The Whittier Miscellany The student news site of Wilmington Friends School Wed, 02 Dec 2020 13:36:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Europe’s Last Dictator Clings to Power Wed, 02 Dec 2020 13:36:02 +0000      On September 23, Alexander Lukashenko was inaugurated for a sixth term in office as the President of Belarus in a small pristine ceremony. Lukashenko has been the head of state for the Eastern European country for over 25 years now, first assuming office in a fair election in 1994. His most recent electoral victory, however, has been mired in controversy. Before the election was even held, protests had already begun to question its legitimacy. Protests only grew when Lukashenko was announced the victor on August 10th. His largest opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, accused Lukashenko of falsifying votes and affirmed that she, in fact, had won the majority of votes. When Lukashenko refused to step down or present an open examination of the election process, public opinion continued to turn against him, and Europe and the rest of the world began to take an interest.

     Lukashenko’s authoritarian actions are hardly a surprise for anyone who has been invested in the politics of the former Soviet state. In all six of his elections, only the first one, in 1994, was deemed free and fair by international election officials. During his first term in office, Lukashenko has pursued closer ties with Russia and Vladimir Putin’s government, drafted a new constitution favorable to himself and his allies, took control of the Belarussian national bank, and increased anti-Western rhetoric. Since then, his dictatorial tendencies have only grown, arresting opposition candidates and blocking the freedom of assembly. Several times, The European Union, the United States, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have disputed the legitimacy of Lukashenko’s government and his actions. The media has taken to calling him Europe’s last dictator in response to his actions in office. His COVID-19 response also failed to garner faith from the public. Initially, Lukashenko was incredibly dismissive of the virus, encouraging farmers to continue working in the fields. He offered steam baths and vodka as useful defenses against viral infection, and refused to take the pandemic seriously. Lukashenko refused to shut the country down and impose a quarantine order, and went ahead with military conscription and the May Day Parade, an event that included 19,000 people. To the people of Belarus, Lukashenko’s actions for the past 25 years in the President’s office proves that he cares more for obtaining and maintaining power than he does for the good of Democracy or the people.

     Ironically, one of the few social distancing measures Alexander Lukashenko put in place was for Election Officials and poll watchers, jobs critical to ensuring a fair election that require close scrutiny and contact with ballots. The somewhat innocuous threat to legal elections is indicative of Lukashenko’s treatment of the 2020 election as a whole. Lukashenko had his major opposition opponent, Viktar Babaryka, arrested on trumped up charges of bribery and a coup attempt. He blamed the protests on nonexistent international influence, and detained over 1,300 protesters between May and August. For the first time since 2001, the OSCE was not invited to monitor the Belarusian Election. On Election Day itself, the President cut off all transportation into Minsk, Belarus’ capital city, and partially blocked internet access. Immediately after polls closed, Lukashenko was announced the victor in such a monumentous landslide that even media sympathetic to the President thought the numbers were fake. It was then that protests picked up in full force.

     Protests calling for a fair election and questioning the President’s validity had begun long before the election. Dubbed the “Slipper Revolution” after a Russian children’s poem, protests began in earnest in May, and grew in size and intensity in the months leading up to the election. Once the results were called, however, the outcry truly reached full force. The night of election saw some of Belarus’ largest protests since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Law enforcement cracked down on protests with rubber bullets and grenades. The opposition candidate was forced to flee to Lithuania. From then on, protests only grew and policing only worsened. Through it all, Lukashenko has refused to step down, telling a crowd in Minsk that would have to kill him to get another election. Large strikes have been called, and Russian military forces have begun to enter Belarus to aid Lukashenko’s government. Following the fraudulent election, tensions in Eastern Europe have only grown, as Lukashenko refuses to yield power and Russia is anxious to increase its influence in Europe.

     For as dramatic at it all sounds, the events in Belarus have not reached the ears of most of America. “I had no idea any of this was going on,” says Estelle Hegenbarth ’21. “I barely know what Belarus is!” Yet those who have heard of the events have legitimate fears. “The more elections that are rigged and successfully get away with it, the more rigged elections there will be,” says Sarah Stovicek ’21. Ryan Wood, Teacher Assistant for European & Mediterranean History and Global Politics, agrees. “It’s indicative of a scary global trend towards authoritarianism,” he intones. China has continued to rise on the Global Stage under the leadership of Xi Jinping, and nations like Hungary have used the COVID epidemic to seize power through non-democratic means. Donald Trump has spurred fears of autocracy in many centrist and left leaning citizens, and his attempts to discredit the 2020 election do little to assuage those claims. As scary as the situation in Belarus is on its own, it is important to recognize that it is a symptom of a greater problem in global politics. Democracy is at risk of dying, and deliberate action is necessary to take it off the path towards destruction.

