The Lancer Ledger The Student News Site of Lakeland Regional High School Fri, 28 Feb 2020 18:29:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Incredible 2020 Special Olympics Fri, 28 Feb 2020 18:29:29 +0000 The 2020 Special Olympics Winter Games was a huge success for the Lakeland Regional High School students. Out of the 12 athletes who attended, each returned home with a medal from their snowshoeing events. The event took place from February 3 to February 4, 2020 at Mountain Creek.

According to special education teacher Ms. Jamie Haftek, each student was “beyond proud” of their medals. The athletes competed in 100 meter races, 200 meter races, 400 meter races, and 4×4 relays. Ms. Haftek was incredibly happy for the athletes and explained how they came home with a “neck full of medals that showed their accomplishments!”

The students not only thrived in the athletics portion of the trip, but they also acquired new life skills. They developed “independent skills by staying alone in hotel rooms, some for the very first time.” The students also became more positive teammates toward their peers. 

According to Ms. Haftek, “Every moment at a Special Olympics event is memorable,” but one of the most memorable moments for her was “standing among all of the students and their families at the opening ceremonies.” She explained how lighting the Olympic cauldron was a very special moment. The flame represented the start of the games, along with unity, pride, and teamwork.  

Overall, the atmosphere at the Special Olympics is full of positive energy. Ms. Haftek explained that everyone at the games is always happy and cheering on all the athletes. Along with this, everyone is “always ready and willing to help anyone in need.”

The athletes left this year tired, yet very happy. The athletes could not wait to return to school the next day to show off their medals. They each put in so much effort and hard work into their games, and as Haftek says, “We should ALL be proud of them!” 

Ms. Haftek, along with other LRHS teachers, is currently looking for Lakeland students to be Unified Partners for the new Unified Track and Field Team. This role requires the unified partner to compete alongside our athletes with intellectual disabilities to represent one unified unit. If you are interested, please see Ms. Haftek in room 101.   

As for our athletes, the Lakeland community is incredibly proud and cannot wait to see what these hard working students will accomplish next.

Courtesy of the Lakeland Live Feed
All of the athletes worked super hard and are very deserving of their awards!

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LRHS and Preparing for the Coronavirus Thu, 27 Feb 2020 20:16:18 +0000 Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said on Tuesday, February 25, 2020, “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen…” With news agencies across the country telling U.S. citizens to brace for a pandemic, or an outbreak, fear of a coronavirus in the states is soaring.  To help the community of Lakeland understand what the coronavirus is and if concern is warranted, The Lancer Ledger sat down and compiled the facts.


Should the Lakeland community be concerned?

The Lancer Ledger
Business teacher, Ms. Tammy Ozdemir, has each student regularly wipe down their keyboard and mouse during cold and flu season, which is especially important during the possibility of the spread of the coronavirus.

Overall, LRHS and members of the community should be aware, but not overly concerned. Taking basic precautions, especially when in public places like school, work, the mall, etc, is extremely important. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this includes handwashing with a soap that is alcohol-based to kill germs; maintaining distance between you and others when in public; avoiding touching eyes, hands, and mouth with unclean hands; seeking medical attention if you feel ill; and staying informed and updated on the virus.  


What is the coronavirus?

The coronavirus, officially named by WHO as COVID19, is a highly communicable disease that originated in the province of Wuhan, China. 

Symptoms of the virus can range from those of a common cold to the flu to pneumonia-like. If untreated, they could lead to much more severe circumstances such as kidney failure, acute respiratory syndrome and even death, especially to those who are elderly, very young, or have pre-existing medical conditions.

The virus is zoonotic, which means it can be transmitted between humans and animals.   It is said that the virus may have originated from an animal, such as a bat, or small animal that may have been used for human consumption.  However, the disease now spreads by air as well, hence the outbreak. While the outbreak has mainly kept itself to mainland China, the virus has made its way to every continent but Antarctica. 


Who is at risk?

Currently, no one has immunity to this virus as it is still fairly new in humans. Due to this, everyone is at risk of catching the disease. According to The Guardian, it appears to be that those who are elderly or very young are at a greater risk of being affected by the virus. Although people of these ages are the most prone to the virus, it doesn’t mean someone young and healthy can’t catch it.

