Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jun 6, 2018 in Stuff You Should Know

Digital License Plates?

A company called Reviver Auto may have finally found a solution for everyone who is tired of waiting in long lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to get their annual license plate registration renewed. The answer? The Rplate: a digital license plate.

Here’s how the Rplates work: they display large letters and numbers, just like a regular license plate. But they can also pay tolls automatically, track stolen cars, track mileage, display custom messages, play advertisements, and notify drivers of emergency alerts, street closures, etc. And yes, they also feature automatic vehicle registration renewal.

But while this may be great for corporations who want to track how far their employees are driving in the company car, the Rplate has raised concerns for people who are worried about privacy. They say it’s a bad idea to give Reviver Auto constant access to where you are and when. Some experts have also expressed doubts about whether it will be safe for other motorists when the license plates of the cars around them play ads or flash emergency alerts. But the company addresses these fears by saying that a customer can turn off location services at any time, and that the amount of time an alert might flash across a license plate won’t be sufficient to cause any significant distraction to other drivers.

Right now, the Rplate is available only in California, with plans to expand the program to Arizona, Florida, and Texas soon. Think you might want one for yourself? Better start saving up now: each digital plate costs $699, plus an installation charge, plus a monthly fee of about $7.

What Do You Think? Visit the Web site of Reviver Auto, the company that makes digital license plates. If you want, you can enter your zip code to find out if the Rplate is available near you. Would you ever consider purchasing a digital license plate? Why or why not?

Unemployment Rate Hits Record Low

On the morning of June 1, President Trump tweeted that he was looking forward to seeing the unemployment numbers that would be released by the Labor Department later that morning. He had good reason to be excited: the nation’s unemployment rate is at the lowest it’s been since 2000.

The Labor Department reported that the current rate is 3.8 percent. That means that only 3.8 percent of the people who are looking for work aren’t able to find it. The last time the rate was this low was during the “dot.com” boom in 2000, and before that, it hasn’t happened since the 1960s. We are also in the midst of the longest streak of job growth in the nation’s history.

So what does this mean for workers? Obviously, it’s good news. The nation gained an estimated 223,000 jobs last month, including 31,100 in retail; 31,700 in health care; 25,000 in construction; and 18,000 in manufacturing. For African Americans, the unemployment rate dropped sharply from 6.6 percent in April to 5.9 percent in May–the lowest it has been since 1972. The average hourly wage went up as well: by eight cents per hour, to $26.92/hr.

But a high employment rate can also take a toll on business owners, especially small business owners. Because there are so many jobs available, business owners have to pay more money to lure in workers. And they may not get the workers they want, as highly qualified candidates have their pick of jobs in this market. In addition, a steep increase in wages can also lead to inflation.

Dig Deeper Visit the Web site of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Data to answer the following questions: Since January 2008, what month and year was the unemployment rate the highest? What was it then, and how much has it fallen since that time?

Trump Taxes Allies

In April, btw brought you the story of the Trump administration’s decision to place tariffs on steel and aluminum from China. At the same time, Trump also placed similar tariffs on Russia, Japan, and Turkey. Now, however, he has taken metal tariffs a step further and placed a tax of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum on some key American allies: Canada, Mexico, and the European Union (EU).

The thinking behind such tariffs is that they will protect American metalworkers by making sure that all steel and aluminum is purchased from within the United States. But the real effect is that when we place taxes on incoming goods from other countries, those other countries in turn place taxes on the goods we are trying to ship to them. And that has a damaging effect on our overall economy.

Canada is the largest supplier of steel and aluminum to the U.S.: they exported $12.8 billion in these products to the U.S. last year. So Canada’s response to Trump’s new tariffs is to place tariffs on a list of American exports–from steel and aluminum to household goods like ketchup and washing machines–which will exactly total $12.8 billion. Mexico plans to retaliate by placing tariffs on U.S. steel, pork, apples, cheese, and more. Leaders of the EU plan to work together to place tariffs on roughly $3 billion of American products in late June.

This will undoubtedly have an impact on the American economy. But more importantly, Trump’s tariffs threaten the good relationship we enjoy with some of our closest allies.

What Do You Think?: In your opinion, are Trump’s most recent round of metal tariffs a good idea for Americans? Why or why not?

Fourteen Year Old Wins Bee

Last Thursday, the National School Spelling Bee took place in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The winner was Karthik Nemmani, a 14-year-old from McKinney, Texas. He won by correctly spelling “koinonia,” a Greek word that means Christian fellowship or communion. The word may seem uncommon, but it actually appears frequently in the Bible.

Nemmani’s achievement was especially impressive given that he competed against a record 515 contestants. Last year’s competition had only 291. Interestingly, this year’s first-, second-, and third-place winners were all from Texas. In another twist, Nemmani himself lost at the county level, but a new second-chance rule called “RSVBee” let him continue on anyway.

Children (6-9) on stage at spelling bee, boy at microphone

Have you ever completed in a spelling bee? Credit: Leonard Mc Lane/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Nemmani is the eleventh South Asian-American in a row to win. In fact, 19 out of the last 23 winners have been of South Asian descent. What is the reason for this unusual, recent pattern? Experts suggest that there are many factors involved, including an emphasis on spelling in the South Asian community, and a tendency for people who are multilingual to be better at spelling in general.

Nemmani, who attends Scoggins Middle School, isn’t likely to receive fame and fortune from his win. However, he will receive a large trophy, $25,000 in cash, a pizza party for his classmates, and a complete Mirriam-Webster reference library. Also, he will participate in a spelling bee media tour, which will take him to New York City and Hollywood, California.

Dig Deeper Nemmani won after fellow contestant, 12-year-old Naysa Modi, failed to correctly spell bewusstseinslage. Using internet resources, what are the definition and origin of this word?