Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jun 11, 2021 in Stuff You Should Know

Derek Chauvin to be Sentenced

In April 2021, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was tried and found guilty of the murder of George Floyd. But the story isn’t over yet: Chauvin’s sentencing won’t take place until June 25. How many years he should serve in prison is being hotly debated by the prosecution and the defense in the case. The maximum number of years the state recommends Chauvin serve is fifteen. However, prosecutors have asked for a thirty-year prison sentence. That’s because, they argue, Chauvin’s actions in kneeling on Floyd’s neck indicate intent to kill. This opens up the possibility for a longer sentence. The prosecution also argues that Floyd’s death had such a huge impact on his family, community, and the nation at large that a longer sentence seems reasonable.

Meanwhile, the defense is asking for a shorter sentence than the recommended fifteen years, including probation and factoring in the time he has already served. Chauvin’s lawyer, claimed that Floyd’s death was not intentional, and that Chauvin thought he was performing his duties as a law enforcement officer. Chauvin’s lawyer also filed a request for a new trial. In that memo, he said that there were multiple factors that prevented Chauvin from receiving a fair trial, such as prejudicial news, juror misconduct, and witness intimidation.

What Do You Think? Do you agree or disagree with the claim that the location unfairly impacted the outcome of the trial? Explain.

Is Google Racially Biased?

Google has become such a commonplace part of our digital culture that “googling” has become a verb. But is it possible for an internet search engine to be racially biased? Some legislators say yes. Democratic senator Cory Booker of New Jersey is leading the effort to look at how Google (and its parent company, tech giant Alphabet) might be negatively impacting people of color.

Senator Booker and senatorsRon Wyden (OR), Mark Warner (VA), Ed Markey (MA), and Richard Blumenthal (CT) claim that the search engine provides biased results. They also argue that the company’s workplace dynamic is harmful to people of color. For example, the company recently fired Timnit Gebru, who was the first African American research scientist at Google. Gebru had spoken out against Alphabet’s lack of diversity efforts.

Only 3.7 percent of Google’s U.S. staff is African American. In June 2020, Google issued a statement that it would work harder to address racial inequity issues. At that time, CEO Sundar Pichai promised to diversify the company’s leadership by 30 percentin the next five years, as well as giving $175 million to African American businesses. But according to critics, these changes aren’t happening, or aren’t happening quickly enough.

Senator Booker and the other legislators want the tech giant to complete a racial equity audit. This requires outside experts to examine the company’s policies, procedures, and products through the lens of racial bias.

Dig Deeper Facebook and Airbnb are two large companies that have already gone through a racial equity audit. Write a paragraph describing the outcome of these audits. If you don’t know, use Internet resources to help you.

Sri Lankan Oil Spill

Recently, off the coast of Sri Lanka, a ship called the X-Press Pearl was carrying hundreds of tons of oil (1,486 containers) when it caught fire. Authorities tried to tow the ship to deeper waters, but that didn’t work. The ship burned for two weeks before breaking apart and sinking. Several of the oil containers rolled off and into the water even before the ship sank. The oil containers may have a devastating effect on local ecosystems and marine life.

Oil wasn’t the only hazardous material on board the X-Press Pearl. The ship was also carrying 25 tons of nitric acid, millions of plastic pellets (the raw material for plastic shopping bags), cosmetics, and other chemicals. In particular, large masses of plastic pellets have already washed ashore on Sri Lanka’s western coastline. It’s thought that the pellets will travel by currents as far away as India, Indonesia, and Somalia. The accident has made it impossible to fish in the area, which has been disastrous for Sri Lankan fishermen.

If oil leaks are detected, authorities are preparing cleanup measures such as oil dispersants, booms, and skimmers. Salvage teams want to board the ship to check it, but rough seas and rain have made that impossible. The governments of Sri Lanka and Singapore also have launched an official investigation into the fire, which was likely caused by a nitric acid leak. The crew was aware of the leak and had tried to dock in Qatar and India but was turned away in both places.

Dig Deeper What are oil dispersants, booms, and skimmers – and how are they each used to mitigate oil spills?

Challenging Netanyahu?

Benjamin Netanyahu has served as prime minister of Israel for a record-breaking twelve years. During that time, he has had some important diplomatic successes. He was also indicted in 2019 on charges of fraud, breach of trust, and accepting bribes. This has led many in Israel to question his fitness to rule. Now, Netanyahu is being challenged by Yair Lapid, 57, a former newspaper columnist, TV anchor, and author. Lapid is the head of the Yesh Atid opposition party, which is popular with secular, middle-class voters.

Israel Parliament
The Israel Parliament building, located in Western Jerusalem, known as the Knesset. Credit: iStockphoto.com/peterspiro

Lapid is hoping to govern Israel by partnering with Naftali Bennett, a former top aid to Netanyahu and head of the far-right Yamina partywhich. This political party is supported by more religious, traditional, and nationalist Israelis. Lapid and Bennett say they want to split the prime minister job. Bennett will take the first two years, and Lapid will take the second two years. When not serving as prime minister, each man will serve as foreign minister.

Lapid and Bennett joined forces with six other smaller Israeli political parties to form a large enough block of coalition votes. One of these coalition members, the United Arab List, would become the first Arab party ever to be part of an Israeli governing coalition. The only thing unifying all of these disparate parties is the common desire to defeat Netanyahu. The new coalition government cannot move forward until it is voted on by Israel’s parliament, or Knesset. This vote is scheduled to happen by June 14, 2021.

Dig Deeper Israel has a parliamentary structure. Use Internet resources to learn more about the structure of Israel’s government. Then draw a picture or chart to illustrate it.