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Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence Heads Towards Virginia and the Carolinas

More than one million residents living the coastlines of Virginia and the Carolinas have been forced to evacuate their homes as the life-threatening Hurricane Florence hurtles towards the east coast.

Weather officials predict this storm to be one of the most powerful to ever hit the region, with forecasters estimating that the hurricane will make landfall this Thursday (September 13). Experts have reported that the region can expect potentially catastrophic winds of up to 150mph and high levels of flooding with up to two meters of rainfall.

The storm currently sits in category four on the national weather service’s (NWS) classification system, but the US national hurricane center (NHC) has said that it is closer to category five in strength—the most powerful classification as marked on the classification system.

At a news conference on Monday, South Carolina governor Henry McMaster said Florence “is particularly big, particularly strong and… there’s nothing stopping it.

“And when it hits the Gulf Stream in warmer water, it’s going [to intensify] even more.” McMaster declared a state of emergency on Saturday, along with the governors of Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland.

The NHC said, “The bottom line is that there is high confidence that Florence will be a large and extremely dangerous hurricane, regardless of its exact intensity.”

President Donald Trump took to Twitter to say, “My people just informed me that this is one of the worst storms to hit the East coast in many years. Also, looking like a direct hit on North Caroline, South Caroline and Virginia. Please be prepared, be careful and be SAFE!”

According to records, Hurricane Florence is the first storm at category four strength to hit the Carolinas for 30 years; the last occurrence was Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

People have been warned to steer clear of the coast’s beaches and oceans as the sea swelled and dangerous rip currents already surfaced over the weekend, forecasting the arrival of Hurricane Florence.

Further reading: Did Hurricane Irma Happen Because of Climate Change?

Trump's Star

Trump’s Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame Voted to Be Removed

West Hollywood City Council unanimously voted to remove Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame due to his “disturbing treatment of women and other actions that do not meet the shared values of the City of West Hollywood, the region, state, and country.”

Trump received his star in 2007 for producing the Miss Universe Pageant. Since then, Trump’s star has been vandalised and destroyed several times.

In 2016 the star was destroyed by James Otis with a sledgehammer. He was sentenced to three years probation, 20 days community service and a $4,400 fine.

The star has also been vandalised with a spray-painted swastika, a mute symbol and has had a wall built around it to symbolise Trump’s plans to build a wall along the border of Mexico.

Most recently, the star was destroyed in July by Austin Mikel Clay with a pickaxe. He then turned himself in to the LAPD. Clay could face up to three years in prison.

The issue of removing Trump’s star was debated in a West Hollywood City Council meeting. Clay spoke at the meeting, explaining why he destroyed Trump’s star. “I believe that it’s a threat to public safety with all the violence that’s erupting over the star,” he explained.

A Trump supporter at the meeting said: “I think it’s appalling to attack any star, much less the president’s star.”

Trump’s star also widely discussed by various celebrities. Jimmy Kimmel on his late night talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live! said: “They didn’t install his star, they didn’t pay for his star. And when the star is damaged, it doesn’t cost them anything. This is none of their business.”

Mark Hamill, on the other hand, took to Twitter to suggest: “How about replacing it with someone who really earned it? Like @carrieffisher.”

Even though West Hollywood City Council voted to remove Trump’s star, they have no authority over the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Now, they are calling upon the City Council of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to remove the star.

Trump is not the only controversial celebrity on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Bill Cosby and Kevin Spacey still have stars despite the numerous allegations of sexual abuse both celebrities have received.

Walk of Fame President, Leron Gubler, after complaints about Cosby’s star in 2015, said: “The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a registered historic landmark. Once a star has been added to the Walk, it is considered a part of the historic fabric of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Because of this, we have never removed a star from the Walk.” Due to this comment, it appears that Trump’s star will not be removed.

Further reading: Supreme Court Upholds Travel Ban

Marijuana

New Policy Ends Marijuana Prosecution

As of August 1, it is now legal in Manhattan to smoke marijuana in public, unless it poses a threat to public safety.

Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, proposed plans to stop prosecuting low-level marijuana cases May 15.

In a New York Times report, it was revealed that there is a large racial gap for cannabis-related arrests. 86 percent of people arrested for marijuana cases were people of color: 48 percent being black, 38 percent were Hispanic—only nine percent were white.

This issue was one of Vance’s main reasons for the new policy. “Our research has found virtually no public safety rationale for the ongoing arrest and prosecution of marijuana smoking and no moral justification for the intolerable racial disparities that underlie enforcement.

