Facebook Experiences Two Major Outages in a Week

By Angelie Roche 

Around 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 4 and 3 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 8, Facebook and all of its connected apps– including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger– became inaccessible to users across the United States and the world. Monday’s outage lasted for five hours and Friday’s for nearly two, causing widespread panic as people who relied on the apps for communication or otherwise depended on that omnipresent ability to scroll through posts suddenly found themselves unable to do so. According to The New York Times, there are nearly 3.5 billion people who use Facebook’s platforms worldwide, and in some places, the internet cannot be accessed without some involvement of Facebook’s services. Many others use the “sign in with Facebook” option when accessing other websites or apps, and were barred from doing so during the outages. 

On Monday afternoon, Facebook sent out an update apologizing for the five-hour blackout and explaining what caused it. According to their engineering team, “configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers,” which caused a disruption so massive it “cascaded” down to every service the company provides. They added that there was no malicious activity or hacking behind the blackout, as that has been a problem with some services in the past and a concern among users; rather, it was simply an error in programming. 

Though Facebook said they were working to fix these issues, the second outage on Friday suggested that there could be even more in the future. Both outages occurred just after the social media giant was exposed for prioritizing profit above restricting hate speech on Oct. 3. The whistleblower, former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen, said that the company was aware of the harm Instagram caused to teens’ mental health and the misinformation about vaccines that was being spread on Facebook, but did little to mitigate either. 

Facebook’s many problems– some of which have been occurring for years now and are only worsening– are raising questions about social media, big tech companies and mental health for people worldwide. Officials in Moscow, Russia used the blackouts as an example of global technology’s failures, stating that its nationalized social media was superior. In Belgium, EU antitrust chief Vestager said that the blackouts showed the danger of tech monopolies and the need for more competition in Silicon Valley, stating that we “must not rely on a few big players” to control much of our internet usage. 

Still, others cited the short-term positive effects of the outage. In an interview with CNN, therapist Ian Kerner said that the 5-hour gap made some of his patients realize how reliant they had been on social media. Scrolling through your feed is a quick and easy way to gain serotonin, but it is not a healthy coping mechanism; for some, the outages on Sunday were reminders to take a break, go outdoors and turn off their phones for a while. Still, the wider implications of Facebook’s recent crashes left us all with more questions than answers.

Supreme Court Votes No on D.C. Voter Representation

By Jordan Williams

On Monday, Oct. 4, the Supreme Court struck down a case that would have granted District of Columbia (D.C.) residents the right to vote for representatives in Congress. The case was called CASTANON v. United States, Dist. Court, Dist. of Columbia 2020. In this case, the plaintiffs argued that D.C. residents were entitled to representation by virtue of being U.S. citizens who have residency in other states. Their argument did not include a right to statehood, but rather a right to vote for representatives of states that they resided in the past before they moved to D.C. For example, a Maryland resident who goes to D.C. should be allowed to vote for Maryland representatives, according to the plaintiff’s argument. “They cited laws that have entitled residents of other federal enclaves or U.S. citizens living overseas to vote even though they do not currently reside in states, saying the same logic should apply to residents of D.C.,” said the Washington Post. 

The Court sided against the plaintiffs, citing Supreme Court precedent from Adams v. Clinton 2000, which stated that D.C. residents could not vote for representatives because they do not reside in a state. While the decision dealt a blow to the D.C. activists, it is ultimately insignificant to the overall movement. The Supreme Court ruling does not prevent Congress from passing a law to give D.C. a vote in Congress. Indeed, with a 6-3 Conservative majority in the Supreme Court, taking the fight to Congress remains the most promising option towards representation in the District. The Court’s decision does not make any claim on the constitutionality of D.C. statehood, which means that Congress most likely has the constitutional ability to make D.C. the 51st state through a vote.

