Current Events

 

Madeleine Albright, Trailblazing Secretary of State, Dead at 84
March 23, 2022
Madeleine AlbrightMadeleine Albright, America's first female Secretary of State, has died. She was 84. The cause of death was cancer. She grew up the shadow of World War II, her family having fled Prague for the U.K. She arrived in the United States in 1948, and she grew up in Denver. The wife of one and mother of three, she earned a master's degree and a PhD with a focus on international relations and then had a variety of positions on the global stage, culminating in her serving as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and then, in 1997, becoming the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State. A strong, persuasive presence, Albright soon debunked the idea that other world leaders would not deal with her because she was a woman. In 1997, she played a major role in peace negotiations between Israel and other Middle Eastern countries. She was the first U.S. official to have a meeting with the newly elected President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, in 2000; also in that year, she became one of the first Western leaders to meet with Kim Jong Il, visiting him in North Korea, the first U.S. Secretary of State to do so. She sought to increase human rights throughout the world and to diminish the spread of nuclear weapons to unstable nations. She favored military intervention as a tool of foreign policy and endorsed the airstrikes that ended the Kosovo conflict in 1999. Albright retired from politics in 2001. In 2012, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her most recent role was as a professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

World Water Day 2022
March 22, 2022
World Water Day logo World Water Day is March 22. The theme for this year, 2022, is Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible. The day is a creation of the United Nations, dating to 1993. The U.N. has adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, of which availability of clean, safe drinking water is a major part, in the part of Sustainable Development Goal 6. In fact, the U.N. in 2010 declared access to safe, clean water a human right. And it's not just water for drinking: water for sanitation is part of that right. The U.N. released a World Water Development Report, focusing on the need to make better use of groundwater. Examining the various uses of groundwater in turn, the report details facts and figures for how much groundwater people use, how they extract it from the ground, and how they make use of it once it is extracted.

U.N.: 500 Million Africans Lack Water Security
March 21, 2022
Up to 500 million people in Africa live without access to water security, according to the United Nations. The first-of-its-kind report found that people in 19 of Africa's 54 countries did not have reliable access to safe drinking water. First and foremost, many of the people highlighted do not have ready access to clean drinking water. For example, the report found that only 37 percent of people living in the Central African Republic could readily get clean drinking water. Other prime indicators of water security are access to proper hygiene and sanitation. As well, the report found that many of the countries had poor water infrastructure and/or poor water use efficiency.

Sass Claims First Iditarod Victory
March 17, 2022
Iditarod 2022 winner Brent Sass Brent Sass won the 50th running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, finishing an hour ahead of second-place finisher and five-time champion Dallas Seavey. Sass and his 11-dog team crossed the finish line in Nome 8 days, 14 hours, and 38 minutes after they began their race in Willow. Sass took the lead early on, maintained it at the halfway point, and never relinquished it. The course was the traditional one this year, although some COVID-related restrictions remained: Participants had to have had vaccinations and agreed to have regular testing; as well, race organizers relocated some checkpoints in order to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to remote villages. Seavey just missed out on winning his record-breaking sixth title, coming in 68 minutes after Sass. Jessie Holmes, the 2018 Iditarod Rookie of the Year, finished third, nearly 13 hours later.

Lead Sarcophagus Found in Notre Dame Ruins
March 17, 2022
Lead sarcophagus found in Notre-Dame Archaeologists have found a handful of tombs and a lead sarcophagus in the ruins of the Notre Dame cathedral. After examining various clues, including filming inside the sarcophagus using a tiny camera, archaeologists think that the person buried in the sarcophagus was a religious leader. They dated the construction of the sarcophagus to the 1300s, just a century after the cathedral was built. Other finds during the excavation include the bust of a bearded man, a pair of carved hands, and a number of sculpted vegetables. All were below the cathedral floor and, archaeologists say, were part of the original rood screen, a part of the building that partitioned the altar from the nave (keeping the people and the priests in separate areas). According to church records, the rood screen was destroyed in the 1700s.

