Talent takes the stage

Where could you have seen a comedic juggler, a saxophonist, a contortionist, dancers and singers all on the same stage? At the fifth annual TCNJ’s Got Talent, of course.

TCNj talentApproximately 30 acts auditioned for a spot in the show’s line-up, but only nine were chosen to perform on Thursday, April 17. Ultimately, it was sophomore accounting major Stephen Fabiano who impressed the judges with his animation dancing to take home the title of the College’s most talented student.

“When I won, I was absolutely shocked,” Fabiano said. “Having seen everyone’s performances and the level of talent, I thought there was no way I’d win. Everyone did an amazing job, bringing such a high level of talent to the show. I’m just glad I could do my part to make the show great.”

Fabiano, who was also a part of the show last year, said he never considered himself a dancer until his senior year of high school when a group of peers formed a circle around him during homecoming. However, it wasn’t until his freshman year at the College that he realized how talented he actually was.

“Once my floor saw what I could do during Welcome Week, they encouraged me to keep improving,” Fabiano said. “As I kept learning and trying new things, I gained confidence and eventually got the ‘I can do this’ mindset.”

The judges, associate vice president for Communications, Marketing and Brand Management Dave Muha, vice president for Student Affairs Amy Hecht and assistant director of the Career Center Lynette Harris, awarded second place to freshman psychology major and contortionist Shirley Wang.

Wang got her start in contortion after having to end competitive figure skating when entering college and still having a drive to perform.

“I started practicing contortion with videos on YouTube,” Wang said. “Over fall, winter and spring breaks, I took classes at several aerial arts studios and discovered a new love for aerial silks, lyra and trapeze. Along with aerial classes, I took contortion classes, which I also enjoyed.”

According to Wang, getting to know the other performers made the night even more enjoyable.

“Everyone was super friendly and easygoing, and it was a very energetic and positive atmosphere,” she said.

Freshman health and exercise science and education dual major Christine Levering probably had something to do with lightening the mood backstage. Levering was awarded third place not only for her juggling skills, but also for her added comedic quips.

As the performers finished, they were able to rejoin the audience to watch the other ongoing talents. Because she performed early on, Wang saw most of the performances and said she loved them all.

“They were all amazing, and I was so impressed by everyone’s talents,” Wang said of the other performers.

Although there were only nine total performances, the show represented only a small portion of the College’s immense pool of talent.

Planning to make hall ‘Bliss’

The College’s campus is home to numerous academic buildings in which students spend a majority of their time during the semester. Some locations, such as the School of Education Building, are brand new with top-of-the-line facilities and an aesthetically-pleasing design. These beautiful buildings, however, do not cover up the less-than-appealing locations.

Bliss Hall’s current condition is in need of repairs, according to students on campus. (Courtney Wirths / Photo Editor)

Bliss Hall’s current condition is in need of repairs, according to students on campus. (Courtney Wirths / Photo Editor)

In particular, Bliss Hall is wildly unpopular with students. Out of a surveyed 64 students, 75 percent said they do not look forward to having class in Bliss Hall.

The building, which is home to classes in philosophy, English, journalism and world languages, among other subjects, is in desperate need of repairs. From an outsider’s perspective, it would seem that the College is pouring all its effort into other areas on campus and ignoring this current, crumbling location.

With the school of Humanities and Social Sciences catering to a large portion of the campus community, many students have a majority of their classes in Bliss Hall. These classrooms are often dirty, cluttered and out-of-date. Even some of the professors who have offices in Bliss complain about the conditions. Take, for example, English professor Diane Steinberg, who had to be moved from her office due to a mold problem. It is evident that students are not the only ones dissatisfied with the building’s current state. 

There were also plenty of other statistics to back this up, such as 34 students ranking Bliss Hall as the worst building on campus. Finally, 85 percent of students surveyed believe that Bliss Hall is in need of repairs.

Luckily, complaints have been heard and changes are on the way.

“In response to employee complaints and reports of apparent humidity-related issues, TCNJ engaged specialized consultants to inspect (Bliss Hall) and make recommendations on possible repairs,” said David Muha, associate vice president for Communications, Marketing and Brand Management.

A potential framework for rennovations has also been planned.

“There are plans for partial renovations to Bliss Hall,” Muha said. “The project is designed, and we expect to seek bids from contractors within the next several weeks. The work is aimed at remedying building humidity and associated environmental conditions that can affect air quality and occupant comfort. The bids should be received within approximately a month and work will be completed over the summer.”

