Jan 3, 2024 Episode 170
Hear the biggest news stories of 2023 – some awful, some hopeful – before diving into the new year!
Happy new year, everyone! it’s time to look back at the highs and lows of 2023’s big news stories.
OPENING STING – LEELA: “Hey, hey, hey. Listen up. New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”
LEELA: Hello and happy 2024, everyone! Golly – where did 2023 go?
MAMA: Well, we’re about to find out as we look back at all the big news that happened in the last 12 months.
LEELA: It was certainly NOT a quiet year.
MAMA: Sadly, no. There were earthquakes, floods and, worst of all, war…
LEELA: But it wasn’t all bad news. There has also been a lot of cool innovations and human advancements.
MAMA: So, before we get stuck into 2024, let’s look back at the big news of 2023.
LEELA: And in case you need reminding – this is Newsy Pooloozi – the coolest pool of news and information around! I’m your host, Leela Sivasankar Prickitt. And, of course, I’m joined by the big story explainer and sound effects finder – my Mama.
MAMA: Yes, it’s all true! I also go by the name of Lyndee Prickitt, in case you wondered.
LEELA: All right. So, let’s began our last Best Of episode.
MAMA: In date order – starting 12 months back – here’s the best –
LEELA: And I’m sorry to say worst, of 2023’s…
BIG NEWS STORY STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The big news story of the week!”
MAMA: So last week we mentioned that a former pope had died, and a funeral was about to take place.
LEELA: Well, it did! Fifty thousand people squeezed into St Peter’s Square for the funeral in Vatican City which, did you know, is an independent country in the middle of Rome?!
MAMA: Though it’s surrounded by Italy, it’s an independent city-state which is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and the home of the Pope.
LEELA: And tons and tons of art.
MAMA: Yep, that too. And for days catholic pilgrims have flooded in to pay their last respects to the retired Pope Benedict.
LEELA: Not the present pope, Francis, right?
MAMA: Right. He’s very much alive. Though questions are now being asked if he might think of retiring early, like Benedict did. But for more on this we should go to our Rome correspondent, Ananya Kazmin, who went to see the pope as he was lying-in-state ahead of his funeral.
LEELA: Well, take it away, Ananya.
Ananya: Thanks, Leela.
Thousands of people packed into a foggy St Peter’s Square last week for the funeral of the retired catholic leader, pope Benedict.
And who led the ceremony?
The present pope – pope Francis – of course.
Sounds obvious, but… no!
This was totally ground-breaking.
Usually, Popes are leaders of the catholic church for life.
But not Benedict XVI, who died on New Year’s Eve at the age of 95.
See, he made history back in 2013, when he decided to abdicate or resign from the “Papal throne*,” as it’s called.
Why? He was getting old!
He said he lacked the energy to manage the church’s complicated affairs.
Well, his decision shocked the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics because it was the first time a pope resigned in 600 years!
Afterwards, Francis was elected to lead the church, while Benedict retired to a life of prayer.
Most Catholics are pretty used to it now.
One priest said it was like giving the church two lungs. You know, to breathe better.
But now… people are wondering whether Pope Francis, who isn’t exactly young – will follow a similar path.
So far, the 86-year-old says he’s not thought about it.
But others have and it’s a hot topic in catholic churches around the world!
In Rome, I’m Ananya Kazmin reporting for Newsy Pooloozi.
LEELA: Thanks a lot, Ananya. Fascinating stuff! I have to say I didn’t realize the pope sits on a throne.
[FROM EPISODE 137- TURKEY QUAKE]
MAMA: In the country called Turkey and its neighbor, Syria, an awful earthquake struck, toppling hundreds of buildings and killing already around 8000 people.
LEELA: Yikes! That’s a huge amount of people.
MAMA: I know.
LEELA: This one was a magnitude, or strength, of 7.8 – which is a huge one.
MAMA: Right and while we used to use something called the Richter Scale, earthquakes are now measured on a scale called the “moment magnitude scale” based on its seismic, or vibrating, moment.
LEELA: And if it’s small, like 2.5 on the scale, that’s just a tremor, which can only be felt by scientific instruments, right?
MAMA: That’s right. But quakes of up to five on the moment magnitude scale are felt and can cause minor damage.
LEELA: So, 7.8 is massive!
MAMA: Totally. And what made it even more powerful, and so more deadly, was the fact that it wasn’t a deep quake, way down below the earth, but quite a shallow one closer to the surface.
LEELA: Meaning closer to humanity. So, more buildings and people were closer to its impact?
MAMA: More or less. And because it also happened in a very populated area it’s been even more devastating. Rescuers are working around the clock to try and pull people out of the rubble.
LEELA: On top of that, were all the aftershocks over 60!
MAMA: And that was one aftershock that was 7.5 magnitude, almost just the biggest original earthquake, and not far from the epicenter either. You know what the epicenter is, right?
LEELA: Yeah – the center of the quake.
