All posts by Laurel Cunningham

The American Dream? Yeah right.

A federal appeals panel denied President Trump’s actions to re-implement his notorious travel ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim nations. While many people are trying to rush to the United States as the legality of the case remains hopeful for a minute, the long-term is still unsure as following the court rule, Trump tweeted, “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

In July, writer for the New York Times, Amanda Taub wrote that a central conflict of 21st century politics is the question, “Who belongs?” This question provokes a second question, “Who doesn’t belong?” In regards to Trump’s travel ban, the heart-breaking answer to the question “Who doesn’t belong in the U.S.?” is refugees. The most vulnerable population in the world has been denied access to security, justice, and peace. Hopefully, the federal appeals panel’s ruling holds up against Trump’s promise of a court battle, but the underlying message sending to refugees is, “You are not welcome.”

Prior to the court rejection, Harvard Law School’s Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program published an insightful report titled, “The Impact of President Trump’s Executive Orders on Asylum Seekers.” The most striking claim in the article states, “The United States is not a “safe country of asylum” for those fleeing persecution and violence.” The report finds that Trump’s executive orders will likely increase asylum seekers stuck in detention, limit access to counsel, denial of family reunification, and more. It is a very interesting report that sums up a large number of the major topics in migration in the U.S. and how the executive orders are negatively affecting processes.

While refugees currently are starting to be able to travel again to the United States, the future is still uncertain. Many recent refugees and immigrants to the United States are starting to question their decision to come here. The U.S. has always been an international beacon for immigration, safety and justice with Lady Liberty’s torch lighting the way. But following Trump’s executive orders, refugees have been turning to Canada as an option.

New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof concluded, “Canada’s leaders nurtured multiculturalism into a sacred part of the country’s identity. As the rest of the world bangs the doors shut, Canadians celebrate their openness – and, polls show, now take more pride in multiculturalism than in hockey.” Recent migrants from Somalia, Ghana, Djibouti, and more have started crossing the US-Canada border in these treacherous winter months. Many of them explained that after Trump was elected, they could see the writing on the wall. Migrants have been crossing the border in unmarked areas in North Dakota and Minnesota. Small towns in Canada along the border often help migrants and transport them to the Canadian Border Services Agency, but they’ve never seen so many people coming in like they are now. Migrants see hope in Canada, and thanks to Trump’s vilifying executive orders, they no longer see the appeal of the “American Dream.”

Further reading:

Court Refuses to Reinstate Travel Ban, Dealing Trump Another Legal Loss

Losing Hope in U.S., Migrants Make Icy Crossing to Canada

 

Trump’s Cabinet Round-Up

Trump’s Cabinet Round-Up

        The majority of Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees are still waiting to be confirmed by the Senate, but in the meantime here is a round-up of the top cabinet candidates and appointed positions. As of Tuesday, January 24 only three of Trump’s nominees have been confirmed – CIA Director (Mike Pompeo), Defense Secretary (James Nattis), UN Ambassador (Nikki Haley),  and Homeland Security Secretary (John Kelly). Trump’s cabinet nominations have resulted in an array of responses – from highly contentious to little opposition. Trump’s cabinet nominations are 86% white (compared to 52% with Obama) and 82% male (compared to 65% with Obama). His cabinet also consists of 14% billionaires, whereas both Obama and George W. Bush had no cabinet billionaires.

The Cabinet

  •      Vice President – Mike Pence

Previously served as the Governor of Indiana from 2013 to 2017.

  •      Defense Secretary – James N. Nattis

Nattis is a retired general, who aims to fight against ISIS. During Nattis’s hearing, he rejected some of Trump’s campaign rhetoric by saying he supported the Iran nuclear agreement, supported NATO, and has a tougher position on Russia.

  •      Homeland Security Secretary – John F. Kelly

Kelly is a retired four-star Marine general, who would be in charge of carrying out Trump’s infamous “wall.” During his hearing, he laid to rest many of Trump’s most outrageous claims such as forcing Muslims to “register” with the government.

  •      Attorney General – Jeff Sessions

Sessions is a Senator from Alabama and was an early supporter of Trump. Sessions supports strict immigration and toughening up on crime. The hallmark of Sessions’ hearing was Georgia Representative John Lewis questioning Sessions’ racist history. Naturally, Trump responded on twitter to Lewis’s comments.

