Stuff YOU Should Know

Tensions Rise in Asia Over Islands

Things are heating up in Asia as China has been in escalating squabbles with Japan. While the tension has been long-standing in this region, the recent conflict centers around ownership of eight islands in the East China Sea. The island cluster even has two different names–known as Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China. No one lives on the islands, but they are located in strategic shipping paths, are thought to have important  oil and gas reserves, and are surrounded by rich fishing waters. Whoever owns these islands will have exclusive rights to all of those important economic resources.

Economic concerns are not the only factors in this dispute. History and politics play a big role. Japan clams that the islands became a part of its territory in 1895. After World War II, the United States controlled the islands. But a 1971 treaty handing the islands back to Japan. On the other hand, China believes the islands were part of their nation since ancient times but were taken by Japan after the Sino-Japanese War. Chinese officials believe the islands should have been turned back over to them in the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco, but were not.

On August 15th of this year, the 60th anniversary of the end of Pacific Ocean fighting in World War II, Chinese activists landed on one of the islands. The Japanese government arrested them. The Chinese government in turn demanded their release, calling it an unlawful detention.  This has lead to major protests and violence. The United States is concerned because, in an armed conflict between the two Asian countries, the U.S.is obligated by treaty to defend Japan.

Dig Deeper Look into the claims of both the Chinese and Japanese governments as to their claims on the islands. Which side seems most reasonable and justified in owning the land? What are the possible results of the United States supporting Japan against China?

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Announces First-Round Nominees

Founded in 1983, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame adds new members each year. The final selection of each year’s honorees is announced in December, but a list of initial nominations comes out in October. Over the years, the new Hall of Fame members have included artists from different genres who have made a significant impact on the world of music. This year’s group of hopeful inductees are: Rush, Heart, Deep Purple, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Procol Harum, singer/songwriter Randy Newman, Kraftwerk, disco acts Chic and Donna Summer, rap acts N.W.A. and Public Enemy, Motown girl-group the Marvelettes, funk band the Meters, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and blues legend Albert King.

Artists are eligible 25 years after the release of their first record. The inductees are chosen by a committee of 600 people, made up of musicians, historians, and industry insiders. For the first time, fans will be allowed to vote (at rockhall.com, rollingstone.com, or CNN.com) until December 5. These collective vote will count as one. The Class of 2013 will be inducted on April 18, 2013 at a ceremony in Los Angeles. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum is located in Cleveland, Ohio.

What Do You Think? How many of the bands on this list have you heard of? Do a little research and find out why they are significant to rock and roll. Or go on ine and vote yourself. Do you have a favorite band? Find out when they will be eligible to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Unemployment Down

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the recent unemployment figures and what it all means to the continued economic recovery. September was significant because the unemployment rate was 7.8%, the first time the figure has been below 8.0% since President Obama took office. This was good news for the president because no president since Franklin Roosevelt has ever been re-elected with unemployment rates higher than 8%. Republican nominee Mitt Romney has dismissed the numbers, saying the rate is low because people have become discourage and stopped looking for work.

So who’s right? The answer, of course, is that everyone is a little bit right. With the election being so close and the state of the economy such an important issue, both sides are likely to interpret the numbers to their advantage.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics collects six types of employment rates:

  • U1 = Persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer.
  • U2 = Persons who just lost jobs or completed temporary jobs.
  • U3 = Total unemployed persons. (This figure is what is reported as the official unemployment number.)
  • U4 = U3 total plus “discouraged workers” (those who have stopped looking for work).
  • U5 = U3 and U4 total plus “marginally attached workers (those who would like to work but have not looked for work recently).
  • U6 = U5 total plus part time workers who want full-time work but cannot find it.

What Do You Think? Given all the variables of finding work, do you think the current way to measure unemployment gives an accurate picture of how the economy is performing?

Savings the Coral Reefs

The Great Barrier Reef is in trouble. Located off of the coast of Queensland in northeastern Australia, it is the world’s largest coral reef system, made up of 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands. The Great Barrier Reef is an important part of the marine ecosystem because it provides shelter for many types of fish and helps control the level of carbon dioxide in ocean water. In the last twenty-seven years, the Great Barrier Reef has lost 50% of its coral cover. According to researchers at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), there are three main causes:

  1. Coral Bleaching (10%) – caused by warming of ocean temperatures
  2. Crown of Thorns Starfish (42%) – a species of starfish unlike your average souvenir beach starfish. They feed off of the coral by inverting their stomachs and dissolving the tissue, leaving them all but dead.
  3. Storms (48%) – Tropical cyclones create damage to the reefs by causing fragmentation, creating harmful plumes of sediment and disturbing the level of salt.

While storms create the biggest threat, removing the starfish is the most preventable solution. But it will not be an easy task. These predators have dinner-plate-sized bodies and up to twenty-one arms with poisonous spikes that can paralyze humans if pricked. And if they are chopped up, they have the ability to multiply.

There is hopeful news. According to the AIMS researchers, the reef is capable of recovering. Portions of the reef was “shut down” for 2,500 years but came back to life. This is proof that if ideal conditions return to the reef area, it is capable of growing again very rapidly.

Dig Deeper Look into the efforts of saving the Great Barrier Reef. What will it take and what will is cost to intervene? Investigate what researchers say will happen if nothing is done.