Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on May 19, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

Census Count Delayed?

Because you’ve been reading btw this year, you know how important the U.S. Census is. Aside from being mandated by the Constitution, this national headcount is used to determine everything from an area’s congressional representatives to the number of electoral votes each state receives. The federal government uses this count to draw voting districts and to calculate the amount of social service resources to allocate to different communities. But the COVID-19 pandemic has led to some unusual challenges in collecting an accurate and complete count. So far, more than 70 million households have participated in the Census, but that’s only about half of the number that is supposed to respond. Census representatives usually go door-to-door to collect missing information, but in a public health crisis, this is no longer a safe option.

a person filling out a form
You may get more time to fill out your 2020 US Census form. Credit: Darren Brode/Shutterstock

As a result, the U.S. Census Bureau has asked Congress to come up with a plan to extend deadlines to submit the final questionnaire results to the president. (Because the deadlines are set in Title 13 of the U.S. Code, they require Congress to change them.) Democrats in the House of Representatives have put forward a bill that would push the legal deadlines for the Census back by four months. At the same time, the bill would allocate another $400 million to the answer-collection effort, and also would require the Census Bureau director to give monthly reports to Congress about the status of the count. However, the proposed bill is not expected to pass the Republican-controlled Senate.

What Do You Think? Imagine that you are a U.S. senator. Would you vote for or against the Democrats’ bill to extend the Census deadline and provide the Bureau with additional resources to conduct the count? Explain.

Feds Drop Case Against Michael Flynn

Last week, the federal government dropped its charges against Michael Flynn. Who is Michael Flynn? He is a retired U.S. Army general who was also Trump’s National Security advisor–a position he held for just 24 days before he resigned. Do you remember Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian tampering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election? During that investigation, it was revealed that Flynn had lied to the FBI and Vice President Mike Pence about his relationship with Russian operatives. Flynn was accused of having conversations with Russia about reducing the U.S.’s economic sanctions against Russia, after it was revealed that Russia had tampered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He resigned, and later pled guilty. However, he was never officially sentenced. And now, the Justice Department is dropping the charges.

According to Trump and to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, Flynn is an innocent man. The Justice Department, which Barr heads up, claims that continuing to prosecute Flynn would not be in the interests of justice, and is asking that the case against him be dismissed. This decision has outraged many Democrats, who are concerned that the Justice Department isn’t neutral in carrying out the law, the way it’s supposed to be, but rather has become politicized by the president. These critics point out that Flynn pled guilty to these charges at one point. But some Republican leaders insist that Mueller’s entire Russia investigation was out of line and went too far.

What Do You Think? Based on what you’ve read here and seen in the news, in your opinion, should the charges against Michael Flynn be dropped? Why or why not?

Plastic Customers?

As restaurants across the country begin to reopen, owners and managers must figure out the best way to serve their customers while still keeping them–and their employees–safe. Many states are requiring restaurants to take social distancing precautions, such as limiting the number of people in the dining room at a time, and making sure that everyone stays at least six feet apart. One restaurant near Washington, D.C. is taking an especially creative approach to the problem. Because they can only open at 50 percent capacity, The Inn at Little Washington has filled its empty seats with mannequins. The mannequins will be seated at tables throughout the dining room to help “real” customers maintain social distancing.

But that’s not all. The Inn at Little Washington has taken their plan a step further and enlisted the help of Signature Theatre, a local theater company. Together, they are dressing the mannequins in 1940s-era period costumes. The goal is to make it look like the mannequins are holding a post-World War II celebration. The owners say that while the mannequins will help distance their customers, they hope that the dolls will provide a psychological benefit as well, by creating the illusion of a full space and lots of other people.

Dig Deeper Other restaurant owners around the country are getting creative as well, by using plants and even shower curtains to help their customers maintain safe social distance from each other. Use Internet resources to find some examples of creative social distancing techniques. Then write a short paragraph about what you’ve learned.

Progressive Task Force Established

It’s no secret that the 2020 presidential primary season has been a challenging one for Democrats, or that many of the candidates haven’t always seen eye to eye on some critical issues such as healthcare or universal income. Now that former vice president Joe Biden is the last candidate standing, however, many Democrats feel that the time for arguing is over. Instead, the party needs to find a way to unify in order to face off against the Republican candidate (which is expected to be Donald Trump) in November.

In this spirit of unity, Biden and his main “rival” in the primary campaign, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, announced last week that they are joining forces to form a task force aimed at unifying the party ahead. Sanders already announced his endorsement of Biden last month, but now representatives from both campaigns will be working together to develop policies to address six key issues: climate change, criminal justice reform, the economy, immigration, health care, and education.

Heading up the task force is a long list of important progressive lawmakers: New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (climate change); Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott (criminal justice reform); California Rep. Karen Bass (economy); California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (immigration); Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal (health care); and Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge (education). The lawmakers are also joined by a host of other top experts in their fields. The goal of establishing this task force is to do more than just defeat Trump in November, but rather to develop a comprehensive policy plan to move the United States forward in a more progressive direction.

What Do You Think? Which of the six policy areas covered by the task force–climate change, criminal justice reform, economy, immigration, health care, and education–do you think is the most important? Why? Can you think of any other policy issues that have been left out but should be addressed? Explain.