Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Oct 12, 2015 in Stuff You Should Know

Russian Air Strikes in Syria

As ISIS continues to threaten in Syria, Russia has acted on its own with air strikes. A coalition against ISIS—which includes the U.S., France, Germany, Great Britain, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia—has publically opposed the military actions. The coalition nations say that the Russian have killed civilians and air strikes have taken place in areas not under ISIS control. The coalition fears that these actions will only push the Syrian opposition to further escalate its actions. Russia, on the other hand, denies this, claiming the strikes have caused many militants to flee.

This difference in combat strategies for a shared foe has become a further challenge in the efforts to defeat ISIS. President Obama made a public statement that he would support Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military action in Syria, but only if it included plans for removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. In the meantime, Obama believes that the most effective solution involves diplomacy.

Dig Deeper Follow this story as story as it likely to continue to unfold. Pay particular attention to Turkey’s involvement as it borders Syria.

Americans Drinking Less Soda

Cola with ice cubes and straw in a glass against a white background. Copyright © Foodcollection. MHE World.

Photo Credit: Foodcollection

More and more Americans appear to be changing the way they think about soda. Which is good news for the health community, if not bad news for the “big soda” companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. A new study in the Journal of American College of Cardiology confirms that liquid sugars in sweeteners have a significant impact on the body, because of their rapid absorption into the bloodstream. The sale of full-calorie sodas have also fallen by 25 percent over the past 20 years. This change is considered by many to be the most significant change in the American diet in the past century.

Attempts have been made in the past to tax revenues on soda, much like cigarettes. These efforts have failed, mostly due to the power of lobbyists (professionals who work on behalf of an industry to influence lawmakers on government regulation). But consumers, including an increasing number of teenagers, are reportedly drinking less and less sugary drinks on their own. Schools have removed vending machines. In response, Coca-Cola has rapidly expanded it offerings to include bottled water.

What Do You Think? How much soda do you consume in an average week? How much do you think about the effect it has on your health? Explain your answer.

U.S. Secretary of Education Will Resign

Earlier this month, President Obama announced that his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, will step down at the end of the year. One of the few members of Obama’s original cabinet of advisors, Duncan began his tenure as secretary of education in 2009. Two of the major initiatives implemented under Duncan’s leadership were Race to the Top (RTT), a competitive grant for educators that was part of the American Recovery and Investment Act of 2009; and Common Core, the state-wide math and language academic standards. Both programs have been heavily criticized by both Democrats and Republicans for not living up to the goals of improving poor academic performance by American students.

The Secretary of Education is a member of the president’s cabinet, (made up of the heads of the 15 departments of the executive branch of the government). Cabinet members are appointed by the president but must be confirmed by Congress. The Secretary of Education is the leader of the U.S. Department of Education. This entity is responsible for funding, creating guidelines and initiating educational reform for public school districts across the country.

Dig Deeper President Obama announced that Deputy Education Secretary John B. King Jr. will replace Duncan. Find out more about him and how his tenure might be similar or different from Duncan’s.

London Underground Goes Hybrid

Automakers like Toyota, Ford and Nissan have been successful in recent years in their aim to create, manufacture and sell energy-efficient cars. In England, engineers are experimenting with ways to implement similar technology to power its subway system, called the London Underground (LU). Earlier this year, plans were announced to replace existing boilers that were more energy-efficient. Currently, a temporary system has been installed on the Victoria line that converts waste energy from the braking system into power. So far, it has captured enough energy to power an entire station for two days a week.

The new technology also does not generate as much heat (traditional brakes generated a considerable amount of heat, requiring an additional cooling system). Besides being environmentally responsible, the conversion is likely to save the city around $9 million a year. This is an important consideration as the city plans to increase rider capacity (currently at around 1.2 billion passengers each year) on its commuter trains by 30 percent in the future. London already makes use of hybrid technology in its city buses.

What Do You Think? Will other large cities around the world follow London’s lead and begin to implement “greener” technologies into their mass transit systems? Do some research and determine why or why not.