When asked about how the College decides which buildings to renovate, Muha said they take a careful and thoughtful approach in determining which projects to advance and which to defer until more resources become available. 

“In the spring of 2011, the Provost, the Treasurer and the vice president for Administration advanced a proposal for prioritizing projects to the Committee on Planning and Strategic Priorities (CPSP),” Muha explained.

The College has been operating under prioritization criteria ever since the CPSP proposal. The criteria by which projects are advanced, Muha said, are in order of importance.

The first projects that pass are those that involve improvements to conditions in life safety, health and security. Followed are projects that involve building code deficiencies, projects that will prevent more expensive damage in the future, repairs that were already started and repairs that will enhance enrollment capacity. 

Benjamin Rifkin, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, recently sent out an email to all faculty within his department stating that during the summer it will not be possible to access offices within Bliss Hall. Without going into many details, Rifkin stated that work would be done to manage the mold and humidity problems on all three floors. 

These improvements, while necessary, will still not address the physical condition of many classrooms and interior hallways of the older building. Perhaps as more attention is drawn to problems that arise, a total renovation of Bliss Hall will occur sometime in the future.

‘Neknomination’ challenge sweeps across campus

What started out in Australia has quickly begun sweeping the United States. Now, it has reached the College campus. Everything about the “neknomination” changes, from the types of drinks people use to who is being nominated for the challenge. But despite traveling from Australia to the College, the game has managed to keep a constant in all of its change — it’s lethal to the body and unforgiving to the future.

Nominees one-up their opponents, even squeezing lemons into their eyes. (youtube.com)

Nominees one-up their opponents, even squeezing lemons into their eyes. (youtube.com)

The “neknomination” is a drinking game that utilizes social media to spread its competition rapidly around the world. A person’s participation in the game begins once they are nominated, meaning they have been challenged to film themselves drinking large amounts of alcohol in order to top the nominator’s previous combination of drinks. They then must nominate other people to complete the challenge within 24 hours.

Having already claimed five lives, the game has taken a dangerous toll on its participants — and yet people continue to play it, as not completing the challenge can reportedly result in online ridicule, according to the New York Daily News.

The issue of underage drinking is nothing new to the public. If The Signal’s Cop-Shop column is any indicator, it’s even more obvious on campus. But this game has taken drinking to a competitive level in which people forego their limits and do whatever it takes to outdrink their opponent.

 “This is a lethal game,” Dr. Sarah Jarvis, medical adviser for the UK-based charity Drinkaware, told CNN. “The point about alcohol is that it affects your ability to recognize that you’re in danger, and it absolutely affects your ability to react to danger. So now we have a double whammy.”

However, students at the College have decided to partake in this game because they felt they knew their bodies’ limits well enough to avoid danger, making it no more lethal than going out to a party on the weekend.

“I think it could be seen as a problem for underage teens to (do the “Neknominator” challenge) because there’s a lot of alcohol, and people don’t know their limits,” said an anonymous sophomore business and pre-med double major who participated in the challenge. “That gives it a bad reputation for everyone else who can do it safely and in a controlled environment. I guess the difference is I knew that I would be able to handle what I drank. Other people think, ‘Here’s 10 shots, I’m gonna outdrink my friends and look cool,’ and that’s where the problem starts.”

Aside from the obvious safety issues to those who participate in this viral drinking game, the more astounding issue is that they have been posting the videos of themselves actually underage-drinking for anyone to see, including future employers. The game has even surpassed Facebook and hit YouTube, allowing videos without privacy settings to be viewed by anyone. For example, a YouTube video titled “The Gnarliest #Neknomination ever” shows a male consuming large quantities of liquor. He then participates in a ‘man-shot,’ where he snorts a line of salt, takes a shot, squeezes lemons into his eyes, gets punched in the face and finally downs a mystery cocktail. This participant may have felt he proved his masculinity by completing the ‘man-shot,’ but it can probably be inferred that a future employer may not be as convinced.

“My motivation was pretty much, ‘Why not?’” the anonymous student said about accepting his nomination. “I have posted a video online with me drinking. However, I changed the privacy setting so only a few of my closest friends could see it that I trust. If (the participants) don’t change the setting on the video, then they are just stupid. There’s no reason everyone needs to see that, and it only harms yourself.”

