FBCS Talent Show Auditions…Story by Leah Roth

It’s that time of year again! The glorious season when we gather together to watch our fellow students shine onstage. On the 23rd of this month FBCS will be having its 5th annual talent show, and the preparations are in full swing. Student council members recently drew a giant picture of stage curtains on the blackboard and finished up auditions. People have performed acts ranging from comedy skits to music recitals, and eagerly awaited the results.

With the treacherous weather and snow days, several of the auditions had to be pushed back to the next week. Student council has been working extra hard to get this show on the road without a hitch, especially after the most recent event had to be cancelled.

Curtain Call!... Student council customized the blackboard for the special event. Photo by: Leah Roth
Curtain Call!… Student council customized the blackboard for the special event. Photo by: Leah Roth

Some people have wondered, why have auditions in the first place? An interview with student council revealed that they needed to sift through the acts. They had to make sure there wouldn’t be anything too long or vulgar. It also gives them an idea of how long they should expect the talent show to run.

In total, around seventeen acts auditioned, of which about fourteen or fifteen actually got in. On Friday, members of student council went around to classrooms letting people know if they got into the talent show. Drumroll please! The people going to be performing at this year’s talent show are:

Lucy Bigley

Tessa Morse

Charlie Harrison

Elise Renner

Julia Hofer

Leah Roth

Abigail Baker & Sierra Vaughn

The Stage is Set… Everyone is gearing up for their impending performances on Friday evening. Photo by: Leah Roth
The Stage is Set… Everyone is gearing up for their impending performances on Friday evening. Photo by: Leah Roth

Kaitlyn Turnbull

Isaac, Sam I, Sam H, Martin, & Alec

Yona Soltis

Emily Miller & Morgan Morse

Hanson & Alec

Ty Olsen

With such a diverse cast of characters expected, be sure to stop on by the talent show, Friday evening from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. here at FBCS!

Meet Vita- A Bundle of Golden Retriever Joy…Story by Rey Frank

Returning from Thanksgiving break, FBCS staff Mary Jensen, and Hillary Dececchis announced to the school the arrival of our new school pet. In addition to 2 guinea pigs, a gerbil, and 3 fish, we now have a golden retriever dog. There was much excitement among the student body, as we all waited anxiously to find out what her name would be. Finally, the time arrived during lunch when our principle went up on stage. Almost theatrically, all the blasting sounds of conversation suddenly died down. We all stared in tense anticipation for what seemed like forever, before her voice echoed out the name: Avita, Vita for short. She emphasized the choice of Avita, which is Spanish for a bird, in honor of our namesake, Mr.

Beauty Sleep…Vita is having sweet dreams, content in the school. Photo by Eric Fulgenzi.
Beauty Sleep…Vita is having sweet dreams, content in the school. Photo by Eric Fulgenzi.

Forrest M. Bird. But her nickname, Vita, also represents the school and is Latin for life. A giddy round of applause erupted after the announcement, as we all celebrated the joyous news. This beautiful vanilla cookie coated puppy was now going to liven up our school’s environment, and we were enthralled. Everyone wanted to engulf her in a hug, however, the attention was overwhelming Vita, and thus the staff had to let her be visited by only one person at a time.

The staff has been careful incorporating her into the school’s main grounds, as they are still debating if she can handle the attention. But from a recent interaction with students during lunch and social periods, Vita seems in fairly good control of her energy level. When she was chosen, it was very important that she would be mildly-tempered, and that she would not get bored from the cultured atmosphere of school life. This is a tall order for a golden retriever,

which is a hyper breed of dog, yet Vita has grown accustomed to napping during school hours, which has been a great quality for a puppy.

The following months included various types of training, and in September of 2017, she shall undergo professional training in order to become a therapeutic dog. As of now, she has learned several commands, such as sit, down, wait, make eye-contact, etc. She is given either cheese or pieces of meat to assist her training. She bonds and trains with the principle, secretary, and her student

Looking to the future…Vita looks thoughtfully at her treat during training. Photo by Rey Frank.
Looking to the future…Vita looks thoughtfully at her treat during training. Photo by Rey Frank.

