Current Events

 

Nay Again on Brexit: Two-week Deadline Invoked
March 31, 2019 Brexit
The United Kingdom's Parliament has rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal for a third time, even though the third version was a stripped-down version of the original proposal. As a result, the U.K. will leave the European Union on April 12. In a special sitting of Parliament, lawmakers again voted down the deal that May had negotiated with EU representatives. The vote the third time was the closest yet, at 344–, but it was still a defeat. May had offered to resign as Prime Minister if it meant that Parliament passed the deal. Parliament had also, late last week, rejected eight different alternatives to May's deal. In response, European Council President Donald Tusk said that EU leaders would meet on April 10 in order to discuss how the U.K. leaves. The European Council has been adamant that it would not accept any "mini deals" or other kinds of side arrangements.

Red Cross to Provide Aid to Venezuela
March 31, 2019
In the midst of a political power struggle set against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and an unstable electrical grid, Venezuela will soon receive humanitarian aid, thanks to efforts by the Red Cross. Medical equipment and surgical kits will be part of the shipment, as will power generators. The country suffered through a weeklong blackout recently and another daylong blackout just a few days ago. Both blackouts affected people around the country.

Lights Wink Out around the World for Earth Hour
March 31, 2019
More than 180 countries turned out the lights for Earth Hour in its 12th year. The iconic lights-out-for-an-hour event designed to call attention to humans' dependence on electricity (and the burning of fossil fuels to feed that dependency) and to the growing problem of global warming had tens of millions of people around the world taking part, according to event organizer World Wide Fund for Nature. Among the iconic world landmarks gone dark were these:

  • the Empire State Building, in New York City
  • Big Ben, in London
  • the Great Pyramids, in Giza, Egypt
  • the Christ the Redeemer statue, outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • the Sydney Opera House, in Sydney, Australia
  • the Eiffel Tower, in Paris
  • the Acropolis, in Athens, Greece
  • the Colosseum and St. Peter's Basilica, in Rome
  • the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain
  • Taipei 101, in the Taiwanese capital
  • the Burf Khalifa, the world's tallest building, in Dubai.

New York Bans Plastic Bags Statewide
March 31, 2019
New York will in 2020 become yet another state to ban the use of single-use plastic bags in retail sales, after lawmakers voted to approve a call by Gov. Andrew Cuomo a year ago. Retail stores will not be allowed to offer customers plastic bags and could be free to charge 5 cents a bag if customers request paper bags (with 3 cents going to the state's Environmental Protect Fund and local governments getting the other 2 cents). Exemptions would be made for plastic takeout bags used by restaurants and deli and meat counters and for plastic bags that customers use in supermarkets to carry fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, state officials said, the plastic-bag ban does not apply to dry cleaners.

Brexit Redux: Parliament Nixes 8 Different Plans
March 27, 2019 Brexit
The United Kingdom is no closer to securing any kind of legislation surrounding Brexit, after Parliament rejected eight single alternatives to a plan already rejected twice–one championed by Prime Minister Theresa May and hammered out with the approval of the European Union. Parliament declared its intention to go its own way in debating and then voting on the eight measures. One of those was a repeat of a decision taken just a week earlier: no leaving the EU without a deal at all. The plan that came closest to succeeding was one that would see the U.K. leaving the EU but remain in a permanent customs union arrangement with the EU, guaranteeing free trade of goods between the U.K. and EU member nations. The key word in the proposal was "permanent," which is why ultimately a slight majority of lawmakers rejected it.

EU Gives U.K. Two Extensions for Sealing Brexit Deal
March 24, 2019 Brexit referendum march
The European Union has decided to give the United Kingdom a little more time to figure out (if or) how Brexit will proceed. The other 27 member countries of the EU voted to give the UK a brief extension, not the monthslong one that UK Prime Minister Theresa May had requested. May had asked for a six-month extension. The EU handed down its own ironclad response: May 22, provided that the UK Parliament approves an agreement for how it will all happen, April 12 if no deal is reached. One option open to Parliament is to rescind the invocation of Article 50. That would mean that the UK would remain in the EU. That looked to be the preference of many of the hundreds of thousands of people who gathered for a march in London's Parliament Square on the weekend. Many of the marchers demanded a new referendum on Brexit.