Now, with more preparation and resources, global authorities are having less trouble spotting and treating mild cases when they begin. Older generations are at a higher risk for contracting this disease, as they usually have pre-existing medical conditions that cause a weakened immune system. 

However, health care workers who have had a lot of exposure to the disease are particularly at risk. David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told The Guardian, “It is like being in the battlefield – no matter how much protection you have, a stray bullet can catch you sometimes.” Furthermore, health care workers can in fact obtain an even more severe coronavirus infection due to coming in close contact with patients with the disease.


Is the coronavirus deadly?  

…those with mild cases usually recover in around two weeks, and those with more severe cases can recover in three to six weeks. ”

— World Health Organization

To put it in perspective, John Hopkins Medicine reports that the flu leads to at least 12,000 deaths in the United States yearly, while the coronavirus has led to 2,770 deaths worldwide as of February 26.

The rapid spread of coronavirus in Wuhan was what created worldwide panic. The mortality rate for the coronavirus in China varies, in Wuhan it is estimated to be 5%, but as a whole, the nationwide mortality rate was estimated around 2.1%. This is a decrease from the 2.3% mortality rate seen at the beginning of this epidemic. The formula Chinese officials are using to calculate this percentage is current total deaths / current confirmed cases, but the results are not completely accurate; a higher mortality rate could be caused by authorities seeing the worst cases first, and missing mild cases, causing an inconsistency in the data. 

Deaths are less frequent in younger generations, according to Dr. Bruce Aylward, a WHO representative. WHO reports that those with mild cases usually recover in around two weeks, and those with more severe cases can recover in three to six weeks. 


Where is the virus currently? source: National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)Division of Viral Diseases
Locations with confirmed COVID-19 cases span every continent, excluding Antarctica (map updated February 27.)

The coronavirus originated in China, but has quickly spread throughout the world.  While over 95% of the confirmed cases are from mainland China, Italy and South Korea are experiencing major outbreaks.  Japan and Iran also have confirmed cases in the hundreds. Currently at least 42 countries and 6 continents have the virus according to John Hopkins.  Only Antarctica is free of it.  In the United States, major cities have reported cases of the virus including, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, San Antonio, Chicago, and Boston.  New York, Houston, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Dallas, and San Francisco are yet to experience cases, yet there have been reported cases nearby.


What are the effects on our economy?

Because of the sheer number of cases in China, most factories have shuttered, and few employees are coming to work. Since the supply chain for items such as electronics and other goods can take anywhere from 1-3 months to get finished products out, the global economy hasn’t seen the big issues just yet. The stock market has dipped, as to be expected, but product shortages are still a real threat to the economy. It’s already happening with the Valve Index VR headset which we covered recently, with orders being delayed for months on end, as reported by TweakTown

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Birds of Prey: The Good, The Bad, and The Gory Thu, 27 Feb 2020 17:09:44 +0000 Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) was as good at Suicide Squad was horrid.

This movie follows Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) after her emotionally distressing breakup from the Joker. Now alone, Quinn has to navigate life, and its consequences. Unsurprisingly, Harley quickly gets mixed up in some bad business with Roman Sionis, or Black Mask, played by Ewan McGregor. The movie soon turns into the take down of another patriarchal, pseudo-Joker, super-psycho. 

Warner Bros.
Four super-females, connected by an orphan pickpocket and led by Harley Quinn, come together to take down Black Mask.

The introduction of young pickpocket Cassandra Cain is what brings the Birds of Prey together. The leading ladies are Black Canary, Cain’s neighbor; Huntress, a victim seeking revenge against Sionis; Detective Renee Montoya, following a lead; and Harley Quinn, following Sionis’ orders in order to avoid death, all eventually come together to save Cain from the grasp of Sionis and his minions. 

Throughout the film, it is interesting to watch Harley’s former psychiatric background come into play, as she sprinkled diagnoses in her speech to taunt or aggravate her tormentors. It is also interesting that throughout the movie, Cain and Quinn form a twisted mother-daughter bond, as both find themselves while finding each other. 

