Aftermath of the Afghan Exodus and What’s Left

Effective August 31, 2021, the U.S. and NATO forces have officially left Afghanistan, leaving the country back in the Taliban’s hands. Taliban celebrated their victory and return to power.
That being said, the U.S. still has some homework left over. There are still Americans in Afghanistan. Out of the 250,000 Afghan folks that assisted the U.S. forces, more than 100,000 are still in Afghanistan.
During the White House briefing today, a question arose as to the rescue plan for those remaining in Afghanistan after the August 31 deadline. The Chief of Press gave somewhat of an ambiguous answer but promised that anyone who has helped the U.S. that wants to come to the States would be given chances to do so, along with any American still stuck in Afghanistan.
Last Thursday, 13 U.S. service members and hundreds of Afghans were killed when a suicide bomber detonated the bomb at the gate of Kabul International Airport. Pres. Biden has promised that the U.S. would retaliate against ISIS-K for the attack and did so briefly after the attack.
Since the withdrawal began, Pres. Biden has seen a significant drop in approval rating, both in the execution of the withdrawal and in the quick overtaking of Afghanistan by the Taliban despite billions of dollars that had gone into training the Afghan military.
Many Americans are questioning the purpose of the Afghanistan campaign; some are even comparing it to the Vietnam war. The hardest struck are the Veterans of the Afghanistan-Iran conflict, who are now wondering why they went to a 20-year war where the result was the Taliban’s quick return and takeover of Afghanistan.
There are stories of U.S. citizens and green card holders being turned away at Taliban checkpoints and being beaten; it is unclear as to whether all U.S. citizens and green card holders have made it out safely.
With ISIS-K’s attack last Thursday, it is truly questionable as to whether the U.S. even succeeded at wiping out the terrorist threat to the safety of U.S. democracy.

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US leaving Afghanistan, China staying

As the Taliban closed in on Kabul, China has contacted the Taliban to seek the guarantee of safety for its citizens still in Afghanistan; for example, the Chinese embassy in Kabul has reported that it intends to remain in Kabul and had contacted the Taliban, stating that it was trusting Taliban’s declaration that it would transition the country under an “open, inclusive Islamic nation,” and ensure the safety of Afghan citizens and foreign missions be carried out.

This is in stark contrast to the behaviors of the western powers’ sudden and immediate departure from the country as the Taliban closed in on Kabul. However, one cannot help but wonder how China’s relationship with the Taliban might actually play out, given China’s own behavior towards its Islamic minority in Xinjiang region. According to a 2002 paper by Wang Yaning, lecturer at the Chinese Armed Police Force Academy, more than 400 “separatists” were known to be trained in light and heavy weapons and explosive devices in Taliban training camps.

While the opportunity exists for China to play a bigger role in Afghanistan, a land filled with precious metals that are becoming ever more important. Of course, some argue that continued U.S. presence would have been much easier on Beijing to deal with than the Taliban; nonetheless, China is attempting to build a relationship with Afghanistan while they shuffle in their minority Muslim population into “work camps” reminiscent of concentration camps in various regions in Xinjiang.

China also might have to deal with the influx of Afghani refugees, as some choose to leave their homes to avoid persecution from Taliban rule. There is also the issue of detention camps in Xinjiang and radicalization of Uyghur population with growing anti-Chinese sentiment. However, even that number’s validity is unclear as some argue that Chinese government inflated the numbers to justify its actions.

Depending on what position the Taliban takes as it takes over Afghanistan, China might actually deal have much to deal with on its plate, very far from the only positive outcome, which would be access to rare earth metals while maintaining its control over Xinjiang. It might be that China could be stuck between a rock and hard place, as it loses the safety on the borders over Central Asia, loses out on possible access to precious metals, with extremist radical population seeking independence as it deals with the dissonance’s breaking point in its political system and the economic policies. At the moment, only time will tell.

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Biden Eliminates Three Major Trump Policies

President Biden signed Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions on Wednesday to eliminate three of Trump’s stances during his time in office: climate change, finance, employment discrimination claims.

