Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Apr 1, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

Coronavirus Hits Prisons

man handcuffed in cell
How is COVID-19 affecting the prison population? Credit: Normana Karia/Shutterstock

By now you’re probably very familiar with the phrase “social distancing.” Hopefully, you and your friends and neighbors have been practicing this policy. But what happens when people are kept together in close quarters and physically can’t practice social distancing–such as in prisons? The United Nations addressed this concern last week, saying that prison authorities worldwide need to take steps to address the problem, particularly for people who are considered high risk because they are elderly or have pre-existing medical conditions. The UN went so far as to say that prisons should even consider releasing some inmates who are considered low risk. Also, they said, anyone who has been detained without adequate legal reasons for it–such as political prisoners–should be immediately set free.

So what’s being done here in the United States to combat the spread of COVID-19 among prison populations? So far, hundreds of prisoners have been quietly released from jail–a number which experts suggest will reach into the thousands before the pandemic is over. Authorities in some places are telling police to make fewer arrests in the first place. Within the prisons themselves, there is increased attention to personal hygiene. Some have also limited their visiting hours in favor of increased phone calls and videoconferencing, while others have tightened the screening process for new inmates, or have made the decision to quarantine every new inmate for fourteen days upon arrival.

In other countries, the prison situation has become dire, with several mass jailbreaks reported, with dozens of deaths as a result. Luckily, that hasn’t been the case yet in the U.S. President Trump has indicated that he might be willing to consider legislation that would release prisoners who are elderly, or nonviolent offenders who have served two-thirds of their sentences, but so far no action has taken place.

What Do You Think? Should low-risk prisoners be released from prison to help combat the spread of COVID-19? Explain, remembering as always to be respectful with your answer.

Olympic Games Postponed

The 2020 Olympics was originally scheduled to take place this summer, from July 24 to August  9, in Tokyo. However, amidst fears about the worldwide coronavirus outbreak, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, along with the International Olympic Committee, has agreed to postpone the games until the summer of 2021.

As recently as March 17, Japan’s Olympic minister said that the games would still be going ahead as planned, with spectators present. This is likely due to the huge cost of postponing the Olympics, which is likely to wind up being around $25 billion. (Why so expensive? Because Japan has already begun work on hotels, stadiums, and transportation improvements to accommodate the games.) But several participating countries–including the United States and Canada–began announcing that they would refuse to send their athletes out of fear for their health. The athletes themselves were also calling for the postponement of the games because training facilities are closed which prevents them from being able to adequately prepare. Finally, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Prime Minister Abe agreed to a postponement.

The IOC says that even though the date has been changed, the Summer Games will still be referred to as Tokyo 2020. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games have also been rescheduled for next summer and will take place from August 25 to September 6. Meanwhile, the Olympic flame will also remain in Japan to serve as a reminder of a brighter future ahead.

Dig Deeper The Olympics have been canceled three times in the past. What years did this happen, and why?

Spring Break Forever?

It’s what parents all over the country have been afraid of ever since the U.S. coronavirus outbreak began: states have begun closing schools for the rest of the year.

Last Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced that schools would stay closed at least through the end of the school year. Virginia is the second state to take this step, after Kansas. The governors of several other states, such as California and Ohio, have already indicated that they are expecting to take similar action. Some states have also extended the number of days they will be closed. In North Carolina, for example, schools will now remain closed through May 15. In total, forty-six states have closed their schools for the time being, affecting 54.5 million students nationwide.

While “spring break forever” might sound like fun to students, what kind of impact will these closures have on their grades and overall education? Some states, such as Florida, have said that they won’t calculate grades this year. Parents will be allowed to have their children repeat the current grade if they want to. (Graduation won’t be affected.) Others, such as Ohio, have canceled all of their state standardized testings for the year.

In addition to school closures, as of March 25, twelve states also have announced official “shelter in place” orders. This means that residents have been ordered to stay in their homes unless they are conducting essential business. In most cases, this means that restaurants and most businesses, movie theaters, and fitness centers are closed, while grocery stores, banks, gas stations, and other critical services remain open.

Dig Deeper What steps has your state taken to combat the spread of coronavirus?

The Marble Racing Craze

The coronavirus epidemic has caused havoc in the world of sports fandom. The NCAA basketball tournament has been canceled; Major League Baseball’s start day has been pushed back; all professional golf tournaments have been canceled, and the NBA playoffs have been canceled as well. What’s a sports fan to do, especially now that many states are under “shelter in place” orders that lead to a lot more free time stuck at home?

The answer could be simple: marble racing.

Now is as good a time as ever to pick up an interest in a new sport. And marble racing, though it’s been around for several years, is enjoying new popularity as a result. In fact, the sport now boasts more than 700,000 YouTube subscribers, with millions of views every week. If you’ve never seen marble racing, it’s well worth a look, especially if you think it’s as simple as a marble rolling down a track. There are marbles in the stands, marble camera operators and referees, stats, and advertising. Some races even have opening and closing ceremonies, confetti drops, anthems, and trophies for the winners. Races are broadcast using actual sports terms, as authentically (and also humorously) as possible. Marble racing “memes” have even become a thing.

The originators of the sport are brothers Yelle and Dion Bakker from the Netherlands. They, along with announcer/broadcaster Greg Woods, have used a unique mix of humor and attention to detail to elevate marble racing to its current status. They say that it’s a lighthearted way to pass the time and to bring people together–which may be more important now than ever.

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to view a marble race or tournament. Then write a short paragraph describing the experience.