Category Archives: News

De Blasio Run Lacks Support in N.Y. Survey

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio takes questions at the second Democratic debate on July 31. Photo Credit: Brian Rokus

By the Staff of the Princeton Summer Journal and written by Jhoana Flores, Jarlem Lopez Morel, and JC Villon. 

New Yorkers don’t want their mayor running for president in 2020. In a survey of 154 New Yorkers, nearly three out of four voters said they are not happy Bill de Blasio is participating in the presidential election.

The survey results contradict de Blasio’s claims that his time running the biggest city in America means he should be elevated to the White House. De Blasio, who announced his campaign in May, is one of two dozen Democrats in the race. He has been polling at one percent or lower nationwide. Many New Yorkers told The Princeton Summer Journal they disapprove of not just his presidential campaign, but also his work as mayor of New York City.

“He isn’t worried about New York because he’s too concerned about his campaign for president,” said Kristie Summers, 20, from the Bronx. “If he can’t be a mayor, how can he be president?” She was one of many New Yorkers who said de Blasio has neglected his mayoral responsibilities to the city and as a result cannot rise to the challenges of the 2020 presidential race.

New Yorkers of both political parties disapprove of de Blasio. When asked if they approve of the job he is doing as mayor, slightly over half of both Democrats and Republicans responded “no,” as did nearly two-thirds of people who identified as a different political party. Three-quarters of both Democrats and Republicans also said they are not happy de Blasio is running for President.

When it came to the prospect of voting for de Blasio for President, New Yorkers were inclined to vote “no.” More than 80 percent of both Democrats and Republicans surveyed said they would not vote for him.

Not all New Yorkers are turning their backs on the mayor, however. “He is do-
ing his job correctly, eliminated crime from the city, got day care and made a
universal pre-K system,” said Steve Pastor, 68, a Queens resident.

Some New Yorkers cited not only de Blasio’s policy achievements, but also the community he is building within New York City. “I feel like he’s making the city better for both genders,” said Sandra Acuna, 30, of Manhattan. However, others have a dark outlook on de Blasio. Jason Woody, 35, from Brooklyn, criticized de Blasio’s pedestrian safety record. “He ran on a platform highlighting Vision Zero, but … I’ve had two friends killed on bikes by drivers, no one has been arrested,” Woody said.

Shawn Haz, a 28-year-old from Brooklyn, said he is frustrated with city zoning issues. “He rezoned everything…I’ve been rezoned, kicked out, and everything,” he said. “Gentrification is messing it all up. It doesn’t really help anything but the rich and white.” Phupinder Singh, 29, from Queens said, “He is not eligible to run for president, no qualification, no experience and not intelligent. He is a comedian.”

While New Yorkers largely do not approve of de Blasio running, many of them were willing to offer advice. “If you want to connect with people, you have to be authentic,” said Matthew Louis, a 29-year-old from Manhattan.

As the mayor tries to win votes across the country to earn the Democratic nomination for president, he is struggling at home.

Despite his efforts to use his title as a mayor of a huge and diverse city to boost his campaign, he appears to lack support from the residents of that city. Many New Yorkers, like Jason Kayne, a 24-year-old from Queens, have a sarcastic message for his campaign:

“Good luck.”

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Do you approve of the job de Blasio is doing as mayor?

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Are you happy de Blasio is running for president?

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Would you vote for de Blasio for president?

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‘Beloved’ Author Morrison Dies

 

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Nobel laureate and Princeton University professor emeritus Toni Morrison passed away on Aug. 5, aged 88. Photo credit: Mike Strasser

By Laila Nasher

Detroit, Mich.

Acclaimed author Toni Morrison passed away in a hospital in New York on Aug. 5. Over her career, she took readers on countless journeys—from the exploration of the devastating effects of racism and sexism in “The Bluest Eye” to the narration of the extreme psychological effects of slavery in “Beloved.” She won numerous honors and awards—the Nobel Prize in Literature, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and Barack Obama’s Presidential Medal of Freedom—as well as the hearts and tears of millions across the world.

