Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Oct 29, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

Hawaiians Face Widespread Unemployment and Few Solutions

Hawaii has been hit harder than most other states by the economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. That’s because the islands are so heavily dependent on the tourism industry, which has ground nearly to a halt. While several states depend on tourism, Hawaii is unique because most tourists take a plane to get there. Because air travel is largely grounded, tourist arrivals have almost disappeared in recent months. This challenge is worsened by the fact that everything in Hawaii is more expensive than it is on the mainland, because most goods must be brought to the islands by boat or plane. So not only are more people out of work, but they must also pay more for the everyday goods and services that they need.

The state’s unemployment office is overwhelmed by the growing need and has become unresponsive to unemployed workers who are reaching out for assistance. As a result, many Hawaiians have had to make the difficult decision to move to the mainland United States, where job prospects are better and unemployment services are more reliable. In fact, economists predict that in the next two years, Hawaii’s population could drop by up to 30,000 people.

Dig Deeper To learn more about the cost of living in Hawaii, visit this USA Today post and scroll to Hawaii. Write down the value of a dollar in Hawaii, what the average income is, and what the average home price is. Now do the same thing for the state where you live. Write a paragraph describing what you find, and the differences between the cost of living in your state and in Hawaii.

When Will U.S. Forces Leave Afghanistan?

photo of Soldiers legs, marching together in unison
Will U.S. troops be leaving Afghanistan soon? Credit: munktcu ©

Did you know that the war in Afghanistan is the longest war the United States has been involved in? American troops entered the conflict in 2001–almost two decades ago. In that time, more than 3,500 American and NATO soldiers have been killed, and more than 110,000 Afghans. The decision for when the right time is to  remove American troops from Afghanistan has been going on almost as long. Clearly it’s not an easy decision. President Trump recently announced via Twitter that the last remaining American troops in Afghanistan would be home by Christmas. But the situation is not that simple.

The Taliban–a group of Islamic fundamentalist insurgents in Afghanistan–has regained strength in recent years. Up until now, American air support has been critical to keeping Taliban attacks on Afghani cities under control. Last February, after a year of difficult negotiations, the U.S. and the Taliban signed a deal saying that the U.S. would pull the rest of its troops out of the country by May 2021. This was based upon the Taliban stopping its attacks. While not a single American troop has been killed by the Taliban since the deal was signed, the attacks on the Afghan people are continuing. Many Afghans worry that if the U.S. pulls its troops and military support out of the region, their country will quickly slip into civil war.

Dig Deeper Do some research to learn more about the Taliban. What is it? How did it come to be? What are its goals and objectives? Write a paragraph about what you learn.

Planet Saving Paint?

Did you know that office buildings are a significant source of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? According to the World Green Building Council, buildings are responsible for about 28 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. That’s because these buildings have to be heated, cooled, and lit, and the energy to do this comes mostly from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and gas). But a group of U.S. scientists believe that they have found a way to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of buildings: by creating a white paint that reflects 95 percent of sunlight and lowers the temperature inside the building by about 35 degrees Fahrenheit. This paint, if used, would significantly reduce the need for air conditioners inside buildings. And that’s important because air conditioners are a major contributor to worldwide carbon dioxide emissions.

How did the scientists manage to accomplish this sunlight reflection trick? They added different-sized particles of calcium carbonate to the paint mix. Sunlight is a combination of different wavelengths. Calcium carbonate particles can block those waves, but only one specific wavelength. Different sized particles, however, can block different wavelengths. This is what makes it possible that this paint can block over 95 percent of the sunlight spectrum. As an added bonus, the paint contains no metal. It won’t interfere with electromagnetic signals, making it an ideal choice for data center buildings that house telecommunications equipment and require a lot of cooling.

Planning to rush right out and buy a couple of cans for your house? You might have to wait a while. The paint still must be tested extensively before it becomes commercially available.

Dig Deeper If buildings are responsible for 28 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, what percentage do automobiles make up? What about factories? Do some research on the Internet or at the school library to help you figure out your answer.

United States vs. Google

Have you ever “googled” something? When you need to search for something online, do you use the Google search platform? Why? That question is at the heart of a lawsuit filed by the U.S. government, which accuses the Internet search giant of being a monopoly and of violating fair competition laws. A monopoly is an economic term describing a company that has significant, unbalanced control over an entire market. The U.S. government has a history of trying to prevent monopolies because a company without real economic competition can charge customers whatever it wants for its product or service. According to the U.S. Justice Department, Google is guilty of this.

Google says that the charges are false. Google leaders say that people choose Google because it provides the best service. But according to the Justice Department, which has been investigating Google for more than a year, the company pays billions of dollars to make sure that browsers automatically default to Google. This helps ensure that it is the only search engine installed on devices such as cell phones. This allows Google to control about 80 percent of online searches, far more than its competition. Such market dominance hurts customers because it reduces their choices and makes it easier for Google to hone in on their personal information.

This case is the biggest one that the U.S. has brought against a large tech firm in years. It also has potentially far-reaching consequences in terms of eventually breaking up other large tech companies as well (such as Apple or Amazon).

What Do You Think? Do you think that lack of competition is a bad outcome for consumers? Explain your conclusion to a classmate and compare your two opinions.