Missile attack on Syria

On April 14, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France launched a missile attack on some government sites in Syria that were believed to be chemical weapons facilities. These three nations believe that on April 7, the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack on a town called Douma in Syria. Dozens of people were killed and many were injured. However, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says that his government has not used any chemical weapons.

A civil war has been going on in Syria for the last 7 years. It started in 2011 when Syrians began protests against their president. Assad, who had been the country’s president for over 10 years at the time, refused to step down. He used force against the protesters. Rebel groups formed and started fighting against the government. The fight is still going on. Assad has support from Russia and Iran. Some of the rebels are supported by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and other nations. The town of Douma was under the control of rebels.

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 a thousand people. The Syrian government was blamed for it, though Assad denied it. They were also used a year ago, and the United States had launched a missile attack on Syria then as well.

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

Image Credits: http://kremlin.ru for Assad’s image, https://www.facebook.com/USAFCENT for image of plane
Sources: BBC, New York Times

Time 100

Time Magazine published its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world called TIME 100. The leaders of China, United States, North Korea, Canada, Bangladesh, Japan, and France were all on the list. The CEOs of Microsoft, Tesla, and Amazon were on the list. The figure skater Adam Rippon, “Me Too” movement founder Tarana Burke, tennis player Roger Federer, snowboarder Chloe Kim, television host Trevor Noah, actress Millie Bobby Brown, and cricketer Virat Kohli were also on the list.

TIME 100 was first published in 1999. You can view this year’s list here.

Image Credits: http://time.com for Time 100′s image
Sources: http://time.com

A new president in Cuba

Cuba has a new president, and it’s not a “Castro”. Miguel Díaz-Canel, the country’s first Vice-President, has become the president. He is 58 years old, and in the past has also held the position of minister of higher education.

 

 

Cuba has been led by one of the Castro brothers for almost 60 years. Fidel Castro took over as Cuba’s leader in 1959. He was one of the longest ruling leaders in modern times, and led the nation for 49 years. He believed in communism, where the government owns all property and controls jobs and education. Fidel wanted to provide Cubans with the best education and health care system that was free for all. Today, Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world – out of 1,000 people, only 2 are uneducated. Fidel was not kind to people who opposed him. Many who disagreed fled Cuba or were put in jail.

In 2006, Fidel passed the presidency on to his brother Raúl Castro because of health problems. Raúl is now 86 years old, and has chosen to step down.

 

 

 

Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean Sea. It is separated from the United States by just about a hundred miles (about 160 km). Cuba and the United States did not get along under the rule of Fidel. The US broke off diplomatic ties with Cuba in 1961. Not only that, in 1961 and 1962, the United States tried to overthrow Fidel from power, but did not succeed. The U.S. government placed trade restrictions with Cuba, which hurt the Cuban economy. Under Raúl’s leadership, in 2014, the two countries made some efforts to becoming friends again.

Here is a video about the US and Cuba’s history.

Did you know?

During the time that Fidel Castro was the leader of Cuba, the United States went through 10 presidents, and the James Bond movies went through 7 actors.

Did you know?

Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba in 1492, and claimed it as a Spanish territory.

Image Credits: https://www.google.com for the map image of Cuba, https://www.flickr.com/photos/fotospresidencia_sv for Miguel Díaz-Canel’s image, Kremlin.ru for Raúl Castro’s image, Warren K. Leffler for Fidel Castro’s image
Sources: Washington Post, https://www.state.gov, https://history.state.gov, history.com, CIA World Factbook, https://www.007james.com, https://www.whitehouse.gov, http://www.cubahistory.org, NowThis World

Solo: A Star Wars Story

A new Star Wars film is coming out in theaters on May 25. It is called “Solo: A Star Wars Story”. The movie is about Han Solo’s journey. Solo meets his copilot Chewbacca and comes across the gambler Lando Calrissian. A trailer was recently released for the film, and you can watch it here.

Image Credits: https://www.starwars.com for the Star Wars’ poster
Sources: https://www.starwars.com

First women’s cycling race in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia held its first ever women’s cycling race on April 10. It was a 10 km (6 miles) race, and 47 women took part. The race was held in Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia after the capital Riyadh.

