Current Events: 2021 (First Quarter)


Railroad Merger to Create 1st-ever Canada-Mexico-U.S. Network
March 21, 2021

In a bid to stimulate trade throughout North America, the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railroads announced a $29 billion merger deal that, if approved, would result in the first rail network to link Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. The nexus of the new 20,000-mile network would be Kansas City, Mo., through which both existing railroads run. Canadian Pacific covers the East and West Coast of Canada and the U.S.; Kansas City Southern runs through Mexico and Panama. The new company is to be called Canadian Pacific Kansas City and have three headquarters: a global one in Calgary, Alberta; a U.S. one in Kansas City; and a shared Mexico one in Mexico City and Monterrey. Boards of both existing companies have approved the merger, in unanimous fashion. Finalization, including the requisite approvals from outside entities, is expected in mid-2022.

CDC Relaxes Schools' Social Distancing to 3 Feet
March 21, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control is now recommending that most U.S. students could return to in-person instruction at school, provided that they are spaced three feet apart and that they and their teachers wear a mask. The previous social distancing recommendation, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, was that students be spaced six feet apart (and wear masks). That requirement proved a barrier to many schools. As it was, a great many students in the U.S. spent much of 2020 learning by means other than in-person instruction. Online classes proliferated, as did a mixture of digital and print-based instruction.

Iditarod 2021 winner Dallas SeaveyDallas Seavey Wins Record-tying Fifth Iditarod
March 15, 2021
Dallas Seavey won his fifth Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, crossing the finish line first in a time of 7 days, 14 hours, 8 minutes, and 57 seconds. He is now tied for the most victories in the iconic race with Rick Swenson. Seavey took control and cruised to victory. Veterans Aaron Burmeister, nearly three hours later, and Brent Sass, about an hour after that, finished second and third; each recorded his best-ever finish. Seavey in 2005 became the youngest ever competitor in the 1,000 mile race. He won in 2012 and then again in 2014, 2015, and 2016. Competitors in a field lessened by COVID-19 restrictions competed on a first-ever out-and-back course, which race officials named the Gold Trail Loop. They began on the Southern Route but turned around at the Iditarod checkpoint and finished at Deskha Landing. The new course covered more than 100 miles shorter than the traditional course.

High Tech Turns Etruscan Painting Blur into Fine Detail
March 2, 2021
Etruscan painting Tomb of the Monkey Scientists have used cutting-edge technology on ancient art works to reveal details heretofore obscured by the passage of time. In this case, the civilization that produced the art works examined was the Etruscans, who flourished in what was called Etruria beginning about the 8th Century B.C. Their eminence declined sharply in the 3rd and 2nd Centuries B.C., as Rome rose to prominence. Most strikingly, a wall painting in the so-called Tomb of the Monkey now shows a clearly defined human holding an object, whereas the ravages of time had rendered that part of the painting a blur of red.

Abu Simbel Now in 3D
Abu Simbel February 25, 2021
Abu Simbel, the famed massive rock-cut temples that moved, now exists in digital form. A company that specializes in 3D scanning, nav-3d, created the very-high-resolution images, at the request of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

National Spelling Bee to Return in 2021
February 22, 2021
Spelling Bee logo The Scripps National Spelling Bee will take place in 2021 but in limited form. Officials canceled the National Spelling Bee in 2020 because of concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the first time since World War II that the Bee had not taken place. The major change in 2021 will be the expanded timeline of the event. Rather than the traditional Bee Week, officials have planned a weekslong competition. Preliminary rounds will take place in mid-June, the semifinals will be on June 27, and the televised finals (featuring only a dozen or so spellers) will occur on July 8, in Orlando, Fla. All other rounds will take place in a virtual environment. In addition, officials have limited the field to 200. The 2019 number of participants was 562.

