Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Oct 21, 2020 in Stuff You Should Know

An Incomplete Count?

btw and Election Central have covered the importance of the 2020 Census throughout this year. Census information is used to determine everything from how many social services resources a community receives, to how many seats a state will have in Congress. But getting a complete count of an entire nation is more difficult than you might think. And this year it’s even more difficult than usual, because of the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in a long court battle over whether the deadline to complete the count should be extended.

In April, the Trump administration proposed a deadline extension from October 15 to October 31. The White House then decided to target October 15 once again. Civil rights lawyers and other community groups sued, saying that extra time was needed to ensure an accurate count. This need for more time was especially true for underrepresented groups, such as unauthorized immigrants and indigenous people living on reservations, who are historically under-counted. Lower courts ruled in favor of extending the deadline. But last week, just days before the October 15 deadline, the Supreme Court overturned this ruling, and declared October 15 to be the deadline. The Justice Department said that maintaining the October 15 deadline was important because the results must be presented to the president by December 31. The previous legal ruling pointed out that there were times in the past (the years 1810 through 1840) when Census results were delivered late. They argued that a complete and accurate count is more critical than a speedy one.

What Do You Think? Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision to keep the 2020 Census count’s original deadline of October 15? Why or why not?

Conflict Between Armenia and Azerbaijan

A historical land battle between Armenia and Azerbaijan escalated into new conflict in September. The two nations are fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, an area which is internationally recognized as belonging to Azerbaijan. However the region is the home to many ethnic Armenians and ruled by its own Armenian separatist government. These Armenians were driven into the region as far back as the years following World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The population migrations and the rapid border changes that followed the peace negotiations of World War I are the root of this land dispute. So far, hundreds have died in the conflict.  

The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has been going on for generations, punctuated by periods of peace. But something important has changed. In the past, the two nations were evenly matched economically. But rising global oil prices have brought far more wealth to Azerbaijan–money that can be spent on weapons. In fact, in the past ten years, Azerbaijan has spent about $19 billion on weapons, while Armenia has only spent about $4.8 billion in the same period. The recent fighting has featured more deadly weaponry such as long-range rocket artillery and soldier-operated drones that had not been part of the fighting in the past.  

Also, Turkey is lending more support to the Azerbaijan fighters during this recent increase in violence. The Azerbaijan people have more ethnic ties to the Turkish culture, which explains Turkey’s recent involvement. 

Dig Deeper Examine what your history textbook tells you about the years following World War I in that part of Europe and Asia. How many border changes and new nations were formed at this time? 

Fire Threaten California Homeless

When we talk about the people who have been displaced due to the California wildfires, we tend to think about those who evacuated because their homes were in the path of the blaze. But what about those who didn’t have a permanent home to begin with? The fire has also forced many homeless people out of their shelters and encampments.

One example of this is in Sonoma County in Northern California, which houses sixty people in one of the first transitional shelters of its kind in the nation. Los Guilicos Village is a collection of tiny homes with the goal of providing stable shelter and helping residents on the path to a more permanent housing solution. When the Glass Fire destroyed several of the tiny homes, residents had to be evacuated. Many are now living at the Sonoma County fairgrounds in tents and trailers.

Trying to figure out what to do next is tricky. Many homeless people also struggle with mental illness, and so may need much more than a new shelter. Others suffer from health problems or are elderly. It is possible that these former residents of Los Guilicos Village will have to wait months before they are allowed to return to their tiny homes. This is especially devastating because so many of them were finally on a path to permanent, stable housing. The fires put an end to that, at least for now. Local government officials say that they will do what they can to get as many people as possible out of tents and into trailers. They added that they will provide these trailers for as long as they need to be there.

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources to learn more about Los Guilicos Village. Who started it? Why? Would you consider the program to be a success? Why or why not?

Japanese Airlines Adopts Gender-Neutral Language

Traditionally airlines use the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” during pre-flight announcements. Now, Japanese Airlines (JAL) has announced that beginning this month, all their announcements will use gender-neutral language. For example, instead of saying “attention ladies and gentlemen,” they will say “attention all passengers” or “attention everyone.” The new language will apply at every step of the airline journey: from check-in desks, to boarding the plane, to the flight itself. Most passengers won’t even notice the change, as it will only apply to announcements made in English. That’s because the ones made in Japanese are already gender-neutral.

airplane in a Tokyo, Japan airport
Japan Airlines has adopted gender neutral language in all of its flight operations. Credit: Glow Images

Why does a change like this matter? Even small differences in language can help every passenger feel welcomed and respected. Other airlines, such as Air Canada and the UK’s EasyJet, have already made the change to inclusive language. And while same-sex marriage isn’t legally recognized in Japan, Japanese Airlines may serve as a model for other Japanese companies to follow. JAL already provides family privileges to employees with same-sex partners.

Last year, Japanese Airlines made headlines for a decidedly less-tolerant policy. As of September 2019, the airline now includes a feature on its online booking system that lets people know where children will be seated on the plane. Seats with children in them show a child icon so that passengers can avoid booking a spot near a potentially crying child. Some customers praised the decision but others criticized the airline for being intolerant. Some critics suggested providing noise-cancelling headphones instead.

What Do You Think? What steps should other businesses consider taking to make  gender-nonconforming customers feel comfortable?