Grand Old Days

If you didn’t go to Grand Old Days this year in St. Paul, you missed out. The festival this year was held on Saturday, June 4th, and it lasted all day long. Grand Old Days is a fun filled exciting day that runs up and down Grand Ave all day. The day is full of fun activities like bouncy houses, slides, and fun little mini games like bags or home run derby.

There is also a lot of different kinds of foods available. The food is served via food stands and is cooked right in front of you, so it is always new and fresh. The foods they serve include all your typical festival foods like corn dogs, hamburgers, and hot dogs, but there are also some different foods that in my opinion taste better. The options don’t stop at food though, and there are many drinks like Jamba Juice, lemonade, soda, and this year I even saw drinks served in whole coconuts.

Grand Old Days is a place to go if you want to go and have a good time with your friends and family or by yourself.

Once you have eaten and walked around, and enjoyed what there is to see, you can have a little rest and wait for the parade. The parade is a fantastic parade that includes small and big businesses and organizations, shops on Grand, and of course candy. The parade is never disappointing and always very interesting to see what floats they make to use in the parade. This year there was a wide variety of floats in the parade ranging from small flashy and colorful floats to huge floats packed to the brim with people throwing out candy.

Grand Old Days, as an overall activity, is a great family friendly fun event where you enjoy every second that you are there. I know that I had fun at Grand Old Days and I’m confident that if I asked people that went they would say the same.

Another thing that is very cool at Grand Old Days is the amount of local businesses that have been given space and booths at the event. Many events now are just overrun by big companies and businesses, but at Grand Old Days, and in most of St. Paul, they encourage and support small businesses and local stores or companies.

On the Grand Old Days webpage, they have a whole section devoted to local businesses, and at the event they have two whole blocks set aside for local businesses. I think that this is a very cool thing that they are doing because, like I said before, most events are overrun by big companies and businesses, but I feel that new ideas do need to be expressed and I’ve found that most small and local businesses have very unique and new ideas. Now this isn’t to say that every small business does, but it is more common. This is why I enjoy Grand Old Days as much as I do, because they give everyone a chance to express themselves and share what they have to offer.

Retiring teachers

With the end of the year approaching, and summer just around the corner, many people are considering vacation. Some are considering a permanent vacation, or retirement. At Highland Park Senior High School, the people retiring from their jobs here are: Ms. Sherrod, the personal finance management teacher; Mr. Rios, a Spanish teacher; Ms. Harrison, the school nurse; and Ms. Ship, an assistant principal. They have all dedicated their valuable time and skills to teach kids and/or better the school, which is a very noble and nice thing to do. They will soon be leaving Highland Park to start a new chapter of their life, retired from their teaching jobs away from the school. This new chapter of retirement will begin on June 13th when school ends for staff, and will continue throughout the rest of their lives.

I interviewed a student who has one of these teachers and asked them how they felt about their teacher retiring. This student wanted to be kept anonymous for privacy reasons and when asked the question they said that, “I am sad to see them go, but happy for them.”

I’ve only met with a few of these teachers briefly, but I understand how and why they feel this way. I had a teacher of mine in middle school retire and I felt the same way. When I asked the student to explain a little more why they felt that way they did, they said, “I’m sad that I won’t have them next year, but at the same time happy for them to retire.” I see, and know where they are coming from, and completely agree with what they are saying.

I also asked this student how they felt about new teachers for next year, even though we both have no clue who or what to expect. They said, “I’m anxious to see what kind of person they are, and I’m also excited to know who it is at the same time.” I am also interested/excited to see who the new teachers are because maybe I will have them next year, or the year after. I hope that the new teachers will be just as good as the retiring teachers, which won’t be an easy thing to do.

At the end of the day, I’m just happy to have a teacher that enjoys their job and enjoys helping people. These teachers who are retiring have checked both of these boxes during their time at Highland Park Senior High School, and will be missed dearly for their hard work and dedication to this school. I wish them a happy retirement and give them thanks for all they have done to better our school and community.

Arkansas death penalty

Arkansas carried out the U.S.’s first double execution in 17 years on April 24th, 2017. The last double execution to occur happened in Texas, in 2000, when the state executed two killers.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, or DPIC, Jack Jones and Marcel Williams were the inmates who were put on death row and executed on April 24, 2017. Both Jack Jones and Marcel Williams were convicted for murder, kidnapping, and rape, and were sent to prison with life sentences. These two were the second and third people executed in a eight day period.