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Gen Z, Your Vote Does Matter: Here’s Why Mon, 16 Nov 2020 14:08:48 +0000       This election, young voters are hoping to break the pattern of low voter turnout rates across the country. In 2016, the young voter turnout was only 60%, with statistics from decades showing that this number does not often reach 80%. It is expected that this year’s overall voter turnout will be higher than usual. Young Americans, ages 18-29, make up 37% of the eligible voters in the upcoming 2020 election. 60% of young voters favor Biden, while 40% favor Trump. This large voting base could be critical to a Biden victory, and his campaign is doing its best to appeal to Gen Z.

     About 15 million people have turned 18 and are eligible to vote since the 2016 election. This means a large increase of Generation Z now have access to the vote. This demographic tends to hold more progressive viewpoints. A downfall of being a young voter is being uneducated. Brandon Williams ’21, a first time voter, commented, “I think that doing independent research is really important for first time voters, because we have to learn to be in the system.”

     This lack of experience and knowledge sometimes causes young people not to vote, because they feel unqualified. Young voters also have a higher chance of making a mistake on their mail-in ballot. Over the years, it has been proven that young people are interested in politics, but are intimidated by the many rules that must be followed when voting. Same day registration (registering when you go to vote) is an easy solution to this problem. Same day registration is just another step in the voting process, and there are poll workers there to help. Gianna Martinelli ‘22, who takes Global Politics and sees herself with a career in politics, commented, “I wish I could vote, especially because a lot of people feel like their vote is not going to do anything and throw it away.” When asked to give advice to people considering not voting, Martinelli stated, “I don’t care if you don’t get involved in politics. Just think about what would be best in your perfect world, and voting can actually help you achieve some of those goals.”

     Across multiple social media sharing platforms, users have been encouraged to stay politically informed and to vote. This year, politicians have spent more money on digital ads than T.V. ads. When asked where he receives his news, Williams stated, “a lot of my news comes from Twitter or my friends.” With big platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Spotify launching their own voter registration and voting campaigns, it is no wonder young people are predicted to turn out at the polls. Specifically, Snapchat’s newest update allows users to register to vote, and get help filling out a ballot. 73% of american ages 18-24 use Snapchat. It is safe to assume that the app has influenced many young people to use their right to vote.

     Even if one isn’t old enough to vote, there are ways to get involved- at the very least, on can encourage eligible friends to register and vote. It is important to stay informed, and even pre-register to vote if you are 16 or 17 (depending on the state). For those considering not voting, Donald Morton, Upper School History teacher, said, “Why not? Why not. I think of all the people, and I’m different than some people, I’m thinking of all the people, not specific people, just the people who died in the Revolutionary War, the people that died in slavery that never got to realize the dream, all the women for almost 200 years that weren’t allowd to vote, all the blood that was spilled in the 20th century just for voting. This is one of the things that makes it really special to be an American, is to vote.”

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COVID Crashes Homecoming Mon, 16 Nov 2020 14:05:47 +0000      The Homecoming athletics and dance are fall staples at Wilmington Friends School. They are a time to celebrate the beginning of a new school year and new sports seasons. They are a time to hang out and reconnect with classmates after a long summer. However, the 2020-2021 school year is not a traditional time to be a student. Between online lessons and Covid-19 testing, it is safe to say this is a very peculiar time at Wilmington Friends. But with the hybrid learning schedule and sports seasons beginning, there is an opportunity for in-person homecoming celebrations.

     When asked about the opportunity for a homecoming dance this year, students accepted the fact that if it was happening at all, it would be a modified version of what is usually expected. Zoe Gainer ’22 said, “If we did the dance at an upper school gym and we all wore masks, then it could be fun. The big problem is that it would be really hot.” Finola Mimnagh ’22 dissented, “I don’t know a lot of ways of how the dance could be fun. It could probably be better outside on a field this year.” Katie Lee ‘23 agreed that “ the dance would [not] be a good idea unless it was out on one of the fields or something. But, it shouldn’t be in a gym. And honestly, it seems like a bad idea in general.” Overall, the sentiment was that close contact inside for a dance would be a bad idea. But it was shown that students were open to new ideas or different versions of what they were normally used to.

