Global Glide: Big News Sept. 21-27


Photo credited to Wikipedia

Lucy Arnold, Editor in Chief

Global Glide is a weekly news feature that gives a brief summary of major current events in the community, in the nation, and in the world. Tune in to find out what’s going on!

Global and National News:

Pope Makes Historic U.S. Visit and Gives Groundbreaking Address to Congress  

Pope Francis arrived to a huge welcome in Washington D.C. on Tuesday. He continues to redefine the world’s idea of what the leader of the Catholic Church can do and be, for he fearlessly speaks out about issues that make the world a less harmonious place. Francis also strives to set an example of humble living; rather than accepting the elaborate limousine waiting to drive hime off the tarmac, he slid into the backseat of a small Fiat.

Thursday morning, the progressive religious leader became the first pope in history to address a joint Congress session, urging the United States to embrace undocumented Hispanic immigrants, to cease discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, to abolish the death penalty, and to aggressively combat climate change. He also implored the nation to share more of its vast wealth with those in need. After the address, the Pontiff shared lunch with a homeless community and traveled north for a whirlwind tour of New York.

While in the Big Apple, he spoke before the United Nations General Assembly, delivered a speech at the Sept. 11 Memorial, and led mass at Madison Square Garden. Francis’s speech to the UN included calls to prioritize caring for the poor and for the environment, two goals that are central to the ambitious new agenda (the Sustainable Development Goals) that the council of nations finalized on Friday.   

Francis arrived in Philadelphia on Saturday morning, marking the start of the final leg of his trip. He led mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul and made a public address at the Independence Mall before attending the World Festival of Families, which attracted approximately 40,000 people from all over the world. The Pope left America to return to Rome on Sunday.

Volkswagen Emissions Scandal

Last Friday, Volkswagen plunged into scandal when the Environmental Protection Agency accused the company of cheating emissions tests by installing diesel cars with deceptive software. On Tuesday, the company admitted that the accusation was true; its engineers deliberately designed a “defeat device” that tricks regulators into thinking that the cars adhere to emissions standards.

As a result, numerous Volkswagens are actually emitting pollutants at up to 40 times the acceptable rate. This problem involves a whopping 11 million cars worldwide, could cost over seven billion dollars to to fix, and is seriously jeopardizing the company’s future and once-solid reputation.

Soon after the scandal became public, Volkswagen began intensive efforts to keep the problem from worsening, issuing a recall for the 482,000 affected vehicles on American roads and stopping sales of the affected Audi A3, VW Jetta, Beetle, Passat, and Golf diesel models. The firm’s chief executive has already resigned.

Speaker of the House John Boehner Resigns

Devout Catholic and House Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation from Congress on Friday, one day after he was visibly moved by the Pope’s visit and address to Congress. Though Boehner had been planning to carry out his withdrawal in November, he decided to stage a more immediate resignation soon after Pope Francis’s address.

The Speaker’s decision was ultimately a very personal one, and it shocked virtually all members of the House of Representatives and Republican Party. Boehner’s almost-six-year-tenure as Speaker included several triumphs (including a rare bipartisan trade accord), but it was especially defined by his struggles to lead the divided Republican caucus and to weather economic conflicts and failed deals with the President.  

Aware that his continued House leadership could spark further clashes and lead to less focus on the American people, Boehner resigned confidently and with apparent peace of mind. However, only time will tell whether the search for Boehner’s replacement provokes further unnecessary struggle.

Huge Price Hike for Lifesaving Medication

In August, Turing Pharmaceuticals purchased rights to Daraprim, a 62-year-old drug that is widely used to treat life-threatening parasitic infections in new mothers, infants and people with compromised immune systems (such as AIDS and cancer patients). Practically overnight after the deal was complete, Turing raised Daraprim’s price from a manageable $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill.

This 5,000 percent price increase was first reported last Sunday, and it has since sparked mass outrage and controversy as patients struggle to afford the steep new price. Turing founder and chief executive Martin Shkreli claimed that Daraprim is so rarely used that the increase in price would have very little impact on the health industry. He also claimed that the heightened drug profits would be used to develop better treatments for the parasitic infection targeted by Daraprim.

Fortunately for patients, public outcry reached such heights that Shkreli announced on Tuesday that he will lower the price of the life-saving drug. The new price will be determined over the next few weeks, though there is a chance that it will still be difficult to afford.

