The California Wildfires

Written By: Clare Kelly

CALISTOGA, CA – OCTOBER 01: Firefighters perform structure protection against the Glass Fire in Napa County along CA-29 just past Old Lawley Toll Rd on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 in Calistoga, CA.

On Sept. 26, as reported by Reuters, a Zogg Fire broke out in Shasta County, north of San Francisco, by about 200 miles, taking three lives of civilians, bringing the count to 30 deaths since January, of which 29 of these fatalities perished in the last six weeks. As reported by ABC News, this fire “has grown to about 52,000 acres with 7% containment and killed four people,” according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire 

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, according to a Reuters article, firefighters attempted to control two wildfires rapidly moving in Northern California, one burning towns and wineries in the Napa Valley and the other burning through the Cascade foothills near the Oregon border. 

On Sept. 30, a California Daily Wildfire Update, provided by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection website, reported the “final containment to the Fox Fire in Siskiyou County;” while over 17,000 firefighters fought to gain control of the enduring 26 major wildfires threatening lands and civilians across the state. The only fire that has reached beyond the control of firefighters is the Candy Fire in Riverside County. 

Meanwhile the Glass Fires in the south, continue to trailblaze through Napa and Sonoma counties, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. On Sunday, Sept. 25, this fire ignited and has since then threatened many homes, wine yards and people. While ABC News reports, this Glass Fire “has nearly quadrupled in size in the last 24 hours, burning more than 48,000 acres,” as many as 68,000 people have been forced to evacuate for safety. As reported by ABC News, Cal Fire detailed that this fire “has burned 42,360 acres in the North Bay and is 2% contained. At least 113 structures have been destroyed.” As the firefighters continue to battle the wildfire, they are preparing for the uptake in wind Thursday, Oct.1 into Friday, Oct. 2. According to SFGATE, firefighters planned to concentrate on “building containment lines and protecting structures on Wednesday” in preparation for the incoming dangers. Billy See, the Cal Fire incident commander, said on Sept. 30, “We’re looking at a similar wind event to when this fire ignited three days…We’re preparing for the worst-case scenario and hoping for the best. Our firefighters will be working to maintain lines.” As of Sept. 30, many wineries experienced copious amounts of property damage as the Glass Fire continued on its third day of rampaging through the Napa Valley, according to another article by SFGATE. One such winery, the Castello di Amorosa, a 41 year-old company located in St. Helena was reduced to ruins as the “estate and it’s castle-inspired structure were torched.” 

In the west, the recent heatwave exacerbated the flames, as 42 fires continue to burn across the span of eight states reports ABC News. Environmental challenges, such as the wind, heat and the current extreme drought of Northern California create arid conditions that are fueling these raging wildfires.  
As of Oct. 1, Cal Fire reported on their twitter account that “over 17,000 firefighters continue to battle 23 major wildfires in California. The latest number on all active wildland fires at: nearly 1,750 Fire engines, 382 Water tenders, 342 Fire Crews, 293 Bulldozers, [and] 118 assigned aircraft.”

What Happened during the First Presidential Debate?

Written By: Lily Tender

US President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden exchange arguments during the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29, 2020. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

On Sept. 29, 2020, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took to the stage for their first presidential debate. During the 90-minute long back-and-forth between the 2020 presidential candidates, topics like the coronavirus, climate change, and white supremacy were brought to the table, and both candidates gave a pretty unforgettable performance. Most people watching the debate would agree on one thing. Political views aside, the debate was chaotic and stressful, and not just for the candidates or Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, but for the American public. From Biden telling Trump to shut up to Trump insulting Biden’s deceased son, there is much to unpack about this debate. Here is your guide to some of the major things that happened during the first presidential debate of 2020, their implications, and what will happen next.