Kenyan Science Teacher Wins $1 Million Global Teacher Prize
March 24, 2019 Global Teacher Prize winner 2019
Peter Tabichi, a science teacher from rural Kenya, has won the $1 million Global Teacher Prize. Tabichi, who also a member of the Franciscan religious order, teaches at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School on Pwani Village, Nakuru, in a remote part of the country's Rift Valley. Some of his 480 students walk more than four miles to attend the school. He has expanded the school's Science Club and begun a Talent Nurturing Club and has seen his students themselves succeed in national and international science competitions, including winning an award from the Royal Society of Chemistry for their project that generated electricity by harnessing energy from local plant life and qualifying for the 2019 INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair. The school has one desktop computer and an intermittent Internet signal. Still, Tabichi insists on using computer technology in the majority of his teaching time. He routinely travels to a nearby cyber cafe to download lessons for this students. Enrollment at the school has doubled in just three years. Achievement, particularly that of girls, has risen as well.

Herodotus Boat Description Corroborated 2,500 Years Later

March 21, 2019
Archaeologists say that a recent underwater discovery solves a mystery of Ancient Egypt. The discovery is that of a baris, a barge mentioned in a famous ancient text but, until now, not discovered. Egyptians would have used a baris to ship fish and other goods along the Nile. It would have plied the waters of the Nile 2,500 years ago, archaeologists said. The barge, labeled "ship17," is between 87 and 92 feet long and is one of several dozen wrecks found in the port area of Thonic-Heracleion, in the Nile Delta region. The city was a major trading port for centuries but sunk into the Mediterranean 1,200 years ago. Marine archaeologists rediscovered it in 1999. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote about this exact kind of ship centuries ago, in his Histories; and historians have debated its existence for many years since.

Oldest Ever Astrolabe Discovered off Oman Coast
March 21, 2019 Oldest ever astrolabe
Archaeologists have discovered a world-record-setting navigational tool amid a shipwreck at the bottom of the sea. The ship, the Esmerelda, sank in 1503, near the coast of the island of Al-Hallānīyah, which is today part of the country of Oman. The navigational tool is an astrolabe, which the Guinness World Records office has certified as the oldest known such device. The astrolabe was a circular device that medieval navigators used to find their latitude on Earth relative to the position of the Sun or of stars in the night sky. The found astrolabe, made of a copper alloy, measures just under 7 inches in diameter and sports the Portuguese coat of arms.

Hawaii Considering Ban on To-go Foam Containers
March 21, 2019 Loco Moco in foam container
Hawaii is considering banning plastics at restaurants, including foam containers used in takeaway or to-go meals. State Sen. Mike Gabbard is the also of the bill calling for the ban, which is working its way through the state government. Gabbard has also written an even more restricter bill, one that would call for fast food and full-service restaurants from using plastic bags, drink bottles, stirring sticks, straws, and utensils. The measure would also ban plastic trash bags. The Hawaii State Senate has passed both bills and sent them on to the State House. Two of Hawaii's islands, Maui and Hawaii (Big Island), have already adopted similar bans.

U.K. Asks EU to Extend Brexit Deadline
March 21, 2019 Brexit
The United Kingdom has officially requested an extension to the March 29 deadline for leaving the European Union. U.K Prime Minister Theresa May made the request to EU Council President Donald Tusk in a letter, after the U.K. Parliament declined not to have a third vote on the agreement that May and EU officials had reached regarding how the U.K. and EU countries would move forward after Brexit, the term now used exclusively to describe this departure. Tusk has already responded, saying that any extension must be accompanied by support from the U.K. Parliament. If the European Council does not agree (and just one country's voting no would mean that they don't agree), then the March 29 deadline stands and the U.K. would leave the EU, with or without any kind of agreement. Already, officials from a few other countries have indicated a willingness to veto a move for an extension.

Climatestrike Hits 2,000 Cities Worldwide
March 16, 2019 Melbourne Climatestrike crowd
Students turned out in the tens of thousands in more than 2,000 cities and towns in 120 countries for Climatestrike, a walkout to call attention to the dangers of climate change. Protests took place in population centers large and small, at schools and public places, at city halls and national capitals. Students at the very large strike in Melbourne called the leader of one of the country's major political parties to urge him to get behind measures to deal with problems stemming from climate change. He didn't answer, and the students left a pointed message. In Montreal, more than 110,000 Quebec university students joined the strike. Students in that city disrupted morning classes by forming human chains around school buildings. In London, students holding signs and chanting slogans gathered in Parliament Square with a few select messages for U.K. lawmakers, among them "We want you to panic" and "The greatest threat to the planet is the belief that someone else will save it."

