The Uber, the Bad and the Ugly

The well known start up company Uber has been flagged lately with a lot of controversy, from not paying workers what they deserve to the stealing of intellectual property. The seemingly squeaky clean company may have a few dark secrets.

Uber is currently under investigation by the Department of Justice because of a tool they built to help their drivers avoid law enforcement in states where Uber is not currently legal. “We support the criminal investigation by the United States Department of Justice into Uber’s use of the Greyball tool to evade regulators, and will continue to move forward with our own efforts to subpoena the requested records from Uber,” Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman said in a statement.

Uber is also currently in the courtroom for charges that they stole trade secrets and intellectual property for its self-driving car business from Google’s (GOOGL, Tech30) Waymo. The case may prove Uber officials wrong with what they call “potentially … the most lucrative business in history.” There are many things currently putting Uber at risk of losing customers and potentially even their legal standing.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick recently bailed on appearing at a big tech conference amid an ongoing internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations made by a former employee. This may be one of the worst suits currently facing Uber, not from a legal standpoint, but from the bad publicity that could cause them to lose many of their clients.

Once a booming startup, Uber is now losing consumers support because of multiple law suits and bad headlines. Not to mention the fact that there are now competitors that cost less and have fewer dirty secrets. “Public perception is shaken,” Mike Walsh, an early Uber investor told CNNTech, “But I’m hopeful and confident that’ll come back.” The damage has been months in the making. Uber was hit by a viral boycott in late January after it was perceived as breaking up a strike of taxi drivers who were protesting President Trump’s travel ban. The next month it launched an “urgent” investigation in response to sexual harassment allegations. Weeks later, Kalanick was caught on camera arguing with an Uber driver.

Along the way, there have been a series of executive departures, including president Jeff Jones, who quit because of concerns over the firm’s management culture, and Rachel Whetstone, head of policy and communications. It “sends a bad signal to other employees and potential hires,” Walsh said. “A company can’t grow and excel without top talent, so this is concerning to me.” Meanwhile, some of Uber’s competitors are benefiting from its stumbles. Lyft, Uber’s top rival in the U.S., recently raised $600 million in funding and said it experienced a 60% increase in new passenger signups the week after the Uber boycott. “Lyft was doing well before Uber shot itself in the foot,” Michael Moe, a Lyft investor, told CNNTech in an interview last month. “But certainly those issues at Uber… have created an acceleration to Lyft’s business.”

That doesn’t mean Uber’s drivers are suddenly fleeing the service. Harry Campbell, a driver for Uber and Lyft who runs a popular blog for drivers in the industry, said “Uber is just as busy as ever for drivers.”

A Nevada Teen With a Love for Chicken Nuggets Makes History

As of 11:24AM on Tuesday, May 9th, a tweet by 16 year-old Carter Wilkerson, from Reno, Nevada, broke the world record for the most retweeted tweet ever, at 3,441,701 retweets, beating the previous record of 3,430,751 by a tweet from Ellen Degeneres. Best of all, Carter will be getting his nuggs, as well as over $100,000 to charity.

On April 6th, Carter accepted a challenge from Wendy’s official Twitter account to get a year’s supply of free chicken nuggets if he gets 18 million retweets. He then posted a screenshot of the exchange, commented “HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS.” The tweet then went viral, hitting a million retweets in just one day, two million on Monday, April 10th. On April 13th, Ellen Degeneres announced on her show that Carter was getting dangerously close to beating her world record, and that anyone who retweets Carter’s tweet should also retweet hers, so that she would stay ahead. Alas, the tweet hit three million retweets on Monday, April 17th, before finally hitting 3.441 million on Tuesday, May 9th.

Carter holds his certificate proudly after winning his chicken nuggets.

Carter holds his certificate proudly after winning his chicken nuggets.

At this time, Wendy’s posted a tweet saying “.@carterjwm is now the most retweeted tweet of all-time. That’s good for the nuggets, and $100k to @DTFA. Consider it done. #nuggsforcarter,” followed by a tweet from Guinness World Records saying “Congratulations to @carterjwm who just broke @TheEllenShow’s record for most retweeted tweet on @Twitter #NuggsForCarter.” But the chicken nuggets weren’t the only reward. During his campaign, he sold t-shirts, with all the profits going to Moms on the Run, a non-profit breast cancer organization based in Reno. In addition, Wendy’s donated $100,000 to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, another non-profit organization which aims to find homes for kids in foster care across the U.S. and Canada.

