Brexit, Spies, And More—In the News 12/17/18


In a fast-moving, ever-shifting world, news is continuously breaking. The Great Courses is here to help you understand the full story behind the soundbites. Here are a handful of stories for the week of December 17, 2018, and their accompanying lectures on The Great Courses Plus

Header image for The Great Courses In The News posts

The Brexit Effect
The route to Brexit is less clear and the situation more divisive every day, although British Prime Minister Theresa May has managed to hold on to her position despite a leadership challenge and eroding support. What brought the UK to this point? Explore the distinct advantages of unification, along with the drawbacks that led the UK to vote in 2016 to leave the EU in a step known as Brexit.

The Guardians
Time Magazine has named the “Guardians of the Truth”— journalists who helped expose “the manipulation and the abuse of truth” around the world—as Person of the Year. Many of these “guardians” have been targeted and even killed, including Jamal Khashoggi. Dive into how free speech is being tested by 21st-century controversies and examine the effort to suppress offensive speech.

Kids and Screen Time
The National Institutes of Health recently began a $300-million study to examine the effects of screen time on developing brains. The first batch of results shows that kids who spent more than two hours per day on screens scored lower on language and thinking tests. Learn how TV and other video viewing can enhance or harm children’s mental development and physical health at various ages.

Facial Recognition Goes Mainstream
Taylor Swift used facial recognition software to detect stalkers at a recent LA concert and the venue didn’t inform concert-goers that their image might be collected. Examine the different forms of biometric screening, from fingerprinting to DNA analysis. While there are many benefits to this technology, you’ll also see the darker side of this data unleashed in the world.

Spies Like Maria
Alleged Russian spy Maria Butina pleaded guilty to influencing US relations with Russia before and after the 2016 presidential election, claiming to act under the direction of a Russian official. Meet some of the last century’s most infamous spies and learn how they were eventually uncovered.

Rare Southeastern State Earthquake
Two earthquakes struck eastern Tennessee, rattling people awake across several Southeastern states. With a magnitude of 4.4, the quake was centered between Chattanooga and Knoxville, and tremors were felt all the way through the metro Atlanta area and the Tennessee Valley. This is rare, as earthquakes typically occur in the same regions as violent volcanoes. Discover how both result from activity of convergent or divergent plate margins

Radar Blip or UFO?
A strange radar blip crawled over southern Illinois for 10 hours. Although the mysterious event was eventually solved, it brings up the question: what is up there? Gain a better understanding of the objects that orbit Earth and the sun.

What’s in a Name?
An 11-year-old from Delaware who shares his last name with the president is so tired of being bullied that he’s decided to change his name. Explore the power of naming through folklore from around the world.

SAG Awards
Award season is officially here, with the Golden Globe nominations announced last week and the SAG award nominations recently released. Discover what an award-winning professor feels is the key element to making movies magic.

We will be diligently monitoring current events and sharing updates on a regular basis, linking the latest headlines to our courses, so you can get the context, history, background, deeper meaning, and—especially—the facts. Our goal is to help our lifelong learners apply the knowledge they gain from our courses to the real world and become better-informed citizen about the present-day issues that concern us all.