Monthly Archives: September 2020

Trump vs. TikTok

The Trump administration attempted to place a ban on the video-sharing app TikTok on sunday September 20th. This would have been the last day US citizens could download the Chinese owned app, but the ban is being temporarily blocked by a Federal Judge.

Federal Judge Carl Nichols wrote that although there is evidence of China being a threat to national security, “it was less clear that TikTok itself posed a risk.”

TikTok has over 100 million users in the US currently. In an executive order written by president Trump, he states, “This data collection (done by TikTok) threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information—potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo warns to only download TikTok, “if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

President Trump announced his plan to ban the app on July 31st, just one month after teens using TikTok registered for thousands of free tickets to the President’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma to limit the number of attendees. This left thousands of seats empty after the administration promised to fill all seats.

President Trump has also insisted that instead of using a Chinese owned app people should use the new app Triller. Triller is almost completely similar to TikTok and has risen in popularity since the banning of TikTok.

The President and his son, Donald Trump Jr, are both verified and actively posting on Triller.

Trump Jr recently posted a 7 minute video on Triller attacking Tiktok and urging people to use Triller instead. He stated,“There’s an option that you can go to that’s an American company, that’s not saving your data, that’s not going to eventually weaponize it against your children.”

TikTok has admitted that their app, “automatically collects certain information from you when you use the Platform, including internet or other network activity information such as your IP address, geolocation-related data … unique device identifiers, browsing and search history.” However this is also true for every other social media app, including American owned app Facebook.

ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, has denied any sale of personal data to a third party and argued they do not store user data in China at all.

However, a conflicting report by encryption and cybersecurity company Protonmail warns, “the social media giant not only collects troves of personal data on you but also cooperates with the CCP, extending China’s surveillance and censorship reach beyond its borders.”

After failures to sell the App to an American based company TikTok’s answer to the ban is a lawsuit against the Trump administration. Their official statement regarding why the lawsuit was filed specifically, “By banning TikTok with no notice or opportunity to be heard (whether before or after the fact), the executive order violates the due process protections of the Fifth Amendment.”

TikTok was originally given a 45 day period after the September 20th ban to fix any cybersecurity issues and potentially be allowed back into business with Americans.

 However, since Judge Nichols put a halt to the ban, a new plan to have a US hearing decide the fate of TikTok was put into place.

The hearing is scheduled to take place the day after the Presidential election, and will officially decide whether TikTok will be allowed to remain in App stores.

person sitting at computer watching video focused on mental health

Mental Health during a Pandemic

A poll done in late April, by the Kaiser family foundation has reported that 56% of Americans have had at least one negative mental health effect related to the coronavirus outbreak and quarantine.

The number of people accumulating negative health effects is staggering. A report from Well Being Trust, a foundation that provides resources in prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental health and substance misuse issues, has stated that COVID-19 could lead to 75,000 additional deaths from alcohol, drug misuse, and suicide.

According to Sabrina Tinoco, a student living in Oakland and currently out of work because of the pandemic, her life in the pandemic has been difficult because “I’m used to being around my family and being away from them and not having those people to confide in has been difficult.”

As for different ways Tinoco has been coping with the pandemic, “I’ve been reading a lot more and walking my dog a lot.” Her response to the use of alcohol as a coping device, “honestly yes, I would say I definitely find myself drinking a glass of wine or two now more than I ever did before. Just because I am home and there’s only so much tv I can watch, I’m bored, so why not have a nightcap at 4 p.m.”

As for her outlook on the future of the pandemic, “I don’t feel like we’ll ever get back to normal, but I feel like we’ll have fewer restrictions. Even if it’s not required, I’ll always bring a mask with me in the future just to be cautious.”

Danny Chavez, a San Francisco State alum who now lives in Oakland, explained how his life has changed since the pandemic stated, “my world has pretty much shrunk. I’m home all the time, and I go out very rarely, maybe once every other week.”

