Polar Vortex on the Move, Trump Keeps the Apprentice, U.S. Life Expectancy Drops

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NPR

After weeks of political scandal, South Korea has voted to impeach its current president, Park Geun-hye. Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn has taken over as acting president. “I stand here with [a] grave and sad heart and feel deeply responsible for what’s happening now and I am very sorry. We cannot allow any gap in the governance and I am going to do my very best to restore stability,” Hwang said. The scandal with Park Geun-hye occurred after her long relationship with Choi Soon-sil was revealed, a woman who is accused of massive accounts of government manipulation and extortion.

John Glenn, the first American ever to orbit Earth, passed away at the age of 95 on Thursday, Dec. 8. Glenn looped the Earth in 1962, in the Friendship 7 spacecraft, helping the United States to catch up with the Soviet Union space program. The science community is mourning Glenn’s death, reflecting on the inspiration he provided for so many. His colleagues alluded to Glenn’s approachability, and the ways in which he made the space program and astronaut career seem accessible to anyone. Before his first flight into space, Glenn served as a decorated fighter pilot in World War II and the Korean War. He left NASA in 1964 for politics, becoming a senator in 1974. It was in 1998 that Glenn, at age 77, set even more space records, becoming the oldest person to reach space and the astronaut with the most time elapsed between two space missions.

While to many of us, it’s common knowledge that Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton on Election Night, it turns out that it’s not quite common knowledge after all. A Pew Research study found that nearly 30 percent of voters did not know Clinton won the popular vote. The study also showed that Republicans were far less likely to be aware of Clinton’s popular vote win.

Yesterday, a powerful 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck the Solomon Islands, affecting hundreds of people in this remote destination. While no deaths have been reported, there have been minor tsunami incidents. Assessing the total damage has been difficult, however, as a portion of the communities within the Islands do not have access to cell service. It’s guessed that as many as 3,000 people could be homeless now, as many families live on traditional housing structures on the Islands, made of vegetation and stilts, unable to withstand natural disasters such as the quake. Power failures have been reported, as well as damages to hospitals, churches and businesses.

In the United States, all eyes are on the winter weather on the East Coast, with a Polar Vortex expected to rear its ugly head at any time. Conditions are expected to reach extremes such as those experienced during the January 2014 Polar Vortex. Record temperatures are possible, with many areas expected to only see highs of single digits late next week through the central and eastern United States. However, the Polar Vortex may not be here to stay, with temperatures set to increase again around Christmas.

Donald Trump will retain his title as executive producer of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” even as president. However, it has not been disclosed whether or not he will receive some sort of payment from the show. While the series has been off the air for the past two years, it’s set to debut again Jan. 2, this time with Arnold Schwarzenegger as host. Ethics experts are concerned, and rightly so. “We need him to be president — full time — and not to have other contractual commitments elsewhere. He’s testing the limits on everything,” said Richard Painter, former ethics counsel to George W. Bush.

For the first time since 1993, the U.S. life expectancy has dropped, which some say may point to an increase in fatal medical conditions throughout the American population. Death rates are on the rise for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, drug overdoses and accidents. While some experts want more emphasis placed on the danger of heart diseases, others are saying that the big killer to watch is what’s known as “the diseases of despair.” In other words, it may be time to look into treating alcoholism, depression and other mental conditions that lead to overdoses and suicide. Death rates are also increasing among white, middle-aged Americans. Life expectancy fell by one-tenth of a year, with the average now being 78.8. The overall death rate rose 1.2 percent. More than 2.7 million individuals died in the U.S. in 2015, about 45 percent from either heart disease or cancer.

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