the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Sam Bradley ‘23
Towards the end of the last season and through this offseason, Ben Simmons did everything in his power to alienate the 76ers organization. This conflict originated from his involvement in trade talks back in January and the Sixers’ first-round exit from the playoffs, despite being the #1 seed and being hyped up as playoff favorites in the East. This led to him formally requesting a trade from the 76ers organization and burning all bridges with the team. Yet, no trade has occurred. Over the past few months, it has become increasingly evident that the NBA, the 76ers, and Ben Simmons himself all have a very different perception of Simmons as a player.
From Simmons’ perspective, he is a former #1 overall pick getting paid $34 million a year, whose lack of playoff success is directly attributable to the Sixers’ inability to construct a roster worthy of playoff contention. He’s a phenomenal athlete, a lockdown defender, and an above-average playmaker. He believes he has enough sway in the NBA to request exactly where he would like to end up via trade, as only top players do. On the other end of the spectrum, the NBA sees Simmons as a guard who is neither aggressive enough to be a paint scorer nor possesses an outstanding mid-range or 3-point shot.
Additionally, Simmons is known to get into his own head after a poor sequence of plays, only compounding his trouble on the court. This effect seems to be weighing on him not just from play to play but also from game to game. Each year since his rookie season, he has taken fewer and fewer shots, likely because it is simply not beneficial for him to be the one taking the shots. He is known to be a good passer, but this alone is not enough to justify his potential cap hit or the resources necessary to acquire him. Likewise, he is a great defender, but primarily on the perimeter. And elite defense isn’t the sought-after skill it once was. In a league where the average points scored per game has steadily increased every year over the past decade and is now nearly 20 points higher than it was in 2010, scoring takes priority over all else. To keep up with high-powered teams that have three #1 options like the Brooklyn Nets, you need to be a dominant scorer in one way or another. Simmons is not.
Somewhere in between is the 76ers view of Simmons. They were the ones that spent the prestigious first-overall pick on him after all, and he has been a net positive for their franchise over the past four years. But he has been a limiting factor in their playoff chances and his inability to be the second option to Joel Embiid has left the offense largely on Embiid’s shoulders. Late last season, there were instances where Simmons was even a liability in crucial offensive situations to the point where he was benched if they needed to recover from a deficit. For your second-highest-paid player to not be considered top five in scoring capability by his own organization is an unbelievably bad problem. If they are allowed to replace him with a legitimate second option, they should jump on it. But coming off the worst year of his professional career, it doesn’t seem like Simmons will command that kind of value on the market.
The result of this is a stalemate of sorts, where the 76ers aren’t able to receive what they feel is a fair asking price, and the rest of the NBA is unwilling to overpay for a player who has only shown regression since his rookie season. In an era of the NBA where you can seemingly dish out contracts worth eight figures annually to average players, Ben Simmons’ deal isn’t as impressive as it seemed upon signing. But $34 million for a player who isn’t either a knockdown shooter or an elite interior presence is still not justifiable in the eyes of statistically-inclined GMs. Additionally, his recent behavior of holding out, missing practices, and being fined for ‘detrimental conduct’ in Philadelphia will likely become a massive red flag to prospective teams looking to make a deal.
So what’s next for Simmons? It seems like he will either begrudgingly play out the rest of the season, or a desperate small market team will overpay the 76ers for the former ‘Rookie of the Year’. But until then, Ben Simmons is back to being an expensive, timid guard with below-average shooting, whose greatest asset is becoming less and less valuable in today’s NBA.
By Ryan Jainchill ‘23
Below: Troy Terry scoring in Vancouver.
Through about a month of play in the NHL season, many storylines are starting to form. Players are breaking out, bouncing back, and struggling, as well as more turmoil surrounding the league’s public image headline the news. Here is a look at the good and the bad of this young season.
