Who is Trump’s New National Security Advisor and What Can We Expect From Him?

Written by David Lee

One of the latest departures from the Trump Administration is H. R. McMaster, the former national security advisor. He was actually the replacement for disgraced Michael Flynn, who due to lying about meeting with Russians holds the distinct dishonor of being the first official in Trump’s administration to get fired. (At least Flynn received a letter from Trump telling him the news rather than a tweet). The question is, who is now Trump’s new national security advisor? The answer is John Bolton. With his impressive moustache, he looks like a man fit for his job. But is he really qualified or is he just another one of those all talk but no action people? Surprisingly, he is more than qualified for his position, but his strong biases could pave the way for massive upheavals in American foreign policy, with consequences that could lead to war.To start off, John Bolton has the political ability and experience to put Donald Trump’s policies in action. Whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen. A Politico article states that Bolton is already well-known amongst politicians. The moustache is one defining factor of him, but his most distinctive trait is his persuasiveness. Bolton has preached his views since the late 1990s on nearly every major American foreign action, from the Iraq War to the Iran nuclear plan. Some credit him partially for helping the Iraq War happen. So what makes him “better” than McMaster? NPR writes that McMaster contributed heavily in making the America First plan and also translated much of Trump’s proposals into workable policy. Unfortunately, he was more of a behind the scenes guy. Although he could write good legislation, his efforts would be for naught if he couldn’t pass it. This is what Bolton promises to bring to the table. The concerns start with Trump’s policies themselves. The border wall is still mired in political argument and other plans have been shot down by Congress. If Bolton performs to his full capacity, American allies and rivals who previously laughed at Trump may now have to take him seriously.Of course, with Bolton, American foreign diplomacy is in for a wild ride. Obviously, the rift between America and our ally Mexico over the border wall is worrying. Bolton, with strong convictions not unlike Trump, could shake up relationships with other countries like what is happening with Mexico. According to The Independent, Bolton, who kept a defused grenade as a desk ornament during his tenure under President Bush, has a strong hatred for the United Nations. As he quote-unquote said in 1994, “There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that’s the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along.” He also said that if the UN building lost 10 stories, no one would notice. While someone like Trump may agree with Bolton that the United Nations is unnecessary, others (namely, other members of the UN) will probably take offense. As Bolton’s role requires interaction with other foreign powers, he may not be the best choice for someone who can ensure diplomatic peace. In fact, during times of crisis, Bolton is prone to go in guns blazing. In an interview with the Seattle Times, four-star general Barry McCaffrey said, “Ambassador Bolton does not understand the terrible uncertainty that accompanies the use of our massive U.S. military power to deal preemptively with national-security threats.” This could potentially put US soldiers in tricky positions and cause unnecessary violence.What this means is that John Bolton could spark an all-out war. The New York Times reports that Bolton had been a strong advocate to destroy North Korea’s nuclear arsenal before it got too strong. It’s been some time since he said that, but if he decides that sending a nuke to North Korea is still viable (or something that will protect American national security), then North Korea could retaliate. According to CNN, if North Korea’s claims (among which is that they can bomb American interests like Guam and even the mainland itself) are even partially true, America is in huge trouble. However, war takes time and effort to instigate properly and it is usually never an easy option, which is why even with Bolton, war is unlikely. Let’s hope it stays that way.While John Bolton may seem like another official coming and going through the Trump administration, he’s actually got some skills that will make him a formidable and effective national security advisor, but with his bellicose, loose-cannon attitude, America could be thrown in the wrong direction.

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Future House: The Next Big Genre