This movie juxtaposes Harley Quinn’s candy-coated playfulness with some serious gore, which to many fans delight, is straight out of the comic books. These gruesome scenes were contrasted with flashy, neon surroundings reminiscent of a Barbie commercial. The directors were constantly overlaying mind-melting pop-art over gritty urban realism, brilliantly representing Harley Quinn’s manic state and her disheartening surroundings.

Warner Bros. 
Joined only by her beloved hyena Bruce, Harley lives above her favorite Chinese restaurant.

This movie is funny. Though it doesn’t seem like the type to make you laugh, Harley’s natural “comedy” (essentially mania) shines through constantly, in spite of every life-threatening situation she finds herself in. 

She first begins the movie by narration, but being Harley, the timeline gets a little mixed up in her retelling. So, at times, she has to review, explain some backstory, or give viewers an idea as to when events were actually occurring. Still, the timeline is not confusing and her narration is a great way to follow the story. 

While this was a great movie, it featured superfluous gore and drug use, which merited it’s R-rating. Harley’s 21st century testimony to female independence surprisingly included no appearance from ‘Mistah J’ himself. And though McGregor’s portrayal of Black Mask is equally disturbing and fascinating, Sionis is an odd villain for Harley’s first movie, and the film would have made more sense in the DC comic universe if the Joker had been the antagonist. 

Some details, including Harley’s taxidermied beaver, were not given much explanation throughout the film. Birds of Prey seems to have been created for fans of the comic books themselves, as little explanation was given to Harley’s quirks. It seems directors expected fans to already know most of her backstory. 

If comic book Harley Quinn is your favorite – this movie is not for you. The “emancipation” of our beloved Harley in Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) leads to the birth of a brand new, outrageously empowered, wickedly feminist anti-hero.

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Prime of Sports at Lakeland Wed, 26 Feb 2020 13:17:50 +0000 Lakeland Regional High School may be experiencing one of the greatest years in the school’s history of sports.  Lakeland’s sports teams during the 2019-2020 school year have been excellent so far. They have won many conference championships and some are even ranked high in the state.  With most fall and winter sports seasons over, The Lancer Ledger takes a look at some of the most triumphant sports moments of this year.


Boys & Girls Cross Country:  Super Successful Seasons

Courtesy of Lakeland Live Feed
Boys cross country had a very successful team with great runners.

Lakeland’s boys and girls cross country programs have been immensely successful this past year.  The boys, led by captain, senior Jesse Campoverde, won the triple crown (conference, counties, and state sectionals), according to sports director Mr. John Yost.  Campoverde himself placed very high in all competitions and earned himself a full ride to Division 1 college, Rider University. Additionally, captains, senior Zach Voll and senior Mason Murphy ran excellent times throughout the season.

Courtesy of Lakeland Live Feed
Horevay (Left) and Perez (Right) placed very high in many events.


The girls, despite also having a phenomenal season, only won the conference and fell short in the other two competitions.  No matter where they fell in the rankings, the team still shone bright. Sophomores Angelina Perez and captain Abigail Horevay both won Athlete of the Week awards while placing high in the competitions they ran.  They, along with the rest of the young team, including captain and sophomore Caitlin Fahy, will have many more chances at winning it all in years to come.

Boys Winter Track

There’s not much to say: Lakeland is good at running.  In addition to Lakeland’s distance runners who came back to run track, Lakeland’s sprinters such as senior Ray Schmitt and senior Carlos Cueavas aided the team’s success.  Winter track won the conference championship meet along with the state sectional championship meet.


Boys Soccer: Goals from Golas

Courtesy of Lakeland Live Feed
Golas, pictured here as an October student of the month for soccer, helped lead the team into as conference champions.

For the boys, it’s their first conference title in 32 years. Led by captain and senior Matt Golas, who scored a Lakeland record of 29 goals, the boys had a thrilling season that ended with a 13-6 record. Golas had around 75% of the goals this season.  Despite Golas leaving next season, the team’s young core will stay together for what will hopefully be another successful season.









