Local Starbucks Finds New Home

On Feb. 7 a new Starbucks was unveiled in the developing St. Mary’s Market Place, replacing the former location just a few blocks south. This new location, in addition to being more easily accessible from both directions of travel, features a drive-thru, a first for the only free-standing St. Mary’s County Starbucks.

This Starbucks sits at the end of its lot, providing considerable natural light from wall-to-wall windows on the western and southern ends. With the expanded floor space comes a variety of seating options for guests. There are several armchairs and tall stools available for customers settling in for a few hours of study, long-table style seating for groups and, notably, a bar-style seating area where the drinks and food sit when ready, for the customer that would rather not be bothered.

A new feature of this Starbucks is the nitro cold brew available on draft, giving the chain cafe a stylish, upscale aesthetic. Other than that, the drinks and snacks available are largely the same as one would find at any other Starbucks location, including the ever-popular seasonal frappuccinos and cake pops, though the supply has been increased with the larger space. The line to order is long and slow-moving, giving the customer plenty of time to consider every option. To offset this, once an order is made it moves along fast, and the baristas are courteous. They seem frazzled as they learn the new drive-thru system, which places baristas with headsets alongside other baristas, forcing them into double-duty. Hopefully, issues will be ironed out in time.

The California Starbucks location is currently the only open building in its strip, with some still under construction or up for lease. In the next strip over, a Panda Express has recently opened, also featuring a drive-thru system. The new Starbucks location, it is at 45000 St Andrews Church Suite F, California, MD 20619. On Weekdays it is open from 4:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., with slightly expanded hours for the weekend.

The Myth of a “Pax Americana”

In Jan., Max Boot, a prominent military historian, wrote an incredibly honest op-ed in The Washington Post about American involvement in foreign conflicts. Criticizing the Trump administration’s desire to pull out of Syria and Afghanistan, Boot wrote that the point is not to win. Instead, like the “Indian Wars” and British imperialism in India, America is patrolling “Pax Americana,” therefore the American public shouldn’t have any expectation of withdrawal from its overseas interventions and instead should view them as a multi-century project.

He uses analogies to the worst excesses of Western colonialism, in describing the current predicament in which America finds itself. Boot writes his piece in a very distant voice which ignores the genocidal aspect of this patrolling of our borders.

In the same sense, Boot doesn’t mention the real consequences of the supposed “Pax Americana.” The US invasion of Iraq killed conservatively hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and undoubtedly created the power vacuum which led to the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Additionally, America frequently kills civilians throughout the Middle-East with drone strikes. Our involvement in Syria has different US agencies funding different militias that fight each other or hand over weapons to ISIS, and our overthrow of Muammar Al Gaddafi, the dictator of Libya, in 2011, precipitated two civil wars which have killed tens of thousands of people.

Another area where the US heavily intervenes to maintain control is Latin America. The New York Times reports that in 2018 Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, warned that America was meeting with Latin American leaders to plot a coup against Maduro, and of course, in January, Juan Guiado unilaterally declared himself president of Venezuela with the backing of the Trump administration. On Jan. 27 Vice President Pence released a video in support of Juan Guido, calling Maduro an “illegitimate dictator.” This is the second US coup attempt in Venezuela this century.

To be clear, the Maduro administration has curtailed civil liberties and has accrued too much power. However, that does not necessitate US intervention. We can’t go around the world destabilizing every problematic regime, and the Trump administration certainly has no room to criticize dictators. Trump has repeatedly supported the Saudi government, an absolute monarchy, commended Jair Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil who has praised Brazil’s military dictatorship and undermined a UN anti-corruption investigation into the US-backed Guatemalan government.

Additionally, the Trump administration claims to care about the welfare of the Venezuelan people, yet is levying sanctions on oil that will hit Venezuela’s poor hardest and will undoubtedly cause deaths. So, clearly America doesn’t care about democracy or human suffering; the Venezuelan government has refused to accommodate the American Empire and is facing the consequences.

