Addressing a Joint Session
The long-anticipated national speech in front of members of Congress shed light on the Biden administration’s goals and objectives. A small gathering of U.S. senators and Representatives sat in the House chambers to hear what Mr. Biden had accomplished in his nearly 100 days in office. Joining the president on the dais was Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The president spoke about the highest job increase of any president in the first 100 days of office and his plans for free childcare and assistance for education. On the national security front, Biden blasted the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea, saying they “present a serious threat to America’s security and world security.” Biden then assured he would work with allies through “diplomacy and stern deterrence.”
The address was a mishmash of plans that involve pushing a vision of more government investment funded by an increase in taxes for the wealthy. And as all presidents do, he pleaded with the opposition to come together and pass various controversial bills, including increasing taxes, police reform, and gun control. He also reiterated his $1.8 trillion “America Families Plan.”
Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) delivered the opposition rebuttal after the president left the podium. Scott spent much of his allotted time discussing the topics of the day: COVID-19, returning children to schools, and race relations. The senator said: “My friends across the aisle seem to want the issue more than they wanted a solution.”
Portugal’s Heart-Pounding Pedestrian Suspension Bridge
It’s 1,693 feet long, has a footpath wide enough for two people, and is 576 feet above the Paiva River in Arouca, Portugal. It is officially the world’s largest pedestrian bridge and takes about ten minutes to cross. But it’s not for the faint of heart: It is for thrill-seekers or students of flora and fauna. The bridge, nestled between rocky mountain crags, features views of lush greenery, waterfalls, and swift currents as it spans a breathtaking gorge in the Arouca Geopark. Steel cable construction and a see-through metal grid walkway give passers a nearly 360-degree experience.
Arouca is a small area with an aging population: Many young people are moving into the cities. Locals believe this bridge will bring renewed interest to the site, infusing a struggling post-pandemic economy with much-needed investment in local business with additional tourism.
Local Arouca residents were given the first opportunity to cross the bridge. Hugo Xavier was the inaugural passer and was soon followed by other locals. As Xavier reached the other side, he remarked, “I was a little afraid, but it was so worth it. It was extraordinary, a unique experience, an adrenaline rush.”
Switzerland was the previous record holder in pedestrian suspension crossings with the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, which boasts a 1,621-foot span with incredible views of the Alps. In the United States, Gatlinburg, TN, has a 680-foot Sky Bridge. But the most famous pedestrian suspension bridge in America spans the iconic Royal Gorge in Colorado; it’s 956 feet above the wild Arkansas River and is 1,260 ft in length.
Blinded by the Light – for Research
Scientists called it a deep time experiment: a test of sorts to see how lack of daylight, clocks, or any external communications would alter their sense of time. And after 40 days in a cave, eight men and seven women, pale and grinning French research subjects wearing protective eye gear, emerged with fascinating stories to tell.
One woman says she may have wanted to stay a few extra days and would not turn on her smartphone for a few more days. One man ran laps inside to keep in shape; others reveled in the lack of daily responsibilities. What wasn’t discussed, apparently in the cave, was the pandemic.
The Human Adaption Institute initiated the study to discover how people would adapt to extreme living conditions. Losing sense of time was the first casualty of the study. The project director, Christian Clot, was astonished at the inability to mark time without daylight or cell phones: “And here we are! We just left after 40 days … For us, it was a real surprise. In our heads, we had walked into the cave 30 days ago.” Another participant estimated the time underground to be 23 days.
Clot remarked, “Our future as humans on this planet will evolve. We must learn to better understand how our brains are capable of finding new solutions, whatever the situation.”
The team members used their innate biological clocks – and sleep cycles – to determine when to wake, eat, sleep, and meet for other research studies. A challenge for living in the moment and not be distracted by the schedules of time. As one participant, Marina Lançon, said, “It was like pressing pause.”