trainers, but also with a very special individual. This individual is Dr. Debbie Ford, an associate veterinarian at the Ponderay Veterinarian Clinic. Dr. Ford got her degree in Veterinarian Medicine in 1979 from Washington State University and has been focusing her career on animal behavior cases. She, along with a colleague, created a course at Washington State University called “The Behavior of Domestic Animals,” but she now focuses on curing the animal behavior cases of Ponderay, Idaho. She also believes in the positive impact that Vita has on people’s emotions. As a result, she donates her time to training Vita an hour a week, so Vita can become a Therapeutic dog. And what an effect Vita has in calming people, and lowering their stress levels. Her intuitive nature of people’s emotions has allowed her to accomplish her job at the school even before she knew what it was. She had only been at the school for mere hours when she rescued a student from an anxiety attack. What could have taken this person the whole day to recover from turned into a smooth and effective transition back into their class within the course of half an hour. Countless others can attribute their moods improving from Vita’s presence, myself included, as she helped me get through the stress of finals last trimester.

But what about the people who are not dog people at our school? It was considered when adopting her if she would negatively impact students if they were allergic to dogs, or merely disliked dogs. However, compared to the allergic threat of cats, dog allergies are far less common.

In addition, the majority of concrete floors in the school dampen the possibilities of someone having an allergic reaction to Vita. As for when she is shedding, her caretakers shave her fur if it gets overly excessive. But once again, this is not an issue for the majority of the school grounds, as the floors are concrete, and are mopped every night. Still, if a student dislikes Vita, they do not have to interact with her, as she is kept inside of the front office area the majority of the time. Vita’s instinctual understanding of people also allows her to know when someone does not like her, and she responds very maturely and lets them be.

She means the world to the school, and we are extremely thankful that she has become our dog. She has been with us through the rough and hard times, such as finals of last trimester, and hard due dates of this trimester. But she has also celebrated with us in our fun and carefree moments, like the weeks before the holidays, and social time on Fridays. Vita has transformed the atmosphere of our high school, and we can’t imagine it without her. She has especially made an impact on the Secretary, and the Principle. When I interviewed them, the Secretary described her relationship with Vita: “She sleeps under my stool, and I have gotten used to stepping over her, and I can’t imagine it without her. I’m a dog person, I like having a dog here.” The Principle, Mary Jensen, also had a very comforting moment with Vita, which she described as “one of those moments that make you feel all fuzzy inside.” She explained how the first time they were driving back from adopting her, and Vita laid her head on Mary’s shoulder, and in that moment, “I knew we had picked the right dog. Vita is our dog,” Mary concluded.

Her maturity as a toddler is truly admirable, as she has been able to reduce the amount of barking and distractions she does throughout the day. Her personality is also a gift for how young she is. Only 5 months old, she behaves like a faithful family dog that has been mellowed through her age. She truly is a sweetheart, and her love brings much joy to FBCS and her caretakers.

Trade and Trump…Story by Isaac Solly

On January 24th, the president officially pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, ending the ongoing efforts dating back to 2010. TPP aimed to free up tariffs and trade barriers between fourteen Pacific countries, the wealth of which added up to 40% of the world’s GDP. The deal was spearheaded by Obama’s administration, but over the campaign trail Trump rallied against it, citing globalism as a threat to American jobs.

The world’s response has been quick—in a recent Davos conference China’s President Xi Jinping attended and acted as a leader in free trade, stating, “No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.” Jinping went on to explain how the US abandoned its role as a leader in capitalism, and as such, China was forced into this position.

In fact, an intended effect of TPP was to isolate China economically

Global Trade...The TPP proposed members included Pacific nations, with the noticeable exception of China. Photo by obiter-dicta.ca
Global Trade…The TPP proposed members included Pacific nations, with the noticeable exception of China. Photo by obiter-dicta.ca

from their neighbors. With the collapse of the deal, the reverse is quite possible—Australia cited possible deals with China, and New Zealand still hopes for a deal without US involvement. General diplomacy with the region has not been positive anyway, with a hostile phone call between the Australian Prime Minister and President Trump, and the development of Chinese encroachment on the South China Sea.

The president seems more than willing to use trade as a tool with which to negotiate, as seen with threats of an import tax on Mexican goods based on Mexican retaliation over the proposed wall, raising the possibility of a 20% tariff. This would contradict NAFTA, another

Capitalist China...President Xi Jinping of China speaks at the Davos conference on globalism and free trade. Photo by: www.weforum.org, Valeriano Di Domenico
Capitalist China…President Xi Jinping of China speaks at the Davos conference on globalism and free trade. Photo by: www.weforum.org, Valeriano Di Domenico

trade agreement including Canada, the US, and Mexico. NAFTA was the source of many campaign attacks from President Trump, despite evidence showing negligible economic impact on American workers.

