Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Oct 16, 2018 in Stuff You Should Know

Another Bad October for Stocks

President Trump says the U.S. economy is in the best shape it’s ever been in. And it’s true that by all measures, the stock market is up 20 percent since Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

However, last week saw a serious downturn in the stock market. In fact, it’s down almost 7 percent since September. The market lost 5 percent of its total value last week alone. Moreover, the drops were pretty consistent across the board, affecting everything from hi-tech stocks to everyday goods and services. October has traditionally been a bad month for the stock market: the crashes of 1929 and 1987 both happened in October. But last week’s drops mean that this year may wind up being the worst October economically since 2008.

What’s the reason for the fall? It was caused by a combination of things. But perhaps the biggest factor is Trump’s failing trade relationships with other countries, particularly China. Financial experts warn that if relations between the United States and China continue to worsen, it could be devastating for global markets. The trade war between the two countries has been especially hard on China. In fact, to save their economy, the Chinese government had to pour $175 billion into it last weekend.

Trump responded to criticism over the falling stock market by blaming the Federal Reserve (the “Fed”), saying it was that agency’s fault for raising interest rates. However, the Fed’s chairman, Jerome H. Powell, has stated that the personal views of the president won’t affect the Fed’s policy decisions.

What Do You Think? With the midterm elections less than a month away, do you think last week’s stock market decline will affect the decisions of voters? Explain.

Kidnapping Raises International Tensions

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist for The Washington Post from Virginia, entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2. He has not been seen since. According to Turkish officials, Khashoggi was killed by a Saudi hit squad inside the Consulate. The Turkish accusers say they have audio and visual proof to back up this claim. Moreover, American intelligence agencies have collected evidence that the Saudi government is behind this attack, or at least supported it.

After several days of asking about Khashoggi’s disappearance, President Trump has publicly stated that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia enjoy an excellent relationship. Tension already exists between Trump and Congress over the fact that the U.S. is supporting a Saudi-led bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. This bombing was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, including the bombing of a school bus in August that killed 40 children. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have urged the president to demand answers about what happened to Khashoggi, and to immediately cancel arms sales and military support to Saudi Arabia. Trump claims that a $110 billion arms deal made with the Saudis last May will lead to new American jobs. Some critics suspect that the president’s reluctance to confront the Saudi government might have more to do with the fact that Trump has financial connections with important Saudi businessmen.

Last Wednesday, frustrated with Trump’s lack of action, the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to the president demanding an investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance. The White House now has 120 days to decide how to respond and to decide whether to enact economic sanctions against the Saudis.

What Do You Think? The long war in Yemen is often called “Saudi Arabia’s Vietnam.” Based on what you know about the Vietnam War, what do you think this means?

Monster Mosquitoes?

As if a massive hurricane and record floods aren’t enough for the people of North Carolina to deal with, they are now facing another problem from Mother Nature: giant mosquitoes.

Female Mosquito (Aedes aegypti)

Female Mosquito (Aedes aegypti)
Credit: James Gathany/PHIL/CDC

As you probably know, standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. And since Hurricane Florence made landfall in the Carolinas on September 14, causing widespread and severe flooding, standing water is everywhere across the state. The result? Millions of mosquitoes, and not just any mosquitoes. This breed has zebra-striped legs and is three times larger than average mosquitoes: more like the size of wasps. Moreover, they can bite through two layers of clothing. The scientific name for these giants is psorophora ciliate, but people know them as “gallinippers.” While they are native to the eastern United States, this type of insect is usually rare. But when widespread flooding happens, particularly in grassy or marshy areas, enough of them are born that they suddenly become a very noticeable problem.

The good news? Although the huge mosquitoes can carry dog heartworm, they aren’t known to spread human diseases, such as the West Nile or Zika viruses. Even so, the extra-big bites can be extra painful. Also, it’s likely that a rise in the gallinipper population means a rise in the number of other, smaller mosquitoes as well, including species that do spread dangerous human diseases. As a result, North Carolina’s governor, Roy Cooper, has set aside $4 million to help with mosquito control.

Dig Deeper North Carolina has 61 species of mosquito. How many species are found worldwide?

It’s Not Columbus Day in Columbus

Since the 1930s, Columbus Day has been recognized as a federal holiday in the United States every October. But in recent years, several cities have begun pushing back against this tradition. Places like Phoenix, Seattle, and Denver have all replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day. This is because, to many people and cultural groups, it feels wrong to celebrate a man who was responsible for the genocide of native people and who represents the evils of colonialism and slavery. Those who defend Columbus Day emphasize Columbus’s role in history and his importance to the Italian American community.

This year, Columbus, Ohio entered into the controversy by not recognizing Columbus Day for the first time. Though the city did not go as far as others (such as neighboring Cincinnati) by replacing the holiday with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, it did keep city offices open, and all trash collection and parking laws stayed the same as any other day. Some residents were outraged that a city named for Christopher Columbus would not honor his legacy. Others were happy with the city’s plan to recognize Veterans’ Day instead. City offices will close on November 12 to honor Columbus’s 110,000 veterans. Fittingly, Columbus is also gearing up to open its new National Veterans Memorial and Museum on October 27.

Though Columbus Day was recognized as a federal holiday in the 1930s, less than half of the states give employees a paid day off, and several states have never recognized it to begin with.

Dig Deeper Using internet resources, compile a list of U.S. cities that have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Are you surprised by what you found? Explain.