Friday, December 08, 2023

Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

| August 24, 2021 7:00 AM

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 U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). But at the same time they provide insurance for industries that are fueling climate change. Whitehouse argues that insurers need to “stop underwriting fossil fuel expansion and phase out insurance for existing fossil fuels.”

The latest massive Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change study 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 of this year 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 their delta variant COVID-19 hospital crisis, according to multiple 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 percent to 96 percent in six weeks.

Two airline passengers recently 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study looked at 246 people who were not vaccinated after having COVID-19 and found the risk for reinfection was 2.34 times greater than those vaccinated after beating 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 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., there was “no fear for being caught for corruption.” For many, going without pay made them willing to accept the Taliban’s hard-to-resist offers.

Critics of President Joe Biden’s withdrawal 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 many 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 said 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 while 20,722 Americans were wounded. The cost has been over $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 the Global War on Terror to include Iraq.

President Barack Obama ordered a troop surge and his administration took out Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Officials under that administration hoped to be able to leave Afghanistan. Instead, violence there increased. The U.S. and Afghan government agreed to the U.S. helping to train their soldiers. By 2018, though, with help from foreign investors, mining, the opium industry and a questionable tax system, the Taliban was holding power in two-thirds of Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump initiated negotiations with the Taliban, but they excluded Afghanistan (the Taliban then endorsed Trump for president). The Republican National Committee website celebrated the breakthrough and the chance to bring troops home (that was recently removed). The Taliban did not kill U.S. military people, but did kill Afghan leaders.

When announcing withdrawal plans in April, Biden said it’s time for the Afghan people to determine their destiny. Instead of aid with troops, Biden has opted to cut the money flow to terrorists through financial and economic sanctions.

As historian Heather Cox Richardson has observed, without U.S. military presence, the Afghan military “simply melted away.” The Afghan president recently left the country and the Taliban is rapidly gaining power. Republican veteran and lawmaker Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said both Democrats and Republicans have failed in Afghanistan.