Another example of dealing over trade was seen last week, with the British Prime Minister May’s visit to the US. In the press conference both leaders stressed

the “$1 trillion invested in each other’s economies” and “future economic cooperation and trade.” The meeting set a different tone to a traditionally protectionist President Trump, and shared optimistic views on the speed of such a deal. However, with Britain leaving the European Union’s trade zone and America pulling out of other such agreements, the two countries are likely to embrace bilateral trade.

President Trump’s official website calls for “tough and fair agreements” and does not hold back from threatening US withdrawal on deals such as NAFTA. However, most of the claims are vague and do not inform much—for example, the page says that negotiators will be the “toughest and smartest” yet doesn’t give any names or direct policy. Based on this aggressive approach, it is likely that the President will look for strategies as if they were being directed by a business. Whether this approach will reap benefits is yet to be seen.

Rogue One Success and Failures; FBCHS Students Call It with Harrison Hertzberg

FBCHS Students Leah Roth & Ty Olsen discuss Rogue One with Harrison
Rebels… FBCHS Students Leah Roth & Ty Olsen discuss Rogue One with Harrison Photo by

The Bird Eye News with Harrison Hertzberg allows students to share their views of the last Star Wars movie Rogue One.

Here is a bonus comedy sketch, concerning the conspiracy theory that Jar Jar Binks is actually a Sith lord.

 

 

Trump Change: The Future of Environmental Research under President Trump…Story by Mack Jastle

Well, no one ever said transitions went off without a hitch. Changing entire teams of people and appointing new heads to different agencies tends to be a bit complicated, and sometimes things get changed around.

However, asking the Environmental Protective Agency to remove the page for climate change from its website is a big change (pun intended), with far-reaching implications.

That’s allegedly what the Trump administration told the EPA to do on Tuesday, January 24, or so allegations say. Employees of the agency were notified by EPA officials that the administration had requested the communications team at the agency to delete the climate change page from the official EPA website.

This move isn’t exactly unexpected; it’s just the next step by the Trump administration to eliminate the climate change initiatives put into place by the previous President, Barack Obama.

The sources from inside the agency asked to remain anonymous, not wanting to risk retribution from the administration for breaking a gag order put in place during the transition. Since then, the page itself has stayed more or less intact, seemingly contradicting reports.

In addition to the purported editing of the website, a statement given by Doug Erickson, a spokesman for the transition team, stated

Blackout…Amid speculation of budget cuts and censorship, the Trump Administration ordered a media blackout at the EPA, suspending its ability to grant new contracts or grants. Photo by Environmental Protective Agency
Blackout…Amid speculation of budget cuts and censorship, the Trump Administration ordered a media blackout at the EPA, suspending its ability to grant new contracts or grants. Photo by Environmental Protective Agency

that EPA scientists will likely have their work reviewed on a “case-by-case” basis before they are allowed to publish or present their findings. If such a system were to be enacted within the agency, it would directly contradict the scientific integrity policy put into place to prevent censorship and misuse of EPA findings.

The administration responded to the claims on Wednesday, with Press Secretary Sean Spicer stating: “No, there is nothing that has come from the White House. Absolutely, not.” This was in response to a question asking if the administration had sent out a mandate stopping the discussion of climate change.

President Trump has expressed doubts about the reality of climate change in the past, and previously called it a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to make US manufacturing non-competitive in a tweet back in 2012. He has since been more open to the idea, but has made it clear that companies and businesses’ interests come first. The removal of any and all reference to climate change on the official White House website when Donald Trump took office seems to be in keeping with his stance. President Trump has stated in the past that he will pull America out of the historic Paris agreement reached by

New Life…Trump revitalized the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines on Wednesday, January 25, signing executive orders to help along their construction and promising to get Americans to work building them. Photo by NPR StateImpact
New Life…Trump revitalized the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines on Wednesday, January 25, signing executive orders to help along their construction and promising to get Americans to work building them. Photo by NPR StateImpact

the United Nations in November last year. The agreement seeks to “undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so.” Its goal is to limit warming of the atmosphere to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Signed by more than a hundred countries, included massive carbon polluters like the US and China, the agreement would essentially require the world to become ‘carbon-neutral,’ (abandoning fossil fuels), by mid-century or earlier.