Up: Troy Terry, Forward, Anaheim Ducks
After 14 games played this young season, Troy Terry has blossomed into one of the Ducks’ next stars. Terry leads Anaheim with 19 points in these 14 games and is currently riding a 13-game point streak. Terry has taken the league by surprise with 11 goals and eight assists on Anaheim’s top line alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Adam Henrique. After an abysmal 2020 campaign, the Ducks have risen to third in the wide-open Pacific Division. His hot streak will likely tail off soon, but for the moment, Troy Terry’s abilities have given a Ducks franchise that has sat near the bottom of the league for a while some hope for the future. Besides Terry, a core of youngsters including Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish and Jamie Drysdale could make the Ducks a team to fear in upcoming seasons.
Down: Kaapo Kakko, Forward, New York Rangers
The second overall pick in the 2019 Entry Draft by the Rangers, Kaapo Kakko, has struggled big-time recently — no points through nine games and a minus-two rating. The young 20-year-old Finnish winger finally buried his first goal Nov. 15 against New Jersey. Kakko plays on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome, two phenomenal players. Getting second-line power play time on a talented Rangers squad is impressive, but no tallies on the score sheet through the nine games is not what the Rangers expect from Kaako. This performance should cause concern for Rangers fans. The team drafted Alexis Lafreniere with the first overall selection in 2020 and expected Kakko to blossom alongside him. Instead, the latter has had ups and downs and will need to prove something to the Rangers in the next few months if he wants to stay with the team; his entry level contract expires at the conclusion of the season, making for his future in New York possibly uncertain with the teams cap situation and many extensions kicking in on July 1.
Down: The Arizona Coyotes
To put it simply, Arizona is not very good this year. Not good at all. They started the season 0-10-1 before finally defeating the Seattle Kraken in early November. To complement how bad they are on the ice, finding stability with their management in the city of Glendale, Arizona, has caused further turmoil. For starters, the 2019-20 Coyotes started the season hot, traded for star Taylor Hall, got into the expanded pandemic playoff, defeated the Nashville Predators in four games, then got destroyed by the juggernaut Colorado Avalanche. Due to this surge in expenditures, the 2020-21 Coyotes had almost no cap space remaining. The team struggled for periods and had little space to maneuver around impending cap issues and mediocre performance. So, second-year general manager Bill Armstrong — hired after predecessor John Chayka was fired — traded away most value pieces, prospects, and draft picks for cap relief. Captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland were sent to Vancouver for a first-round pick and bad contracts. Christian Dvorak was shipped to Montreal for draft picks. Darcy Keumper was sent to Colorado for a first-rounder and a prospect. Alex Goligoski, Derek Brassard and Michael Bunting were all let go in free agency. All of these moves come with the asterisk of the Coyotes owning no first-round pick in 2021. This was because of the illegal scouting of prospects by Chayka and the previous administration. The Coyotes were without a first-rounder in 2021 until the OEL/Garland trade and were stripped of a second-round draft pick the year before. One bright spot of this terrible start to the season is that most of the awful Chayka acquisitions — plus some from Armstrong moves — expire at the end of the season. Only six out of 27 players to play a game for the team are under contract past next season. Arizona has eight picks in the first two rounds of the 2022 draft, along with available cap space. But a growing separation amongst the team and the city they call home is an issue that NHL executive Gary Bettman and the rest of the higher-ups need to fix before the team finds more success.