Whatever the argument may be regarding the safety of the game — whether it’s kids just being kids or a health hazard — it is undeniably endangering students’ future endeavors and hard work. They could be losing a job opportunity, all in the name of the game, just to post a three-minute video proving their worthiness of a “neknomination.”

It’s even gone as far as leading a woman to strip down in a supermarket and down a drink. Another man chose to drink out of a toilet while other players mixed their spirits with dead mice, insects, engine oil and dog food, according to CNN. And the best part? All of these videos are free for the public to see and some of them have been picked up by news sources and spread around through social media.

While there’s been enough said and done about the issue of underage drinking, the “neknomination” brings teens to force themselves to drink voluminous amounts of alcohol in order to avoid getting mocked for bailing out on their nomination. But for those who are able to survive the game, it may be too late for them to right their social media faux pas. They are posting illegal activity for the world to see, leaving its mark in cyberspace forever — and possibly ruining a bright future before it even begins.

United Nations investigates civil attacks in Sudan

By Mylin Batipps
Nation & World Editor

According to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, hundreds of South Sudanese people were killed by their own neighbors because of their ethnic traits, the Los Angeles Times reported.

On Monday, April 21, the U.N. condemned the Sudan People Liberation Movement in Opposition for sexually assaulting and killing people of the Bentiu community in South Sudan because of their ethnicity According to U.N. spokesperson Joe Contrearas, children were also victims of the killings because of their refusal to join the opposition group.

South Sudanese civilians search for shelter after fleeing from their homes to hide from the Sudan People Liberation Movement in Opposition. AP Photo.

South Sudanese civilians search for shelter after fleeing from their homes to hide from the Sudan People Liberation Movement in Opposition.
AP Photo.

“…Women and children were killed for hiding and declining to join other Nuers who had gone out to cheer the (SPLM) in Opposition forces as they entered the town,” Contrearas said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Individuals from other South Sudanese communities, as well as Darfuris, were specifically targeted and killed at the hospital.”

Men, women and children have hidden in mosques to ensure that they would not be seen by the opposition group. However, the rebels entered these mosques, killed some of the civilians and escorted others home. Civilians also hid at a Roman Catholic church, only to be found and killed by the gunmen. A total of 200 people were killed, and 400 people were injured.

These killings are the latest of a series of disputes that have been taking place in Bentui, according to the Los Angeles Times. On Thursday, April 17, a U.N. compound was destroyed by rockets, targeting 22,000 people who fled to the base because of their fear of getting killed.

A total of 70,000 South Sudanese citizens are now sheltered in these bases. The disputes have left about 7 million people without food, and 770,000 people have escaped their homes.

Raisedon Zenenga, leading officer of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, has declared that the U.N. look further into the disputes in Bentiu.

“These atrocities must be fully investigated and the perpetrators and their commanders shall be held accountable,” Zenenga said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Exercise and talk at the Mindful Mile

By Christine Aebischer
Staff Writer

College students are masters of multitasking. They can write a paper while watching Netflix and also making the obligatory weekly phone call home. Free time is just something to be dreamt about, so the more that can be accomplished at once, the better. The Mindful Mile, led by the College’s registered dietitian Aliz Holzmann, combines physical activity with the opportunity to get any nutrition-related questions answered all in about 20 minutes.

Every Monday, weather permitting, students, faculty and staff can join Holzmann in walking a mile while asking whatever nutrition- or diet-related questions they have in a casual setting. The walk begins at 12 p.m. outside of the 1855 Room and traverses the sidewalks of campus, completing a mile-long route.

“A lot of students have a hard time getting physical activity in and have nutritional questions, so this combines both,” Holzmann said.

This resource was previously available under a different name, “Walk and Talk with the Dietitian,” and has since been brought back under the new “Mindful” initiative branded by Sodexo this past fall. 

This initiative, in addition to the Mindful Mile, brings a new wellness menu to the Eickhoff dining hall. Indicated by a “Mindful” icon, these dining options offer students healthy and nutritious choices, according to Holzmann.

Holzmann is also available to students for one-on-one meetings. She is located in the lower level of Decker residence hall, and appointments can be made by phone or email. However, for students who do not wish to meet in this setting, the Mindful Mile gives them the opportunity to ask their questions while in the company of friends and fellow students, all while getting in some exercise.

“It reminds (students) to include little things in their day,” Holzmann said.

While Holzmann hopes that walking around campus will let more students know she is an available resource, she does say that many students are already aware of this. The beginning of a new semester, before a break and before finals are some of her busiest times, she said. As the year winds down and finals week begins, the Mindful Mile is a great way to find out which foods are best for effective studying and test-taking without having to make a set appointment. 

