Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Feb 19, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

Stone’s Sentencing Scandal

Remember Hillary’s emails? Last November, Roger Stone–Trump’s longtime friend and adviser–appeared in federal court for his role with WikiLeaks and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, in which he acted as a go-between. Stone later lied to Congress about it, and as a result, he was found guilty of all seven counts with which he was charged (including lying to Congress, obstructing the investigation, and witness tampering) and currently awaits sentencing.

Last Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington produced a sentencing memo, recommending that Stone receive seven to nine years in prison for his crimes. But Trump disagreed. He immediately tweeted out that the recommended sentence was unfair, and that it was the Democrats, not Stone, who were really guilty of crimes. Shortly after this, the Justice Department sent out a second memo to say that a much shorter sentence would be appropriate (though the Department of Justice wasn’t specific about how short that term should be).

The Justice Department is supposed to act independently of the White House, and while Trump denies that his tweet had any influence on the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendations, the House Judiciary Committee disagrees. In fact, Jerry Nadler, the Democrat who chairs the Committee, has vowed to get to the bottom of the situation. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has also asked the Department’s inspector general to look into the situation. Meanwhile, several federal prosecutors who were involved in the Stone case have now resigned in protest.

Stone’s sentencing is scheduled for next week. His attorneys are asking for probation.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, does Trump’s tweet about Stone’s sentence constitute political interference? Why or why not?

Virginia Eliminates Confederate Holiday

Virginia State Capitol
Virginia State Capitol; Credit: DenisTangneyJr/iStockphoto/Getty Images

There’s no doubt that history is complicated, and how we recognize and remember it is even more so. Lately, many cities and states across the country have struggled with how to commemorate historical events that are especially controversial–such as deciding whether or not to remove statues honoring Confederate soldiers, or recognizing Columbus Day as a holiday. Earlier this month, the Virginia legislature made the decision to eliminate Lee-Jackson Day as a state holiday.

Traditionally celebrated in Virginia on the Friday before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, this holiday celebrated two Confederate generals, Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. It involves parades, wreaths, reenactments, and other Confederate-themed celebrations. Supporters say that the day honors an important part of history, while opponents believe that the practice of honoring two men who owned enslaved persons and who promoted enslavement is out of date and inappropriate.

The holiday will be replaced in the calendar with Election Day. Virginia governor Ralph Northam originally included this idea in his 2020 legislative proposals, saying that making Election Day a holiday will make it easier for more people to vote and increase voter turnout. Several states have made Election Day a holiday already; some of them have swapped out the controversial Columbus Day in its place.

The change isn’t official yet: both chambers of the legislature have voted in favor of identical versions of the bill, but it will now need to be approved and then sent to Governor Northam for his signature.

Dig Deeper What states still celebrate a Confederate Memorial Day? Use Internet resources to help you find the answer.

Space Signals?

Believe it or not, it isn’t unusual for the Earth to receive mysterious radio signals from outer space. However, it is unusual for them to repeat in a regular, predictable pattern. But between September 16, 2018 and October 30, 2019, this is exactly what happened: astrophysicists detected a burst of radio waves (or two) every hour for four days, followed by twelve days of silence. And then this sixteen-day pattern would repeat again and again, on a regular loop.

Does this mean that we are receiving alien signals from outer space? Well, it’s not time to start scanning the sky for UFOs just yet. These fast radio bursts, or FRBs, have been studied by astrophysicists since 2007, though it’s likely that they have been around for billions of years. In the past, these signals have come in short, intense bursts; as a result, scientists assumed that they were the result of some kind of cataclysmic event in deep space, such as two stars colliding with each other. But this time, because the signal repeats itself, this can’t be the case. The regularity of the pattern seems to suggest that the radio waves bursts are being caused by some kind of orbit. One possibility is that it is being brought on by the interaction between a neutron star–which is tiny but extremely dense–and an OB-type star, which is a hot, massive, short-lived star. They could be affecting each other’s orbits and causing the radio bursts to be released at regular intervals, though scientists are not yet certain that this is the cause.

Dig Deeper How far away do FRBs come from? Use Internet resources to help you determine your answer.

The Uncertain Fate of “Silent Sam”

For over one hundred years, on the campus of the University of North Carolina, there stood a statue of a young Confederate soldier holding a rifle. Because he carried no cartridge box for ammunition, the statue came to be known as “Silent Sam.” People have been protesting the statue since the 1960s, but after the tragedy that occurred surrounding another Confederate statue in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, opponents asked that the statue be removed. The university answered that because of a state law protecting any monuments or works of art owned by the state, they couldn’t take it down. Finally, a year after Charlottesville, opponents toppled the statue. “Silent Sam” was then moved indefinitely into storage at the university, with no apparent plan for what would be done with it.

Last year, however, UNC made a deal with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, stating that UNC would give them “Silent Sam,” along with $2.5 million to maintain and preserve it. But a UNC faculty member and a group of students intervened to try to stop the deal from going through. They argued that the university Board of Directors never held any kind of meeting or sought public input about what to do with the statue. Last week, they were successful in their efforts when Orange County Superior Judge Allen Baddour overturned the settlement–meaning that “Silent Sam’s” future remains undecided.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, what should happen to “Silent Sam” (and other controversial monuments)? Who should be responsible for their maintenance and upkeep? Why? Please remember to be respectful with your answer.