This is easier said than done; D.C. activists have been trying to achieve statehood for decades. In order for D.C. to become a state, a bill would have to pass in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Democrats in Congress argue that D.C. residents have the right to federal representation by virtue of paying federal taxes, while Republicans argue that D.C. would be an abnormal state and push the boundaries of what statehood means. If D.C. were to join the 50 states, it would be the smallest in terms of territory and have the third lowest population.

The Legends of Southern Maryland

By Ellie Pratt 

Southern Maryland is a place teeming with legends of ghosts, witches and all manner of strange things. Although they may seem silly at times, Julia King, a professor of Anthropology at St. Mary’s explained that: “Ghost stories help us work through some of the anxieties that we as a society have–sort of cultural anxieties… They also show that even though we think we’re a very literate 21st century culture, we still have our oral traditions that we tell and work out through ghost stories.” 

One of the most famous examples of Southern Maryland ghost stories is Point Lookout. Formerly a prison camp during the American Civil War, this is the site of over 4,000 deaths of confederate soldiers. According to Edwin Warfield Beitzell in his book “Point Lookout, Prison Camp for Confederates,” “The tale of the camp is a horrid story to tell. It is a story of cruel decisions in high places, a story of diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid and typhus, of burning sands and freezing cold in rotten tents. It is a story of senseless shootings by guards.” 

In her book, “Archaeology, Narrative, and the Politics of the Past: The View from Southern Maryland” King says that although it cannot be scientifically proven that Point Lookout is haunted by ghosts, “Telling stories about ghosts at Point Lookout has become a important way of talking about and actively remembering Point Lookout’s difficult past.” 

Many have reported paranormal activity in or around the lighthouse, with the Point Lookout Lighthouse Preservation Society even compiling all of these documented hauntings on their website. Screams, strange whispers and even far off drums can be heard in the recordings collected on the site, in addition to interviews with those haunted and photographs of blurry figures, shadows, and strange lights. 

The legend of Moll Dyer, a woman accused of being a witch in 1698, is another prominent story in Southern Maryland culture. According to legend, St. Mary’s County had been consumed by sickness and crop failure for a few months, and the townsfolk were looking for someone to blame. Unfortunately, the older single woman living alone in the woods became their scapegoat, and she only just managed to run to the woods when they burned her home to the ground. 

The story goes that as she lay dying from hypothermia, she gripped a nearby boulder and burned her handprint into it, cursing the town and all those who had done this to her. According to The Washington Post, after it was found in 1968, the rock lived at the Old Jail in Downtown Leonardtown before being moved to Tudor Hall in early 2021, where anyone can go visit to see the strange handprint left in the rock.

Like with Point Lookout, King stated that this story can tell us something about how we remember a difficult past: “Moll Dyer is another sort of anxiety . . . the story has a lot to say about– in that period– women who live alone and who may be ascribed certain powers that are not necessarily looked on favorably by the community.” 

In her St. Mary’s Project titled “Ghosts and the Creation of Place,” Sabrina Graham notes that “​​ghost stories in St. Mary’s were utilized as a way of creating place through the establishment of community identity.” According to her research in the community, “ghost stories were used to forge a personal connection with history just as much as they were used to interpret it.” 

So, although ghost stories might be considered meaningless entertainment most of the time, they have many uses from a way to cope with loss and grief to a way to remember–or to change–an unpleasant past. Overall, they provide an amazing amount of insight into our own cultural values and community, which can be seen in our very own local legends. 

Two Students Injured in Shooting at Virginia High School

By: Hannah Yale

On Sep. 20, two students were shot at Heritage High School in Newport News, VA during an attack by a fellow student. 

The Newport News Police Department confirmed that the individuals who were shot were a 17-year-old male and a 17-year-old female. The male survivor was shot multiple times– once in his jaw, once in his leg, and another shot struck one of his fingers– and is being treated at Norfolk Sentara General Hospital. The female student was shot in the left shin and was later treated at Riverside Regional Medical Center.

