Current Events


'Faithless Electors' Top Out at 7; Trump Officially President-elect
December 19, 2016
In the end, the number was 7. That was the number of presidential electors who voted for someone other than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. So Trump will be the next President.

Anne Frank Museum Floats Fresh Capture Theory
December 18, 2016
Anne Frank might not have been betrayed after all, according to a new study of first- and secondhand sources. The theory of how the Franks were discovered has long been that someone phoned authorities or otherwise let them know of the Franks' hiding place. Now, the Anne Frank House museum itself has put forward the theory that it was coincidence that resulted in the Aug. 4, 1944, arrests of Anne and her family. New research by the museum has analyzed police documents and Anne's diary in detail; the result is the suggestion to consider possibilities other than betrayal.

Arctic Temperatures Still Rising
December 18, 2016
Temperatures continue to climb in the Arctic region, which is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, U.S. Government scientists said. The annual air temperature over land in the Arctic was 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in 1900, the first year of measurement, according to a peer-reviewed report by the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As well, sea surface temperatures were 9 degrees Fahrenheit above average in the Barents Sea and the Chukchi Sea. The findings were part of the NOAA's annual Arctic Report Card, which covered the period from October 2016 to September 2016. The report was reviewed by 61 scientists around the world.

Scientists ID Gender of Ancient Cave Painters
December 18, 2016
Archaeologists can tell the gender of someone who placed their hands on a rock wall 40,000 years ago, according to a study recently published. In the study, archaeologists from South Africa and the United Kingdom used cutting-edge technology to create an environment in which student volunteers created new hand stencils in the same way as did the Upper Paleolithic artists who placed their own hands on cave walls tens of thousands of years ago. The study included the recreation of a "portable cave" not unlike those found in Europe and Indonesia, dotted with paintings of animals and handprints.

South Korea's President Facing Multiple Indictments
December 11, 2016
The investigation of South Korean suspended President Park Geun-hey is complete, and she now faces official allegations of attempted coercion. Park, elected as the country's first female leader in 2012, was impeached by the National Assembly and now faces removal by the Constitutional Court. She has been replaced as the country's leader by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn but is still technically the President and so is still immune from prosecution. If she is removed from office, however, she could face criminal charges.

North Korea Wargames Coincide with South Korean Impeachment
December 11, 2016
Taking advantage of its southern neighbor distracted by a presidential scandal, North Korea has conducted a big military drill that, among other things, targeted Blue House, south Korea's presidential residence. North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was seen in photos to be reveling in the results of the drill, which included the successful breach of Blue House securities and the building's being set on fire. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn, acting President while elected President Park Geun-hey is suspended after being impeached, conducted an emergency meeting of the country's cabinet. South Korean troops got the call to be on high alert.

Longest Rail Tunnel Opens in Switzerland
December 11, 2016
Train service through the world's longest tunnel has begun, with the first cars rumbling through the 35-mile-long Gotthard Base tunnel underneath Switzerland. European leaders, including other heads of state, attended a ceremonial opening of the tunnel in June. French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among those on the first train through the tunnel; other passengers included hundreds of Swiss citizens who had won tickets in a lottery. It wasn't until December 11 that the first commercial runs began. The tunnel runs deep through the Swiss Alps, from Zurich to Lugano on a route that cuts the commute or freight time by a half hour. The tunnel route bypasses the winding Gotthard Railway, which opened in 1882 and has been running at capacity for some time.

Parents Rival Teens for Screen Time Totals, Study Finds
December 11, 2016
Adults with children clock up as much time onscreen as their teenage children do, a report has found. The report, from the organization Common Sense, found that these parents spend up to nine hours a day using a screen. Qualifying as a screen in the survey were televisions, computers, tablets, and smartphones. The survey, which coalated responses from 1,786 parents of children 13–18 around the U.S., found that screen time attributed to work constituted less than two hours a day. Survey respondents said that the rest of the time, they were using screens to watch television shows or movies, to play video games, to browse the Internet, to send texts and messages, to have video chats–the same kinds of things that teenagers, their children, were doing.

'Godspeed, John Glenn': Famed Astronaut Dead at 95
December 8, 2016
John Glenn–famous astronaut, decorated military veteran, fearless test pilot, long-serving Congressman, and all-around American hero–has died. He was 95. Glenn is perhaps most well-known for becoming the first American to orbit the Earth. He did so as the sole occupant of the Friendship 7 spacecraft on Feb. 20, 1962, spending 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds to complete three orbits. His first words in space were these: "Zero G, and I feel fine."