Up: The Florida Panthers
Moving away from the drama in the desert, the sunshine state has two extremely competitive clubs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and their back-to-back Stanley Cups garner most of the attention, but the Florida Panthers across the state in Miami. Forget their attendance woes; this franchise is on fire. Captain Aleksander Barkov and forwards Jonathan Huberdeau, Anthony Duclair, plus many newly acquired players, lead one of the most explosive offenses in hockey. On the backend, Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar aid the best goaltending tandem in the league — Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight, rated two of the highest at the position. Both have plus .900 save percentages and close to 2.00 goals-against averages. Bobrovsky, bouncing back from two bad seasons in Florida, holds a $10-million contract for the next five years. Knight, a rookie, is showing his potential as a star-caliber goalie. The Panthers lead the highly competitive Atlantic Division, placing ahead of their rival Lightning, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, all playoff teams from the prior season. Impressive, right? Despite all the success, the team was forced to let go of head coach Joel Quenneville for his role in the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks scandal. Members of the Blackhawks are in some deep trouble amidst the alleged sexual assault by one of their former assistants on his players. Andrew Brunette, named interim head coach, has kept the Panthers streaking, but the team's biggest test will come with the sustainability of great goaltending and offensive performance.
Down: The handling of the Kyle Beach situation
Going back to the topic of the Chicago Blackhawks, much was hidden from the public until recently. The 2010 Blackhawks scandal and alleged assault by former assistant Brad Aldrich on former player Kyle Beach have had the league scrambling for answers. To keep from sharing explicit information, the whole story cannot be shared because some information is not publicized. The NHL is trying its hardest to cover up the entire situation regarding Beach and those in the Blackhawks organization. The effects of the original cover-up by the Blackhawks have come to light as of recently. Some of those involved still play roles around the league. As mentioned, Quenneville resigned as head coach of the Panthers. Kevin Cheveldayoff, currently general manager of the Winnipeg Jets and general manager of that 2010 team, was almost forced to do the same but alleges no knowledge of such events. Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks’ president of hockey operations, resigned in October. Star players were accused of using degrading slurs towards Beach. Since the incident happened so long ago, many are already retired. But those who are still playing are being questioned, like superstar Blackhawks tandem Captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. But what has many concerned is the NHL’s cover-up of the scandal. Bettman and his crew fined the Blackhawks $2 million for the incident, the same amount Arizona was fined for John Chayka’s actions. Putting it into perspective is disgusting. The cover-up of sexual assault by an employee who was brushed away because the team won the 2010 Stanley Cup was treated similarly to a team trying to gain competitive advantages? As bad as cheating was, it is incomparable to a sexual assault scandal, and Bettman trying to push it away is disgraceful. Millions have come out in support of Beach and his bravery for revealing himself as the anonymous target. The NHL has remained relatively silent during this, leading many to question Bettman’s job. Even with Beach revealing himself, there is still another unnamed victim who was sexually assaulted by Aldrich at the age of 16. Beach’s bravery to reveal himself as the victim of such heinous crimes is remarkable, and the NHL’s need to keep a sturdy public image has made his road to justice even tougher.
Up: Fans in the Stands
A year and a half separated the last two regular-season games at total capacity — March 11, 2020 concluded with the Los Angeles Kings defeating the Ottawa Senators in overtime. On Oct. 12, 2021, the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first game with maximum attendance. Although the 2021 playoffs — from the second round to the finals — featured almost total capacity in American arenas, the seven Canadian franchises had a season of no fans. Not until game six of the Toronto-Montreal series in the first round of the playoffs were fans allowed in the Bell Centre in Montreal. That Montreal team played in nearly full capacity arenas in Las Vegas and Tampa but had a less than 20% home capacity. Luckily, packed crowds are welcomed back in the 31 active NHL arenas (the New York Islanders have not yet played a game in their new arena at the time of writing). This offseason, a new franchise joined the league up in Seattle. In early October, their first home game against Vancouver featured some of the loudest cheers for fans when Vince Dunn scored the franchise's first goal on home ice. Crowds roared up in Edmonton when Connor McDavid split four Ranger defenders on his way for a tying goal, a goal many have called the best they have seen in years. Tyler Bertuzzi lit up Little Caesars Arena in Detroit with a four goal game against Tampa. Old rivalries were renewed in Toronto when Boston came to Scotiabank Arena. Vegas Golden Knights fans welcomed the new acquisition of star Jack Eichel after a trade from Buffalo. Many teams have benefited from the return of fans, and it is easy to tell by the excitement of players and fans.