New Stonehenge Theory: It's a Solar Calendar
March 2, 2022
Yet another archaeologist has revealed yet another theory about the purpose of Stonehenge, the collection of large ancient stones on England's Salisbury Plain. This latest theory is that the stones functioned as a solar calendar. That is the argument put forward by Professor Timothy Darvill of Bournemouth University, who posits that each of the 30 sarsen stones (the ones in the outer circle) signified a day in a month and that the ancient Britons tracked their solar year as a progression of three 10-day weeks. The five Trilithons (the very large stones in the inner circle) signified a five-day month that served to make up the extra time, so that the ancient calendar-watchers arrived at 365 days in one revolution around the Sun. The actual solar year is about one-quarter of a day longer than 365, and this is why scientists created the leap day and leap year. Stonehenge has four Station Stones that sit outside the Sarsen Circle, and Darvill's theory is that those four stones were used to total up four years, so that ancient people could mark a leap day.

20 More Terracotta Warriors Found
February 13, 2022
Terracotta Army The Terracotta Army keeps growing. Archaeologists have unearthed 20 more of the life-size sculpted soldiers, which were buried with their weapons presumably to guard China's first emperor, buried in 210 B.C. The warriors range from 5-foot-8 to 6-foot-6, with the height increasing with military rank. Many of the warriors are armed with spears and swords and stand in battle formation, ready to do battle with anyone who disturbs the emperor's tomb. The newly discovered figures are well preserved but are in pieces. Experts at an onsite museum will restore them, reports said. Among the figures found are both warriors and generals.

Coin Found in English Field Tops $870,000 at Auction
February 6, 2022
13th Century gold coin 13th Century gold coin An English farmer reviving his metal detecting hobby found a coin worth more than $870,000 in a Devon field. Michael Leigh-Mallory found the 13th-Century coin on the first day of using his new metal detector. He had enjoyed the detecting hobby before but had given it up when his children were born. He is now 52, and his children are now 13 and 10, respectively; it was they who encouraged him to get back into it. Leigh-Mallory, a retired ecologist, is also an amateur historian and so knew that what he found, in the village of Heymock, was rare. However, when he took the coin to the British Museum, experts there told him that the coin was only of eight in existence and that the last one was found more than 250 years ago. According to the experts, the coin was made in the reign of Henry III, who reigned in 1216–1272. Historians say that about 52,000 of the coins were made. The king features on the front of the coin; on the back are roses and a cross. Only eight of the coins remain; the other seven are in museums. The auctioneers Spink and Sons sold the cold, made in North Africa, at a London auction for a total price of £648,000, which is US$878,778. A private collector bought the coin, in the process paying the highest price ever for a coin in the United Kingdom.

SAT Options Down to One: Digital
January 25, 2022
The SAT will soon be digital-only. Beginning next year, students will use a computer to take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) in a controlled setting, either in school or at a testing center with a proctor present. Students taking the test at international centers will make the switch in 2023. The changes will take effect in the U.S. in 2024. The test will be shorter, the College Board said, with a two-hour timeframe replacing the existing three-hour period, and calculators will be allowed for the entirety of the math section. One of the ways that the exam creators have shortened the exam is to cut the length of reading passages. The maximum score will continue to be 1600, and the multiple choice questions will be administered using adaptive testing, so that all students will not see the same sequence of questions. Students can use their own devices to take the test. Schools and test centers will provide a device for students who don't have their own. The switch to digital will make score reporting faster, the College Board said, with scores expected to be returned in a matter of days, instead of the usual weekslong wait.

3,000-year-old Chinese Tombs Contain Buried 'Volunteers'

January 19, 2022
Shang Dynasty tomb remains Archaeologists have found two dozen tombs dating to 3,000 years ago. Among the remains were people and horses that appeared to have been buried alive. The tombs are in ruins of Yin, the capital city of the ancient Shang dynasty, the first dynasty supported by archaeological evidence. The site is in the modern city of Anyang, in Henan province. In the tomb complex are a number of pits in which were found war chariots and the remains of both horses and soldiers. Found with the animal and human remains were evidence of great wealth bestowed on them, in the form of gold veneer on the horses' foreheads and decorate, expensive hats on the warriors' heads.

