NEW MUTATION OF THE COVID-19 RAISES CONCERNS

Sydney McCall | Staff Writer

Associated Press/ Frank Augstein

New and more contagious strains of COVID-19 that originated in South Africa, the United Kingdom and Brazil have hit the United States.

Towards the end of January, a new COVID-19 strain known as B.1.1.7 from the United Kingdom began to emerge in the United States. This variant is 70 percent more transmissible than the original COVID-19 strain, according to the CDC. Scientists have also reported that evidence suggests that the B.1.1.7 variant may be associated with an increased risk of death.

The Virginia Department of Health has currently reported four cases of the new strain in the state. 

“Viruses change all the time, and we expect to see new strains as disease spreads,” said Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver. “We know this variant strain spreads more quickly between people than other strains currently circulating in our communities, but we still have more to learn about whether it causes more severe illness.”

As of February 2, 33 states have reported a total of 541 cases of the new strain, according to the CDC. 

The death rate of COVID-19 is expected to rise with the new strain, as it will infect more people due to it being more contagious.

COVID-19 vaccine developers are working hard to make new shots that are proven to protect people from the new strains

When the strains first emerged, vaccine companies said that they believed their shots offered protection. However, new studies showed COVID-19 vaccines aren’t as effective against the mutation of the strain that spread in South Africa, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

The Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board warned about the highly transmissible new variants.

“They’re more virulent, can cause more death, and some of them may even escape the immune response, whether it’s natural or from the vaccine,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of the advisory board, to CNBC. “So it’s really important right now that we do everything possible to preserve the vaccines to make sure they keep working and that means preventing the spread of these new variants.”

 Experts say it’s urgent that people do not begin to let their guards down as winter comes to end and spring breaks begin. “Pandemic fatigue” is the phrase that has been coined to describe people being tired of restrictions outside their homes.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the President, said in an interview with MSNBC that the new strains could be “worse than the coronavirus that ravaged the world in 2020.

Experts have continued to encourage citizens to wear masks, avoid large indoor gatherings and stay socially distant from those not in your household to prevent the spread of the virus. Some experts are suggesting doubling up on masks, to increase protection.

Outspoken Critic of Russian Government Detained Five Months After Poisoning

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russia of the Future Party, who rose to prominence as an outspoken critic of President Vladmir Putin, was detained by Russian authorities after returning to Moscow on January 17. 

Navalny’s return to his home country comes after a five-month stay in Germany where he received treatment  after being poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok. The chemical agent left Navalny in a medically induced coma. Novichok is the same chemical infamously used to poison former Russian spy turned double agent Sergei Skripal in 2018, according to NBC News. While many, including Navlany himself, believe the poisoning was done at the behest of President Putin, no official explanation has been offered. 

Navalny’s arrest has sparked international outrage, with many prominent government officials criticizing the Kremlin’s relentless efforts to suppress critics. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have called for European Union foriegn ministers to discuss enacting sanctions against Russia, according to Reuters. Furthermore, the foriegn ministers of Germany, Britain, France and Italy have called for Navaly’s release.

Outgoing United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that he was “deeply troubled by Russia’s decision to arrest Aleksey Navalny,” and commented in a separate statement that Navalny’s arrest was “the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures and independent voices who are critical of Russian authorities.”

While the Kremlin has yet to offer a full explanation, Russian foriegn ministry officials have taken the opportunity to defend the decision while attempting to maintain an image of internal fairness and stability. 

“We should probably think about our image, but we’re not young ladies going to a ball,” Russian Foriegn Minister Sergei Lavrov stated. 

Foriegn Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova furthered these sentiments with a statement published on Facebook. 

“Respect international law, do not encroach on national legislation of sovereign states and address problems in your own country,” Zakharova wrote. 

In a recorded statement targeted at his supporters, Navalny called for public protests for his release. 

“They are afraid of you,” Navalny said. “I call on you to stop being silent, resist and take to the street. There are so many of us.” 

Navalny is scheduled to appear in court on February 2, where a judge will decide if his original suspended sentence will be converted to three and a half years in prison.

