Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Apr 3, 2019 in Stuff You Should Know

Status of Trump’s National Emergency

Back in February, Donald Trump sparked nationwide controversy when he declared a national emergency at the U.S. southern border in order to secure the funding he needed to begin construction on his border wall after Congress refused to approve it in the budget. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives immediately responded by passing a resolution to block him from doing this. Predictably, Trump vetoed the resolution. It then returned to the House, where a two-thirds majority was required in order to overturn the veto. But the Democrats fell short, voting 248 to 181 to override the veto (283 votes were needed). The vote fell predictably along party lines, with only 14 Republicans voting against the president.

So what happens next? When a national emergency is declared by a president, Congress is allowed to vote every six months to try and stop it. Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (California) has already suggested that the House will vote again to block the president in six months. Furthermore, attorneys general from several states filed a lawsuit in February to stop the president from declaring a national emergency on the southern border, so the battle will also continue in the courts.

Meanwhile, last week, the Department of Defense contributed $1 billion to build a 57-mile fence along the border. This has met with resistance from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress, who are frustrated that the Pentagon took this step without congressional approval. The House Armed Services Committee sent a letter to the Pentagon stating that it does not approve of using Department of Defense funding for this purpose. At the same time, several governors are pulling back their National Guard troops from the southern border, saying that there is no security threat there.

Dig Deeper In order to keep up with the battle over the border wall, create a timeline with the following key dates: 2019 federal government shutdown over the wall (beginning and ending); Trump declares national emergency on the southern border; the House passes a resolution to block the national emergency; Trump vetoes the resolution; House vote to override Trump’s veto fails.

Doomsday Vault Threatened

It sounds like something from a movie. But the world’s “doomsday vault” is an actual thing. Located just outside of Longyearbyen, Norway–the world’s northernmost town–is a building containing nearly a million seed packets from all over the world. It houses everything from common staples such as rice and beans, to exotic plant species. The purpose is to preserve them in the event of a global catastrophe such as war, disease, or climate change. The location was selected because of Norway’s stable political system, because of the unlikelihood of volcanoes or earthquakes, and because the frigid climate kept the seeds safely frozen. But now, the doomsday vault is being threatened by the very thing it was supposed to be protected against: climate change.

 

The town of Longyearbyen, where the doomsday vault is housed, is warming faster than any other place on earth. That’s because it used to be covered in permanent, year-round ice and frost (called permafrost), which would reflect much of the sun’s light and warmth back up to space. But as the permafrost melts as a result of climate change, the darker ground beneath is exposed. The darker ground soaks up the energy that used to be reflected, which results in a phenomenon called “accelerated Arctic warming.” Since 1900, the average global temperature has risen by about 1o degrees Celsius. But in Longyearbyen, it’s risen at a rate more than three times faster than that: 3.7o C. The warming temperatures and increasing rainfall have led to an $11.7 million reconstruction of the building, but even that may not be enough. By the end of the century, the average temperature in Longyearbyen is expected to rise by 7o degrees Celsius and rainfall by 40 percent.

Dig Deeper Longyearbyen is located just 800 miles from the North Pole. Use internet resources to locate the town on a map.

National Pastime Taking Too Long?

Last Thursday was the opening day for Major League Baseball. For many fans, this marks the unofficial start of summer. But baseball’s commissioners are concerned about the fact that fewer and fewer younger people are watching the games than in previous generations. One of the factors, they admit, is the length of games: usually about three hours. So in an effort to draw back a younger fan base, they are trying out a few ways to shorten the game. One of these is a pitch clock, which counts down from twenty seconds every time the pitcher gets the ball from the catcher. This method has been used for a few years in the minor leagues, but it met with major resistance from MLB fans during spring training this year and was finally scrapped.

So now, the league is looking at other ways to eliminate downtime and tighten up gameplay. One way to accomplish this might be fewer pitching changes. Another could be shortening the dead time between innings. Some people have even proposed shortening the game to seven innings instead of nine, though many fans agree that’s going too far. Last year, MLB imposed new rules limiting mound visits by managers, coaches, and players (six per team per nine-inning game), and also shortening commercial breaks.

Another concern is that not only are games long, but they can also be a little . . . well, boring. In fact, a 2013 report found that almost 90 percent of every MLB baseball game is spent watching players stand around. While some argue that it’s not appropriate to change the “national pastime” to suit a younger, more action-thirsty audience, others say that it’s important to remember that baseball is supposed to be entertainment.

What Do You Think? Pretend that you are an MLB commissioner. What measures would you take to make the game more appealing for a younger audience?

New York Fights Measles Outbreak

Rockland County, New York, is facing a disease outbreak that’s receiving national attention. This isn’t because the disease is something exotic; in fact, it’s measles, which is entirely preventable with a vaccination given to most U.S. children when they are still babies. But the current “anti-vax” trend means that the number of vaccinated American children is falling, and diseases which were once considered nearly eradicated here–such as measles–are making a comeback. Rockland County, for example, has had 153 confirmed cases of the disease this winter alone, despite the fact that measles was officially declared to be eliminated from the U.S. in 2000.

New York health officials have responded to this crisis by declaring a state of emergency. They’ve also gone a step further, by banning unvaccinated children from public places such as restaurants, malls, and schools. This is a controversial move for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s not really enforceable: how will police know by looking at a child if he or she is vaccinated or not? Also, it could be seen as discriminatory, since some of the unvaccinated population don’t take the step becauseof their religious beliefs. But officials say that the new plan is necessary to keep people safe. They also note that the law is largely symbolic and not meant to be enforced. Rather, it is meant to send a powerful message to parents about the critical importance of vaccinating their children against dangerous but preventable diseases.

What Do You Think?: In your opinion, is a law banning unvaccinated people from public places a good idea? Why or why not?