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What the Federal Sequester Actually Means, and Why It Matters

A few weeks back, I had a casual conversation with my friends about the federal sequester. I noted that most of the discussion was dictated by speculation and fear-mongering rather than a real analysis of any of the proposed spending cuts brought about by the sequester.

For my friends, it was the first time they had heard of a budget sequestration. I, however, remembered the 2011 congressional battle over our nation’s debt ceiling. That gridlock of two years ago lead to a pledge to cut $2 trillion in spending over the next 10 years. $1 trillion of these cuts were clearly outlined in the 2011 debt-ceiling bill. The other $1 trillion cuts  were left to sequestration — undesirable automatic and gradual spending cuts aimed at deflating our $16 trillion national debt if no other spending reduction agreement could be reached.

Instead of negotiating as a Congress to agree on budgetary cuts to the departments the sequestration will directly affect, our legislators delayed those negotiations to 2013. Two years ago, they forewent any discussion into smart and sufficient reductions that might have been easier to brace for than the 2013 across-the-board cuts. For two years, this delay removed spending reduction out of the general populace’s attention, only to abruptly emerge around the March 1, 2013 budget deadline, when no budget reduction deal was reached and the painful sequester went into effect.

The result of not delaying the sequestration has forced our nation’s largest bureaucracies to make very difficult decisions. The results include the laying off of federal workers and the implementation and increase of unpaid furlough days. Other effects include substantial pay cuts for workers and decreasing efficiency at some of our already most frustrating encounters with federal agencies (yes this means longer lines at the airport).  Reduced funding for national parks, reduced funding for federal work-study programs, and fewer food inspections are also products of this legislative inability to work in a bipartisan and competent manner.

Fortunately, there are some sequestration exemptions. Social security benefits will not be affected, for example. Medicaid health insurance for low income recipients, child-nutrition programs, military pay (not including civilian workers) and even Pell Grants for us students are also exempt. Contrary to Internet propaganda, the sequestration will not bring about a government meltdown.

Knowing that sequestration will not result in an apocalyptic government shutdown will mitigate tensions generated by the media-blitz surrounding the topic. However, the very real consequences many Americans will feel in their day-to-day lives as a result of the sequester still remain. One can only hope that constituents will use the failure of the sequester as a clear reason to force our legislators’ hands and  to seek their assurance that as we move forward with reducing our deficit, the burden does not fall on those who are most unable to carry it.

Habemus Papam — And He’s One of Us! Pope Francis Elected as First Jesuit Leader of the Roman Catholic Church


Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio was elected the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church last Wednesday, taking the name Pope Francis. The Argentine national is the world’s first Jesuit pope and the first pope from the Americas. His election was signified with white smoke coming out of the Vatican chimney, and the announcement of “Habemus Papam,” meaning “we have a pope.”

As a member of the Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius in 1540, Pope Francis took the Jesuit oath, which is a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Father Donal Godfrey, S.J., associate director for faculty and staff spirituality, said a pope with Jesuit ideals will make a difference in the world. “I was very surprised by the election of the first Jesuit pope,” said Father Godfrey. “This is an exciting moment in the history of the church.”

Though he has only been in office for five days, Pope Francis has already exemplified the Jesuit ideal of social justice plays a big role in his leadership, mainly through his emphasis on helping the poor. “The pope is very focused on preferential options for the poor. You can see it in his policies, his statements, and his stories of the work he’s done even as Cardinal of Buenos Aires,” explained Don Crean, associate director of university ministry. According to National Christian Reporter, “preferential options” refers to the trend in Judeo-Christian religion to focus on the well-being and care-taking of the poor.

The pope chose his name after St. Francis of Assisi, who gave up his wealth and lavish lifestyle for one of poverty, religion, and peace. “Right away, with regard to the poor, I thought of St. Francis of Assisi,” Pope Francis told reporters the night of his election. The pope chose Francis, who happens to be the patron saint of San Francisco, because of his devotion to peace and because he was, in his words, a “poor man, a simple man, as we would like a poor church, for the poor.”
Crean said the pope’s calling to the church in serving the less fortunate is just a short step away from USF’s calling to its students in serving the Jesuit mission.

“Jesuits are usually grouped with education, but look at their mission — it’s about education with a purpose,” said Crean. “The Jesuit University teaches students to excel in their personal and professional lives for the purpose of creating a more positive world. Part of that is helping the poor and working for the marginalized.”

As a Jesuit, Pope Francis is also somewhat of a surprise. According to Crean, Jesuits are not historically linked to high positions, as St. Ignatius discouraged members of the order from holding positions of high office in order to keep the Jesuit community on the front line of the church — that is, in schools and in parishes.

Despite holding the ultimate religious position, the front pages of newspapers and magazines worldwide such as The Washington Post and Time Magazine are calling Pope Francis the “pope of the poor.” Perhaps because, on the night of his election, he refused the papal limousine and insisted on taking the bus with his fellow cardinals. He also paid for his own hotel bill, despite having it offered to him for free. Pope Francis also left the Vatican balcony to enter the crowd on the night of his inaugural mass on Sunday.