Outspoken Critic of Russian Government Detained Five Months After Poisoning

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russia of the Future Party, who rose to prominence as an outspoken critic of President Vladmir Putin, was detained by Russian authorities after returning to Moscow on January 17. 

Navalny’s return to his home country comes after a five-month stay in Germany where he received treatment  after being poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok. The chemical agent left Navalny in a medically induced coma. Novichok is the same chemical infamously used to poison former Russian spy turned double agent Sergei Skripal in 2018, according to NBC News. While many, including Navlany himself, believe the poisoning was done at the behest of President Putin, no official explanation has been offered. 

Navalny’s arrest has sparked international outrage, with many prominent government officials criticizing the Kremlin’s relentless efforts to suppress critics. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have called for European Union foriegn ministers to discuss enacting sanctions against Russia, according to Reuters. Furthermore, the foriegn ministers of Germany, Britain, France and Italy have called for Navaly’s release.

Outgoing United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that he was “deeply troubled by Russia’s decision to arrest Aleksey Navalny,” and commented in a separate statement that Navalny’s arrest was “the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures and independent voices who are critical of Russian authorities.”

While the Kremlin has yet to offer a full explanation, Russian foriegn ministry officials have taken the opportunity to defend the decision while attempting to maintain an image of internal fairness and stability. 

“We should probably think about our image, but we’re not young ladies going to a ball,” Russian Foriegn Minister Sergei Lavrov stated. 

Foriegn Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova furthered these sentiments with a statement published on Facebook. 

“Respect international law, do not encroach on national legislation of sovereign states and address problems in your own country,” Zakharova wrote. 

In a recorded statement targeted at his supporters, Navalny called for public protests for his release. 

“They are afraid of you,” Navalny said. “I call on you to stop being silent, resist and take to the street. There are so many of us.” 

Navalny is scheduled to appear in court on February 2, where a judge will decide if his original suspended sentence will be converted to three and a half years in prison.

The U.S. Pushes For Globalization of COVID-19 Vaccine

 Jourdyn Grandison | Staff Writer

U.S Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, announced that under the Biden administration, the United States plans to join the COVAX vaccine facility.

“President Biden will issue a directive later today which will include the intent of the United States to join COVAX and support the ACT-Accelerator, said Dr. Fauci to CNN. “[This] advances multilateral efforts for COVID-19 vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic distribution, equitable access, and research and development.”

COVAX is known as one of the three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, introduced in April to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Commission and France. The COVAX initiative was started to ensure that poor and developing nations have access to coronavirus vaccines at the same pace as rich and developed nations.

Former President Donald Trump and his administration announced the U.S. would not join the alliance back in September due to distrust in the WHO and the Chinese government. The administration’s action sparked outrage from public health experts who said it reflected a global initiative’s provincial view.

At the time, almost every country in the world joined the alliance except for Russia and the U.S. The result of Trump’s decision led to the WHO losing $400 to $500 million in required and voluntary donations.

Vaccine developers estimate that there is a possibility of sufficient doses for more than one-third of the world’s population by the end of 2021. Even with this possibility, many people in low-income and developing countries might have to wait until 2023 or 2024 for vaccination, according to estimates from the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.

To combat this, WHO plans to distribute vaccines to developing countries in February under the COVAX strategy. Despite this, there are concerns that more prosperous countries may still be grabbing a large share of available shots.

The U.S. will work with the other 193 member states to reform the U.N. agency and will make research accessible and available to professionals, Dr. Fauci said.

“We believe strongly that we can ensure that every American gets the vaccine, but also help make sure that others around the world who want it have access to it,” Fauci closed.

A Presidential Transition Like None Other

Sydney McCall|Staff Writer 

After an unprecedented four years, the Trump era came to an end on January 20, following the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. However, the transition to the next presidency was not without controversy.

Following the victory of Biden in November, former President Donald Trump, convinced his supporters that the election was stolen and claimed the election was rigged. He and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, spent months after the election filing lawsuits in battleground states that helped Biden win the election.  

