In the News: Week of June 28th

What happened in the world from June 28th to July 4th

In the news this week

Russia paid bounties to Islamic militants in Afghanistan for killing U.S. soldiers, according to an intelligence leak to the New York Times. President Trump was briefed on the situation back in February, or at least the intelligence was included in his daily written brief, but Trump claims he knew nothing about it. He says this is “just another hoax,” even as the corroborating evidence, such as testimony of captured militants and half a million dollars recovered by Afghan agents, piles up.

Mexico closed the U.S. border in Arizona right before the holiday weekend over coronavirus fears. Sonora, Mexico is usually a hot American tourist destination for July 4th, but not this year. Maybe Mexico will be willing to pitch in for that border wall after all. Americans are also banned from traveling to most countries in Europe for the time being. America’s switch from the “save lives” strategy to the “herd immunity” strategy happened a couple months ago, but we’re just now hitting our stride. Our hospitals should be filled up in no time.

China passed a new security law to restrict the rights of Hong Kong residents. The new law is intentionally ambiguous, and China can give sentences of life imprisonment for crimes such as “separatism, subversion, terrorism, and collusion.” Under the new law, damaging a government building would be considered subversion and punishable by life imprisonment. Another serious crime is “inducing residents to hate the government in Beijing or Hong Kong,” which gives China power to imprison anyone who speaks out against the government. Suspects in these types of crimes will be held without bail, and trials will be closed to the media and the public. In important cases (again, intentionally vague), the suspects can be extradited to mainland China. Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said the law “is devastating in that it appears to have no bounds.”

The Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law intended to limit abortion on Monday. The law required doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberal justices in striking down the law, and wrote that “the Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law [a similar law that was struck down by the court in 2016], for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.” Abortion rights activists said the law would have disproportionately affected poor women and women of color.

Headline of the Week: ‘Covid Parties’ Are Not a Thing

Have you seen recent headlines claiming frat boys are throwing “coronavirus parties” and betting on who can get sick first? Stories like this have been popping up everywhere over the past week, but there’s no evidence these parties actually exist. Yes, there are parties happening, and many people are probably catching coronavirus at these parties, but there’s no evidence of groups of people trying to become infected.

These stories gain traction because they reinforce our existing beliefs. It doesn’t sound that surprising that a group of fraternity brothers would throw a party to try to catch coronavirus. College students normally think they’re invincible, and frat boys don’t really have a reputation for being the most intelligent college students, especially ones from Alabama (sorry, Alabama). At first glance it sounds like something that could be going on.

While college kids aren’t getting themselves sick on purpose, many of them might as well be. Much of the country has gone on living a normal life throughout the pandemic, and young adults especially are being infected at an extremely high rate. The outlook for younger folks isn’t nearly as bad as it is for older folks, but it’s still irresponsible to behave in a way that increases your risk of exposure. Unless you are quarantining yourself for 14 days after every party or social outing, you could be putting anyone you come into contact with at risk.

Recommended Reading: The Dudes Who Won’t Wear Masks

Public messaging on masks in the United States has been terrible since the pandemic began. Initially, we had a shortage of masks. In order to preserve masks for healthcare workers, public officials convinced the American public that masks were not needed and not effective for regular people, which has turned out to be a huge mistake. If public health officials recommended cloth masks at the beginning of the pandemic, and if Donald Trump wouldn’t refuse to put on a mask, our country would be in a very different situation right now and many more people would be alive today.

That didn’t happen, though, and there’s no way to unring that bell. Some Republican officials have come around, like Vice President Mike Pence and the governor of Texas, who recently issued a mask order, but face coverings are still seen by many as a political statement. By wearing a mask, you are admitting that coronavirus is something to be concerned about. Men are less likely than women to wear masks because they think masks are “shameful,” “a sign of weakness,” and “not cool.” 

It shouldn’t really be surprising that so many people refuse to wear masks. How many people smoke cigarettes? Wearing a mask is obviously pretty different from smoking cigarettes, but there are quite a few parallels. Both cigarette smokers and non-mask wearers endanger their health and the health of those around them. Cigarette smoking and not wearing a mask are both dangerous, and some even think it’s cool. Showing a lack of regard for your own life and the lives of others around you is a type of behavior more often exhibited by stubborn, arrogant, inconsiderate men, so it’s no surprise that’s exactly who’s refusing to wear masks.

Nobody is arguing that masks are fun, and nobody enjoys wearing one. They’re uncomfortable, and they make human interaction more difficult; conversations are completely different without facial expressions. We wear masks because we care about our own health and the health of others. That may not be cool, but I’d much rather have a long, uncool, safe life than a brief dangerous one.

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