Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Mar 5, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

Coronavirus Hits the U.S.

No doubt you’ve already heard plenty about coronavirus (otherwise known as COVID-19). But how worried should you really be? As of February 28, there are more than 78,000 confirmed cases and more than 2,700 deaths in China alone. In the rest of the world, there are at least 4,000 confirmed cases–15 of them in the United States. So what should Americans be doing to prepare? According to public health officials, though the current threat level remains low, Americans need to be aware that the spreading virus could have a real impact on their lives. It’s possible that schools, daycares, and other public gathering places could be shut down to control the spread of the virus.

Group of people with protective mask
The CDC stated that wearing facial masks like this are NOT as effective as washing your hands regularly multiple times per day. Credit: justme_yo/iStock/Getty Images

So how is the federal government responding? The White House has requested $1.25 billion in additional funding from Congress to fund emergency preparedness and response. The money will go toward precautionary measures, such as medical masks and the development of treatments and vaccines. Vice President Mike Pence has been appointed by Trump to spearhead all messaging concerning the virus.

Nevertheless, it’s important not to panic. In 80 percent of coronavirus cases, symptoms are no more severe than that of the common cold. The best way to avoid contamination is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Public health officials also recommend not wearing surgical masks (they provide very little protection against the disease and can actually make breathing more difficult), staying home if you feel ill, and avoiding all nonessential travel to China and South Korea.

Dig Deeper Though coronavirus has dominated the headlines this season, how many people have died in the United States in 2020 from the flu? How many have died of the flu this year worldwide? Use Internet resources to help you find information.

House Passes Federal Anti-Lynching Bill

Have you ever heard of Emmett Till? In the 1950s, he was a 14-year-old African American boy from Chicago, Illinois. While visiting relatives in Mississippi, he was lynched for allegedly flirting with a white woman in a grocery store. Till’s brutal murder helped spur on many of the most critical events of the civil rights movement, such as the legendary Montgomery bus boycott, which began just three months after Till’s death.

Now, more than 60 years later, the federal government is finally on the cusp of passing a law to make lynching illegal. On February 26, the House of Representatives voted 410-4 in favor of the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, a bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime. This is not the first time that such a bill has been attempted–some political experts say that similar bills have failed more than 200 times in the past. But it’s the first time that it seems to be gaining real traction in Congress.

Three Republicans–Ted Yoho (Florida), Louie Gohmert (Texas), and Thomas Massie (Kentucky)–and one Independent, Justin Amash (Michigan), voted against the bill. They voiced concern that the legislation was an example of the federal government encroaching on states’ rights. While no cases of lynching have been officially reported recently, there were more than 4,000 reported cases between the late 1800s and the 1960s. The president has said that he will sign off on the legislation.

What Do You Think? After Till’s gruesome death, his mother made the controversial and difficult decision to present her son’s body in an open casket. Why do you think she might have wanted to do this? What impact might her choice have made on the future of the civil rights movement in the United States?

Supreme Court Rules on Border Patrol’s Use of Lethal Force

In 2010, a fifteen-year-old boy named Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, in a game with his friends, ran across a concrete culvert to touch the border separating Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, from El Paso, Texas. His plan wasn’t to enter the United States illegally but to tag the border and run back. But before Sergio could do that, he was shot by a U.S. Border Patrol agent named Jesus Mesa. On February 25, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 vote, decided that Mesa can’t be sued for shooting Sergio–even though the shooting occurred on the Mexican side of the border and Sergio never touched American soil. Sergio’s family had sued Mesa for monetary damages, saying that Mesa’s actions had violated the Constitution’s ban on unjustified deadly force and the right to due process.

Those who support the ruling say that Border Patrol agents often face difficult and dangerous decisions and that they must take whatever measures necessary to defend and protect the U.S. border and national security. They also point out that someone who is not a U.S. citizen doesn’t have the right to Constitutional protections. Opponents, however, claim that Mesa’s actions were an unnecessary use of force against a child who presented no threat to the United States. Moreover, declaring that Mesa shouldn’t be held accountable for his actions could mean that in the future, Border Patrol agents will feel free to use potentially lethal force against people, even if they have never set foot on American soil. They argue that human rights are still human rights, regardless of someone’s immigration status, and that shooting a child is never acceptable.

Dig Deeper What provisions of the U.S. Constitution ensure someone’s right to protection from the unjustified deadly force and their right to due process?

Corporate America Goes Carbon-Neutral?

Last week, btw took a look at Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and his decision to donate $10 billion of his own fortune to help fight climate change. But Amazon isn’t the only company that’s starting to own up to its responsibility to the planet. Employees and investors alike are beginning to put pressure on corporate giants–such as fuel companies, airlines, and “big-box stores”–to be more transparent about their carbon emissions and then to set goals to reduce them. As this happens, companies without plans are drafting them, and those with plans already in place are setting more ambitious targets to reduce emissions. In fact, since 2005, the average annual target has tripled–and the time frames involved are getting much shorter and more immediate.

It’s estimated that nearly a quarter of all Fortune 500 companies now have some kind of carbon-neutral plan in place. This has happened for a number of reasons. First, the effects of climate change are starting to become visible (think wildfires, hurricanes, etc.) and harder to ignore. Second, renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, are becoming much cheaper and more easily accessible. And third, pressure from the public is pushing these initiatives off of the back burner and into the forefront, as more and more customers demand that the products and services they purchase are environmentally responsible. This, coupled with pressure from employees and investors, can be enough to spur a company toward change.

Dig Deeper Think of a large or chain store that you shop at often. Use Internet resources to locate that company’s sustainability plan. Can’t find one? Write a letter to the company, explaining why having a plan in place to reduce carbon emissions is so important.