U.K. Parliament Votes to Extend Brexit Deadline
March 14, 2019
It was the third straight day of possibly monumental change in the United Kingdom, as lawmakers voted to ask for an extension to the March 29 deadline that the country faces for leaving the European Union. As the result of a 2016 nationwide referendum, Prime Minister Theresa May has set in motion a series of actions that the U.K. needs to take. One of the most important has been to negotiate an agreement with the European Union (EU) on what will happen to agreements such as trade and immigration. The March 29 was the result of a two-year timeline that was set into motion in 2017.

World Youths Planning to Ditch School for Climatestrike
March 13, 2019 Climatestrike map
Hundreds of thousands of students in countries around the world are expected to avoid going to school on March 15 in order to urge action to address climate change. The global action is called Climatestrike and includes protests in the United States and 80 other countries, from every continent except Antarctica. According to 13-year-old Alexandria Villasenor, the co-leader of the U.S. protest event, 400 strikes will occur in the U.S. alone. Climatestrike is part of a global youth environmental movement that has seen a rapid upturn in the last two years thanks to the efforts of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who spent several weeks outside her country's Parliament building last year to call attention to the problem..

Long-lost Rules of Ancient Chinese Board Game Found
March 13, 2019

Archaeologists have found the long-lost rules to an ancient Chinese board game. The game, known as liubo is thought to be the ancestor of Chinese chess. The rules were found on a group of more than 5,200 bamboo slips excavated from the tomb of the Marquis of Haihun, near Nanchang in the eastern province of Jiangxi. Officials at Peking University's institute of excavated text research confirmed that more than 1,000 of the slips of bamboo contained reference to the rules of the ancient game. Pieces and boards for the game have turned up in several tombs dating to the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.—A.D. 220), when the game was very popular and played by both men and women.

U.K. Parliament Rejects 'No-deal Brexit'
March 13, 2019 Brexit

The United Kingdom's Parliament has rejected a proposal to leave the European Union without coming to an agreement on certain fundamental things. The vote on the so-called "no-deal Brexit" was 321–278 in favor of an amendment to an existing proposal that "rejects the United Kingdom leaving the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement." The U.K. is due to leave the EU on March 29, whether or not any sort of agreement between the two entities has been reached. Parliament had just a day before voted down the deal negotiated with the EU by Prime Minister Theresa May, 391–242. May had called a similar vote in recent weeks, and the result had been the same.

Alaskan Kaiser Wins 2019 Iditarod
March 13, 2019

Pete Kaiser Peter Kaiser has won the 2019 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, crossing the finish line in Nome in a time of 9 days, 12 hours, 39 minutes, and 6 seconds. He had eight dogs on his time as the sled crossed the line. It was Kaiser's ninth straight go at the Iditarod, having finished 28th as a rookie in 2010. His highest placing before this year was 5th place, in both 2012 and 2018. The 31-year-old Kaiser is the fifth Alaska native and the first musher of Yup'ik descent to win the race.

Charges Fly as Venezuela Blackout Continues
March 10, 2019 In the dark

Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido issued a call for a large protest in Caracas, as millions of people went without electrical power for a fourth day. President Nicolas Maduro blamed cyberattacks for the blackout. Guaido, who recently returned to the country after visiting a few other South American countries to drum up support, stood atop a bridge in the capital while making his speech. He did not specify a date, time, or place for the protest. He did summon a special meeting of the National Assembly, of which he is the leader, for Monday; Guaido said that the planned to declare a national emergency. A scuffle between protesters and security forces preceded Guaido's speech. No one was injured. Elsewhere in the city, a march organized by the ruling Socialist Party called for support for President Nicolas Maduro, who blamed saboteurs foreign and domestic for the electrical power outages, which began with a large power cut at one of the country's largest power plants. Also a target of that march's ire were new oil sanctions announced recently by the U.S. The head of the international organization Doctors for Health said that 17 people had died so far in the blackout and that nine of those died in emergency rooms. Elsewhere, nurses were monitoring the vital signs of expectant mothers by hand and by candlelight, after backup generators at the hospital failed.

