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Oakland Or Bust

Photo by Chase Beardlsey
Oakland Coliseum

The Oakland port is another saga in the story as long as time itself for Oakland residents. The story about the Oakland A’s and the search for a new stadium while they play in a stadium that is constantly called the worst in baseball.

“They don’t even have straws anymore,” A’s fan Rick Silva said to the San Francisco Chronicle. “We asked for straws, and they said they don’t have any.”

That is just one of the minor issues inside the storm of the Oakland A’s. To speak about these issues, we need to talk about their current home: the Oakland Coliseum. 

The Coliseum opened up in 1966, 58 years ago. It was intended as a multipurpose stadium to house the Oakland Raiders and later the Oakland A’s. Right across from the stadium was an arena where the Golden State Warriors began to play. The A’s moved in 1968. Time went on. The A’s won three straight championships in the 70s, the Raiders won a championship in the 80s, and shortly after, the Raiders left for LA. This left the A’s all alone in the stadium. 

However, the A’s didn’t want to stay in the coliseum as the stadium was not maintained well. A low point emerged in 1979 as only 653 fans showed up to see the A’s play the Seattle Mariners in what is believed as the lowest paid attendance in MLB history, and a nickname was given to the stadium: the Oakland Mausoleum. 

The original A’s owner: Charlie Finley was attempting to sell the team at this time, and it was planned to sell the team to Marvin Davis. Davis made plans to move the A’s to Denver but with the Raiders gone, the city didn’t want to lose another sports franchise. Oakland refused to let the A’s out of its lease with the coliseum, and the deal fell through. The franchise was later sold to Levi Strauss & Co.

The 90s rolled around, the A’s won another championship, and the Raiders came back into the picture. In Preparation to set up their home back in the Bay, the Raiders demanded more seats in the coliseum, and this led to a point in time where a lot of A’s fans say the franchise took a turn. 10,000 seats were added to the upper deck, obstructing the view of the Oakland hills. This addition to the stadium, also called a monstrosity by most A’s fans, was dubbed Mt. Davis after the Raiders owner. “Mt. Davis” is barely used for A’s games, only being opened up a handful of times most recently in the 2019 wild card game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

In 2012, the stadium became the last to host both NFL and MLB games. This wouldn’t hold up for long as, finally, in 2017, the Raiders submitted a plan for relocation to Las Vegas. It was approved that year and the Raiders would leave town in 2019 for a massive stadium adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip. The A’s neighbors: the Warriors, would also leave town in 2019, leaving for a new arena in San Francisco: the Chase Center. This left the A’s as the only Oakland sports franchise.

To talk about the aging coliseum is one that can gross one person out and leave another scratching their head as to why professional sports teams still play here.

Sewage has been a constant issue with the stadium. In 2013, the stadium suffered an extreme sewage backup. This left parts of the stadium three feet below sewage water forcing the A’s and Mariners, who were playing, to use the Raiders locker room and showers. This wasn’t the first time sewage had been an issue at the stadium. During a sewage backup, the Los Angeles Angels complained about fecal matter and bacteria in the visitor’s training room. Even one of the many A’s owners found out while trying to dine at the coliseum that food was delayed due to sewage. Backups reportedly occur even when the stadium isn’t in use.

Animals have had their fair visitation of the stadium. On Dec. 19, 2018, during a Raiders game, a janitor said the following loud enough on a radio to shock all attendants.

“There are two dead mice in the soda machine,” Ann Killion, reporter for the SF Chronicle later tweeted.

Beyond that just this year, feral cats have invaded the coliseum site. Yes, what’s estimated to be between 50-100 feral cats have invaded the field according to ABC7 News and reportedly are gaining due to … well you know natural reproduction. At least the A’s have some sort of answer to the mouse issue even though it wasn’t planned.

If you think you’re done with the issues at this point, you’re wrong because we haven’t even covered the actual team and their marketing yet. 

The A’s have been minimizing their promotions, discounts, and season ticket benefits. Season ticket holders used to be able to get 25% off all gear and half off all beverages and food. Now, that’s gone.

“You used to get a Round Table Pizza coupon on the back of your parking ticket. Now nothing,” A’s fan Marcia Partch told the SF Chronicle.

At best, the A’s concession stands are described as mediocre, often ranked near the bottom of people’s MLB concession stand rankings. They often serve burned hot dogs and lack of choices throughout the stadium. Options are bland and lacking compared to the across the bay neighbors at Oracle Park, who serve Ghirardelli ice cream, freshly made smoothies (with a produce garden behind it), and carne asada burrito bowls. As a reference, Thrillist (an online website that covers food and entertainment) ranked Oracle Park as having the fourth best concessions in the league. The A’s were ranked 30th. The only saving grace for the coliseum is the food trucks that show up in the championship plaza, but even they don’t want to stay at the aging stadium as they usually leave early into the game.

