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Pam Northam Accused Of Racism After Handing Out Cotton To African-American Children

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Pam Northam Accused of Racism

Virginia First Lady faces the media for a public apology after the latest incident on the governor’s mansion reached authorities and officials on Wednesday.

After Gucci and Prada’s involvement on racial controversies earlier this year, another one broke out recently that involves first lady, Pam Northam. It all happened when she handed out cotton to young African-American children during the tour of the Governor’s mansion and told them to imagine as if they were slaves on the field. The mother of one of the children, Leah Dozier Walker, a state employee and a Director of the Office of Equity and Community Engagement at Virginia Department of Education, did not like the idea of re-enacting slavery to educate the kids about historical events.

She sent a letter to Pam Northam’s office on Monday indicating the whole story of the visitation for State Senate Pages (children or teen who are under the sponsorship of a senator). The first lady toured the pages in the mansion’s kitchen cottage where slaves used to work before and handed black pages including Walker’s eighth-grade daughter pieces of cotton. Walker’s daughter said that she did not take the cotton although the first lady, who seemed indifferent with the implication of her request, still attempted to lighten up the situation by telling them to “just imagine they were in the fields reaping cotton all day.”

This event mirrored that of the incident happened in early February where Pam Northam’s husband, Democratic Governor, Ralph Northam, posted a photo of his medical school yearbook depicting a black face on it and another in a Ku Klux Klan outfit. This action insulted Americans, especially black people, and accused the Governor of being insensitive to other races. He then apologized after admitting he was on the photo and did wear blackface once to impersonate Michael Jackson in a dance contest.

Before the issue had completely died down, another controversy surfaced again involving his wife. Walker said in an interview that the Northams did not fully grasp the implications of their behavior; much more its effects on the children.

The incident cited the history of the country during the 1830-1840 eras, describing the growth of the American economy due to the booming of cotton industries. However, as the cotton plantation started to give wealth on most of the Americans before, the state of slavery for black people on the Deep South also heightened. The production dramatically turned millions of black men and women in the United States into slavery for decades, according to Henry Louis Gates Jr. For the public, the first lady needed to understand that with past as sensitive as this, she ought to empower her constituents regardless of their races, rather than degrade them.

So far, the Governor and Mrs. Northam have already asked the residents of the commonwealth for forgiveness regarding with their racially insensitive past actions. But for Walker, she insisted that the Governor’s office did not take the harm and hurt they have caused both mentally and emotionally to African-Americans in Virginia seriously.

“I don’t think they are deserving of our forgiveness,” said Walker.

Walker’s daughter also sent a letter to the first lady supporting her mother’s claim that Pam Northam had handed her and at least one African-American page pieces of cotton and asked them to imagine being out in the field as slaves. She wrote on the letter about her experience on the visit saying that she had not felt welcomed but resisted to stay on the whole tour and remained respectful although the first lady was not doing the same.

On the other hand, the governor’s office countered the allegation and claimed that the cotton was distributed to everyone in the group as the first lady discussed the history and significant happenings during that time. In addition to the educational discussion, the group was asked to examine a variety of historical pieces.  

Pam Northam also said in a statement that she regretted to be the cause of everyone’s anguish and reiterated that the kitchen cottage gave historical key points to the governor’s mansion tours and had done the same to all visitors before. She then explained that the use of artifacts and crops was intended for illustrating a painful period in Virginia history, not for offending black people or such.

The incident is the latest controversy involving the governor who has remained on his position despite recent calls from local and national Democrats to resign.

As of now, the first lady’s administration has reached out to the mother of the page and decided to apologize personally but has not heard any reply.

I've been contributing news since 2010, both online and print. Aside from Z6Mag, I manage independent news blogs that provide awareness on a diverse list of topics to every reader.

