Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jan 19, 2021 in Stuff You Should Know

California’s COVID Lockdown

Since early December 2020, most of California has been on lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because ICU availability in hospitals has dropped below 15 percent in many areas of the state. Prohibited activities under the lockdown include dining in at restaurants, working out at gyms, visiting salons, and attending in-person gatherings of any size.

empty beach in California
California’s beaches have been pretty empty during the time of the state’s lockdown to fight the coronavirus. Credit: alexroch/Shutterstock

The hopeful news is that, in a few places, the stay-at-home order seems to be helping. In fact, on January 12, Governor Gavin Newsom lifted the restriction for the Sacramento and Northern California regions. This allows businesses in those areas to reopen. However, Governor Newsom encouraged all Californians to continue to wear masks, to socially distance, and to avoid in-person gatherings.

While this is certainly progress, it’s important to remember that over 90 percent of California residents–more than 36 million people–remain in lockdown. So far, the state has experienced a total of over 3,000,000 cases and 34,000 deaths as a result of the virus. More than 22,000 Californians remain hospitalized. In some parts of the state, there are no more ICU beds available for people who become ill with COVID-19.

Dig Deeper Visit this California government website to learn more about the measures the state of California is taking to combat the COVID crisis. Write a short paragraph to explain.

Ethiopia and Sudan Dispute Territory

With all that’s happening in the United States right now, it can be hard to think about conflict in other places around the globe. But right now, a heated border dispute is going on between Ethiopia and Sudan. The two countries share a border but are at odds over an area called al-Fashaga, where the border isn’t clearly defined and marked. Colonial-era treaties from 1902 and 1907 show the border between the two nations to be further to the east than it is now. This would mean that al-Fashaga belongs to Sudan. But Ethiopians have been living in this area and paying their taxes to Ethiopia for generations.

In 2008, the two countries reached a compromise: Ethiopians could continue living there, but the land officially belonged to Sudan. This deal worked until recently, when Ethiopia became unhappy with the arrangement and demanded the border be officially re-evaluated. In response, the Sudanese army drove Ethiopians out of the area. On December 20, 2020, Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed met to settle the matter. Their negotiations were interrupted by another battle, this time started by Ethiopia.

This is not the only issue that has caused conflict between the neighboring nations, even though they rarely fight each other directly. In the 1980s, Ethiopia provided arms to Sudanese rebels. Then in the 1990s, Sudan supported militant Islamic groups while Ethiopia supported Sudan’s opposition movement.

Dig Deeper Using Internet resources, locate a map of the area discussed in the story. Identify the disputed al-Fashaga region. (Hint: it is located near the northwest area of the Ethiopian border.)

COVID-19 Vaccination Changes

Up until now, in the United States, in order to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, a person needs to be over the age of 75 or a front-line, essential worker (such as a health care worker). But the number of eligible Americans may have just increased. Last Tuesday, the Trump administration sent out new guidance to states to increase the pool of eligible recipients to anyone 65 and older, and/or anyone with underlying health risks that could put them in greater danger of contracting the disease.

In addition, the way the doses will be distributed may also change. Right now, the number of doses a state receives is based on their total adult population. Under the new vaccine structure, the number of doses will be based on how many of the state’s residents are over 65 years old. It will also be affected by how quickly the state is distributing the doses it already has. This provides an encouragement for states to more quickly vaccinate people. The Trump administration has suggested using large venues, such as stadiums and convention centers, to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

But some health experts worry that rapid vaccination could potentially cause its own set of problems. These experts worry that it will cause confusion among the public about who can and cannot receive the vaccine. They say that the number of doses a state receives will now be linked to how quickly they distribute them, rather than a fixed number (based on the adult population). This means that states won’t easily be able to predict how many doses they’re going to get.

Dig Deeper Visit the COVID-19 vaccination website for your state. Who is eligible to receive a vaccination? Where does one go to receive it? How does one schedule it?

UK Won’t Use Cotton From Chinese Forced Labor Camps

This past December, the world learned that China has forced more than a million Uighurs and other minorities into labor camps, to work as slaves in cotton fields in the western part of its Xinjiang region. This area accounts for one-fifth of the world’s total cotton supply, and cotton from Xinjiang is used across the globe.

The United Kingdom is responding to this human rights violation by requiring any large firms doing business in the UK to prove that they aren’t using goods produced by Chinese forced labor. If they can’t prove it, they will have to pay a fine. But human rights activists argue that the new law doesn’t go far enough. These activists want companies to be held responsible and accountable for using slavery anywhere along their supply lines. According to Freedom United, an anti-slavery organization, it’s likely that any company buying clothes, textiles, yarn, or cotton from the Xinjiang region is likely supporting the enslavement of minority groups there.

The Chinese government denies that it is enslaving people. It claims that the forced labor camps are vocational training schools which people participate in willingly. But online government documents reveal that this isn’t the case. Those documents describe exportation of workers, mass relocations of people in poor rural areas, targets and quotas, and the so-called re-education of people who don’t want to work in the cotton fields. The labor camps are also where the government houses people who are believed to be disloyal to the Chinese government.

Dig Deeper Who are the Uighurs? Why are they being persecuted by the Chinese government? If you don’t know, use Internet resources to learn more. Write a short paragraph about what you discover.