Is the white population in the US really ‘shrinking’?

Is the white population in the US really ‘shrinking’?

<span>Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock


The Census Bureau released the first detailed results of the 2020 census this month, and many media reports highlighted the nation’s growing diversity, which is real, and the dramatically shrinking white population, which is … not so much.

First the data: The white population didn’t “shrink” to 57.8% as widely reported – unless you believe in the old “one-drop” rule, where one ancestor of another race means you are not fully and authentically accepted as white. Moreover, this statistic excludes people who checked the Hispanic box, many of whom identify as ethnically Hispanic but racially white.

What happened for the first time was people who identify as “white” were also able to document their detailed multi-racial ancestry. In fact, including the 31.1 million white people who indicated they also were part of another racial group, whites in 2020 constituted 71% of the population – an increase of more than 4 million white people since 2010. That’s because the 2020 census form made it much easier for Americans to claim their diverse heritage compared with 2010, and this affects all groups, including the white population.

What’s becoming less common is Americans identifying as only one race. Fully 10% of all Americans selected more than one race, up from just 3% in 2010, a jump from 9 million to 33.8 million in only one decade. So, what could account for the incredible increase in multiracial population by 2020? Birth records indicate that just 2.3 million multiracial children were born during this decade. Certainly, more Black people or Pacific Islanders, for example, may have claimed white ancestry for the first time this decade. But people who previously identified as “white alone”, and who are claiming their Native American, Asian or African American ancestry for the first time, are probably the driving force behind the increase. The Census Bureau itself acknowledged that the “decline” in the white population is largely due to more white people choosing additional race categories.

A more accommodating decennial census form seems to be driving a strong increase in the number of people identifying as multiracial – particularly among white people. All those DNA tests we’ve been taking may have contributed as well.

And we need to also applaud the Census Bureau, not only for completing a census despite a pandemic, forest fires and legal obstacles, but also for a decade of research by Nicholas Jones and others on how best to provide Americans with the wherewithal to self-identify. As a result, what the 2020 census reveals is a more thorough understanding of how diverse, interconnected, and yes, interrelated we actually are – regardless of the categories society lumps us into … for better or worse.

It is shortsighted for journalists and even some social scientists to repeat the myth that the white population of the United States is dramatically shrinking. Instead of pretending that being white is part of a narrowly defined monolithic hulk, America needs to lean in on a new census category that will increasingly come to define us all – “people in combination with everyone else”. Not to do so will continue to feed into a whole suite of white supremacy and fearmongering that denies we are all created equal and are equal before the law and each other. But that’s not the reason it’s wrong to say the white population is shrinking. The reason is, it’s not true.

  • Dr. Allison Plyer, chief demographer of the Data Center in New Orleans and former chair of the US Census Scientific Advisory Committee
  • Dr. Joseph Salvo, former chief demographer of New York City and senior advisor to the National Conference on Citizenship

Taliban special forces bring abrupt end to women’s protest

Taliban special forces bring abrupt end to women’s protest

Afghanistan Women Fighting On     1-6

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban special forces in camouflage fired their weapons into the air Saturday, bringing an abrupt and frightening end to the latest protest march in the capital by Afghan women demanding equal rights from the new rulers.

Also on Saturday, the chief of Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency, which has an outsized influence on the Taliban, made a surprise visit to Kabul.

Taliban fighters quickly captured most of Afghanistan last month and celebrated the departure of the last U.S. forces after 20 years of war. The insurgent group must now govern a war-ravaged country that is heavily reliant on international aid.

The women’s march — the second in as many days in Kabul — began peacefully. Demonstrators laid a wreath outside Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry to honor Afghan soldiers who died fighting the Taliban before marching on to the presidential palace.

“We are here to gain human rights in Afghanistan,” said 20-year-old protester Maryam Naiby. “I love my country. I will always be here.”

As the protesters’ shouts grew louder, several Taliban officials waded into the crowd to ask what they wanted to say.

Flanked by fellow demonstrators, Sudaba Kabiri, a 24-year-old university student, told her Taliban interlocutor that Islam’s Prophet gave women rights and they wanted theirs. The Taliban official promised women would be given their rights but the women, all in their early 20s, were skeptical.

As the demonstrators reached the presidential palace, a dozen Taliban special forces ran into the crowd, firing in the air and sending demonstrators fleeing. Kabiri, who spoke to The Associated Press, said they also fired tear gas.