On January 6, Trump gave a passionate speech during a rally near the White House where he argued that the election was “stolen from you, from me, and from the country.” He urged his supporters to walk down to the Capitol in an attempt to “stop the steal” of the election.

Hours following his speech thousands of his supporters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol, one of the most important democratic institutions in America. Inside were rioters with baseball bats, bear spray and explosives.

Wearing Trump paraphernalia, they took over the Capitol halls, sending officials into hiding. Five people, including a Capitol Police officer died as a result of the attack. 

Later that night, despite the violence, Congress confirmed Joe Biden’s win. Many of Trump’s longtime Republican supporters including Chris Christie, Mitch McConnell and Kelly Loeffler spoke out and condemned the violence as well as the role Donald Trump played in inciting the attacks.  

On January 13, Donald Trump was impeached for “incitement of insurrection,” just one week before his term expired. In the same week, the former president was also banned indefinitely from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and several other social media sites.

In fear of more riots and attacks D.C. became a fortified city and Muriel Bowser, the city’s mayor, enacted a curfew. Almost every road in downtown D.C. was closed, and major metro stations were closed for days.

Thousands of National Guard troops from D.C., Maryland and Virginia guarded federal buildings and some even slept in the U.S. Capitol to ensure overnight protection.  

“I came to DC to see a friend, and I have never seen the city that dead and scary,” said Xavier Wilson, a first-year strategic communications major at HU. “It was sad, seeing that all this security was to protect us from mainly domestic terrorism.” 

Despite the chaos, Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris were still inaugurated and for the first time in 150 years, the outgoing president was not in attendance.  

Even though Trump was not present, he said it was “a great honor” to serve as president.

Kamala Harris Makes History as America’s First Black, First South Asian and First Female Vice President

Sydney McCall | Staff Writer  

For the first time in American history, on November 7, a woman was elected to the nation’s second highest office.  

Kamala Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, will be sworn in as the highest ranking woman in the country on January 20, 2021. Her victory makes her America’s first Black, first South Asian, and first female vice president-elect. Harris’ win comes at the end of the Trump era, largely affiliated with a rise in white supremacy, xenophobia, and misogyny.  

This is not the first time the California Senator, has broken barriers. In 2016, she became the second African American woman and the first South Asian American to ever serve in the United States Senate. Her position as the future vice president comes as a triumph to many that were devastated in 2016, when Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump, after being the first woman to ever win the presidential nomination of a major party.

Kamala Harris’ win symbolizes a beacon of hope for women, people of color, and HBCU students around the nation. Harris is a 1986 graduate of Howard University and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the oldest Black sorority in the country. Her victory gave her sorors and students at historically black colleges a moment to shine while also seeing a representation of themselves in a powerful place.  

“I feel very empowered to know that a woman of color is going to be making some of the big decisions in this country,” said Janiya Pearson, freshman class president at Hampton. “Kamala has truly made history in this nation and seeing her lets me know that I can one day do the same.” 

In her first speech as vice president-elect, Harris wore all white, mirroring the uniform of the suffragettes who 100 years ago, advocated for women’s right to vote in this country. She also recognized how historic the moment was and what it meant for women.  

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” she said. “Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities. And to the children of our country, regardless of your gender, our country has sent you a clear message: dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they’ve never seen it before. But know that we will applaud you every step of the way.” 

  The Vice President-elect also used her victory speech to recognize the importance of black women in this election, honoring them as the “backbone of our democracy.”   Harris and President-Elect Biden have stressed the importance of compassion and unity in our country and plan to use their time in office to do so.

Mississippi Votes “Yes” to Adopt New State Flag

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

Photographer: Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

In addition to voting for the next President of the United States, and for the legalization of medical marijuana, Mississippi Voters were tasked with a referendum that would address the state’s legacy and national perception. 

Ballot measure 3, which asked voters if  the state legislature should vote to adopt a new flag, passed with 71.4 percent of voters choosing yes.

