Stuff YOU Should Know

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

Parliament: Back in Session

Last month, Election Central brought you the latest update in the Brexit saga (Brexit is the nickname assigned to Britain’s 2016 decision to leave the European Union). At that point, Boris Johnson, Britain’s new conservative prime minister, had convinced Queen Elizabeth II to prorogue Parliament. That meant that Parliament would be on forced recess for five weeks until October 14, leaving them just a couple of weeks to hammer out and approve a Brexit deal before the departure deadline of Oct. 31. This development would have made the possibility of a deal-free Brexit much more likely. (It’s widely assumed that Johnson wants a deal-free Brexit, despite the potentially drastic economic and political consequences.)

However, last week, the U.K. Supreme Court stepped in, ruling that it was illegal for Johnson to suspend Parliament. The judges argued that putting Parliament on a forced recess without a real reason for it prevented members from doing their job, which is a breach of Parliamentary Sovereignty.

So what happens next? Parliament has already returned to work. Many of Johnson’s political opponents are calling for him to resign. In the meantime, days before their forced recess was scheduled to begin, Parliament approved a bill forbidding Johnson from carrying out a deal-free Brexit. According to the bill, he would be required to extend the Brexit process to next year if no deal can be reached. The bill will become law on September 9.

What Do You Think? What do you think will happen next in the Brexit saga? Do you think Johnson’s failed attempt to prorogue Parliament will make it more or less likely that a Brexit deal will be reached by October 31? Explain.

16-Year-Old Speaks at U.N. Summit

Have you heard of Greta Thunberg? She’s the 16-year-old student activist from Sweden, and last week, she spoke before the United Nations at the Climate Action Summit in New York. Thunberg made headlines in September for traveling to the U.S. for the Summit using an emissions-free racing boat rather than taking an airplane. On September 20, the student-led climate change strikes she inspired drew massive crowds around the world. Now, she is making headlines for her passionate speech. For most teenagers (not to mention most adults), the prospect of speaking in front of world leaders would be terrifying. But not for Thunberg. She addressed some of the most powerful politicians on the planet, driving home some of her most important ideas about climate change:

  • World leaders have no right to look to children to solve the climate change crisis when today’s children are not the ones who caused the problem. Leaders have known about climate change for decades and yet have done little so far to stop it.
  • One current international plan calls for cutting global emissions levels in half over the next ten years, but Thunberg pointed out that this plan–which only has a 50% chance of working–doesn’t go far enough.

Following her speech, Thunberg and fifteen other children between the ages of 8 and 17 filed a legal complaint against five countries that are the five largest carbon emitters, saying that their actions have violated the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Dig Deeper Which countries are the five largest carbon emitters? Write down your guesses, then use Internet resources to check. Were you surprised by what you learned?

Apply Now

What happens when a member of Congress resigns before his or her term is up? The governor of his or her state appoints a replacement. This is happening right now in Georgia, where Senator Johnny Isakson recently announced his plans to resign, and Governor Brian Kemp is in the process of selecting someone to fill the seat. What makes this instance unique, however, is that Governor Kemp has decided to use an online application process to fill the position. Within the first two days of opening up the online application, more than 200 people had already submitted their resume or CV.

Why go about it this way? According to the governor’s office, the goal is to increase transparency. All of the applications received online will be made public, so that anyone can read them. Also, anyone can apply as long as they are a Georgia resident age 30 and up, who has been a U.S. citizen for at least nine years. That means that applications are coming in from people who have no experience in government whatsoever, as well as those who are more seasoned participants in politics. This is a huge departure from more typical appointment processes, where the governor might meet with people behind closed doors and select someone with whom he or she is already familiar. Supporters say that this new method makes the appointment process much more democratic.

So what happens next? While the governor isn’t required to pick someone from the online pool of applicants, there would likely be a reasonable amount of public outrage if he didn’t. Once the individual is appointed, he or she will serve only until a special election can be held in November 2020.

Dig Deeper To view the online application, visit If you lived in Georgia and met the application requirements, would you fill out the application to possibly become a senator? Why or why not?

Walking for Health

When we are in pain, our instinct is to be still and rest, right? But according to recent research, that might not be the best plan for everyone. In fact, for certain types of illnesses and injuries, exercise might actually help healing, rather than hinder it.

Three people walking in a park, getting some exercise;
Three people walking in a park, getting some exercise; Credit: Shutterstock/Tyler Olson

Here’s what scientists found: for people with osteoarthritis–which is a painful swelling of joints and a breakdown in the cartilage that surrounds them–brisk walking has many positive benefits. It helps strengthen the muscles surrounding the joint, and increases the oxygen-rich blood supply to the cartilage, which can help build it back up. Even more fascinating, exercise can release natural opioids in the brain that act as painkillers (the same way synthetic opioids do), as well as activating other parts of the brain that decrease pain naturally. There is also a huge psychological benefit involved. People who exercise experience a drop in stress levels. Their self-confidence increases. Being outside in nature and around others is a big mood-elevator. And exercise has been proven to improve sleep. All of these factors working together can have tremendous healing effects for people struggling with chronic pain issues.

The study goes on to show that it’s not enough just to take a walk a couple of times and then stop. Instead, people should aim for 30 minutes of mild exercise (such as brisk walking) five times per week. Doctors recommend, however, that patients don’t immediately launch into running marathons. Instead, it’s best to start off gently and to gradually increase activity with the guidance of a health care professional.

What Do You Think? Take a ten-minute walk around your neighborhood. How do you feel afterwards? Do you notice any mental or physical changes? Explain.