Category Archives: Forum

The empire of Jeff Bezos

Story by Audrey Boyd

What doesn’t he own?

     From companies like Twitch, to Whole Foods, to the worldwide phenomenon of Amazon.com— Jeff Bezos takes it all. In 2017, he was crowned the richest person in the world. As of Sept. 27, 2019, he holds a net worth of $108.6 billion.

He has stated that there is no feasible way to spend all of his “winnings” and has turned to the extraterrestrial instead, founding his space company Blue Origin in 2000.

     “We are in the process of destroying this planet,” he claims. What he fails to realize is that he could save it. It may be unreasonable to expect a perfect world, but is it wrong to fight for a better one?

     This man has enough money to end world hunger. That is not an exaggeration.

     The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) stated in their 2016 report that it would cost an estimated $22 billion per year, every year, until 2030, to successfully end world hunger. In January of 2019, Business Insider estimated that Bezos makes $78.5 billion every year, and $6.5 billion every month. 

     He makes enough money in just four months to feed every person for an entire year, and would still have more than $52 billion left.

Jeff Bezos could end world hunger and he would still be the richest man in history.

     But that is not his problem, right?

     What about homelessness? The Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that it would cost around $20 billion to effectively eliminate homelessness within the United States. Bezos could have that in four months.

     Is that still unfair?

     Then what about his own employees?

     He could simply raise the minimum wage– a seemingly meaningless gesture to him, but something that could mean the world to people struggling to make ends meet. It would hardly even make a dent– Business Insider reported, “Per hour, he makes a whopping $8,961,187 million– that’s roughly 315 times Amazon’s $28,466 median annual worker pay. An Amazon worker earning the $15 [Amazon] minimum wage would need to work about 597,412 hours, or 24 hours a day for about 68 years, just to earn what Bezos makes in one hour.”

     Instead, he profits from their destruction. In 2011, Amazon came under fire after a heatwave struck a Pennsylvania warehouse, causing temperatures to rise to 110 degrees and enough of a health concern that paramedics were called to wait in the parking lot to take immediate action any time an employee collapsed.

     In 2015, The New York Times published an in-depth article about the harsh conditions of working for Amazon titled, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace.” It criticized the impossible expectations held by the company, as well as the encouragement of employees to sabotage each other to get ahead. Bo Olson, a previous employee, quoted,  “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”

     This man is capable of doing incredible things, but he actively makes the decision not to. You may argue that it is unfair to hold him to these high standards, but is that not his entire philosophy?

     This man is infamous for being less charitable than most of his billionaire associates. He has yet to sign the Giving Pledge— the commitment to, “help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetime or in their will,” as quoted directly from their official website. Others of the top 0.01 percent have made the commitment, with names like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffet adorning the long list– so why hasn’t he?

     The most recent donation from Bezos was an entire year ago, in September of 2018, where he launched a $2 billion dollar Day One Fund to help homeless families and create preschools.

      That is only 1.84 percent of his total net worth.

     A man with this level of wealth and power should have a moral obligation to use it to better our people and our society. Many of the immeasurable problems we face could be fixed with a snap of his fingers.

     Bad things are happening in our world, and Jeff Bezos is trying to escape it in a rocketship.

     But once he reaches the stars, what will there be for the people left behind?

 

Q&A With Assistant Principal Joe Voelker

The Bagpiper: What is the exact dress code?

Joe Voelker: “I think we’re pretty much a jeans-and-t-shirt type of school. Dress needs to not be a distraction. That’s really what it is; it needs to not be a distraction to others, which is very loosely defined, kind of intentionally. But, basically your clothes need to fit and fit properly. Even if they don’t, we need to see how we can help you with that to make your clothes fit. Your shirt should be down to your belt. We don’t make kids tuck them in, but they should be down to the belt. You shouldn’t have a crop top, or something like that. As far as straps go, it needs to cover you up on top. That’s sort of where it is. Dr. Willman, Mrs. Johnson, Mr. Cerqueira, and [I], we don’t really go around hunting down a lot of dress code things. We do have [problems] that we see, or they come to us, and that we deal with.”

BP: How would you define “muscle shirts” and “bro tanks?” 

JV: “Just, boys shouldn’t be wearing a tank top.”

BP: Why are boys not allowed to wear tank tops when girls are?

JV: “Well, the mentality is, in a workplace, a female can get by with a sleeveless type of dress or top. Generally, you don’t go into an office and see guys with a bro tank on, so, that’s the mentality behind that. If you go work in an office, you don’t see guys with a tank top on. But, you may see women with a sleeveless thing on, and that’s where that came from.”

BP: In such a big school, it can be hard to get to everyone who is breaking the dress code, and as you said, you don’t go around looking for it. How do administrators handle the entire school population without it seeming like they’re picking and choosing?