South Korea's 1st Female President Impeached
December 9, 2016
The South Korean parliament has voted to impeach the country's President, Park Geun-hye. Park, the country's first female leader, stands accused of joining two former aides and a personal friend to put pressure on businesses to make donations to foundations that support what she wants the country to do. Park has apologized for being associated with her friend Choi Soon-sil, who has been indicted on charges of influence peddling, both in governmental matters and in helping her daughter gain admission to a university.

'Faithless Electors' Sue to Protest State Law
December 6, 2016
Three Colorado people selected by the Democratic Party to be presidential electors have filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that their state's law governing electoral practice is unconstitutional.

India-sized Gap in Polar Ice Totals
December 6, 2016
An expanse of polar ice the size of India has disappeared, scientists say. Measurements taken on December 4 show that the extent of polar sea ice was 1.48 square million miles below average. That's an area about the size of India, or twice the size of Alaska.

Supreme Court to Rule on Parliament's Role in 'Brexit'
December 5, 2016
The highest court in the United Kingdom will weigh in soon on the next stage in the 'Brexit' saga. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a challenge to a lower court ruling from November 2016 that Parliament must voice its opinion before the country negotiates its release from the European Union.

Computer Science Education, One Hour at a Time
December 5, 2016
It's Computer Science Education Week, time for the Hour of Code. This year, youngsters in more than 180 countries will take part in a worldwide drive to encourage more people to get interested in computer science, by delving into writing computer code. Across the world, the website has registered more than 117,000 Hour of Code events; that number is expected to grow as the week progresses. (Computer Science Education Week runs December 5–11 and is in honor of Admiral Grace Hopper, a computing pioneer.)

Washington Monument to Shut until 2019
December 3, 2016
The Washington Monument will remain shut until at least 2019, according to the National Park Service. The well-known obelisk in the nation's capital has been shut since August because of ongoing problems with the internal elevator. A crack near the top of the 555-foot-tall monument appeared after a 2011 earthquake that measured 5.8 on the Richter scale, and park service officials closed the building at that time, reopening it after nearly three repairs. The ongoing shutdown will allow officials to make repairs to the electrical system, the computer system, and to other mechanical systems. The hallmark of the newly opened monument will be an entirely new elevator, so that visitors can once again rise nearly to the top and access an observation deck for panoramic views of the surrounding area.

1,000-year-old Viking Toolbox Discovered
December 3, 2016
Danish archaeologists have opened a toolbox for the first time in 1,000 years. The dig team, from the Danish Castle Center in Vordingborg, found the tools in a gatehouse at Borgring, a ring-shaped fortress on Zealand, the country's most populated island. The 14 iron tools were originally in a wooden chest, but the wood has nearly disintegrated. The gatehouse itself collapsed in the 10th Century. The tools are heavily rusted, but archaeologists have been able to discern that they found large drills used to carve holes in timber, a set of pliers, a kind of nail used to join wooden planks, an iron draw plate, and several chain links that are attached to an iron ring. The working theory is that a craftsman had his workroom inside the gatehouse.

Calf Bones Point to Evidence of Pilgrims' Settlement
November 25, 2016

Archaeologists have found evidence of the original Plimoth Plantation settlement, the evolution of the Pilgrims' landing. The archaeology team, from the University of Massachusetts Boston, found tin, beads, musket balls, ceramics, and the bones of a calf, all of which led the team to the conclusion that they had found remnants of the famed 1620 settlement, whose residents celebrated the First Thanksgiving.

Driverless Truck Movement Gains Momentum in U.S.
November 25, 2016
Driving down two roads in Ohio soon will be a truck driven by no human. The self-driving truck from a company named Otto will go down a 35-mile stretch of U.S. Route 33, through regular traffic on a four-lane divided highway. A human will be in the truck and will be able to assume control easily, if needed. A sophisticated system of radar and camera sensors, coupled with high-tech computer software, helps guide the vehicles down the road.

More Inductees into Toy Hall of Fame
November 25, 2016
The new members of the National Toy Hall of Fame have swung, imagined, and inspired their way in. Joining the 59 other members of the Hall of Fame are Dungeons & Dragons, Fisher Price Little People, and the ubiquitous wooden swing. Examples of all will be on permanent display in the Strong's National Toy Hall of Fame museum, in Rochester, N.Y.