Women don’t have the same rights as men in Saudi Arabia. There are a bunch of cannot do’s for women. However, the country has been making changes in recent years. Infact, women’s cycling was legalized in the country in 2013. Women are allowed to bike only in parks or on beaches when a male guardian is present.

In recent years, there have been many firsts for women in the country. Women took part in the Olympic Games (starting 2012). They voted and stood in the local election (starting 2015). Women went into a sports stadium (starting 2017). Positions have opened up for women in the military (starting 2018). Women took part in a running race (starting 2018). Women will be able to drive in the country (starting June this year).

On the other hand, most women still cannot leave the country, get a job, marry, or divorce without the permission of their male guardian (who is their father, husband, brother, or son). When Saudi women go outside their homes, they are required to wear a hijab and an abaya.

Image Credits: https://www.academy.com for the image of the bike
Sources: http://english.alarabiya.net, https://www.worldatlas.com, Newsweek

RemoveDEBRIS

Scientists have sent an experimental satellite called RemoveDEBRIS to the International Space Station (ISS). This is to test out some ways to clean up garbage orbiting around Earth. We keep hearing that humans have generated a lot of trash on Earth. Well, humans have also generated a lot of space junk around our planet. Over half a million pieces of junk, such as nuts, bolts, and other debris left over from space missions and old satellites, are zipping around Earth at very high speeds.

Very small things are difficult to track, but if they hit a spacecraft, the ISS, or other satellites, they can cause damage because of their high speeds. Astronauts have had to move the ISS out of the path of a piece of junk headed towards it multiple times in order to avoid getting hit.

 

 

The ISS is a large research facility in space. It is approximately 220 miles (350 km) above Earth’s surface. It goes around our planet once every 90 minutes at a speed of about 17,500 mph (28,000 kmph). Work started on it in 1998, and since 2000, humans have been continuously living in it.

Here is a video about RemoveDEBRIS.

Did you know?

On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin, a Russian astronaut, became the first human being to travel into space.

Did you know?

1961 is an interesting year as it reads the same when it’s turned upside down. The next time we encounter a year that reads the same when it’s upside down is 6009.

Image Credits: https://www.surrey.ac.uk for the image of RemoveDEBRIS, https://www.nasa.gov for International Space Station’s  image and the space debris image
Sources: https://www.surrey.ac.uk, NASA

’Tis the season for foot races

The world’s “coolest” marathon took place at the North Pole on April 16. Argyrios Papathanasopoulos (Greece) won the men’s competition with a time of 4:34:36. Guoping Xie (China) won the women’s competition with a time of 6:43:20. About 60 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 -33 degrees Celsius (-27 degrees Fahrenheit), it was a very difficult race to run.

On April 7, about 55,000 people took part in the Paris Marathon held in Paris, the capital of France. Paul Lonyangata (Kenya) won the men’s race with a time of 2:06:25. Besty Saina (Kenya) won the women’s race with a time of 2:22:56.

 

The Boston Marathon was held in Boston, USA on April 16. Almost 30,000 runners took part in the race. Yuki Kawauchi (Japan) won the men’s race with a time of 2:15:58, and Desiree Linden (USA) won the women’s race with a time of 2:39:54. The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual city marathon and started in 1897.

The running distance of the North Pole, Paris, and Boston marathons was 42.195 kilometers (26.2 miles).

One of the “hottest” running races in the world is the Marathon des Sables, and it was held from April 6 to 14 in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. It is also labeled as the “toughest foot race on Earth”. It was a six day race that covered a distance of about 250 kilometers (150 miles).  Rachid El Morabity (Morocco) won the men’s event, and Magdalena Boulet (USA) won the women’s. Over 1,000 runners from all over the globe competed in the race.

