The News Memo
Let's break down all the things you should know in the news this week.
+GetSmart (How loud is a Blue Whale's heartbeat?)
✏️ SAT College Board announced an ‘Adversity Score’ for test takers in an effort to receive a fuller picture of students’ backgrounds. The score is composed of 15 factors, including the poverty level where the student grew up, crime rates, and high school environment. The score is from 0 to 100, with anything above 50 denoting hardship, and below 50, privilege. Colleges will see the scores, but not students. This fall, the ‘Adversity Score’ will be used by ~150 institutions, and more broadly next year.
📱 San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban the use of facial recognition technology by the police and government agencies on Tuesday (May 14). The measure passed the city’s Board of Supervisors 8-1. According to Georgetown University, there is more than a 50% chance you're already in a law enforcement facial recognition database if you are a U.S. adult.
✈️ Boeing says it has fixed the software error in the 737 MAX 8 airplane that contributed to the two crashes and hundreds of deaths. The WSJ reported this week that following the 1st crash in Indonesia, American Airlines pilots had pushed Boeing for an urgent fix of the flight-control system, but Boeing resisted, despite acknowledging manufacturing errors in the Max 8. Further, the Federal Aviation Administration did not treat the flight-control system as a critical safety feature, thereby leaving the certification and testing for Boeing to handle internally.
💊 The White House wants patients to know health-care prices upfront. It also wants to require insurance providers to show the rates at which they are negotiating prices with providers in a push for more transparency and lower prices.
Alabama Passes Bill That Effectively Bans Abortion
Why you should care: The bill’s supporters hope that legal challenges eventually elevate the case to the Supreme Court, where conservative-originalist justices now hold a 5-4 majority, following the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.
Four states, Ohio, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi, all passed ‘heartbeat’ abortion bills this year, effectively banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected - usually around 6 weeks into the pregnancy. It indicates a move across states to put stricter limits on abortion, as they see an opportunity for a legitimate challenge to the 1973 Roe v. Wade case.
What happened in Alabama?
The Alabama Human Life Protection Act, which was passed by a large majority in the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday (May 15), makes providing an abortion a felony, punishable by 10 to 99 years in prison for the provider. The only exception is when there is a serious health risk to the mother. Women seeking or having an abortion would not be punished; only the provider would be considered guilty.
The earliest the law will go into effect in six months, however, lower courts are certain to block the bill. It is unclear if it will ever go into effect. The bill was intentionally crafted as a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, and the supporters of the Alabama bill hope it will rise to the Supreme Court.
In wake of the signing, Gov. Ivey said, “To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God.” Staci Fox with Planned Parenthood Southeast said the bill marks "a dark day for women in Alabama and across this country.”
Public Opinion on Abortion, 2018
What to watch moving forward
Although the bill may eventually reach the Supreme Court, it is more probable that the Supreme C. would chip away at Roe v. Wade slowly instead of overturning it outright.
U.S. Orders Partial Withdrawal of Personnel at Embassy in Iraq
Why you should care: Because tensions have been increasing quickly between the U.S. and Iran, some officials are worrying military action might occur.
Context - Why have tensions increased?
As we covered last week, the U.S. left the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal last year (2018) and has since imposed crippling economic sanctions on Iran that have hurt their economy. Last week, Iran announced they would stop complying with two components of the Nuclear Deal within 60 days if sanctions relief is not given.
Following Iran’s announcement, the U.S. deployed some military planes and ships to the Persian Gulf region. Although the U.S. cited imminent threats from Iran or Iranian-backed rebel groups, they offered no specifics.
On Monday (May 13), 4 oil tankers (2 Saudi tankers, 1 United Arab Emirates, and 1 Norwegian) were sabotaged while entering the Persian Gulf. A preliminary U.S. assessment says it is likely Iran or Iranian-backed rebels were behind the attack. U.S. allies, however, have largely said they do not know who is responsible, and Iran denied the accusations.
What happened this week?
The U.S. ordered a partial withdrawal of personnel at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. The U.S. intelligence community briefed Congress on Thursday (May 16) and revealed that, based on U.S. intel, it appears Iran may have been taking aggressive steps because they thought the U.S. was planning attacks, leading to a circle of confusion. Senator Angus King (I., Maine), after the briefing on Thursday, said, “Are they reacting to our assertions of action in the Middle East or are we reacting to them? That’s an unanswered question for me.” At this point, it appears likely that both the U.S. and Iran were misreading each other’s moves.
Tensions appear to be cooling, as both President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo repeated this week that the U.S. is not seeking war with Iran and does not plan to deploy troops to the region. However, they said that if American interests in the region are jeopardized, there will be an appropriate response. Iran also said they will not go to war. President Trump has suggested that he would like to talk with Iran face-to-face to reach an understanding.
China Raises Tariffs on $60 B of U.S. Goods
Why you should care: The prolonged trade war has dampened economic growth, especially for U.S. farmers. Further, with the rise of 5G networks, artificial intelligence, and general technological development, China, and its premier technology company, Huawei, will continue to be at the center of conversations.
Last Friday (May 10), the U.S. raised the tariff rate from 10% to 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods amid frustrations that China was reneging on some of their commitments to make structural changes to their economy.
What happened this week?
China said it would increase tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods starting June 1. The tariff rates will increase to 20% or 25% from a previous rate of 10%. Some of the goods that will be affected include liquified natural gas, shirts, beer and wine. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has said it is taking steps to increase tariffs on another $300 B of Chinese goods by June unless a deal is struck.
The trade war has hit U.S. farmers the hard, as they have been cut off from robust Chinese markets such as soybean markets. Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently crafting an aid bill for farmers that would total between $15-20 billion, many farmers question if it will be sufficient. It is the second aid package for farmers since the trade war started. Despite increasing trade tensions, both countries have left the door open for striking a trade deal.
Related: Trump signed an executive order on Wed (May 15), effectively prohibiting U.S. companies from using technology from “foreign adversaries” that pose a threat to national security. While it does not mention them by name, the order is thought to be directed at the Chinese telecom giant, Huawei Technologies. The U.S. has discouraged other countries, such as Germany, from doing business with Huawei, as they view them as a national security threat.
Trends*: U.S. Birth Rates: Lowest Level Since 1980’s
* The purpose of the “Trends” stories, whether they are headline ones or not, is to cover interesting patterns in data, that we think you, as a reader, should know and will find interesting.
Americans are having the fewest number of babies in over 30 years, according to a recent article from The Wall Street Journal. The 2018 statistics worry economists, as the current fertility rate is too low to replace the U.S.’ current worker base, as the Baby Boomers move into retirement.
Several economists believed fertility rates would have bumped back up following a rebounding economy, but that has not materialized.
Give me the stats…
*Data according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.
So why is it dropping so much?
Fewer unplanned pregnancies
About 35% of the fertility decline from 2007 to 2016 is due to a rapid decline in pregnancies that were not intended, according to an associate professor of economics at the University of Notre Dame, Kasey Buckles.
Women are waiting longer to have children
Because women are waiting longer to have children, it is statistically likely they don’t catch up to the normal rate. “There’s a limit to how much you can delay and still catch up,” Buckles told the Wall Street Journal.
In 2016, 40% of women were college educated, according to a study from Boston College. Statistically, women with higher levels of education have fewer babies than those with a high school diploma or less, as college educated women have higher incomes on average and many choose to focus on their career to avoid foregoing those higher earnings.
🐋You can hear a blue whale’s heartbeat from two miles away
The blue whale is the largest animal on earth. With a heart that weighs 1,300 pounds, its heart only beats eight times per minute and can be heard over two miles away.