Current Events


Sweden's 1st Female Prime Minister Back in Charge
November 29, 2021
Magdalena Andersson Sweden will have its first female prime minister, again. Magdalena Andersson, who stepped down mere hours after being elected last week, is once more the leader of the country. The former finance minister and current leader of the Social Democratic Party, Andersson won election but then stepped down after losing a budget vote and a coalition partner. After the Riksdag embraced a budget proposal by the opposition, the Green Party left the two-party ruling coalition. Seeing that, Andersson resigned. This week, she won re-election, on a technicality.

Trojan War Mosaic Found in U.K. Farmer's Field
November 25, 2021
Trojan War mosaic A team of archaeologists in the United Kingdom have found in a farmer's field a Roman mosaic depicting a famous Trojan War scene. The mosaic depicts Achilles and Hector fighting during the epic struggle that many historians say helped define the course of Mediterranean civilization. The remains of the mosaic, which authorities say was commissioned in the 300s, measure 36 feet by 23 feet. The mosaic formed the floor of a large dining area, one of many elements of the villa complex being excavated. Discovering the mosaic in 2020 was Jim Irvine, the son of the landowner, Brian Naylor, who lives in the county of Rutland. Irvine contacted the Leicestershire County Council, which sent out its heritage team; a team from the University of Leicester School of Archaeology and Ancient History did followup excavations in September 2021. Among their other finds were boundary ditches and what they think was a bath house.

More New Entrants into National Toy Hall of Fame
November 25, 2021
National Toy Hall of Fame 2021 winners Education dolls, a board game of world domination, and ubiquitous sand are the latest entrants into the National Toy Hall of Fame. The 18-inch-tall American Girl Dolls burst onto the scene in 1986, the product of educator Pleasant Rowland. Each girl came with a corresponding book, and the pair highlighted an aspect of American cultural and/or social history. The dolls also varied in eye color, hair color, skin tone, face mold, and style of clothing. The board game is Risk, which hit U.S. markets in 1959 and, with its intricate yet understandable game play model, became one of the most popular board games of all time. The dice-based turn-by-turn game, which was based on a French game titled La Conquête du Monde, paved the way for an explosion in the number and popularity of wargames from the 1970s through to today. Sand, of course, is one of the world's oldest substances and, therefore, one of the oldest known media for play.

COP26: Agreement Targets Tough Decisions for Next Year
November 14, 2021
India coal plant The climate conference COP26 has wrapped up after nearly two weeks of meetings and talks in Glasgow, Scotland. Among the progress reported was an agreement made on the very last day that member nations pursue strategies to make significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2022. The COP27 gathering is in Egypt next year, and this year's agreement essentially defers any tough decisions until then. That accelerates the timetable for that kind of action, with previous agreements seeking a target of 2025. For the first time ever, the official language of the COP agreement references coal, a prime producer of greenhouse gases. After strong lobbying by a handful of countries, COP26 President Alok Sharma announced a commitment to "phase down" the use of coal. (Proponents of the move away from fossil fuels had sought to have the agreement include the words "phase out" in regard to coal.) Dozens of countries have agreed to stop using coal to power electricity; those dozens do not include Australia, China, India, or the United States—a quarter that together consumes 66 percent of the world's coal.

'Separate But Equal' Lawbreaker Plessy Pardoned 130 Years Later
November 14, 2021
Homer Plessy may soon have a clean record, 130 years after the fact. Plessy's refusal to obey a law that mandated segregation in Louisiana railway cars led to a landmark 1896 Supreme Court decision (Plessy v. Ferguson) motivated many in the civil rights movement. So Plessy's guilty conviction stood. On Nov. 13, 2021, the Louisiana Board of Pardons voted to remove Plessy's conviction from the books. Arguing the case to do so before the Board of Pardons was the Orleans Parish district attorney, Jason Williams. In announcing its unanimous decision, the Board of Pardons referenced the Avery C. Alexander Act, a 2013 law that allows the governor to issue such a pardon for a person "who has been convicted of violating a state law or municipal ordinance the purpose of which was to maintain or enforce racial separation or discrimination of individuals." All that remains is for the Louisiana governor, John Bel Edwards, to sign the pardon.

