Missile attack on Syria

On April 6, the United States launched a missile attack on a Syrian airbase. A couple of days before that, there was a chemical weapons attack on a town in Syria. Over 80 Syrians were killed and many were injured. Some nations (including the United States) believe the chemical attack was carried out by Syrian troops. However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says that his government is not responsible for it. The United States President Donald Trump ordered the missile attack in retaliation to the use of chemical weapons. 

A civil war has been going on in Syria for the last 6 years, and several groups are involved in the fighting. It started in 2011 when Syrians began protests against their president. Assad, who had been Syria’s president for over 10 years at the time, refused to step down. He even used force against the protesters. Rebel groups formed and started fighting against the Syrian government. A group called the Islamic State (IS) also joined the fight. The IS is fighting both the rebels and Assad’s troops. The group wants to control Syria. Assad has support from Russia and Iran. Some of the rebels are supported by the United States and other nations. Both Russia and the United States are against the IS.

Chemical weapons are chemical substances that are produced to kill or hurt people, and are often delivered through devices such as bombs. Chemical weapons were used in Syria in 2013 killing more than 1,000 people. Assad’s government was blamed for it.

Damascus (Syria’s capital) is amongst the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the world.

Image Credits: http://www.presidentassad.net for Assad’s image, https://www.defense.gov and Robert S. Price for the missile image, AlienSquid – DeviantArt for the image of the Warning Chemical Weapons sign
Sources: BBC, New York Times

No eating dogs and cats

A new law has passed in Taiwan. The law bans people from eating cat or dog meat. The new law also prohibits people from walking their dogs while driving their cars, scooters, or motorcycles. Taiwan is an island at a distance of about 100 miles (160 km) from mainland China. The status of Taiwan is a controversy. Taiwan has its own government and runs its own economy. However, China considers Taiwan to be a part of itself. Here is a video about it.

Image Credits: https://pixabay.com and ilyessuti for the cat-dog image
Sources: CNN, http://focustaiwan.tw, USA Today

Elections in Ecuador

Elections were held in Ecuador, and a new president was selected. Lenín Moreno won by a narrow margin (51.15% of the vote). He is 64 years old, and has previously held the position of vice president of Ecuador. About 20 years ago, Moreno was shot after being robbed. He lost the use of his legs after the incident, and needs a wheelchair to get around.



One person is certainly delighted that Moreno was elected and that is Julian Assange. Assange (of Australia) is the founder of the website WikiLeaks, which publishes confidential documents belonging to various countries’ governments, upsetting them. Assange is wanted by some governments around the globe. He was granted asylum by Ecuador. Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, UK since 2012. If he leaves the embassy, he’ll be captured by the British police. Moreno’s opponent had said that he would ask Assange to leave if he won.

Did you know?

“Ecuador” means “equator” in Spanish, and the country is named after the equator which passes through.

Image Credits: Snapperjack from London, UK for the image of Assange, http://www.vicepresidencia.gob.ec for the image of Moreno
Sources: https://www.theguardian.com, reuters.com, New York Times, http://travel.nationalgeographic.com

Some tough foot races

The world’s “coolest” marathon took place at the North Pole on April 8. Piotr Suchenia (of Poland) won the men’s competition with a time of 4:06.34. Frederique Laurent (of France) won the women’s competition with a time of 6:21.03. About 50 participants flew to the North Pole for this race. There is no land at the North Pole. People run on a frozen ice sheet (about 6 to 12 feet thick) floating on top of 12,000 feet of water (the Arctic Ocean). With temperatures around -40 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees Fahrenheit), it was a very difficult race to run.

On April 9, about 57,000 people took part in the Paris Marathon held in Paris, the capital of France. Paul Lonyangata (from Kenya) won the men’s race with a time of 2:06:10. Purity Rionoripo (from Kenya) won the women’s race with a time of 2:20:55. These two winners aren’t just speedy but also married to each other. The running distance of both the North Pole and Paris marathons was 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles).