     Other than the dance, homecoming weekend showcases all the different fall sports Wilmington Friends offers. One of the biggest sports that is usually showcased at homecoming is football. When asked if they would be interested in a homecoming game or weekend, football players said that they loved homecoming, and would be glad to have it if they were able to. Jack Hebert ‘23 said, “I think it would be fun, as I enjoyed homecoming the previous years. As for plausibility, that would probably come down to how well the crowds are handled, since, as you said, the football game gets one of the biggest turnouts during homecoming. It would probably require a lot of deliberation about, but I do think there is a plausible way to have homecoming, although it will definitely be very different than previous years.” Another football player, Jaden Willie ‘23, said, “Well, I love playing football so I always think it’s fun to have a game. Homecoming is also one of the most exciting games of the year. The problem is I don’t think it’s in the teams best interest to have a lot of fans together because if somebody gets covid it could shut us all down. But if it’s safe I’d love to have the game.”

     Unfortunately, when asked about Homecoming this fall, Rebecca Zug, Head of Upper School, stated, “The Homecoming Dance is not possible at this time. I would like to postpone it in the hopes that guidelines will improve and we can have a dance in the second semester. But with the guidelines about close contact, I mean, a dance by definition is about close contact. You can’t be more than six feet apart. We talked about it at the admin level and all the alumni homecoming events are virtual or postponed, and it made sense to postpone the dance. With the games, I keep watching the Quaker Sports page. In the summer we were not planning on having a homecoming weekend. We weren’t planning on inviting guests into the building because of all the health screening we need to do. Even when the decision to do sports came, we don’t have any weekend games scheduled. So we wouldn’t be able to do anything like a typical homecoming weekend, with the lower school bake sale and 5k run or anything else. I spoke to the spirit committee, however, and one thing we spoke about was doing spirit Fridays, and I’m hoping these will continue, and we talked about a T-Shirt, and we talked about a homecoming-like event for students in the spring.”

     Homecoming weekend will not be happening this fall with the current safety precautions. However, spirit Fridays will be occurring this fall, and with hope the current safety measures will no longer be necessary in the spring and we can celebrate our homecoming then. Until Covid-19 restrictions decrease, it is encouraged that you do whatever you can to remain connected to your friends at and away from school. It is important to stay positive and have hope for the rest of the school year.

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Remembering Justice Ginsburg Mon, 16 Nov 2020 14:03:35 +0000      Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent 27 years on the Supreme Court, and she didn’t waste a moment. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was ahead of her time. She was a true icon, picturing a world where women would have the same rights and opportunities as men. Not only did she imagine it, but she worked towards that idea everyday. Again and again there were people who attempted to hold her back, but she never let them win. She is, and will forever remain, an inspiration.

     Ruth Bader Ginsburg, only the second woman to sit on the Supreme Court, leaves many in awe of all she has done. A graduate of Columbia Law School, top of her class, she still had to prove her worth everyday. In 1970, she was the leader of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Liberties Union. While she was in this position, she argued 6 crucial cases in front of the Supreme Court. She won 5. Such an achievement is considered an incredible accomplishment for any lawyer. Later on, she was nominated for the open Supreme Justice seat by President Bill Clinton. A poised and clearly intelligent woman, she convinced the senate that she was a great fit with an ending vote of 96-3. She was a strong supporter of gender equality, separation of church and state, and the rights of workers. One of her accomplishments is being one of the six judges to fight and vote for the Affordable Care Act when the new administration tried to appeal. Also, in 1996 RBG wrote the act of United States v. Virginia. Due to this the military could no longer refuse the inclusion of women. Justice Ginsburg fought for equal pay. She also was one of the 5 judges who ruled that refusing same sex marriage is not constitutional. RBG wouldn’t let anyone stop her. She fought with cancer for over a decade, and remained very present on the court. RBG spoke not only for women everywhere, but for everyone. She was for the people and Ruth Bader Ginsburg wouldn’t stop until she had done her part in the fight for equal rights and liberties in this country.

