Vault 7

Spectacular Mountain

Vault 7 header
Imagie via wikileaks

In the midst of Paul Ryan’s failure to pass his healthcare bill, and other dramatic political news, a much more interesting story has probably been overlooked. This is of course the Vault 7 leaks, a series of around 8,000 documents that record some of the CIA’s methods of spying and tracking information. The person who leaked this information remains unknown, and the CIA refuses to comment, besides vague remarks.

The leaks first came to light on the website Wikileaks, the controversial platform run by Julian Assange, who has previously been accused of messing with the US elections. Along with the 8,000 documents, was a synopsis of the whole situation, along with a promise to release more similar documents in the future (none have yet arrived), and early access for reporters who did high quality reporting on the leaks.

Some of the more well known leaks do seem to be a major threat on privacy. For example, Weeping Angel, probably the most widely reported virus, allowed the CIA to access certain models of Samsung TVs, allowing them to be used as cameras and microphones to monitor the room the TV was in. This program does still appear to be in the relatively early stages (so far, it has only been delivered via flash drive, and can be removed by unplugging the TV), but is still probably one of the more scary programs that leaked.

In addition to Weeping Angel, there are a multitude of other programs, largely aimed at the Windows operating system and Apple iPhones (the first because of how common it is and the later because it is used by political elites the CIA wants to hack). Overall, the leaks are an astonishing look at the capabilities our intelligence agencies, or at least one of them.

American Red Cross blood drive

The American Red Cross (ARC) is an organization which focuses on providing emergency and disaster relief to families. The ARC has services in 4 different areas: comfort and communication for military service and their families, collecting blood donations, educational programs, and international relief programs.

One of the most well known, and highly needed services, the Red Cross offers, is the process of collecting blood. According to the ARC, about every two seconds someone in the US needs blood, and the most needed type of blood is O negative. O negative is important because if there is no time to test for a person’s blood type, O negative will work with any blood. Many cancer patients will need a blood transfusion frequently – sometimes every day. The average blood transfusion is 3 pints, and every donor will give about 1 pint of blood, but the average car accident victim can use up to 100 pints of blood.  

The process of donating blood is a very safe process. The nurse drawing blood uses a sterile needle, which is only used once, then discarded. Blood donation has four steps to it.

  • The first step is registration
  • The second step includes having the doctors/nurses get a medical history and do a mini physical
  • Third, you donate
  • Fourth, afterwards you receive refreshments

The actual time it takes someone to donate their blood is 10-12 minutes, but the whole process can take up to an 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Highland Park Senior High hosted the Red Cross on March 17th. Highland had 50 people show up – giving a total of 41 pints. Many of the students at Highland were very anxious and scared. One student, Michaela Malone (11) said, “I’m very nervous to give blood because I’m afraid of needles.” Later she said, “I’m scared that I will faint, but I’m excited that I will be helping a person in need.”

As I talked to other students the word was the same, Lane Fry (11) mentioned, “I feel like I’m gonna die. I wanted to donate my blood because it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I thought many people might need blood tonight. I also just wanted to do something good for myself.”

Many of Highland’s students also volunteered to help run the event. Highland students did most of the stuff that kept things running smoothly so the nurses could focus on collecting blood. I asked Jilly Wortman (11) what she did to help out. Jilly replied with, “I signed people in, gave information to donors, supplied water for people, and I also comforted people while they were donating blood.”

Will Pribula (12) was donating not only for the good of other people but for himself. As I asked him how he was feeling before the donation he said, “I’m really bored and kind of wanna get this over with. It’s not what I thought. I imagined that I would come donate blood and leave but instead I’ve been sitting for an hour, getting bored and the music selection is poor, but at least I’m getting out of class.” His reactions after we’re surprisingly different as he said, “It was very relaxing and I feel great about donating today.”

Neesha Moore (11) felt the same after the donation process as she told me “It was a blast! I encourage everyone to do it. It was a weird feeling of happiness, dizziness, and relaxation. I feel like I should be giggling, but that’s probably due to the amount of blood loss.”

Julia Brennan: A review

If you haven’t heard the new Julia Brennan track on KDWB you might’ve never heard of this new artist from Minneapolis. This upcoming artist was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1999. Music has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember, considering she took piano lessons since she was only four years old.

