5 Things to Know (28th January – 1st February)

I hope everyone enjoyed their week (or days) off. 🙂 Here’s a list of 5 news highlights from this week.

  1. Major Expedition Targets Thwaites Glacier 

This expansive ice steam in West Antarctica is melting due to rising global temperatures. Scientists have been trying to figure out its contribution to a rise in sea-levels. They have predicted that if all the Thwaites Glacier melted away, global sea-levels would rise by about 80cm. The Palmer’s 52-day cruise is just one part of a five-year, joint US-UK research programme to investigate the glacier. Through this expedition, scientists aim to capture Thwaites’ every behaviour – leading to a better prediction of how its mass will respond to global warming. It has been reported that one of the studies about sea environment will be conducted by a seal-tagging exercise. Marine animals residing near the glacier will be captured and fitted with sensors. Dr Lars Boehme from St Andrews University has clarified, “The sensors record details about the seals’ immediate physical environment, which gives us a clearer picture of the current oceanic conditions in these remote and inaccessible places.”

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    2. Helping the children who swim to school 

For some children in the Philipines, swimming to school is part of their daily routine. The Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation started out as a small idea on social media; over the years it has become a countrywide charity helping school children in need. These children had to wade to school for up to 1 kilometre; and when the tide was high, they had to swim instead. They swam through water and mangroves, all while carrying a bundle of books and uniforms in plastic bags above their heads. Mr. Jay Jaboneta, who grew up nearby, felt pity towards these unfortunate children. He mentioned, “I didn’t know about this situation – when I found out I was shocked and posted about it on Facebook” and that “That’s dangerous and unsafe even if they are good swimmers.” Many children, however, are not trained enough to swim well. Eventually, the news started spreading, and more and more people decided to support this cause. These locals wanted to help make a difference and so donated money, which would be used to purchase boats. These small boats are often rowed by the pupils themselves, but it reduces the risk of diseases and drowning and most importantly, allows these children to attend their school dry and safe. 

Jay Jaboneta with the kids in Layag-Layag (Zamboanga City).JPG

    3. Apple hints at lower iPhone prices as sales fall 

In an attempt to accelerate demand, Apple CEO Tim Cook has hinted at reducing iPhone prices in some places. It has been reported that revenue from the iPhone, responsible for most of the firm’s profits, fell by an alarming 15% in its latest financial quarter. Overall the firm’s revenue was down 5% from a year ago to about $84.3bn (£64.5bn). Apple partly blames these issues on the economic slowdown in China. Another factor, as declared by Tim Cook, could be that customers are struggling with high prices. He also mentioned that a strong dollar made its products comparatively more expensive and hurt iPhone’s sales in emerging markets. Market research done in 2018 by Canalys, a market analysis firm, suggested that global smartphone shipments contracted by 5%, implying that Apple is not the only firm struggling to maintain its sales. According to BBC, Apple is transitioning, slowly, into a different kind of company that isn’t so reliant on hardware, and these numbers show that so far that transition is going well. Mr Cook, however, said he remained optimistic in the business, considering the strong sales of iPad and Macs, as well as growth in its services division, which includes Apple Pay.

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    4. Eight dead as US encounters polar vortex 

At least eight people have died due to a polar vortex in the US Midwest, the most brutal cold-air outbreak in decades. A polar vortex is an area of low pressure, with a vast expanse of swirling cold air from the Arctic. Sometimes this cold-air system breaks off and migrates southwards, towards southern states such as Florida. According to reports, about ninety million people, which is a third of the US population, have seen temperatures of -17˚C or below. American meteorologists predict that Chicago may break its’ 1985 record for the lowest temperature, which is -32˚C. This system is currently drifting eastward, and so may affect northeastern cities such as Boston. As a response to this calamity, the local US postal service has suspended all mail deliveries for the second day to parts of six states. Moreover, 3,500 flights have been delayed and over 2,300 cancelled. To allow trains to continue running, authorities in Chicago are using first to melt the snow on the tracks. 

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     5. Bangkok schools closed over ‘unhealthy’ pollution levels 

As most of you may already know, the smog situation in Bangkok is continuously worsening, which is why the Thai Ministry of Education ordered about 437 schools to close down for the rest of the week. This action was intended to protect children from the harmful effects of rising pollution levels, caused by ultra-fine dust particles called PM 2.5. Such dust particles are known to cause inflammation of the lungs. The main sources of this smog are believed to be traffic exhaust, construction works, burning crops and pollution from factories. Authorities have tried to improve the situation by providing artificial rain and reducing traffic, which did not have as large of an impact as expected. According to The World Air Quality Index project (AQICN), Bangkok’s Air Quality Index (AQI) is currently at around 170, which is classified as ‘unhealthy’. 

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