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Hannah Foskett

George HW Bush, 41st President, Dies Aged 94

George HW Bush, 41st President, Dies Aged 94

George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States and the father of the 43rd, died over the weekend at his home in Houston, Texas. He was 94.

His body will lie in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC from Monday evening to Wednesday morning—a rare honor.

Hailed by many around the world as the country’s greatest one-term president, Bush saw the US through a turbulent period in global relations, including the breakup of the Soviet Union and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

An announcement from his office said: “George Herbert Walker Bush, World War Two naval aviator, Texas oil pioneer, and 41st president of the United States of America, died on 30 November 2018.

“He was 94 and is survived by his five children and their spouses, 17 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, and two siblings. He was preceded in death by his wife of 73 years, Barbara; his second child Pauline Robinson ‘Robin’ Bush; and his brothers Prescott and William or ‘Bucky’ Bush.”

His death comes less than eight months after that of his wife, Barbara Bush. The day after her funeral, he was treated for an infection that had spread to his blood.

Bush also suffered from vascular Parkinson’s disease that had forced him to use a wheelchair in recent years. In and out of hospitals since 2012, the Republican remained active well into old age despite his deteriorating health.

In 2013, while suffering from bronchitis, he told well-wishers to “put the harps back in the closet.”

Former president Barack Obama remembered Bush as “a humble servant”, and Bill Clinton described him as “honorable, gracious and decent”.

A statement by Donald Trump also praised Bush, highlighting his “sound judgment, common sense and unflappable leadership”.

Trump and his wife Melania are expected to attend a state funeral that comes after the president cancelled a planned press conference in Argentina for the G20 summit “out of respect for the Bush family.”

America’s last war hero president, Bush served one term between 1989 and 1993. Since his death, many tributes have included a curious code word—CAVU.

CNN reporter Jamie Gangel revealed that the word was used to tell Bush’s family and friends that he had died on Friday night.

“For anyone who has been a pilot, it is familiar. For those who aren’t, it stands for Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited,” Gangel said.

“He had a plaque in his office that said that. He always said that he felt it represented his life. The sky was the limit, he had had everything.

“I think it was a great and fitting tribute to him.”

Further reading: Neil deGrasse Tyson Accused of Sexual Misconduct

Five Ways to Make a Difference on World AIDS Day

Five Ways to Make a Difference on World AIDS Day

December 1 marks the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day.

Since 1988, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) have declared this date a chance to support those currently living with HIV, and to remember those killed by AIDS-related illnesses.

Only identified in 1984, the virus has killed more than 35 million people around the world. Sufferers continue to face stigma and ignorance while battling with one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

A recent survey shared on the World AIDS Day website showed than one in five people with HIV have experienced verbal harassment or threats; a third have had their HIV status disclosed without their consent by someone close to them; one in five were treated differently by their GP; and many reported pressure at work to disclose their status. 18 percent of the respondents also reported suicidal thoughts within the last 12 months, and 17 percent “often” skimped on food due to poverty.

This Saturday, awareness events, celebrations of life and fundraising campaigns will spread information across the globe. The White House will display their annual 28-foot red ribbon to reaffirm a commitment to eradicate AIDS—a goal the UN hopes to achieve by 2030.

Here’s how you can help.

Support a charity 

Whether it’s to support your local community or distribute contraception around the world—donating to a HIV charity, the (RED) Campaign or The Global Fund is the easiest way to help sufferers and foster research. Some great charities, include:

AIDS United—supports over 300 organizations with grants and advocates on behalf of people living with HIV on a local, state, and national level

AmfAR: The Foundation for AIDS Research—one of the world’s most important and ambitious funders of HIV research

Black AIDS Institute—committed to African American communities where the risk of HIV infection and stigmatization are high

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS—raises funds for medications, healthcare, nutritious meals, counseling and emergency financial assistance

Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation—the HIV charity that has made the greatest impact in prevention, treatment, and care of at-risk women and their children in the developed world

Elton John AIDS Foundation—funds programs that others don’t, such as groups fighting HIV criminal laws and activists demanding needle exchange programs in states that ban them

Rock a ribbon

In 1991, 12 artists met in New York at a time when HIV was highly stigmatized and suffering communities were largely hidden. The artists avoided traditional colours associated with the gay community to convey that HIV was relevant to everyone. They chose a red ribbon for boldness, passion, the heart and love.

Now, the red ribbon is a universal symbol of awareness and support for people living with HIV. Show that you refuse to allow stigma to distort disease by distributing or purchasing ribbons and displaying your support.