  •      Secretary of State – Rex W. Tillerson

Tillerson is the president and chief executive of Exxon Mobil. Previous Secretaries of State have focused on globalizing the U.S., but Trump is a critic of globalization. Tillerson was grilled on his relationships in Russia, where he has close business ties. Tillerson also noted his skepticism of climate change, explaining he did not see it as a national security threat like others do.

  •      Transportation Secretary – Elaine L. Chao

Chao was the labor secretary under President George W. Bush and is a longtime Washington politician. Chao is married to Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell. Her nomination has faced little to no opposition. She would be in charge of fulfilling Trump’s promise to rebuild America’s transportation infrastructure.

  •      Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – Ben Carson

Carson is a former neurosurgeon and ran against Trump to be the Republican nominee in the presidential election. Carson would be in charge of affordable housing, fair-housing laws, and mortgage insurance. Interestingly enough, Carson believes that individual gumption is the key to overcoming poverty, not government programs. In his hearing, Carson explained he would never abolish a program without having an alternative for people.

  •      Interior Secretary – Ryan Zinke

Zinke is a representative from Montana and former Navy SEAL. Zinke is crucial in deciding if/how to continue with Obama’s efforts to cut down on oil, coal and gas, and increase the usage of wind and solar. Unlike Trump, Zinke does not believe climate change is a hoax.

  •      Education Secretary – Betsy DeVos

DeVos is the former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and proponent of school vouchers. She is also a billionaire. She would oversee Trump’s promise to move national responsibilities to state and local governments. Her hearing was heated because of the partisan split over charter schools and vouchers.

  •      Health and Human Services Secretary – Tom Price

Price is a Republican representative from Georgia and an orthopedic surgeon. He has led the fight against “Obamacare” in Congress. He would work to fulfill Trump’s goal of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

  •      Commerce Secretary – Wilbur Ross

Ross is an investor and billionaire. He is known as the “King of Bankruptcy,” and helped Trump avoid personal bankruptcy. Ross vowed to increase tariffs on China and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

  •      Treasury Secretary – Steven Mnuchin

Mnuchin was formerly with Goldman Sachs and is also a movie producer. Mnuchin would head up government borrowing in financial markets. The Senate Finance Committee questioned Mnuchin on his offshore tax havens and multiple companies.

  •      Energy Secretary – Rick Perry

Perry is the former Texas governor and in 2011 proposed abolishing the Energy Department. He will be in charge of maintaining and protecting the U.S.’s nuclear weapons. In his hearing, Perry retracted his earlier statements in which he denied human-caused climate change.

  •      Labor Secretary – Andrew F. Puzder

Puzder is a fast food executive and is most notably opposed to raising the minimum wage. Democrats and labor organizations have intensely opposed Puzder’s nomination.

  •      Agriculture Secretary – Sonny Perdue

Perdue is the former governor of Georgia. This department focuses on America’s farming industry, and Perdue would also assist with some of Trump’s trade goals.

  •      David J. Shulkin – Secretary of Veterans Affairs

Shulkin is a doctor and the current secretary for health at the VA. Shulkin is critical of the Obama administration and claims Obama left veterans forgotten and unsupported.

Cabinet-Level Officials

  •      White House Chief of Staff – Reince Priebus

Priebus is the head of the Republican National Committee. His role will be important with turning many of Trump’s goals into policies.

  •      E.P.A. Administrator – Scott Pruitt

Pruitt is the attorney general of Oklahoma and a supporter of the fossil fuel industry. He is one of the nation’s leading advocates against the E.P.A.. In his hearing, Pruitt said he wanted a more state-oriented approach to environmental regulations, not national enforcements.

  •      Director of the Office of Management and Budget – Mick Mulvaney

Mulvaney is a representative from South Carolina and is known for being a fiscal conservative and eager for big spending cuts. He would focus on repealing the Affordable Care Act, a tax overhaul, and spending on Trump’s sweeping infrastructure overhaul.

  •      U.S. Trade Representative – Robert Lighthizer

Lighthizer is an international trade lawyer and protectionist. He served under President Reagan as a trade official. The U.S. Trade Representative serves the President by recommending and negotiating United States trade policy.

  •      U.N. Ambassador – Nikki R. Haley

Haley is the governor of South Carolina and would represent the U.S. on the U.N. Security Council. Her nomination has not been a contentious debate. In her hearing, Haley noted she believed Russia had committed war crimes in Syria.