Even if students do not have specific questions, Holzmann encourages them to join her and to bring a friend. 

“The more the merrier,” she said. 

 

 

How to make your sushi a healthy choice

If you’re looking for a healthy meal, make sure you pick a nutritious type of sushi. (AP Photo)

If you’re looking for a healthy meal, make sure you pick a nutritious type of sushi. (AP Photo)

If you’re anything like me, the new sushi bar in the Lions Den has got you excited for a variety of reasons. First off, SUSHI. Who doesn’t love it? And I suppose a secondary reason could be that sushi is also a healthy meal option. However, just like any other item, there are certain rolls that are healthier than others. If you’re not ordering right, you might be getting the equivalent of chicken tenders and fries at the grill.

Here are a few general rules that should be followed when it comes to ordering sushi:  

Ask for the brown rice instead of the white rice. In the Lions Den, it is only $0.50 more, and it’s worth it, because brown rice contains a good amount of fiber. Fiber is necessary in maintaining healthy digestion and regular bowel movements. In addition, brown rice is an excellent source of other essentials, such as magnesium, selenium and manganese. 

Beware of the crunchy rolls. Crunchy rolls include deep-fried ingredients. Specifically in the Lions Den, the crunchy shrimp tempura and crunchy roll are covered with deep-fried onions, a topping you and your health could certainly do without. 

When choosing a roll, go for fish that are full of omega-3s, which helps prevent heart disease by lowering your levels of “blood fat.” Omega-3s can also reduce depressive symptoms. Salmon and tuna are great sources of omega-3s, and they’re very tasty. While eel is also a good source of omega-3s, it tends to be covered in a brown eel sauce that is counterproductive to its nutritional value.

Don’t ignore the wasabi and ginger — both have a lot to offer. Wasabi is full of antioxidants, while ginger helps boost the immune system. 

Avoid the spicy mayo and cream cheese. Both are filled with unnecessary calories. In the Lions Den, the crunchy shrimp tempura and crunchy rolls are generally topped with spicy mayo. A salmon and avocado roll is a great alternate for the Philadelphia roll. 

The vegetarian roll is a great option. It includes avocado, cucumber and carrot, three raw vegetables that can do no harm. 

 

Be sure to keep these rules in mind when you’re ordering sushi — your body will thank you later. Happy eating!

 

Hello, ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’

Williams is back. (fabfashionfix.com)

Williams is back. (fabfashionfix.com)

HELLOOOOOO. I am pleased to inform you that a “Mrs. Doubtfire 2” is in the works. Even though the film came out 21 years ago, America still has not gotten its fill of men dressing up as old women. It just tickles us in that special way. According to “The Hollywood Reporter,” Robin Williams and original director Chris Columbus are attached to develop the next installment. The script is planned on being penned by “Elf” writer David Berenbaum. If Williams and Columbus like it, then get out the powder, because Robin’s going to need a lot of it. The actress who played the youngest daughter in the film, Mara Wilson, tweeted less-than-stellar comments about the supposed plans. Honestly, what could you possibly base this movie on? Does Mrs. Doubtfire meet Big Fat Momma? Does she infiltrate an old folks’ home and befriend Elvis? Sally Fields doesn’t have time for this — she’s got a Boniva commercial to film, dammit!

HASHEESH MON. At least that’s what I think Whoopi Goldberg is saying at this very moment. That or, “Sherri, I swear to God I’ll kill you if you open your mouth again.” Whoopi has been tapped by the Denver Post to write a column that covers Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana. Damn, I see the view Whoopi really has is from high up. Hopefully “Sister Act 3” is based in Denver. It could just be about Sister Mary Clarence just eating a brownie for two hours. Nothing Jennifer Anniston has been in lately can top that. 

OH NOOOOO. Leonardo DiCaprio was captured on video last week dancing like an idiot at the Coachella music festival. Thank God he’s famous enough that he’ll never be asked to go on “Dancing With the Stars.” Leo must have been on something from Denver, because if you see the video, you can tell he’s not all there. But hey, who am I to judge? I don’t work for the Academy. So continue dancing the night away, Leo. Maybe you’ll bump into an Oscar.

