5 Stories That Shook America in 2018

5 Stories That Shook America in 2018

It's been a long year. These stories prove that.

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Now that 2018 is officially over, we can look back on the year's most significant ups and downs and reflect on what's to come next. This year saw the emergence of two large-scale movements that broke down barriers and shook up society, increased our understanding of social media's implications, and revealed the troubling extent of America's immigration crisis. The following five news stories were some of the most covered national events of 2018. Each reflect the tumultuous, eye-opening, inspiring year 2018 has been.

Facebook's Mishandling of User Data

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress in April.

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This social media giant has long been the target of government criticism, but its troubles seemed to peak last year in March. That's when federal regulators began to investigate Facebook's mishandling of user data in connection with the 2016 presidential campaign. The Federal Trade Commission's investigation came in response to reports that political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly gained access to 50 million users' information, and exploited this information in Trump's favor during the election. Since then, Facebook's stock value has plummeted, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has launched an aggressive apology campaign. In April, he appeared before an unforgiving Congress to answer questions about Facebook's lacking privacy policies. The company's repeated failures to protect user data will most likely lead to stronger federal regulations come 2019.

March For Our Lives

Emma Gonzalez, a Parkland survivor and one of the movement's organizers, speaks at the March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C.

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On February 14, 2018, seventeen students and teachers were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Days after the tragedy, Parkland students flooded major TV networks demanding gun control. The March For Our Lives movement was created by a group of MSD juniors and seniors with the goal of rallying their generation for gun reform, in the hopes that one day school shootings would be a thing of the past. One month later, over 2,000 schools participated in a nationwide walkout to mark the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. Ten days after that, millions gathered in Washington D.C. to march in solidarity with the students of MSD and send a message to lawmakers. As many of these students reach voting age in the coming year, it will be interesting to see how politicians respond to their demands, and the gun control legislation that will follow.

Family Separation 

A portrait of Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, the second Guatemalan child to die in U.S. Border Patrol custody following implementation of the "zero-tolerance" immigration policy.

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The Trump Administration's family separation policy at the border, first practiced in October, is perhaps the most controversial act thus far by one of the most controversial presidents. On April 6, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the "zero-tolerance" immigration policy that would soon separate thousands of children, and many infants, from their parents as they reached the United States. Unsurprisingly, the American public reacted swiftly and angrily to the policy, and their outrage peaked in June when photos of children held in cages began circling the internet. Judges have ordered that the Department of Homeland Security reunite separated families, but the agency has failed to reach two different deadlines, and as of three months ago as many as 200 children remain in government custody. With recent reports that two Guatemalan children have died in Border Patrol custody, this tragic issue won't be going away in 2019.

#MeToo

Actress Ashley Judd, who became one of the first women in Hollywood to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault in a 2017 New York Times exposé.

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The #MeToo movement began in late 2017 when a New York Times exposé featured firsthand accounts from several women accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. As more and more men were forced to step down from powerful positions, Alyssa Milano coined the hashtag "MeToo" to represent victims of sexual assault, and hence the movement began. The following months saw the creation of the Time's Up coalition, the record-breaking second annual Women's March, the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, and the imprisonment of Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Larry Nassar. This movement, which took hold over not only Hollywood, but each profession, has brought permanent change to the country as women gain more seats in office and more representation in media. #MeToo has set the precedent for future steps toward gender equality in 2019.

Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing

Dr. Christine Blasey Ford prepares to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee in October.

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Publicized by the #MeToo movement and defined by the political loyalties of skeptical conservatives, Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings kept the nation on edge for two weeks in mid-October. The reason: Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a California professor, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and alleged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a party when they were in high school. The poise with which Ford presented her testimony, contrasted with the emotional turbulence that characterized Kavanaugh's defense, both moved and shocked the many Americans who watched the hearings unfold live on television. After an initial delay, the confirmation vote proceeded, and Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court on a narrow 50-48 vote split along party lines. To many, Kavanaugh's confirmation symbolized just how much progress the United States has yet to make in its treatment of sexual assault victims, and how little the nation has changed since Anita Hill testified against then-nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991.

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Somehow, I Ended Up With The Best Roommate Known To Man

I've truly been blessed.

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College can be a very stressful experience to prepare for. From orientation to selecting your classes for the semester, your responsibilities quickly pile up. On top of all that, you also have to find somebody who you will be sharing a room with for your first year of college.

After not sharing a room with my sister for several years, I was worried about going back to splitting a living space with someone else. Immediately after I finished submitting my application to finalize my commitment to Temple, the stress of finding a roommate sunk in. Rooms in the residential hall I wanted were filling up quickly, and I still didn't have a roommate.

I was trying to find a roommate, but everybody seemed to already have their living situation figured out. However, one day, I received a message from a girl named Tori. Little did I know, she would become my best friend. I saw her profile prior to on RoomSync, an app for finding roommates, so I was really excited when she messaged me.

We didn't meet until move-in day, which made me a little bit anxious, but right from the start, everything clicked. We have lots of similar interests and living standards. Even though our majors are totally different, hers being biology and mine is English, that didn't stop us from being friends and enjoy spending time with one another.

In just the first weekend, Tori discovered that I hadn't seen a lot of movies that I should have seen growing up. From that point on, she created a list of various movies, and every weekend we watched at least one movie together. I don't think she has shown me a movie that I haven't liked yet, and I'm so glad that we started this tradition.

