Stuff YOU Should Know

The Mystery of Flight 370 Continues

On March 8, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 departed the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on its way to Beijing, China. Less than an hour later it lost contact with air traffic control. Despite subsequent tracking by satellite that showed the aircraft traveling off course for at least seven hours, the plane is now considered missing. There were 239 people onboard, including Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid who, in his last transmission, said, “All right, good night.” There were no indications of bad weather or evidence of a distress signal.

Search and rescue missions have been underway in the southern Indian Ocean, one of the most remote stretches of water in the world. Twenty-six countries are participating. Investigations are also taking place to determine if there might be any evidence of foul play. Officials have not yet ruled out the possibility of pilot suicide, terrorist hijacking, or sabotage. They do believe that the plane’s communication systems were deliberately disabled. However, the airspace in the region did not notice any unidentified aircraft. Some have speculated that there may have been a fire or explosion, which would make the plane difficult to find.

What Do You Think? Continue to follow this story as it develops. List at least three new pieces of information (after March 19th). What do you think is the most likely fate of the plane? Why?

Obama’s March Madness Bracket Twist

It’s that time of year again, when people all over the country gear up for March Madness. This usually means fluffing couch cushions, stocking up on snacks and filling out a tournament bracket. This is a diagram that tracks all of the teams competing in the tournament, displaying the winners of each round until the final championship game. Lots of people fill out brackets every year, including President Obama. In the six years that he has been in office, Obama has made his picks public. Although his track record is not the best, this year, the president has decided to use March Madness as a way to encourage Americans to sign up for healthcare before the March 31 deadline.

The Obama administration has launched a new marketing campaign aimed at “young invincibles,” a demographic of people who don’t typically buy insurance because they think they don’t need it. The campaign includes “16 Sweet Reasons to Get Covered” and advertisements that feature athletes like Magic Johnson and LeBron James. Members of the Obama administration will be more visible, with Education Secretary Arnie Duncan and health care advisor Phil Schillro sittin for interviews on talk radio. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (an avid fan of the University of Kansas Jayhawks) will live-tweet throughout the tournament.

Click the image below to get a larger view of the president’s selections for this year’s NCAA men’s tournament. How do his picks match up to yours?

NCAA tournament bracket


What Do You Think? Republicans say nationwide enrollment for Obamacare means that it is unpopular and won’t work. Do you think the president’s March Madness is a good way to promote signing up for Obamacare? Why or why not?

Record Numbers Cheer on Paralympians

The Paralympic Games, the world’s premiere multi-sport event for athletes with disabilities, just wrapped in Sochi, Russia. The Games have taken place immediately following the Summer and Winter Olympic games in the same host city since 1976. This year athletes weren’t the only ones breaking records. Attendance and media coverage both reached all-time highs. Russia earned the most medals overall with 80, as well as the most gold medals with 30. Stand-out athletes were skiers Anna Schaffelhuber and Roman Petushkov with 12 gold medals between them. These Paralympic Games also featured he world’s first-ever female Paralympic snowboard gold medalist, Bibian Mentel-Spee. Canada won its third-consecutive gold medal in wheelchair curling with a final victory over Russia.

Athletes from 46 countries competed in five sports–alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ice sledge hockey, and wheelchair curling. There are 10 eligibility impairment classifications, including: vision impairment, impaired muscle power, impaired passive range of motion, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, intellectual impairment, hypertonia (reduced ability of a muscle to stretch), ataxia (lack of co-ordination of muscle, typically due to a brain injury), and athetosis (motor dysfunction).

Dig Deeper Pick a sport from the list above and do some research on how they are modified. Be able to describe how at least one event is played.

Climate Change and Malaria

Over the past year, btw has been reporting about ongoing debate over global warming. There are now debates over whether a continually warming earth would cause a dramatic increase in malaria. Malaria is an infectious disease that is transmitted by mosquitoes. Symptoms resemble those of the flu–fever, vomiting, shivering, sweating and joint pain–as well as convulsions and retinal damage. While most of the 220 million people who become infected each year typically have a full recovery, chronic reinfection can lead to developmental impairments and severe cases can lead to death.

Experts agree that malaria is a disease that is especially sensitive to climate change, because the parasites that cause the disease and the mosquitos that carry the disease thrive in higher temperatures. Experts differ, however, over whether the severity of the issue. As the temperature continues to rise, populations in higher altitudes (who have lowered immunity to malaria) are becoming subject to outbreaks as the disease “creeps” into these areas. On the other hand, researchers say that the impact of mosquito-control (bed netting and marsh drainage) and increasingly effective anti-malarial drugs far outweigh climate factors.

What Do you Think? A researcher from Oxford University called the link between climate change and malaria an “unwelcome distraction” from more important issues in malaria research. Do you agree? Why or why not?