On top of all of this, the A’s have doubled the price of season tickets from last season. For example, a left-field bleacher seat was $456 for a season ticket now it is $840.

The A’s have also removed their fan-favorite A’s Access program, a flat fee that also had discounted food, beverages, and parking. Now, if you want to park at the stadium even as a season-ticket holder, it will cost you $30.

“Just crazy to see raised prices that much with no investment in the team, fan experience, or commitment to stay,” Bryan Johansen, a longtime season ticket holder, told Mercury News.

There’s one more thing to add on top of this mess. The actual team. The A’s missed the playoffs for the first time in three years last year due to an epic collapse of the team. So the A’s did what the A’s have done numerous times in the past: blew it up. Out went pitchers Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea, first baseman Matt Olson, third baseman Matt Chapman, and center fielder Starling Marte. All traded for prospects and picks. Any star players that the A’s had were gone. Any hopes for the A’s to bounce back were gone. A team that just needed to add to make the November dance diminished all chances of that.

“I’ve got about 15 (A’s) jerseys and it’s hard to find one that’s still on this team,” said Silvia to the SF Chronicle. 

The A’s are notorious for doing this as many fans have come to expect their fan favorites and star players to eventually get traded or leave just a couple of years after they burst onto the scene. It’s happened with stars Jose Conseco, Mark McGwire, Rickey Henderson (multiple times), Catfish Hunter, and other numerous stars that have impacted the franchise. Some call it the A’s way.

With all of these things adding up, there’s limited things attracting A’s fans and baseball fans to games. According to ESPN, the A’s have the worst attendance, averaging around 7,715 fans each game. For comparison, the Dodgers at the top of the list are at 49,057 on average, and Oakland’s neighbor: the Giants average around 32,360. It’s worse than that though as the A’s set two records for some of their lowest attendance ever. In a series against the Baltimore Orioles in April, the A’s had 3,748 fans in the second game of the series. This was the smallest crowd the team had played against since 1980 when a game against the Texas Rangers had 2,443 fans in attendance. The next game however against the Orioles was a smaller number of 2,703. A lot of fans are boycotting the team with constant issues going on with the team and the stadium resulting in attendance that hasn’t been seen since 1980.

So the Colosseum is reaching its end, the team isn’t good, and fans aren’t showing up. What will fix all these issues? The simple answer is to get a new stadium. However, that’s a simple thing to say but a hard thing to do. The A’s have been trying to get a new ballpark for quite some time. San Jose was a great option at a point in time until it was shot down by the U.S. Supreme Court and the San Francisco Giants. The city of Fremont was even an option complete with a ballpark proposal. That failed due to residents of the city being concerned about pollution, traffic, and noise. Now the A’s look to what looks to be their best hope ever to have a new stadium. 

The A’s proposed plan is to build on Howard Terminal which is right next to Jack London Square (where the A’s have held fan events countless times) in Oakland. It would include the 35,000-capacity stadium complete with a sleek modern look that hasn’t been seen in baseball before. The A’s would also build offices, retail space, a hotel, and residential space. In addition to this, the A’s would revamp the coliseum site, turning the stadium into a community ballpark. The A’s would also build housing, a skills center, community gathering spaces, offices, and restaurants. The Oracle arena would stay and be repurposed as an events center. The A’s boast that the new stadium would produce 6,119 permanent new jobs, $7.3 billion in economic benefits, increase infrastructure to battle rising sea levels, and give back bay views to the citizens of Oakland. It seems almost too good to be true. The A’s and the city of Oakland have been trying to break ground on Howard terminal since 2017. Now in 2022, no ground has been broken even with progress being made with the staff of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission stating that the land that the A’s plan to build on is not needed by the port of Oakland.

Courtesy of Oakland A's
Proposed ballpark on Howard Terminal

“(This) report is great news for Oakland and our region,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said in a statement. “The best use of a dormant Howard Terminal is to convert it into a thriving waterfront ballpark neighborhood.”

“This is really the last location that can work in Oakland,” A’s team president Dave Kaval told KPIX 5.

Even with this news, the A’s still have a long way to go with two lawsuits being filed against them by the Union Pacific Railroad Company and East Oakland Stadium Alliance.

The other option for the A’s that some believe is inevitable is the relocation of the franchise to Las Vegas. 

“The Oakland Coliseum site is not a viable option for the future vision of baseball. We have instructed the Athletics to begin to explore other markets while they continue to pursue a waterfront ballpark in Oakland. The Athletics need a new ballpark to remain competitive, so it is now in our best interest to also consider other markets,” the MLB said in a statement.

Las Vegas is already home to the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights and Oakland’s old NFL team: the Raiders. The two teams have been very successful, and Oakland fans fear that the A’s aren’t too far from joining their old co-owner of the coliseum. 

