Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Aug 5, 2021 in Stuff You Should Know

Tokyo 2021 Olympics Update

Have you been following the Tokyo Olympic Games so far? Now that the event is more than halfway through here are some highlights.

At the end of the second weekend of the Games, China leads the gold medal count with 24, followed by the United States (20) and Japan (17). The U.S. is currently the all-time Olympic medal leader, with nearly 3,000 medals (that’s more than double what the second-place country has). So far, the U.S. has collected medals in some of the newest events. This includes the first-ever medal in women’s synchronized diving, the first women’s 1,500-meter freestyle race, and medals in 3×3 basketball, skateboarding, and surfing.

Gold, silver and bronze medals
Credit: Image Source

There have been some interesting events during the Olympics as well. Two friends in the men’s high jump competition received attention for their ability to share. Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy and Muta Essa Barshim of Qatar agreed to share two gold medals instead of trying to break a tie between one another. Another Italian, Lamont Marcell Jacobs instantly became famous for winning the mens 100 meter race—one of the most watched track and field events at any Olympics. Jacobs is the first Italian man to win this Olympics event.

But the Olympic story that has attracted the most attention was American gymnast Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from the team competition to focus on her mental health. After winning the gold medal in the Rio Olympics four years ago, Biles felt that she was not in a place mentally to continue competing this year, so she stepped down.

Biles often performs some of the most difficult gymnastics skills ever seen. The flips and spins that she performs can be very dangerous if she is not mentally focused. Biles pressure to perform and succeed has reduced her mental focus. And the unusual stresses of these Tokyo Games during COVID have changed the experience as well. For her safety, Biles chose not to complete. Other members of the American gymnastics team have stepped up and the U.S. women won a silver medal. Biles chose to compete individually on the balance beam and earned a bronze medal.

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to learn more about the accomplishments of Simone Biles. Write a paragraph about what you discover.

Anticipating Back-to-School Shopping

It’s time to get ready to go back to school! Did you know that economists are predicting a record high back-to-school boost to the economy this year? In fact, the National Retail Federation expects spending to exceed $34 billion–or an average of $790 per family.

So why the big jump this year? There are several reasons, most of them having to do with (you guessed it) the COVID-19 pandemic. First, the Biden administration’s new child tax credit gives families of school-age children up to a $3,000 boost. This gives families more money in their pockets to spend. Second, back-to-school shopping was very small during the 2020-2021 school year  because many students time at school was so limited. As people plan and prepare for a full year of in-person school, the retail stores are also hoping that this results in higher sales.

This trend isn’t just important because shoppers might face bigger crowds and higher prices than usual at the stores. It’s important for the economic health of the nation as a whole. Department and clothing stores were the hardest-hit type of retailer during the pandemic, so this season will hopefully give them the chance to bounce back.

However, two other issues may impact back-to-school shopping in a less positive way. The first is that lingering fears about COVID-19 may cause more families to do their shopping online instead of at brick-and-mortar stores. The other is that ongoing global supply chain problems could lead to shortages of key items.

What Do You Think? What types of school supplies are on your back-to-school shopping list this year? Why? Have your choices been impacted in some way by the pandemic? Explain.

New World Heritage Sites Chosen

Every year since 1978, UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has chosen several places around the globe to identify as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Currently, there are a more than a thousand such sites. To be chosen, a site must have “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one of UNESCO’s ten selection criteria:

  • Does it represent a masterpiece of human genius?
  • Does it show an important interchange of human values?
  • Does it represent a unique cultural tradition or civilization?
  • Is it a significant example of technology or architecture from an important historical era?
  • Is it an outstanding example of a civilization’s interaction with its environment?
  • Is it connected to other important traditions or significant cultural achievements?
  • Does it contain exceptional natural beauty?
  • Does it illustrate major geological processes?
  • Does it illustrate significant ongoing ecological or biological processes?
  • Does it contain critical natural habitats to preserve biological diversity?

The 2021list includes sites such as the Ramappa Temple in India (which took forty years to complete) and the Trans-Iranian Railway. The railway links the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. The list also includes the ancient Chinese port city of Quanzhou and the Dutch Water Line–a 17th-century defense against flooding. UNESCO also added the Kaeng Krachan forest in Thailand (known for its endangered elephants). There is also the Colchic Rainforests and Wetlands in western Georgia and the Paseo del Prado–an iconic boulevard in Madrid, Spain.

Dig Deeper Choose one of the sites listed above. Use Internet resources to develop a travel brochure encouraging tourists to visit the new site. Include background information and photographs, as well as explaining which of UNESCO’s ten criteria you think the site meets.