Pres. Biden stated, “I’m about to sign into law three bills … protecting our planet from climate disturbing greenhouse gas, particularly methane, which is devastating, protecting consumers from predatory lenders and protecting workers from employment discrimination,” and added, “Each of these bills reflects a return to common sense and commitment to the common good.”

The CRA only requires a simple majority vote in both chambers and presidential approval. As Democrats are the majority in both chambers, there were no expected hardships in passing the bill.

The CRA was equally used by then-Pres. Trump to eliminate many of his predecessor’s regulations, some of which will be restored by the Biden administration.

The climate rule that Biden got rid of included a weakened regulation of methane under Trump’s rule. Pres. Biden took it back to 2016 Obama-era regulations that encouraged the use of clean fuels which minimizes methane output; methane is known to be one of the more impactful greenhouse gases.

Another rule allowed lenders to offer loans at interest rates that exceed state limits if they team up with a federally chartered bank headquartered in a state with a higher cap. The Trump administration argued that the rule clears up uncertainty surrounding who the “true lender” is in such cases, but opponents said it allows lenders to charge consumers higher rates,” according to The Hill.

The employment discrimination against employees due to more information requiring to get a job will be removed. Under the Trump administration, more information was required of people to clarify their “identity” and fit for the job. The Trump administration said the additional information would improve transparency, while critics said it could lead to retaliation because employers would be able to [better identify] victims and witnesses, with employers also having an advantage in potential litigation through early access to information.”

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Heat Wave in the Northwest, Flood Warning in the Northeast

Photo from Weather.gov.

A prolonged heatwave hit the Pacific Northwest last week and the Northeast is now in a flood warning situation. According to the national weather forecast from Weather.gov, the heatwave expanded into the Northern High Plains from the Northwest, and the Northern Rockies. In the Northeast, after almost 100 degrees temperatures with high humidity on the last day of June, severe weather with a flood warning is in effect for the evening.

National Weather service’s excessive heat warning is still in effect for the Pacific Northwest, from July 1st to the 4th of July. In the meantime, the weather forecast warns of rain all day long with cooler temperatures but severe thunderstorms capable of causing floods for the Northeast.

A cold front is moving slowly up the southeast coast of the U.S. into the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic. While the front will bring brief relief from the hot and muggy days, the air mass is so buoyant, it is likely to also bring severe thunderstorms. Both floods and high winds are risks, as they also have the capacity of knocking the electricity down. Storms may also produce rainfalls in excess of 1″ per hour leading to the risk for flash flooding. A Marginal Risk is in effect for the Southeast on Friday for rain totals in excess of 1″.

Folks living in areas from the Ohio Valley to the Southwest as far down as the Mid-Mississippi Valley to Southeastern Kansas may also see excessive rainfall as well as cold front heads in that direction. These would be flash flood warnings, as the soil conditions are also known to be saturated and would not absorb the rainfall as easily. Tropical Storm Enrique will be dropping some much-needed rain and thunderstorms into the Desert in the Southwest, although as always, excessive rainfall concerns are to be noted.

High temperatures will remain at or below normal for this time of year across the southern U.S., with daily highs mainly in the 80s.

The areas in much need of water, such as California and the Pacific Northwest will continue to experience sunny days, unfortunately.

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United Airlines To Expand, Buying 270 New Planes

United Airlines announced that it has ordered 270 new aircraft for domestic travelers. Since the pandemic, there has been a rebound of domestic travelers instead of international travelers. As a result, United Airlines will be replacing the older aircraft, improve seatback entertainment, and space for carry-on bags with new aircraft features.

According to United Airlines, this is the “the largest combined order in the airline’s history and the biggest by an individual carrier in the last decade,” and “The ‘United Next’ plan will have a transformational effect on the customer experience and is expected to increase the total number of available seats per domestic departure by almost 30%, significantly lower carbon emissions per seat and create tens of thousands of quality, unionized jobs by 2026, all efforts that will have a positive, ripple effect across the broader U.S. economy.”

