Mass Shootings: America’s Fastest Growing Epidemic

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph 

The recent attack on the Route 91 Harvest 3-day country music festival in Las Vegas–the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history–has ignited the hotly contested issue of gun control in the United States.

While the efficacy of strengthened gun control laws acting as a panacea for mass shootings is debated, the one thing that is clear is that mass shootings in the U.S. are an epidemic.

There is no concrete data on mass shootings, because of the ambiguity behind the definition of “mass shooting.” According to a 2013 USA Today investigation, even the FBI’s database is only 57 percent accurate. By the widest parameters, a mass shooting is one where the gunman shoots four or more people at the same general time and location; the narrowest parameters, set by the Congressional Research Service, require that a shooter kills four or more people at random in a…

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Living Batteries: The Dark Horse of Alternative Energy

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      Two “living” batteries have been made in recent years that may revolutionize the way we generate energy: bio-batteries (short for biological batteries) and microbial fuel cells (MFCs). The former are made from organic compounds (such as sugars, carbohydrates, proteins, and enzymes), while the latter are powered by bacteria.

    At this point, these batteries have yielded substantial results, with one experiment even suggesting that a sugar-powered bio-battery has ten times more energy than the traditional lithium-ion battery used in smartphones.

    While it is unlikely that bio-batteries and MFCs will power our TVs, computers, or cars anytime soon, their development is still quite significant. Current models have already shown to be effective energy sources to power medical devices essential to saving lives in rural areas without electricity.

    That may not mean anything to people who don’t directly feel their impact, but it means the world to those who receive life saving medical care they wouldn’t have otherwise.

Anything that helps people who suffer and die day after day of treatable diseases because of poverty, inaccessibility of medical care, or inferior technology is extremely worthwhile to most, but for those who are less sympathetic, there is cause for you to support bio-batteries as well.

    It seems that some particularly astute researchers took notice of the fact most organisms use ATP to convert glucose into energy, and decided to make a sugar powered battery because of the immense quantities of untapped energy that sugars hold (ex: a single bowl of rice has the same energy output as 96 AA batteries).

    So far, the latest news on these sugar batteries is a 2014 Virginia Tech experiment and the latest practical application was the use of a Sony sugar battery to power RC cars, but there is still hope for this form of bio-battery to power high-energy  devices.

    The chief researcher in the Virginia Tech experiment, Y.H. Percival Zhang, estimated that the sugar batteries would be ready for commercial use in three years. Yes, we are in 2017, three years after that statement was made; however, the year is not yet over and there is still time (albeit very little) for Zhang to meet his projected deadline.

    It is also worth noting that even if the batteries aren’t ready by this year, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be ready any time soon. History has continuously proven that many things once thought impossible are quite possible, so considering science already establishes the possibility of these batteries, it is not too far stretch a to believe that they may become a reality in the next few years.

    Whether that “few” means the next year, decade, or century (all relatively short periods in the grand scheme of things), it will happen. Our bodies are already capable of doing it, so it is only a matter of time before scientists in all of their brilliance develop a way of manufacturing that process outside of the body to produce bio-batteries with energy outputs suitable for our energy expectations.

    And when that does happen, we will see a host of other benefits. Not only are these batteries safer and inexpensive, they will make all of us a little “greener” too.

    Rather than having to carefully dispose of toxic batteries, we will have batteries that can be recharged with materials that are safe for consumption, like sodas and energy drinks (though it is more likely that a 15% maltodextrin solution will be used) whose only byproducts are electricity and water. Some batteries even use wastewater or other waste materials, so we will contribute less trash to the environment while also helping to clean it up in the process.

    This clean-up goes for the air as well as our waste. If bio-batteries and MFCs are made to power cars and other fuel-powered machines, we can reduce our reliance on burning fossil fuels for energy, which is the primary factor of climate change.

    It may seem like a longshot, but at some point so did developing planes, cars, phones, computers and basically every other modern luxury we now enjoy. If today’s scientists ignore naysayers and work diligently like those of the past did, it is likely that commercialized bio-batteries and MFCs will become a reality, taking us one step closer to rehabilitating our deteriorating planet.

AHS Cult Casting Controversy: Can We Just Forgive and Forget? — The Harbinger

 

By Sabine Joseph American Horror Story (AHS) has become an instant cult classic, but its “cult” of fans was quick to abandon their favorite binge-worthy show after the cast of the the latest season was announced. Lena Dunham and Colton Haynes, two actors scheduled to appear on this season, have been dubbed by the internet […]

via AHS Cult Casting Controversy: Can We Just Forgive and Forget? — The Harbinger

Trump and the Alt-Right: An American Romance

Originally Published in The Harbinger

Though Trump’s minions claim that he “continues to denounce racism of any kind,” his own words belie him. And now–due to racist, sexist, Islamophobic, and otherwise offensive rhetoric–Trump has ascended to the office of the president riding on the wave known as the alt-right movement.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when the movement started, but journalist Anthony Smith traces the origins of the alt-right to a speech made by philosopher Paul Gottfried after Obama’s 2008 election win.