By Alice Tao ‘24
Seemingly out of nowhere, “Squid Game” has risen to prominence and became a worldwide sensation quickly after its debut on Sept. 17, 2021. The Netflix show tallied 111 million views as of Oct. 12. Ted Sarandos, Netflix co-chief executive, claimed that “It is going to be our biggest show ever.” So, how exactly did this hyper-violent and even bizarre South Korean series become Netflix’s biggest hit?
The show’s storyline touched on the gap between rich and poor, which is believed to identify with much of the audience. The main character, Seong Gi-hun, a divorced chauffeur and gambling addict who struggles to support his family financially, decided to participate in the game to settle his many debts. However, he was not the only one. This series closely revolved around 456 players who were in deep financial debt, risking their lives in the game for the chance to win a 45.6 billion Won prize, which is worth $39 million U.S. dollars. With only one winner in the competition, viewers know that almost everyone will die. The evidently impossible mission to come on top with a 1/456 probability unexpectedly kept the players going. It is important that viewers recognize the mindset each of the players had throughout the course of the contest and how these are the people who only think about money.
The show used traditional Korean games to unfold the story. With over half of the players slaughtered in the first game, many survivors demanded the game’s cancellation. Using the game’s third clause, the game was successfully canceled, and all players were sent back to reality. The pause of the game meant the safety of the rest of the players. Seong Gi-hun returned back to Seoul and his real-life predicaments piled onto him including his mother who needed surgery. With desperation, Seong Gi-hun and many others decided to return to the game after the invitation. This decision vividly reflects that the importance of money outweighs a high risk of death for these players. They were fully aware of the situation they got themselves into and the danger the game potentially holds, yet they still chose money over life. It might be difficult for many viewers to understand such an unthorough choice; however, for these players, reality is more brutal and haunting than deadly survival games.
Another significant aspect of “Squid Game” is the portrayal of human immorality. The cold and unaccountable deaths imply to the players that the only way to survive is to be the last person standing, thus necessitating the deaths of others. While the violence is prominent and intense, the raw and emotional response of the characters in their desire to survive makes this series powerful. Audiences witnessed countless betrayals including “friends” that murdered each other and evil plots against teammates. In Episode 6, authentic human nature came into action when players had to choose between betraying their partner or negotiating a friend’s death. The emotional turmoil during the course of the contest, especially in this game, runs high when given no other options. It is at that peak of desperation when the pitfalls of humanity are revealed, and that people will turn to immoral behaviors.
From watching this heartfelt series, the viewers gained a different viewpoint on the world and the brutal realities some people face. Although life is what one should value the most, in the midst of desperation, money is what some may choose to have a chance at survival, even if it is 1 in 456.
By Allen Zhou '23
Image Credit: IAEA Imagebank - COP26 - https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=112225031
In the past few weeks, Glasgow, Scotland has been abuzz with activity as the host of the United Nations Climate Conference (COP26). Even Greta Thunberg came on the scene without her father’s company for the first time to join the protestors jeering at the empty bluster. Every voice was louder than the last, but meaningful action seems ineffectual and distant in comparison to the urgency of the situation at hand.
Aren’t we math-loving Martlets? Let's run some numbers first. The current global annual carbon dioxide emissions are 37 billion tons per year. To keep the increase of the Earth’s temperature within 1.5°C by 2100, global net emissions should be zero by 2050, and the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere should be reduced by more than 10 billion tons every year thereafter. This dire situation has developed very rapidly compared to the time humans have been active on Earth. Before the Industrial Revolution in the early 19th century, the carbon dioxide content in the earth's atmosphere hovered between 185-275 ppm (parts per million). However, in the following 200 years, due to the extensive burning of fossil fuels, this has risen sharply and now exceeds 410 ppm. Since the greenhouse gas problem stems from technological progress, the solution must also depend on the technological revolution.