Thousands Protest Russian Internet Bill
March 10, 2019 Internet protest in Moscow
Protests in three Russian cities, including Moscow, targeted the government's recent restrictions on Internet use. More than 15,000 people attended the protest in Moscow, making it one of the largest in the Russian capital in many years, according to an international organization that specializes in counting crowds. The number of people that Moscow police reported to have been at the protest was about half that. Police also denied protesters' claims of detaining anyone who had attended the rally. Protests also took place in two other cities, Khabarovsk and Voronezh. Russian lawmakers in February passed a bill that would cycle all Internet traffic and data within Russia government-owned electronic mechanisms. Also a part of the bill was a proposal to build a national Domain Name System. The bill had its first read and was approved, and a second reading is planned for this month. Assuming approval, President Vladimir Putin plans to sign the bill into law.

U.S. Music Teacher Finalist for $1 Million Global Teacher Prize
March 10, 2019 Melissa Salguero
An elementary school teacher from New York is a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, the first time a music teacher has made it that far. Melissa Salguero teaches music at Joseph R. Drake Elementary School in the Bronx. She said that she was inspired to teach music because she had her own inspirational journey while she was in school. She has dyslexia and struggled in school. Joining the school band helped her get through school. At Joseph R. Drake, she worked tirelessly to raise money and interest in restarting the school's music program, which had been dormant for more than 30 years. She was named the 2013 Big Apple Awards & Lincoln Center Arts Teacher of the Year. Just last year, she won the GRAMMY Music Educator Award.

Salguero is the only American finalist for the prestigious award, handed out each year in Dubai. A total of 10 finalists are named, out of a pool of more than 10,000 teachers from 39 countries.

Missing King Tut Model Boat Found
March 7, 2019 King Tut's miniature boat
Pieces of a model boat buried with Egypt's fabled "Boy King" Tutankhamen have been found in a box at the Luxor Museum. Mohamed Atwa, director of archaeology and information at the museum, found the box–which contained a wooden mast, a set of rigging, and a tiny wooden head–in a storeroom. Inside the box, the items were wrapped inside a newspaper dated March 5, 1933. According to museum records, the items were reported missing in 1973.

Petit Leading Iditarod at Halfway Point
March 7, 2019 Nicolas Petit
About halfway through the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Nicolas Petit is leading the way, with perennial challenger Aliky Zirkle hot on his dog's heels. Last year's champion, Joar Leifseth Ulsom, is in third. Martin Buser, a four-time champion, was the only other musher who had reached the Iditarod checkpoint, 432 miles from the start and about halfway through the race.

'Nude Mona Lisa' May Be Leonardo Work, Experts Say
March 7, 2019 Monna Vanna face
Scientists now say that Leonardo Da Vinci very well could have been the hand behind a charcoal drawing that looks very much like a nude Mona Lisa. The "Monna Vanna," as the drawing is known, has long been considered a product of Leonardo's studio, which featured many artists, but Leonardo himself wasn't thought to have been the one who did it. Scientists have painstakingly examined the work at a microscopic level at the C2RMF laboratory beneath the Louvre Museum and have come to the conclusion that is was likely Leonardo himself who created the drawing.

Teacher Wins $10,000 for Reading Fine Print
March 7, 2019 Fine print reader
A schoolteacher has won a $30,000 payout, $10,000 for herself, from an insurance company for reading the fine print. Donelan Andrews, of Thomaston, Ga., took out a $400 travel insurance policy from Squaremouth because she is traveling with six of her friends to London. She was reading through the fine print in the policy, which runs to dozens of pages, when she found reference to a reward. The policy is from Squaremouth subsidiary Tin Leg, and the documentation referenced a secret contest: the first person to notify the company that the he or she had found the reference would get a reward of $10,000. The reference was on the last page of the policy.

Kansan Wins International Pancake Day Race
March 6, 2019

International Pancake Day winner 2019 Maggie Lapinski was first across the line, in 62.98 seconds, in the annual Pancake Day Race in Liberal, Kan. Maria Alba and Morgan Potts were second and third, respectively. It was another win for Liberal in the international competition, as the fastest time in Olney, in England, was 70 seconds, run by Amy Butler. Other races takes place throughout the Liberal celebration, but the official race is only open to women who are 18 or older. The race is a 415-yard course that follows an "S" shape, to mirror the route supposedly taken by the woman late for church all those years ago. Competitors must wear a head scarf, an apron, and a skirt; they must carry a frying pan, and they must flip the pancake in the pan at least twice, once at the start and once at the finish. The Liberal race is part of a multi-day affair, involving other races (including a 5K running race that involves not one pancake), other contests (among them a timed test of pancake flipping), a parade, a talent show, a shriving church service, and (of course) a pancake breakfast.

