Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Nov 20, 2019 in Stuff You Should Know

Rigged Election Leads to Political Chaos in Bolivia

Here in the United States, we’ve heard some accusations about the possibility of voter fraud and rigged elections. Right now, the nation of Bolivia is facing fallout from just this situation. Last month, President Evo Morales was elected to a fourth term in office. But an audit report showed that the computer system used to tally the vote had been tampered with. So last Sunday, protestors took to the streets, and the police and military abandoned their posts, refusing to stop the uprising.

Bolivian Government Building, La Paz Bolivia
A Bolivian government building in La Paz. Credit: Shutterstock/flocu

Morales responded by resigning from his position. A few days later, he announced that he would be leaving Bolivia for Mexico, which has offered him asylum. But that has not solved the political turmoil that the nation is currently facing. Morales called the uprising against him a “coup.” Meanwhile, key figures (such as the vice president, the heads of both legislative chambers, and the police commander) have all resigned. That means that essentially, no one knows who is supposed to be in power right now. At the same time, violent clashes between protestors continue to occur in the streets.

Morales was Bolivia’s first indigenous president. He is a socialist who oversaw a lot of social improvements and a growing economy. However, he also received a lot of criticism for packing Bolivia’s highest court with justices who were in favor of changing the law to allow Morales to serve a fourth term in office.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, could a “power vacuum” like the one Bolivia is currently experiencing ever occur in the United States? Why or why not?

Democratic Primary Race Heats Up in November

It’s November, and that means it’s time for the fifth round of Democratic presidential debates. This time, they will take place on November 20 in Atlanta, Georgia. The qualifications for candidates to participate were also stricter: candidates were required to receive at least 3 percent of the vote in four national polls, and get 165,000 unique donors, with 600 coming from 20 different states.

If you’ve been following the debates all along, many of the faces this time around will look familiar. The following ten candidates have all qualified: Joe Biden; Sen. Cory Booker; Pete Buttigieg; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard; Sen. Kamala Harris; Sen. Amy Klobuchar; Sen. Bernie Sanders; Tom Steyer; Sen. Elizabeth Warren; and Andrew Yang. In a last-minute twist, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick has also entered the race, though it remains to be seen if he will qualify for the debate. Patrick is a close associate of President Obama, and one of the few U.S. African American governors in history.

Next month, the December 19 debate will likely narrow the field of Democrats even further: in order to participate, candidates will have to have received 4 percent in four polls, and must have 200,000 unique donors, with 800 from 20 different states. So far, only Biden, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders, and Warren have qualified for the December debate.

Dig Deeper Governor Patrick is not the only person who has thought about entering the race at the last minute. Who else is talking about throwing their hat into the ring?

A Permanent Cure for the Common Cold?

As the temperature drops, one thing becomes certain: it’s cold and flu season again. But what if scientists could find a way to make sure that none of us ever gets sick with these diseases again? Turns out, they may be on the road to doing just that–by using what is essentially a pair of molecular scissors.

How does it work? When a cold or flu virus spreads throughout your body, it does so by taking over cells and making copies of itself at the molecular level. Once the disease has taken over a cell this way, it spreads and continues to replicate throughout the body. (Viruses also continually change and shift their structure, which is why you have to get a new flu vaccine every year.) The virus is carried in the cell’s RNA. But now, scientists have discovered a tool called the CRISPR Cas13, a gene-editing tool that’s basically like a pair of molecular scissors. The CRISPR can target the part of the RNA that’s carrying the virus, and just “cut” it out.

So far, the CRISPR Cas13 has only been used to fight viruses in cells. But researchers remain confident that it can eventually be used to treat people too. So while it may be too soon to throw out all of your tissues and cold medicine just yet, it’s possible to imagine a future when we can enjoy the cold and snow without all of the fever and sniffles.

Dig Deeper What does CRISPR stand for?

Secondhand and Our National Obsession with Stuff

Have you ever been thrifting? Attended (or hosted) a garage sale? Visited an antique shop? If so, you’re taking part in a national obsession: the buying and selling of secondhand objects. A new book called Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale, by Adam Minter, looks at the billion-dollar secondhand-sales industry and makes some surprising findings. For example, the fixation with secondhand shopping is a worldwide phenomenon (one of the world’s largest exporters of used hard goods is Hamaya Corp., located in Japan). Furthermore, the worldwide fascination with used objects has had a global economic impact, with companies all over the world buying and selling secondhand goods from other countries.

So why are people so crazy about buying secondhand items? According to Minter, people used to identify with religions and places, but they now identify with items. We also tend to think that we are doing a good thing when we donate our old clothes or discarded furniture to places like Goodwill. But we do so without ever asking ourselves some important questions: What happens to them after we drop them off? And in a country that keeps on buying more and more new items, how will we find physical space for all of the things we’ve decided we don’t want anymore? People seem to understand the concept of recycling and reusing–but how can they become convinced to simply reduce their buying?

Dig Deeper What happens to used items that are dropped off at your local thrift shop? If you don’t know, call the shop or make a visit to find out.