This disregard for the rule of law and human rights is especially apparent with John Bolton’s appointment as National Security Advisor in 2018, and Elliot Abram’s appointment as Special Envoy to Venezuela this year. John Bolton, who held prominent positions under Reagan and both Bush’s, has been on the wrong side of every foreign policy blunder in recent history. Bolton undermined a UN proposal to enforce the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and pulled America out of the International Criminal Court; Bolton also called for regime change in Iran, backed the Iraq War, called for pre-emptive strikes in North Korea and supported the Libyan intervention.

Elliot Abrams, another blood-soaked official, served in several positions during the Reagan administration, perhaps most infamously as Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. A day after he assumed office Abrams led a cover-up of the US-backed El Salvadoran junta’s massacre of 800 civilians. The Intercept reports that US-trained El Salvadoran soldiers entered the town of El Mozote and murdered, raped and tortured men, women and children. Abrams told the Senate that the story was propaganda and “not credible.” Throughout his tenure, Abrams fully supported the El Salvadoran government during its “civil war,” although a UN report showed that 95% of the violence was committed by the government, which employed death squads that killed tens of thousands of peasants.

Not to outdo himself, Abrams supported the military dictatorship in Guatemala, also in a “civil war.” The UN found that the Guatemalan government committed 93% of the human rights violations in a conflict which killed 200,000 people. Abrams wanted America to lift its arms embargo on Guatemala and claimed the Guatemalan government was improving relations with its indigenous communities. In 2013 a Guatemalan court indicted Efrain Rios Montt, the leader of the dictatorship, for genocide against native Mayans and human rights abuses.

This is only a taste of the atrocities and dictatorships that Abrams enthusiastically supported, and now he is the Special Envoy to Venezuela. This is a clear message of US intentions in Venezuela, in fact, The Guardian reports that Abrams was a key player in the 2003 Venezuelan coup.

So when Boot talks about protecting “Pax Americana” and endless wars this is what he means — supporting blood-thirsty dictatorships in impoverished countries while simultaneously overthrowing uncooperative governments. This is what global empire looks like, and its refreshing that some who support this state of affairs are finally being honest.

A humane US foreign and domestic policy would completely ostracize war criminals like John Bolton and Elliot Abrams from public life at the least. It would apologize to the people of Latin America and the world for intervening in their countries, killing millions. Additionally, refugees and illegal immigrants from Central America should get immediate amnesty and citizenship. Our malicious foreign policy directly contributes to their immiseration, and now we say its criminal to run away from our actions.

The Alcohol and Drug Task Force: A Waste of Time and Money

This article is published on behalf of Samuel Wilson, its author.

At the start of this semester, Dean of Students Leonard Brown sent an all-student email detailing the administrative response to the recent student speak-out. Amongst his responses was a short aside regarding the establishment of “a task force of students, staff, and faculty… with the ultimate goal of recommending an implementation timeline for addressing safety concerns resulting from alcohol and drug use on campus.” The Dean also stated in his email that recommendations for this task force will be shared with the SMCM community at an unspecified date.

Records from the SMCM Board of Trustees and Student Affairs Committee indicate that in February the task force will review collected data from surveys and meet with the Maryland Collaborative, a network of schools that have agreed to collectively seek out solutions to harmful alcohol use amongst college students. The task force will take recommendations from the Maryland Collective, develop their own recommendations and provide the Dean of Students with a finalized list in May.

Following the authoritarian social policies pursued by the administration last semester, much of the community has felt a divide between students and administration. The administrative overreach that a task force could incite would undoubtedly be more divisive. Caitlin Henry, a student member of the task force, states that students were included in the force based on considerations of the growing rift between admin and students. “Students have different perspectives regarding authority,” says Henry. Including the voices of students in the task force will hopefully allow for a more bipartisan policy recommendation process. Henry hopes to be a representative of student voices as a member of the task force and hopes to find middle ground between the desires of the SMCM community and policy recommendations.