The attacker was a 15-year-old male student who is now in police custody. The investigation is ongoing, and no details about the shooter, his weapon, or a possible motive have been released. 

However, the Daily Press has reported that multiple anonymous sources have revealed that the 15-year-old in custody already has pending charges for malicious wounding, using a firearm in a felony, and underage possession of a firearm. These charges come from a shooting in Southeast Newport News in 2020, in which the boy allegedly shot another teenager on 34th Street. Although the Daily Press’s sources said the teen pleaded guilty six months ago, a hearing is scheduled next month for a final disposition and sentencing in the Newport News Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

The attacker’s identity has not yet been published because he is being charged as a juvenile in the 2020 shooting, and prosecutors have not announced whether they will charge him as an adult in the case for the 2021 shooting. The new charges against the 15-year-old attacker are for two counts of aggravated malicious wounding and nine gun counts, including “possession of a firearm as a convicted felon,” though it is unclear at the moment what the previous felony charges are from. If convicted, the teenager most likely faces life in prison.

According to Everytown For Gun Safety, there have been at least 82 incidents of gunfire on school grounds so far this year, which resulted in 21 deaths and 47 injuries nationwide. There has been one incident of on-campus gunfire in Maryland. 

Three people, including the shooter, were injured by gunfire at an unsanctioned gathering at Towson University (TU) on Sep. 4, 2021. One of the injured persons was a TU student, and an announcement made by TU confirmed that this individual has been released from the hospital, according to CBS Baltimore. 

The suspect in the TU shooting, 19-year-old Samuel Nnam, is being held in custody by the Baltimore County Police Department without bail. Nnam is being charged with multiple counts of attempted first-degree murder and first-degree assault, and he faces a life sentence if convicted. 

Gun violence prevention activist and SMCM student Jaxon O’Mara told The Point News that school shooting incidents like these are not taken seriously enough. “There is a lot of work to be done, including passing universal background checks federally, passing Jaelynn’s Law in the Maryland General Assembly, investing in community violence intervention programs, and other common-sense gun violence prevention tactics,” O’Mara said. 

Jaelynn’s Law (HB0200 and SB0479) would expand gun storage regulations in an effort to prevent minors from accessing firearms. The bill is named after 16-year-old Jaelynn Willey who was shot and killed by a classmate at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County in 2018. The gun used in the shooting belonged to the father of the attacker. State Senator Jack Bailey (R), who represents St. Mary’s County, has said the state’s current child access prevention law is “more than adequate” in addressing gun violence.

O’Mara and Willey were classmates at Great Mills High School, which is only a 10 minute drive from SMCM.

Vaccine Rates at SMCM vs Other Colleges

By: Ellie Pratt

According to the COVID-19 dashboard on the St. Mary’s College of Maryland website, our current vaccination rate sits at 95% with three active cases as of Sept. 29. For the fall 2021 semester, all SMCM students are required to wear face masks while indoors and all students, employees, student guests and visitors must be vaccinated against COVID-19. There are medical and religious exemptions in place, although those who remain unvaccinated are required to be tested regularly. These precautions have led to impressive results so far.

Interestingly enough, it seems that other small liberal arts colleges in Maryland are experiencing very similar circumstances, demonstrating how well vaccination and mask policies work in preventing COVID-19.

Washington College, a small liberal arts college in Chestertown, Maryland with a student population of about 1,400, has a policy stating that all students who attend this college are required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, and all students are also required to receive a COVID-19 vaccination with the exception of medical or religious exemptions. The school currently has a 90% vaccination rate according to its COVID dashboard. They have only had three positive cases since Sept. 13.

St. Johns College in Annapolis only has a student population of 451. The Annapolis campus of St. Johns has had five positive cases since the beginning of the semester, with 251 tests administered so far. Face masks are required for indoors and per their Fall 2021 reopening plans; all students are required to be vaccinated, while unvaccinated individuals are required to have weekly testing. The vaccination rate currently stands at 95%, and their website declares them to be at Level Green, which simply means that they will, “continue to closely monitor state and county positivity rates and local health conditions.”

