Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Aug 13, 2019 in Stuff You Should Know

Responding to Tragedy

Last week, btw brought you the story of dual mass shootings that occurred within less than a day of each other in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, and left at least 31 people dead. Gun safety advocates had hoped that the twin tragedies would spark renewed interest in gun safety legislation, and it looks like they might have been right. In the wake of the massacres, some moderate Republican lawmakers have expressed a willingness to consider bills that would do such things as expand background checks and ban assault-style weapons.

In Ohio, Republican Senator Rob Portman voiced his support for improving background checks and “red-flag laws” (which would allow authorities to confiscate firearms from people who pose a threat to themselves or others). Republican State Representative Mike Turner, who represents the Dayton area, tweeted that he too would support red-flag legislation, as well as a ban on military-style weapons such as the one used in the Dayton shooting. And Republican Governor Mike DeWine rolled out a 17-point gun safety package that includes expanded background checks, “red-flag” legislation, strengthening penalties for gun-related crimes, improving access to mental health services, and more.

But whether or not this gains any traction on a national level remains to be seen. Congress is currently on recess, and despite the pleas of Democrats to re-open the Senate to address the gun crisis, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has so far refused. Meanwhile, however, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut) are working on a bipartisan bill to adopt red-flag laws in their states. Several other Republican Congress members have voiced support for improved gun safety legislation as well.

What Do You Think? Visit this Web site link to learn more about Governor DeWine’s 17-point gun safety plan. Choose one point you agree with, and one point you disagree with, and then explain why you feel that way

Farms and Our Future

When we think about slowing down climate change, we often think about solutions such as limiting carbon emissions from factories, trains, and cars. But what about agriculture? A new report from the United Nations shows that farms–and how we think about food production–play a critical role in causing some of the worst effects of climate change. In fact, scientists estimate that farms account for about a third of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

How is this possible? Several reasons. First, you can’t have a farm without making space for it–which requires cutting down trees. And as the population continues to grow, more and more farms are necessary to grow the food to feed it. In addition to deforestation, agricultural activities such as harvesting peat or raising cattle account for a huge percentage of all methane released into the atmosphere, which in turn traps heat in the atmosphere and causes the planet’s temperature to rise.

So what can be done about it? Aside from planting more trees–which scientists agree is an essential step–there are other things we can do, such as reducing food waste and eating less meat. In fact, meat production is one of the leading causes of deforestation because so much land is required to grow feed for livestock. Scientists estimate that if major meat-eating countries such as the U.S. reduced their beef intake to just once a week, it would essentially eliminate the need to clear more forests for farmland, even if the population continues to grow at its current rate.

Dig Deeper Go online to find out more about things you can do to reduce food waste in your home and school. Put together a list of what you think are the best three ideas to try, and why.

Blackjewel Goes Bust

In the past few years, you’ve probably heard a lot of debate about coal as an energy source. While most Democrats have pushed for a shift to clean energy, the president made supporting coal miners and the coal industry one of the key promises of his campaign.

Hand holding different natural coal types: graphite, anthracite, bituminous coal, lignite,
Coal workers are trying to assert their authority. Credit: ©iStockphoto/Eduard Andras

But it hasn’t always panned out that way. For example, some plants Trump promised would stay open didn’t stay open. And on July 1, Blackjewel, one of the largest coal companies in the United States, declared bankruptcy. Even worse is that they have done so without paying their workers what they owe. In fact, many of Blackjewel’s miners are owed thousands of dollars in back pay. The workers have responded by protesting. They have camped out on train tracks in Harlan County, Kentucky, and are physically blocking coal trains from getting through. The protest began earlier this month with five miners but has now expanded to a widespread movement. The protestors argue that Blackjewel should not be allowed to continue profiting from the coal it sends out if it’s not paying its workers what it owes them. Meanwhile, Blackjewel has said that miners should be dipping into their retirement funds if they are having trouble making ends meet.

Regardless of whether you are in favor of coal or prefer clean energy, most Americans can agree that the hardworking men and women who pull the coal out of the ground deserve to be paid for their labor. There’s no indication yet of when this standoff might end.

Dig Deeper This isn’t the first time that there have been protests over the coal industry in Harlan County. Use Internet resources to find out more about the “mine wars” that took place in Harlan County in the 1930s. Write a paragraph about what you learned.

Never Give Up

Last month, btw brought you the story of Franky Zapata, the 40-year-old French inventor who tried to cross the English Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard of his own invention. Unfortunately, Zapata’s first trip–which he had scheduled to coincide with the 110th anniversary of the first aerial crossing of the Channel–was unsuccessful when he damaged his hoverboard halfway across while trying to land on a boat to refuel. Rather than give up, however, Zapata pledged to try again. Since then, he’s been working 15 to 16 hours a day to repair the damage that the Flyboard Air hoverboard suffered when it crashed on his July 25 attempt. And this time, he made it, crossing the 22-mile English Channel in just over 20 minutes and becoming the first person in the world to do so on a hoverboard. This time, he took three helicopters with him for safety. And he also used a larger refueling boat, just to be on the safe side.

Aside from gaining worldwide attention for his feat, Zapata also made some money from it. The French military has now invested $1.4 million in testing the hoverboard for possible combat use. So what’s next for Zapata, now that he can scratch the English Channel crossing off of his list? First, Zapata says, he’s going to take a vacation. And after that? He’s building a flying car, of course.

Dig Deeper Find a map of the English Channel online. Zapata took off from Sangatte, near Calais in northern France, and landed in St. Margaret’s Bay near Dover in England. Locate these places on your map. Why do you think Zapata chose these spots to begin and end his flight?