Video games are a form of online gambling

In recent years, many video games have turned to new approaches to make more money. One thing many game developers have done to increase their profits is to introduce microtransactions. However, this is a problem in its own right.

Many video games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch and FIFA Ultimate Team feature their own loot box system, or something similar to it. Loot boxes, crates, cases, chests, bundles and card packs are, in essence, virtual games of chance which can be purchased in video games. Players use real money to buy these virtual items, which contain a chance selection of rewards. The likelihood of winning rare items is slim, so players are encouraged to spend more to increase their chances of success.

I know the effects of this from my experiences from years of playing FIFA Ultimate Team. In this popular game mode in FIFA, players try to assemble the best squad possible by buying players or buying packs with the in-game currency, FIFA coins. However, it is also possible to open packs using FIFA points, which can be purchased using real money. The problem with this, however, is the chances of getting a good player is slim to none, and EA Sports, the developer of the game, do not disclose the pack odds.

One Reddit user conducted a study where he spent about $4,200 on about 450,000 FIFA points, with which he was able to open 651 packs. He obtained a 90+ rated player once through all the packs he opened, about 0.02% of the time. If that’s not gambling I don’t know what is.

EA Sports designs their packs to be flashy and shiny as they run multiple promotions throughout the course of the game with cards that are very rare. Players spend their money in a futile attempt to attain one of these players, because of the rarity and shininess associated with them.

The Belgian Gambling Commission banned FIFA packs from their country citing them as an illegal form of online gambling. More countries should follow their example and ban these loot boxes that are designed to exploit children who don’t know any better.




Should the last month of school matter to students?

Every student, parent, and teacher knows that the last month of school is a joke. Students watch movies, play games, and sit around on their phones and get nothing done. This is why I believe that the last month of school is excessive and pointless.

The last month of school leaves students pretty much twiddling their thumbs and counting down the days until the end of the year. To make matter even worst, they are trapped inside a hot building instead of enjoying the nice summer weather.

However, it’s still important to note that there are some reasons why school goes so deep into summer. Administrators and school officials want to ensure that all students have adequate time to finish all their curriculum and prep for SOLs and exams.

“The main thing that I have been doing all May is reviewing and studying for my SOLs and exams.” Freshman Anna Delaney said.
Although many people would consider this to be a good reason, but I disagree.

Yes, we have finals and SOLs, but we are given a month to prepare, which is more than enough time. I believe our time would be better spent if we had our finals earlier so we could get a head start on summer.

Especially since the start date of school has been made earlier to August 26th, students should have more time in June to enjoy their summer. Although school officials have tried to accommodate students by ending school on the 13th, the change barely impacts the overall length of summer vacation.

Additionally, the school year has already been in the process of winding down since early May. Students are beginning to become restless and wasting time in class doing nothing only worsens students attitude.

We’re overworked, over tested, and done with school. The most academic thing we do at the end of the school year is the occasional classroom activity or kahoot. There’s absolutely no point in coming to school to just sit around doing nothing.

County officials should consider moving final exams to earlier dates to allow students more time to enjoy summer.




Abortion laws intensify

Abortion has been a hot topic on everyone’s social media feeds after a bill was signed by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Wed. May 15. The law prohibited abortions in almost every circumstance and is now considered the most restrictive abortion law in the country. The legislation only makes exceptions only for the health of the mother and for fetuses with “fatal anomalies” that make them unlikely to survive outside the womb. Rape and incest are not exceptions to Alabama’s ban.

Along with Alabama, lawmakers in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, and many other Republican-controlled states have passed new anti-abortion bills that all have a similar undertone of no tolerance even for extreme circumstances. The laws have prompted questions about whether women and doctors who have abortions should be punished on accounts of murder. It’s not really surprising that people all over the country have had heated debates on social media.

“My feed has been flooded with abortion-related posts.” Freshman Elizabeth Chichester said, “It’s a lot to bear, but I’m glad that people are having the conversation.”

