Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Nov 1, 2018 in Stuff You Should Know

Silence of the Girls

As you can probably imagine, cell phones are an important part of life for teenagers in almost all parts of the world, not just the United States. And you can probably also imagine that some teenagers have greater access to technology than others, right? But what you might not know is that this disparity isn’t just based on factors like where kids live and how much money they make. In many places, whether or not you have a phone simply comes down to whether you are a boy or a girl.

A recent study focusing on phone use in developing nations revealed that for every fifteen boys who own a phone, only ten girls do. And the gap widens even farther with smartphones: eighteen boys own smartphones for every ten girls. Why? In many places, girls are discouraged from using phones because of the social stigmas attached. A girl who uses a cell phone may be seen as “bad,” irresponsible, or immoral.

So why is this important? Because limiting girls’ access to phones also limits their ability to communicate. It limits their access to information. While their male peers can easily use a phone to apply for a job, for example, girls often cannot. Moreover, keeping girls in the dark about phones can actually put them in danger. Girls who have never learned about phone or internet safety are much more likely to fall into threatening traps online. And in some places, girls so badly want to use phones that they are being coerced into dangerous relationships by boys and men who offer them use of a phone in exchange.

The answer? Removing social stigmas and allowing girls access to information and education about internet and phone safety is key. However, while technology moves quickly, long-standing social norms can be very hard to break.

What Do You Think? Have you noticed any differences in phone access or usage between your male and female friends? Explain.

Super Typhoon Yutu Makes Landfall

Just weeks after Hurricane Michael destroyed portions of the Florida panhandle, an even more devastating storm is sweeping its way across the western Pacific: Super Typhoon Yutu. Late last Wednesday evening, Yutu slammed into the Northern Mariana Islands, which are a United States territory. Rated a Category 5 storm–the maximum level possible–Yutu hit the islands with maximum sustained winds of up to 180mph. Not only does this make Yutu stronger than Michael, but it also makes it the strongest storm on Earth so far in 2018. In fact, it is the strongest storm to hit any part of the U.S. since 1935, and tied for fifth place in the wind speed of storms that have made landfall anywhere, ever.

The devastation left in Yutu’s wake is so vast that rescue operations are difficult. Critical infrastructure–such as roads, bridges, and power lines–has been destroyed. Survivors also face widespread flooding and lack of access to electricity or safe drinking water. It’s still too early for officials to predict how long it might be before those services can be restored.

If it seems like these major weather catastrophes are happening more and more often, that’s because they are. Climate change and its resulting weather events pose an especially dangerous threat to small islands, like the Northern Marianas. As a result, many of these islands have come together to form the Alliance of Small Island States, whose mission is to push for stronger action on climate change. Members include Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and other American territories.

In total, the Northern Mariana Islands are home to about 52,000 people, 90 percent of whom live on Saipan, an island severely devastated by Yutu. Most people living on the islands are U.S. citizens or U.S. nationals. The United States took control of the islands from Japan after World War II. After devastating the Northern Marianas, Yutu continued on its course to the Philippines. It made landfall Tuesday, with at least six people dead there so far.

Dig Deeper What makes a typhoon different than a hurricane? Use Internet resources to help you figure out your answer.

Goodbye to the Green Bean Casserole Inventor

What would Thanksgiving dinner be without green bean casserole? The dish has become as much of a staple at holiday dinners as mashed potatoes and stuffing. But who started this tradition? Green bean casserole was actually invented by one woman more than sixty years ago–and sadly, she has recently passed away in Camden, New Jersey, at the age of 92.

Green BeansHere’s the story of the beloved side dish: Dorcas B. Reilly invented it while working in the Campbell Soup Company test kitchen. She was one of the first full-time employees of the company’s home economics department, which created the recipes that appeared (and still appear) on the soup can labels. By the time Reilly created green bean casserole, which she first called “Green Bean Bake,” she was a supervisor in the department and had already created hundreds of recipes for the labels, including a tuna-noodle casserole. These dishes were popular in the 1950s because they were cheap and convenient to make, requiring little prep work and few ingredients.

Reilly was born Dorcas Lillian Bates in Woodbury, New Jersey, on July 22, 1926. She grew up in a family of cooks and studied home economics at Drexel University. She went to work at the Campbell’s test kitchen, located in Camden, after graduation. She retired from Campbell’s in 1988 and is survived by her husband, one son, one daughter, four grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter. The original recipe card Reilly wrote for green bean casserole was donated by Campbell’s to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, why has Reilly’s recipe endured for so many years? As the country’s beliefs about food and healthfulness change, how do you explain the dish’s continued popularity?

Wages Aren’t Rising

In general, most Americans agree that the U.S. economy is doing quite well. As of June of this year, the unemployment rate had fallen to an eighteen-year low of 3.8 percent, and the country was enjoying the longest streak of job growth in history. So things are great, right?

Maybe not.

While more and more Americans are finding work, there’s still a big problem: their wages aren’t increasing, at least not at a rate that keeps pace with inflation. In other words, as the cost of living goes up, the amount of money people make should too. But that isn’t the case right now. This is an unusual situation economically: typically, a falling unemployment rate means that more and more people are working, which means that business owners have to compete for workers, which usually means that they raise wages. But that isn’t happening this time. The last time the unemployment rate was this low was in 2001, right before the recession. In 2001, though the unemployment rate was the same as it is now, wage growth was at 4.2 percent. Today, it’s at only 2.9 percent. Non-wage benefits are also slowing.

What this means is that people’s paychecks don’t stretch as far as they used to. And this is true across workers of all ages, genders, and racial backgrounds, and across all occupations. It is even affecting highly-skilled workers, the group that has traditionally seen the highest wage growth.

But why? Economists have several theories about this. One is that the unemployment rate only takes into consideration adults who are actively looking for work: it doesn’t count those who have given up or dropped out of the labor force to return to school, raise a family, etc. Another theory blames a drop in union membership, and another blames employer concentration: the idea that the labor market is dominated by a few major employers, who then control wages. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to remember when we talk the state of the economy that for workers, all may not be as rosy as it seems.

What Do You Think? Do you think falling wages will have an impact on how people vote in the upcoming midterm elections? Explain.