“From there in the wake of America electing its first black president, all of a sudden you see these people rising from the shadows and organising in a way they haven’t organised before,” said Smith.

The timing–immediately after America elected its first black president–may suggest that the movement is somewhat racially charged, but many prominent members argue that such is not true.

According to Gottfried’s speech, the alt-right is “an independent intellectual Right, one that exists without movement establishment funding.”

Its enemies, as stated by influential alt-right media personality Milo Yiannopoulos, are “the progressive Left, feminism, Black Lives Matter,” as well as the “’safe space’ and ‘trigger warning’ culture” and media intended to narrow minds and silence certain opinions–especially right-wing ones.

But in regards to white nationalism, Yiannopoulos says he does not subscribe to such views.

“All my boyfriends are black,” he said. “I don’t give a toss about skin colour.”

However, members do not deny that the movement has swept up a large, racist, white nationalist population.

“The real racists… are very serious, are deep into studies and data attempting to prove that some races are smarter than other races–they’re really dorky,” said Yiannopoulos.

Along with that group, the alt-right is composed of a variety of ideologues including libertarians, men’s rights activists, Christians, traditionalists, and neo-nazis, all of whom boarded the ‘Trump Train’ this election.

And finally, after months of proclamations of love from the alt-right, Trump has made a public display showing that he reciprocates the feelings.

The horrific display in Charlottesville, Virginia has naturally sparked outrage on the internet; things went so horribly wrong that Democrats and Republicans united their rage towards a common enemy and finally tweeted each other without starting beef.

During the incident, it was alt-right nationalists who marched with torches blazing, proudly hoisting swastika and Confederate flags. It was alt-right nationalists who threw punches and sprayed mace in the eyes of fellow Americans. And it was an alt-right nationalist who recklessly and intentionally drove into a crowd of counter protesters, taking one life and endangering several others.

Yet, when the time came to condemn alt-right nationalists the same way he did to innocent, marginalized groups during his campaign, Trump barely gave them a slap on the wrist.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” stated Trump.

“Many sides,” he said. He is right that there are many sides to any issue, each has a spectrum broader than the color range of Crayola crayons, but this was not the fault of many sides. What transpired in Charlottesville was the result of hatred brewing in the hearts of alt-right nationalists who have recently been emboldened to make their views known.

It is because of Trump that KKK members are brazen enough to abandon their hoods, neo-Nazis spew anti-Semitic hate speech outside their community, and other radical groups are taking to the streets to terrorize fellow Americans.

Though not spoken in the context of these groups, Yiannopoulos’s statement that “Donald Trump has re-energised those people” rings true.

As if that weren’t enough, the movement has no intention of dying with Donald Trump. While it is probable that should a politically correct president be elected post-Trump-era the movement will subside, as libertarian columnist Cathy Young put it, “after everything that’s happened this year, I have completely given up on making any kind of predictions.”

“Skinny Repeal”: The Next Phase of Operation “Repeal and Replace”

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph

After several failed attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare, lawmakers tried yet again to implement health care reform on Thursday, July 27 with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposed Health Care Freedom Act (HCFA), to no avail.

The HCFA, commonly known as the “skinny repeal”, was intended to strip some of the more unpopular aspects of Obamacare rather than repealing the bill entirely.

Lawmakers hoped that the bill would receive a minimum of 50 Senate votes, thereby acting as a way to open up a discussion between the Senate and the House so that a comprehensive health care bill would finally reach President Trump’s desk.

Though the “skinny repeal” was intended to serve as serve as a starting point and not a final destination, some GOP senators feared that the bill would be the end of the road for health care reform and that the House would…

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Democratic Senators Show Strong Concern for Minority Students in Letter to EdSec Betsy DeVos

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph

Last Tuesday, led by Washington Sen. Patty Murray, 33 Democratic senators and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders penned a strongly worded letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos regarding what they feel is her disappointing and alarming lack of dedication to making sure that  “all students, no matter their race, religion, disability, country of origin, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity, have a right to receive an education free from discrimination.”

This letter followed shortly behind two directives proposed by DeVos’ right-hand on civil rights, Candice Jackson, were released. Loosened regulations on how civil rights cases are investigated and the reduction of federal monitoring of the department’s regional offices were discussed in one memo.