In Towson, Goucher College has a slightly larger population of 2,173 compared to our own population of around 1,400. Students and others at the college are required to wear masks indoors, and unvaccinated people are highly encouraged to wear face masks if they are within six feet of another person. As with most schools, we have looked at so far, Goucher requires students to be vaccinated. According to Goucher’s COVID-19 dashboard, the school has zero active cases on campus; an impressive feat. The college sits at a 99% vaccination rate, which may account for its low amount of infection. Since Aug. 16, there have only been six cases total after 193 tests.

It looks like SMCM is right on track in terms of high vaccination rates and low prevalence of COVID-19 cases when one compares it to other small liberal arts colleges in Maryland. Hopefully, with continued student, faculty, and staff cooperation with COVID-19 policies, we can reduce the number of active cases to zero by the end of the semester. It is up to us all to make our college safe and to protect vulnerable populations, both on campus and in the local community, so please wear your mask and get vaccinated.

Best Coffee Houses of St. Mary’s County

By: Lily Riesett

There is nothing more quintessential to the college experience than an overpriced cup of liquid energy used to make it through the endless hours of studying. Luckily, St. Mary’s County is chock-full of coffee shops that are easily accessible to St. Mary’s College students. From establishments in Historic St. Mary’s City to converted Yurts in Lexington Park, there are many great options for places where St. Mary’s students can fuel their caffeine addictions.

Enso Kitchen:  47414 Old State House Rd, St Mary’s City, MD 20686

Enso Kitchen has been considered one of the best kept secrets of St. Mary’s. While one might think this little stone building is just a historical structure for St. Mary’s City, it is actually a converted bakery functioning for modern baking practices. Enso sells baguettes, coffee, challah, and sandwiches, but their most popular item is their delectable croissants. They are only sold at the store Wednesday through Friday and customers are recommended to pre-order. Enso is owned by the family of SMCM environmental science professor Dr. Ellen Kohl. Dr. Kohl and her husband frequently donate uneaten bread to the college food pantry, contributing to the college community even more. SMCM student Regan Farrar simply reviews Enso by saying “Good biscuits, good cold brew, and good vibes!”

The Beanery: 22737 Three Notch Rd, California, MD 20619

A little farther up the road from St. Mary’s College is The Beanery, a coffee shop and bakery located in California, MD. The Beanery has both a breakfast and lunch menu, complete with pastries, bagel sandwiches, and salads. They also have an extensive drink menu with coffee supplied by local coffee roaster Chesapeake Roaster. You can see St. Mary’s students study in the comfortable seating on the weekends or after class. If you do not have time to sit with a cup of coffee, you can use the drive-through to get a quick fix. St. Mary’s student Andrew Seitzman says “The Beanery is fantastic!” He recommends trying the pumpkin patch latte, “specifically iced!”

St. Inie’s: 46915 S Shangri La Drive, Lexington Park, MD 20653

St. Inie’s coffee house has been in business since 2015, starting as a small coffee stand at one of the local St. Mary’s County farmers markets. Since then, they have expanded to a yurt-like building in Downtown Lexington Park. Here, they sell cold brew and pour-over coffees, straying away from frilly drinks. Have no fear though, because their coffee is one that deserves to be tasted! St. Inie’s does sell pastries, bagels, and bags of whole bean coffee. They also have a selection of novels you can peruse and purchase inside. St. Inie’s has stuck to their roots though, allowing you to be able to find them at local farmers’ markets on Saturdays.

If you do not have access to a car and cannot check out these coffee shops in person, make sure to stop by the Daily Grind in the Campus Center for a nice cup of coffee!