One of the most important issues discussed to the general public was COVID-19. Trump, who has taken a stance that masks are pointless, held rallies indoors with thousands of people, and repeatedly denied the seriousness of the disease, creates a stark contrast to Biden’s belief that masks are necessary, that we need to shut down states, and who has been holding social distanced rallies. When asked why the American people should trust either candidate with how they plan to handle COVID-19, Biden responded by saying “Do you believe for a moment what he’s telling you in light of all the lies he’s told you about the whole issue relating to COVID? He still hasn’t even acknowledged that he knew this was happening — knew how dangerous it would be back in February — and he didn’t even tell you,” according to CNBC. 

One of the most shocking, and equally terrifying conversations of the night revolved around white supremacy. When Trump was asked to condemn white supremacist groups, he did not. Instead, he said: “Proud Boys – Stand back, stand by, but I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem… This is a left-wing problem.” For context, the Proud Boys, as described by the SPLCU, “ regularly spout white nationalist memes and maintain affiliations with known extremists. They are known for anti-Muslim and misogynistic rhetoric. Proud Boys have appeared alongside other hate groups at extremist gatherings, like the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville.” The SPCLU has also designated the Proud Boys as a hate group. 

Climate change was also discussed at the debate where Trump denied the impact of global warming and took the stance of supporting electric vehicles and planting trees. Biden however backtracked on his campaign’s stance on climate change saying he does not support the green new deal, which is progressive legislation designed to address climate change and economic inequality. This was shocking as it goes against the previously stated beliefs of his campaign.

Whether you are voting for Biden or Trump in the 2020 election, it seems pretty unanimous that this debate was chaotic and unpresidential. If you did not get a chance to watch it, you should try to find some time to do so. The 90 minutes of arguing, interrupting, insults, and answering questions are important for every American to witness.

Protests Rock Madrid During Government Standoff

Written By: Emma Carroll

MADRID, SPAIN – 2020/08/16: People holding placards and shouting slogans without wearing face masks protesting during a demonstration against the mandatory use of face masks and other measures adopted by the Spanish government to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Spain as COVID-19 positive cases are increasing. (Photo by Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Madrid Premier, Isabel Díaz Ayuso of the Madrid region in Spain, has placed 850,000 people living in the poorest parts of the city and surrounding areas in partial lockdown. The groups that organized the protests accused the government of further picking on marginalized communities. Amid rising cases and a polarizing political climate, residents are calling for the government to step up for the citizens.

Spanish Prime Ministers Pedro Sánchez and Ayuso met together on Sept.21,  to coordinate measures against the spread of the coronavirus. With protests rocking the Madrid region amid the rising numbers of cases, this meeting was a friendly spot amidst the intense negotiations in the past weeks,  Ayuso has been an extremely vocal critic of the Sánchez administration, claiming that the central government was not letting regional authorities regulate the health crisis properly. The restrictions following a spike in cases over the summer has spurred protests all over the city, claiming discrimination against immigrants and lower-income areas as well as mismanagement of resources. 

These measures were put in place on Sept.  21, and this partial lockdown has confined residents to their neighborhoods, only allowing them to leave for work, school or health reasons. Parks in the areas are closed and restaurants close at 10 p.m., which is early for a country with a tradition of eating late. These new restrictions from the regional government have spurred many residents to protest on the grounds of discrimination. The areas under the new restrictions are low-income areas. Madrid is the epicenter of a second wave in Spain, with a third of the continent’s 716,481 cases located in the country. Spain’s national health minister, Salvador Illa, is calling for a city-wide lockdown; however, Ayuso is refusing to implement the lockdown due to fear of economic fallout. This has led to protests all over the city, with the largest taking place outside of the regional parliament. Other protests took place in the districts of Villaverde Bajo, Villaverde Alto, Puente de Vallecas, Villa de Vallecas, Carabanchel Alto, Carabanchel Bajo, Arganzuela and Ciudad Lineal-San Blas, as well as the municipalities of Getafe, Parla, Fuenlabrada, Alcobendas, and San Sebastián de los Reyes.