 

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Drag show raises money for charity

Ms. Rosetta Stone is accompanied by her ‘Rosebuds.’ This was Stone’s fourth and final time hosting the show. (Michael Cort / Staff Photographer)

Ms. Rosetta Stone is accompanied by her ‘Rosebuds.’ This was Stone’s fourth and final time hosting the show. (Michael Cort / Staff Photographer)

River Queen won the contest, raising $448.44 for the organization New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth. (Michael Cort / Staff Photographer)

River Queen won the contest, raising $448.44 for the organization New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth. (Michael Cort / Staff Photographer)

By Julie Scesney
Correspondent

Thunderous applause met the announcement of the winner of the donation-based contest for PRISM’s 11th annual Charity Drag Show, as a shaking but fierce River Queen took the stage to claim her crown.

The total amount of donations for the night totaled $1,545.47, more than double the amount raised for last year’s event. River Queen, the drag queen alias of Zach Ott, a junior special education and English dual major, raised almost a third of that total, with a record-breaking $448.44. All donations benefited the organization New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth, which helps “LGBT youth ‘go beyond’ homelessness and transition into stable adult lives” after they have been kicked out by unsupportive parents, as stated on the New Alternatives website.

“It was actually really overwhelming,” River Queen said about the amount of money she had raised. 

She went into the bathroom to fix her wig after an event worker told her the news and “just started crying.”

A drag show usually features performances by drag queens, men who dress up as over-the-top interpretations of women. The word “drag” is a commonly accepted acronym for DRessed As Girl, as explained by the host of PRISM’s show, Ms. Rosetta Stone, a College alumnus and former president of PRISM, the “first queer-straight alliance at The College of New Jersey,” as stated on its website.  

This was Ms. Rosetta Stone’s fourth and final time hosting the event. Throughout the show, Ms. Stone entertained the audience with cheeky remarks like, “I know you can go deep. Wink,” when referring to audience members digging into their pockets for cash. She was accompanied by her “Rosebuds,” three male College students sporting only black briefs, bow ties and cufflinks.

The acts mostly consisted of lip syncing and performing to various songs, except for one queen, Dean the Ice Queen, who sang “Let It Go” from the musical “Frozen” in a bejeweled blue dress and silver braided wig that would have made Elsa proud.

River Queen’s routine — performed to a part English, part Spanish mix of Toni Basil’s “Mickey” — featured a back roll, kicks in five-and-a-half-inch heels and a frightening death drop, where a person folds backward and falls on his back during a dance routine. The drag queen’s get-up included a long, crimped magenta wig, black fishnets, black and white pinstripe short shorts, a black embroidered corset and a fur coat that she quickly threw into the audience at the start of the act.

When asked about her inspiration for the act, Ms. Queen said her favorite thing to do for drag performances was to keep the original meaning of a song but change the context. Mickey is about “unrequited love,” explained River Queen, but she took a grittier route. “I turned it into a hooker going after a client.”

Third-place finishers Brooklyn Swaggington and Lady Godiva raised $300.82 for New Alternatives and performed to TLC’s “No Scrubs,” a song denouncing a man who “thinks he’s fly” and can get any girl he wants, while a parade of girls took the stage holding signs emblazoned with “things ‘scrubs’ would say.”  

“You’re too pretty to play sports,” read one of the signs.

Drag queens Ms. Virginia Hamm and Miss Mars came in second place, raising $329.40. They performed to “Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag” from the musical “Chicago,” mimicking the movements of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly. The pair even had water guns similar to the guns toted by Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the 2002 movie version of the musical.  

Last year’s winner, drag queen Davida Luxe, did not place this year, but captivated the crowd as she whipped a sparkly black cape around her body matador style to Jennifer Lopez’s “Goin’ In.”  She closed the night with a performance to Miss Li’s “Forever Drunk.”

Campus Advocacy Chair of PRISM Ryan Eldridge coordinated the event. A freshman political science and women’s and gender studies double major, this was Eldridge’s first time running PRISM’s Annual Charity Drag Show, but he organized PRISM’s 11th Annual Queer Wedding earlier this semester.  

“The turnout was wonderful,” Eldridge said.  

All seats around the stage, as well as the surrounding area and overlooking balcony in the Brower Student Center, were filled, and not only with students from the College. There were many adults in the audience, as well as young children, showing that PRISM’s annual Charity Drag Show has evolved into a community-wide event.

Some members of the audience were even brought on stage. A surprise performance at the end of the show featured audience participants in a drag ensemble collectively called “4 Money.” A brave mother, under the drag name “Feather Bunny,” shook a feather boa and walked a cheerful catwalk down the stage.

