February 28 – Peace Memorial Day in Taiwan

Posted on February 28, 2017

Taiwan is in the singular position of being the most populous country -- and the country with the largest economy -- that is not a member of the United Nations.

It is also in the singular position of being one of the founding members of the U.N. -- but no longer a member of the U.N.!

That's because of the history of the island of Taiwan. The inhabitants of this island used to be Taiwanese aborigines (a group of people that had lived on the island for so long, they were considered natives to the island), but in the 1600s Han Chinese people from the mainland began to settle there as well. The Qing Dynasty took over the island for a while but then ceded the island to Japan in 1895. During Japanese rule over Taiwan, the Qing Dynasty fell and the Republic of China (ROC) was established on the mainland.

This simple map shows the PRC in red
and the ROC in green.
Japan, of course, was on the losing side of World War II, and at the end of the war (in 1945), the ROC took control of Taiwan. However, the Chinese Civil War ended in 1949 with Communist forces taking over the mainland and establishing the People's Republic of China (PRC) there. The ROC officials fled to Taiwan and continued to claim to be the legitimate government of the mainland as well as of the island.

The ROC had been a founding member of the United Nations, in 1945, and was one of the five permanent members of the Security Council. For a while there, many other nations (those that weren't themselves Communist, largely) agreed that the ROC was the legitimate China, and what was essentially just the island of Taiwan held that important U.N. Security Council seat.

However, it's really hard for all the people of the world to ignore a giant swath of land and people -- the PRC -- and privilege a much, much smaller region and group of people over them; in the 1970s, the PRC was finally recognized as THE China by many nations, and the PRC took China's seat in the U.N. and on the Security Council, as well.

Check out the beauties of the land, the culture, the people, and the cities of Taiwan:

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Kanaval in Haiti 

February 27 – International Polar Bear Day

Posted on February 27, 2017

Things are not looking up for polar bears!

These popular white bears normally live within the Arctic Circle, in the northern polar region. (Penguins, not polar bears, live in the southern polar region.)

Because of global climate change, sea ice in the Arctic is breaking up and melting earlier and earlier every year, and that means that the polar bears have way fewer opportunities to hunt and feed. 

Not eating means poorer health.

And poorer health means fewer babies.

Other current threats to polar bears include oil exploration, which disturbs the ecosystem and can cause pollution. Actually, toxic pollution anywhere in the world can threaten polar bears, because pollutants tend to get into water, get carried into and all over in the ocean, and get absorbed into tissues of living things. If each fish eats a little bit of a toxic chemical, and each ringed seal eat a whole bunch of fish, and a polar bear eats a WHOLE bunch of ringed seals...then the polar bear ends up eating an awful lot of that toxic chemical!

So...polar bear populations are going down, and the species is considered "vulnerable" (not yet endangered, thank goodness!).

Still, Polar Bears International wants you to know that there IS hope. Check out the gorgeous website to learn more about these wonderful creatures, the dangers they face, and the ways in which people are trying to help.

By the way, some people wonder why we should help polar bears when there are children in the world who are hungry or shoeless. That seems like a pretty good point, BUT fighting global climate change saves us all -- the bears AND the children in the world! Large carnivores are some of the strongest creatures in any ecosystem, but they are also some of the most vulnerable; we have to watch them carefully for signs that something is going wrong with a particular habitat.

February 26 – Happy Birthday, Tex Avery!

Posted on February 26, 2017

Bugs Bunny!

Daffy Duck!

Porky Pig!

Have you ever heard of these characters?

Tex Avery is part of the Golden Age of American Animation - the time from the invention of the sound cartoon in 1928 to the 1960s, when animated "shorts" in movie theaters began to lose interest for people who had access to animated TV shows.

While Walt Disney and the Disney studios are most famous in early animation, Tex Avery, who worked for Warner Brothers and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, was able to steer the industry toward less sweet, less cute cartoons. Adults tended to like Avery's sarcasm, and kids liked his non-stop action. He even had a bit of an adult twist on fairy tale characters.

Here's another thing that Avery brought to cartoons: breaking the artifice of the cartoon.

I love this! 

Avery would sometimes have a cartoon character burst through the end credits to pop off one last witty remark... 

Or he would have a character directly talk to us in the audience... 

Or he would have a character complain about the plot of the cartoon...within the cartoon!

These clever bits almost always crack me up!

Avery was known for pushing boundaries of animation in many ways, and he was famous for saying, "In a cartoon, you can do anything."

Avery was an animator, cartoonist, voice actor, and director. His small hometown of Taylor, Texas, is where Avery was born on this date in 1908. 

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