By Sterling Alic, Junior
In this special edition of the world report, we explore the possibilities of the impossible, or rather, the unthinkable––the frightening thought of having no world.
Three Minutes to Midnight––this is the phrase that has been thrown around as scientists grapple with our planet’s troubling present and its potentially catastrophic future. And what does it actually mean? Well, it’s as ominous and foreboding as it sounds: we are very close to destroying our planet.
Every year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists sets the minute hand for the so-called Doomsday Clock, a symbolic device that indicates how close we are from ending life on Earth as we know it. The closer the minute hand is to midnight, the closer we are to a global cataclysm. Last year, the clock moved from five minutes to midnight to three minutes to midnight as a result of global climate change and increasing threat from nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
And the fact that the clock remains at 11:57 PM, or three minutes to midnight this year is “not good news,” Lawrence Krauss, the chair of the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, argues. The Bulletin explains that despite the progress made in agreements like the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord, world leaders have still failed to properly address the imminent threats of climate change and nuclear arsenals. However, tensions between Russia and the U.S. have risen to near Cold War levels, as they modernize their nuclear weapons in spite of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; the diplomatic situation with North Korea is more complicated, as they have claimed to have tested already hydrogen bomb; and Pakistan and India, countries who are also experiencing rising tensions, are expanding their nuclear arsenals.
The Bulletin ultimately does not want to provide a dim and pessimistic view of the future, but rather a cautionary report of the steps that need to be taken in order to move the clock back. They call on us, the people, to demand that our leaders reduce spending on modernization of nuclear weapons, diplomatically engage with North Korea to reduce nuclear threats, and follow up the Paris agreement with action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Until then, we’ll just be 3 degrees Celsius from experiencing massive global catastrophe, just be three seconds from having a world destroyed by mass nuclear warfare, just three minutes from midnight.
By Sterling Alic, Junior
Hong Kong Booksellers Gone Missing
A Hong Kong bookseller and publisher, whose sudden and mysterious disappearance caused outrage both in Hong Kong and internationally, has turned up in the hands of Chinese authorities, who claim to be detaining him for an investigation about a 2003 hit-and-run drunk driving case. However, the international community, especially Hong Kong, suspect foul play. They believe that Chinese officials are holding him because of his publication of a scandalous magazine that criticizes the Chinese government.
There are still four other booksellers who are missing. Hundreds if not thousands have taken to the streets to demand answers about the disappearances. One 43 year old marcher said, “I don’t want to be the next one to disappear.” Many are apprehensive and believe that this could be a threat to the autonomy of Hong Kong in the future. This fear has reverberated throughout Hong Kong’s publishers, as many cancel the politically sensitive book that allegedly led to the disappearances.
However, this year’s Oscars isn’t without controversy. #OscarsSoWhite, a hashtag that arose last year can also be applied to this year’s nominations because this year’s list is nearly all-white as well, causing critics like Spike Lee and Jada Pinkett Smith to boycott the Oscars entirely. Critics like Lee and Smith point to the lack of acknowledgment for critically acclaimed movies like Straight Outta Compton and Creed, which did receive accolades, but the former for the writers (who were white) and the latter for supporting actor Sylvester Stallone (who is also white). The president of the Academy has ultimately decided on “taking dramatic steps to alter the makeup of our [The Academy’s] membership.”
Bitcoin Called A “Failed Experiment” As Value Plummets
Long-time developer and Bitcoin-enthusiast Mike Hearn has written a blog post on why he has lost faith in the digital currency, calling it a “failed experiment.” For those who are not familiar with Bitcoin, Bitcoin does not exist physically like paper money or regular coins. They are instead created on networks and traded through those networks across computers.
As this post makes waves across the Internet, Bitcoin’s value is plummeting, with the price falling below $400 for the first time this year hours after the post came out. In the blog post, Hearn offers a lengthy explanation on his take on the shortcomings of Bitcoin, but it seems to boil down to one thing: internal politics. There is a raging debate in the Bitcoin community over whether or not to adjust Bitcoin in order to support more transactions. Hearn himself offered supporters of this change to use Bitcoin XT, which implements this proposed adjustment to the technology, but the community has still been essentially split evenly on both sides.
Following this post, Hearn has moved on to work at Paypal.
A Degree from Harvard...For Free?
As the new year rolls in, several candidates begin their run for the Board of Overseers at Harvard, which helps set the strategy for the university. Among the issues discussed during their race for the position is the alleged discrimination of Asian American applicants, which some argue in a federal lawsuit accusing the university of bypassing better qualified Asian applicants in favor of other races/ethnicities and the children of the wealthy and famous. Another provocative question that some pose is whether or not the Ivy League University should be free, considering its large endowment, which is the largest among all universities.
Championing the phrase “Free Harvard. Fair Harvard,” supporters of a tuition-free Harvard argue that eliminating the factor of tuition could attract highly qualified lower income students to apply. However, on the other end, critics contend that Harvard already is generous in financial aid, awarding more than $1.4 billion dollars to undergraduates in the past decade. They further call the plan “unrealistic” because there are many restrictions on the funds of the endowment, as the people who contribute to the Harvard stipulate how they want their money to be spent. Harvard spokesman Jeff Neal comments that “There is a common misconception that endowments, including Harvard’s, can be accessed like bank accounts,” when in reality that is just not the case.