Raise awareness  

Raising awareness does not have to mean raising money—education is so important for eradicating ignorance, encouraging testing, knowing the symptoms of HIV, and supporting loved ones. Talk casually about HIV, be an active listener, download posters, repost World AIDS Day Twitter and Facebook prompts and share your story if HIV has affected you, or those close to you. The UN’s short documentary, ‘A New Picture of Health’ can also be used to spread awareness. Access it, here.

Raise funds

If you’re keen to raise funds to help sufferers and researchers—bake sales, raffles, car washes, quiz-nights and sponsored runs are all tried-and-tested, fun ways to make a difference. More specifically, organize to wear red at school or at work on World AIDS Day. You can collect donations from everyone who wears red, or get sponsored to sport an outlandish, red-themed outfit all day.

Know your status

According to the UN, 9.4 million people living with HIV don’t know their status. HIV can be transmitted at any time through blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk, so regular checks are crucial for protecting and empowering yourself, as well as other people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that anyone who has unsafe sex or shares drug needles should get tested at least once a year. What better time to begin than on World AIDS Day?

Visit AIDS Vu for geographically specific information and resources for testing.

Further reading: Eight Charities to Support on International Day of the Girl Child

Top 5 TED Talks For College Graduates

Top 5 TED Talks For College Graduates

If you’re a recent college graduate, you’ve probably realized that the real world is hard, and you’re likely wishing that you’d paid more attention to the professional and practical advice that was offered to you during college.

If you’re in dire need of some guidance that extends deeper than how to deliver a firm handshake, let us introduce you to the inspirational world of TED Talks. These College News favorites will help you stay positive, motivated and true to yourself.

Why some of us don’t have one true calling, Emilie Wapnick

Has the classic question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” ever repulsed or confused you?

In this illuminating talk, writer and artist Emilie Wapnick describes the kind of people she calls “multipotentialites”—those who have numerous interests and the desire to move on to something new after developing a specific skill.

“But then I would become interested in something else, something totally unrelated, and I would dive into that, and become all-consumed, and I’d be like, ‘Yes! I found my thing’, and then I would hit this point again where I’d start to get bored.”

If this sounds like you, Wapnick relates to the anxiety of pursuing a career and feeling abnormal. She emphasizes that this is an illogical, culturally engrained fear, and explains why multipotentialites are needed in the workforce just as much as those who are “specialists”. If you’re feeling stressed about choosing a major or finding the perfect job, find comfort in this talk.

Why you will fail to have a great career, Larry Smith 

Economist Larry Smith advocates that there is no such thing as a good career. Instead, there are great careers, passion, purpose and power in the word: “unless”.

“Passion is your greatest love. Passion is the thing that will help you create the highest expression of your talent. Passion, interest—it’s not the same thing. Are you really going to go to your sweetie and say, ‘Marry me! You’re interesting.’ Won’t happen, and you will die alone.”

If you’re about to settle into a job that your parents, your fear or your practicality have chosen for you, this extremely motivating talk could set you on a path to become extraordinary instead.

The skill of self-confidence, Dr. Ivan Joseph

Athletic Director and former varsity soccer coach, Dr. Ivan Joseph is often asked for the most important skill he looks for when recruiting. His answer: self-confidence.

For Joseph, confidence is the ability to believe in yourself, regardless of odds, difficulty or adversity. If you’re thinking that this is harder than it sounds, then you’re both right and wrong—Joseph insists that confidence can be trained with hard work. Through repetition, self-affirmation and by persevering through failure, you could develop this desirable skill.

“There’s enough people that are telling us that we can’t do it; that we’re not good enough. Why do we want to tell ourselves that?”

Graduating college and stepping into the real world requires confidence, but Joseph explains that we cannot expect ourselves to feel confident until we are familiar with a situation and know how to tackle it. The only way to achieve this is to begin. 

Why 30 is not the new 20, Meg Jay

If you learnt this lesson re-watching the iconic movie 13 Going On 30, you’ll know that assuming that life automatically sorts itself out when you hit 30 is naïve. Psychologist Meg Jay will encourage you to throw out your collection of pizza boxes and stop considering your 20s as a throwaway decade.

“Claiming your 20s is one of the simplest, yet most transformative, things you can do. Do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that’s an investment in who you might want to be next. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You’re deciding your life right now.”

If you’re feeling lost as a twentysomething, Jay believes that one good TED Talk could help you to take control of your defining decade, use your weak ties, pick your family and get some identity capital.

Overcoming hopelessness, Nick Vujicic

This powerful talk by motivational speaker Nick Vujicic is packed full of valuable first-hand advice on overcoming hopelessness and learning to be kind to yourself and those around you.

