New and improved nutrition labels

On May 20th, First Lady, and health advocate, Michelle Obama unveiled the new nutrition labels that will be used on every day food packaging. The new label does look a lot like the old one, as it keeps the same black and white two column structure and highlights many of the same categories. Designers have praised this look over the years for its simplicity and easy to understand nutritional information. While the label does not appear to be much different, some categories are now emphasized more than others, and the way some numbers are calculated has changed.

With increase in disease and illness caused by unhealthy diet choices in the U.S., the updated nutrition labels represent a loss for the food industry which has fought against updating the labels as they are partly responsible for over large amount of added sugar and calories that are in our foods.imgres

Among the changes that are taking place, the most significant one to note is the bold and enlarging of the calories and serving sizes. This is the most controversial change made on the labels, as they now represent how much people currently should eat, rather than how much the food companies deems reasonable to eat. “The intention is not to tell consumers what to eat, but rather to make sure they have the tools and accurate information they need to choose foods that are right for themselves and their families,” Susan Mayne, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a conference call with reporters.

Other important changes to note are the new added sugars tab, updated daily values, changes in nutrients and percentage amounts, and a new footnote added at the bottom of the label. These changes are expected to cost the food companies millions of dollars, as they will have to adjust the new criteria and reformulate portions of their recipes.

California tobacco laws

Starting June 9th, the legal age for purchasing tobacco products in California will be changed from 18 to 21. Another new California law will also raise the age to 21 for the increasingly popular E-cigarette products. With these new restrictions on smoking, it is estimated that tobacco companies will lose somewhere around $250 million in revenue.

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image taken from NPR

Many questions and issues are being raised with these new laws, between both smokers and nonsmokers as well. Some are unhappy with the idea of raising the age to 21 as they feel as if it defeats the purpose of classifying an adult at the age of 18. It will also affect those who are between the ages of 18-21, who have been purchasing cigarettes legally, as some feel like they are having their privelages taken away.

The new smoking and vaping laws in California are really being directed towards young people, and to help prevent adolescent addiction. Electronic cigarettes have been becoming more and more popular for young people in schools, and the new laws aim to make it much more difficult for teenagers to become addicted to vaping, as many of the products do contain nicotine.

Many people are also upset with the new approach to E-cigarettes, as research suggests that it is a much healthier alternative to smoking, and is even used as a method to help quit smoking. The Smoke- Free Alternatives Trade Assn had this to say after the introduction of these new laws: “California took a step backwards today by reclassifying vapor products as tobacco,” the group said in a statement. “Stigmatizing vapor products, which contain no tobacco, and treating them the same as combustible tobacco while actively seeking to economically penalize smokers attempting to switch is counterproductive to public health”.

Supporters of the bills noted that tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., with as many as 34,000 Californians dying each year. It is also important to consider that  90% of tobacco users start before the age of 21, and about 80% first try tobacco before age 18, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Highland Park baseball

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image taken from the HPSH Baseball Twitter feed

The Highland Park Boys baseball team is off to a nice start to their 2016 season. The Scots currently sit at a solid 6-3 record, and 7 of those 9 games have been non conference. Historically, SPPS baseball teams struggle in non-conference games, and a 4-3 record to start off the season is very respectable, especially considering the fact that 6 of those games were on the road. The team had its most exciting game of the season in its first matchup of the year against St. Anthony, in which sophomore Jack Dombrock hit a walk off single to win the game 2-1.

The boys have stayed competitive throughout the entire season, and have lost a few games by only a few runs or less. A loss to River Falls stung the team a little, as they held a 2-0 lead going into the sixth, but would end up losing that lead, and the game 5-2. The following non-conference game against Henry Sibley didn’t help either, as the Scots wound up losing a tough one 1-0. However, the squad didn’t lose composure, and were able to beat non-conference rival DeLaSalle 6-3 in front of the home crowd. 

Over the weekend the Scots took Central at Toni Stone field under the lights. It took 11 innings but the team was able to prevail with yet another exciting victory with a score of 3-2. They boys also played Saint Paul Academy at CHS field in downtown St. Paul. This was another thrilling game as the Scots once again won on a walk off single from team captain Jared Deuitch giving them a 5-4 victoryCg-ncHpUcAISY74.

The captain gave me a brief statement after the game about the team thus far: “Respect is earned, never given”. It seems quite clear that the Scots are playing with a chip on their shoulder this season. Jared also announced this week that he will be attending Hamline University to further continue his education and to play baseball. Congrats Jared!

The Scots’ next game falls on May 2nd against Washington at 4:30 at home!