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Education

#CancelMyDebt Trends On Twitter As Debtors Urge Student Loan Default

Twitter erupts with #CancelMyDebt sentiments after Sen. Elizabeth Warren asked netizens to share their student loan stories. Click To Tweet

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Twitter erupts with #CancelMyDebt sentiments after Sen. Elizabeth Warren asked netizens to share their student loan stories.
Approximately, there are 45 million Americans who have outstanding student loan. Photo: mancaalberto | CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

#CancelMyDebt trends on Twitter as emotional student loan debtors took to the popular micro-blogging website their frustrations on the debts they are still paying and urged the government to pay off their student loans.

Twitter erupts with poignant posts of Americans paying off their student loans and how their debts affected their lives following their graduation. The angered netizens expressed their opinions on the tax plan that granted America’s 1% with a $1.5 trillion tax cuts while the government turns blind eyes over the student loan problem that the youth has been facing.

The apparent hashtag came after U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren encouraged students and graduates to share their stories using the #CancelMyVote hashtag to support her plan to cancel student loan debts of 95% of Americans currently paying for it. Warren’s policy to cover the student loan repayment from an additional tax on top of the top 0.1%.

“I paid off my student loans after 10 years, but it took me getting a six-figure book deal to do it. Folks shouldn’t have to hope for the equivalent of winning the lottery to have a future. #CancelMyDebt” wrote @nkjemisin on Twitter.

President Donald Trump signed the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” into law on December 2017 and have brought significant tax reforms. “For the wealthy, banks and other corporations, the tax reform package can be considered a lopsided victory given its significant and permanent tax cuts to corporate profits, investment income, estate tax, and more. Financial services companies stand to see huge gains based on the new, lower corporate rate (21%) as well as preferential tax treatment of pass-through companies. Some banks have said that their effective tax rate will drop under 21%.,” Investopedia explained.

As the current tax plan consistently accommodates the rich, student loan debtors remain in limbo as the increasing interest rates and the piling debt are crippling their financial presents and even their futures. Student loans are a form of financial aid used to help students access higher education. Student loan debt in the United States has been snowballing since 2006, rising to nearly $1.56 trillion by 2019. Shockingly, the entire total loan debt of American equals 7.5% of the country’s GDP.

There are approximately 45 million Americans who have an outstanding student loan of $37,172 on average at the time of graduation. On top of that, student loan also appears not to be evenly distributed and is disproportionately concentrated on the for-profit college sector.

Now, student loan debtors are calling for the government to default their debts. They argue that as the outstanding student loan debt totals 1.5 trillion and the tax cut equals the same, the government can afford to pay off all of student loan debts.

People tweeting #CancelMyDebt clarifies, however, that they are not asking for a loan default because they did not owe anything. They said that call was intended for the government to take actions to destroy the systems that allow student loan companies to exploit people with dreams.

“My reality is paying $1200 a month for my student debt ALONE and working 7 days a week over 4 different jobs. I’m not asking for a “hand out,” I’m asking that we as a country address the insane cost those who are not wealthy have to pay to get higher education #CancelMyDebt,” said @steeltoejilly on a Twitter post.

Another Twitter user also chimed in saying that interest hikes have ballooned her student loan debt even if she’s paying them religiously. “I have four jobs in the education field right now. I graduated in 2005 with $100,000 in student loans. After a decade of payments, undergrad debt is over $200,000 bc of interest rates. I can’t lease a car to get to work, so I walk. I don’t own a bed. #cancelmydebt.”

However, sentiments are polarized. A huge chunk of posts bearing the hashtag talks about their disagreement to Warren’s plans. Most of them argued that student loans are student’s decisions, and the government should not be burdened to pay for their obligations.

“#CancelMyDebt? Uh, no. Nobody forced you to take out student loans. Nobody forced you to major in something that won’t land you a good job. Nobody else is responsible for your debt. It’s your debt; it’s your responsibility.” Joe Walsh tweeted Wednesday.