The healthcare system in Spain is on the verge of overload, with 40.12% of ICU beds being occupied by coronavirus patients. In addition, the public transportation is overwhelmed with those who cannot work from home. Spain has carried out more than 8.5 million coronavirus tests, which may result in larger case numbers. The death rate has dropped from six months ago, with 849 deaths in a single day. But numbers are slowly climbing with 479 deaths reported in a week. Protests from before the lockdown against masks and Spanish Prime Minister Sánchez have continued as well as the lockdown protests. So far, the protests show no sign of slowing down and it is too soon to see if the lockdown will have reduced the spread of the coronavirus. As Spain and the rest of Europe face their second spike, they will look to early examples of removing restrictions on residents.

President Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee, Amy Coney Barrett

Written By: Clare Kelly

Judge Amy Coney Barrett speaks after being nominated to the US Supreme Court by President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on September 26, 2020. – Barrett, if confirmed by the US Senate, will replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on September 18. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

On Saturday, Sept. 26, President Donald Trump officially announced Amy Coney Barrett as his nomination to the Supreme Court. This marks President Trump’s third nomination, subsequently to Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh. In Trump’s remarks to the people, he acknowledges Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as “a true American Legend” and “ a legal giant and a pioneer for women,” according to the briefing statement released by White House staff. When Trump introduced Amy Coney Barrett, he described her as “a woman of unparallel achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials, and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution.” Barrett graduated from Rhodes College and the University of Notre Dame Law School, where, on a full scholarship, she “served as the Executive Editor of the Law Review, graduated first in her class, and received the law school’s award for the best record of scholarship an achievement.” Judge Barrett’s experience includes serving as a clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, serving as a clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court and teaching at the University of Notre Dame Law School. According to the briefing statement delivered by President Trump, “the entire Notre Dame Law facility and faculty…wrote letters of support of Amy’s nomination to the Seventh Circuit,” in which “[t]hey wrote, in effect: “Despite our differences,…we unanimously agree that Amy is such a person…devoted to the fair and impartial administration of the rule of law.” As President Trump details, Barrett, if confirmed, will make history as the “first mother of school-ages children ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.” 

The subsequent briefing, released on Monday, Sept. 27, detailed a list of senators, representatives and organizations expressing their approval for the nomination. “Regardless of what you or I may think of the circumstances of this nomination, Barrett is highly qualified to serve on the Supreme Court,” remarked Professor Noah Feldman, a Law Professor from Harvard University. 

While many conservatives expressed their approval, Democrats call for the seat to remain open until the election decides the presidency, as the Wall Street Journal details in their article, “Trump’s Nomination of Barrett Heighten Partisan Conflict as Election Nears.” As the nomination gains speed, according to Politico, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats plan to block Senate Republicans from confirming the nomination of Barrett before the election. Last week, Schumer “invoked the rarely used ‘two-hour rule,’ which can be used to halt all committee business after the Senate has been in session for more than two hours” 

According to NPR’s article, “Senate Judiciary Panel To Start Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing on Oct. 12,” the confirmation hearing by the Senate Judiciary Committee will last four days with “opening statements, questions, and testimony from outside witnesses.” Barrett plans to meet with the Judiciary Committee beforehand, while some Democratic Senators plan not to meet and to simply question her during the hearing. 

The news around the nomination of Judge Barrett continues to heighten and creates tension as the 2020 election date looms closer.

Officers Not Charged for Murder of Breonna Taylor

Written By: Hannah Yale

The officers involved in the shooting of Breonna Taylor have not been charged for her death. On Wednesday, Sept. 23, Officer Brett Hankinson, 44, was indicted with three counts of wanton endangerment of Taylor’s neighbors. During the raid on Taylor’s apartment, Hankinson fired into the sliding glass patio door and window which were covered with blinds, violating a department policy that requires officers to have a line of sight when firing. He was not charged in relation to Taylor’s death. Hankinson was also the only one of the three officers fired after the incident. Sgt. Jon Mattingly, 47, and Myles Cosgrove, 42, were not removed from the force, nor were they charged for Taylor’s murder. At a news conference following the decision, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron claimed, “our investigation showed, and the grand jury agreed, that Mattingly and Cosgrove were justified in their return of deadly fire after having been fired upon” by Taylor’s boyfriend Kenneth Walker.