Since the Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, abortion has been a safe and legal option for women who have had an unwanted pregnancy. Before however, women would frequently try to induce abortions by using coat hangers, knitting needles, or radiator flush, or by going to unsafe “back-alley” abortionists.

Even today, statistics from other countries that have not yet legalized abortion have shown that abortion restrictions won’t reduce the number of abortions that take place. In fact, in those same countries, according to the Center of Disease Control, botched abortions account for about 8 to 11 percent of all maternal deaths, or about 30,000 each year.

Another aspect to consider is the women who attempt to perform their own abortion and they are taken to the hospital with complications, they might be reported to the authorities and face jail time. This creates even more fear and in turn more deaths.

All this just comes to show that people will have abortions regardless of what the law says. Preventing women and girls from accessing an abortion does not mean they stop needing one. That’s why attempts to ban or restrict abortions do nothing to reduce the number of abortions, it only forces people to seek out unsafe abortions. The only thing that restricting and criminalizing abortions does is make them less safe.

Additionally, what many people are oblivious too is the fact most states already have very restricted rules on abortions.

First off, abortion has been legal since Roe v. Wade but states have the ability to restrict it to whatever degree they would like. The majority of states require clinics to not give abortions after 13-24 weeks, only provide public funding for abortions in cases of endangerment, rape or incest and requires that a woman must receive mandatory counseling before undergoing an abortion.

Abortion clinics are also few and far between in many southern states. In states like Alabama, there are only three abortion clinics in the entire state.
Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, a lawmaker’s main concern should be keeping the public safe, not focusing on political or religious beliefs. Access to legal, professionally-performed abortions reduces maternal injury and death caused by unsafe, illegal abortions. It shouldn’t matter whether or not you believe it’s morally right, you should put your ignorance aside and focus on what really matters.




New system for college applications

By 2020, the College Board will expand the use of a student’s socioeconomic disadvantages or advantages against them regarding their SAT scores. Many colleges say they want to admit more applicants who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. However, many colleges question how a student would be considered disadvantaged and also making sure that some students that have grown up with major deficits get the extra edge in admissions decisions.
“This is a tool designed for admission officers to view a student’s academic accomplishment in the context of where they live and learn,” a spokeswoman for the College Board said. “It doesn’t provide information about the student, but rather provides information about the student’s environment. It puts a student’s SAT score and other academic accomplishments included in their college application in the context of where they live and learn.”
The College Board has just finished the first two steps of the system, the Environmental Context Dashboard. This system is designed to help colleges be more precise when deciding who should get this extra edge. The system works in one of two ways. When students take the PSAT or the SAT, they will enter their information of where they live and about the high school that they attend. The College Board then uses that information to create an index on adversity based on three simple calculations: the environments of the high school, neighborhood, and family.
Students have not liked this feature because of how some students could get the cunning edge when they apply to a certain college. “I think that this would help some students, but it would also put others at a disadvantage,” junior Mahmoud Osman said. “Personally, I like this idea but it depends on how much of a cunning edge I get on it.”
The College Board expanding the use of a student’s environment may work for some, but dramatically enhance or diminish their chances of getting into their dream college. Many of these students think that some of their chances of getting into college will be lowered because they come from a good family. This whole system should be removed due to the fact that it puts others ahead of one another.




