Current Events


Celebrating 150 Years of Chemistry's Periodic Table
February 17, 2019
Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev published his first draft of chemistry's Periodic Table of Elements in 1869. It had only 63 elements on it. As of 2019, the Periodic Table has 118 elements on it. The United Nations has declared 2019 the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mendeleev's publication. Activities all around the world are part of this commemoration.

Deal Reached to End Denver Teachers Strike
February 16, 2019
Denver teachers have gone back to work, after an agreement between their union and the Denver Public School District ended a walkout after four days. More than half of the district's 4,725 teachers went on strike. Early child care centers were closed, but other school remained open. Some students joined their teachers in the picket line; others went to school as normal. The teachers union, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, said that the deal included a base pay increase of from 7 to 11 to percent for the next school year–courtesy of a 20-step pay increase schedule–and, on top of that, a cost-of-living increase this year and the next. Teachers also got another of the things they wanted: a pay scaled based on experience and education, with professional development courses being considered, not just degrees. Teachers agreed to keep the incentive pay scheme that the district wanted, one that prioritizes high-poverty schools, roles at which are traditionally harder to fill.

Narcissus Fresco Found in Pompeii House
February 18, 2019 Narcissus fresco in Pompeii
Archaeologists in Pompeii have found a fresco detailing the famous Greek mythological figure Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. The fresco is in the same house where another fresco, depicting the myth of Leda and the Swan, was recently unearthed. Both works survived the deadly eruption of Mount Vesuvius that ravaged the town of Pompeii in 79 A.D.

En Garde, and May the Force Be with You
February 18, 2019
Lightsaber dueling is an officially recognized competitive sport in France. Participants have to provide their own force, however. The handheld swordlike weapons made famous in the Star Wars universe are the inspiration for LED-lit polycarbonate replicas that duelist can now use in competitions sanctioned by the French Fencing Federation. Federation officials said that they took the action in part to combat the sedentary lifestyle now embraced by many of today's youth (and adults).

USS Hornet Found Upright on Pacific Ocean Floor
February 11, 2019 USS Hornet found
Researchers trawling the depths of Earth's oceans looking for missing ships have found a big one: the USS Hornet. The Petrel research vessel, funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, found the wreck of the U.S. aircraft carrier 17,500 feet beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean, in the vicinity of the Solomon Islands. Sonar images taken from overhead show the Hornet in an upright position, as it if floated that way to ocean floor. Because of the depth, the ship is largely intact, the researchers said.

Denver Teachers on Strike
February 11, 2019 Denver teachers on strike
More than 2,000 teachers in the Denver public school system are on strike, after negotiations between the union and the district again failed to reach agreement. Some students joined picket lines as well; other students crossed picket lines in order to attend classes that were to be taught by substitute teachers. The existing contract covering the teachers expired on January 18. Negotiations between the Denver Public Schools District and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association had carried on for 15 months without an agreement. The union, which represents most of the district's 5,600 teachers, is seeking a total package of $28.5 million; the district was seeking a total package of $23.3 million. The two sides also had competing versions of how to apportion whatever figure is eventually agreed on: teachers were seeking more chances to get a pay increase, whereas the district wants to put teachers in high-poverty schools as a way of getting a bonus. District officials said that all 161 schools in the district would be open while the strike is on, and substitute teachers will be available in some cases; classes at early childhood education centers will not take place. The district now has 90,000 students.

Humanitarian Aid Denied Entry into Venezuela
February 11, 2019
The crisis in Venezuela is deepening, as more and more countries get involved in choosing sides between two political leaders who claim to be the country's leader. Meanwhile, many people are starving or fleeing the country and humanitarian aid sits unattended at the border. In recent days and weeks, more and more countries have publicly recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido, not President Nicolas Maduro, as the rightful ruler of Venezuela. Among those countries so doing was the United States, with President Trump personally doing the recognizing. The U.S. sent a large shipment of humanitarian aid–food and medical supplies, complete with doctors to administer the medical supplies, but Maduro has set up military cordons to block the aid's entry into the country, saying that he believes the aid to be a sham and the pretext for a military intervention.

Ray Gun Pinpoints Origin of Medieval Ceramics
February 11, 2019 X-ray fluorescence detector
Scientists have used a ray gun to determine the origin of a collection of medieval ceramics from a shipwreck. The wreck, recovered from the depths of the Java Sea in the 1990s, contained thousands of pieces of cargo, of which a large part has been recovered. The salvaged elements now make up the Java Sea Shipwreck collection at the Field Museum in Chicago. The scientists employed an X-ray fluorescence detector–which closely resembles a ray gun right out of science fiction– in scans of the ceramic pieces. Comparing the X-ray scanning results with what they already knew, the scientists determined that the ceramics were made more than 2,000 miles from where the ship sank.

Egyptian President Heads up African Union
February 10, 2019
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is the new chair of the African Union, after being approved at a meeting of the heads of the state of the participating member states in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The African Union (AU) is a 55-member body that looks to address issues common to all African nations. Chair of the AU rotates among the continent's five geographic regions: Central, East, North, South, and West.

Venezuela's Dueling Leaders Continue Standoff
February 3, 2019
Nicolas Maduro
Nicolas Maduro
Juan Guaido
Juan Guaido

The political showdown in Venezuela has continued, as the leader of the elected government and the leader of the opposition continue to refer to themselves as President. President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn in for another six-year term earlier this year, has rejected an ultimatum from several European countries that he run new presidential elections. He won re-election by a large margin; many opposition leaders were exiled or imprisoned and many opposition parties boycotted the election. Maduro has the support of the army and of the National Constituent Assembly, a legislative body that was formed in 2017, in response to elections that resulted in the opposition's gaining control of the National Assembly, traditionally the country's top governmental body. Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is the head of the National Assembly, recently declared himself President, saying that Maduro's election was illegitimate. He has the support of a few of the country's top generals, who have switched sides in recent days.