JV: “Generally, if it’s brought to my attention—sometimes I do see it in the hallway, and if I do, I address it. Sometimes a teacher will email either me or a counselor or Mrs. Shaffer.”

BP: Is there anything else that readers need to know about the dress code?

JV: “I think if you have a question about something, just come talk to us. Styles right now are a little better than they were ten years ago. The issue with styles right now are the crop tops on girls, they don’t [go all the way down] and cover the belt. That’s something to cover up. But, we used to have styles where shorts were very, very short for both boys and girls. Now guys got into the longer shorts, now they’re kind of going back up again. For a period, guys always had shorts to their knees, and now they’ve kind of gone up a little bit. About ten years ago, [there was] that, and in-style tops were very, very tight fitting and could lead to being inappropriate. Right now, styles, people don’t wear that kind of thing.”

How to apply for SNAP and free/reduced meals

By Christy Avery

The bell rings, and bellies rumble. Students rush excitedly out of class to the cafeteria, looking forward to a hot lunch and a break to refuel and chat with friends. Later, they might order pizza, get fast food, or cook with their families. Each evening, everyone is able to go to bed with a full stomach.

For many people across America, this is the reality; a second thought is never given to whether or not they will enjoy three meals that day. But for some financially-insecure families, food—whether served at school or at home—is not as easy to come by. 

Many families across America live in poverty: 39.7 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 estimate. There are many reasons for this, such as high costs of living, low income, medical expenses, unemployment, and lack of benefits. Making ends meet can be difficult for households, and basic needs such as food can be increasingly expensive.

Because of this, governments and schools offer assistance. The most well-known and widely-used programs are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—otherwise known as food stamps—and the National School Lunch Program. These services offer approved households with benefits, such as an EBT card with money that families can use to buy food, or free or reduced school meals to keep children who live in struggling households from going hungry as they get their education.

Assistance programs support a multitude of people each year; in 2018 alone, SNAP served 40 million Americans (according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities), and the National School Lunch Program provided free/reduced meals to 29.7 million children daily, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Although crucial, these services can be difficult to navigate. The Bagpiper has compiled separate guides on how to use each. 

———-

SNAP: A Guide on How to Receive Government Assistance 

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 1 in 10 Indiana residents receive SNAP each year. But how do families in need begin the process of receiving funds, and what happens throughout? 

First, families need to know if they are eligible to receive SNAP. Benefits are not freely given to anyone; hopeful recipients must meet certain guidelines in order to be approved. 

To be eligible, households must usually: 

-have a gross monthly income at or below 130% of the poverty line

-have no more than $2,500 in assets. Assets are resources that can be used to purchase food, such as extra money in bank accounts or savings. However, if a household includes an elderly or disabled person, assets may be up to $3,500

Applicants should also know that: 

If an adult applicant is unemployed, childless and able-bodied, they can still receive SNAP benefits—however, these benefits are normally limited to a period of 3 months every 3 years. 

After reviewing eligibility guidelines, there are important items that must be prepared before an application can be filled out. 

Applicants will need:

-The names, dates of birth, citizenship status and Social Security numbers of everyone in the home. Note that citizenship status does not normally factor into whether someone is eligible or not.

-Income received by each person in the household

-Proof of shelter expenses such as a recent rent receipt or utility bill

-(if applicable) Proof of child support 

-(if applicable) Proof of medical expenses not covered by insurance, such as prescriptions, co-payments or premiums for the elderly or disabled

Where can applications be found?

Applications can be found in a variety of places. The most common method is to apply online at fssabenefits.org, but those without computer access or who prefer a paper copy can also:

-print an application at fssabenefits.org

-call Indiana Family and Social Services at 800-403-0864

-visit their local Division of Family Resources office 

-Request to have an application mailed to their home 

Applications can be turned in online, by mail or at a local SNAP office. Depending on the state, faxed or emailed applications may be accepted. 

What happens after applying?

After receiving an application, the state agency or SNAP office will process it. This can take up to 30 days. 

Within that month, applicants will participate in another important step: an eligibility interview. This is completed over the phone or in person; applicants can usually choose. The purpose of this interview is to further examine each individual or household’s case and to verify information. Applicants are typically asked about their household, income status, and “other pertinent information needed to determine eligibility” (in.gov).

Once the interview is completed, hopeful applicants will receive notification by mail regarding their eligibility status and whether they receive benefits or not. 

What if an applicant is accepted?

If accepted, participants in the SNAP program will receive benefits within the 30 days from the date they turned the application in. EBT cards, PIN numbers, and other important information will be mailed. 

What if an applicant is not approved, but feel they should be? 

An appeal can be made by contacting the local office or agency where the application was submitted.

