USA Editor's Picks 2020 Elections The World

White supremacy is on display in the US Capitol

As I am writing this, the Capitol of the United States is under siege. During the certification of the electoral college vote, thousands of ‘Proud Boys’ and Trump supporters have descended on the hill with two goals in mind: to stop the vote and cause chaos. The rioters breached the building by breaking through windows with shields and climbing through. Many of those who joined the mob were heavily armed and have reportedly pulled out their guns and fired shots.

Watching this play out is a surreal experience. The past four years of the Trump presidency has been marred with police brutality and blatant racism. The KKK has resurged incomprehensibly all the while the President himself has consistently used decisive and dangerous rhetoric which encouraged the kind of visceral we are seeing today. Joe Biden’s win in November incited a catalyst in which Trump objected to the integrity of Democracy and has used Twitter as well as his base to argue that the election was stolen from him and, in effect, America has been stolen from the people. The events that we are all currently watching are what white America does when it doesn’t get its way. It is an eleventh-hour attempt by the MAGA militia to give the election back to ‘the true winner’ and away from the “liars.”

In reality, however, this demonstration is a disorderly assault on American Democracy and one of the largest domestic terrorist threats of our time. 

What has really struck me is the lack of work and preparation from security forces, particularly in contrast with the civil rights protests from the summer. The Black Lives Matter protests were met with riot shields, tear gas, rubber bullets, and oftentimes military forces. At the time, streets were filled with tear gas to a point where a fog had descended and protestors could barely see through the smoke. Some activists even lost an eye after being severely pelted with rubber bullets.

This demonstration is a disorderly assault on American Democracy and one of the largest domestic terrorist threats of our time. 

In sharp contrast, only the Capitol Police, who in hindsight did the bare minimum, were present when unhinged terrorists stormed onto and raided a building that is meant to be a beacon of Democracy. In fact, there are live images of them watching the rioters from the balconies in minimal gear. If these were Black people, many would have been harassed and brutalized 20 minutes in with the police wearing military-grade protection. This doesn’t just show white privilege but white power. Law enforcement is certainly at fault for much of what took place today, and speaks to its level of complicity with this behavior.

Such lack of action paints a sobering picture of who those in power deem a threat. On Capitol Hill today we saw an overwhelming number of white armed bodies, mainly male, who were widely not viewed as a threat even after weeks of organizing and making their intention to be violent clear. Meanwhile, when peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors, mostly consisting of Black bodies, took to the streets over the summer to denounce white supremacy, police brutality, and the state violence, they were attacked and berated. The harsh reasoning behind this contrast and ultimate inaction is the seed of white supremacy which has been planted irreversibly at the root of our society. The rioters on the Capitol are fighting a legitimate election that has been counted multiple times during which the US President consistently held that the votes were fraudulent – a claim that many courts have thrown out. They are domestic terrorists emboldened by Trump’s inflammatory, seditious and false rhetoric. This was not a spontaneous coup, in fact the hate it so vehemently and deeply projects has been brewing for centuries.

This was not a spontaneous coup, in fact the hate it so vehemently and deeply projects has been brewing for centuries.

The biggest question I have been reflecting today is what is the result for American democracy? The US itself has openly and proudly invaded other countries which have had similar events take place, claiming the urgent need to preserve democracy. If this was any other state, the US would have surely invaded, and denounced the demonstrations as anti-democratic, vicious, or uncivilized. If the bodies ‘protesting’ weren’t white, then blood would be dripping from Capitol Hill. But the question remains, if this is the democracy the US wants to transport to the rest of the world, why should we accept it?

Thinking back again to the protests around BLM and more specifically police brutality, the call for the abolishment of the police was met with the slogan #BlueLivesMatter. Of course, the implication being that police officers are also victims, and the BLM protests failed to recognize their sacrifice. The very same people who so proudly shouted Blue Lives Matter then, are committing acts of violence against the Capitol Police today. They argued that people should ‘respect the cops and you won’t get killed’ but are now fighting, punching, and kicking those same officers. The BLM protest had nothing to do with disrespecting the police and everything to do with Black people demanding actions which would ensure human rights. This makes clear that what was seen as offensive to the white population had nothing to do with lack law and order, and everything to do with race.

The harsh reasoning behind this contrast and ultimate inaction is the seed of white supremacy which has been planted irreversibly at the root of our society.

Perhaps one of the most sobering images I have seen from todays events was the Confederate flag being flown in the Senate Chambers. This horrid flag stands as a personification of white power and white control. No one who cares for racial equality looks to the Confederate flag with anything but disgust. The message the flag bearer, who was surrounded by anarchists claiming to be ‘real Americans,’ intended to send was clear: white supremacy is alive and well in the United States, and they will go to great lengths to restore dangerous ideologies they so passionately believe in.

These events aren’t new either. Coups have taken place all over the world when citizens and in some cases the military have been dissatisfied and taken over the government. The US has always flown in as the beacon of liberty and democracy and, with its military force, attempted to solve the issue. Time and time again we have heard ‘this isn’t America’ – but it IS America. When white America has been unable to get what it wants it historically responds with violence. Think of the Tulsa Race Massacre or the Massacre at Wounded Knee as examples.

After much time and convincing, and after most of the damage had taken place, the President went on TV and asked the rioters to return home. He did so while reiterating that the election was stolen, stoking more violence, and called them ‘special people’. He also told the terrorists that he ‘loved them.’ There was no denouncement of their actions nor did he oppose any future action. The statement was pathetic. Throughout the height of the violence, he sat and watched. Fascists will not stop fascist movements, however, so I am not surprised that authorities allowed this coup to continue for as long as it did.

The wrong use of language hasn’t helped either. Many news outlets and tweeters have referred to the rioters as protestors; this is intentional. When we hear protesters we automatically tend to support them because protests largely happen against oppressive regimes. Let me be clear: these are not protestors but domestic terrorists. They refuse to accept a legitimate election and have chosen to attempt a coup and to destroy the democratic system. As one would expect, BLM was referred to as a riot. This automatically painted people peacefully protesting for equal rights as criminals and vandals. Language is important in the way we interpret a cause. In this way, white people are again falsely seen as a beacon of civility against the Black criminal rioter due in large part to language.

The last time the US saw this level of attack on government was in 1776, the same year it gained independence from Britain. Not even during the Civil War has democratic buildings been attacked in such a manner as we saw today. If today’s events have shown anything it’s the extent to which white extremists will go to voice their concerns. It highlights the importance of carrying on the fight for equality. The day Biden won, people cried. It was finally over, it felt that they were no longer at war for the basic right to live. We should look at the events of today and begin to dismantle the white supremacy which infects America like a plague and start to bring justice to people who have been ignored and brutalized for so long.


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World News The Internet Politics

How meme culture has redefined our understanding of politics

In the age of social media, it’s almost impossible to not see a meme. Viral memes such as ‘Roll Safe’ or the ‘Kombucha Girl’ are always somewhere on the timeline. Due to our regular encounters with memes, it would be undeniable to negate the impact that memes have had on consumers, whether it’s just for laughs or spreading bite sized chunks of information. However, the surge in political memes has brought into question the effectiveness of these memes and the validity of the information spread through these memes.