A full schedule can be found here: http://sports.spps.org/sport//HS/boys/varsity/baseball/2015-2016

Senior Fail List

With the final quarter of the year now in session, many seniors are preparing to take their final exams and move on to graduation. However, in the past, there have been incidents where some seniors begin to slack during their final weeks of high school which has caused them to not graduate on time. A common saying that applies in this situation is the “Senior Slide”, and counselors want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you. It’s a depressing time for the counselors, as they have to compile a list of students who are at risk of failing a class during the fourth quarter, and the last thing they want to do is make a call home to your family telling them that you won’t be graduating with the rest of your class.

There are certain criteria that is used for the Senior Fail List, and just because you have been placed on the list doesn’t mean that you won’t graduate on time, it just means that you are at risk.

The criteria used for the list :

  • Failing English, or have failed an English course in the past. You need to have passed 4 years of English to graduate high school.
  • Failing Social Studies or have failed Social Studies in the past. You need to have passed 4 years of Social Studies to graduate high school.
  • If you have had poor or spotty attendance throughout the year, you may be placed on the Senior Fail List.
  • If you have had a poor track record with turning in assignments on time or wait until the last second to turn assignments in.

The Senior Fail List will be released during the first week of May. Good luck to the class of 2016 during their final months of high school!

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Supreme Court nomination

Following the death of death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to fill the seat. This has stirred much controversy between the Democratic and Republican parties, as numerous Republicans have refused to consider the President’s nomination. A majority of the Senate is Republican, so a large part of the Senate is fearful that court would drastically shift to a more liberal focal point. Some members of the Republican Party have gone so far as to say that President Obama does not have the authority to make a nomination. However, these claims are false  because there is a clear Constitutional right granted to the President of the United States for nominating a Supreme Court justice.

Many members of the Senate wanted to wait until the next president is elected for a nomination to be made, however President Obama thought Judge Garland would be a perfect fit for current American politics. “At a time when our politics are so polarized, at a time when norms and customs of political rhetoric and courtesy and comity are so often treated like they’re disposable, this is precisely the time when we should play it straight,” Mr. Obama told an audience that included Judge Garland’s family, Democratic Senators and liberal activists. Some Republicans are open to the idea of Garland as the new leader of the Supreme Court. Current Republican presidential candidate, and Ohio Governor, John Kasich said, “Frankly, they probably ought to all sit down and meet with the guy.”

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photo taken from Wikimedia Commons

 

Minnesota caucus

During one of the most important days of political campaigning for the upcoming presidential election, known as “Super Tuesday”, Minnesota voters proved once again that they are quite different politically than many other states. During caucus night we experienced lines from high schools and churches spread into the streets, and the amount of people coming out to caucus was shattered. This night was one of the biggest political days in recent history for Minnesota. In 2008, the number of Republican voters that attended the caucus was around 62,000. That record was shattered into a billion pieces as that number increased to 115,000, nearly doubling in size! With Democratic voters experiencing the same numbers it isn’t a surprise that voting lines were so long.

But let’s get to what was most important, the results. Minnesota voters proved that they are not big supporters of the front running candidates. On the Democratic side of things there were really only two possible candidates you could cast your vote for, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. After it was all said and done, there was no question about it, Bernie Sanders was able to take Minnesota with 63% of the votes, which was a huge win for his campaign. During Super Tuesday Sanders was also able to capture wins in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Vermont. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was able to claim more victories as she won in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Currently Clinton is leading Sanders in the delegate count and the upcoming states like California will be vital if Sanders wants a chance at the Democratic nomination.

Rubio10With a record Republican turnout this year, you would think that a large portion of that crowd would be new incoming voters who have had their eyes opened by Donald Trump, however that most certainly was not the case. Republican voters did not show Trump the amount of love that they have in many other states. Here, Marco Rubio took the crown with 36% of the votes, with Ted Cruz coming in second with 29%, and finally Trump third with 21%. Minnesota would be the only state that Rubio would claim on Super Tuesday, as Trump and Cruz would take the wins in all the others. Donald Trump is currently leading the Republicans with 460 delegates, while Cruz is in second with 370, and Rubio in third with 163. Just like the Democrats, the Republican party will rely on the upcoming states to really determine who will get that nomination.

Joe Biden visits Twin Cities

Over the past week, you may have noticed some spontaneous road closures and a large motorcade and helicopters whizzing through the air constantly. This is because Vice-President Joe Biden made a stop in St. Paul, the final of 3 city visits throughout the country.

The Vice-President’s main stop, while visiting St. Paul, was at the Union Depot, which received over $35 million in economic stimulus money for its renovation in 2009. That money came from the Economic Recovery Act, a federal program that invested in infrastructure and renewable energy sources, and its primary objective was to save and create jobs immediately. Other financial areas of concern that were addressed in this plan were health care, education, and expansion of unemployment benefits.

