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illustration by Ryan Blocker

Actor Alan Rickman dies at 69

In another devastating loss this week, celebrated British theater and film actor Alan Rickman, died of cancer on Thursday. Before the start of his film career, Rickman was a stage actor who studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and performed in the Royal Shakespeare company. Some of Rickman’s films include “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”; “Love Actually”; “Die Hard”; and the “Harry Potter” series, in which he famously portrayed the brooding professor Severus Snape.

Many fans and colleagues have taken to social media to express their grief over the loss. A statement by actress Emma Thompson read: “He was the ultimate ally. In life, art and politics. I trusted him absolutely. He was, above all things, a rare and unique human being and we shall not see his like again.”

Actor Daniel Radcliffe wrote of Rickman: “As an actor he was one of the first of the adults on [Harry] Potter to treat me like a peer rather than a child. Working with him at such a formative age was incredibly important and I will carry the lessons he taught me for the rest of my life and career. Film sets and theatre stages are all far poorer for the loss of this great actor and man.”


President Obama gives final State of the Union

On Wednesday, President Obama gave his final State of the Union address. In the speech, the president took victory laps outlining domestic policy achievements and asserting the strength of his foreign policy. Obama credited American optimism, hard work, and diversity for fostering recovery from the recession, marriage equality, and health care reform. In a particularly bold statement on his commitment to fighting terrorism, the president said, “The American people should know that with or without congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America’s commitment — or mine — to see that justice is done, just ask Osama bin Laden. Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell. When you come after Americans, we go after you.”

The president spent much of the speech assuring the nation about the strength of the country and pushing the message of optimism. Obama also challenged much of the rhetoric put forward by Republican presidential frontrunners like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, saying, “When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens; when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid is called names, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. It betrays who we are as a country.” Interestingly, the speech made no substantive mention of gun control, despite the President’s recent executive action on the matter.


Immigration raids take their toll

The Washington Post reported in December that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was planning raids that would deport hundreds of families who came to the United States in 2015. The deportation campaign carried out by U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be one of “the first large-scale effort to deport families who have fled violence in Central America,” according to the article.

The raids began this month and are already facing a great deal of backlash. MSNBC reported, “Immigration officials may say they have the grounds to deport the families, but the courts say something different. The result has left the administration at risk of acting in haste and rushing to deport women and children who, in the eyes of the law, may face extreme danger if returned to their home countries.” The White House has long been chastised by activists for its numerous deportations, and those activists have urged the administration to frame the issue as a refugee crisis rather than an immigration issue.

Obama’s track record on immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border seems to be somewhat at odds with statements he made months ago about Syrian refugees. He tweeted, “Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That’s not who we are. And it’s not what we’re going to do.”

CNN reported the president’s remarks on a visit to Malaysia in which he said of the Syrian refugee crisis that “American leadership is us caring about people who have been forgotten or who have been discriminated against or who’ve been tortured or who’ve been subject to unspeakable violence or who’ve been separated from families at very young ages.” It’s unfortunate that the administration is unable to recognize the “unspeakable violence” faced by families in Central America as warranting similar kinds of action.


Bernie Sanders leads Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire

According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, Hillary Clinton’s lead amongst likely Democratic voters has lessened. The poll highlights that primary voters under 45 favor Sanders “by a roughly 2-to-1 ratio.” Despite, Sanders’ gains, 70 percent of Democratic voters still believe that Clinton will be the likely nominee. Forty-eight percent of voters support Clinton while 41 percent say they will vote for Sanders. Clinton has clearly felt “the Bern,” and has taken to more pointed attacks at Sanders. At a rally in Iowa, Clinton said of Sanders’ economic policies, “There’s no way, if you do the arithmetic, to pay for what he has proposed without raising taxes on the middle class. That’s where he and I part ways.” Perhaps this more pointed rhetoric will make the Democratic debate an interesting one to watch this Sunday evening.

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