Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Dec 16, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

Finalizing the 2020 Presidential Election

On Monday, December 14 the members of the electoral college met in each of the 50 states and in the District of Columbia to officially cast their votes representing the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Each of the state’s group of electors cast their votes in turn, starting with Vermont at 10 am. There was a slight question if any of the party representatives chosen as electors would vote against the popular vote totals cast by the people of each state. (Doing so would make that person a so-called “faithless elector.”) But that did not happen, and the vote went as it was supposed to and the votes confirmed the results.

Joe Biden was officially awarded 306 total electoral college votes. Donald Trump was awarded 232 votes. The minimum number of electoral college votes needed is 270, so this confirms Biden’s expected victory.

So, what happens next? The electoral college votes must be certified by December 23. Then, Congress will meet on January 6, 2021, to officially count and declare the results. The winner of the election is then announced by the current vice president. And finally, the new president and vice president are inaugurated–officially sworn into office–on January 20, 2021.

Dig Deeper  How do you think the COVID pandemic will influence Inauguration Day? Should there be the usual parade and festivities? Why or why not?

Deal or No Deal

If you think the 2020 U.S. presidential election is taking a long time, look across the Atlantic Ocean at the United Kingdom. Brexit– the decision by the UK to part ways with the European Union (EU)–was passed by voters in 2016, and yet four years later, no decisive agreement or plan of action has been reached. Brexit officially “happened” on January 31, 2020. After that, an eleven-month “transition period” was established but that runs out on December 31, 2020. If UK and EU officials are still unable to reach an agreement by that point, then the result is a “no-deal Brexit.”

Image of people's hands clasped at a table with the flags of Great Britain and the European Union in the background
The negotiation of Great Britain and European Union over final Brexit details has not been finalized. Credit: vchal/Shutterstock

So, what does a “no-deal Brexit” mean? Without a trade deal, the EU and UK will no longer enjoy free and open trade. Rather, the two nations will have to pay  taxes on goods they import from each other. This means that consumers will then have to pay more for the products they buy. One of the major points of contention between the European Union and the United Kingdom is fishing, as fishing boats can no longer move back and forth freely between EU and UK waters as they have done in the past.

This will also affect freedom of movement between the UK and the EU. While citizens within the EU can travel back and forth freely between EU countries, UK citizens will need passports in order to enter the EU and to travel between EU nations.

Dig Deeper Learn more about why many British people do not want to remain part of the EU. Share a news article you found with a classmate.

Everest’s Changing Height

You probably know that Mt. Everest is the highest mountain on Earth. You may also know that it lies in the Himalayas, on the border between China and Nepal, and that hundreds of people have died trying to climb it. But here’s something that you might not have known about Everest: it’s growing.

The exact height of Mt. Everest has always been difficult to determine, largely because China and Nepal disagree on whether to count the snow cap on top. (Nepal says yes, putting their measurement at nearly four meters above China’s height.) So government officials from both countries got together and decided to take a new measurement, and to agree on it once and for all. Measuring the highest point on the planet is no easy task. It required a team of Nepalese land surveyors to train for two years before attempting the climb in 2019. The lead surveyor even lost a toe to frostbite in the process. (China sent its own team of surveyors up in May 2020.)

The new measurement revealed that Everest is now higher than previously determined. So why has the height changed? Everest was formed when two tectonic plates–the Indian plate and the Eurasian plate–collided into each other. The plates continue to shift, pushing up on the mountain, increasing its height. But it also means that the area is prone to earthquakes. In 2015 a 7.8-magnitude quake killed thousands of people in Nepal and buried the mountain’s base camp. This event led to a reduction in size of the snow cap on top of the mountain, reducing its overall height. Oceans also play a role because the height of a mountain is its height above sea level. Nepalese surveyors used the Bay of Bengal to establish sea level, while Chinese surveyors used the Yellow Sea.

The end result? Nepal and China announced together that the new official measurement of Mt. Everest is 8,848.86 m (29,032 ft)–0.86 meters higher than before.

Dig Deeper What is the highest mountain in the United States? How does it compare to the height of Mt. Everest?

New Museum Celebrates African American Music

Nashville, Tennessee, is known for being the capital of country music. It’s home to the Country Music Hall of Fame, Music Square, and the Grand Ole Opry. But now, there is a new reason to visit this exciting city: the National Museum of African American Music. In 2002, members of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce proposed a new museum to celebrate the role and influence of African Americans on the arts, culture, and music. Eventually the museum’s focus was narrowed to just music. The city broke ground on the project in 2017, with an original opening slated for Fall 2020. (The opening has since been pushed back to January 2021.)

The museum is 56,000 square feet and will include artifacts, memorabilia, and more. Its goal is to educate, preserve, and celebrate the wide variety of musical styles created by African Americans. Each gallery focuses on a different perspective or moment in African American music and history. Examples of galleries include the role of religion; the Harlem Renaissance; the Great Migration; the civil rights movement; the emergence of the blues; and more.

If you’re planning to visit in January, keep in mind that, as with all things, the opening will be impacted by the COVID pandemic. The ribbon cutting on January 18 will be socially distanced, and the museum won’t be open to the public until January 30. Until then, only members will be allowed to take tours. The number of visitors will be limited, and masks are required.

Dig Deeper Take a virtual tour of the museum at https://nmaam.org/galleries/. Write a short paragraph describing what you see and learn.