The US leaving the agreement could inspire other countries to do the same, and could have serious impacts on the effectiveness of the agreement moving forward.

Trump has since backed off a little, stating that he has an “open mind” towards the agreement and that he is “watching it very closely.”

Meanwhile, the battle to confirm President Trump’s proposed head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, continues. Pruitt has been opposed to the EPA in the past, siding with business and fossil fuel companies in several cases. In his role as Oklahoma’s attorney general, he has either led or aided in 14 separate lawsuits against the Environmental Protective Agency. He has faced heavy opposition from many on the left and even a few on the right.

After a second day of Democratic senators boycotting the confirmation vote, Republicans suspended committee rules to push Pruitt’s confirmation through. Democrats point to his anti-regulation stance and concern that he did not adequately answer questions sent to him after his confirmation hearing. One such offense is apparent when he declined to say if he would excuse himself from ongoing cases against the EPA if he is confirmed as its new leader.

Opponents call attention to his substantial ties and financial support from the oil and gas industry, and his skepticism on the concept of climate change.

Their concerns are backed by nearly 450 former EPA employees, who urged Congress on Monday to reject Pruitt, and current EPA employees in Chicago, who participated in a downtown rally urging the Senate to reject the nomination.

“Our perspective is not partisan,” reads the letter from 447 former EPA employees who have served under Republican and Democratic administrations. “However, every EPA administrator has a fundamental obligation to act in the public’s interest…Mr. Pruitt’s record raises serious questions about whose interests he has served to date and whether he agrees with the long-standing tenets of U.S. environmental law.”

All of this turbulence leaves the EPA and climate regulations in the US in a state of flux. If Pruitt is confirmed as the head of the EPA, it will certainly have far-reaching and impactful

consequences. If he is denied, critics of his industry ties and anti-EPA mindset may get a chance for a more sympathetic candidate.

Americans must decide what they want to be done about climate change, and petition their senators to vote in their interests. They must make a decision; reject Pruitt and maintain the administrative and regulatory power of the EPA, or approve him, and weaken environmental regulations and clean air & water initiatives in exchange for more big business and fossil fuels.

A Look Into the Insulator Collecting Hobby-Should the CD 112 California Be Designated CD 114? Story by Logan Tuttle

This is my collection of glass insulators. I have gathered around 600 them in my three years of collecting. Although this image shows many colors and styles of glass insulators, it is only a small fraction of all the colors and varieties. Photo by Travis Tuttle
Wall of glass… This is my collection of glass insulators. I have gathered around 600 them in my three years of collecting. Although this image shows many colors and styles of glass insulators, it is only a small fraction of all the colors and varieties. Photo by Travis Tuttle

Insulators, aren’t those the glass things that went on the telegraph poles? Yes, they are. But there is a lot more to them than that. There are hundreds of different styles, glass and porcelain, and several thousand collectors. What are all the collectors supposed to do with so many styles to know which ones are one-of-a-kind, and which were made by the thousands? The CD or Consolidate Design system was invented for the purpose of identifying, cataloging, pricing, and comparing insulator designs.

tuttlelogan_1055_126465_a picture 31CD112or114insulator-1Even though this system was invented in the 1960s when people had only just started collecting insulators, new designs are being added, switched, or merged with other styles. Recently, there has been a debate whether or not to change the small California CD 112 variant to CD 114. These two styles are transposition styles that have a second wire groove (the dip on the side of the insulator) to reduce “crosstalk” of two parallel wires. Crosstalk is when one phone call or telegraph message leaks a tiny bit into the line that it is paralleled to. It helps reduce this when the wires are crossed at intervals along the line.

The CD 112 style was produced in large amounts by many different companies until around the 1920s when it was replaced by the CD 113 which used less glass therefore being less costly. The CD 114, until now, was considered to only be produced by Hemingray Glass Company; one of the main producers of glass insulators in America until 1967 when there was too much competition from porcelain insulator manufacturers. Hemingray also replaced the CD 114 with the CD 113.