Although Carter won his nuggets, he isn’t done yet. After beating the world record, he posted that he was going to keep the fundraiser up, and is hoping to eventually reach the 18 million retweets, or five percent of all active Twitter users, that he originally strived for.

The Real Cost of Ballet

Though most people’s perceptions of ballet are through rose colored glasses, the reality of this form of dance is less than glamorous. Its romanticized image solely includes graceful ballerinas galloping effortlessly to that one Tchaikovsky song, all whilst being showered with roses and applauses. Behind the facade of smiles and feather-like movements, the effort and work needed to dance is relentlessly tiring and ultimately destructive to the human body.

One major disadvantage of ballet is the hefty price tag. Let’s calculate the cost of all the expenses. Pointe shoes are priced at around $80. Professional ballerinas have to purchase new footwear at least once a week because of how soft the shank (sole of the shoe) becomes after constant usage. Dance attire is less costly, but definitely adds up over time. Basic leotards cost $20 and tights cost $10. On average dancers buy two leotards and ten pairs of tights each year of training. Though not as pricey as pointe shoes, the costs could easily increase if a dancer grows or rips his or her apparel. With just the essential materials needed, this adds up to an annual expense of $4,300. This num12007913383_5aac2f1608_bber doesn’t include the cost of dance classes, which seem highly exorbitant. On average, dance classes can cost anywhere from $40 to $160 per month not including fees. These are just regular dance classes at a local studio though. At a higher tiered school such as the Joffrey Ballet School, a dance class for toddlers can cost $690 per class. According to a study done by FiveThirtyEight, raising a top-trained ballerina who begins to dance at age three could cost more than $100,000 by the time he or she turns 18.

Another significant factor is the physical and mental damage to the body that can be caused by ballet. Dancers can be exposed to severe injuries depending on how hard they work, how well they are trained, and also how early in life they start. Dancers bones and bodies usually show signs of premature aging: bunions, bone deformations and tendons that are severely damaged. Other injuries that are common include tears of the joint, muscle, tendon and ligament. In nearly any other sport such as football, players wear shoes that are made with nice comfy padding. In ballet, however pointe shoes are made of fabric, cardboard and/or paper hardened by glue. The feet absorb the shock which can cause sprains and fractures to the foot, toes, and ankles. “I broke a metatarsal on stage once. I was performing a solo and heard this crack. I didn’t realise I’d broken it at the time, because you’re used to taking pain,” says Begoña Cao, a professional ballerina for the English National Ballet. By the time most professional ballerinas retire, they will have artificial hips and a permanent limp. The stress of ballet can also lead to many mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, bulimia, body dysmorphic disorder, OCD, and social anxiety. Eating disorders are extremely common amongst competitive dancers who are trying to please directors. What is called the “Balanchine body type,” a tall slender ballerina with long legs and short torsos is considered ideal. Rachel Parker, who is a retired Birmingham Royal Ballet dancer, says “Ballet is always about aesthetic lines and unfortunately you associate this kind of thinness with beauty in the ballet world. There are certain types of performers that fall victim to eating disorders – the perfectionists and highly self-critical people.”

Overall, ballet is an art form that is rich in history, but there are also components that one must consider before making judgements and or even starting ballet themselves. From the costly price tag to the mental and physical challenges, ballet is a complex dance form that is beautifully dangerous.

 

Discrimination Against Atheists

Usually when we think of discrimination we think of discrimination against African-Americans, women, homosexuals, or anyone of many minority groups. We never think of discrimination against atheists though, which is a problem because they absolutely are discriminated against.

Recently YouTube changed their censorship policies so that you could not have the word “atheist” in your username because YouTube does not want anything “offensive or controversial” on their website. “Offensive or controversial” does not apply to having “Jewish” or “Christian” in your name.

Both our Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have both endorsed the teaching of the Bible as history in public schools. I thought that separation of church and state was mandated by our constitution?

Congress has no open atheists. There has only been one openly atheist congressman in history, Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who retired in 2013. The closest we have now is Bernie Sanders (I-Ver.) who identifies as “non-religious,” but he says he believes in God. Atheists make up 3% of the US population but 0% of the U.S. Congress. Christians, on the other hand, make up 91% of the U.S. Congress but only 70% of the U.S. population and Jews make up 6.7% of the U.S. Congress and only 1.9% of the U.S. population.

The inaugural ceremony does not technically exclude atheists, but also anyone who is not Christian, which is 30% of the population. Whoever is being sworn in must put their hand on a Bible and is sworn in by a priest. Also at the Presidential inauguration, a Christian band will typically perform.