Teens: Get a job

When most teens think of summer, the beach or their bed comes to mind. Though for some, students working is the ideal pastime for summer.
A majority of students have summer jobs including senior Amber Untch who works at the St. James sports, wellness, and entertainment center.
Untch has been working at St. James for nine months. She was recommended for the job by a friend.
“This is my first job and I love it,” Untch said, “The interview was pretty easy for the most part. They asked me about my availability and hours. They also asked how I could help their company.”
Untch gets paid $10 an hour and receives a free membership to Saint James.
There are many businesses in the Annandale area that are hiring including, Dairy Queen, Swiss Bakery and Lake Accotink.
Though the most common job during the summer is working at pools. Jobs at public pools are very easy to get for teens and the pay is modest.
Most pools will pay minimum wage to teen employees which is $7.25. The public pools around AHS are the North Springfield Swim Club, the Springfield Swimming Club, the Annandale Swim and Tennis Club, and the Canterbury Woods Swim and Tennis Club.
Summer jobs and year-long jobs are important for teens because it teaches them hard work and the value of a dollar. However, the number of teens who work has been decreasing in recent years.
According to the United States Department of Labor, the percentage of teens in the workforce in 2009 was 37.5 percent, but in 2015 the percentage of teens was only 34.3 percent.
There is an explanation for this. The United States Department of Education reports an increase in summer school attendance around high school aged children.
It is important for teenagers to get an education, but college tuition is increasing. Many teens get jobs to help pay for their college education.
Another common job around teens is yard work or babysitting. The amount of money you get depends on the employer. Junior Izzy Steiner babysits and does yard work for her immediate neighbors.
“I have been babysitting for about eight months, and I have been doing yard work for a couple of years now,” Steiner said.
Steiner earns $25 for two hours of babysitting and $25 for yard work.
When babysitting, Steiner’s responsibilities include playing with the toddler, changing her diaper, and feeding the child dinner.
“When I do yard work for my neighbors, I normally mow the lawn, water their flowers, and pull out weeds. But sometimes they ask me to do other things like cleaning out the shed, laying mulch and planting flowers,” Steiner said.
Jobs are very important because they bring skills that many will need in the real world. Teens need to learn how to be responsible with the money they earn and jobs are a easy way to do that.




Senior problems with obligations

We’ve all broken or lost something. It happens. Every year, students lose some sort of equipment that is borrowed from the school. When a student does break or lose something, they have to pay for it, these are called obligations. This exists because of pure irresponsibility.

A student can’t be considered for a student parking space if their obligations aren’t paid for. “The most common obligations are lost textbooks and parking fees,” Finance Technician Laura Mclean said. That means every time a student parks in a wrong spot, a ticket will be given and an obligation will be issued.

Seniors have the most obligations. “Seniors won’t pay off their obligations until right before they have to,” Mclean said. That includes the Senior Graduation fee. The $67 price includes all the fees for graduation and Prom. If you don’t pay it, you can’t participate in the ceremony or the party.

“We cleared a lot of obligations last week due to Prom,” said McClean. In order to be eligible for Prom, you have to pay all your dues. Despite this, there are still roughly 400 students that still owe obligation fees as of right now. Other obligation fees come with being in a class. Students in band, orchestra, or guitar, would also have to pay for a broken instrument or other damaged equipment.

These obligation fees wouldn’t be a big problem if students were better at just keeping track of their stuff. Students often think that keeping track of school work is important and that there’s no serious harm in losing it. When you lose something borrowed from the school, your consequences are much more serious than a bad grade. Another common kind of obligation is library books. From kindergarten, students are given late slips when they cannot turn in a library book. If you sign into a computer, a big notification comes up, reminding you that you have an overdue book.

“The library takes care of their obligations and we bill the students,” McClean said. In some cities, if a person doesn’t pay for or return a book that belongs to a public library in a period over 20 days, they can be arrested for robbery.




Disconnected from reality

On March 31, rapper Nipsey Hussle was fatally shot outside his store in Los Angeles. For the most part, the response on social media was very sympathetic. However, there were also many posts, tweets, and comments saying “Who cares?” and other ignorant comments about his death.

These kinds of things aren’t uncommon on social media. There are loads of negative posts uploaded constantly.

“I try not to spend a lot of time on social media for that reason,” senior Izzudeen Yahia said. “The constant amount of negativity can affect your mind and attitude.”

As social media is still relatively new, the effects it can have on you have not been deeply investigated by scientists. But, some effects have been identified.