In 2001, Mississippi voters voted overwhelmingly to keep the state flag; and in 2015, state legislators unsuccessfully proposed a bill that would take state funding away from schools that refused to fly the state flag with the confederate emblem. 

The current state flag was adopted in 1894, and as of 2020, is the only state flag that still had the confederate emblem.

While many felt that the flag continued to highlight the state’s role in the country’s history of  slavery and segregation, others argued that it prevented the state from growing relationships with outside economic influences. For example, in June, the NCAA announced that no championship game would be played in Mississippi until the state flag was changed. 

The Mississippi legislature took the first steps in replacing the flag by passing House Bill 1796, which called for artists to submit proposals for a new flag and the retirement of the current flag. 

A task force established by the bill would sort through more than 3,000 flag submissions, before eventually settling on the new “In God We Trust” magnolia flag. 

The flag features a large magnolia, the state flower, in the center of a deep blue background. The magnolia is surrounded by 20 white flowers, which represents Mississippi being the 20th state. A single gold star symbolizes the tribes of indigidous people native to Mississippi. 

State representative Jeramey Anderson praised the bipartisan effort by his fellow legislators in a statement to CNN. 

“This was a bold, bipartisan step that shows the world Mississippi is finally ready to step out from under the cloud of slavery and Jim Crow. But it isn’t the final step,”Anderson said. “Mississippi and the United States remain plagued by systemic racism that keeps people of color from being truly free and equal.”

This measure of progress is an example of the changing culture of the south, as changes are being made that were unthinkable less than two decades ago. 

Joe Biden elected as 46th President of the United States

Sydney McCall | Staff Writer

Biden and Harris at their COVID-19 Briefing: AP/Carolyn Kaster

After a four-day election process, Joseph R. Biden Jr. defeated President Trump to become the 46th President of the United States. Biden’s campaign was run as a “battle for the soul of the nation.”

Biden won with 290 electoral college votes, surpassing the 270 needed to win the presidency. His victory was announced after winning Pennsylvania. The president-elect received a total of 75,678,364 votes, the most votes for any presidential candidate in history, according to the Associated Press. 

Biden’s triumph comes after one of the most tumultuous presidential elections in history. The president-elect routinely criticized the current administration’s handling of the COVID-19 and other key issues.

Black voters in urban cities helped deliver the election for Biden as about 87% of Black voters voted for the former vice president according to preliminary exit polling. 

Black voters in urban cities like Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Detroit helped swing their respective states blue. These cities are around 39% black, according to NBC news. 

In his victory speech, Biden acknowledged the importance that Black Americans had in his win. 

“When this campaign was at its lowest, the African American community stood up again for me,” Biden said. “They always have my back, and I’ll have yours.” 

With the election of Biden comes the new Vice President-elect, Kamala Harris. Harris is the first female, first black, and first South Asian Vice President.

“We did it, we did it Joe. You’re going to be the next President of the United States,” Harris said on a phone call with Biden that she shared on Instagram.

Biden-Harris supporters gathered after the news of his win. Thousands of supporters spilled into the streets of Washington D.C. and other major U.S. cities singing and cheering. The Star Spangled Banner played through Capitol Hill as thousands screamed “It’s over.” 

While Biden and Harris will not be officially sworn in until January 20, 2021, the pair have already shared their plans for their transition into the White House. On Nov. 9, Biden named a COVID-19 transition advisory board made up of distinguished public health experts. The president-elect also held a COVID-19 briefing, laying out his plans for the country as we move forward in the pandemic.

President Donald Trump has shown no intentions to concede. He claims that there was widespread voter fraud that cost him the election and his legal team has filed multiple lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia, battleground states that he narrowly lost. There is currently no proof of any widespread voter fraud, according to the Associated Press. Trump is the first sitting president to not be re-elected since 1992.

Young political advocates: How young people are using the Internet to speak up

Sydney McCall | Staff Writer

A new generation of young people are not afraid to speak up about their beliefs, and they’re using social media to do so. 

Claudia Conway, 16, and daughter of presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway, uses TikTok and Twitter to voice her opinion about President Donald Trump and other members of the White House administration.