It was not until 1954 that the words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance. It was added at the climax of the Cold War when America was trying to defend itself from “atheistic Communism.” It was added to it because Religion, mostly Christianity was and is now looked at as an “American value.”

This discrimination is undeniable. You cannot simply say “atheists just don’t want to run for office” because there are still 10,075,000 American atheists, so there are definitely plenty who have political aspirations and a few people in Congress who are atheist but not open about it. If Congress had actually been an accurate reflection of America, there would be about 16 atheists in Congress. YouTube’s censorship policy is irrefutably discrimination. Saying “they still have other websites” is not at all valid because there are no video websites nearly as popular as YouTube.

This discrimination is in other areas too. I’m sure you’ve all seen the clips on Real Time with Bill Maher of Bill Maher saying “Islam is not a religion of peace” or “All religions are stupid and dangerous” which he gets in much trouble for, but you never hear about Sean Hannity getting in trouble for saying something like “Atheism has been a bane on society.” Don’t get me wrong though, I totally believe that people have a right to get upset with Bill Maher for making fun of their religion, but I also think that atheists have that same right to get mad at Sean Hannity for saying bigoted things towards atheists.

Discrimination against atheists and discrimination as a whole is an evil and must be fought against. We must build a society where any sort of religious belief is accepted and respected. I encourage anyone reading this to pay more attention to this problem and try to take steps towards fixing it.

Artificial Womb Helps Raise Premature Sheep — Humans May be Next

Recently, scientists at the Center for Fetal Research in the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reported that they had successfully raised eight prematurely born lambs in an artificial womb for 28 days. But how did they do it? Actually, it’s not as complicated as it seems.

This is a diagram of the system that was used to raise the lambs.

This is a diagram of the system that was used to raise the lambs.

The system uses a circulatory system, a closed fluid environment, and the fetus’ own heart to pump blood, to support a stable development. Blood pumped by the fetus’ heart is circulated through an oxygenator and back to the fetus, similar to the gas exchange across a placenta. A very specially made fluid mimicking amniotic fluid fills the womb, and is continuously exchanged, similar to how it is in the uterus. The fluid provides insulation, protects the fetus from infection, and helps maintain temperature, pressure, and light. The fluid is also very important in lung development.

The system worked very well. After four weeks in the artificial womb, all the lambs showed normal statistics in circulation, blood pressure, metabolic processing, growth, lung development, and brain development. Seeing these positive results raises a question: Will this technology be able to be used for premature human babies?

The hope is that it will eventually be used for humans, but it won’t be soon. Scientists still need to scale down the system to the size of a human fetus and find a good fluid to mimic human amniotic fluid, as well as refine the system to have the results compare to current neonatal intensive care treatments. Other treatment options for premature birth also discovered with sheep models, such as steroid injections used to help accelerate lung development, took over 20 years to get into clinical practice. When it does finally get implemented, though, the plan is to use it to get babies to 25 weeks, when there is about an 80% life expectancy, which is much higher than the near zero at and before 22 weeks. All of this will hopefully meet the unmet need of extreme prematurity.

A Friendly Rivalry – By Zach Mirsky

Over the span of being here for three years, I’ve learned Village School has the best traditions out of any school I’ve attended. Out of my top 3: the canoe trip (which was ruined — thanks Jared Gomberg and Sam Director); IHOP and Bowling and the Pizza Taste Testing, which is my favorite. The pizza trip consists of being dropped off by the Brooklyn Bridge. Next, the plan is to walk through Manhattan and hopefully get to the original ice cream factory in Chinatown, and then back over to DUMBO. But the best part of the whole trip is the pizza taste testing two rival pizza places named Grimaldi’s and the other one named Julianas.
But perhaps, besides tasting both of these legendary pizza joints, the most interesting part of the contest is the backstory behind the rivalry and why it all started. The founder of Grimaldi’s pizza, Patsy Grimaldi, was taught to make pizza when he was 10 by his uncle, Patsy Lancieri, who owned a pizza joint in Italian Harlem in 1941. Decades later, Grimaldi decided that he was going to open up his own pizzeria in Manhattan.
Before he even opened, he found out that those coal fired ovens he would use were illegal in New York. Grimaldi knew that using a coal fired oven was the best way to cook a pizza. All things considered, Grimaldi opened up a pizza shop in Brooklyn, New York under his own name called, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in 1990.
In 1998, Grimaldi retired and sold his name and franchise, excluding the locations in Hoboken, to a man by the name of Frank Ciolli. In 2011, Ciolli’s lease was declined a renewal, so he renovated an old bank and moved a block away from the original location, now landing on 1 Front Street in Brooklyn.
Very shortly after the initial move, Patsy Grimaldi made a triumphant return from retirement at age 80. After months of constant bickering, complaints to the state and a lawsuit or two, Patsy Grimaldi was able to open a new pizzeria. Since Grimaldi already sold his name to Frank Ciolli, he had to change the name of his restaurant. Now we have Juliana’s, named after Patsy Grimaldi’s mom.
The victory? Patsy Grimaldi got the original location where his old pizzeria used to be, 19 Old Fulton Street.
The trip was a success. We ended up not having enough time to go through the fringes of Chinatown, and crossing the Manhattan Bridge, due to heavy traffic on the way to Brooklyn. Plus, the Brooklyn Bridge is much more enjoyable to cross. The students and teachers both seemed to like Juliana’s pizza better than Grimaldi’s. Going on this trip once again confirmed why it is my favorite trip. It is sad that this was my last time doing this trip with Village.

