Discussion on EPA and HR Bill 861

By Saul Bez and Rachel Swansburg

Bill HR 861 would terminate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The HR 861 bill was proposed by Republican Florida House Representative Matt Gaetz.

The EPA is responsible for safe guarding human health and ecosystems from pollution. President Trump’s proposed budget would slash more than 30 percent of funding  and eliminate roughly one fifth of the agency’s workforce.

Some of the accomplishments  by the EPA include the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act that both set regulations on air and water pollution rates respectively.

It remains unclear how these regulations would be maintained without the EPA. So Saul and Rachel decided to ask students around the UMass campus about their thoughts on the proposed bill and EPA as an American agency.

The HR 610 bill is “a little scary”: an interview with UMass Professor Sireci

By Phillip Bishop

The HR 610 is one of the bills introduced to Congress that would change the way it distributes funds to elementary and secondary schools. The bill would also lower nutritional standards.

“It’s a little scary repealing the Elementary and Secondary Act, which goes back to Lyndon Johnson’s administration in 1965. It was really designed to protect civil rights and to try and making education equitable across racial and socioeconomic barriers,” says Stephen Sireci, a professor in the Psychometrics program at the University Massachusetts Amherst.

Federal funds for schools would be distributed in the form of vouchers for eligible students. Sireci says there isn’t enough research on the program.

“When you hear about it first, you think, yeah that might be a good thing. And that’s kind of where the conversation is. We want to give parents more choices, of course. We want to make sure that the child goes to a school they want to go to. However, this is an under researched idea. The research that has been done on charter schools, for example, is equivocal,” Sireci says.

“If you ask me, Steve, what’s the most pressing problems in education today. Charter schools and vouchers wouldn’t even be in my top 100. It’s a little disappointing that’s where the focus is,” Sireci says.

The Curious Case of the Ash Tree

By: NohJun Park

Spring is just around the corner. The gloomy looking trees will start to put on their green coats again — while we shed our winter coats. But there’s an alarming problem for one species of trees — and that’s the ash tree.

In 2002, an exotic type of beetle was found in Detroit. The emerald ash borer beetle feasts on the foliage of ash trees — which isn’t the problem. It’s that it lays its larvae on the trees.

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Larvae of emerald ash borer beetle.

“Our trees are just not suited to deal with this particular insect. And whenever there’s an infestation, the tree is essentially killed,” says Richard Harper, the extension assistant professor at UMass Amherst.

UMass Extension Agriculture and Landscape teamed up with the Massachusetts Agricultural of Resource to track down these beetles. Eight towns in the Berkshire County have already detected some of them since 2012.

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“We’re talking about an insect that wipes the tree out.”

“We’re talking about an insect that wipes the tree out,” Harper says. “When you lose a tree species, it’s essentially lost or degraded in terms of its presence in the environment in a very drastic manner.”

A way to stop invasive species is to literally fight back. According to the USDA, millions of tiny parasitic wasps have been released to counter to borer. The wasps lay eggs inside of the larvae of the borer to prevent them from hatching on the ash trees. You can report findings of borer beetles at massnrc.org.

UMass’ celebration of the Super Bowl victory

Over 5,000 students in the Southwest residential area of UMass Amherst poured out from their dorms in celebration of the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl victory. The Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28.

Here’s Jimmy Bedingfield’s take on the victory.

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Excitement by over 5,000 students at Southwest. Courtesy of Rachel Swansburg

 

Writing and producing by Jimmy Bedingfield.
Photography by Maria Manning and Rachel Swansburg.

The Women’s March in Boston: resist

More than 150,000 protestors participated in the women’s march in Boston. Participants sang and chanted to represent their solidarity for gender equality and issues Saturday January 21, 2017.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a speech where she said that the people’s voices must be heard.

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“I owe you nothing.” Courtesy of Katie Donegan.