     As a young woman growing up in this world, it’s easy to say she continues to be a huge inspiration to me. Curious if others felt the same, I asked a couple students from school. Rosa Cochran ’21 said, “RBG is an inspiration to me because she fought decade after decade for women’s and minorities rights. She faces endless sexism in pursuing her education and legendary career.” Cochran also commented on what she believes to be one of Justice Ginsburg’s greatest accomplishments. “I think one of her most notable achievements is her support in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Supreme Court case. It led to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which helps protect against pay discimination.” Alexa Donahue ‘22 went into detail about how amazing it was to see such a strong woman in a powerful position. Donahue noted, “Growing up and being able to watch RBG break barriers was such a defining moment.” It was clear from the responses given that RBG’s vitality and accomplishments were better known by the female population of Friends. In conclusion, although Justice Ginsburg has passed, she remains an inspiration to women around the US.

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Why Was Mulan a Flop? Mon, 16 Nov 2020 14:02:01 +0000      Disney has been releasing remakes of animated movies for a long time, specifically live-action ones. They started to gain popularity after the 2010 live-action remake of Alice in Wonderland, and the company started to release more of them. Maleficent, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King were all successes. Even though all of these movies have been out longer than the Mulan remake, why was the release of Mulan such a commercial flop, only making $61 million worldwide, compared to Beauty and the Beast making $1.2 billion and The Lion King making $1.6 billion?

     Mulan was expected to do well. The budget of the film was $200 million, but it only raked in $61 million. There are several reasons why it was not such a success. The film found itself embroiled in many different controversies, and by the time it was released on Disney Plus on September 4, 2020, “#BoycottMulan” started to trend all over the internet. People were not happy with the film, and under the hashtag, urging people to not stream it, or see it in theaters.

     One of the reasons why the film did so poorly is that the star of the film, Liu Yifei, supports the Hong Kong police. There have been protests in Hong Kong after a bill for pro-democracy was introduced that would allow criminals to be sent to mainland China, according to Time. Time also reported that pro-democracy supporters fear that the bill can allow cities to punish people more forcefully and easily. The police in Hong Kong have been using batons, rubber bullets, tear gas, and pepper spray at the protesters, according to Time. In August 2019, Yifei said in a post, “I support the Hong Kong police. You can all attack me now.” Even though she received support, some people still said to boycott the movie. Time then posted a Tweet that read, “This film is released today. But because Disney kowtows to Beijing, and because Liu Yifei openly and proudly endorses police brutality in Hong Kong, I urge everyone who believes in human rights to #BoycottMulan.”

     Major differences from the original film also impacted the criticism. In the remake, fan-favorite characters Mushu and Captain Li Shang weren’t in the film. According to Time, one of the producers, Chris Bender said that “Li Shang was removed because of the #MeToo movement. Having a commanding officer that is also a love interest was very uncomfortable and we didn’t think it was appropriate.” The film also wouldn’t be made as a musical, and no original songs would be included, which people who have seen the original one were not happy with.

     Another main reason people were calling to boycott the film was that Disney filmed some of the scenes in Xinjaing, China. Uighur Muslims, a Turkish-speaking ethnic group who live in Xinjaing, are being taken into mass detention camps, according to the New York Times. Human rights advocates “have called it the worst abuse in China in decades.” According to Vox, the camps are “The largest mass internment camps of an ethnic-religious minority group since World War II.” People are obviously upset that the Chinese government is doing this to the Uighurs, and are urging others to not stream the new film.

     Without all of the changes and controversies about the new film, one would think that it would be a hit just like the other movies. Even though the goal was to remake a popular movie that everyone would love, it feels far opposite from that.

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COVID in New Castle County Mon, 16 Nov 2020 14:00:07 +0000      2020 has been dominated by Coronavirus. The world has been beset by a virus that has ravaged hundreds of countries, including the US, which has lost over 220,000 people so far. In response to this crisis, New Castle County quickly and organized a successful county-wide testing program.

     New Castle County’s initial response to the crisis was slowed and weakened by Beauracratic actions on the state and national levels. Early on, Matt Meyer ’90, a Wilmington Friends alum and the New Castle County Executive, had hoped to test everyone, but the national government was only supporting the most hard-hit areas. The Federal Government was giving most of the available tests to New York or New Jersey because they were being overrun by the virus. There were surges in cases in Philadelphia and southern Delaware, so New Castle was surrounded by COVID hotspots and was in desperate need of tests. “There were a lot of people who were asymptomatic and contagious who are spreading this disease without knowing it, and by having widespread testing, it helped prevent outbreaks,” said Meyer.