“Think of the three biggest discourages in your life. They’re not your biggest discourages. You are. You are. It only takes seconds for me to tell you something discouraging but then, you may never forget my words.”

Transitioning into the job market can feel like a hopeless, unfair task, but being reminded that we are not born with hope but born to live through pain, could inspire you to have faith in your future. 

Further reading: 10 Things I Wish I’d Known In College

How to Practice Gratitude This Thanksgiving

How to Practice Gratitude This Thanksgiving

It’s time to dig out that gratitude journal from under the bed—you know, the one with the shiny gold foiling that you swore was an investment?

We’ve all been enamored with the idea of being mindful, changing our lives for the better and becoming optimistic members of society. The truth is, this concept is considerably overwhelming—jotting down things you’re grateful for can feel insincere, awkward and like the last thing you’d want to do after a hard day.

If you stick with it though, practicing gratitude can help you to experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, be more compassionate and can strengthen the immune system.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, here’s how to be truly thankful for delicious turkey and much more.

Get real

 It takes 30 days to build a habit—so don’t worry if journaling feels alien at first. Set an initial goal to list five things that you’re grateful for every night, for one week. By acknowledging this target, you’re telling yourself that this is something you’re going to commit to.

At the same time, realizing that building a habit requires dedication will allow you to recognize that sometimes life gets in the way. For example, if you know you’ll be too exhausted to open your journal at night, allocate a few minutes during the day to practice being grateful. If you accidentally skip a day, be grateful that you’ll have even more to be thankful for the day after. 

Practice mindfulness

The physical act of journaling can be powerful, but it is the practice of reflecting on your day and sitting with a feeling of gratitude that will train your brain to feel happier. Being mindful simply means being conscious and aware of yourself and your environment, not that you have to sit in a lotus position with your eyes closed.

Notice when you feel joy during the day, or take a few breaths at your desk to reflect on your emotions. Tracking moments that make you feel grateful as they happen, so that you can write them down later, is a fun way to stay aware and feel better throughout the day. Make it a game to find new things to be thankful for each day, so that your brain is always occupied with finding the positives around you.

Pick up a pen

Did you know that writing things down has psychological benefits such as enabling you to think on a larger scale, learn more, and drastically improve your memory? Luckily, this doesn’t mean that you have to write an essay every night.

The physical act of journaling forces you to consciously think about the words that you’re writing, which helps your brain to recreate feelings of gratitude and happiness. It’s also rewarding to look back and see all the things you’ve had to be grateful for over a period of time.

Don’t try so hard 

Journaling is an indulgent hobby—it’s about communicating with yourself, and this is a good thing. Self-compassion often translates into treating others with kindness.

The actual things you write about aren’t actually too important. You’re the only person experiencing this gratitude (and likely the only person reading your journal, too). Of course, you’re probably extremely grateful for your family and for having a roof over your head, but you don’t have to write those words down every night. Instead, focus on specific incidents that may have provoked small feelings.

If you were grateful for a home-cooked meal, make a note of it. If you were thrilled that it didn’t rain all day, write it down. If your roommate made you a cup of tea because they could tell you were feeling low, try and scribble more than: “I’m grateful for my friends”. When you start searching for small things to be appreciative for in a particularly hard day, it enables you to see each day as a unique, positive experience.

Find gratitude in your mistakes

Difficult situations are often when we need gratitude the most. For example, being grateful that you learned from a situation can help you to forgive yourself. On the other hand, being aware of the power of gratitude can help you to make a conscious effort to resolve a conflict with a friend or to seek out more happiness in your life.

Further reading: Six of the Best Books to Read This Fall

Highlights from the 2018 People’s Choice Awards

Highlights from the 2018 People’s Choice Awards

And that concludes Sunday’s 44th annual People’s Choice Awards. The show— featuring performances from Rita Ora, Nicki Minaj and Tyga, and John Legend—returned to TV for the first time on E! and broadcasted live from nine to 11pm from Santa Monica. Hollywood A-listers gathered at the viewer-voted ceremony to witness an interesting and memorable group of winners grace the stage. Here are the highlights.

Best movie goes to…

Avengers: Infinity Wars was named best movie of the year. The mega-blockbuster superhero movie also received the Action Movie of 2018 award and saw Scarlett Johansson take home best female movie star for her performance as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow.

You go, Danai

Black Panther’s Danai Gurira accepted the award for Action Movie Star of 2018, besting four of the world’s biggest male movie stars (Chris Hemsworth, Ryan Reynolds, Chadwich Boseman and Chris Pratt). Gurira referred to her fellow nominees as “very beautiful men”, a statement that both inverts the patriarchy and elicits no argument from us.