  •      Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers – TBA

This position is the leader of a three member committee that analyzes economic growth and changes and assists the President in making economic decisions for the United States. This position is typically filled by someone chosen from academia.

  •      Small Business Administration – Linda McMahon

McMahon is a wrestling entrepreneur, former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment. She will be in charge of helping small business get loans and support.

Other Senior Positions

  •      Senior adviser – Jared Kushner

Kushner is Trump’s son-in-law, married to Ivanka. Kushner is an elusive character and often steers clear of media attention, but has been described as an integral role to the Trump campaign. An interesting interview with Kushner was published in Forbes in December 2016. Kushner almost never speaks to the media and the Forbes interview articulates his crucial, yet seemingly enigmatic, role in the Trump campaign.

  •      Chief Strategist – Steve Bannon

Bannon is a right-wing executive and former head of Breitbart News. Bannon identified Breitbart News as “the platform for the alt-right.” Trump said that Bannon would be “working as equal partners” with Priebus.

  •      National-security adviser – Mike Flynn

Flynn is a retired lieutenant general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. His role focuses on addressing proposals from the State Department and the Pentagon.

  •      Homeland-security adviser – Thomas Bossert

Bossert was a top security aide to George W. Bush and currently runs a risk management consulting firm. His position will be equal to the national security advisor.

  •      Director of National Intelligence – Dan Coats

Coats is the former ambassador to Germany and a senator from Indiana. As Director of National Intelligence, Coats will serve as the head of the Intelligence Community.

  •      C.I.A. Director – Mike Pompeo

Pompeo is a representative from Kansas and former Army officer. Pompeo explained that he would further investigate the Russian interference in the election.

  •      National Trade Council – Peter Navarro

Navarro is an academic economist, and the only one among Trump’s top men and women. He is a critic of the current policies toward China. He will oversee White House trade and industrial policy.

  •      National Economic Council – Gary Cohn

Cohn was the COO and president of Goldman Sachs. Despite Trump’s critiques of Wall Street during the campaign, Cohn is one of three Goldman Sachs executives to join his inner circle.

  •      Regulatory Tsar/Special Adviser on Regulatory Reform – Carl Icahn

Icahn is a billionaire investor and is focused to fulfilling Trump’s promise to decrease regulations on businesses.

  •      Counselor – Kellyanne Conway

Conway is known for her role as Trump’s campaign manager and spokeswoman. It appears Conway will continue this sort of role in the Counselor position.

  •      Public-liaison adviser – Anthony Scaramucci

Scaramucci is the founder of the investment firm SkyBridge Capital. Scaramucci will head up trying to convince the United States business community the benefits of investing in Trump’s agenda.

  •      White House Counsel – Donald F. McGahn II

McGahn is a lawyer in Washington and will have a critical role in advising the president on his many legal matters.

  •      Press Secretary and Special Assistant to the President – Sean Spicer

Spicer was the spokesman for the Republican National Party and also served Priebus as an aide. Spicer will be the direct liaison between the media and the White House.

For reference, these are the steps to becoming a cabinet member:

  • Person is nominated by the president-elect.
  • Nominee has a senate hearing in front of relevant senate committees.
  • Nominee is voted out of the committee if the majority of the committee votes for the nominee. The vote then goes to the Senate floor.
  • Nominee is confirmed by Senate in floor vote.

For the sake of brevity, NPR posted a list about which stage each of Trump’s nominees are currently in. In the next few weeks, we should see nominees in senate hearings and being voted on by committees. Some of Trump’s most contentious candidates – Betsy DeVos, Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Andy Pudzer and Steve Mnuchin – are definitely cases to pay attention to.

“Stronger Together”: Harvard Women’s Soccer Team

On October 25, Harvard’s daily newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, published this article about a ‘scouting report’ created by the 2012 Harvard men’s soccer team on female soccer recruits. This nine-page ‘report’ ranked and evaluated the incoming female soccer recruits on attractiveness and sex appeal. The document had pictures of each of the women, including a numerical score and description of each woman’s physical appearance.

This disgusting ‘report’ continued beyond numerical values of the women, but also included sexual anecdotes about each woman. Each woman was assigned a sex position in addition to her soccer position on the field. Quoting from the Harvard Crimson’s article, these are some of the sexual descriptions of each woman:

  •      “She seems relatively simple and probably inexperienced sexually, so I decided missionary would be her preferred position.”
  •      “She seems to be very strong, tall and manly so, I gave her a 3 because I felt bad. Not much needs to be said on this one folks.”
  •      “Yeah…She wants cock.”