“Our United Next vision will revolutionize the experience of flying United as we accelerate our business to meet a resurgence in air travel,” said United CEO Scott Kirby. “By adding and upgrading this many aircraft so quickly with our new signature interiors, we’ll combine friendly, helpful service with the best experience in the sky, all across our premier global network. At the same time, this move underscores the critical role United plays in fueling the broader U.S. economy – we expect the addition of these new aircraft will have a significant economic impact on the communities we serve in terms of job creation, traveler spending, and commerce.”

United Airlines received $54 billion in federal aids, and most of them were grants. The government gave aids to US-based Airlines in exchange for not cutting jobs or pay rates, though thousands of workers received furlough notice from the companies and received cut pay rates for certain periods of time.

For example, while American Airlines furloughed almost 20% of its workers, it also paid out $1.4 million bonuses for the CEO last year, drawing criticism.

However, many airline employees chose to move onto other jobs, and now, airlines are struggling to fill their rosters, although United is hiring again for the new aircraft operations in its 7 hubs. According to United Airlines, at least 25,000 jobs will be created with new aircraft orders. Currently, the airline supports about 68,000 union jobs, and 89% of jobs are mostly the airline’s total domestic workforce. Some of this hiring will be done at D.C.’s Dulles Airport hub.

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Pandemic Changes Peoples’ Preference

People in the U.S. are changing their minds about many things now that they’ve experienced a pandemic. They prefer to do more family-oriented things than spend that time at work. In April 2021 alone, 4 million workers quit their jobs. Since the pandemic hit, many people have been working from home or at places near their homes. As a result, more workers are hesitant to return to a life of extensive commuting time or to the office, where they have to spend needless hours engaging in things like work politics.

According to the Labor Department, the U.S. population wants more money, easier or no commute, and more flexibility in terms of their employment. People would rather spend the time to be with their family than spend it at the office. As corporations seek to bring people back post-pandemic, they are facing increasing hesitation and friction against returning to the office, especially now that many workers have finally adjusted back to working from home. Furthermore, many workers have also realized that they can perform their jobs at home, as last year is evidence of this.

People are reassessing what they value in light of the pandemic. That promotion doesn’t seem as attractive now as it might have been prior to the pandemic. Some people have realized that they earn more money from unemployment than from their minimum-wage jobs and are reevaluating their options. The fact is that the labor market is currently lacking incentives for people to want to return to the ways prior to the pandemic.

The shortage of workforce might lead to the end of the debate of raising the minimum wage; if no one wants to work at minimum wage, then those jobs will not be filled. Some companies requiring minimum wage workers are now attempting to lure in workers using “sign-up bonuses” and other incentives to get people back to the office.

However, most people are now demanding flexible work arrangements and higher pay, especially now that they know these things are possible. The labor market will have to meet the demands of its desired workers or not have the supply of workers they need. Simple economic concept.

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Delta COVID-19 Will Hit US HARD

Captured photo from Mayo Clinic

The U.K. and Europe are currently dealing with the sleuth of the very contagious Delta Variant of the Covid-19 virus, first found in India. The U.S. should expect to be hit hard by the Delta variant, federal officials and health officials have reported.

Dr. Fauci said, “20.6% of new cases in the U.S. are due to the Delta variant, and the Delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” at a White House briefing on COVID-19 on Tuesday. He added that the Delta variant is the most contagious yet and among those not yet vaccinated, may trigger some of the most serious illnesses than other variants have done so far.

As the U.S. eases up on physical distancing and masking rules, many people are exposed to this rapidly spreading virus, especially the unvaccinated, the younger generation, and those under the age of 12.

According to Mayo Clinic, at least 92.4% (as of June 2, 2021) of the age group of 65+ and only 11.1% of the age group of 18 are vaccinated. Northeast, West, and Mid-Atlantic states are more vaccinated than the red states, but even then, these states do not report a vaccination rate higher than 70 percent.

“There are still big portions of the country where the rates of vaccination are quite low,” notes Dr. Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. “And, in fact, the Helix paper shows that this Delta variant is increasing in frequency — the speed at which it’s increasing in frequency is greatest in those areas where vaccination rates are lowest.”

It is also important to note that even those who are currently vaccinated are not fully protected from the devastating effects of the Delta variant, which also includes the growth of the “black fungus,” a serious infection that usually is resolved by cutting out the infected body part. The unvaccinated are even more vulnerable, however.

