Bits ‘n’ Pieces: August 19, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling: 

Irony: “Insurance companies complain about the costs of climate change — worse hurricanes, floods and droughts mean higher insurance payouts,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). But at the same time they provide insurance for industries that are fueling climate change. According to Whitehouse, insurers need to “stop underwriting fossil fuel expansion and phase out insurance for existing fossil fuels.” The latest IPCC study of climate change emphasized that further expansion of fossil fuel extraction will accelerate climate change to the point of ever more, greater, and costly storm events.

Officially confirmed: July 2021 was the hottest month ever recorded in human history, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The National Guard is aiding Oregon in addressing its Delta variant COVID-19 hospital crisis, according to numerous news sources. Hospitals are overflowing and people seeking ICU care for car crashes or heart attacks are at risk. Especially hard hit are areas where less than half of adults are vaccinated. Delta variant cases in Oregon went from 15% to 96% in six weeks.

Two airplane passengers were fined $16,000 each for using fake COVID-19 vaccination cards. Also, thousands of counterfeit vaccination cards were seized in Tennessee, The Hill reported.

A CDC study looked at 246 people who were not vaccinated after having COVID-19, and found the risk for reinfection was 2.34 times greater, as compared to those vaccinated after having COVID-19.

Why has Afghanistan’s military collapsed so quickly? A Washington Post report said that despite 20 years of training and billions in U.S. aid to the nation, there were deals made between rural villages and militant groups, as well as “some of the Afghan government’s lowest-ranking officials.” The deals included money if government forces would hand over their guns. (The Miles for Migrants organization says Afghanistan is also challenged by severe drought and COVID-19.) Those deals then expanded across the country. Compliance was aided by the suspicion that lack of U.S. presence would inevitably put the Taliban in power. Another problem: lack of pay. Officers with the Kandahar police force said corruption was more to blame than incompetence: Without the U.S. presence, there was “no fear of being caught for corruption.” For many, going without pay made them willing to accept the Taliban’s hard-to-resist offers for joining them.

Critics of President Joe Biden’s pull out from Afghanistan were once advocates of what they are now criticizing, Business Insider has pointed out. As well, many Republicans have said the U.S. should have done more to protect and evacuate Afghanistan’s U.S. supporters, but 16 of those Republicans voted last month against another 8,000 immigration visas (added to 11,000) for those people. The bill, the ALLIES Act, did pass the House and is now in the Senate awaiting action.

The Refugee Council USA is urging the Biden administration “to bring Afghan refugees to safety immediately,” and say there are numerous re-settling and refugee-serving organizations ready to help.

There are 80,000 Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders and their families are “in grave danger,” according to the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. The agency says the U.S. should protect Afghan allies who provided protection to U.S. forces. There are also “tens of thousands” of other vulnerable populations, including women’s rights activists, journalists and NGO workers.

Blast from the (recent) past: During the almost 20 years that the U.S. has been in Afghanistan, 2,448 troops and personnel died and 20,722 Americans were wounded. The cost has been more than $1 trillion. After close to 3,000 lives lost due to the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on American soil, the Afghan war began under President George W. Bush, who expanded it to include Iraq. The Obama administration ordered a troop surge and took out Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and hoped to be able to leave Afghanistan. Instead, violence there increased. Former-President Donald Trump initiated negotiations with the Taliban, but they excluded Afghanistan (the Taliban then endorsed Trump for president). Republican veteran and lawmaker Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said both Democrats and Republicans have failed in Afghanistan.

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