CALIFORNIA PASSES BILL TO CONSIDER REPARATIONS FOR SLAVERY
It is well known that California has implemented many progresive bills and laws and is seen as one of the biggest contributors to reform in America regarding issues such as race and gender. Another step towards this standard was the passing of a new bill in California for the consideration of reparations for slavery. This bill is another step towards addressing racial injustice. The bill established a task force to explore ways the state might provide reparations for America’s role in slavery.
To understand this bill better, we can look into the past of California and the role it played in slavery in America. California was admitted to the union as a free state in 1850. Although the state fought for the freedom of slaves, some research shows that California may not have been as anti-slavery as it appeared. Some documents, such as California's “Fugitive Slave Law” (1852), show why fugitive slaves that fled to California were sometimes denied freedom. In other cases government officials were unwilling to challenge slaveholders who brought slaves into the state. Laws, such as one allowing people to bring slaves into the state if they stayed only temporarily, make it clear that California was not a place where slaves were free. These examples are the sort of things that this new bill and the task force it establishes will have to consider in their decision regarding reparations and their implementation.
The purpose of this new bill is to establish a task force with the main purpose of studying and brainstorming possible ideas on reparations for Black Americans. This bill, also known as Assembly Bill 3121, was approved on September 30, 2020. The task force that will be created will consist of nine members. Five of those members will be appointed by the governor, while the Assembly and Senate leaders would each appoint two of the other four members. This task force will be active for about two years and not disban until 2023, when the task force is expected to have a final proposal on this topic. This bill is the first ever of its kind, as it will research historical and systematic racism before implementing any initiatives. Although the idea of reparations has been popular in the US for the past few years, no state or federal government has specifically implemented a bill for this topic, although other types of progressive bills that have been implemented already to further promote racial equality throughout the US.
The bill’s formation can be attributed to the time and social environment surrounding its creation, and so can the potential outcome of the bill. As most Americans know, this past year has shed a light on racial issues in America, especially concerning the police. The death of George Floyd was the catalyst for this strong wave of the Black Lives Matter movement, as he was unjustly killed by a police officer for suspicious behavior supported by the police officer’s own personal biases. Protests and marches were held throughout the nation in response. However, racism is definitely not something that occurs strictly within the ranks of the police. Racial insensitivities are present in laws, the economy, and people’s everyday lives. Although there may be no direct and permanent solution to this issue, the bill is a step towards it. Many people, including civil rights leaders and activists, have speculated that this bill will result in investments in areas where Black residents reside and face disparities. This bill has the potential to change the way society views racial issues. Through this task force, America can only hope that whatever solution they provide is good enough to help with the deep issues of racism in our country.
AN UNFORTUNATE LESSON OF FREEDOM
Freedom of expression is one of the most fundamental values of many countries. This includes free speech, freedom of the press, and, specifically in this case, freedom of religion. For French teacher Samuel Paty, a simple lesson on religious tolerance was met with horrifying violence. Paty was brutally beheaded after showing his class caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammed.
During the lesson, the Paty asked pupils who were Muslim to leave the room, in order not to offend them with the caricature. Paty felt that while the lesson might have been offensive, it was significant to the children’s education. Some Muslim parents did, in fact, take offense to this. To them, these caricatures depicted a key leader and prominent leader in the Muslim faith from an extremeley negative perspective. To them, this was a disgrace to their very own faith, taking such an important figure and degrading him. However, others believed that the teacher’s actions were out of kindness and respect for their faith.
The following Friday, Paty was knifed to death and beheaded. This attack was both personal and civic: many public figures interpreted this attack to be directed at the essence of French statehood and its values of secularism, freedom of expression, and freedom of worship. Education minister Jean-Michal Blanquer wrote in a tweet, “This evening, it’s the Republic that’s under attack,” demonstrating what he felt was the true intent of the terrorists’ actions. Although this was a direct hit on an innocent individual, one who was merely doing his job, the majority of France believes that these terrorist organizations are targeting something bigger.