Ice Hockey: Attracting Attention

Courtesy of Lakeland Live Feed
Lakeland ice hockey is once again making a name for itself as division champions!

With an amazing season that’s still not over, Lakeland ice hockey has already won a conference and county title. Junior Ben Kopacki, in the goalie position, has played very well, being named NJ Devils’ Player of the Month and The Record Athlete of the Week.  Juniors Joey Cole and Hunter Quinn are racking up the goals for the Lancers on the offensive side. This is no surprise to the LRHS community: the ice hockey program has been going strong for many years now.




Girls Basketball: Earning Higher Marks

Photo: Charlie McGill/
Marks became The Record’s Athlete of the Week for the second time this year.

Girls basketball has a record of 14-8 according to High School Sports NJ.  Senior Kiera Marks is a fourth year varsity player averaging around 24 points per game this season.  After an amazing field hockey season where she won Athlete of the Week, Marks also won Athlete of the Week for basketball.  Marks is currently one of the top scorers in New Jersey.


With standout teams and athletes like Kopacki, Golas, Campoverde, Perez, and Marks, Lakeland is at an all time sports high. Not to mention, so many other teams such as wrestling and dance have been having stand out seasons as well.  Mr. Yost reports that he even sees improvement in those teams that are struggling. He told the ledger that the boys basketball has drastically improved since their season prior, where they only won two games.

When asked which team is the most successful Mr. Yost responded by saying that the question was like asking a parent to choose a favorite child.  Mr. Yost and the LRHS community are beyond happy with the entire sports department. #LancerNation

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From Cross Country to Winter Track: Sophomore Angelina Perez’s New Feats Tue, 25 Feb 2020 19:13:29 +0000 Everyone knows that Lakeland’s own sophomore Angelina Perez has had phenomenal triumphs in cross country. She has shattered records, demolished personal bests, and earned various awards such as Female Athlete of the Week and 2nd-Team All State, despite it being just her first year participating. In the cross country world, it’s evident that her name is feared.

After such an extraordinary season, what was next for Perez?

Believe it or not, her running performance did not stop there. In this 2020 season of winter track, her first year participating, Perez has had immense success so far. With her overall performance, especially at counties, Perez has reinforced the skill, perseverance, and relentlessness that Lakeland track is all about.

According to Perez, the transition from cross country to track was a big change, but nothing she couldn’t adjust to. “On the track you’re like the center of attention,” Perez told The Ledger, “and even though it can be stressful, I feel like it’s really helped push me to run even harder.”

Perez, with unyielding drive and a world of skill, undeniably belongs and shines on the track. Additionally, she has demonstrated her talent and this newfound motivation at state sectionals.

On February 15, 2020, Perez vanquished her previous personal bests for her events, the 1600 Meter Run and 3200 Meter Run. For the 3200, she finished in first with an exemplary time of 10:48.05, and additionally, coming in first for the 1600, her time was 5:10.03. She crushed both of her personal records by over five seconds. Evidently, Perez never fails to work hard and improve her already untouchable times.

Perez also exceeded counties. On January 27, 2020, Lakeland took part in the County Championship at the Ocean Breeze Complex in Staten Island, New York. There, Perez earned 1st-Team All County for her performance in the 3200 Meter Run. She placed second in the 1600 and first in the 3200. According to the Ocean Breeze’s website, her time for the 3200 was 10:53.17, which averaged out at about 41 seconds per lap. Now that is wicked fast.

Further, perhaps one of the highlights of the season so far was when Perez lapped the competition at the Ocean Breeze Complex. On both January 13 and 27, Perez ran her events so quickly that on her last few laps, she passed the other runners behind her. It was amusing and unbelievable for those who watched.

“I have really enjoyed winter track so far,” Perez commented, “it’s been fun being able to run new races. I also just love the whole experience that track entails.”

With track being such a great experience, it’s a good thing it’s not over yet. The remaining meets begin with the Eastern States Invitational on February 18, 2020 and end on March 8 at the State Meet of Champions at Ocean Breeze. Who knows what excellent feats Perez will accomplish next?

