Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence was first discovered on August 30, 2018, when forecasters tracked a disturbance in the Atlantic, near the west coast of Africa. Hurricane Florence was considered to be a category 4 hurricane on September 10, 2018, and it was expected to hit the Carolinas and Virginia. Hurricane Florence was a fast approaching tropical storm and the agency predicted heavy rain over the Carolinas and Atlantic. About 1 million people who lived on the coastline of South Carolina and Virginia were ordered to evacuate by the South Carolina governor. But as the hurricane struck the coast of the Carolinas’ on September 15, 2018, it was downgraded to a category 1 hurricane. Over the course of four days it managed to dump around 23 inches of rain in South Carolina and 35 inches in North Carolina.

After Hurricane Florence first struck the coastline, it damaged many structures and caused a loss of power which affected thousands of people, but the after-effects of the storm was much worse than expected. The rainwaters of the hurricane increased water in rivers and streams which have now caused flooding. North Carolina’s two biggest rivers, Cape Fear and the Pee Dee River, both saw increased water levels which became one of the reasons for the major flooding. The water level has now risen and many residents are still waiting for the water to recede. More than 8,100 residents of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia that were forced to evacuate are still staying at Red Cross shelters, or with family or friends.

In Kinston, North Carolina, the streets flooded to the point where the National Guard had to use a helicopter to distribute water to stranded survivors. In North Carolina, it is estimated that around 3.4 million birds, and 5,500 pigs, drowned to death, and in South Carolina, the flooding damaged cotton, peanuts, and hemp crops. According to authorities, Hurricane Florence’s death toll climbed to 36, as of September 19, 2018, when two women died when they got swept away by the floodwaters while they were in a sheriff’s van.

President Donald Trump arrived in North Carolina on September 19 to help out at a church at New Bern, North Carolina, which was one of the first few towns that was hit. Trump distributed box lunches that consisted of hot dogs, chips, and fruits for people who waited for over an hour to collect their meal. As President Trump handed a man a lunch box, he said “Have a good time.”

On September 20, the power plant operator of Duke Energy reported that there was about 2,000 cubic yards of harmful waste that had gotten into the water from the landfill because of the flooding. The company spokesperson, Erin Culbert, had stated that the company will continue monitoring the situation.

Americans are trying their best to help everyone who was affected by the hurricane by donating money to nationwide agencies that are assisting the victims. On September 18, NBA champion Michael Jordan donated around $2 million to the cause. Members of NBA Hornets organization are putting together around 5,000 boxes for food banks in Charlotte, North Carolina. The organization also partnered with Fanatics, the NBA merchandising company, to help raise funds by creating a special T-shirt which features the Hornets logo in the middle of the Carolina states with the words “Carolina Strong.”

 

58 dead in border protests after US embassy in Israel relocated to Jerusalem

On Monday, May 14, according to Vox, Gaza had its bloodiest day since the 2014 war. In total, 58 Palestinians were killed, and over 1,200 were injured, by Israeli forces, at the border, during protests after American President Donald Trump’s relocation of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The violence is a continuation of the 51-year-old conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, in the region, over territory, immigration and related issues. Both groups want control of Jerusalem, with the Palestinians specifically wanting East Jerusalem, to be the capital of their future state. The Palestinians oppose the blockade on the border of Israel and want Palestinians to be able to return to Jerusalem, their homeland, which contains many monuments sacred to both groups. Throughout the conflict, the United States has been a staunch supporter of Israel and its control of Jerusalem. Israel, the United States, and the United Nations recognize Hamas, the current governing body of the Palestinian territory Gaza, as a terrorist organization.

The Guardian reported that President Trump first announced plans to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem in a short speech delivered last December, where he also recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He stated, “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering.” Officials then claimed the transition would take at least three years, so it came as a shock to the international community when it took fewer than six months.

Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and his promise to move the embassy, were highly controversial, being widely condemned by US Allies including the UK and by Palestine and other Islamic states. The Israeli government, however, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called Monday a “glorious day,” praised Trump when he made the recognition and promise, and in May when he acted upon it. At the opening ceremony of the new embassy in Jerusalem, Washington ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, stated, optimistically, “Today’s historic event is attributed to the vision, courage, and moral clarity of one person to whom we owe an enormous and eternal debt of gratitude: President Donald J Trump” according to The New York Times.

The mood at the border was more chaotic, to say the least. The Guardian reports that protestors lit tires on fire to create “smoke screens” against Israeli snipers. They then rushed the fence, though none made it through, according to the Israeli military, which claimed, “The rioters are hurling firebombs and explosive devices towards the security fence and IDF forces, and are burning tires, throwing rocks and launching flaming objects in order to ignite fires in Israeli territory and harm IDF troops.” Hamas has encouraged and funded protests, and actively encouraged protestors at the border on May 14 to rush the fence over a loudspeaker. The violence raised the death toll of the recent protests to over 100.

Many have criticized Israel for their violent response to the protests. According to Real Clear Politics, Amnesty International called Israel’s actions “horrific” while senator Bernie Sanders said, “Instead of applauding Israel for its actions, Israel should be condemned. Israel has a right to security, but shooting unarmed protesters is not what it is about.” The White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah, however, only blamed Hamas saying, “We believe Hamas is responsible for these tragic deaths,” he told reporters. “Their rather cynical exploitation of the situation is what’s leading to these deaths and we want it stopped.”

With President Trump’s recent withdrawal of the United States from the Iran deal and now this, tensions are mounting in the Middle East. As Vox points out, Trump’s transference of the US embassy basically takes the idea of a Palestinian state off the table. Peace in the Middle East, the espoused goal of both Hamas and the Israeli government, seems far off.

Flint, Michigan water

April 25th, 2018, will mark the fourth year of the Flint, Michigan water crisis. Imagine coming up on four years of unclean, unhealthy, lead water that has killed about 15 civilians. Flint has had to deal with this long history of unclean water caused by “insufficient” funds. Researchers have discovered traces of lead in many children, and recently called for a state of emergency after all this time. This is a great issue, that hasn’t been urgently handled, that’s impacting many civilians.

How did this start? This tragedy began in 2011 when the city announced a new pipeline would be built. They turned to the Flint River as their source, instead Lake Huron, when they attempted to cut city costs. Flint is known as a poverty city. Even though this was supposed to be a temporary deal, this transition lasted to April 2014. The lawmakers did their best to hide the fact they were providing a toxic resource. In May 2014, residents began to notice this ill-tasting, smelly water in their homes.

After about a year, reports leak about the lead levels in the Flint homes. Lead consumption can affect the lungs, heart, kidneys, and nerves. Lead affects newborns, children, and adults in different ways. Being born prematurely, weight loss, and difficulties with memory or concentration are just a few symptoms.

Ever since 2014, lead levels have continued to rise for these Flint citizens.

After about two years, lead levels began to get better. The city sent bottled water, and filters, to schools and homes to provide them secure water.

This disaster left over 100,000 residents exposed to lead in their water. It continues to leave these residents exposed to lead.

With this information, what can we do? Aside from providing filtered water, like the government, there’s nothing we can do. Filtered water and filter systems are the only way for Flint residents to live a healthy lifestyle. Donating to projects that are funding their cause is another way to support the cause of the Flint water crisis

For more information, please visit:

Gun control in the United States

In the United States, gun control is a topic that is always being talked about. Some people want more freedom with guns, and others feel that gun laws should be more restrictive. Every time a school shooting, or tragedy having to do with guns, happens more laws are passed, but they do little to prevent the next event that is inevitable.

Some of the gun laws that the U.S. has right now include: you have to be at least 18 to buy a gun, and fugitives, people who are deemed a danger to society, people involuntarily admitted into mental institutions, and people with felony convictions are restricted from buying guns and owning them.