Pharaoh Executed on Battlefield, Archaeologists Say
February 17, 2021
Scientists now say that a pharaoh known as "The Brave" was the victim of a battlefield execution. Seqenenre Tao II, who ruled southern Egypt from about Sahar Salim1558 B.C. to 1553 B.C., led his army into battle against the Hyksos, who ruled Egypt during what historians called the Second Intermediate Period. The king died fighting alongside his soldiers. Recent examinations of his mummy using cutting-edge technology revealed the exact nature of those head wounds, scientists today say. A combination of CT scanning, X-rays, and 3D imaging produced an accurate depiction of the wounds that killed Seqenenre II and also found evidence that his hands were bound when the blows were struck.

Nigeria's Okonjo-Iweala 1st African, Woman to Lead WTO
February 14, 2021
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala The World Trade Organization has named as its director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the first African and first woman to head up the 164-member organization. The vote to approve her was unanimous. The former Nigerian finance minister and foreign minister worked at the World Bank in a high-ranking capacity for more than two decades, ending as Managing Director Operations, second in charge. Now 66, she inherits the leadership of the global trade agency at a time of great economic uncertainty.

Senate Again Absolves Trump in Impeachment Trial
February 14, 2021
Former President Donald Trump has avoided conviction again, after twice being impeached. The U.S. Senate voted 57–43 in favor of conviction; however, the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority of those present and all 100 Senators were present so the intended target of 67 was not reached. Trump, who became the third President ever to be impeached in late 2019, was acquitted in early 2020. He was then impeached a second time a few weeks ago.

Philadelphia Art Teacher Sets Record for Largest Drawing
February 13, 2021
Biggest drawing by an individual A Philadelphia-based artist has completed the world's largest individual-created drawing. Dyymond Whipper-Young, an artist and art teacher, used black markers in creating the 6,450-square-foot drawing at the Franklin Institute's Mandell Center. It took her 63 hours to do; she finished on Jan. 15, 2021. Whipper-Young's drawing is part of the Philadelphia institute's Crayola IDEAworks: The Creativity Exhibition, which just opened. The giant drawing includes pictures, doodles, and depictions of land, sea, and space.

Salisbury Plain a Second Home for Stonehenge: Archaeologists
February 13, 2021
StonehengeBuilding on evidence announced in recent years, archaeologists now say that Stonehenge was first built in Wales and then dismantled and moved to its current location, on the Salisbury Plain. University College London archaeologists have found the remains of an older stone circle in Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire, Wales. That circle is the same diameter as Stonehenge–361 feet–and the scientists found that a blue stone that is part of Stonehenge would fit in a hole at the Welsh site, known as Waun Mawn. The indentation of other holes provided evidence that the Welsh site, like Stonehenge, would have had stones configured to accommodate the shining of the Sun on the day of the summer solstice.

D.B. Cooper Suspect Dies; Mystery Unsolved
January 31, 2021
D.B. Cooper suspectA main contender for the identity of the mysterious hijacker D.B. Cooper has died. Sheridan Peterson, a retired teacher who has long suspected to have been the perpetrator of the 1971 heist and getaway, died in California. He was 94. On Nov. 24, 1971, a man who identified himself as Dan Cooper boarded a flight from Portland, Ore., to Seattle. Several hours later, he was famous, after having made a bomb threat, hijacked a plane, and parachuted out into the unknown. Investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other organizations considered Peterson a likely suspect because of a number of strong matches between his experience and what was known of the mysterious hijacker.

Grubhub Joins Girl Scout Cookie Cause
January 31, 2021
Girl Scout Cookies Grubhub is now in the Girl Scout Cookie business. The popular online food delivery service has gone into partnership with the Girl Scouts of America to help deliver the iconic cookies that are a major fundraiser for the organization's local councils. An order of $15 or more will qualify for free delivery. Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Patties, Samoas, and more are on offer online for the second year in a row. The Girl Scouts offered online shopping last year because of safety concerns in connection with the COVID-19 virus.

Tubman Back on Track to Front $20 Bill
January 25, 2021
Efforts have resumed to put the face of famed slave rescuer Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. The U.S. Government in 2016 announced plans to put the famed Underground Railroad "conductor" on the bank note, replacing former President Andrew Jackson. A change in presidential administrations resulted in less desire for such a change. In May 2019, then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced a timeline that would have seen Tubman on the $20 bill in 2028. The new President, Joe Biden, has nominated Janet Yellen to head up the Treasury Department. (She would be the first Secretary of the Treasury in the history of the country.) The Treasury Department is expected to announce an expedited timeline soon.