This vile ‘report’ appears to be an annual tradition for the men’s soccer team at Harvard. This document was published this past week and created a myriad of reactions. Harvard took a strong stance on their opinion of this gross report by canceling the men’s soccer team’s season. The men’s team will forfeit every other game and will not have the opportunity to compete for the Ivy League championship or in the NCAA Tournament. I applaud the Harvard athletic association’s zero-tolerance reaction to the ‘scouting report.’

The most impressive reaction to the men’s ‘scouting report’ was an essay written by the six women recruits the 2012 ‘report’ was about. Please read their essay, Stronger Together, here.

The women’s essay is eloquent, beautiful and strong. In a time where even our politicians are supporting this “locker-room talk” (Donald Trump), it was an honor to read this incredible essay by these women who put the idea of supporting each other as women above this gross ‘report’.

The women’s joint op-ed recognized that when they were first notified of the ‘scouting report’, none of them were particularly surprised. This behavior of men, especially in athletics, has become the new norm.  Their passive reaction is what scared them the most and inspired them to respond to the ‘report’ in the essay.

The women’s report goes beyond soccer and looks at the reality women have faced for years. They discuss the degrading way men look at women, the perceived inferiority of women athletes, the equal rights of women, and ultimately our culture that sadly encourages all of these things. These women were insulted in every way possible, and yes, they’ve read the ‘scouting report’ in its entirety and know exactly every demeaning number, sex position and description that was assigned to them; yet, they want to use this experience to unify women. The women write, “…we are a team and we are stronger when we are united.”

So women and men who think this ‘scouting report’ is disgusting, vile and repulsive, let us stand with the Harvard women’s soccer team to encourage mutual respect for male and female athletes. To not allow “locker-room talk” to be an excuse for misogynistic and sexist behavior and rhetoric.  To understand that we are stronger together.

The women conclude their op-ed with an inspiring quote offering forgiveness to the men of Harvard Soccer and all men who think they hold power over women’s bodies: “I can offer you my forgiveness, which is—and forever will be—the only part of me that you can ever claim as yours.”  

McCall Dempsey and Southern Smash

Parts of my body I’m not a huge fan of. Wearing a crop top also means a fifteen-minute pep talk prior to wearing it. I tend to avoid mirrors. I’ve cried in a dressing room. Shorts also require a pep talk.

As a college student, as a girl, as a member of the world we live in today, I am not unique in struggling to view myself in a positive light.  There are larger forces—magazines, ads, Instagram models, TV shows, artists, musicians—that are telling me something about my body is wrong or different. Simplest solution? Lose the weight. Simplest way to do this? Cut calories, obsess over eating, and workout relentlessly.

Many girls think they are alone in this cycle of self-depreciation. They think if they share their problems, they will be judged or hurt. McCall Dempsey, founder of the body positivity non-profit, Southern Smash, felt this way too. She spoke to a group of girls on Sunday, October 16th sharing her incredible story. McCall struggled with disordered eating for over 15 years. She nearly lost her own life to this obsession with her body image. McCall overused diet pills, restricted calories and worked out obsessively for 15 years. Eventually, she entered a rehabilitation facility to heal. Today, she stands the mother of two adorable kids and a successful public speaker about positive body image and self-love.

Image courtesty of Southern Smash
Image courtesy of Southern Smash

But, McCall’s story is not mine to tell. I encourage you to watch this video on McCall’s blog to learn more about her story. If you ever have the chance to hear her speak, definitely go. She will leave you in tears, both from the power of her story and her hilarious commentary. After her rehabilitation, McCall speaks at colleges to raise awareness for eating disorders.

One of the most poignant takeaways from McCall’s speech was that eating disorders do not always look like how our high school health class teachers told us they do. Eating disorders are not always thin, sickly girls. McCall showed us pictures when she was struggling with disordered eating and she looked like a normal, healthy, happy college-age girl. These pictures were a powerful reminder that you really never know what someone is going through.

