Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jun 27, 2019 in Stuff You Should Know

Oregon Republicans Hide to Avoid Climate Vote

Earlier this month, btw brought you the story of Oregon’s new climate change bill. In essence, the bill would require companies to purchase a certain number of “permits” for their pollutants (fewer and fewer permits will be available over time), and would then use that money to invest in clean, renewable energy methods such as wind and solar. But the plan has hit a roadblock: Oregon Republican lawmakers have fled the state rather than vote on the bill.

The bill was on track to pass, as it is supported by Democrats, who are the majority party in Oregon’s state legislature. (Oregon has 18 Democratic and 11 Republican senators.) The Republicans didn’t want it to pass, but they also didn’t have enough votes to stop it. So last Thursday, eleven Republicans left the state Senate and went into hiding so that there would no longer be a quorum (enough people to vote on the bill). To make matters worse, threats from radical militia groups vowing to protect the Republicans caused the entire state capitol to shut down on Friday.

The Republicans claim that they had no choice but to flee because they were being bullied by the Democrats. Their goal is to stay hidden until the current legislative session ends on June 30. But can they get away with pulling a stunt like this? Absolutely not.

In fact, Democratic Governor Kate Brown is charging the absent senators $500 for every day that the vote can’t take place. Meanwhile, the Oregon State Police has been authorized to find them and bring them back. And if they haven’t returned by the time the current session ends on June 30, the governor says she will authorize a special session so that the vote can still take place.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, are the Republican lawmakers justified in their decision to walk out on the vote? What do you think will happen to other legislation while they are away?

Ancient Theater Reopens This Month

Would you go see a movie in a theater that had been shut down for a couple of years? Now imagine going to see a play in a theater that’s been closed for 17 centuries. Turns out, you can: the Ancient Theatre of Aptera in Chania, on the island of Crete, will be reopening on June 29 for a performance of a portion of Homer’s Odyssey. Excavation on the theater began in July 2008, and it is now largely restored. It is open to the public and attracts large crowds of visitors daily, though this will be the first performance to take place there in modern times.

The theater was built during the Roman Empire. It was constructed from local limestone and contains the three-part layout characteristic of Hellenistic theaters: cavea, orchestra, and stage building. In its ancient heyday, it could seat up to 3,700 spectators. It’s fitting that the show chosen for the grand re-opening is Odyssey: the city of Aptera is supposedly where the legend of the battle between the Sirens and the Muses took place. Other important archaeological structures in Aptera include a chapel, several temples, and Roman baths. In the Minoan era, Aptera was the most powerful city in western Crete.

You’ll be glad to know that the performance is free . . . now all you need to see the show is a plane ticket.

Dig Deeper What does the word “aptera” mean? How did the city of Aptera get its name?

Beluga Whales Take International Journey

Zoos and aquariums can be controversial. Some people believe that it’s cruel to keep animals locked up, while others think that the research and education provided by zoos and aquariums is essential to ensure many species’ survival. In 2012, the new owners of Changfeng Ocean World aquarium in China faced a similar dilemma. Two female beluga whales–named Little White and Little Grey–were performers in a show. But the owners decided that it was wrong to keep the animals for entertainment, and began the process of finding them a new home. After a lengthy international search, the animals have now been transported to Iceland, where they will be set free to live in a whale sanctuary there.

Beluga whale
Beluga whale. Credit: The George F. Landegger Collection of Connecticut Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress

How did the whales get to Iceland? The process wasn’t easy. First, they were taken by truck to an airport, and then flown on a 747 cargo plane. Once they landed in Iceland, they were put back onto trucks, and then a ferry to bring them to their new home in the Klettsvik Bay area. To prepare for the journey, trainers had to teach them to breathe underwater for longer periods of time. The animals were also fed more so that they would develop more protective blubber.

So far, Little White and Little Grey are doing well with their adjustment. Trainers in Iceland are gradually introducing them to sea life that they wouldn’t have been exposed to in their tanks back in China. And with a life expectancy of 35 to 50 years, these 12-year-old whales will have many years to enjoy their retirement in their new home.

What Do You Think? Do you think the owners of the Changfeng Ocean World aquarium did the right thing by releasing their beluga whale performers? Why or why not?

College-Educated Women Become Majority of U.S. Workforce

In the first quarter of 2019, women hit an important milestone that you may not have heard about: for the first time ever, there are more college-educated women than college-educated men in the U.S. workforce. Starting now, there are 29.5 million women in the workforce with a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 29.3 million men. Actually, women have been earning more bachelor’s degrees than their male counterparts since the 1980s, and have been enrolling in college at higher rates than men since 2000. But this is the first time that this trend is making itself apparent in the workforce.

Despite this achievement, however, women still have a long way to go to achieve workplace equality. Just the fact that a woman receives more education doesn’t mean that she will necessarily make more money. In fact, a woman with a bachelor’s degree still earns about $26,000 per year less than her male coworker with the same degree. Women are also often drawn to lower-paying careers. All of this means that, on average, a college-educated woman can expect to make about $51,600 per year, while a college-educated man will make about $74,900.

So if more education isn’t the answer, then what can be done to fix this gap? Since the 1970s, states have been considering an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution that would demand, among other things, equal pay for equal work. The ERA is currently one state short of the number needed to be ratified.

What Do You Think? Women have been receiving higher levels of education than men for decades. So why do you think it’s taken so long for college-educated women to make up an equal part of the workforce?