Anne Frank Poem Brings $148,000 at Auction
November 24, 2016
A poem written by famed World War II diarist Anne Frank has sold at auction for $148,000, far more than what was expected. The eight-line poem, partially copied from a book Dutch children's poems, had a term of attribution, that of Christiane van Maarsen, whose sister was Anne's closest friend, Jacqueline. Christiane died in 2006. She had torn it from her poezie album (a kind of diary and scrapbook) and given it to her sister in the 1970s.J acqueline put the poem up for auction with the Haarlem auction house Bubb Kuyper. The expected sale price was about $50,000. The buyer made the purchase online and wished to remain anonymous.

The 'Faithless Electors' of the Electoral Process
Article II of the Constitution lists the specifics of the Electoral College. Each state sends a number of electors to that state's capital, for a special meeting that, technically, elects the President; however, the requirements of those electors as to how to proceed at that meeting varies by state.

Ancient Precursor to The Thinker Unearthed in Israel
November 23, 2016
An ancient precursor to Rodin's iconic statue The Thinker has been found in a grave in Israel. The statue is 3,800 years old and features a hat-wearing man with one hand to a cheek and the other hand resting on a knee, as if in a pensive pose, the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said. Archaeologists found the 7-inch-tall ornament atop a jug in a Bronze Age, alongside arrowheads, daggers, and an axe head.

Nations Agree on Plan for Emissions Monitoring
November 20, 2016
Two weeks of talks on global warming in Marrakesh, Morocco, have resulted in an agreement to finalise rules for the Paris Agreement. The deal, approved by hundreds of nations in late 2015, sets targets for nations to cut emissions of greenhouse emissions. What was not included in the deal was firm parameters for reporting and monitoring of the nations’ progress toward the goals. The Marrakesh agreement sets a deadline of December 2018 for working out how to report and monitor emissions.

Discoveries Boost Knowledge of Shakespeare Stage
November 20, 2016
The curtain has gone up again for Shakespeare’s early efforts.Researchers at the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) have unearthed a significant piece of the Curtain Theatre, one of London’s first purpose-built theaters and an early favourite of famed Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare. Unlike other theatres of the day, which would have been adapted to include a stage, the rectangular Curtain was built with the stage and the audience in mind. An intriguing bonus in the dig was the discovery of a long passageway running underneath the length of the stage. The theory is that actors could get from one side of the stage to the other quickly and secretly – a common enough occurrence in today’s theater but not so commonly found or easily done in Elizabethan times.

Milk Consumption Dates Back 9,000 Years: Study
November 20, 2016
The consumption of milk dates as far back as 9,000 years ago, according to a new study. Scientists examined more than 500 prehistoric pieces of pottery with the express purpose of detecting milk residue and animal fat. They found traces of both, suggesting the consumption of milk, and of animal skeletal remains, suggesting the maintaining of domestic animals for meat purposes. The pottery came from 82 sites around the northern Mediterranean region; remains dated as far back as the 7th Century B.C. and as recent as the 5th Century B.C.

3,800-year-old Boat Tableau Found on Egyptian Wall
November 6, 2016
Archaeologists have discovered a wall tableau of dozens of boats that date back more than 3,800 years. The images, which number more than 120, are on the wall of building near the tomb of Pharaoh Senwosret III, who ruled 1878–1839 B.C. A powerful leader who enjoyed great military success and a visionary builder who had constructed many famous buildings and other landmarks, Senwosret III was one of just a few kings of Ancient Egypt who enjoyed his own cult in his own lifetime. The images, which range from 4 inches to nearly 5 feet in width, show masts, sails, cabins, rudder, oars, and other trappings of ancient ships. Some images even show people doing the rowing. Other images showed flowers and animals, notably cattle and gazelles.

Largest Marine Protected Area off Antarctica
October 28, 2016
Representatives from 24 nations and the European Union have created the world’s largest marine protected area, off the coast of Antarctica. The area, in the Ross Sea, is 598,000 square miles in size and home to 16,000 species of penguins, seals, whales, and other wildlife that are found nowhere else on Earth. Under the agreement, 30 percent of the area will be off limits to commercial fishing. Another 28 percent will be research zones.

Emoji on Display in NY Museum of Modern Art
October 28, 2016
Emoji are going to MoMa. The pictographs now so familiar to users of portable phones and tablets will be on display at New York's Museum of Modern Art from December, in a permanent exhibit on graphics and animation. First appearing in 1999, emoji were the brainchild of Shigetaka Kurita, on behalf of the Japanese mobile phone carrier NTT DoCoMo. The first emoji, a set of 176, were simple in nature because cell phones in those days could handle only simple line drawings. The initial set included basic drawings of weather symbols, modes of transportation, zodiac signs, sports, symbols of food and drink, suits of playing cards, methods of communication, and even animals (not to mention the most popular emoji of all time, the smiling face). Today's emoji are more complex in construction and more varied in scope. One estimate lists the total as more than 1,800.