Queen Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj was crowned female artist of the year and her LP, Queen, was also professed album of the year. It was Minaj’s acceptance speeches that made her an even bigger winner in our eyes.

“I wanna dedicate this award to Kim Kardashian’s ass in that dress,” she said, while receiving the Album of 2018 reward.

The 35-year-old later thanked the designer, Donatella Versace for her outfit, as well as Black Panther star, Michael B. Jordan, “because he’s going to be taking it off me tonight.”

Shadowhunters Sweep

It’s clear that fans of Shadowhunters are devastated that the series, which is based on The Mortal Instruments book series, may be ending prematurely. With the show awarded TV show of 2018 and Bingeworthy Show of 2018, and Katherine McNamara and Harry Shum Jr. also claiming big wins, the People’s Choice Awards has surely given the cast a memorable send off.

Melissa McCarthy, A.K.A People’s Icon 

Comedy actress, Melissa McCarthy, was honored with the first-ever People’s Icon award, acknowledged for her television and film work, which includes roles in Mike and Molly (2010), Bridesmaids (2011) and Spy (2015).

“Thank you for making it possible for me to do something I love more than anything else,” she said during her acceptance speech.

Spice up your life

Victoria Beckham referenced the Spice Girls hit song Wannabe during her acceptance speech for the Fashion Icon Award. Coming after her band-mates announced a reunion tour that would not include Beckham, fans can be sure that Posh Spice’s dedication to fashion and “girl power” will still give them what they really, really want.

“I wanted to show that if I can do it then really anyone can do it, and what you achieve really can be limitless,” Beckham said. “If you really, really—I can’t help it—if you really, really want it.”

Touching tributes

The People’s Choice Awards fell on Veterans Day and many stars took time to honour the veterans in their speeches. Scarlett Johansson dedicated her award to “the men and women of the armed forces who put their lives on the line every day so we don’t have to”.

Blake Shelton donned a red, white and blue ribbon on his lapel in honor of his veteran father, and Bryan Stevenson spoke out about recent mass shootings, the #MeToo movement and racial inequality during his speech for the People’s Champion Award.

“It’s Veterans Day, it’s important that we honor all our veterans, but it’s important to remember that black veterans after World War I and World War II were menaced and targeted and lynched because of this narrative of racial difference, and today we’re still burdened by that history,” he said.

Attendees also frequently touched on the devastating Woolsey Fire, raging less than 40 miles away from the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California. Mila Kunis, Melissa McCarthy, and Kim Kardashian West were among many who thanked firefighters for their tireless work.

Accepting a best reality TV show prize for Keeping Up with The Kardashians, West dedicated the award to “all the firefighters, the law enforcement and the first responders, we really truly appreciate what you have done for all of us.”

Winners

With 46 awards lined up and only 22 given out during the red carpet and live telecast, the winner’s list is deliciously long.

The show witnessed Korean boy band, BTS secure multiple awards for their song and video Idol. Shawn Mendes was named male artist of the year, Jim Parsons announced Comedy TV Star of 2018, Chadwick Boseman crowned male movie star of the year, and Taylor Swift and Shane Dawson also claimed wins. When receiving his award for Nighttime Talk Show of 2018, Jimmy Fallon was met with laughs for thanking “my better half, my rock, my soulmate…Justin Timberlake”.

Popular high school drama, Riverdale won best drama show, Fifty Shades Freed: best drama movie, and Incredibles 2: best family movie.

A full list of winners can be found, here.

Further reading: “We Solved it!” Diversity at the Emmys

10 Things I Wish I’d Known In College

10 Things I Wish I’d Known In College

As a recent college graduate, I can look back on my school years with some fond feelings and some memories that I’d rather just forget. So that you don’t have to make the same (many) mistakes that I did, here are the 10 things that I wish someone had told me before I’d set off for the chaos that is freshman year.

Your major will not define your entire life

This is one that I feel particularly passionate about because I seemed to spend most of my college years trying to explain—whether to students who actually had their lives figured out, or to my grandma—why I’d chosen to major in a “pointless” subject like English. This proved pretty difficult considering I wasn’t even sure why I’d chosen to go to college and “but I don’t want to be an engineer” didn’t seem to be a good enough answer. Obviously, the first thing to glean from this is that taking your time to make an educated decision about something that’s going to take up a lot of your time and resources, is probably a good idea.