On March 13, when 26 year-old Breonna Taylor was shot and killed during an illegal and unannounced police raid on her apartment. Taylor’s apartment was targeted in a “no-knock warrant” for a narcotics investigation that centered ten miles away from her home. The subject of the investigation that led to the warrant and the raid was not Taylor herself, but a man she had dated previously, who once sent a package to her apartment. No drugs or illicit money were seized during the raid, and it remains disputed whether Taylor was involved in any illegal activity. 

Mattingly, Hankinson and Cosgrove dressed in plain clothes and used a battering ram to forcefully enter Taylor’s apartment at 1 a.m. Taylor was asleep inside. In response to the noise from the break-in, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who had a license to carry firearms, fired one shot at the front door. Walker claimed he believed he was firing at home intruders. According to the police, Walker’s shot struck Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly in the femoral artery and he sustained an injury in his leg. Witnesses and attorneys for Taylor’s family said that the officers fired more than 20 rounds during the raid. Attorney Daniel Cameron claimed that Taylor was shot six times, and an FBI analysis determined that the fatal shot was fired by Cosgrove— who faced no charges for Taylor’s death.

Taylor was an Emergency Room Technician at Jewish East Medical Center in Louisville and a Practicing Registered Nurse for Norton Healthcare. Taylor’s sister told NBC News that Taylor had begun filling out paperwork to attend fall classes at Ivy Tech Community College and that she was debating whether to move on to working in a neonatal intensive care unit or a trauma unit. Breonna Taylor was adored by her friends, family and community. Her death prompted hundreds of protests around the country in correlation with the Black Lives Matter Movement, and her name has become a rallying cry.

Life and Death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Written By: Maeve Ballantine

On Sept. 18, 2020, at the age of 87, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, long-time judge of the Supreme Court, passed away from complications due to pancreatic cancer. As the country mourns for Ginsberg, it is important to consider who she was, what she stood for, and how we as a country plan to move forward.

Born Joan Ruth Bader on March 15, 1933, to Celia and Nathan Bader, she demonstrated her determinination in her dedication as a student. She later would only go by her middle name since there were numerous “Joans” in her class. Her mother would often take her to the library and took an active role in her daughter’s learning. Since she was unable to attend college, Celia wanted her children, especially her daughters, to be able to get a proper education. Bader attended Cornell University, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in June of 1954, and later began studying law at Harvard, one of only 9 women in her class. It was during this time at Harvard that Bader was asked, along with the other women in her class, “Why are you here at Harvard taking the place of a man?”

Still determined to study law, Bader, now married to Martin D. Ginsberg continued to study at Harvard. She later transferred to Columbia University, after moving to New York, and graduated in 1959, tied as first to her class.

Her early career saw her teaching law procedure at Rutgers Law School, receiving tenure in 1969. In 1970, she co-founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter. Later when she taught at Colombia, receiving tenure there as well, she co-authored the first law school casebook on sex discrimination, something Bader was very passionate about throughout her career. She continued this path of advocacy while she worked in academia, helping to found Women’s Rights Project in 1972 and charted a course that focused on discrimination in the legal world and how it can be dismantled.

She also wrote the briefings for several impactful Supreme Court Cases, including Roe v. Wade in 1973 and Reed v. Reed in 1971. 

When her legal work began to gain attention, she was nominated for DC Circuit court in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter and confirmed by the Supreme Court. Later, in 1993, she was nominated and elected to the Supreme Court.

Ginsberg’s time as Justice was spent continuing her fight for equality and against discrimination on the account of sex and gender, fighting against the Virginia Military Institute’s refusal to allow women into the program, in 1996. She also was not opposed to voicing her disagreement with the Court’s final decisions, such as with the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear. 