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Billie Eilish Makes Grammy History: Should It Have Been Her? Tue, 25 Feb 2020 19:11:23 +0000 Winning a Grammy is a huge milestone in a musician’s career and signifies that they have truly made it in the music industry. But when you’re Billie Eilish, winning one Grammy seems effortless. Eilish took home five of the six Grammys she was nominated for at the 62nd Grammy Awards on Sunday, January 26, 2020. 

2019 was truly Billie Eilish’s year. WIth the release of her album When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go? back in early 2019, Eilish’s fame had grown immensely. Around the world, her music began to inspire and move people, and she became known as not only an artist, but an idol.

Fast forward to the 2020 Grammy Awards, in just one night, Eilish had become the second artist in Grammy history to win the “Big Four” awards category, and the youngest person at age 18 to ever win Album of the Year. 

The “Big Four” awards that Eilish took home were Song of the Year for “Bad Guy,” Record of the Year for “Bad Guy,” Best New Artist, and Album of the Year for When We All Fall Asleep When Do We Go?, along with an additional award of Best Pop Vocal Album. 

Eilish was truly grateful, yet shocked by the time her final award winnings were announced. At one point, Billie even mentioned that other artists, like Ariana Grande, deserved to win some of the awards she had received. By the end of the night, there were several people who had actually agreed with Billie on other artists winning some of her categories.

By the next day, social media apps such as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and Youtube were filled with posts on why other artists deserved to win some categories that were awarded to Eilish. Despite the controversy, Eilish did in fact deserve the awards and here’s why:

She is Record-Breaking

Since the release of her latest album, When We All Fall Asleep When Do We Go?, Eilish has set several records. According to Rolling Stone, within the week the album was released, Eilish already had 14 songs in the Top 100, which is “more than any other female artist ever,” and by the spring the album exceeded over two billion streams. Not only did Eilish achieve this, but her song “Bad Guy” peaked at number one on the Billboard Charts for several weeks. 

She is a New, Big Name

There are several big names in the music industry that are known to have won Grammys: Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and more. Nowadays, it is normal to hear about celebrities like Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, or Adele to win Grammy awards as their names have been among the music industry for much time. For Eilish however, before the 2020 Grammys, her name was not one to be known to have won a Grammy award. It has not been incredibly long since her popularity and massive following has sparked. But for Eilish, her name is just coming up, and she has a lot to say. With that being said, as a new name in the industry, Eilish has an opportunity to set a reputation she wants for herself, followed along with using her music to make the impact she wants. 

She’s an Inspiration

For some supporters, Eilish is not just an artist, but an inspiration to millions. There are so many Eilish fans who view her music as a source of motivation, or a way to persevere through hard times. Not only this, but the image Eilish has set for herself through her fashion choices has inspired many teenagers across the world to not care what people think about their appearance, and to be who they want to be. Followed by this, Eilish’s songs are incredibly deep, and a majority of the time reflect upon her past experiences, some of those experiences being the darkest times in her life. There are so many teenagers across the world who have related to Eilish and no longer felt alone as they have both gone through similar problems. Eilish’s music sends the message to her listeners that they can get through anything.

No matter your taste in music, Eilish has proved to she is a force to be reckoned with.  Between her music, lyrics, and style, it is undeniable that her awards are well-earned.

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VR in 2020 – Is It Worth It? Mon, 24 Feb 2020 13:02:36 +0000 Virtual Reality (VR) was one of the most talked about new technologies in the last decade, but as of now, there has not been too much buzz around the topic, and many are considering the technology abandoned. That is not the case, as I had the opportunity to buy Valve’s relatively new Index VR headset, and try it for myself. 

I bought four games with the headset, as, after reading the online reviews about them, they are essential parts of a VR game library. One of them, however, is Half Life: Alyx, which is coming out March 23, so I have not had the opportunity to play it. On top of this, I also tried watching a feature length movie in VR, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood.