Describing the effect the pandemic has had on Chavez’ mental health, “it does get to be too much but you just have to think, I’m going to be working from home for all of next year and this is my reality that I have to make it work. So, there are difficult times, but you just have to break through those. There are times where you get a bit of cabin fever, and you drink just because you’re bored, but I don’t think it’s gotten out of control.”

One connection that has been made between the interviewees in their handling of the pandemic is the use of alcohol to help get through the more challenging days. According to a report in June done by market research firm Nielsen, this seems to be a growing theme across the country as alcohol sales increased by 27% since the start of the pandemic.

World Health Officials have warned that consuming large amounts of alcohol is an “unhelpful coping strategy” during the pandemic and recommends finding alternative methods.

David Irving, Mental Health Coordinator at Chabot, stated, “There are things to be mindful of, and there are things that you could add to feel better. Be mindful of certain vices people use to help themselves feel better, like drinking or taking drugs. Just have some awareness of how much and how often you’re doing that.”

Irving continued, “Make sure you’re adding to your life things that make you feel good. Going on walks, getting out of your house, going on drives. All those things can help you get a little feeling of control.”

If you need help finding alternative methods, Chabot college is doing its best to help students struggling during COVID-19 and have plenty of resources available for those who need it.

Alongside its regular scheduled counseling appointments, the school is offering online drop-in meetings with counselors. Chabot will also soon be announcing walk-in hours for students to check in with a therapist by logging onto Cranium Cafe. Available days for sessions will be Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.

To reach out for help today the CARES Mental Health Center is offering services online. To contact them simply email [email protected] or call at 510-723-7623 and leave a voice message. Voice messages are checked daily Monday through Thursday.

Boycott Mulan Hit Trending

The live-action remake of Mulan premiered on Disney+ On Sep. 4. While Disney attempted to make a more accurate telling of the story, fans were disappointed with every aspect that went into the making of this film.  

Parts of the movie were filmed in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, (XUAR) China, a southern region in the country where over 1mil Uyghur Muslims are currently being detained in concentration camps. Disney had even thanked the Turpan Public Safety Bureau that’s involved with the camps, in the Mulan end credits. 

#BoycottMulan has been all over the media, people are refusing to support the movie, and Disney as a whole. 

A letter has been sent to the CEO of Disney, Bob Chapek, by 19 bipartisan members of Congress to question Disney involvement with this region as reported by Axious news on Sep 12. 

Key aspects of the letter are highlighted in this article including: “that Disney explains its cooperation with XUAR authorities, including what contractual agreements were made, Disney executives’ awareness of the political complexities of the region, what local labor was used and what Disney policies exist on prohibiting relationships with human rights abusers.”

Disney has yet to make any public statement. 

Liu Yfiel 33 is a Chinese born-American actress who stars as the new Mulan. Liu has been under fire as she has been very public of her support for the Hong Kong police that has been on the scene as protests that began Aug. 2019.

Liu stated in her online post, “I support Hong Kong’s police, you can beat me up now. What a shame for Hong Kong.”

BBC News explained the extraction bill that started the protest, “the proposed changes would have allowed for the Hong Kong government to consider requests from any country for the extradition of criminal suspects, even countries with which it doesn’t have an extradition treaty and including mainland China, Taiwan, and Macau.” 

Liu’s statement left many upset and initially caused one of the first reasons why people wanted to boycott the 2020 Mulan. 

Everyone who worked to create the movie was white. Fans quickly realized that there weren’t any Chinese people telling a Chinese story. 

Disney has proven to be able to tell authentic stories focused on cultures. Pixar Studios (owned by Disney) received massive praise for its creation of the film Coco. The movie centered around Mexican culture and family values. While the film was directed by a white male, Lee Unkrich, he knew he couldn’t tell this story authentically without true representation. 

Unkrich thus brought along co-director Adrian Molina, a man of Mexican descent. The creators of Coco spent countless hours in Mexico, working with artists and musicians, to learn every aspect they could to achieve one of Pixar’s most celebrated films. 