Venezuela Opposition Leader Home Safely
March 5, 2019 Juan Guaido
Juan Guaido, head of Venezuela's opposition, has returned home, landing at the country's main airport without incident. He quickly set about issuing more calls for the current president, Nicolas Maduro, to resign. Guaido had been in five other South American cities–Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Paraguay–in order to drum up support for his self-proclaimed presidency. Guaido in January invoked an obscure part of the national constitution to declare himself president, in the process declaring invalid the presidency of Maduro, who won re-election last year. Guaido attended a large rally in Caracas and called for widespread protests at the weekend.

Oakland Teacher Strike Ends as District Grants Raise
March 2, 2019
Oakland teachers ended their walkout after seven days, having won concessions from the school district. Under the terms of the agreement, Oakland teachers would get an 11-percent raise and a onetime 3-percent bonus. Most of the city's 3,000 teachers went to school on Feb. 21 but not to teach. They formed picket lines, along with nurses and counselors, and continued their demand for more money and smaller class sizes. Most of the district's 36,000 students stayed away from schools, which the district had kept open, staffed by skeleton crews. Many students joined their teachers in picket lines.

18 Governors Announce Plans to Raise Teacher Salaries
March 2, 2019
So far this year, 18 governors have announced support for raising teacher salaries. Many of those statements have come in the governors' State of the State addresses. Not all governors have given those speeches yet.

Iditarod 2019: Ceremonial Start in the Snow
March 3, 2019
2019 Iditarod ceremonial start The ceremonial start marked the beginning of events for the 47th annual running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race. Unlike in recent years, the snow is plentiful. During the ceremonial start, the mushers (15 of them women) and their teams left at two-minute intervals and made their way leisurely through the 11-mile crowd-lined Anchorage route. The race gets underway in earnest the day after the ceremonial start. The start is in Willow; the finish is in Nome. The race will traverse the Southern Route this year. The Southern Route has 19 checkpoints and goes through Ophir, Iditarod, Shageluk, Anvik, Grayling, Eagle Island, Kaltag, Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, Koyuk, Elim, Golovin, White Mountain, and Safety before ending in Nome.

Iditarod 2019: Teacher on the Trail
March 3, 2019 Iditarod Teacher on the Trail 2019
Brain Hickox, an 8th-grader teacher from Weymouth, Mass., is the 2019 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Teacher on the Trail. Hickox, who has already been posting updates online, will share lesson plans using the Iditarod as a theme, as well as visiting schools and volunteering in villages used as checkpoints along the route. For the ceremonial start, he was an Iditarider, riding on the back of the sled of one of the participants, Ramey Smyth.

Oakland Teacher Strike Stretches to 6 Days
February 27, 2019
Teachers in Oakland are still on strike, one week later. The nearly 3,000 members of the Oakland Education Association walked off the job on Feb. 20, forming picket lines in front of schools and attending a rally in front of City Hall. Among their demands were higher salaries, smaller class sizes, and more counselors and nurses in schools. The union and the Oakland Unified School District remain far apart on salary. The union is seeking a 12-percent raise. The district had offered a 7-percent raise and, in the past week, has increased that offer to 8 percent, to be implemented during a four-year period, and a onetime 2-percent bonus. Negotiations between the two sides have lengthened recently, but no agreement has been reached.

Amenhotep III Criosphinx Found Abandoned in Quarry
February 27, 2019 Criosphinx at Aswan
Archaeologists have found a sandstone ram-headed sphinx that was abandoned in a quarry more than 3,000 years ago, during the reign of Amenhotep III. The workers found the 11.5-foot-tall sphinx at Gebel el-Silsila, a quarry near Aswan. Also among the finds was a uraeus, a carving of a cobra that is considered a symbol of royalty and is thought to have once sat atop the sphinx. They also found a smaller sphinx and a number of hieroglyph-covered stone fragments from a collapsed shrine of Amenhotep III, the pharaoh who ruled Egypt in the 14th Century B.C., during what is known as the New Kingdom.

Oakland Teachers on Strike
February 23, 2019 Oakland teachers on strike
Thousands of teachers in Oakland went on strike, after negotiations between the teacher union and the school district broke down. The Oakland Education Association, whose teachers have been working without a contract since July 2017, is seeking a 12-percent rise in teacher salary, an increase in counselors and nurses in schools, and a reduction in class size. The Oakland Unified School District is offering a 7.5-percent raise, to be implemented during a three-year period, and a 1.5-percent bonus dating to the expiration of the previous contract. The striking teachers picketed their schools in the morning and then attended a rally at city hall at midday. The 86 affected schools, with about 26,000 students, remained open.