The Taliban have promised an inclusive government and a more moderate form of Islamic rule than when they last ruled the country from 1996 to 2001. But many Afghans, especially women, are deeply skeptical and fear a roll back of rights gained over the last two decades.

For much of the past two weeks, Taliban officials have been holding meetings among themselves, amid reports of differences among them emerging. Early on Saturday, neighboring Pakistan’s powerful intelligence chief Gen. Faiez Hameed made a surprise visit to Kabul. It wasn’t immediately clear what he had to say to the Taliban leadership but the Pakistani intelligence service has a strong influence on the Taliban.

The Taliban leadership had its headquarters in Pakistan and were often said to be in direct contact with the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Although Pakistan routinely denied providing the Taliban military aid, the accusation was often made by the Afghan government and Washington.

Faiez’ visit comes as the world waits to see what kind of government the Taliban will eventually announce, seeking one that is inclusive and ensures protection of women’s rights and the country’s minorities.

The Taliban have promised a broad-based government and have held talks with former president Hamid Karzai and the former government’s negotiation chief Abdullah Abdullah. But the makeup of the new government is uncertain and it was unclear whether hard-line ideologues among the Taliban will win the day — and whether the rollbacks feared by the demonstrating women will occur.

Taliban members whitewashed murals Saturday that promoted health care, warned of the dangers of HIV and even paid homage to some of Afghanistan’s iconic foreign contributors, like anthropologist Nancy Dupree, who singlehandedly chronicled Afghanistan’s rich cultural legacy. It was a worrying sign of attempts to erase reminders of the past 20 years.

The murals were replaced with slogans congratulating Afghans on their victory.

A Taliban cultural commission spokesman, Ahmadullah Muttaqi, tweeted that the murals were painted over “because they are against our values. They were spoiling the minds of the mujahedeen and instead we wrote slogans that will be useful to everyone.”

Meanwhile, the young women demonstrators said they have had to defy worried families to press ahead with their protests, even sneaking out of their homes to take their demands for equal rights to the new rulers.

Farhat Popalzai, another 24-year-old university student, said she wanted to be the voice of Afghanistan’s voiceless women, those too afraid to come out on the street.

“I am the voice of the women who are unable to speak.” she said. “They think this is a man’s country but it is not, it is a woman’s country too.”

Popalzai and her fellow demonstrators are too young to remember the Taliban rule that ended in 2001 with the U.S.-led invasion. The say their fear is based on the stories they have heard of women not being allowed to go to school and work.

Naiby, the 20-year-old, has already operated a women’s organization and is a spokesperson for Afghanistan’s Paralympics. She reflected on the tens of thousands of Afghans who rushed to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport to escape Afghanistan after the Taliban overran the capital on Aug. 15.

“They were afraid,” but for her she said, the fight is in Afghanistan.

If everyone on Earth sat in the ocean at once, how much would sea level rise?

If everyone on Earth sat in the ocean at once, how much would sea level rise?

<span class="caption">There are a lot of people, but the oceans are very big.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Rosley Majid/EyeEm via Getty Images">Rosley Majid/EyeEm via Getty Images</a></span>
There are a lot of people, but the oceans are very big. Rosley Majid/EyeEm via Getty Images

Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to

If everyone on Earth sat down in the ocean, how far would the water rise? – Zahkaev and Viktor

Hypothetical questions, like what would happen if everyone on Earth went for an ocean swim at once, are fun to think about. And using math, you can get pretty close to a real answer. Let’s start by considering a smaller version of the same question.

Bathtub math

If you fill a bathtub all the way to the top and hop in, you know you’re in for a soggy cleanup. The water overflows because your body pushes it out of the way – something called displacement. Since the tub has a solid bottom and sides, the only direction the water can go is up and out.

The amount of space an object – in this case, you – takes up is called volume. The volume of water that overflows the tub is equal to the volume of your body.

Now think about a situation where the bathtub is only half full. As you hop in, the volume of your body still pushes the water up. You can calculate how much the water level in the tub will rise with a few simple math equations.

Suppose the bathtub is a rectangular box. You can figure out how much the water level will rise when you sit down in the tub by considering how much volume you are adding to the tub and what size area you are spreading this volume over. The amount the water level rises is equal to the added volume divided by the area.

For a bathtub that is 5 feet long and 2 feet wide, the area is 10 square feet.

Now, let’s figure out your volume. To make the math easier, let’s suppose that you, like the bathtub, are also a rectangular box. Let’s say you are about 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide (from left to right) and 1 foot deep (from front to back). The volume of your body would be 4 feet x 2 feet x 1 foot, or 8 cubic feet.

