. This was definitely the case for the Switch. We barely were able to get one even though we preordered it. The only reason we got one was because someone else cancelled a preorder.

Q: So this may be something for people to consider if they want to purchase a new Nintendo Console?
A: I think that it is a good system, but for a casual gamer it is definitely worth waiting a little while longer rather than spending double the value of the original price.

Politics Take Center-Stage at the Grammy Awards

By: Meghan Malas

This past February 12, the highly anticipated Grammy Awards dominated the attention of evening viewers. Plenty of popular artists like Beyonce, Adele, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, and Chance the Rapper performed their hits from the past year, as well as covers from other musicians. Subtle political themes appeared, as artists like Katy Perry and Beyonce promoted messages of unity and strength, and Jennifer Lopez declared: “There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence and no room for fear. We do language. That is how civilizations heal. So tonight, we celebrate our most universal language, music, as we honor the voices of the past and the present” (NBC News).

The tip-toeing around the mention of the controversy surrounding the new administration continued until famed rap group, A Tribe Called Quest, began their performance. The group, consisting of Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Jarobi White, along with independent artists Consequence, Anderson.Paak and Busta Rhymes, dedicated their performance to Phife Dawg, a former member of A Tribe Called Quest that passed this year. Busta Rhymes announced, “I’m not feeling the political climate right now. I just want to thank President Agent Orange for perpetuating all of the evil that you’ve been perpetuating throughout the United States. I want to thank President Agent Orange for your unsuccessful attempt at the Muslim ban. When we come together — we the people!” during the performance of “We the People,” a song on the group’s latest album. Q-Tip held the hand of a young hijab-wearing Muslim girl as a diverse crowd of people joined the stage. They all held protest signs which directly addressed President Trump’s Muslim ban. The artists concluded their performance, fists high, and chanting a single word: “Resist! Resist! Resist!” After the appearance, social media exploded with commentary about the controversial messages delivered at the awards show, and the artists themselves. Debate of whether the music award platform was appropriate for such discourse persists.