Kurt Schlichter, a veteran, chimed in saying that Americans can serve in the military and reap the benefits of GI Bill as he did. “Well, you could have served your country and earned GI Bill benefits like I did. But you didn’t. So I’m kind of unclear why you think I owe you anything.#CancelMyDebt? Nah. How about you #PayYourOwnDebt?” /apr

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Politics

Coordinated Anti-Trump “Memetic Warfare” Emerged On Instagram

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A study revealed that a coordinated "memetic warfare" has been launched against Donald Trump on Instagram.
Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo: Gage Skidmore | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

A group of independent researchers has found out that a coordinated black propaganda campaign targeting U.S. President Donald Trump has emerged in the popular social media platform, Instagram, in an effort to derail his reputation through “meme warfare.”

The current political climate and the advent of social networking and its growing popularity in becoming platforms for social discourse created an arena for personality political wars, as seen in recent elections around the world. The camp of President Trump allegedly used the same strategy during the 2016 elections to launch targeted and coordinated personality assassination against presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton in an attempt to sway public opinion against the Democrat standard bearer at that time.

Russians are said to have created spoofed accounts both in Facebook and Instagram and impersonated American citizens to influence public opinion in favor of President Trump. The study published by Italian analytics firm Ghost Data revealed that they had seen similar activities, but now targeting President Trump instead.

The firm said that the U.S. president is experiencing illicit attacks, albeit on a limited scale, with fake profiles impersonating Americal citizens to spread virulent anti-Trump narratives in a coordinated attack to derail the president. The researchers also opened the possibility that while they were able to uncover a small operation, it could also be part of something bigger.

Photo: Ghost Data

“We have uncovered a small operation that is a very likely part of something bigger,” said Andrea Stroppa, the head of research at Ghost Data. “I get the feeling that someone out there is experimenting. Testing the waters. They know what they are doing.”

Facebook, the owner of Instagram, said to Reuters that they are already investigating the apparent violations of the social network’s Community Standards. They also have removed the profiles uncovered by the researchers. Interestingly, the company has been part of a highly publicized legislative inquiry on its role in the 2016 Russian intervention in the US elections.

The accounts that were removed were said to have violated rules of Instagram, such as using stolen images of other people and acting in tandem with other accounts to spew out vitriolic messages.

Photo: Ghost Data

A spokesperson for Instagram told Reuters: “We are investigating the accounts in question and have already removed those that we’ve found to violate our policies. Accounts used to manipulate or mislead the public are not allowed on Instagram, and we will take action if we find additional violations.”

The researcher said that they were able to discover 52,000 accounts on Instagram, which were generally anti-Trump, using such hashtags as #impeachtrump. While most of them were genuine accounts owned by actual people, they also have uncovered 350 “suspicious accounts” that’s the main goal is specifically to overturn the U.S. president. Out of these, 19 accounts took the researchers interest by appearing to be interlinked and “waging incessant ‘memetic warfare,’ using multiple images and meme videos to attack Donald Trump and his administration.

There were already a total of 121,000 posts put out by all the 350 suspected account with more than 35.2 million “interactions” since October 2016, when they were first created. The researchers also found similarities and similar identifiable characteristics in the accounts, including their profile pictures. One block of five out of the smaller 19 subsets among all the suspicious accounts found by researchers was discovered to have been created on the same day last August, further supporting the thesis that these accounts are interlinked and could be part of a much bigger destabilization effort against the Republican leader.

“Their goal seems to be to infiltrate into (social media) networks that are much bigger,” said Stroppa.

U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, through an independent report published last December, said the Russian government’s Internet Research Agency created some 133 Instagram accounts in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign and used them to try to propagate dangerous narratives against the U.S. political system.

Stroppa, while being suspicious, said that he had not found any evidence that would link the 19 accounts his team discovered to any form of Russian interference.

“What you can say is that this digital campaign against Trump uses some of the same methods that were used to attack Hilary Clinton in 2016,” he said.

While the study has a very tiny sample size against the total population of a billion Instagram users, Stroppa stressed that even a small number of accounts could destabilize a government structure if they will only be able to amplify their reach and make their messages heard by a lot of people.

