USA The World Policy

2018 was a frightening year for gun violence, so where do we go from here?

Following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the country found itself in the middle of a tug of war between student activists and legislators at all levels of government. By then, we’d had enough. In May 2018, the United States had faced its 22nd school shooting of the year alone as ten people were murdered in Santa Fe High School. Not even three months later, two Florida high schools had shootings at their school football games. And, less than a week after that, another shooting took place in the same city in the middle of a video game tournament.  The dates of all these school shootings soon became days of nationwide protests, and at every march, walkout, and die-in alike, there was one ubiquitous chant: “Vote. Them. Out.”

Indeed, young organizers everywhere have now focused on the power of the polls and the ballot. The March For Our Lives organizers pushed for more students to run their own voter registration drives, and prompted over 1000 schools to get actively involved.  One nonprofit organization, HeadCount, registered nearly 5,000 students across the country in a single day in March. That number doesn’t even include the efforts of organizations such as the League of Women Voters or the efforts of local Supervisor of Election Offices, who’ve also registered hundreds of new voters in their respective districts. 

State legislation was passed across the country in an attempt to remedy the problem as well. In Nebraska, Florida, Vermont, and Washington, bans on the sale and possession of bump stocks were made and implemented relatively quickly. Florida passed a bill in March that raised the age to purchase a gun and required a three day waiting period for firearms to be purchased – the first case of gun reform in the state in over two decades. Vermont’s own comprehensive bill, which banned bump stocks, limited rifle magazines to 10 rounds, required all gun transactions to be facilitated by a licensed dealer, and raised the purchase age to 21, was another example one of legislation passed in response to the Parkland shooting. 

While these were impressive gains, they only lasted a few moments. The rest of the country has yet to pass bills like the ones in Florida and Vermont. But beyond die-Ins and walkouts, what else can be done? 

Although it doesn’t always reach the headlines of television screens across America, local activism that makes success possible. Volunteering for local campaigns for both midterm and presidential cycle elections, organizing voter registration drives, and calling or writing to your representatives about the bills you want them to pass is the biggest way you can enact change and ensure that gun reform is affected. Moreover, your engagement would ensure that the bills being reintroduced in Congress right now actually get passed. Since Parkland, the Stop Illegal Trafficking in Firearms Act of 2013  was brought back to the floor, which would make gun trafficking – or the practice of illegally purchasing firearms for someone else – a federal crime for the first time. The Protecting Responsible Gun Sellers Act of 2013 bill would mandate background checks on all gun sales, private or commercial.

Much has been done since Parkland, but successful movements don’t occur overnight. In every city, county, and state there needs to be action. We’ve waited far too long for the end of the mass gun violence epidemic in America. The bright young faces of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School helped inspire students to take to the streets in protest. But today, the rest of us must do our part by inspiring as many as possible to take to the polls both now, and in the future. 

USA Politics The World

My alma mater is being sued for Title IX violations, and I’m not surprised

I was a commuter. A quiet girl. I went to school and then I went home. Sometimes, if I was feeling particularly social, I’d go to game night. Yeah, I was wild in college.

Even then, I knew to be careful going to Pi Kapp.

[bctt tweet=”Sometimes, if I was feeling particularly social, I’d go to game night. Yeah, I was wild in college. Even then, I knew to be careful going to Pi Kapp.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Pi Kappa Phi was a fraternity that my school, Stockton University, no longer recognized. I’ve never been to one of their parties. However, I was told by multiple people to watch my drink if I ever did go. Now, years after that warning, multiple women have come out about the sexual assault they experienced on and off campus at Stockton University. Many times, they were assaulted at the hands of members of this rogue fraternity, or at their notorious parties. They all have chosen to remain anonymous, known only by their initials. Now, the school is facing numerous lawsuits claiming Title IX violations in the university’s handling of the cases.

Title IX is a part of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, and protects folks from facing gender discrimination in any school or activity that receives federal funding. Title IX considers discrimination on the basis of gender to include sexual assault.

The lawsuits detail students being assaulted on video, with the footage shared on Snapchat. They detail women being stalked, with little intervention from the school. They detail Pi Kapp’s “ugly girl” tax: either pay fifteen dollars to get into the party, or flash your breasts.

This all sounds really familiar, doesn’t it?

[bctt tweet=”Their rule? Pay fifteen dollars to get into the party, or flash your breasts.” username=”wearethetempest”]

It sounds like men at the bar reliving their college exploits. It sounds like the Kavanaugh hearing. It sounds like boys will be boys.