La La Lands many influences

Federico Fellini:

The first scene in La La Land is an homage to Federico Fellini’s masterpiece . In the first scene of the lead character Guido is stuck in a traffic jam and everyone is staring at him, creating a trapped feeling. Guido then begins to daydream of him flying until he is forced to snap back into reality. We see something very similar in La La Land, a traffic jam turns into a large musical number about the Hollywood dream  and then it snaps back into reality. We see our lead character Mia and witness her reality, her frustrations and struggles. Like La La Land, is set in the movie business (in Italy though, not Hollywood).

La La Land also takes influence from the musical Sweet Charity, which is based off Fe161212_BB_something-better.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2derico Fellini’s 1957 realist film Nights of Cabiria. The number in La La Land “Someone in the Crowd” takes inspiration from the number “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” in Sweet Charity. As you can see in the photo, Mia and her friends whip their colorful dresses around the same way Charity and her friends do in Sweet Charity.

Jacques Demy:

Perhaps the film’s most obvious influence comes from the musicals of the French director Jacques Demy. Jacques Demy was one of the most prominent directors of the French New Wave, which is considered by most film historians, film critics and filmmakers as the most important film movement of all time. The French New Wave is known for its rule-breaking techniques and its post-modernist style, which is rather than trying to make the audience forget they are watching a film, it tries to remind them that they are. You can see this in La La Land in that while the characters emotions all feel real and we can relate to them and feel for them, it still never forgets that it is a musical and creates a world of its own.

The world that is made in La La Land is very much influenced by the world that Jacques Demy created in many of his films. The most obvious connection is the bright colors and buildings. In Jacques Demy’s magnum opus The Umbrellas of Cherbourg there are also titles telling us the time of year just like in La La Land. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg also has a bittersweet ending with the lovers split apart seeing each other for the first time in years.

Vincente Minnelli:

Vincente Minnelli is the director of many classic musicals such as An American in Paris, Gigi, and Meet Me in St. Louis. La La Land borrows his style of surreal feeling song and an-american-in-paris-1108x0-c-defaultdance sequences. The musical numbers feel as if they are stepping away from reality and when they end, they are going back into reality just like in La La Land. It borrows this as well as many visual references to An American in Paris.

 

Singin’ in the Rain:

The most obvious reference to Singin’ in the Rain is in the number “A Lovely Night” when Ryan Gosling’s character swings around a street light just like in the famous sequence in Singin’ in the Rain when Gene Kelly jumps up on a street light singing “Singing in the Rain”. Many of the scenes ila-la-land-22-1024x576n the “Epilogue” are reminiscent of the “Broadway Melody” ballad in Singin’ in the Rain.

 

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers:

The best place to start watching the movies that influenced this film is with the films of Fred and Ginger. Damien Chazelle had the cast and crew of La La Land watch Top Hat before filming to understand what style he was going for. Chazelle also wanted to have the chemistry be like the chemistry between Fred and Ginger. Chazelle has also cited Fred and Ginger as an influence on the dance sequences in La La Land.

The films of Audrey Hepburn and West Side Story:

Damien Chazelle, the director of La La Land said that in many of his dance sequences he was going for a “Jerome Robbins-style”. Jerome Robbins is the director of West Side Story. Emma Stone follows a similar acting style to Audrey Hepburn. She also has a similar sounding voice to her. She did this to try to capture the 50s-60s musical feel more. Also in the “Epilogue” sequence the colorful balloons are reminiscent of the Audrey Hepburn musical Funny Face.