MAMA: Kinda. Epi is a prefix – you know, a few letters at the start of some words – meaning above. So, it’s the location directly above where the quake starts.
LEELA: Gotcha. Well, here’s hoping the rescue workers can save lots of people buried beneath the rubble.
MAMA: So, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about something called ChatGPT. And, you might have just thought it was an ordinary chat box.
LEELA: Which is something adults yell at when they’re doing online transactions, like booking tickets or banking.
MAMA: Yeeeees… Okay, Let’s start there, then. So chatbots are when a company, like say a bank or an appliance store, puts up a little notice on their website saying something like, “what can I help you with” or “get help now.”
LEELA: Lies, all lies. I mean, that’s what I hear some adults I know say…
MAMA: Right, so once upon a time you might be forgiven for thinking it was a real person at the end of the chat answering your questions. Alas.
MAMA: Deliberate misconception, perhaps. Basically, those are chatbots.
LEELA: Ie, a chatting robot.
MAMA: Yes, it’s simply a computer program that uses AI (artificial intelligence) to simulate as in act like a real conversation with a real human. But it quickly becomes apparent it is not, because it rarely offers any help at all. I mean sometimes, it might.
MAMA: Now, ChatGPT is a free app, launched three months ago, and it blown up the internet it’s also a chatbot that engages in human-like dialogue based on a prompt or question. But instead of just being able to answer or not questions about a single business or entity.
LEELA: It knows everything!
MAMA: Okay no, it doesn’t. But it knows a lot, so it’s seems way more sophisticated then you’re average banking chatbot
LEELA: Pinkies out!
MAMA: Yes, it’s more sophisticated it’s designed to respond in a natural, intuitive way and has many uses – but it still not human.
LEELA: So, you can ask it anything – like here, may I have your phone?
MAMA: Okay here you go…
LEELA: What is Newsy Pooloozi? OMG – it knows us!
MAMA: Okay sort of… Let’s see It says, “Newsy Pooloozi is a website and mobile app no we’re not an app that aggregates news and videos from around the web.” No, we don’t. We’re not news aggregators, which just gather the latest news stories from various sources, we break news stories down, we explain, we give examples and we’re funny. I mean, sometimes. I mean well, we try.
[FROM EPISODE 140- CHATBOTS AND CHAT GPT
LEELA: Lies… These things are all lies…!
MAMA: Let’s type in How did Common Sense Media rate the Newsy Pooloozi the news podcast for kids? Oh, that’s better. Here, let’s turn on the speaker.
CHATGPT: The Newsy Pooloozi news podcast for kids received 5 out of 5 stars on Common Sense Media.
MAMA: And we’re in 3 of the top ten lists.
LEELA: OK, let’s try again then my science fair project: “What is invisible ink, what is it used for and how can you make it at home?” Though my science project is more than that
MAMA: Okay alright. Let’s see what it is says.
MAMA: “Invisible ink is a substance that is used to write or draw on a surface and is not visible to the naked eye until it is exposed to a specific type of light. This type of ink can be made at home by mixing lemon juice with baking soda.”
LEELA: Hmmmm. Not very informative.
MAMA: Right. But how you frame your question is important. If you ask it to write 200 words about invisible ink and how it’s made. Let’s see okay you’ll get a lot more. See… Ohhh look at this.
LEELA: Oh, wow that’s Impressive. I could have just… (coughs) Now I know why my teachers are worried, right – kids will just use ChatGPT instead of doing their own research and writing?!
MAMA: Exactly. But you know… Teachers aren’t dumb. They can type in questions to the app and compare your answers you know. Plus, the app sounds, well, like a bot.
LEELA: But experts say that in a few years they’ll be more sophisticated, and it will be harder to tell humans from bot, right?
MAMA: Maybe. So, But I’d say there’ll probably be more pop-quizzes in classrooms then homework reports – more old fashioned, offline examines or maybe even oral examinations, where you’re questioned by your teacher to find out if you really know your stuff.
LEELA: Ohhhh… Hey, what’s the GPT stand for anyway?
MAMA: Good question, well so ChatGPT was developed by OpenAI, that’s a tech research company “dedicated toquote ensuring that artificial intelligence benefits all of humanity.”4 The “GPT” stands for Generative Pre-training Transformer.
MAMA: Hilariously when I typed in “What does generative pre-training transformer mean” it came back with a question mark. And then a bunches stuff including transformer in general reinforced to the process of pre training a machine learning model, so it is better able to learn and generalize a data.
LEELA: What, I don’t think it’ll be writing our episodes and creating kid podcasting content anytime soon. I mean, I hope not…
MAMA: Well, it’s AI trained using reinforcement learning from human feedback in other words the more we use it, the smarter it gets. There’s already loads of talk about it putting a lot of people out of work. And now all the big tech giants are racing to develop their own versions and make it the best. So, this is likely just the beginning.
LEELA: Makes alien, robot noise.
[FROM EPISODE 143- WOODY BATTARIES]
MAMA: So, Leela. During the lockdown, when you had online school, what was one of the things that we suddenly all stopped using? Something that was a total necessity before COVID but used very little during the pandemic.