We know rape and sexual assault happen so often on university campuses. So often women are supposed to bear the brunt of this. Don’t get too drunk. Make sure your friends are nearby. Don’t go to boys’ dorms alone. Don’t let them into yours without roommates present. There are so many rules to being a woman that associates with men. It becomes overwhelming. You feel confined. It wears you down.

Many of the incidents found on campus and off campus have occurred with freshman girls. These girls are first learning to navigate living alone, away from home. We have to stop blaming women for men choosing to prey on them, especially as they’re learning how to live. Men and boys should be accountable for their assaults.

As of now, only one man has been indicted within these cases.

Hollywood is being vilified for not saying anything about Harvey Weinstein. Women passed his name around, told each other to not be in the same room alone with him. In a way, many of us felt the only means of protection we had was this common knowledge. Sometimes it feels like we could’ve done more, though.

However, the school truly could have done more.

Pi Kappa Phi lost it’s charter in 2010, however, students were still members of the fraternity. Even though it was disavowed by the main organization, the parties and the pledging still continued. When these assaults were reported, many women were encouraged not to pursue litigation because it would be “mentally damaging”.

Stockton University claims it did all that it could. If that was true, students wouldn’t have been silenced as such. In one of the cases, a woman was assaulted in her dorm where loud music and under-aged drinking was occurring late into the night. Not once did an RA check up on her.

Stockton University is not the only school in which this occurs, and it probably will not be the last.

[bctt tweet=”Stockton University claims it did all that it could. If that was true, students wouldn’t have been silenced as such.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Students are taking action. This year marks the fifth year of Stockton’s annual March to End Rape Culture. The students running the organization sell ribbons and buttons, with proceeds going to the school’s Women’s Gender and Sexuality Center. They’re storming Board of Trustees meetings. And their voices are being heard.

The New Jersey Senate is introducing legislation to tackle campus assault, and making universities more accountable for the safety of their students. One would fine institutions that do not properly respond to accusations of sexual assault between students. These are the repercussions institutions need if they’re not going to do them on their own.

Love Wellness

These 5 countries give women time off for their periods – but is that a good idea?

As women, a fifth of our lives is spent enduring mind-numbing pain, which we can’t possibly reveal to our employers. This could result in lower productivity and mood swings that we try to shut out with painkillers. Sometimes, it can get so bad that you can’t get out of your sheets in the morning.

But what if you could work in a country where paid menstrual leave is a legal right? Could this increase work productivity or backfire on us?

I work in a corporate firm where women sum up more than half of the workforce. While this is quite unnatural for a global firm, it is the reality. If such a law was enforced here, it would be unrealistic as most projects cannot be left unattended suddenly. This would delay timelines and incur unnecessary costs for the company.

[bctt tweet=”Could this increase work productivity or backfire on us?” username=”wearethetempest”]

Besides, every time a promotion is up for grabs, we would be passed over. While these “empowering” laws look incredible on paper, I believe that it is counterproductive to believe that our menstruation cycles make us weak and incapable of work.

Several East Asian countries already offer paid menstrual leave, which has evolved as a result of their cultural values.

1. Japan

According to The Guardian, paid menstrual leave has been a legal right in the Japanese workplace since World War II. While it is usually mentioned in the employment contract, most women don’t take days off for fear of sexual harassment and social stigma. Taking days off means that their male colleagues are well aware of their monthly cycles.

[bctt tweet=”Some countries harbor an age-old notion that women are natural child-bearers before all else.” username=”wearethetempest”]

But women fear that this could be held against them. This has inevitably led to them using their sick leave instead of their entitled menstrual leave.

2. Taiwan

Wikimedia Commons

Following scrutiny from gender-diverse politicians, Taiwan decided to revise their Act in Gender Equality in Employment, adding three extra days of menstruation leave a year, apart from the 30 days of sick leave entitled to both genders. Some countries harbor an age-old notion that women are natural child-bearers before all else.

3. China

In the Anhui Province, female workers are guaranteed two days off every month during their menstrual cycle, when they produce a doctor’s note. If women need to visit their physician every month to avail their leave, it seems rather inconvenient. Some women expressed concerns that they would be held at a disadvantage if they were forced to tell their employers everytime they got their period.

