Beware of “The Choking Game”

By Jessica

The Choking Game, also known as The Fainting Game, Knock-Out, Airplaning, and Space Monkey, is anything but a game. This dangerous activity is often played by preteens and teens ages 9-16 years old. Police departments and school districts everywhere have been warning parents to speak to their children about the potential hazardous effects of engagement in such behavior. In this activity, kids either practiced alone or in groups with the goal of temporarily stopping the flow of oxygen to their brains by using belts, hands, or plastic bags, in an attempt to become momentarily unconsciousness. The end goal of participation in this type of behavior is to feel a few brief seconds of euphoria, also known as a temporary high, before regaining consciousness.

But not all participants regain consciousness; recently, a New Jersey student strangled himself to death. A survey by the Erik’s Cause website cited that 93% of parents were unaware of the existence of “pass-out” activities. The website also said 90% of children heard about this kind of behavior from their friends. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this activity caused 82 fatalities from 1995 to 2007. Kids continue to engage in this lethal behavior for reasons including pressure from peers, dares, trying to gain acceptance into a social group, a free way to become intoxicated, or just simply curiosity.

Parents everywhere are encouraged to make sure their children know preventing blood from reaching the brain is not safe in any way, shape, or form. We can help put an end to this harmful activity by looking for the warning signs. It only takes three minutes for the brain to be harmed blood and oxygen are eliminated. Signs one is participating in such behavior include red eyes, bruises on the neck, disorientation, unstable mood, and periods of silence. Knots left in clothing and ropes around the household is also a warning.  As a doctor stated, “It is important for children to know about the seriousness of what can happen to their body if they experiment even on time. Any type of asphyxiation, even if temporary, may cause strokes, seizures, retinal damage, brain damage or even death.” 

April Fools!

For many, the fact that April Fools Day has just past is such a relief. This holiday comes once a year on the first day of every April, and is notorious for its pranks and cruel jokes. We have been living through this famous day for as long as we can remember, but do any of us truly know where the one day of year where nobody is safe comes from? Let’s look back at history. The origin of this day is slightly unclear, due to the fact that there are many theories regarding it. One of the most popular theories is the one including Pope George XIII, who ordered in the late 1500’s, possibly 1582, that Christian countries, particularly France, change their calendars to the Roman one. This would mean that the Julian calendar would have to be switched to the Gregorian calendar. With this alteration, the new year would be moved from its original date in the spring on April 1st to it’s new date in the winter on January 1st, which we have adopted as well for our celebration of New Year’s. Due to the fact that it was the 16th century, and there were many who resided in rural areas at the time, it took a while for news to spread that New Years had been moved. There were also those who simply refused to recognize the shift. Anyone who continued to celebrate the old New Year’s date was classified as “April Fools,” which is where we get the holiday’s name from. Spring celebrators were mocked, and had paper fish stuck onto their backs without their knowledge, which symbolized an “easy to catch fish,” or a gullible person, also called “Poisson D’Avril” in French. America is not the only country who has a day in the year specifically dedicated to silliness. India celebrates a spring festival called Holi, in which people play jokes and throw dyes at each other. Iran celebrates the holiday of Sizdah Bedar, in which pranks are also played on April 1st. According to the Museum of Hoaxes, “It’s more likely that April Fool’s Day resembles these other celebrations because they’re all manifestations of a deeper pattern of folk behavior — an instinct to respond to the arrival of spring with festive mischief and symbolic misrule,” and I couldn’t agree more with this statement.

A medieval times image of a man being tagged with a paper fish on his back

A medieval times image of a man being tagged with a paper fish on his back

Stephen Hawking Will Go to Space

Famed cosmologist and physicist Stephen Hawking will travel aboard Virgin Galactic into outer space.

The news was revealed when he was interviewed on Good Morning Britain, where he stated that Richard Branson, who founded the Virgin Group, offered to take him to space for free, and he “said yes immediately.” At 75, he will be the second-oldest person to ever travel to space, after Buzz Aldrin, who was 77 at the time of his historic trip to the moon. In addition, he will be the very first person with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) to travel to space. In most cases of ALS, affected people do not live within five years of the disease’s beginning. However, Hawking was diagnosed at 21, and although he is paralyzed, he is completely alive and well 50 years later. He communicates using a cheek muscle attached to a communication device.