LEELA: Eye contact? Conversation skills?
MAMA: Ha, ha! Good one. Come on, something more tangible, more concrete.
LEELA: Ok, public transport.
MAMA: Good one. At something you used to use in school, like all the time. Ok, let me put you out of your misery – paper! With everything online, less people used paper.
LEELA: Oh, yeah.
MAMA: And it’s a trend that’s continued. I’m quite happy not to have reams of receipts stuffed in my bag after I go shopping, for instance.
LEELA: I hear ya. But, well, that must be a blow for paper production companies!
MAMA: You’ve caught on quite well, haven’t you? Yes, it definitely has been, so one Finnish paper company decided to do something about it and find other things they can do with the trees they usually use for paper instead!
LEELA: Oh, cool! What?!
MAMA: Well, for that we need to cut across to Ameyaa Kohli, our Finnish correspondent, to give us the story.
LEELA: Well, take it away, Ameyaa!
AMEYAA: Thanks, you guys!
Like you said, as we become a more digital world, the demand for paper is really dropping.
That means paper producers need to find new ideas to make money.
So, the Finnish paper company, called Stora Enso, found a new use for the part of wood that holds the tree together, called lignin.
Lignin is basically the glue in the tree that makes wood hard and not mushy!
Well, guess what?
Lignin contains carbon.
And carbon is a great material for a vital component found in batteries.
Yes, we’re talking about electric vehicle batteries being made from wood!
OK, well, part of the battery, made from A PART of wood – but still, how crazy is that?
This is super helpful because – as you’ve said on this podcast many times – making electric car batteries isn’t easy.
Finding the rare materials needed can be dangerous and bad for the environment.
Well, this invention, called “Lignode,” could be a safer and more sustainable option!
I guess we could say it’s a real “positive”innovation!
Positive, like a positively charged battery?
This is Ameyaa Kohli, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!
LEELA: Very clever… Thanks a lot, Ameyaa! I guess this company will be charging ahead with their wooden battery soon. Get it…?!
MAMA: Oh, you girls. You’re so sparky!
[FROM EPISODE 148- INDIA POPULATION]
MAMA: One thing any regular listener of this podcast would know is we are recording from New Delhi, India.
LEELA: Which is a crowded country as we’ve also told you many times before.
SFX OF PEOPLE AND TRAFFIC
MAMA: In its many mega cities, of course.
SFX OF COUNTRYSIDE AND TRAFFIC
LEELA: But even in the countryside. You don’t go too long before seeing another person, let me tell ya.
MAMA: Imagine a country that’s a third of the size of United States.
LEELA: But with more than 4 times the amount of people!
MAMA: Well for a long time India has been on China’s heels as the most populous country in the world but now it’s official caught up!
LEELA: India is the most populous country in the world! OK, when we say official, we mean an official guess.
MAMA: New data from the United Nations is predicting India’s population will reach 1.4257 BILLION people by the end of April.
LEELA: Like in a few days.
LEELA: Whoa – and if the world has a total population of just over 8 billion people that means MORE than an eighth of humanity live here. I feel so… tiny…
MAMA: Yes, an eighth of humanity living in a place a third of the size of the USA.
SFX OF RECORD NEEDLE SCREECH
MAMA: Wait a minute! Oh – no – I totally goofed up the math there! Oh, embarrassing. This is a correction: the world has more than 8 billion people meaning nearly a SIXTH of humanity not an 8th! live right here in this country that’s roughly a third of the size of America.
LEELA: No wonder it’s so crowded here!
MAMA: The good news is that the rate of growth here as in the fertility rate – Is slowing down.
LEELA: That means the population growth here isn’t expected too crazy bigger.
MAMA: Exactly. In the 1950s the average Indian woman had 5 to 6 kids. Now the average woman has two children. That’s what better health and better education – of woman in particular – gets you.
LEELA: Of course, rural India is still has a long way to go on that score, as my mother – who’s the editor of Village Square India – will tell you.
MAMA: Oh, you have been listening to what I talk about at dinner! I’m so happy. Yes, the more woman is educated and take control of their own reproductive choices, the more likely they are to plan for a family size that suits them. And then you don’t have to rely on government regulation to control your population. Like India did in the 70s with its forced sterilizations and China did with its one child policy but don’t get me started…
LEELA: Let’s not.
MAMA: I’ll save the rest of it for dinner discussion. Shall I?
[FROM EPISODE 149- UK kING CROWNED]
MAMA: This coming Saturday Charles III and his wife, Camilla, will be coronated as king and queen of the United Kingdom.
LEELA: And the other Commonwealth realms. Eww la la.
MAMA: Of course, with the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth the second, in September, Charles III instantly became King. But the official coronation, which by the way comes from the Latin word “corona.”
LEELA: Corona! As in the virus?!
MAMA: As in a crown, actually. But, yes, like the virus too. Remember? Because of the ring of bumps on the surface of each virus particle, looking kinda like a crown.
