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Maria Mellor

Hurricane Harvey Hits America

Texas has been devastated by the tropical storm

America faced devastation and tragedy this week as Hurricane Harvey made landfall. Texas was one of the states most affected with billions of dollars worth of property damage and thousands of people uprooted.

Hurricane Harvey is the wettest storm in contiguous United States on record. An estimated 38 people have died in connection with the storm. A Houston police officer and a family of six are among those confirmed dead.

The storm reached peak intensity just before landfall in southern Texas on August 25.

Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency for 50 counties and evacuations were made, however many people were still left stranded as the storm hit. Houston residents were advised to climb onto their roofs in high water areas, and so far, more than 1,000 rescues have been made. 911 was inundated with calls and many stranded people took to social media to ask the public for help.

On Thursday, explosions were reported at a flooded chemical plant near Houston. The site had organic peroxides stored—a product that needs to be kept at a low temperature as they are extremely flammable. It is thought that due to the flood, essential refrigeration was lost and the organic peroxides caused an explosion.

Local authorities and plant officials made the decision to simply let the fire burn itself out as the site was still extremely dangerous. Whilst maintaining the perimeter, 15 deputies inhaled fumes from the plant, believed to be a non-toxic irritant, and were taken to hospital. They were treated and all were released later that day.

In attempt to prevent further damaged caused by Hurricane Harvey, a number of other plants and industrial facilities have closed down. This, however, resulted in millions of pounds of pollutants to be released into the air.

In this bleak time, hope has been found in the many brave volunteers who have rescued countless numbers of people and animals.

In Orange, Texas, strangers have formed a volunteer rescue group lead by Amanda Labove. They have gathered in a parking lot to be sent out on rescue missions and are estimated to have saved dozens, if not hundreds, of lives.

In Houston a local businessman has offered his furniture stores to those who have lost their homes in the Hurricane Harvey floods. Over 400 people are now using the sofas, recliners and mattresses to sleep on. ‘Mattress Mack’ has even given out his personal phone number on social media and said: “If you need something, call, and we’ll try to get you whatever help we can”. Food and clothing was also provided to the victims.

Meanwhile, celebrities and large companies have been donating to the relief efforts. Kevin Hart posted a video on social media challenging his celebrity friends to donate money. Hart has donated $50,000, the Kardashian family have donated $500,000 and celebrities such as Sandra Bullock and Rachael Ray have amazed the public by pledging to donate $1million.

Apple have encouraged their users to donate money to the American Red Cross. The company has managed to raise over $3million for relief efforts so far and have been matching employee donations two-to-one.

It has been estimated that it will take Houston years to fully recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.  A National Academy of Sciences study found that reconstruction typically takes 10 times as long as the initial emergency period. Only time will tell how long the area will take to be able to function normally again.

Local organisations have already compensated for the time it will take to recover. The Houston School District has announced that all of its students will be eligible for free lunch for the 2017-18 academic year. Additionally, loan borrowers in the area were given added flexibility and the Federal Department of Education have relaxed financial aid procedures for those affected by Hurricane Harvey.

The storm officially ended on August 31, and as the floodwater slowly drained away residents of Texas and Louisiana were able to go back to their homes and start assessing the damage.

Read about Hurricane Sandy on College News

Bullied for a photo with Mike Pence

To what extent is it acceptable to oppose someone in their political views?

A girl has claimed to be bullied by her peers for having her photo taken with Vice-President Mike Pence. McKensie Deutsch, a Scripps College student, posted a picture of herself with Pence on her Facebook profile, only to receive an onslaught of abuse ranging from political criticism to straight-up name-calling.

She has been accused of not caring about LGBTQ rights and has been told that she is contributing to the oppression of minority groups. The bullying has gone beyond social media with her friends harassing her in person too.

“A few weeks ago…I saw how personally my peers take politics upon sharing a photo of me standing with Vice-President Mike Pence and Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers,” Deutsch said. “Knowing my Facebook audience was politically diverse, I made no political comments. Instead, I shared my excitement and gratitude for the opportunity to intern for Rodgers—the highest ranking Republican woman in congress—and to interact with such impactful and important people in my job. The photo should not have caused any trouble. But my Scripps College and Claremont peers begged to differ.”

This leads to the question—to what extent is it acceptable to oppose someone in their political views? Both Democrats and Republicans alike shout offense and abuse, leaving little room for actual debate.

Recently, Donald Trump banned transgender individuals from the military, showing how intolerant his administration is. Pence himself signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would have allowed businesses to refuse services to members of the LGBTQ community. Perhaps it’s wrong to support these people as Republican leaders. Maybe Deutsch’s photo was an endorsement of Pence and the Republican Party. This does not give people the right to harass or bully her.

Typically, students tend to be overwhelmingly left-wing, meaning that when something like this happens the bullying can be like an unstoppable tidal wave. We don’t stop and recognize the fact that a vast population of this country identify themselves as Republican, and so attempting to alienate individuals is not only petty but also futile.

In the 2016 Presidential Election, the majority of under 30s voted for the democrat candidate, but not as many as before. Hilary Clinton won the youth vote with 55 percent compared to Trump’s 37 percent. In 2012 Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney to the youth vote with 60 percent of support—a whole five percent more than his democrat successor.

Just like you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, you win more arguments with debate than with verbal or physical abuse. To overpower someone else’s views, or even change them, one must show counter arguments and display why their point is better. This does not include calling someone a ‘bitch’ for getting an internship with a Republican congresswoman.

These days a simple picture with the vice-president is enough to anger people and many right-leaning individuals choose to hide their political beliefs.

With this, we lose the chance to debate. As young people are the predominant users of social media, it has become an echo chamber for the liberal left. We were surprised when Trump won the election and surprised when the UK chose to leave the European Union, simply because it has become taboo for young people to speak out about their conservative beliefs.

Debate is important so that we may develop and challenge our own opinions. It means that we further understand what we want so that our leaders may do the best thing for our country. To steamroller people’s values does not cause them to change them; it only causes them to take even further steps away.

Of course, to be silent is to be complicit in a lot of cases, but here it is simply about proportional response. The post itself was not directly political, not talking about policy or belief, yet commenters jumped at the chance to criticize her.

Deutsch herself commented: “How did we get to the point where taking a photo with someone is an act of violence? How will we ever be able to have adult conversations if no one is ever willing to listen to those who have opposing philosophies? How can we coexist when we write off our political opponents—as well as those who dare to take photos with them—as morally bankrupt?”

Further reading: Trump Fails to Condemn White Supremacists