After the two men’s trials, the Governor of Arkansas had to make a tough choice of whether to let them live with life sentences or to issue a death penalty. According to CBS News, the Governor decided to issue the death penalty, and the jury voted with Governor Hutchinson, backing his decision to issue the death penalty.

One horrific reason, that Governor Hutchinson used to justify his decision, was that the state needed to use up its supply of midazolam, a drug used for lethal injections before it expired.

Pharmacists have been hesitant to supply states with the drug midazolam because they don’t want to be the cause of someone’s death. Midazolam has also been involved in several botched executions according to Live Science. The term “botched” is used as in the drug either didn’t work as it was supposed to, and left the person conscious, or the IV was placed incorrectly and the drug never fully worked.

This story truly became interesting when the details of the other Arkansas executions were uncovered. According to lawyers, and other media sources present, almost all of the deaths were botched in some way, ways that would make the death slow and tortuous.

Immediately after the injection of Jack Jones, the lawyer of Marcel Williams filed an emergency stay in federal district court. His reasoning was that Jones’ execution had seemed inhumane and painful, so he made this last ditch attempt to try and keep his client alive. The state completely disregarded this saying his claims were: “Utterly baseless.”

Witnesses of the Jones injection said it took the officials in charge 45 minutes to try to find a place for the injection in his neck. When they were finished sticking him in the neck, unsuccessfully trying to find a place to kill him, they eventually had to move elsewhere on his body. When the poor, scared man was finally injected, the officials didn’t wait the required 5 minutes to perform a consciousness check, and he was gulping air and struggling against the restraints.

The execution of Williams was held off until 9:30 pm Central Time after one judge accepted the appeal for a stay in court, and a short uneventful hearing took place. The Williams injection looked much less painful.

This double execution was part of a schedule set forth by the Governor to execute eight people in eleven days. Of those eight scheduled, only four have happened with the others receiving stays in court, and/or some clemency.

Why is it so hard for the government to find an effective injection that kills painlessly and quickly? This question will need to be answered if executions are to continue, but at the same time, the government could care less, after all, it would be a shame if their store of drugs for lethal injection went to waste.

China’s ivory trade ban

Many people have been concerned over the ivory trade that has recently been the cause of elephant extinction. According to National Geographic, this ivory trade takes place mainly in Middle Eastern countries, but it still gets to the U.S with illegal exportation.

According to Snap Partnership, the ivory trade is big in China as ivory is in high demand because of its value and looks. There is also legal trading for ivory, according to Snap Partnership, that many people living in China do not like. Their argument against legal ivory trading is that it allows for the importation and smuggling of illegal ivory. The citizens also argue that because of the legal ivory trade it encourages more people to buy ivory, thus increasing the demand.

Elephants have been going extinct at a steady rate, and according to The Chinese Government, the best way to stop it is to shut down the ivory trade in China entirely. This would decrease the amount of elephant deaths by a large amount, but as we know, there will always be illegal poachers, because there is always a loophole somewhere that is overlooked.

The people who sell and carve ivory legally are very sad about this ban. According to Mr. Liu, an ivory carver interviewed by BBC News, he says he feels like a sinner and is very sad. He says that he feels like a sinner, because the generations of carving passed down will die in his hands and care, and that he will not be able to pass it down to his children.

Although the ban has come through on the ivory trade in China, this probably won’t stop poachers and other ivory enthusiasts from continuing to sell and buy ivory illegally. In order to truly put an end to elephant poaching, as well as ivory trading, they would have to work with African countries to help reign in out of control black markets on the continent. Not only this, but expert advisor of the Chinese government, Wei Ji, says that without a legal market the “illegal market will go wild.”

It is clear to see that people love ivory in China, the aforementioned ivory carver felt like a sinner because he couldn’t keep on doing what had been a tradition in China for many, many years. Because people love ivory so much they will just buy it illegally in order to keep getting the stuff they love. This will inflate the already massive ivory black market (it was estimated by The Guardian that 90% of ivory in China is illegal), to a point where tons of people desperate for money will turn to poaching because the rewards financially will be tremendous.

