Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Feb 12, 2016 in Stuff You Should Know

Reforms in Ferguson

It’s been nearly eighteen months since the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown sparked nationwide controversy over issues of race relations and law enforcement. This led to an investigation by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) which revealed that the Ferguson Police Department had, “engaged in a pattern and practice of violating the Constitutional rights of its citizens.” In particular, African-Americans were disproportionately stopped, ticketed, and arrested over whites.

In response, the city of Ferguson, Missouri and the DOJ recently negotiated a federal consent decree. This is a proposed agreement for police reform. It stems from the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that was passed in the wake of the high-profile beating death of Rodney King by members of the Los Angeles Police Department. This law empowered the federal government to “sue” cities that exhibited a pattern of excessive force. The 127-page proposed agreement for Ferguson includes specific guidelines to re-orient policies toward de-escalation and avoiding force. In order to be enacted, the consent decree must be approved by the Ferguson City Council.

Dig Deeper Around 20 cities have created and implemented consent decrees. Do some research and determine which ones and how they have been implemented.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Close-up of human hands raised in a grave. © Ian Cartwright/Ingram Publishing.

Credit: © Ian Cartwright/Ingram Publishing

Do you like classic literature? Do you like tales about the undead? If so, you’ve probably read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Written in 2009, this “mash up” embellished the 1813 Jane Austen novel using elements of modern zombie fiction. It reached number three on The New York Times bestseller list of books. Its success led to the creation of similar mash ups, including Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (based on another Austen novel). Classic works in the public domain (meaning enough time has passed that it is no longer subject to approval by the author’s estate), have become popular sources of such genre-blending.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was adapted into a film, which recently had its premiere in Los Angeles. Lily James (of Downton Abbey) and Sam Riley (who played Jack Kerouac) play lovers Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. The film had been in development for quite sometime, with Oscar-winner Natalie Portman and director David O. Russell once attached.

What Do You Think? Did you/would you see P&P&Z? Why or why not? Have you read or seen the film version of a similar mashup? If so, which one(s) and what did you think?

Outbreak of Zika Threatens South America

The zika virus, contracted primarily by mosquito bite, has infected affected people in more than 20 countries across Central and South America. Symptoms include mild fever, headache, rash, joint point and conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye).  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that the virus stays in he blood for about a week. The outbreak led the World Health Organization to recently declare the virus a global public health emergency. As warmer months approach, some fear it could spread through the United States.

The biggest concern of the zika virus is the effect on unborn children. The virus is reportedly causing microcephaly, a condition where a baby is born with an abnormally small head, which means that their brain has not developed properly and cannot properly regulate vital functions. This can lead to development delays and intellectual disabilities. Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare disorder of the nervous system that can cause temporary paralysis, was also been linked to zika fever. There is currently no known vaccine.

Dig Deeper Carnival, the massive celebration held each year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is rapidly approaching. Find out what precautions are being taken to protect the estimated one million visitors against zika.

Morocco’s Solar Revolution

The African town of Ouarzazate, Morocco is home to the new Noor solar thermal plant. Located on the edge of the massive Sahara desert, the plant is capable of generating up to 160 megawatts of power. Phase one (of an intended three) contains parabolic mirrors covering the size of 35 soccer fields. Before construction, the country had been 98 percent dependent upon imported fossil fuels. Funded in part by the World Bank (which provides loans to developing countries), the investment in renewable energy will not only reduce dependency on countries in unstable regions, but will reduce long-term carbon emissions by millions of tons.

The Moroccan government, led by King Mohammed VI and aided by environment minister Hakima el Haite, has pledged to receive 42 percent of its electricity generation from renewable sources by the year 2020. In response, the United Nations praised them for their “level of ambition.” When it is completed, the plant will be the world’s largest and bring energy to more than a million people, including Europe.

What Do You Think? The International Energy Agency has called Morocco’s progress as part of an “energy revolution,” where the dominant source of global energy will be solar by 2050. Do some research and determine if this is a realistic goal. List the progress and challenges of such an endeavor.