Vaccine Rates at SMCM vs Other Colleges

By: Ellie Pratt

According to the COVID-19 dashboard on the St. Mary’s College of Maryland website, our current vaccination rate sits at 95% with three active cases as of Sept. 29. For the fall 2021 semester, all SMCM students are required to wear face masks while indoors and all students, employees, student guests and visitors must be vaccinated against COVID-19. There are medical and religious exemptions in place, although those who remain unvaccinated are required to be tested regularly. These precautions have led to impressive results so far. 

Interestingly enough, it seems that other small liberal arts colleges in Maryland are experiencing very similar circumstances, demonstrating how well vaccination and mask policies work in preventing COVID-19. 

Washington College, a small liberal arts college in Chestertown, Maryland with a student population of about 1,400, has a policy stating that all students who attend this college are required to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, and all students are also required to receive a COVID-19 vaccination with the exception of medical or religious exemptions. The school currently has a 90% vaccination rate according to its COVID dashboard. They have only had three positive cases since Sept. 13.  

St. Johns College in Annapolis only has a student population of 451. The Annapolis campus of St. Johns has had five positive cases since the beginning of the semester, with 251 tests administered so far. Face masks are required for indoors and per their Fall 2021 reopening plans; all students are required to be vaccinated, while unvaccinated individuals are required to have weekly testing. The vaccination rate currently stands at 95%, and their website declares them to be at Level Green, which simply means that they will, “continue to closely monitor state and county positivity rates and local health conditions.” 

In Towson, Goucher College has a slightly larger population of 2,173 compared to our own population of around 1,400. Students and others at the college are required to wear masks indoors, and unvaccinated people are highly encouraged to wear face masks if they are within six feet of another person. As with most schools we have looked at so far, Goucher requires students to be vaccinated. According to Goucher’s COVID-19 dashboard, the school has zero active cases on campus; an impressive feat. The college sits at a 99% vaccination rate, which may account for its low amount of infection. Since Aug. 16, there have only been six cases total after 193 tests. 

It looks like SMCM is right on track in terms of high vaccination rates and low prevalence of COVID-19 cases when one compares it to other small liberal arts colleges in Maryland. Hopefully, with continued student, faculty, and staff cooperation with COVID-19 policies, we can reduce the number of active cases to zero by the end of the semester. It is up to us all to make our college safe and to protect vulnerable populations, both on campus and in the local community, so please wear your mask and get vaccinated.

SMCHD Offering Booster Shot Pre-Registration

By: Angelie Roche

The St. Mary’s County Health Department (SMCHD) recently announced that it is offering pre-registration for COVID-19 booster shots when they become available to the general public. As of Sept. 9, immunocompromised persons and those over the age of 65 residing in assisted living communities may currently receive the shot. According to the Baltimore Sun, Maryland is the only state that has expanded booster shot availability to elderly people; Governor Larry Hogan hopes that, in the near future, more Maryland residents will be able to receive the booster as well. 

When vaccines first became available to the general public in April, many thought that the end of the pandemic was in sight. However, vaccine hesitancy has caused progress to slow, especially in rural areas and for college-aged Americans. According to the CDC, only 49% of US adults ages 18-24 are vaccinated, a number which is strikingly low in comparison to the 84% of 65+ year-olds who are. Experts surmise that this hesitancy comes from younger peoples’ perception that the risk of the vaccine being harmful outweighs their risk of becoming ill with the coronavirus. 

Still, research on the vaccine has repeatedly pointed to its efficiency: the CDC reports that less than 1% of people have had severe reactions to the vaccine, whereas 21% of young adults who contracted COVID-19 have been put in intensive care, and almost 3% have died. So, while Maryland officials are pushing for booster shots among vaccinated people, they are also working hard to push vaccination on populations who have expressed hesitancy. “The vaccines are free, safe, [and] they work,” said Hogan in August. 