If you have not been vaccinated, please do so as soon as possible, for your safety and others around you.

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College Enrollment Declines in Spring 2021

The college enrollment rate dropped significantly in spring 2021. Compared with spring 2020, college enrollment declined almost 5%, and the data show from the National Student Clearinghouse, college enrollment saw at least 727,000 students less than expected. According to NPR, after the pandemic took hold last year, many students did not enroll in classes, and many of them were unable to afford to go to college.

Last fall semester, 3.6% of students didn’t take classes, and this spring semester, the rate dropped even more. “It’s really the end of a truly frightening year for higher education. There will be no easy fixes or quick [bounces] backs” said Doug Shapiro, National Student Clearinghouse.

The pandemic hit hardest on the students in minority and low-income families groups, and some of the students went back to the workforce to help with the maintenance of their household. Furthermore, as the housing market skyrocketed during the pandemic, the younger generation is choosing to engage in handyman or other trades jobs to earn higher income in shorter periods of time.

Surprisingly, graduate program enrollments went up to more than 120,000 students this spring. Nowadays, a college degree is not enough for most to obtain the job they want, especially due to the inflation of a college degree.

It now seems as Gen Z are choosing either to obtain a higher degree or to find stable employment through other means, one that doesn’t require a college education, in an uncertain era where college doesn’t guarantee a stable job.

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Biden Calls for Further investigation of Covid-19 Origin

On Wednesday, President Biden set a time limit of 60 days for the investigation of the origin of Covid-19 and how it transferred throughout the globe. Once deemed conspiracy, the idea of Covid-19 being developed in a lab in Wuhan has now become a focal point for the new investigation. Most scientists tend to agree that the most likely origin of Covid-19 is likely to be from an animal reservoir similar to how other Sars virii had spread in past years; however, the idea that the virus was developed in Wuhan continues to challenge the main narrative. Technically, no one is 100 percent sure how the Covid-19 pandemic actually manifested to this extent. The scientists however, are cautionary about stating that this virus leaked from a lab; they’re simply interested in how the next pandemic might be prevented.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak was pinpointed to Wuhan, China, the world attitude towards Asians, with Chinese in particular, have gotten significantly negative; the U.S. saw a significant increase in hate crime perpetrated against Asian elderly, and many Asians have reported living in trepidation of receiving hatred from those around them.
According to NPR, Dr. Anthony Fauci (President Biden’s chief medical adviser) told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday, “The historical basis for pandemics evolving naturally from an animal reservoir is extremely strong. And it’s for that reason that we felt that something similar like this has a much higher likelihood. No one knows, not even I, 100% at this point, which is the reason why we are in favor of [the] further investigation.”
Dr. Gounder, an infectious disease expert who served on the Biden transition team’s COVID-19 advisory board, agrees.
Scientists said that they’d have to investigate, not for the purpose of confirming a conspiracy, but for the purpose of figuring out how to prevent this kind of virus-related pandemics in the future.
The hope is that the investigation will ultimately save many innocent lives and decrease hate crime and violence against innocent Asians living in America or Europe by finding the truth.
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Super Pink Moon Visible Tonight on the Northeast Sky

NASA announced that the first supermoon of the year will be “April 26, 2021, appearing opposite the Sun in Earth-based longitude at 11:32 p.m. EDT. [This will be the next day from the Atlantic Daylight Savings timezone eastward across Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia.]  Most commercial calendars are based on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) or Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and will show this full Moon occurring on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The Moon will appear full for about three days around this time, from Sunday night through Wednesday morning,” on its Twitter account.

This “Pinkish color” of the supermoon will be the first supermoon of the year, and the second one will be seen on May 26 when it will brighten the sky one more time. The names of this supermoon are “Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes of North America, the Fish Moon, as this was when the shad swam upstream to spawn,” according to NASA.

The “pink” of the supermoon on April 26 is based on the herb moss pink, which is native to the Eastern United States and known to be the fastest blooming in springtime.

Supermoons seem greater because of the slightly closer distance to Earth. There will be two supermoons this year.

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