One thing she was especially passionate about was that the American people had the chance to make their voices heard and their rights protected. This was especially shown through her last wish, where she dictated to her granddaughter, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

With Ruth Bader Ginsberg gone, is this a new era in American justice? Will we move forward or will we move back? At a time where the political climate is especially uncertain and turbulent, it’s more important than ever that we don’t forget what Ginsberg stood for.

Joe Biden Campaign Remarks in Wisconsin

Written By: Hannah Yale

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden delivered remarks at a campaign event in  Manitowoc, WI on Monday, September 21. Biden began his speech by noting that the U.S. had officially reached over 200,000 coronavirus deaths. He spoke about the particular emotional burden that COVID-19 deaths have had on those who experience them. Many people around the country are unable to visit their loved ones who have COVID-19 and are forced to say goodbye over the phone. Restrictions on public gatherings have prevented people from holding funerals for their loved ones. Biden expressed his worry that “we’ve been living with this pandemic for so long. . . we’re risking becoming numb to the toll that it’s taken on us and our country.” He urged Americans to persevere and maintain our ability to feel the pain of the losses the pandemic has caused. 

Biden wore a mask during his speech and criticized President Donald Trump for holding an indoor campaign rally in Nevada on September 13. Many attendees of the event, and the president himself, did not wear masks or social distance. Biden also condemned President Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, citing the recording of a conversation between Trump and Bob Woodward that took place in February, in which the president admits to knowing the dangers of the virus but still refused to take national action. Biden said: “All his life, Donald Trump has been bailed out of any problem he faced. With this crisis, a real crisis, a crisis that required serious presidential leadership, he just wasn’t up to it. He froze. He failed to act. He panicked. And America’s paid the worst price of any nation in the world.” 

In May 2020, Columbia University released a study on intervention timing for the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. The study found that if the president had implemented nationwide social distancing measures one week sooner, the U.S. could have prevented 36,000 deaths and a minimum of 700,000 infections. Biden cited this study in speech as well as the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s (IHME) COVID-19 projections. Today IHME is the leading model being used to track the coronavirus, and it predicts that between now and the end of this year, there could be up to 200,000 more COVID-19 deaths in America. IHME’s projection track for universal mask-wearing shows that upwards of 100,000 lives could be saved if a universal mask mandate is implemented. 

Former Vice President Biden devoted a segment of his speech to “the brave women and men who served our nation in uniform [and] those who have given their lives in service of this nation.” Biden said that “nothing is more offensive” than the way that Trump refers to military members and veterans, adducing the recent news story in The Atlantic, in which President Trump allegedly referred to American Marines who died in World War I as “losers” and “suckers.” Biden mentioned his son, Beau Biden, who “served and volunteered to go to Iraq for a year, won the bronze star, came home decorated, came home with stage four glioblastoma, and died of cancer.” He said passionately: “[my son] wasn’t a loser. He wasn’t a sucker. He was a patriot. And all those people with whom he served and volunteered were patriots as well.” 

A portion of Biden’s remarks addressed the economy, specifically his plans to change tax codes. He said that, according to his financial plan for the country, nobody making less than $400,000 annually would see their taxes go up. Biden does plan to raise taxes for people making over $400,000 per year if he is elected president. During the pandemic, billionaires in the United States have seen their wealth increase by $800 billion collectively. “And the rest of us?” Biden stated, “30 million people are unemployed, 20 million Americans are at risk of losing their home [. . .], [and] evictions are on the rise.” Biden’s financial plan includes more tax breaks for the working class, because, he says, “We need to do more than just praise our essential workers, we need to pay them.” 

Biden also briefly addressed his plan to shift the country to renewable energy, using American companies and American workers to make the switch. Biden claims that he plans to replace all the cars in the federal fleet with electric vehicles and to make 40 million buildings across the country weather-resistant. This is part of Biden’s Build Back Better plan for sustainable infrastructure and clean energy, details of which are available on the Joe Biden campaign website. 