Rockwell Undecided Voter Painting on Auction
October 28, 2016
Just in time for the 2016 presidential election, the auction Sotheby's is selling a Norman Rockwell painting of an undecided voter. The 1944 painting Which One? (Undecided; Man in Voting Booth) will be on public display on November 4, to publicize the painting ahead of its American auction, which will be on November 21. The painting features a man standing a voting booth, with the curtain undrawn; in the man's hand is a copy of the newspaper The Cedar Rapids Gazette, showing the faces of the two major-party candidates in the 1944 presidential election. Experts think that the price paid for the painting will between $4 million and $6 million.

Over the Rainbow (and Moon) at Slippers Rescue
October 24, 2016
There is indeed no place like home, and Dorothy’s ruby red slippers can stay at the Smithsonian and even get an upgrade, thanks to help from the public. The museum had appealed for help from the public, in the form of a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign launched October 17, with a goal of $300,000, which the museum said was needed to repair the shoes and also construct a state-of-the-art preservation display case. In less than a week, the campaign reached its goal, thanks to donations from more than 5,300 people in 41 countries.

Black Sea Trawlers Discover Dozens of Shipwrecks
October 24, 2016
An underwater archeology enterprise has discovered dozens of previously unknown shipwrecks from ancient times, some in excellent condition. The Black Sea Maritime Archeology Project has been using photogrammetry to construct 3D models to approximate what the ships’ shells would have looked like in their entirety. Some of the more than 40 ships discovered date to the Ottoman period; other ships date to the Byzantine Empire.

Chips off an Expensive Block
October 24, 2016
Potato chips for $56? How many do you get? How about only 5?That’s the special set of tasty snacks on offer from St. Erik’s brewery in Sweden. The price is so high because the chips are filled with specialty ingredients, including truffle seaweed, matsutake mushrooms, a special kind of wort, and (the main ingredient) potatoes grown only in a certain place on the planet.

Global Agreement Targets HFC Emissions
October 16, 2016
More than 170 countries have agreed to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons, after down-to-the-wire negotiations concluded at a world summit in Kigali, Rwanda. The year that the countries agreed that they will begin taking action is 2019. That is the year that the U.S., the world’s second-largest polluter, and the European Union committed to begin. China, the largest polluter on the planet, will start in 2024, along with more than 100 developing countries.

Amundsen Ship Back above Water
October 16, 2016
A ship that carried famed South Pole explorer Roald Amundsen has emerged from the depths after decades underwater. Amundsen was the first to reach the South Pole, in 1911, and in 1906, the first to lead an expedition through the Northwest Passage. It was in 1918 that Amundsen and crew set out aboard the Maud to traverse the Northeast Passage. They left Oslo, Norway, and travelled along the Russian coast to Nome, Alaska. In all, the crew spent seven years aboard the Maud. The ship took the crew through the frozen Arctic lands, faciliating observations of weather and the stars. In 1930, the Maud sprung a leak and sunk. A Norwegian salvage team has finally brought the ship back to the surface.

3D Video Puts Pompeii Banker Back into Focus
October 10, 2016
Remembrances of a banker who lost his life and his livelihood in the volanic ash of Mount Vesuvius are accessible, thanks to digital reconstruction of the house in which the banker lived. Archaeologists on the Swedish Pompeii Project have been working for a decade and a half on a project to document in painstaking detail what a city block in the ruined city of Pompeii would have been like. The block, known as Insula V1, contained a bakery, a laundry, a tavern, a few gardens, and three very large estates (and one of those estates belonged to a banker). The archaeologists found, among other things, that the taps to a fountain in one of the gardens were on at the time of the volcanic eruption and that the volcanic ash had frozen the running water solid. As well, one of the shops still had intact three windows, made of gypsum.

Complete Woolly Mammoth Skeleton on Auction
October 2, 2016
A scientist in the Netherlands has stitched together nearly 300 bones to make a complete skeleton of a woolly mammoth and is auctioning it off. The bones date back to between 30,000 years ago and 50,000 years ago, said Bart Schenning, who spent more than a decade painstakingly attaching the bones on a frame that approaches 10 feet in height and 18 feet in length. Schenning assembled the skeleton in a very large shed outside his house, then mounted the skeleton on a giant frame. The auction appears on the online site Catawiki. A representative for the site said that both museums and private collectors had expressed interest. The sale price is expected to exceed 200,000 pounds, the website representative said.