Overall, very little detail has been given regarding this new alcohol and drug task force, yet its very existence is reason for conversation. My hope is that the administrative side of the task force will not pursue prohibitionist or policing policies regarding substance use. As sovereign adults, we have the right to self-determination over our own bodies, a concept known as bodily autonomy. Many people regard it as a fundamental human right. In my own view, this right extends to what substances one chooses to consume and alter their consciousness with. It is not merely freedom of the body, but a freedom of consciousness and thought. College students engage in reckless behavior at much greater rates than the general population and have the responsibility to be especially careful and knowledgeable when choosing to use recreational substances. Our society has failed to instill these values. Instead it has demonized drugs for political reasons, all the while glorifying alcohol and nicotine dependence. We as a society have failed to educate our population on responsible substance use. Instead, we have let Pfizer, Shire and Purdue ravage our country in the form of Xanax, Adderall and OxyContin, and thrown millions into the corrupt private prison system for nonviolent drug offenses, all in the name of profit. My hope is that the administration will recognize that harm reduction and education policies are the most effective balance between public health and personal sovereignty. To put it quite frankly, a task force is a complete waste of school resources and will do nothing but foster a culture of secretive drinking and drug use. Sometimes the truly progressive way is the libertarian way.

Superintendent Charged With Insurance Fraud After Helping Sick Student

Last month, Indiana school Superintendent Casey Smitherman was arrested, charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor for insurance fraud. After having taken a 15-year-old student suspected of having strep throat to an urgent care clinic where he was refused treatment, she brought him to another one and used her son’s name and health insurance to get medical attention. Later, Smitherman again used her son’s name and insurance to fill a prescription for him. She resigned from her position as superintendent of Elwood Community Schools after the arrest. Initially, the school board appeared to support her, but ultimately they voted to accept her resignation swiftly and unanimously.

Smitherman knew the student and had helped him and his family previously, and has since stated that committing fraud was a lapse in judgment. She was concerned for the student and his health, but did not want to alert child services as she was afraid he would be put into the foster care system. Smitherman has now been put on a pretrial diversion system, which means that if she is not charged with anything else for a year, the charges will be dropped.

She obviously had good intentions, but the way she carried them out was extreme and against the law. I admire and understand her desire to help her students in any way that she can, but using these means she ultimately did more harm than good for herself, the student and the school district as a whole. I am not trying to make a statement on the national healthcare system in general, as some have used this as an example of why universal healthcare is necessary, only that in her position of power and respect she could have handled the situation differently. Smitherman may have even undermined her attempt to shield the student from child services as the scandal might bring him to their attention. On top of that, since she has resigned, it will be difficult for her to find work in this district or in any other one. People, and the media especially,  can be cutthroat, and may not remember or report on all the good she has done for this school system, but what they will remember is that she committed a felony.

It is clear that Smitherman feels remorse for her decision, as she has stated that she was frightened in the moment and would re-do it if she had the chance.  Oftentimes, lies have a tendency to pile up on each other, but it seems that there would have been plenty of time to correct her decision and greatly minimize the consequences. It could not have been a snap decision and action with all the steps involved, and she would have had time to think of a better and legal solution.

At the same time, I feel bad for her because she only wanted to help the student. She just did so very improperly, especially for someone in a position of power, and all of her future actions in this regard will be under scrutiny. While some may claim she got off easy, as health insurance fraud similar to this is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, the scandal may take a long time to die down, and her name is probably tarnished for years to come, especially in the immediate area.

How to Succeed in Plagues Without Really Trying

Last year the rate of measles cases increased 50%, according to the Guardian. Now in New York, a measles outbreak has occurred after individuals returned from Israel after the holidays, with more than just fond memories packed in their carry-on. This is not normal. The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine has been available and safely implemented for at least 50 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While the vaccine requires a series of dosages given to children between birth and school age, the pain and annoyance of holding a toddler down for a shot is well worth it in the long run. Children who successfully finish their MMR series, something which is required in most school districts for enrollment, are far less likely than unvaccinated peers to contract the deadly illness, saving families thousands of dollars in medical expenses, as well as the pain of losing a child. With all the great reasons to keep children up to date on their vaccinations, one might think that a parent would have to be pretty ignorant not to get the shots over and done with. Enter the anti-vaccine movement.

My first exposure to the anti-vaccine movement came during the 2009 swine flu pandemic. I distinctly remember the fear garnered around what some thought could become another Spanish Flu, so bad at points that pork sales dropped, despite no actual link between pork consumption and swine flu contraction (ABC). I also remember being told by classmates at my small Christian private school that they were not getting the vaccine that had just come out because it had the swine flu in it, and thus, would give them the flu. Even as I got my vaccine in my county’s health department, this thought echoed in my head. Still, I got my shot, in addition to most of the other vaccines that my doctor deemed necessary. I hate needles, but I hate being sick even more, and time and again vaccines proved effective in my own life, and in the lives of others.