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World

South Korea Labor Force Shrinks, Blaming Economic Problems And Increasing Number Of Celibates

South Korea's population in 2030 will mostly consist of 65 years old and above. Its newborn rate drops to 0.95, which is 45% lower to maintain steady workforce. Click To Tweet

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South Korea Population Plummets
Seoul, South Korea Photo: Emmanuel DYAN | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

According to the research conducted by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs (KIHSA), a growing number of South Koreans are declining to get married and are not even interested in dating. One of the possible reasons is because dating is expensive and dangerous.

The Korea Herald reported that last 2015, 90 percent of men and 77 percent of women between the ages of 25 to 29 are celibates. Most South Koreans decided to be single by choice because of economic problems, dating problems, and social issues.

The nation’s overall unemployment rate is 3.4 percent, the highest record yet for 17 years. For the country’s youth between ages 15 to 29, the unemployment rate is 10.8%. The job market in the country is famed to be very competitive. Most individuals spend their free time in schools to improve their professional skills and get certificates, which can help them land their dream jobs.

CNN‘s Sophie Jeong recently interviewed a 24-year-old male student named Kim Joon-Hyup to get to a better idea about the issue and get to know the views/opinions of the country’s younger generation.

Kim is studying full time at Sejong University. But every weekday evening, he also attends another institution to study game design. Kim doesn’t have time to date. If he was in a relationship, he will be sorry for her since he wouldn’t be able to invest time.

For South Korean couples, dating and marriage are both expensive. Duo, a matchmaking industry, estimated that the usual cost per date is 63,494 won (around $55). Individuals who live with minimum-wage paychecks have to work more hours to afford a single date.

Meanwhile, to get married, couples spend an average of $90,000 for the overall wedding expenses, a 2013 survey reported. There is also a wedding tradition in South Korea, which they call “trading wealth.” For example, if a female marries a doctor, her family needs to pay a considerable amount to the groom’s family in exchange for an elite social status.

Dating in South Korea is not only expensive but can also be dangerous too. One of the major societal issues of the nation is sex crimes, illegal recording of sexual acts or voyeurism, and gender discrimination.

The National Police Agency reported a massive increase in sexual violence crimes. Data received from the 2008 sex crime survey revealed that there are 16,000 cases, and in 2017, the number of cases doubled. In most cases, the assault comes from the victims’ lover or date.

Furthermore, dating does not end up in physical abuse. Last 2017, there have been more than 6,400 cases of unauthorized recording. Recently, a viral scandal involving famous K-Pop Star Jung Joon-young circulated on the internet. He was arrested last March and accused of taking videos of women during sex without their consent. Worst case scenario, he shares the said videos on the internet explicitly.

Another possible reason why most South Koreans prefer to be single is that they have a culture which values work and study over relationships. Last 2017 OECD stated that an average South Korean works almost 250 hours more compared to their United States counterpart.

South Korea is known to have the lowest birth rate in the world. Last December, it dropped to 0.95, which means that for every 100 women, only 95 children are born. For the nation to have a steady workforce, the birth rate should be 2.1.

This fact can result in a community mostly composed of older people in the future. Lee Jong-wha, an economist from the Korea University, predicted that by 2030 almost one-third of the South Korean population would be age 65 or older.

South Korean government is aware and have created programs to solve this upcoming labor force problem. Starting in 2005, it allocated 36 trillion won (US$32.1 billion) to lessen the financial burden to families. They offered monthly childcare subsidies and other incentives to young families.

Also, universities in South Korea are offer dating classes. For example, Sejong University offers a gender and culture course which covers topics related to choosing a suitable marriage partner and how to deal with breakups. This move also aims to teach students the idea that dating does not necessarily need to be expensive if one knows how to think creatively.

Nevertheless, to some critics, there are still a lot of things that should be done to make a significant impact to motivate the country.

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