LEELA: So, the coronation means King Charles III gets a crown place on his head, basically.
MAMA: Basically, but with a lot is symbolism about the church and state coming together. And so, a lot of…
LEELA: Pomp and ceremony! As in fancy-pancy robes and crowns, rings and scepters, basically palace pageantry.
MAMA: Exactly. So, let’s cut across to the UK where we have two special reports. First, let’s hear from Ameyaa Kholi in London, who’s a bit of a royal watcher, as it turns out, who’s going to tell us how the capital is preparing for the big event…
MAMA: Take it away, Ameyaa.
AMEYAA: Well, I admit that I’m a bit of a royalist.
I mean, I suppose, I’m officially a republican.
No – not as in the political party from the United States!
But as in someone who believes in electing leaders – as in a democracy- rather than being ruled by a king or queen.
But still, when Queen Elizabeth the Second died, I was quite sad…
And I did buy her flowers to leave at the gates outside Buckingham Palace.
So, yes, I’m excited about the coronation!
Even if it is a ceremony that’s likely to be 2 to 3 hours long!
And, I’ll have to watch it on TV, of course, as only royalty and world leaders are invited.
It’s taking place in the heart of London – at Westminster Abbey, the setting of every coronation since 1066 and for numerous other royal occasions including 16 royal weddings.
And the long service hasn’t changed much in a thousand years, would you believe?!
Afterwards, the royal procession begins!
Through the streets of London, the King and his royal consort, Queen Camilla, headed back to Buckingham Palace.
Now I just have to convince my mom to take me!
In London, I’m Ameyaa Kohli, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!
LEELA: Why thank you very much, Ameyaa. I hope you get to go, and I hope you get a good view too!
MAMA: Now, how is the rest of the county celebrating? That’s the question. I remember when the Queen marked 70 years on the throne, just before she died in 2022, there were street parties and house parties up and down the country for her Platinum Jubilee as the celebration for 70 years of rule is called.
LEELA: Yep, we know people who aren’t even royalists who just used it as a good excuse to have a party!
MAMA: And maybe celebrate their country if not the royal family.
LEELA: That’s true. There was a lot of red, white and blue bunting everywhere.
MAMA: Well, to find out if that’s the case this time – and just how popular the new King is – let’s go to our south of England correspondent, Jackson Hosking.
LEELA: Hey, Jackson – happy coronation week! Give us a picture of what’s happening outside the capital.
JACKSON: Hey Leela, I must admit I haven’t seen much yet to do with Saturday’s Coronation – but there’s lots planned in our nearby villages as the weekend draws near. I expect to see plenty of bunting in the streets come Friday… and I’ve heard about special tea parties in the King’s honor and a grand picnic where the local school children will dressed in red, white and blue – the colors of the Union Jack flag.So, excitement is brewing. Interestingly, on the flip side, I heard there were plans to host a party in a neighboring village hall, but it was cancelled due to lack of support.
LEELA: And what will you be doing – where will you watch?
JACKSON: I doubt me, and my brother will watch it. However, my Mum and Dad will watch parts of it. And I guess the older generation will be glued to the TV all day.
LEELA: So, we understand that the royal family isn’t as popular as it once was?
JACKSON: Yeah, there’s a lot of talk about that these days. There are those who think it’s a waste of money – why should one family with so much wealth not have to pay taxes like the rest of us? But then the other argument is that having the royal family – and all that “pomp and ceremony,” never mind gossip – brings in a lot of tourists. Not to mention it’s good to have a set of important people to attend “ribbon cutting” functions around the country.
LEELA: Ahhh, yes, all those new bridges or hospital wings. Or someone to shake hands with award winning athletes or honor great actors and musicians.
JACKSON: Exactly that kind of thing. Interestingly, a big opinion poll from the BBC recently suggested there is still broad support for keeping the monarchy, with 58% of people preferring it to an elected head of state. But the survey also showed that the British monarchy seems to have a problem appealing to young people. And that doesn’t bode well for the future, I guess, does it?
LEELA: Uh oh, no it doesn’t.
JACKSON: I really think the popularity of the royal family has become a generational thing.
LEELA: That’s so interesting, Jackson. And will school be off – that’s the big question, right?!
JACKSON: Nope, I will actually be at school on The Bank Holiday Monday that was announced as part of the celebrations! My school has chosen not to observe this day off as it’s the second bank holiday this month in a short school term – and they feel we’re missing too many lessons.
LEELA: Still, for now it’s all party-party!
JACKSON: Not for me! I’ll be buried in schoolbooks!
MAMA: Ah, poor Jackson. What a difference this coronation is going to be compared to 70 years ago when Great Britain stood still to watch Queen Elizabeth the second be crowned. Still, even if not everyone is thrilled with the pomp and pretension as in trying to be important of the crowning ceremony, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of cheering and celebration this Saturday in the UK.