     In late March, about ten days after Wilmington Friends went on spring break, Washington passed the Cares Act, a bill that set aside 2 trillion dollars for coronavirus relief. (That was the largest stimulus plan in U.S. history.) Delaware received $1.25 billion; New Castle County got $320 million. Now that money wasn’t a problem, it was time to get the tests.

     The question of what kind of coronavirus testing would be used was solved quickly. NCC hired Curative, an organization that was co-founded by a twenty-five-year-old man, Fred Turner, who had found a way to make the saliva test more effective and convenient. These tests were self-administered oral swabs. Once New Castle County had Curative testing kits, it was just a matter of administration. Testing started in March, but crucially, on June 1st, NCC started allowing people without symptoms to get tested. NCC needed a lot of people to help out and create sites, so they hired about 80 temporary employees. Many local organizations partnered with the county government with the enormous process of setting up 70 different testing sites and 180 testing events according to Matt Meyer. As of October 14, over 275,000 tests have been administered through the county’s testing system. That is half the population of New Castle. Of those tests, 11,747 people have tested positive for COVID.

     With many testing sites, things seem to be going smoothly. However, some people have questioned the speed of the testing. “After thirty minutes I’d advanced only three car lengths,” said Jonathan Huxtable, Head of the Middle School. “I had not anticipated that kind of a wait for “drive-through” testing.” That’s not all. Even beside lengthy waits, the process can be a little uncomfortable. “In terms of functionality, they are pretty efficient… but it’s just a really weird vibe,” says Pablo Charriez ’24. “I would say the experience at a COVID facility is that of some horror/pandemic movie, just because of how weird the whole experience is.” Since only around 25 people are working at a site, the process can be long.

     For the future, New Castle wants to continue testing patients, symptomatic and asymptomatic, to get a better scope of how far the virus is spreading. Meyer and other organizations in and around New Castle are looking for new ways to reopen businesses and institutions that are closed while staying safe. “Imagine if there was an app on your phone,” Meyer said, “and when you put it in your hand, it tells you if you test positive for COVID or not.” That is what the county is looking for as an end goal going into winter. Also in the future, New Castle County might be involved with the circulation of a Coronavirus vaccine. AstraZeneca and Incyte, two NCC based companies, are working on a vaccine and NCC will probably play a central role in rolling it out. “Planning for vaccine dissemination is ongoing,” said Meyer, “and your NCC government stands ready to help if needed.”

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The Worst Presidential Debate in History Sun, 15 Nov 2020 15:49:26 +0000 This election is, without a question, one of the most contentious elections in modern United States history. Ever since Joe Biden was the clear Democratic nominee, the onslaught of negative campaigning against both sides has been relentless. Even before the debate, it was clear that the division that has been stroked in the public would be immensely present on the stage in Cleveland, Ohio. Nobody, however, could have imagined how big of a, to quote Jake Tapper, “hot mess inside of a dumpster fire inside of a trainwreck” it would be. 

For those of you who had the immensely painful experience of witnessing that debate, you’ll agree: it was… a spectacle. Going into this debate, I was excited to see Trump exposed for the many lies that he has been caught in on the campaign trail. Whether it be his active tax evasion, or his total and complete lack of a new and improved health care plan (after YEARS of promising one), I really thought that a new lack of shelter from the little criticism he faces from his base would pose a major problem to his campaign. I was sorely mistaken. 

Right out the gate, President Trump was acting as if moderator Chris Wallace was not even there. Before the debate, both campaigns agreed upon a set of rules that both candidates agreed with, which specifically outlined when, and how long, both candidates could talk. As consistent with many of the other facets of his life, Trump disregarded those rules and, in essence, broke the agreement. For the length of the debate, President Trump spoke out of turn, interrupted, ignored debate prompts and was completely disrespectful towards both Chris Wallace and Vice President Biden. The most common rebuttal I have heard from Trump supporters is that the total and complete lack of decorum was, in fact, Biden’s fault, as he was the one that “sparked” all of the interruptions because “he did it first”. When I hear this, my rebuttal is simple. If someone breaks a window at a house, and then someone burns down that house, you can’t blame the person who broke the window for the house being destroyed. That’s just not how it works. Trump had every opportunity to return the respect to the debate stage; it’s very clear that he actively chose not to. From that moment on, it became abundantly clear that the consistent blatant ignorance of the rules was a strategy, an attempt to seem powerful and in charge, while simultaneously trying to throw Biden off of his game.