Team Ruff Back on Top in Puppy Bowl
February 3, 2019 Puppy Bowl XV MVP Bumble
Team Ruff returned to their winning ways with a thrilling 59–51 victory in Puppy Bowl XV. The win by the Ruff-sters broke a two-year winning streak by Team Fluff. Team Ruff Captain Bennett accepted the Lombarky Trophy on behalf of the team. (In one of many parallels between the Puppy Bowl and the Super Bowl, the winners of the football championship get possession of the Vince Lombardi Trophy.) MVP Bumble led Team Ruff to victory, becoming the first special needs dog to win the award. Bumble, a Lab-Chow Chow mix who is deaf and vision-impaired, was unstoppable.

Star Wars, Tennis Star Highlight Sapporo Snow Festival
February 3, 2019 Sapporo Snow Festival Naomi Osaka
Large crowds are the norm at the Sapporo Snow Festival, which runs from January 31 to February 11 in Japan's large Hokkaido city. The festival is celebrating its 70th year in 2019. It began with a number of schoolchildren who responded to the end of heavy blizzards by using the snow to build a small handful of sculptures. Their handiwork drew a crowd of about 50,000 that year, and it became an informal annual event. In 1955, members of the Self Defense Force joined in, creating a series of large snow sculptures. Annual attendance grew steadily, took off after worldwide TV coverage of the 1972 Winter Olympics, and now routinely numbers about 2 million. One very popular subject fo sculpture in 2019 has been tennis player Naomi Osaka, who won two straight Grand Slam tournaments, the 2018 U.S. Open and the 2019 Australian Open.

The Facts and Consequences of the Federal Government Shutdown
January 28, 2019
The longest shutdown in U.S. Government history lasted 35 days and ended with the signing of a continuing resolution that doesn't solve the problem. What Congress approved and President Trump signed keeps the government open through February 15. Here's what happened while the government was shut down and what might happen as a result. See also a history of government shutdowns.

Venezuela Crisis Deepens as U.S. Diplomats Ordered to Leave
January 27, 2019
The political crisis in Venezuela is deepening, as embattled President Nicolas Maduro struggles to hold on to power despite considerable political opposition, inside the country and out. Maduro recently ordered all American diplomats to leave the country, giving them a deadline of 30 days to comply. Many top U.S. officials, including President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the leader of the country. Protests against Maduro's government have been widespread for more than a week. More than two dozen people have died, and several hundred have been detained by police.

China Unveils 86-foot-long 3D-printed Bridge
January 24, 2019 3D-printed pedestrian bridge
China recently completed construction on the world's longest sea bridge. Now, the country has taken the wraps off the longest 3D-printed pedestrian bridge. The foot traffic bridge is 86 feet long and spans a waterway in Shanghai. A team of people from Beijing's Tsinghua University School of Architecture, led by Professor Xu Weiguo, designed the bridge, based on an existing model, the Zhaozhou Bridge. That bridge, in Hebei Province, is 1,400 years old; China says that that bridge, made from limestone slabs, is the longest-standing bridge in the world.

King Tut's Tomb Restoration Done
January 23, 2019 King Tut mask
After a decade, the restoration of the tomb of famed boy king Tutankhamen is complete. The tomb, discovered in 1922 by a team led by Howard Carter, was in pristine condition and yielded a large number of riches, many of which have been displayed in museums all over the world. The Getty Conservation Institute, of Los Angeles, and Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities completed the project, the facets of which included shoring up the tomb's wall paintings and adding a new ventilation system to protect against future damage. The tomb has been visited by a great many people through the years, and those visitors have stirred up dust and, merely by breathing, added large amounts of carbon dioxide to the area.

L.A. Teachers Back in School after 6-day Strike
January 23, 2019
Teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District are back on the job, after voting to approve a deal between the teachers union and school officials that ended a six-day strike. Affected had been more than 30,000 teachers and nearly half a million students.

Oldest Periodic Table Found Tucked Away in Scotland
January 19, 2019 Oldest periodic table
Officials at St. Andrews University in Scotland say that they have found the world's oldest periodic table of the elements. During a clean-out in 2014, Dr. Alan Aitken found the chart rolled up in a collection of other teaching materials in a storage area that had been gaining an increasing amount of material since 1968. The chart was in very fragile condition when discovered. University officials have completed a full restoration, and the chart now rests in climate-controlled conditions designed to keep it safe. A full facsimile is available for public use.

Hottest Ocean Temperatures, Again
January 16, 2019
For the fifth year in a row, the world's oceans were the hottest ever tracked, according to an international team of scientists. The mean sea level rise was 29.5 millimeters above the 1981–2010 average, the largest observed since tracking began in 1958. The continued prevalence of production of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases has resulted in record increases since 2014; scientists have also said that the rate of heat increase in rising even as the gases, and the heat that they trap, are not.

Schools Turning to E-Learning on Snow Days
January 16, 2019
Schools in at least four U.S. states are going ahead with e-learning days, another way in which schools are turning to technology to try to solve problems. The idea is to keep students working on snow days, even though schools are closed.

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Social Studies for Kids
copyright 20022018
David White