For instance, take the memes about ‘World War III’, due to the tensions between Iran and the US back at the beginning of the year. I personally wouldn’t be laughing about how wars and one of the most powerful and funded militaries on the Earth would destabilize – nothing new to them, they’ve done this many times – a country who has suffered at the hands of their military. But hey, that’s just me. Cultural awareness is pivotal, especially in an increasingly global village. Though it can be argued that humor is a coping mechanism, I still think it is important to remain culturally aware on how an event on one side of the world can negatively impact others. 

This has been a tough year for politics – from the US Presidential Elections, the Conservative Party’s failings with Brexit, the UK’s abysmal Track and Trace system, #ENDSARS, and quite frankly, everything. Each of these incidents have been turned into memes in one way or another. During the US elections, I know I was not the only one who cried tears of laughter at the memes of Trump losing his job. 

But, what’s interesting is how meme culture has redefined our understanding of politics. It wouldn’t be shocking to say that perhaps due to more young activists, the way some Gen Z understand politics is through memes. Some politicians even attempt to relay this back to them, but they are not always successful. For example, Hilary Clinton’s tweet about student loans conveyed how clearly she was out of touch with the youth and could be deemed as insensitive, when she asked, “How does your student loan make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less.” It was an extremely poorly worded tweet, knowing that hundreds of thousands of American students are in college debt. 

Despite living in evolving times, sometimes politicians need to understand that not every young person is the same. Whilst memes do have an influence, whether temporary or not, these attempts simply reduces all young people to a category, failing to take into consideration the different ways youth engage with politics. For instance, in the run up to the 2017 General Election in the UK, there were multiple political campaigns from the Labour party on Snapchat. Leaders like Boris Johnson attempted to engage the youth on Snapchat, only to end up as a temporal meme somewhere on the Internet. 

The emergence of memes in political discourse, pioneered by social media, is due to humor. This enables society to consider how humor can be used in political contexts through shared meanings. It would be a lie to say that political memes don’t evoke the necessary discussions about issues such as taxes or healthcare. For example, if someone makes a meme about how incompetent Buhari or Trump is, it could act as an indirect conversation to engage with others on political topics through social media.

Acting as a cultural phenomenon, memes also enable us to recall political incidents and history. For example, there was a meme of ‘Tank Man’, who stood in front of tanks, protesting after the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Due to Chinese censorship, the images of the tanks were replaced with rubber ducks. It highlights how we can still remember political events and can even safeguard those who may be censored from sharing certain pieces of information. Whilst they are powerful forms of social data, it’s important to consider what memes mean for public memory. How do we ensure that we remember genuine events rather than edited variations based on memes. Despite this, memes aren’t just used for negative purposes such as targeting politicians (though these are hilarious), but they simplify things and remain accessible for a lot of people.


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USA 2020 Elections The World

The ‘Blue Wall’ Crumbled in 2016; Here’s How it’s Holding in 2020

The Blue Wall includes 18 states that consistently vote Democratic for presidential elections. In 2016 this wall crumbled – states that have voted democrat for years flipped for President Trump. This is how the Blue Wall states are voting in 2020.

The Blue States That Flipped Red in 2016


Maine is currently too close to call but the state is leaning Biden. As of 1 AM EST Trump is ahead in the northern congressional district. This is where the electoral vote in Maine went to Trump. Right now the Blue Wall is holding in the southern part of the state, with that regions 3 electoral votes.

Maine is the first state in the union to implement ranked-choice voting for a Presidential election. This is also the first year that Maine has used its ranked-choice voting system for e general election, though it proved successful for democratic candidates for the 2018 midterm elections. If no candidate reaches 50%, ranked-choice could heavily impact this election.


As of 2 AM EST Michigan is leaning red, and 64% of the votes in the state have been counted. Trump is up with 53.7% compared to Biden’s 44.7%.

Michigan had voted Democratic since 1992, but that changed in 2016. The state that had been considered solidly blue finally flipped. Political commentators blamed Hillary’s campaign strategy for this loss, but if Trump wins Michigan again it may show a solid break in the Blue Wall.


64% of in-person votes have been counted in Pennsylvania. And the state is leaning Trump with 56.9% of the vote, and Biden with 41.9%.

Pennsylvania is one of the states that is anticipated to not have finalized election results for days. This is because of the large absentee ballot voting numbers that could not be counted until the day of the election.


With 88% of the in-person votes have been counted in Wisconsin, Trump is leading. As of right now Trump has 51.2%, while Biden holds 47.3%. Wisconsin is a state that is not anticipated to count the absentee ballots for the suburbs of Chicago until 5 AM or later, so a decision on the state will likely not be made before mid-day on the 4th.

Hillary was criticized for not visiting Wisconsin once after the Democratic National Convention in 2016. This is another state that Clinton was blamed for the Blue Wall crumbling. If Trump wins this state again it could signal a political change in the region, rather than the failing of a single candidate.

The Blue Wall States that Have Been Called

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • DC
  • Deleware
    • Deleware voters also made history by electing the first openly trans congresswoman, Sarah McBride, to the statehouse. 
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Hawaii
    • Hawaii has been called blue by The AP, but no official data is available for 2020 votes.

Strap in for a Long Ride

The Blue Wall states will be nerve-wracking for both sides. These states are not going to have all their votes counted before the morning of the 4th, and some will not have results before the end of the week. As of now, this election is not firmly in the hands of either candidate, and all we can do is wait.

USA 2020 Elections The World

Here’s how Maine’s election results could be impacted by its new ranked choice voting technique

Maine is getting more political coverage than ever before. Republican incumbent Susan Collins is in a tight senate race with Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon. The state also splits its four electoral college votes based on region, and the second congressional district has become a battleground area for the presidential race.

What Ranked-Choice Voting Means in Maine

The state approved ranked-choice voting via referendum in 2016. This referendum allowed voters to rank their 1st choice candidate down to their 5th choice. Voters only need to vote for one candidate, but they will have the option to vote for more.

Maine citizens created the referendum as a means to allow voters to choose candidates that they fully agreed with, without fear that their vote would be wasted. In 2010 the Maine Gubernatorial winner only won 37.6% of the vote. The Democratic candidate and the Independent candidate had a combined total of 54.7%. These results shook the state of Maine, especially given that the winner of the election won less than 40% of votes.

Because of this, in Maine currently if no candidate receives 50% of the vote, the lowest vote receiving candidate is eliminated. Then the votes are recounted. This process continues until a candidate can be declared the winner.

How Ranked-Choice Voting Could Impact the Senate Race

Maine candidates sara gideon next to susan collins
Sara Gideon and Susan Collins via The AP

In a poll conducted by Emerson College, Gideon leads with 48% of anticipated voted, compared to Collins’ 44%. But the important votes for ranked-choice are the Independent votes. Maine is one of the only states to have an Independent Senator with a strong Independent party.