SFX OF CHARLES BEING ANNOUCED AS KING
[FROM EPISODE 153- US DEBT CEILING]
MAMA: So, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about the debt ceiling lately and maybe wondering just what kind of interior design that is, right?
LEELA: I know! Debt ceiling! I mean what’s that even supposed to look like. Although, I do have a friend who keeps mishearing it as “dead ceiling” and you can probably imagine what she’s thinking!
MAMA: Ohhh gosh well, never fear. This is not a bloody roof, nor is it dull interior design, and it’s not even one of those needlessly complicated financial phrases people in banking like to use. This is pretty much what it says on the can, a ceiling, as in as high as you can go…
LEELA: Can’t go any higher!
MAMA: Of debt.
LEELA: As in owing money. Like when you spend alllllllll your allowance or pocket money and go “into debt” with your parents or siblings borrowing a bit more than you have.
MAMA: Exactly. Except unlike a lot of loans from family (coughs) – real-world debt has to be paid back.
LEELA: Or you’re in trouble.
MAMA: Yep, that’s called “defaulting on your debt” or your loan. And guess what happens then?
LEELA: Nobody will loan you any money ever again.
MAMA: Ok, well, not ever again. But they will think you’re dodgy and won’t want to lend money to you for a long time.
LEELA: I mean, why should they take a risk on someone who can’t pay back a loan?
MAMA: Exactly. You’re now classified as a “risk.”
LEELA: Until you prove otherwise, no one wants to play with you. I mean, “do business” with you.
MAMA: And that pretty much sums up part of what was happened with the US. The government wants to raise the debt ceiling, so it can borrow money to pay for things. If it doesn’t then it defaults on its loans.
LEELA: Bad news. Because the US is one of the biggest and richest countries in the world if it becomes a “risk” to do business with, it could upset financial markets at home and around the world, right?
MAMA: Totally. You see, governments need money to run a country, right?
LEELA: Ahh haa Yeah, they build roads, bridges, schools… even tennis courts.
MAMA: Right. Now a lot of that work happens at the local and state government levels, but at the center or federal government there’s a lot of work that needs to be paid for too.
LEELA: Like “keeping the country safe” with military and defense budgets. Du-du-duuuuun!
MAMA: And social security.
LEELA: Oh. As in those payments old people live off of.
MAMA: Okay, to be more precise, US Social Security provides some income for those who are retired or if you can’t work due to a disability.
LEELA: Got it. So, the government needs money. And because of inflation
MAMA: As in rising prices of goods and services.
LEELA: I know, my gosh, gummy bears are sooooo expensive now! But anyway! Because of this, I mean, inflation the government has to borrow more money than it needed last year to pay for everything, am I right?
MAMA: You are so right. But…
LEELA: I know this part. I really do… they can’t borrow more because they’ve reached the debt ceiling.
MAMA: Bingo. So, the federal government.
LEELA: As in US President Joe Biden.
MAMA: Right. He has to ask congress to –
BOTH: “Raise the debt ceiling!”
MAMA: And that’s pretty much what’s happening. And here’s the thing. This gives congress which right now is controlled by Republicans leverage, or more power, over the president.
LEELA: And the Democrats.
MAMA: Right. So, they don’t like some of the plans the Democrats have for spending the money on government schemes, so this has been their chance to say, no, we won’t raise the debt ceiling unless you spend the money the way we want you to spend it.
LEELA: Uh-oh. No wonder they’ve been debating and haggling for the last few weeks.
MAMA: Ahh haa.
LEELA: And not coming to an agreement also means the government would shut down, like people would stop working, until more money is found some way or another, right?
MAMA: You got it. Or until they reach an agreement. Not a pretty picture. Well, they finally they reached a bi-partisan agreement – as in both political parties – agrees to increase the debt ceiling to a staggering $31.4 trillion dollars. But still – not everyone is happy with this.
LEELA: Oh, geeze!
MAMA: A handful of hard-right Republican lawmakers are still threatening to oppose the deal when Congress officially votes on it before the U.S. runs out of money later this week!
LEELA: The plot thickens!
MAMA: Well, most experts think it’s gonna clear Congress despite them. But still….
LEELA: What a tamasha! That’s Hindi for drama, by the way.
MAMA: Totally. But drama and tamasha well, that’s politics for ya!
[FROME EPISODE 154- New SPACE RACE]
MAMA: So, the space race is on. And the field is widening. Do you know what I mean when I say, “space race?”
LEELA: Yeah, like back in the 1960s when, Russia, or I should say the Soviet Union, and America we’re trying to be the first to land on the Moon.
LEELA: And America won.
MAMA: Well, they got humans on the Moon first, yes. But then they Kinda wrapped things up a few years later as space exploration was considered too expensive to really pursue.
LEELA: But not anymore! And now billionaire businesspeople are in on the action too.
MAMA: Exactly. And there’s the European Space Agency, never mind China and to some degreed Japan all making significant advances in space.
LEELA: And India!
MAMA: Exactly! India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar mission was the first to find evidence of water on the Moon back in in 2008.
