Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Oct 31, 2015 in Stuff You Should Know

The Impact of Defective Airbags

Back in the summer, btw brought you a story regarding recalls, specifically citing faulty airbags manufactured by the Japanese company Takata. Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it has expanded its investigation of Takata. In addition to problems with front airbags affecting 19 million cars from 12 different automakers, cars with defects in the side airbags may need to be recalled as well. The problem involves the airbag’s deflator, which is igniting with explosive force, causing shards of metal to spray throughout the passenger cabin. So far, there have been eight deaths and dozens of injuries linked to this problem.

In the US Senate, two members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee (one Democrat and one Republican) drafted a letter to Takata demanding that the company provide documentation regarding the side airbags. This is because the defect, thought to only apply to models from 2002 to 2008, has been located in models as late as 2014. Determining the cause of the problem has been complicated, as many contributing factors have been identified (including humidity).

Dig Deeper Continue to follow this story, noting any updates made by both Congress and federal regulators.

Sesame Street Introduces Autistic Character

The Children’s Television Workshop is a non-profit organization that produces educational programming. One of their best-known creations is the television show Sesame Street. Created in 1969, the show focuses on preparing very young children for school, using repetition, humor and modeling. The characters represent a wide-range of personality types as well as abilities, as a way to create greater awareness and empathy. Among them are a blind monster named Aristotle, and the recently introduced Julia, who has autism. She will not be on the show, but will be featured in digital content and storybooks. Her character exhibits characteristics such as sensitivity to sounds and limited eye contact.

Integrating real-life situations into the show has become a regular occurrence for Sesame Street. When actor Will Lee, who played Mr. Hooper, died in real life, the writers wrote Mr. Hooper’s death into an episode. For many years, the character Big Bird had an imaginary friend named Mr. Snuffleupagus that no one else ever saw. In the 1980s, the writers believed that the situation might scare children into thinking parents would not believe them if they told them something serious. Shortly after 9/11, the show addressed the topic of racism through the visit from a seagull named Gulliver.

What Do You Think? Do you have a favorite Sesame Street character? If so, who is it? Did you know that many of the characters represent a particular age? Look up a character and find out more about its creation.

Can Lifting Weights Slow Aging?

Exercise is good for our bodies, there is no doubt. Exercise is also good for our mood and our endurance. But a recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society is showing that lifting weights can also help our brains as we age. The study was made up of women between the age of 65 and 75 who had Periventricular White Matter lesions (PWMs) in their brains. Age is the single most common cause of PWM. Over the course of one year, some of the women participated in a walking regiment, others concentrated on balance and flexibility, while others trained with weights.

Man lifting barbell. Image Source/SuperStock. MHE World.

Is lifting weights a key to longer life? Credit: Image Source/SuperStock

At the end of the study, those in the latter group, who lifted weights twice a week, displayed shrinkage of white matter (which can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease). They also performed better on almost all of the cognitive tests they had taken six months previous. This result is causing many to conclude that weight resistance exercise can considerably reduce some of the natural deterioration associated with aging.

What Do You Think? How much do you exercise? What kinds of effects do you think it has on your mind? Ask your parents or grandparents how much they exercise? Ask them what kinds of effects they think it might have on their minds. Give examples.

Germany Passes Asylum Bill

As the stream of refugees fleeing Syria continues, the countries that are accepting them continue to find ways to deal with the crisis. Germany has become a major destination for many of the refugees, welcoming 200,000 in 2014 and expected to receive up to a million before the end of the year. As a way to manage the influx of people, the German government recently passed a new law regarding its policy on whom it will accept and what aid can be given.

The restrictions include redefining which persons can seek legally seek asylum in Germany. For example, Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro were added to a list of “safe nations,” meaning the citizens of those countries are no longer in eminent danger from their own governments and would be denied entry. The law will also no longer offer multiple cash allowances to refugees; instead they will receive assistance “in kind” (provided directly with food and supplies). Meanwhile, authorities fear that the surge of people into the country could lead to a rise in anti-refugee sentiments.

Dig Deeper German Chancellor Angela Merkel has seen a recent fall in her approval rating among the German people. Do some research (perhaps in the Opinion columns of major newspapers) and find out the biggest complaints against the acceptance of Syrian refugees into Germany.