Biden told the audience that some of the most important things he learned in life were from his parents. According to Biden, his mother used to tell him, “Joey, remember, nobody is better than you, but everyone is your equal.” Near the end of his remarks, Biden claimed that this election “is not a partisan moment. This has to be an American moment.” Calling for unity and nonpartisan governing, Biden proclaimed confidently that the American people can overcome anything together. 

Vice President Biden’s September 21 speech is available to watch on CSPAN.

A 4.6 Magnitude Earthquake in Southern California has Seismologists Concerned

Written By: Eleanor Pratt

Southern California residents are no strangers to earthquakes. According to the United States Geological Survey: “Each year the southern California area has about 10,000 earthquakes. Most of them are so small that they are not felt.” A few hundred of these earthquakes are larger than a 3.0 magnitude, and about 20 a year have a greater magnitude than 4.0.

Because these earthquakes happen fairly often, many who live in southern California often see them more as nuisances than a dangerous environmental phenomenon. When asked how she felt about earthquakes, former long-time Los Angeles resident, Carreen Weston said: “When I lived in LA, I was never concerned about an earthquake unless it was bigger than a 5.0. Honestly, anything less than that never really mattered to me or my friends.”

This brings us to the issue of the 4.6 magnitude earthquake that occurred on Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake hit around 11:40 p.m. near Los Angeles. While there were no injuries or damage reported, there were fears of possible aftershocks and experts warned residents to remain alert. According to the Los Angeles Times, the quake was felt as far south as San Diego. About ten miles from the epicenter, South Pasadena residents felt sharp shakes and jolts, but luckily the power remained on.

Many southern Californians were not overly concerned, even though the earthquake was one of the larger to hit the area this year according to the Los Angeles Times. In fact, some were not bothered at all because a moderate-sized earthquake pales in comparison to other traumatic events in 2020. Los Angeles resident and internet personality, Ryan Bergara, tweeted at 2:47 a.m. on Saturday morning: “Won’t lie, I legit looked up at the ceiling and giggled during that earthquake. This year has broken me.” Ron Simms, who has lived in Los Angeles his whole life, described the quake as, “not a big deal.” and that “Nothing even fell off the shelves.”  

Even if many Los Angeles residents were not that worried about the earthquake, seismologists warn that these events in certain areas could spell disaster. KPBS reports that the temblor of the recent quake was centered near the epicenter of the Whittier Narrows earthquake of 1987. Dr. Lucy Jones, a seismologist, explained on Twitter that the Whittier quake was much larger at a magnitude of 5.9. Furthermore, according to The Los Angeles Times, it caused about $350 million in damage and resulted in eight deaths. The area where these two quakes occurred has been having increased seismic activity for several years.

The Puente Hills thrust fault is to blame for these recent earthquakes and the majority of earthquakes in Los Angeles and southern California in general. It stretches about 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles to the San Gabriel Valley. This fault worries seismologists because it runs under downtown Los Angeles, which is where the majority of the city’s skyscrapers are located.

The Los Angeles Times reports that, if a magnitude 7.5 earthquake or larger were to happen on the fault, it would do more damage than the much feared “Big One” along the San Andreas fault. The United States Geological Survey believes that if this 7.5+ earthquake happened along the fault, anywhere from 3,000 to 18,000 people could die, and there would be about $250 billion in damage.

Experts are taking this activity on the fault very seriously and are constantly monitoring earthquakes in the area closely to make sure they are prepared in the event that a major earthquake occurs along the fault. Due to the fact that most Californians live within 30 miles of an active risk fault line, according to California Earthquake Authority, California residents are advised to always have their emergency preparedness kit nearby and a plan in case of a larger earthquake.  