One of these is known as compression fatigue, coined by journalist Dave Cullen. Compassion fatigue explains the phenomena where people are constantly bombarded with tragic stories and eventually get emotionally worn out. On average, people spend 1.72 hours on social media per day according to the Global Web Index. In that time that we use scrolling through social media, we see status updates and photos that friends post timelines along with tragic stories from across the world. We feel compassion fatigue with wars overseas, tragedies at home, and other awful things that occur in the world around us. We see the same thing over and over, and eventually lose the ability to empathize. While one of the championing effects of social media is that it creates an interconnected world, this also creates a platform for every single tragedy worldwide, which means one sad news event after another is moved by really quickly.

Another limitation of empathy created by social media is confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is when people only expose themselves to their own thoughts repeated in recursive echo chambers of increasingly radical and exclusionary thought. When this happens, social media users understand and empathize with other users who share the same view as them and demonize and attack them.
Social media also provides people a platform to say things they wouldn’t say in real life. It’s a lot easier to insult or provoke someone when you aren’t talking to them face to face and get to hide behind a screen. This anonymity also leads to a lot of users who go out of their way to “troll” others. Basically, a social media troll is someone who purposely says something controversial in order to get a rise out of other users. These people deliberately try and cause arguments and frustrate others.

“My suggestion to people is to try and take a break from social media. When you spend your entire day on Twitter or Instagram, not only is it a waste of time, but it can affect your personality as well,” Yahia said.

Taking a break from social media can be a good idea every once in a while. It can help you stay focused on your own goals in life and can help you reclaim wasted time. It can help prevent negative thoughts from entering and taking over your mind as well.

As a whole, social media does have a lot of positives, but it has its drawbacks as well. Social media is a very good source of entertainment and can create positive relationships across the world, but it’s important to be able to distinguish between real life and online life and not get so caught up in the virtual world that you lose your sense of empathy. It’s important to remember that behind every social media account there is a person going through the trials and tribulations of life. Respectful and responsible discourse on social media is the first step to overcoming a loss of empathy.




European Union passes controversial copyright law

The future of the Internet in Europe faces a lot of uncertainty after the European Parliament passed Article 13, which sets new copyright restrictions in place on a lot of content. Essentially, it means sites such as YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, Twitter and Soundcloud – sites that host user-generated content – become legally liable for the copyrighted material it hosts. For YouTube’s case, this is the large majority of it.

Many people on the Internet have labeled Article 13 as the ‘meme ban’ as many memes are repurposed from other original content.

This will effectively ban the process of creating memes, which are entirely driven by the ability to take an image or video and then edit it to provide some humor. Under the new directive, this will be prohibited, as will the remix of any song, unless the remixer had written consent from the original artist to use their work.

The goal of Article 13 is to try and create a shift towards more original content on the Internet, but many who rely on remixing or remaking content may be hurt.

Article 13 will require any media website to remove content that infringes copyright and show they took prior care to prohibit the upload of anything protected by copyright. If they fail to comply, it would likely lead to a fine.

The simplest and most likely solution for companies is to block all EU user-generated content from sites that host it at the point of upload.

This is because as soon as copyrighted work has been published to the world, it immediately breaks the law and then the site would become legally liable for the punishment of breaking copyright law.

Because of the extent of content that is published on these sites, like on Youtube, where 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute, they cannot possibly regulate and decide which videos actually infringe copyright. With all of that content, they can’t physically go through and check every video.

EU member countries have two years to decide how to enforce Article 13, but it will have a serious impact on Internet content not only in Europe, but worldwide as well.




Senioritis plagues students

As the second semester rolls through the school year, many students are starting to show effects of the dreaded “senioritis”. It’s the time of year when students, reflect lazier and decreased performance in school.

Students tend to lose motivation and feel as if their workload for the year should be over. This affects their grades and the attitude of their teachers. This is a problem when it comes to getting work done and to move through the curriculum fluidly. senioritis should be treated by having more emphasis on it; teachers need to address this problem head on, and talk to them about how their grades still matter and that same attitude would continue into their college days.

Bonnie Vining, an English teacher deals with continuous senioritis, with both her upperclassmen and lower class men.