 Mulan costs $29.99 to stream on Disney+. Although the film remains unlocked as long as you are a subscriber to the app, it will be available for free on Dec. 4. Many fans were upset with the pricing considering that they already have to pay to be a member and didn’t believe the film was worth the money. 

Paola Hernandez, a student at UC Berkeley and Disney superfan, was initially excited for the film when the first trailer was released. She was emotional and, “felt a little teary-eyed,” as Hernandez put it. The original Mulan is in Hernandez’s top five favorite Disney movies. 

Songs featured in the original include “Reflection” and “I’ll make a man out of you” which has over 124 mil views on Youtube. These are seen as Disney songs classics. 

The 2020 Mulan had no singing but did quote the lyrics throughout the movie. This left Hernandez unimpressed, “It felt cheesy. Why even use the line if they’re not gonna sing it?” Hernandez felt that all the aspects she enjoyed as a child were taken out of the movie. 

Hernandez does not recommend, and would rather stick to re-watching the original. 

A Battle for USPS

With the pandemic still upon us, mail-in voting is probably the safest method for voting this election. Still, President Trump is making it all the more difficult for the United States Postal Service to get the job done. 

On Jul. 19, Chris Wallace sat with President Trump on Fox News. “I think mail-in is going to rig the election,” Trump responded when Wallace asked if the President is a good loser.

Wallace questioned Trump, “Are you suggesting that you might not accept the results for the election?”

“I have to see,” Trump stated. 

Besides the spread of mail-in fraud by President Trump, he’s been attempting to block donation founds to the UPSP. 

New postmaster general, a top republican campaign donor, Louis Dejoy imposed cost-cutting measures that have pushed mail back by weeks. Dejoy donated over 1.5 million dollars to both of the Trump campaigns. 

On Sep. 4, the Texas Tribune reported on the hypocrisy of Texas republicans trying to stop the expansions of mail-in voting while at the same time encouraging his voters to use it. 

Early mail-in voting is ideal for making sure votes are received on time, especially with the mail’s larger expectancy due to the pandemic.

In the state of Texas, early mail-in voting is only permitted if you meet any of the following:

  • 65 years or older;
  • disabled;
  • out of the county on election day and during the period for early voting by personal appearance; or
  • confined in jail, but otherwise eligible.

The article reports that Nathan Hecht, the chief of the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court stated citizens don’t need to prove their disability to request early mail-in voting, “all they have to do is say, ‘I want (a mail-in ballot) because in my view I need one.’”

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called the expansion of the mail-in voting as “A scam by the Democrats,” that would ultimately lead “To the end of America.” Texas Grand Old Party (GOP) spokesperson, Luke Twombly, confirmed to the Texas Tribune that they had sent out ballot applications. But didn’t answer the question of how they could determine that mail-in voting is fraudulent. 

The Texas Tribune wrapped up by stating that, “The Texas Democratic Party is still fighting in court to expand eligibility for mail-in voting for voters younger than 65, though it’s becoming increasingly unclear if that litigation will be resolved in time for the general election.”

The President’s attempts to stop the USPS has caused a large outpour of frustration from both Democrats and Republicans. On Aug. 13 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) tweeted to President Trump stating, “Let’s make a deal, Mr. President: You release your college transcript, I’ll release mine, and we’ll see who was the better student. Loser has to fund the Post Office.” 

This was tweeted out after a conference with President Trump was released with him staging, “AOC was a poor student … this is not even a smart person, other than she’s got a good line of stuff. I mean, she goes out and she yaps.” 

Republican Party chairman in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, Rohn Bishop stated, “What the president is doing when he keeps saying that this mail-in balloting thing is fraudulent.” Bishops claim this only hurts themselves.

Golden Gate Bridge side by side comparison of wildfire smoke

Wildfires in the Bay Area

In the third week of August, the state of California experienced a massive lightning storm, which in turn led to an outbreak of more than 500 wildfires and more than 2 million acres burned. 

