Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Aug 26, 2021 in Stuff You Should Know

Refugee Crisis in Afghanistan

As the United States and its allies pull their troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban has swept across the nation, swiftly overtaking cities. The situation has been devastating for civilians, especially for women, who fear that Taliban rule will bring an end to their human rights. More than 2.9 million Afghans have fled their homes since the end of 2020, a quarter of a million just since May. Eighty percent of the refugees are women and children. These latest developments further complicate an already critical situation in the country. Half of Afghan children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition. Afghanistan is also experiencing the COVID pandemic that adds a new danger to this refugee situation. The United Nations is warning of a major humanitarian crisis in the region. It says that Afghanistan will likely have the highest number of civilian casualties in a single year since 2009, when the UN began keeping records.

At least 12,000 displaced people have been evacuated since the weekend of August 20, 2021. Most of the displaced are people who are particularly vulnerable because they are government workers, journalists, translators, or human rights activists. Most have been taken to neighboring Qatar or Pakistan, but that is only a short-term solution. Several countries have pledged to accept Afghan refugees on a permanent basis. The United States has committed to accepting 10,000 Afghan refugees. The United States has also recently authorized Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan individuals who worked closely with the U.S. during the war. Eight thousand of these SIVs have been authorized by the State Department.

Dig Deeper Dozens of nonprofit organizations have been working to improve the lives of the Afghan people, especially women and children. Use Internet resources to find out more about three of these organizations. Create a flyer to share this information with others who can help.

World Gears Up for Paralympics

The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo ended earlier this month. The United States won the most overall medals with 113, followed by China’s 88, the Russian Olympic Committee’s 71, Great Britain’s 65, and host country Japan’s 58.

stacked bar graph showing gold, silver, and bronze medal winners for 2020 Olympic Games
Credit: McGraw Hill

Now, the eyes of the world turn to the 2020 Paralympic Games. These Games are also being held in Tokyo. The Opening Ceremonies were on August 24 and the Games will run until September 5, 2021. The Paralympic Games are for athletes with a disability. The Paralympic Games began in Rome, Italy, in 1960. They occur every four years, following the Olympic Games.

For the first time this year, medals will be marked with circular indentations that indicate gold, silver, or bronze. The medals will also include Braille lettering, so that athletes with vision impairments can recognize them by touch. There will also be two new sports: badminton and taekwondo.

A six-athlete Refugee Paralympic Team will compete at this year’s Paralympic Games as well. The team is led by former refugee and U.S. Paralympian Ileana Rodriguez. Unfortunately, the Afghanistan Paralympic team will not be able to compete. The Taliban has taken control of all of the country’s airports and are halting international flights. This is the first time that Afghanistan won’t compete in the Paralympic Games since 2000. During the opening ceremonies, however, a volunteer carried the Afghanistan flag during the parade of nations.

Dig Deeper What are two sports that exist in the Paralympic Games but not in the Olympics? If you don’t already know, use Internet resources to find out, and write a brief description of the two you choose.

Vaccine News Update

As of August 2021, about half of the total U.S. population (roughly 164 million people) have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Seventy percent of adults have received at least one shot. That’s a very good sign. However, the highly contagious delta variant continues to surge across the nation. There are as many as 100,000 cases per day in some places across the country. An average of five hundred Americans continue to die of COVID-19 every day. Now, doctors as the Centers for Disease Control and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy are advising people over 18 who are already vaccinated to get an additional booster shot. That’s because vaccines become less effective over time.

The White House’s goal is to administer 100 million booster shots over the next few months. Here is what you need to know about the booster shots.

  1. Booster shots for adults 18 and over will be available starting the week of September 20, 2021.
  2. Those eligible should get the booster at the same location where the original shot was administered.
  3. Eligible adults must wait eight months after their second shot to receive the booster.
  4. Boosters are only available for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Johnson & Johnson has not yet released plans to supply a booster for those who received their single-shot vaccine.

On August 23, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it had given full approval to the Pfizer vaccine. This replaces the emergency use authorization that the vaccine has been distributed under since December 2020. Full approval means that the vaccine has been fully tested by the FDA and should be considered as equal to all commonly available vaccines for other common diseases.

Dig Deeper Use Internet resources, such as this Our World In Data website, to locate the following information for your state: the total number of vaccine doses given; the number of people fully vaccinated; and the percent fully vaccinated. Then visit a site, such as this New York Times interactive site, to learn your state’s most recent daily average of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Historic Boost to Food Assistance

U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C.
New SNAP benefits will bring food aid to Americans. Credit: Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress [LC-DIG-highsm-12945]

For many lower-income families, the federal government’s SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) can be a literal lifesaver. According to the Agriculture Department, one out of every eight Americans–more than 42 million people–rely on this program  every month. Now, thanks to the Biden administration, those who participate in SNAP will see the biggest boost to their benefits in history. Beginning October 1, 2021, every participant will receive an average of $36.24 more per month. This is a permanent boost, and it means that families will receive over 25 percent more in benefits than they did before the pandemic. The exact dollar amount of the increase varies by state, but it’s based on the Thrifty Food Plan. The Thrifty Food Plan is the amount of money it costs to buy groceries for a nutritious, practical, budget-conscious diet for a family of four.

The increase is based on changes to nutritional guidance, food prices, and the American diet. The Department of Agriculture points out that a healthy diet prevents disease and reduces health care costs. Better nutrition also allows children to learn better. So why is this happening now? The COVID-19 crisis made it clear that many struggling families simply weren’t receiving the help they needed just to get by.

Dig Deeper The exact increase that families will see in their monthly SNAP benefits varies by state. Visit this U.S. government website to find out what it will be for participants in your state.