She recollects in her biography about memories of her mom being a wedding singer, and her grandma being Ms. Minnesota. Her talent? Singing and playing the piano, much like her granddaughter. From these two women she gathered her inspiration to become an artist herself.

Some other inspirations for the young singer are Adele and Sam Smith.

Image courtesy of MOXIE

Julia released her three song EP “Inner Demons” in the summer of 2016. She had the three songs just sitting around on YouTube until one day she decided to send them to KDWB to see if the popular Twin Cities radio station would play them. The people at the radio station ending up liking her song a lot. They called her back and interviewed her about her new EP. After that her young career took flight as she soon was able to snag a record deal with the prestigious Columbia Records.

Her song, “Inner Demons,” currently is at #7 on iTunes’ Singer/Songwriter chart and is an instant hit in the Twin Cities.

Julia’s voice influenced people with her lovely piano music. Her music reflects on people going through hard times: especially on her song “Inner Demons.” On this track, she talks about how “demons fight their battles with fire” and why it’s difficult to rise against the things that hold us back; most of those things being inflicted by ourselves.

Brennan said in her biography that “Inner Demons” is about a time when her friend was going through a hard time. She didn’t know how to help her friend but she wants to give a voice to those people in the silence.

All of her three songs use piano and vocals to express her emotions. Julia Brennan is a great listen for anyone battling their own “inner demons” or for anyone who wants to hear some soulful music with incredible vocals.

For more information about Julia, please visit: www.juliabrennanmusic.comALL THINGS JULIA  (music-video-bio-art) for articles-broadcastsINNER DEMONS video-audioINTRODUCING JULIA BRENNAN ⊹  THE MAKING of INNER DEMONS

Personal Project Showcase

On March 23rd, Highland held their Personal Project Showcase, the showcase is where students get a chance to show others what they did for their Personal Project. The showcase was held in the field house. There were many long tables with each person’s name in alphabetical order. Students could bring anything they wanted to show.

I went around to talk to some of my friends who did the project. One of my friends said that she started the project just about two or three months ago, then did the rest of the work two weeks before it was due. She composed a song on her own, she chose to do this because music is really important to her. She stated, honestly, that she hated the project, and hated that she was forced to do the project, and then came the due date which made everything worse.

I asked her that if she had a chance to redo her project would she take that chance, to which she replied that she would redo her project if she was given another chance at it.

I also talked to others who did the personal project. They stated that the Personal Project was given to them early, so they had the whole summer to do it, or plan things out. But with the assignment given early, they felt they didn’t receive good guidance on what was to be expected until the meetings with their advisors.

After talking to people that completed the project, I went to talk to some Freshman on their thoughts about the project. One of them said that they thought the project was cool, interesting, and it was very fun to see everyone’s projects. Another one said they were scared of the project, and wanted to wait before doing the project. Most of them didn’t have ideas yet for their projects, but it’s something that has been on their mind for a while.

The project went well for everyone: people had boards and videos of what they did. The showcase had many people and a lot of other students came to look at the projects. Overall, the showcase was fun and Sophomores are glad the project has ended.


Somali pirates hijacking

On March 14th, Somali pirates hijacked an oil tanker off the coast of Somalia. According to The Guardian this is the first hijacking of a large ship since 2012, and many local fishermen say this was a direct cause from the recent amount of foreign presence in Somalia. This hijacking has been the first takeover of a big ship in 5 whole years of peace.

The Guardian says they have interviewed elders and heard what they had to say about the hijacking. The elders said that the hijackers had been frustrated with the foreign fisherman recently, and said that the foreign fishermen had been illegally fishing in local waters and killing or catching all the fish either for game, or fun, instead of eating.

This sparked some conflict between the two groups of fishermen, and led to a few territorial issues. With the foreign fishermen excited and wanting to fish more and more of the exotic animals, they ruined the fishing for the local fishermen. This made the locals mad and they became frustrated, and this frustration eventually lead to the hijacking of the oil tanker.

A couple days after the hijacking, the oil tanker was released, with its crew, without any conditions. The release occurred after local elders and officials opened negotiations with the pirates. Somali pirates usually hijack ships and crew members for ransom, and generally do not kill their hostages.

