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Global warming, Chelsea Manning, and Obama’s final press conference: The Week in Review

Earth hits record-high temperatures for the third year in a row. A Nigerian jet misfires on a refugee camp, Ringling Bros. Circus announces it will cease to exist in May, and the search for Malaysian flight MH370 is suspended.

We get it, Wednesdays can be tough to get through. In an effort to keep up with the world’s ever-changing news landscape, we’ve put together the top 10 headlines so you can stay on top of things.

1. Earth hits record-high temperatures for the third year in a row


For three years in a row, temperatures on our planet have broken records for the hottest year. This past year, the symptoms of a warming atmosphere were harshly felt around the globe. The Arctic experienced twenty to thirty degrees increased temperature and loss of ice, drought caused starvation across the African continent, and “once-in-a-hundred-years” weather events like flooding or tornadoes keep appearing year after year. NASA estimates over a half-degree increase in surface temperature between 2013 and 2016. Doesn’t sound like a lot for an average Wednesday, but for a planet to increase by that amount in just three years is enormous.

Scientists acknowledge the warming effects of El Niño on both 2015 and 2016, but show that the bigger and most alarming factor in the rising temperatures on Earth is the increase of greenhouse gases. Human caused climate change, though denied by our incoming president as a plot hatched by China to decrease competition from U.S. manufacturing. The data is there, whether politicians will manipulate it is another story.

2. Chelsea Manning’s sentence is commuted by President Obama

Democracy Now

Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower intelligence analyst who was given 35 years in prison for leaking information to Wikileaks, has had her sentence commuted by President Obama. Manning, a transgender woman who has been in a male prison for 7 years, has attempted suicide twice since being imprisoned. Her sentence was much longer than the average for intelligence breach and she has already served more than the average few years. This is a Presidential Commutation, which is different than a pardon, as she has already served a reasonable sentence. 

Vice-president-elect Mike Pence has expressed his opposition to this move, which may mean that the incoming administration may try to overturn it after they step in on the 20th. Legal experts say that overriding a predecessor’s decision is very difficult and it is likely to stand.

3. A Nigerian jet misfires on a refugee camp


On Tuesday, a Nigerian military jet accidentally bombed a refugee camp in Rann, killing over 50 and wounding over 200. The air force was targeting Boko Haram members reported to be plotting an attack on a nearby military outpost but misfired on this camp of innocents who have fled from Boko Haram. Doctors Without Borders and other medical aid workers offered aid to this remote camp of about 20,000 and attempted to assuage the chaos they found there. Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari called the incident “a regrettable operational mistake.”

4. Eugene Cernan, the last man on the moon, passes away


Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, died at the age of 82. He visited space a total of three times and visited the moon twice. He became the eleventh man in history to walk on the moon and was the commander of Apollo 17.

The Apollo 17 was the last mission to the moon, which took place in December of 1972.

5. The Ringling Bros. Circus is set to close by May

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The Ringling Bros. Circus is officially closing in May, after being open for 146 years. Some of the reasons for the decision to stop the “Greatest Show on Earth” are low attendance, high operating costs and continuous pressure from animal rights groups, according to the Associated Press. One of the groups that has vocally protested the circus is the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). The Ringling Bros. Circus will complete 30 more shows before they close forever in May.

6. Joe Biden is awarded the prestigious medal of honor, and we totally shed a tear.

Daily Dot

During his last few days in office, President Obama awarded Vice President Joe Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is America’s highest civilian honor and given to individuals who have made “especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” Biden was emotional as Obama presented him the medal during a ceremony in the White House. Past recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey.

7. Search for Malaysian Airlines flight is suspended

Australia’s Transport Minister, Darren Chester, announced that the search for a Malaysian Airlines flight which disappeared flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing would be suspended after three years of searching. A 12,000 km sq area of the southern Indian Ocean west of Perth was covered by the Malaysian, Australian and Chinese Governments. Several pieces of debris were recovered, but as Chester explained, “It has been a costly exercise but it hasn’t been a factor in the decision to suspend the search…We’re in a position where we don’t want to be providing false hope to the family and friends.”

8. President Obama gives his final press conference

Barack Obama gave the final press conference of this presidency on Wednesday. He was immediately questioned about his commutation of whistleblower Chelsea Manning who leaked three-quarters of a million confidential or sensitive military and diplomatic documents.  However, he acknowledged that critical journalism would be important for the protection of democracy. The President also expressed particular concern about the infringement of minority voting rights, saying  “We are the only country in the advanced world that makes it harder to vote rather than easier.”

Obama ended on a note of tempered hope as he added, “I believe in this country. I believe in the American people. I believe that people are more good than bad. I believe tragic things happen. I think there’s evil in the world, but I think at the end of the day, if we work hard and if we’re true to those things in us that feel true and feel right, that the world gets a little better each time.”

9. Fiat Chrysler is accused of cheating on emissions tests

The US Environmental Protection Agency issued a “notice of violation” last Thursday alleging Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had installed undisclosed software in some of it’s cars which resulted in increased emissions of nitrogen oxides. By installing, then failing to disclose that software, the company is in violation of the Clean Air Act. According to the EPA website, it will not know if a recall will necessary until the investigation is complete.

10. Congress votes towards measures that begin dismantling Obamacare

In an overnight “vote-a-rama” in the senate last Wednesday, the Senate passed a bill directing congress to write legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The bill was passed as part of the Budget Reconciliation Process, which broadly speaking is a way for legislation to be passed much more easily than normal since it can’t be filibustered in the Senate. The legislation passed on Wednesday night is limited to issues regarding debt and spending and has a self imposed deadline for completion of January 27th.

For a more in depth look at repeal, replacement and next steps, check out Everything you need to know about repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Until next week: