Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jan 29, 2019 in Stuff You Should Know

Crisis in Venezuela

Venezuela flag

Venezuela flag
Credit: ©Digital Archive Japan / Alamy

United States citizens may consider elections to be stressful and sometimes controversial events. But Venezuela is facing a potentially violent crisis in the aftermath of its own presidential elections last week. The country’s sitting president, Nicolas Maduro, has refused to recognize top vote-getter, leader of the National Assembly Juan Guaido, claiming election fraud and an attempted coup. However, he has also refused to schedule new elections. Guaido’s supporters are calling on Maduro to cede power peacefully and allow new leadership to occur. Meanwhile, massive demonstrations, rallies, and protests are taking place all over the country

This issue stretches far beyond the boundaries of Venezuela, however. The White House has called on other nations take sides in the controversy. While Russia stands with the current President Maduro–who is also a socialist–the United States has backed opposition leader Guaido. This has caused extensive tension between Trump and Putin, whose relationship is already strained because they also back opposing sides in the conflict in Syria. Political experts fear that if the situation in Venezuela becomes violent, it could strain the U.S. and Russia’s relationship. Maduro quickly broke off relations with the United States. The White House has already imposed new economic sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. It also hinted on Monday the possibility of sending 5,000 ground troops to Colombia.

What Do You Think? Do you think that the United States should take a side in the Venezuelan conflict? Why or why not?

More Candidates for 2020

While Democratic senators Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Elizabeth Warren have each made big headlines with their announcements of running for president in 2020, others contenders have emerged in the background, declaring their intentions more quietly. One of these is Julian Castro, former President Obama’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary and former mayor of San Antonio, Texas. Castro announced earlier this month that he would be entering the race. Castro, 44, is the grandson of Mexican immigrants. Many Democrats are excited about his candidacy because he provides a positive counterpoint to many of the negative stereotypes about Mexican immigrants that the Trump administration has encouraged.

Also this month, Democratic representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii announced her intention to run. At 37 years old, Gabbard was the first Hindu-American elected to Congress and has now become the first one to run for president as well. Already she is fighting back against those who have claimed that her religion makes her unfit for the presidency. However, she has also made some past comments about LGBTQ rights, which are now drawing criticism as well. Other declared candidates include John Delaney, a former representative from Iowa; Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana; and humanitarian entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

Meanwhile, Democrats are troubled by the suggestion that former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz may enter the race as an independent. They worry that Schultz would divide the Democratic base and shave off just enough votes to strengthen the odds of a Republican Party victory.

What Do You Think? Choose one of the Democrat candidates listed in this article (Castro, Gabbard, Delaney, Buttigieg, or Yang) and write a short paragraph explaining why you think he or she would or would not make a strong presidential candidate. Remember to be respectful with your responses.

State of the Union Postponed

In the first few months of every year, the president delivers the State of the Union address to the nation, in which he or she outlines the major issues facing the country. This year, however, the address was delayed. Why? Because of the government shutdown.

In order for the speech to occur, the House and the Senate have to pass a joint resolution to formally invite the president to deliver it. Earlier this month, the Speaker of the House, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, refused to allow a floor vote on the resolution until after the federal government was reopened. Speaker Pelosi sent Trump a letter indicating that because of the shutdown, there wouldn’t be adequate security. She also stated that they would need to postpone the address. Trump responded by canceling Speaker Pelosi’s trip to Afghanistan. After some back-and-forth, Trump finally agreed last week to postpone the speech until after the government reopened.

Was Speaker Pelosi allowed do this? Technically, yes. The Constitution states only that the president must give an annual address, but provides no specific timetable about the time of year when this must take place. This means that Pelosi could have postponed the speech as long as she wanted to. If the stalemate had continued, it’s possible that Trump could have given his speech elsewhere, but that’s never been done before. (Some presidents, including Abraham Lincoln and Jimmy Carter, have submitted the address in writing rather than delivering it in person). Still, Trump might have broken with tradition, especially during the longest government shutdown in American history. Luckily, the federal government has now reopened and Speaker Pelosi has extended Trump an invitation to give the address on February 5, which he has accepted.

Dig Deeper The State of the Union Address was not always called that. Use internet resources to find out what the speech used to be called, and when the name of it was changed, and by whom.

Whale Birth a Cause for Celebration

You may never have heard of the North Atlantic right whale, and that might be because there are so few of them left: just 411. In fact, just a few years ago they were dangerously close to becoming completely extinct. A type of baleen whale and one of three right whale populations in the world, they move up and down the U.S. Atlantic shoreline, migrating from the Cape Cod area in summer to the Georgia and Florida coast in winter. Unfortunately, these whales face many of the same challenges that other endangered marine animals encounter. This includes collisions with boats or becoming caught in (or maimed by) fishing equipment. In 2017, 17 of the right whales were killed this way. Both the U.S. and Canada adopted increased fishing regulations as a result. The other significant issue the whales face is a warming ocean, which has caused them to change their feeding habits as they search for food.

But some good news for the whales came earlier this month when a newborn calf was spotted off of the Florida coast. That’s the third one this year, with over half of the breeding season left to go. This may not sound like much in the way of good news, but it’s still a huge improvement over 2018, when not a single calf was born. Currently, the entire North Atlantic right whale population includes only about 90 to 100 females of breeding age. While the whales are capable of giving birth every three years or so, due to a lack of adequate nutrition, the gap between calves is currently averaging about ten years. Still, scientists are cautiously optimistic, hoping that after a devastating 2017 and 2018, the whales are slowly rebuilding their numbers.

Dig Deeper Visit the World Wildlife Federation’s Web site to learn more about the North Atlantic right whale. What are some steps that interested people can take to help preserve this highly endangered species?