Rare Sun Temple Found in Egypt
November 14, 2021
Sun temple The Sun is rising again in Egypt. Archaeologists have found a sun temple built in ancient times. Only six are known to have existed, and only two had been found. The dig is under one of the known sun temples, Abu Gorab, near Abusir, south of Cairo. The Fifth Dynasty pharaoh Nyuserre Ini had that sun temple built. Another, built by Userkaf, is nearby. Archaeologists found Nyuserre Ini's sun temple near the beginning of the 20th Century. An earlier team had found Userkaf's sun temple in the mid-19th Century, but excavations took place only in the 1950s. A sun temple evoked the power of Ra (Re), the sun god. Only pharaohs of the Fifth Dynasty had such temples built, doing so in order to cement their deification while they were alive (as opposed to pyramids, which were designed to ensure that a pharaoh became a god in the afterlife).

LiDAR Finds 400+ Lost Maya, Olmec Sites in Mexico
November 6, 2021
Lidar find in Mexico Yet another big find for LiDAR-aided archaeology, as a new survey in southern Mexico has revealed hundreds of sites used by the Maya and Olmec. A team of archaeologists using the cutting-edge technology surveyed an area covering 32,800 square miles found 478 ceremonial sites for which ground-based surveying would have been insufficient. In some cases, vegetation was too thick for; in other cases, the pattern of a site could be seen only from the air. Mexico's Institution Nacional de Estadística y Geográfia conducted the survey. The team, which included University of Arizona archaeologist Takeshi Inomata, found ceremonial sites dating to the same time period as the well-known Aguada Fenix, site of the Maya's largest known monument, built between 1100 B.C. and 400 B.C. The team of archaeologists also found stronger links between the Maya civilization and the earlier Olmec civilization, in the form of a site just like that found at Aguada Fenix.

Slave Quarters Found Intact at Pompeii
November 6, 2021
Pompeii slave quarters A Pompeii villa has again yielded new understanding centuries after it was destroyed. Archaeologists inspecting Civita Guiliana, a large villa not far from the ancient Italian city's northwest walls, found a set of slave quarters that were nearly intact. Among the finds in the small quarters were beds, pots, and a wooden chest in which were items of fabric and metal. The slave quarters measured 16 square meters (172 square feet) and had no wall decorations and only one light source, a small window in the upper part of one wall. In the quarters were three beds made of wood planks and rope; one bed was child-sized. Nearby were a few ceramic jugs and amphorae.

110 world leaders pledge to end deforestation by 2030
Nov. 2, 2021
Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest A total of 110 world leaders have pledged nearly $20 billion to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. Among the countries signing on was Brazil, home to an ever dwindling Amazon rainforest. China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are also part of the pledge. In all, the countries signing the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forests and Land Use have 85 percent of the forests on the planet. The result would be more trees, which naturally trap large amounts of carbon dioxide, preventing it from escaping into earth's atmosphere and contributing to temperature rise and climate change.

COP26: Climate change summit to focus on hard choices
Oct. 31, 2021
COP26 logo Tensions are expected to be high at COP26, the annual climate change summit attended by world leaders and diplomats. This year, the gathering is in Glasgow, Scotland, and more than 20,000 people are expected to attend events from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12. About 120 heads of state are expected to attend, including U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Joe Biden. Among the elements of the 2015 Paris Agreement was the target of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. A recent United Nations report found that global temperatures were predicted to increase by 2.7 degrees Celsius. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the level of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere was at a record high last year despite the presence of a pandemic that experts say should have potentially curtailed such activity. That doesn't bode well, the organization said, for the target of cutting such emissions in half by 2030.