This patriarchal dividend is rather explicitly shown in men who hold managerial positions. According to Global Times, Li Ziyang, managing editor of Chinese iPencil Economic Research Institute, said, “Because women need to bear children, they choose comparatively relaxed jobs with a lower payment, and this is the cost they have to pay for the purpose of reproduction.”

[bctt tweet=”This patriarchal dividend is rather explicitly shown in men who hold managerial positions.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Furthermore, Shanghai has recently written paid menstrual leave off its books after nearly 30 years of it being a legal right. The younger generation of women believes that the law was a result of the patriarchal misconception held by the male-dominated workforce that rules China.

4. South Korea

The Labor Standard Act of Korea stipulates that women can take one day off every month, but it will be unpaid. But most female employees are afraid to exercise this right, as it will increase the burden on their fellow employees.

According to The Korea Times, Yoon Jin-Sung, who works at a male-dominated company, says that she feels guilty when she asks for menstrual leave. This is attributed to the lack of education and stigma surrounding menstruation in South Korea. To top it all, women are hesitant to use their menstrual leave as it is unpaid.

[bctt tweet=”In South Korea, women are hesitant to use their menstrual leave as it is unpaid. ” username=”wearethetempest”]

Before you consider holding these Asian countries on a pedestal, let us investigate why this is a reality in the first place. Japan, Taiwan, and Korea harbor an age-old notion that women are natural child-bearers before all else. This has led to the mandatory legislative acts, which put things into perspective. Would you rather succumb to this traditional notion and take your entitled menstrual leave; or would you endure the pain bravely? There’s no surprise that the latter has been more popular.

5. Italy


Italy might possibly become the first Western country to offer three days of paid menstrual leave every month. This move has sparked concerns that this could be a backward step for the country. As it is, women aren’t held in high esteem in the Italian workforce, as statistics suggest that only 61% of Italian women work, well below the 72% European average.

According to Sharra Vostral, author of Under Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology, the fact that women menstruate was used as an excuse to keep them out of the workforce in the late 19th and early 20th century. “It was very much about maintaining segregated workspaces and keeping women second-class citizens,” he said. Could this mean that we’re reverting back to our old ways? While Italy hasn’t made a decision yet, it has to tread lightly.

Now, the question is, is the US doing the right thing by anticipating that this could be a step back for women, or should we follow in the footsteps of these countries?

Politics The World

Meet Wardah Khalid, the groundbreaking policy analyst taking Muslim advocacy to the next level

With anti-Muslim hate crimes on the rise and Donald Trump’s insistence on a Muslim ban, political representation for the Muslim community is more important than ever. And while young people, Muslim and not, are taking action across the country to fight for equal rights for everyone, Muslims lack a coherent and established organization to advocate on their behalf on Capitol Hill.

That’s where Wardah Khalid comes in: she’s the co-founder and president of Poligon Education Fund, a non-partisan organization dedicated to strengthening grassroots engagement of Muslims in politics. For Wardah, Capitol Hill is home. A graduate of Columbia University with a Master’s in International Affairs, Wardah has worked as a policy analyst for numerous organizations in Washington, D.C. She’s worked closely with Congress, the administration, and coalitions on human rights and political issues regarding Israel/Palestine, Syria, ISIS, and the Iran nuclear negotiations. She also worked as a counter terrorism consultant for the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee, as well as a strategic communications firm in Houston.

With Poligon, Wardah hopes to leverage that impressive experience to advocate for the Muslim community at the level of national policy. She spoke to The Tempest about Poligon and the power of community engagement.

The Tempest: Where did the idea for Poligon come from?

The idea of Poligon came before I started my position [as a Middle East policy analyst] at the Quaker lobby. I wanted to emulate their faith-based lobby model for the Muslim community, which lacks an institution that is focused 24/7 on Congressional engagement. The Quakers are a fairly small faith group in the US (less than 100,000) yet their impact is great because of how engaged their members are.

I saw no reason why a community of 3.3. million Muslims couldn’t achieve that.

What are Poligon’s goals in the current political climate?

Poligon’s mission is to teach Muslims how to effectively engage Congress on issues they care about and educate their representatives about Islam and challenges they face as Muslims (ex. bullying, Islamophobia, etc). They will no longer be voiceless when representatives make inflammatory statements about their faith, hold baseless and harmful hearings on “radical Islam” and “homegrown Islamic terrorism,” or introduce legislation threatening their civil rights and freedom to practice their religion in the U.S.