This strategy is very on-brand for President Trump. His campaign is about shaking up the norms, “draining the swamp,” and turning Washington on its head. A debate, however, is absolutely not the place for this sort of mindset. While Vice President Biden was attempting to make his points and answer Wallace’s questions, President Trump would continuously interrupt him. Oftentimes, when Trump would interrupt him, his interruption was to try to diminish the often very important points that Biden was making. In the few moments when he was able to speak a complete sentence, he made excellent points. It makes sense why Trump would want to constantly interrupt him. To me, there is no greater way to disrespect someone than steamrolling over what they have to say, constantly. The way that Biden was able to maintain his composure, albeit with a clownish exception (haha get it?), is absolutely incredible. The American people, evidently, agree with that too. The overwhelming majority of the post-debate polls showed, with almost no faltering, that Trump was defeated handily. According to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, a compilation of polls, 2/3 of those polled believed that Biden won the debate. Biden also saw a roughly 2 point boost in the general election polls when compared to polls taken before the debate. If there’s one takeaway from what we saw at the debate, it’s this; Joe Biden’s behavior looked presidential and professional, Donald Trump’s did not.

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Earth Overshoot Day was on August 22nd This Year: Is This Progress? Sun, 15 Nov 2020 15:48:15 +0000 How could we know if our climate situation is getting better? Just recently, on August 22nd, our planet surpassed 2020’s Earth Overshoot Day (EOD), 132 days (or 18 weeks and 6 days, 4 months, and 10 days) short of the new year. EOD is the day in a given year in which humanity’s use of natural resources exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. This can be attributed to the large demand for certain raw materials, the extinction of plant and animal species, and the mass production of CO2 worldwide. 

If the entire world population lived like the people of Qatar do, our EOD would fall on the 11th of February. If we all lived like the population of Indonesia, it would fall on the 18th of December. Each of the major countries of the world has its own timestamp and in a way a measurement to see how they’re doing in relation to the entire world. The United States is one of the main polluters on the Earth, and our EOD occurs on the 14th of March with 9 months and 18 days left where the US contributes to a net loss worldwide. 

The number is calculated by dividing Earth’s biocapacity (the amount of ecological resources the Earth can produce in a year) by humanity’s Ecological Footprint (humanity’s demand that year) and multiplying by 365. The numbers are computed by the Global Footprint Network (the GFN), a charitable not-for-profit organization based in the United States, Belgium, and Switzerland. 

Is EOD an accurate representation of how big of an issue climate change is in our world or even in certain countries? John Roskovensky, Upper School math teacher and Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences has this to say about the accuracy and worth of the GFN’s numbers: “It’s an interesting way to put the climate issue into perspective, and it’s the way everyone can understand. Sometimes when you just throw out absolute numbers, like how many million tons of carbon we produce in the air, you have no perspective on how much the air can even hold or whether that’s a big number at all. If you put it in the perspective of sustainability, the perspective of where we would land if we maintained the state of the environment we have today, people can grasp the enormity of the crisis.” And he is entirely correct. This year, for instance, the pandemic played a huge role in bringing about the first-ever overshoot day improvement, from July 29th in 2019 to August 22nd in 2020, and we’ll hopefully be able to see how we progress as the years go by. 

The dream, of course, is to reach the day on December 31st or even after. Maddie Osbourn ’22 has the following to say: “I honestly think in every way possible we need some more support to bring our EOD closer to December. We the people are the only thing that will make a difference today, by using social media, and educating our friends and family on topics such as EOD.” Luke Munch ’21 believes the same: “Understanding and learning from this graphic should and does personally put more weight on my shoulders to be the change I want to see in the world. Tiny good deeds are important and worthwhile if everyone agrees to do them. We as citizens of the world cannot sit idly by and hope someone else fixes the problem we all are responsible for. Legislation should be encouraged but students can do small things and still produce positive change and help save the world.” They’ve got the exact right idea. Change starts with awareness, change starts with you.

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Tesla: The Electric Battery Bull Sun, 15 Nov 2020 15:46:48 +0000 Tesla, the well known electric vehicle and energy company, led by controversial Chief Executive Officer, Elon Musk. He recently led their annual shareholder, battery, and powertrain day. The Battery Day attracted virtual and (distanced) in-person crowds. When Ms. Lucy Taylor, Class of 2021, was asked about the event, she noted, “I was unable to stream the event live, but I rewatched it after, it is truly incredible the effects this will bring in the years, and decades to come. It is always helpful to listen to the industry leaders, and Tesla is no exception to that.” The reason that Tesla drew so much attention is because they are currently around 5 years ahead of any “competitors” according to both business and automotive analysts like Sandy Munro, Cathay Wood, Baillie Gifford, and more. When one of the most technologically advanced companies in the world has something to say, people listen.

