Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on May 28, 2016 in Stuff You Should Know

EgyptAir Crash Update

Earlier this month, EgyptAir Flight 804 disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea. There were 66 people aboard, including crew. The flight departed from the Charles deGalle Airport in Paris at 11:09 p.m. on May 18. Its destination was the Cairo International Airport in Cairo, Egypt. It was last heard from at 2:27 a.m. the following morning, crossing over Greece. Some wreckage from the plane has been recovered, but none of it has included its flight data recorder (FDR), also known as a “black box.” These devices, installed in all commercial aircraft, are indestructible and are crucial to aiding investigators determine what happened just moments before an accident.

Danil Melekhin/Getty Images

Danil Melekhin/Getty Images

Despite the lack of solid evidence, many suspect an act of terrorism. This is because of current instability in the region. So far, however, no group has come forward to claim responsibility, which is unusual but could be because a group is planning a bigger attack. (Some are pointing to 1994’s Philippines Airlines Flight 434, an attack that was not claimed because the planners hoped to use an improved version of a bomb in a bigger attack.) But Egypt president Addul Fattah al-Sisi made a statement that there was, “no particular theory we can affirm right now.”

Dig Deeper Authorities say that it will take at least a month to deliver a preliminary report on what investigators have learned so far. Keep an eye on this story, including any links to either terrorist groups or signs pointing toward an accident.

Are Facebook’s “Trending Topics” Biased?

It would probably not surprise you to learn that more than a billion people use Facebook as their primary source for news—personal and global. Browsing the “trending topics” scroll is the way we find out about natural disasters around the world, which celebrities have died, and new developments on the campaign trail. These all sound like stories with straight-forward facts, but what about other topics like social issues and political commentary? Who decides what information makes it into your feed?

Facebook was recently accused of bias. Technology blog Gizmodo recently ran a story where former Facebook employees admitted that they routinely “suppressed” stories with a conservative-bent. This concerns those who are looking to influence the American public, as the site continues major influence over the “national (and international) conversation.” In response, Facebook said that it uses an algorithm that identifies topics that spike in individual posts. CEO Mark Zuckerberg chimed in on the subject with a statement saying that the topics chosen to trend are subject to “rigorous guidelines” and that the company is “conducting a full investigation to ensure teams upheld the integrity of this product.”

What Do You Think? If you are on Facebook, take a scroll through your trending topics. Are there any that strike you as potentially biased? Which ones? How do you think Facebook should respond to such allegations? Explain your answer.

Refugees Win Fight to Attend NY High School

In Utica, New York (located about four hours north of New York City), refugee students claim they have been illegally blocked from attending a local high school. Represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union, six of them filed a class-action lawsuit against the Utica school district and recently won. The plaintiffs claimed that the school district deliberately diverted refugee students to other programs–like English as a Second Language (ESL) or General Educational Development (GED) preparation classes–and missed out on opportunities to earn a diploma.

In the state of New York, every child is guaranteed the right to a free public education until the age of 21. The court ruled that by encouraging the refugees away from traditional programming, the Utica school district was in violation of the 1982 Supreme Court ruling, Plyler v. Doe. The recent ruling will lead to the implementation of procedures that will ensure that all eligible refugees will be made aware of their right to attend high school and that school administrators are properly trained on how to enroll the students.

Dig Deeper The Utica school district is involved in another lawsuit (filed by the New York state attorney general). Find out the details and determine if the case above had any impact on its outcome.

British Town’s Annual “Weigh In”

Most towns have traditions that have been passed down for generations. Some are logical and some  seem to exist only because it’s always been done. The British town of High Wycombe, England seems to fall in the latter category with its annual “weigh in.” Each year, the town’s officials are subject to being weighed on brass scales in the middle of the town square. Those lighter than the year before are applauded, while those who are not are chided.

The practice goes back hundreds of years, when a heavier official literally implied that they were “growing fat on the taxpayer’s dime.” The tradition of a public weighing is said to have begun at the urging of a visiting monarch, who observed that the mayor had overindulged in drink. The ceremony continues to draw quite a crowd. Both ingoing and outgoing mayors—Khalil Ahmed and Mohammed Hanif, respectively—managed to elicit cheers for keeping weight off. But not all 22 officials were so lucky, receiving jeers and boos for being heavier than last year.

What Do You Think? Does the city (or neighborhood) where you live practice any interesting rituals? What are they and what do you know of the origin? If not, do some searching and find something, anywhere, that captures your attention. Write a few sentences describing the ritual and why you like it.