Father Godfrey said this is what makes Pope Francis so special. “I have been delighted to see the simplicity and warmth of Pope Francis,” he said. “[He] is so real, a real pastor, and I believe that we need such a person in this moment.”
Pope Francis can also add another first to his list. He’s the first religious leader to rule under the Jesuit motto of Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam, which means “for the greater glory of God” in Latin.
“Pope Francis has an Ignatian spirituality which finds God in all things, and I think such a positive outlook — the understanding that God is already present in the world, including the world outside the Church — will change so very much,” said Father Godfrey.

Macklemore Rocks USF

The Seattle based rapper Macklemore, born Ben Haggerty, and music producer Ryan Lewis rocked the crowd at USF Friday night in their last US concert before continuing their tour in Japan.

USF student Royce Anies, aka Dj Devarock, got the intimate crowd of concert goers pumped before the lead act took the stage, blasting all things bass infused, ranging from Nicki Minaj to Swedish House Mafia. However, not even the bone rattling bass could have rivaled the chants of “Mack-le-more! Mack-le-more!” and screams of elation that filled Koret’s Swig Gym as they took the stage. Macklemore jumped around stage, grabbing the audience’s hands and shouted every word of his rhymes in unison, nearly drowning out the rapper himself at times. However, the crowd listened attentively when Macklemore took a moment to talk about the city by the bay. “You know, I like my things a little older, worn out…I love San Francisco. Do you know which part I like best? The tenderloin…The other side of Union Square.” He said, continuing, “I like my cities with grit, gum on the sidewalks. San Francisco has grit.”

At that point, Macklemore noted that many members of the audience were wearing apparently thifted fur coats, a shout out to his two time platinum song “Thrift Shop,” which has also claimed the number one spot on the Billboard top 100 charts for three weeks, in addition to topping the charts in Denmark, UK, Canada, France, Australia and New Zealand. He asked to borrow one concert goers coat, which felt “a little small” according to the rapper who then launched into “Thrift Shop”, accompanied by Michael Wansley, better known as Wanz. The song was well received by the electrified audience, feeding off of

Macklemore’s enthusiastic performance, who jumped around the stage and bumped shoulders with his fellow musicians. At the end of the song, Macklemore asked the audience to “crowd surf the bear”, or get the borrowed coat back to the person who gave it to him in the first place.
The relatively small crowd gave the performance a feeling of intimacy, and Macklemore’s penchant for talking to the audience made the experience personal. It’s not a concert anyone in the audience will soon forget.

 

*For more pictures, check out the Foghorn’s Flickr account, which has an entire photo collection of Friday’s concert

Kansas City Royals Draftee Kyle Zimmer on Baseball and Beyond: An Interview with USF’s Highest Professional Draft Pick Ever

Why are you here in SF?
I just came back for the week to hang out, see old friends and work out. We had the Cracked Crab Kickoff Dinner that we do every year. It’s a fundraiser for the baseball team.

Where are you headed after this?
Back to Arizona for Spring Training. It starts in two weeks.

Previously you played for a Minor League team? Which team?
It was the Kane County Cougars, about 45 minutes outside Chicago.

How was that?
I had a lot of fun. It was fun to start pro ball in a cool place like that, we had like 15,000 fans or so a game. It was a good experience.

So I know you had elbow surgery…
Yep, and a scar to prove it!

I heard it was pretty minor. Did you have any problems with it afterward?
No, it was really easy. They just cut it open, took the bone chips out and that was that.

And you felt like you came back to full strength?
Yeah, I’ve been throwing and everything feels normal now.

What are you most excited about about heading to Spring Training?
Just getting back on the field, playing every day and competing.

How long have you been off?
Since the beginning of September. It’s been a long offseason. Since like my freshman year at USF, I’d probably been home for three months total in three years. So it was nice to be home for an extended period of time for the first time in a while.
Did you pitch at all in high school?
I threw 20 innings my senior year. I did well, but I didn’t like it that much.

When did you start considering pitching? Did you ever?
I was never really for it but the coaches here had me throw a couple bullpens, throw in some inter-squad games and I did, and I started doing well. So they said I was going to focus on pitching.

Now how do you feel about it?
I feel like it was the right decision.

Do you miss infielding?
Yeah. I miss hitting a lot, don’t get to do that anymore. But I’ve grown to love pitching. It’s a newfound love.

When did you start thinking that pitching was going to take you beyond college baseball?
My sophomore year here I thought, ‘well I’m starting to get the hang of it, starting to get better and better, if I keep working at it I’ll have then I’ll have a shot to play professionally or after college.’