Still, despite so much evidence in favor of getting shots, the anti-vaccine movement remains strong, especially in young mother communities and mommy blogs. One top culprit that comes to mind is Jenny McCarthy, film and television star, model and unlikely lifestyle guide. McCarthy, despite her lack of medical expertise, found herself supporting the misconception that there is a link between vaccines and autism when her own child was diagnosed with autism following inoculation. She claims that the proof is in the gut, where she claims inflammation from imbalances caused by vaccines can brew, leading to problems in the brain. McCarthy said in a 2010 interview, “A lot of people didn’t understand there was a gut and brain connection, and I would tell them: ‘Let’s go try that theory out in a bar. Go have a drink, and see how it affects your brain’” (PBS), going on to say that “If you talk to parents who have children with autism, they have little Buddha bellies. Their guts are inflamed.”

McCarthy has gone on to publish several books on the topic of autism and its alleged vaccine connection, such as “Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism,” “Healing and Preventing Autism: A Complete Guide” and “Mother Warriors: A Nation of Parents Healing Autism Against All Odds.”It should be noted  for clarity’s sake that there is no known link between autism and vaccination. This supposed link first came about in a 1998 paper published by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in “The Lancet.” Wakefield’s medical license has since been revoked. According to HealthLine, “Later investigations have shown that Wakefield was set to benefit from lawsuits based on his research. The study was retracted after numerous other scientists could not replicate his findings” (HealthLine). Despite the fact that no credible papers have been published since in support of an autism and vaccine link, the damage was already done, and a seed was planted. McCarthy is partially to blame for spreading the misinformation, though it probably would have gotten around even without her help. The actress, who clearly has some toxic feelings about her own son’s autism, now judges on the show “The Masked Singer,” where she is referred to as a cultural influencer. For the record, autism is not a disease to be cured, it is a developmental disorder, like epilepsy.

Measles is an awful disease, which can kill if not treated quickly. According to the World Health Organization, measles can result in complications like “blindness, encephalitis (an infection that causes brain swelling), severe diarrhea and related dehydration, ear infections, or severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia” (WHO). One of the first symptoms is a high fever, which can last up to a week, with a signature rash following. Even in mild cases, measles can last weeks on end. What parent would want to deal with that, even if (strong if) it could give their child a strong natural immunity? Worse yet, the people at highest risk are the immunocompromised, young children and pregnant women. These people, who cannot be vaccinated even if they would like to be, are vulnerable without the herd immunity that comes when others get their vaccines. At that point, not being vaccinated when it is totally safe to do so is not only irresponsible for personal health, but irresponsible towards the most vulnerable among us. If cost is a worry, most insurance plans cover vaccines, and resources are available for the uninsured. Don’t just do it for yourself, do it for society.

“Taken” to the Extreme: Liam Neeson Shares Thoughts of Race-Based Violence

On Feb. 4 during an interview with The Independent, actor Liam Neeson admitted that he went looking to kill a black man after learning that someone of the same race had raped his friend. Neeson’s comments have sparked a debate about racism and forgiveness that is sweeping Hollywood and social media.

Neeson gave the interview to promote his most recent film, “Cold Pursuit.” His controversial claims came on the heels of a conversation about the futility of revenge. Neeson told the interviewer that, after hearing the news of the rape of one of his female friends, he asked about the race of the perpetrator. Upon hearing that the man was black, he went out and began walking the streets with a “cosh,” waiting for a “black bastard” to start an altercation with him so that he could, in Neeson’s own words, “kill him.” A cosh is another word for a club.

The quote seems to have come unprompted, as Neeson’s co-star Tom Bateman expressed horrified surprise in response to the admittance in the form of a succinct, “Holy shit.”

The following day, in response to a wave of backlash, Neeson went on Good Morning America and claimed that he is “not racist” and that he would have reacted the same had the attacker been “an Irish or a Scot or a Brit or a Lithuanian.”