Most states require permits to own a handgun. They also run a background check on you before you can buy the gun, although sometimes the background checks are not thorough enough to keep guns out of the hands of people planning to do harm with them. In the South, gun laws tend to be more loose, and in the North, they tend to be more restrictive.

In the past 10-20 years school shootings, and attempted school shootings, have become a big issue. The first school shooting was on April 20, 1999, when two boys named Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot up Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. They killed 13 people and injured 20.

Image taken from: https://www.christianheadlines.com/slideshows/here-s-what-5-christian-leaders-had-to-say-about-gun-control.html

The school shooting of Sandy Hook Elementary, I think, sent the most shockwaves across the nation.

The last school shooting to happen, was at Parkland High School in Florida. 17 lost their lives, and their classmates are taking a stand because they feel that gun control laws need to be passed so more innocent lives can be saved. There have been laws/policies passed to make it harder to obtain guns including: in some stores the age to buy guns has been raised to 21, background checks are getting more thorough, and bump stocks are being banned in some states. Only time will tell if these laws are going to be effective.

For more information please visit:
https://gun-control.procon.org/
http://time.com/5169210/us-gun-control-laws-history-timeline/

 

What is happening with the stock market?

Financial data on a monitor, Stock market data on LED image taken from: https://www.istockphoto.com/photos/stock-market

On Monday, February 5, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1,597 points, the most it had ever dropped in the middle of a single trading day. The Dow had recently hit a record high of 26,616 points on January 26. According to The Wall Street Journal, as of Friday, February 9, the Dow had dipped 2426 points from that high, a 9% decrease, dangerously close to what is known as a stock market “correction,” a 10% decrease after an extended time of growth. This sounds very bad, but what does it even mean?

Investopedia gives information about the stock market, including how the stock market itself, describes the trading of shares (put simply, an investment in a corporation). The Dow Jones Industrial Average, as well as the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq Stock Market, are measures of the average trading value of stocks based on the stock prices of several major corporations. When they decline, that means stocks are less valuable. For people with money invested in the market, this is bad. But, it is not necessarily bad for most Americans, and it could even be good for new investors.

According to Slate, the reason for the downturn in the stock market actually has to do with recent news that is good for Americans. On February 2, the U.S. Labor Department announced that workers were being paid more than economists predicted they would be. To stock traders, this meant that the Federal Reserve would probably raise interest rates on stocks to compensate, meaning they would have to pay more money to their investors. Thus, they sold many stocks quickly and for decreased value, creating the downturn. This downturn had knock-on effects around the world, most noticeably in markets in Japan and Hong Kong.

As reported by CNN, this does not mean the US, or the world, is going through an economic recession, as it did in 2008. Most economists say that this downturn was bound to happen; the stock market had grown consistently since the Great Recession, and especially so since the election of President Donald Trump. Economists advise people with stocks not to sell, but to hold their stocks until better conditions come about. As for new investors, now is as good a time as any to invest.

President Trump had been claiming, before the decline, the tremendous stock market growth seen during his presidency as one of his greatest achievements. When the downturn occurred, Trump commented on Twitter, “In the ‘old days,’ when good news was reported, the Stock Market would go up. Today, when good news is reported, the Stock Market goes down. Big mistake, and we have so much good (great) news about the economy!” This is not historically accurate according to the Huffington Post. News of wage increases has sent the stock market into a panic before.

MarketWatch reports that the stock market decline is nothing to worry about for the average American; its most recent fluctuation is totally natural. The Dow Jones is still up (24,609 points, as of February 12), and gaining more-and-more of its lost ground each day. CNN Money predicts that the incoming corporate tax cuts, part of the Republican Senate tax bill, will only help increase stock values, also.