Kaval and A’s ownership has made numerous trips to the city. Most infamously while the A’s were playing a game, Kaval was busy in Sin City watching a Golden Knights playoff game.

“Things really soured for me when he (Kaval) went to Vegas last year to go to a Golden Knights playoff game,” said season ticket holder Will MacNeil to the Mercury News.

“I think that’s a negotiating ploy,” said A’s fan Max Pringle when the Mercury News asked him of Kaval’s visits to Las Vegas. Pringle added that he thinks the A’s have done their share to get a new stadium.

“I cannot understand how anyone would think we would spend $2 million a month to develop this new stadium at the waterfront and all the effort and time,” Kaval exclaimed to the Mercury News. “Why would we do all those things if we wanted to leave? It doesn’t make any sense.”

Either way, you lean, the temptation of Vegas is there. The two sports teams that currently reside in the city have nice sparkling new arenas and stadiums. Another point in favor of moving to Las Vegas is being closer to one of their farm teams: the Las Vegas Aviators. The Aviators have been selling out their games recently as the city shows that baseball has fans in the city.

Back in Oakland, the team isn’t doing so hot this season. They are 12-19 and are at the bottom of the AL West. The team is bottoming out in attendance, and fans are protesting and boycotting owners John Fischer and Kaval.

“An owner that would trade or/and let fan favorites walk. An owner whose team still plays in a stadium with sewage problems. A stadium that still has horse troughs as urinals in the restroom. An owner that has sent his president to Las Vegas last offseason for research on relocation. Why would an A’s fan go to a game when they just raised tickets after trading all their stars? Why would an A’s fan buy a jersey of a player that is guaranteed to be gone in two years? It’s not that A’s fans don’t exist. They’re tired of the BS. It’s a boycott” CBS sports MLB producer Danny Vietti tweeted out about the issue.

It’s an issue that has gone so far that even the MLB has had enough of it. For A’s fans, they’ve seen it countless times before. After three or so years of competitiveness, the team sells off everything, and ballpark issues become the main talking point again. This time feels different, though. This time really feels like it’s a new stadium in Oakland or Vegas. So much so that players around the league are talking about it.

“I hope they move to Vegas. Oakland was special to me, but you can no longer play in the Coliseum,” former A’s player Robbie Grossman told the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky “And if they can’t build a stadium within a year or two, there’s no reason for them to be there.”

Grossman went on to say it’s a shame that the team is in the position they are in with its long history and the great fans in Oakland.

It feels like the A’s have finally had enough. So much so to even drive fans away with the product on and off the field. The Howard terminal feels like the last chance the outlandish Oakland A’s have in their current city. It’s either the beautiful waterfront stadium on Howard terminal in Oakland or they go where the past Coliseum team has gone: the desert and flashiness of Las Vegas and the strip. It really feels like the motto Dave Kaval has been saying: Oakland or bust.

San Jose Sharks, Tomas Hertl Agree On Eight Year Extension

Hertl scoring in a game against Vegas.
Tomas Hertl scoring in a game against the Vegas Golden Knights

Sharks star forward Tomas Hertl was re-signed by the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday, March 16 to an eight year contract worth 65.1 million. The contract is worth 8.1 million per year and has a no movement clause for the first three years and a modified no trade clause for the rest of the contract.

Hertl has been with the Sharks since getting drafted in 2012. He’s tied for first in goal scoring on the team this year and is second in points on the team only behind Timo Mier. Hertl was in the last year of a four year contract.

“It’s [good] to sign a nice long contract to be a franchise player and part of the Sharks,” Hertl said to NHL.com. “It’s an honor, but at the same time, I know what is coming with that. I’m one of the leaders and I have to make it better, so it’s challenging for me and I want to see every day, every year us getting better.”

Hertl and his contract has been a looming issue for the Sharks all throughout this season. Many trade rumors were thrown out in the past couple of months especially with the Sharks falling out of playoff contention.

“We’ve always been committed to signing him to this contract,” acting general manager Joe Will said to NHL.com. “It was [about being] fully committed to signing up here because we recognize the importance of the top-line center…“Tomas has evolved into a premier top-line centerman in the league, competing against the NHL’s best players every single night and delivering significant results…We are thrilled to have Tomas for another eight years.”

Hertl is now the highest paid forward on the team, beating out captain Logan Couture by $137,500. He’s second overall in highest paid on the team with defenseman Erik Karlsson leading the way.

Hertl is a fan favorite in San Jose and many rejoiced seeing him back as he’s made many favorable moments as a Shark.

“Just saw the post on Instagram and it feels more real now! I’m very happy, excited, and relieved,” said local fan and season ticket holder Aaron Convino.

The Sharks have missed the playoffs for the past two years and are poised to miss the playoffs for a third straight year. It would be a first in Sharks history. They currently sit eight points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the second wild card spot with 26 wins, 25 losses, and eight overtime losses.