Stephen Hawking is one of the most brilliant minds in the field of science.

Stephen Hawking is one of the most brilliant minds in the field of science.

In 2014, Virgin Galactic’s spacecraft, the VSS Enterprise, suffered an accident in the Mojave Desert that killed one of their pilots and injured another. Since then, they have been working to develop safer and better commercial spacecraft and hope to bring people to space via commercial flights in the near future. The date on which Hawking will go to space is currently unknown.

In the interview, he compared the joy of being able to go to space to the joy his three children bring him. He also discussed President Donald Trump, who he had called a demagogue on a previous occasion. Although America “is still a place I like and admire in many ways, I fear that I may not be welcome,” he said. He also believes that Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, should be replaced. “Climate change is one of the great dangers we face, and it’s one we can prevent,” he said. Trump has stated multiple times that he thinks climate change is a hoax.

Hawking’s trip to space won’t be his first time in a low-gravity environment. In 2007, he went on a zero-gravity flight on a Boeing 727 jet, which he greatly enjoyed, and he is excited to experience it again. “I thought no one would take me,” Hawking said of finally having the ability to achieve his lifelong dream.

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.

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

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.

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.

America’s Cutest Competition

One of the greatest highlights of Super Bowl Sunday is putting everyone’s differences aside, gathering in front of the TV, and watching a bunch of puppies run around a tiny football field. While some may enjoy watching actual humans play football, others choose to watch the canine version, known as the Puppy Bowl. The Puppy Bowl began in 2005 and was originally conceived to be like the Yule Log, filming puppies playing around with dog toys in a small football field for twelve straight hours. However, the program garnered an unexpected 5.8 million viewers. Since then, the Puppy Bowl went from a simple program to a full-on annual event, and went through many changes. For example, the Puppy Bowl is still aired on Animal Planet for twelve hours, but much of that time is spent on the pregame or on replaying the Bowl. It is initially aired from 3 to 5 p.m. so that it does not conflict with the Super Bowl. Many new features have been added throughout the years, such as the Kitten Halftime Show, a Dairy Queen-sponsored Kiss Cam, animal cheerleaders (such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and chickens), a live-tweeting bird named Meep, and competition between Teams Ruff and Fluff, which has been in place for three years so far. It is also sponsored by many companies, from Geico to Subaru to Pedigree. The Bowl is pre-recorded three months in advance and shot for two full days, so what viewers see on television is only the best of what happened during the shoot. Nowadays, the event often gets over ten million viewers each year and is one of Animal Planet’s most-watched events.

Teams Ruff and Fluff compete in the Puppy Bowl XIII.

This year, the Puppy Bowl made significant history in many ways. Team Fluff ended Team Ruff’s two-year winning streak, beating them for the first time with an unprecedented ninety-three points. Tucker, an Australian Shepherd mix and the captain of Team Fluff, took home the Lombarky Trophy, one of the many new additions of this year’s Bowl. Some other new features included mascots for each of the teams (a screech owl for Ruff and a chinchilla for Fluff) and the inclusion of three dogs with special needs: Winston, a hearing and sight impaired Australian Shepherd; Doobert, a deaf English Pointer; and Lucky, a three-legged terrier who was also the recipient of the Underdog Award. A Cocker Spaniel/Bichon Frise mix named Nikita also made history by becoming the first dog to use the referee’s flag to score a touchdown, and she also scored two other touchdowns and one field goal. She was a strong contender for MVP (Most Valuable Pup), yet lost to a Poodle mix named Rory who scored three touchdowns early on in the game.

All of the puppies that participate in the Puppy Bowl are living in either shelters or foster homes and are seeking a “forever home.” The ultimate goal is to get all of the participating puppies adopted every year, and oftentimes this goal has been achieved. This year, Animal Planet has brought attention to dogs with special needs, reminding viewers that they are no less worthy of adoption than their able-bodied peers. Although most of the dogs who compete have already been adopted before the Bowl airs, people can still adopt their siblings if they are still available for adoption. But overall, adopting any puppy from a shelter is important. When Animal Planet puts adorable, adoptable puppies on the small screen, it raises awareness of animal adoption and prompts people to adopt dogs in need of a loving home.