This number allowed audience members to better connect with the drag show and the act of dressing in drag.

One audience member, Ronald Gomez, a sophomore international studies major, came to the event to “support (his) best friend, River Queen,” but also recognized the significance of such an event at the College.

“In reality I come here to open up my mind,” said Gomez, who grew up in a “conservative household” that “never would have given these activities a chance.”

PRISM’s annual Charity Drag Show not only supports a deserving cause, but also offers a way for students of the College and citizens of Ewing to open their minds to a different culture, the culture of drag.

If that openness encourages acceptance of LGBT youth, so that children are no longer made homeless because of unsupportive parents and organizations like New Alternatives are not necessary, then that is a success for PRISM, the College and LGBT youth and supporters everywhere. 

 

Campus Style

By Jordan Koziol and Heather Hawkes
Columnists 

You can make your own perfect pair of shorts for spring. (fabfashionfix.com)

You can make your own perfect pair of shorts for spring. (fabfashionfix.com)

As spring is approaching and the temperature begins to climb (thank God), we shimmy out of our winter blues and into our fair-weather apparel. There are few better ways to make the adjustment into the warmer months than with a new pair of short shorts. No money? No problem! As always, we’ve got you covered.

Before you throw out those old jeans you don’t really wear anymore, grab a pair of scissors and some chalk and get to work.

1. First, try on the jeans and make sure the waist and thigh areas have a nice fit to them. If they are too tight, your short will bunch in all the wrong places. Jeans that are a little bit looser will have a more desirable cut as shorts. 

2. With the jeans still on, use the chalk to mark out a good length. We recommend marking a spot a bit longer than you actually desire because you always have room to make them shorter.

3. Once you have your length marked, you can take off the jeans and begin to cut.

4. Cut along the marked chalk line and throw the jeans back on to see how they fit.

5. If they are longer than you want, keep repeating the chalk marking and cutting until the desired length is achieved. Once you have the right length, you can take a razor to fray the edges and then throw the shorts in the wash to finalize the effect.

Another option is to leave the shorts on and fold up the bottom to make a rolled cuff effect until you reach a length you are happy with. 

 

Four years later, spill still has harmful effects

The 2010 oil rig explosion is still having a negative effect on the environment. (AP Photo)

The 2010 oil rig explosion is still having a negative effect on the environment. (AP Photo)

Since the explosion in the Gulf of Mexico occurred in 2010, BP’s resulting spill of over 200 million gallons of petroleum has been called the “worst man-made environmental disaster ever,” as even President Obama had termed it in his Remarks on the BP Oil Spill. Gulf Coast fishermen are still calling on BP to help aid their ailing oyster economy, which accounts for two-thirds of all of the U.S.’s oysters and 40 percent of our seafood catch, and has seen a steady decline in population since the spill four years ago. Naliah Jefferson’s recent documentary, “Vanishing Pearls,” voices the concerns of many of Louisiana’s fishermen. The fishing industry is still struggling to recover its industry and seek compensation from BP, despite the company’s claims made in 2011 after the spill that “no direct oiling of sampled reefs was noted during annual sampling of public oyster seed grounds in Louisiana.” BP’s cleanup process and efforts have cost the company $26 million in fines, damage reparations and penalties awarded to the victims (the explosion killed 11 workers on the rig), inhabitants and business owners who depended on the Gulf’s fishing areas for a living.

Jefferson’s film documents how many of those who were compensated for BP’s spill took BP’s flat offers of $5,000 because they were desperate for any assistance after going months without pay and/or business. With the oyster economy still declining four years later and seven fishing areas still blocked off from coastal workers, many still feel that the compensation given by BP to Louisiana has been largely ineffective in recovering the Gulf and restoring lost business, and has been unfair in its allocation. Jules Melancon, a local fisherman, feels he has been unjustly compensated, since he still has been unable to find live oysters in his leased fishing area following the spill. 

“They got an advert on TV saying they fixed the Gulf but I’ve never been fixed,” Melancon said. 

Jefferson’s documentary exploits BP’s most recent advertisement claims that the Gulf is clean and that the “waters and beaches are open.”

A study by CNN has shown that since the BP spill, Louisiana’s oyster catch has fallen by 25 percent, and although other studies have shown a rebound in fishing areas affected by the spill, there is still a decline in other seafood catches, such as blue crab and shrimp. George Barisich, an oyster boater, saw many dead oysters and “spats” of oil in his catch, and he has heard the same from other fishers in the Gulf.