Of course, the most important part of the presentation is the progress in battery technology that has been made. One of simplest, and most important, developments was the transition to tabless batteries and larger batteries. These advancements will allow Tesla to build cheaper factories to build batteries so that they may then build cheaper batteries that are even more efficient than before. When Mr. Alex Saville, Class of 2021 was asked about his thoughts on the development of Electric Vehicles and their batteries, he stated, “I really love Electric Vehicles. They are the future, and companies, primarily Tesla, make amazing Electric Vehicles.” The big question that many have is if/when Tesla and Musk would be able to achieve these ambitious goals. The answer is months ago, as Tesla has already started to produce the batteries on a smaller scale. Scaling the batteries from 5 to 2,000 gwh will be a challenge that Musk has mentioned will be a challenge in the next 10 years. 

Speaking of production, Tesla has decided to start producing their own batteries. They realized that in order to fulfill their current and future battery needs, they would need to manufacture their own in addition to buying even more from CATL and Panasonic. When Ms. Leila Mulveny, Class of 2021, was asked her thoughts on battery production she noted, “I think production, and the ramp up to production is crucial for the success of Tesla, and the death of the classic automotive corporations. I strongly believe that them manufacturing their own batteries is a crucial stepping stone in that said process. This is one step for Tesla, one giant leap for mankind” Leila’s quote really helps to summarize how critical production is for Tesla and the change to sustainable energy.

At “Battery Day,” Tesla nailed the coffin for the Internal Combustion Engine manufacturers by announcing that they are producing, and able to produce even more, cheap and efficient batteries. With these new batteries, Tesla will make gas cars outdated by 2030 at the latest.By then, the battery and automotive capacity of Tesla will swallow up any other car manufacturer as due to their new Battery Day revelations, leaving  other companies unable to produce similar efficiency cars for a reasonable price.

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Threat Intelligence: A Report on Zoom’s Troubled Past Sun, 15 Nov 2020 15:46:02 +0000 This past March, many businesses and schools transitioned to a partially or fully virtual format. Video-communication platforms like Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and others saw significant increases in daily meeting participants. However, no company has seen such a massive increase in user base as, which saw its peak daily meeting participants grow from 10 million in December 2019 to 300 million in March 2020. But where did Zoom even come from?

The company was founded in 2011 by Eric Yuan, a silicon valley entrepreneur who had worked on WebEx before its acquisition by Cisco. Despite advice from constituents about entering a relatively saturated market, Zoom’s user count grew into the millions within three years, and the company became a unicorn in its field in 2017. But it was the pandemic that rocketed Zoom’s status to that of a household name, developing its reputation as an intuitive and effective solution for virtual meetings. Zoom’s price is also appealing; its most basic option is free and allows for unlimited, high-quality meetings between 2 individuals and meetings for up to 100 individuals with a time-cap of 40 minutes.

Despite its performance, Zoom has raised concerns regarding security. Consumer Reports found that Zoom’s privacy policy establishes Zoom’s right to collect and share personal data, including videos, auto-generated transcripts, and files. Zoom also possessed a feature that discretely shared data with Facebook, regardless of whether a user had a Facebook account. This feature was removed, but it’s alarming that it existed in the first place. 

The Intercept investigated Zoom’s claim that meetings utilized end-to-end encryption (E2EE). E2EE is a form of encryption that only allows for data to be read only by the sender and recipient. In Zoom’s case, the data would only be accessible by the participants of the meeting and not the administrators of Zoom’s servers. However, Zoom meetings were not encrypted end-to-end. Instead, the meetings utilized  a system that encrypted data in transit, but this is not considered to be E2EE. Zoom did update its encryption whitepaper to not include the misleading statement and began rolling out true E2EE, first to paid customers and then to free customers. This feature does have to be specifically enabled, however, and there are some constraints for its use. Similarly to Apple iCloud and Google Drive, Zoom is the sole holder of encryption keys. This means that, even if your connections are encrypted, Zoom could theoretically have full access, including access to recorded meetings in Zoom’s cloud storage. 