From 1989 to 2006, Morrison was a professor at Princeton University, and her classes were some of Princeton’s most sought-after courses. Students from all majors would compete to be selected.

One of these students was journalist Elena Sheppard, who graduated in 2009. Sheppard was ecstatic when she found out that Morrison, who had retired in 2006, decided to teach a class her senior year. “I was so bummed that I’d graduate without having been taught by her … I always loved her work. Even when I was 15 or 16,” Sheppard said, “she brought me into this enthralled mental space that I couldn’t get anywhere else, and she just made me want to be a writer.” The realities of that class, called “The Foreigner’s Home,” far exceeded her expectations. One of the biggest lessons Sheppard took away from the class was the importance of writing untold stories of your community, and that lesson has inspired her to begin writing her own book.

Sheppard also wrote her senior thesis on Morrison’s most famous book, “Beloved.” For her thesis, she had the opportunity to interview the authorherself. After building up the courage to ask her for an interview, Sheppard was surprised when Morrison agreed. “She didn’t have to teach the course or do the interview. Yet she still came to Princeton three times a week to pass on her knowledge. It was humbling to see someone of her status want to pass on that knowledge,” Sheppard said. Morrison gave Sheppard a solid half hour for questions. “Just sitting in the same room as her, hearing her knowledge and that she was willing to help me was amazing. It’s my favorite memory from Princeton. When I found out she died, it was just a gut-punching feeling.”

Dan-el Padilla Peralta, an associate professor of classics at Princeton who graduated in 2006, had the opportunity to be lectured by the iconic author during his freshman year. Peralta’s professor Cornel West invited Morrison to speak to his class in the spring of 2003. Before the discussion, Peralta wasn’t too fond of Morrison’s work. “At the time, I had these received ideas about what constituted rich, textured, novelistic writing. And these received ideas or ideas that have been formed by exposure to texts authored by white men—it was incredibly difficult for me, especially on an initial reading of ‘Beloved,’ ‘Sula’ and ‘Song of Solomon,’ to get myself in the kind of mental space that would enable me not just to read Morrison, generously, but to feel that she was truly speaking to the experiences of those communities of womenfolk and menfolk that have shaped my own life.” But his mind quickly changed when he listened to her speaking.

“I was mesmerized from beginning to end,” he said. As a person of color at majority-white Princeton, Peralta understands the hardships and self-doubt it can cause. Watching West and Morrison converse was an inspiration to him. “It was one of the first times where I saw two folks like me, who could take an academic space over by the force of their conversation, their dialogue and their sheer presence, and not feel in any way like I had to perform to some preconceived standard of white male academic status.”

Morrison’s name will forever be etched in the minds of readers across the world—and on a 181-year-old building central to Princeton’s campus: Morrison Hall, dedicated to the author in 2017.

 

Princeton Residents Weigh in on 2020 Election

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Several local residents were skeptical that a Democratic challenger will be able to defeat President Trump. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the White House

By Rabeya Sultana

Bronx, N.Y.

Sam knows who he’s voting for in 2020—anyone but President Trump.

“Trump doesn’t have anything in his head,” the 48-year-old Princeton resident said. “He cut taxes from us even though he himself doesn’t pay taxes, and most importantly he is racist.”

Sam’s views are similar to those of several Princeton residents interviewed this month by The Princeton Summer Journal. Tom Goursen, 69, is unsure which of the many Democratic Party candidates should get his vote in the upcoming presidential election. But even though he’s voted for several Republican presidents, such as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, he won’t be supporting the incumbent. “[Trump] is not capable,” he said. “I would rather vote [for] you than him.”

Many feel Joe Biden is the best option for the Democrats. For example, 45-year-old Add Henderson said, “Joe Biden is more electable, I like his points.” Patrick, a Democrat, echoed Henderson: “Joe Biden is a better candidate to defeat Trump,” he said. But, he said, any of the Democratic candidates would be more capable than Trump as president.