How is SNAP used?

Food stamps are no longer paper coupons; today, money is loaded onto an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. These cards work like debit cards and can be used at any grocery store, as well as some farmers’ markets and other establishments. Benefits are refilled automatically each month. 

Be aware that EBT cards can only be used to purchase food, and that they cannot be used to purchase certain items such as:

-alcohol 

-tobacco products

-hot food 

-any prepared food intended for immediate, on-premise consumption (such as fast food).

How much assistance will households receive?

Amounts of benefits are based on level of need. How much a household or individual gets will depend on household size, income and other factors. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in 2017 the average SNAP household received about $254 per month. The average recipient or individual received about $126. In both cases, this averages out to approximately $1.40 per person per meal.

SNAP can be the difference between healthy and hungry. However, even with the extra assistance, making ends meet and putting food on the table can be difficult. 

Here are some tips to stretch SNAP dollars and make the most out of benefits:

-compare prices of items at different stores

-consider making loose meal plans

-buy in bulk when possible

-consider using coupons to lower shopping costs 

-stock up on canned foods, beans, lentils, and other filling, cheap foods that provide multiple servings in one unit

————-

National School Lunch Program: How Children Can Receive Free or Reduced Lunches

Proper nutrition is essential to education. At most schools, breakfast and lunch are served, making it easy for students to stay full throughout the day. However, these meals cost, and many families struggle to purchase them as the cost of living adds up. Millions of children and families benefit from free or reduced breakfasts/lunches each year due to the National School Lunch Program. 

There are a couple of ways children can be eligible. Children can eat at a lower price or free if:

-household income is within the limits on the Federal Income Guidelines -Children can also be approved through “Direct Certification.” This means that families who already receive benefits from programs such as SNAP or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANP) are automatically eligible for free meals. School districts use information from the state Social Security department to certify students for Direct Certification.

If a child is pre-approved, a letter will be mailed to the home at the start of the school year. 

If not pre-approved, an application must be filled out. Applications are now primarily online. For New Albany-Floyd County students, they can be found at NAFCSnutrition.com; applications and information for other school districts can be found on the school corporation’s site.

Before filling out the application, families will need:

-gross income (income received before taxes) for ALL household members, even if non-related. Include income earned by children such as child support.

-if receiving assistance from a government program, the household’s case number will be needed

-a pen with black ink; pencil is not permitted

-Social Security numbers of all children and adults 

It is important to fill out the application thoroughly. Households only need to fill out one application for all children in the home.

After sending in the application, households will be notified of their children’s status by mail. Eligibility guidelines change each year, so unless a household is pre-approved, an application must be filled out each school year. 

After approval, what are the benefits?

Those receiving free meals can get a standard breakfast and lunch with no cost, every day. 

Those receiving reduced meals will be charged 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch. While meal prices vary by state and school, reduced meal prices are equal across the nation.

Textbook Benefits

In many school districts, including NAFCS, the benefit of receiving free or reduced meals extends beyond the lunchroom. The cost of education also does. Textbook expenses are billed to families each year, and are often hundreds of dollars. 

Floyd Central bookkeeper Amy Romines said that even if a family can afford to pay for meals, “where people get into trouble is book rental. They might get hammered with a three hundred dollar bill. With someone living on low wages, that’s gonna be almost insurmountable.” 

However, Romines said that if someone qualifies for free/reduced lunches in the state of Indiana, they also receive reduced textbook costs. 

“If they’re having issues with one or the other [lunches or textbooks], they’re usually eligible for [assistance with] the other.”

For more information on how to receive textbook assistance, contact the school.

——

 

Previewing the NCAA and NFL seasons

By J.D. McKay

We made it. Saturday Florida and Miami play to start the college football season. Now, to those of us in Indiana, that game does not really interest us. But, it is the first televised game to matter. That should hopefully hold us over to Thursday, when we get to see Clemson and their QB Trevor Lawrence play for the first time after winning the National Championship last January. 

I have already started college football, and it is coming sooner so I will start there. I expect 50 percent of the playoff from last year to be back. It will be the same 50 percent I predicted last year, Clemson and Alabama. The other two spots are much more open. However, Oklahoma has been very good over the past few years and always seem to slide into the playoffs, so they will be my third. The fourth spot is also pretty open. Georgia could get in. However, that would mean keeping the Big Ten out for a third straight year, and their last appearance, Ohio State, in 2016, was forgettable. They were blanked by Clemson, losing 31-0. I really do not think anyone from the Big Ten will get out of the conference. Ohio State has a new coach, so it should take them a year to get going. Michigan is always good until they play Ohio State, where they will inevitably get destroyed. Michigan State has a chance I guess, but when you could compare them to a one loss SEC team, they probably are not in. The rest of the conference has some good teams not typically thought of as powerhouses, like Iowa, Nebraska, or Penn State. However, none of those teams have the prestige Georgia has to get in. 

