Stuff YOU Should Know

U.S. Ship Violates International Law in Indian Waters

On October 12, the Coast Guard of India stopped a ship it suspected of carrying firearms without permission. Local fishermen tipped off the Guard. All 35 crew members on board were detained (jailed) for questioning, and the ship was impounded (taken temporarily.) The MV Seaman Guard Ohio is owned by AdvanFort, an American company that provides security. The captain admitted that he did not have the required documents needed to carry arms, ammunition and guards aboard the MS Seaman. This violated the Indian Arms Act of 1959 and the Essential Commodities Act of 1955. The ship was also not authorized to be in the Gulf of Mannar, although there are differing stories as to why it was there. AdvanFort is fighting the charges, calling them unreasonable.

This situation has heighted the issue of piracy (being robbed at sea.) It has become a real threat for commercial ships traveling in the Indian Ocean. Hijackers make their way aboard and hold crews hostage for a ransom. A high-profile case in which the MV Maersk Alabama was hijacked by Somali pirates was recently made into a movie called “Captain Phillips” staring Tom Hanks. The occurrence of hijackings has gone down, mostly due to the support offered by security firms like AdvanFort. Unfortunately, the enforcement is inconsistent and controversial.

What Do You Think? Follow this case as it continues through the Indian court system. Who do you think is in the right and in the wrong? Why?

Teen Develops Test to Detect Cancer

Comparison of Chromosomes

Photo credit: Randy Allbritton/Getty Images ; A kid has made it his mission to discover a cure for cancer. Can he do it?

Many students compete in science fairs all over the world. Very few are invited to expand on that work in a professional research lab in search of a medical breakthrough. Fifteen year-old Jack Andraka from Baltimore, Maryland did just that. As a high school freshman, he was inspired to develop a test to detect pancreatic cancer after a family friend died of the disease. Because it is difficult to detect until it has spread to other part of the body, pancreatic cancer is one of the most deadly and difficult cancers to treat.

Andraka spent four months doing research and preparing a “test protocol” that included his theory, a timeline, budget and materials needed to create an early detection test. He sent it to 200 cancer research institutes and received only one invitation to continue his research in its lab. He spent the next seven months at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. He ultimately created a test strip that detects a protein the body produces in the early stages of pancreatic cancer. His invention won him the Intel International Science Fair (and $100,000). While the data now exists, pharmaceutical companies will still have to spend the next several years putting it through clinical trials to prove that it works.

Dig Deeper Andraka has been invited to the White House four times and gives speeches about his work all over the world. Follow his progress. Have you ever been inspired to make a change in the world?

Temporary Deal Reopens Government

After sixteen days of uncertainty, nearly 700,000 government “non-essential” employees (many of them at the nation’s museums and national parks) headed back to work on October 17. Standard & Poors, a company that does research on financial matters, reported that the shutdown took $24 billion out of the economy in the form of government services, travel and tourism income, and contractor (temporary employees) wages. Small businesses with government contracts were also affected.  A major sticking point of the budget talks was how the pay for the Affordable Health Care Act (which is the same thing as Obamacare). While Democrats and Republicans did come to an agreement, it is far from solid. The deal does not address long term solutions but allows for lawmakers to continue to work out their differences.

The major components of the deal include:

  • Repaying the workers who were furloughed (off work without pay)
  • Funding the government until January 15, 2014
  • “Suspending” the debt limit until February 7, 2014
  • Creating a committee made up of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to work out a long-term budget deal
  • Verifying the income of those seeking the insurance subsidy
Dig Deeper President Obama said, “We’ve got to get out of the habit of governing by crisis.” What did he mean by this? Do you think Congress and the President will be able to overcome their differences to create a budget? Why or why not?

All Things Pumpkin!

At the Circleville Pumpkin Show in Ohio, you can get the following foods (plus LOTS more) made with pumpkin–taffy, soup, milkshakes, waffles and burgers. Throughout the rest of the United States during the autumn season, you can easily find pumpkin-flavored coffee, coffee creamer, muffins, doughnuts, cookies, fudge, cream cheese and, of course, pies.

According to Nielsen (the research firm that also brings you the television ratings) the sale of pumpkin-flavored products in the United States alone rose almost 19 percent in the past year, earning its manufacturers over $290 million. Seventy percent of the sales happened, not surprisingly, between the months of September and November. Despite the surge in pumpkin-y items, good old-fashioned pie filling made up almost half of all pumpkin sales. Starbucks, the giant coffee retailer, is currently celebrating its tenth anniversary of its pumpkin latte, its most popular seasonal drink. Perhaps the most questionably ridiculous pumpkin-flavored products are potato chips, pasta, yogurt and dog treats.

What Do You Think? How do you feel about the rise of “all things pumpkin?” Do you indulge or avoid them? Why? Are there other “seasonal” foods you look forward to having each year? What are they?