Democrats set to Gain from Redistricting, Despite Original Predictions
NFTs and the New Age of Digital Art and Finance
By Aharon Shelef
In 2021, political pundits throughout the media predicted a redistricting disaster for Democrats. The House of Representatives already contained a bias towards Republicans, and, after the 2020 election, it became clear that Republicans would control the redistricting process in many more states than Democrats. Many observers even predicted that redistricting alone could give Republicans control of the House because flipping only a few seats could topple Democrats’ extremely slim majority. However, so far, it is Democrats who have improved their position, lessening–and potentially erasing–the current House map’s bias towards Republicans in the process. This unexpected result is largely due to Democrats’ more aggressive map-drawing approach and Republicans’ focus on defending seats already in their control.
Every ten years, the census releases new population data, and states need to redraw their congressional maps to reflect shifts in population. This process enables a strategy called “partisan gerrymandering,” of which the goal is to draw maps that favor a particular political party. Partisan gerrymandering is accomplished by spreading a political party’s voters throughout the districts as efficiently as possible while cramming as many of the other party’s voters as possible into a very small number of districts.
So far, Democrats have greatly improved their standing in this redistricting cycle. Although Republicans control the redistricting process for 187 House seats compared to Democrats’ 75, FiveThirtyEight reports that the already-drawn seats have created 11 new Democratic-leaning seats, while erasing three Republican-leaning seats and eight highly competitive seats. In addition to their aggressive map-drawing strategy, Democrats have also benefited from state Supreme Court rulings in Ohio and North Carolina that struck down those states’ new maps, which Republicans had heavily gerrymandered in their favor. Many other maps are also making their way through the legal process, including in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Louisiana, where courts are expected to draw the maps themselves because, otherwise, both political parties need to reach a consensus on a map, which currently appears unlikely.
Democrats’ success will lessen, and potentially eliminate, the House of Representatives’ current bias towards Republicans, which the latter party established through major partisan gerrymandering after the 2010 Census. According to FiveThirtyEight, the current maps have 208 Republican-leaning districts compared to 181 Democratic-leaning seats, with the median seat being 2.3% more Republican than the nation as a whole. Furthermore, these statistics are even after courts required in 2018 that Pennsylvania and North Carolina redraw their congressional maps because of illegal partisan gerrymandering in favor of Republicans. In response to the significant gerrymandering, Democrats pushed for the creation of independent redistricting commissions that would draw maps without influence from politicians. However, this push, especially when it succeeded in large, Democratic states like California, hurt Democrats this redistricting cycle, because it took away their power to draw districts in those areas.
Another factor that could affect the House map in the future is a Supreme Court case that accuses Alabama’s congressional map of violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it has only one majority-Black seat out of seven total in a state with a sizable Black population. A lower court originally blocked the map, but the Supreme Court reinstated it for the 2022 cycle. The Supreme Court will still weigh in on the potential Voting Rights Act violation, but any ruling would not have any effect on the map until after the midterms. The result of this case will not only impact the future of Alabama’s map, but could also affect the congressional maps of other southern states, specifically Louisiana and South Carolina.
This redistricting cycle has carried several additional noteworthy takeaways. For example, the number of highly-competitive seats is shrinking, increasing the importance of party primaries and likely inflaming polarization in the House because candidates will have more incentive to appeal to their party’s base than to their district’s general electorate. Another interesting point is the differences in the redistricting approach between the two parties. Democrats, especially in states like New York and Illinois, have focused on expanding the number of seats where they can win, whereas Republicans have focused more on making the seats they already hold even safer for their party. Although this difference has resulted in the expansion of favorable territory for Democrats, the party cannot expect redistricting alone to save its prospects in 2022, given the United States’s history of backlashes to the president’s party during the midterms and the current trend of generic ballot polls towards Republicans. Overall, 337 out of the 435 House districts have been drawn so far, and some could still be altered or overturned by the courts. There is still a while to go, but, as of right now, things are looking up for Democrats on the redistricting front.
By Samanyu Ambewadkar
In recent months, images such as the one seen above have entered mainstream society under the label of an “NFT.”. Yet, in a recent survey by Finder.com, nearly 71% of Americans do not know what they are. To begin with, NFT stands for non-fungible token, and it has sparked a great deal of interest, excitement, and concern in both the virtual and investment worlds.