Written by Tanner Walling

The past several years have seen pop music being taken over by future bass, a subgenre of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) characterized by soft synthesizers, lightning-fast hi-hats created through the use of drum machines, and a “twinkling” sound that made the genre a favorite of streaming and the radio alike. First popularized by The Chainsmokers and Flume, the genre caught steam quickly in 2016 and soon seemingly every artist was adapting this style of music into their songs. However, just like tropical house before it, future bass was soon overdone and started to die out, presenting an opportunity for a new genre to take over music. Enter: future house.Future house is a relatively new genre, born in the United Kingdom in the middle of the 2010s. The genre captures a similar summer-like sound that first popularized future bass, but that’s where the similarities stop. The genre’s drops often have a metallic, bass-heavy sound. Whereas future bass had smoother, more soft-sounding drops, future house is notorious for high-energy drops that sound hard and fast. Featuring modulated bass lines, edited vocals, and a synthesizer-laden build-up and drop the genre posses a kind of tangible energy, excitement, and emotion.Future house, also known as future bounce, was first popularized by Oliver Heldens, a Dutch DJ and producer yet to see crossover success in the American market but who is incredibly popular overseas. In June 2014, Heldens released “Gecko (Overdrive)”, a song that would prove monumental in establishing the genre. The song shot to the number one spot on the UK’s Official Charts (which track the most popular songs overall) and has accrued over a hundred and twenty million streams on Spotify. He followed up with another hit, titled “Up All Night (Koala)”, in December of the same year. The song was another #1 hit in the UK and established Heldens as a pioneer of future house.In 2016, he released “The Right Song” with Tiësto and Natalie La Rose, which reached the number 39 spot on the UK’s Official Charts and garnered nearly a hundred million streams. This song proved that, even years later, there was still a craving for future house even if it was somewhat of an underground genre at that point.In 2017, a mostly unknown producer arrived on the EDM scene. Thijs Westbroek, known as Brooks, had been producing for years since the release of his first single, “Get Down”. After remixing fellow Dutchman Martin Garrix’s smash hit Scared to be Lonely, the remix amassed an impressive fifteen million streams and caught the attention of Garrix himself, who had also received an email from Brooks with an upcoming track. Likely seeing much of himself in the young DJ, who was of a similar age and style of Garrix, Garrix took him under his wing and created “Byte” with him. Released in April of 2017, Byte became a huge streaming success with almost thirty million streams on Spotify and a staggering eighty-five million views on its music video.With the future house proven to be capable of garnering a massive audience, Brooks got to work with Martin Garrix and David Guetta on his biggest hit so far, “Like I Do”. The song exploded in popularity, climbing up the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart, and catapulted Brooks into the Top 100 most streamed artists on Spotify due to its huge success there. Rapidly headed toward a hundred million streams in less than two months, Brooks has proved that future house is in huge demand and the right songs can become big hits.Only time will tell but it seems that future house could be the way of the future in terms of rising genres. With so many successes within the genre, it seems to be only a matter of time before future house becomes mainstream. As The Chainsmokers showed with their first future bass hit “Roses”, all it takes is one artist to make a genre a trend: and future house looks like it just might be that next trend.“Like I Do” has been one of the biggest hits in the future house genre, with 71,268,057 streams on Spotify as of this writing.

Black Panther- A Review

Written by Tara Kaul

On February sixteenth, the iconic Marvel film, Black Panther, was released. The excitement and buildup to this movie in America had been absolutely enormous, and I won’t be ashamed to admit that I was a part of the crowd, counting the days until the third Friday of February. The days after its release, millions of viewers flocked to the movie theaters- but did the movie generally satisfy the audience who had been patiently waiting for so long?

I believe the answer is a resounding yes. Black Panther was an amazing experience, having a hugely talented cast and an outstanding technical crew which really made this movie come alive. However, more than being the first Marvel film that was released in 2018, Black Panther really made history by being the first Marvel Movie to have an all African-American cast. The movie itself helped exhibit the culture of Africa, and most of the cast spoke in an African accent.That’s what made this movie different and exciting as in the past, Marvel movies have tried to assemble a diverse cast and failed. So as expected, many were surprised and excited to see this culturally ambiguous film.  

The society represented in the film showed men and women treated equally. The army was comprised of all women soldiers who were trained to protect their king- a pathbreaking diversion from the cliched and stereotypical stories Hollywood churns out every few months. Instead of portraying women as weak, they were seen as powerful, strong soldiers- exactly the type of role models that should be created by the film industry for little girls.

The story takes place in a fictional country in Africa named Wakanda. The people there are shown to use an exotic, special mineral called Vibranium to create advanced technology that helps them in their day-to-day life. Their newly coronated king, T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, is ready to take the responsibilities as ruler of Wakanda and as the protector of his country as the Black Panther. He is the ruler of Wakanda who wears a suit made of Vibranium which gives him special abilities allowing him to protect his nation and its secrets. In the movie, a man named Ulysses Klaue, played by Andy Serkis, wants to steal this precious mineral, with the intent of making weapons and sharing its existence with the world. He teams up with Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, to sneak into the kingdom of Wakanda. Killmonger, however, has different plans, abandoning Klaue and attempting to take over the throne for himself to avenge his father’s murder. As the plot thickens, new conflicts and twists play out and the Black Panther is forced to make some difficult decisions that are aimed for the eventual betterment of his people.

