YouTube’s “Restricted Mode” Blocks LGBTQ+ Topics

YouTube recently updated their “restricted mode,” which filters out and blocks videos that would be considered not family-friendly. The controversy about this update, though, is that videos about LGBTQ+ topics are now being blocked.

YouTube's error screen when trying to view a blocked video in restricted mode.

YouTube’s error screen when trying to view a blocked video in restricted mode.

This sparked a huge backlash on social media sites such as Twitter. The hashtags “#YouTubeIsOverParty” and “#YouTubeRestricted” were in the top ten trending topics on Twitter for quite a while after the update was implemented. One user uploaded the exact same arbitrary video to YouTube twice, except one of them had the word “gay” in the title. That one was blocked, but the one without “gay” in the title wasn’t.

Videos aren’t the only thing being censored. Entire channels were being blocked just because the creators are LGBTQ+. Micah Scott, a transgender YouTube creator who makes videos about electric engineering, had her entire channel blocked because of the mode, even though she doesn’t have a single video about LGBTQ+ topics on her channel. Micah tweeted “Schools that use restricted mode should know they’re letting a buggy AI define their students’ access to information.”

LGBTQ+ rights activists are saying that this is preventing children who may be questioning their sexuality or gender from getting access to helpful resources. YouTube is the main medium that kids will look through to find other people who may share similar experiences and have useful information for people like them. Blocking those topics is like preventing children going through puberty from learning about what is happening to their body. It could leave them confused, upset, angry, and depressed.

YouTube replied to the outcry by saying “We are so proud to represent LGBTQ+ voices on our platform–they’re a key part of what YouTube is all about. The intention of Restricted Mode is to filter out mature content for the tiny subset of users who want a more limited experience. LGBTQ+ videos are available in Restricted Mode, but videos that discuss more sensitive issues may not be. We regret any confusion this has caused and are looking into your concerns. We appreciate your feedback and passion for making YouTube such an inclusive, diverse, and vibrant community.” People didn’t take that as an apology, though.

The fact that YouTube openly admitted to censoring some LGBTQ+ videos only caused more backlash. It outright goes against their democratic motto, “Broadcast Yourself.” Many creators are arguing that this is YouTube’s way of equating LGBTQ+ topics, and even people, as “not family-friendly.” Social media rioted even more than they did originally after this statement.

Because of this, Johanna Wright, Vice President of Product Management for YouTube, made another apology: “While the system will never be 100 percent perfect, as we said up top, we must and will do a better job. Thanks to your feedback, we’ve manually reviewed the example videos mentioned above and made sure they’re now available in Restricted Mode — we’ll also be using this input to better train our systems. It will take time to fully audit our technology and roll out new changes, so please bear with us. There’s nothing more important to us than being a platform where anyone can belong, have a voice and speak out when they believe something needs to be changed. We truly appreciate your help keeping the YouTube community archive and engaged on topics that matter to creators and YouTube fans alike.” Channel owners were then given the option to make individual cases if needed.

Controversy is still going on about this topic, and how YouTube could be purposefully blocking LGBTQ+ creators and topics. But for now, the fact that creators have a voice in whether their videos get blocked is a step in the right direction.

E.P.A. Cuts

Back in 2014, a town in Ohio found a green substance in their water supply, rendering the drinking water for nearly half a million residents unsafe. Toledo’s environmental agency sent samples of the water to the E.P.A. lab in Cincinnati and they found that the water contained microcystin, a rare but toxic substance that is produced by algae blooms in water and causes liver damage in humans. The funding that allowed the E.P.A. to respond to the situation is now being threatened by Trump’s 2018 fiscal year budget. With the E.P.A. receiving a 31% cut, larger than any other agency, problems like these will have no way to be solved. Many environmental problems that need help from the E.P.A. will no longer be funded, such as oil and chemical spills to name a couple. Trump’s new budget would cut the E.P.A. from a current budget of $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion and cut 3,200 jobs from their current 15,000 employees.EPA

Former E.P.A. officials say that in cases of responding to emergencies like the one that affected Toledo’s water supply, states often lack the resources and expertise to clean up these problems, and without the help from E.P.A. they would not be able to. Mr. Butler, the director of Ohio’s environmental agency, said, “I’m a huge fan of cooperative federalism… This process of reviewing the federal budget and removing programs that are duplicative is completely appropriate.” But he added, “Where that message conflicts with the president’s budget is where they say, ‘Hey, states, we want you to do this work, but we’re going to cut your budget to do it.’”

Trump wants to cut E.P.A. funding and have states do their own environmental work, but is making it impossible because most of the funding for states’ environmental agencies comes from the E.P.A.

Blade Runner Sequel in The Works

Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel to the original 1982 science fiction cult classic Blade Runner. Blade Runner 2049 has a set United States release date for October 6, 2017. The film will be directed by Denis Villeneuve and is starring Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, Harrison Ford and Robin Wright. This sequel is being made because the original is a world renowned cult classic.

 

Some fans of the original film are very upset about this. They think that since the original had such an ambiguous ending, it ruins the original because then it does not leave you thinking about the questions Ridley Scott (director of the original) wanted you to be thinking about.

 

(Warning: SPOILERS)

At the end of the original film, it is implied that the main character Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a replicant, which are the robots that he was assigned to kill in the beginning. Earlier in the film, it is explained to Rick by the cops who hired him to hunt down the replicants that memories and dreams are placed into the minds of replicants, and he turns his head and looks at the other cop that is trying to convince him to take the job and sees he is making an origami of a swan.

 

Later in the film, about halfway through, Rick is thinking of a memory he had of a unicorn dashing through the forest. This could not have been an actual memory of his. At the very end of the film when he decides to run off with a replicant named Rachel, he is walking with her and sees a unicorn origami. Many, including the films director Ridley Scott, say that this means that he is a replicant and the origamis were made as models for installed memories. Harrison Ford and some others deny this theory though.

 

Replicants in the film were given only four year life spans and the sequel takes place 30 years after the original. These were only one type of replicants, though (Nexus 6 replicants). Denis Villeneuve, director of 2049, said that Deckard is “not necessarily” a human.

(No more spoilers)
Blade Runner 2049 has a stacked cast and crew. The films director, Denis Villeneuve, has directed many famous movies of the 2010s. He directed the 2016 Oscar-nominated science fiction film Arrival, the drug-cartel thriller Sicario with Benicio Del Toro and Emily Blunt, and the very popular neo-noir mystery Prisoners with Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Paul Dano. The film’s cinematographer, Roger Deakins, is widely regarded as one of the best cinematographers of all time. Roger Deakins did the cinematography for many famous films such as The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Skyfall, etc. He also did the cinematography for Villeneuve’s films Prisoners and Sicario and gained much acclaim for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, for which he got an Oscar nomination. The film’s musical composer, Johann Johannsson, did Villeneuve’s films Sicario, Prisoners, and Arrival.

The Mystery of the Pink Lake

Over the past few weeks, the internet has been filled with pictures of a mysterious pink lake in the center of Melbourne, Australia. This sparks a question: Are such lakes real? And if they are, how do they become pink? The answer may surprise you.

A view of the pink lake in Melbourne

A view of the pink lake in Melbourne

Those pictures flooding social media are actually real, and it’s completely natural! And they can happen all over the world, too! For this specific lake in Melbourne, it’s an annual occurrence. When the weather gets dry and water starts evaporating, the salinity of the water drastically increases. The result is a lake with salinity levels about ten times higher than the ocean. That’s more salty than the Dead Sea, at nine times higher than ocean water. This makes it almost impossible for any organism to live there. But there is one in particular that stays.

There is a species of algae that loves salt, and also produces carotenoids, or red-colored pigments. When these algae are the only things living in a lake, it’s only a matter of time before the carotenoids fill the lake and give it that hot pink color.

The carotenoid-producing algae live in many lakes all over the world. Most of them aren’t pink though, because they aren’t the only things living in those lakes. One of these is Las Salinas de Torrevieja in Spain, which attracts thousands of flamingos every breeding season. The carotenoids are what make the feathers of flamingos pink, and what makes some brine shrimp pink.

The Laguna Verde and its signature turquoise color

The Laguna Verde and its signature turquoise color

The Laguna Colorada and its blood red hue

The Laguna Colorada and its blood red hue

The lakes don’t only have to be pink, though. There are several lakes such as the Laguna Colorada and the Laguna Verde, both part of Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve in Bolivia, which have many other odd colors, also due to certain algae and minerals in the water. These two, in particular, are blood red and turquoise, respectively.

 

While this lake in Melbourne looks like it would be a blast to swim in, it’s not the best idea. Getting the water in your eyes would feel like soy sauce, and the salt would crystallize right there in your eyes when it dried. Looking at the lake, however, is perfectly fine, and it attracts many tourists. The lake is expected to return to its normal color when the southern hemisphere starts to cool down and get more rain in June.