Had that dream always been there?
Yeah, ever since I was a little kid as long as I can remember I’ve dreamed of being a professional baseball player, but I always thought it would be as a third basemen. So it’s a little strange, but I’m loving it.

Where did this dream come from? Your family?
Yeah, my dad played baseball in college and my mom ran track in college. My mom ran the one hundred meter hurdles at San Diego state, she was actually going to the Olympics and she was favored, but she tore her hamstring in the Olympic trials.

Who are you most excited to pitch against in the majors?
Probably Derek Jeter, I’ve watched him since I was a little kid.

So you really want to strike him out?
Well yeah, I really want to strike him out. But I think it would just be pretty surreal to actually face him. And he’s been one of the greatest hitters of all time. It would be awesome to face him.

Is there anyone you idolized as a kid?
Umm…Nomar Garciaparra was one of my favorite players. I was a shortstop and he was a shortstop.

You were a shortstop? When?
Yeah, growing up I was shortstop and second baseman.

So you played all around the board?
Yeah, I was all over the place.

You played outfield too right?
Yeah, and first base.

So…you never caught?
I did catch actually. I guess now I’ve played every position on the field! I’ve covered them all ha-ha.

Did you ever think you would be drafted as high as you were? What were your expectations?
I guess going in to my junior year, after my junior summer. I played in the Cape Cod League, which is know as the most elite college baseball summer league. There were a bunch of scouts there and I was thinking then, playing against supposedly the best talent in college baseball, ‘I can do this.’ So I sort of set my sights from there, set goals for myself to get drafted in the first round. So I put my head down and started working from there.

Do you ever plan to go back to school?
I do. I only have six classes left to finish my degree.

What is your major?
Business Administration. I definitely want to finish in the near future.

Do you ever want to use your degree?
Nah. I’d love to play baseball forever. Obviously, if my arm blows up, I’d use it. I was always planning on going to law school or graduate school after, but we’ll see.

So does going to Spring Training mean that you have a roster spot?
I’ll break camp on April first, that’s when the teams all break up.I’m probably going to start in either high A or double A, and then like any other job, you get promoted within according to how you are doing and what the team’s needs are. It’s just a matter of how fast they want to move me. Best case scenario would be getting called up to the big league team in September. But more realistically it’ll probably be the start of next year that I’ll be fighting for a spot.

So you grew up in San Diego area, what made you decide to come to San Francisco?
I was actually born here. I was born at UCSF, but I only lived here for the first 14 months of my life and then I grew up in San Diego. The coaching staff here for the baseball team is unbelievable. I loved every minute I spent with them. I like the school a lot and I love the city, I felt like it was a good mix of academics and baseball. And being able to experience the great city for at least a few years.

Do you set goals for yourself?
Last year we had weekly goals. At the beginning of last year, my junior year, I made a goal sheet with future goals for the entire year. I accomplished most of them, one was to get drafted in the first round, another was to win the WCC which we didn’t do. We were close.

Have you met anyone that you’ve been starstruck by yet? Who is the coolest person you have met so far?
I think right when I signed, when I went to Kansas City to sign my contract and do my press conference there, I got to walk through the locker room and all the big leaguers were there and just walking around shaking everyone’s hand was pretty crazy, seeing everyone that I’ve watched on TV for years and know who they are. Hopefully I’ll be a part of that team in the next year or so, so that was pretty crazy. But you get a little bit more numb to it because you meet the guys and realize they are just like me, just other baseball players that like to laugh and make jokes and be stupid.

New USF Runner Crushes School Record in First Race for Dons

In her first race as a San Francisco Don, junior Jana Soethout reached a goal that many college athletes strive for throughout their entire career—she broke a school record. After just two laps around the track, the 23-year-old from Cologne, Germany had left the competition in the dust as she raced her way to a personal victory in the 5,000 meter race, finishing with a time of 16:11.78.

“I am very pleased with how Jana performed. She was very impressive and ran solo from 800 meters and posted a personal record and easy win,” Head Coach Helen Lehman-Winters said to usfdons.com.
“These performances are great early season reads as we approach the outdoor season.”
The Friday night race was one of the first running events of the Husky Classic meet at Dempsey Indoor in Seattle, Wash.

Soethout’s record bests the previous record, set by junior Laura Suur last season, by over 12 seconds. Soethout’s time ended up being the fastest time of all the open heats of the night, which totaled 84 runners.

Other notable performances for the Dons included a first place finish in the 3,000 meter run by redshirt junior Sophie Curl and an eighth place finish by redshirt junior Alice Baker in the 5,000 meter.
Curl’s 9:27.59 finish in the 1.9 mile race was a personal best for the Bellingham, Wash native.

“Sophie was outstanding in her race execution this afternoon,” Lehman-Winters said to
usfdons.com.

“She was patient in her positioning and very competitive in the last phase of the race.”
The Dons run another indoor meet before beginning the outdoor season at the Cal All Comers meet on Feb. 16 in Berkeley, Calif.