On top of movies, Tori has also expanded my music taste, which is a very hard thing to do. I couldn't be happier that she introduced me to Dean Lewis and Noah Kahan and then persuaded me to go to their concert in October with her. In general, she has got me more into music and is increasing my knowledge about music overall.

As well as going to a concert together, we also recently went to see my favorite Youtubers when they came to Philly. When we found out that Cody Ko and Noel Miller were going on a comedy tour and coming to our city, we immediately planned to buy tickets. It was a night full of laughs, and I'm so happy I got to spend it with her.

Tori Ploesch

Having a random roommate who is also your best friend is rare. I've heard a lot of horror stories about random roommates, but I honestly can't picture not being friends with Tori. Along with being an amazing roommate, she is incredibly selfless and caring. Her focus is always on helping people, and I admire her for all the hard work she puts into everything she does.

Being surrounded by people in the College of Science and Technology, I know it isn't easy. Because I have a strong dislike of science, I give major props to Tori and her friends in CST. I'm so happy she is studying something she's truly passionate about and will love doing in her future career. Whenever I meet people that want to pursue a career in science or the medical field, I immediately give them immense credit. It's extremely difficult to take that career path, and I'm already excited for Tori and her ultimate success.

College is a time for making new friends that will last even after you stop going to school together. Even though I'm only in my second semester, I know I can trust Tori with anything, and she'll be there for me when I need her. I also know that she'll be 100% honest with me when I need guidance or advice.

I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to Tori for messaging me to room with her. My college experience has been incredibly positive thus far because she has been with me through it all. I'm extremely grateful for the way things worked out because I couldn't have asked for a kinder roomie.

Thank you, Tori, for not just being an incredible person and roommate, but my best friend as well.

P.S. I can't wait to bake with you in our apartment together next semester!

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Everything You Need To Know About The Government Shutdown

The longest government shutdown in history will impact every American.

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In the early morning hours of December 22, the longest government shutdown in United States history began. At this writing, the government has been shut down for 24 days -- and counting.

The current shutdown revolves around President Trump's request for over five billion dollars to fund a U.S.-Mexico border wall, which he sees as a necessary response to the "massive Humanitarian Crisis" taking place at the southern border -- the flow of migrants from Central America. Democrats in Congress, who fervently deny the severity of the situation, refuse to allocate funds towards a wall, instead looking to negotiate other measures for border security. Unable to pass bipartisan spending legislation, the government remains closed.But what exactly is a shutdown, and what does it mean for ordinary Americans?

A government shutdown occurs when the annual appropriations bills that fund several government agencies and programs fail to reach passage by both Congress and the president. Congress is in charge of creating these bills, and each year the president must sign them into law in order to fund the government for a new fiscal period. In October, at the beginning of the current fiscal year, only a few of the necessary appropriations bills were enacted, and Congress had until December 21 to enact the rest. However, due to congressional infighting and the President's incessant demands for a wall, the government failed to reach a spending agreement by the deadline, and a shutdown ensued.

Without appropriated funds, any departments or agencies deemed "non-essential" are put on hold under a government shutdown. This means that many federal workers, including those within the Food and Drug Administration and National Park Service, are furloughed, or put on temporary leave without pay. The remaining employees, who work in departments or agencies considered "essential," are forced to work without pay until appropriations are made by Congress and the President. Once the government is open again, they will receive their missed checks in back pay.

Put simply, the 800,000 Americans who work for departments affected by the shutdown have been without a paycheck for almost an entire month now. In past weeks, several of these workers have taken to Washington to protest the shutdown and have appeared on television to voice their frustrations. Forced to deplete their savings to make ends meet, they worry about how they'll make their next mortgage payment and keep their families fed. Paying for daycare services for infants, or college tuition for young adults, has become almost impossible for some.

And government employees aren't the only Americans affected by the shutdown. Though social security checks are sent out and Medicare is paid for, the issuance of insurance cards could cease, meaning that those newly eligible for Medicare could be turned away. Hundreds of sites with hazardous waste or polluted drinking water will go uninspected by the EPA. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, responsible for feeding thousands of impoverished families, cannot last another two months without funding.

Perhaps the scariest effect of the shutdown is its impact on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), responsible for screening passengers at airports. Since the shutdown began, airports across the country have dealt with a shortage of staff, causing long lines and massive travel delays. George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Texas and Miami International Airport in Florida have both been forced to close entire terminals in response to a staffing shortage. On January 14, TSA spokesman Michael Biello tweeted that TSA "experienced a national rate of 7.6 percent unscheduled absences compared to a 3.2 percent rate one year ago, Monday, January 15, 2018." Although the agency claims that security has not been compromised during the shutdown, the lack of workers leaves many travellers skeptical.

As President Trump continues to exploit the "crisis" at the border (see the televised address) and top Democrats defend the merits of legal immigration, it is unclear just how long the shutdown will continue. In the House, Democrats have passed spending bills supporting the immediate re-opening of affected federal departments, but such bills have not yet been brought to the Republican-controlled Senate. There have been no meetings scheduled between the White House and congressional staff, and Trump has abandoned his idea of declaring a national emergency. It seems the only thing left to do is wait.

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