“You get a spike in production every now and then, but overall, it’s off,” he told CNN worriedly. “Everybody’s down. Everywhere there was dispersed oil and heavily oiled, the production is down.”

Since then, Barisich has retired from the oyster trade. 

Although much of the oil on the surface from the spill has been broken down by high-carbon molecules, environmental scientists have been concerned with testing the effect that the dispersants used by BP over the thousand miles of affected water has had on the Gulf’s ecosystem, which has seen a decline in several other species such as crickets, grasshoppers and ants.

Although some of the Gulf areas have bounced back and tourism has seen an increase, the demand for oysters is down and oil prices for boaters have gone up, and the areas hit hardest by the BP spill are still suffering from the disastrous consequences the spill had on their homes and businesses. 

 

 

Project Stay Gold raises awareness of trafficking

The bathroom walls of the vacant Newark home seemed to be moving in the dark. As the light switched on, swarms of cockroaches appeared in the illuminated room. The building was crawling with them. Numerous mattresses were crammed on the floor of each room. It was impossible to believe people were living there.

That is how Joe Salavarria, Homeland Security special agent, described the scene of a labor trafficking home, in a case where he — along with other members of law enforcement — rescued nearly 20 young women who he said were forced to work in hair- braiding salons day and night back in 2007. 

The issue of slavery is often believed to be a dark part of our past, but the harsh reality is that it continues to exist today in our own backyards. The College’s own Project Stay Gold hosted its trafficking awareness week, with events that included various speakers, a film screening and an activity night to educate attendees on the issue of human trafficking. 

Trafficking can come in many forms, including forced sexual acts or labor, and according to authorities, movement across borders is not required. Involuntary labor can be present in a variety of industries, often in agriculture and the beauty industry, according to Lynne Wilson, Homeland Security victim specialist.

“I guarantee you they are in every town. They are everywhere,” Wilson said of these businesses.

Project Stay Gold was brought to campus by freshman communication studies and interactive multimedia double major Matthew Newman. The club’s goal is to raise awareness and educate students about the ongoing issue of human trafficking, which they refer to as modern-day slavery.  

The events kicked off on Wednesday, April 9, when Danielle Douglass, a survivor of sex trafficking, spoke of her experiences and her work with advocacy. The night also featured signing a petition on change.org

On Monday night the following week, the College was visited by victim specialist Lynne Wilson and special agent Joe Salavarria, from the Department of Homeland Security in Newark. Both recounted what to look for and spoke of one of the largest cases of labor trafficking that occurred within the state. 

Wilson, who primarily deals with counseling of the victims, discussed some of the resources the department offers and why victims often have difficulty coming forward.

“When we’re talking about the impact on victims, people who are traumatized and living in fear will not come forward,” Wilson said. 

She explained that often those who are trafficked are shamed into keeping quiet, threatened or fearful that they themselves will be penalized by law enforcement. Her role is to ensure that the victim feels they can cooperate in the investigation while their needs are being met. This includes providing safe housing, and resources, such as immigration relief.

“These people are out there all around us, and we don’t see them unless we know what to look for,” Wilson said.

Salavarria then took the floor to discuss one of the largest labor trafficking cases he had worked on in recent history. The case involved The Afolabi family, immigrants from the West African nation of Togo who had been accused of bringing young girls from their home country in Africa to the United States and forcing them to work in three different hair-braiding salons for 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week, according to Salavarria. 

He explained that when labor trafficking occurs, it is often inside of a legitimate business, such as these salons. 

When enough victims had come forward and evidence was collected, a search warrant was put in place and the girls were removed from the three homes they were forced to live under supervision of different Afolabi family members.

It took three years for the traffickers to face a conviction. Salavarria shed light on the amount of trust that is necessary between victims and law enforcement in any trafficking face to see success. 

“Our job doesn’t end when we pull them out of these houses,” he said. “The bottom line is you have to follow through with what you say.” 

Following the talk, events continued throughout the week, including a screening of the documentary “Very Young Girls” on Tuesday, April 15, and an activity night on Thursday, April 17, which allowed for hands-on and interactive discussion of the topic.

 

 

Take Back the Night calls for an end to violence

Campus flooded with chants such as “2-4-6-8, no more date rape” or “people unite, take back the night,” as the 21st annual Take Back the Night took place on Thursday, April 17, in the AIMM Amphitheater.