One of the “hottest” running races in the world is the Marathon des Sables, and it is ongoing right now. It is held annually in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. It is a six day race that covers a distance of about 250 kilometers (150 miles). Temperatures can be as high as 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit). The 2017 race started on April 8, and will end on April 17. Over 1,000 runners from all over the globe are competing in the race.

Here are 3 videos – North Pole Marathon, Marathon des Sables, and the Paris Marathon.


Image Credits: https://www.facebook.com/npmarathon for the North Pole Marathon image, https://twitter.com/marathonDsables for the MdS image, http://www.schneiderelectricparismarathon.com for its logo
Source: https://www.facebook.com/npmarathon, http://www.npmarathon.com, https://twitter.com/marathonDsables, http://www.marathondessables.com, http://marathondessables.co.uk, https://www.iaaf.org, http://www.schneiderelectricparismarathon.com

International Pillow Fight Day

On April 1, feathers were flying in parts of cities all over the globe. It wasn’t birds going crazy. It was the International Pillow Fight Day and thousands of people gathered in over a hundred cities attacking each other with their pillows. Here is a video of people having a pillow fight in London, United Kingdom.


Image Credits: http://pillowfightday.com for the Pillow Fight image
Sources: http://pillowfightday.com, http://www.independent.co.uk

The Boat Races

On April 2, men’s and women’s rowing boat races were held on the River Thames in London, United Kingdom, between the country’s two famous universities, Oxford and Cambridge. The boat races between the two are an annual tradition and are referred to simply as “The Boat Races”. The distance of the races is 6.8 km (4.2 mile). This year, Cambridge won the women’s race and Oxford won the men’s. The Boat Race started in 1829, when two friends who went to the two universities challenged each other to a race. For the men’s race, Cambridge has won 82 times. Oxford is close behind with 80 wins. For the women’s race, Oxford has won 30 times, and Cambridge 42 times.

Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world. The university does not have a date of foundation, but some form of teaching existed at Oxford in the year 1096. Some authors who studied at Oxford are C.S. Lewis, the author of “Chronicles of Narnia”, Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), the author of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, and J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.


Did you know?

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the “oldest existing, and continually operating educational institution in the world” is the University of Karueein, founded in 859 AD in Fez, Morocco.

Image Credits: http://theboatraces.org for the image of the Boat Races
Sources: http://theboatraces.org, https://www.ox.ac.uk, http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com, http://www.harvard.edu, https://www.cam.ac.uk

2016 Turing Award

Tim Berners-Lee won the 2016 Turing Award for inventing the World Wide Web, the first web browser, and for his other work. He is 61 years old and is a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA) and the University of Oxford (UK). Berners-Lee was a scientist at CERN, a European research institute with headquarters in Switzerland, when he invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989. The web was originally created as a way for scientists in institutes around the globe to share information. The world’s first web address was http://info.cern.ch. Today, there are more than 1 billion websites online.

The Turing Award is given annually to individuals for their achievements and contributions in computing. It is named after the British mathematician Alan M. Turing (1912 to 1954). Many consider Turing to be the father of the computer. He is famous for his work that cracked the military codes used by Nazi Germany during World War II. The ‘Enigma’ code was used by the Germans to securely send messages to their forces. Turing’s work helped break the code and decipher the messages. Here is a video about Turing.

Image Credits: CERN for the image of Berners-Lee, National Portrait Gallery London for Turing’s image
Sources: https://home.cern, http://amturing.acm.org, http://www.turing.org.uk, http://www.iwm.org.uk

April Fools’ Day

Many celebrated April Fools’ Day on April 1. It is a day when many people around the globe play pranks and have fun fooling their friends. Why do people celebrate this day? Well, nobody knows for sure. However, one popular belief takes us back about 435 years, when the Catholic countries of Europe started following the Gregorian calendar, the calendar which most of us around the world follow today. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Before this, these Catholic countries followed the Julian calendar. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted, the start of the New Year was moved from April 1 to January 1. However, some people continued to celebrate the start of the New Year on April 1. They were considered foolish and people played pranks on them.

