Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Apr 30, 2019 in Stuff You Should Know

Hundreds Killed in Sri Lanka Bombing

On Easter Sunday, 253 people–including at least 45 children, 42 foreign nationals, and three police officers–were killed in a series of suicide bombing attacks in three Christian churches and three resort hotels in Sri Lanka. In addition, at least 500 people were injured. A few days later, during a police raid on the suspected leader of the attacks, three suicide bombers killed themselves and their family members (including six children), as well as a civilian.

Sri Lanka flag
Sri Lanka flag Credit: ©Digital Archive Japan/Alamy

The bombings appeared to target Christians and tourists. So far, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the bombings, though international terrorism experts have been unable to independently verify this. However, Sri Lankan police have arrested 80 people who they suspect to have been involved. It is thought that the bombings were revenge for the deadly mass shootings that took place at mosques in New Zealand on March 15. The Sri Lankan government received warnings and intelligence reports from international agencies that there was a possible plot to attack Sri Lanka, but the government ignored the warnings, a grave mistake which it has since apologized for. Meanwhile, the prime minister is encouraging people to worship privately in their homes, as places of public worship are still considered to be a possible threat.

Sri Lanka remains on curfew indefinitely.

Dig Deeper This bombing is especially tragic because of the number of children killed in the attack. In fact, experts estimate that children might wind up making up one-fifth of the final death toll. To honor their memory, select one of the children mentioned in this article and write a short paragraph about that child’s life, family, and death.

Energy Efficiency From the Top Down

Climate change often seems like too big a problem to get a handle on. But New York City is taking a stab at it from the top down, by passing a bill that will require skyscrapers to take responsibility for limiting their own carbon footprint.

Why tackle this symbol of the Big Apple? Because skyscrapers–not cars or buses–are responsible for nearly 70 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. The idea of making buildings more energy efficient is hardly unique. But what sets this bill apart is that it focuses on old structures instead of new construction, requiring owners of already-existing skyscrapers to make their buildings more “green” by improving and updating insulation, lighting, heating and cooling systems, and more. According to the bill, skyscraper emissions must be reduced 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050–all of which could cost about $4 billion. What happens if building owners don’t agree to go along? They could be served hefty fines of $1 million per year or more.

But will this work? The example of the iconic Empire State Building is promising. For the past decade, the building has been undergoing a total energy overhaul, including new window insulation, efficient elevators, better heating and cooling systems, dimmable lighting, and more. These changes have enabled the building to cut its energy consumption by 38 percent. The new bill only applies to New York City’s large skyscrapers–of which there are about 50,000–and not to hospitals, public housing, etc. While some critics remain concerned that the new policy will limit the city’s ability to attract new business, others argue that combating the devastating effects of climate change is well worth any short-term expense.

Dig Deeper Take a walk around your home or school. Create a list of at least five ways that your building could reduce energy consumption and become more efficient.

The Presidential Candidates by the Numbers

Now that former Vice President Joe Biden has officially announced that he will be throwing his hat into the presidential primary ring, Democrats are faced with a unique problem: the pool of candidates planning to run against Trump in 2020 has now climbed to twenty. While different news sources will portray different candidates as frontrunners, one way to figure out who might be leading the pack–at least at the moment–is to look at their campaign finance reports.

Anyone running for president must file a report with the Federal Election Commission every quarter, and then monthly once they’ve raised or spent at least $100,000. Looking at the numbers from the first quarter of 2019 can be helpful in showing us who is receiving the most financial support so far–and from what sources.

Right now, Trump is significantly leading in fundraising, though that’s not surprising, considering that Democratic donations are split among more than a dozen potential candidates. Among Democrats, Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) leads, with Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA) in second place. But where the money is coming from is just as important as how much of it there is. Many Democratic candidates, for example, have rejected donations from large corporations, while Trump has not. Small, grassroots donations of under $200 each may not add up to as much as a few large corporate windfalls, but they can be a great indicator of how widespread support is for a candidate. Right now, Senator Sanders leads significantly in small-dollar donations. Beto O’Rourke, in second place, has pulled in only about a third of the small donations that Sanders has, while Trump doesn’t make the top five.

Dig Deeper Based on what you’ve read, if you had to make a prediction today about who would win the 2020 election, what would you say? Why?

Ukraine Elects Comedian

At a time in the United States when national politics can often seem to be anything but funny, in other parts of the world maybe a sense of humor is playing a stronger role. In Ukraine, politics and performance shifted roles on April 21 when a comedian was elected president.

Maybe you’ve seen the Saturday Night Live skits featuring Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump? Now imagine Baldwin running against Trump for the presidency in 2020–and winning. Forty-one-year-old comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy has spent many years playing the humorous role of a high school history teacher who accidentally becomes president. But on April 21, Zelenskiy took home 73 percent of the vote to soundly defeat his opponent, incumbent Petro Poroshenko–despite having zero actual political experience and only the vaguest platform. Experts say that Zelenskiy’s landslide victory shows how unhappy and jaded Ukrainian people are with the state of politics in their country. They want an end to government corruption and the ongoing conflict with Russia, as well as an improved economy. And they are willing to trust Zeleskiy to do this.

For his part, Zeleskiy has said that he will fight government corruption and work to improve relations with Russia by bringing back peace talks. But critics worry that Russia is excited about the prospect of the new president because it plans to take advantage of his inexperience.

Dig Deeper While it may seem unwise to imagine electing a comedian to the presidency, it isn’t unusual in the United States for entertainment figures to be elected to public government office. Using Internet resources to help if you need to, come up with at least three examples.