Papal Letter of Pope Francis Sparks Conversation

By Clare Kelly

On Sept. 5, The Vatican announced that Pope Francis will release his new encyclical on Oct. 4 of this year, reported the Catholic News Agency. The subject-matter of this papal letter was released days later with discussions emerging around the world about the nature of the papal letter.  As the Catholic News Agency says, “The Holy See press office said Sept. 16 that the encyclical “Fratelli tutti,” on fraternity and social friendship, would be issued at noon Rome time on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.” Earlier this month, The Vatican released information that Pope Francis would sign “the third encyclical of his pontificate during a visit to Assisi on Oct. 3” detailed by the Catholic New Agency. As explained by Andrea Tornielli’s Article, “An Encyclical for all brothers and sisters,” “Fratelli tutti” comes from Saint Francis of Assis, whose name Pope Francis chose upon his election to the pontificate. The title comes from St. Francis’s Admonitions, which, according to the Irish Franciscans of Mission is one of the nine writings St. Francis wrote in his lifetime. 

Tornielli brings to light the debate that’s emerged around the “circular letter” (the meaning of encyclical). St. Francis’s writing addresses the brothers, which brought speculation about Pope Francis’s usage of the word. But, as stated by “America,” The Jesuit Review, the Vatican and editorial clarifies that the encyclical “addresses all his sisters and brothers, all men and women of goodwill who populate the earth: everyone, inclusively, and no way exclusively.” According to America, this editorial, written by Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of Vatican News,  responds to “the discussion and contestation of the title by a number of people in the Anglophone world, and especially in the United States, where the title “Fratelli tutti” was perceived as referring only to men, with some decrying it as misogynist.” Tornielli emphasizes that the Pope has no intention of changing the title, but that the title has no intentions of excluding women. 

Andrea Tornielli says Pope Francis, “chose the words of the Saint of Assisi to initiate a reflection on something he cares about very deeply: namely, fraternity and social friendship.” Tornielli explains that the subtitles, fraternity and social friendship, show that there’s a “necessary affection established between people even if it does not close blood relatives. The relationship must be expressed through kind deeds, forms of assistance, works of justice and generous action in times of need—a disinterested affection towards other human beings, regardless of any difference or affiliation.” 

According to the National Catholic Agency, Pope Francis has focused much attention to the theme of human fraternity. In recent years, “the pope signed, ‘A Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together’ during a trip to Abu Dhabi in Feb. 2019,” and “Pope Francis’ message for his first World Day of Peace as pope in 2014 was ‘Fraternity, foundation and pathway for peace.’” 

Pope Francis plans to hold Mass at St. Francis’s tomb in Assisi on October 3 and sign the encyclical letter.

Congress Returns From August Recess

Written By: Hannah Yale

Congress returned from its month-long recess on September 8 with a packed agenda. The House and the Senate only have several weeks left before the November election to tackle topics like COVID-19 financial relief, legalization of marijuana and the U.S. Postal Service. 

Since the first round of stimulus checks went out in April, congressional leaders have been unable to reach a bipartisan compromise on providing further relief to Americans financially affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Many lawmakers and members of the public are skeptical that another deal will be reached anytime soon.

The House of Representatives plans to vote on the MORE Act for the federal legalization of marijuana during the week of September 21. Marijuana is currently listed on the federal list of controlled substances as a Schedule-One drug. The MORE Act would remove marijuana from the controlled substances list and expunge some marijuana-related criminal records, however, individual states would still be in charge of passing their own regulations regarding the sale of marijuana. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., told USA TODAY earlier this month that it is likely that the MORE Act will pass in the House, but it is doubtful that it will make progress in the Senate.

U.S. Senators, Elizabeth Warren and Bob Casey, recently released the results of their investigation into the changes to the Postal Service, implemented by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. Their investigation shows that his policies have caused “significant delays” in the delivery of mail-order prescriptions. These delays pose severe health risks to millions of Americans and put seniors and those with pre-existing conditions in serious danger. The delays in USPS delivery also pose a potential threat to the upcoming election, as a significantly higher number of voters will be mailing their ballots because of COVID-19.

Congress must pass a continuing resolution to fund the government and have it signed by the President by September 30 to avoid a government shutdown. If a continuing resolution does not pass by the deadline, the U.S. could sink even deeper into financial crisis and societal chaos as the coronavirus remains uncontrolled.