Remembering 2020

In talking with those that recount 9/11, my generation will often find a similar thread of memories throughout everyone. The story involves the moment an individual saw the news feed, heard the reports of the buildings being hit, and that moment being suspended in time. For those who witnessed the events, though it took months, maybe years, to truly understand what had happened, the shock was measured by an instant in time, the horror of the moment trapped in a single visual that was seen by the entire world at the same time.

But this year has been different.

This crisis, which is truly what the events of this year panned out to be in the end, had no such point. For some, the moment of understanding was watching the President make inappropriate remarks during a televised press conference. For others, it was sending loved ones into a hospital without being able to follow them in, and recognizing that it could be the last time they saw them. The world experienced shock this year in the same way it did nineteen years ago, but this time it was prolonged over the course of months. There was no moment of impact, no catastrophic graft in time that could ever be pointed at precisely.

My intent is not to compare tragedies. Doing so is never acceptable, and often ends up with us deciding one was worse than another. My intention, rather, is to recognize just how massively important this year has been for humanity as a whole.

I’m ashamed to admit just how much of this year I had managed to forget. If someone had asked me to recount the year’s events three weeks ago, I likely would have left out some of the most major things to happen. I would have forgotten to talk about the Australian wildfires that decimated parts of the country. I would have involuntarily omitted some of the major sparks leading up to the Black Lives Matter protests of the summer. I might have even forgotten to mention the cancellation of my own High School graduation, a ceremony that I will now never get.

In the past weeks, I have been reminded by numerous sources of these things and more. Beyond the actual events, which were tragic and terrifying to say the least, I have been reminded to remember the things I felt as I watched the news rush by us like a burst dam letting the ocean flood through. I remember feeling hopelessly confused as the virus began infecting the United States from coast to coast, wondering what it could mean for my future. I remember being angry at the health structures that were systematically removed because they were deemed a waste, the same structures that could have, would have, saved tens of thousands of lives in this country and around the world. I remember the sickness, the literal stomach turning feeling that washed through my body when I watched the video of Ahmaud Arbery shot and killed by two white supremacists. I remember watching the election take place, never more aware of the lasting effects that the presidency can have in almost every area it touches. I remember feeling like I had reached adulthood and been promptly given a mound of broken pieces, and even more, that the mess me and my generation were left with was somehow our responsibility to clean up.

It’s understandable that I pushed so much out of my memory of the past year. The year was packed from March to December with one crisis after another in such a way that any informed citizen needed to devote several hours a day to just keep up with what was happening, and we all collectively experienced a massive overload of information. Not to mention that life just feels better when you don’t have the impression that the world is falling to pieces around you. Ignorance is bliss, and it was easier than ever this year to simply embrace ignorance like an old friend. In fact, you’d be in good company.

But the more I’ve reflected on it, the more I’ve realized that there are major lessons within this year that cannot be forgotten. We learned just how important elections are, and that our elected officials must be held accountable both while they maintain office, and when they ask for our votes again. We learned the apparent value that exists in misinformation, and just how quickly it can spread throughout a population. We learned that to really have the best information we must listen to the best people, and we learned that even the best people can sometimes get it wrong. And with all of these things and more, we learned that the consequences can literally be life or death.

I want so badly to pretend like this year never happened, to return to some warped sense of normalcy and to believe that everything will go back to the way it was before. But I know that to do that would be irresponsible. The lessons we learned in 2020 were lessons that come once in a generation, if that. They can’t be learned from history books, but rather they are only learned through living the things that teach those lessons.

These lessons that we learn through the immense amounts of pain and sadness that we live through must then be fought for relentlessly. We have to be the ones that fight for these lessons. We need to fight for these like the Martin Luther King Jr. fought in the 60’s, like Gloria Steinem fought in the 80’s, and like the threat to a way of life that we fought against throughout the 2000’s.

We’re fighting a new battle now. It isn’t quite as sexy as a battle for civil rights, nor quite as clear as a battle against terrorism or drugs. The battle we are fighting now is for a system that just works to take care of its people. That’s not to say that we won’t have our own conflicts; conflict is always a good thing in this experiment of democracy that is the United States. But we must agree that we should help each other. We must decide unanimously to eradicate issues like the McCarthyistic mistrust we have for our neighbors, and instead we must give each other the trust we deserve for being humans that fight for the same basic goals. With that we can provide each other the help that is so urgently required of us by the communities who are now hurting the most.

My generation is the next one to fill its space in the history books. My peers are future governmental leaders and doctors and inventors, future writers and artists, future thinkers and future doers. This generation has been extraordinarily prepared to fight the battles ahead. We’ve had perhaps the best ever resources to understand the interconnected nature of the broken system that we’re living in, and already I see complex arguments emerging from the corners that address not only one issue, but hundreds of them.

For those who are ahead of my generation, I’m not asking for some sort of blind changing of the guard; such a change in duty is reckless. Rather, I’m asking that my generation be lent ears that truly listen. I’m asking that the criticisms of my peers are taken seriously, and that when the extraordinary among us do step up to the plate, that they are given their chance to make the real change that the world needs.

For those within my generation, I’m asking that you speak up. Do not let only the loudest of us be the ones that lead us. Take initiative in the things worth fighting for, and make the world a better place in whatever small way is possible for you. The world ahead of us can be better than what it is now, but it doesn’t happen without legitimate action.

The lessons we learned this year will be what my generation carries through until the last one of us is dead. We cannot forget them, nor can we ever hope to. We have to embrace what we’ve learned in this long, long year, and use that to ensure we never make the same mistakes again. With this, we will change the world.