However, this slaying was not unique, and it harkens back to the series of violent attacks by Islamist millitants in France over the past several years. Specifically, it called to mind the 2015 Charlie Hebdo killings, and bombings and shootings in 2015 at the Bataclan theatre that killed around 130 people. In January 2015, two Islamic brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris in response to the newspaper displaying a variety of caricatures, most of them being extremely dehumanizing. Armed with rifles and other weapons, they killed 12 people and injured 11 others. More than five years later, Mr. Paty used these same caricatures from the newspaper to discuss important issues and incorporate them into his teaching, and was unfortunately met with the same cruel death.
The main suspect, later confirmed, was Abdoullakh Abouyezidovitch, an 18-year-old Chechen refugee, who took credit for the beheading of Samuel Paty. The teen had beheaded Paty with a knife moments before being gunned down by the police that afternoon in Éragny, the same Paris suburb where Paty's body was found.
Before police had shot him down Friday, anti-terrorist prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said that Abouyezidovitch had tweeted that he had executed one of French President Emmanuel Macron's “dogs of hell” who had “dehumanized” the prophet Muhammed. Police have taken 11 people into custody for questioning. Included are a father who complained about Paty’s teaching methods to the teaching district prior to the killing of Paty, and this man’s sister-in-law. She was previously suspected of having “joined the Islamic State Organization in 2014 in Syria and is, as such, the subject of a search warrant by an anti-terrorist investigating judge,” the prosecutor said. Additionally in questioning are Abouyezidovitch's parents, grandfather and brother.
To the French civilians, this was not an ordinary slaying, but rather one that was a direct attack on one of the pillars of French democracy -- the freedom of expression. The freedom of expression is crucial to the lives of French individuals.
Many disturbed French civilians began to protest by marching together to stand united in hopes of pursuing justice for the sake of Mr. Paty’s family, and their country.
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MAJOR SPORTS LEAGUES AND THEIR EFFORTS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE
Social justice issues have been present in society for centuries. This year, after deaths of Black people, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, at the hands of police, a new wave of social justice emerged concerned with racism, inequality, and police reform. Major league sports have a large platform due to their popularity in America. As a result, sports can, and do, have a great effect on social justice issues. Countless sports leagues have taken action to promote awareness and change. This is a comprehensive review of what each major sports league has done for social justice:
NBA- Several playoff games were boycotted because of the shooting of Jacob Blake (WNBA, MLB, and MLS and tennis games quickly followed suit). The season was only reconvened after the National Basketball Association created the social justice coalition, including players, coaches, and team governors (the owners of the teams). The coalition will focus on increasing access to voting and advocating for police and criminal justice reform. Several team stadiums were converted to voting sites for the 2020 presidential election. Michael Jordan, arguably the best basketball player ever, is currently the only Black owner of an NBA team. He pledged $100 million to social justice reforms. At the season restart in the Covid-19 bubble, players wore social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys. This sparked a slight controversy, since players had to choose messages from an approved list, meaning they were not given the ability to voice their opinions in their own words. The most popular choice was “Equality” followed by “Black Lives Matter.” In a league where 80 percent of players are Black, the phrase Black Lives Matter held significance and was found all over the NBA, from the court to the players’ warm-up shirts.
WNBA- The women's counterpart to the NBA has been just as active as the men’s league in the social justice realm. In a season dedicated to social justice, the Justice Movement and the Social Justice Council were created. These organizations were created to have conversations and promote change around race, voting rights, LGBTQ+ advocacy, gun control, and the like. Players’ uniforms displayed the name of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman who was shot in her home. They also displayed the title “Say Her Name,” the name of a social movement that raises awareness for Black female victims of police brutality. For one game, the Washington Mystics wore t-shirts that spelled out Jacob Blake and were adorned with seven bullet holes on the back, one for each of the times Blake was shot by police. Players even spoke out against the owner of the Atlanta Dream, Kelly Loeffler, who does not believe that the Black Lives Matter movement should be associated with the league. Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore, Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery, and Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud even went so far as to opt out of the season, forfeiting their pay, to focus on social justice. NBA guard Kyrie Irving was supportive of their decision and created a $1.5 million fund to help pay for the salaries these players lost.