The CD 114 is not very much unlike the CD 112. The only major differences are that the CD 114 lacks a lower wire ridge (the protruding ridge below the lower wire groove on the CD 112 insulator) and the dome of the CD 114 can be somewhat of a prism shape in some variants. The California Glass Insulator Company (California) opened in 1912 in Longbeach California, and used sand mined nearby for their glass, which was often a smoke or yellow color that turned a smoky purple-brown when exposed to sunlight for long amounts of time, although they made a wide spectrum of colors such as blue, sage green, plum, and two tones; a mixtures of two colors.

Although the plant was only open for four years, they produced as many insulators as a lot of companies that were open much longer. They made around 15,000 insulators every day. Before they closed in 1916 due to flooding, they produced many styles including the CD 112s. When the company had just started, they used the typical CD 112 design, then they quickly switched to the disputed CD 112-114, because it cost slightly less to produce. Because of this, there are few original CD 112 design Californias. If the later design of the CD 112 is designated CD 114, there will be a listing both for cd 112 (the earlier style) and for 114 (the later more common style) for California. The later style has some characteristics of the CD 112, and some of the 114, leaving it somewhere in between.

Many experienced collectors claim that it is a CD 112, and many others say it’s a 114. Some say that the collectors should not get worked up over the details, and just leave it the way it is. No matter what happens, the California Glass Insulator Company will remain an iconic insulator manufacturer.

Works Cited

Lockhart Bill, Schreiver Beau, Serr Carol, Lindsey Bill. California Glass Insulator Co. 2014,             https://sha.org/bottle/pdffiles/CaliforniaGlassInsulatorCo.pdf, Accessed 17, JAN 2017

Meyer, Bill. Insulators Glass & Porcelain. Amber 8 Computer Consultants, 2017 http://www.insulators.info/. Accessed 17, JAN 2017

Indivisible…Story by Leah Roth

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The Pledge of Allegiance. Thirty-one historical words we say every morning, but how often do you stop and think about what they mean? We say our nation is indivisible;

I Pledge Allegiance… Students at FBCS gather to salute our American heritage. Photo by: Leah Roth
I Pledge Allegiance… Students at FBCS gather to salute our American heritage. Photo by: Leah Roth

however, the year 2016 saw our country grow more divided than it’s been in a long time. Mostly due to the Presidential race and elections, we have witnessed friendships and families being torn apart by opinions. During times like this, it’s a constant battle between “I should stand up for what I believe in” and “My opinion won’t change anything,” so how do we choose?

According to Mr. Bigley, a high school English teacher here at FBCS, an argument is quote, “An intellectual conversation between two opposing points of view, in which each person is prepared with evidence to support their side of the argument.” There is no name-calling or bias here, merely an exchange of facts. This is where most people go wrong when discussing politics. They are judging or being judged based on a black and white spectrum. “Trump supporters are racist/sexist/stupid,” “People who voted for Hillary are blind feminists,” and many other insulting statements like these have been said without a second thought. However, it’s extremely unfair to group people by what they believe.

“I dreaded my social studies class, because 95% of my fellow students had the opposite opinion of mine, and I would have to sit through their hurtful, blanketed statements about people who believe what I do,” a student said last trimester, during the especially rough weeks leading up to and following the election. Now, with the impending inauguration, political tensions are rising once again. But how can we guard ourselves against the barrage of hate and anger bound to come our way? Set an example. Martin Luther King Jr. once

A War Between Us… We shouldn’t let opinions drive our country apart. Photo by: Leah Roth
A War Between Us… We shouldn’t let opinions drive our country apart. Photo by: Leah Roth

said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Everyone has their own beliefs and opinions, which should be respected, regardless of whether or not you agree with them.

Instead of arguing amongst ourselves, perhaps Americans should look past their differences and come together to celebrate a historic event. “I think that this is a time in which we should all stand together as one,” Geraldo Rivera said in an interview with Fox News (which I would cite, but the video is blocked). So, as we watch the much dreaded and anticipated inauguration of the 45th President of the United States of America, let us not grumble about it. We are America, and only united can we stand. Divided, we most certainly will fall.

Fire and Ice, not so Hot After all…Story by Natalie Faris

Student council tried to play with fire but was frozen right in its tracks.

