Mumps & Measles Concerns, “Unprecedented” Midwest Floods, and More—This Week in the News

Author: The Great Courses
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In a fast-moving, ever-shifting world, news is continuously breaking. The Great Courses is here to help you understand the full story behind the soundbites. Here are a handful of stories for the week of March 25, 2019, and their accompanying lectures on The Great Courses Plus.

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Why Did the Pope Refuse Hand Kisses?
Pope Francis withdrew his right hand from the long line of people who were bowed and waiting to kiss it. “It was a simple question of hygiene,” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti told reporters on Thursday, March 28 after he asked the pope directly. He did not want to spread germs. However, this gesture goes against centuries of tradition. Dig into the history of Papal authority and policy as you learn about the Franciscan and Dominican orders.

Sound Waves Appear to Affect the Flavor of Cheese
A recent experiment by researchers in Switzerland looked at how sound waves may affect the microorganisms that give cheese its flavor. Nine 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese were exposed to different types of music for 24 hours a day over six months. It was determined by professional food technologists that the cheese exposed to hip-hop smelled stronger and had a fruiter taste than the other test samples. Hold this experiment up to the standards of legitimate scientific investigations as you consider the fundamental purposes of research; define exploratory, descriptive, and explanatory research, and their implications; and examine the six steps of the scientific method.

Energy Drinks Blister the Tongue of a Super-Drinker
A teacher who admitted to consuming a minimum of six energy drinks a day was told the excessive chemicals—sugar, amino acids, B vitamins, and herbal substances—in those beverages were eating his flesh, leading to his blistered and peeling tongue. Soda and related carbonated drinks are also considered one of the worst contributors to obesity-related diseases. Explore all the health risks associated with its high sugar content.

“Unprecedented” Midwest Floods Forecasted to Get Worse
The “bomb cyclone” melt off and new rainstorms continue to add to the rising rivers in several Midwestern states, causing flooding that has already killed at least three people and caused billions in damages. Weather experts believe this is shaping up to be an unprecedented flood season, lasting into the first part of summer. Explore scenarios for extreme flooding in flood-prone regions of the U.S., study the meteorology behind these events, and hear flood-safety tips.

Israeli Illusionist Uri Geller Claims He Will Stop Brexit Telepathically
In an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, magician Uri Gellar says he will stop Brexit “with the power of his mind.” Geller asserts to have predicted both May’s and Donald Trump’s victorious elections, and claims the CIA, MI5, and Mossad have all validated his power. Reading minds. Detecting lies. Predicting the future. Debunk these and other “paranormal phenomena” by exploring how we infer others’ thoughts and actions through standard perception.

CBD-Based Products Available from CVS in Maryland and Seven Other States
The drugstore chain CVS said more than 800 stores have started selling CBD products last week in select states across the country. These products include topicals such as creams, sprays, roll-ons, lotions, and salves and contain the non-psychoactive component derived from the marijuana plant. Examine the story of marijuana and our changing perceptions of its safety and usefulness.

What’s the Best Way to Catch Up on Lost Sleep?
The adverse effects of sleep deprivation can kick in quickly and have a number of consequences, including weight gain. But even after a weekend of catch-up sleep, participants in sleep studies showed similar results. Learn how sleep restores brain energy reserves that are depleted during periods of wakefulness and analyze the relationship between sleep and glycogen metabolism.

Photo of Harriet Tubman Recovered after Almost a Century
The Library of Congress has conserved and digitized a previously unknown portrait of Harriet Tubman, who was known as the “conductor” of the Underground Railroad. The recently released image shows Ms. Tubman as “relaxed and stylish,” notes Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Follow the story of Harriet Tubman, as told through some of her treasured personal belongings.

Mumps and Measles Cause Concern
New York’s Rockland County has declared a state of emergency over a measles outbreak while a mumps surge at Temple University sickens as many as 105 people. In both locations, officials are urging the public to obtain vaccinations. Look at the myths surrounding the safety of vaccines—including the mumps-measles-rubella (MMR) vaccine and its false link to autism in children. Because of the unwarranted fear and confusion among parents, this particular myth has led to decreased vaccination rates and the re-emergence of serious infectious diseases.

Storm Chaser Collision Results in Weather Channel Lawsuit
The Weather Channel show Storm Wranglers features Kelley Williamson and Randy Yarnall chasing down tornadoes. On one such recent mission, the storm chasers collided with a storm watcher spotter, Corbin Jaeger, from the National Weather Service in Texas, resulting in death for all three and a $125-million-dollar lawsuit for wrongful death. In this dangerous category of work, what can be learned from the precautions that professional storm chasers should take?

We will be diligently monitoring current events and sharing updates on a regular basis, linking the latest headlines to our courses, so you can get the context, history, background, deeper meaning, and—especially—the facts. Our goal is to help our lifelong learners apply the knowledge they gain from our courses to the real world and become better-informed citizen about the present-day issues that concern us all.

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Mumps & Measles Concerns, “Unprecedented” Midwest Floods, and More—This Week in the News
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