VR Game Reviews

Beat Saber is a game that’s a combination of Fruit Ninja and Guitar Hero, where you slice objects to the beat of music. I found the game to be incredibly fun, as long as you have enough space to swing your arms and not toss a picture frame off your shelf. The game is both simple and addictive, and in some cases, even a workout. There’s also a 360 degree mode, where you have to do the same thing but all around you, which makes for a more challenging but interesting game-play. I don’t recommend playing that mode unless your headset of choice is wireless.
Hot Dogs, Horseshoes, an Hand Grenades is a VR game that proves realism and fun can go hand-in-hand.

Hot Dogs, Horseshoes, and Hand Grenades is less of a game on it’s own, and more of a collection of games. There’s everything from a VR gun range, a near-full VR port of Team Fortress 2, and a zombie-themed shooter game, among others. The details in this game are mind-blowing, with the player having to do everything from cock the gun, to turn off the safety when they want to fire it. It even has a fun twist: the enemies and NPCs in the game are not humans, but instead, they are hot dogs. 

GORN is a cartoonish, gore gladiator simulator where you fight AI Gladiators to the death with everything from your fists to a giant mace. It’s fun to actually get blocked by an enemy and have to move your body to get around it. The game-play is simple yet fun, and while it is not realistic, that might be for the better. You can do anything from ripping your opponent’s arm off to beating them to a pulp, and it makes for a wild game-play experience.

VR Movie Review

Watching videos in VR is honestly less than stellar. It feels like needing glasses to see properly if you focus on something too long, and you’re simply better off looking at a TV or monitor in that respect. The details and colors look too washed-out to pay attention to details in the movie.

My headset, the Valve Index, has the best displays in any VR Bundle, so that does not bode well for the more budget-friendly headsets on the market. However, there is an explanation for this: the display in a headset is designed for smooth motion, rather than pure image quality. So, you may just want to buy a 4K TV instead if you’re looking for a device to watch movies on.


While it makes games more immersive and opens up new possibilities and genres,  VR just isn’t too useful beyond gaming. However, if gaming is what you’re looking for, the fact that Valve is set to release Half-Life: Alyx in March 2020, now is time to strike as the game might open up the floodgates for others, which would catapult VR into the mainstream. 

Traditionally, when Valve releases a new Half-Life game, it’s nothing short of a technological marvel that paves the way for the future. Half-Life 2, for example, pioneered the use of the Source engine, a game engine that aged like fine wine, with games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive still using it today. Now, this new Half-Life entry comes with a new engine designed for VR, and it could be the same kind of pioneer that Half-Life 1 and 2 were. This could be the killer app VR has lacked for years.

If you have the space for it, and the budget (a Valve Index Kit goes for $999 and an Oculus Quest goes for $399) then you might just want to pick one up. The games, the hardware, and the content are all there now, and it’s better than ever. 

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How Diet Affects Mood Fri, 21 Feb 2020 17:38:51 +0000 The human body is a walking colony for millions of microorganisms that help us function, but the stomach and intestines are the most populated organs that have an entire mini ecosystem of their own, known collectively as the gut microbiome. While most of us just eat based on what’s available or based on our preferences, the latest research in the scientific field suggests that our gut microbiome and what we feed it has major negative impacts on our brain. 

According to Heathline’s article on the topic, the microbiome consists of various species of bacteria that serve different purposes, including aiding in digestion, regulating the immune system, protecting against harmful bacteria, and producing some beneficial vitamins. It can actually impact other aspects of the body, such as the heart, a person’s weight, and even their internal temperature, but those are typically balanced so that a person is healthy. The effects on the brain, however, are not physically regulated by the body as the other parts are, and this is what leads to changes in mood, anxiety, and depression.

OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay
The gut microbiome, which consists of the stomach and intestines, is home to trillions of microorganisms.

A related Healthline article discussed some of the side effects of an unhealthy gut microbiome, including serotonin deficiency. Serotonin is an antidepressant neurotransmitter (a chemical that travels through the nerves) that is mostly produced in the stomach, so having an unhealthy gut microbiome means a lower count of serotonin is being produced. This, in turn, can cause anxiety, depression, aggression, impulsive behavior, insomnia, irritability, low self-esteem, poor appetite, and poor memory. Serotonin deficiency leads to physical symptoms, and it has even been linked to psychological disorders.

