Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Sep 13, 2018 in Stuff You Should Know

Deadly Earthquake in Japan

Last Thursday, a magnitude-6.7 earthquake struck Hokkaido, Japan. It lasted for almost a minute, causing roads to collapse, and leading to deadly landslides that killed at least nine people. An additional seven people died of heart attacks as a result of the earthquake. More than 150 people were injured, and in the western town of Atsuma, 26 people are still missing.

Also, nearly 3 million buildings lost power, but electricity was restored to about half of them by the next day. It could take another week to restore power completely. Frighteningly, one of the buildings where power has not yet been restored was the Tomari nuclear plant, although government officials have provided assurance that the plant can function without electricity for up to one week.

The island of Hokkaido is a tourist hotspot, known for its mountains, lakes, and seafood. For now, though, aftershocks are still a concern, as they could continue for another week. To make matters worse, this is the second disaster to hit Japan in a week: last Tuesday, Typhoon Jebi tore through Osaka. The strongest typhoon to hit the Japanese mainland in 25 years, Jebi killed at least ten people and caused 62 cities to evacuate. Besides a typhoon and an earthquake, Japan has also seen flooding and a record heat wave this summer.

Dig Deeper On a map of Japan, locate the important places mentioned in this article: Osaka (the site of Typhoon Jebi); Hokkaido Island; Atsuma (the town hardest hit by Thursday’s earthquake); and the Tomari nuclear plant.

Suspects Named in Russian Nerve Gas Attack

On March 4, a former Russian spy named Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Britain by a Russian military-grade nerve gas called Novichok. Four months later, two British citizens were also poisoned by the same substance, possibly accidentally. Now, authorities think they may know who was behind the attacks.

Scotland Yard says that it has enough evidence to charge the suspects, two Russian nationals using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Both men are roughly 40 years old and are thought to be officers from Russia’s military intelligence service, meaning that their mission was approved by the Russian government. The men are facing charges of conspiracy to murder, attempted murder, the use and possession of Novichok contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act, and two counts of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

However, actually bringing the pair to justice may be quite difficult. Russia has a policy of not extraditing its nationals, meaning it won’t turn the men over to British authorities. They would have to re-enter a European Union member nation in order to be arrested, which is unlikely to happen. British authorities believe they may know the real names of the men, who were traveling under aliases, but they aren’t releasing them to the public in the hopes that they might be able to intercept the suspects if they continue to travel.

The Russian embassy in London denied the accusations. Even so, British Prime Minister Theresa May stated that she will push for the EU to agree to new sanctions against Russia.

Dig Deeper Use internet resources to learn what happened to the four Novichok poisoning victims: Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, Dawn Sturgess, and Charlie Rowley.

Fire at Brazil’s National Museum

On September 2, the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janiero burned down. This is an indescribable loss not just for the people of Brazil, but for the world. Experts estimate that about 90 percent of the museum’s collection–about 20 million objects–was lost in the fire. This includes everything from dinosaur bones, to ancient mummies, to five million butterfly and arthropod specimens, to artifacts from Pompeii. In addition, the building itself had great historical value. The main building was built in the 1800s and was home to the Portuguese royal family. It was also where Brazil signed its independence decree in 1822. (Even worse, the building itself was not insured.)

If there is one silver lining to this disaster, it’s that firefighters were able to locate and save some iconic items, including the remains of Luzia. This 11,500-year-old fossil is believed to be the oldest human skeleton ever found in the Americas. A few other important items have been preserved as well, such as an ancient iron meteorite (weighing 11,600 pounds) discovered in Brazil in 1784.

No one knows for sure yet what caused the fire, but the amount of printed material (books, papers, etc.) inside helped to rapidly ignite the blaze. Also, the museum’s faulty and aging infrastructure contributed to the devastation. For example, the building had no sprinkler system, and the fire hydrants outside were nearly empty, forcing firefighters to have to dredge water from a nearby pond. For many Brazilians, this is another example of their government failing to invest in critical infrastructure needs. Other experts say that this tragedy should serve as a warning for other museums worldwide, many of which are also vulnerable to potential fires, floods, or other natural disasters.

What Do You Think? A Washington Post headline about the fire states, “Brazil’s Museum Fire is a Global Tragedy”. Based on what you’ve read, explain why this loss for Brazil is actually a loss for the whole world.

Planning to Fly? Be Aware of This Invisible Threat

Anyone who has traveled through an airport in the last decade or so knows the drill: when you go through airport security, you put personal items–such as your wallet, cell phone, and keys–into a little plastic bin. Annoying but harmless, right? Wrong. A recent study has shown that those airport security bins are riddled with germs–even more so than airport toilets.

public toilet in an airport restroom

This may not be the most unsanitary location in the airport., according to one recent study.

Researchers from England’s University of Nottingham and Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare checked the surfaces at Helsinki Airport in Finland during the winter of 2016. They found traces of rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, and influenza A on half of the luggage trays they tested. That was more than anyplace else in the airport–including the toilets, which had none.

Sure, this is gross, but is it a big deal? Actually, yes. The problem is that we already know that these microbes can survive on these hard surfaces for several days. And, because this is an airport, and a high volume of people all over the globe are traveling to and from it, germs found here spread much more rapidly–and over a much wider area–than those found in, say, schools or shopping malls. Hopefully, this study can help scientists figure out how to keep potentially deadly infectious diseases from spreading worldwide, as well as educate airports on how to update their hygiene practices and technology.

Dig Deeper Work with a partner to create a poster educating people about the importance of washing one’s hands frequently while at the airport. If time allows, share your poster with the class.