The 2018 Winter Olympics and North Korean involvement

The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in Pyeongchang County, South Korea. The Winter Olympics are an international multi-sport competition held once every four years in a different country. They are staggered with the Summer Olympics, which are also held once every four years, so that an Olympic Games occurs once every two years. It was first announced that South Korea would host in 2011. It will be the country’s second time hosting the Olympics. It hosted the Summer Games in 1988 (Olympic.org).

As reported by CNN, the 2018 Winter Olympics has brought about great controversy for North Korea’s involvement in it. North Korea (officially called the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK) and South Korea separated in 1945. Shortly after the separation, the Korean War occurred (1950-1953), which ended in stalemate. Since then, the two Koreas have been separated by a demilitarized zone (DMZ). According to Sky News, relations between the countries has been tense, to say the least. North Korea is a communist dictatorship and South Korea is a liberal democracy, diametrically opposed types of government, but both claim rightful leadership of Korea in totality.

North Korea has been performing nuclear weapons tests since 2006 (most recently on September 3, 2017, “a perfect success,” according to the North Koreans), much to the consternation of South Korea and many Western democracies, including the United States, as noted by the BBC. Delegates from North and South Korea met for peace talks on September, 9, but North Korea continued to test its ballistic missiles afterwards. CNN has even reported that South Korea claims to have a plan to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un if they feel too threatened.

So, with the threat of nuclear war looming, many wondered how South Korea would handle the 2018 Winter Olympics, and what North Korea’s involvement in them would be. Fortunately, it appears that the Olympics have only helped to bring the two countries closer together.

In his 2017 New Year address, Kim Jong Un wished the South Koreans luck in hosting the Games, offered to send a North Korean delegation, and said he wished for a “peaceful resolution with our Southern border [DMZ]” (CNN). Two North Korean figure skaters, Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik, qualified for the Olympics on September, 29, but were not entered by the deadline of December, 21. According to an NRP report, after negotiations between the two Koreas on January 9, it was announced that North Korea would send a delegation of 22 athletes, including the two aforementioned figure skaters. In addition, there will be a united Korean squad playing in women’s ice hockey. North Korea’s involvement in the 2018 Winter Olympics could be a sign of more diplomacy to come between the two Koreas and the rest of the world.

But, not everyone is happy with North Korea’s involvement in the Olympics. According to The Telegraph, some human rights groups think that allowing North Korea to hold any events, as the South Korean minister of sports has gone so far as to recommend, would be an immoral endorsement of authoritarianism, similar to the 1936 Berlin Olympics held in Nazi Germany. The Wall Street Journal has also reported that some see North Korea’s participation as unsafe. France said they would not compete if safety could not be ensured according to Reuters. The Trump-appointed, US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said, “it’s an open question.” Later, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on December, 7, “no official decision has been made” on US involvement in the Games, though she, quite contradictory, also said the US “looks forward to participating” as reported by USA Today.

Whether the US will boycott the 2018 Winter Olympics remains to be seen, but it now appears quite unlikely, with the announcement, reported by ABC News, on January, 10, that Vice President Mike Pence and his wife will attend the opening ceremony of the Games. Still, the Trump administration’s messages are mixed. Is North Korea’s newfound sense of diplomacy genuine, or just a ploy?

Exciting year for the royal family

KINGHAM, OXFORDSHIRE – AUGUST 28: Mike Tindall, Zara Tindell and their daughter Mia Tindall pose for a photograph during day three of The Big Feastival at Alex James’ Farm on August 28, 2016 in Kingham, Oxfordshire. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

On Friday January 5th, officials announced that Zara Tindall, Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter, is pregnant again. Mrs. Tindall is also the daughter of Princess Anne. A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said, “The Queen and members of the royal family were very pleased to hear this news.”

The baby will the second child of Zara and her husband, Mike Tindall, a rugby star. The couple already have a 3 year old daughter, Mia Tindall. Mia is known for stealing the spotlight, and getting cuddles and kisses from Prince Harry at polo events. Many times, she had happily shown off Queen Elizabeth II’s purse during official photo shoots.

