Save the Bees

Bumbling and Buzzing

You probably haven’t paid much mind to bees other than the frantic shufflings to get away from their buzzing bodies. Though many see these creatures as nuisances that leave behind painful, itchy marks, bees are an essential part of our ecosystem. It is important to first note the common misconception of stingings. Though honeybees are the only species of bees that can die after stinging (this is caused by their barbed stinger which sticks to the skin), bees only sting if they sense danger and/or if you aggravate them.

What They Do

With such small bodies, bees uphold many jobs that produce what we as people take for granted. Honey bees can be attributed to 80% of the world’s pollination which results in produce such as fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Along with the dependence on consumer goods, bees play a vital part in beautifying the environment. By pollinating flowers, bees are perpetuating growth and sustaining a living ecosystem in which other species live as well.

Dire Consequences

The population of bees has dropped nearly 90 percent since the 1990s according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The rusty patched bumblebee, once common in the U.S., is now on the brink of extinction. It is currently on the official list of endangered species. What is causing the rapid death of these creatures? Some causes include the use of neonicotinoid insecticides and yes, the big issue, global warming. As temperatures increase with each year getting warmer and warmer, many plants and animals are shifting northwards. According to studies done at the University of Ottawa, bees inhabit southern areas leaving them behind with less plants to pollinate. Bee colonies need approximately 264 lbs of nectar but with all the plants shifting elsewhere, the bees are left behind struggling to survive.

What You Can Do

There are many ways you can help bees maintain their habitat and survival. One way to help is by growing native plants. Bees prefer blue, purple, and yellow flowers with sweet fragrances. They see ultraviolet colors, found on flowers such as buttercups and black-eyed Susans. Another extremely important change that you can make is ridding the use of chemicals on your lawns and gardens. Lastly, you can go green and reduce your carbon footprint. Some ways to reduce your carbon footprint include reducing energy and water use, recycling as much as possible, and buying/eating less meat. All in all, bees are important creatures that make a significant impact on our environment and way of life. Help save them before they are extinct for good.

Sesame Street Adds First Autistic Character

The classic television series Sesame Street recently decided to add a new character. The character’s name is Julia and her mental condition has garnered much attention. Sesame Street has been on the air for 47 years and has been teaching lessons in tolerance since its first days on the air.

Julia is a four year old with red hair, a lot of friends, and autism. Her character has been in development for five years and will air on April 10th. One in 68 children born are diagnosed with autism. The number has increased by 119% percent since 2000. This character will be great for letting these kids know that there is nothing wrong with having autism. “It’s important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like,” said Stacy Gordon, the puppeteer of the character, when on 60 Minutes.

This will also be very helpful in minimizing the bullying of autistic people. “Had my son’s friends been exposed to his behaviors through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened. They might not have been worried when he cried. They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that’s okay,” Stacy Gordon also said.

Julia has a mother in jail and a father in the military. This will also be great for children who feel lonely in their struggles. It will help kids in similar situations have someone to relate to and make their problems feel real, let them know that there is nothing wrong with the situations they were given, and that it’s okay to feel upset about them.

Her autism will be shown in that she excels in some areas and lacks very much in others. She also spaces out a lot and it is very hard to get her attention. She’ll often also repeat what her friends Elmo and Abby say. She loves to paint and pick flowers. “That’s just Julia being Julia,” Abby said.

“Basically, in terms of vulnerable families, we’re looking at families who may have particular stressors in their lives that are impacting their young children,” said Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president for U.S. social impact at parent company Sesame Workshop. Jeanette has been helping plot the development of Julia for about three years now.

The character is set to appear in two episodes of this season and more in the next. This will be a great reminder that in dark times with such an intolerant government and a seemingly intolerant people, there is still hope for our children and the future.

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.

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.

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.

The Pros and Cons of the United States Involvement in NAFTA

The North American Free Trade Agreement is a trilateral trade deal between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. It was negotiated under the George H.W. Bush administration, signed by President Bill Clinton, and implemented into effect on January 1st, 1994. According to Bill Clinton, NAFTA was signed because “NAFTA means jobs. American jobs, and good-paying American jobs. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t support this agreement.” This has been a very controversial statement because NAFTA has led to many jobs leaving the US into other countries, however it has also led to many jobs leaving other countries and coming into the US. With NAFTA being in the news so much lately because of President Trump wanting to pull out of it, it is important to know all of its effects.

NAFTA has created 5 million jobs since it was put into place. That is an avergage of 227,000 jobs made per year. We also now have an average of 42,000 outsourced jobs per year due to NAFTA.

In 1993 the US had a $1.7 billion trade surplus. In 2016 the US had a $54 billion trade deficit which has led to the loss of many U.S. factory jobs.

NAFTA has led to many environmental problems because environmental standards were a minor part of the agreement. This has been criticized harshly for many years with a lot of people wanting to renegotiate or pull out of the deal partly because of this.

Apparel prices have dropped 7.5% since NAFTA was implemented. This has helped the poor the most because they are able to obtain their basic needs for much cheaper. A 2015 study discovered that completely shutting off trade would lead to a 69% loss in real income for the bottom 10%.

Proponents of NAFTA claimed that it would reduce illegal immigration from Mexico.  Mexican immigration – legal or illegal – doubled from 1990 to 2000 and has been rising consistently since.

President Trump has called NAFTA “the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country” and since he took office he has quadrupled the tariffs that are still existing between Mexico and the U.S. and will likely try to pull out of it or renegotiate it.