Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Oct 11, 2018 in Stuff You Should Know

Trump’s Financial Past Revealed

You may remember that during the 2016 presidential campaign, many voters supported Donald Trump because of his success as a businessman. They hoped that Trump would bring those business skills and sensibilities to the federal government. However, when pressed about his tax returns, Trump–then a candidate–refused to release them.

Ever since 2016, a team of researchers has been investigating President Trump’s finances. The team has combed through thousands of pages of documents. The research shows that before he was president Trump went decades without paying income tax and participated in tax fraud. Most recently, the team has discovered that Trump’s father–New York City builder Fred C. Trump–used a business as a cover to illegally transfer millions of dollars to his children without paying taxes on it. In fact, the researchers estimate that Donald Trump received at least $413 million (in today’s dollars) from Fred Trump via tax schemes during the 1990s.

In total, the Trump children received well over $1 billion from their parents. According to the tax code, taxes on that inheritance should have totaled at least $550 million. But the Trumps only paid a total of $52.5 million in taxes on the money.

Why does this matter? First of all, it’s illegal. Secondly, these actions robbed the country of millions of dollars in tax revenue. Some supporters of Trump may say that these sorts of financial actions happen with the wealthy all the time. But it is troubling that candidate Trump portrayed himself as a successful businessman without allowing the public to evaluate whether or not he achieved this success on the basis of his own skills.

What Do You Think? To hear the other side of the story, read the following statement from Donald Trump’s lawyer. Does this change your opinion about Trump’s role in what happened? Explain.

The Two Winners of 2018 Nobel Peace Prize

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is unique: it has two winners. And in a month when the United States is deeply divided over the issue of sexual assault, it’s timely that both winners earned their Prize for the work they’ve done combating rape and sexual assault worldwide.

Nadia Murad, 25, was forced into sexual slavery by the Islamic State. When her home in Kojo, in northern Iraq, was invaded by ISIS in 2014, she and thousands of other women and girls from the Yazidi minority were kidnapped and sold. Murad was treated horribly during her time in captivity. Eventually, she managed to escape. Most of her fellow survivals wished to remain anonymous, in accordance with the honor codes of their religion, but Murad spoke out openly about her experiences in front of the United Nations Security Council, the U.S. House of Representatives, Great Britain’s House of Commons, and other organizations in an effort to raise international awareness of these atrocities.

The other winner is Dr. Denis Mukwege, 63, a gynecological surgeon. Dr. Mukwege founded a hospital in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo–a country notorious for many sexual assaults. Dr. Mukwege has treated thousands of victims of these types of assault, attempting to save them from their injuries often with very limited supplies, anesthesia, or even electricity.

Both of these individuals have devoted their lives–often at great danger to themselves and their families–to promote awareness of the ways in which the mass sexual assault of girls and women is used as a weapon in war-torn regions of the world.

Dig Deeper Nadia Murad is the second-youngest person ever to receive the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize. Who is the youngest?

Drunk Birds?

You may have heard in the news about some of the devastating effects that climate change is having on animal populations, from habitat loss to extinction. But for some bird species, climate change is having a very unusual effect: it’s making them drunk.

Here’s what’s happening. Freezing temperatures trigger berries to begin fermenting. An unusually early frost in parts of the northern U.S. has caused some berries to ferment earlier in the season than usual. At the same time, local birds are gearing up to fly south for the winter and eating more than usual in preparation for their journey. When the birds eat the fermented berries, it causes them to become intoxicated. The affected birds fly erratically, crash into things, and act confused. Just like in humans, the effect is worse with younger birds, whose livers aren’t as adept at processing the toxins. And while most birds might get a little bit tipsy, some overdo it. In fact, in 2014, a town in the Yukon had to set up modified hamster cages lined with flannel blankets as modified “drunk tanks,” to detain the birds until they could sober up a bit.

Cedar waxwings and robins are both likely victims of this phenomenon because their diet relies primarily on fruit. But scientists emphasize that, unlike humans, very few animal species will become intoxicated by choice. In the case of the drunk birds, their main food source was essentially spiked. Experts urge people who encounter an intoxicated bird to set out a cardboard box with holes cut in it to give the animal a safe place to sleep it off.

Dig Deeper Vervet monkeys are one of the few animal species known to intentionally consume alcohol. Use internet resources to discover more about why they do it, and write a paragraph detailing what you learn.

Prius Recalled Worldwide

Last Friday, the Japanese automaker of the Toyota Prius announced that it would be recalling about 2.43 million vehicles worldwide. This safety recall includes Prius models made between 2010 and 2014, as well as Prius V models from 2012 to 2014. It is estimated that about 807,000 vehicles in the United States, one million in Japan, and nearly 300,000 in Europe will be recalled.

Toyota Prius hybrid car (model year 2012)

Toyota Prius hybrid car;
Credit: Hannu Liivaar/Alamy Stock Photo

The Prius is a hybrid vehicle, meaning that it combines a traditional gasoline-powered engine with an electric motor. Hybrid cars may provide benefits to the environment by using less fuel and emitting less carbon dioxide. But in the case of the Prius, the problem lies in what happens if something goes wrong with the hybrid system itself.

If this system overheats, for example, or suffers some other malfunction, the car is designed to revert to a fail-safe or “limp home” driving mode. But what’s happening is that sometimes the cars aren’t entering this safety mode and are stalling instead–this causes them to lose electric power altogether. While power steering and brakes still remain intact, if the car is going fast enough when the stall occurs, it could increase the likelihood of a crash.

The fix requires that the cars receive a free software update. This isn’t the first time that Prius has had to issue a widespread recall. Similar recalls in 2014 and 2015 also involved problems with the fail-safe mode and required software updates. So far, the company hasn’t revealed whether any injuries or deaths have resulted from these software failures.

What Do You Think? Imagine that you are shopping for a new car. Consider the benefits and potential risks of owning a hybrid vehicle. Would you buy one? Explain your reasoning.