“I think senioritis happens because when students are seniors, they’ve completed their SOLs and college apps. A majority of them have their future planned out and know where they’re heading to school; so by the time spring rolls around, they feel like they’re done with school. I was the same way when I was in high school, but I knew I had to keep going,” Vining said.

If able to control the school system, Vining would, “only make seniors go to school for a semester, and then have them work or participate in an internship in the spring because I think they’ve done enough by the time they reached the new year.”




Celebrity slandering on TV is getting out of hand

HBO is under fire for their documentaries such as Leaving Neverland, The Case Against Adnan Syed and Surviving R.Kelly for going against the decisions that the U.S. legal system made. These documentaries re-explore the cases and promise the viewers that they are going to reveal the “truth.” But is HBO doing all this just to catch more viewers?

Michael Jackson’s trial, in which he was accused of molesting the underaged Gavin Arvizo, was a big deal when it first happened in 2005. Although he was acquitted and found not guilty, people still have their doubts. This case should be settled. However, HBO has reignited the controversy. That’s the power of Jackson’s celebrity even years after his death. Of course, Leaving Neverland, a documentary that features two of Jackson’s former friends Wade Robson and James Safechuck alleging that they were raped repeatedly by the mega-star, was going to draw similar attention.

“There could be a possibility that some people make false statements about big names,” senior Tahid Mamun said. “But I don’t understand why they feel the need to hurt someone’s reputation that bad. I don’t believe Michael Jackson raped his former friends.”

Networks like HBO and the rest of the entertainment industry would indeed hurt big named artists to increase their ratings and make more money. Stars like Michael Jackson could be innocent, but since the network is so popular, the audience will take the side. He’s no longer around as well to defend himself.

In an interview on CBS Network with Gayle King on March 8, former artist R.Kelly claimed that the documentary Surviving R.Kelly is all a lie. He claims they made him sound like a devil and that he could never treat women in such a way. He blamed the documentary for ruining his reputation and making everyone believe that he committed all of those nasty crimes.

“I watched the documentary about R.Kelly as soon as I heard it was released,” senior Hlina Wondwossen said. “I believe everything that the documentary said. There’s no way people can just make stuff up like that.”

At a certain point, it becomes essential to ask: are the questions raised in these documentaries worth the pain they inevitably inflict on these stars’ loved ones?




Hypocrisy grows among Democrats

With the 2018 midterm elections now far in hindsight, it is time to begin looking at the record of the freshman class of representatives and senators thus far.

When taking a step back, it is evident that two things have become even further emphasized by the new faces to Congress on the Democratic side, hypocrisy and extremism.

Just weeks ago, newly elected Congresswoman from Minnesota’s 5th congressional district Rep. Ilhan Omar, came under fire for her allegedly anti-Semitic comments about the influence of the Israeli government and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

In her statement, Omar said, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

Omar’s use of the word “allegiance” in reference to Israel sparked criticism as the use of the word has ties to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, and rightfully so. Although Omar has since somewhat apologized for her remarks, saying they were misinterpreted, this is not the first time that she has displayed animosity towards Israel.

Moreover, the most egregious display of hypocrisy comes from House Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Rather than disavow Omar for her comments, many top-ranking Democrats in Congress opted to defend her instead.

In the light of Omar’s comments, the house should have held a real vote to condemn her statements. Instead, the resolution brought to the floor by Pelosi and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn says nothing of significance.

Pelosi went on to make excuses for Omar saying that she “did not understand the full weight of her words.”

The stark hypocrisy comes into play when analyzing the manner in which the Democrats handled this case of hateful speech compared to that of the GOP.

Back in January, House Republicans led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy voted to unanimously disavow white supremacist comments made by Rep. Steve King of Iowa. The GOP did not stop there, as they also stripped King of his committee assignments.

The ho-hum and insincere attitude of Democratic leadership in response to Omar is inexcusable. For someone who has a seat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Omar should have indefinitely been removed and stripped of her committee assignments. Nonetheless, she was not even directly decried as her district remains angered and recruits 2020 primary challengers to go against Omar.

