Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in Stuff You Should Know

Standoff in Oregon Ends

Last month, btw brought you news of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon by a group protesting federal land rights. Many of the residents of Harney Country, while generally sympathetic to the cause of the so-called “Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, had become displeased by the ongoing disruption to their community. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), still haunted by the violent end to 1993s siege in Waco, Texas, had been proceeding with caution.

On January 26, law enforcement officials (who had previously allowed the protestors to come and go freely from the refuge) stopped two vehicles carrying nine people on their way to a meeting where leader Ammon Bundy was speaking. The occupants of one of the cars surrendered, while the other sped away. Following a chase and re-capture, 55-year-old Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was killed by authorities who tried to take him into custody. The incident has sparked a “rolling rally” organized by a group calling themselves the Pacific Patriots Network. In statement through his lawyer, Ammon Bundy called on the remaining occupiers to “stand down” and allow the fight to continue in the courts.

Dig Deeper This incident is causing many people to look back at standoffs between armed anti-government extremists and the government, many of which, like the incident in Waco and another in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Do some research and determine what lessons have been learned by both sides.

Barbie’s Got a New Body (and a New Future?)

For more than 50 years, the Mattel toy company has enjoyed massive success with the sale of Barbie, the 12-inch fashion doll, and her seemingly unlimited number of clothes and accessories. Despite the popularity, makers of Barbie have faced ongoing criticism about the doll’s unrealistic body proportions and lack of diversity. Last year, Mattel added 23 new dolls to its “Fashionista” line that included a wide range of hair and eye colors, face shapes, skin tones, and a flatter foot. On January 28, Mattel added three body shapes: tall, petite and curvy.

While many consider the changes a victory of women’s equality, others call the change a reaction to flagging sales. Many blame with rise of other doll franchises, such as American Girl and Disney princesses, as well as the ongoing competition with electronic devices. Others put the responsibility on the company’s management. Regardless of the reason, sales fell 6 percent this past Christmas season. In response, Mattel removed Chief Executive Bryan Stockton and replaced him with board member Christopher Sinclair. Executives are hoping that the new rollout will introduce Barbie to a whole new generation of girls.

What Do You Think? Do you think Mattel’s decision to make Barbie more reflective of society will be successful enough to recover profits for the company? Why or why not?

GOP Debate is Trumpless

On January 26, the Republican Party held its seventh debate of the season. It took place in Iowa, where candidates have been for the past month, campaigning before the February 1 caucus. Only eight were invited, with the remaining five failing to qualify by achieving at least one percent in the five most recent national polls. While invited, frontrunner Donald Trump declined the invitation. Instead, he filled an auditorium three miles away with 700 supporters for a so-called rally for veterans. However, many took the gathering as another publicity stunt.

Trump’s absence from the GOP debate was commented upon by both contenders and commentators. Ted Cruz, who was polling at second place, took the brunt of criticism in the real estate mogul’s absence. Immigration, foreign policy (particularly ISIS and Iran) and health care were the main topics. At his own event, Trump focused on the problems veterans face when they return home from war. He also called out candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum (who had not qualified for the Fox debate) who were in the audience.

What Do You Think? Determine the result of the Iowa caucus. Determine if anyone (including Trump) was helped or hindered by their performance in Iowa. Explain your answer.

Ancient Babylonians Modern Astronomy

The mathematical technique “pre-calculus” was once credited to medieval Europeans in the Second Century. But a recent discovery at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany moves that finding to between 1800 BCE and 1600 BCE (Before Common Era). A new article in the journal Science by professor Mathieu Ossendrijver details the discovery of clay tablets (called cuneiforms). On them, Babylonians living in the area just south of modern day Baghdad, Iraq, had detailed a sophisticated formulation of the motion of Jupiter in relation to the stars that surround it.

Ancient mathematicians of the Babylonian era typically used equations to determine everyday calculations, such as measuring plots of land. But Ossendrijver’s tablets (which had been excavated in the late 1800s and kept in a British museum) show evidence of trapezoid calculations, which indicated astronomical observations. The reason they are linked to Jupiter specifically is because of the planet’s unusual orbit pattern. The archaeological astronomy discovery is being hailed as remarkable by the science community because of its relative sophistication. This is because the technique used by is considered to be a “modern” concept.

Dig Deeper Do some research on the Babylonian era. Write a paragraph on some of its other significant discoveries.