“Tomorrow, our Office will exit a system wherein smoking a joint can ruin your job, your college application, or your immigration status, but our advocacy will continue,” he goes on to say.

The new policy is expected to reduce marijuana cases by 96% percent, from 5,000 a year to fewer than 200.

This decision has also raised questions regarding total legality of cannabis across the state of New York.

So far, nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis. Recently, Vermont became the ninth state to legalize marijuana, with the effective date of legalization being July 2018.

Earlier this year, a Department of Health (DoH) study commissioned by governor Andrew Cuomo concluded that the use of recreational cannabis should be legalized. Cuomo had previously suggested that he was against the legalization of the drug by saying that it is “a gateway drug”.

His opponent, gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon has also expressed her desire for marijuana to be legalized in the state of New York, it being one of her main policies. “We have to stop putting people of color in jail for something that white people do with impunity,” she says.

Brooklyn has already ended prosecution of the use of marijuana and has seen astonishing results. Low-level marijuana arrests in Brooklyn have decreased by 90 percent, going from 349 cases in January to 29 in June.

Although Manhattan and Brooklyn have ended prosecution on all low-level cannabis cases, the Bronx, Staten Island and Queens are yet to change their policies.

Vance ends his statement: “I urge New York lawmakers to legalize and regulate marijuana once and for all.”

Further reading: Marijuana Arrests in Colorado

Sexual Assault Retrial

Bill Cosby Sexual Assault Retrial to Begin

Actor Bill Cosby’s sexual assault retrial is set to begin in Pennsylvania on Monday in front of a new jury of 10.

Cosby, now 80 years old, denies allegations of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand 14 years ago, and has pleaded not guilty.

Constand, a Canadian massage therapist, has alleged that Cosby drugged and molested her after inviting her to his home in Pennsylvania in 2004. The 44-year-old had first reported the alleged attack one year following the event, but the local district attorney declined to press charges against the renowned comic. Constand then filed a civil lawsuit against Cosby which was settled for an unknown sum in 2006.

The actor, once affectionately known as “America’s Dad”, has been charged with aggravated indecent assault—a second degree felony—by the Pennsylvania prosecutor. If found guilty, Cosby could face up to 10 years in jail.

The sexual assault retrial comes after the jury in the first hearing in June 2017 failed to reach a conclusive verdict.

The Emmy award-winning actor, most famous for starring in the 80s comedy TV series The Cosby Show (1984), has been the center of a major scandal in which more than 60 women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault. Cosby has denied all of the allegations.

The sexual assault retrial will put Cosby before the same judge—Steven O’Neill–and district attorney as the first in 2017. The BBC reports that the judge will allow other accusers to come forward with evidence during the trial. The Guardian reports that O’Neill will allow for five women to speak during the sexual assault retrial.

Further reading: #MeToo Campaign Raises Awareness About Sexual Assault

United Airlines

Dog Dies in United Airlines Overhead Cabin

In a devastating turn of events, a dog has died in an overhead cabin on a United Airlines plane.

The French bulldog died on Monday during a flight from Houston to New York, travelling with its owner, Catalina Robledo, in an airline-approved pet carrier.

Witnesses have alleged that a United Airlines flight attendant forced Robledo to put the carrier—with the puppy inside—into the overhead cabin.

Fellow passenger, Maggie Gemminger, who sat behind the owner of the dog, said in a conversation with travel website One Mile at a Time, “I witnessed a United flight attendant instruct a woman to put her dog carrier with live dog in an overhead bin.”

The unidentified flight attendant has since claimed that she did not know that there was a dog in the carrier.

Robledo told Telemundo 47, “The dog barked and barked but I could not stand.” She explained that this was because her new born baby was on her lap and the plane was going through turbulence.

Robledo’s seven-year-old daughter said to ABC13, “While we were flying, the dog started barking and barking and there were no flight attendants coming. We couldn’t stand up because there was a lot of turbulence so we weren’t allowed to.”

United Airlines has since claimed full responsibility for the death of the dog. In a statement, the airline said, “We assume full responsibility for this tragedy and express our deepest condolences to the family and are committed to supporting them.

“We are thoroughly investigating what occurred to prevent this from ever happening again. Pets should never be placed in the overhead bin.”

The cause of death has not been verified, but it is believed that lack of oxygen in the overhead cabin may be a factor.

The heart wrenching news comes just weeks after both United Airlines and Delta made headlines for tightening policies surrounding pets and emotional support animals on flights.