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The Spill: A Country Turned Upside Down

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Myanmar – What’s Going On?

Myanmar, officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, is on the front page of international news as a military coup recently upended the nation’s elected government. The South-east Asian country (previously known as Burma) held its national elections in November of 2020, and the National League for Democracy (NLD) won a decisive victory over the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). In a country rife with allegations of human rights abuse and “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya minority, the success seemed to start a new democracy for the citizens. But tensions began to boil between the two radically different political parties.

In the predawn hours on February 1, a military coup d’état removed recent victors and proclaimed a national emergency alleging election fraud. Myanmar Army leadership installed Myint Swe, the former “army-appointed vice president, as the President.”

Myint Swe then gave up his power immediately to the country’s highest-ranking military leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Both Myint Swe and Min Aung Hlaing have been accused of participating in the genocide of the Rohingya minority.

The United Nations and several other organizations have continually reported human rights violations in the country.

A recent interview with a 25-year-old in the city of Rangoon exposed what the electorate is feeling: “Waking up to learn your world has been completely turned upside down overnight was not a new feeling, but a feeling that I thought that we had moved on from, and one that I never thought we’d be forced to feel again.”

Handwriting Is Literally Important for Literacy – And Other Things!

Writing is something that we do every day to communicate our feelings, wants, and needs. But these days, most young people are texting in shorthand, typing on keyboards when taking tests, and not performing nearly as well as students who are required to learn and use handwriting skills. And experts say it is time to get back to the basics of learning to write and use a pen and paper.

National Assessment Program — Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) in Australia found an alarming trend that kids are entering into high school unable to write coherently and consistently. A study of students reveals a marked decline since 2011 in “in the writing scores of Grade 7 students at a national level.” Further alarming to educators, it “also showed the lowest scores across the four domains assessed – reading, writing, language conventions and numeracy – in Grade 9.”

Dr. Anabela Malpique, a university professor, is asking young people to take a break from phones and other devices to focus on writing skills, especially in the first three years of schooling, to “develop their hand and eye coordination.” Malpique also warns this is a problem worldwide – not just in Australia. The country has deemed handwriting to be so problematic that a new subset of tutoring has popped up: Handwriting coaches. One such instructor, Ella Losi, claims a significant number of clients are at the university level. And handwritten exams were being deemed “unreadable.”

So dust off that pencil box, pull out a piece of notebook paper, and practice, practice, practice until speed and legibility are up to snuff.

Rigors of the Position of Vice President

The vice president’s job in the United States isn’t just showing up representing the president and the nation at state dinners and funerals. The role is also called into play when the United States Senate has come to a standstill in a crucial vote. When there is a 50-50 tie in the Senate, the vice president has the duty of stepping in to break the tie.

Vice President Kamala Harris

The Senate’s balance is currently evenly split with 50 Democrats (including Independents who support the Democrats) and 50 Republicans. They recently vowed to share power peacefully and for the benefit of all Americans. That bipartisan promise seemed to vanish over the recent COVID-19 relief bill, however, and Vice President Kamala Harris was tasked to cast the tie-breaking vote.

In situations like these, it is often a difficult choice for the vice president to make to help and appease all Americans – not just those of one political party. Harris cast the tie-breaker along party lines giving the Democrats a win and advancing the bill. She also cast a vote on the budget.

With Democrats in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, is this tie-breaking going to be Harris’ greatest contribution to the Biden administration?

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