State of the Union 2016
In his final State of the Union Address, President Obama discussed how the nation has developed since his election in 2008, pointing to a resurgence in the economy and the nation’s overall improved standing in the world, while inequality at home and terrorism abroad loom in the distance. Click here to watch the 2016 State of the Union in full. And who will give the next State of the Union? With the primaries and election day only a few months away, we will find out soon enough.
By Sterling Alic, Junior
In the last edition of Top 5 for 2015, we’ll be focusing on all the moments--the good, the bad, and the ugly—that have defined the year that marks the halfway point of this decade.
1. Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year Isn’t a Word?
Many widened their eyes after the popular U.K. dictionary announced that this year’s word of the year isn’t a word at all. Oxford Dictionary justified their choice of the popular emoji (called “Face with Tears of Joy”) in a recent press release, maintaining that “emojis have come to embody a core aspect of living in a digital world that is visually driven, emotionally expressive, and obsessively immediate.”
The word of the year is chosen yearly from the year’s most popular words, and it is meant to “reflect the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year,” according to their team of editors. Previous words of the year include vape (2014), selfie (2013), and GIF (2012).
Here are the runner-ups for word of the year:
2. Twitter’s Top Trending Moments of the Year
Twitter in 2015 was more than just hashtags. Each hashtag revealed an international discourse revolving around some of 2015’s most significant events. 2015 was #PrayforParis and #JeSuisCharlie. It was #BlackLivesMatter and #LoveWins. It was #RefugeesWelcome and #IStandWithAhmed. These moments around the globe found their way into 140 characters on the World Wide Web. They showed international solidarity and love in the midst of hate. Look here to see some of the most influential topics on twitter this year, among them you’ll find some of the most retweeted tweets of 2015, which are displayed below.
3. Youtube Rewind
While Twitter showed us how trying 2015 truly was, Youtube offers us a more “millennial” and playful look at this passing year. In 2015’s edition of the annual Youtube Rewind, it shows all the new online trends that developed in 2015, referencing a diverse array of popular social media fads and memes, from Shia Labeouf's uplifting, yet aggressive “Just Do It!” rant to Drake’s Hotline Bling music video, or even one of the most heated debates of 2015, was the dress really black and blue...or is it gold and white? (P.S. It’s black and blue.) Watch the video here.
4. Billboard Music of the Year
This year’s charts were dominated by throwback tracks that paid homage to classic genres, like Taylor Swift’s 80s-influenced album 1989 or Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’s retro “Uptown Funk.” From a certified pop hits like the aforementioned tracks to an indie up-and-coming record, Billboard is the premiere place for finding out what’s popular in the music stratosphere, incorporating sales, streaming, and radio airplay, into their weekly-updated Hot 100 list. So here is what they calculated to be the most popular artists, albums, and songs for 2015.
5. Person of the Year
Each year, Time chooses a person, group, idea, or object that “for better or for worse...has done the most to influence the events of the year.” The magazine’s pick for 2015 was German chancellor Angela Merkel. She joins the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Adolf Hitler, and a host of U.S. presidents in receiving the title. Time pointed out that there were at least three instances of crises in Europe: the possibility of Greek bankruptcy, the migrant and refugee crisis, and the terrorist attacks in Paris, all of which Merkel found herself at the center of as she grappled with a difficult year for not only her country, but also Europe. Time editor Nancy Gibbs ends her article with the following statements:
Runner-ups for person of the year are:
Reported By Sterling Alic
China and Taiwan's Long Awaited “Family Reunion”
Nothing is more heartwarming than a nice (and awkward) family reunion…or a meeting between two “frenemy” countries whose leaders have not met in over sixty years. China and Taiwan’s president's, Xi Jinping and Ma Ying-jeou respectively, will meet again after a long sixty-six years, since the Communist Revolution in 1949.
First Metro in Sub-Saharan Africa Opens
While I can bet that more than half of you reading this article have frequented Miami’s MetroMover or MetroRail and have probably complained about the one guy who is always blasting music even though he clearly has headphones, Sub-Saharan Africa has only just received this luxury. Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopa, is opening its first metrorail, which is projected to have over 100,000 daily users and ease the crowdedness of the minibuses and traffic in the city’s transportation system.
Russia Suspends All Flights to Egypt Following Plane Crash
In addition to Russia cancelling all flights to Egypt, President Vladimir Putin has requested that the 50,000 Russians vacationing right now in Egypt to return home. While Russia has its own investigators examining the debris in search of a cause, the French have determined that everything was going normal during the flight until there was a sudden explosion, which was believed to be caused by ISIS.
UN to US: Embargo Is A No-Go
If Taiwan and China’s meeting was a family reunion, then the U.S. and Cuba’s new gripe would be akin to a sister and brother fighting over the TV remote. Just as relations between Cuba and the United States seemed to be strengthening, Cuba drew up a highly critical resolution about the embargo. An overwhelming majority of 191 countries joined the Cuba Foreign Minister in his disapproval of the Embargo, voting for the resolution, leaving a measly two countries (the U.S. and Israel) to vote against it.
Migrant Crisis Worsens in Europe
Sleeping on masses of other people in a small boat, surviving off of toothpaste barely for days upon days, fighting against pirates determined to keep you from reaching safety on the shore––this is the unfortunate reality of many of the refugees flocking towards Europe. In the last month alone, more than 218,000 migrants flooded Europe’s southern countries, which is more people than the amount of migrants fleeing to Europe in all of 2014 (216,000 migrants). The situation also looks like it’s getting worse because by 2017, it is expected that there will be an influx of a record 3 million migrants, the majority fleeing as refugees from Syria.