When you sit down, you are adding the volume of approximately half your body to the tub. This means the height of the water level rise is equal to the volume of half your body, divided by the area of the tub. Using the estimates above, this leads to a water level rise of 4 cubic feet divided by 10 square feet, which equals about 5 inches. You would certainly notice that!

High altitude view of the Earth in space.
High altitude view of the Earth in space.
Scaling up

You can think about the oceans as a gigantic bathtub. More than 70% of the Earth’s surface is ocean, giving this bathtub an area of about 140 million square miles. To figure out how much the water will rise, we need to know the volume of people sitting in it and divide it by this ocean area.

Currently, there are almost 8 billion people on Earth. Human beings come in all sizes, from tiny babies to large adults. Let’s assume the average size is 5 feet tall – a bit bigger than a child – with an average volume of 10 cubic feet. Only half of each person’s body would be submerged when they sit down, so only 5 cubic feet adds to the water level. With 8 billion people total, you can calculate 5 x 8 billion which gives a whopping 40 billion cubic feet that would be added to the oceans.

But remember, this volume would be spread over the vast area of the oceans. Using the same bathtub math as before, we divide the 40 billion cubic feet of volume over the 140 million square miles of ocean.

The answer? The total rise in sea level would be about 0.00012 of an inch, or less than 1/1000th of an inch. If everyone completely submerged themselves, this would double the answer to 0.00024 inches, which is still only about the width of a human hair.

It turns out the oceans are enormous – and humans are just a drop in the bucket.

Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live.

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This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Tony E. WongRochester Institute of Technology.

If China’s middle class continues to thrive and grow, what will it mean for the rest of the world?

If China’s middle class continues to thrive and grow, what will it mean for the rest of the world?

<span class="caption">Over the past few decades, hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens have become part of the middle class.</span> <span class="attribution"><span class="source">AP Photo/Ng Han Guan</span></span>
Over the past few decades, hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens have become part of the middle class.
 AP Photo/Ng Han Guan


China’s large and impressive accomplishments over the past four decades have spurred scholars and politicians to debate whether the decline of the West – including the United States – as the world’s dominant political and economic force is inevitable amid the seemingly inexorable rise of the East.

The COVID-19 virus hit China first and hard, stalling its rapid economic growth for the first time since the Great Recession. But China’s economy grew by a blistering 18.3% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to 2020, keeping it solidly in place as the world’s second-largest economy. Many now believe that China, rather than the U.S., may drive the global recovery from the pandemic.

It’s not yet clear that this current rebound means China has regained its former growth rate. But if it does, I believe it will set off a global contest over which form of government will have a dominant influence over global affairs in coming decades: Western-style democracy or China’s brand of authoritarianism.

My research and that of others examines two questions:

  • Will China solve the biggest challenges to maintaining its four-decade growth rate of 7%-8% annually, which has propelled its rising global power?
  • If China does succeed in sustaining this pace, will this be a benefit to the rest of the world?
The ‘middle-income trap’

In 1978, Deng Xiaoping initiated transformative reforms that opened China up to the international community and foreign investment. In 2001, China joined the World Trade Organization and became an enthusiastic participant in global markets and value chains. As a result of these and other economic policies, China has succeeded in rapidly progressing from a low-income to a middle-income nation.

Put another way, globalization has certainly benefited China in many ways up to now. After generations of endemic poverty, hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens have seen wage increases leading to higher disposable income. Now, after paying for basic necessities, they have extra money to save or spend on consumer products such as trendy clothing or tech gadgets.

The gains are now spreading beyond urban centers, with the number of citizens who are both rural and poor in dramatic decline, dropping by 12.89 million between 2016 and 2017 alone. Rural consumer spending is on the rise. As increased agricultural output attenuates fears of famine, daily life in rural communities is improving, while the expansion of nonagricultural rural industries offers them alternative sources of income.

This growing material comfort has led to rising happiness about living in China. Even so, once a country like China achieves middle-income status, it can become trapped: unable to compete with other nations either in the knowledge economy – typically the province of high-income nations – or in the low-wage economy it has left behind.

In an influential study of this “middle-income trap” for a number of countries, the World Bank found that of 101 nations that were middle-income in 1960, only 13 had made it to high-income status by 2008. Partly this was because of what some call a “low productivity equilibrium,” with a relatively small fraction of the overall workforce employed in high-skill jobs such as medical care providers, engineers or managers, rather than low-skill jobs such as farm workers, factory laborers, or retail clerks and cashiers. The remaining 88 countries were either poorer or seemingly stuck in middle-income status.