First Pets Return to White House
January 24, 2021
Biden dogsThe White House has pets again. Champ and Major, dogs of President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, have taken up residence in the President's house. Both are German shepherds. Champ is 12, and the Bidens acquired him in 2008, after Joe was elected Vice-president. Major, adopted in 2018 from the Delaware Human Association, is the first rescue dog living in the White House. The pair have their own Instagram account.

Biden, Harris Make History at Inauguration
January 20, 2021 Biden inaugural address Joe Biden took the Oath of Office and became the 46th President of the United States, on a day marked by the somber presence of social distancing and so many people, fearful of the still dreaded COVID-19 virus, wearing masks. At 78, Biden is the oldest U.S. President ever. Kamala Harris took the Oath of Office and became the first American Vice-president to be African-American, South Asian, or female. Her husband, Doug Emhoff, became the first "second gentleman." In attendance were all but two living former Presidents. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama were there. Jimmy Carter was too ill to attend. Donald Trump chose not to attend. Mike Pence, the outgoing Vice-president, was in attendance. Biden gave a 25-minute inaugural address, sounding notes of unity and hope amid the trying times caused by nearly 400,000 deaths from the coronavirus and a deep political division sowed in part by Trump's rhetoric and actions during his historic term.

Trump Delivers Farewell Address, Leaves Washington
January 20, 2021
Donald Trump farewell address Donald Trump departed the White House early on the day of his successor's inauguration, choosing not to partake in the transfer of power. Trump and his wife, Melania, boarded Air Force One bound for Florida. Before he left, Trump gave a farewell address, in which he thanked the American people, saying, that serving as President "had been an honor beyond description." Trump echoed themes that he had used throughout his presidency: standing up for the forgotten man and woman, restoring belief in the country's potential, and maintaining security. He gave credit to his supporters and thanked them for creating a sustained political movement. Among the accomplishments that he highlighted were the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act and a new trade deal with China. He mentioned the coronavirus sparingly.

Biden, Harris Lead COVID Memorial Ceremony
January 19, 2021
Field of Flags A day before he is to be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden led the nation in a ceremony of mourning for the victims of the Joe Biden COVID memorialCOVID-19 pandemic. The memorial ceremony began about 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time and included the first-ever lighting of the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial. Both Biden and incoming Vice-president Kamala Harris spoke. Across the nation, people lit candles in a show of socially distanced solidarity against the horrors of the virus. Church bells rang out, and city buildings glowed a light amber. Some of the country's most iconic buildings, among them Space Needle in Seattle and New York's Empire State Building, lit up as well. Also on display in the nation's capital was a Field of Flags, a gathering of thousands of flags from all over the world, taking the place of the big crowd that would normally attend a presidential inauguration. Because of safety concerns, some of Biden's inauguration will be virtual. A light display helped illuminate the field of flags at night.

Pandemic, Security to Shape Biden Inauguration
January 19, 2021
The inauguration ceremony for Joe Biden as President and Kamala Harris as Vice-president will take place at the usual time and at the usual place: about noon on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Many other elements of what has become a tradition-filled ceremony will be different this year, however, for two main reasons. The first is that Biden will assume the presidency in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has endangered millions of people worldwide and continues to thrive despite varying efforts of medical research, social distancing, and other methods of combating such an unpredictable foe. The death toll in the United States approached 400,000. Because of concerns about spreading the virus, the new administration has designed an inauguration Joe Biden speakingceremony that will combine both physical and virtual elements. The crowd attending the inauguration in person is expected to be low, by design. Anyone attending must have recently tested negative for the COVID-19 virus and must sit or stand in designated areas, which include distancing specifications. The second reason that Biden's inauguration will be nontraditional is that the nation's capital is still reeling from a mob attack instigated by Biden's predecessor, President Trump. The 45th President still claims that Biden's election victory in November was the result of widespread fraud, and a great many people continue to believe this as well. On January 6, Trump gave a speech to a crowd gathered not far from the Capitol building. The speech and the crowd turned angrier and angrier; and after the speech, many in the crowd marched to the Capitol, overwhelmed Capitol Police, ransacked the building, killed a handful of people, and (so later reports said) intended to kidnap and potentially harm members of Congress, who barricaded themselves behind the doors of the congressional chamber, fearing for their lives. As a result, a total exceeding 25,000 National Guard troops are deployed in and around the Capitol building, in order to prevent further violence and deal with threats on the lives of Biden, Harris, and other incoming officials. In a juxtaposition of the twin storylines, those troops are wearing masks.