Overall, this ban has multiple good intentions: to shut down something that has been long plaguing China and it’s people, and to try and save a nose diving elephant population. This ban may seem great, but the chances of it helping anything are minimal. China has had many problems in the past with following through, so the possibility of the government not enforcing the changes is very likely. Not only this, but the ban puts elephants at an even higher risk, as the poaching game will soon transform into a high stakes, big money, black market in already criminally challenged countries. Banning ivory might seem like a wonderful idea, but don’t let that fool you, it will hurt elephants even more.

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.


The Urban Death Project

In London, there is a new idea on how to remember your loved ones. It is an eco friendly way to be remembered after death. This new method is called the Urban Death Project and it is on the rise in urban cities like Seattle and London.

The Urban Death Project is a way of recycling the dead by burying the bodies in soil and woodchips for a few weeks. According to the Urban Death Project team, it is a safe, eco friendly way of remembering the dead. The team also said, “The soil will only be used to nourish gardens and trees on site,” which answers a big question of whether or not the soil would be used to grow food. When they say “on site” they mean that there will be a half-public park/half-funeral home that you can go to and enjoy with your family.

This idea was started on Kickstarter, which everyone thought was a joke at first, but then later on realized that it was an actual thought out idea with plans. The Urban Death Project team also says that the process is open to all religions, and has set up space for prayers, gatherings, and mournings of all types. The team says they have also talked with various religious leaders, and have received confirmation that this way of burial is completely okay with them and their religions.

The Urban Death Project team has their own website: where they will answer questions and talk more in depth about their project. On the forums the team has created, is a question and answer section where they will answer any questions concerning the topic. If you have any questions that you would like to ask them, you can ask them on their webpage and click on the FAQ section.

Although this new idea is a good way for burial, and death, there is still controversy on where they would put these sites, or how many sites there would be, in one city or state.

School lunches over the years

School lunches have been a topic tossed around a lot. What do you get to eat at school? Why do you get to eat it? How much should it cost? Should it be healthy? Does it taste good? These questions have been asked over the years in schools. Even though these questions never seem to change, school lunches themselves have changed over the years.

According to the website Mental Floss, in 1960, public schools and the Child Nutrition Act expanded the availability of school lunches in the U.S. They started to implement pizza, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and enchiladas, not caring if the food was healthy or not. Then in the 1970s, fast food chains started to rise in the food industry and were put into the school lunches.

Soon after the fast food company’s took over in 1970 the USDA put out a statement saying that school lunches only needed to have “minimum nutritional value.” This led to ketchup being classified as a vegetable, due to the cuts in funding for school lunches that reduced the funds by $1 billion. 

Soon after this, in the 1990s, when fast foods had been in the school lunches for 10 years, obesity was at an all time high. Because of this, health concerns became a top priority for schools in the U.S according to the USDA. 

By 2005, schools were switching from canned vegetables to fresh vegetables, and grilled chicken to grilled jerk chicken. This made the obesity rates drop according to the website Mental Floss, but the schools also lost most of their money from the fast food companies. Since fast food was no longer being served for lunch, the companies no longer paid to be in the schools. Because of this, school lunches lost over half of their funding. 

5 years later, in 2010, President Obama was elected and he began the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. This increased the funding of school lunches, and school lunches began to get healthier and better for kids in school.   

Predicting Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a big issue in the world that many people would like to solve. Wouldn’t you like to know if you could be affected by it later on in life? It’s a topic of controversy and everyone has their own view of whether or not they should know. But for the people who would like to know, there is a blood test that can tell you if you are more likely to get Alzheimer’s than others. According to researchers from the National Institute on Aging. “This year has seen the development of a few different types of blood tests that could potentially diagnose Alzheimer’s before symptoms appear.”  

Now you might be saying to yourself, why would I need to know that if there is no treatment? Well, this research required them to locate and figure out why, when, and what, causes Alzheimer’s, which is a step forward to finding a cure. Even if there is no cure now there are still treatments to help slow down the  process of the disease, and to help you prepare for it. Who knows, the cure could be right around the corner; it’s surprising what people can do with the advances in technology and knowledge in our world today.