In the Headlines

Blog posts about big news stories and issues (i.e. not local news)

“Let Freedom Read:” Banned Books Week 2023

Let Freedom Read title on abstract figure of open books.

The American Library Association website has information about the increase in book challenges in the last couple years. In 2022, ALA tracked 1,296 book challenges, nearly double the number of challenges in 2021. Every year, Banned Books Week is held to publicize these challenges and the books that are challenged. But also, Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read. Want to read a book that has been under attack? See the list here.

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Presidential Veto and Lawmaking

There was news coverage last week that President Biden might soon issue the first veto of his presidency.

How does a law get to the stage of being approved by the president—or not approved, which is a veto? According to usa.gov, here is the process (very simplified): A bill is introduced by a senator or representative and goes to committee where it is researched and discussed. Then the bill is voted on by the Senate or House of Representatives. If it passes the Senate or House, the bill goes to the other chamber of Congress and goes through a similar process. If both chambers pass the bill, the lawmakers work together to make a version that passes both the Senate and the House. If it passes both house of Congress, the bill goes to the president.

If the president vetoes the bill, it may be possible for Congress to override the veto.

For other information about the U.S. Congress and legislation, check out these books or ebooks from the Moraine Valley Library.

Losing to Win: Why Congressional Majorities Play Politics Instead of Make Laws by Jeremy Gelman
Heavy Lifting: The Job of the American Legislature by Alan Rosenthal
Rulemaking: How Government Agencies Write Law and Make Policy by Cornelius M. Kerwin and Scott R. Furlong
The Limits of Party: Congress and Lawmaking in a Polarized Era by James M. Curry and Frances E. Lee

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Crowded Skies

Recently the US government has been shooting down some high-flying, unknown objects. The first object was recovered and can be studied for identification. The searches for the other three objects have been abandoned due to weather and terrain, eliminating the possibility of identifying the purposes and origins of the objects. As it turns out, chances are pretty good that the most recent objects were legitimate research balloons. There are thousands of balloons in the sky right now. The US National Weather Service alone launches around 60,000 balloons per year. NASA uses balloons to study the atmosphere. Many other research organizations launch high-flying balloons all over the world as well.

Below you’ll find a glimpse of a graphic the New York Times recently published that gives an idea of the sizes and altitudes of various objects in the skies. You can view the full size graphic on the New York Times website. Spy Balloons. U.F.O.s. What Else Is Up There? And the New York Times article, A Rising Awareness That Balloons Are Everywhere In Our Skies gives more information about the numbers and various types of balloons being used.

If you haven’t yet signed up for your free subscription to the New York Times, you can do that right here, using your MVCC email address. To find out more about meteorology and how all these balloons might be being used, check out these books from the library collection.

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Economy and Economics

Photo by Andre Taissin on Unsplash

Written by Eileen Davenport

Inflation.  Interest rates.  Monetary policy.  Rate hikes.  The Fed.  The FOMC.  Cryptocurrency.  What exactly do these words mean, and how will it affect you?  These are some of the terms that many people use, but not everyone understands.  The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has websites that outline and explain these concepts with brief papers on how these ideas affect the economy.  Open Vault explains economics in general terms, adding context to the market concepts that affect our lives every day.

Designed for teachers but useful for anyone with an interest in the subject, Econ Lowdown has resources on personal finance and economics.  The lesson plans are designed for K-college teachers, but clear definitions and real-world applications make the content here useful for anyone who wants to learn more.  You can learn at your own pace, and keep up-to-date with the latest updates on timely topics through the monthly Page One Economics newsletter.

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Is This The Last Time We Fall Back?

At 2am this coming Sunday morning we fall back one hour as Daylight Saving Time comes to an end once again. Is this the last time? It’s possible, but probably not.

If there’s one thing that most Americans seem to be in agreement about, it’s that they don’t want to change clocks twice per year. Both physical and mental health suffer as our bodies adjust. There is a difference of opinion though on whether we should stick with DST all the time, or use Standard Time all of the time. There are compelling arguments on both sides. Many businesses see increased profits with more daylight in the evening. There is also evidence of a decrease in accidents and crime. Sleep experts, on the other hand, tell us that our bodies are at their best when the sun is highest in the sky at midday. This is more in line with Standard Time. So, while a majority would like to stop changing clocks, we can’t agree on which system to make permanent.

In March of this year, the US Senate picked a side and unanimously passed the Sunshine Protection Act, which is set to take effect in November of 2023 and make Daylight Saving Time permanent. This means that we would spring forward in March of 2023 and then just stay on that time, never having to switch back and forth again. In order for this to happen, the US House must also pass the act before it gets sent to the White House for signing. The act is stuck for now, with the House of Representatives not taking any action on the measure. So this could be the last time we fall back, but only time will tell.