According to The Guardian, the Puntland Maritime Police Force made an offer the Somali pirates couldn’t refuse, and they left the oil tanker and crew unscathed. The hijackers were also told that the oil tanker was from a Somali trader, and the hijackers no longer had any interest in the ransom money. The hijackers told the authorities that they only seized the ship because they wanted to protest about illegal fishing in the area that the foreign fishermen were doing in their waters.


MLB season preview

The MLB season is right around the corner. On Sunday, April 2nd, the Tampa Bay Rays, Arizona Diamondbacks, and the St. Louis Cardinals have their home openers. The Rays play the New York Yankees, the Diamondbacks play the San Francisco Giants, and the Cardinals play the reigning World Series champions, the Chicago Cubs. Currently, players are staying active by playing in Spring Training, and the World Baseball Classic which is an international baseball tournament. As of the writing of this article, the Yankees have the best Spring Training record at 18-7.

According the, they have the Cubs finishing with the best record – scoring 96 wins. They have the Minnesota Twins having the worst record – losing 100 games.

A team that could be very dangerous this season is the Cleveland Indians. The Indians have a young team that led them to the World Series last year, but fell short. Even though they lost, they still should be able to become contenders this year again. This offseason they signed slugger Edwin Encarnacion. They also still have Corey Kluber in their bullpen who made a huge impact on their drive to the World Series. They are the most likely team to win the AL Central division.

One team that may disappoint is the Kansas City Royals. They lost big hitter Kendrys Morales and players like Lorenzo Cain and Alex Gordon are starting to get old. Eric Hosmer is still a great player, but he seems to be the only great player on this year’s team. The Royals also sadly had a young pitcher of theirs, Yordano Ventura, pass away during the offseason. He died in a car accident while in his native country of the Dominican Republic.

One dark horse this year are the Seattle Mariners. They have three star players in Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. They also depend on Felix Hernandez who needs a bounce back season this year. Last year, Hernandez had only a record of 11-8 with a 3.82 ERA. His worst ERA since 2007. He didn’t have a single shutout last season compared to the 2 he had in the 2015 season. If he can pitch well, then the rest of the MLB should watch out for Seattle.

Artificial intelligence

AI, or Artifical Intelligence, is intelligence that is exhibited by machines. Recently, artificial intelligence has taken over many news cycles as we see it being used to solve many problems. According to, AI research is defined as the study of any machine that takes information from its environment and uses that information to solve a goal or be better for its task.

Artificial intelligence has been around since at least the early 1960’s. Why are we only hearing about it now then? The main reason is that it has only recently been useful to the common man. Before we look at how AI works, let’s define some of the terms.

When discussing AI a common term you will hear is “Machine Learning.” Machine learning is basically what it sounds like; a machine learning. However, it can get very complex very fast. The main idea behind machine learning is that the machine creates its own prediction engine and is able to accurately predict the outcome of an input over time. For this prediction engine to be good, however, humans have to train it. There are many ways to do this, but the most common way is for the algorithm to be given a set of inputs, with known outputs, and then given some inputs, with unknown outputs. After predicting the output of those inputs, it is then given the actual output and learns from that.

There are many ways that we can apply this. It also has importance on many different levels. The ability for machines to solve problems through logical deduction along with being able to display knowledge about their environment is important because it shows that AI is able to have the same reasoning that we see in young children. It also has importance due to the fact that AI will advance automation along with replacing jobs.

Movie review: Arrival

Arrival, a science fiction and mystery movie starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, was one of the nominees for Best Picture this year at the Academy Awards. This is special, because science fiction movies are rarely nominated for that highest of awards. In order to do so, the move in question must be very high-quality.

So, of course, I went to see it, and I can now confirm that it is, indeed, really excellent. It’s also the kind of movie that is hard to talk about without ruining it, but I’ll try my best to avoid spoiling it. I will tell you that once you see it once, you’ll want to see it again in light of the ending. It’s also got beautiful cinematography; the sort of movie that you’d want to see on as big a screen as possible. I saw it in the movie theater and loved it.