Luckily, I discovered the concept of transferable skills. Sure, if you major in “Bowling Industry Management and Technology”, you’ve probably got a specific career path in mind. But if you decide somewhere down the line that bowling isn’t for you, you’ve learned management skills that can be applied in any workplace. More importantly, I loved English—and isn’t that the point?

Grades are actually important…

Unfortunately, despite the many transferable skills you might learn at college (like how to do laundry, or perhaps how to sleep and look like you’re concentrating at the same time), employers do evaluate you on your GPA (many companies actually filter applications by GPA). When it comes down to it, you’re at college to learn, so prioritize your studies, work hard and try your best to maintain a good GPA.

But a bad grade is not the end of the world

Throughout college, it was not unusual to find me shuddering over the memory of one particularly terrible grade. The dread and nausea had been made worse because I knew that I’d deserved it—I’d rushed the assignment to spend more time with my friends. With all my plans to graduate and stumble upon a career, it hadn’t really crossed my mind that I could, very possibly, fail college. This grade told my sleep-deprived and caffeinated self that my future was over.

After an extremely emotional and somewhat embarrassing visit to my professor’s office, and a math calculation by a friend who actually understood numbers, I was relieved to discover that this blip had barely affected my average. It turns out that we all have good and bad days, and if anything, this terrifying reality check shocked me into trying harder at everything else.

You don’t have to go to college straight away

One of my biggest regrets is not taking a gap year. With the relentless pressure to go to college, staying on at school can feel like the only option, but the reality is: it’s not. Your college education will still be there when you’ve had a bit more time to figure it all out.

Having a part time job is underrated 

Having something that is outside of school and being surrounding by a completely different type of friend is refreshing. Looking back, the excuse to leave the house for an environment where I had fun and physically was not allowed to study, definitely got me through my final semester. Also, the extra money and experience didn’t hurt.

Make the most of the experience

It can be easy to get caught up in the day-to-day tasks of college and adult life. Unfortunately, this stress does not stop after college, so you might as well make the most of it while you can. Say yes to classes that intrigue you, join in activities, learn a random skill and always take advantage of fresh air when you can.

Toxic people are to be eliminated from your life

It took me a good few years to get this mantra down. When you go to college, you’re thrown together with random people and forced to make friends or else have nobody to borrow milk from during times of need. This does not a good friendship make.

If somebody is negative, belittling or controlling, or simply brings way too much drama into your life, it’s okay to distance yourself. Toxic people will always drain your attempts to be positive and drag you down with them, which is not part of the college experience.

College can be lonely and that’s okay

Especially in freshman year, there’s an expectation that you should be having the best time of your life. Often on social media, this is reflected by constant partying, social engagements, and people spending money that they don’t have. Whilst I was happy to enjoy this unrealistic way of life for a while, it quickly became exhausting.

Surrounded by a crowd of semi-familiar faces, it is actually easy and normal to feel lonely at college. After moving away from everything you’re familiar with, it’s important to take time out to assess your state-of-mind and recharge.

Stop taking things personally

This is one that I’m still working towards. Being in a competitive situation that forces you to compare yourself to your peers can damage your self-esteem and solicit your defence mechanisms. By knowing your worth, not jumping to conclusions and letting things like a bad grade go, you’re automatically promoted to the master of your own emotions and energy levels.

Being addicted to coffee is totally fine…probably

My dependence on caffeine is definitely helping me now that I’ve graduated and actually have to get out of bed in the mornings. Take this advice at your own peril.

Further reading: 5 Reasons to Have Houseplants in Your Dorm Room

The Midterm Results Are In and This is What They Mean

The Midterm Results Are In and This is What They Mean

Democrats have regained control of the House of Representatives after an eight-year one-party rule in Congress. However, in a “blue wave” that was more of a “ripple”, Republicans have tightened their grip on the Senate.

Despite losses in the lower chamber of Congress, president Donald Trump declared the midterm election a “tremendous success” as Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate, paving the way for a divided Congress.

Promoting himself on Twitter, he focused on the Senate, quoting the following from a commentator:

“There’s only been five times in the last 105 years that an incumbent president has won seats in the Senate in the off year election. Mr. Trump has magic about him. This guy has magic coming out of his ears. He is an astonishing vote getter & campaigner.”

The primary role of Congress—consisting of the House (its lower chamber) and the Senate (its upper chamber)—is to make and pass laws. A legislative proposal only becomes law once the House, the Senate and then the President, have approved it.

Consequently, that the Republicans lost the House to the Democrats could actually mean that Trump’s final two years of term have just become severely limited. Although his name was not on the ballot as a higher-than-usual number of voters elected Congress members on Tuesday November 6, the election was considered a referendum on Trump’s America.