Dig at Japanese Castle Unearths Roman Coins
October 1, 2016
Archaeologists in Japan have found in the ruins of a Japanese castle some coins minted in Ancient Rome. The 10 coins are bronze and copper, and the oldest dates to the 4th or 5th Century A.D. The coins were found on one of the Ryukyu Islands, near Okinawa, in the ruins of Katsuren, a medieval castle that has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site and as a Designated Historial Monument by the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs. The island is home to several U.S. military bases, so the archaeologists thought at first that they had found some pedestrian coins dropped by U.S. soldiers. But further investigation revealed Roman letters and illustrations of a Roman soldier holding a spear. Further X-ray scanning revealed that some of the coins showed the profile of Constantine the Great, who was emperor of Rome in the 4th Century.

Obama Dedicates African-American Museum
September 25, 2016
President Barack Obama, America’s first African-American President, cut the ribbon at the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, an act that many observers found poignant in its symbolism. Obama also gave a speech dedicating the museum. The President’s address was part of a three-day celebration on the National Mall that also included musical performances and oral history activities.

Skeleton Found in Antikythera Wreckage
September 25, 2016
The discovery of a partial skeleton could solve a 2,000-year-old mystery. Archaeologists have found multiple bones from a person aboard the shipwreck that yielded the Antikythera Mechanism, a device from Ancient Greece that some people think was a prototype for today’s computers. Found were a partial skull, two arm bones, two femurs, and some rib fragments. Early indications are that the bones belonged to a man in his early 20s. Scientists hope to do DNA testing on the bones to find out more. Also planned is a 3D reconstruction of the skull.

Indigo Dye Found on 6,200-Year-Old Fabric in Peru September 18, 2016
Archaeologists have found indigo-dyed fabric in Peru that dates to 6,200 years ago. It is the oldest known use of the blue coloring on fabric yet found. The indigo was applied to woven cotton, of which fragments remain today. The archaeologists found the fragments in bundles along a ramp that led to an ancient temple at Huaca Prieta, a prehistoric site north of what is now the Peruvian city of Trujillo. Residents built the temple on top of a living space, and subsequent generations updated the construction, so that the archaeologists found many layers of remains.

Mary Rose Shipwreck Victim Lives Again in 3D
September 18, 2016
An online exhibit uses 3D models to help tell the story of a doomed crewmember aboard the fabled 16th-Century Mary Rose. The English warship, pressed into action against a French invasion in 1545, sank so quickly in the Solent that most of the hundreds of soldiers and crew onboard drowned. Of particular interest to the authors of the latest study was the onboard life of a carpenter; among the remains found were his skull, a shoe, a spoon, and several woodworking tools. The shoe, in particular, was in good shape still. In fact, scientists said that the leather was intact and that it wouldn’t take much for someone today to be able to wear the shoe reliably.

Japanese Party Names First Female Leader
September 18, 2016
For the first time ever, a woman leads the Democratic Party of Japan, now the country’s main opposition political party. Renho, a former model and television anchor, will now try to lead her party back into power. Renho, who goes by just the one name, became well-known in the 1980s as a model and was one of the main TV newscasters reporting from Kobe in 1995, after the massive earthquake there. She won election to Parliament in 2004 and was most recently the party’s deputy leader. Renho is the first woman to head the DPJ and the first person with mixed ethnic heritage to lead a Japanese political party.

Ice Hunting Grounds for Polar Bears Shrinking
September 18, 2016
Global warming is increasingly unkind to polar bears. A new large study conducted during four decades has found that every Arctic region that polar bears call home has seen a drop in the number of days on which they can access their primary hunting ground, sea ice. It is common practice for these white cold-weather bears to hover near the edge of a block of sea ice, waiting for unsuspecting seals and other marine animals to wander by; with less ice comes more necessity for the polar bears to roam more on land, where prey is less numerous. One report out of Russia recently found that a group of bears were stalking the scientists at an Arctic weather outpost.

Protests against National Anthem Growing
September 12, 2016
In the last days of summer and the first days of autumn in America in 2016, a growing number of athletes are calling attention to social issues by refusing to go along with expected practice in regard to the playing of the national anthem at sporting events.

National Anthem Not Always at Sporting Events
Fans at American sporting events have not always heard “The Star-spangled Banner.” In fact, the song hasn’t always been the national anthem.

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Social Studies for Kids
copyright 2002–2016
David White