Humanitarian Aid Trucks Burned in Venezuela
February 23, 2019 Venezuela aid truck on fire
Venezuelan troops burned aid trucks and fired tear gas and rubber bullets, killing a handful of people accompanying the foreign aid. Dozens more people were injured in the confrontation, which happened at the country's border with Colombia. Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro said that his government would break ties with Colombia because of its support the aid convoys and gave Colombian diplomats a day to leave the country. Juan Guaido, the National Assembly leader who declared himself President a few weeks ago, had been with the aid convoy as it left the Colombian city of Cucuta; the trucks not fired on returned to warehouses in that city. The confrontation that resulted in the burning of trucks carrying aid took place on the Francisco de Paula Santander bridge, which links Colombia and Venezuela. Some protesters got some of the aid off the burning trucks. The trucks that were burned or resisted were full of humanitarian aid were from the United States, which has formally recognized Guaido as the rightful leader of Venezuela. Two other trucks, filled with humanitarian aid from Brazil, were allowed in to Venezuela, crossing the border between those two countries at Pacaraima.

Tools, Testing Pinpoint Origin of Stonehenge Bluestones: Wales
February 25, 2019 Bluestones
The massive rocks that now make up Stonehenge were dragged there from Welsh quarries 180 miles away, archaeologists said. The archaeologists, led by University College London's Michael Parker Pearson, said that the bluestones, the earliest of the large stones at the famous monument on the Salisbury Plain, came from Carn Geodog and Craig Rhos-y-felin, two quarries in the Preseli hills, in Pembrokeshire. Chemical testing at Stonehenge found matches to the areas around the quarries. As well, the ancient Britons excavated the quarries about 3000 B.C. and then transported the giant stones to their current location using human-powered wooden sleds. Using ropes and simple tools, the ancient people would have had a somewhat easy time of it because the bluestones were not buried inside larger areas of rock.

Celebrating 150 Years of Chemistry's Periodic Table
February 17, 2019
Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev published his first draft of chemistry's Periodic Table of Elements in 1869. It had only 63 elements on it. As of 2019, the Periodic Table has 118 elements on it. The United Nations has declared 2019 the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mendeleev's publication. Activities all around the world are part of this commemoration.

Deal Reached to End Denver Teachers Strike
February 16, 2019
Denver teachers have gone back to work, after an agreement between their union and the Denver Public School District ended a walkout after four days. More than half of the district's 4,725 teachers went on strike. Early child care centers were closed, but other school remained open. Some students joined their teachers in the picket line; others went to school as normal. The teachers union, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, said that the deal included a base pay increase of from 7 to 11 to percent for the next school year–courtesy of a 20-step pay increase schedule–and, on top of that, a cost-of-living increase this year and the next. Teachers also got another of the things they wanted: a pay scaled based on experience and education, with professional development courses being considered, not just degrees. Teachers agreed to keep the incentive pay scheme that the district wanted, one that prioritizes high-poverty schools, roles at which are traditionally harder to fill.

Narcissus Fresco Found in Pompeii House
February 18, 2019 Narcissus fresco in Pompeii
Archaeologists in Pompeii have found a fresco detailing the famous Greek mythological figure Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. The fresco is in the same house where another fresco, depicting the myth of Leda and the Swan, was recently unearthed. Both works survived the deadly eruption of Mount Vesuvius that ravaged the town of Pompeii in 79 A.D.

En Garde, and May the Force Be with You
February 18, 2019
Lightsaber dueling is an officially recognized competitive sport in France. Participants have to provide their own force, however. The handheld swordlike weapons made famous in the Star Wars universe are the inspiration for LED-lit polycarbonate replicas that duelist can now use in competitions sanctioned by the French Fencing Federation. Federation officials said that they took the action in part to combat the sedentary lifestyle now embraced by many of today's youth (and adults).

USS Hornet Found Upright on Pacific Ocean Floor
February 11, 2019 USS Hornet found
Researchers trawling the depths of Earth's oceans looking for missing ships have found a big one: the USS Hornet. The Petrel research vessel, funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, found the wreck of the U.S. aircraft carrier 17,500 feet beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean, in the vicinity of the Solomon Islands. Sonar images taken from overhead show the Hornet in an upright position, as it if floated that way to ocean floor. Because of the depth, the ship is largely intact, the researchers said.

