America’s Opioid Crisis

In America, opioid abuse has been a problem for decades, but in recent years it has turned into a national crisis. Opioids are narcotics and are often found in painkillers prescribed by doctors to treat moderate to severe pain. However, because of the extremely addictive properties of these prescriptions, many patients, without meaning to, become dependent on them and open up the door to abuse.

Some examples of highly addictive opioids are Vicodin, Morphine, Percocet, and OxyContin. While these medications may be useful for acute, short term pain relief, the longer a patient uses them, the greater the chance of dependence and addiction.

For some individuals, when they run out of their prescriptions and are unable to obtain more pills legally or illegally, they resort to heroin, known for its recreational use and for being a cheaper solution to prescription opioids.

Lawmakers estimate that to end the crisis, it would cost roughly 45 billion dollars. The opioid crisis affects not just the individuals suffering, but government spending as well.  With more than 650,000 opioid prescriptions dispensed daily, the government has spent 55 billion dollars on opioid abuse treatments.

The government hopes to “cure” the crisis soon, but believes that it will take time considering the amount of abusers and the amount of prescriptions still be written on a daily basis.

Bird Corner: Bird Migration is Happening

A Common Yellowthroat on Long Island, these birds winter in Central America and the Caribbean.

In the winter, Long Island is home to birds like Long-tailed Ducks, Common Loons, Snow Buntings, and even Snowy Owls! But when spring comes, these birds migrate to their breeding grounds in eastern North America north of Long Island, many even going as far as the Canadian tundra.

A Black-and-White Warbler in Connetquot River State Park on Long Island. These birds spend the winter everywhere from Florida and Colombia.

At the same time, billions of birds in Central and South America begin to fly north. Many of them will stop on Long Island to rest and eat before continuing their journey north to forests in New England, upstate New York, and the boreal forests of Canada. These include the Bay-breasted Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, and many, many, more species.

However, many amazing birds stay here on Long Island all summer long to breed and raise their young. Among them are the Black-and-white Warbler, Yellow Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Osprey, Chipping Sparrow, and Eastern Towhee. So many species breed on Long Island that it would be impossible to list all of them in one article.

Migration doesn’t last for very long, so get out there and see those birds!



Science Fiction Series: “Turing de Force,” by Edward M. Lerner

This story is based on the Turing Test, a test developed by Alan Turing to test artificial intelligence. The test is carried out a human judge interacting with humans, and sometimes robots, through text messages, and the judge must decide if they are talking to a robot. This seems like a good idea, but it is thoroughly flawed. One of the main flaws is that humans regularly associate intelligence with things that aren’t actually intelligent. Another flaw is that language is not something that is all pre-programmed at birth, it is also a learned cultural thing. I guess we will end up having to answer all those hard problems about consciousness after all. 

For over thirty years, Edward M. Lerner worked in the aerospace and information technology industries while writing science fiction part-time. He held positions at numerous companies such as Bell Labs, Hughes Aircraft, Honeywell, and Northrop Grumman. In February 2004, after receiving a book deal for Moonstruck, he decided to write science fiction full-time.

Man Threatens to Call ICE in Restaurant Where People Were Speaking Spanish

Recently, a man in New York yelled at an employees and a regular customer for speaking Spanish to each other. He told them to speak English in America and threatened to call ICE (U.S. immigration police force) and was screaming at the top of his lungs, being very rude saying things like, “If they have the balls to come here and live off my money, I pay for their welfare. I pay for their ability to be here. The least they can do … is speak English!”  

Suns Out Guns Out: Dieting

There are many diets in our society that people use for weight loss or for increased health.  Many of these diets are some that are hard to maintain, but others that are easier to maintain and the answer to optimal health has maybe been in front of us the whole time.  

Eating unprocessed whole foods is the cornerstone of the paleo diet. 

Back in the paleolithic age, also known as the stone age, our ancestors who were cave men were hunters and  gatherers. This means the men would hunt for meat and the women would gather fruits and vegetables. According to scientists, these early humans were taller and more physically fit than we are today. Today, we call their diet a ‘paleolithic diet.’ This diet is very regimented and it has helped people all over the world lose weigh and improve overall health. The ‘paleo’ diet focuses on lean meats and other protein foods such as eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds.

This useful chart displays the types of food that make up the paleo diet.

Followers of the paleo diet also must not consume salt, oil, or processed carbs such as white bread and cereal (sugars, essentially).  Whole grains are okay. This diet is a very popular one used by many people. The amount of weight one can lose in this diet depends on the dedication to it. Sticking to the diet and eliminating processed foods- especially fast food- from one’s diet should give good results- within a year of sticking to the diet and pairing it with consistent exercise, individuals should see the best results. 

A man that has been on the paleo diet for a year.

Science Fiction Series: “Neural Alchemist,” by Tedd Roberts

“Neural Alchemist” follows a professor who was revived from a stem cell creation. Tedd Roberts, the author, shows us he is an expert on this. He understands that stem cells could potentially replace damaged cells in parts of the body that don’t replace easily. The story shows an understanding of the sources of stem cells used in current research: bone marrow, amniotic fluid, umbilical cord blood, transformed endothelial cells and only very rarely, fetal tissue. “Now we know that certain areas of the brain, such as the dentate gyrus of hippocampus, have the ability to make new brain cells. Most brain areas do not. What if we could replace the neurons damaged by stroke, injury or disease? Like the old time alchemists trying to turn lead into gold, the Neural Alchemist turns stems cells into any brain cells we need.” What is not so accurate about the story is the idea of reviving dead humans. Stem cells are pretty amazing, but we have no research to support the ability for bringing deceased humans back to life.

Tedd Roberts is a neuroscience researcher, educator, and writer. He advises up and coming science fiction authors, TV writers, and game developers. His acknowledged consults include novel brain diseases and the medical nanites to cure them, exotic toxins, and brain effects of a zombie virus. 

Great Neck and Manhasset Students Win Rep. Souzzi’s Art Contest

On May 9th, three students who go attend schools on the north shore of Long Island were winners of the Congressional Art Competition. The awards were presented by national representative, Tom Suozzi.

Kyra McLaughlin standing with Souzzi as she receives her certificate.

Kyra McLaughlin, a student at Manhasset High School, won the first prize. The painting was oil on wood and called it “Ticky-tac?” McLaughlin described her painting as “a crying boy sitting next to his Grandpa who, in his thick Italian accent, is offering him a ‘ticky-tac’ to cheer him up.” The painting also has special meaning to her, “My grandpa always carried tic-tacs around with him, and often used them to brighten our spirits.”

McLaughlin’s painting will be on display in the Capitol Building for one year.

Emphasizing the importance of the competition, Suozzi commented that, “Artists play an important role in society, and it turns out we have some pretty talented young artists right here in our district.” He continued, “All of the parents and teachers should take pride in themselves for supporting the artists in their lives.”

This special event took place in Dix Hills, at the Art League of Long Island. The teachers of the students who won, the parents, and school administrators came to the ceremony. There were thirty-nine contenders from sixteen different schools.

Honorable mentions were given to Isabelle Lin and and Sarah Tang. Isabelle Lin is a student at Manhasset High School. Sarah Tang goes to Great Neck North High School.

Isabelle Lin with her painting, “Who Am I / Who Am I?”

Isabelle Lin created a piece called “Who Am I / Who Am I?”. This piece involved acrylic paints. Lin also gave a description of her work. She stated, “a painted relief of my face and lively eyes placed over an American flag and a Taiwanese flag, the colors of the flag drip down onto my face, representing personal identities.” This painting will be on display at Suozzi’s office in Queens for the next year. 

Sarah Tang’s painting was called “Sunset in G-String,” which also used acrylic paint. Tang said that her work was about “a sunset sweeping over the music room at school – pink, blue, and warm yellow hues modify the natural colors of each surface.” Tang says that the music room in her school was the inspiration for this painting.

Sarah Tang standing with her painting, “Sunset in G-String.”

Tang said, “I chose the music room because I thought there was something really beautiful about how messy and energized it was,” Tang said. “I was really inspired by my school’s after school orchestra program, which sometimes runs late, and I’ve noticed the sun always sets really nicely in the music room, and that was the inspiration for my color scheme.”

She also wanted to thank both her art teacher, Joseph Giacalone, and her music teacher, Joseph Rutowski, who she credited for helping her in both subjects throughout her journey in high school.

Tang’s work will we displayed in Suozzi’s district office, which is in Huntington.  

Man Suffers a Fatal Blow to Head by Giraffe

Last week, filmmaker Carlos Carvalho was killed on set in South America from a head trauma caused by a giraffe. Carvalho, 47, was filming at Glen Afric Country Lodge last Wednesday when he was struck and suffered a fatal blow to the head. The incident occurred when Carlos was attempting to film extra footage of Gerald the giraffe after filming with the other animals had come to an end. This was when Carlos was struck by the giraffe when it swung his head causing Carlos to be knocked off his feet. He then was flown to a nearby hospital but later succumbed to his injuries. Carvalho’s crew shares their condolences with his family and the lodge claims that Carlos may have gotten a little bit too close. Carlos left behind a family and 2 daughters.

Bird Corner: The House Wren

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A House Wren singing in my backyard.

Now that it’s spring, many birds are migrating through Great Neck on their way to the forests of the northeastern US and eastern Canada. But many of them will stay here on Long Island to nest.

Among these is the House Wren, a tiny bird only 4.3-5.1 inches long. But what this little bird lacks in size, it makes up for with its attitude. House Wrens will often aggressively drive out birds much larger than themselves that are competing for nesting areas. They are cavity nesters, which means that they nest in holes like birdhouses, holes in trees, and even in things like old shoes that are left outside! They’ve nested in birdhouses in my yard for as long as I can remember.

These tiny birds eat small invertebrates like spiders, caterpillars, beetles, and flies, and they live throughout almost all of North and South America, from Argentina to Alaska. Although you may have never seen a House Wren, I can almost guarantee you’ll recognize their beautiful song. They may be tiny, but they’re very loud! Here’s a link to a video of their song, see if you can recognize it:http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zYvXKGwtXug