Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Jun 24, 2021 in Stuff You Should Know

A Pilgrimage in a Pandemic

The Hajj is a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia that every adult able-bodied Muslim is expected to complete at least once in his or her lifetime. The Hajj journey lasts five days and follows the ancient path of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad to various locations around Mecca.

Usually, up to two million Muslims from 160 different countries make the journey every year. But changes are being made due to COVID-19. The 2020 Hajj included only 1,000 people, all of them already living in the country. A third of these were security and medical staff. Saudi Arabia has announced that this year’s Hajj will be limited to no more than 60,000 people, all of them from within the country. It will begin on July 17, 2021, and will be open only to vaccinated adults ages 18 to 65 who have never participated in the Hajj before. Already, more than half a million people have applied. To ensure that every person who attends is vaccinated, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is requiring that all people receive an official permit. The permit will be matched with an electronic card and the person’s ID. There will also be visual and temperature screening stations in place when a person begins their Hajj journey, and social distancing guidelines and extra sanitation efforts will be in effect.

Dig Deeper How has the COVID pandemic impacted other religious ceremonies and spiritual practices? Do some research on the Internet to learn more and describe what you learn in a short paragraph.

New Device Helps Stroke Survivors

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel to the brain gets constricted, slowing or stopping proper blood flow. This can cause unconsciousness and, in more severe cases, bodily damage or death. Stroke is one of the leading causes of death for Americans, and almost 800,000 people will experience a stroke this year. Over half of those ages 65 and up who survive a stroke will be left with long-term mobility problems. That means that today, more than a million people in the United States are living with a stroke-related disability. But thanks to new technology, the effects of stroke could be less devastating. A device called IpsiHand has recently been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It allows patients to use the undamaged parts of their brain to control their hands.

Neurologists, Working on a Personal Computer in Modern Laboratory.
Credit: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock

Missouri brain surgeon Dr. Eric Leuthardt heard often from his stroke recovery patients that they could imagine trying to move a body part, but just couldn’t make it cooperate. Usually, the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. Leuthardt’s team created a device that attaches to the disabled hand and reads signals from the same side of the brain (instead of the opposite side) to open and close the hand. The patient uses a headset to tell the device on the disabled hand to open and close the hand.

Using this device helps people retrain their brains to control the previously disabled hands, which improves their long-term recovery.

Dig Deeper Visit the Centers for Disease Control website to learn more about the causes of stroke, and risk factors that increase the dangers of strokes. You can also view more stroke-related statistics. Then create a poster informing people about what they can do to lower their risk of stroke.

Billionaire Gives Back

MacKenzie Scott is the ex-wife of Amazon founder and multi-billionaire Jeff Bezos. When the two divorced in 2019, Scott received a 4 percent share of Amazon, which was then worth about $36.1 billion. The COVID-19 pandemic increased usage of home delivery through Amazon and caused the company’s stock to grow rapidly. Scott’s fortune also grew to nearly $60 billion.

Scott signed a Giving Pledge, which is a promise to give away the majority of her wealth. She explained this decision by saying that she dislikes the increased concentration of American wealth in such a small number of individuals.

Scott has already made good on that promise by giving away more than $8 billion to nonprofit organizations. Now, she has announced that she is giving away $2.7 billion more. Receiving the latest round of funding are 286 organizations. They include

  • universities that serve a large minority population;
  • religious organizations that fight racial discrimination;
  • arts organizations; and
  • anti-poverty groups with an emphasis on empowering women and girls.

The way that Scott has chosen to give away funding is very unusual. Groups can’t apply to receive funding. Instead, Scott’s organization research various organizations to find those that best fit its mission. Also, the money they give away  carries no rules about how the receiving organization must spend it. Rather, they are trusted to use the funds however they see fit. Scott announces the receiving organizations via blog post. In her most recent post, she acknowledges that wealth should not be concentrated in the hands of so few, and that no one becomes wealthy without taking from their community.  Scott believes that it is her responsibility to give wealth back to the community from which it came.

Dig Deeper Visit this website to read Scott’s blog post and to see the list of 269 organizations that will be receiving her latest round of funding. Choose one of the organizations listed and research to learn more about their mission, history, and what they do. Write a short paragraph about what you find.

The Supreme Court and the ACA

The Affordable Care Act (ACA)–sometimes known as “Obamacare”–has faced legal challenges ever since its beginning in 2010. On Thursday, June 17, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the latest challenge against the ACA.It ruled by a 7 to 2 vote against challenges brought by Republican-controlled states and the former Trump administration.

The ACA was President Obama’s signature piece of legislation. The ACA is designed to make health insurance more affordable by making the federal government a source of lower-cost medical insurance. People who purchase the insurance put their monthly payments into a common pool of money that other members can use. The more people who pay into the health care pool, the more affordable health care can be for everyone. The ACA also expands Medicaid. It also ensures that people with pre-existing conditions are able to purchase insurance. The ACA allows young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until the age of 26. The ACA also prevents insurance companies from imposing lifetime caps on coverage. To keep costs low, the law originally required that adults who did not get job-based insurance must purchase health insurance from the government–buying into the pool–or pay a penalty. This last part is the most controversial part of the law and is the focus of many legal challenges.

A record 31 million Americans receive coverage through the ACA, including 14.8 million who have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 crisis.

What Do You Think? Research the Internet to learn more about the nine justices on the current Supreme Court. Based on what you learned, are you surprised by the Court’s decision on this case? Explain your reasoning.