Democrats needed to pick up 23 House seats in tallies early Wednesday, results that could enable the party to block much of Trump’s legislative agenda as well as issue investigations into his administration and business affairs. The Democrats now control the Intelligence Committee—responsible for considering potential Russian collusion in the last presidential election.

It will also be more difficult for Republicans to make changes to health legislation, including Barack Obama’s healthcare law, and could cause problems for Trump’s plans to build a border wall with Mexico. By passing laws out of the House, it will also force Republican senators to consider subjects like minimum wage.

The increased Republican majority in the Senate however, will make it easier for Trump to appoint judges and remake the judicial branch—a branch of government that interprets laws in the name of the state—into a more conservative system.

Democrats also flipped six governorships in the election, including Kansas, where Laura Kelly beat Trump ally, Kris Kobach. Two victorious Muslim Democrats—Ihan Omar (Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan)—made minority firsts, along with elected Democrat governor, Jared Polis (Colorado), the first openly gay man to be voted into the position.

A record year for women, at least 90 female candidates won their elections, the majority of whom were Democrats and at least 28 of whom were sent to Congress by voters for the first time. Sharice Davids (Kansas) and Deb Haaland (New Mexicao) became the first Native American women to be elected. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York) became the first woman in her 20s to win a seat, and was later joined by 29-year old Abby Finkenauer (Iowa).

House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, spoke in Washington. “Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America,” she told supporters.

Trump allegedly called Pelosi “to extend his congratulations on winning a Democratic House Majority,” her deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill tweeted.

“He acknowledged the Leader’s call for bipartisanship in her victory remarks.”

According to an exit poll survey conducted by the Associated Press, healthcare and immigration were at the top of issues expressed by voters, and 64 percent of those surveyed revealed that Trump factored into their choice when casting their ballots.

Further reading: The Midterms Explained: Everything You Need to Know

The Midterms Explained: Everything You Need to Know

The Midterms Explained: Everything You Need to Know

On Tuesday November 6, voters will receive their first chance to weigh in on Donald Trump’s presidency since he was elected in 2016. With the economy doing well but approval ratings falling short, the midterm elections could sway the control of Congress.

Still following? Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming midterms.

What are the midterms?

Midterm elections take place halfway between presidential elections, every two years. On Tuesday November 6, voters will choose new members of Congress—a term that indicates the combined body of the House of Representatives (the House) and the Senate. President Donald Trump’s party, the Republicans, currently control both houses of Congress. However, the midterms are generally considered a referendum on the current president, with the party whose president is in the White House often struggling to secure a net gain.

Who is being elected?

All 435 members of the House are up for election, as well as one-third of the Senate, with members of the Senate serving staggered six-year terms.

36 state governors (similar to a local president) will also be elected, along with dozens of local legislative officials.

The most important question: Can the Democratic Party win control of the House? 

This year, the Democrats believe that they can win control of the House by winning a majority of the seats. In order to do this, they will need to claim at least 23 seats from the Republicans; a feat that many experts believe to be possible.

On average, the party with a president in the White House has lost 32 seats in the House and two in the Senate in every midterm election since the American Civil War. President Trump has also received low approval ratings, a figure that is currently at around 42 percent. On the other hand, generic ballot polling shows the Democrats up by around eight percentage points.

Furthermore, this year, a record number of more than 30 Republicans have retired or resigned for a variety of reasons, with sexual harassment accusations and feelings towards the president among those cited. With representation in the House relatively proportionate to population, and voters usually reluctant to eject sitting representatives, this creates an opportunity for the Democrats to claim seats. Florida and Pennsylvania are two such key swing states where the incumbent will not be standing again.

In the last 50 years, the Democrats have only made a net gain of 23+ seats twice, in 1974 and in 2006. Similarly, the same period of time has seen the Republicans score a net gain of this size three times, most recently in the 2010 midterms during Barack Obama’s first term.

The low voting turnout for midterms (around 40 percent of Americans) has also tended to help the Republican Party, as those who do vote tend to be white and belong to an older generation. However, the “pink wave” of female candidates running for election is hoped to encourage more female voters and increase women’s representation in Congress.

The Senate

35 of 100 seats are up for election in the Senate, with 51 seats needed for control. Republicans have a strong advantage over the Democrats here because the Democratic Party is defending 26 seats, while the Republican Party is only defending nine.

The Senate electoral system also means that each state gets two senators, regardless of how large the population is. These smaller states tend to be more rural and, in the past, rural areas have favored the Republicans.