“My husband and I are marching for our granddaughter who’s expected to be born in April,”one participant tells WMUA News’ Becky Wandel.

Many participants were at the march for the first time to express resistance against President Trump.

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Over 150,000 participants showed up to the women’s march in Boston. Photo courtesy Katie Donegan.

Reporting, producing by Becky Wandel.

Photography by Katie Donegan.

 

 

How the travel ban affects Iranian graduate students at UMass Amherst

The travel ban left Iranian students and others from the six temporarily banned countries stuck.

President Trump’s executive order banned people from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from traveling to and from the United States for 90 days. It also banned refugees from coming into the states for 120 days.

Since then, the order has been reversed by a federal judge in Washington on Saturday February 4.

“Just imagine, if you’re a PhD student, if you’re a master’s student, if you have worked hard for your degree. And just think about it, at the moment you get a phone call, there’s an emergency back home. Something may have happened to your mom, something may have happened to your dad. Maybe for other members of our community, the first thing on their mind is to get back home as soon as possible. But for Iranian students and other students from the other six countries, the first thing though, will be, ‘What do I do?'” says Mohammad, a PhD student at UMass Amherst who has lived in the United States for six years.

Many Iranian graduate students are set to graduate as soon as this February. Trump’s executive order halted immigrant application processes, like the OPT – Optional Practical Training – which would allow foreign students with F1 visas to work for 12 months under a US employer.

“I [will] graduate this February. I cannot work on campus. I have no income. I have to pay rent. I have medication that I have to take everyday. This is not fair for us. We came here for the best, not for this. This is not the America I came to. If it’s changing this much, I’m going to go back [to Iran,]” says one PhD student who studied computer science at UMass Amherst.

Standing Rock: a significant moment in history of our generation

Mike Wardynski is a landscape photographer based in Oakland, California who teaches photography to people from all over the world. He was driving home from work one day when he felt a pull to go to Standing Rock.

“I felt like this is a part of American history that may be more important than a lot of other things that have happened in my life time. I felt driven to go,” says Wardynski, the founder of his new photography project, “A Sign of the Times,” which looks into social injustice in the US.

Wardysnki visited Standing Rock as the news of the denial of easement was announced by the Army Corps of Engineers on Dec. 4, 2016. The denied permit allegedly should have stopped construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

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Courtesy of Mike Wardynski: “A line of water protectors wait to heat up in blizzard like conditions near the center of the Oceti Sakowin camp on December 5th. Despite the severe weather, spirits remained high in camp.”

“Standing Rock is a very difficult thing,” Wardysnki explains, “when you’re on the ground there, it’s difficult to know what’s actually happening.” Miscommunication and rumors spread frequently as there is a lack of internet and cell phone service at the camp.

But what Wardynski can be sure about is that the folks still remaining at the Oceti Sakowin camp aren’t going anywhere until “they can walk to that drill site, and see that the Energy Transfer Partners have left.” He estimates that around 1,500 water protectors are still on the site.

Meanwhile, Energy Transfer Partners’ intentions are to complete the Dakota Access Pipeline no matter what.

“When I was there, even when the easement was denied, I could look out at the hillside and I could see excavators still digging in the sand,” Wardynski recalls. “So I think there’s a false notion, out in the real world, that this thing is over. But in reality, it’s still happening. There’s still people out there and they’re still fighting for clean water.”

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Courtesy of Mike Wardynski: “Tropix Knight is a Navajo Native American as well as an eight year Marine Corps veteran. She traveled from Hard Rock Arizona with her teenage daughter to stand with 2,000 other veterans fighting to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is directly threatening the drinking water of the Standing Rock Sioux as well as millions of other people along the Missouri River.”

All of the photography featured in this article was taken by Mike Wardynski. To learn more about his project, “A Sign of the Times,” check out: www.asott.org/

You can also support Mike Wardysnki and his project through his kickstarter: www.kickstarter.com/projects/970182…e?ref=user_menu