Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jul 10, 2017 in Stuff You Should Know

Chinese Drought Continues

Northern China, especially Inner Mongolia, is facing its worst drought in history. The intense temperature and lack of rainfall over the past few months are causing more and more of the region to be taken over by desert in a process known as desertification.

As of late May, roughly 120,000 people and 500,000 livestock in the region were facing a shortage of drinking water. Farmers currently don’t have enough water to grow crops or to graze animals. A little rain fell at the end of May, but not enough to make a significant difference, and since then the heat and drought have continued. It is estimated that economic losses from the drought have reached $780 million so far. Meanwhile, China’s deserts continue to expand by more than 1,300 square miles per year.

The Chinese government has tried to help in several ways. First, they have drilled wells and established pumping stations to help farmers irrigate their crops. They have also planted trees to try and slow the process of desertification, and have tried to encourage herders to limit the movement of their animals so that their grazing doesn’t worsen the problem. Most importantly, China has called on the leaders of other nations to work together to fight climate change and its disastrous environmental consequences.

Dig Deeper Use a map to locate northern China and Inner Mongolia. What deserts surround this area? If China’s deserts continue to expand at a rate of 1,300 square miles per year, how long do you estimate it will be before China’s capital city, Beijing, becomes threatened by desertification?

Travel Ban Takes Effect

Some Muslims face renewed problems at airports as President Trump's travel ban take affect again.

Some Muslims face renewed problems at airports as President Trump’s travel ban take affect again.

In January, President Trump’s travel ban sent airports around the country into confusion and sparked nationwide protests. Since then, the ban faced opposition by several federal courts: only one week after the ban was announced, a judge in Washington state put it on hold nationwide. Instead of taking the case to the Supreme Court, the White House decided to rewrite the ban in a way that would avoid these legal problems. Last week, a version of the ban finally went into effect, though in a somewhat different form than what Trump originally intended.

Here are some of the key differences:

  • The first draft of the ban went into effect without any advanced warning, but the new version gives people a week to prepare.
  • The original ban prohibited citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the US for 90 days, and restricted the admission of Syrian refugees indefinitely. The new ban removes Iraq from the list of banned nations and removed the restriction on Syrian refugees.
  • The new version of the ban allows for possible exemptions on a case-by-case basis, such as for ill people from the six restricted countries who are coming here in search of medical care. Also, travelers from the six countries are allowed to enter the U.S. if they have a “bona fide” relationship with someone who already lives here. (In this case, a “bona fide” relationship is defined as spouses, fiancés, parents, in-laws, children, siblings, and step- or half-siblings.)

Despite the fact that it’s been revised, the new version of the ban remains controversial. The new version also leaves grandparents off of its list of “bona fide” family relationships, which could potentially divide families.

What Do You Think?: Organize what you have learned in this article and in the news about the evolution of Trump’s travel ban by creating a two-column table to contrast the two versions. Then answer the following question: Do you think people will protest the new version of the ban the same way they protested the first version back in January? Why or why not?

Sock Diplomacy?

Anyone who watched Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency last year remembers how closely the country paid attention to her clothes. From her trademark pantsuits to wearing suffragette white at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton was clearly trying to send a message with what she wore, as many female politicians have done before her.

The practice of using fashion to make a statement is not something that male politicians typically engage in. But that may be changing.

Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, often wears themed socks to send messages or to honor special occasions. People are referring to Trudeau’s wardrobe habit as “sock diplomacy.” For example, last month, he wore maple leaf socks to honor Canada on the “Live with Kelly and Ryan” show, and rainbow socks at a Gay Pride flag-raising event in Ottawa. The month before that, he wore one pink sock and one blue one with the NATO flag printed on them to a NATO meeting in Brussels.

Most recently, he marched in Toronto’s Gay Pride Parade wearing rainbow socks with “Eid Mubarak” written on them, to show both his support for Canada’s LGBTQ+ community and for the Muslim community. (Eid Mubarak is the Islamic festival that marks the end of Ramadan and was happening the same day.) Moreover, because the socks were made in Toronto, he was also supporting local industry at the same time.

Some people have criticized Prime Minister Trudeau for what they see as using his sock wardrobe to trivialize important issues. Others see it as a way for Trudeau to make a statement in a unique and creative way.

What Do You Think? Do you ever choose to wear a particular item or style of clothing in order to make a statement or to say something about yourself? Explain.

New John Green Book Announced

Fans of the immensely popular YA author John Green have been waiting since 2012 for Green to release a new book. Finally, their wait is over.

Green has announced that his new book, Turtles All the Way Down, will be released on October 10, 2017. Turtles centers around 16-year-old Aza Holmes, who suffers from mental illness, as she investigates the disappearance of a fugitive billionaire. Even though it’s a fictional story, the topic of mental illness hits close to home for Green, who himself has grappled with obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety since childhood.

The book’s unusual title refers to an ancient myth about the origins of the universe: that the earth is flat and rests on the back of a giant turtle. The logical problem with this idea is that the turtle must also be standing on something: the back of another turtle? If so, then this turtle must also be standing on something, and on down into infinity.

Green’s previous young adult novels include Looking for Alaska (2005), An Abundance of Katherines (2006), Paper Towns (2008), and The Fault in Our Stars (2012), which became an international phenomenon. Two of Green’s novels–The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns–have been made into movies. He and his brother Hank also co-host a popular YouTube series called Vlogbrothers.

Dig Deeper  Now that you know the title of Green’s new book and a little bit about the plot, imagine that you are Green’s publisher. How would you convince people to want to buy Turtles? Create a cover for the book that would appeal to teenagers. Be sure to include a paragraph for the back of the book that describes the story and encourages people to want to read it.