LEELA: And you woke me up in the middle of the night a few years ago when the Chandrayaan-2 robotic probe tried to actually land on the moon, but it didn’t sadly.
MAMA: Naahh, that was so sad. All that effort… But on the other hand, just think how impressive it is so-called “developing country” like India – where so many people don’t go to flash schools with smart classrooms and slick science labs –just think was able to achieve.
LEELA: What can I say: India is impressive.
MAMA: Yes ma’am. And tonight, they’re at it again, hoping to land Chandrayaan-3 near the south pole of the moon.
LEELA: Didn’t Russia’s Luna-25 just try to do that but crashed?
MAMA: Yes. Again, it’s so sad. All that expense and effort… It was their first lunar mission in decades. And, of course, they were probably hoping to land there first.
LEELA: But now India will beat them to it!
MAMA: Well. We’ll see. Everyone is hoping.
LEELA: And why is everyone so fixated on the south pole of the Moon anyway?
MAMA: Well, firstly it’s an unexplored area. But mostly water. Scientists think water is stored on the Moon’s surface in the form of ice.
LEELA: Oh, frozen solid in those deep shadowy craters shielded from the sun.
MAMA: Yeah, exactly. And why is water on the moon so important, besides telling us more about our solar system’s history and make-up?
LEELA: Ah, because it means we could one day – if need be – live on the moon and have local access to water?
MAMA: Yep. And even in the meantime when astronauts want to go there and study the moon. See getting equipment up there means overcoming Earth’s gravitational pull. Guess how much new commercial space companies charge to do that, to take just one kilogram payload, or supplies, up there?
LEELA: Ah, a million bucks?
MAMA: Good guess. You’re got that answer bang on. You have been looking at my notes?
LEELA: What? That was a total guess.
MAMA: Well. Guess what, does the math that means a single liter bottle of water costs A MILLION DOLLARS?
LEELA: Whoaaaa. So that’s some expensive drink. So actually, the cost of the so-called “space race” could actually save money in the end.
MAMA: Yeah. I Guess that’s one way of looking at it.
[FROM EPISODE 157- MOROCCO AND LIBYA]
MAMA: The big story this week is the sad news of a massive earthquake that’s rocked Morocco.
LEELA: Where’s Morocco, you might be wondering? Well, it’s right at the top of the north-west corner of Africa.
MAMA: Yes, and this 6.8-magnitude quake shook a rural area near the well-known, popular tourist city of Marrakesh on Friday. Now, while the worst hit area some 45 miles south of the city in the Atlas Mountains – isn’t super crowded, their mostly mud-hut homes are very fragile, so they’ve toppled easily.
LEELA: Another problem is that the worst destruction has been in isolated mountain areas that are difficult to access.
MAMA: Yes, because this area is so remote, there are only a few roads in and out, many of which are blocked by falling rock. This makes the rescue operation much harder. Tragically, many people have been left to digging through the rubble with their bare hands as they looked for survivors. So far nearly three thousand people are dead, those numbers are expected to rise as those who have survived aren’t getting the medical help they need. In nearby Marrakech, residents are spending night after night sleeping on the streets.
LEELA: Yeah, many are too scared to return to their homes. For two reasons.
MAMA: Well, one of course is emergency officials are still surveying the damage to know how badly homes and buildings are affected. And even when they don’t look damaged, there can be serious structural problems. But also, there have been many aftershocks.
LEELA: If you remember from the other stories we’ve done about earthquakes, aftershocks are smaller earthquakes that happen after the bigger one. And sometimes can cause further damage to already collapsing structures.
MAMA: Scary stuff. But get this. Many people from the city who survived the quake have jumped into their cars to head up the mountains to try and help those who are stranded and devastated. So many people are doing this, there are traffic jams on the mountain roads where there are some reports of rocks are still falling. But that’s not stopping those desperate to help.
LEELA: Yeah, we’re sending Morocco lots of love and strength.
MAMA: Staying in North Africa but moving over to the east, past Algeria, is Libya a country better known for its infamous as in famous for bad reasons, now dead dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Well, sadly this country is also facing a horrible natural disaster flooding. Storm Daniel which already battered Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey last week, is causing severe damage in Libya, collapsing bridges, damns and buildings. It’s early in the rescue operation but already more than 2000 people are feared dead. What’s just awful, though, is that some 6000 people are still missing.
[FROM EPISODE 161- ISRAEL WAR]
MAMA: Well, we’ve all no doubt been hearing the disturbing news
LEELA: And horrible stories!
MAMA: Coming out of the Middle East.
LEELA: It started at the weekend when Hamas launched a surprise attack firing thousands of rockets into Israel.
MAMA: And it wasn’t just military strikes – there was also a land and sea invasion of Israel, a terrorist attack on a music concert and Israeli people being pulled from their homes and taken as hostages.
LEELA: Just horrible! Who is Hamas, anyway?
MAMA: Well, they’re actually an Islamic militant and political group. But because of its armed resistance against Israel, which has included rocket attacks and suicide bombings for years, they’re considered a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union.
