Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on May 6, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

Children in Spain Return Outdoors

No doubt about it, shelter-in-place and social distancing orders are challenging. Many of us miss our friends, classmates, and participating in the activities we once loved and perhaps took for granted. But in many other places in the world, you’d face even harsher restrictions than you do in the United States. In Spain, for example, residents have spent the past six weeks inside their homes. Adults have been allowed out only to buy food, go to the pharmacy, walk their pets, or go to work (if they can’t work from home). The cost of violating the order is a fine of over $1,000. But if that sounds bad, the situation has been even worse for children, who have not been allowed to go outside in public for any reason since March 14.

As you can imagine, this order was incredibly difficult for families to obey, as most children love to play outside and need fresh air and exercise every day in order to stay healthy. While some children have backyards they can play in, many people in Spain live in apartments, with no private outdoor yard or garden available to them. This means that many children in Spain have not been able to go outside at all for the past six weeks. As a result of public outcry, the Spanish government has now modified the restriction: children are now allowed outside, but only for an hour a day, with an adult, and only if they stay within one kilometer of their homes.

Some parents have complained that an hour a day is still not nearly enough time outside. Others, however, complain that parents aren’t making their children wear face masks or follow social distancing rules outside.

Dig Deeper Create a poster, short story, or poem encouraging children to stay inside until the COVID-19 panic is over. Try to be positive and upbeat with your message!

Come Back, Congress?

It’s hard to make plans during this uncertain time. When will things reopen and return to “normal”? What will your summer break look like? Will you go back to school in the fall? At the moment, the members of Congress are facing a similar uncertainty. Originally, the House of Representatives was supposed to return to session on May 4. But based on the advice from the Congressional physician, Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has decided to delay the reopening. This is despite the fact that Trump and Republican lawmakers are advocating for a return to normal, in-person session, in order to work out the details of the next COVID-19 financial relief package. Some of these Republicans have even accused their Democratic colleagues of just wanting to take a long vacation.

Are they right? Is it time to get back to normal already? It’s important to remember that coronavirus cases continue to be on the rise in the Washington, D.C. area; in fact, two of the city’s suburbs have become designated “hot spots.” Also, bringing Congress back into session doesn’t just require the lawmakers themselves to return to work. Thousands of staff members–including maintenance, security, and others–will have to come back as well.

Meanwhile, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, still insisted that he would return the Senate to session on May 4 as planned. But this is at least in part because there are far fewer members of Senate than there are of the House, which means that their chamber will be less crowded. In the meantime, committee hearings and meetings will continue to be held the way everything else is these days–virtually.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, should members of Congress return to in-person session this week? Why or why not?

Earth Day Turns 50

Group of people around the world. Chalk drawing.
DId you find a way to celebrate this year’s Earth Day? Credit: Professor25/iStock/Getty Images

Fifty years ago, the late Gaylord Nelson, a Democratic Senator from Wisconsin, created Earth Day in the United States as a way to raise awareness about environmental issues. By 1990, the movement had spread across the globe, with more than 140 countries participating in the annual event. But because of COVID-19, this year’s celebration–despite being the 5oth anniversary–was quieter and more understated than in past years. Experts encouraged Americans to honor Earth Day by taking a walk, jog, or bike ride (while maintaining appropriate social distancing guidelines, of course). Others recommended gardening, watching a nature documentary, or taking a virtual tour of a national park.

The theme of Earth Day 2020–which was held on April 22–was climate action. As a result, the Earth Day Network organized 24 hours of action. Each hour, a new call for action was posted. These actions ranged from asking your local leaders to sign the Climate Action Pledge, to going outside to clean up trash in a park or waterway, to using an app to determine and document the air quality in your area. Other actions included contacting your elected representatives, eating a plant-based meal, planting trees, starting a community climate discussion, and encouraging three friends to commit to vote . . . proving that even during a global pandemic, the fight for the planet doesn’t need to slow down.

Dig Deeper Taking action to fight climate change isn’t limited to a particular day! Whether or not you celebrated Earth Day this year, choose one of the above activities (or a pro-environment activity of your choosing) to participate in. Write a paragraph describing your experience.

Marine Corps Bans Confederate Flag

The Confederate flag is one of the most controversial symbols in the United States. While some consider it to be a representation of regional pride and history, others see it as a symbol celebrating racism and enslavement. In February, Lt. General David H. Berger, the Commandant and top general of the U.S. Marine Corps, announced that he would ban all displays of the Confederate flag on bases. Last week, he wrote a moving letter to Marines, explaining his decision. In it, he described the Marine Corps as a unique organization that can’t be successful in its mission if its members aren’t unified. According to Berger, the fact that some members were displaying the Confederate flag was divisive, and therefore harmful to the organization as a whole. Instead, he said, Marines should unite behind symbols that bring everyone together, such as the American flag, rather than those which divide them.

The Confederate flag ban is the latest in a series of attempts by the military to address accusations of racism and white supremacy within its ranks. Some have suggested that the organization go a step further, and rename bases and facilities named after Confederate leaders, but there are currently no plans to do so.

So far, the decision to ban displays of the flag has met with mixed reactions. But despite having grown up near the Mason-Dixon Line and attended Louisiana’s Tulane University, Lt. General Berger remains strong in his conviction that removing the flag was his duty as a leader. As a leader, he wrote, it’s his job to move the organization ahead and make it stronger–and that requires unity.

What Do You Think? Imagine that you command an arm of the U.S. military. Would you ban the displays of potentially offensive symbols, such as the Confederate flag? Why or why not? Please remember to be sensitive and respectful with your answer.