Current Events


High School Replaces Homecoming Queen with Excellence Award
September 23, 2018 Excellence Award winner 2018
A Michigan high school had its annual homecoming celebration, without crowning a homecoming queen. Instead, the school named winners of an Excellence Award. Chelsea (Mich.) High School said that it had made the move to counter the stereotypes that it said accompanied the naming of a homecoming queen. In particular, school officials said that they were keen to address issues of bullying in the choosing of the homecoming queen. The change at Chelsea High School follows on from WhyYouMatter, a 2016 campaign started at the school in the wake of the deaths of three students in less than a year. That campaign, in its second year, challenges students and teachers to work together to photograph every student and every teacher in the school, turning the photos into posters that also include each person's saying why they matter.

Mandela Statue Unveiling Starts U.N. Peace Summit
September 24, 2018
Nelson Mandela is once again mentioned in conjunction with peace. The famous South African prisoner-turned-activist-turned-statesman-turned-author, who died in 2013, has his arms outstretched in a new life-size statue unveiled at the United Nations headquarters in New York. U.N. officials unveiled the statue in conjunction with a General Assembly peace summit. Mandela's widow, Graca Michel, and current South African President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke at the unveiling ceremony, as did Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who called on countries of the world to build on Mandela's legacy. The statue was a gift from South Africa to the U.N.

Glacier Melt? Build a Seafloor Wall, Scientists Say

September 21, 2018 Artificial still
A group of scientists from Finland and the U.S. has proposed building seafloor walls to prevent glaciers from melting. The idea is to lump together vertical collections of rock and sand at the base of glaciers. That strategy is in part a response to what a 2016 Jet Propulsion Laboratory study named the main reason for a faster than anticipated rate of melt in the West Antarctica ice shelf: circulation of warm water beneath the ice. The theory is that the newly placed rock-and-sand walls, termed artificial stills, would act as a sort of seafloor bulwark and be tall enough to keep the warm salty water from rising above the top of the walls.

OK Is Just Fine, New Scrabble Dictionary Says
September 24, 2018 Scrabble tiles
OK, then. The two-letter equivalent of "all right" is now officially a Scrabble word. Merriam-Webster, publisher of the dictionary of acceptable words for the popular board game, recently released its sixth edition, adding a number of words. Among the additions were these:

  • arancini
  • bestie
  • emoji
  • ew
  • facepalm
  • macaron
  • OK
  • zomboid.

Girl, 8, Throws First Pitch at All Major League Baseball Parks
September 19, 2018 Hailey Dawson
Hailey Dawson, at 8 years old, has done something that no one else has done: She has thrown out the first pitch at every Major League Baseball park. She did it using a prosthetic hand. She completed her journey on September 16 in Los Angeles, at the home of the Angels. It was stop number 30. Hailey was born in Nevada in 2010 with Poland syndrome, a genetic condition that stops development of muscles on one side of the body. Hailey was born without a right pectoral muscle and with only two fingers on her right hand: thumb and little finger. Hailey's mother, Yong Dawson, got in touch with engineers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, who used a 3D printer to generate a robotic hand for Hailey.

North, South Korea to Submit Joint Bid to Host 2032 Olympics
September 19, 2018
As part of a wider agreement, North Korea and South Korea have agreed to submit a joint bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics. No host sites have been announced. Kim Jong-Un of North Korea and Moon Jae-in of South Korea included that strategy as a result of an agreement by both to take new steps toward peace, including a pledge by North Korea to dismantle a nuclear test site and launch pad and allow international inspectors to verify that it had been done. Pyeongchang, in the South, was the host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics, at which both Korean countries sent athletes that formed a united team. The two countries agreed to a similar strategy for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Smaller Frites? Could Happen, Belgian Potato Growers Warn
September 18, 2018 Pomme frites
Increasingly dry ground across Belgium has led the specter of smaller frites, which many consider the national dish. Frites–or, technically, pomme frites–are similar to what Americans call French fries. According to one leading Belgian agriculture official, a lower amount of rain has resulted in significant areas of dry ground, resulting in a drop in the amount of potatoes produced. And at the end of that chain of events is the possibility that pomme frites, made from potatoes, will be noticeably smaller than usual.

73,0000-year-old 'Hashtag' Found in South Africa
September 16, 2018 Oldest known drawing
Scientists in South Africa have found what they say is the world's oldest drawing. The red ochre sketch is 73,000 years old. The house key-sized sketch is a group of cross-hatch lines that resemble the modern hashtag. Specifically, three slightly curved lines cross six parallel lines. The lines end suddenly on the 1.5-inch-long rock flake because it is a fragment that the scientists found covered in mud. The tool used to make the lines, which study author Christopher Henshilwood said is the oldest abstract drawing, was a stick of ochre that resembled the modern crayon.

Sandstone Sphinx Found at Kom Ombo Temple
September 16, 2018 Sandstone sphinx
Another sphinx has emerged from antiquity. This one, found in the famed Kom Ombo temple, is made of sandstone. Archaeologists were draining water from the Kom Ombo temple when they found the sphinx, in an area that had already yielded a pair of sandstone reliefs from the reign of King Ptolemy V. The sphinx dates to the Ptolemaic era as well, the archaeologists said. An earlier sphinx find stopped construction along the Al-Kabbash Road.