 

Image Credits: https://www.facebook.com/npmarathon for the North Pole marathon image, http://www.schneiderelectricparismarathon.com for the Paris marathon image, http://www.baa.org for the Boston marathon image, http://www.marathondessables.com for the Marathon des Sables image
Sources: https://www.facebook.com/npmarathon, http://www.npmarathon.com, http://www.schneiderelectricparismarathon.com, http://www.baa.org, http://www.marathondessables.com, Fox News

Elections in Azerbaijan

Presidential elections were held in Azerbaijan, and the nation’s current president won a fourth term. Ilham Aliyev has been the president since 2003, and his father was the president before him. Many of his opponents have complained that the elections were not fair.

 

 

In the past, a president could serve for only two 5-year terms. However, in the last decade, the constitution has been changed where a president can serve any number of terms. Also, each term is now 7 years long. Changes were also made to the constitution to create a Vice President position. Last year, Aliyev named his wife as the nation’s first Vice President.

Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union until 1991. Baku is the country’s capital and Azerbaijani is the official language. The famous world chess champion Garry Kasparov (image) was born in Baku. About half of the world’s mud volcanoes are in Azerbaijan. A mud volcano pushes out mud and gases through cracks in the ground.

Here is a video about mud volcanoes.

Image Credits: https://www.president.az for Aliyev’s image, http://www.kasparov.com for Kaparov’s image
Sources: https://www.president.az, Washington Post, https://www.kyivpost.com, CNN, Vimeo, https://www.basicplanet.com, http://www.kasparov.com

Presidential elections in Egypt

Presidential elections were held in Egypt and the current President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi won another term. He won 97% of the vote. However, out of all the registered voters, only 41% voted. There was just one other candidate who took part in the elections.

 

 

In 2011, there was unrest in Egypt and the people forced the country’s president, Hosni Mubarak, to step down. He had been Egypt’s leader for nearly 30 years. Egyptians had been dissatisfied with Mubarak’s government. There weren’t enough jobs for people. Food and housing prices were very high.

The military took over and a new president was elected in 2012. He was in power for just a year, when the military forced him to step down. In 2014, presidential elections were held and the Egyptian military commander, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, was elected. He has been the president since.

The Ancient Egyptian civilization started over 5,000 years ago. It was a very advanced society and they invented many things that we use today – the 365-day calendar, paper (which was made from the Papyrus plant which is how ‘paper’ got its name), ink, clocks, some of the earliest medicines, the lock and key, sails for boats, and even make-up!

Ancient Egyptians believed that life exists after death. So when their Kings and Queens died, they preserved their bodies by a process called mummification, where they would take out some of the internal organs, dry the bodies, and wrap them with cloth. They built pyramids which were tombs. Along with the bodies, they kept things that their Kings and Queens might need in their life after death – gold, food, furniture, clay pots, and more.

Some of Egypt’s famous sites are the Pyramids of Giza (image), the Sphinx, Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut Temple, Ibn Tulun Mosque, Luxor Temple, and the Nile River.

Image Credits: Kremlin for Sisi’s image, Nina for the pyramid’s image, http://www.britishmuseum.org for the papyrus painting image
Sources: CNN, BBC, https://discoveringegypt.com, http://www.ancientegypt.co.uk, http://traveltips.usatoday.com

Arctic sea ice coverage

On March 17, the Arctic sea ice coverage appeared to have hit its maximum for the year. This was the second lowest maximum on record. The lowest was in 2017.

The Arctic sea ice floats in the water body around the North Pole region. The size of the coverage has been recorded by scientists since 1979. The ice cover melts and decreases in the summer months, and it refreezes and increases in the winter months. Usually, the largest sea ice cover over the Arctic is in the month of March, and the lowest is in the month of September.

 

The Arctic sea ice is very important. It acts like our planet’s air conditioner and helps control Earth’s climate. The sea ice reflects a large percentage of sunlight that reaches the ice back into space. The ocean surface without the ice cover would absorb a lot of the sunlight, which in turn would make the water warmer, and melt more ice.

Here is a video about this news story.

 

Did you know?

The four lowest maximum Arctic sea ice extents on record have all occurred during the last four years.

Image Credits: National Snow and Ice Data Center for the images of the Arctic sea ice in March and the graph of the Arctic sea ice extent
Sources: National Snow and Ice Data Center, https://www.nasa.gov