Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Oct 20, 2017 in Stuff You Should Know

Clothing of Calamity

You clean out your closet and find bags of old clothes you don’t want anymore. What should you do with them? Maybe it would be a good idea to send them to Africa for people in need?

Think again. What you see as a charitable gesture might actually be doing more harm than good.

Right now, secondhand donations are the primary source of clothing in Africa. In fact, 70% of all donated garments end up on the continent. But many African nations, particularly those in East Africa, don’t want foreign hand-me-downs any longer. This is because they’re trying to manufacture their own clothing. Some nations even consider it morally offensive to accept these donations. In Kenya, the foreign cast-offs are called “clothes of dead white people.” In Mozambique, they are called the “clothing of calamity.”

Because of this, last year, the nations of Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Burundi raised import tariffs sky-high on secondhand clothing from foreign nations. Their goal is to ban the donations outright by 2019. Experts say that ten years from now, East Africa could be exporting up to $83 billion annually in garments.

However, several American clothing exporters are angry with this decision. They say that 40,000 American jobs (such as sorting and packing) will be lost if the ban goes through. Also, if it isn’t donated, the cast-off American clothing will be thrown away and end up in landfills instead, which is bad for the environment. Therefore, the United States has responded by threatening to remove the East African nations from the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which is a trade deal intended to promote economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa, if the nations go through with the ban.

Dig Deeper So, that bag of unwanted clothing in your closet: what can you do with it? Using internet resources, identify a charity near you that accepts clothing donations for people in need in your area, rather than sending them overseas.

Athletes Boycott Trump Hotels

Lately, the news has been full of stories about President Trump going head-to-head with professional athletes about their right to sit or kneel during the National Anthem. Many players have spoken out against Trump and his policies, while Trump has called players who don’t stand for the anthem offensive names and said that they should be fired.

But the tension between Trump and professional athletes goes back much farther than this. Sports teams have been hitting Trump where it hurts: his wallet. In fact, professional teams have been pulling their business out of Trump hotels since June 2015, when Trump first launched his bid for the presidency.

The Washington Post recently sent questionnaires to 123 teams from the NBA, the NFL, the NHL, and the MLB, asking them if they stay at Trump hotels while on the road. Out of the 105 teams who responded, none would confirm that they did.

Some teams, especially those in the NFL, have never made a habit of staying at Trump properties, due to expensive rates or inconvenient locations. But for other franchises, the president’s divisive politics are definitely an issue. Out of the 17 teams that have stayed at Trump properties in recent years, at least 16 have now stopped.

This takes a big bite out of Trump’s businesses. NBA teams used to make a regular habit of staying at Trump SoHo when visiting Manhattan. The teams would pay about $20,000 per night for rooms and food. Now, corporate event bookings at Trump SoHo are down, staff layoffs might be required, and the hotel’s sushi restaurant closed down earlier this year.

What Do You Think? Would you stop purchasing or using a product or service that you enjoy because of political differences with the person who owns the business? Why or why not?

Nielson Named to DHS Post

When retired General John F. Kelly left his post as the head of the Department of Homeland Security to become President Trump’s White House Chief of Staff, it left his old position vacant. Now, Trump has appointed Kristjen Nielson to fill the post.

Nielson was a former Homeland Security official under President George W. Bush. She’s the first nominee for Homeland Security Director who has actually served in the department. She is praised as being intelligent, well-qualified, and no-nonsense, and is considered an expert in her field. As DHS secretary, she would be in charge of 240,000 employees and responsible for, among many other things, managing disasters such as the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Because of this, some Congressional Democrats have expressed concern about Nielson’s fitness for the job. Twelve years ago, Nielson was serving under President Bush as special assistant to the president for prevention, preparedness, and response when Hurricane Katrina hit. That was the costliest disaster in American history, and Nielson and her team were widely criticized for their delayed and inadequate response.

Many Democrats are also worried about Nielson’s close relationship to President Trump, saying that it’s important for the Department of Homeland Security secretary to stay well above partisan politics. Both of these issues are likely to come up during Nielson’s Senate confirmation hearings over the next few weeks.

Dig Deeper Using the internet, create a time line identifying some key points from Kristjen Nielson’s life and career. In your opinion, is she a good choice for DHS secretary? Why or why not?

Trump Takes on the ACA

Once again, President Trump is going after the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as the ACA, or “Obamacare”). This time, rather than waiting for a bill to make its way through Congress, he’s doing it all by himself: by signing an executive order.

Trump’s October 12 executive order did two things to weaken the ACA. First, it made it possible for insurance companies to now sell less expensive “junk” plans, which are cheaper but have fewer benefits and fewer protections for customers. This is dangerous because families in need will often buy the cheapest plan they can, only to find out later after a medical emergency that they won’t actually receive any coverage. This was common practice in the pre-ACA era, and many people went bankrupt as a result.

Secondly, Trump announced that the government would no longer provide financial assistance to insurance companies that help lower-income customers pay their out-of-pocket deductibles and co-pays. Both of these changes threaten the most vulnerable group of Americans: the poor and the sick.

In the meantime, the Trump administration has also been taking other actions to weaken the Affordable Care Act. They made it harder for Americans to enroll in the program by cutting enrollment advertising from $100 million to $10 million, shutting down the ACA website for long periods of time during open enrollment, cutting funding to groups who help people enroll, and taking helpful enrollment information off of the ACA website. They sponsored videos and advertisements criticizing the ACA. They also rewrote the rules so that plans no longer have to cover many forms of birth control.

What Do You Think? The basic idea behind health insurance is that everyone buys into the system, whether they need it or not, and then people who need to take out of it, do. In essence, the healthy pay for the sick, and the young for the elderly. Some Congressional Republicans have said recently that they don’t think this system is fair. What do you think?