This leads to the question that so many have been asking: Is Liam Neeson racist? His confession is shocking, but he claims that he became disgusted with himself afterward, even going to see a priest to talk out his violent feelings. Despite the controversy the aforementioned question is generating, I have trouble seeing what has people confused. Is Liam Neeson racist? Well, yes, clearly.

The fact of the matter is: Liam Neeson went out looking to murder a random black man for a crime committed by someone specific. Neeson claims that he would have reacted the same had the person been of another race, but that doesn’t change the fact that he would have been using the actions of one person to generalize an entire demographic.

TPN spoke with the coordinator of the African and African Diaspora studies department, Jeffrey Coleman, Ph.D., about his thoughts concerning the comments. “He wasn’t interested in that particular black man [who had committed the crime],” Coleman said. “He was interested in attacking any black man he felt he had a justifiable reason to assault…and that’s patently racist.”

Neeson’s comments show that he has fallen prey to the stereotype of, as Coleman puts it, “helpless white female who’s attacked by a stereotypical black beast.” This is still an ugly reality for many black men in the modern world, who get unfairly judged by society for no other reason than the color of their skin. One has to consider how long Neeson held these racist thoughts before he was finally given an excuse to act on them.

Defenders of Neeson point out that the actor said he felt remorseful for his dark thoughts, and went to a priest to repent. But he still spent a week walking the streets with a weapon before coming to his senses. Others claim that, since the incident occurred so long ago, we should consider the fact that Neeson may have changed since then. Still, others have called him brave for admitting such a horrifying story. While his honesty is admirable, I would hesitate to call Neeson brave. The only thing he proved with that interview is a past capability for racial violence, and it is impossible to really know if he has changed. The stereotype of a dangerous black man has been ingrained in the brains of white people for hundreds of years and is difficult to overcome. “[Those thoughts] don’t just go away if you’ve bought into the stereotype,” Coleman said.

Despite an outpouring of support, however, there’s still been a significant amount of backlash. Why, then, did Neeson choose to share this? He must have known how it would have been received. Coleman theorized that it could have been a publicity stunt to generate attention for his new movie, and underestimated the amount of negative attention there would be in response. Given that Neeson is a successful white man who works in the entertainment industry, it’s unlikely he’ll face any lasting consequences for these comments unless people decide to stop supporting him.

This leaves the responsibility up to the viewer, then. How long will it take people to forget or forgive? The box office numbers for “Cold Pursuit” may be telling enough, making only $10.8 million against a budget of $60 million. It seems that perhaps Neeson may face his comeuppance after all. “One thing is certain,” Coleman told me, “if his films do not bring in revenue, then he will become a less desirable leading man.” Apparently, it doesn’t pay to be racist.

“Russian Doll” Makes for Great Viewing

  The first season of “Russian Doll” a Netflix original series, was released on Feb. 1. Compared to both “Groundhog Day” and “Happy Death Day,” the show centers around a woman seemingly doomed to live the same day again and again. Created by Amy Poehler, Leslye Headland and Natasha Lyonne, the dark comedy stars Lyonne as Nadia, a blunt and fiery software engineer who attends her own thirty-sixth birthday party, dies and begins the night over again. Lyonne’s fellow “Orange is the New Black” star Dascha Polanco plays a supporting role in the series.

    The show differs from predecessors following the same premise in both subtle and glaring ways, while at the same time drawing smart parallels and alluding to them. Nadia’s demeanor is comparable to the gruff and cynical Phil in “Groundhog Day,” and they each begin the repeat to their own theme song; Phil’s “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher and Nadia’s “Gotta Get Up” by Harry Nilsson. While early on it may seem that this will be the only song in the show, the soundtrack is diverse and suitable to the setting, making it an unsung hero.

Unlike previous works within the same genre, Nadia is not the only one reliving the same day. Early in the series, she discovers that there is someone else stuck in the same loop as her. With each restart, they begin to notice changes and disappearances in their environment. In addition, they do not live the same amount of time each day or even die the same way, a portion of the entertainment comes from observing the different, often funny, ways they die each time. (Watch out for those stairs!)