It is common for an NFT to be sold for more than $100,000, and in some cases, even millions. This transaction doesn’t seem to make sense; wouldn’t simply screenshotting a few of these and hitting save make one an overnight millionaire? Well, not quite. While commonly associated with non-confirmative static artworks, an NFT can manifest itself as anything from a Tweet to a video. The Bored Ape featured above is akin to Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night. The Bored Ape and other NFTs are similar to traditional artwork, in that they can be copyrighted yet maintain the ability to be used for non-commercial purposes by the public. Just as selling a picture of the Mona Lisa is an unfeasible way to make money, so is trying to market screenshotted images of NFTs.
However, in addition to the difference in artistic styles and techniques, NFTs also differ from, say, Picasso’s masterpieces in another significant manner. They can also act as a form of cryptocurrency. NFTs live on a cryptocurrency’s blockchain, a decentralized digital database that supports its respective virtual coin. In most cases, NFTs are linked to Ethereum’s blockchain, a popular cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin. Nevertheless, crypto are fungible assets, since a single unit of the currency is interchangeable with another identical one, only differentiable by its transaction metadata found on its blockchain. On the other hand, NFTs are unique and differentiable; no two are alike, thus making them non-fungible.
There are many examples of NFTs; some are even commonly recognizable. For example, the first tweet from Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, sold for more than $2.9 million as an NFT. Furniture NFTs, which can be used in open-world video games like Minecraft, have gone for nearly $50,000-$70,000. A digital artist known as RTFKT specializes in virtual sneakers that can be used in a variety of gaming platforms by the owner’s avatar. A pair of these can easily fetch $10,000. An observable trend has emerged in which virtual artwork or assets are being sold for more than their practical value.
Just like Bitcoin, the value of an NFT is subject to change based on its perceived worth. The introduction of the NFT has resulted in a new and more accessible aspect of investing. While they sound expensive to acquire, more than 50% of marketed NFTs sell for less than $200. This new type of transaction is creating new markets. Another appealing feature of NFTs is that they are supported by a credible blockchain, which reduces the possibility of the market collapsing. It also makes them hard to counterfeit, as certifying their authenticity only requires inspecting its metadata.
Some NFTs include additional perks to make them more attractive to own. For instance, the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), an organization that has produced thousands of NFTs, such as the one seen at the beginning of this article, allows ownership of one of their assets to double as a membership to their club. The BAYC membership benefits include access to a private Discord server, access to celebrities who have purchased their own ape, access to The Bathroom, a collaborative art experiment, and free NFTs that can be resold on the market.
However, there is a downside to NFTs, and crypto in general. Ethereum, like most major cryptocurrencies, is built on an energy-consuming system known as “Proof-of-work”, requiring an enormous amount of electricity to “mine” (which involves computers solving complex puzzles) and maintain the currency. Digital artist Memo Akten analyzed 18,000 NFTs and has found out that the average NFT uses the same amount of electricity as an average EU household does in a month. The system's massive carbon footprint raises concerns about the digital economy's future and its impact on the real world. However, a new Proof-of-work system reduces environmental impact while maintaining blockchain security. The “Proof-of-stake” system, already adopted by the Flow blockchain that supports the NBA-centric Top Shot NFT marketplace, advocates for crypto owners to lock up some of their assets on the network, pushing them to have a stake in the security of the blockchain. The Proof-of-stake system would dissuade adverse behavior while reducing environmental strain. Ethereum has stated it wishes to switch to this system in the near future.
NFTs can be considered to be a cross between art and cryptocurrency, where individuality can be linked to a digital asset. Its supporters believe that NFTs will most likely be the next step in the evolution of how humans express themselves in reality or the Metaverse. The skeptics argue that NFTs are a hype or a momentary fad that will return to the depths from which they arose. While there aren't many people looking to buy CryptoArt, the decentralized nature of the NFT market, which separates it from traditional financial institutions like banks, makes it extremely appealing to collectors, traders, and investors alike. If NFTs can reduce their carbon footprint, they have the potential to be an integral part of the future of art and digital finance.
Allison Gollust, a CNN executive, follows Jeff Zucker in resigning after a probe uncovered 'issues' related to Cuomos.
Missing Staples and Crypto-
By Sizhe Li
Allison Gollust, CNN's executive vice president and chief marketing officer, resigned as a result of a probe of Chris Cuomo and former Governor Andrew Cuomo. Chief Jason Kilar of WarnerMedia, CNN’s parent company, announced Gollust's resignation in a memo released on Feb 15. According to his memo, a third-party investigation led by a federal judge discovered that Gollust, former CNN president Jeff Zucker, and Chris Cuomo, the network's ousted prime time anchor, violated the company's policies and standards.