Additionally, residents think it is more important to defeat Trump than to choose between the particular candidates. Jimmy, a 64-year-old who lives in Trenton, said, it “doesn’t matter who is elected, as long as it’s someone who does their job, because Trump is not doing his job. He is just taking all the credit for what Obama did.”

Not only are residents dissatisfied with Trump’s job performance, they are also outraged at Trump’s morality. “He is evil,” Patrick said. “I do not like him.”

Despite the majority of respondents hoping to vote for a Democratic candidate to defeat Trump, however, some Democrats still doubt if someone from their party can defeat him. Mostly, though, Princetonians seem to believe the United States deserves a better president—not a president like Donald Trump.

 

Zwicker Seeks Third Term in State House

 

By Jhoana Flores 

Queens, N.Y.

The election of President Donald Trump in 2016 raised alarm over whether he is qualified for the position because he was a businessman with no political background. However, other elected officials also have no political experience.

New Jersey Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, a Democrat who represents the state’s 16th legislative district, said at a press conference that he once believed that he was not qualified for a political position because he is a scientist who works at the Princeton University Plasma Physics Lab. But as a second-term assemblyman, he is advocating for more diversity of background in politics.

Zwicker said his scientific background helps him in his job in the legislature. As for Trump’s lack of experience, he said he prefers that candidates for the highest office in the land have more of a political background.

Still, he doesn’t advocate limiting the field. “Anyone who wants to run for president should run for president,” he said.

The issue of qualifications for public office can be complicated. What makes someone qualified? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, for instance, also had no political experience and worked as a waitress before becoming a congresswoman.

Should political experience be a qualification? Should that qualification only apply to those running for president? If yes, why should different political positions be weighted differently, since local politicians also impact our communities?

In Zwicker’s case, his voters don’t seem to mind his lack of political practice, as he’s won two elections. Now he’s campaigning for a third term after four years in the legislature, but he’s still learning on the job.

“I am not qualified,” Zwicker said with a smile. “I’m making it up as I go…I’m doing my best.”

Physicist Prioritizes Climate Change in Third Campaign

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State Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker has made global warming one of his key issues. Photo Credit: Brian Rokus

By Emily Barrera Cedeno 

Miami Lakes, FLA.

President Trump may be the first person who comes to mind as a politician with zero political background, but the phenomenon started earlier than his campaign.

Until 2014, the thought of getting involved in politics had never crossed Andrew Zwicker’s mind. But one day, the physicist’s boss at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab suggested he should run for Congress. It was a casual comment, but as more people in Zwicker’s life brought up the idea, he began to entertain becoming a politician.

Zwicker gained the courage to enter the political world with few connections and even less advertising. Zwicker, a first-time candidate with a small reach, expected to get a whopping one percent of the vote. But when Election Day came, he amassed eight percent of the vote. Though he exceeded his expectations, he still lost the congressional race.

The loss did not discourage him. The next year, he began the process of running for the New Jersey Assembly in the 16th district. This time, he built a team, spread his message, visited the communities in his district, and built a platform. He honed in on a specific focus: he would help create jobs, preserve the environment, and protect democracy.

On election night, Zwicker won by a margin of only 78 votes. He was not only the first physicist elected assemblyman of the district, he was also the first Democrat to win there. Zwicker says that he won because of independent voters, and that his victory was a shining example of how important every citizen’s voice is.

His scientific experience gives him a different perspective than the candidates who have a typical political background. Through his work as a scientist, he’s an expert in climate change. He’s written legislation to create a more environmentally friendly New Jersey, such as his bill to make sure that the state follows the Paris climate agreement, which became law in 2018.

Zwicker concedes that, at times, he can be out of his depth. He often recognizes his inexperience and with a smile says, “I am not qualified.” He mentions that with each year, he grows a little wiser. But it has been slow-going. He good-naturedly jokes that it was “harder for [him] to become a quote-unquote politician than to get a Ph.D.”