From late March through April, a number of critical security flaws were discovered within the platform. One vulnerability allowed user email addresses and photos to be leaked to strangers. Another allowed attackers to gain root access to macOS computers. Yet another allowed attackers to access a company’s recorded meetings. There have also been instances where recorded meetings have been stored on unsecured servers, allowing them to be viewed by anyone, and hundreds of thousands of Zoom accounts and user records were put up for sale on the dark web. The company also processes user data in China, occasionally including encryption keys, and some calls have been ‘mistakenly’ routed through Chinese servers.

You may have heard of the term ‘Zoom Bombing,’ the practice of infiltrating Zoom meetings and causing trouble. While they may not seem overly harmful, there have been many instances of coordinated harassment, successful and attempted, involving antisemitism, racism, pornographic material, and verbal abuse. A security vulnerability also enabled attackers to develop tools to find and gain access to active Zoom meetings. However, Zoom Bombings occurred largely due to improperly configured meetings that allowed individuals to join without being vetted, meaning that these incidents were not the company’s fault. Zoom later made Waiting Rooms, a feature that prevented users from directly joining meetings, enabled by default.

As a result of these many flaws, a number of organizations and even governments have elected to restrict their employees from using Zoom. SpaceX banned the use of Zoom on April 1st, followed by a number of school districts on April 6th, the Taiwanese government on April 7th, and Google on April 8th. The German government also decided to refrain from using Zoom and advised others to do the same. Then, on April 9th, the U.S. Senate instructed its members to avoid Zoom, and the Pentagon restricted use the next day. Zoom’s shortcomings also led several lawsuits to be filed, including one by a shareholder that accused executives of covering up security issues. Finally, a report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cyber and Counterintelligence centers found that Zoom could be vulnerable to foreign intelligence.

 The pandemic saw a large increase in daily meeting participants for the entire video-conferencing industry, but security flaws disproportionately involved Zoom. Companies like Google, Microsoft, and Cisco had more mainstream solutions before the pandemic, so it’s understandable that their security standards were higher. This being said, Zoom has been around for a number of years and has had a user base consistently in the millions, not to mention its valuation of a billion dollars in 2017. While the discovery of the platform’s flaws can be attributed to increased scrutiny due to its rapid growth, the lax state of the company’s security policy, despite its resources, should be noted. To the credit of Zoom, almost all of the issues outlined in this report have been fixed. Zoom has taken visible steps to improve their security, including setting aside 90 days to focus strictly on security. There are still some privacy concerns, but these are no different from any other mainstream providers, including every Google service, Apple iCloud, Facebook, and others.

So why did so many organizations elect to use Zoom? Todd Tyler, Computer Support Technician, said, “Zoom had a great deal… and offered it to schools for free. There [were] a lot of people using it…it’s simple and easy to install, it’s simple and easy to manage, they had a lot of features that worked well, and it was free.” Tyler went on to say, “We did consider other options too… However, a lot of times when you have a solution that is A, free, and B, is already working, you’re gonna tend to lean towards that solution, and that’s what we did with Zoom. They owned their issues and fixed their issues. And it was something we had already used and been using successfully with teachers.” Tyler also noted that since fixing their security issues, Zoom has released a myriad of new features at no extra cost to the school. However, not everyone shares the same mindset. When asked about Zoom’s past flaws, Emily Fenimore ’21 said, “These issues are definitely concerning. For anyone using an online source, it’s scary [that] you don’t know if it’s safe or not, especially if there are pre-existing or previous issues… I do believe that Zoom [has] fixed issues in the past; it’s come a long way since we first had to go online, but that doesn’t know what we can’t see and don’t know, could very well still be there (sic).” There is no doubt Zoom offers a great product and deal, one that has motivated its competitors like WebEx to offer a free option, but it is difficult to forget the platform’s troubled past.

In its current state, Zoom is relatively safe for the casual user. As long as one properly uses the security features available, Zoom Bombing incidents are easily mitigated. The platform is certainly not for everyone, though. Conner Manning ’22 said, “I would definitely try out a different platform. I’ve tried a few others that have worked better [than Zoom].” While it is unfair to judge Zoom solely by their past issues, it is also unfair to judge them solely on their amazing features, price, and response to said issues. Preventative measures are better than reactive measures, and Zoom serves as an example of the importance of proper security auditing in the consumer tech solutions industry.

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