Currently, Emerson predicts that the Independent candidates will receive 10% of the vote. If these voters use ranked-choice voting it has the potential to shift the outcome of the entire election.

Independent Maine Senator Angus King caucuses with the Democratic party, and the Independent party tends to lean more progressive. If Independent voters in Maine decide use their option for ranked-choice voting it could be positive for candidates like Gideon.

The question for this race, however, is whether voters even decide to use ranked-choice voting. If voters only vote for one candidate, this could be an even closer race which leans toward Collins.

How Ranked-Choice Voting could Impact the Presidential Race

In the 2016 election the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, won 5.1% of the vote, and the Independent candidate, Jill Stein, won 1.9% of the vote.

If Independent and Libertarian voters decide to use ranked-choice voting this could drastically shift the outcome of the election. President Trump won the majority of counties in Maine’s second congressional district in 2016. But the addition of ranked-choice voting could change how this plays out dramatically as neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump won 50% of the state’s votes in 2016.

Maine’s new ranked-choice voting system says that if no candidate earns a majority of 50% then the lowest voted candidate will be removed until a winner can be determined. This introduction of ranked-choice voting could impact the second congressional district. It likely will not impact the first congressional district, which consistently votes democratic.

The individual races in Maine this year are likely going to come down to whether or not Maine voters decide to make use of their ability to have ranked-choice voting.


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USA Editor's Picks 2020 Elections Politics The World

Why college students are voting for Biden/Harris this year

Back in 2016, I remember helplessly watching the Presidential Debates wondering “How did we get here?”. The Election of 2016 seemed like America’s rock bottom until the Election of 2020 came to fruition. The Election of 2016 seemed so divisive that over 100 million eligible voters did not vote in 2016. However, the upcoming 2020 Election has made young people realize how much power we truly have in our democracy despite our dissatisfaction with both Biden and Trump. We have realized that voting as a political statement is more powerful than not voting out of apathy towards both candidates in 2016.

This election is expected to shatter voting records by millions of votes, making it a historical election. This year, young voters make up about 37% of eligible voters. College voters have tremendous power in swinging this election in favor of Biden/Harris as they tend to vote blue more often than not, and to examine this trend, I asked college students why they are voting for Biden/Harris this year and what this election means to them. 

Like most voters, young people – especially first-time voters – are disturbed by the compulsion to choose for the “better of two evils.” Luis Hinojosa, a first-time voter and Dartmouth student said, “I find it difficult to have to vote for either of two candidates that I find to be less moral than I consider myself to be. However, after seeing how Trump handled the presidency, it is clear to me that he doesn’t care about every American. Therefore, I would rather see someone else take the helm; it doesn’t hurt to give someone else a chance.”

For women and members of the LGBTQ+ community,  another four years of the Trump administration is “literally terrifying” because it poses threat to their very existence. The Trump administration has repeatedly worked to limit access to contraceptive and abortion services for women and has passed a barrage of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Alicia Renda, a woman and member of the LGBTQ+ community at Hofstra University, is voting for Biden/Harris because “Trump’s America is personally terrifying” and because she is “worried about the people of color whose lives will be affected [by Trump’s America], especially immigrants and other people who can’t vote”. She spoke to me about how she doesn’t “fully support Biden and would love to have a candidate that is younger and more in touch with the populace”, but is settling for Biden because he is “the best we have right now”.

For the past four years, the Trump administration has come under fire multiple times for consistently bailing out the Top 1% of America, increasing the wealth gap. Unemployment rates have skyrocketed and tax cuts have been consistently awarded to owners of massive corporations, rather than ordinary citizens. To Ari Garnick, a first-time voter from Dartmouth College, this voting for Biden/Harris was a no-brainer because “pretty good beats abysmal every time”. He believes that the Biden/Harris platform will elevate America by “improving the standard of living for many of its least advantaged citizens (and non-citizens)”, allowing for greater distribution of resources. 

Similar to Ari, Umama Suriya, a South-Asian first-time voter at the University of North Texas, believes that voting for Biden/Harris is a no-brainer because it is “our only logical option of trying to have a better America”. Umama also expressed concern with Trump’s actions as he has “not done a lot for America” and may have even made America worse. She believes that the Biden/Harris ticket is the only way to rectify Trump’s mistakes. 

Throughout all of my interviews with college students, there appeared to be a consistent theme of “settling for Biden“. This became increasingly apparent to me during my interview with Ian Farm from Dartmouth College. First-time voters such as Ian are aware that “Joe Biden won’t save us”. It is up to us to “save ourselves and each other”. Ian expressed a sense of pessimism with the Biden/Harris administration’s policies but ultimately decided to vote for Biden/Harris because they will “cause fewer preventable deaths than Trump by COVID-19, and will at least pretend to make an effort to help the community”. 

Like Ian, Emma Meehan, a first-time voter from The University of Texas at Austin, disagrees with many of Joe Biden’s policies. However, she disagrees with President Donald Trump on many more key policy issues than she does Joe Biden, especially his denial of climate change. She expressed to me that “Biden’s climate change and tax policies are enticing to progressives and would help in addressing major issues the country faces”. As a woman and ally to the LGBTQ+ community, Emma believes that Biden is “far more equipped than Trump in dealing with issues that affect minorities, the LGBTQI+ community, and women”. 

In addition to their incompetency in dealing with women’s rights and LGBTQ+ rights, the Trump administration continues to be ignorant in the midst of conversations about racial equality. First-time voter Eve Carrott (Dartmouth College) expressed her support for Biden/Harris after watching President Trump “use his power to imbibe his ignorant racial prejudices into the law”, especially after his response to the Black Lives Matter Protests. 

While the Black Lives Matter Protests have been advertised as a form of “leftist” anarchy by many conservatives, some voters believe that another four years of the Trump administration would actually be anarchical for our country. Parker Himley, a queer and neurodivergent woman from Georgetown University, expressed her disapproval for the Trump Administration during our interview. “Fuck Trump. We’re not going survive another four years”, she said. To young-voters like Parker, voting for Biden/Harris is a last-ditch attempt to save democracy and the freedom that American prides itself on while remaining cognizant of necessary reform.

Finally, the Biden/Harris ticket appears to be the better platform across almost all social issues. Aliza Schuler, a first-time voter at American University, believes that “misogynism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, or racism of ANY KIND is unacceptable, especially in the White House”. She is voting for Biden/Harris during this election because “our universe simply cannot handle another four years of Donald Trump geologically, fiscally, socially, or emotionally. We need out”. In addition, a victory for the Biden/Harris ticket would mean that Senator Harris would be “the first woman and woman-of-color to hold a vice-presidential position, which would be a stepping stone to having a female president someday”. Aliza is optimistic that the Biden/Harris ticket will get us “one step closer” to having a female president in office, while a Trump/Pence victory would be a major setback for having women in leadership positions.