Another directive seeks to reverse guidelines for transgender students set by President Obama, which DeVos repealed, by not expressly giving transgender students the right to use the school bathroom corresponding to…

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Victims Still in Critical Condition After Wednesday’s Virginia Shooting

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph

Wednesday June 14 in Alexandria, Virginia shots rang out and chaos ensued after 66 year old James T. Hodgkinson opened fire during an early morning practice for the annual congressional charity baseball game.

Two firearms — an SKS rifle 7.62 and a 9 mm pistol — were found on the scene and were still being analyzed on Wednesday according to a law enforcement source’s interview with CNN.

Special agent  Tim Slater, who runs the FBI’s Washington field office, says it is too early to determine whether or not the shooting was a targeted attack; however, Rep. Ron DeSantis saw photos of Hodgkinson and believe him to be the same man who had approached DeSantis and Rep. Jeff Duncan to ask whether the people practicing on the field were Democrats or Republicans.

It is believed that Hodgkinson  motive was intense dissatisfaction with the results of the election, though…

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Movies to Look Out For This Summer

The Harbinger

By Sabine Joseph

As the summer rapidly approaches, mark your calendars with the release dates of these fantastic flicks that are sure to leave audiences speechless.

Wonder Woman (PG-13)

JUNE 2 — Glimpse into the past of DC’s heroine Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) as the Amazonian princess trains to become a fearless warrior. Then, follow her on her action-packed journey as she ventures from home for the first time, prompted by meeting an American pilot (Chris Pine) who tells her of the conflict she is causing beyond her borders.

The Mummy (PG-13)

JUNE 9 — This fantasy/action flick follows Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), a man who seeks valuable artifacts at ancient sites and sells them to the highest bidder, as he attempts to stop Ahmanet, the Egyptian princess who is using her ever-evolving powers to rampage across London, after he accidentally releases her from her millennia-long entombment.

All Eyez on…

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Another Year of Successful Capstones for Miami Lakes Educational Center’s Journalism Seniors — The Harbinger

By Valeria Bula and Sabine Joseph Before the cap and gown, before singing the alma mater, before the diploma, seniors at Miami Lakes Educational center must complete their Capstone Presentation, the culmination of three years of journalism education comes together at the end of the student’s’ senior year as they deliver their presentations to a panel […]

via Another Year of Successful Capstones for Miami Lakes Educational Center’s Journalism Seniors — The Harbinger

Water Warning: South Florida is Drying Up, so Watch Your Water Wastage

Recently, the South Florida Water Management District issued a water usage warning affecting all 8.1 million people who inhabit the area spanning from Orlando to Key West. The warning comes after an unusually dry season which is expected to  last through June 1. More austere restrictions may follow if the dryness continues.

This dry season began around Nov. 1, leaving South Florida significantly more dry than previous years. During winter, the area only received 44 percent of its normal seasonal rainfall, about 6.75 inches less than the average. Temperatures are expected to rise as well, with forecasters projecting a 40 to 50 percent chance of temperatures above normal for the next three months.

Still, the warning is not meant to alarm residents, rather make them aware. Those who live in the area are asked  to be mindful of their water usage this season and try to conserve it as much as possible.

“The purpose of this warning is to urge South Florida families to voluntarily conserve more water,” said Dan O’Keefe, chairman of the South Florida Water Management District governing board. “This effort will help your water supply last through the remainder of the dry season.”

 In order to most effectively comply with the warning, residents may visit sfwmd.gov to find the seasonal and year-round water restrictions for all 16 counties in the district. Compliance with current county water restrictions is being heavily enforced— in certain areas, like Broward, violators may incur a fine of up to $250.

“We are asking residents to take it pretty seriously,” said Pete Kwiatkowski, water shortage manager.

According to Kwiatkowski, the last time the South Florida Water District issued a water warning was in 2011.

As of now, the dry spell has resulted in  significant consequences for Florida. According to the most recent drought data collected by CBS 4, about 34 percent of the state is suffering from severe drought conditions.

Other natural effects include decreased water levels in Florida’s back-up water supply, Lake Okeechobee, whose current 12 foot water level is one foot below the average for this time of year.

Additionally, wildfires that flared up due to the dry conditions caused Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency. Florida wildfires have already caused the loss of 250 percent more acreage of land in the past three months than has been seen during the same time in previous years, leading the water department to temporarily ban open burning on their lands, including those for recreational use in Hendry, Glades, Okeechobee, Osceola and Polk counties.

Residential cooperation from now into the foreseeable future has been deemed crucial in determining the extent of the drought conditions and water restrictions.

Alan Garcia, director of Broward County Water and Wastewater Services, states: “This is the dry time, and we do need to conserve water.”