Safety Concerns Soar as Planes Return to the Sky

By Jacob Shropshire, Edited by Brendan Monroe – Originally Published by The Millennial Source on December 30, 2020. (Photo: Marco Bello, Reuters)

As Americans traveled home for the holidays in the highest numbers seen in airports since the pandemic started, it appears that the airline industry may finally be starting to pull out of the unprecedented slump that 2020 has found it in. 

The numbers that have been released so far still aren’t anything resembling past holiday travel, with the week leading up to Christmas seeing fewer than eight million passengers going through TSA checkpoints in the United States, barely 40% of that from the same period last year.

Nevertheless, the increase in travelers in recent weeks has been taken as positive news for an industry that has had little of that this year. But the return of passenger jets to the skies brings with it a number of other challenges and could, according to aviation experts, have problematic or even dangerous consequences.

Grounded

The impact of COVID-19 on the global travel industry was largely unprecedented. With a number of countries enacting travel bans and many passengers afraid to fly due to the pandemic, air travel came to a screeching halt. By mid-April, more than 16,000 passenger jets worldwide were grounded and the number of planes in active service was the lowest it had been in 26 years.

This mass-grounding of aircraft presented one significant problem for the world’s airline industries – where could all these grounded planes be safely stored?

Aircraft need specific conditions to be stored long-term. According to Boeing’s guide on the subject, “Parking creates the risk that an airplane may not be properly protected or that system functionality may not be properly restored.” The guide goes on to say that “The procedures established to preserve an airplane during parking and later restore it to in-service condition are extensive and lengthy, but necessary to ensure airworthiness.”

Parked planes can experience damage due to a number of factors, including heat, humidity, ice, hail and wind. Additionally, insects and birds often try to nest in parked planes.

Precautions taken to protect stored aircraft include topping off fuel tanks to prevent the planes from rocking in the wind and rotating the wheels several times a month to prevent rusting.

Cleared for liftoff?

According to the TSA, the three busiest air travel days since the end of March all had around 1.2 million travelers. Two of those came in the week leading up to Christmas, with the third coming in the week before Thanksgiving.

This small surge allowed airlines some solace after a year that has cost tens of thousands of airline employees their jobs and billions in losses to the industry itself.

However, aviation experts have expressed concern over the sudden return of so many planes to the skies after nearly nine months of inactivity.

Maintenance of aircraft has been a major concern and inspections have found insects nesting in key components of aircraft, resulting in major issues.

There has also been the fear that returning pilots might be out of practice.

“Flying an aircraft can be quite technical,”Greg Waldron, a managing editor of the aviation magazine FlightGlobal, told the BBC. “If you haven’t been doing it for a while, it’s certainly not second nature like riding a bike.”

The last several months have already seen an increase in the number of unstabilized approaches, which can result in rough landings, runway overshoots and, in severe cases, crashes. More than a hundred people have died this year from crashes caused by unstabilized approaches, including passengers on a Pakistan International Airlines flight back in May and an Air India Express flight in August.

Waldron says that airlines are aware of the issue and that many have booked extra flight-simulator time for their pilots.

These fears have come in addition to those of travelers flying on the Boeing 737 Max, which, after having been grounded for more than a year after over 300 people died in crashes aboard its planes, was cleared in November by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), allowing flights to resume in December. 

With the airline industry as eager to bid farewell to 2020 as anyone, officials hope that safety concerns due to the record number of grounded flights aren’t just one more thing they have to worry about going into the new year.

Who is Pete Buttigieg?

By Jacob Shropshire, Edited by Brendan Monroe – Originally Published by The Millennial Source on December 24, 2020. (Photo: Elizabeth Frantz, Reuters)

On December 15, United States President-elect Joe Biden announced his former opponent Pete Buttigieg as his nominee for the secretary of transportation.

Buttigieg is the first of Biden’s former rivals that the president-elect has named to a position in his cabinet.

The appointment is being seen as a step toward political growth for the former mayor who sent unexpected ripples through the Democratic primaries.

“This position stands at the nexus of so many of the interlocking challenges and opportunities ahead of us. Jobs, infrastructure, equity, and climate all come together at the DOT, the site of some of our most ambitious plans to build back better,” said Biden in a statement announcing the selection. “I trust Mayor Pete to lead this work with focus, decency, and a bold vision – he will bring people together to get big things done.”

Pete’s early years

Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg was born on January 19, 1982, to parents Joseph and Jennifer Buttigieg, and was raised in South Bend, Indiana. Both parents taught at the University of Notre Dame, his father as a literature professor, and his mother as a linguist.

Being the son of two Notre Dame professors, Pete unsurprisingly excelled academically. He became his class valedictorian at Saint Joseph High School and later graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University as a history and literature major in 2004.

Buttigieg was awarded the Rhodes scholarship and spent the next few years studying at the University of Oxford, where he graduated with a B.A. in philosophy, politics, and economics.

During his years in university, Pete involved himself in politics as much as possible. He later worked as a director by a consulting firm in Washington, DC, and eventually worked on John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004.

Buttigieg is fluent in eight languages, including English, Arabic, Dari Persian, French, Italian, Maltese, Norwegian and Spanish.

South Bend’s Mayor Pete

In January of 2012, Pete took office as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He was only 29 years old at the time, making him the youngest mayor to be elected in a US city with a population of over 100,000.

In 2015, after returning to South Bend from his time in the military, Pete came out publicly as gay, becoming Indiana’s first openly elected gay executive. In the same year, Buttigieg met Chasten Glezman, a junior high school teacher. The two announced their engagement in 2017 and were married in 2018.

Buttigieg faced scrutiny as mayor in 2015 after federal authorities discovered that South Bend’s police were illegally wiretapping some officers’ phone calls. Buttigieg later asked for the resignation of the police chief Darryl Boykins, the city’s first Black police chief. Boykins later sued the city on discrimination charges. Buttigieg later admitted the event was his “first serious mistake as mayor.”