Find out more about the history of timekeeping with these books from the library collection.

Is This The Last Time We Fall Back? Read More »

Examining the War in Ukraine at 6 months (event video)

Faculty members will examine the current status and global implications of the War in Ukraine. This talk features faculty members: Josh Fulton (History), Jim McIntyre (History), Jason King (Geography), and Kevin Navratil (Political Science & Democracy Commitment). This event is organized by the MVCC Democracy Commitment.

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Looking 13 Billion Years into the Past is Just the Beginning

On July 12th 2022, NASA released the first five images taken by the powerful James Webb Space Telescope.

A photo of the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA. A frontal view of the large, gold, hexagonal mirrors held aloft in a large room. Underneath the mirrors stand a crew of NASA workers in white protective suits. Some workers are viewing the telescope, others are holding cables and instruments.
The James Webb Space Telescope in 2017. Image credit: NASA/Desiree Stover (https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/goddard/2017/james-webb-space-telescope-mirror-seen-in-full-bloom)

After 17 years of construction and testing, Webb was launched into orbit in 2021 as a successor to the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes. Built to create high-resolution images by detecting infrared light, scientists expect that Webb will be able to look farther and deeper into space than we’ve ever seen before.

Looking Into the Deep Past

Telescopes allow us to look into the past, rather than see objects as they are now. The further an object is from the telescope, the longer it takes light emitted from the object to reach us. It takes about 8 minutes for light to travel to Earth from the Sun, so on sunny days, you’re seeing the sun 8 minutes in the past.

Now imagine you’re looking at an object one billion light years away. Light from that object has been traveling towards us for one billion years! So when we look at that object in the telescope we’re seeing what it looked like when that light first left the object a billion years ago.

One of first images Webb has taken is a deep field image. This image looks towards a very small, distant part of the cosmos and took 12.5 hours for the telescope to capture. Webb is able to look so far, we can view some of these galaxies as they were about a billion years after the big bang! The farthest galaxy appears to be 13.1 billion years old. Some of the galaxies in the image appear stretched or distorted. Those galaxies are much further away from us and the light they emit is distorted by the immense gravitational pull of galaxies in the foreground.

Thousands of small galaxies appear across this view. Their colors vary. Some are shades of orange, while others are white. Most appear as fuzzy ovals, but a few have distinct spiral arms. In front of the galaxies are several foreground stars. Most appear blue, and the bright stars have diffraction spikes, forming an eight-pointed star shape. There are also many thin, long, orange arcs that curve around the center of the image. For more details, download the Text Description.
Webb’s First Deep Field. Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI. (https://webbtelescope.org/contents/media/images/2022/035/01G7DCWB7137MYJ05CSH1Q5Z1Z)

What’s Next for Webb?

Webb will continue to look deep into the history of our universe, looking for some of the earliest star formation, but will also look at places closer to home, like the outer planets and other structures in our solar system. We may even learn more about exoplanets, planets in other solar systems!

Learn About The Moraine Valley Observatory and Telescope

MVCC Observatory Homepage and Events

Explore More

Recommended Reading/Viewing from MVCC Library

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Washington Post’s Capitol Coverage Wins Pulitzer

From the Guardian (Washington Post wins public service Pulitzer for Capitol attack coverage)
“The Washington Post has won the 2022 Pulitzer prize for public service journalism, for The Attack, its account of the deadly assault on the US Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump on 6 January 2021…”read more

This reporting involved 75 journalists including 25 reporters who were on the scene. You can watch some of the Post’s video coverage here:

Here is the reaction by the WP reporters when the Pulitzer’s were announced.

Washington Post’s Capitol Coverage Wins Pulitzer Read More »

How Misinformation can impact political processes, policymaking and election laws (Video)

This event examines the role that disinformation can play in impacting election laws and policymaking. Political Science Professor and Democracy Commitment Coordinator Kevin Navratil will explore how misinformation has influenced recent voting laws, decisions to declare land a national heritage site, anti-GMO labeling, and chemical safety laws.  

How Misinformation can impact political processes, policymaking and election laws (Video) Read More »

January 6 Insurrection: What’s Happened Since?

PBS’ Frontline is an award-winning documentary series that is known globally for its investigative reporting of key issues facing the US and the world.

Frontline has released its documentary on the January 6th insurrection and attack on the United States Capitol. This documentary has available for free online. At the one year anniversary of January 6th, Frontline released an updated version of this episode. You can watch it onlne here:

UPDATE: January 6 Insurrection: What’s Happened Since? (full documentary)

January 6 Insurrection: What’s Happened Since? Read More »

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