Remains of Roman Settlement, Large Road Found in English Field
January 11, 2022
Roman settlement Blackgrounds Archaeologists working on the future home of a high-speed railway in England have unearthed the remains of a large Roman trading settlement. The site is known as Blackgrounds because of the color of the soil. It is in a field near what is now Chipping Warden, on the Northamptonshire-Oxfordshire border, but thrived under Roman rule during the 1st Century. An Iron Age village rested on the site 400 years before that, as evidenced by the discovery of nearly three dozen roundhouses and a road dating to that time. Dominating the settlement was a Roman road 10 meters in width–nearly triple the usual width. Archaeologists said that the settlement must have been a trading center. Also found were kilns, workshops, glasswork, pottery, jewelry, and a few hundred Roman coins. Although the overall color of the soil is dark, archaeologists found some areas of soil the color of fire and concluded that it was the site of occupations that required burning, such as metalwork or breadmaking. Other evidence of commerce included the discovery of traces of galena, a mineral used for face makeup.

Double Sprinkles Flavor Oreo's 110th Anniversary Release
January 11, 2022
Oreo 110 Oreo is marking a special occasion with a special cookie flavor. Chocolate Confetti Cake Oreos will have two layers of filling. Sprinkles will dot the traditional creme flavor; the other layer will be chocolate creme. As well, the outer cookie layers will feature sprinklers. Mondelez, the company that owns the Oreo brand, said that it was releasing the special flavor for a limited time and that the occasion was the 110th anniversary of the first sale, which took place on March 6, 1912, when the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) sold Oreos to a Hoboken, N.J., grocery store.

It's a Bus, It's a Train, It's Both
January 6, 2022
Dual-Mode Vehicle A Japanese railway company has rolled out a bus-train hybrid vehicle to transport passengers on roads and railways. The Dual-Mode Vehicles (DMVs) first operated in Kaiyo in late December 2021, as a DMV in bus mode picked up 18 passengers and then changed to train mode in order to make the journey from southern Tokushima Prefecture to eastern Kochi Prefecture. The diesel-powered vehicle looks like a bus, rolling on normal rubber tires while traveling on the road. In that mode, the steel train wheels rest inside the vehicle's undercarriage. Making the switch to train mode requires just 15 seconds. Top speed on roads is 62 mph; top speed on the rails is 37 mph. Maximum capacity per vehicle is 21 passengers.

Giant Kite Powers Cargo Ship Across Atlantic
January 4, 2022
Cargo ship kite sail Now powering the progress of a massive cargo ship across the Atlantic: wind. The French company Airseas has launched a 50,000-ton cargo ship on a series of transatlantic journeys in order to test the efficacy of a large kite system that harnesses wind power as fuel for the ship. A 505-foot-long cargo ship named Ville de Bordeaux left the Brittany coast on Dec. 14, 2021, to begin a six-month trek going back and forth between Europe and North America, delivering aircraft components between France and the United States.

Dutch Dig Unearths Roman Fort Tied to British Invasion
January 3, 2022
Roman fort Velsen Archaeologists have found a fort thought to be a launching point for the Roman invasion of Britain in the 1st Century. The Roman emperor Caligula ordered construction of the fort, part of a fortified camp in what is now the Netherlands. That emperor didn't have success in Britain, but Claudius, his successor, certainly did. Roman forces built the fortified camp in Flevum (Velsen) 20 miles from what is now Amsterdam, on the banks of the Oer-IJ, a branch of the River Rhine. Dutch archaeologist Arjen Bosman and others found wooden planks dating to 42, solidifying a long-held theory that such a fort existed there.

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David White