With a solid 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and widespread critical acclaim, Black Panther has made more than a billion dollars only a month and a half since its release. Widely agreed to be one of the best Marvel movies ever made, its global popularity is spreading like wildfire. For Marvel fans and adventure loving enthusiasts or just the regular moviegoer, I would most definitely recommend this film.

IMG_0741.jpgMarvel’s Black Panther is a landmark movie, featuring an all African-American cast and defying gender stereotypes set by the movie industry. 

Democrats Are Primed For A Superb 2018, But California Shows That Could All Change

Written by David Lee

Democrats and their supporters are entering 2018 with smiles on their faces. The first year of Trump’s presidency was fraught with controversies, conflicts, firings and tons of pandemonium that inevitably hurt the Republicans. Also, surprising early losses in 2017 (for example, Doug Jones beating Republican Roy Moore in Alabama), give the Democrats a good chance for this year’s senatorial elections. The Democrats are primed to retake their majority in the Senate, which gives them more ability to challenge President Trump … that is if they make the right moves. An unprecedented decision in California, endorsing unknown candidate Kevin de Leon over incumbent senator Dianne Feinstein, demonstrates that everything could possibly go wrong.

One of the reasons why this decision is questionable is the fact that de Leon is unlikely to win the Democrat primaries in California, even despite the endorsement. The Los Angeles Times reports that Feinstein was the obvious choice because of her superiority in practically every aspect: incumbent senator with a good reputation, massive funding due to her status (reportedly 10 million dollars over de Leon’s 360 thousand) and great support from the public. In fact, a 2017 poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows Feinstein has a 46% approval rating to trump de Leon’s 17%. 45% of those polled did not even know who de Leon was. Even though the Californian Democrat Party decides who should be endorsed, the public are the people who actually vote. Endorsing de Leon could be a waste of time and resources, becoming a political blunder for the Democrat Party.

Another worry is that the inner turmoil between the government in terms of support could mean division instead of necessary unity. This could allow Republicans to strike back. A Bloomberg article from February highlights that de Leon rose to prominence through recent inflammatory statements against Feinstein. For example, de Leon accused Feinstein of buying votes with her 10 million dollar budget. He also blamed her of being accepting of Trump, citing a quote from 2017 where she said that with patience, Trump could improve in his leadership. This harmless comment had been lambasted by Californians, who overwhelmingly voted against Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Meanwhile, Feinstein stuck to the more conventional but quiet route, laying out solid plans for the future like better gun control (something de Leon has not included in his promises).

It is evident that much of the Democrat Party in California listened to the louder de Leon when making their endorsement. However, given two strong candidates, there is bound to be disagreement between the Democrats and the voters. Unfortunately, this means that without a clear leader, the future of the Californian Democrats is slightly blurry. Even though the New York Times reports that no strong Republican candidate has entered the senatorial race so far, endorsing de Leon could cause enough conflict to buy the Republicans some time. However, a deeper implication is that there is unsteadiness in the Californian Democrat Party itself, in terms of ideologies and support (some like Feinstein, some like de Leon), which could be a long-term issue.

Although Democrats can potentially make 2018 their year, what happened in California shows that can all change with one potentially wrong move. Although Democrats could score, the political ride will still be bumpy.

Democrats have better odds this year, but Republicans can still score victories if the Democrats aren’t careful.

The Buzz on Our Bees: Why Neonics Should Be Banned

Written by Garima Prabhakar

Imagine almost all of the edible plants in the US alone gone, from bananas to strawberries to almost every edible vegetation you can think of. Indeed, bees are responsible for two-thirds of the pollination (and consequently for the existence) of around two-thirds of the plants in the United States. Considering the importance of bees in our everyday lives, and everything we that we put at stake at the hands of an insect no longer than 3 inches, you’d think we would treat them with more respect. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. With the rapid and dangerous decline in bee population over the last few years, it’s time we revisited the threats still prevalent throughout the country that could tip the food scale in the US over.