As for extremism, there is not a single freshman representative who displays it in as pronounced a way as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. For starters, Ocasio-Cortez has been nothing but an endless fountain of idiotic and uneducated statements since entering Congress.

A self-described socialist, Ocasio-Cortez personifies ideological extremism. Just over a month ago on Feb.7, Ocasio-Cortez alongside introduced the Green New Deal resolution alongside Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts.

The GDN mentions an unreal amount of outlandish, unrealistic and flat-out nonsensical proposals. The resolution entails a number of horrid socialist priorities such as universal healthcare, universal basic income and placing more restrictions on businesses and the business environment.

As if this proposal wasn’t preposterous enough, Ocasio-Cortez has not mentioned any clear way in which any of its priorities will be paid for. However, it is expected that if the GDN would go into effect, it would cost an overwhelming and unacceptable $93 trillion.

As a further matter, Ocasio-Cortez’s ineptitude was demonstrated in her clumsy debacle with Amazon. As of last year, Amazon planned last year to plant one of its new headquarters in New York City within Ocasio-Cortez’ jurisdiction in Queens.

The freshman congresswoman’s opposition to the deal resulted in Amazon pulling out of NYC, costing the city over 25,000 jobs in addition to an approximated $4 billion in lost wages which would have gone to working-classing class individuals.

Ocasio-Cortez’ sheer incompetence drew ire from members of her district who overwhelmingly supported the Amazon deal as well as Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

Ocasio-Cortez’ comments on the New Zealand massacre caused a backlash amongst representatives. Representative Dan Crenshaw (R), a former Navy Seal, took Ocasio-Cortez’ tweets and messages which attacked groups such as the NRA and bringing the event which is still being mourned upon, to politics. “If you find yourself using the tragedy in New Zealand to take backhanded swipes at conservatives in America — many of my colleagues already have — then you really have no shame and you are part of the problem. It should be easy for us to stand united and condemn terrorism,” Crenshaw replied.
Crenshaw, a pronounced Republican has taken action on social media to combat opposing views.




Privilege and the college admissions scandal

A huge college admission scheme was unveiled on Tues. March 12 was the largest of its kind the Justice Department has ever seen, prosecutors said. The scheme involved at least 50 offenders across six states, millions of dollars in illegally wired funds and a handful of the country’s most selective and competitive universities like Yale, Stanford and other big-name schools.

Thirty-three wealthy parents were charged in the case, including Hollywood celebrities like actress Felicity Huffman and TV star Lori Loughlin as well as some big-name business leaders.

The authorities say the parents of some of the nation’s wealthiest and most privileged students bought and bribed spots for their children at top universities, not only cheating the system, but potentially cheating other hard-working students out of a chance at a college education.

Also being prosecuted are top college athletic coaches, who were accused of accepting millions of dollars to help admit undeserving students to a wide variety of colleges. This means that these parents had the audacity to make their children seem like college level athletes and scholars, just to get into a good school.

This reminds me of something that is legally going on in America, legacy admissions. Studies show that universities that admit legacy applicants at more than five times the rate of non-legacies. In fact, having an alum as a parent is said to increase an applicants by 45 percentage points. That is, if one candidate has an 30% chance of admission, another applicant who has the same chances, but has a parent who attended the school will undoubtedly be chosen over the other.

It shouldn’t matter that wealthy graduates of colleges provide funds and donations to the colleges, as college should be all about equal opportunity.
Supporters of the practice argue that its about “tradition” but it’s pretty clear that is about money and personal gain. To me, that “tradition” seems more like inherited aristocracy and undeserved gains.

All this just comes to show the unfair admissions process in America very openly favors wealthier students and how children of alumni already have an incredible built-in advantage merely by being the children of college graduates from elite universities. The real victims of both legacy admissions and the fraud scheme are the millions of hard working students that actually put in the work to get into a good school.