Upcoming Disney and Pixar Films

It was recently revealed by Walt Disney Animation Studios that the sequel to the Oscar-nominated film Wreck-it Ralph is scheduled to be released on March 9, 2018, which means that it officially comes out less than a year from now. The movie will be about Wreck-it Ralph and Vanellope Von Schweetz exploring and wrecking the internet. As of now, the sequel does not have an official title.

Rich Moore, who directed the first film, will team up with Phil Johnston to direct the sequel. John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, and Alan Tudyk will return to the screen in their original roles. Jodi Benson, James Corden, and Ana Ortiz were also announced as cast members, though their roles are currently unknown.

Concept art for Gigantic.

Concept art for Gigantic.

Disney’s next upcoming animated film, Gigantic, is an adaptation of the classic fairy-tale Jack and the Beanstalk. It will be directed by Nathan Greno, who directed Tangled. In the movie, Jack will climb up a beanstalk and encounter a 60-foot-tall eleven-year-old girl named Inma, as well as several other giants such a the evil Storm Giants. The score will be written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who won an Oscar for their work in Frozen.

Pixar also has several films coming out in the next few years. Cars 3 is coming out on June 16, and it is about Lightning McQueen’s life after a crash that forced him to retire from racing. He gets trained by another car, Cruz Ramirez, to race again. Another future film is The Incredibles 2, which will be written and directed by Brad Bird and released on June 15, 2018. In addition, the Toy Story franchise will be getting yet another sequel. This film, Toy Story 4, comes out on June 21, 2019 and centers around the lives of the toys now that they have a new owner, as well as Woody and Buzz’s search for Bo Peep, who did not appear in the third film.

Coco is the only original Pixar film that has been announced for the next few years.

Coco is the only original Pixar film that has been announced for the next few years.

Coco is the only upcoming Pixar movie that is not a sequel. It follows a boy named Miguel who dreams of becoming a musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. When he gets whisked away to the Land of the Dead, he meets a skeleton named Hector who assists him in his journey to discover and learn more about his family history. Coco will be released on November 22 and its first trailer came out on March 15.

There are so many upcoming films for Disney and Pixar fans to get excited about, but there is much we still don’t know about them. Fortunately, we only have a few years to wait until they hit the big screen.

Goldfish In Danger?

March 21st marks the first day of the vernal equinox, also known as spring in the Northern Hemisphere. To Iranians, this begins Nowruz (Translation: New Day), also known as the new year. This holiday originates from the Zoroastrian religion, dating back to the early Persian empire, and is widely celebrated by Iranians of all faiths. As part of the Persian tradition during the new year, a table is set up called Haft Seen (Translation: 7 S’s). This table typically consists of foods, which start with the letter S in the persian language (sprouts, dried fruit, apples garlic, pudding, vinegar, crushed sumac berries), as well as goldfish put in a clear bowl. Each item placed on the table symbolizes one’s wishes for the new year, such as growth, love, beauty, health, fertility, patience, and wisdom. Goldfish in particular symbolize good luck, good fortune, and life.

On March 20th, Sam Mojabi went to a local Petco shop to purchase goldfish for the holiday. When he asked a sales associate for goldfish, his ethnicity was question. Once Mojabi mentioned he was of Persian descent, the sales associate systematically denied him the sale. Shocked, he asked why, and the only response he was provided was that it was a decision made by headquarters, even after mentioning that he had intentions of taking great care of the fish. Mojabi later found out that his sister Samira was also denied the sale at another Petco location during the same month. Outraged, they filed a lawsuit with their attorney Henrik Sardarbegian for civil rights violations and a violation of the state Business and Professions Code. “During this time, Petco stores specifically declined the sale of goldfish to Persians and those of Iranian background,” the suit alleges. Petco and its management “sent out memorandum commanding its retail staff to decline the sale of such fish to Persians,” the suit also alleges. Their attorney argued, “Petco’s refusal to sell goldfish to Persians may have arisen from a mistaken belief that people intend to kill the fish. They [Persians] absolutely do not harm the fish. People want the fish to live as long as possible, because the longer a family keeps the fish alive, the more fortune and life is brought to them during the year.” Their attorney also argued that people who were not Persian were not asked their intent before being allowed to buy goldfish, specifically saying, “Right now, a 15-year-old boy who wants to buy a goldfish to feed to his snake could go and buy one.” The only response provided by Petco was, “We [Petco] have a strong commitment to animal welfare and responsible pet ownership and we do not tolerate discrimination of any sort. While we do not comment on pending litigation, we are looking into the specifics, if any, of this claim.” The Mojabi’s attorney fired back, saying that Petco’s policy also has “tended to cause discontent, animosity, harm, resentment or envy among the various cultures, and is especially troubling, arbitrary and invidious at a time when our nation and its citizens are working harder than ever to mend racial and cultural divisions across the country.”