Across all of these responses, there appears to be a clear trend of “picking the lesser of two evils”. A Biden/Harris ticket was no one’s first choice, but it was a far better choice than the Trump/Pence ticket in terms of racial equality, LGBTQ+ rights, climate change, and unifying our country as a whole. Across Gen Z and millennial social media platforms, this trend has been nicknamed “Settle for Biden”, indicating that we’re just trying to make the best of an unfavorable situation. As young people continue to battle for our futures, the solution remains clear: voting!

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Shopping Under $25 Last Minute Gift Ideas Books Books Pop Culture

10 most anticipated book releases for November 2020

Now I know this year has been a drag. From the pandemic, tragedies, massacres and frankly just everything. Sometimes we all need an escape every once in a while. But, we need to remember how privileged we are to even escape. Not everybody has this luxury of escaping into a book like some of us do. Those protesting in Nigeria and Thailand certainly do not. 

Now that this has been acknowledged, I want to share the most anticipated reads for November 2020.

1. Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault

[Image description: Image of Rebel Rose] Via Goodreads
Calling all Disney fans! I am pretty sure we are all aware of the story of Beauty and the Beast, right? In this novel, we go back in time to France in the 18th century, where they are on the brink of revolution. Finally, Belle has broken the curse and now her Beast has reverted back to humanity and he is now her prince. But remember, they are on the brink of revolution and if you know about the French Revolution, it was off with the heads of the aristocracy. Belle must consider if being a Queen is truly worth it or simply just a title.

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2. Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao

[Image description: Rent a Boyfriend by Gloria Chao] Via Goodreads
In this novel, we follow Chloe being nervous to introduce her boyfriend to her parents. But, plot twist – she doesn’t even know who her boyfriend is! To appease her parents, Chloe hires her boyfriend, Drew, from ‘Rents’, a company that trains boyfriends to impress traditional Asian parents. This is such an interesting concept and makes me think, are we commodifying humanity, for the fact Chloe is ‘renting’ a boyfriend. But, Chloe rents Drew to convince them he is worthy of their approval so they don’t marry her off to Hongbo, a total womanizer within their community. But, what if Chloe and Drew’s relationship is not as fake as they anticipated?

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3. The Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

[Image description: The Violent Delights by Chloe Gong] Via Goodreads
Imagining a Chinese retelling of Romeo and Juliet, coupled with gang rivalry – Chloe Gong’s The Violent Delights is based in 20th century Shanghai where gang rivalry is prevalent, leaving the people of Shanghai distressed and helpless. How chaotic. 

We then have Juliette Cai who is 18 and believes she is above the law and is leading the Scarlet Gang. And their rivals? White Flowers. And of course, these gangs have been fighting for generations. But, what’s most interesting is that the heir to White Flowers is her first love and betrayal. Do with that what you will. If you love Shakespearean retelling and gang rivalry – this is for you.

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4. Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho

[Image description: Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man] Via Goodreads
In light of everything that has happened in the world with Black Lives Matter, this book is a must. It’s time to have these conversations that people have been talking about.

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5. A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha

[Image description: A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha] Via Goodreads
A Portuguese historical fantasy A Curse of Roses follows the story of Princess Yzabel who is cursed from eating. Here me out. With one touch of bread, it turns into roses. She attempts to bite cheese, the cheese now turns into lilies. This magic leaves her starving because any food she attempts to eat just turns into a bouquet. With a famine plaguing Portugal, she needs to decide what is the best solution for her to save her people?

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6. Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer

[Image description: Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer] Via Goodreads
Meet Prudence Daniel – an overachiever with a disgusting attitude. Far too quick to cast judgement on her rude and lazy residents in her coastal town. But, something strange happens, one day she wakes up with the ability to cast instant karma on anybody. What a power to have. And of course, she abuses that power and wreaks havoc on anyone who irritates her. Except for this one person where he powers constantly backfire – Quint Erickson, who happens to be her enemy.

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7. A Promised Land by Barack Obama

[Image description: A Promised Land by Barack Obama] Via Goodreads
Need I say more? With elections taking place around the world, let’s hear from the former US President, Barack Obama, who reflects on his time in the Oval Office.

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8. Perfectly Impossible by Elizabeth Topp

[Image description: Perfectly Impossible by Elizabeth Topp]
For fans of the Devil Wears Prada, this is for you. The book is about an assistant to a stinking rich wife and a philanthropist, Bambi von Bizmarck. Aside from being an assistant, Anna is also an artist. But, she is met with a dilemma. Painting and all things art is her passion, her true calling. But it’s not paying the bills, at all. Whereas her position as an assistant enables her to be more successful. Follow Anna to delve into the life of the 1%. Must be nice.

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9. Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett

[Image description: Chasing Lucky by Jean Bennett] Via Goodreads
Josie Saint-Martin has spent half her life with her single mother  – they are practically glued to the hip, moving from one city to the other. If you like the cliches – bad boy trope, friends to lovers, I can 100% confirm this is for you. Until one time, her and her mother move back to their historic New England town to run her family bookstore but this time it’s different. It’s only a matter of time until her grandmother returns and they move again. Until Lucky Karras re-enters her life.

Get this book on The Tempest’s bookshop supporting local bookstores or on Amazon.

10. Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March

[Image description: Murder in Old Bombay by Nev March] Via Goodreads
Yet again, another historical fiction. But, something makes it different – it’s a historical crime fiction set in colonial India. Think Indian Sherlock Holmes. Both of the women who died belonged to the same family, now this is where it gets interesting.  The deaths are suspicious, but no one is talking. We meet Adi Framji, who is the husband of one of the women and ends up hiring Jim Agnihotrii, a captain in the army to help privately investigate the case. (Trigger warning: suicide.)

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We truly can’t wait for these books. What are you waiting for? Get reading!

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USA Action Guide The World

Here’s what you need to know about the land back movement this Indigenous Day

For those of you, like me, who don’t live in the United States, here’s the background: Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer and navigator. In 1492, he arrived on the shores of what is now known as Puerto Rico where he was met by the Taino people.

Columbus recognized the prestige which he and his people had been given and took advantage of it. He kidnapped many people from the native tribe and sent them back to Europe to work as slaves. This began a period in history in which many people such as the Danish, British, French, and Spanish would stake their claim to the American continent through genocide, slavery, and colonialization. The Indigenous people who lived there suffered starvation, massacres, attempted assimilation, and abject poverty for most of their lives due to the inhumane treatment by these colonizing forces for so-called ‘development’.

So, fast forward and now we are in 2020. While the world is gripped in a pandemic, the USA has begun to unravel its history with race and society. From the Black Lives Matter protests to the handling of the pandemic by Donald Trump, the USA is finally realizing that there are serious problems within the foundation of its society. Representative Deb Haaland from New Mexico has put forward a bill named ‘The Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding School Policy in the United States Act’. This is an effort to bring attention to the impact of the Boarding School system on Indigenous Communities in North America, and would be a historical bill that will finally force people to see the damage of America’s roots as opposed to complacency.