We accomplish this through community trainings, providing legislative updates and action alerts, coalition work, and serving as a 24/7 presence on Capitol Hill.

Given the current climate and recent political developments, what are your priorities in terms of Poligon’s work? What are you hoping to accomplish in the lead-up to the 2018 congressional elections?

Our top priority is educating and empowering the community to build relationships with their members of Congress through trainings, information, and engagement. We hope to do Congressional mapping as well to see which districts have a high percentage of Muslims and reach out to them so they can educate themselves and act before election day.

Your website notes that Muslims are the least politically engaged of all faith groups. Why do you think that is?

A significant portion of the Muslim community in America comes from an immigrant background. Those people worked hard to establish themselves and provide for their families but didn’t place as much importance on political engagement. As we can see today when Muslims are under fire left and right, that is a major problem.

For other Muslim communities such as the African American or Caucasian Muslim communities, they may be advocating on other issues, such as race or civil rights, but not specifically as it pertains to their faith. Islamophobia really came into the public eye after 9/11 (specifically around Obama’s election) and now is in the news every day, so it has taken some time for people to finally realize how important political engagement is.

What would you say to young Muslims who are perhaps wary of politics?

I used to be wary of politics myself. Then I came to see it as a necessary evil. And now I guess I’ve embraced it. Rather, I see it is a means to an end. If you want to influence policy, you can’t ignore politics. Period.

What’s your advice to young people, especially PoC, who may be worried about the direction the country is going under Trump?

Get engaged. There is no point in fear without action. Prayer is necessary, but not enough. In Islam, we have a Prophetic saying that “Trust God, but tie your camel.” I’m asking everyone in America right now to tie their camel and step up.

Get involved in your local community and stand up for the rights of others. I’ve been so heartened by the acts of solidarity I’ve seen around the country since Trump’s election. Let’s keep the momentum going and make real change together.

Note: The Tempest CEO Laila Alawa is an advisor to Poligon. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Politics The World

This country may be the first Asian country to legalise same sex marriage

Last year, a landmark ruling in the United States Supreme Court legalised same sex marriage across the country. The US followed in the footsteps of other European countries, such as Scotland, Spain, Belgium, England, and most recently, Ireland. The same cannot be said for those who reside in Asian countries, but this may be about to change.

LGBTQI rights in Asia

Currently, acknowledgement of same sex marriage does not exist in any Asian country. Most do not recognise same sex marriages, even if they are administered in countries that allow such unions. Many do not even have anti-discrimination laws concerning sexual orientation, and also do not allow those in same sex relationships to adopt children. Homosexual acts are illegal in 26 Asian countries as of May 2016, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. Several countries, such as Brunei, Yemen, and Iran, enact capital punishment if convicted of engaging in homosexual activities. Those in some other countries may face imprisonment.

Even though the laws do not exist in these countries as of yet, the Asian countries of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam are seen to be the most accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community.

two brides just married
Attribution: Unsplash

What’s happening in Taiwan?

Yu Mei-Nu is a sponsor of a parliamentary bill that will allow same sex marriages to be legalised and therefore recognised in Taiwan. A similar bill was introduced in 2005 and 2013, but neither was passed successfully. This current bill, which is an amendment to Taiwan’s civil code, was approved on 26 December 2016, but the process will not be complete until mid 2017. Legislators have also drafted bills to “potentially offer those couples rights such as welfare benefits, joint property rights and shared custody of children.”

Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-Wen, “has spoken out in favor of same-sex marriage“, and has publicly done so since October 2016. Her party, the Democratic Progressive Party, currently has control of their Taiwanese parliament, and is known to be sympathetic to LGBT rights. Koashiung and Taipei, two cities in Taiwan, have already started to register same sex couples as of 2016. Though popular opinion is still divided on this issue, such a bill has proven to have overwhelming support from Taiwan’s younger citizens. Tseng Yen-Jung, on behalf of the Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy, noted that in a recent survey, “80 percent of Taiwanese between the ages 20 – 29 support same-sex marriage”.

If all goes according to plan, Taiwan may legally recognise same sex marriage by the end of 2017.


It’s time to look policy right in the face, and The Tempest is doing exactly that

At the close of 2016, many of us looked back on the year with a mixture of incredulity and sadness. We felt the deep reverberations of a changing political global landscape, riding the shockwaves through events like Brexit, an attempted Turkish coup, and the American election campaign. For many, politics took a dark and sudden turn the night Donald Trump was elected.