Endangerment

There are countless amounts of animals that will make your heart melt: puppies, kittens, the list goes on and on. What is your favorite animal? What if I told you that there is a 30-50% of all species are heading towards extinction by this mid century. According to research conducted by conservation scientist, David Wilcove estimates that there are 14,000 to 35,000 endangered species in the United States. Below are my favorite beauties of this world that are sadly decreasing in population as we speak.

Elephants (African and Asian)

These majestic creatures are the largest mammals on Earth. They are indigenous to Sub-Saharan Africa and SouthEast Asia. As many as 100,000 African elephants were reportedly killed between 2010 and 2012. Threats that are imposed upon the elephant population include poaching and illegal trade of ivory tusks. These beautiful creatures are slowly losing their habitats, because of their size they are forced to places where they can not survive. In Thailand, elephant rides are a popular tourist attraction. In reality these rides “break” elephants both physically and emotionally. Their spines are not made to carry the weight of humans which paralyses them over time. Emotionally? They are abused and driven to insanity by isolation.

Polar Bears

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Polar bears are marine mammals indigenous to the Arctic. Their population is rapidly decreasing ultimately because of the environment. This causes a shift in the ecosystem. Polar ice caps melting leaving many of the bears swimming for their lives in search of other caps. Though these amazing creatures can swim a great distance (30 miles) ice caps are becoming harder to find which results in polar bears drowning in the sea. Another reason for their endangerment is the lack of food. Polar bears spend 50% of their lives searching for food, but less than 2% of their hunts are successful.

What you can do to help

  • Do not buy ivory! New ivory is strictly banned, but antique ivory can be legally available for purchase
  • Adopt an elephant/polar bear
  • Go green
  • Conserve water

The SAT: Past and Present

SAT vs ACT administration by state.

SAT vs ACT administration prevalence by state.

The SAT is a standardized test predominately used for college admissions in the United States. It was first introduced in 1926, although it has been updated several times in order to conform with mercurial cultural beliefs regarding standardized testing. The test has a dissonant history of progressive aspirations with prejudicial undertones; its first iteration was designed by Carl Brigham, a proponent of eugenics, who wanted to eliminate the role of socioeconomic testing biases in admissions.

The first College Board exam, given to 973 students across the United States, was administered in 1901. The exam contained sections on English, classical languages, chemistry, and physics. It consisted of a series of essay responses and was rated on a subjective scale from “very poor” to “excellent”. The first SAT exam was administered much later, in 1926, to over 8,000, primarily male students. Test takers were given about 90 minutes to answer 315 questions. The test was split into many sections with abstruse names such as “artificial language”. There were so many sections, in fact, that in 1928 they actually had to decrease the number of verbal sections to 7. A year later they reduced this number to 6. In the same period of time, the time limit was increased to roughly 2 hours and math was eliminated from the test entirely. From this point forward, the mean score was intended to be 500, with a standard deviation of 100 points. Verbal test scores were linked by equating current scores to those obtained in 1941. The same was done with math scores obtained, when they were re-introduced, in 1942. Thus, the average SAT score was intended to be about 1,000.

This method of “equating” scores later backfired as the mean SAT score began to steadily decline during the 1960’s. During this period of time, the number of SAT tests taken doubled; thus, some attributed the score decline to shifts in demography. Yet, various studies have concluded that other unknown factors contributed to the decline in SAT scores, especially after 1970. Several important changes were made to the test during the 90’s, by which time the average SAT score had dropped to 900. Reading comprehension questions were further emphasized, in an attempt to reduce the importance of crystallized vocabulary in SAT scores. Plans to mandate an essay along with the exam were dropped due to dissent from minority groups, who believed that the essay would accompany an increase in test cost. It was finally decided that scores would no longer be equated to those achieved in the 1940’s, due to increasing discrepancies between a student’s raw score (# of questions correct) and scaled score (section score out of 800).