MLB- America's baseball league got creative with their efforts for social justice. They created a video reversing the league’s initials MLB, to BLM, the initials of Black Lives Matter. This video can be found on the MLB website, which also contains recommendations of books, articles, films, and podcasts that can be helpful to learn about and understand racism and social justice in America. The site is decorated with powerful sayings and quotes. In games, players may wear social justice t-shirts, patches, wristbands, and jerseys; teams also have the option to stencil the letters BLM on the field. Their season opened up with a powerful speech by actor Morgan Freeman, while players held a two hundred yard long piece of black fabric, showing their unity and solidarity. A league famous for its integration of African American athletes (e.g. Jackie Robinson), MLB was criticized by social media and the press for lagging in response after the death of George Floyd. However, after pressure from Black players, MLB finally released a statement about racism and injustice.
NFL- Over the next ten years, the NFL plans to donate $250 million to make an impact on social justice issues. The NFL has a large media platform, which will be used to increase awareness and change. Their “Inspire for Change” initiative works to create social change. The phrases “It Takes All Of Us” and “End Racism” can be seen in the endzones of football fields. The quote “Injustice against one of us is injustice against all of us,” or other phrases such as Stop Hate, or “Black Lives Matter,” can be worn on warmups. In addition, players are allowed to put the name of a victim of police violence on their helmet.
NHL- While other professional sports leagues were boycotting their games, the NHL remained in play. Besides brief displays of social justice expressions, the NHL has not done much to help the cause. Fans were quick to criticize their slow responses to social justice issues. One of the NHL’s few Black players, Evander Kane, called the league’s lack of action “incredibly insulting.” Since then, #WeSkateForBlackLives and #WeSkateForEquality have become the NHL’s slogans for social justice and fighting racism.
MLS- Men's soccer aims to make change through Black Players for Change (BPC), an organization of MLS players, coaches, and staff. Formerly known as the Black Players Coalition of MLS, the group changed its name after merging with the Players Coalition, which is the NFL players group founded by Anquan Boldin and Malcolm Jenkins. At the restart of the soccer league, during “MLS is Back Tournament,” players stood for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, with fists raised. That length of time is a symbol for police brutality, and represents how long a Minneapolis police officer had his knee on George Floyd’s neck before he died. During this event, some players wore “Silence is Violence” t-shirts and BLM face masks. In addition to charitable donations, BPC collaborated with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) and created a video addressing the systematic racism and the need to stand up and fight it.
U.S Open- The US Open’s initiative, titled “Be Open,” allowed players to express their support for social justice issues by wearing emblems, logos, symbols, and more. They also recruited eighteen artists who are people of color to turn front-row seats in the stadium into works of art that brought awareness to issues in society. Also, to bring awareness to police brutality, Naomi Osaka, the Black female winner of the 2020 U.S Open, wore seven different face masks to each of her matches, each bearing different names of Black victims of violence. One of her masks had the name Tamir Rice on it, a 12-year-old boy shot and killed in Cleveland by a white police officer in 2014.
Social justice and sports have coincided for years. Sports groups have used their platforms to speak up against many injustices. Although athletes taking a stand has happened before, it only just recently became a common phenomenon. Enormous support and donations for Black Lives Matter and ending racism and police brutality have poured in from professional sports leagues. Together, they are creating change and are making a difference in the world and people’s thinking.
MLB’s social justice website can be found here: https://www.mlb.com/diversity-and-inclusion/social-justice.
The Black Players for Change website can be found here: https://blackplayersforchange.org/.
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TOM THIBODEAU MIGHT BE ABLE TO TURN THE KNICKS AROUND
Recently, the New York Knicks haven’t had a lot of luck with coaches or games. They haven’t made the playoffs in eight years, since 2013, and in the 2019-2020 season, the Knicks ended 25th out of 30. In an attempt to turn their luck, the New York Knicks hired a new head coach this year. Tom Thibodeau is the Knicks’ fourth coach in four years, but he seems like one who’ll stick. Thibodeau has experience as former head coach for the Chicago Bulls and the Minnesota Timberwolves. In order to get the Knicks winning again, Thibodeau had a lot of work to do and a lot of changes to make. So far, Thibodeau has turned things around; the Knicks are winning more, playing better defense, and all around improving.
