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.”

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.

Memorium of Those Lost In 2016 – By Zach Mirsky

Though not physically here anymore, these legends have each left us behind with their legacy. Their voices and musical contributions will always live on.
Here’s a list of the most influential artists we’ve lost from 2016 to now:

  • January 10: David Bowie – Best known as “Ziggy Stardust” and for his gender bending artistry and pure talent. Nothing short of a legend.
  • February 4: Maurice White – Best known as the leader and founder of the group Earth, Wind and Fire. They had a legacy as being a funk and R&B band.
  • March 11: Keith Emerson – Co-Founded the progressive rock supergroup, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The band was best known for their live performances and pyrotechnics. They were also considered the first prog rock supergroup.
  • April 21: Prince – Possibly one of the biggest guitarists/artists ever. Flawlessly mixing genres between rock, pop and funk, beloved by generations. Dead at 57, his songs and influences in pop culture will live on.
  • November 10: Leonard Cohen – Another extremely influential singer/songwriter and a beautiful poet. At 82, Cohen released his last album, entitled You Want It Darker, which explored the concept and questions of god and mortality.
  • December 25: George Michael – British star and gay icon, George Michael mixed his progressive social commentary with danceable pop music. He was considered to be very controversial.

Honorable mention:
The 23rd anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death was on April 5th this year.

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.

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.

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.

A New Calendar to Show How Far Humans Have Come

If anyone is asked what year it is, they would probably answer “2017.” But our history as humans goes much farther back than the year 0. Humans have existed for millions of years, and we have been making major achievements for thousands. What if we were to make a new calendar to accurately depict the length of our history? If so, where would we place to 0?

“Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell,” a YouTube channel run by a small group of people dedicated to producing educational “content that has value and that people actually notice and remember,” brought up this idea in a video titled “A New History for Humanity – The Human Era.” However, it has been an idea for over 20 years before this video was released. In 1993, scientist Cesare Emiliani proposed an idea of a new calendar – one that places its first year at the beginning of what he calls the “Human Era,” where we started building our world to suit our needs on top of the existing one, when we turned from hunter-gatherers to farmers. But what event marks the beginning of this “Human Era?”

Remnants of the 12,000 year old temple can still be seen today.

Ruins of the 12,000 year old temple can still be seen today.

About 12,000 years ago, hundreds of hunter-gatherers came together in the hills of Anatolia, or the area we call Turkey today, and started the world’s first construction project. Göbekli Tepe, which means “Potbelly Hill” in Turkish, was a temple made with circles of huge stone pillars, each being up to six meters tall and weighing approximately twenty tons. They were decorated with carvings of pictograms, some resembling animals and others mythical creatures. These early humans had only wood and stone tools, and knew nothing about metalworking or agriculture. To this day, we have no idea how they built this. It is believed to have been a temple dedicated to long-forgotten gods, but the one thing we know for sure is that this temple was the first of its kind.

From there, humans made huge progress that we seemingly ignore with the Gregorian calendar. It makes our history seem much shorter than it actually is. Thinking about it with this Holocene calendar, 2,000 years is just a sliver of our actual history. So, next time you look at your calendar, consider changing that year to 12,017. Don’t underestimate the extent of human history.