Although this correction decreased the aforementioned discrepancy, it was accompanied by a disproportionate increase in the number of students achieving a perfect score. Thus, this was corrected by slightly increasing the test’s difficulty and adding a writing section. This produced the 2400 composite score that many of us are familiar with. Score choice, an option that allows students to select which College Board exams to send to college, was made universal in 2009. In recent years, students have been required to submit photo ID, typically an admissions ticket, in order to enter their testing centers. An admissions ticket typically consists of your name, birthdate, test you intend to take, along with other identifying information including a photo. The College Board has very stringent requirements for many elements of these photos, such as facial expression and the subject’s distance from the camera, amongst other things.

Another major overhaul produced the most recent iteration of the SAT exam, which was first administered earlier this year, primarily to members of the class of 2017. Previously, a quarter of a point was deducted from a student’s raw score for each incorrect answer; now, students simply miss out on the opportunity to “gain” points; and the score is once again out of 1600. The test has also introduced new “cross-test” scores, presumed to indicate proficiency in areas such as “Analysis in Science”. The writing section, which was unpopular among many admissions offices and students alike, has been eliminated; although, in reality it seems to have been conjoined with the critical reading section. The essay is now optional, and a list of colleges requiring it for admissions can be found here: http://bit.ly/1K9X7Wg.

After skimming through this dull recitation of the various arbitrary changes made to a test that is heavily weighed in college admissions, you may be wondering: why is this test so important to colleges? Why is it necessary? Originally, the test was actually an IQ test in disguise. In fact, high scores on an SAT exam administered before 2005 may qualify you for entry into MENSA. Although this is no longer entirely the case with newer iterations of the SAT, it is clear that IQ and socioeconomic status strongly correlate with your composite score. These truths are often implicit, but rarely stated directly. Instead, the exam is alleged to “complement” the predictive value of high school GPA. Studies estimate that, although the SAT alone could explain ~13% of the variance in SAT scores, high school GPA alone can explain ~15%; when high school GPA is combined with SAT subject test scores ~22% of college success can be accounted for, but factoring in the regular SAT adds very little (0.1%) predictive value.

Thus, it is likely that SAT subject test scores in conjunction with high school GPA might better predict “college success”. It is interesting to note that colleges actually benefit more from recruiting students with potential for future success, not necessarily students who are likely to have “college success”. Smart people like Bill Gates garner lots of prestige and money for a school, regardless of whether they graduate; as do pro-athletes, entertainers, etc. Fratboys, stereotypically the least intelligent college students, actually donate the most of any group to their respective alma maters. Thus, assessments of intelligence, athleticism, and philanthropic spirit may override concerns about “college success”.

In conclusion, the regular SAT is an arbitrarily contrived standardized test that purports to predict college success, but is more likely an intelligence test in disguise and thus provides colleges with a socially acceptable metric to gauge how potential students might benefit their alma mater as alumni. College ranking services, such as the U.S News & World Report, have perverted admissions in recent years by rewarding colleges for rejecting applicants– who now compete with an increasing number of international competitors that will likely return home once they complete their studies–and maintaining artificially high test standardized scores among their students. All of this distracts from the true, noble purpose of college: education.

Google’s CEO

1749_5021594_origHave you ever wondered who the CEO of Google is? Well, his name is Sundar Pichai and he wants to change the world. He was born in Madurai, Tamil, India. He lived most of his childhood in Chennai. His father was an electrical engineer at GE. His father owned a two room apartment in Chennai, and Sundar Pichai grew up in this apartment. He received his degree from Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur in Metallurgical Engineering. Later, he came to U.S to study at Stanford University.


He started to work at Google in 2004. He was working on incorporating Google as the default search engine on the toolbar in Internet Explorer and Firefox. He took over the Chrome project and brought it to the world in 2008. He was a major contributor to the creation of Google Drive and Chrome OS. He was put in charge of Android and is working on mobile carriers.
Currently, he is working on artificial intelligence, and how it can change the way we ask questions. Larry Page, one of the co-founders of Google, had a dream that questions could be answered before being asked. It sounds weird, but think of the possibilities. For example, an A.I. assistant might say, “Father’s Day is coming up– here are some ideas.”  These helpful tips would occur even before you asked about Father’s Day. With inventions like that, the future for Sundar Pichai seems endless. He is in charge of so many projects from Google, many of which can change the world.