Last year, out of the first 25 games, the Knicks’ won five. This year, under Thibodeau, the Knicks got the same amount of wins, but this time only eight games into the season. That’s a big difference that clearly indicates the Knicks are doing better under their new coach. Thibodeau’s strategy of individually training players has helped the Knicks do considerably better this year. For example, Thibodeau taught Julius Randle, a leader of the team, to be less selfish, and Randle is now averaging twice as many assists as last year (6.0 per game to 3.1). Additionally, Thibodeau transformed the Knicks' defense, causing them to score higher and their opponents lower. When the Knicks played against the Milwaukee Bucks, they scored 110, which is lower than the Buck’s usual 127 points. A similar point reduction occurred when they played against the Cavaliers, the Raptors, the Pacers, and the Hawks. In their game against the Boston Celtics, on January 17, the Knicks won by a margin of 30, the Knicks’ highest margin since 2016.
The Knicks seem to be doing a lot better under new head coach, Tom Thibodeau. But fans want to know: is this going to last? Should they be getting their hopes up that the Knicks might finally actually be considered good? Fans will just have to wait and see.
Julius Randle. https://www.nba.com/stats/player/203944/
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SABRINA IONESCU RECORDS TENTH TRIPLE DOUBLE IN WNBA HISTORY
Sabrina Ionescu is a 23-year-old professional basketball player on the WNBA team, the New York Liberty, and she is a rising star in the basketball world. On Tuesday, May 18, Ionescu became the youngest player in the history of the league to achieve a triple double, meaning she accomplished double-digit figures in three categories: points, rebounds, and assists. Not only is this the first and only triple double in Liberty franchise history, but there have only been nine other triple doubles in the league’s history. Tuesday night kicked off the third game of the Liberty season; the team had won this game 86-75 as well as the two prior. In the third game they played against the Minnesota Lynx in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Sabrina Ionescu widely contributed to the victory with 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists.
While this triple double is a fantastic achievement, it is not new to Ionescu. During her college career at the University of Oregon, Ionescu had 26 triple doubles, making her the all-time leader in the NCAA (women’s and men’s). She’s also the first player (male or female) in NCAA history with over 2,000 career points, 1,000 rebounds, and 1,000 assists.
Sabrina Ionescu’s skill set and expertise have been integral to the Liberty team. After being picked first in the draft in 2020 by the Liberty, Sabrina’s rookie season was cut short when she injured her ankle in only her third game of professional basketball. That season, the New York Liberty finished last in the league, with a pitiful record of two wins and 20 losses. With the return of Ionescu for her second season, the Liberty have turned things around, winning all three of their games; currently their record is already better than last season’s.
Sabrina Ionescu is quickly becoming a leader on the court, and has the potential to become one of the greats. She could be the key to the revival of the New York Liberty team.
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THE FDA APPROVES FIRST EVER PEANUT ALLERGY TREATMENT FOR CHILDREN
Approximately 1 million children in the US have a peanut allergy. Being one of those children, I am aware of how serious peanut allergies are. The situation of peanut allergies is worsened by the fact that there is currently no cure for allergies. Only 1 in 5 children in the US will outgrow the allergy, leaving many children to deal with this every day for the rest of their lives. Even when children are careful and strictly avoid peanuts, exposure can be unavoidable. Exposure to peanuts can be a matter of life and death for children with peanut allergies. However, the FDA recently approved the first drug to treat a peanut allergy. This drug is Palforzia and consists of three phases: Initial Dose Escalation, Up-Dosing, and Maintenance.
Palforzia is a drug that is used to help children with peanut allergies. It is a powder made up of peanuts packaged into pull-apart capsules. Each phase has a different amount of the drug, progressively increasing with the amount of time a child has been taking the drug. The Initial Dose Escalation happens in the presence of doctors and is given to the child once. If the Initial Dose is tolerated, the Up-Dosing is given over a period of months. The first dose of each Up-Dosing level must be given with a healthcare professional present, but the Up-Dosing can eventually be given to the child at home if they do not experience a reaction. After a patient completes all the Up-Dosing levels, they move on to the daily maintenance dose where they will then receive the same dose of the drug every day to maintain this immunity to the drug that they have now built up.
