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War in Syria Prompts Premature Opening of Arctic “Doomsday” Seed Vault

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Situated on a frozen archipelago just about as far north as north goes is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a long-term underground storage facility for seed samples from around the world. There, seeds are kept cold and dry so that, if disaster strikes, national crop gene banks anywhere in the world can take what they need. Seven short years after its opening, the vault already has a request for a withdrawal due to the devastation caused by the Syrian War.

Built in 2008 by the Norwegian government, the facility—the largest of its kind in the world—holds around 860,000 samples of seeds from 4,000 species, which it can keep dry for 200 years without electricity. According to Reuters, researchers with The International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in the Middle East have asked that Syria's deposited seeds be withdrawn. Once headquartered just outside of Aleppo, Syria's capital city, ICARDA was forced to relocate to various locations across the region in 2012 for safety reasons.

The researchers have asked to withdraw nearly a third of the 325 boxes of seeds they had deposited, a request that has since been approved and will soon be fulfilled. The report does not specify the reason why the organization decided to make an early withdrawal, but, as Reuters notes, the samples deposited by ICARDA boast drought-resistant properties—a useful characteristic for growing, or re-growing, crops in Syria, the Middle East, and beyond. 

[h/t Reuters

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College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy
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One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

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North America: East or West Coast?
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