Donald Trump’s rise to power and ultimate capture of the White House was jolting for many. The rhetoric he used to incite support was divisive, destructive, and crass — but the sad truth is that he was merely capitalizing on the sentiments of his support base. He’s all of our childhood bullies personified: the ones who picked on us for our names, sexualities, clothes, lunches, appearances. Our bullies tried to make us feel small, alien.

[bctt tweet=”The Tempest is launching a new Policy vertical to kick off the new political era.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Donald Trump’s victory is an affirmation that those bullies don’t merely exist on the playground. And as of today, he was sworn in as 45th President of the United States of America.

That’s not something we’re going to take lightly.

We’re not here to participate in internet slacktivism — we’re here to assert our political presence. Which is why The Tempest is launching a new Policy vertical to kick off the dawn of a new political era.

We’re here to help people like you decipher laws and policies in ways that are easily digestible for everyone. In times like these, the most powerful thing we can do is equip ourselves with knowledge.

However, keeping up with politics requires time, energy, and (more often than not) an advanced dictionary/thesaurus. Truth is, many of us become discouraged with the seemingly daunting and clunky language of politics. Bills can be up to hundreds of pages long and full of legal jargon that’s difficult to break down. It’s all-too-easy to disengage from the endless bills that flow through the congressional labyrinth.

[bctt tweet=”We’re not here to participate in internet slacktivism .” username=”wearethetempest”]

This section is going disrupt that flow, take out the haphazard fluff and get straight to what matters. We’ll walk you through some of the hottest bills, what they aim to do, and whether or not they’ll disproportionately affect you.

Given that this is such a crucial time for politics, it’s extremely important that we understand the policies which govern us. Practicing active citizenship is the best favor we can do for ourselves, regardless of whoever’s in office.

And we’re here to shake things up.

Policy Inequality

This bill could provide expanded maternity care for millions of women

Today, we’re tackling  the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act and its subsequent effects on women. 

1. What’s this bill about? 

H.R. 315 is the official name for the Improving Access to Maternity Care Act – an amendment to the Public Health Service Act, first passed in 1944. H.R. 315 passed unanimously in the House January 9th, 2017 (405-0) and has moved to the Senate docket for a vote. A very similar bill was brought to the House of Representatives in March of 2015 but was referred to committee and never reached a vote. Until now.

This sounds promising…

2. What’s it provide?

This bill calls for a collection of data about the availability of maternity care in areas where there are already shortages of healthcare professionals and the subsequent “assigning to such identified areas maternity care health professionals who…would otherwise be eligible for such assistance, [and] distribute maternity care health professionals within health professional shortage areas using the maternity care health professional target areas identified.”

This is an amendment to the Public Health Service Act, a bill which includes a section that calls for dispersion of healthcare services in areas where there is little to no existing access. These services previously included dental, primary care, and mental health, but not maternity care. This bill changes the game. 

Yes! Easier access to professional maternity care is great! 

3. This is a huge deal for millions of women across the country. 

Offering access to maternity care for those with little to no access to it, including prenatal, birth and labor, and postpartum care. This is a huge deal for millions of women. A quick look at some statistics from 2015 reveals that for every 10,000 women in need of maternity care, there are only 4 health care providers available. And, the number of medical students pursuing OB/GYN careers has remained stagnant, while needs are increasing across the country. That only means that shortages are going to become more severe in the coming years.

The way things currently stand means that every year, thousands of women go unseen by maternity care health professionals. This bill would make sure that maternity care is included in the research of neighborhoods and communities across the country, something that has heretofore been neglected. Women who have foregone regular recommended medical visits while pregnant and likely delivered without a doctor presence or without any postpartum care, now have a greater likelihood of being seen and being cared for as they go through the experience of birth.

Applause! About time! In fact — long overdue.

4. Providing access for expectant mothers is a huge help.

This simple amendment offers the full scope of care for women who would otherwise have to either travel for maternity care or forego it altogether. It will affect those living in neglected or impoverished areas of the country. In an era when affordable and accessible women’s healthcare is at risk with Congress’s threat to de-fund Planned Parenthood, providing access for expectant mothers can be a big help. There’s an estimated one million babies born to mothers who did not receive the recommended care. The risk of death is five times higher for these babies and the risk of being underweight is three times as high than for those who were offered prenatal care. It is so preventable, it’s long overdue that this should be included in what the Public Health Service Act includes in dispersing care to underserved communities.