One of the largest movements currently is the 1492 Land Back Movement. The movement is advocating for the US government to return Indigenous land back to its rightful owners (owners is used as a very loose term as many people believe that one can never own the land as it is not anyone’s to own) especially those of sacred and historical significance. This movement has already begun to set precedents; the return of 3 million acres of land equating to half of Oklahoma was returned to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. This was a historic decision as the area also includes Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-biggest city. In July 2020, the Esselen tribe of Northern California gained back 1,200 acres of land in yet another historical case.

It’s not a coincidence that this is happening. The people are finally standing up for their rights and beliefs like we have seen so many do before them. Looking back to this past 4th of July when the people of the Lakota Sioux stood in defiance of the President and protected the Black Hills from him and his supporters.

My people are still struggling with freedom. We are split across three states because of colonialization, with the Kohinoor diamond in Queen Elizabeth II’s crown.

Even though great strides have been made, there is a lot of work that has yet to be done. The Black Hills are still under the control of the US Government; a direct violation of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, and of the Supreme Court ruling in 1980.

So here’s what you can do to help:

Sign petitions:

This one focuses specifically on the return of the Black Hills.

Educate yourself!

It wasn’t until I completed my undergraduate degree that I realized how colonized my education was. So, I read as much as I could. I shared these books and articles with as many people as possible. Authors of color provide invaluable information that you can’t receive from white sources.

Share your resources!

I pass whatever I read to the people around me because everyone deserves access to this information. Like so many of us did during the peak of the BLM movement, it is time we read up Indigenous history. We can only be allies and supporters if we learn. So many of us outside of the US and Canada were not even aware that this was happening.

Donate to bailfunds!

I understand that this is not feasible for everyone but any steps you can take is enough:

O’odham water and land defenders arrested while halting border wall construction which was threatening sacred site.

NDN collective announces Black Hills bail and legal defense  fund following Mt. Rushmore arrests. 

There’s always something more we can learn about others. I am a firm believer that you cannot expect people to understand you if you aren’t willing to do the same. 2020 has been one of the most awful years, but its also been a year of amazing things.

Let’s make it the year to make a big movement towards decolonization.

Reproductive Rights The Breakdown Inequality

Here’s what you need to know about Roe vs Wade, the landmark decision that shaped abortion rights in the US

The Breakdown is a Tempest exclusive series that attempts to tackle issues, concepts, terms, and histories that are relevant and intrinsic to conversations about social justice. This is our version of a 101 on Social Justice, with a grassroot level approach that hopes to simplify and make political and cultural conversations accessible in a global level.

From the time abortion was legalized in the US, a woman’s right to an abortion has been stigmatized and politicized, becoming a divisive political battleground between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. Now, in the wake of Ruth Bader Ginsburg‘s passing and the weight of the elections looming ahead, Roe vs Wade, the landmark decision that shaped abortion rights in the US is on thin ice.

Roe vs Wade was issued in 1973 by the US Supreme Court and legalized abortion across the United States. The decision involved the case of Norma McCorvey, referred to in her lawsuit under the pseudonym “Jane Roe”, who became pregnant in 1969 and wanted an abortion, which was illegal in the state of Texas. The lawsuit was filed in the US federal court against her local district attorney, Henry Wade. The US District Court (for Northern Texas) ruled in her favor, but the state of Texas appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court decided to strike down the Texas law banning abortions, which essentially legalized abortion across the country.

Two important decisions came out of Roe vs Wade that still holds to this day. The US Constitution provides a fundamental right to privacy under the 14th Amendment that protects a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion or not. However, the right to an abortion is not complete and should be balanced against the government’s interest in protecting prenatal life and a woman’s health.   

Therefore, under Roe vs Wade, a framework was created to balance both government interests and a woman’s right to privacy. The court defined the rights of a woman into three trimesters. However, since the decision, a number of opponents have pushed for stricter abortion laws, and many regulations placing restrictions on abortions have successfully been passed in several states.

The reason as to why Roe vs Wade is at risk of being overturned is a lot more complicated than it appears to be; it stems down to multiple reasons but ultimately leads back to the Supreme Court. Roe vs Wade has always been controversial with multiple presidents looking to challenge it. President Gerald Ford, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush were amongst those who opposed Roe. President Reagan who was in office between 1981-89 used his administration to attempt to reverse the abortion ruling and made it a top priority of his Justice Department.

During the 2016 election campaign, Trump pledged that he would appoint Justices to the Supreme Court who would look to overturn Roe. The US Supreme Court consists of nine members who serve lifetime appointments; the court is typically split evenly between right and left-leaning individuals with one swing vote. However, since being elected, President Trump has already appointed two right-leaning Justices to the Supreme Court (Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018), and the recent passing away of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg creates more worry for abortion rights as a seat on the Supreme Court has opened up.

Unsurprisingly, Trump has nominated socially conservative Jurist Amy Coney Barret, and if approved by the Senate would then result in an extremely conservative Supreme Court (6:3). Given that the Senate holds a majority of Republicans, it appears to be very likely that Barret’s nomination may lead to her joining the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court shapes public policy in the US, and its current conservative nature creates worry for abortion rights and Roe vs Wade. As we speak, opponents are attempting to, or have succeeded in passing regulations that ban abortions based on fetal age and type of procedure. Currently, these issues are being contested within the lower courts of the US but could easily make its way up to the Supreme Court which could have a full reversal on abortion rights in the US. 

So what happens if Roe vs Wade is overturned? The answer is quite simple. Roe vs Wade established a framework for abortion regulations at a federal level, so if overturned by the Supreme Court abortion rights would revert to the decision of the States. This would mean that abortion rights will only be protected in less than half of the states, and it will become illegal in about twelve. In another ten states, their trigger laws state that the legislature is allowed to meet and decide upon the legality of abortion but given the conservative nature of these state legislatures, the likelihood of abortion being made illegal is relatively high. Overturning the decision would also mean that more than one-third of all American women of reproductive age would lose their access to abortion. Laws relating to abortion would vary widely across the country which would further increase the discrepancy in reproductive rights between individuals in the US.

If you’re interested in learning more, here are some sources that further explore Roe vs Wade

Reversing Roe – available on Netflix

AKA Jane Roe – FX Documentary

Is this the end of Roe vs Wade – VICE News Discussion

Some Thoughts on Autonomy and Equality in Relation to Roe v. Wade – Essay by Ruth Bader Ginsburg


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USA The World

The Trump Administration continues to threaten women’s access to birth control

The Supreme Court had us fooled. Just a few weeks after SCOTUS struck down a restrictive abortion law in Louisiana with a 5-4 vote, the justices upheld the Trump administration’s mandate that employers can refuse to let workers use birth control under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) due to religious or moral objections. Only 2 justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonya Sotomayor dissented. “between 70,500 and 126,400 women would immediately lose access to no-cost contraceptive services,” Ginsburg stated in her note of dissent, using a governmental estimate. 