Image courtesy of Southern Smash
Image courtesy of Southern Smash

After McCall’s time in rehabilitation, she confronted her biggest enemy with a smash – the scale. McCall (as do many others) put her value as a person in a blinking number. To end this unhealthy relationship and encourage other girls to do the same, she created Southern Smash, a non profit focused on raising awareness around eating disorders and, the best part, smashing scales! McCall travels around college campuses to speak about her story and host a scale smash. Southern Smash was on UNC’s campus on Tuesday, October 18th for the signature scale smash. This powerful event brought together the UNC community to raise awareness for eating disorders and put ourselves above the number on a scale.

Images: Southern Smash Facebook page 

Abortion in America- “Genocide Awareness Project”

For the past two days at UNC, a non-campus affiliated organization called “Genocide Awareness Project” (GAP) set up posters and handed out flyers on Polk Place (the main quad) on campus. When I first saw them setting up bright, orange signs I thought it was for Holocaust awareness. I’d had friends last week standing in the Pit (UNC’s outdoor hub) reading names of Holocaust victims for 24 hours. I assumed it was work continuing for victims of genocide, particularly the Holocaust.
Continue reading Abortion in America- “Genocide Awareness Project”

Eating to Make the Earth Last: Eating Sustainably on the UNC Campus

In the Pit on March 22nd was a event called “Eating to Make the Earth Last” where various food-access, sustainability-oriented groups on campus set-up tables to talk to students about food. The idea of the event was that while many people think being environmentally conservative can mean taking shorter showers or turning off light switches, our food is also an important feature to look at as well. Additionally, there are many resources on campus to help students eat more sustainably and access local foods, but not everyone is aware of them. This event was to bring to light food in relation to climate change, and also to spotlight groups on campus focused on food-access and sustainable eating. Continue reading Eating to Make the Earth Last: Eating Sustainably on the UNC Campus

“I Wonder…” Project

UNC’s Campus Y’s First Year Council member, Angum Check, is embarking on a project to understand perceptions of race and privilege. The “I wonder…” statement will be completed by students to ask a question about another race. Check says, “The purpose of the project is to reveal the spoken and unspoken questions we have about people of other races who live different experiences from ours.” The project focuses on honesty and truthfulness, and Check says she does not plan to censor or edit any of the information. Student’s quotes will be anonymous, but separated into “White” and “People of Color.” Continue reading “I Wonder…” Project

Campus Y Co-President Campaigns

This year the Campus Y has two teams running for the Campus Y Co-Presidents office: Monique Laborde and Noah Ponton; and Regan Buchanan and Lauren Eaves. Both duos have put up impressive campaigns with a strong media presence and in-depth platforms. After reading through their platforms, I wanted to get to know the candidates a little better, so I asked each team some questions. Read through this Q&A to get to know the candidates and make an informed decision about who to vote for!

Continue reading Campus Y Co-President Campaigns

ISIS v. al-Qaeda Lecture and the Refugee Crisis

Last Thursday I attended a lecture titled “ISIS vs. al-Qaeda: a Troubled Relationship.”  Barak Mendelsohn, a professor at Haverford College and an expert on terrorism, counter-terrorism, al-Qaeda, and radical Islamic movements, gave the talk. The room was packed full of students, professors, and other members of the Chapel Hill community – some were even sitting on the floor or standing by the doorway. Mendelsohn’s wrote names on the board as a point of reference and categorized them as either “al-Qaeda”, “Jabhat al-Nusra”, or “ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria).” The names written on the board, including Osama bin Laden, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and Abu Mohammad al-Julani, were all names I had heard repeated over and over in the news and foreign policy discussions, but never understood their relationship. Continue reading ISIS v. al-Qaeda Lecture and the Refugee Crisis

Can We Outsmart Nature? Should We?

It’s obvious we have to do something about our climate to avoid an environmental crisis by the end of the century. Scientists have developed technology to combat global warming as we near closer to the 2-degree-celsius threshold. Environmental scientists explain that if our planet warms 2-degree-celsius, we risk reaching a tipping point where we can no longer intervene and our human impact on the environment becomes irreversible. In the 2014 Emissions Gap Report released by the U.N. Environmental Program, they stated the world must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to neutral carbon dioxide levels between 2055-2070. Staying between the 2-degree-celsius margin is no small task, with global carbon emissions having already raised more than 45 percent since 1990. To stay away from the temperature threshold, the U.N. Environmental Report explains that global carbon pollution will have to begin coming down within the next decade.

Source: Arizona State University
Source: Arizona State University

 

Continue reading Can We Outsmart Nature? Should We?