Despite the scandal, Buttigieg won reelection with more than 80% of the vote in November of 2015.

During his time as mayor, Buttigieg secured US$200 million in private investment in downtown South Bend. He is credited with sparking massive job growth and transforming the city through programs that repaired and rehabilitated abandoned buildings and other various urban development projects.

Military career

Pete enlisted in the military in 2007 and in 2009 became a Navy Reserve Officer. During his first term as the mayor of South Bend in 2014, he was deployed to the Bagram Air Base in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he took part in the Afghan Threat Finance Cell and worked to disrupt the financial structures of terrorist networks.

During this stint, he also worked as an armed driver for his commander, a job Buttigieg referred to as “military Uber.” He also was in charge of protecting the vehicle from ambushes, telling CNN in 2019 that “It often fell to me to make sure that the vehicle was either being driven or was being guarded properly.”

It was also in Afghanistan where Buttigieg learned Dari, a dialect of Persian, to communicate with locals.

By the end of his time in the Middle East, Buttigieg had earned the rank of lieutenant and received the Joint Service Commendation Medal.

Candidacy for president

In April 2019, Buttigieg (who many just referred to by this point as “Mayor Pete”) launched his bid for the US presidency, becoming the first openly gay man to make a serious presidential run.

At the beginning of the race, Buttigieg lacked the name recognition required of many to last in the race. By the end of the year, however, Mayor Pete was trailing the longtime leaders of the party – Joe BidenBernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren – by only a few points.

Throughout the campaign, Pete brought much to the table as a Democratic candidate. As a member of the LGBT community, he provided inroads for groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the Family Equity Council. 

Buttigieg also defines himself as a devout Christian, challenging what many see as a contradiction between faith and sexuality. In a speech in 2019, Buttigieg addressed the former Governor of Indiana, and current vice president, Mike Pence, saying, “if you have a problem with who I am, your quarrel is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

Pete’s military career created connections with veterans’ groups and military circles, where he received considerable support. His overseas experience and formal education, as well as his wide range of spoken languages, also gave him credibility in international relations.

In February, Pete finished in a virtual tie with Sanders in the Iowa caucus, but he could not sustain the momentum through the rest of the primaries. In March, Mayor Pete dropped out of the race and endorsed Biden for president. “Our goal has always been to unify Americans to defeat Donald Trump and to win the era for our values,” he told his supporters at his final rally. “The best way to keep faith with these goals and ideals is to step aside and to help bring our party and our country together.”

Buttigieg as transportation secretary

Speculation as to the role Mayor Pete would play in the Biden administration has been rampant since he made his endorsement in March. After Biden defeated President Donald Trump, Buttigieg’s name was mentioned for secretary of Veterans Affairs, ambassador to the United Nations, and ambassador to China, in addition to secretary of transportation.

Now, with his nomination as secretary of transportation, Buttigieg has become the first openly gay person to be nominated for a permanent cabinet position.

The position will likely be an important one, given Biden’s commitment to creating greener transportation networks. On the Biden-Harris transition website, the administration promises to “Provide every American city with 100,000 or more residents with high-quality, zero-emissions public transportation options.”

There has been some question about Buttigieg’s qualifications for the job. As mayor, transportation infrastructure was not a major part of his agenda. However, some funding from private investment into the city was put toward improving the city’s transportation.

Additionally, some of his supporters were disappointed in the relative unimportance of the role of transportation secretary compared to some of the other roles Buttigieg was reportedly considered for.

However, this relative unimportance may come in handy when the Senate is tasked with reviewing and approving all cabinet positions. Unlike some of Biden’s other cabinet selections, Buttigieg does have some level of political charge around him. 

In the event that the Senate remains Republican after the Georgia Senate runoff election on January 5, it would be significantly easier to confirm Buttigieg in a less pivotal role.

If confirmed as transportation secretary, Buttigieg is expected to make transportation more environmentally friendly and to challenge the history of highways being constructed through disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The pick is far from an early one, but a place in Biden’s cabinet is unsurprising and will provide Buttigieg, a relatively young politician, the opportunity to build his resume.

Russian hack penetrates US computer systems, Trump downplays threat

By Jacob Shropshire, Edited by Brendan Monroe – Originally Published by The Millennial Source on December 21, 2020. (Photo: Sergio Flores, Reuters)

On December 19, President Donald Trump downplayed the threat of a massive hack that affected several federal agencies in the United States.

The hack came through a backdoor vulnerability in a software update from SolarWinds, an IT management company.

In addition to federal agencies, thousands of companies worldwide also use SolarWinds’ Orion software. Nearly 18,000 of its customers received the vulnerable update between March and June of this year. Federal agencies affected include the Commerce Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Pentagon, the US Postal Service and the National Institutes of Health.

On Thursday, the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) published a statement declaring the hack a “grave risk” to local, state and federal governments, as well as private organizations.

The attack is believed to have been carried out by the Russian foreign intelligence service known as the SVR. Russia has denied involvement.

“Hackers employed by nation states are a different breed,” said Steven Ostrowski, a senior director at CompTIA, an IT education organization, in a statement to TMS. “They can and will play the long game. They don’t go away because they have no fear of recrimination even if detected. Nation states simply deny their existence and move on.”

Since Thursday, US intelligence agencies have begun briefing members of Congress, including members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Republican Chairman of the committee, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and the top Democrat on the committee, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, issued a joint statement Thursday saying the hack “appears to be ongoing and has the hallmarks of a Russian intelligence operation.”