On Aug. 18, Governor Newsom declared a state of emergency for the whole state of California. According to Newsom, the storm caused a surge of close to 12,000 strikes over 72 hours, creating about 560 wildfires. 

The SCU and LNU Lightning Complex fires are two of the larger fires that started because of the storm. As of Sept. 14, both fires have been at least 95% contained, burning over 765,000 acres combined, as reported by Cal Fire. Since the start of fires across the state, more than 2 million acres have already been burned. 

The SCU and LNU Lightning Complex fires are some of the largest wildfires in California state history. The SCU fire currently affects six counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Merced, Stanislaus, San Joaquin, and Santa Clara. While the LNU fire affects another five: Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Yolo, and Solano. 

The SCU Lightning Complex fire started as multiple fires on Aug. 16, eventually merging into one large fire that’s been broken into two branches; Branch I and Branch II – making it the third-largest fire in state history. The same unusual lightning storm that sparked the SCU fire sparked the LNU fire just a day before, making it the fourth-largest fire. 

Cal Fire reports that at least five people have died in the LNU Complex fire, with three of the civilians from Napa and the other two from Solano county. Another five people have been injured in the fire, four of them are civilians. Fortunately, there aren’t any fatalities reported from the SCU blaze. However, another four civilians were injured, along with two firefighters.

Considering the number of acres burned, the property damage done by the SCU fires is lower than that of its smaller counterpart, the LNU Complex fire. As of Sept. 14, the SCU fire has destroyed 136 structures and damaged 26 structures, according to Cal Fire. However, the damage following the LNU fires is much bigger, with almost 1,500 buildings destroyed, and another 232 damaged. 

Andrew Rego, 21, a student in the fire program at Chabot, gives some insight into wildfires and the causes behind them. 

When asked why wildfires are so hard to contain, Rego explained that  “flammable debris, such as dry grass, and heavy winds will expand fires much easier and faster. Compared to a wetter climate, with little to no wind and minimal flammable objects, wildfires become much easier to contain.”

Rego claimed that there are many factors to take into consideration when a wildfire breaks out. One must look at wind patterns, how far the fire spreads out, and evacuation plans must be made for citizens and animals in preparation for the worst. 

On top of fires blazing across the state, COVID-19 has made it difficult for firefighters in training. According to Jeffrey Barton, the Fire Program Coordinator at South Bay Regional Public Safety Training, “with COVID and the numerous amounts of fires, training is not ranked higher than safety and preservation of life.”

South Bay Regional Public Safety Training, or The Academy, leads the way in providing high quality, cost-effective public safety training to approximately 2700 full-time equivalent students (FTEs) each year, including professionals from more than 70 city and county agencies, according to their website. 

“Prior to the fires, fire training was already restricted due to the state’s COVID response. Unless it is prescheduled virtual training, most face-to-face training was canceled,” Barton said in response to whether the fires affected training. Barton also added that the effect that COVID had on training was the most challenging thing they faced this year. 

Even without the addition of COVID, “training during wildfire season is impossible to coordinate” Many Cal-Fire agencies are already deployed and were unavailable for email or contact, according to Barton. 

By the start of Labor Day weekend, northern California had issued another air alert, for a recording-breaking third week in a row. This alert comes after another intense heatwave that hit California the weekend before. Higher temperatures could start new wildfires and increase harmful levels of smog and air quality. 

 Since the start of the fires, air quality has plummeted. As reported by USA Today, California’s air quality is worse than India’s; a country that contains more than 1 billion people. Major cities, if not all, are affected by the harmful air, already increasing the high risk of pulmonary disease due to COVID-19. 

As stated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index, on Aug. 31, one-third of the state was considered to have unhealthy air for all of the general public. These areas included in their assessment were the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno, and Sacramento. Exposure to harmful air can lead to serious health complications. 

According to the CDC, symptoms caused by breathing in unhealthy air and wildfire smoke could be coughing, asthma attacks, wheezing, and trouble breathing. By limiting outdoor exercise and wearing an N95 mask, you can reduce smoke exposure and breathing in harmful air.