Floating Schools Both Classroom and Bus
September 12, 2018 Students on the floating school
Students in one area of monsoon-prone Bangladesh go to school on a boat, which comes to them. One class of third-graders who live on the Atrai River numbers 29, and the boat is both classroom and school bus-equivalent, picking up and dropping off students, while in between giving them classroom instruction for the day. That instruction includes low-tech and high-tech presentations. A standard-issue blackboard features prominently in some lessons; other lessons involve a solar-powered computer that has Internet access. Students sitting on wooden chairs write with pens and pencils on pads of paper that rest on wooden benches.

Ocean Plastic Cleanup Machine Heads Out to Sea

September 8, 2018 Ocean Cleanup Machine
The first floating cleanup machine in a campaign to tackle the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has headed out to sea. A ship called the Maersk Launchertowed the 2,000-foot-long device, known as System 001, through San Francisco Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and out to sea, for a final three-day test before deployment. Operation is expected to begin in a couple of weeks. The goal is to remove 50 tons of plastic from the giant mass of trash in the Pacific Ocean in the first year of operation. The machine is a combination of pipes and netting designed to remove trash from the ocean. A series of four-foot-diameter closed pipes floats on the ocean surface; below the pipes is a 9-foot-wide net. The idea is that the net captures the garbage but avoids trapping marine life by utilizing the flow of the water itself. An anchor keeps the machine moving slowly and allows the water flow to sort the garbage into the net.

Massive New Wind Farm Opens off U.K. Coast

September 8, 2018 Walney Extension wind farm
The world's largest offshore wind farm is operating off the coast of England—again. The new farm is known as the Walney Extension. It covers 56 square miles of water in the Irish Sea, off the coast of Walney Island, north of Blackpool, England, and features 87 massive turbines, each nearly 640 feet tall. In total, those turbines can generate 659 megawatts of power, enough to power 600,000 homes. The U.K. already had the largest offshore wind farm, the London Array, completed in 2013 off the coast of Kent. That wind farm has nearly twice the number of turbines, but those are smaller than those in the Walney Extension.

New Antarctica Map Is Highest Resolution Yet

September 8, 2018
A group of scientists from two American universities has released what is said to be the most accurate, complete map of Antarctica yet made. The Reference Elevation Model of Antarctica (REMA), created by a joint project between the Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota, shows the height of all mountains and quantifies 98 percent of the ice and other landmasses on the frozen southern continent. The scientists used hundreds of thousands of models pulled from high-tech satellite images to create their new high-resolution topographic map.

Mobile Phone Ban in Schools Takes Effect in France
September 7, 2018 French students and teacher
French students have survived their first week without use of their mobile phones during school hours. As part of a national education reform program, President Emmanuel macron's government enacted a prohibition on the use of mobile phones for schoolchildren under 15 while they are at school. The ban, which includes tablets and smartwatches, does not extend to high schools: Students ages 15–18 can face a ban, but it is up to their schools to enact one. The government, in enacting the ban, said that it was attempting to address what teachers had reported as a distraction to their students' ability to learn and, more worryingly, a rise in online bullying.

Brazil Museum Fire Vaporized 700-item Egyptian Collection
September 6, 2018 National Museum of Brazil fire
All 700 pieces of the National Museum of Brazil's Ancient Egyptian collection have been lost in the fire that ripped through the building recently. The fire engulfed the 200-year-old building and destroyed the vast majority of the more than 20 million artifacts stored inside. No was killed or hurt in the blaze. Some reports said that researchers ran into the burning building and brought back some artifacts when they were forced out by the rising flames. Five mummies were in the Hall of Pharaonic Artifacts, which contained many items belonging to Pedro I, the founder and first ruler of the Empire of Brazil. One of those mummies was in a still unopened sarcophagus. Another, known as "Princess Kherima," had her fingers and toes individually wrapped.

28 States Report Teacher Shortages
September 6, 2018
More than half of U.S. states have a shortage of teachers, according to a survey done by the United Kingdom newspaper the Guardian. The newspaper reported that 28 states reported having too few teachers and that 15 of those 28 states reported an increase in shortages over the previous year. Among the areas in which schools were struggling to fill positions were mathematics, science, and special education.

11,000-year-old Skeleton Among Victims of Brazil Museum Fire
September 4, 2018 Luzia skull
A fire has destroyed millions of artifacts housed in the National Museum of Brazil, including America's oldest human remains. The fire in the Rio de Janeiro museum went unchecked for several hours and destroyed most of the building, which was already in disrepair. Among the more than 20 million artifacts lost was Luzia, the 11,000-year-old skeletal remains of a PaleoIndian woman. Also lost were many, many other priceless things from Ancient Egypt, Mesoamerica, Ancient Rome, and elsewhere. About 10 percent of the museum's collection survived the blaze, the cause of which was still unknown for sure. Compounding the problem, the building's smoke detectors were inoperative, the building had no fire-suppression system, and the fire hydrants closest to the museum had no water (so firefighters had to get water from a nearby pond).

Wizard of Oz Slippers Found 13 Years after Heist
September 4, 2018 Ruby red slippers
Judy Garland's famous red slippers are back, after 13 years in hiding. The iconic slippers, one of four pairs the actress wore in her role as Dorothy Gale in the iconic film The Wizard of Oz, were stolen in August 2005 from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minn., Garland's hometown. The slippers were stored in a glass display case, which was shattered overnight in an apparent robbery. Grand Rapids police, along with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office, revealed the recovery of the shoes at a news conference. Federal officials had already verified the slippers' authenticity by comparing them with another of the four existing pairs, one stored at the Smithsonian's American History museum.

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David White