This year, many companies played pranks. “Google Wind” will change the direction of the windmills in the Netherlands so that the clouds can be moved around to control rain in the country. People can take the new language course from Duolingo called Emoji. Burger King is introducing a “Whopper toothpaste” so that you can keep the taste of the sandwich in your mouth all day long.

Amazon has a new product for pets called Petlexa. It enables your dogs, cats, and hamsters to communicate with Alexa. Nestle is offering a new coffee flavored Coffee-mate. Petco is offering a new drone service called “DooDoo Drone” that will fly by and pick up your pet’s poop. Honda is now offering “Horn Emojis” in its 2018 Honda Odyssey van. There is a unique horn sound for the various emojis so that you can communicate your sentiments more effectively.

Here are 4 videos with some of the pranks. Hope you had fun tricking somebody or being tricked!

Did you know?

A famous April Fool’s joke was played on the British television in 1957. A news story was presented about spaghetti growing on trees.
Image Credits: Lavinia Fontana for the image of Pope Gregory XIII, Duolingo for the emoji course image, Nestle for the image of the new coffeemate 
Sources: Google, Honda, Amazon, http://www.cnbc.com, techcrunch, duolingo.com, http://www.slate.com, http://www.cnn.com, http://www.history.com

Brexit begins

On March 29, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), Theresa May (image), officially started the process for the UK to leave the European Union (EU). Last year in June, the people of the UK voted to separate from the EU. May sent a letter and notified the EU that the UK wants to leave the partnership. (Here is the letter.) Now the negotiations for the exit will start.

The UK breaking away from the EU has been nicknamed “Brexit”. The word Brexit is a portmanteau (a word that blends two or more words together) of “Britain” and “exit”. Wait, we’re talking about the UK, so what is Britain? The United Kingdom is made up of four main areas called Northern Ireland, England, Wales, and Scotland. The part of the UK called Northern Ireland is located on the island of Ireland, an island that is shared with another country called the Republic of Ireland (and often just called Ireland). The other three parts are all part of the island known as the Great Britain. (There are other smaller islands that are also part of the UK.)

The EU is a group of 28 European countries that cooperate and work together to improve things such as trade, employment, and environment. In the first half of the 1940s, a large part of Europe was at war, and many countries did not get along. The idea of a more unified Europe started in the early 1950s to bring peace and economic stability. Six European countries got together and unified their coal and steel industries. This was very successful, and so the unification spread to other areas. More countries joined, and in 1993, a treaty creating the EU was signed in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Rules were created for a single currency, foreign policies, trade policies, and more.

The EU has its own flag. There are 24 official languages of the EU. Its anthem is the music of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. Europe Day is celebrated annually on May 9. There is also an EU motto and a currency (euro – €), though not all EU countries use the euro. The last nation to join the EU was Croatia in 2013, and the UK is the first trying to leave it.

Here are videos on May informing the EU, about Brexit, and about the EU.

Did you know?

10 Downing Street (London) is the official residence and office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Did you know?

The word Brexit was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016.

Image Credits: https://www.gov.uk for May’s image, http://www.freeworldmaps.net for UK’s map image, Kolja21 for the EU map image
Sources: https://europa.eu, https://www.gov.uk, http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com

Billionaires in the world

Forbes, an American magazine, comes out with a list of the world’s richest people every year. The richest person in the world once again is Bill Gates (image), an American who co-founded the software company Microsoft and runs the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates has held the title the last three years as well. Not only that, he has held the top spot for 18 of the past 23 years. He is worth US$86 billion. Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, holds the second place with US$75 billion. The CEO of Amazon (Jeff Bezos, image below) holds the 3rd spot.

There were 1,810 billionaires (in US dollars) in the world last year. This year, the number has gone up to 2,043. The total net worth of all the billionaires is US$7.67 trillion. The United States has the largest number with 565, followed by China, Germany, and India. You can view the complete list of the billionaires here.



Image Credits: https://www.gatesnotes.com for Gates’ image, https://twitter.com/jeffbezos for Bezos’ image
Sources: forbes.com, http://www.gatesfoundation.org