The Health Resources and Services Administration – a government agency under the U.S Department of Health and Human Services – ruled that birth control is essential preventative care and that contraceptives would be free and covered under employer’s health insurance without any extra copays in 2012. Exceptions were explicitly made for places of worship, but not for religious controlled schools, hospitals, charities, and any other groups or businesses controlled by religious groups. However, both the Obama and the Trump administrations began to include a wider range of exemptions after pushback from religious groups. 

The U.S. government has always had a tumultuous and inconsistent relationship with birth control legislation since the creation of the ACA in 2010

In the 2014 case landmark case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Supreme Court justices voted that for-profit organizations were exempt from the ACA’s contraceptive mandate under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), although the RFRA was declared unconstitutional by SCOTUS in 1997 at the state level. 

The U.S. government has always had a tumultuous and inconsistent relationship with birth control legislation since the creation of the ACA in 2010. The inconsistencies in legislation have allowed for the Trump administration to further their attacks on women’s healthcare. The RFRA has already been dubbed unconstitutional for states, so why does the federal government and the Supreme Court continue to allow the RFRA as an excuse to revoke women’s right to healthcare?

In 2017, Trump drafted new rules under an Executive Order that for-profit groups were officially exempt. The State of Pennsylvania, including several other states with their individual contraceptive mandates, challenged the government under the Equal Protection Clause. Despite, this, SCOTUS upheld Trump’s attack on contraceptives in the recent case Little Sisters of the Poor Saint Peters and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania. The Little Sisters of the Poor are a Catholic organization that provides homes for low-income elderly individuals. The nuns who run the organization are against contraception and abortion. Regardless of their religious rights, organizations and businesses should not have a say in what medication their employees are taking. It’s simply not their business. Now that SCOTUS has furthered these dubious exemptions, it will be easier for conservative businesses to regulate their female employees’ access to birth control under “moral” reasons. By revoking access to birth control, bosses are directly harming the lives of women. Contraceptives directly save female lives.

Bosses have no business deciding what happens in their employee’s private life, including what medication they are taking.

Birth control pills have a wide variety of different usages besides preventing pregnancies. Many women are prescribed birth control to regulate their menstrual cycles. Nearly 30% of women on birth control pills take them to make their periods less painful. Combination/multi-hormone pills also can prevent uterine and ovarian cancer. It can help reduce the effects of menstrual migraines, control endometriosis, and regulate PMS and PMDD, a severe form of PMS, symptoms. By upholding Trump’s mandate, many women will no longer have access to the medication that keeps them alive, especially poor women and women of color who cannot afford to pay for birth control out of pocket.

Just recently, SCOTUS also ruled that employers can’t discriminate against LGBTQ+ workers based on religious beliefs. Employers shouldn’t be able to decide the fate of women’s health and lives either.  Birth control shouldn’t be politicized. It’s necessary, preventative healthcare. The companies that are refusing to use company health insurance for contraceptives are silent on Viagra prescriptions. I’m sorry, but if your penis can’t get up, it’s probably “God’s will.” Bosses have no business deciding what happens in their employee’s private life, including what medication they are taking. 

Donald Trump and his administration have been attacking women’s health and the ACA the moment he stepped foot in the White House. He’s not an advocate for religious groups, he’s a tyrant who uses the guise of religious freedom to directly attack poor women of color. With Justice Ginsberg’s seat on the line, women’s health holds a terrifying future if Trump is re-elected. The government should not be pandering to the qualms of religious and conservative run businesses. Women’s healthcare is not a political tool, it’s a human right, and should be treated as such.

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Editor's Picks World News The World Inequality

Palestine is in imminent danger: here’s how you can help

The strengthening relationship between the United States and Israel has put Palestine in more danger than ever, with the Trump administration becoming increasingly invested in the ongoing conflict. The US government has publicly supported Israel’s claims to the historically contested land, drawing up a policy that will enable Israel to seize 30% of Palestinian territory.

The annexation process, initially due to start on July 1st, has been widely condemned by the international community. The backlash has temporarily stalled the process, due to Trump’s hesitation to support elements of Israel’s plans for the territory.  

If the annexation of the West Bank commences, Palestine is unlikely to survive. The proposed move signals Israel’s disregard for any sort of resolution and stands to endanger the lives of thousands of Palestinians who risk being displaced in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic.  

The ongoing  conflict between Palestine and Israel is one of the longest of the 21st century, spanning over 70 years. Since the formation of Israel in 1948, violence has plagued the region. Between 1947 and 1949, at least 750,000 Palestinians were displaced leading to one of the world’s worst refugee crises to date. 

Since then, tensions and violence has repeatedly escalated in the contested Holy Land. The Israeli state has shown no restraint in their attempts to gain control over Palestine- murdering, torturing and imprisoning men, women and children in a systematic process of ethnic cleansing.

Currently, Israel is the only country in the world that tries minors in military court

One of the greatest detriments to the conflict is that it has been constructed as a purely religious dispute. This narrative has pitted the nations against each other, simplifying it to one that is essentially ‘Jews versus Muslims’. The Israeli government has intentionally promoted this narrative in an attempt to make the will of the state and that of the Jewish people synonymous. Using this approach has allowed the Israeli state to brand any criticisms of their actions as anti-Semitic. This detracts from real instances of antisemitism and has previously thinned condemnation, especially from democratic strongholds in the EU, such as Germany.

Lack of international intervention to progress or repair peace talks, or effectively restrict Israel’s occupation, has been detrimental to the Palestinian cause. The nation itself is not recognized in its own right in many parts of the world; Google has never officially labelled the territory as Palestine on the world map.

Israel has incrementally invaded and subjected the nation to decades of sustained assault underpinned by apartheid rule and a gross violation of human rights. The Israeli invasion initiative has recently been strengthened through increased foreign aid in the form of economic and military assistance. In 2019 the US provided Israel with $3.8 billion in foreign military aid. 

The proposed annexation is part of Trump’s 2020 ‘Peace Policy’ which aims to enable Israel to seize control of 30% of Palestinian territory. It also suggests that Palestine be further divided and demilitarized. Netanyahu recently announced that Palestinians currently living in the targeted areas will not be given Israeli citizenship, leaving them stateless. 

Trump’s plan completely disregards the will and best interests of Palestine, and the annexation has been deemed as a contravention of international law. The EU has warned Israel that there will be consequences if they move forward with the illegal action, although sanctions remain off the table. 

Thousands of Palestinians across the West Bank are at risk of losing their homes and livelihoods if the planned annexation of one-third of the territory goes through.

Here are some things you can do to help protect Palestine and its people:

Support the BDS movement

Support and promote the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement in your country. The BDS movement started in 2005 and promotes the boycotting, divestment and sanctioning of Israel and all Israeli products, business or trade. It was inspired by the successful sanctions campaign against South Africa during the anti-apartheid movement.