Hertl himself is excited to be back for eight more years with a tweet going out on his Twitter page when the contract was announced that simply had a smiley face.

“My heart was always with the Sharks,” Hertl told reporters.

Brady Is Back

Tom Brady

HE’S BACK!

Tom Brady announced on Mar. 13 on his Twitter that he was coming back to the NFL to play another season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brady said on Twitter “These past two months I’ve realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands. That time will come. But it’s not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I’m coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa.”

Brady had initially retired on Feb. 1 with almost every single QB record in the NFL along with seven championships. 

The Buccaneers when Brady retired were in a moment of uncertainty with many of their star players not under contract. However Brady texted Buccaneers stars Chris Godwin and Mike Evans 20 minutes before he publicly announced his comeback that he would return for another season.

Godwin said in a public interview “we were gassed up. We’re back and we’re trying to make it back to the top of the mountain.”

General manager of the Buccaneers Jason Licht said in a statement “We are thrilled Tom Brady has decided to come back this season.”

As for other NFL teams and players, they’re not as happy as the Buccaneers organization are.

The New York Jets tweeting out “this better be real,” when Brady retired, retweeted that tweet with a caption of two words. “Guess not.”

Jalen Ramsey who Brady threw his “last” touchdown on tweeted out “Thank you! Throw that last touchdown on somebody else.”

Brady will play his 23rd season in the NFL this upcoming season and his third season with the Buccaneers. Brady is the record holder for most games started by a QB in the NFL along other records. 

Listen to Signs of Cancer

“Anyone can get cancer, listen to your body” For Leslie Alejandra Lopez Luna cancer was the farthest thing on her mind. After undergoing treatments, surgeries, and personal struggles, Leslie has found support within the American Cancer Society club here at Chabot College.

Leslie was 18 when she was diagnosed with skin cancer, Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP). However, her story began two years prior, at 16, Leslie had felt a lump in her left arm. The reality was these were connective tissue cells in the middle layer of her skin, which grew to the lump she found on the surface layer.

Every six months consists of full body checks, and yearly MRI scans, but every day Leslie performs self-body checks to feel for any possible symptoms.

Before Leslie was admitted to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, she was seeing a dermatologist who would remove the lump, which they believed only to be a cyst at the time. But as they continued to remove the lums, they were still finding bits of the cancer, and suggested that Leslie seek help elsewhere.

“I was kind of left on my own to look for doctors,” Leslie was grateful that she had the support of her family to assist her in finding the right medical treatment, but it did feel a little deserting to be in this position at such a young age.

Although UCSF is a children’s hospital, Leslie (who has now passed 18) is still able to receive treatment. Her doctors are very familiar with DFSP and believe her condition will be stabilized or possibly gone before she reaches 25.

Right now the MRI can’t detect cancer because the tissue build-up is too small, Leslie has to wait to see if it grows more and if it’s still as severe as it was before the beginning of treatment.

Leslie has spent most of her college experience through Zoom, making it easy for her to work around her schedule. She did have one in-person class right before the pandemic.

Leslie felt a bit intimidated at first. After reaching out to her professor about bringing a bag with her that held her medical devices, Leslie felt more comfortable in the environment.

“I noticed some students would look over wondering where the nose was coming from” The students at the time weren’t aware that the little noises were coming from Leslie’s bag.

Her professor assured that there wasn’t anything to worry about. Leslie grew comfortable with the other students, the majority made up of other women, and had a bond with many at the end of the semester.

Leslie has stuck to online classes for the 2022 spring semester, but is hoping to be back to in-person classes as soon as possible.

Leslie found a great sense of support in the American Cancer Society Club (ACS)here on campus. A new club to the school that tries to bring awareness to different kinds of cancer, and possible symptoms, as well as raise money to donate to cancer research and treatments.

Running a new club hasn’t been easy for founder and president, Emily Lou, but she has made the most of what she can through the pandemic. Emily was proud of the fundraisers the club was able to achieve last semester. The club participated in the 2021 Relay for Life of the East Bay and collected over $1900 in donations.

This semester ASC will be hosting a booth once a month that’s dedicated to spreading awareness of specific cancers.

March is kidney cancer awareness month, the ASC club set up in the Cesar Chavez plaza on Mar. 21 with their bright orange ribbons to hand out, as well as to encourage students to have the courage to talk about cancer concerns and not discourage possible symptoms.

“Being part of the club has given me a microphone.”

Leslie has enjoyed her contribution to the club, from spreading awareness to making small gifts to other patients in treatment. One of her most prideful moments on campus was sharing her story with other students and educating them on the realities of treatment and finding support systems.

