Here are this week’s headlines, brought to you by our Student Commercial Awareness Team:
- Trump Instructs for the Creation of ‘Space Force'
Reported by Anna-Mei Harvey
America’s president has told the National Space Council that it is not sufficient to merely have an American presence in space; instead, America ought to be striving for ‘dominance.’
In a bold move that has been opposed by many in the past, Trump instructed his department of defence and the Pentagon to begin the procedures necessary to create the so called ‘Space Force.’ The idea has however received extensive criticism. One critic was his own defence secretary Jim Mattis who last year highlighted that the US should not be focused on adding additional branches to the armed forces but instead “on reducing overheads and integrating warfighting functions.”
Some have questioned the President’s motives whilst others have reiterated that it’s quite clear that Trump is looking to reclaim American dominance in space – this seems to be a repeat of last century’s space race. America conquered the moon first and wants to remain one step ahead of China and Russia in relation to space as a potential future arena.
The new service proposal was not explicit in terms of what it would be responsible for however Mark Albrecht, executive secretary of the National Space Council, attempted to simplify the concept. He said that military activity in space is “not materially different from the U.S. Navy.” Albrecht’s justified this by saying that many things such as GPS, and TV satellites are part of space’s infrastructure and a space force would merely ensure the safety and protection of such.
- The Shipping Industry Comes Under Fire
Reported by Spencer Yap
Things do not bode well for the shipping industry. The past month saw the industry being affected by America’s decision to impose tariffs on certain goods, and counter tariffs by other nations, which slows international trade. Recently, new environmental laws are threatening to slow the industry down further.
Last September, the United Nations agency for shipping, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), passed regulations that require shipping companies to install filtration systems in ships which filter the water which ships discharge. Companies have been given until 2024 to implement the new system, which is estimated to cost the industry approximately $50 billion. Yet, it is not the biggest hit to the shipping industry. The IMO aims to reduce the pollution of marine fuel by reducing the global limit on sulphur content of fuel by 3% from the start of 2020. Suresh Sivanandam of Wood Mackenzie, a research firm, estimates that compliance will cost the industry $60 billion. Such costs will likely be transferred to the users of the shipping industry, who may not be able to afford the higher freight rates.
Furthermore, the IMO aims to reduce the industry’s emissions by 50% (from 2008’s level) by 2050, causing the shipowners to be in disarray as to how to meet this target. Some are advocating for the use of liquified natural gas, while others are pushing for the use of batteries and hydrogen fuels. One thing is for certain; the shipping industry has to come up with cost effective ways to meet the targets, or face future sanctions.
However, such drastic aims by the IMO might be justified. As reported by the Economist, ‘Shipping accounts for only around 2% of global carbon emissions, but is quite dirty. Burning heavy fuel oil, the industry produces 13% of the world’s sulphur emissions and 15% of its nitrogen oxides. And by 2050 ships will be producing 17% of all carbon emissions if left unregulated, according to research by the European Union’. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that if carbon emissions are not reduced, there could be approximately half a million more deaths as a result of pollution within the span of 2020 – 2025.
Read more here.
- Degree Inflation – Cause For Concern?
Reported by Radhika Morally
A think tank has raised concerns about universities being at risk of losing their credibility as a result of grade inflation.
According to Reform, the percentage of firsts has almost doubled between 1997-2009 and risen by a staggering 26% since 2010. Data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that as many as ¼ students graduated with a first class degree last year.
Although a larger proportion of firsts is suggested by some to show a higher calibre of students, the reality of the situation is that as more firsts are awarded their value depreciates. One source claims that warnings have been given indicating employers are now looking at school exam results to assess job applicants because of this devaluation of university grades.
Universities currently make their own decisions about grades, but the report by Reform calls for final year assessments and degree grade benchmarks to be set by a ‘designated assessment body’ which would mean that only the top 10% of students could be awarded firsts.
The proposals mean that universities would lose their ability to decide what their students should be awarded and hence they have argued that the introduction of a standardised approach would threaten their independence.
However, the threat to the reputation of degrees has prompted the government to take action, and Mr Johnson has stated that ‘tackling degree inflation is a priority’. Arguably a solution needs to be found for what Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of `Buckingham, describes as ‘irresponsible’ degree inflation.
- Family Separations: The Border Control Crisis in the US
Reported by Sara Saquib
Over the past few days the press have been reporting numerous accounts of the horrors of children being separated from their parents at the US border. This follows the implementation of the “zero tolerance” policy for migrants who cross the border illegally. I.e. those who entered the US from an unauthorised entry point. The reason families are being separated is that, while migrants are being criminally prosecuted, the children of these migrants are not charged with any crime. Hence, those prosecuted are sent to detention centres while those not found guilty of a crime are not. This policy although callous, was defended by Mr Trump who stated that he will not stand to see America turn into the “migrant camp” that Europe had now become.
There have been many horrific images of toddlers crying as they have been separated from their parents, and a particular tragic incident of a child with down syndrome being separated from their family. News of the “zero tolerance policy” in action has caused outrage amongst the public, democrats and republicans alike. One example of this is an incident on Wednesday in which the homeland secretary Kirstjen Nielson was booed and heckled as she had dinner in a Mexican restaurant.
On Wednesday Trump clearly defended the policy stating that “if you’re weak the country is going to be overrun with millions of people…and if you’re strong then you don’t have any heart…perhaps I’d rather be strong.” Despite his preferences to, in his words, “be strong” Trump did announce on Wednesday that a bill will be passed to stop the zero tolerance policy so that families are able to stay together. This will mean that the children of illegal immigrants, although technically not ‘criminals’ will be able to stay in the detention centre with the rest of their family. The Department of Homeland Security has drafted an executive order, however at the moment the exact details of this bill are not known.