Denver Teachers on Strike
February 11, 2019 Denver teachers on strike
More than 2,000 teachers in the Denver public school system are on strike, after negotiations between the union and the district again failed to reach agreement. Some students joined picket lines as well; other students crossed picket lines in order to attend classes that were to be taught by substitute teachers. The existing contract covering the teachers expired on January 18. Negotiations between the Denver Public Schools District and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association had carried on for 15 months without an agreement. The union, which represents most of the district's 5,600 teachers, is seeking a total package of $28.5 million; the district was seeking a total package of $23.3 million. The two sides also had competing versions of how to apportion whatever figure is eventually agreed on: teachers were seeking more chances to get a pay increase, whereas the district wants to put teachers in high-poverty schools as a way of getting a bonus. District officials said that all 161 schools in the district would be open while the strike is on, and substitute teachers will be available in some cases; classes at early childhood education centers will not take place. The district now has 90,000 students.

Humanitarian Aid Denied Entry into Venezuela
February 11, 2019
The crisis in Venezuela is deepening, as more and more countries get involved in choosing sides between two political leaders who claim to be the country's leader. Meanwhile, many people are starving or fleeing the country and humanitarian aid sits unattended at the border. In recent days and weeks, more and more countries have publicly recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido, not President Nicolas Maduro, as the rightful ruler of Venezuela. Among those countries so doing was the United States, with President Trump personally doing the recognizing. The U.S. sent a large shipment of humanitarian aid–food and medical supplies, complete with doctors to administer the medical supplies, but Maduro has set up military cordons to block the aid's entry into the country, saying that he believes the aid to be a sham and the pretext for a military intervention.

Ray Gun Pinpoints Origin of Medieval Ceramics
February 11, 2019 X-ray fluorescence detector
Scientists have used a ray gun to determine the origin of a collection of medieval ceramics from a shipwreck. The wreck, recovered from the depths of the Java Sea in the 1990s, contained thousands of pieces of cargo, of which a large part has been recovered. The salvaged elements now make up the Java Sea Shipwreck collection at the Field Museum in Chicago. The scientists employed an X-ray fluorescence detector–which closely resembles a ray gun right out of science fiction– in scans of the ceramic pieces. Comparing the X-ray scanning results with what they already knew, the scientists determined that the ceramics were made more than 2,000 miles from where the ship sank.

Egyptian President Heads up African Union
February 10, 2019
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is the new chair of the African Union, after being approved at a meeting of the heads of the state of the participating member states in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The African Union (AU) is a 55-member body that looks to address issues common to all African nations. Chair of the AU rotates among the continent's five geographic regions: Central, East, North, South, and West.

Venezuela's Dueling Leaders Continue Standoff
February 3, 2019
Nicolas Maduro
Nicolas Maduro
Juan Guaido
Juan Guaido

The political showdown in Venezuela has continued, as the leader of the elected government and the leader of the opposition continue to refer to themselves as President. President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn in for another six-year term earlier this year, has rejected an ultimatum from several European countries that he run new presidential elections. He won re-election by a large margin; many opposition leaders were exiled or imprisoned and many opposition parties boycotted the election. Maduro has the support of the army and of the National Constituent Assembly, a legislative body that was formed in 2017, in response to elections that resulted in the opposition's gaining control of the National Assembly, traditionally the country's top governmental body. Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is the head of the National Assembly, recently declared himself President, saying that Maduro's election was illegitimate. He has the support of a few of the country's top generals, who have switched sides in recent days.

Team Ruff Back on Top in Puppy Bowl
February 3, 2019 Puppy Bowl XV MVP Bumble
Team Ruff returned to their winning ways with a thrilling 59–51 victory in Puppy Bowl XV. The win by the Ruff-sters broke a two-year winning streak by Team Fluff. Team Ruff Captain Bennett accepted the Lombarky Trophy on behalf of the team. (In one of many parallels between the Puppy Bowl and the Super Bowl, the winners of the football championship get possession of the Vince Lombardi Trophy.) MVP Bumble led Team Ruff to victory, becoming the first special needs dog to win the award. Bumble, a Lab-Chow Chow mix who is deaf and vision-impaired, was unstoppable.