Bay Area Playoff Hockey Is BACK

Stockton Heat game on Apr. 22
Stockton Heat game on Apr. 22, 2022

Playoff hockey is returning to the Bay Area! Even with the San Jose Sharks playing out their final stretch of games on the road with no playoff hopes (they were eliminated from playoff contention a month ago) and their minor league team, the San Jose Barracuda finishing at the bottom of their division, the Bay Area will still see May hockey. An hour’s drive northeast of the Bay from San Jose lies the city of Stockton, where the AHL’s Stockton Heat is about to compete in the Calder Cup playoffs.

The AHL, or the American Hockey League, is the league below the NHL. Many NHL players play a handful of games in the AHL over their careers, like current Sharks players Timo Mier and Logan Couture. While the Sharks’ AHL team: the Barracuda, finished last in their division this season, the Stockton Heat finished first. 

The Heat are the Calgary Flames AHL affiliate. They’ve played in the pacific division of the AHL since their inception in 2015 when the Adirondack Flames relocated to Stockton to become the Heat. Before this season, the best season the Heat have had was the 2016-17 season, when the Heat qualified for the playoffs with 77 points but were eliminated by the Barracuda in five games.

The Heat this season, however, quite literally turned up the Heat. They have a record of 45 wins, 15 losses, and seven OT/shootout losses. Matthew Phillips is their leading scorer with 30 goals and 37 assists for 67 points. He’s also ninth in the league for points. Rookie Jakob Pelletier is also playing well with 62 points so far this season. 

The Heat clinched their second-ever playoff spot on Mar. 19 and clinched the pacific division title on Apr. 23.

The Heat have also had good net performances, especially from young netminder: Dustin Wolf. This season, Wolf has 33 wins, eight losses, and four OT/shootout losses under his belt. He’s rocking a .924 save percentage and 2.33 goals-against average. Wolf was born and raised in Gilroy, under two hours away from Stockton. He would go to Sharks games and later play with the L.A. junior Kings when his family moved to southern California.

“From when I started playing, the game has grown tremendously in California,” said Wolf to AHL.com. “It’s huge for guys coming out of here. Kids look up to you. To have them be able to say they live five minutes from where this guy or that guy grew up it’s huge. It creates a ‘Why can’t that be me?’ sort of thing.

Wolf was named a first-team AHL all-star on Feb. 28, the only Heat player ever to do so. 

The Heat’s attendance has been strong ever since their inception. The Heat’s attendance has dipped this season, but it’s mainly been due to COVID. Since the city of Stockton dropped their vaccine requirements, the Heat have had great attendance, including their final home regular-season game on April 22, where the Heat lost in overtime to the Abbotsford Canucks.

“It’s great when we get more fans in the building. It’s always more fun to play in front of an atmosphere…Whenever the building is loud, and there’s energy in the crowd, it makes it a lot more fun to be a part of the game from the player’s standpoint,” leading scorer Matthew Phillips said in an interview.

“It’s actually fun! It’s cool to know there’s another hockey team in my backyard. I would 100% go again,” said Sharks fan Aaron Coviano after attending the last home game of the season.

Due to the team winning their division, the Heat get a first-round bye in the AHL playoffs. They will face whatever team is the lowest seed that gets out of the first round. That could mean a California playoff matchup of the San Diego Gulls or the Bakersfield Condors. 

Even though they need to wait for the first-round matchups to finish for their playoff story to start, the boys are excited for the return of playoff hockey in Stockton.

“I mean, that’s why you train, and that’s what you play for is playoffs, and that’s when hockey is the most fun and when you get the best out of everybody, so we’re all super excited to play playoff hockey,” Phillips said.

Frida’s Paint Night at Chabot College

El Centro celebrated Women’s History Month with a paint night on Mar. 24 centered around Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. All donations raised were given to Ruby’s Place in Castro Valley. 

Clubs and organizations at Chabot have been trying to build themselves back up since the start of the in-person semester. El Centro, Chabot’s organization committed to encouraging the Latine community, undocumented and low-income students, announced their paint night to bring students together. 

Monica Olmedo is the current Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) coordinator of El Centro and a part-time English instructor. As the paint night event organizer, Monica wanted to come up with a fun subject to focus on while also tying back to women’s history month. 

Frida Kahlo was an easy pick for El Centro as the painting subject to focus on, a staple in the Mexican artist world and an icon among the Latine Community. On Jul. 6, 1907, Kahlo was born in Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico. She married another Mexican artist, Diego Rivera, and most of her work reflects her life. 

“She represents the artist community, but also the LGBTQ+ community. She was disabled … She was a strong person.” Monica knew that Frida would draw people in and get many excited for a fun night. 

Bringing the community on campus back together was a key focus of the event, “I think we just really need this,” Monica hoped that students would be excited to come together and start participating in school activities again and rejoice as a community. 

The turnout was a great success, with nearly 50 people and some latecomers also trying to get a seat. Students who worked in El Centro were there to help all the participants hand out supplies and provide complimentary food.   