In addition, many small and large manufacturing companies are responding to China’s rising wages by shifting their operations to countries with lower labor costs, such as India and Vietnam. Forty thousand factories shut down across China every year, eliminating jobs in droves. This means that China has milked low-skilled manufacturing for all its worth, and needs new policies to sustain growth.

China’s education challenge

The world is increasingly divided into two categories: countries that are well-educated and those that aren’t. Since the end of World War II, industrializing nations that have also invested substantially in improving the quality of their high schools, vocational schools and universities have largely avoided the middle-income trap and progressed to high-income status.

In Singapore, for instance, educational system investments of 12%-35% of the annual national budget have given rise to a well-educated, professional, thriving middle class that has anchored ongoing economic growth. Similarly, South Korea has invested heavily in education, spending on average 3.41% of its gross domestic product between 1970 and 2016. This has led to the emergence of a well-educated workforce that has promoted the nation’s economic development for many decades.

Some expert observers believe that China will likely make similar moves successfully, giving it a good chance of escaping the middle-income trap. But for this to happen, the leadership needs to make massive nationwide investments in its educational systems, ranging from improving rural and vocational schools to improving universities and broadening access to urban educational opportunities. These educational investments, which economists term “human capital improvements,” typically take a long time to fully develop.

If China sustained its average annual growth rate of 7% while making this workforce transformation, its per capita income would be about US,000 by 2035, which is almost identical to U.S. per-person income in 2014. That year, about 44% of the U.S. labor force had at least a college education, and 89% a high school diploma. Even optimistic statistical analysis shows that by 2035, China’s education levels will be far lower.

Therefore, the Chinese government will realize its hope of 7% annual growth over the next 20 years only if China manages to produce a numerical relationship between human capital and per capita income that is considerably higher than what the typical global experience thus far has been.

Another challenge is that China is an inequitable country, with the most deeply entrenched rural-urban gap in the world. Under China’s “hukou,” or household registration system, all citizens are assigned at birth to either a rural or an urban hukou. This system, which affects virtually every aspect of one’s life, privileges urban status by providing urban hukou holders with substantially greater and better educational opportunities.

As a result, 260 million Chinese rural hukou holders cannot access the superior education provided in cities. Even when they migrate to urban centers for work, they get left behind because their hukou forces them to live as second-class citizens in their adopted cities. So China must seriously reform the hukou system if it wants to get a secure footing among the “well-educated” nations of the world.

What would a high-income China mean for the rest of the world?

The noted China scholar and Stanford University professor Scott Rozelle has said that “the entire world will be much better off with a thriving China.” He reasons that the world would benefit thanks to continued access to many low-priced goods, while China itself would benefit because increasing personal prosperity would dampen civil political unrest.

But such success might also suggest to developing nations that when it comes to uplifting millions from poverty and delivering broad economic growth and development, socialism with Chinese characteristics is a more desirable model of government than the democracy practiced in the West.

The Chinese Communist Party wishes to remain a firmly authoritarian government. In China, a vast surveillance state tracks people’s faces, scans their phones and is even able to tell when someone has left home.

The government’s persecution of its Muslim-minority Uighur citizens in the Xinjiang region also provides a glimpse of how China might interact with nations and peoples that displease it in a world order that it dominates.

Meanwhile, China is already expanding its international clout through its “Belt and Road Initiative,” which involves investing billions in development projects across Europe, Asia, East Africa and the Western Pacific. In the process China is credibly demanding, and beginning to receive, a dominant political role on the world stage.

It’s too soon to tell whether China will continue to sustain rapid economic growth or make the investments and social reforms it needs to advance most of its citizens into the middle class. But given its determination and progress over the past several decades, it’s plausible that by midcentury, a China equal in wealth and political clout to the U.S. and its coalition of democracies may become a fact. Such a China may well have the power to fracture the current international order into two opposing and incompatible visions about the future of Asia and the world.

It’s Time to Put the Right-Wing Zombie Death Cult on Trial

It’s Time to Put the Right-Wing Zombie Death Cult on Trial

Jena Ardell/Getty
Jena Ardell/Getty


What will the Biden Administration do to save our children from the disease-spreading, right-wing zombie death cult?

This week, we started to find out.