What does this all mean for president Trump?

With control of Congress comes the advantage of passing or blocking legislative agendas.

If the Democrats win control of one or both of the houses, they’ll be able to limit the final two years of President Trump’s term. For example, they’d be able to block his future Supreme Court picks and investigate issues such as the president’s business dealings or the allegations of sexual assault made against him.

If the Republicans hold control of Congress, President Trump’s key agendas and promises could be revived. The president was only able to sign his overhaul of the US tax system into law because Republicans held majorities in both houses of Congress.

The word impeachment has also been following discussions around the midterms. Impeachment does not necessarily lead to a removal of office—the formal statement of charges against the president has only been presented twice. Both Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were acquitted after a trial in the Senate, and Richard Nixon resigned before he could be impeached in the 70s.

With the Democrats in control of Congress, calls for president Trump’s impeachment are likely to increase. However, Republican senators would need to turn on the president, as a two-thirds majority is needed to remove him from office.

Nevertheless, with a Democrat majority in Congress, the party would have a better chance of defeating Trump in the next presidential election in 2020.

What happens next?

The results of the midterms could shape the nation for years to come. A “blue wave” of Democrat majority in both the House and the Senate would be able to block President Trump’s future plans.

After the midterms, thoughts will turn to the 2020 presidential election. Worth mentioning here is the fact that 26 of the 36 state governors being elected on Tuesday are Republican. With governors playing a large role in supporting their party’s candidates, securing new governors could have a major effect on presidential campaigning.

Further reading: Taylor Swift Speaks up about Political Opinion

Eight Life Lessons ‘Hocus Pocus’ Taught Us

Eight Life Lessons ‘Hocus Pocus’ Taught Us

Say what you like about this campy film that features a talking cat, catchy musical numbers and extortionate levels of cringe, but we think Hocus Pocus is a masterpiece.

This Halloween, the iconic cult-classic that is Hocus Pocus is 25 years old. With the film out-performing other family-friendly Halloween movies in a survey by Redbox, it’s not just the nostalgia of secretly watching this as a child, even though our parents said it would give us nightmares, that makes this movie worthy of its dedicated 90s-kid following.

The story of the Sanderson sisters inaugurates a hanging, a resurrection and a mission to suck the souls out of the children of Salem, Massachusetts. Brilliantly played by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker, the witches are just a few of the strong characters that helped this movie shape a generation of millennials. Child murdering aside, here are eight powerful life lessons that can be learned during 96 minutes of pure magic.

 Women are awesome

Sure, the Sanderson sisters may kill children, but you’d probably be lying if you said you didn’t want to be a part of their coven when you were growing up. These hilarious witches are quick-witted, powerful and know how to confidently take charge to get the dirty work done.

Sisterhood is definitely, and literally, the word here—each sister has her own unique talents that serve to compliment those of her siblings’. The sisters are the only ones who understand how to calm each other down and, even though they don’t always see eye-to-eye, they unite on their quest to take on modern society. We’re including Allison (Vinessa Shaw) and Dani (Thora Birch)—the brave girls who scheme against these witches—in this, too.

Another great thing about Hocus Pocus is how sexually aware the female characters are. Sarah Sanderson may be borderline inappropriate, but she’s definitely not afraid to express her desires. She flirts, plays with and kisses a variety of men throughout the film for her own sexual pleasure, a trait that screams modern feminist. Also refreshing is the scene in which Max (Omri Katz) lights the black-flame candle that summons the witches back from the grave. Instead of the sweet, virginal girl trope that often dominates horror films, a virginal boy proves that he should have listened to his sister—sorry Max.

Always be yourself

Salem society clearly has its qualms about the Sanderson sisters, and the hair and makeup team were obviously out to get them too. Frankly, the witches couldn’t care less. By embracing their weirdness, they turn being different into something powerful and intimidating. As it turns out, eternal beauty is overrated when you’re faced with the imminent problem of being reduced to dust. The lesson: Always be yourself, unless you can be a badass witch and survive until morning.

Squads stick together

Max, Allison, Dani and Thackery (Sean Murray) vs. Winifred, Mary and Sarah. By sticking together, both sides are able to put up a good fight. Whether it’s providing back-up vocals when a member of the group launches into unexpected song, or drinking a youth-sucking potion so that your little sister doesn’t have to, having each other’s backs is everything.

Reading is magical

Clearly, books hold all the answers; just don’t steal them if you want to avoid child-murdering witches. On the other hand, perhaps if the Sanderson sister’s had made the effort to memorize a few spells, they’d have been more successful. We’ll take knowledge over youthful looks any day.

