Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Mar 11, 2016 in Stuff You Should Know

McDonalds in Brazil Under Investigation

As you probably know, McDonald’s is the largest hamburger fast food chain in the world, with restaurants located in 119 countries. Many of those restaurants are operated as “franchises,” which means they are run by individuals under the guidelines made by the corporation. In Latin American, McDonalds’ largest franchise owner is Arcos Dorados Holding Company. Last month, a federal prosecutor in Brazil opened a formal investigation into allegations that both Arcos Dorados and its parent company have engaged in fiscal and economic crimes.

Much of the investigation involves tax evasion (which means deliberate, illegal measures taken to avoid paying income tax). Some of the alleged violations include brides paid to government officials in exchange for favorable considerations that reduced the company’s tax burden. It is not the first time the Brazilian McDonald’s has come under fire. Last summer, various labor unions filed similar complaints regarding unfair tax advantages gained through real estate practices. Other accusations claim that the fast-food giant’s requirement that all ingredients must be purchased from a single provider violates Brazilian business laws.

What Do You Think? Dig deeper into this case, as well as other high-profile cases involving McDonalds. How significant do you believe this case is in the context of its size and influence? Explain your answer.

Supreme Court Hears Texas Abortion Law Case

Back in the fall, btw brought you news of strict state regulations regarding abortion clinics in Texas. Since then, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt concerns a challenge to two provisions in a 2013 Texas bill called HB 2. One provision requires clinics that perform abortions to comply with elaborate (and costly) building upgrades, essentially forcing them to become elaborate surgical centers. The other requires doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where they perform abortions. Texas legislators have insisted that the restrictions are beneficial to women’s health.


The task of the Supreme Court in this case is to decide whether those particular restrictions create “undue burden” on a woman seeking access to an abortion (as laid out in the 1992 Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey). The three female Justices—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan—have been particularly vocal in their challenges to oral arguments that began last month.

Dig Deeper This is the first SCOTUS case to be argued since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Find out how the even-split of liberals and conservatives is likely to affect the ruling.

All-Refugee Olympic Team

In the past, in order to compete in the Olympic Games, an athlete had to represent a particular country. Last month, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) released a statement that it would create a team to be made up exclusively of Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA) for the 2016 games in Rio, Brazil this summer. The team will be eligible for all privileges and subject to all regulations as any other country-sponsored team. At the Opening Ceremony, it will march behind the official Olympic flag.

According the United Nations, there are more than 20 million refugees worldwide. The Olympic committee has identified at least 43 potential contenders for this new team. In order to be eligible, their refugee status will be verified by the United Nations. According to IOC president Thomas Bach, this will foster hope for all refugees in our world.

Dig Deeper Do some research and find at least one athlete competing on the ROA team. Write a short profile, including the athlete’s country of origin, current country of origin, details about why he or she had to flee as a refugee, his or her sport, and some statistics from former competition.

Can You Copyright a Color?

The British manufacturing company Surrey NanoSystems created a new color. Kinda. Some call it a pigment. But the creators insist it is a “substance.” Vantablack® is made up of millions of tubes of carbon about 3,500-times smaller than a single strand of hair. When light strikes its surface, it absorbs nearly all light, reflecting so little light, in fact, that it holds the world record for “darkest man-made substance.” When applied to a three-dimensional object, it makes it look two-dimensional. It was designed as a way to reduce unwanted stray light in instruments such as stealth satellites, sensors, infrared cameras and other scientific instruments.

Beyond its blackest-black claim, Vantablack® is getting a lot of attention because it sold the rights of its exclusive use in art to a sculptor named Anish Kapoor. This restriction does not apply to use in other sectors. The decision has infuriated other artists who insist they have access. Surrey NanoSystems insists that the substance requires, specific types of usage to achieve its most striking effect and that the trademark license is necessary because it is subject to Export law.

What Do You Think? Should the makers of Vantablack® be allowed to copyright their color/pigment substance? Make a Pro/Con list with at least three reasons for each side.