Recently, I heard about various solutions that claim to achieve zero emissions. The most interesting one is an advertisement I heard on the radio: "Using our credit card can help you offset your carbon emissions." After doing some research, the program appears to rely on planting trees to offset the carbon dioxide a person creates. However, after careful calculation, this scheme is far too minimal in terms of real impact. Every year a tree can absorb approximately 22 kilograms of carbon dioxide, every acre of forest can absorb about 2.5 tons. To absorb 370 billion tons of carbon dioxide, there need to be 148 billion acres more forest. Taking into account that the total land surface area of Earth is only around 370 billion acres and that almost a third of that land is already being forested, there simply is not enough land to plant all of these trees. This is not even beginning to consider how much of said land is unviable for vegetation, with vast areas such as Siberia and Antarctica being completely unfit for such a plan. Clearly, just planting more trees is not going to be enough.
What about the trendy Elon Musk electric vehicles — can a widespread adoption of those help us achieve zero emissions? First, we must examine how much transportation impacts the planet. Transportation includes aviation, land and sea, which together account for 10% of carbon emissions. Even if every person on Earth began using Tesla electric vehicles, and all-electric vehicles are powered by renewable energy such as solar and wind power, we can only reduce emissions by 3 billion tons per year. Also taking into consideration that carbon emissions are caused by the production of batteries and vehicles, electric vehicles alone can only help us solve a small part of a far bigger problem.
Next, let us take a closer look at one of the supposedly important achievements of COP26. One hundred countries have pledged to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030, which is equivalent to 130-230 million tons reduction per year. This figure pales in comparison to the annual total emission of 37 billion tons, which makes the impact of this commitment seem very limited. Fortunately, because methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, if these nations deliver on their promises, the effect will be comparable to everyone driving an electric car every day.
It is apparent that even if we immediately achieve zero emissions, our climate will continue to warm because the current concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is too high. The only way to keep the temperature stable is evidently to rapidly lower the concentrations of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. In other words, zero-emissions are far from enough, and "negative emissions" are needed. Luckily, great strides have already been made in developing a solution to scrubbing CO2 from the atmosphere.
In Iceland, not far from Scotland, scientists at CarbFix discovered that carbon dioxide can be dissolved into water and injected into the areas rich with basalt deep underground. After a few years, these carbonated water-infused volcanic rocks will become crystal clear stones called Iceland Spar, locking CO2 inside permanently. This process scrubs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turns it into a solid and stores it underground, thereby reducing the greenhouse effect. Iceland is a volcanic island, so basalt is incredibly plentiful, which is why this method is very suitable for the region. Although only 13,000 tons of carbon dioxide can be extracted per year, it is estimated that it can be increased to 1 million tons per year in the next 10 years. Moreover, there are many places with similar crustal compositions in the world. If 200 facilities of a similar scale are established, they can certainly make a meaningful dent in the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration.
Knowing that basalt is still a relatively limited resource, is there another more abundant resource able to lock in CO2? A potential answer lies in seawater. The ocean acts as the biggest carbon sink on earth, but it’s already quite saturated making it necessary to separate CO2 from seawater and lock it into a solid to extract this excess CO2. At the forefront of parsing out this issue are researchers from the School of Engineering at UCLA. According to a paper published earlier this year, they have created electrode devices in the laboratory that cause the dissolved CO2 in the seawater to combine with calcium and magnesium ions to form a solid CaCO3 or MgCO3, thereby locking away the CO2 permanently. The researchers calculated that the calcium and magnesium ions in the ocean are more than sufficient to combine all the carbon dioxide that needs to be solidified, making this solution applicable on a global scale. In addition to the hardware equipment, the only additional requirement for this process is electricity. About 2300 kilowatt-hours (KWh) of electricity is needed to solidify each ton of carbon dioxide. If 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide need to be solidified every year, it will consume 23 trillion-watt-hours (TWh) of electricity. This number is quite vexing, as the current global annual electricity generation is only about 25 TWh. The current global renewable energy power generation capacity is already 2.8 gigawatts. If they are running at 80% capacity 50% of the time, they can generate about 10 TWh of electricity per year. We need only to double the installed capacity, double their uptime, or improve their efficiency, and we will have enough electricity to run these “mineralization” machines. In addition, this method will be optimized in the future, which will greatly reduce power consumption. Also, the best part is that the by-product of this method is hydrogen, which can be used as an energy source in other fields. Therefore, this method may be one of the effective ways to quickly resolve greenhouse gases. Let us wait and see.
