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Night of Horror: Reflecting on the Pittsburg Synagogue Shooting as a Jewish American

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Source: Governor Tom Wolf

October 27, 2018 will forever be marked in infamy. On this day, on what should have been a typical day marked for observance of prayer and rest, an anti-Semitic terrorist armed with a semi-automatic rifle entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He killed eleven people, and injured at least six, including fours officers who responded to the scene of the crime.

The shooter had allegedly entered the building and shouted, “All Jews must die!” before opening fire on his victims. This event is believed to be the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in American history.

In this day and age, this traumatic event has come as a shock but not a surprise, especially considering the political-social rhetoric surrounding ethnic/religious minority groups in this country, and particularly since the inauguration of Donald Trump into office.

Reports of increased hate crimes since the last presidential election in 2016 has been steadily marked by research facilities such as the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism who’ve noted in that “in America’s six largest cities alone, hate crime increased from 431 to 526, or 22% for partial year 2017.”

The account reports spikes in hatecrimes targeting ethnic/religious minorities and the LGBTQ+ community, with “significant variability by cityregarding the most frequent targets, with African-Americans, Gays and Jews the most common.”

In this country, Jews have often seen a precarious position between privilege and marginalization.

On the one hand, there area variety of us who possess light-skinned privilege, particularly Ashkenazi Jews, or Jews of Eastern European heritage, many of whom do not face the level of racial targeting that people of color do. However, this does not erase the existence of Jews of color, who face both anti-Semitic micro-and macro-aggressions as well as racialized prejudice.

Furthermore, alt-right groups in their definition of “white supremacy” have not associated Jewish people in this category, as seen in the targeting of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Charlottesville, Virginia, during the ‘Unite the Right’ rally.

As a Jewish person, this matter is linked to me on a very personal level. My parents and grandparents were born and raised in the Soviet Union in what is today known as Ukraine. They came to this country in order to gain better economic opportunities as well as escape the anti-Semitic prejudice that had classified them as second-class citizens.

Watching the news as a Jewish woman in this time and place in America, I am more constantly aware of the way my privileges linked to being light-skinned American grant me access to certain opportunities more than others.

I also know those privileges can easily be taken away by those who include me as part of the “foreign other,” or not pure white Christian America, someone like Robert Gregory Bowers, the Pittsburg shooter.

After World War 2, waves of Jewish immigrants traveled to the United States to escape the horror they had seen in Europe and find a better life for their descendants.

As the part of the last generation able to have contact with Holocaust survivors and hear their live testimony, it is part of our job as American citizens to be more aware of the hateful rhetoric coloring the speech of individuals, like Robert Gregory Bowers, or even politicians in office, and demonstrate that those ideas should not define America, a home to many immigrants.

Through political action and activism, including voting, rallies, journalism, etc., America needs to acknowledge its dark history of prejudice that continues to be present today and make an active choice to do better.

By: Michele Kirichanskaya

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An Under-Discussed Eating Disorder and What to Do if You Have It

Ivonne Scaglione

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Have you ever watched a video of someone eating dirt on Instagram? Or, have you watched a video on YouTube of someone swallowing chunks of clay? If you encountered these bizarre videos, there is more than pure nonsense. It’s an eating disorder called ”pica.” This illness causes an urge to eat nonfood substances such as dirt, clay, mud, chalk, cement, and bricks.

A person carrying a handful of  brown dirt.
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The term to describe the habit of eating earth matter is called ”geophagy.” About two million years ago, this practice began for cultural and medicinal purposes. Somehow humans figured out that clay stops diarrhea. The Greek island of Lemnos and a grotto in Bethlehem were both popular sites of medicinal clay in the 20th century. 

The origins of pica are also found in animal behavior. There is the possibility that humans could have imitated certain species that ate dirt. The Amazonian parrot is known for eating clay. A toxin called quinidine sulfate is found in some of the plants that these parrots eat. When the parrots consume the clay, it prevents them from absorbing this harmful substance. Baboons also eat dirt.

Dr. Young, author of the book ”Craving Earth: Understanding Pica: The Urge to Eat Clay, Starch, Ice, and Chalk,” states that baboons eat dirt to protect themselves from bacteria and parasites found in their bodies. 

Pica occurs all over the world, but it affects mostly women and children in developing countries. Especially, some pregnant women tend to crave earthy flavors which may place them at risk. When I was pregnant, I’ve experienced this unusual craving. I was recommended to eat edible red clay sold at the online store, Etsy.

I navigated the website clicking on my options: from Mississippi brown dirt to Georgia’s white dirt. None of these vendors guaranteed me that it was safe to ingest them. I ignored my strange craving with multivitamins until my daughter was born. But, women in the developing world find clay by their own means. 

In Kyrgyzstan, women seek their favorite clay in the Tien Shan Mountains. They firmly believe that this clay has medicinal purposes to cure anemia, and it works as a multivitamin for pregnant women. Could these women be diagnosed with pica? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), they can’t.  

The DSM-5 indicates that a person should be diagnosed with pica if the two following criteria apply: a persistent need to eat nonfood substances for at least a month and the eating behavior is not part of cultural practices.

The latter one tells us that the women in Kyrgyzstan, due to cultural norms, shouldn’t be diagnosed with pica because they believe in the medicinal properties of clay. Nevertheless, doctors in this country don’t support this practice.

A giant orange mountain with some large pointy orange rocks on a sunny day.
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The most prominent cause of pica is iron deficiency. The National Eating Disorder Association asserts that people with this eating disorder lack essential vitamins and minerals, like iron and zinc. These minerals can be found in certain types of clay. But this pica is not limited to eating earthy substances.

The DSM-5 includes paper, soap, cloth, hair, string, wool, talcum powder, paint, and even metal as nonfood items ingested by people with this eating disorder.

When YouTube blogger Marta Riva was asked about the ingredients in the shortbread “cookies” she eats in her videos, she answered, “I made these cookies myself. They are porous and dry with the smell of rain and dust.” Marta added a drooling happy face and a thumbs up to her answer.

The shortbread “cookies” she referred to are made of halva clay. She has about 20.6k subscribers for her blog featuring videos of herself eating different types of clay. Her most viewed video has 70,000 views.

If you have pica, you can get any type of clay or any type of dirt through Instagram. You may choose among rose clay, white Turkestan, copper nakumatt, mini clay pots, magmitti, ruby red, Christmas clay, almond clay, ural clay, and several others. The price is about $16 for one pound. “I’m shipping on Wednesday, to New York, it will take three to five days,” said the Instagram user from California under the name of “ms.lovelycrunch.”

“You may order here,” answered another Instagram seller under the name of “new_yummyindianclays.” “It will take four to five days,” she added. Her profile bio says, “No refunds, No collect on delivery!”

Among the different types of dirt available on Instagram are Sedona red dirt, OG tan, grey dirt, Utah mountain dirt, red brick dirt, sunny white dirt, and even something called, “construction dirt.” Only a few of these videos specify that the earthy substances are not being swallowed. But the majority of these users seem to be swallowing the nonfood substances, including big pieces of chalk dipped in clay “paste.”

A person carrying blue, yellow, and red chalk in his or her hand.
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These aficionados describe their favorite earthy dishes as, “shortbread cookies with cream, dirt cupcakes, chocolate dirt popsicle, biscuits, clay muffin, clay cereal, and chalk bars.” Instagram user, “picaapeople_2019” provides instructions on her post: “bake the dirt for about eight hours at 200 degrees.” Unless it is a fallacy, I am assuming she does this for sterilization purposes. 

Other users with a more meticulous palate like to describe the taste. “Perfect crispy, earthy cement and dusty basement with great taste and smell of hot dry land splashed with water or shower rain,” says the user “limestone_cay” referring to her favorite clay, silver rose.

In another post, this same user describes the taste of Blackhall clay, “love the burnt wood and gas infused flavor. Earthy cement and metallic taste and it doesn’t stick! “As mentioned, if you ingest nonfood substances for at least a month and it’s not related to cultural practices, most likely, you’ll be diagnosed with pica. But this strange addiction doesn’t stop here.

Unfortunately, as you could’ve imagined, there are serious risk factors with the consumption of these substances. The DSM states that people with pica are usually diagnosed after they are hospitalized for bowel problems, intestinal obstruction, intestinal perforation, lead poisoning, and infections due to ingesting feces found in the dirt (toxoplasmosis and toxocariasis).

NEDA advises the public that people with pica can ingest hazardous chemicals. A challenge that professionals face is that people with pica often have a dual diagnosis. They usually have other mental disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and intellectual disabilities.

The good news is that there is treatment. “Treating this deficiency with medication or vitamins often resolves the problems,” NEDA indicates on its website.

Lots of small chunks of brown clay on the ground, along with lots of random pebbles next to it.
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Even though videos about people eating nonfood substances are widely available on Instagram and YouTube, it is important to be aware that there are serious health risks involving this illness. If you or someone you know are experiencing cravings of nonfood substances, you may seek help by calling a professional, either a doctor or a therapist.

The Recovery Village is an institution that has a 24-hour intake line for people with eating disorders. It has several centers around the United States, and besides outpatient treatment, it also offers teletherapy and online counseling.

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What will Live Music Venues Look Like After Lockdown?

Adelaide Kaiser

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People watching a concert in a dimmed area outside with orange lighting.
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The day everything got shut down in March was the day before I had tickets to see one of my favorite artists, Grace Potter, live. One day, I was preparing to go downtown to a venue I had never been to before, and the next, gatherings of over fifty people were banned. Potter said the remaining shows on her tour would be postponed. But when will concerts happen again?

Live music is a strange concept to think about after six months of pandemic quarantine. Being packed together with other fans on a hot, sweaty, crowded dance floor is not the best situation to be in when we’re supposed to be six feet apart. Singing along to your favorite songs is a high-risk activity.

Breathing all over strangers might never feel like a normal experience again. The pandemic will surely impact live music, and the way it will be able to happen again will be different from concerts we’ve been to before.

Many people watching a concert in the dark outside in front of a auditorium with blue lighting and  orange lighting with a + symbol and an X next to each other.
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Struggling Venues

With concerts postponed or canceled for the foreseeable future, music venues are struggling. A dramatic decrease in income has the potential to forever change the landscape of where we see live music. In Oregon, the government distributed 50 million dollars to venues and art organizations.

Famous and iconic venues, such as the 9:30 Club in DC, might be forced to permanently close due to lack of funds and revenue. One of Nashville’s most iconic venues, The Bluebird Cafe, is famous due to its intimate shows that have the audience basically seated next to the artist. Of course, in pandemic times this is almost a laughable idea.

“I think we could reopen at a limited capacity, sort of spiritually, but economically there has to be a break-even,” says general manager Erika Wollam Nichols. “We already have a very thin margin.”

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which is a group made up of over 2,000 venues, is calling on Congress to pass the RESTART Act, which would provide relief for small businesses. NIVA has also started the Emergency Relief Fund and is asking Congress and music fans alike to help save their stages.

Although there are folks out there fighting hard for live music, it is possible that with significantly fewer independent venues, live music will look very different once we are allowed to see shows again. The economic downturn due to COVID-19 isn’t over yet, and it is probable that venues will continue to suffer.

Lots of people watching a concert outside of a studio with a man playing a guitar with a brown backpack on him.
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Innovations in live music

Drive-in concerts have gained popularity in recent months. Artists from Blake Shelton to Nelly have booked drive-in shows, where fans drive their cars up to a designated tailgating zone. Social distancing and masks are encouraged. It is likely that this will become a new way to see live shows; although less intimate than typical live shows, it is an alternative that prioritizes safety for concertgoers and artists.

However, that all depends on those gatherings happening safely: a Chainsmokers concert in the Hamptons in late July is under investigation because footage of the show displays a complete lack of social distancing. Although other drive-in concerts have been done successfully, there is still some risk associated with shows like these.

Another new form of “live” music performances is live streaming. Hosting award shows and normal concerts through live streams has become an avenue for artists to continue playing for their fans. Grace Potter, the artist I was supposed to see in March, started doing “Twilight Hour” live streams every Monday evening on YouTube.

There have also been virtual concerts with multiple big-name artists performing, including the Together at Home virtual relief concert put on by Global Citizen, which raised money for COVID-19 relief. Kevin Lyman, the founder of the Vans Warped Tour, predicts that live-streamed concerts could become the new normal for 10% of concertgoers, even after the pandemic has ended. “I believe that some are carving out a niche and will prosper post-COVID-19,” Lyman says.

When?

Unfortunately, industry experts and healthcare professionals don’t foresee live music returning until at least 2021. It’s also not the biggest priority for health officials, which makes sense—a vaccine, better treatments, and better testing are more important right now.

“It’s certainly not very high on my list of concerns as far as a return to normalcy, as much as I like a good Elton John concert,” says Peter Bach, Director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes. Factors that could shift this timeline would be better testing or a vaccine, but that’s unlikely to come before 2021—most health officials say that the public won’t have access to a vaccine until February at the earliest, or, more likely, not until the summer.

A New Normal

All in all, going to concerts in the future will include precautions that will help maintain this new kind of normal. Industry experts predict that masks and temperature checks will become commonplace at shows, and there will be many more adaptations. Outdoor concerts will probably be the safest to attend right off the bat, and hopefully, once it’s safe indoor venues will open too.

I’m looking forward to the day that I’ll feel safe walking into my favorite music venue and seeing my favorite artist again, but until then, I’ll keep watching live streams from home and streaming my favorite albums.

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Marijuana Ban Finally Eliminated in College Sports: 3 Ways To Battle The Addiction

Jeff Lam

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Cannabis Plants

For a long time, the use of marijuana has been illegal, and athletes who get tested for it face harsh consequences. This made sense a few years ago because the drug itself was still illegal; if an athlete got caught using it, they had broken the law.

However, times have changed, and marijuana use has started to become legal in many states partly due to the rising number of individuals in possession of a Cannabis Medical Card. So, if this is the case, should collegiate athletes still be punished for using marijuana?

Recently, because of the legalization of marijuana, many sports leagues have been considering taking it off the “banned substances” list. The MLB became the first major league to remove cannabis from its list of “drugs of abuse,” and it would not be a surprise if the NBA and NFL decided to follow suit.

Big-name athletes have already spoken in favor of unbanning the drug. It is yet to be seen whether or not their support will be able to convince the NBA and NFL offices to allow their players to take marijuana.

“Hopefully we can get past the stigma around it (marijuana) and know that it does nothing but make people have a good time, make people hungry, bring people together — that plant brings us all together. It’s a plant that’s put here for a reason, and that’s to bring us together. Hopefully it (removing marijuana from the banned substance list) happens, especially in the NBA,” said Brooklyn Nets superstar, Kevin Durant.

Durant’s point is that marijuana is a casual and de-stressing drug that allows people to have a good time. According to Durant, marijuana is not damaging to anybody and certainly should not be part of the banned substances list.

Marijuana, like alcohol, is a substance that many college students enjoy using for recreational and social purposes these days. A recent survey done in 2018 by the University of Michigan, reported that 43% of college students in the United States have used marijuana in the past 12 months.

This figure was the highest number they have seen in the last three and a half decades. This shows that marijuana is only getting more and more popular amongst college students. In the long-run, smoking marijuana has shown to have significantly less damaging effects on the body than other legal substances, such as tobacco.

Is it really fair to prohibit athletes from experiencing this part of their college lives that so many of their peers seem to be enjoying? There are many reasons why people are fighting to legalize marijuana within the college sports industry.

However, drug and alcohol abuse is still a huge issue on college campuses in the US. Many students who constantly smoke weed, become addicted to it. With marijuana becoming legal, it is crucial that students do not abuse the substance.

If you are someone who is living with marijuana or another type of drug or alcohol addiction, there are many ways you can fight the addiction. These are steps you can take in order to combat a marijuana addiction.

Marijuana Plants
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1. Be aware of the problem and be able to admit to yourself that you need help.

This is not only the first step, but it is also the most important step. If you are not aware that you need help or are unwilling to receive help, then nobody will be able to help you no matter how hard they try or how experienced they are in dealing with drug and alcohol addiction.

Like with any problem in life, the first step is always identifying it as one. After all, how can you possibly fix a problem you aren’t even aware of yourself?

2. Reach out to people who are either in a similar situation and/or experts who can help.

Be able to find people you can talk to about your addiction. It gives you an opportunity to connect with someone and gives you the reassurance that you are not alone in battling the addiction.

It is often, easier to go through something with somebody else rather than go through it alone. A supportive person with whom you can talk and share your experiences can be extremely valuable; even in situations that don’t include drug/alcohol addiction.

Asking an expert for help is also crucial. Those experts have helped a lot of people go through the exact same situation you are in.

They know what works and what doesn’t based on the experiences of others. Listen to the advice that experts give you and ask questions whenever you feel the need to.

How exactly can you find people to connect with and help you out? There are many support groups dedicated to helping people with marijuana addiction. For example, “Marijuana Anonymous” is a group that has a 12-step plan based upon faith in God and guidance through Him.

Though this is a faith-based support group, they have made it very clear that you don’t have to believe in order for it to help you. Because of the current global pandemic, meetings are hosted online with members all over the world. There are many other support groups with a similar set-up. 

3. Act upon the advice you agree with.

The third and final step is to execute the advice you have received from experts and other support. This may be, checking into rehab or clearing out any kinds of drugs/alcohol in your house.

Stay motivated to change for yourself. At the end of the day, people can try to help you as much as they like, but you are going to be the one who truly makes the change.

Compared to other illegal drugs, marijuana is not a dangerous drug. However, like any other drug or alcohol, abusing it could lead to something as serious as brain damage.

Although, for the most part, it is not a terrible thing to smoke marijuana from time to time, it is very important college students understand that addiction is dangerous, and should they reach that stage, their health depends on them immediately seeking help before it escalates to a life threat.

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