Trump 4th President to Snub Successor

One of those who will not be in attendance for the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States is his predecessor, Donald Trump. The Republican announced that he would not attend, becoming the fourth U.S. President to boycott the inauguration of his successor. The other three were John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Johnson.

National Guard Deployment for Biden Inauguration to Top 20,000
January 12, 2021
National Guard in the U.S. Capitol The total number of National Guard troops on hand for the inauguration for the new President, Joe Biden, could be more than 20,000, officials said. The inauguration is January 20. National Guard officials said that the D.C. deployment would not take away from any needs in the states. Many reports cite the possibility of further demonstrations at state capitols before or during Biden's inauguration. After a number of angry supporters of President Trump pushed past Capitol Police and stormed into the U.S. Capitol on January 6, law enforcement officials erected a tall fence around the building and installed metal detectors just inside the building. Another element of security ahead of the inauguration is a series of road blocks and steel barriers creating a cordon of several blocks around the Capitol. Security officials have also set up road blocks around the White House.

Scythian 'Royalty' Comes Alive in 3D Facial Reconstructions
January 12, 2021
Scythian king and queen The visages of the famous Scythian "King" and "Queen" once again can be seen, thanks to months of painstaking recreation by anthropologists. Archaeologists from Germany and Russia found the pair of royals buried at the Arzhan-2 site in 1997 and made intensive study of them and their surroundings in the early 2000s. Using photogrammetry and laser scanning, the anthropologists from the Moscow Miklukho-Maklai Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology and from the Novosibirsk Institute of Archeology and Ethnography produced three-dimensional models of the pair's skulls. The pair are thought to have been buried 2,600 years ago. They were part of the Scythian culture, which held sway in central Asia and the near Middle East to varying degrees for a few centuries. The archaeologists who found the pair termed them "king" and "queen" because they were the skeletons of a male and a female found together in the same grave and because the burial chamber contained a rich assortment of nearly 10,000 valuables, including many items made of gold.

Indonesia Pig Painting Dates to 43,000 Years Ago
January 12, 2021
Warty pig cave painting Archaeologists say that they have found one of the world's oldest known cave paintings. The life-size wall-art depiction of pigs, found in Indonesia, has been dated as 43,900 years old. The cave is on the island of Sulawesi, at a site called Leang Tedongnge. On one of the walls of the cave is a painting that shows a confrontation between three warty pigs, one of which is 54 inches long and 21 inches high. Descendants of the short-legged, wart-faced porcine creatures are living in Indonesia and elsewhere even today.

Congressional Democrats Seek to Remove Trump from Office
January 11, 2021
Storming the Capitol Members of the House of Representatives moved ahead with plans to attempt to hold President Trump to account for his role in the violence that overwhelmed the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Three lawmakers introduced an article of impeachment into the House proceedings, charging the President with "inciting violence against the government of the United States," citing Trump's words in a speech that may have led many in the crowd to pursue violent actions at the U.S. Capitol, including the ransacking of the office of several lawmakers. Many people were injured in the fracas, and a handful of people have died, including a member of the Capitol Police. Some in the mob threatened high-ranking members of Congress. While the mob roamed the halls and offices of the Capitol, lawmakers stood behind locked doors in their chambers. One member of the House also introduced a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to activate Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, declaring Trump unfit for office, and then take over as Acting President.

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copyright 20022020
David White