The lawsuit was settled on October 12th, with no further details released. Petco no longer has a store policy of denying the sale of goldfish to Persians on the first day of spring. Like attorney Sardarbegian said, denying those of Iranian and Persian background the right to buy goldfish for the celebration of the Iranian New Year is “illegal and repugnant,” and is just as bad as charging women and blacks higher prices for merchandise than men and whites, or as denying sales of items to gays that heterosexuals are allowed to buy. Although there are still animal rights organizations which have objected to the tradition, claiming the fish die after the celebration due to health problems or the shock of being turned loose into streams or ponds, thankfully the holiday and its traditions of more than 3000 years are still peacefully and safely celebrated.

3114943-86e8219d05b05b4fcac89cae27109f81a7775b3e-s900-c85

A woman setting up her Haftseen table as part of tradition for Nowruz

Lady Liberty’s Lights Go Out. On Purpose Or Just A Coincidence?

Statue-Of-Liberty-Lit-Up-At-Night1

Lady Liberty’s normal, beaming appearance

On Tuesday, March 7th, the Statue of Liberty temporarily went dark from 10:00 PM to 11:30 PM. With her entire body and robe completely covered in darkness, only her crown and torch was left glowing on the New York Harbor. Ironically, the incident took place on International Women’s Day, making timing of Lady Liberty’s blackout appear all too coincidental to some. Although the official twitter account of the Statue of Liberty National Monument posted the morning after the incident, “Some lights on the Statue were temporarily off tonight. Likely related to new emergency generator/Hurricane Sandy recovery project work,” some viewed the glitch as intentional. Organizers of the Women’s March called on thousands to strike on “A Day Without a Woman.” Some believe that perhaps America’s most illustrious woman took the opportunity to be the very first to speak and protest on the special day. According to the Women’s March website, their group’s strike intended to acknowledge, “the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system, while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment and job insecurity.” Lady Liberty making her presence known during the effort was not gone unrecognized by the group, and the official Twitter account of the Women’s March posted, “Thank you Lady Liberty for standing with the resistance and going dark for #DayWithoutAWoman.” Others who also saw deeper meaning in Lady Liberty’s break from her normal illuminating self also took advantage and went to Twitter to post their opinions. Raymond Braun posted, “CNN has just reported that the Statue of Liberty has gone dark tonight. Power failure or social commentary?” Aparna Nancherla posted, “Apparently the Statue of Liberty lights went out due to a power failure. But I would argue women are also protesting due to a power failure.” Unfortunately, the activists were shut down to the idea that the recent happenings were purposely caused. Jerry Willis from the National Parks Service provided an explanation as to why everything happened the way it did, “ The temporary, unplanned outage occurred after a lighting system controller was switched off to change out faulty lighting equipment. When the repair was completed, the lighting system controller wasn’t properly reset, leading to the outage.” Deeper meaning and symbolism can still be found, for everything does happen for a reason, and Lady Liberty could not have picked a more perfect time to draw attention to herself. Fortunately, she has now gone back to her usual, shining self.

The Life & Times of Edward Norton

You’ve probably heard of Edward Norton. You probably only know him as that actor in Fight Club and Birdman and not as that philanthropist and environmental activist.

 

Known for his humility, he has even gone so far to say, “If I ever have to stop taking the subway, I’m gonna have a heart attack”. Edward Harrison Norton was born on August 18th, 1969 to Edward Mower Norton Jr. and Lydia Robinson. His father Edward Mower Norton Jr., was a marine lieutenant in Vietnam, an environmental lawyer and federal prosecutor under the Carter administration. His father is what inspired him to be an environmentalist.

 

Norton has given millions of dollars towards clean energy and charities for more affordable housing in low income communities. He is a user of solar energy and driver of a car with a hydrogen internal combustion engine vehicle. He is on the board of trustees of Enterprise Community Partners, a non-profit developer for affordable housing in his hometown and a major supporter of BP’s Solar Neighbors program. He is the president of the American branch of the Maasai Wildlife Conservation Trust. He has also appeared in ads against buying elephant ivory, the “say no” campaign.