The other key component of the event was finding a way to reach out to more women. This is where Monica located Ruby’s Place, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping end domestic violence and human trafficking and helping survivors regain stability in their lives.

In Alameda County, there are several counseling services for trauma victims and educational resources and housing services, the closest in Castro Valley. As Monica dropped off the donations collected at paint night, Ruby’s Place reached out to her to hopefully connect potential students through the nonprofit and get them started on their academic path. 

“It’s funny how some things happen,” Monica was more than excited to hear that her event reached out beyond its initial intention. While a lot of coordination will be needed to work on this new project, it’s just the beginning. “I’m happy this turned into a two-way street to help.” 

Justice Jackson Confirmed

In an unprecedented 53-47 vote in the senate, Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first black woman to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice on Apr. 7. This momentous confirmation came just weeks after president Joe Biden announced her nomination. 

Born in Washington D.C. and raised in Miami, Florida, Jackson graduated from a public high school in 1988 when segregation and racism were prevalent. Brown openly described instances of prejudice and racism that she went through during her education. 

Jackson was on the speech and debate team at Miami Palmetto Senior High School. She even received a national oratory title after her captivating speeches. Unsurprisingly she also served as student body president. What others may think of as small achievements, Jackson took it and ran with it to Harvard Law School. Prior to attending Harvard, she temporarily worked as a staff reporter and researcher for Time magazine. 

Clerkships allow students to work closely with judges to study and train how to become an attorney. And after graduating from Harvard in 1996, she began a clerkship for Massachusetts District Court Judge Patti B. Saris. About a year later, she began a clerkship for Judge Bruce M. Selya of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Then, in 1999 she clerked for Supreme Court Judge Stephen Breyer, whose seat she ironically took upon her historical confirmation. 

A sign of her humility came in 2005 in her work as a public defender in Washington, D.C. It was during this time that, according to the Washington Post, she “won uncommon victories against the government that shortened or erased lengthy prison terms.”

Her work as a public defender was questioned, and at many points, Jackson was cut off when speaking during the confirmation hearings by Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Lindsey Graham (RSC). Cotton bombarded her with questions such as “Have you ever represented a terrorist at Guantánamo Bay?”

Her previous work as a public defender and judge was used as a double-edged sword for many Republicans who questioned her work and morality during the hearing. 

In response to Graham’s questioning of previous sentences she imposed for specific cases, Jackson said, “What we’re trying to do is be rational in our dealing with some of the most horrible behavior.” 

A major turning point in Jackson’s legal career came in 2012 when President Obama nominated her as a district court judge for the district court of Columbia. 

In 2021 Jackson went on to serve in the U.S. Court of Appeals after being nominated by President Biden. 

That brings us to April 2022. In its 233-year history, prior to Judge Jackson, there had only been two African Americans who served in the U.S. Supreme Court. Jackson became the first black female nominated and first black female to obtain that position in the highest court in our country. 

To young Americans who watched the confirmation hearing, Jackson had this to say:

“I hope to inspire people to try to follow this path because I love this country. Because I love the law. Because I think that it’s important that we all invest in our future. The young people are the future, and I want them to know that they can do and be anything. I would tell them to persevere.”

Taylor Hawkins on drums for the Foo Fighters

Taylor Hawkins, Dead At 50

Taylor Hawkins on drums for the Foo Fighters
Taylor Hawkins on drums for the Foo Fighters

Taylor Hawkins, the drummer for the Foo Fighters and rock ’n’ roll hall of famer, died unexpectedly on March 25, 2022, while on tour with the Foo Fighters in Columbia. He was 50 years old.

Emergency services were called to Hawkins hotel room on Mar. 25 due to Hawkins suffering from chest pains. Hawkins was declared dead on the scene after unsuccessful attempts at CPR. Although it was later revealed that Hawkins had 10 substances in his system at the time of death (including antidepressants, opioids, and cannabis), Colombian officials said they would keep working to make clear the events of the timeline of Hawkin’s death.

Hawkins was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on Feb. 17 and later moved to Laguna Beach, California. He started his drumming career as the drummer for the Orange County-based band Slyvia and went on to be the drummer for Alanis Morissette on her Jagged Little Pill tour and her Can’t Not tour. This was the first huge claim to fame for the 32-year-old drummer. Hawkins would also provide backing vocals for some of Morissette’s songs and appear in some of her music videos. He would call this time one of the most fun of his life.

Hawkins soon after became the drummer for Foo Fighters after conflicts between Dave Grohl and former drummer William Goldsmith emerged, leading to Goldsmith leaving the band. Grohl, who at that time wasn’t close with Hawkins, called him asking for recommendations for a new drummer for the band. Hawkins surprised Grohl by volunteering himself as the new drummer. Grohl didn’t ask Hawkins because he thought Hawkins wouldn’t leave Morissette and her touring band as they were bigger than the Foo Fighters at the time. Part of Hawkins’ reasoning was his willingness to play in a band rather than a solo act.

Hawkins debuted on the Foo’s “The Colour and the Shape” album, which included hits like “Everlong” and “My Hero.” He would go on to record eight more albums with the band. The band won 15 Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.

Hawkins not only drummed for the band but also provided vocals, guitar, and piano. On the final stretch of touring with the band, Hawkins performed a cover of Somebody To Love by Queen, including in his last show in the Bay Area region up in Sacramento. 

Hawkins was close with all of his Foo Fighters band members, especially Dave Grohl. Grohl described him in his 2021 memoir as “my brother from another mother, my best friend, a man who’d I take a bullet for.”

Hawkin’s death was announced suddenly that evening on the Foo Fighters’ social media platforms, stating, “his musical spirit and infectious laughter will live on with all of us forever.” The Foo Fighters canceled all of their upcoming shows and tours four days later. 

Miley Cyrus broke down in tears after dedicating her performance of “Angels Like You” to the drummer. Cyrus said, “I would have done anything to hang out with him.” Elton John also dedicated his performance of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” to Hawkins. John called Hawkins “one of the nicest people you could ever meet.

Hawkins is survived by his wife: Alison, and their three children: Oliver, Annabelle, and Everleigh. He is also survived by his siblings, Jason and Heather.

No public funeral service has been announced for Hawkins at this time.

U.S. Economic Sanctions Against Russia

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, President Biden and other western leaders have placed a plethora of sanctions against Russia. Most of which target their financial institutions. 

The U.S. placed a sanction against Russia’s Central bank, preventing Americans from doing business with the bank. This means that any assets that the bank has in the U.S. are frozen. Other countries like the European Union, the U.K., and Canada have since followed suit. 

Russia has over $600 billion in currency reserves, but most of this cannot be accessed because of the sanctions. Over half of it is reliant on the ability to buy rubles (the Russian currency) from western financial institutions. The reserves must be exchanged for the other countries’ currencies in order for Russia to be able to import goods. The ability to access that money could be the key to stabilizing the inflation taking place in the country. 

According to Michale Bernstam, an economist at Stanford’s Hoover institution, $250 billion is unavailable because those are government bonds of western-aligned countries, including the European Union, Japanese, and British bonds. 

“We wanted to put these actions in place before our markets open because we learned over the course of the weekend from our allies and partners that the Russian Central Bank was attempting to move assets,” said an anonymous senior Biden administration official.

The sanctions are an effort to destabilize the Russian economy. 

Russian banks were also banned from SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. SWIFT is the primary way for global banks to communicate, send and receive orders. Russia’s global banks will have to find an alternative way of communicating with other countries. 

A Biden administrative official described the goal of the sanctions, “We’re committed to fully implementing sanctions and other anti-money-laundering financial and enforcement measures to maximal effect on sanctioned Russian officials and elites close to the Russian government, as well as their families and their enablers, We’re going to identify and freeze the assets they hold in our jurisdictions” said the official. 

As of Mar. 8, the U.S. announced the ban on Russian imports of oil, petroleum, liquefied natural gas, and coal. This is important because crude oil is one of Russia’s top exports. Last year 3% of our imported gasoline came from Russia and the gasoline accounted for about 13% of U.S. exports according to The Hill.

The invasion is part of the reason why U.S. gas prices have been steadily rising. Shell Oil Company recently made headlines after it was discovered that they bought discounted crude oil from Russia in the midst of the invasion. The same day that the U.S. announced the ban, Shell issued an apology and pledged to stop all operations with Russia. 

President Biden told Americans, “Defending freedom is going to cost.”

The deflation of the Russian ruble directly led to inflation. The value of the ruble is down nearly 30%. Inflation has been a nightmare for Russian citizens scrambling to get basic necessities like food which was already expensive. Now it’s even pricier, and people can’t buy as much. Prices also continue to soar for electronics, appliances, and cars in the country. Russians are taking money out of the ATMs and are trying to buy things of lasting value. 

According to ABC news “Mastercard said cards issued by Russian banks will no longer be supported by its network and any Mastercard issued outside the country will not work in Russian stores or ATMs.”

The same is taking place for Visa cards because both American companies decided to suspend their operations in Russia on Mar. 5. 

Before the value of the ruble began to fall, many Russian citizens hurriedly tried to exchange their currency for dollars or euros which currently holds more value than the ruble. Interestingly enough, the Russian central bank put a limit on the amount of foreign currency that citizens can withdraw.

This new reality makes Russian citizens reexamine their finances and urgently protect their money. The economic losses and financial hurdles that many Russians are facing does not compare to the lives lost in the invasion of Ukraine.

The Different Sides of Media Surrounding Ukraine and Russia

“It’s never going to be the same. My people are dying.” Diana Osaulenko of Kyiv, Ukraine, knows the damage done to her home can’t be undone.