Palforzia has been rigorously tested. This was done when a study was performed testing if patients could tolerate a single 600 mg dose of peanut protein, which is twice the daily maintenance dose of Palforzia. Some of the participants in the study had been receiving the drug for months already and others were receiving a placebo. The results showed that 67.2% of Palforzia recipients were able to tolerate the peanut protein, while only 4.0% of the placebo recipients were able to do so. Plaforzia has also been tested for safety to make sure no children were being harmed while receiving the drug. Once Palforzia was shown to be an incredible new innovation that can save and help many lives, the FDA granted approval of Palforzia to Aimmune Therapeutics. While not everyone with peanut allergies will benefit from Palforzia, it is a great step in eliminating peanut allergies once and for all.
THE NEW WAY OF DRIVING
Cars have been around for over a century and have changed the way people live in the world. One of the ways cars have changed the world is by polluting our environment. However, what if there was a way of driving that didn’t pollute the air? This would be a tricky feat, but with all of the world’s technology, a new way of driving can be achieved with cars that drive on solar power alone.
Car companies have been toying with the idea of a car that drives on solar-powered panels for a while now. They have been trying to find the right materials and engineering to make it work, and a few companies are starting the production stage of their cars by 2021. There are even some companies that have already come out with cars that run partially on solar power, such as the 2021 Sonata Hybrid from Hyundai. The Sonata Hybrid gives an extra two miles per day, from the solar panels on the roof, compared to cars that only run on gas. The solar-paneled cars in progress never need to be charged, which will help people save money.
According to Lightyear, a car company in the Netherlands, their solar-powered car, named “The Lightyear One,” will have five square meters of solar panels stretching around the roof and sides of the car. Sono Motors, a German car company, states that their solar-powered car is surrounded by polycarbonate. Polycarbonate, a clear frame, is unbreakable, scratch-resistant, and lightweight. Polycarbonate is used to protect the solar cells in the panels. There are outlets outside the car as well to charge things like your phone, computer, or maybe even a mini-fridge without having to worry about the car battery dying.
The switch to solar-powered cars is much needed as there are many problems with cars fueled on gas. Burning gasoline releases the toxic gas carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, which are the main source of smog in urban areas. Another gas released by cars is unburned hydrocarbons, the main source of ozone in urban areas, which is released into the atmosphere. Additionally, carbon is also released into the air. This is a problem because when carbon burns it turns into carbon dioxide gas, by adding two oxygen atoms to the carbon molecule, which stays as pollution in the atmosphere. The United States alone releases one million tons of carbon into the air every day! The new solar-powered vehicles will hopefully be used by most people by the year 2030, saving our planet, before there is nothing left to save.
THE CORRELATION OF HEALTHY EATING AND MENTAL ILLNESS
Maintaining a healthy mind is crucial for all people. Over the past decade, the number of reported cases of mental illness has skyrocketed. Twenty-six percent of Americans above the age of 18 suffer from a diagnosable mental illness, which equates to roughly 1 in 4 adults (John Hopkins Medicine). This is a massive percentage of people. With these numbers only increasing with time, it is important to examine what we can do to prevent this.
Many health websites recommend learning coping mechanisms or taking walks, yet others believe the food people eat has a more direct effect on their mental health (University of Michigan). The Health Survey for England was conducted in 2014, and they found that this correlation is factual and that people who eat healthier actually are less likely to have mental health issues. Simple things like adding more vegetables and protein to your diet can potentially put you at less risk for developing a mental illness. Even small incorporations of healthy food can have these same results. Exercising also has a positive influence on an individual’s body and mind. Exercising is a natural stress reliever and results in endorphins being released, which is a mood-boosting hormone (Harvard Medical School).
Not only does eating healthy help prevent mental illness, but there are plenty of other health benefits as well. Eating healthier can lead to weight loss, heart health, strong bones and teeth, as well as an improved mood, energy levels, memory, and brain health (Medical News Today; Smith). Clearly, eating healthy has many benefits, especially for people suffering from mental illness.