Biden’s goal during this brief tour was to remind people what the economic climate was like back in 2009, and why he says the economic stimulus package was a great benefit for the country and its people. He stated how projects like the Union Depot renovation helped spark many other jobs of the same sort, which in turn helped in pulling our country out of its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Mayor Chris Coleman also chimed in about the benefits of the stimulus:  “When you look at the success of downtown St. Paul, and you look at that partnership that we’ve had both on the state level and the national level, that much of the growth that we’re seeing in downtown is directly attributable to that support.”2015-08-02-1438530796-1482577-joebiden

Iowa Caucus

With the next presidential election just 8 months away, polls and primaries have begun to spur hot debate around the country about who will be leading us come next year. On February 1st, the first of many polls to come took place during the Iowa Caucus. During the Caucus, representatives from the Democratic party spoke about their campaign and had a delegate vote based on which candidates had the most support.

The Democratic candidates that received the most delegate votes were Hillary Clinton with 23, Bernie Sanders with 21, and Martin O’Malley with 0. Hillary Clinton was predicted to win the Democratic vote, but by a much larger margin than she did. Three months ago, Sanders and Clinton faced off in Iowa, and Sanders trailed Clinton by 30 points.

It is clear that his campaign has been making great progress over those 3 months, and the race between these two candidates in the coming months will be quite interesting.

The Republican party had a more competitive race on their hands in Iowa. With a record setting attendance, there were more than 180,000 tallied votes for the Republican candidates. Coming in first place with 51,666 votes (27.6%) was Ted Cruz, followed by billionaire Donald Trump (24.6%), and Marco Rubio (23.1%).

Going into the Republican Caucus, it was expected that there would be a close race between those three candidates, however Donald Trump was the projected winner going into polling day. Unexpectedly, Ted Cruz pulled off the win for the Republicans by defeating Trump by 2%.

imagesThe Iowa Caucus has been a great indicator of which candidates stand a chance at gaining their respective party nomination, and the upcoming primaries will be an even better way of seeing who will be on the ballot come election day.

Oil/Gas prices and the economy

With the global stock market off to its worst start of the year ever, many are wondering what is causing this trend and what it means for the United States economy. The answer can be found in the oil and gasoline industry, where we are seeing some of the lowest prices for these items in the last decade.

Oil and gas prices have been dropping so much because, simply, there is a large supply of it. This sudden drop in price is great for consumers like us, but hurts the global stock market because the companies that sell the gas and oil are not making as big of a profit as they once were before. This in turn has brought down the energy companies’ shares in the stock market by nearly 10 percent. The price of oil has now fallen so low that investors believe that this could mean global economic growth is much weaker than expected, which could hurt all companies.

Normally, lower prices on gas and oil would signal that the economy is in good shape. However, in this instance, one could argue that since the profit drop is so low it could drag down entire companies and indexes within the stock market. The production of oil in the U.S and many other countries has not changed significantly during this time, and with international sanctions against Iran being lifted, there could be even more oil resources available than before. Nearly 10 years ago, during the financial crisis, U.S consumers were worried about gas and oil prices being too high, and now with prices decreasing as they are, we have become worried about prices being too low.

Black Lives Matter protests

15 people were arrested after protests from the Black Lives Matter activist group took place at the Mall of America and the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.  This came at a time in which both sites were experiencing their highest amount of traffic throughout the year.

Prior to the protests, the Mall of America filed a restraining order on Black Lives Matter, in an attempt to try and avoid what occurred at the mall in December 2015, when a massive demonstration ended up disrupting businesses and shut down stores. Hennepin County District Court Judge Karen Janisch ruled that organizers of the group would not be allowed to protest at the mall, but said that she could not stop other members of the group from attending the protest.

She wrote: “The Court does not have a sufficient basis to issue an injunction as to Black Lives Matters or to unidentified persons who may be acting as its agents or in active concert with the Black Lives Matters movement.”

~b780177In anticipation for the protests, some stores around the central rotunda closed, and barricades with heavily increased security we set up around the mall. As protesters started to gather, the mall made announcements that the demonstration was unlawful, and asked the activists to leave mall property.

The protest inside the mall was stopped, and a large majority of the group began marching down to the nearby light rail station, as well as the airport. Protestors began to block major roadways to the airport and gathered inside Terminal 1 which caused security checkpoints to close inside the airport. This caused many travel headaches for people traveling during the busy holiday season

All of this stems from recent racial injustices taking place throughout the nation, and more specifically sought to bring attention to the recent shooting of an unarmed African American man in Minneapolis, Jamar Clark.