The Office of the United Nations has confirmed that 596 Ukrainian deaths have been reported as of Mar. 12. However, the numbers have only been collected as soldiers, and fellow civilians bury their loved ones.

Bombing videos show the last few moments before innocent people’s lives were taken. From an elderly couple killed in their car as they tried to escape to the children’s hospital that was destroyed on Mar. 9. Diana can’t pull herself away as terrifying as they are to watch.

Nor will anyone give her a break. Each day she gets tons of messages and videos from family and friends with updates and prayers. The ugly but truthful side is that she receives hateful messages that blame Ukrainians for the restrictions —

“It’s sad that (some) Russians don’t want to believe.”

Diana shared that while she has family who lives in Russia and friends that she’s known for years, a disconnect has grown among those from Russia. Some she calls brainwashed who genuinely believe the words and information given by Putin-

“For 20 years, Putin translated only his channels.”

As the war began, media restrictions tightened in Russia. Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook were among the many platforms that have been banned or heavily monitored to prevent anyone “from publishing anything divergent from the official “party line” of Putin’s government.” as reported by The Nation on Mar 11.

Twitter and Facebook have banned various accounts that have been accused of being Pro-Putin. Some of these accounts belonged to RT (Russian state-controlled international television network) and Sputnik (Russian state media).

Facebook was temporarily allowing political expression for Ukrainians that would typically violate their rules on hate speech policies. These forms of expressions could only be centered around Russian leaders and soldiers, any mention of Russian civilians within a post would be removed,, and accounts could be penalized.

As of Mar. 14, Facebook had narrowed down what is acceptable to post. Their response comes after Russia opened a criminal case. Facebook stated they need to emphasize this was never to endanger the Russians as a whole but rather a means for Ukrainians to showcase the events of the war as it unfolds.

Not everyone in Russia is allowing the bans and censorship to stop them from spreading information about the war. Maya Volf is one of the producers for a popular YouTube channel based in Russia, Varlamov. The content creator has been working around the rules of censorship to continue their videos analyzing Russian politics.

Volf is currently in Amsterdam, with her husband, in turkey. She spoke with The Observers (news content platform) but disclosed she couldn’t give much information about her co-workers who are still in the country for safety reasons.

Volf explains in her interview that you can’t simply say “war,” this could get your video taken down or even the channel suspended. “Situation” is often used to describe the war.

Anyone can land a target on their back, “Even getting information and sharing it with others is dangerous for us and our families,” Volf explains. She points out there’s harm created through censorship in the work she produces, not everyone can read between the lines, but precautions are the only way her team can get any information out.

On Mar 3 the Russian State Duma Committee on State Construction and Legislation passed a law against spreading fake news throughout the country. This entails any information being spread that contradicts the information provided by the Russian government, especially on news about the Russian military. Citizens could face a 15-year prison sentence or a fine equivalent to $14,000.

“Don’t believe the propaganda. They’re lying to you here.” Marina Ovsyannikova, editor for Channel One (Russian Broadcast), burst onto the camera holding out her banner, “Stop the war. No to war.”

Ovsyannikova had run out in front of the news anchor pleading for Russian viewers not to listen to lies being broadcast. Ovsyannikova admitted on screen that she too had played a part in spreading misinformation on the war.

However, not everyone believes this was a legitimate act of protest. Russian news is known to be fabricated, especially now after the ban on “fake news” law, many viewers can’t see how this was an authentic moment.

“It’s fake,” Diana admitted when she initially saw posts surrounding Ovsyannikova. She believed it was an act of selfishness. Soon after, those thoughts changed. She is sure it was all orchestrated.

“It was 20 days of war, and she said nothing. It’s all fake.”

According to The Guardian, Ovsyannikova was detained and what could have been the 15-year sentence turned out to be a $300 fine. “The fact that she has already received a quick punishment indicates that a political decision was made not to persecute her further,” said Pavel Chikov, the head of Agora International Human Rights Group and lawyer, when asked about Ovsyannikova.

Chikov has been a human rights lawyer in Russia since 1999. Some of his work involves helping prosecute more than 250 government officials for human rights abuse, over 50 corrupt police officers, and 17 books on human rights and advocacy for victims.

“I cannot talk to my Russian friends right now” The amount of blame targeted toward Ukrainians for Russian athletes’ inability to participate in sports events, or any of the economic sanctions placed on Russia, are not something that Diana wants to focus on.

Diana’s thoughts are with home and loved ones, their safety, and the well-being of all Ukrainians, “I haven’t seen my family in five years. What if I never see them again?” Even though it’s nearly impossible to understand what the citizens of Ukraine are going through, Diana emphasizes their independence and strives to make sure they are being heard and that Ukrainians will not allow this war, or Putin, to defeat them.

“Don’t give up, Ukrainians.”