In the first round, Clemson will beat Oklahoma in one versus four game, and Alabama will beat Georgia in the two versus three game. For the third time in four years, Bama and Clemson will play for the championship, and for back-to-back years, Clemson’s stud QB, Trevor Lawrence, who will be coming off a Heisman trophy winning season, will win the title. 

Moving to the NFL, this will also be at least semi-predictable. The Patriots will win their division. Shocking, I know. The Saints will also win their division behind Drew Brees’ first MVP season in a career that should have produced two or three MVPs. 

I will skip through the regular season, but the playoffs will have the Colts, Chargers, Patriots, and Browns winning their divisions in the AFC. The Wildcards will be the Jaguars and Chiefs. The Chargers and Browns will have the first round byes, but the Browns will go into the bye in a sharp decline after losing their last three and be beat in their first playoff game by the third seeded Colts. The Chargers will lose to the Patriots, and Tom Brady will once again be in the AFC Championship game. However, I might be biased here, but the Colts will get over the hump and beat old man Brady. 

The NFC will also look pretty similar to last year. The Bears, Saints, and Rams will all repeat as division champs. However, the Eagles will win their division instead of the Cowboys. The Wildcards will be the Falcons and 49ers. The Bear and Saints will get the bye. After the Eagles and 49ers get knocked out in the first round. Both the first and second seeded teams will advance to the NFC Championship game. The Bears will somehow quite Brees and go to the Super Bowl XLI rematch. 

It will be a match up of a great Colts offense versus a great Bears defense. That often does not go well for the offenses. But Frank Reich, one of the NFL’s best coaches will figure out the Bears and win the Colts third Super Bowl, and second against the Bears in my lifetime.

 

Previewing fall sports

By J.D. McKay

Sports at FC are finally upon us. After months of lifting in the new weight room and hours of practices over the summer, it is time to play. Expectations for every sports are high, which seems to be common over the past three years.

Volleyball starts the season off by playing Christian Academy at home tomorrow. But it is almost a month until the first rivalry game. They play New Albany on the road on Sept. 12. The biggest home rivalry games are against Providence on Sept. 18, and Jeff on Oct. 3. Providence is always a tough match, and the Pioneers often beat us in volleyball. Hopefully, this team will be the one to finally beat Providence. They are also in our sectional, so beating them in September could give us the upper hand later in sectionals. 

One team that has a good chance of winning state is boys’ tennis. Last year, they graduated one significant senior, but returned several other players, including senior Alex Poe, who has been all-state, and senior Eric Whitehouse, who was all-conference last year. They finished in the Final Four last year, so it would not surprise me if they had another good year. They will hosting Providence tomorrow. 

Girls’ golf is another sport that always does well. I do not know why that would change this year. Our three best players, sophomore Sophie Cook and junior Zoe Hoehn both return. They went one, two in sectionals, so I expect another top finish in sectionals from the pair. They play against New Albany on Aug. 27 at Covered Bridge Golf Course. 

The other team that has a good shot at winning state is girls’ cross country. They have a great team led by senior Sydney Liddle, who was all-state last year. They came up just two points short last year in semi-state. They did graduate one runner, but the team is strong and deep enough that it should not be a hard replacement. The boys’ will also have a good team. Last year they won regionals and only graduated one runner. They should be able to repeat their regional victory behind senior twins David and Luke Heinemann. Neither team has a home meet this year. 

Boys’ and girls’ soccer are both coming off sectional championships, but, the boys’ lost a big senior class. However, senior Xander Ochsner is one of the best players in Southern Indiana, and senior Drew Cromwell might be the most athletic senior at FC right now. Both seniors should be big players and leaders for this team. They play New Albany at home on Sept. 19. 

The girls, on the other hand, lost some seniors, but this senior class is huge. Audrey Brumfield is a senior and headed to Murray State. Senior Katie Yankey, although hurt in the Turkey Bowl, will be back sooner than expected. Last season she was all-state and the Courier Journal best female soccer player in Kentuckiana. Along with six other seniors, many of whom have seen significant varsity action, they should lead the team to a successful year. The girls also play New Albany Sept. 19, before the boys’ game. 

The last team to mention is football. The schedule has changed significantly over the off-season. Now, New Albany is Week Four, on Sept. 13, and Jeff is a week later. Both games are at home. There were a few key losses last season, but many players are young and returning. However, the biggest excitement is the change in sectional. Columbus East is now 6A. So that leaves New Albany, Jeff, and Bedford North Lawrence. That sectional is more open than it has been in years, so it could lead to an exciting October in Southern Indiana high school football.