The SMILES trial further proves the statement that healthy eating correlates to an improved mental state (Jacka, et al.). This trial consisted of a group of individuals with major depression who received balanced and nutritious dietary plans under the supervision of dieticians. The other group in this experiment only received therapy. The experiment results revealed that the group of people who had received dietary plans felt in an overall improved state and had better outcomes for their mental health than the group with therapy. If an individual were to incorporate both healthy eating and therapy in their life, the likeliness of them overcoming their mental health issues is much greater than without.
Mental illness is not entirely preventable, since there are a number of other contributing factors, like an individual's environment or genetic factors. As a society, it is important to find ways we can try to combat the pressing issue of our alarmingly high mental illness rates. By simply eating healthier, it is possible to reduce this issue and potentially lower the number of people with mental health issues. This correlation can help people suffering from mental illness and can help prevent people from developing a mental illness.
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THE PERVASIVE CONSEQUENCES OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON TEENAGERS
Social media has grown more and more popular in today’s modern world. Roughly 3.69 billion people across the globe have some sort of social media. That’s around half of the world's population. Multi-billion dollar corporations such as Tik Tok and Instagram tend to attract younger audiences through their fun and laid-back appeal. These platforms allow teenagers to interact virtually with one another, celebrities, influencers, and brands. While social media has many positive aspects, the physical and mental effects it may have on teens and children are cause for concern.
Social media has transformed from an entertainment source to an integral part of many people’s lives. While phone usage is popular among many people of all ages, it is most common with teenagers. People in younger age groups tend to check their phones almost double the amount than those who are older. Teenagers’ attachment to their phones and social media is sometimes fueled by a fear of missing out (known as FOMO). FOMO can be caused by many factors including wanting to keep in touch with friends, trying to stay on trend, following current events in the media, or just remaining included with the rest of the world overall. When teenagers experience FOMO, they get stuck in an addictive cycle trying to keep up with everyone else’s lives. While it may not seem serious, social media puts extreme social pressure on teenagers, which triggers their FOMO and keeps them coming back to social media.
An article by NPR reports that the average teenager goes on their phone for 5+ hours a day. Additionally, it has been found that 73% of teenagers check their phones before bed, and 72% check their devices first thing in the morning.
It’s important to understand the effects of these exorbitant rates of phone usage and social media usage. Sehar Shoukat from the National Center for Biotechnology Information further explains the psychological and physiological effects of phone usage on adolescents; some of the effects include sleep deprivation/insomnia, poor overall health, depression, anxiety, low emotional stability, chronic stress, anger, and suicidal thoughts. There is a serious link between social media usage and poor sleep patterns, and poor sleep patterns caused by phone usage may be the real culprit behind many of these problems associated with phone usage. According to NPR, “late bedtimes are linked with poorer academic and mental health outcomes.” Furthermore, studies have shown that sleep deprivation is usually associated with increased stress, which can induce increased blood pressure, impaired control of blood glucose, and increased inflammation. Obesity, diabetes, alcohol abuse, and heart disease are some long term effects of insomnia. Additionally, it has been found that sleep deprivation may lead to low academic performance which can be detrimental to the many students attending school. The risk of academic failure is bad enough on its own, but lots of students suffer from mental health problems, and this may aggravate them.
Social media is influencing people’s perceptions of beauty. People are now continually consuming photos shared online. As a consequence, social media and body image have become strongly linked. Social media has had both significant positive and negative influences on how people view themselves. It's important to recognize the consequences of social media on body image to minimize any harmful effects it may have on one’s mental health. Project Know, a non-profit committed to assisting people with addictive habits, looked at how social media may intensify eating disorders. They found that both women and men often compare their appearances negatively to images of people they see on the internet. A survey focused on body image, confidence, and the media found that out of 1,000 men and women, 87% of women and 65% of men compare their bodies to images they consume on social and traditional media. In that comparison, a stunning 50% of women and 37% of men compare their bodies unfavorably.
The constant comparison on social media is not healthy. The issue is exacerbated by the fact that people on social media are setting unrealistic standards. Photo alterations are very common and may sometimes look very realistic. People may also feel the need to alter their appearance online to get more positive attention. As a result of all the comparisons and alterations, the gap between what users think about themselves in real life and what they think about their online identity grows, creating a further disparity between perception and reality.