As usual, COP26 was an ebullient show of political posturing and weak answers to burning questions, but it did accomplish one very important thing: it brought even more attention to a pressing crisis. With our resources and intelligence pooled, breakthroughs and innovation will soon follow.
By Grace Yuan ‘23
U.S. Supreme Court, Washington, D.C. — Image Credit: The Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
Abortion has been legal in most American states and regions since 1973 when, in Roe v. Wade case, the U.S. Supreme Court granted women the right to an abortion. However, despite this federal blanketing abortion law there still exists antagonistic issues about abortion laws. The divisive and contentious issues spawn the American cultures, society, religions and political divide. Texas recently passed and implemented a heartbeat abortion law, Senate Bill 8 (SB8), which almost bans abortion in the state. The abortion law has brought about heated debate and legal proceedings in the Supreme Court on its constitutionality and structure by the federal government and abortion providers.
The Texas abortion law came into effect on Sept. 1, 2021, after efforts to block its implementation at the Supreme Court failed. The SB8 is a law that almost bans any type of abortion after six weeks of pregnancy or when the heartbeat is detected. Additionally, it does not give exceptions for incest, and rape while other special circumstances are not clearly stipulated. This is in contrast to the 1973 ruling on Roe v. Wade that gave the right to an abortion up to about 24 weeks of pregnancy and before viability.
However, the way the law is written and structured makes it almost impossible to challenge in court. This is because it bars all state officials from barring or attempting to bar any person from carrying out an abortion. However, it gives the public and any private members to sue anybody who provides abortion services or abets abortion to any woman after six weeks of gestation. The complainants cannot be fined or asked to pay attorney fees even if they lose. Conversely, if they win, they are entitled to receive an attorney fee and a bounty of $10,000 from the defendant. In addition, they can be sued several times by different persons in the same case.
The federal government through the Attorney General has initiated a court case against the law deeming it unconstitutional. According to the Attorney General, the abortion law transgresses the federal laws on abortion. The Justice Department officials argue that such a law was pre-empted by the Constitution. Additionally, they assert that the provisions of the Supremacy Clause, Constitution, and the 14th Amendment invalidate such a law. They further add that such a law infringes the intergovernmental immunity doctrine due to its assumption of the constitution. The case by the abortion providers seeks to make the abortion law open to federal court review since it hinders access to a constitutional right.
A closer look at the two cases highlights that the cases brought to the Supreme Court by the two plaintiffs are not about constitutionality. Rather, they are cases that seek to determine the enforceability of the law and whether the law can be open to scrutiny in a federal review process. This is because in a constitutionality case, a plaintiff has to name state or public officials as the defendants. However, in the Texas abortion law, the state officials are not the enforcers and hence they cannot be named as defendants. Specifically, the state officials have been barred from take any part in the enforcement.
The general public and private citizens have been given the mandate to enforce the SB8 without any involvement of state authorities. Additionally, the women seeking abortion cannot be sued and hence their plea for a constitutional right cannot be used. As such, the design and the structure of the abortion law leaves the Supreme Court judges in a tight spot. Such an argument is held because if the court allows the law to stand other states including Texas might pass similar laws to deny constitutional rights such as gun ownership and same sex nuptials. Could this be the end of abortion in America? However, it is only good that the Supreme Court is not pre-emptied and a judgement is awaited.