ABERFELDY, SCOTLAND – JULY 11: Zara Phillips and daughter Mia Tindall pose for a photograph after husband Ex England rugby star Mike Tindall finished the grueling Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon in Loch Tay Scotland on July 11, 2015 in Aberfeldy, Scotland. (Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images for Artemis Quadrathlon)

Mia was also there to help her parents’ difficult time when Zara had a miscarriage days before Christmas 2016. Mike Tindall told The Sunday Times, “The saving grace for us was Mia, our daughter who is now 3.” Mike also talked about how he was able to spend more time with Mia now, since he retired from rugby. The spokesperson also stated that the child will be due this summer, arriving a few months after Duchess Kate’s baby, who is due to arrive in April.

Back in October, Kensington Palace made the announcement that Duchess Kate was expecting another baby after the 12-week scan. Duchess Kate Middleton has had hyperemesis gravid arum (severe morning sickness) during her last two pregnancies, which is why the pregnancy was announced early. The pregnancy was initially announced on September 4, when Duchess Kate cancelled a visit to the London’s Children Centre because of severe morning sickness.

This is an exciting year for the royal family as Prince Harry and Meghan’s wedding is due to be happening around May, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be welcoming their third child in April, and in the summer, Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter, Zara, will be adding another member to the royal family.

Chocolate is going extinct

Scientists have recently had theories that support the idea that chocolate will go extinct in the next 30 years. Right now, the main producers of cacao plants (chocolate) are Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Unfortunately, the arable land in both of those places is a being greatly affected due to climate change. The air and soil temperatures are changing, and the way the beans are growing has changed.

The next biggest reason the plants may go extinct, is because of an insect-spread fungal diseases called “witch’s broom” and “frosty pod.” These diseases have already destroyed many of the cacao trees in Central America; their original natural home. Scientists, and farmers alike, are currently trying to find ways to keep those diseases contained, and not let them spread to the new chocolate empires.

800,000, out of the 25 million people, in Ghana, farm chocolate as their main crop. If these plants go extinct, not only would those people lose their biggest crop, and therefore their biggest source of income, the economy would be greatly affected. Most of Ghana’s economy comes from chocolate. Without that crop being exported, they would lose out on billions of dollars.

For more information, please visit:

“Chocolate Is a Bittersweet Way of Life in Ghana.” NBCNews.com https://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/chocolate-bittersweet-way-life-ghana-n212741.

Lee, Bruce Y. “Could Chocolate Actually Go Extinct In 40 Years?” Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2018/01/01/is-chocolate-going-extinct-whats-being-done-to-prevent-this-disaster/#37c65561540f.

Freelanceqz. “The world’s two largest cocoa producers want you to buy their chocolate, not just their beans.” Quartz https://qz.com/981562/ghana-ivory-coast-are-marketing-more-chocolate-to-the-world/.

California wildfires

In Southern California, many are being forced to flee because of the wildfires. Officials refer to the wildfires as the “Thomas Fire.” The “Thomas Fire” started on Dec. 4th, about 69 miles from Los Angeles. According to Fox News, about 50,000 people have been forced to evacuate.

Officials had not yet figure out what caused the “Thomas Fire” to start in the first place. On Dec. 6th, another wildfire erupted known as the “Skirball Fire.” It burned about 422 acres and was around in the area of Bel-Air neighborhood. The “Skirball Fire” started because of an illegal cooking fire under the San Diego Freeway.

Scott McLean, an information officer at the California Department Of Forestry and Fire explained that the wildfires have been so destructive recently because of the drought that California has had for the last 5 years, which created a lot of dead vegetation. This year, California had a good amount of rainfall during the spring, but the summer heat dried out the growth of the vegetation.

