On Wednesday, June 2nd, the California Assembly is set to vote on a bill that would lead to a statewide ban on plastic bags being used to tote purchases and for customers to buy 40%+ recycled paper bags for their items if they don’t use reusable bags.  If approved, it will go on to the Senate.  With environmentalism becoming a very prominently debated topic, nationally and globally, more areas are taking steps to reduce the waste that goes into landfills and dumped into the ocean or into the stomach of animals.  Approximately 19 billion bags a year are used by Californians alone every year, which is approximately 38 million people. 

As more evidence from scientific studies emerge, we become increasingly aware of the impact these wastes have on, especially, marine life.  With a large trash dump that is estimated to be larger than the state of Texas floating offshore, it is quite obviously time to take a better look at the habits we have established.  China and Bangladesh have already implemented similar steps to halt the use of one-use plastic and paper bags for consumers.
 
 
It is common knowledge that there is a budget crisis befalling America at the moment, and in California this is especially true.  A great, yet depressing, example of this is the L.A. school district’s plan to cut 5 days from this year’s school year and 7 from next year’s school year.  While kids in America are already academically behind their companions in other countries, some of which have students attending classes 6 days a week and even have a grade 13, the schools are looking to make more budget cuts at the expense of the future generation of America.  It would seem that education of children should be one of the top priorities of the government, not only in L.A., but across the country.

Teachers spend countless hours at work and at home to help benefit thousands upon thousands of children and young adults to prepare them for college, work, and life in general, yet get paid a salary that is also being continuously cut, if not being laid off from their jobs entirely.  The L.A. school district is not the only one looking to cut out more days, lay off teachers, and supersize classes, but no school should ever have to consider any one of those options.  Students get less one-on-one attention, and many of them desperately need that.

The first classes to be cut are art, music, and sports- some of the classes and after-school activities which are keeping students in school, if only to do what they love.  Getting rid of these programs is taking away the incentive for kids to keep working hard and have good grades.  While school districts and the higher-ups may be under the impression that these plans will save them money and put them better-off, they are entirely incorrect.  The most this will do is discourage kids from going to school, hinder their learning and growth, and want for creating a better life for themselves.

The government surely needs to be taking a step back and looking at the effect in both the long and short runs, because these children and young adults are the future of what this country is going to become, and it’s not looking too great anymore.
 
 
Debate has been raging ever since the killer whale attack at San Diego’s Sea World.  The whale attacked one of the trainers when she got in the water with him, hair in a ponytail.  The killer whale in question has attacked people twice before, though one of the attacks was on a man who snuck in after hours and got into the water with the whale.  The argument now is whether or not the whale should be put down for attacking people.

We see instinct taking over in our pets every day – a dog burying a stuffed toy or guarding it’s food; a cat slinking low to the floor and crouching at its “prey” – so why would we, as humans, feel any differently about whales?  Perhaps because it’s not something one would keep as a pet, but why wouldn’t whales in captivity retain wild instincts like our own household friends?  Dogs especially have been bred in specific ways so that they are beneficial to our own selfish needs, whether it be herding sheep, catching and killing rats, or any number of other things our dogs do for us.  For thousands of years, these primal instincts have survived in our pets, why not other wild animals?  Killer whales are simply trained, and do not have the mental push to do things the way we’d prefer.

Hand them some treats, repeat the tricks over and over, and they know what to do.  But when that one instance occurs, when something triggers inside of them something pent up and hidden away, disaster can imminently strike.  Like a border collie that sees a horse and nips at its ankles, that whale does what it feels right.  Whether or not the whale in this instance was simply trying to play with the trainer, not knowing his own power, or really was trying to attack, we will never know.  

But is it really the whale’s fault for what happened?  A whale held in captivity all its life, not knowing any different than an enclosed area, attacks and kills a woman.  We can’t know WHY he did it, and what instinct it was in him that caused it, but we as humans should be aware of the power these whales possess, should we not?  Perhaps we are unable to see into the depths of their subconscious, but we have the knowledge of them, as did the woman who went into the water that day.

Do you blame your dog for seeing your shoes as a chew toy when they are puppies?  They know no different until you teach them.  Do you try to stop them from spinning in circles before lying down to sleep?  Of course not, that’s just what they do – by instinct.  In comparison to a dog or cat, a killer whale is huge – over 3 tons.  Trying to control an animal hundreds of times larger than you and with an entirely different thought process isn’t easy.  Possibly do-able for a time, but the second that instinct kicks in, they become an entirely different animal.  Threatened, playful, scared, aggravated, you name it, and that whale is going to possess the emotional capacity to feel, just as we do.

Obviously it is no more the woman’s fault than the whales’, but an incident like this could have and should have been prevented.  No doubt, this whale should not face death for acting purely on instinct, because by that logic, we’d be putting our animals down on a daily basis.
 
 
The controversial news of the prison population reduction in California is raising some eyebrows, especially concerning whether or not it will be a safe thing to proceed in doing.  Under the state law signed Monday, nearly 6,500 inmates will be released to begin the process of reducing the overcrowding in the coming year.  The bill was signed last year as a piece of the state’s budget package.

Inmates will receive early-release credits for completing educational and vocational programs, which is a plan already being expanded upon.  More incentives for getting their GED, learning a trade, and/or becoming clean and sober will also be another change taking place, allowing convicts to have improved opportunities after release.  This will allow for inmates to be released earlier.  The number of parolees will also be reduced- after their release from prison; ex-convicts with low-level offenses, and considered to be less dangerous and less likely to commit more crimes will not be monitored, though will still be able to be searched without a warrant.

The main benefit to this is that it will allow the state to place more focus on gang members, violent felons, and sex offenders, as well as reducing the load of parolees on the agents, and provide more time for being both a cop and social worker.  The law will also end the automatic three-year parole of every released convict.  

The estimate of financial savings of the state is 500 million in the first year, but only time will tell if this will prove to be true.  With less monitoring, the possibility of ex-convicts committing another crime may rise due to lack of parole.  One particular statistic is applicable to this situation- over 70% of released inmates return to prison after being released.  Will this number decrease due to less attention to those considered a low-risk, or will it perhaps see decrease due to the law itself?  Once again, only time will provide us an answer to this recently debated topic.