This definitely needs to get pushed through the Senate. 

5. What you can do to help this pass. 

Let’s make sure it gets a similarly strong pass through the Senate as it did in the House. You can call your Senators and ask them to vote YES on HR 315. Find their contact information here!
Policy Inequality

The Hearing Protection Act has gun-rights organizations jumping for joy

Today, we’re tackling the Hearing Protection Act and its effect on gun regulations nationwide. 

1. On the table today: H.R. 367, aka The Hearing Protection Act

H.R. 3799, also known as the “Hearing Protection Act,” was first introduced to the House in 2015. An additional bill, H.R. 367, was introduced earlier this week under the same name. It’s a creative title for a bill that will de-regulate sales for silencers.

Within the last few weeks, it was sent to the House Judiciary committee for recommendation. H.R. 3799 was introduced by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC).

We are still waiting on the full text on H.R. 367 to be published by the Library of Congress.

What is it about this bill that has gun rights organizations jumping for joy? 

2. What’s the deal with this bill?

This bill, H.R. 367, has 61 co-sponsors in Congress. 60 of them are Republican, and one is a Democrat from Texas (Gene Green, TX29). This is an amendment to the National Firearms Act to de-regulate silencers by including them in the same category as “long guns.”

The National Firearms Act dictates taxation of purchasing or manufacturing weaponry. H.R. 367 would remove the additional taxation on silencers, classifying them as an accessory that would make the gun a long gun and no longer considered an additional firearm to be taxed.

How does de-regulating silencers change the game? 

3. What’s this all mean? 

Silencers, or “suppressors,” are currently heavily taxed, with a $200 fee for those who purchase or manufacture them. This is the same rate that was imposed in 1934, when the NFA was enacted by Congress. This original act was created mostly in response to the gangland violence of the twenties and thirties, like the 1929 Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Its intention was to limit the sale and manufacturing of military or execution-style weapons, including silencers.

An article by the NRA explains the bills in these terms: “Prevailing regulations requires buyers to send an application to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), pay a $200 tax, and pass an arduously time consuming ATF background check. Under Salmon’s bill there will be no application, no tax, and buyers would be required to pass the same National Criminal Instant Background Check (NICS) as law-abiding guns owners.”


3. What do we make of all this? 

Thumbs down. Totally unnecessary and a symptom of our obsession with militarizing civilian firearms.

Gun manufacturers have been adding a “threading” onto the ends of barrels for years, so gun owners want to have what logically fits on the end of their firearms. Like any hobby, you want all the gizmos and gadgets and all the newest apparel to showcase your level within the field or how much money you have. For example, if you can afford the $200 silencers for your weapons in states where they are legal, you must have a lot of expendable income. It’s about status. It’s also about masculinity for some, which is a whole other ballgame.

Silencers are referred to by the industry as “suppressors,” because unlike Hollywood would have you believe, these accessories do not completely muffle the sound of a shot. They do, however, make quite a difference in muting the sound of a gunshot, which sounds like it would only have positive results for hunters and those shooting, right? They get to help out their eardrums and become less of a nuisance to nearby residential or industrial areas. That’s the way the gun lobby is spinning it.

What’s really going on? By taking away the tax on these suppressors, the gun lobby opens up a whole new untapped market of people who will buy specialized silencers for the weapons they’ve already purchased. It’s also a gimmick to get younger people involved in shooting sports – they’re less afraid without the loud bang associated with pulling a trigger. It’s all about sales.

There are those who also argue that ethical hunting requires giving the prey a fair chance. Part of that involves not silently sneaking up on it like an assassin, but strategically timing your shots. Silencers are not a necessary tool for sportsmen. In fact, it seems to be a crutch and a superfluous accessory pitched to us by gun manufacturers and the NRA as preventative care. Please.

Sounds like some problems that earplugs or headphones normally address, right?

But this probably doesn’t affect me unless I own a handgun, right?

4. Why should you care? 

Let me repeat from the NRA quote above: “no application, no tax.” This means that there would be easy access to these silencers, equipping average citizens with what is normally only used in raids, when stealth is key to the mission.

Consider some of the most horrid mass murders committed in the past few years. With a silencer, innocent people in schools and nightclubs would not have had as much warning to flee an oncoming shooter. Civilians do not need military grade weapons or accessories that are not necessary outside of war or SWAT-style exercises and missions.