Now, he’s campaign- ing for his third term. He’s sure that he can only do better in helping the people of New Jersey as time goes on, especially now that he’s more experienced as a politician.

There’s a lot of hesitance to trust people with no political background or experience who insert themselves into political spaces and brand themselves as politicians. While these concerns are not unfounded, Zwicker is an example that inexperience is not something to fear in candidates, whether they’re in local or federal government. Zwicker shows that a member of government—just like in most occupations—can learn on the job.

Local Dems Fear ‘Hot Mess’ Election

 

By Samanta Gonzalez Castro and Ella Wilkerson

Houston, TX and Philadelphia, PA

On a recent Friday afternoon, residents strolled Nassau Street in downtown Princeton, eating ice cream and sipping coffee while enjoying the serenity of Hinds Plaza.

It only took one phrase to break the mood: the 2020 election.

“It’s gonna be a hot mess,” said Deidra, a 72-year-old retired teacher.

If President Trump wins re-election, “I’ll move to Canada,” said a 52-year-old man named Dwight.

Sarah, an 18-year-old college freshman, simply said, “Oh,” as her face fell.

Election season has always stirred passions. But in the age of Don- ald Trump, Democrats are feeling drained and overwhelmed, according to a Princeton Summer Journal street survey of local residents. Some just stopped and walked away. Others said they were taking a break from politics after 2016. Still others were wad- ing back in, looking for the candidate with the best chance of beating Trump. (None wanted to use their full names.)

The sentiments of the three generations of Princeton voters in par- ticular reflects the larger currents shaping the presidential campaign.

Facing a field of 24 candidates, all three are sampling the field.

Dwight watched the first Democratic debate in June, looking for some- one to address immigra- tion and healthcare. After Julian Castro’s breakout moment, Dwight said he’d be “willing to vote” for the former San An- tonio mayor and onetime secretary of Housing and Urban Development. But healthcare is a key issue, and while he sup- ports “Medicare for all,” he wants any new plan to maintain the private in- surance system. “We do live in a capitalist nation,” he said.

Deidra agreed, arguing that many of the ideas of progressive contenders like Sen. Bernie Sanders are too liberal for many voters. She likes Joe Biden, largely because he was vice president under Barack Obama. Trump, she said, needs to be defeated because of his aggressive immigration policies, including the so- called Muslim ban.

“For the love of God,” Deidra said, “if he wins, there is no God.”

Sarah, a freshman at Princeton University, said she’s been less en- gaged in the 2020 cam- paign, but her favored candidates also reflect the tension between the progressive and centrist wings of the Democratic Party. “Bernie and Joe Biden,” she said, with- out hesitation. Sarah likes Biden because of his service in the Obama administration.

But for now, Sanders appears to have the edge. Sarah cited his proposal, first floated during his campaign in 2016, to pro- vide free public college tuition for all students.

A little more than a year before the 2020 election, these three different generations of Democrats show the po- litical uncertainty across the nation. But they are united in one belief: Anyone is better than Trump.

Expired drugs found in stores

This story was reported by the staff of The Princeton Summer Journal and written by Fernando Cienfuegos, Jayda Jones, and Evelyn Moradian.

There is a 7-Eleven located on a busy commercial thoroughfare in New Brunswick, next to a dollar store and across the street from a pub. Near the 32-ounce Slurpees and over-warmed pizza is an aisle devoted to health products. And several of these health products may not be as healthy as advertised.

Two boxes of 7-Eleven brand Migraine Formula Pain Relief expired in September 2017. Another box of Migraine Formula Pain Relief expired this July. A pair of All Day Allergy Relief boxes, also 7-Eleven brand, expired earlier this summer. And a cough suppressant sat six months past-due on the shelf. None of them should have been there.

The problem isn’t limited to 7-Eleven. This August, a team of reporters from The Princeton Summer Journal surveyed pharmacies and grocery stores in central New Jersey to investigate whether they were stocking outdated drugs, baby products and food. They found 75 expired products in 12 stores. The products ranged from dietary supplements to infant medication.