Firefighters monitor the Thomas fire as it burns through Los Padres National Forest near Ojai, Calif., on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The autumn winds is also something to worry about. It is fueling the wildfires, causing the wildfires to spread faster and cover more area. This year, primarily, it is the Santa Ana winds that are fueling a lot of the wildfires. Usually, most winds will blow off to the Pacific Ocean, but the Santa Ana winds blow off into the desert of Arizona, then move west toward California. The millions of dead trees also allows wildfires to move quicker, scorching more land.

On Dec. 11th, the Santa Ana winds begin cooperating by pushing the fire away from the nearby communities, which allowed firefighters to see and help people. The “Thomas Fire” has destroyed around 1,000 structures. There has been only one death so far, 70-year-old Virginia Pesola died in a car crash while trying to evacuate from the “Thomas Fire.” A firefighter was injured while 3 other people were burned trying to retrieve the woman’s body.

Later, a firefighter was killed by the “Thomas Fire.” According to CNN, Lynne Tolmachoff, the spokesperson for The California Department Of Forestry and Fire Protection, the firefighter was driving on a fire engine on the east flank of the “Thomas Fire.” The man had not been identified at the time of this article, but he was pronounced dead on the scene by a medical team.

CNN meteorologist, Brandon Miller, reported that the winds had been picking up again and would make the job tougher for the 8,000 firefighters. CalFire had reported that about 1,000 fire engines, and 27 helicopters are involved in dealing with the “Thomas Fire” alone. The winds continue to be fierce, with the wind going 60 mph in the mountains, and about 35-50 mph in the valley-coastal areas.

 

 

The Harvey Weinstein effect

Sexual assault has been one of the most heated topics of 2017. Since the initial allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein in October, a stream, or rather a torrent, of allegations of sexual misconduct have been leveled at many other significant figures in entertainment, politics, and journalism, including: Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, and even Minnesota senator Al Franken, who has now said that he intends to resign from his position (MinnPost). The phenomenon has been dubbed, “The Harvey Weinstein effect” as reported by USA Today.

The allegations have ranged in severity from rape, to sexual assault or abuse, to sexual misconduct, and the reactions to these allegations have been mixed, but dramatic, to say the least. According to a USA Today article, many of the accused have been fired or resigned from their jobs or projects (Weinstein, Spacey, Lauer), more have apologized (C.K., Franken, George H.W. Bush) or denied the allegations (Roy Moore), or a combination of the three.

Republican politician Roy Moore’s case has been particularly controversial as he was, when the allegations were made, running in a Senate election (ABC News). He was accused by eight women, according to a Washington Post article, two of which were 14, below the Alabama age of consent of 16, when they claim the misconduct occurred. Moore specifically denied the allegations of two of his accusers and continued to run despite them, and requests from Democrat and Republican senators, such as John McCain, who said on the Senate Government website, “The allegations against Roy Moore are deeply disturbing and disqualifying,” and he should resign.

These allegations, and their outcomes, are enough to give anyone pause. Almost everyone opposes sexual abuse in any form, but it can sometimes be hard to tell whether an allegation is valid, and, if so, how specifically to respond; especially when the allegations are being made at such an alarming rate. This question is of particular importance when it comes to public servants such as Roy Moore or even Donald Trump, who been accused of various degrees of sexual misconduct by 15 different women (CNN Politics).

The Alabama Senate elections results were officially released by The New York Times on Thursday, December 14. Roy Moore lost by a narrow margin to Doug Jones, 49.9% to 48.4%, with the rest of the votes being write-ins. The loss is still surprising, however, as Doug Jones was considered an outsider and a long shot in Alabama, a state which hadn’t had a Democratic senator in 20 years, before eight women came out against Moore.

TIME Magazine has awarded “The Silence Breakers” (those who came out against sexual abusers), the distinction of “People of the Year.” Without a doubt, the unraveling of the Harvey Weinstein effect will come to be seen as a defining event of our contemporary epoch in later years.