Tomorrow is a new day 

At the end of the day, you can rest assured knowing that no matter how traumatized you may have become; the day’s problems will be reduced to stardust before dawn arrives. Hopefully, if you don’t die first, or get turned into a cat.

Being young is powerful, and so is being old

The Sanderson sister’s are obsessed with youth, reminding us that being young is desirable and we should probably make the most of it. In fact, whether your duty is to rid society of evil witches or speak out on social media, young people definitely have the power to change the world.

That being said, it is clear that society has burdened adults with the impossible task of reversing nature’s clock. Instead of spending your entire paycheck on anti-aging products and dermal fillers, steal the life essence of a child or refer to the above point: “Always be yourself”. 

Family is the best

If your big brother has ever given up his future with a pretty girl to drink a deadly potion and save your life, then you can undoubtedly relate to this one. Really, Hocus Pocus is about family. Thackery Binx spends 300 years plagued by the fact that he couldn’t save his sister; the Sanderson sisters literally support each other through life and death; and Max eventually realizes that his annoying little sister has been there for him all along and sacrifices everything for her.

This family-film was also the first to teach us how to give our parents a break. Mom and Dad have their own lives and personalities in this movie and even occasionally enjoy dressing up as Madonna for Halloween.

Yabbos means breasts

“What do you call them again, Max? Yabbos?”

Further reading: The 12 Best Netflix Movies to Watch This Halloween

Humans-have-Caused-Wildlife-Populations-to-Decline-by-60-Percent

Humans have Caused Wildlife Populations to Decline by 60 Percent

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have declared a state of emergency for wildlife after revealing that the world’s mammals, birds, fish and reptiles have decreased by a staggering 60 percent since 1970.

By overusing natural resources, driving climate change and polluting the planet, humanity has not only prompted a cataclysmic decline in wildlife populations, but destroyed the system upon which it depends for clean air, water and every day existence.

The report warns: “Humans are living beyond the planet’s means and wiping out life on earth in the process.”

According to the Living Planet Report 2018, only a quarter of the world’s land area remains free from the impacts of human activity, a figure that is expected to fall to just a tenth by 2050. More than 4,000 species have declined between 1970 and 2014, the most recent available data.

Between 2009 and 2014, African elephant populations in Tanzania fell by 60 percent alone, largely due to poaching. WWF has warned that current protection methods are failing and more needs to be done to protect numerous species from becoming extinct in the near future.

Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF said: “We are sleepwalking towards the edge of a cliff.

“If there was a 60 percent decline in the human population, that would be equivalent to emptying North America, South America, Africa, Europe, China and Oceania. That is the scale of what we have done.”

“We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last that can do anything about it,” added Tanya Steele, chief executive of the WWF. “The collapse of global wildlife populations is a warning sign that nature is dying.”

It’s not just poaching that is threatening the planet. “Exploding” levels of human consumption, over-exploitation of natural resources such as over-fishing, cutting down forests and the use of pesticides in agriculture are having dire effects on the system that humanity is dependent upon. The report highlights food, health and medicines as amenities that rely on natural resources.

“It is a classic example of where the disappearance is the result of our own consumption, because the deforestation is being driven by ever expanding agriculture producing soy, which is being exported to countries including the UK to feed pigs and chickens,” Barrett said.

Plastic pollution is also proving a significant threat. The percentage of seabirds with plastic in their stomach is estimated to have risen from five percent in 1960, to 90 percent today. Plastic can suffocate and injure marine animals and, if mistaken for food, can cause fish and turtles to suffer blockage, starvation and internal wounds.

The report added that around half of the planet’s shallow water corals have been lost in just 30 years, and that the most damaged habitats are rivers and lakes, where populations have fallen by 83 percent due to the thirst of agriculture and the large quantity of dams.

South and Central America are the worst affected regions, seeing a drop of 89 percent in vertebrate populations.

More species referenced in the report as those whose populations are in decline include black and white rhinos, polar bears, African grey parrots, hedgehogs, whale sharks, Bornean orangutans, puffins and the wandering albatross.

“If we want a world with orangutans and puffins, clean air and enough food for everyone, we need urgent action from our leaders and a new global deal for nature and people that kick starts a global programme of recovery,” said Steele.

A 2020 meeting of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity is expected to make new commitments for the protection of nature.

Barrett said: “We need a new global deal for nature and people and we have this narrow window of less than two years to get it.”

“This really is the last chance. We have to get it right this time.”

Further reading: 12 Years to Halt Climate Change Catastrophe, Warns UN