"I realize this news is troubling, disappointing, and, frankly, difficult to read. These are valid feelings many of you have," Kilar wrote in the memo. "We have the highest standards of journalistic integrity at CNN, and those rules must apply to everyone equally. Given the information provided to me in the investigation, I strongly believe we have taken the right actions and the right decisions have been made." Gollust responded to the memo the same day, “WarnerMedia's statement tonight is an attempt to retaliate against me and change the media narrative in the wake of their disastrous handling of the last two weeks.”
“It is deeply disappointing that after spending the past nine years defending and upholding CNN's highest standards of journalistic integrity, I would be treated this way as I leave,” she commented. Zucker could not be immediately reached for comment; Cuomo declined at the opportunity. Gollust's departure came just two weeks after her boss, Jeff Zucker, who resigned after failing to disclose a years-long consensual relationship with a colleague. CNN anchor Brian Stelter revealed at the time that the relationship is with Allison Gollust.
Gollust is Zucker's top lieutenant, having previously worked for him as his top spokesman at CNN and NBC. “I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years," Zucker said on Feb 2. "I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn't. I was wrong. As a result, I am resigning today."
"Jeff and I have been close friends and professional partners for over 20 years," Gollust said in a statement. "Our relationship recently changed during COVID." She continues, “I regret that we did not make it public at the appropriate time."
The relationship between Zucker and Gollust was revealed as part of a separate investigation, one into Chris Cuomo's scandal for providing inappropriate advice to his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on how to handle sexual harassment allegations. The New York Attorney General, Letitia James released a report on August 3 which stated Independent Investigators’ discovery that the NYS governor had sexually harassed multiple women from 2013 through 2020.
Chris Cuomo was suspended on Dec 1 as an investigation of his relationship with his brother began. By the end of the week, Jeff Zucker fired Chris, telling him that the scandals were "too much for us." Andrew resigned on August 23.
Jeff Zucker then resigned two months after Chris Cuomo was fired over his controversy with Gollust. CNN skidded to third in cable news ratings as one of the network's most important investors had criticized its opinionated, personality-driven programming.
The resignations and ethical lapses of prominent figures have cast doubt on CNN's ability to recover from its scandals, as well as maintain its position as the "Most Trusted Name in News."
By Samanyu Ambewadkar
This year, the Super Bowl took place on February 13, and pitted the Los Angeles Rams against the Cincinnati Bengals. While many Americans tuned in to watch the first Bowl take place in Los Angeles in over three decades, a few paid more attention to another form of entertainment: the commercials. Football’s biggest night is the epitome of American patriotism meeting American capitalism, igniting a furious cocktail of rampant cheering and shopping. With 30 second time slots going for over $7 million and an estimated 100 million people watching, the ads have to be eye-catching, attractive, and most importantly, memorable. This leads many companies to incorporate humor into their televised promotions. While watching the biggest national sports event of the year, my friends and I kept an eye out for the best commercials. Here are our top three:
3) Don’t Miss Out: Larry David trippin’ through time — FTX
The star of Curb your Enthusiasm starred Sunday night in a commercial for the crypto exchange platform FTX. He plays the part of characters in human history doubting the validity of eventually successful inventions/events such as the wheel, or whether the USA could put a man on the moon. While the ad didn’t have us rolling on the floor laughing, it did provoke a good chuckle due to Larry David’s comical performance and its clever way of promoting the idea that crypto is the next big thing.
2) Coinbase’s ingenious QR code
Perhaps the most daring of the commercials, crypto marketplace Coinbase simply advertised a black screen with a bouncing QR code that directed the viewer to its website, where it offered a special promotion. So many people scanned the code that their site actually crashed, so we gave them props for effectiveness. While it lacked humor (or any kind of action, really), it inspired us with their ingenuity. Even though some of my friends argued it should have been put at the top of this list, I believe it deserves its silver medal because of the pure comedy of our favorite commercial.
Since these are only the top three, here are some honorable (and dishonorable) mentions. Amazon recruited celebrity couple Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson in a witty commercial about Alexa butting into their relationship. Chevrolet gave Soprano fans what they wanted with a commercial themed around the show, featuring some of their more important characters. Expedia’s commercial about the value of experience over objects proved to make an impact on how we should spend our life. On the other hand, Doritos’ spicy rainforest beatbox rhythm was bad enough to make all of our heads shake with cringe.
Something we noticed was the lack of staple insurance characters such as Flo from Progressive, Limu Emu and Doug from Liberty Mutual, Jake from State Farm, and the Geico Gecko, who are known for their ever comedic plugs. Their disappearance may be for the best, since it lets a more diverse pool of companies take their shot at promoting their services and products to the American public.This year’s Super Bowl commercials certainly lived up to the hype, with many Hollywood appearances and novel advertising tactics.