Take Back the Night was created in order to address all forms of violence against women.

This powerful night kicked off with a series of startling statistics to illustrate the dangers of domestic abuse women encounter.

One statistic that made its mark in the audience’s mind is that “on the (College) campus, one in four women and one in 10 men will experience sexual violence.”

The audience members were then given candles to hold up high as they marched around campus. This group of both survivors and supporters let it be known that domestic violence needed to be stopped, as they bellowed a series of chants against date rape.

After making their march across campus, the audience returned to the AIMM Amphitheater for a special guest speaker. Crystal Leigh Endsley graced the podium as she treated the audience to some spoken-word poetry. This Penn State women’s studies instructor and recipient of numerous awards and honors in the women’s study and playwriting category used spoken-word poetry to illustrate her experiences with sexual abuse.

“I never wanted to write poetry, I just wanted to express my pain,” Endsley said.

She told the tragic tale of her high school boyfriend who took advantage of her in the worst way possible and then told her there was “nothing to love here.”

For years, Endsley had blamed the incident on herself — she believed that she would never be loveable. She began dressing more open and became more promiscuous, believing that “if (she gave) it to them, they can’t take it.” 

However, all along she was just searching for the thing that her high school boyfriend had stolen from her. She found her voice through spoken-word poetry, the voice that ultimately was silenced during her painful encounter.

As Endsley wrapped up her story, she opened the floor to any other brave souls who wanted to share their experiences with domestic violence.

Members of the audience began opening up, telling stories of sexual violence encounters with friends, a nanny and even their own family members.

Chelsea VanOrden, a junior women’s and gender studies major, was impacted the most during this part of the night. 

“You really felt like you were a part of their lives,” she said.

The night closed on a more positive note, as Robbin Loonan, coordinator of the Anti-Violence Initiatives at the College, opened up her door and her email inbox to anyone who needed to share any experiences they may have had.

She reminded the audience that they needed to speak out and regain their voice — something that had ultimately been taken away from them.

All in all, it was a very powerful night for both survivors and supporters.

All proceeds from the night will go Providence House, a nonprofit organization that works to end domestic abuse while providing a safe haven from abuse.

 

NYC Queer Culture Day a go

PRISM was the sole presenter at the Student Finance Board’s weekly meeting on Wednesday, April 16.

SFB fully funded PRISM with $650 to hold a Queer Culture Day in New York City. The club will travel to the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, followed by a discussion about the Stonewall riots at the Stonewall Inn. The funding from SFB will cover the bus quote for the trip on Saturday, Sept. 20.

PRISM was also zero-funded to host a PRISM Center Open House for prospective students to explore the club. As SFB typically doesn’t fund open-house events, the request for funding was denied.

Disclaimer: Though SFB agrees to finance certain events, there is no guarantee these events will take place.

 

Chipotle price hikes, beef with fans

• The home improvement store Home Depot is known for offering consumers tools, lawn materials, appliances and construction material. Despite the bulky nature of its key products, the retailer is now expanding its online shopping options. This past year, the home-improvement giant opened more distribution centers than stores. One store it did open, however, was in North Dakota, stationed in the oil and gas town of Minot. The oil and gas boom has created large population growths in remote areas of the country as construction and oil production workers move to new extraction and exploration sites.

• Google Inc. is taking apps to a new level. In a phone being designed by the tech giant, consumers would be able to not only purchase apps, but also hardware accessories that could be attached to a standard phone body through slots and magnets. Some of the potential hardware options would be various cameras and blood sugar monitors. 

• Chipotle Mexican Grill is raising its prices, menu-wide, for the first time in three years. The company says the reason for the increase is the continuously rising prices of key ingredients such as beef and avocados. 

• China’s own version of Twitter, Weibo Corp., raised $286 million in its initial public offering last week, rising 19 percent from its initial price of $17 per share. The tech company, which means “microblog” in Chinese, allows users to post short statuses, comment on other users’ posts and repost. While the IPO did not live up to expectations, still over 33 million shares exchanged hands on the first day of trading. 

  Gas and oil prices are on the rise due to the approaching summer season, which means more Americans are traveling long-distance and exports of American gas are increasing to foreign countries. The national average for gas prices has now risen to $3.63 per gallon, or 12.1 cents per gallon higher than last year’s rate. New Jersey alone has seen prices jump nine cents per gallon.

All information courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

 

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