Dead Sea Shrinking
The Dead Sea is a unique and historic body of water that borders Palestine, Israel and Jordan in the Middle East. What makes it unique is its mineral-rich mud and the fact that it is 10 times saltier that any ocean. What makes the Dead Sea historic is that it was the location of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovery. The Dead Sea scrolls are the oldest-known manuscripts of segments of the Bible. Conservationists report that the water level of the Dead Sea is currently dropping by around three feet a year. In addition, huge sinkholes are opening up along the shore. The reason for the shrinkage is two-fold: mineral extraction and the diversion of the Jordan River (which is the main source of replenishing water for the sea). The water being diverted is being used for farming and drinking water in neighboring nations.
There have been some recent efforts made to repair the damage. One attempt, in 2005, was an agreement signed by all three bordering countries to investigate the feasibility of pumping ultra-saline water back into the sea over the course of 40 years. The most recent solution is a $450 million water-sharing pilot program that will produce fresh water through a desalination plant built near the Dead Sea. Environmentalists have not yet supported either because the environmental impact is not yet knowable.
Dig Deeper Do some research into the various conservation groups attempting to save this important body of water. What are some of their strategies and how hopeful are they in restoring water to the region?
Obama “Renames” Mountain
In an effort to continue raising awareness about the dangers of global warming, President Obama made a recent trip to Alaska. While there, he announced that Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America and named for our 25th president, would be changed. The mountain’s new official name, Denali, means “Great One” or “High One” and is the name already used widely by locals. (The state of Alaska has also already made several failed attempts to officially change the name over the past decades.) The announcement came as part of Obama’s tour of Alaska that he hopes will illustrate the impact that global warming is already having on the world. He hopes to influence other nations to continue to negotiate on these issues.
Not everyone is happy about the name change to the Alaskan mountain, however. Lawmakers from Ohio—McKinley’s birthplace—have been particularly vocal about their opposition. Speaker of the House John Boehner and Representative Bob Gibbs, both from Ohio, have accused the president of “constitutional overreach,” saying that the renaming requires an act of Congress.
What Do You Think? Those who support the name change say that President McKinley had never even been to Alaska. Those who oppose the change say that President McKinley’s legacy is worthy of respect and should continue to be recognized. Do some more research on both sides of this argument. Where do you fall?
University of Texas Removes Confederate StatueThis past summer, South Carolina removed the Confederate flag from its state house grounds. The flag has long been the source of controversy for its link to the Confederate states who seceded in the Civil War and its perception by many as a symbol of racism. The call to remove the flag in South Carolina was directly influenced by the June 18 hate-crime shooting in Charleston that killed nine people. The shooter, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, had been photographed with the Confederate flag and said to have wanted to start “a race war.”
Last month, administrators at the University of Texas removed a statue of Jefferson Davis from its campus. Davis was the president of the Confederate States of America during the years of the Civil War (1861-1865). Similar to the controversy caused by the flag, the statue had long been the source of criticism as a symbol of racism. A group called the Sons of Confederate veterans sued the university to stop its removal of the statue; a judge ruled against them. It was moved to the Briscoe history museum, located on the university campus.
What Do You Think? Other figures from the Confederacy remain in place on campus (as well as many other locations across the South). Do you think they should be removed as a way to restore repair racial relations across the country? Why or why not?
Chris Christie’s “FedEx” Solution to Immigration
Immigration will surely be one of the big issues during the 2016 presidential election. Many candidates are already drawing attention from the comments they are making on the campaign trail. Donald Trump has drawn both harsh criticism and praise for his stated desire to construct a very large fence along the Mexican border. New Jersey governor and Republican Chris Christie, who also has a reputation for his bold, controversial statements, made headlines last month for his proposed solution on dealing with illegal immigrants.
At a rally in New Hampshire, Christie said that if elected president, he would ask FedEx chief executive officer Frederick W. Smith to devise a system that could track people coming into the country. He said that the shipping company knows at any given moment where a package is and that the government does not do a good enough job of knowing where immigrants, who have proper documentation, have gone within our borders. The comment has drawn a firestorm of criticism from civil liberties advocates as well as those who claim the logistics of such a proposal would be impossible to maintain.