     Overall, the show is hilarious, dark, melancholy and a bit off-putting all at once. The portrayal of mental illness is delicate and thought-provoking, creating an intricate story with multi-dimensional characters. Throughout the series, Nadia must come to terms with her mother’s schizophrenia and the impact that had on her childhood and her own life, while also fearing that the time loop she is stuck in is a product of her own mind. The eight 25-minute episodes make it easy to watch back-to-back, and leave the watcher wanting more. Mollie Rudow, a St. Mary’s College of Maryland student (‘22), said “I watched it all at once! I did not even realize it when I made it to the last episode. It went by so fast, and I don’t know if I will be able to wait until next year for the next season.” While Netflix sometimes announces a second season along with the release of a first season, it is unclear whether they will continue “Russian Doll.” It likely will depend on the show’s reception, which seems very good so far. “It is the first new show I have really liked in a little while,” Ryan Gullang (‘22) said. “At first it seemed like the concept of reliving the same day had been overdone, and the show might become repetitive, but it was very well done and did a good job distinguishing itself from the others.”

“Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” Captivates and Disgusts Viewers

On Jan 24, the Netflix original series “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” was released. The documentary is split up into four episodes that include chilling audio clips of the American serial killer Ted Bundy and people who knew him describing his horrifying crimes.

Bundy confessed to killing thirty people by the end of his life, but it is estimated that there were many more. He was executed in 1989 but his legacy still fascinates the public today. “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” is just one among many documentaries about him that have come out in recent years.

In addition to shocking descriptions of Bundy’s crimes, this series also shows clips of interviews with people who knew him. This creates somewhat of a personal tone compared to many other documentaries on the killer, as it shows the perspective of victim’s families and people affected by his crimes rather than just focusing on Bundy himself. Some of the interviews are gruesome while others are simply heartbreaking, all of which provide personal details on those who were impacted by him.

Part of what made Bundy so fascinating to the public in the first place was his charisma and appearance. Nobody could believe that such a well-kept and educated man would be capable of such monstrosities. Since the documentary was released, there has been a bit of an uproar on various social media platforms regarding how much focus it puts on Bundy’s “attractiveness”.

This criticism seems a little unfair to the producers, given that Bundy has been known as the “handsome killer” since he first was on trial. The entire point of the documentary is to tell his story, and a significant part of why he was able to get away with so many terrible things was his appearance and his facade of a pleasant personality. Despite how disconcerting this is, it seems reasonable to include it in the series as it had a big impact on how both the court and the public viewed him. The documentary does not at all seem to try to excuse his actions or make him seem less like a monster by calling him “handsome”, it seems more of an objective description of everybody’s reaction to him.

Overall, “Conversations With a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” is horrifying yet very interesting. It provides many different perspectives on Bundy and highlights what a vast impact his murders had on others.  This series is sure to captivate those who are interested by true crime while terrifying them at the same time. It will be interesting to see how the upcoming movie “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” where Zac Efron stars as Ted Bundy will compare to this documentary.

“Kimmy Schmidt” Ends After Four Year Run

The first episode of “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” premiered on Netflix on March 6, 2015. Since then a lot has changed— not just in our world, but in the online video streaming platform as a whole. In America, we saw a transfer of power from one president to another across party lines, along with all the conflict and controversy that accompanied it. In Hollywood, the #MeToo movement came into itself, taking down renowned directors, producers and actors, and shining a light on the predatory behavior of the film elite. Several political movements, including the Black Lives Matter protests and the Women’s March rose and fell with differing results. So, it stands to reason that “Kimmy Schmidt,” a show spearheaded by female comedic icon Tina Fey, a woman who never strays from the controversial, would include some of the great changes of the past four years in her show in the Jan. 25 release of the final episodes.

Kimmy (Ellie Kemper), the titular character, never quite moves past her childlike immaturity, brought on by the trauma of spending 15 years trapped in a doomsday cult. While her trauma and the lengths she must take in order to deal with it is compelling, the show itself seemed to grow bored with her as it progressed, delving into the issues and pasts of those surrounding her, to varying degrees of success. While I was always happy to see Kimmy as she deals with modern life (at one point in the final episodes, she develops an “emotional affair” with a coworker’s parents, with hilarious results), I could not say the same with Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski), the thoroughly unlikable former employer, turned talent agent. While her backstory as an indigenous woman was bad enough, given actress Jane Krakowski’s thoroughly caucasian heritage (her whiteness may have been part of the joke, but it was poorly written and executed), I also found myself hating her involvement with the #MeToo movement. As an agent, she discourages Titus (Tituss Burgess) from speaking up on his own assault at the felten hands of a famous puppet. She also functions as an unwitting benefactress of the poor young men, scared of being ousted, running to older women like herself for flings. Her character lacks depth, unlike Kimmy, and her obnoxious actions are never really resolved.

