Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jan 28, 2017 in Stuff You Should Know

It’s Good to be Bored?

What do you do when you find yourself with five or ten minutes of unexpected free time? Chances are, you reach for your phone to message a friend or scroll through social media. But research is beginning to show that the over-stimulation brought on by this technology habit is having a negative effect on our health. It impacts our ability to focus and concentrate, and to be creative and introspective. Technology addiction–that feeling of nervousness or anxiety when you can’t check your phone–can even lead to higher stress levels, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and poor academic performance.

Credit: © Tomas Rodriguez/Corbis/Glow Images

Credit: © Tomas Rodriguez/Corbis/Glow Images

Instead, experts recommend embracing boredom–in other words, doing nothing. They argue that slowing down and allowing yourself to do nothing but daydream or doodle will help make you more creative, happier, and less stressed. Boredom is an important rest for your brain that rejuvenates your imagination and makes you more productive in the long run. Furthermore, “unplugging” yourself from technology will help improve your sleep, reduce stress, and lower stress levels.

So the next time you find yourself with a few free moments, put away your phone and allow your mind to wander. Stare out the window or doodle. Let your imagination wander. It might be the healthiest thing you do for yourself all day.

What Do You Think? Try an experiment. Put your phone away someplace where you can’t hear or see it. How long does it take for you to start feeling anxious, wondering about missed calls and messages? If you had to go without your phone for a whole day, could you do it? What about a week? Why or why not? Why do you think it is so hard for us to truly “unplug” from technology?

Hottest Year on Record

Data released last Wednesday by three government agenices–two American, one British–revealed that 2016 was the hottest year on record. In fact, 2016 represented the first time in history when temperatures were the hottest on record for three years in a row. The last three years, taken together, represent the largest temperature increase over a three-year period since modern record keeping began in 1880.

The effects of steadily warming temperatures on the Earth are significant. In the Arctic, temperatures last fall ran 20 to 30 degrees Farenheit above normal. Erosion is rapidly occurring in the Arctic, and sea ice is melting. Many scientists already believe that a 15 to 20 foot rise in sea level is now inevitable. This would submerge many coastal cities, including Miami and New York. Rising ocean temperatures and acidification of the water also is causing large “dead spots” in the ocean where nothing can grow or survive, contributing to mass extinctions of marine life.

While factors like El Nino do come into play, the single greatest cause of rising Earth temperatures is the increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Plans to reduce fossil-fuel emissions in China and the U.S. have not found strong support in Congress. Throughout his campaign, President Donald Trump denounced climate change as a “hoax.” Though he claims to have changed his opinion since then, nevertheless, any reference to climate change on the White House Web site was removed on Inauguration Day. Instead, President Trump has put forward “An America First Energy Plan,” which denounces policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. Rule and other “burdensome regulations on our energy industry.”

Dig Deeper Visit NASA’s climate change Web site at climate.nasa.gov. Spend a few minutes exploring the Web site. Write down at least one fact about climate change that you didn’t know before. Then, share your findings with the class.

May Announces Plan for Free Trade

Seven months after voting in favor of leaving the European Union–a move known as “Brexit”--Britain is beginning to get a sense of what this change might actually look like. On January 17, Prime Minister Theresa May gave a speech in which she outlined her plan for the future of the country. She will remove Britain from the EU’s single market and will drastically reduce payments to the EU budget. Her government will also promote globalization and free trade, both with EU member nations and with other countries around the world, including the United States.

However, this process might not happen as smoothly as May plans. The EU has already accused her of “cherry picking”: in other words, pulling out of the EU but then asking the EU for special trade deals such as zero tariffs. Also, May’s timeline–she has said she would like to wrap up a trade agreement with the EU in two years–is extremely unrealistic, as the EU has never concluded a trade agreement in two years, particularly not a complicated one as this one will most likely prove to be. Already, many large multinational banks and companies, worried about what Brexit will cost them, have announced plans to leave Britain in favor of relocating in other European nations.

Many people worldwide have a hard time believing that what May really wants is free trade, considering that Britain just left the EU, the largest free-trade bloc on the planet. One thing is certain: the deceptively simple plan to “Leave” will likely be more complicated than many British citizens thought it would be when they cast their ballots half a year ago.

What Do You Think? Britain has close and historic ties with the rest of Europe. However, its decision to leave the EU will no doubt take a toll on the European economy as a whole. Do you think the EU should be obligated to negotiate special trade deals with Britain in the future? Why or why not?

What’s Next for Obama?

After leaving office, George Washington returned to Mount Vernon. Jimmy Carter became an activist working for social change. Harry Truman went broke. Ronald Reagan battled Alzheimer’s disease. Bill Clinton gives speeches and created his Clinton Global Initiative.

So what’s next for Barack Obama?

In 1958, Congress passed the Former Presidents Act, which guarantees retiring presidents a salary of just over $200,000 per year, health benefits, and round-the-clock Secret Service protection, as well as an office, a staff, and expenses for life. This frees up the retiring executive from having to get a “real” job and instead enables the president to pursue other goals, whether in the political arena or not.

At 55 years old, Barack Obama is young as far as retiring presidents go, and still enjoys a relatively high degree of popularity. There has been a lot of speculation about what he will take on next. Obama has made it clear that he does not plan to run for any other political office. It is possible that he will return to writing (he is already a successful author of three books) or teaching law (he was a law professor before becoming president). Whatever he decides to do, it will more than likely center around his first love: community organizing. Now that he is no longer president, he will have the time and freedom to devote himself more fully to causes that are important to him, such as criminal justice reform, race relations, gun control, and immigration.

Before leaving the White House, President and Michelle Obama announced that they will first spend some time in Palm Springs, resting and recuperating. After that, they will likely turn their attention to raising money for their new Obama Foundation, whose mission centers around fostering social change and promoting citizenship. The Obama Foundation will also be responsible for building a presidential center on the South Side of Chicago. More than just a traditional library or museum, the center will team up with other projects that promote citizenship and social welfare around the country.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, what is President Obama’s legacy? In other words, what do you think people will remember most about him, and his eight years in office, in the future?