Throughout the initial news of the hack, President Trump remained silent. He made his first public comments on the matter through a pair of tweets on Saturday, where he downplayed the threat of the hack. He also contradicted the statements of several Congressmen and his own Secretary of State by making the baseless claim that “it may be China” responsible for the hack instead of Russia.

….discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!). There could also have been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election, which is now obvious that I won big, making it an even more corrupted embarrassment for the USA. @DNI_Ratcliffe @SecPompeo— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2020

In the same set of tweets, the president also stated without evidence that the hack “could also have been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election.” 

Trump’s claims run counter to a joint statement issued by national, state and private election officials last month that “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.”

“This software is not even used on voting machines,” said Perry Toone, an IT strategist, to TMS. 

“The hack really doesn’t mean much for the everyday person and their data. This is a national security hack conducted by a nation-state (Russia) and focused on high-value targets/data.”

SolarWinds has said it will cooperate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US intelligence community and other investigating agencies trying to learn more about the malware, its victims and its effects. The company said that any affected customers should update their software to the latest version to protect themselves.

“There’s a lot that’s still unknown about the operation, who was compromised, and what data or secrets were stolen,” Toone said, “and the fact that it went unnoticed for nine months tells us that this story is far from over.”

Trump loses second court case over TikTok ban as Biden’s China stance solidifies

By Jacob Shropshire, Edited by Brendan Monroe – Originally Published by The Millennial Source on December 16, 2020. (Photo: Mike Blake, Reuters)

On Monday, the Trump administration’s attempt to block TikTok in the United States over national security concerns was blocked for a second time by a federal court judge.

The judge, Carl Nichols of the US District Court in Washington, DC, said that the Secretary of Commerce “likely overstepped” its use of emergency powers given by the president, adding that the Commerce Department had “acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by failing to consider obvious alternatives.”

The White House has been locked in legal fights against the Beijing-based social media platform since August, when President Donald Trump first signed a series of executive orders that would sever all economic ties between the US and both TikTok and WeChat.

Trump’s attempt to ban TikTok was first blocked in October, just weeks before the ban would have taken effect. The verdict stemmed from a lawsuit brought by TikTok influencers in Pennsylvania. The Trump administration has since appealed.

Origins of the TikTok ban

On July 6, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US was looking into banning TikTok and other Chinese social media apps. This came amid tense discussions about the role of Chinese technology in the US, discussions that weren’t limited to only TikTok but involved other Chinese-owned companies as well, including Huawei.

The announced ban on TikTok came only a couple of weeks after a campaign rally held by Trump in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event, the first rally since nationwide closures caused by COVID-19, saw significantly lower than expected attendance. The low attendance was attributed by many to anti-Trump TikTok users reserving tickets to the event without actually showing up.

A month later, on August 6, President Trump signed an executive order designed to ban the app in the US – an act many saw as retribution for his poorly attended rally.

According to a statement by the Commerce Department, the point of the ban would be “to safeguard the national security of the United States.” It also accused the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of having “demonstrated the means and motives to use these apps to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and the economy of the U.S.”

The date of the app’s official ban has been pushed back several times due to a mix of court blockings and attempts by TikTok to divest in order to remain in the US.

TikTok in a Biden administration

Despite Trump’s occasionally inconsistent stance on China, the tough measures he has attempted to impose on TikTok didn’t surprise many as they came from a president who has already levied hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs on Chinese imports during his time in office.

But many see Biden’s stance on the app as an indicator of whathis administration’s relationship might be with China.

Biden is expected to bring a stable but firm hand to relations with China, with most experts in agreement that the president-elect should take advantage of the aggressive, unilateral approach that was put in place under the Trump administration, while also returning a sense of stability to the relationship between the two countries.

“The Biden administration will handle things with China much differently and China already knows that,” Kevin Bell, a patent expert and former China Embassy adviser, told TMS. “There will be less volatility by the Biden administration and a renewed pattern of more traditional diplomatic exchanges.”

“The Trump administration’s recent actions are giving China’s President Xi a platform to retaliate in kind,” he said. “A race to the bottom is not the way the US should be treating diplomacy towards China. It gets the US nowhere.”

Biden told reporters in September that he sees TikTok as “a matter of genuine concern,” but has yet to state a position either in support of or in opposition to a ban.

Airlines see holiday surge despite a record increase in COVID-19 cases

By Jacob Shropshire, Edited by Brendan Monroe – Originally published by The Millennial Source on December 7, 2020 (Photo: Kamil Krzacynski, Reuters)

Despite health and safety warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the days surrounding Thanksgiving turned out to be some of the busiest air-travel days in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic began in the country back in March.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that the ten-day period from November 20 to November 29 saw 9.5 million passengers screened, around 35%-45% of the number of travelers seen during the same time frame in 2019. Four individual days within that period saw more than one million travelers screened.

This comes as the coronavirus is surging across the country, with numerous states reporting a record number of cases. On November 19, the CDC urged Americans to avoid traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The surge in the number of people traveling did bring some much needed good news to the airline industry however, allowing cash-strapped airlines the opportunity to increase their schedules. American Airlines said it increased its schedule by about 15%, or 500 flights, during Thanksgiving week.

The airline industry in the pandemic

The airline industry was possibly one of the hardest hit industries during the pandemic, but it suffered uniquely in that it faced problems on two fronts.

It saw clientele turn away due to the obvious health risks of being in proximity with strangers for hours on end, but the economic recession also meant there was less money that people had to spend on flying in the first place.

This came as a sort of one-two punch to the industry, which has experience dealing with health crises and financial crises individually, but not together.

“I’ve seen some crises in my time,” said Boet Kreiken, the executive vice president for customer experience at KLM, a Dutch carrier. “The Iraq War, 9/11, Sars, the Icelandic volcano eruption. I know in the gut what that feels like. But this was something else. I was staring at the chart and got so involved in thinking about the consequences that the others had to tell me twice: ‘Boet, start the meeting!’”

In the initial weeks of the pandemic, people largely stopped flying, with April 14 seeing record low numbers of passengers, with the TSA reporting that travel on that day was just 4% of what it had been on the same day a year earlier. By the time May rolled around, around 65% of passenger planes were put into storage, the data and analytics company Cirium reported.

The massive downturn in air travel was not kind to airlines, with estimates that the industry as a whole would be subject to losses of US$84.3 billion this year.

The US industry received US$25 billion in a mix of grants and loans from the CARES act. This money was allocated in April as a bailout for airlines and required that airlines not enact major employee layoffs or salary cuts. European airlines received more than EU€30 billion in bailouts, while Asia’s Singapore Airlines received around US$13 billion.

But, after months of the pandemic, the bailout money began to run out. In September, United and American Airlines started moving ahead with furloughs affecting more than 32,000 US workers.

A chance at recovery

With the prospects of a vaccine on the rise, returning to the rates of travel that the industry saw in 2019 might be possible by late 2021, investors estimate.

The question of whether demand will return to normal in a post-COVID world, though, is unknown.

“COVID gives companies a reason to rethink travel expenses,” said Jeff Pelletier, an executive at the Dallas-based analytic firm Airline Data. “Not every company will cut back, but some will. They’ll figure they’d rather spend a couple of bucks on a zoom meeting instead.”

The increased publicity around the increased safety procedures put into effect by airlines appears to have led travelers to feel more comfortable flying now than they were in the early months of the virus, even without a vaccine having yet been distributed. But demand has not yet risen to even half of the demand seen in previous years, in large part due to health experts advising against unnecessary travel.

Uncertainty ahead

Airlines recognize that the landscape is changing and will continue to change in the months and years ahead, but the timeline for a return to normalcy is uncertain at best.

With no new stimulus package, airlines have been forced to lay employees off without any concrete plans to rehire them.

Though the brief spikes in plane travel seen over Thanksgiving week and likely to continue throughout the winter holidays have provided some relief to a hurting industry, any serious relief would have to see the number of passengers approaching what it was before the pandemic.

Even the industry itself isn’t specifically encouraging travel. “Do we want to see them travel? Yes, but only if it’s safe for them,” said Airlines for America chief executive officer Nick Calio. “There’s a variety of factors involved in that for each individual traveler.” Despite the uncertainty, one thing seems clear: it will be a long time until flights look the way they did a year ago.

Republicans Herald “The year of the Republican woman”

By Jacob Shropshire, Edited by Brendan MonroeOriginally published by The Millennial Source on December 3, 2020 (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage, Reuters)

The 2020 congressional race in the United States has been dubbed by many as “the year of the Republican woman” as more than a dozen Republican women beat their Democratic challengers to win seats in the 117th Congress.

This number includes 15 Republican women elected to the US House of Representatives, more than doubling the previous total number of women in the chamber and bringing the new number of female Republican representatives to 28. In contrast, there will be 89 Democratic women with seats in the House.

In all, next year will see 141 female legislators in Congress, up from the 127 that were serving this year. This marks a clear shift in a Republican Party that has historically been controlled by white men.

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Republican political consultant Julie Conway speculated about the reason for this increase in an interview with NBC News, saying, “I think everybody’s looking for the magical reason why 2020 was such a good year for Republican women, but the reality is, it’s a combination of a lot of things over a lot of years … seats that were winnable, and incredible women running for those seats, and the infrastructure around them finally at a point that they were able to get at least some of the help they needed to get them over certain obstacles and then they were able to be successful because they, quite frankly, worked their tails off.”

Many are seeing this change as a response to the Democratic races won by women in 2018, where more than a hundred Democratic women won seats in Congress.

Mace also added that women and minorities will need to be the future of the Republican party for years to come. “I look at our freshman class right now, and we really reflect the faces of America – the diversity and the inclusion we have in the Republican Party. That is our future, and if we don’t get on board with recruiting the right people – minorities, women, veterans, etc. – then we’re going to lose in the future.”

In addition to the uptick in the number of Republican congresswomen being elected, there were a few notable people of color in the party to be elected this year. Burgess Owens, a Black former NFL player, won in Utah’s 4th district. Yvette Herrell, a Cherokee Nation member who was endorsed by President Donald Trump, won New Mexico’s 2nd. Michelle Steel and Young Kim, two Korean-American women from California, won the state’s 48th and 39th districts while Carlos Gimenez, a Cuban immigrant, and Maria Salazar, daughter of Cuban exiles, won Florida’s 26th and 27th districts.

These elections have been referred to as a wake-up call for Democrats, who have historically held the female and minority votes by a significant margin. In the 2008 election between then-Senator Barack Obama and Republican Senator John McCain, more than two-thirds of Hispanics voted for Obama, as did 95% of Black Americans. This year, however, Biden received only 89% of the Black vote and in Florida (a key battleground state) he received only 42% of the Cuban vote.

Despite the decreasing number of minorities who vote for Democrats, the party still has the more diverse coalition in Congress, with more than a hundred people of color in Congress.

“I don’t think any political entity or party should take any constituency for granted,” said Antjuan Seawright, a South Carolina based strategist. “If there’s one thing election after election teaches us, it’s that no voting bloc is monolithic.”

Democrats will have the opportunity to add one more person of color to Congress on January 5 in the Georgia runoff elections, where the Reverend Raphael Warnock is running for a Senate seat against Republican Kelly Loeffler. The fate of Warnock and his fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff will determine whether Republicans or Democrats hold the Senate majority in the 117th Congress.

Amazon announces US$500 million in holiday bonuses for frontline employees

By Jacob Shropshire, Edited by Brendan MonroeOriginally published by The Millennial Source on December 1, 2020 (Photo: Kevin Mohatt, Reuters)

Amazon announced bonuses for its employees the day before Black Friday, including more than US$500 million for its frontline employees.

Amazon employees in the United States and United Kingdom who are employed between December 1 and December 31 will be eligible for a bonus of US$300 (for full-time employees) or US$150 (for part-time workers).

The company also said it would be investing over US$750 million in additional pay for its frontline hourly workers. Whether this will come as additional pay or in some other form, like paid time off, is unclear.

Amazon provided a similar bonus in June, which it dubbed a “thank you bonus,” for its employees and partners who worked during the pandemic. The bonus included US$500 for full-time employees and US$250 for part-time workers.

The new bonus brings the total that the company has spent globally on bonuses and incentives in 2020 to over US$2.5 billion.

“Our teams are doing amazing work serving customers’ essential needs, while also helping to bring some much-needed holiday cheer for socially-distanced families around the world,” wrote Dave Clark, Senior Vice President of Amazon’s Worldwide Operations, in a statement released on Thanksgiving Day. “I’ve never been more grateful for—or proud of—our teams.”

These bonuses come after strikes around the world for hazard pay, better health and safety guidelines, and better communication and contact tracing within warehouses.

In October, Amazon workers in several cities in Germany took part in a union strike during its Prime Days sales event. The company claimed that the strikes did not have an effect on its ability to function. After the sales event, a British union argued that Amazon had cut social distancing guidelines during the increased sales period and that doing so had endangered employees’ health.

Later that month, Amazon announced that nearly 20,000 of its employees had contracted COVID-19.

In November, workers in Alabama filed to unionize, a move Senator Bernie Sanders referred to as “a shot heard around the world,” in a state known for being harsh on unions.

Amazon has a record of being anti-union, repeatedly citing its industry-leading US$15 per hour starting pay.“It is great that workers are getting more this holiday season, [but] it is not enough,” said Christy Hoffman, a general secretary for a trade union group called UNI Global union, in an interview with CNN. “To show it values its workforce, Amazon should collectively bargain wages and conditions with workers throughout its operations, rather than make one time unilateral gestures of appreciation.”

Shakespeare and Company: The American Bookstore of Paris

If one were to take a stroll south from the Notre Dame de Paris, leaving the Île de la Cité via the aptly named Rue de la Cité, they would be greeted on the southern bank by the green faced bookshop known as Shakespeare and Company. The bookshop is the epitome of what should be seen in Paris; there are no flashy signs or wicked displays of grandeur trying to convince you to buy the latest books from the latest authors. Quite the contrary, actually. At the exterior one is met by shelves out front simply offering used copies on sale, a drawing of Shakespeare himself sandwiched in the plain black letters of the sign above the door, and a photo of Uncle Walt flanking to the right.  The interior contains floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall, books for anglophones, and it goes back nearly as far as one cares to excavate, creating a basic labyrinth for any book lover to traverse. It is undeniably the ideal bookstore, and as any home of literature should, the bookshop contains an extraordinary story in its walls.

Humble Beginnings

Sylvia Beach first opened Shakespeare and Co., a book lending library for anglophones on November 19, 1919, after months of preparing the new bookstore that had been prepared with her mother’s somewhat limited savings. Beach was able to open the shop with the help of her lifelong partner, Adrienne Monnier, a French woman who ran her own bookshop on the Rue de l’Odéon. Shakespeare and Co. originally opened at 8 Rue Dupuytren, but eventually moved to a much more accommodating 12 Rue de l’Odéon (right across the street from Monnier’s shop), which offered more space for both the books and the patrons that filled the shop constantly. It was called by some, “Stratford upon Odéon.”

Over the next couple of decades, the shop was filled with customers whose names frequent English textbooks globally. Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and one of Sylvia Beach’s best friends, James Joyce, (among dozens of others) were all ‘bunnies’ at the shop (Beach’s ‘bunnies’ were her subscribers, a play on the French word for subscribers, “abonnées”). Paris was the birthplace of ideas, and Beach’s bookshop was the home of many of the people who had them. André Chamson, a renowned French writer and curator, said of Beach that, “[she] did more to link England, the United States, Ireland, and France, than four great ambassadors combined.” The shop acted as a hub for authors of the time, who used it as an address to which they could have mail sent to, to receive occasional loans in times of need, and even as somewhere to sleep at night if the situation demanded it (the latter two being situations of relative frequency among novelists of the era).

Publishing Ulysses

The other function of the shop was to act as a publishing house, though with an extraordinary exclusive focus; James Joyce was the sole author Sylvia Beach took on as a publisher, and his novel Ulysses was the sole book she set out to publish. The reason for this was that no publisher in the United States nor Britain would publish the book; it was cited as far too lewd by many, and was banned in both countries on the basis of indecency, and publishers in the countries feared publishing the book for fear of legal repercussions from the government. Beach felt the book was too valuable a work to go unpublished, if a little before its time, and took on the role as the publisher of the book. (France was far from ashamed of indecency at the time, and besides, didn’t have the infrastructure to be managing books in English so closely.)

So Beach partnered with Joyce to publish the book, putting out word that a thousand copies would be printed and would be sold to the first thousand subscribers to send the money for their copy (Joyce was unconvinced a thousand would ever sell, and argued that if but a dozen copies were printed there would surely be some left over). Subscriptions from the English-speaking world flooded in, with large numbers of the books being sold to customers in the U.S. and England.