One such threat is an abundant chemical compound, making its way up from the soil to the plants we eat. Neonicotinoid pesticides, commonly known as Neonics, are a powerful brew of nicotine-containing compounds and neurodegenerative chemicals that alter the pest’s brain so much that they ultimately die. It’s effective and quick, but not so clean-cut. Although not aimed at bees, Neonics still impact them, and potentially ⅓ of the bees in a colony drop dead within a week of exposure to Neonics. Study after study has proved a positive correlation between Neonicotinoid exposure in fields to bee colony population decline. For example, one such study published in the Nature journal by Woodcock et al analyzed the effect on Neonicotinoids on bees on a variety of crops on the global scale, proving that Neonics are affecting our bees. In this study, the bees were exposed to realistic levels of Neonics on two different continents, and different crops were studied for over three to four months. The results showed that exposure to Neonics caused bees to have a much more ineffective immune response to diseases, and thus had a lower survival rate. Not only that, but the study found that the bees were actually attracted to plants with imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and clothianidin, the ‘Major Three’ types of Neonics. Even though there was no difference in taste or smell, the bees were always inherently attracted to the plants spiked with the deadly compound. They found that in reality, this was because of the underlying influence of nicotine inherently attracted bees to the plants spiked with the deadly compound because of the seductive mixture of nicotine and euphoria-causing chemicals in the Major Three.This is such a problem because even if Neonics are used in small amounts, build-up eventually occurs which leads to these deadly effects.

It’s been studied and proved again and again, and although the European Union is now officially Neonic-free, the US did not make as many effective moves to ensure pollinator-safety after the outbreak of the global bee-epidemic Colony Collapse Disorder(CCD) in 2013. In 2013, the global-wide phenomenon caused the sudden, unexplained death of over ⅔ of the bees in the United States alone, with even bigger implications abroad. CCD was later found to be a result of a multitude of factors— but mainly increased viruses and pesticides. These were a direct consequence of human activity, and as a result, the EU (European Union) abolished all Neonics. Soon, the United States followed suit…partly. We abolished many chemicals under the umbrella of ‘Neonics’, but still allow the use of the major three. It’s a step in the right direction, but if we want to make sure the species that we rely on for most of our food is going to stay, we need to make a giant leap. That may be possible, with the new proposal of four bills in the Massachusetts legislature. Bill H. 2926 (an act to protect pollinator habitats), filed by Representative Keefe from Worcester, targets improving bee habitat conditions by especially looking towards completely banning neonicotinoids. Its involvement in the legislature may be key for enhanced bee habitat protection, and in turn, our own food.

Neonics, although an effective pesticide against many unwanted insects also presents many implications as to the health of our bees. Neonics can drastically cut responses to several diseases and therefore cut the population of a healthy bee colony within a short time of exposure. This holds dire implications for bees, and therefore implications for pollinated plants.  Indeed– We need to protect bees, and we need to do it fast. With bees being responsible for the pollination of most of our edible plants, they’re indispensable and we should treat them as such. Even though steps have been taken to reduce the influence of many neonics in the US, more action is needed- and if that action is to be taken at some time, then that time should be now.

3179218B-6138-442F-AA4D3E3EF7E98924.jpgBees are one of our most important pollinators, but with the use of Neonics, the lives of our precious bees are in jeopardy. 

The Hidden Genius of Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Written by Tanner Walling

After a two and a half year delay since the last installment in the wildly popular Maze Runner trilogy of films based on the young adult post-apocalyptic novels by James Dashner, the final installment in the trilogy, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, finally arrived in theaters on January 26th. And for fans of the movie series, The Death Cure surely does not disappoint.

While it strays far from the plot of the book, The Death Cure still tells a riveting story filled with breathtaking settings and action scenes that run the gamut from claustrophobic chase scenes reminiscent of horror films to grandiose set pieces as characters jump from buildings and more. While many critics panned the movie, I believe the movie has to be looked at a different angle to see the true brilliance of it.

The Death Cure captures the bleak, hopeless feel that has become characteristic of the series. After Teresa betrays her friends at the end of The Scorch Trials, to find a cure for the Flare virus with the help of the quasi-government and maligned organization WCKD, it soon becomes evident that there is no cure for the Flare and that the serum that holds off the Flare virus will only last so long. As the options for WCKD become direr by the hour, the anger and pent-up rage of Thomas’ group and that of The Right Arm, a near-extremist rebel movement against WCKD, grow stronger and more powerful by the day.

Despite the movie being well over two hours long, the plot moves along at a rapid pace. If there is one thing director Wes Ball has made himself known for after these movies, it’s his ability to mix adrenaline-fueled action with a breakneck pacing and plotting. The movie is lengthy but feels far shorter due to the near constant action that propels the plot forward. When the action finally stops for a moment, the movie takes a moment of introspection to delve deeper into its core themes of rebellion, hopelessness, and the descent into chaos society as a whole has experienced. By coming into the movie with the right frame of reference, it becomes less of a movie and more of an experience. Thanks to the incredibly talented cast of actors, The Death Cure is something of an emotional rollercoaster as the characters viewers have come to know and love throughout the series experience tragedy after tragedy.