In St. Mary’s County, vaccination rates are lower than in the rest of Maryland. Currently, only 57.8% of residents are vaccinated, and the Delta Variant is not backing down— as of Sept. 12, 18.8% of COVID tests administered by the SMCHD came back positive— a rate that exceeds that of the outbreak last winter (before vaccines were available to the public). 74% of these cases are among unvaccinated people; however, a growing number of vaccinated people are coming down with the Delta variant as well, albeit with milder symptoms. The CDC recommends booster shots for those who received their last vaccine eight months ago, with the aim of strengthening individuals’ immunity against the virus. 

If you have already received your vaccine and are waiting to be eligible for a booster shot, there are a number of things you can still do to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you. Most importantly, encourage those who express hesitancy to get their vaccine as soon as possible. Then, encourage pre-registration for those doses that are not yet available. As the CDC works on testing vaccine efficiency in children, the SMCHD has a pre-registration list for those ages 5-11, should the vaccine become available to them in the future. Finally, you may pre-register for a third booster shot yourself on the SMCHD website: smchd.org/covid-19-vaccine

Tornado Touchdown in Annapolis

By Hannah Yale

On Sept.1, 2021, a tornado with 125 mph winds tore through Anne Arundel county as a result of former Hurricane Ida. According to the National Weather Service, the tornado swept through an 11.25 mile path from near Shady Side to just north of Annapolis. It was rated an EF-2 on the 0 to 5 scale for tornado intensity and was on the ground from 2:00 to 2:23 p.m. A tornado of this magnitude is uncommon in Maryland, as most tornadoes in the region are rated EF-0 or EF-1. 

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley said that the twister destroyed three buildings. Additionally, 24 structures were left condemned, 26 suffered major damage, and 49 had major damage. A statement from the City of Annapolis Twitter page stated that 38 people were displaced due to the storm. The roof of a home in Edgewater was blown off. WUSA9 reported that the homeowner was not there for the duration of the tornado, and was alerted about the situation by his neighbors. His house was one of four homes in the cul de sac that was damaged.

This tornado was widely filmed and photographed. Posts on social media show how the storm tore through a local restaurant, Chris’s Charcoal Pit, as well as the tornado’s effects on the South River High School football field and the severe flooding at Baker Park in Frederick. 

The Annapolis tornado was one of three confirmed in Maryland that resulted from Hurricane Ida on Sep. 1. In Dorchester County, a EF-0 storm was on the ground for 4 miles, with peak winds of 75 mph. It damaged a metal building and several irrigation systems near Hurlock. Another EF-0 moved through 6.7 miles near Edgemere with 85 mph winds and found several injured trees. 

Annapolis is only 70 miles from SMCM’s campus, and many students have friends and family who live in or near the areas impacted by the tornado. Claire Stephenson (‘24) told The Point News that she was “really surprised” when she first learned about the tornado that had touched down in Annapolis, near where her family lives. “We’ve had several tornados nearby and they’ve been getting more frequent, but this is the first time I can remember where a tornado touched down [locally] and caused so much damage,” Stephenson said. 

Since the start of 2011, there have been over 100 tornadoes in the state of Maryland, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In the previous decade (Jan. 1, 2001 through Dec. 31, 2010), only 85 tornadoes were recorded in the state. NOAA’s from Jan. 1, 1951 through Dec. 31, 1960 shows only 14 reported tornadoes during that decade. 

There has been an obvious increase in tornado events in Maryland over the past 70 years, and while individual weather patterns do affect the likelihood of a tornado to form, the majority of climate scientists and meteorologists believe that the global increase in extreme weather events is being driven by climate change. Some scientists would go so far as to argue that specific extreme weather events, such as the global record-breaking high temperatures in 2016, “not only were influenced by climate change but could not have occurred without it,” according to Scientific American. It is unclear whether the uptick in Maryland tornadoes would have occurred in a world without climate change, but it is evident that these natural disasters are becoming more frequent everywhere, even in our homes.