Science writer Elizabeth Pennisi explains in her article, Evidence mounts that gut bacteria can influence mood, prevent depression, on AAAS, how this research came to be and what it means. The connections between the gut microbiome and the brain were originally discovered through experiments on mice, but observations and tests in humans were soon conducted. Along with his colleagues, Jereon Raes, a microbiologist at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, conducted a series of tests that compared the microbiomes of people who were healthy and had higher quality lives to people who were diagnosed with depression or had poorer quality lives. The tests found that the people who had depression were missing two different kinds of microbes: Coprococcus and Dialister. The researchers even tested the theory including variables such as age, sex, and antidepressant use, and found that the results were the same, despite the fact that those variables all affect the gut microbiome differently. At the same time, the people who had been diagnosed with depression had a large population of bacteria associated with Crohn disease, which is inflammation of the bowels, and many of them had said inflammation.

While the conclusions were solid, the research by Raes was only on one sample population, and the gut microbiome in a sample population differs from the rest of the world due to diet, air, and lifestyle. However, the research team compared their data with a sample of 1064 Dutch people who had also been tested, and they found that the results were the same, solidifying the accuracy of their data. 

It is not just serotonin that is not being produced in the unhealthy gut microbiomes. The Coprococcus bacteria missing from the unhealthy samples also seemed to be responsible, in part, for the production of dopamine, which is a vital hormone for happiness and gratification. As a result, a lower amount of dopamine aids depression. Not only that, but Coprococcus is also responsible for producing butyrate, which is an anti-inflammatory substance, and people with depression tend to have inflammation in the digestive tract. This inflammation actually connects back to the increase in bacteria found in Crohn disease stated before.

erzebethh from Pixabay
The chemical structure of dopamine, which is responsible for the brain’s feeling of satisfaction.

The results are undeniable: the gut microbiome can affect the brain and mood. However, the exact “how” of the data is still theoretical and being researched. It is clear that the gut microbiome is affecting the brain due to an absence of certain species of bacteria and microbes, but how it is doing so is still unknown. One possibility is that the chemicals produced in the stomach and sent to the brain through the vagus nerve, which links the brain and the gut, is not occurring, resulting in a lower supply of dopamine and serotonin as stated before. 

The “how” is essential for creating therapeutic measures to counter the negative effects, although companies have already begun to work on solving that problem. Probiotics are one solution that are already available, but due to how new the research is, the probiotics depressed people are taking do not contain the necessary bacteria that have been found to be missing from the gut. A newer therapy is the concept of fecal transplants, and research regarding this theory has already begun with clinical trials already underway. The fecal transplant works by having a sample of fecal matter of a healthy patient injected into the intestines of an unhealthy patient. The healthy sample contains the bacteria and microbes that are missing in the gut microbiome of the unhealthy patient, and from the injection, they will begin to repopulate, and eventually, the unhealthy patient’s microbiome will be restored.

The research is new and still has a long way to go, but  the findings have opened up a new field of therapies, symptom identification, and explanations for patterns in the human brian. Mentioned in Pennisi’s article, Sven Pettersson, an experimental biologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, believes that the research should be a signal to the clinical community to start profiling patients with mental illnesses by their gut microbiomes. In other words, the medical world might be able to identify and cure patients with mental illnesses based on the health of their gut microbiome and which bacteria and microbe populations are high or low in them.

silviarita from Pixabay
A healthy balanced diet is important for maintaining a good gut microbiome.

So, what does this mean for everyone not in the scientific or medical field? Well, it means that your diet could be affecting your mood and brain in ways that you never realized. The best way to counter these negative effects: make sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet, and especially be sure to avoid antibiotics as best as you can. Both can help or harm the bacteria and microbes in your body. For a thorough, in-depth plan to keep your gut microbiome healthy, be sure to check out Clean Eating’s article about eight easy steps you can take to keep your gut microbiome happy and healthy.

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Congressman Introduces Bill Designed to Monitor White Supremacist Groups Fri, 21 Feb 2020 17:37:39 +0000 As white nationalism is a growing issue worldwide, Congressman Max Rose (D-NY) introduced a new bill to combat its spread. 