Demand that your government implement sanctions against Israel’s apartheid state and divests until Palestine is free and protected. Start petitions calling for your government to promote the recognition of Palestine. Make sure to lay out why supporting Palestine is an act of justice and equality. Campaign for your country to support pro-Palestine treaties, such as those promoted by the United Nations. In 2019, many countries that had previously abstained from voting, effectively failing to support Palestine, voted in favor of Israel. However, recent developments have caused these same countries to switch track, publicly opposing Israel’s new annexation plan. This is a crucial moment to capitalize on and should be used to sustain and increase action that favors the protection of Palestine. 

Start petitions and campaigns to get local businesses and organizations involved in the BDS movement. Be aware that petitions are most effective when you are able to engage with those who you are calling on to act. Campaigns which address those who are inflicting the violence, such as the Israeli government, often go unnoticed. It is more impactful to direct petitions to those whom you can demand a response from, or where you can apply pressure consistently. 


Here is a list of organizations that you can donate to in order to directly aid the Palestinian cause:

Educate yourself, and then others.

Below is a list of resources/sites that can help you be better informed about the history of the conflict and why Palestine needs your help:

  • A site that provides a comprehensive history of the conflict and divisions, as well as updates on the current crisis.
  • An independent non-profit organization which aims to educate and encourage discussion on Palestinian rights and freedom within the framework of international law.
  • The Balfour Declaration by Bernard Regan

“Most have heard of the Balfour Declaration without fully appreciating its history and consequences. With this meticulous and insightful study, we have a fascinating and timely guide to British colonial policy in Palestine, and its devastating impacts for the Palestinian people to this day.” – Professor Karma Nabulsi, Oxford University

“One of the most prominent Israeli political dissidents living in exile … He is also one of the few Israeli students of the conflict who write about the Palestinian side with real knowledge and empathy.” – Avi Shlaim, Guardian

“A hauntingly written, remorselessly honest, and surely long lasting account of Palestinian loss and struggle.” – Donald MacIntyre, Independent

Palestine Speaks demonstrates that nothing is more eloquent than the voices of those who endure and try valiantly to survive. Nothing is more important for us than to listen to them carefully, to grasp their suffering, to learn from their testimonies about them and about ourselves, and to use this understanding to bring their tragedy to an end.” – Noam Chomsky

Raise awareness and support for the cause:

Talk to your friends, family, classmates and anyone else in your circles. Share accurate information about the crisis and the imminent danger posed by Trump’s policy

Boycott celebrities’ and their work, if they choose to perform in Israel or support the Zionist beliefs of the state. Many celebrities have weighed in the debate; some claim that supporting Israel is an act of Jewish pride, or serves to show their opposition of the actions of Hamas. These justifications are another example of how Israel, Judaism and the Zionist state have been blurred into one. This misconstrues the reality of the Israeli government’s sustained and violent attack on the Palestinian people. Seth Rogan, Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman and Kanye West are just a few of the celebrities who have openly voiced their support for Israel. However, many fans have successfully alerted high-profile celebrities to the importance of boycotting the actions of the Israeli state. In 2017 Lorde cancelled her planned performance in Israel, following a social media campaign highlighting the oppressive nature of the Israeli state. 

Organize marches, research planned pro-Palestinian events/campaigns, join or start online movements to discuss how to take action that further promotes the Palestinian cause.  

Boycott pro-Israel brands, products and companies: Caterpillar bulldozers have been used to demolish Palestinian homes, Hewlett Packard (HP) assists Israel in running the ID system used to restrict Palestinian movement, and Puma sponsors Israel’s football association which has teams in the occupied territories. Join and promote existing boycott campaigns happening in your country. 

Fact check before you share information and make sure about the legitimacy of the source. There is a lot of propaganda aimed at misrepresenting the conflict. 

Supporting Palestine is not anti-Semitic, or disrespectful to the history of the Jewish people. Nor does it signify any sort of religious affiliation. To stand for the protection of the Palestinian people is to stand for Justice, equality and freedom. It is to condemn the violent apartheid state of Israel that is attempting to dispossess the land of thousands, stripping them of their homes and livelihoods. 

The proposed annexation will be the final nail in Palestine’s coffin and we cannot allow this to happen.

From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Family Coronavirus Gender & Identity Life

This pandemic has robbed me of a sense of home

Four months ago, I left home with a promise to come back.

I left with masked tears, excitement for a new year marred by a prick of unease that never went away no matter how many times I had done the same thing. It is the same dance over and over again at the beginning of every semester, I would long to stay behind, have a little more time with my family, only to finally board the plane to the promise of new classes, better chances and busier days.

Two months ago, I left another place I called home, saying a forever goodbye.

My roommates had hastily moved out of our dorm, and I sat in an empty room with packed suitcases waiting for my ride. I stared at our bare walls. They were closing in on me, suffocating me until I forced my eyes away and glanced out of the window, feeling a bit like Rapunzel stuck in some tower waiting for an escape.

Two more destinations, a constant fear of ending up homeless, two overweight suitcases that now contain my entire life, and multiple teary sleepless nights later, I often wonder – where and what is my home?

People try to define “home” often. They do so in the form of cringy hallmark movies and romcoms, wall décor that you receive as housewarming gifts, and self-help books targeted at middle-aged white suburban moms. But I never really questioned it until I left my home – it suddenly feels like a label of false security.

Being able to call a place yours – whether that place is a country, building, a group of people, a community – is a privilege, and like every aspect of privilege, you never really know you had it until you lose it, or are confronted with the absence of it.

When I first came to the US as a college freshman and a new international student, I was constantly reminded that this was not my home. Every time I was asked where I am from, questioned about my accent or got my British spelling corrected, I was made aware that my home is elsewhere. But I didn’t mind. I had a home in Sri Lanka, a beautiful family, and supportive friends. It was a home where I did not have to explain myself every time I did something that is remotely “South Asian” or “non-American.” I did not have to mask my opinions with niceness, or constantly be aware of the color of my skin, the way my words sound and whether I call it the pavement or the sidewalk.

But when you live in a place long enough, it grows on you. It is like a vine that creeps up on you slowly and you never notice it until it has surrounded you and becomes a part of yourself. By the second year of college, I was not quite sure if my home was firmly in Sri Lanka anymore. Of course, I still had my life there, and whenever I went back, I had the comfort of walking around in flip flops under the scorching sun, familiarizing myself with the honking of the cars and casually slipping back to Tamil like I was speaking it every day while I was away. But I recognized that I missed Iowa. I missed the way people opened their doors for me, the cornfield jokes, the cheap pasta from downtown, and the rustic smell of fall. I had realized that while I had my home back in Sri Lanka, I had also made a home in Iowa, and while it felt strange – and a little scary – I understood that duality of my life, of what I call home.

Then the pandemic hit. When I got the official email from the university announcing that classes were going online and that the residence halls would be closing, I couldn’t think straight – I cried. Sri Lanka had gone into lockdown, and suddenly Iowa did not feel like a second home anymore. I thought I was going to be homeless. Kind friends in Iowa City, my savings, the stability of my on-campus job, and the sanity that online classes gave me kept me afloat.