Eight stores were in the Trenton area: CVS, at 1100 Liberty St., Trenton; ShopRite, at 1750 N. Olden Ave., Ewing; CVS, 1618 N. Olden Ave., Ewing; Rite Aid, 201 N. Hermitage Ave., Trenton; Healthcare Pharmacy, 225 E. State St., Trenton; Rite Aid, 127 E. State St., Trenton; Episcopo’s Pharmacy, 1125 Chambers St., Trenton; Colonial Farms Food Market, 137 E. State St., Trenton. Four were in the New Brunswick area: CVS, 959 Livingston Ave., North Brunswick; Walgreens, 20 Jersey Ave., New Brunswick; Tropical Supermarket, 959 Livingston Ave., North Brunswick; 7-Eleven, 358 George St., New Brunswick.

Federal law requires manufacturers to label drugs with expiration dates, which reassure customers that they are safe and fully potent. According to the Federal Drug Administration, using expired medication can be ineffective or even dangerous. Certain drugs, for example, are susceptible to bacterial growth if past their expiration date. In New Jersey, state law bars stores from stocking outdated drugs.

CVS, Rite Aid, and 7-Eleven did not respond to requests for comment. ShopRite and Walgreens responded to the Summer Journal’s queries, but were not able to address them before publication.

To be sure, Princeton Summer Journal reporters did not attempt to buy any of the products; they merely identified the products on the shelves. If a customer had attempted to buy any of the expired products, it is possible that the expiration date could have been flagged at the checkout counter.

It is not entirely clear why this problem persists. When Sue Berrian, an assistant manager at the New Brunswick 7-Eleven, was asked why the store stocked outdated products, she explained that deliveries could be erratic. Asked when she expected the next delivery of health products, she said, “I have no idea,” before telling the Summer Journal that “we have one new [delivery] guy that keeps messing up.”

Expired items found at three CVS stores included acetaminophen capsules, multivitamins, foot creams, melatonin pills, probiotics, and condoms. “It could have just been an error or someone rotating the product incorrectly,” said Devin, a manager at a Trenton CVS, who didn’t give her last name. She then asked group of Summer Journal reporters, “You don’t have to announce yourself when you come in?”

CVS has been repeatedly penalized for allegedly stocking expired products. In 2016, the company settled with the Pennsylvania attorney general for $450,000 after investigators found out-of-date infant formula and over-the-counter medication at five of the six stores they visited. CVS did not acknowledge any wrongdoing, but did agree to institute training for certain employees and give coupons to Pennsylvania customers who find an expired product. Earlier, the New York attorney general’s office found that 142 CVS and 112 Rite Aid stores in more than 41 counties sold expired products—some of them two years past their expiration dates. As a result, CVS settled for $850,000.

Large corporations are not the only ones who appear to struggle with this issue. Episcopo’s Pharmacy, a small business in Trenton, sold an array of items, from sweets to toys. It also stocked expired medicine. These included gas relief medicine, nasal decongestant and vision supplements. Pharmacist John Berkenkopf said he checked his shelves “every few weeks,” but conceded that expired products sometimes slip through. “It just happens,” he said.

Shah Alkesh, who manages Colonial Farms Food Market in Trenton, explained why expired products can stay on his shelves past their sell-date. “Everybody [is] going to Amazon,” he said, noting that he has difficulty replacing his inventory.

No expired products were found at the CVS on Nassau Street in Princeton. Customers exiting that store were disturbed by the Journal’s findings. “I feel like it’s a disservice to consumers who are trusting these companies and are purchasing something that they think they can use,” said 31-year-old Brigid Gardner, after learning some New Jersey pharmacies were stocking expired drugs. Arifa Khandwalla, 47, of Princeton, New Jersey, agreed: “I don’t think they should be doing that. They don’t have the right to sell it to me.”