While social media is not all that bad, it's important to keep it in check so that it does not become addictive and unhealthy. Limiting screen time is one of the most effective ways to deter the negative effects that come with social media usage. When struggling with body image on social media, knowing that most of what is there is fake and altered is important. Additionally, keeping a positive outlook on things is essential. This may include unfollowing accounts that try to sell you products with their bodies, keeping up with accounts that promote healthy living with factual information, turning off your phone when you start comparing yourself to others, and avoiding speaking negatively about your body (especially in real life). Most importantly, when affected with serious physical and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, chronic stress, and eating disorders, it is important to reach out to people and seek professional help if necessary. Setting boundaries is essential for engaging with social media. This way one can enjoy the positive aspects without getting caught up in the harmful aspects of social media.
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THE UTILIZATION AND IMPLICATIONS OF CRISPR
DNA contains sequences of three nucleotides that each code for a gene that has a specific function. These genes make up a person’s appearance and characteristics. While for most of human history these genes were fixed, scientists have found a way to change a person’s DNA and genes using CRISPR. CRISPR is an enzyme that edits the DNA sequences to create a different gene. CRISPR does so by locating the specific sequence it was sent in to change and then replaces that sequence of DNA with a desirable new sequence. This new sequence creates a new gene with a different function than the original gene. For example, if the nucleotide sequence for blue eyes is abc and the nucleotide sequence for green eyes is acb, CRISPR can alter the DNA sequence from abc, to acb, yielding green eyes instead of blue eyes. Thus, the possibilities with CRISPR are endless. CRISPR allows people to edit genes any way they want, and, therefore, design humans.
CRISPR is currently being utilized to do many great things. While some might prefer to use CRISPR for cosmetic purposes, like changing eye color, CRISPR can have more noble uses, such as curing and preventing diseases. For example, CRISPR was used in an embryo to prevent the gene of HIV passing on from mother to child. Mark and his wife, Grace, desperately wanted children, but were afraid of passing on Mark’s HIV to their children. CRISPR was Mark and Grace’s answer. Dr. He Jiankui utilized CRISPR prior to FDA approval to edit the sequences of nucleotides in the embryo's genes to make the embryo immune to HIV. Grace safely gave birth to twins, Lulu and Nana, nine months later, and they were fully immune to HIV. CRISPR gave Mark and Grace the wonderful opportunity to have children without the fear that Mark’s disease would be passed on.
When Dr. He Jiankui performed this procedure, CRISPR was rarely utilized and was not approved by the FDA due to a lack of knowledge of long term effects and a large ethical dilemma surrounding CRISPR. Now, even though CRISPR is approved by the FDA for use in some cases, doctors still have been weighing the costs and benefits of CRISPR. Despite the fact that human genome editing raises safety and ethical concerns, for some, it is one of their only options in dire situations. CRISPR gives families who have watched their children suffer from severely debilitating genetic diseases may now have hope that cruel mutations can be edited out of the gene pool.
Furthermore, CRISPR has recently been aiding in the battle against COVID-19. . CRISPR has just been authorized by the FDA to be used for COVID-19 testing. During times of emergency, such as a pandemic, the US Food and Drug Administration has the authority to make tests and drugs available faster. According to CITYMD Urgent Care, the average PCR nasal COVID-19 test takes about 5-7 days depending on the lab partner or other outside factors. CRISPR pioneer Feng Zhang at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard has developed a way to use CRISPR technology to generate fast and accurate COVID-19 tests. These tests work by coding the CRISPR machinery to detect a piece of COVID-19 genetic material in a nose, mouth or throat swab, or in fluid from the lungs. If the virus’s genetic material is found, a CRISPR enzyme generates a fluorescent glow. The test can return results in about an hour, according to the MIT research labs. The speed of these tests will be instrumental in slowing the spread of the pandemic and will make abiding by COVID restrictions much easier.
Despite the benefits of CRISPR, it is important to look at the disadvantages and ethical questions that arise from its use. Is CRISPR yet another way for the wealthy and privileged to get ahead? Furthermore, where should the line between disease and treatment be drawn? How do we enforce the ethical use of CRISPR?