A Shifted Stance – by Zach Mirsky

Earlier on Monday, April 24, 2017 Trump’s stance on his long-standing campaign promise on building a wall and Mexico paying for it hadn’t changed according to a White House correspondent. On Monday, he posted this to Twitter: “The Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)!”
Now, as of April 25, 2017, the day after his unwavering view, Trump is hinting that he might be willing to wait until September or even 2018 to secure the funding of his wall on the border of Mexico. He will do this to avoid a government shutdown.
White House Correspondent, Trey Yingst said in a tweet “On funding the border wall, Trump said he could get it this week or the administration could come back to it in September.” Even White House press secretary, Sean Spicer who said “We feel very confident the government’s not going to shut down,” couldn’t even officially say there would not be one.
Given the fact that the deadline is Saturday, the only way both sides will get away without having a government shutdown is if they come up with a ‘temporary spending plan,” would buy them a week. For Democrats, there’s a catch — they can keep the pressure on Trump by opposing him, but that would only leave the party to blame for a shutdown. Budget analyst Stan Collender says “I don’t think there is a relationship between Trump and congressional Democrats yet, I don’t see them doing anything to help him at all.”

March for Science

April 22nd marks Earth Day, a holiday dedicated to encourage respect for life on planet Earth, to bring to light the concerns about the dangers of pollution, and to commemorate Mother Earth. This year, a new purpose came to light when thousands of scientists and nature preservation supporters protested in Washington. Following in the steps of the Women’s March that caused an uproar worldwide, the March for Science was not only in the U.S. but in other countries as well such as France, England, Ireland, South Africa, Germany, and Japan.

Ralliers that demonstrated at the White House weren’t worried about the downpour ruining their signs, but rather the the possibility of losing their jobs due to the president’s negligence towards environmental issues. Trump stated in a Fox interview in 2015, “Environmental Protection, what they do is a disgrace. Every week they come out with new regulations.” He plans to cut the EPA’s budget by 25% from $8.1 million to $6.1 billion. Along with that he is targeting to
cut their workforce by 20% from roughly 17,000 to 12,400. Not only is the EPA under fire but the National Institute of Health as well. Trump plans on cutting the NIH’s budget by 18%, which means taking away $5.8 billion. Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA under Trump, believes that CO2 (carbon dioxide) is not a contributing factor to global warming. Many are in disbelief because countless numbers of studies have proven the dangers of CO2, the second largest greenhouse gas.

“Protecting the government’s investment in science, particularly when that includes funding for public engagement, is incredibly important. Science is not just for scientists, and I believe that all of us, whether we work in a lab or not, should have a voice on its future,” said Katherine Mathieson, the chief executive of the British Science Association. Mathieson, along with many others, are hoping that this protest will bring to attention the magnitude of how important the environment and programs designed to protect it is.

 

The Harsh Reality of Depression

Life is supposed to be happy. People should be able to feel good about themselves. If they get sick, they should have hope of getting better. But there are many people who can’t have this good life. They spend every day of their lives miserable about their existence. They lose hope in the world. This is the harsh reality of depression.

Depression never comes up randomly. There’s always a reason, even if it may be hidden. By far the most common one is a traumatic experience, or a series of traumatic experiences, that wind up affecting a person’s life permanently. The trauma could be anything from a physical injury, to the death of a loved one, to sexual abuse. This causes a chemical imbalance in the brain, usually of reduced levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine. These chemical imbalances are what cause depression.

Often times this trauma will implant a trigger in the victim’s mind. That trigger could be something really insignificant or inexplicable, like penguins. But the triggers all have reason. What if penguins were their abuser’s favorite animal? Bringing up the trigger causes the person to recall memories from the trauma. It makes them experience the trauma again mentally and makes the depression worse.

Depression is very unpredictable. Sometimes it will take days to set in, sometimes months. One day you could be feeling like the happiest person in the world, and the next day you could be miserable in bed all day. Sometimes it’ll get better in weeks, sometimes it takes years. But no matter how unpredictable it may be, it always takes a major toll on people’s lives.

The worst thing depression brings is the lack of motivation to do anything. Without motivation, someone is likely to stay in bed all day, not eat or bathe, stay in the same clothes for weeks. They won’t want to do work. They may not even want to do the things they usually love.

There comes a point when someone is so depressed, they may want to end their life. They feel that they don’t deserve to exist in this world, and that nobody would care if they left it. If someone is close to attempting suicide, they may seem unusually happy, because they have their plan concocted and are ready to execute it, and end their misery. If you ever see a sudden mood change like that, talk to them about it, and get them to call a suicide hotline.

The point of all this is that depression is bad. If someone you know is depressed, try to comfort them and help them through it. The times are hard, but it always eventually gets better. Just keep pulling through.