I skipped houses, packed my entire life away in two suitcases and a hundred boxes that were all dispersed to four different locations, and stayed awake every night worried about the next day – of what I was going to do, what I was going to eat. For two weeks I lived alone, and one night I wondered if I did not wake up the next day, how long would it take anyone to notice?

Now I live in a room that is not mine, posters of people I do not care for adorn the walls. I’m afraid to mess up the order of things and living out of suitcases because I am scared to unpack, ready to be on the move once again if I need to. I feel like a vagrant, like a kite whose string has been cut adrift, lost in this liminal space of longing and waiting. I wonder if Iowa was ever my home – if that sense of comfort was so false that I had been betrayed into believing that I could make a home away from home in this country.

In late April, President Donald Trump announced the plan for an immigration suspension. There was a sense of panic among friends who had gone back home, of the uncertainty of not being able to come back. I stood in that threshold of being able to make a decision, when it was really a false sense of choice because my decisions were being made by governments and policies, while I sat like a puppet going back and forth between my desires, torn between two homes, questioning the security and longevity of both, the weight of the answer chasing me as the semester drew to a close.

Each day I feel like a clock is ticking, each morning I wake up to monotony. Groundhog Day suddenly feels like a horror movie. I pass my days and find solace in memes and Tik Tok videos that my friends send my way. I listen to the same songs over and over again and feel disgusted by the greasiness in my hair. I dream of Sri Lanka – of sunny beaches, sounds of traffic, and the heat of the sun. I wake up in a bed that is not mine, hurry up to check my phone to see if anything has changed and let a sense of disappointment and displacement wash over me, all over again.

Coronavirus Science Now + Beyond

Here’s everything you need to know about COVID-19

As the world adjusts to its ‘new normal’ of fighting over toilet paper, uploading dance videos to Tik Tok, and partaking in an infinite number of Zoom calls during this pandemic, it’s easy enough to be distracted from the key information being shared around COVID-19.

And it’s just as easy to get lost in the chaos of information surrounding the pandemic as well. Here’s everything you need to know about COVID-19 – a virus that has infected 3.94 million people and taken the lives of near 300,000 – from where it originated, what it is, how it’s transmitted, its symptoms, and where the world stands in terms of a cure.

What is a coronavirus?

It’s infected 3.94 million people and taken the lives of near 300,000.

Coronaviruses are not a new phenomenon in our world. They have been a source of contention throughout our history and are a large family of viruses which may cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Corona (not the Mexican-heritage beer) is Latin for ‘crown’ and refers to the crown-like spikes on the virus’s surface when viewed under an electron microscope. Sometimes coronaviruses infecting animals can evolve to cause disease in humans and become a new (novel) coronavirus for humans which is the case with COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019, the year referring to when the first case was found).

Where did the virus originate?

It originated in bats and then jumped to humans.

The virus was first reported in Wuhan, China in late December of 2019. The majority of the case-patients initially identified were dealers and vendors at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Jianghan District of Hubei Province, leading to the argument that the virus has a zoonotic (a disease that normally exists in animals but can infect humans) origin. Scientists have since determined that the likeliest scenario is for COVID-19 to have originated in bats and then jumped to humans, similar to hows the SARS epidemic spread in early 2000s.

So, as much as Trump wishes us to believe that COVID-19 escaped from a lab in Wuhan, there is simply no evidence to this claim, and the origins of the virus remain to be a contested and controversial topic. Some theories (that have since been proved false) include that the virus was part of a Chinese “covert biological weapons programme” or that a Canadian-Chinese spy team had sent it to Wuhan.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

COVID-19 can affect people in different ways; however, the most common symptoms appear to be a fever, dry cough and tiredness, which can take anywhere from five to 14 days to appear.

Less common symptoms include aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell, a rash on the skin, or discolouration of fingers or toes.

Symptoms can take anywhere from five to 14 days to appear.

According to the World Health Organization, serious symptoms include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure and loss of speech or movement. You should immediately seek medical attention if you present serious symptoms but always call before visiting your doctor or nearest medical facility.

What happens when COVID-19 enters the body?

Transmission of the virus occurs when droplets of water containing the virus are expelled by an infected person in a cough or sneeze. If COVID-19 were to successfully enter the human body (through the eyes, nose, or mouth), it would immediately aim for the lungs.

Once on the epithelial cells lining the lungs, the virus would attach to a receptor (ACE2 in the case of COVID-19) to impart its genetic material into the cell. The cell then carries out the virus’s instructions; multiplying the virus within itself. At a certain point, the cell disintegrates, allowing for the multiplied particles of the virus to roam freely out and attack neighboring cells. After a few days, the number of infected cells has grown exponentially within the lungs allowing for outward symptoms to appear on a human infected with COVID-19.

How does one prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Stay at home, wash your hands, and social distance! Avoid touching the eyes, mouth, and nose especially.

Put simply, the virus spreads more easily when people are in close proximity to one another. If you cough and sneeze in a large crowd, it is very likely that those water droplets landed onto someone else. If you are around no one, if those water droplets land onto a surface (such as a doorknob) and another person touches it, then they now have those germs on their skin.

If you do have to leave the house, take the necessary precautions such as wearing a face mask and standing at least 1 metre away from other people in the vicinity.

Washing your hands with soap and water is also very important. COVID-19 is encased in a lipid or fat. Soap destroys this fat, causing the virus to be unable to sustain itself.

Is there any cure, vaccine or treatment for COVID-19?

Right now – no.

So be aware of fake or misleading cures circulating social media. One such claim – shared 16,000 times on Facebook – advises users in the Philippines to “keep your throat moist”, avoid spicy food, and load up on vitamin C in order to prevent the disease. The information is said to be from the country’s Department of Health but it does not match the advice on the DOH website or its official press releases on the outbreak.

There is no cure yet but a vaccine is being worked on.

Another unsubstantiated claim shared online suggests avoiding cold or preserved food and drinks, such as ice cream and milkshakes, for “at least 90 days”. Others are peddling “plague protection kits” which claims to shield people from the virus and some scammers are asking for credit card details to be uploaded onto websites promising a COVID-19 cure.

The search for a cure that will put an end to it all is a long and difficult one and many countries are partaking in the search for a possible vaccine – to teach people’s immune systems to recognize and fend off the virus before an infection can take hold – for the virus, each with their own budgets and timelines of when a viable one can be released to the public.

Oxford University’s Jenner Institute is comparatively close to a vaccine as they have already acquired safety data from human trials of similar vaccines for the related coronavirus that causes MERS. The European Union’s research commissioner, Mariya Gabriel, is positive that there will be a vaccine by the end of 2020.

Several companies are developing or testing antivirals against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Antivirals target the virus in people who already have an infection. They work in different ways, sometimes preventing the virus from replicating, other times blocking it from infecting cells.

New information is always coming out concerning the virus and the pandemic. For now, however, this is the information we have – so let’s stay at home, wash our hands and focus on our next Tik Tok dance challenge.