Titus shines throughout the series, and the final episodes of “Kimmy Schmidt” do little to dim his sparkle. While nothing quite beats his “Pinot Noir” music video of the first season, his unlikely turn on “Cats” is unforgettable. Even though it would be easy enough to let his character stagnate in outlandish flamboyance, Titus shows growth in his dealing with former love Mikey (Mike Carlsen) as he moves on to a stable relationship with a banker. I would gladly watch a spin-off of “Kimmy Schmidt” featuring Titus in his adventures as an up-and-coming actor.

While it can be hard to see a show come to a close, “Kimmy Schmidt” was ready to end. Creator Tina Fey has a hit or miss style of humor that often goes over the edge in pursuit of a winning punchline, but unfortunately this humor was serving up more misses than hits as the series progressed. At the very least, the showrunners were well aware of their impending end, and tied up the series as well as they could, resulting in a satisfying end for all. Overall, “Kimmy Schmidt” was never predictable, for better or for worse, and I am happy to see it end in a way I definitely did not expect.

Power Outage in Detention Center Considered a “Humanitarian Crisis”

Banging filled the halls of the Metropolitan Detention Center late January, the sound carrying out to the street below where human right activists and others gathered to protest. From early January, the Brooklyn facility has been without power and heat for days. The banging was the prisoners themselves, slamming on their cell walls and window to let the city, and the world, know their unfortunate condition.

The incident gained public attention on Sunday, Jan. 27 after an unattended electric panel caught fire, plunging the prison into darkness and frigid temperatures, exacerbating the already-present heating issues which caused temperatures to drop as early as Jan. 5. The approximately 1,600 inmates inside were left without lighting, warm food, warm water, or heat amidst the polar vortex that sent New York temperatures into the single digits. According to weather reports, temperatures outside the facility dropped as low as 2 degrees, and it is unknown how low the temperatures inside the prison dropped. The power issue, which was initially considered by prison officials to be an easy fix, lasted until Sunday, Feb. 4. During that time, prisoners were kept in the cold and dark without visiting rights or proper medical attention.

In response to the circumstances, which the New York Public Defense Office is calling a “humanitarian crisis,” activists and inmate’s relatives gathered outside the prison carrying signs and shouting support to prisoners through windows. Several protesters attempted to enter the building on account of the prisoner’s sixth amendment rights to visitors and right to aid of counsel for defense, but were pepper sprayed by prison guards.

The protests culminated with a bomb threat on Sunday, Feb. 4 at 10:45 a.m., which was investigated and deemed false by authorities.

Meanwhile, prison officials denied both the extent of the problem and their responsibility for it. In an email with the New York Times a representative of the prison wrote, that “All housing units have functional lighting,” and “Heat and hot water has not been impacted. Likewise, inmate meals are not impacted; inmates are receiving regularly scheduled hot meals each day.” Her report, as well as other employees at the prison, contradict the testimonies of the inmates, many of whom contacted their public defenders about conditions before the ability to use the phones was lost.

Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo, who does not have jurisdiction over the federal facility, called for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the situation, saying  “Prisoners in New York are human beings. Let’s treat them that way.” A spokesperson for the Department of Justice responded with a statement saying that the department would investigate the conditions and the alleged neglect of the prisoner’s sixth amendment rights.

Power was restored on Feb. 4 and charges were filed against the detention facility by Kaplan Hecker & Fink on behalf of the Federal Defenders. Dave Patton, executive director of the Federal Defenders released in a statement that  “The conditions at the MDC and the behavior of the officials in charge are disgraceful and inhumane and represent wholesale violations of our clients’ constitutional rights.” The lawsuit is expected to go forward with support from the prisoners, activists and general community.