Looking beyond the plot and characters, and examining the technical side of The Death Cure, it is clear that it is a true marvel. The special effects and computer-generated landscapes are far more realistic and expansive than they have any right to be given the movie’s relatively small budget in comparison to similar movies such as World War Z and even The Hunger Games. The stunning vistas Wes Ball introduces viewers to are as sprawling as they are rich in detail. The night scenes in The Last City are especially captivating, with the stark blue lighting of the city complementing the darkness of the night. As the attacks on the city begin later on by The Right Arm, watching the blue and black of the city against the orange tones of the fires caused by the battle raging between WCKD and The Right Arm is breathtakingly stunning. The special effects also deserve much praise, as they blend seamlessly into the rest of the movie. The detailed and grotesque depictions of the infamous Cranks, the half-human/half-zombie undead creatures who are an omnipresent threat to everyone in the film, are as horrific as they are magnificent to witness. On a technical level, the movie is more than solid. Between its magnificent effects and Wes Ball’s rapid-fire pacing and direction, the film is just as technically sound as it is exciting.

All in all, I believe that Maze Runner: The Death Cure has quite a bit of hidden genius within it as long as you go into the movie with the right point of view. Too often, we let what critics and what others say influence what we think of movies, causing us to think negatively about the movie before we’ve even seen it. However, if we open our eyes to all of the good aspects of films (and any other form of media), it makes for a much more enjoyable experience.

Maze-Runner-The-Death-Cure-2018-movie-poster.jpgGrossing nearly $300 million at the box office, Maze Runner: The Death Cure was a commercial success despite critics’ dislike of the film.

How Trump’s Recent Tax Reforms Will Affect Us, As Teens

Written by Garima Prabhakar

Our president’s ardent stance on certain issues has recently caused some…controversy, to put it lightly. From his call to change another country’s capital, to his most famous statement to “Build a Wall” to successfully stifle illegal Mexican immigration, to a goal for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”, I think we can all agree that his statements are a bit derogatory, to say the least. But quite recently, responding to actions against DACA , a policy for deferred action for illegally immigrating children, and his push for certain tax reforms that would only positively affect the upper minority, the whole nation has been thrown in a frenzy, debating all possible impacts and injustices that Trump’s goals entail. Trump is especially known for his infamous tax cut plan, and although it may prove to be a succulent concoction of “healthy economy” and “help the wealthy” short-term, Trump’s tax reforms could have a largely adverse effect on both the state of the government long-term. This can be seen through an ever-growing national debt and also by increasing tuition for colleges–the one time many students need the money the most– through college debt loans.

These new tax reforms only support three tax brackets– at 12%, 25%, and 33%. The reform is basically built to give huge benefits to the wealthy upper class– at the expense of almost completely losing reductions in state and other taxes or even some lower-income people having to pay more. With $44,000 worth of average yearly income, most college students fall directly into one of the three tax brackets supported by the tax reform plan. Thus, although they wouldn’t be affected directly through their paycheck, Trump’s recent tax reform plan could still keep them barely under the water, because according to Professor Dhanjoo Ghista, a PhD professor and the founder of the 2020 Foundation, the tax reforms “could lead to higher college tuition fees”. The tax reforms would benefit mostly wealthier people and businessmen (by wiping out corporate tax), and diverts funding from educational resources like college. Middle-class students will be landed in debt to to this as well as a variety of other reasons, as scholarships now require an additional tax to obtain them, and the fact that the government is altogether stopping research grant funds. With the tuition fees as high as they are right now, I don’t think we could afford any more increase.

Not only that, the tax reforms would lead to a whopping $1.5 trillion dollars in deficit for the country, as decreasing the taxes for wealthier people could put a higher strain on the national Treasury. The less money being brought in to the government would move towards higher and higher debts for the nation as a whole. This proves especially problematic as the national debt of around $19 trillion is already expected to be paid by the incoming generation. Not only that, the national debt of around $19 trillion dollars is already being expected to be paid by the incoming generation, and the tax cuts could lead to an even more increase in national debt. Seeing as one of Trump’s major points in his presidential campaign was to lower taxes and take care if the national debt, many cannot see how he will accomplish this with the current plan.

The recent tax reforms have led to a major debate across the nation. Although we, as teenagers aren’t affected by them directly now, through rising college fees and the 20 trillion dollar national debt that teenagers will face coming out into the workforce, Trump’s tax reforms would cause life to be harder for the average middle class person, whether he or she is in the workforce now or later.