Diver Finds 900-year-old Crusader Sword in Mediterranean Seabed
October 19, 2021
Crusader sword An amateur diver has discovered a 900-year-old sword off the coast of Israel. The sword likely belonged to a Crusader, officials said. Shlomi Katzin was diving off the Carmel coast, near the port city of Haifa, when he found the 3.3-foot-long iron sword, covered in barnacles, on the bed of the Mediterranean Sea. Katzin, diving in 5.5-yard-deep water 170 yards offshore, also found pottery fragments and a number of anchors, of metal and stone. The movement of sands along the sea bed revealed the long-buried sword, which has a 1-foot-long hilt. The Israel Antiquities Authority, which gave Katzin a certificate of good citizenship for turning the sword in, said that it would soon display the sword.

Indigenous Woman Statue to Replace Columbus in Mexico City
October 12, 2021
Young Woman of Amajac statue An indigenous woman has displaced Christopher Columbus in prominence in Mexico City. City officials have announced that the famous statue of the famed New World explorer will be not return to its location on El Paseo de la Reforma boulevard, the capital city's most prominent street, in order to make way for a new statue, the Young Woman of Amajac, which predates the arrival of Columbus and others to the New World. Archaeologists unearthed the 6-foot-tall statue in Huasteca, a region of the country along the Gulf of Mexico, in January 2021. The statue is on display at the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. The one due to replace the Columbus statue will be a replica, one much larger than the statue that was unearthed, officials said.

Signed 'Shoeless Joe' Photo Sells for $1.47 Million
October 10, 2021
Shoeless Joe Jackson An autographed photo of the iconic baseball player "Shoeless" Joe Jackson has set a record, selling at auction for $1.4 million. The photo, which shows the early 20th Century star wearing a Cleveland Naps jersey and throwing a baseball, is the only known image of Jackson still around. Frank Smith, a photographer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, took the photo.An unknown bidder won the image, which sold as part of the auction Extra Innings: A Private Collection of Important Baseball Memorabilia, run by Christie's and Hunt Auctions. It was the highest amount ever paid for autographed sports photo.

Mint Names First 5 Women to Feature on U.S. Quarters
Oct. 7, 2021
First women on Quarters The U.S. Mint has completed its list of women who will appear in the first year of the American Women Quarters Program. They are Maya Angelou, Wilma Mankiller, Sally Ride, Nina Otero-Warren, and Anna May Wong. Depictions of the women will appear on the reverse of the 25-cent coins, to be released during a five-year program that begins in 2022. Angelou was a poet and civil rights activist perhaps most well-known for her 1969 autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Ride was the first American woman to fly into space, aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983. Mankiller was the first woman to be elected head of the Cherokee Nation, a position that she had for a decade. Otero-Warren was the first woman to be superintendent of the public school system in Santa Fe and the first Latina to run for Congress Wong was Hollywood's first Chinese-American film star, appearing in a number of silent movies, alongside such big names as Douglas Fairbanks, and then in "talking" pictures, including with Marlene Dietrich in the Oscar-winning Shanghai Express. Those two sets of coins will appear in circulation beginning in 2022. A total of 20 women will similarly appear during the next four years.

3,000-year-old Golden Bowl Found at Austrian Dig Site
October 3, 2021
Urnfield golden bowl Archaeologists have found a 3,000-year-old golden sun bowl at a settlement in Austria. The 20-centimeter-in-diameter bowl, which sports a depiction of the rays of the Sun, is one of hundreds of objects found near Ebreichsdorf, at which archaeologists have been digging since 2019. The bowl, which is 5 centimeters tall, is made of 90 percent gold; the rest is silver and copper. Coiled golden wire lay inside the bowl, which the archaeologists found near the wall of a home found at the prehistoric settlement. Dr. Michal Sip, the Polish archaeologist leading the excavations, said that such bowls had been found elsewhere in Europe but that that this one was the first such bowl found in what is now Austria. European archaeologists have found 30 such bowls in all.

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David White