LEELA: But aren’t they the political party voted to be in charge of the Palestinians?
MAMA: Just one of the two Palestinians territories – a tiny slice of coastal land known as the Gaza Strip, which is surrounded by Israel. And since Israel considers Hamas terrorists, back in 2005 they put up a blockade to prevent people from entering or exiting the Gaza Strip.
LEELA: What? That sounds like they’re imprisoned!
MAMA: That’s what people say it feels like, yes. But it’s complicated. It’s a dispute that goes way back… like a few millennia – but we’ll contain ourselves in this podcast to the last 130 years.
LEELA: Whoa, like a time before cars and airplanes and social media and videos?
MAMA: Exactly. So, first there began something called the Zionist Movement.
LEELA: Wait, Zion, like the old biblical name for Jerusalem?
MAMA: That’s right. It’s considered the Jewish homeland. But for various reasons over the centuries most Jews had moved away – mostly because they were persecuted by anti-Semites.
LEELA: Those are people who are hostile or prejudice against Jewish people, right?
MAMA: Correct. Which is what was happening in Russia in back the 1880s – when there were deadly anti-Semitic riots. So many Jews wanted to move back and claim Jerusalem as their homeland.
LEELA: Wait, and that was the Zionist Movement.
MAMA: Yes. And it really gained momentum after World War II.
LEELA: When Hitler and the Nazis tried to wipe out the Jews.
MAMA: Right. So, it’s no wonder the Jewish people wanted a place they could call their own. And, well, guess who ruled the Jerusalem area at the time?
LEELA: Ummm… the Palestinians?
MAMA: No. The Ottomans – which was the former Turkish Empire – and then the British were put in charge.
LEELA: Boy, they sure did get around.
MAMA: I know, right? And so, after World War II and the mass killing, or genocide of Jews, Britain said to the Zionists, sure, go to your homeland. There are these people, called Palestinians, living there already, but, hey, we’ll just divvy it up so they move to one side and you guys can move to the other side.
LEELA: Hmmm… That doesn’t sound like a recipe for a happy place.
MAMA: Ahh haa and what do you think happened?
LEELA: Ummm, neighbourhood fights?
MAMA: That’s an understatement. War. War is what happened. Several of them in fact. And now the Israelis have more land mass than the Palestinians – who are now confined to the Gaza Strip, which we mentioned earlier, and another, patch called the West Bank.
LEELA: Whoaa… so this anger and fighting for land goes waaaaay back.
MAMA: It sure does. And to complicate things further, Jerusalem is seen as a holy place for Jews, Christians and Muslims.
MAMA: Tell me about it, The Palestinians would prefer their territory to be their OWN country, instead of part of Israel and have taken up weapons, guns, terror attacks and suicide bombers to try to make it happen.
LEELA: But it hasn’t happened, has it?
MAMA: Nope, Instead, Israel has gotten stronger, developing a massive military and building settlements on land the Palestinians says is theirs, but Israel says they have to for self-defence.
LEELA: But I bet the Palestinians don’t see it that way?!
MAMA: They sure don’t. And so, it goes on and on.
LEELA: But still, attacking people at a music concert and kidnapping old people and kids – that’s just horrible. And then the retaliation that as no doubt happening for that… Surely there’s gotta be another way?
MAMA: Well, my dear, if you or anyone could think of a better way, you’d win the Nobel Peace Prize – because this is a mess that no one has been able to figure a way out of, for well over 100 years.
LEELA: And with Israel officially declaring war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, it’s gonna get worse before it gets better, I bet.
MAMA: Sadly, I think you’re right.
[FROM EPISODE 162- FRENCH BED BUGS]
MAMA: Remember when you were little, when I was tucking you in at bedtime, I used to tell you “Sleep tight! Don’t let the bed bug’s bite!”
LEELA: Yes, of course! But actually, I was never really sure where that came from.
MAMA: Well, a long time ago, people used to sleep on mattresses stuffed with corn husks, or hay, or feathers or other soft things that might come with bugs attached.
LEELA: Ah ha! But now we sleep on spring mattresses, so no more bed bugs, right? (coughs)
MAMA: Wrong. They exist alright. They’re tiny, flat, wingless creatures that like to suck your blooooood… muah aha hahaha.
LEELA: Ugh! Mama! That’s gross!
MAMA: Yep, but sadly, true. And even sadder – you can find them just about anywhere. They like to hide in between the creases of a mattress or deep in the seams of a suitcase – which means they hitch a ride and can travel from a hotel room to a home rather easily. Want to mention a few you know trauns and airplanes seats most big cities all over the world deal with keeping them under control, along with other pests, like rats and cockroaches!
MAMA: And getting rid of these pests isn’t easy and often needs the help of exterminator.
MAMA: Someone who helps you remove pests, like bugs. They usually spray a strong chemical on the affected areas, and after a little while –
LEELA: No more bugs!