There’s also the fear of escalation. If this becomes unregulated, then what about hand grenades and fully automatic machine guns? The safety risk is too great. We need to stand up against this measure to prevent other greater deregulatory policies from sliding through.

For a history of the development of gun silencers, Salon wrote a long piece about why we’re being duped into believing we need them (or even want them).

Gulp. Alright, I don’t want this going down.

5. So, what can you do?  

As always, call your representatives. Tell them how you feel, even if they are sponsors of this bill (mine are!). Call them and leave a message. They have to take note of how many people contact their offices about a particular matter. Don’t let them continue under the assumption that most of their constituents prefer this kind of militarization of their firearms. The NRA has a lot of sway and power, yes, but so do you. Act on it! They are obliged to listen to you.

Find your representative here and tell them you care!

A silencer attached to the end of a gun
USA World News The World

New York, the Emmys, and Snowden: The Week in Review

We get it, Wednesdays can be tough to get through. In an effort to keep up with the world’s ever-changing news landscape, we’ve put together the top 10 headlines from the week so you can stay on top of things.

1. Multiple bombings leave New York and New Jersey shaken

Less than a week after the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, New York City suffered yet another terrorist attack. This past Saturday, after a 9:30am explosion in Seaside Park, New Jersey, another explosion occurred at 8:30pm in Chelsea, Manhattan. The New York bombing injured 29 people, but police were able to detect and lock down a second bomb before any more were harmed.

Though the FBI originally stated that they had no reason to believe the two explosions were connected, they later found video footage and a fingerprint that suggested otherwise. The footage led police to issue an alert for Ahmad Rahami, a naturalized American citizen born in Afghanistan. Police brought Rahami into custody Monday morning after a violent gun fight, and he’s now been charged with use of a weapon of mass destruction. 

2. Trump drops the Birther Theory


Concerns about President Obama’s citizenship have finally ended, or so we hope. This Friday, presidential candidate Donald Trump announced that he no longer believes President Obama isn’t a U.S. citizen. Trump’s announcement comes 8 years after President Obama released his birth certificate.

Having dropped the “birther theory,” Trump has taken up a new conspiracy theory: that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was the one who really started the debate about President Obama’s citizenship. “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy,” said Trump, “I finished it.” Many view Trump’s new theory as an attempt to smear Clinton’s campaign and gain the support of African-American communities.

3. The 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards take place


In case you missed it, here are the highlights from the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards: Jimmy Kimmel hosted. Leslie Jones asked accountants from Ernst & Young to hide her Twitter account. Game of Thrones won Outstanding Drama Series. Maggie Smith won Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series for “Downton Abbey” (which Kimmel accepted for her since Smith has yet to attend the Emmy’s despite being nominated 9 times).

The stunning Laverne Cox called for the entertainment industry to give “trans talent” a chance. Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang’s Master of None won Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. Caleb McLaughlin, Millie Bobby Brown, and Gaten Matarazzo of Stranger Things performed “Uptown Funk.” Kate McKinnon (actually) cried onstage when she won Oustanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for SNL. Tatiana Maslany (finally!) won an Emmy for her work in Orphan Black, as did Rami Malek for his lead role in Mr. Robot. 

4. NCAA pulls its championship events from North Carolina

Familiar North Carolina’s infamous “bathroom bill” from this past spring? It’s coming back to bite the state in the butt.

The NCAA announced Monday night that it will be relocating all of its championship games from North Carolina because of the state’s discriminatory laws. As the NCAA’s board of governors stated, “N.C.A.A. championships and events must promote an inclusive atmosphere for all college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans. Current North Carolina state laws make it challenging to guarantee that host communities can help deliver on that commitment.” The NCAA’s decision marks just one of many protests against the North Carolina bill that bans transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice. When the bill was originally passed, Bruce Springsteen canceled all of his North Carolina concerts, and now the ACC is joining the NCAA in relocating games from the state until more inclusive legislation is passed.

5. Nigeria opens up about Boko Haram negotiations

The Nigerian government opened up this week about the details surrounding negotiations with the terrorist organization Boko Haram. In 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 200 girls from a school in Chibok, drawing international attention to Nigeria’s ongoing guerrilla war. On Friday, Nigerian government officials described negotiations with Boko Haram to free the kidnapped girls and end terrorist activity in northern Nigeria. The officials explained that Nigeria has been in talks with Boko Haram since July 2015, just after President Muhammadu Buhari’s election.

Parents of the missing girls were grateful for the announcement from their government about the status of negotiations since they have received little information in the past. “We welcome the communication, specifically factual communication, and hope this signals a period of continuous feedback,” said Aisha Yesufu, chairwoman of the strategy committee of the Nigerian advocacy group Bring Back Our Girls in an interview with The New York Times. “Every day we expect that is the day our Chibok girls will come back. And if they are not back, we expect the government to come out and tell us what they are doing.”

6. The United Nations General Assembly opens

The General Assembly opened for the 71st time. At the UNGA, the five major bodies of the UN convene to debate and discuss the most pressing international issues. At the forefront this year is the Syrian refugee crisis, along with microbial resistance & the zika virus, the Islamic State, and breaches of international law & human rights. Additionally, this convention was the last one that President Obama spoke at as President of the United States. His final remarks revolved around the Syrian refugee crisis, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and (against) the theme of isolationism in the upcoming US presidential election.

At the specially-dedicated Summit for Refugees and Migrants, 193 nations signed onto a UN action (also dubbed the New York declaration) that calls on countries capable of taking in higher numbers of refugees for resettlement to do so, and for wealthier nations to increase their humanitarian aid figures. The action does, however, face strong criticism, on account of the fact that it is non-binding and does not give a strategic solution to the issue at hand. People like Malala Yousafzai, champion for universal education, are incredibly dissatisfied, saying that “the world’s refugee children were hoping for more”.

7. Edward Albee, author of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” passes away

Instinct Magazine
Instinct Magazine

Albee, 88 years old at the time of his death, was a landmark playwright of the 20th century. His first play, “The Zoo Story”, was introduced to the public in 1959 in Berlin. It was so wildly successful that it made “Off Broadway” mean what it does today. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” was Albee’s Broadway debut in 1963 which, appropriately, won a Tony Award for Best Play. In 1966, it was developed into a film that only deepened the public’s love for the story.

Since his burst-out success, Albee wrote over 30 more plays, most of which aimed to show the ugly sides of pretty coins, exposing deep, dark secrets of well-off folks. Even before his death, Albee’s dramatic skill proved to be incomparable and irreplaceable.

8. Sandra Bland’s family settles in wrongful death lawsuit

LA Times
LA Times

14 months after Sandra Bland died in police custody after nothing more than a routine traffic stop, Bland’s family won a settlement against Waller County, Texas and the Texas DPS (Department of Public Safety) for $1.9 million. An attorney speaking for the Bland family stated that in addition to the monetary settlement, the family had stipulated in the proceedings that they wanted a de-escalation training to be mandated in the DPS curriculum. Waller County representatives have denied this claim. The family also made it a condition that the county jail have a nurse on-site at all times – a measure that they believe will prevent deaths like Bland’s in the future.

Bland’s death was officially ruled a suicide, but that was starkly disputed by her family and activists. In January, the police officer who originally pulled Bland over and took her into custody, pled not guilty to perjury charges related to the story he initially gave surrounding the arrest of Sandra Bland.

9. Ten people are stabbed at a Minnesota mall

Star Tribune
Star Tribune

Investigations are still piecing together the identity and motivations behind the mass stabbing at Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota this past Monday. The stabber was fatally shot on-scene and has been identified as Dahir Adan, a 22-year-old man with tight community ties. Although there has been no expressed motive, police are flocking to the possibility that the stabbing was an act of terrorism, and some unverified claims of linkage to ISIS have been made.

CAIR representatives made public statements addressing fears that the local Muslim community at large would be held accountable in the eyes of some, especially since there is a history of aggression against some mosques (such as in St. Cloud in 2014). Minnesota is home to the largest Somali community outside of Somalia itself, the majority of which is Muslim.

10. Edward Snowden talks security

Financial Times
Financial Times

Famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) info-leaker Edward Snowden appeared via video feed at the Athens Democracy Forum. One of his key points while speaking was that, although people criticized him for leaking sensitive information and potentially putting people’s privacy at risk, the end result of his actions are the exact opposite. Now, after the NSA’s tactics have been exposed and, at times, dubbed illegal and replaced, the average American internet-user has more privacy in the post-Snowden era. This definitely is not the end-all to the privacy push, nor does Snowden think that. This statement comes in the same week that FBI director James Comey urges people to protect themselves against low-level hackers by taping over their webcams (which you can read about here).

Until next week: