National News
Caucus Conundrum: The Ballad of the Iowa Ballot
On a drab winter day in the 56,000-square-mile cornfield colloquially known as the state of Iowa, the Democratic Party took its biggest “L” since that time they lost to George W. Bush twice. The Iowa Caucus, the first in a long line of mini-elections staged by the Democratic Party to select a candidate for president, would end with intense scrutiny on the Hawkeye state (yes, like the worst Avenger). 
The Iowa caucus works by having residents report to their assigned voter precinct. In the same manner of voting used to decide the prize pig of the county fair, voters are sent to sections of the room meant to represent their preferred candidate. A headcount is taken and the candidates with less than 15% of the vote are removed from that poll site. The process repeats until a winner is decided. In between rounds, supporters of other candidates are allowed to run over and try to persuade losing sides to their own. 

This year, in an effort to modernize the proceeding,s an app was brought on to streamline the vote. Rather than the glorified game of red rover that's been historically played, the app would count votes automatically. However, the app did not modernize a tradition as old as the state itself; instead, the country was collectively reminded why we vote on paper ballots.
The cause of Iowa's fiasco is mainly attributed to the voting software. The developer of the app, Shadow, is a for-profit tech start-up hired by the Democratic National Committee to produce the app. And yes it’s called Shadow and it’s not suspicious in any way whatsoever. Either:
A) The pollsters were unable to work the app 
B) Shadow made an app that fundamentally did not work
C) Both
If you're too cynical, too invested or just inclined to pick C in all cases, you would be correct. Thanks to a slew of coding errors, a lack of stress testing and poll officials who were both uninformed of the change and unfamiliar with the tech, interpreting the data quickly became impossible.
As Shadow’s CEO Gerard Niemira put it in a statement: “As the Iowa Democratic Party has confirmed, the underlying data and collection process via Shadow’s mobile caucus app was sound and accurate, but our process to transmit that caucus results data generated via the app to the IDP was not.” Essentially, he suggested that the app worked fine but the results got lost in the mail.
This point is contrasted by takes from critics. “I would say this company failed, not technology failed, Jason Erickson, chief operating officer at ThinkSpace IT, told CNN. “Everything had a single point of failure … our phone solution is not only on redundant servers but at redundant data centers across the U.S.”
In case you’re not big on tech, Erickson is saying that this was not a glitch in the matrix but willing incompetence on behalf of Shadow which has drawn scrutiny and even talk of a rigged system from critics.
It wouldn’t be until February 20, more than two weeks after the caucus, that CNN dropped the final results with former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg taking a slight .1% lead over Bernie Sanders. However, Buttigieg’s team, which has since dropped out from the race, shot out an ever ominous tweet that “Tonight, Iowa chose a new path. #IowaCaucuses,” when only three percent of polls were reporting back mere hours after the caucuses started.
A 2020 candidate saying something out of turn is hardly news, but what makes things especially interesting is Buttigieg’s established relationship to Shadow.  Last September, the Buttigieg campaign paid $21,250 to Shadow for “software rights and subscriptions.” What does that mean? Great question! One we do not and probably will not get a satisfactory answer to.
So what does any of this mean? For Iowa, its 2020 elections should not be done via red rover. For the Democratic Party, maybe make sure your tech actually works before you kick off the most important election of the century with a strong reminder of both how inept our elected officials can be and the ever-present shadow of big tech completely fumbling our information. 
It is imperative that we continue to hold accountable the people we’re relying on to bring about much-needed change. If the Dems can't even count votes without a state’s worth of infrastructure falling apart, how are they going to win in November? Furthermore, we need to take a closer look as to how votes are counted as, while it does seem more efficient, events have proven that maybe pen and paper is the way to go.
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National News
Immigrants don’t ‘steal jobs’ and that rhetoric is dangerous
Immigration in the United States has a long history. Most immigrants come to the U.S. for the “American dream” because they think they’ll have more opportunities here than they did in their own country. However, it's very hard to be an immigrant in the U.S. because you are constantly being treated horribly. Some racist Americans call immigrants lazy and say that they steal their jobs`, and they should go back to their country. But that’s not actually true.
Americans have been more openly stating their opinion on this starting back in 2016 when Donald Trump was elected into office. Trump seems to really hate immigrants and has called them rapists, drug dealers and other hurtful insults. These insults and accusations are especially directed at immigrants from Latin America. This is relevant because in Boston there are a lot of immigrants. According to a City of Boston demographic report, Massachusetts has the 7th largest immigrant population with a total of 772,983 immigrants that make up 12.2% of the state’s population. 
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, immigrants do not take away jobs from American workers. Instead, they create new jobs by forming businesses. In Boston, there are a lot of Dominican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and Jamaican restaurants. Everywhere I turn, I see a restaurant run by an immigrant family. Immigrants put their blood, sweat and tears into businesses to share their culture and work hard so that they are able to feed their families. Instead of blaming other people for your nation's problems, focus on fixing the problems.
Immigrants come to the U.S. for better lives. They don’t have as many opportunities in their home country to help their family, so they come to the U.S. and try to build new lives here. As Brookings Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown explains, “Undocumented workers often work the unpleasant, back-breaking jobs that native-born workers are not willing to do.” 
Immigrants will take any opportunity they can to better their lives. If Americans aren’t taking the jobs, who will? Immigrants usually take jobs that Americans are too lazy to do like working in factories, or in construction.  
Everyday immigrants are treated poorly because of their race, class and citizenship status. They are treated poorly for being a normal human being. Americans should not be putting down other people who are different from them. Immigrants are just trying to live a regular life like you. Should they be dragged down and blamed for your problems because they’re different?
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National News
Americans should celebrate Indigenous culture in October instead of Christopher Colombus
We are all homo sapiens right? Correct! We, as human beings, have evolved all over the world with our own many cultures and manners of speaking over many thousands of years. The United States has been a country for almost 250 years, but the people and land that we live on has been around for much longer. No single culture or person deserves complete credit for “discovering” the United States as we know it, because people have been living here for thousands of years. Christopher Columbus had no right to try to “give” indigenous people culture — they already had one. 

Columbus was an Italian explorer who set sail in 1492, looking to find a shorter route to India. Instead, he accidentally landed in North America, which he began to colonize. Since the local culture did not perfectly align with European ideas of advancement, Columbus and other colonists thought they were doing indigenous people a favor by forcing their own ideas upon them. This, in effect, destroyed the local culture that already existed. Columbus had no right to invade someone else’s land, take advantage of people and resources and force his own culture onto others. If he really wanted to help, he could have found a way to do so that didn’t completely dehumanize everyone living there already.
Given that Christopher Columbus was a greedy abuser who used inhumane treatment to extend his power, we should not honor him with a holiday. It makes no sense to celebrate a man who forced people into physical and sexual slavery and separated families. Instead, the second Monday in October should be recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honor and commemorate the Native American peoples and cultures who existed in the U.S. long before Columbus. 
Although Columbus initially sought trade with local populations, he quickly began to take advantage. He saw that the indigenous people worked hard, and they were knowledgeable about the local environment. As a result, Columbus maliciously decided to use and exploit them for personal gain. Noted Spanish historian and Catholic priest, Bartoleme de las Casas, transcribed his accounts of inhumane acts committed by Columbus in his “History of the Indies” writings. His writings have resurfaced in recent articles that condemned the celebration of Columbus Day in the United States.
According to the Huffington Post, Columbus abused local people physically and emotionally, ultimately enslaving many of them. Girls as young as nine were forced into sexual slavery and were considered desireable by European colonists. Philadelphia Magazine reports that Columbus brought weaponry and attack dogs in his travels to the “New World.” If Native Americans tried to escape captivity, he would send his dogs after them. If the dogs were hungry and they ran out of meat, he would reportedly use stolen Arawak babies as food.
These committed atrocities were not widely known by much of society when Columbus Day began to take hold as a national holiday. According to CNN, Tammany Hall first recognized Columbus as a heroic figure in 1792, 300 years after Columbus landed in North America. President Benjamin Harrison suggested the idea for a Columbus Day holiday a century later in 1892 and Columbus Day ultimately became a legal federal holiday in 1971. 
Those who decided to implement the holiday wanted someone for their children to look up to, and apparently Columbus was the only person they could come up with. Even though he is often credited for discovering America, Columbus was only one of many explorers to “discover” North America. Leif Erikson, a Norse explorer from Iceland is the first non-native person to have arrived in North America around 500 years before the time of Columbus. Not only that, Columbus never set foot in America, he landed in what he called the “West Indies,” known today as the Bahamas.

Around the country, advocacy groups are working to see Indigenous Peoples’ Day officially recognized as a holiday instead of Columbus Day. Since 2016, the cities of Cambridge and Somerville have officially celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day according to their websites. The holiday allows for the local Indigenous communities to not only celebrate their culture together, but also to hold events where they can educate the public about the actual history of their community and gather with other Native Americans. People in these communities can share perspectives with each other, mourn the tragedies and celebrate their shared progress and successes with people who understand their collective experience. 
The Indigenous Peoples’ holiday itself can act as a celebration and a safe haven for a deserving community that has been marginalized for hundreds of years. I support Indigenous Peoples’ Day because I believe Columbus deserves no recognition as a hero after treating Native Americans so poorly, and a holiday for him degrades their worth. I hope others spread the word and take a stand to reject Columbus Day in favor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
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National News
Renting vs. Buying: a guide to understanding how to pay for a home
When considering housing, there are two different routes people can take: renting or  buying. Many people will argue that buying is better than renting because it's a good investment and that buying allows for more financial freedom. Similarly, for people who rent, they'll say that there's more mobility with renting than buying, because depending on the lease, you may be able to leave if you need to. These are all very important considerations to take when deciding on a new home, but there's more you and your parents should know about renting and buying before choosing which option is best for you. 
When you rent, the landlord has to make sure the property is safe and sanitary. But, if you break or damage anything in the property the landlord has to fix it, but you have to deal with the bill for that broken object. On the plus side, you can distribute your money to other investments like in stocks or in anything else because you won't be wasting all of your money on a mortgage from your house. But, a problem with renting is the cost. According to Rent Jungle, in Boston the average rent in 2020 is $3,472 for a 2 bedroom apartment, while, in Manchester, NH in 2020, the average rent is $1,317 for a 2 bedroom apartment. Where you rent also depends on the city. Some people might say to renters that you’re throwing away money on rent to some landlord. But isn’t that better than paying a mortgage to some bank?
Owning a house comes with a lot of responsibilities, because you have to deal with whatever breaks or gets damaged in the house. And if you don't pay your bills on time, the bank could foreclose on you, and you could eventually get kicked out of your house and be on the streets. On the plus side, you'll have a mortgage deduction. In Boston a mortgage is 100% tax deductible, and Mass Real Estate says that you can exclude up to $250,000 as a single flier and if you're married, you can exclude up to $500,000.  
What this means is that whatever extra money you paid on your house you can take out to put into your pocket. 
At the end of the day, you should make sure you know all the considerations before making your final decision, because this will be the biggest financial decision of your life. And you have to make sure if you plan to move to larger cities to do a lot of research to know which option works best for you and your budget so you won't end up in financial debt and unhappy with your living conditions. You should also talk to a banker not a real estate agent because they know the amount of money you have and they can give you all the information you need to make the best choice.  
In the end, it’s your choice whether to rent or buy, but make sure to see if it's in your budget and it’s in a location that works for you. 
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Cultural Criticism
In the debate between religion and LGBTQ+ communities, there is more common ground than expected
Religion is impeding the decisions of too many people choosing to love who they want. Several depictions and interpretations of the Bible point to same-sex attraction in a negative light. But, the Bible nor God ever mention homosexuality as sexual orientation wasn't an established idea yet. Regardless, churches have debated the appropriate response to an increasing number of LGBTQ+-identifying members for years.
On one side, there are LGBTQ+ affirming churches that actively celebrate people's identities and sexual orientations. On the other, churches that believe an LGBTQ+ identity and a Christian faith are inherently conflicting, and people who experience “same-sex attraction” must choose one or the other. 
On both sides of this stale battle, there are religious leaders who want to create a safe space for people who experience “same-sex attraction.” They both believe that God wants you to live a life of faith, but approach this issue in different ways.
A church that follows the affirmation model is the Old South Church in Copley Square. Katherine Schofield is the interim associate minister at Old South and has been a member since 2006. When I sat down with Schofield, my fear of churches was bubbling inside me. I didn’t grow up in a religious household, so this issue doesn’t apply to me in any life-changing way, but I’m gay. I know that an unaccepting faith can cause distress and self-hatred in teens and adults, to the point of driving people to suicide, so sitting down with church officials naturally made me nervous. I also knew Schofield identifies as a lesbian though, and I thought if she’s made it this far within an institution that may consider her a sinner, maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought. 
“I definitely had fear, fear around coming out, fear around being accepted,” she said. “[But] I never felt that God didn't love me, which is a blessing for me — that I grew up being taught that God is love.” 
When I started this article, I planned to prove that it was impossible to be ex-gay. During the interview I brought that up, assuming Schofield would agree, but I assumed wrong. 
She removed the issue from the context of faith and explained how anyone could go through an experience that changes how they see the world or how they love altogether. That opened my eyes because I never thought of looking at without the lens of faith. People’s experience and identity can both change for many reasons, and that’s all someone’s sexual orientation is. I now believe that anyone could go through anything and potentially be “ex-gay,” but let’s not use that term as it’s been disavowed by people in all communities.
As good as this mindset is that God loves you just the way you are and it does not matter how you live, not everyone agrees.
Brenna Kate Simonds is the leader of a Christian ministry called Alive In Christ, which aims to “offer hope for those who are impacted by same-sex attraction.” Alive in Christ hosts weekly support groups for Christians who are distressed by their attraction, as well as their family and friends. It's important to note that they do not actively recruit members — instead all of their members have come to them looking for this type of support.
Simonds is an amazingly interesting woman, who lived a part of her life identifying as a lesbian. She was both romantically and sexually involved with women, but then these temptations as she calls them were gone. She now chooses to live in a wonderfully-committed heterosexual marriage.
I felt some hostility while gathering background info on Simonds and Alive and Christ. The website was somewhat outdated and plain, which gave it a cold feeling, but seeing Simonds sitting in the Starbucks where we met had an instant calming effect. Through a computer screen, I couldn't see her personality well — I could only see her beliefs. Meeting her in person with a coffee and a smile on her face reminded me that she's a human just as I am, even if her beliefs conflict with my lifestyle.
Simonds explained that Alive in Christ is designed for people that want to reconcile their faith with their sexuality.
“I want them to feel like there are people who understand,” she said. “There are people who've been where they are. And [I want them] to feel heard, because I do think that's kind of a problem in the church in general.” 
This statement made me happy because she was giving people a space to say what was on their minds. I just wasn’t exactly keen on the title of “Strugglers” that these people are given through AIC. 
From both sides of this conflict, there was one thing that stuck out in a good way. Both Schofield and Simonds believe that knowing someone in the LGBTQ+ community as a person, regardless of their faith, is so much better than worrying about if they believe they are a sinner.
”You could go back and forth about biblical interpretation and what the text really means, but that won't make as much of a difference as actually knowing somebody who's LGBTQ and getting to know [them] as a person,” Schofield said. 
I can write this article and argue with anyone who disagrees with it, but at the end of the day, we’re all just humans who have the same characteristics and share the same world. We can still get to know each other and become friends regardless of how we choose to live out our faiths. Though Simonds personally believes that she couldn’t follow her faith and be in relationships with women, she thinks accepting others’ choices is also part of her faith.
“Whatever your beliefs are — [Nathan] you have rainbows on your ears, and because you contacted me on Facebook I looked at your Facebook page, and you have a rainbow flag,” she said. “I kind of assume you identify as gay or queer or something like that. If I want to have the right to live my life, the way I feel God is telling me to live it, I need to give you the right to live your life, the way that you feel like is best.”
Both Simonds and Schoefield believe they are doing what God intended for them to do. I think this is important as God may speak to everyone differently. Personally, I draw the line at changing or twisting someone’s thoughts, and I’m sure they would as well, though one may argue that’s what Simonds does. 
I started this journey trying to find out why Christianity is incompatible with homosexuality and I think I got an answer. At the end of the day, no one can save you but God. You were not born into this life to compete with the others for the worthiness of God’s love. You already have it. Remember that.
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