On January 29, 2020, Max Rose, Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism, introduced a new bill titled the “Transnational White Supremacist Extremism Review Act,” which would call for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create threat assessments on white supremacist extremism groups. These assessments would then be used by local, state, and federal law enforcement to minimize the threat of attack and help to monitor groups’ behavior more effectively. 

The act would be enforced by limiting the travel of extremist group members, criminalizing the support of violent organizations, monitoring or blocking the movement of their assets, and having the Department of Justice (DOJ) be able to prosecute individuals who supply material support.

According to a report from The Soufan Center, white extremist strategies are similar to jihadist recruitment tactics. Both utilize the internet, glorify violence at the hands of their organization, use propaganda, constantly recruit followers, and create transnational following. 

The report continues by saying white supremacy extremism is also progressing in a way similar to early jihadism under the Islamic State. Both utilize an ideology centered around the prediction and acceleration of a conflict expected to destroy the world. This doomsday ideology often drives people into these groups out of fear. The only outstanding difference between the two groups is that while the Islamic State had strong leadership, the white supremacist movement does not.

Recently, there has been a rapid spread of white supremacist ideals, mainly over social media. This spread has been accompanied by the amplification and glorification of WSE attacks. These groups utilize social media to create global connections and spread their ideology efficiently. 

White supremacist groups are able to reach a young, malleable audience through the use of “memes” which frequently possess racist and sexist undertones that gradually desensitize a younger audience to an extremist mindset. These images are constantly being shared online, and they normalize bigotry to younger generations with an online presence.

Though DHS has recognized white supremacy as a domestic terror threat since 2019, there is still a demand for more regulation in regards to monitoring these groups, many of which are still able to cloak their intentions with patriotism, and raise no alarms. Since 2018, when President Trump cut funding for grants and programs designed to counter-violent domestic terrorism, the fight against white extremist groups has taken a slower pace. 

John Horgan, a psychologist at Georgia State University, told The Washington Post that “white supremacy is a far more dispersed and deeply ingrained ideology in Western society,” so “it will be far harder to defeat than jihadism” in the long run. 

On February 12, 2020, Rose’s bill was unanimously advanced by the House Committee of Homeland Security and has been sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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Lakeland Fundraisers for Local Shelter Thu, 20 Feb 2020 15:48:20 +0000

Courtesy of LRHS Student Council
The Student Council is still looking for donations for the BASS Animal Shelter. See the flyer for a list of donatable items.

Lakeland Regional High School’s Student Council is in its final days of collecting supplies and donations to support the BASS Animal Shelter in Ringwood. Fundraising ends on February 28, 2020. The event, which has been ongoing since January 16, has raised support and awareness for the shelter.

According to Ms. Jenni Harmon, Student Council co-adviser, “It is so important for students to donate because the shelter is a non-profit organization run by dedicated volunteers.” The club is collecting any sort of donation. “We have a few towels and some dog treats, but we really need more of anything,” Ms. Harmon states. 

BASS animal shelter takes in abandoned, stray, and owner surrendered pets. Their service is solely run on volunteers who are committed to helping these animals. Part of their service is to also ensure that they match the pets with compatible homes.

Morgan Uhlorn, a freshmen at LRHS who volunteers much of her time at the shelter, says, “Different types of shelters require different supplies. At BASS, I volunteer at the shelter with the dogs. Food, crates, leashes, paper towels, and cleaning supplies are the most important I would say!”

BASS is always looking for volunteers too. Uhlhorn talked about her experiences and the best parts of her volunteer work. She said, “One of the best things about the shelter is making all of the animals feel safe, comforted, loved, and happy. We get to watch the dogs blossom into their true characters, unless they get adopted very quickly (which is a great thing!). But the greatest thing is definitely adoption. Seeing the animals find their forever homes is such an amazing feeling. As volunteers, we all grow bonds with the dogs, and nothing makes us happier than seeing them finally live in a home with a loving family.” 

If anyone has any supplies that are listed in the attached flyer, please donate to this animal loving organization.

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