Star Wars, Tennis Star Highlight Sapporo Snow Festival
February 3, 2019 Sapporo Snow Festival Naomi Osaka
Large crowds are the norm at the Sapporo Snow Festival, which runs from January 31 to February 11 in Japan's large Hokkaido city. The festival is celebrating its 70th year in 2019. It began with a number of schoolchildren who responded to the end of heavy blizzards by using the snow to build a small handful of sculptures. Their handiwork drew a crowd of about 50,000 that year, and it became an informal annual event. In 1955, members of the Self Defense Force joined in, creating a series of large snow sculptures. Annual attendance grew steadily, took off after worldwide TV coverage of the 1972 Winter Olympics, and now routinely numbers about 2 million. One very popular subject fo sculpture in 2019 has been tennis player Naomi Osaka, who won two straight Grand Slam tournaments, the 2018 U.S. Open and the 2019 Australian Open.

The Facts and Consequences of the Federal Government Shutdown
January 28, 2019
The longest shutdown in U.S. Government history lasted 35 days and ended with the signing of a continuing resolution that doesn't solve the problem. What Congress approved and President Trump signed keeps the government open through February 15. Here's what happened while the government was shut down and what might happen as a result. See also a history of government shutdowns.

Venezuela Crisis Deepens as U.S. Diplomats Ordered to Leave
January 27, 2019
The political crisis in Venezuela is deepening, as embattled President Nicolas Maduro struggles to hold on to power despite considerable political opposition, inside the country and out. Maduro recently ordered all American diplomats to leave the country, giving them a deadline of 30 days to comply. Many top U.S. officials, including President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the leader of the country. Protests against Maduro's government have been widespread for more than a week. More than two dozen people have died, and several hundred have been detained by police.

China Unveils 86-foot-long 3D-printed Bridge
January 24, 2019 3D-printed pedestrian bridge
China recently completed construction on the world's longest sea bridge. Now, the country has taken the wraps off the longest 3D-printed pedestrian bridge. The foot traffic bridge is 86 feet long and spans a waterway in Shanghai. A team of people from Beijing's Tsinghua University School of Architecture, led by Professor Xu Weiguo, designed the bridge, based on an existing model, the Zhaozhou Bridge. That bridge, in Hebei Province, is 1,400 years old; China says that that bridge, made from limestone slabs, is the longest-standing bridge in the world.

King Tut's Tomb Restoration Done
January 23, 2019 King Tut mask
After a decade, the restoration of the tomb of famed boy king Tutankhamen is complete. The tomb, discovered in 1922 by a team led by Howard Carter, was in pristine condition and yielded a large number of riches, many of which have been displayed in museums all over the world. The Getty Conservation Institute, of Los Angeles, and Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities completed the project, the facets of which included shoring up the tomb's wall paintings and adding a new ventilation system to protect against future damage. The tomb has been visited by a great many people through the years, and those visitors have stirred up dust and, merely by breathing, added large amounts of carbon dioxide to the area.

L.A. Teachers Back in School after 6-day Strike
January 23, 2019
Teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District are back on the job, after voting to approve a deal between the teachers union and school officials that ended a six-day strike. Affected had been more than 30,000 teachers and nearly half a million students.

Oldest Periodic Table Found Tucked Away in Scotland
January 19, 2019 Oldest periodic table
Officials at St. Andrews University in Scotland say that they have found the world's oldest periodic table of the elements. During a clean-out in 2014, Dr. Alan Aitken found the chart rolled up in a collection of other teaching materials in a storage area that had been gaining an increasing amount of material since 1968. The chart was in very fragile condition when discovered. University officials have completed a full restoration, and the chart now rests in climate-controlled conditions designed to keep it safe. A full facsimile is available for public use.

Hottest Ocean Temperatures, Again
January 16, 2019
For the fifth year in a row, the world's oceans were the hottest ever tracked, according to an international team of scientists. The mean sea level rise was 29.5 millimeters above the 1981–2010 average, the largest observed since tracking began in 1958. The continued prevalence of production of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases has resulted in record increases since 2014; scientists have also said that the rate of heat increase in rising even as the gases, and the heat that they trap, are not.

Schools Turning to E-Learning on Snow Days
January 16, 2019
Schools in at least four U.S. states are going ahead with e-learning days, another way in which schools are turning to technology to try to solve problems. The idea is to keep students working on snow days, even though schools are closed.

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Social Studies for Kids
copyright 20022018
David White