Hajj Stampede Kills Over 700 in Saudi Arabia

On Thursday of last week, a freakish stampede during the sacred hajj pilgrimage to Mecca left over 769 people dead and over 900 injured. Most of the dead are from Iran, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey, and Indonesia.

When the tragedy occurred, hundreds of thousands of people were gathered three miles from Mecca, participating in one of the traditional components of the hajj. A special investigative committee is being formed to determine the cause of the disaster.

Approximately two million people took part in this year’s hajj, which ended on Saturday.

State and Local News:

Bus and Ride the Ducks Mobile Collide, Leaving Four Dead

Thursday Sept. 24, tragedy struck on Seattle’s Aurora Bridge when a collision between a Ride the Ducks tour vehicle and a charter bus killed four international students from North Seattle College. A fifth victim from the college died on Sunday at Harborview Medical Center. About 50 others were injured in the crash.

Investigations into the accident have found that the Duck vehicle’s left front axle was sheared off. In 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) discovered a potentially-dangerous axle problem in a number of Duck vehicles and recommended that all affected cars receive the necessary safety fixes. The tour vehicle involved in Thursday’s accident never received the suggested repairs.

So far, the NTSB is uncertain whether the axle failure occurred before the collision, though this account of events seems likely because the Duck vehicle swerved and seemed to have a mechanical problem right before the accident. Thirteen crash victims remain at Harborview.

A second crash on Aurora Bridge occurred on Sunday, but thankfully, no one was injured.

President of China Visits Seattle

President Xi Jinping concluded his first official visit to Seattle on Thursday, when he traveled to the nation’s capital. For much of the President’s time in Seattle, traffic was unpredictable and severe; cars were often backed up for miles as police blocked access to freeways and ramps and as Xi  traveled between Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, and Redmond. An important head of state, Xi enjoyed heavy Secret Service protection and was escorted by a police motorcade for all of his excursions.

During his three-day visit, Xi met with Chinese and U.S. leaders to discuss expanded economic partnerships and trade collaborations; joined several U.S. and Chinese governors in signing an agreement to support clean and renewable energy; delivered his first public address before U.S. government and business officials; and met with CEO’s of Boeing, Apple, Starbucks, Amazon, and Microsoft (who hope to ensure long-term access to the Chinese market).

Also while Xi was in town, Boeing announced a $38 billion deal to sell 300 jets and to build a production facility in China. The announcement was made during Xi’s visit to the company’s plant in Everett, and it marks the first time that Boeing has sanctioned a production facility outside of the nation.

Another big visit topic was cybersecurity, which Xi condemned during his government speech. Overall, the President’s unusual state visit was a success, though many agree that greater planning will be needed in the future to reduce the impact on driving civilians.

The visit appears to be part of China’s efforts to boost its slowing economy. Seattle was Xi’s first destination because of the concentration of tech companies and Washington’s status as the largest American exporter of goods and services to China.

In Washington D.C., Xi met with President Obama to discuss Chinese cyber spying, economic relations, and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Kam Chancellor Returns to Seahawks (Finally!)

After a frustrating 54-day contract holdout, Chancellor caved in and rejoined the Seahawks fold. The prized player missed more than $530,000 in game checks by sitting out the first two weeks of the season. He also racked up $1.1 million in fines for missing training camp and faces a $500,000 signing bonus, though the Seahawks are keeping quiet about how much of this the strong safety star will actually have to pay.

After the 2012 season, Chancellor signed a four-year $28 million extension that went into effect in 2013. When Chancellor began to demand the restructuring of his contract earlier this year, the Seahawks refused, citing the fact that he still had three years on his contract and expressing the worry that their compliance could lead other players to follow his example.

It is likely that steep financial consequences and the pain of watching his team lose their first two games led Chancellor to reconsider his stance. He visited the team facility for the first time in months on Wednesday, and on Sunday, he helped the team to crush the Chicago Bears 26-0 for the season’s first win.

Chancellor has hinted that he will resume contract negotiations after the season.

Superintendent Search Underway in Peninsula School District

Since Chuck Cuzzetto has only ten months left as PSD superintendent, the district’s board of directors has begun the search for his replacement. On Sept. 10, the district was instructed to request candidate proposals from superintendent search firms. The firms will perform most of the reference checking and background checks necessary for each candidate.

Proposals will probably be submitted by December, allowing for a January community forum on the hiring effort. Before this time, staff members will attend a meeting to discuss the impending turnover in authority.

As the search continues, it is possible that there will be a major school board overhaul, for only one member is set to keep his seat this year. The board is also launching a new policy to accommodate transgender students.