Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Aug 13, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

Massive Explosion Rocks Beirut

Last Tuesday, Lebanon’s capital city of Beirut experienced a huge explosion that killed at least 137 people and left about 5,000 more injured. More than 300,000 people have been left homeless by the explosion. The blast was heard over fifty miles away, and the shock wave from the explosion, which occurred in the city’s port area, was felt for up to a hundred miles. Officials say that the blast was triggered by thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate and seems to have been brought on by a smaller explosion and fire in a warehouse nearby (though the cause of that fire is still undetermined). To get a sense of the size of the blast: in 1995, Timothy McVeigh used two tons of ammonium nitrate to bomb the Oklahoma City federal building. In the Beirut explosion, there were 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate involved.  

Waterfront in West Beirut
A picture of Beirut in better times before the explosion that surprised everyone last week. Credit: (c) Alasdair Drysdale

The Lebanese government is investigating whose decision it was to store that much ammonium nitrate in the port area, and then not maintain it properly. In the meantime, any employees involved with storing the nitrate have been placed under house arrest. Much more investigation is necessary to determine the cause of the explosion. Many other nations have contributed emergency workers and medical supplies to Beirut to help with the rescue effort. 

Dig Deeper Keep track of the number of countries that have pledged aid to Beirut. Compile the data that you learn while researching this to create a bar graph showing the number of countries that contribute and the amount of money or economic value pledged over the next two weeks. 

Hurricane Isaias Pummels the East Coast

2020 is the year of a global pandemic, murder hornets … and now, for residents of the East Coast, a devastating hurricane. On August 3 Hurricane Isaias made landfall near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, which is near the South Carolina border. At the time of landfall, sustained winds of 85 mph were reported. Though the Category 1 hurricane weakened into a tropical storm by the next day, Isaias continued to move up the coast through the Mid-Atlantic states and up to the Northeast, bringing heavy rainfall, flooding, and even upwards of thirty tornadoes. Bridges and other structures have collapsed, and one North Carolina trailer park was completely leveled by a tornado. Ultimately, at least five people were killed by the storm, most by falling objects. More than three million people have been left without power.  

Part of what made Isaias so destructive was how quickly it moved, meaning that it was able to cover a lot of ground without weakening much. Residents as far away as Philadelphia, Pennsylvania experienced about four inches of heavy rainfall, severe flooding, and wind gusts of up to 44 mph. In New York City, temporary barriers were erected to help prevent flooding in the Lower Manhattan area. Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire experienced wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph.  

What Do You Think? Use the Internet to learn more about hurricanes that have hit the southern Atlantic coastline over the last decade. Create a simple rubric to determine the impact of those storms. Some criteria could include size of storm, number of people affected, estimated economic impact, length of recovery. Using your rubric, where does Isaias rank in comparison to those other storms? 

A New Use for Airline Food

You’re hungry, and you don’t feel like cooking. How about ordering up some . . . airplane food? Believe it or not, in some countries, this is an option. Starting in late July, a company named Tamam Kitchen, which prepares meals for El Al airlines (Israel), Turkish Airlines, and others, came up with the idea as a way to stay in business during this time when airline travel has declined so severely. They now sell the prepackaged meals to the public for as little as $3 apiece, each wrapped and sealed with the El Al logo. Anyone can purchase one, with or without a plane ticket. 

While airplane food isn’t known for being particularly good, as it turns out, the personal-sized servings are exactly right for a lot of unique situations, such as businesses and nursing homes whose cafeterias have shut down due to the pandemic. They are also great for senior citizens who can enjoy a hot meal without having to shop or prepare it. Really, they’re not so different from the frozen dinners you might buy at the grocery store: a few minutes in the microwave, and they are ready to enjoy. In fact, Tamam Kitchen says it is currently receiving about one hundred orders for the little meals each day.  

Dig Deeper Like Tamam Kitchen, many businesses have had to reinvent themselves during the coronavirus crisis: coffee shops have become food pantries, clothing companies have begun making masks, etc. Write about another business or industry in your community that has had to make creative adjustments to its mission in order to survive. (If you can’t think of any, use Internet resources to find one and write about that instead.)

Toronto Film Festival Affected by Coronavirus

One of the industries most affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic is the film industry. You may already have noticed that major movie theater chains are shutting down all over the country. Movie studios have had to delay filming their big movies until social distancing guidelines are lifted and people will be able to go to movie theaters again. As a result, thousands of crew members have been laid off. It’s estimated that box offices will experience up to a 60 percent economic loss compared to 2019, with global losses of up to $17 billion. 

Film festivals have been impacted as well. The upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, usually a major event, has had to make significant adjustments. Last year, the festival featured 333 films, three of which went on to win Oscar awards. But this year’s festival will feature only 50 movies. The films themselves will be different too, with fewer big stars, and the films will be shared more freely with other festivals. There also will not be the same amount of press as usual, as since many journalists are unwilling or unable to travel right now. To accommodate this, the festival’s organizers have developed an online-streaming component. It’s hoped that at least some of the festival can be held in person, though with ever-changing social distancing guidelines, it’s hard to know for sure. 

Dig Deeper Visit the Toronto International Film Festival’s Web site to learn more about the movies that will be featured at the festival. Choose three that look interesting to you, and write a paragraph describing why you would like to see them.