It has long been an idea floating in the suggestion box to have a fire and ice themed winter dance. When it was first brought up 3 years

Alone on the City Bench…Like the story of an old country song, the Fire and Ice dance has abandoned us, left us high and dry, with nothing but those few dollars that it almost got away with. Photo by Lauren Stidham
Alone on the City Bench…Like the story of an old country song, the Fire and Ice dance has abandoned us, left us high and dry, with nothing but those few dollars that it almost got away with. Photo by Lauren Stidham

ago, the theme was discarded and never came to life. Perhaps that is how it should have stayed.

Last trimester, student council meticulously planned out the dance from the start. The original idea was to have a Snowflake Ball, like other winter dances in the past. However, it was decided to introduce a relaxed, semi-formal, themed dance. A few ideas were mentioned, but Fire and Ice emerged from the ashes like a sudden cold front.

Immediately, the Student Council began preparations, handcrafting a large string of snowflakes and fire blazes, the snowflakes each having above a foot and a half diameter. Before long, the theme

What is Color with no Purpose?...The Student Council made beautiful, large, and vividly colored decorations that shall never be used…unless Fire and Ice makes a comeback. Photo by Lauren Stidham
What is Color with no Purpose?…The Student Council made beautiful, large, and vividly colored decorations that shall never be used…unless Fire and Ice makes a comeback. Photo by Lauren Stidham

started to really grow on some people. Excitement grew as music was selected, tickets were sold, and plans were made.

Among the excitement, a storm brewed, or rather a cold front. Nobody could do anything but throw on another layer as frigid temperatures engulfed Sandpoint and the surrounding areas during the week of the dance. Black ice formed on the roads, and cutting winds dominated wherever they touched. Student Council made the choice to reschedule the dance for the sake of our safety.

But Fire and Ice wasn’t quite done burning yet. During the first week back from winter break, Student Council hurried to pull together all of the plans and decorations that still seemed frozen from where they left off. The dance was scheduled to light up on Friday the 13th, but the plans went down in flames. Due to requests for ticket refunds and lack of sufficient funding, the dance was sadly canceled

Dreams of Fire, Hearts of Ice…Excited dreams of this year’s first school dance were planted, yet soon afterward uprooted because of the expenses. Photo by Lauren Stidham
Dreams of Fire, Hearts of Ice…Excited dreams of this year’s first school dance were planted, yet soon afterward uprooted because of the expenses. Photo by Lauren Stidham

once again.

There was a silence over the student body when the news was announced by our President, Emily Hieronymus. Perhaps we were all thinking the same thing: “Is this the last we shall see of fire and ice? Shall it come again, giving us the hope of a warm joy, but only to leave us soon afterward with nothing but the bitter cold of frostbite?”

Maybe next time Student Council will think twice before playing with fire.

ISIS Stronghold: Battle of Mosul… Story by Isaac Solly

In Iraq, government forces are continuing on an offensive to retake Mosul, the second largest city in the country. Occupied by ISIS since June of 2014, the city is of great strategic and symbolic importance for either side of the conflict.

In November, ISIS fighters had been forced from the neighborhoods surrounding the city and into street conflict. Advances slowed down from there on, but have been largely successful. The coalition forces vastly outnumber the militants holding the city, yet each side has lost around 2,000 wounded or killed.

On Jan. 14, Iraqi forces retook the university on the eastern bank, which was being used as an ISIS base of operations. This, along with US air strikes disabling the militants supply routes across the Tigris River is building pressure on the east bank defenders—only two

Iraqi Special Forces... A soldier displays his weapon near the recently recaptured Mosul University. Photo By: www.cbc.ca, Ahmed Saad
Iraqi Special Forces... A soldier displays his weapon near the recently recaptured Mosul University. Photo By: www.cbc.ca, Ahmed Saad

bridges are ISIS controlled, and both are somewhat disabled. However, this is sure to stall the offensive well into February in order to merely clear out the east bank of the Tigris.

The offensive is long overdue—it has been over two and a half years since Mosul’s capture. Iraq’s military was severely weakened in 2014, and needed reorganization. Not only this, but the government was forced to prioritize removing the threat to Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. Last June saw the government’s recapture of Fallujah, and gave Iraq the initiative to move on Mosul.

Kurdish “Peshmerga” forces are also in the process of advancing towards Tal Afar, to the west of Mosul. Tal Afar is infamous for staunch supporters of ISIS and the local extremism. These attacks divert ISIS militants from reinforcing Mosul, and essentially cuts off the 50km-wide area from other ISIS held territory. Kurdish military forces are semi-autonomous and act in limited conjunction with other Iraqi troops. Kurds are also backed by the US, and have fought ISIS since August of 2014.