“You’re a [expletive] idiot,” Conway tweeted about Trump to her 589,000 Twitter followers.

She regularly uses her platform to voice her support for qualified immunity, defunding the police and Black Lives Matter, ideas that the current administration has openly opposed. As a result, Conway has consistently found herself trending.

Conway also broke the news that her mother tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the nomination of Amy Coney-Barrett at the White House. 

After President Trump revealed his diagnosis, Conway posted a TikTok captioned “my mom coughing all around the house after Trump tested positive for COVID,” with an attached audio saying “That’s suspicious.” Hours later, she posted that her mom had tested positive. 

Kellyanne Conway was forced to announce her positive test after speculation began due to her daughter’s post. Two days later, Claudia Conway announced that she had also tested positive for the virus. She used her social media networks to urge Americans to take the virus seriously by wearing masks and social distancing. 

After the President was released from his three-day stay at Walter Reed Medical Center for COVID-19, many speculated as to how he recovered so quickly. His verbiage suggested that he was healed and that the virus should be taken lightly. 

“He literally is not OK,” Conway said, referring to the President on her TikTok. She was named a “reporter” and “whistleblower” by many in the media. 

“Claudia Conway is the only source I trust on Trump’s condition” said Lorie Liebig, a publicist for Lucky Bird Media. 

Conway is just one of many outspoken members of Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, and who use social media to discuss politics. 

“I really think my generation isn’t afraid of saying how we feel,” said Xavier Wilson, a first year strategic communications major at HU. “If we disagree with something we are going to speak up, especially since we have social media.”

Conway is not the only child of a politician who is voicing their dissenting opinion. Caroline Giuliani, the daughter of Rudy Giuliani, former New York mayor and affiliate of Donald Trump, endorsed Joe Biden. She said that while coming out against her father’s beliefs is hard, no one can afford to be silent right now. 

“If being the daughter of a polarizing mayor who became the president’s personal bulldog has taught me anything, it is that corruption starts with yes-men and women,” Carolina said in a Vanity Fair Op-Ed.

Slaying of teacher sparks protests across France

William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer

The murder of a teacher from France has become a source of outrage throughout the country, inspiring teachers and activists to engage in protests for freedom of expression and the protection of educators. 

Samuel Paty, 47, was found decapitated in a Parisian suburb on Oct. 16. Later that day, before being gunned down by French police, Abdoullakh Abouyezidovitch, 18, took credit for the killing on Twitter.

Eleven other people, including two school children, have been taken into custody in connection to the crime, according to the BBC News.

The murder was allegedly committed out of anger over a lesson Paty recently taught in a freedom of expression class at the Collège du Bois d’Aulne. During the lesson, Paty showed a caricature of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad from Charlie Hebdo magazine. 

French President Emmanuel Macron charterized the incident as an “Islamist terroist attack.” French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer also spoke out in support of the rights and safety of French teachers, adding that the nation would work to defeat the opposition against democracy. 

“What has happened is beyond words,” Blanquer said. “There are no words for it, and we must fight against it.”

Teachers and accompanying  protestors held demonstrations throughout France in the wake of Paty’s murder, carrying posters with the words “I am a teacher” and  “I am Samuel.”

A local French teacher told Le Monde newspaper that she came to the protests after she “realized you could die teaching.”

Many fear that Paty’s death will further create a divide over secularism within France, a value that the country and its citizens have long celebrated.

Secularism, the idea that religious institutions should be separate from the state, is partially responsible for freedom of expression in France, another noted cultural value. 

However, after a murder so heavily influenced by religous belief, discussions surrounding the role of religion and religous extremisim in France are inevitable. 

Tierra Mack, a senior at Hampton University believes that while freedom of expression is important, so is religious tolerance. 

“Violence at any level should never be tolerated, but it’s also important to understand what can be offensive to other people and their religious beliefs,” Mack said. 

On October 21, Paty was posthumously awarded the Légion d’honneur, the highest honor given in France.