Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Aug 25, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

Back to School–Sort of

“Back to school” can always be stressful. But this year it comes with a new set of challenges. School district leaders must make difficult decisions about whether to begin the school year in-person, remotely, or in a hybrid combination of these two directions. All plans bring with them their own difficulties.

In most states, if you’ve started back to school, it’s probably virtually, or with some blend of in-person and online classes. Distance learning can be a great option for students who have a hard time getting to school physically or who need greater schedule flexibility due to jobs or family constraints. Learning by computer presents some unique challenges as well. Distance learning requires two key tools: a reliable computer, and consistent Internet access. Yet in many parts of the country, students don’t have access to these things. This is especially true in rural areas, where Internet service can be spotty at best. Also, for students who rely on school meal programs, are homeless, or live in abusive situations, learning from home removes key support systems.

But going back to school in person presents other challenges during the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers are not health care professionals, and yet they will be charged with trying to keep their students (and themselves) safe from infection. Schools that reopen need to improve their sanitation practices, provide hand sanitizer and personal protective equipment (such as masks), and put social distancing measures in place. All of this costs money, at a time when many public school districts already struggle financially.

Districts that expect learning to occur in-person must also make plans for what to do if a student or staff member becomes infected, how to keep students and drivers safe on crowded school buses, and more.

Some districts have tried to address these issues by providing families with a choice: they can choose to send their students to school in person or keep them home for distance learning. Other districts have chosen a blended model: students attend school in-person some days, while others stay at home. The blended model challenge is that it asks teachers to lead and prepare for classes both in-person and online, essentially doubling their workload.

What Do You Think? Write a short paragraph describing your own back-to-school experience this year. What is going well about it? What are some of the challenges?

Unusual Cause of California Wildfires

Wildfires in California have been started by everything from reckless backpackers to poor utility company maintenance. And it’s no secret that hot, dry conditions can often lead to wildfires. But is it possible for wildfires to be started by . . . thunderstorms? It sounds strange, as we don’t often think of these two things happening together, but in Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area right now, this is exactly what’s happening.

As California faced record-breaking heat last week, Tropical Storm Elida moved north along the coast from Mexico., The storm increased the heat wave by adding moisture to it. Then, a series of thunderstorms more than a thousand miles south of the area caused nearly 11,000 lightning strikes in just a few days. The lightning strikes came mostly without rain and started several fires. Combined with intense winds, the fires quickly spread across the state.

Governor Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency for California. As of the weekend, more than 600 fires have been recorded in this latest wave, destroying more than 1.3 million acres of land. So far, the fires have killed seven people and burned thousands of buildings in the hardest-hit city, Vacaville, which is located between Sacramento and San Francisco. More than 3 million people are also without power. Officials are asking people to conserve electricity as much as possible to prevent further blackouts.

More frightening still, weather conditions over the next month are expected to accelerate wildfires in the area, with Santa Ana winds from the south and El Diablo winds from the north fanning the blazes.

Dig Deeper Last week, California’s Death Valley experienced the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth. Use Internet resources to learn more about this, and write a short paragraph about what you discover.

Military Coup Throws Mali Into Further Unrest

As the United States enters election season again in full force, the nation of Mali–located in West Africa and one of the poorest nations in the world–faces serious unrest in the wake of a military coup. (A coup, or a “coup d-etat,” is when a group overthrows the government, usually violently.) Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was elected democratically but removed by a group calling itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP). The leader of CNSP is Colonel Assimi Goita, the head of Mali’s special forces. Colonel Malick Diaw (the group’s vice president) and Colonel Ismael Wague (the air force deputy chief of staff) were also key leaders in the military takeover. The group ousted Keita by taking control of an army camp, then walking nine miles to the capital city of Bamako with crowds cheering them on. They arrested Keita and the prime minister and took them back to the army camp, where Keita later agreed to resign.

According to CNSP, new elections will be held as quickly as possible to replace Keita. Until then, the opposition group will institute a transitional council. Those who oppose Keita accuse him of economic and social corruption, and before his removal, there were widespread street protests against him

The leaders of other nations in the area and throughout the international community have called for Keita to be reinstated. Because of Mali’s intense poverty and political instability, neighboring nations fear that the collapse of the government will lead to a rise in terrorist groups and activity. As a result, Mali has been suspended from the African Union.

Dig Deeper When was the last coup in Mali? Learn more about it using Internet resources to help you write a short paragraph about what you find.

Walk Your Dog . . . Or Else?

dog walker walking a pack of small dogs on park trail
Should walking your dog be enforceable by law? Credit: Shutterstock/Steve Bruckmann

You know how it is: you need to take your dog for a walk, but it’s cold and rainy out, and you have a lot of homework to do. So you skip it, just for today. But what if not walking your dog was against the law? If some citizens get their way, this could become the case in Germany. New legislation is being considered that would require pet owners to walk their dogs twice a day, for a total of at least an hour. The new law would also crack down on pet owners who keep their animals chained up for long periods of time, and those who leave them alone at home all day. German legislators say that the reason for the regulations is to improve conditions for pets, whose needs sometimes aren’t prioritized by their owners.

How would such a law be enforced? German officials say that it would be up to each state to ensure that people are complying with the new regulations. Does this mean that police officers will be knocking on peoples’ doors, demanding to know if they’ve walked their dog that day? Enforcement will be aimed mostly at kennels. Provisions of the new law will also address “puppy farms,” requiring that dog breeders have only three litters at a time, and that puppies spend a minimum of four hours a day in direct contact with humans.

What Do You Think? Do you think that a law requiring pet owners to walk their dogs is a good idea? Why or why not?