Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jan 8, 2021 in Stuff You Should Know

The Slow COVID Vaccine Rollout

You may have seen photos of people on social media receiving their coronavirus vaccine, often with the hashtag, #ThisIsOurShot. The vaccine is an exciting development in the battle to fight the coronavirus and return life to some kind of “normalcy.” Here in the U.S., the number of new cases–and deaths–is far surpassing the rate at which people are receiving vaccines. Last weekend, for example, saw two disturbing milestones. Saturday set the record for the number of new cases reported in a single day (nearly 300,000), and the U.S. death toll from the virus passed 350,000. There are also reports in several countries (including the U.S.) of a new, more contagious strain of the virus beginning to circulate.

The good news is that so far, the vaccine appears to be effective in protecting against the virus, including the new strain. Unfortunately, only 4.2 million Americans have received the vaccine. That sounds like a lot, but the federal government had initially set a goal of 20 million vaccinated by the end of 2020. The White House says that 20 million doses have been supplied. So why the delay? Each state has its own approach to administering the doses. In some states, it’s been left to individual hospitals to decide who should be first to receive the vaccine. This leads to long lines, and inconsistencies in who receives the vaccine and who doesn’t. For now, public health officials urge, the best defense against COVID is to continue to wear a mask, socially distance, and wash your hands.

What Do You Think? Do you know anyone who has received the vaccine? Why were they among the first to receive it?

Afghanistan-Taliban Peace Talks Continue

In September 2020, the government of Afghanistan and leaders of the Taliban began meeting in Qatar to discuss terms for a peace agreement to put an end to decades of fighting.The two sides were able to agree on the procedures for future talks, but not much else. Meanwhile, the fighting continued, with hundreds of civilians killed. The second round of talks begins this week.

What do the two sides hope to accomplish? While the specifics of the negotiations are being kept a secret, analysts and experts say that the number-one priority for the Afghan government is a cease-fire, while for the Taliban, it’s a new form of government based on strict Islamic law. The Taliban also wants all United States military forces removed from the country. The Taliban hasn’t been specific about how or when this should be accomplished. According to the current agreement, all U.S. troops will be withdrawn by May 2021, though that would leave Afghan troops without any American support. It’s currently unclear whether President-elect Biden plans to stick to the original agreement’s terms, or if he prefers to renegotiate the deal. The Taliban has made it clear that if American troops remain in the country after May, the entire peace agreement would be cancelled.

Negotiations continue to stall because of a lack of trust on both sides. In addition, within both the Afghan government and the Taliban, a wide range of opinions exist about how to proceed. But it is critical for the two sides to find a way to come together to avoid possible civil war.

What Do You Think? In your opinion, should President-elect Biden pull all American troops out of Afghanistan by May as formerly agreed upon? Explain.

The Legacy of the Negro Leagues

You may already know that Major League Baseball (MLB) didn’t include any players of color until 1947, when Jackie Robinson became MLB’s first African American player. But did you also know that Negro Leagues of about 3,400 players existed from 1920 to 1948? In 1969, the all-white Special Committee on Baseball Records did even discuss including the Negro Leagues as “major leagues”. As a result, many accomplishments of these athletes have gone largely unacknowledged for decades.

historical photo of African American baseball players
Major League Baseball recently took steps to recognize accomplishments of Negro League baseball players. Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ62-114266]

Now, more than a hundred years after its beginning, MLB has finally decided to include Negro Leagues’s players among its records and statistics. That means that these athletes of color will finally get the recognition they deserve. While this recognition is obviously important, Negro Leagues’s players always considered themselves to be major leaguers, whether or not white people chose to acknowledge that.

Figuring out how to integrate this history into current records does present some challenges, however. For one thing, MLB had to establish cutoff dates for when the Negro Leagues officially began and ended. This decision means that some important achievements might not be included. Negro Leagues suffered from a lack of financial resources. Therefore, their playing seasons were shorter, playing schedules were more irregular, and games were more informal or played in nontraditional places. This makes comparing statistics of MLB and  Negro Leagues players difficult, and as a result, the process will likely never be fully complete.

The seven new leagues that will be included are the Negro National League I, the Eastern Colored League, the American Negro League, the East-West League, the Negro Southern League, the Negro National League II, and the Negro American League.

Dig Deeper Why was 1948 chosen as the official “end date” of the Negro Leagues? Use Internet resources to find the answer.

Google Employees Unionize

Employees at Google have recently formed a union. Workers there have long been vocal about demanding better pay and improved ethics and working conditions. But unions are not a common thing in California’s Silicon Valley, where workers are generally paid very well. Nevertheless, this Google group has been meeting secretly for the past year in order to organize the company’s first-ever employees union. Last week, they revealed their name–the Alphabet Workers Union–and elected their first leadership positions.

Alphabet is affiliated with the Communications Workers of America, but it’s different from a traditional union in a lot of ways. For one thing, it’s a “minority union,” which means that it represents only a small percentage of the company’s 260,000 full-time employees. Alphabet’s leadership says they have bigger goals in mind than simply better pay or hours. They want to focus on issues such as pay discrimination, sexual harassment, immigration, artificial intelligence, and pro-diversity policies. One example is opposition by many employees to developing technology to support Customs and Border Protection. These employees say that the Google has no tolerance for employees with ethical or political views that are different from the company’s own.

Dig Deeper Visit this New York Times website link to read a letter from one Google employee about the need for a workers union at the company. Then write a short paragraph about what you learn.