MAMA: That’s the idea. And it’s what they’re doing in Paris right now, along with other cities in France. Because… There´s a bit of a problem with bed bugs there right now.
LEELA: And when you say “bit of a problem” you mean…?
MAMA: Well, People started realizing it during Paris’ super chic Fashion Week, can you believe? Along with pictures of the latest dresses and suits, people started posting videos of bed bugs found in their hotel rooms. And in movie theatres, and on buses and trains too. And even in schools.
MAMA: Let’s bring in our new Paris correspondent, Maya Nickleman to explain what’s really going on.
LEELA: Well, welcome on board, Maya. Take it away.
MAYA: Thanks, Leela.
Yes, France is battling a wave of bed bugs.
Some schools shut down, while they called in the exterminators to get rid of the creepy crawlies.
Luckily, they don’t spread disease.
Technically bed bugs are not dangerous, but their bites do itch and sometimes cause a rash.
But all the coverage about the infestation certainly has people squirming with anxiety!
People are even wondering if this will still be a problem at the summer Olympics… IN EIGHT MONTH’S TIME!
Of course not!
Please don’t forget, it was the French who gave the world great scientific minds.
We French know a thing or two about science.
So, I’m sure we can get rid of a few bed bugs.
The government is taking steps to make sure the problem is squashed out sooner than later.
Recently, the Transport Ministry said there were no bugs on trains and buses anymore – they even brought in sniffer dogs to make sure.
So please, rest assured, the next time you’re in Paris, the bed bugs WON’T bite!
In Paris, France I’m Maya Nickleman, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!
LEELA: Hey, thanks a lot, Maya. I’ll be thinking of you as I drift off to sleep and wonder what’s crawling around my bed tonight…
MAMA: Hopefully nothing. You never know.
LEELA: You do.
[FROM EPISODE 163- ELECTRIC ROADS]
MAMA: Hey, Leela?
LEELA: Hey, Mama.
MAMA: Did you know there are magical school buses these days?
LEELA: Magical school buses? Ummm… Isn’t that just a very cute children ‘s TV show?
MAMA: Well, not magical like The Magic School Bus. I mean everyone knows that’s not really possible, sadly. What I mean is there are electric buses and cars that could be charged on the road… WHILE travelling.
LEELA: Whoa. But that sounds that sound pretty magical. I mean, I don’t see how that’s even possible!
MAMA: I know, right?! But it’s been recently introduced in Sweden. As our new environment tech correspondent, Krisha Bang, is about to tell us.
LEELA: Well, take it away, Krisha!
KRISHA: Thanks, Leela!
As you know, most cars have combustion engines and run on fossil fuels, which are dirty.
You’ve probably seen the black smoke that comes out of the exhaust, right?!
SFX OF MUFFLER ON CAR
Well, with so many people on Earth running cars, it’s really dirty and bad for the environment, contributing to global warming.
And just imagine how polluted and harmful the air is for our lungs when we inhale this same air full of black smoke?!
That’s why we’re hearing so much about electric vehicles.
Though EV batteries require precious raw materials and are often charged with fossil fuel electricity, when their quiet motors run, they’re much cleaner.
SFX OF EV CAR
And charging them can be a pain…
So, what if the ROADS were electric too?!
You heard me right.
The project called “EVolution Road, is from a Swedish company called Elon Road nothing to do with Elon Musk or his company Tesla, by the way!
It’s called dynamic, or conductive, charging and it works for all electric vehicles – from buses to cars to trucks – regardless of their make or model.
And it’s already being tested in the Swedish city of Lund.
How does it work?
Basically, the electricity flows to the vehicles through a metal strip that’s built into the road.
Well, there’s this little strip of metal that hangs underneath your car.
And then you drive on top of a long metal strip that’s been built into the road.
When the metal on your car rubs on the metal on the highway – ta dah! – energy is created, and your battery gets charged!
Pretty cool, huh?
Talk about efficient!
This idea makes a lot more sense than putting charging points everywhere, right?
Apparently, this electric road machinery is also very easy to install, if a little on the pricey side.
And it works in any climate.
Whether it’s super-hot India or snowy Sweden – doesn’t matter – it still charges the EVs.
Oh, and did I mention, that this technology is only switched on when a car sends a signal to the antenna receiver in the road?
And when the car drives off the metal strip, it’ll immediately switch off.
So, while crossing the road, you don’t have to worry about your hair standing up after being electrocuted.
SFX ELECTRIC SIZZLE
It also shuts down immediately if someone tries to tamper with it.
Super cool tech – or should I say, sizzling hot technology.
I’m Krisha Bang, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi
LEELA: Awesome story, Krisha. And welcome aboard – we do love someone who likes to have “pun” with us!
LEELA: And that brings this episode.
MAMA: And LAST year.
LEELA: To a close.
MAMA: We’ll have more from next week – when we have a big announcement to make.
LEELA: So be sure to tune it and hear what 2024 has in store for us. And just maybe… YOU too!
MAMA: Until then –
BOTH: Stay curious!
LEELA: Over and out.