The countries of residence by these subscribers presented a problem; copies of Ulysses were frequently seized and destroyed at the border due to the ban on the book. Some batches were simply seized by the border control, while others were destroyed. Beach turned to her extraordinarily creative writer friends for solutions to her problems, and “her best customer” (as Ernest Hemingway called himself) had a plan. A friend of his, who Beach called Saint Bernard for his rescue work, rented an apartment in Toronto (Canada did not have a ban on the book). The copies of the book that were to go to American subscribers were sent to his apartment, and each day he would take the ferry across the border with a copy of the book shoved into his pants. After some weeks of this work, Ulysses penetrated the American border unscathed, and Joyce’s writings, however lewd, were read across the U.S.

Other Joycean Works

Despite her original claims of monogamy to Ulysses, Beach ended up publishing two other works of Joyce, though not due to the same complications as Ulysses faced but rather as a sort of testament to the friendship between the author and the publisher.

The first work was a collection of thirteen poems, Pomes Penyeach. They were to be sold for a shilling a piece, “like the wares of the old apple woman on the bridge over the Liffey.” The thirteen Pomes (a play on the French word for apple, “pomme”) ended up costing Shakespeare and Co. more than a shilling (six francs fifty, as the conversion was at the time) to produce due to printing costs of English works, so it was sold at a loss.

The other work of Joyce’s published by Shakespeare and Co. was Our Exagmination Round his Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress. (The title was shortened in later publications.) The work was another set of thirteen, but this time they were studies on his new Work in Progress by twelve writers who had been involved deeply in the creation of the work, and one journalist who was commissioned by Beach at Joyce’s behest to write a scathing review of the piece.

Saving Shakespeare and Co.

In the thirties, Shakespeare and Co. grew out of its role as a place only for regular clientele, and began to attract tourists and travelers. Articles about the bookshop were published in several journals and magazines throughout the English-speaking world, and knowledge of the publishing house of Joyce’s Odyssey became widespread. It eventually became a well known spot for visitors, with tour busses even pointing it out on their tour down the Rue de l’Odéon.

Despite its fame, Shakespeare and Company hit hard times during the depression after the first war. The bookshop no longer had the means to maintain itself the way it needed to, and closure seemed inevitable. According to Sylvia Beach, upon mentioning this to her friend André Gide, he exclaimed, “We can’t give up Shakespeare and Co.!” and he set out to find a solution.

The first attempt was to convince the French government to subsidize the store, but the French were unenthused about the idea of financing the ventures of a foreigner, and with one war having ended and another on the brink, it was impossible.

The second, more successful, attempt to save the shop involved creating an annual subscription for two-hundred people to be permitted to attend monthly readings of unpublished works by significant names in literature. This was widely successful, and if not for the two-hundred-person capacity of the room where the readings were taking place, there likely would have been significantly more subscribers.

Nazi Occupation of Paris

World War Two brought an unparalleled wave of tragedy to Paris. In June of 1940, the Nazi forces began to flood into the city. As Beach puts it, “[it was] An endless procession of motorized forces: tanks and armored cars and helmeted men seated with arms folded. The men and machines were all a cold gray, and they moved to a steady deafening roar.” At this point, many Parisians had already abandoned the city, or tried to, and the estimated population of Paris was 25,000 when the Germans came.

Beach was affiliated with several Jews during the occupation, an important one being Françoise Bernheim, who was a student of Sanskrit at Sorbonne, before Jews were banned from the school under Nazi law. Françoise kept learning under the instruction of Beach, the two pouring over the notes from students who were allowed to attend classes.

There was a period of time where Americans were generally safe from the Germans, because the United States had not yet declared war on the Nazis, but when the time for the declaration of war inevitably came, Beach’s nationality in addition to her affiliations with Jews meant she was forced to be more cautious.

One day, a high-ranking German officer came into the shop requesting to purchase Finnegan’s Wake. Beach declined to sell the book, stating that it was her last copy of it remaining, and she intended to keep it for herself. When the officer came back two weeks later, he declared that he would return later in the day to confiscate all the goods from the shop. In two hours, Beach and her fellow literary warriors removed every single book from the shop, and when the Germans arrived later that day, there was nothing to take but Beach herself.

Beach spent six months in an internment camp. When she returned to Paris, she went into hiding in a student’s hostel, until eventually Paris was liberated. The Rue de l’Odéon was liberated by none other than Ernest Hemingway, who first removed the Nazi snipers on the top of Adrienne Monnier’s bookshop across the street, and then went to “liberate the [wine] cellar of the Ritz.” Beach’s bookstore never reopened.

Revival of a Bookshop

In 1964, four hundred years after the birth of the bard himself, Shakespeare and Co. opened in a different form; George Whitman, a journalist and traveler turned bookshop owner, renamed his Paris bookshop (originally Le Mistral) to Shakespeare and Co. in honor of Sylvia Beach’s shop. Unfortunately, Beach died two years prior to the renaming, and never got to see Shakespeare and Company itself revived, but she did frequent Whitman’s shop in the fifties, along with some contemporary authors of the day such as Henry Miller, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Durrell.

Whitman brought a new life to the bookshop, as well as a new experience as a world traveler. He introduced the Tumbleweed program, a program in which all students of literature are allowed to sleep in the shop at night, under three rules: they must help out for a few hours at the shop each day, they must read a book each day, and they must write a one page autobiography that can go in the history of Shakespeare and Company. Since Whitman first introduced this program, an estimated 30,000 tumbleweeds have stayed at the shop.

George Whitman died in 2011, but the shop has since been run by his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman.

Beach’s Legacy

The question of whether authors would have made things work without the help of Shakespeare and Company is not really a question – great authors survive under the circumstances of any era. Rather, Shakespeare and Co. gave great authors the chance to thrive in a way that the world had never seen before. It is because of the work of Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier that we now have some of the most important works in English literature that will ever exist.

After having read through the stories told by and about Beach and Monnier, one thing is clear to me: we owe modern literacy to these women.


Shakespeare and Co., like many other businesses in the time of COVID-19, has recently fallen under hard times. Please consider purchasing a book from their online store to help support this ultra important piece of English history stay alive to tell its story.

This article was a rather large project of mine, and it would be greatly appreciated for you to subscribe to The Road And The Tree mailing list, and shared this article with others via social media. It helps the blog keep going, and more importantly, the writer of it motivated.

Sources:

“Shakespeare and Company,” By Sylvia Beach

“Americans in Paris,” By Charles Glass

The Shakespeare and Co. Website (shakespeareandcompany.com)

Montmartre – The Sacré Coeur and Place du Tertre

Within the regular bounds of Paris, there are few places from which a high-rise look is available. The Eiffel Tower is a classic high rise spot to view the city, as is the Montparnasse Tower, but there is one spot that is undeniably a bit more refined, a bit more authentic; that place is Montmartre. The hill is the closest thing there is to a mountain in Paris, so it’s not surprising that it holds one of the best views of the city, but what might be a little more surprising is just how lovely the mountain of the martyr actually is.

The Sacré Coeur

The most famous thing that Montmartre is known for is for the Sacré Coeur Basilica (Sacred Heart in English), a massive cathedral built on the hill in the late 19th century. The cathedral is relatively young, considering the Notre Dame de Paris was built in the 12th century, but it clearly shows in its architecture. The Sacré Coeur is a multi-tiered masterpiece with six domed peaks sticking up out of it. On either side of the three-arched entrance is an equestrian statue, one of Joan of Arc, and the other of King Saint Louis IX.

The Sacré Coeur Basilica (Photo: Ben Patterson)

The Sacré Coeur is a completely unforgettable sight to behold. The cathedral is magnificent both inside and out, and the building itself strikes me as particularly unique. The white brick that is so apparent from the outside is almost shocking to come across, and the gold that floats around the interior decorations is not only gorgeous, but tasteful instead of purely luxurious. The cathedral sticks up over almost everything else in the area, and its presence is known by everyone there in a sort of pleasing and reassuring way.

There is assuredly another aspect of being at this cathedral that makes it so unforgettable, and that’s the view. The entirety of Montmartre is known for the view, but the Sacré Coeur is located in the prime spot to be able to take advantage of it. In front of the cathedral lies two plazas; one directly in front, a wide staircase that goes down a couple of flights, and the second one below. These plazas make excellent stages for street performers of all kinds, be they dancers, singers, or small bands. It also serves as a sort of marketplace for street vendors, who sell little light up statues and keychains to tourists.

The view from directly in front of the Sacré Coeur (Photo: Ben Patterson)

This spot, in my opinion, serves as a summary for what Paris is about today. The cathedral emerging overtop everything reminds you the roots from which western culture was born, and that the influence of the church will never truly fade. The plaza in front, however, shows you more of what day to day life is all about in Paris. There is a bit of fun going on, maybe some music or a nice show, but there is also the humble recognition that Paris is a place that attracts lots of tourists, and that in one way or another Paris must profit (thus, the street vendors). The view of the city reminds you that you are taking part in something huge, but then you look at the crowd around you, and feel like you can also be part of a single small moment. It is a profound feeling to just stand and enjoy the view, and is completely unparalleled by anything I’ve ever experienced elsewhere.

Place du Tertre

If you go around the cathedral and take the very natural and attractive roads back to it, you will come across the Place du Tertre. Meaning Plaza of the Hill in English, this little plaza makes you understand the reason people stay in Paris. The plaza is home to bunches of little stands selling crêpes and waffles, gift shops selling berets and scarves, and restaurants that let you sit in the garden and enjoy a nice croque monsieur.

Place du Tertre (Photo: Ben Patterson)

Of course, the plaza would not be what it is if it were merely a collection of gift shops and crêpe stands; what would Paris itself be if not for that? The plaza and the surrounding streets are also home to artists galore. Some want to paint your portrait, some want to paint the scenery, but all of them are there because they are pursuing a legitimate path in art. Some of the greatest painters of all time lived in or around the plaza, with names like Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Renoir being among the tenants of the past.

Street leading to the Place du Tertre (Photo: Ben Patterson)

The plaza is, in a word, lovely. It’s difficult to describe one thing that makes it better than any other plaza in Paris, but that’s just the problem, because there isn’t one thing that makes it better. The smell of fresh croissants wafts just a little bit stronger through the streets, the lights glow just a little bit warmer under the canopies, and the people seem just a little bit happier to be existing at all when being there. There isn’t one massive thing that makes the Place du Tertre such a lovely location; there are a million little things that just remind you of all the good things in the world.


Montmartre is truly one of the best places to visit if you’re in Paris, and even if you have a limited amount of time for it, find the time to go to these two places. You can make it through them both in a couple of hours, but you will come out decades happier. Keep in mind that it is certainly a tourist area, so keep an eye out for pickpockets and you might have to shoo away some very determined painters who have decided you to be the subject of their next painting (of course, assuming you’ll buy it), but it is completely worth it to enjoy yourself with a nice café and a warm crêpe, and just imagine for a moment that there is nothing wrong with the world.

(NOTE: Photos taken by Ben Patterson were taken on the same day at the same time as I was there. Sometimes it pays to have a friend who takes more pictures than you do, and I learned that lesson on this visit to Montmartre.)

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