The movie is set in the present day, immediately after twelve giant, featureless oblong “spaceships” touch down all over the planet at seemingly random locations. It focuses on a linguist who is brought in to figure out how to communicate with the aliens inside, squid-like creatures called “heptapods” for their seven legs. The whole movie is driven by a need to ask a simple question – “Why are they here?” – before intergalactic war breaks out.

Of course, the movie isn’t perfect. It’s very slow-moving, so even though its running time isn’t even two hours, it can feel much longer. It can also be quite confusing at times, because some scenes are shown out of order, and the timeline of the movie doesn’t really make sense until the end. The soundtrack is very loud and sad, and can sound like an endless funeral dirge at times.

The ending, however, is fabulous in a very bittersweet way, and the story is overall quite interesting and thought-provoking. I recommend it highly.

Highland Park’s Spring Showcase 2017

Last Thursday, on March 16th, Highland Park had its annual Spring Showcase. There were many performances including: dance, band, choir, etc. There were also many displays shown within the Spring Showcase. Many families and friends came and looked around, at the displays, before the showcase began.

There were also some school clubs selling things to eat and drink. A.C.C. sold egg rolls, with sauce, in three flavors – chicken, pork, and veggie, and there was also a table selling sodas, cookies, and candies.

The displays that were shown were also created by Highland Park clubs, along with some from the Floral Design class.

A.C.C. had a display with paintings and Chinese lanterns. Anime Club had anime character pins for sale, and many other cut out pictures for their displays. The Black Student Union had a display with “Soup Bowls” and a poster talking about “Super Soups.” The Union Latina had a display explaining their culture, etc, and displayed a hat. Ms. Wedger also had flowers on display from her class, “Floral Design.”

The performances were also really good! The orchestra played very well, and the dances performed were also very good. There were many different dances performed within the showcase including: IB dances, the A.C.C.’s  Hmong Dance and Thai Dance, Union Latina’s dance, and more.

I was lucky enough to be a part of the Hmong Dance this year. It was really fun and enjoyable, and I feel like we did a really good job and had a lot of fun.

The Thai Dance, was also very good, and they did a good job. The clothes were actually sewn by a senior’s (Pajaie) mom, and were really pretty. Pajaie’s mom, and a few other Hmong girl’s moms, came and helped the Thai dancers dress up. This ended up being really helpful because some of the dancers were in other performances.

Everything went by quick though, and there were many families and friends that came and watched. It was a good show, with good food and drinks, and many displays to see.

The Showcase was a huge success! Everyone that came to watch seemed to enjoy it.

Also, to all the performers that performed: You did such a good job!

They also seemed to have had a really fun time.

Mars 2117: UAE’s city of the red planet

Whether you cry a little every time you’re taken to a galaxy far, far away, or you draw a blank when someone cries “Exterminate!” there is no denying science fiction (sci-fi) is a massive part of pop culture. One of the most sci-fi concepts of them all is a city on Mars, which seems to be making a comeback ever since water was discovered on the red planet. Recently, the United Arab Emirates seemed to have become most intent on making a Mars city a reality.

Announced by Sheikh Mohammed on Feb. 14th, the Mars 2117 project aims to not only place a human settlement on Mars, but also to serve to open up the rest of space for humans. A VR experience outlined most of the details so far.

The colony is said to be somewhere around the size of Chicago, with a max population of 600,000 (NBC). The reasons for such a high number, as described by Saeed Al Gergwai, is, “Because it’s going to be like an exotic island, not everyone can go first, then we get advancement of rocket tech, which makes people move there easily, then the advancement oxygen tech to make it more Earth like, which will incentivize people.” (NBC)

Already, this sounds great, but the project is not fully complete. The economic system, for example, is still being discussed. Capitalistic elements are present, but a system needs to be designed with the unique environment of Mars in mind. Then there’s the small matter of the many, many, many environmental issues on Mars – the intense radiation and lack of terrain to grow food comes to mind (

Finally, there’s the technology involved. Spacesuits are a necessity, but they’re not indestructible and could easily be compromised, and the technology needed to extract water isn’t to the point where we can start decorating it like a flying saucer.

Regardless of all this, the Mars 2117 project looks to be promising. But there’s still one question left: what would we call someone who lives on Mars?