The biggest stories from this month
Shutting Down the Government and Dreams
Trump’s dream of erecting a steel wall between the U.S. and Mexico is not the only hope in peril. Since December 22, a quarter of the government has been shut down, leaving thousands of federal workers without a paycheck until Congress can agree on a budget. These workers were still expected to work, though. As a result, many of them called in sick, causing agencies such as the National Park Service to be left in disarray. Scientific projects were also delayed because researchers could not acquire the necessary permits. The shutdown is estimated to cost at least 0.1% in economic growth for every two weeks it continues. After 35 days though, the government will reopen for three weeks while Congress negotiates on the budget for border security. This is considered to be a major win for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and a loss for the president.
Brexit in Disarray
British prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan was overwhelmingly defeated in Parliament in a 432-202 vote on January 15, leaving the country with the possibility of a “no deal” exit at the end of March. Such a scenario would lead to high prices and shortages in Britain because trade between the country and the European Union would follow a similar model to trade between the U.S. and the EU. Some people are banking on getting an extension of the deal-making period from the EU, but that would require every country in the Union to agree. Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party wants to hold a re-vote on Brexit, an idea that many believe undermines the people’s voice. On Wednesday, he held a vote of no confidence in an attempt to throw May out of power, something the Prime Minister survived by a margin of 19 votes.
And the Most Controversial Golden Globe Goes to…
When Bohemian Rhapsody won Best Drama on January 6, people took to social media not to offer their congratulations but their disgust at the Golden Globes’ choice. The director of the film, Bryan Singer, was fired a couple weeks before filming ended due to unprofessional behavior, including hurling lighting equipment. After he left the production, he was accused in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting a minor in 2003. Many argue that the awarding of the film celebrates Singer while ignoring Dexter Fletcher’s role in completing the film after Singer left.
The Cost of Recent California Fires May Be Too Much For PG&E
Cal Fires determined that PG&E’s lack of insulated conductors are responsible for the fires that tore through thousands of homes in 2017 and 2018. The company is facing upwards of $30 billion in liabilities, leading it to plan for bankruptcy. However, experts also believe that climate change played a role in helping the fires spread, and the possible bankruptcy of PG&E is a warning of the future cost of climate change.
Plants on the Moon
The nearly 50-year absence of life on the moon was broken by a cotton sprout on China’s Chang-e4, though only for about a day. The space probe was equipped with a small biosphere containing seeds and fruit fly eggs in the hopes that a successful experiment could yield the potential for interstellar farming. Unfortunately, the plants did die, so that vision still has some work to be done before it can be realized.
The Source of the Pain
In a study published on January 17, Stanford researchers found the specific neurons in the brain that make pain hurt. If the researchers altered the neurons in rats, the rats would still experience pain but it would not be unpleasant. Although the application of this discovery is still a long way off, the future of chronic pain treatment is looking like it could hurt far less.