 

“People say you can’t make movies about your politics, or the environment. And, generally speaking, I completely divide those sides of my brain,” says Norton. He is also very politically active. He was a major supporter of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and a staunch opponent of Donald Trump during the 2016 election. He says the reason he is so opposed to Trump is because he “cares about the future of his kids”. He also produced the HBO documentary The Election of Barack Obama: By The People. It is a documentary that follows Obama and his campaign team for the two years prior to his election.

 

Edward Norton is not only of of the great actors of his generation, he is also a great person and role model.

Trump’s Dual Roles Collide with Presidency

Donald J. Trump, the recently sworn in president of the United States of America, has gone against the constitution and he does not care, and as it seems neither do the American people. Trump has been taking money directly from foreign world leaders in return for access to do business in the USA.

Mr. Trump’s multinational corporation has been making deals in foreign countries with people in the government. This is in direct violation of the constitution which states that the president is not allowed to accept anything from foreign leaders. This has raised the question of whether or not what he is doing is really unconstitutional, seeing as most of the deals that have recently gone through were in their beginning stages before Trump became president. However, Trump has not only made deals with these people, but he has also accepted a multitude of gifts, and this has made many people believe that these were in return for total control over the US economy. There have already been reports of foreign leaders buying land in the US in order to start the construction of “Super Hedge Fund” sites. Basically, they built factories on the land and start producing goods. From there they will build towns and shops that only sell goods made in these factories. You may ask, wouldn’t that be a monopoly? It is, however; with Trump’s executive order, he has made it legal for anyone that is a business partner of his to create such monopolies.

Trump, plotting against America

Trump, Plotting against America

This wouldn’t be all bad if it was from allied countries, but so far Trump has only signed with countries that we currently have conflict with. This leads many to believe that he, is in fact, a Russian spy sent to take over the US and make it into Putin’s own personal sandbox. Reports found from American Intelligence Officers, or AIO, have shown that Trump does have major ties to Russia. This has led to many believing that his wife, Melania, was sent by the Russian government to keep an eye on Trump and make sure that everything he is doing is up to par with what the Russians are asking of him.

There is no real way to tell  if these claims are true yet, but speculation has led to the belief that they are and that the American people are now being led by Russia and other foreign powers. Trump’s paranoia has led him to make some very large claims against the Obama administration. He is claiming that they wire tapped his phones and bugged his house. People are starting to question Trump’s legitimacy and many people have stated that claims as serious as these can be grounds for impeachment if they turn out to not be true.

So we now have a president who is possibly a Russian spy, making deals with our enemies, who goes directly against the constitution, and is so paranoid that he just made a claim against former president Barack Obama that could lead to his own impeachment. All this being said most of it is not true and was written to try and fool you by making crazy outlandish claims.  

Pulling out the Trump Card

President Trump shows off his executive order, signed.

President Trump had already written his first executive order before Inauguration Day, ready to be signed as soon as he was sworn in. This is no surprise, though, as Trump was eager to start making America great again as soon as possible. The real surprise was what was written in this executive order. It ordered that all anime must be stripped from store shelves, removed from TV channels, taken down off the internet, and confiscated from all citizens, and that it should be enacted immediately.

The Trump Administration was very quick to enforce it, too. The next day, police officers were going door to door all over the country confiscating any DVDs containing anime, and jailing anyone who refused to give up their prized discs. The amount of jail time earned is not yet decided, but a representative of the Trump Administration said that it could be anywhere between two and five months. A reported 1,337 people were jailed within the first week of the order being enacted.

“I woke up at five in the morning to a loud banging on my door,” says anime enthusiast Jamison Randall. “By the time I got up, officers had busted down the door and were all over my house searching for anime DVDs, and I was held at gunpoint to open my safe. When I opened it, they searched through it, and left everything exactly where it was except for my anime.” Randall also claims that after the anime was confiscated, the officers left his house casually, like nothing ever happened.

Examples like this sparked controversy among citizens, mostly about the harshness of the confiscation. One supporter of the ban even said, “The ban was a good idea, but the way cops are taking anime from homes is over the top.”

The debate about whether or not the ban was a good decision is causing fights all over the country. An estimated 4,200 people have been hospitalized in the past week due to injuries caused by fist fights over this executive order.

It is estimated that about 69% of US citizens agree with Trump’s decision to ban anime. Those who disagree are going to extreme measures to hide their precious anime, doing so much as to hide it in their ceilings. President Trump called for another search to happen this weekend, as he is suspicious of people hiding anime.

Opposers are hoping that the all the protest and violence that happened over the past few weeks because of the order will encourage Trump to revoke the order. Whether or not he will do so is completely unpredictable.