CRISPR poses an ethical dilemma to some religious communities as some believe that editing people’s genetic material is going too far. They argue altering people’s genetic codes and determining their diseases, eye color, and traits seems like a godlike undertaking for scientists. However, many counter this by saying that CRISPR isn’t necessarily playing God, since God provided the technology.
Another major issue posed has to do with CRISPR being utilized for the customization of humans. Is it morally right for parents to pick out the genes of their future children? Is it ethical to create a new race of designer humans with handpicked superior genes? Can CRISPR be ableist by preventing people from being born with any disabilities? Will CRISPR only be affordable for the rich, creating a society of a genetically enhanced upper class? All these ethical questions have challenged scientists on whether or not they should study and normalize the use of CRISPR.
In response to concerns about CRISPR, Robert Truog, director of the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School, says that although there are still unknown risks to CRISPR, ultimately there are so many positive ways to use CRISPR, and therefore, it is worth it to continue researching the technology.
Overall, CRISPR is a fascinating development in the medical field. There are many ethical dilemmas surrounding CRISPR, but CRISPR also has the potential to help so many people and possibly change the world for the better.
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SOCIAL MEDIA AS A POLITICAL PLATFORM
Recently, there has been an uptick in the use of social media as a political platform. The Covid-19 pandemic has added to this phenomenon, and platforms such as FaceBook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram have been transformed into sources for information, and sometimes, misinformation. Between the use of social media as a space for expression by today’s teens and as a campaigning platform, political awareness among adolescents is on the rise.
With the election day fast approaching, a question arises: To what extent will social media impact the vote? People are also wondering: will the younger generations sway the outcome of this controversial election? According to a project done by Syracuse University, between June 1 and September 13, the Trump campaign and Biden campaign have collectively spent $65.8 million on social media advertising. This large sum has allowed each to spread its message to social media users all across the country, potentially impacting their votes this November. These platforms, according to PEW Research, are the main source of political information for a third of teens surveyed in 2016. One in every ten eligible voters in this election is a member of “Generation Z,” a generation that grew up with Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and the like. Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have released features to allow for easy voter registration, encouraging political activity among their users.
These tactics lead to tangible results. A study by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that social media jolted the youth into action. Teens on Twitter were more likely to participate in protests and express their political beliefs. On Instagram, teens often protest, use their platform politically, raise money for a cause, and help out organizations. This study shows how social media not only educates teens and raises their awareness, but prompts them to use their platform to educate friends and followers. Furthermore, a study done by Tufts University showed that as compared to voters aged 18-29 in 2016, this election’s turnout from this age group is roughly eight times greater in Florida and North Carolina, and 19 times greater in Michigan.
Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd prompted many teens across the nation to use their platforms to discuss their beliefs, educate others, and make a change in society. While these posts and shares seem like small actions, the impact they may have is enormous. One share leads to two, which leads to three, and so on and so forth. With new technology, current events and ideas can spread like wildfire through virtual communities. What is occurring today can be compared to the advent of the printing press in 1455; with new forms of media, ideas and movements spread faster than ever before.
One concern with the increased use of technology for the spread of news is the fear of misinformation. As seen with the coronavirus, misinformation spread from politicians and partisan outlets over the recent months. With advice that masks are not helpful and false remedies for the virus, social media companies worked hard to prevent the spread of these false and potentially harmful notions.
Social media companies have been taking precautions to ensure that their social media platforms do not interfere with the upcoming election. Facebook, with 175 million users in the United States, announced that they will not have new political advertisements in the week leading up to the election. It is taking measures to warn against posts that are meant to undermine the legitimacy of the election. Facebook is going to ensure that no early false announcements of the election will have a serious impact by directing its users to official information from the National Election Pool. Similarly, Twitter has announced that they will take down posts that announce false victory claims. YouTube plans to remove posts that lie about the eligibility of candidates and promote false information regarding dates and locations for voting. TikTok has joined in, stating that they will “combat misinformation, disinformation, and other content that may be designed to disrupt the 2020 election.” Hopefully, these companies will succeed in their efforts to maintain the integrity of the approaching election.
Social media, a multi-faceted outlet of expression, has the potential to spread awareness and raise political activity among today’s youth. Used in the right way, social media platforms can contribute to the creation of a more educated, tolerant, and understanding society.
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