Since mid-October, just over 148,000 civilians have fled their homes in Mosul, and humanitarians warn that number could reach up to a million displaced. There are also sporadic water shortages in parts of eastern Mosul, and widespread trauma cases. The situation is also deteriorating in ISIS controlled western-Mosul and along the corridor to Tal Afar, with food shortages and limited electricity. Over 750,000 civilians are present in these areas.

ISIS has prepared multiple barricades along the entrances to western Mosul, from both the south and on bridgeheads, and also clearing several buildings in order to gain preferable line of sight. There are also staunch pro-ISIS neighborhoods in the western bank,

A Slow Grind... Iraqi forces seize control of bridges and University in east Mosul, but considerable militants remain. Photo By: www.bbc.com, HIS Conflict Monitor
A Slow Grind… Iraqi forces seize control of bridges and University in east Mosul, but considerable militants remain. Photo By: www.bbc.com, HIS Conflict Monitor

and a denser population than the larger east. These factors guarantee a long struggle forwards, and ensure that ISIS is unlikely to be rooted out until mid-spring.

Should Iraq recapture its second most populous city, the problems would not end there. There is still a sharp divide between the Sunni and Shia populations in the country, and Mosul’s liberation would only highlight these internal problems. However, it would immensely diminish ISIS influence in Northwest Iraq, and set up the stage for a final push into ISIS-controlled Syria.

MTG: What it is and why you should play it… Story By Alistair King

MTG: What it is and why you should play it

I move this piece to the right, your turn. I move this forward and attack, your piece is dead. What does this sound like to you? Just a simple game of chess? If you thought that you would be wrong, though the principle is the same.

Cardboard Crack... while some players can squeeze by with small collections, many players spend tons... Photo By Wizards of The Coast
Cardboard Crack… while some players can squeeze by with small collections, many players spend tons… Photo By Wizards of The Coast

Magic the Gathering (MTG) was first released in 1993 by Richard Garfield and published by Wizards of the Coast. The premise of the game is simple, each player has 20 life and their goal is to get the other players life total to 0. The game was almost an overnight hit for Wizards and it was impossible to meet the printing demands for the cards.

The game has received many awards for its gameplay and the sets they produce. The first time they got an award was a year after its release getting the Mensa Select award, and the latest being in 2015 as Origins “Best Card Game of the Year.”

In 2004 USA Today ran an article about MTG saying that the game might help develop mental and social skills. Parents that were interviewed said it was much like a sport and helps teach their children how to win and lose gracefully. However, MTG is highly addictive, with some players going as far to call it “Cardboard Crack.”

While the premise of the game is rather simple the actuality of it is rather complex. You have different types of cards you can play whether they be spells, creatures, or land that allows you to cast more of the cards that you have. Each deck is made with these cards. Average decks of cards are around 60 cards, But they often range from 40-100 depending on what format you are playing.

Deck construction is critical in this game. Players can’t just grab 60 cards, shuffle them together, and then expect for you to win the match. Certain cards work well with other cards and the best ones have effects that help each other. A way of seeing these types of cards is by looking at their color. There are 5 different basic colors in the game. Black, Blue, Red, White, and Green. Cards that help each other are often in the same color.

 

Photo By: Odyssey
An average match… Photo By: Odyssey

When players get around to playing a match the luck factor is visible almost immediately.  They start by drawing 7 cards and hoping that they get a good spread of lands, spells, and creatures. Not drawing enough lands means that you can’t cast spells, not enough creatures and your opponent can overpower you, and not enough spells and you won’t have any defense or offense.

The game ends with one of the players running out of life, running out of cards after which they can simply shuffle the cards back in and play again. But why should you play this game?

In simple, it’s fun. It’s a lot like chess that requires a fair bit of strategy to win, and players that have played chess extensively have a better chance of winning an even match. Second is that the cards you buy will always be usable. While cards do rotate out of the standard format, you can use them in a variety of other ways. Finally, a reason that you should play this game is that the cards have value. Collections of cards go for up to thousands of dollars and the most expensive card in all of Magic, the Black Lotus, goes for 100,000 dollars on a good day. While most players don’t have that much, many of them still have quite pricey collections.