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education opened civil-rights investigations into five states—Iowa, South Carolina, Utah, Oklahoma, and Tennessee—that are banning local school districts from imposing mask mandates. They are relying on two federal laws: the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which protects students with a disability from discrimination and guarantees them a right to a free education, and Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits disability discrimination by public education systems. The states could be found in violation of federal law if the investigation finds that “students with disabilities who are at heightened risk for severe illness from COVID-19 are prevented from safely returning to in-person education.”

The penalties include loss of federal funding—or the school can simply agree to change its policies, which in this case would be choosing life by requiring masking and vaccination for school employees.

These students with heightened risk of illness include my 5-year-old daughter Nusayba, a Stage 4 cancer survivor who is immuno-suppressed due to her liver transplant. I recently wrote about how we were desperately trying to get her into virtual school, along with her brother, Ibrahim, who just turned 7. Thankfully, they were both admitted, and now I’m at home doing tech support until 3:30 p.m., but at least I know they are safe.

Meanwhile, there’s already been one COVID case on the second day of school. And their school is far from the worst of it. Thanks to the GOP’s multi-pronged and coordinated attack on masks, social distancing, and vaccines at schools, Delta is still thriving and there have been massive outbreaks at schools across the country.

This isn’t a “both sides” problem. Of the 10 states with the most COVID-19 cases per capita, as of Wednesday, nine of them were led by Republican governors—surprise!—and voted for Trump in 2020, as The New York Times reported. Meanwhile, 16 Democratic states have statewide mask requirements for schools. Tennessee, one of the five states being sued, just set a new record for COVID hospitalizations, and previously moved to cut off all vaccine outreach to students and young adults.

Now, thousands of its school-aged kids have COVID-19 with no end in sight. Some school districts in the United States are even leaving it up to parents to decide if they will quarantine their exposed child or send the child to school to spread the disease to other unvaccinated children.

Meanwhile, conservative radio hosts and influencers who peddled anti-vax misinformation are winning Darwin Awards and dying weekly from the coronavirus.

However, this doesn’t stop the right-wing hate machine. Onward they persist with their nihilistic, counter-majoritarian death march.

Republicans, such as those in Texas, believe they have the freedom to infect their kid and your kids with coronavirus, but women shouldn’t have the freedom to control their own bodies. Other conservative activists believe “freedom” means harassing and threatening school boards, intimidating health care workers, and spreading the dangerous QAnon conspiracy theory, which is now a domestic terror threat. Among other things, some suggest that anyone who believes in vaccines and mask mandates in schools is actually a “demonic entity” and bears “the mark of the beast.” That’s what Melissa, an alleged nurse from Lee County, Florida, recently said at a school-board meeting where she said that Christians around America will “take them all out,” referring to anyone who opposed her pro-death initiatives to spread COVID-19.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>People protest the North Allegheny School District’s mask mandate.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Alexandra Wimley/AP</div>People protest the North Allegheny School District’s mask mandate. Alexandra Wimley/AP

You’d think she’s a kooky outlier, a walking punchline. But she’s an ordinary rank-and-file soldier in this death movement that is holding our children’s safety hostage to advance their culture war. They aren’t the “American Taliban” or “enforcing Sharia,” and we should stop using Islam and Muslims as the benchmark for extremism. They are agents of White Christian Supremacy hellbent on ensuring minority rule for white men by any violent means necessary.

Our kids are simply the bait and collateral damage.

Steve Lynch, a Republican running for Northampton County executive in Pennsylvania, is an anti-masker encouraging violence against school boards unwilling to submit to his anti-masking belligerence. On Aug. 29, he said, “You go in and you remove ’em. I’m going in there with 20 strong men… They can leave or be removed.”

In Buncombe County, North Carolina, anti-maskers tried to “overthrow” the school board, encouraged in part by Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who fought a tree and lost, and continued rehabilitating the imprisoned violent insurrectionists of Jan. 6 at a recent rally by referring to them as “political hostages.” He said he’s working on “busting them out,” and he also seemed to call for another riot, despite this past one effectively killing five people, including a police officer, and being followed by law-enforcement suicides. He urged the Macon County Republicans to “defend their children” from harmful vaccines.

One of my lovely fans emailed me this week to warn me that violence will “spill out into the streets” and “there [are] 100 million Americans waiting for the day. I don’t foresee any Army coming to the rescue of the voices such as yourself who spin a web of lies and hateful rhetoric.”

He used his full name and email address. There’s no need to hide in the shadows and wear the hoods when your elected officials and your God-King, Trump, openly incite potential violence and criminality.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>A teacher holds up a sign protesting Florida’s decision to open schools last summer.</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty</div>A teacher holds up a sign protesting Florida’s decision to open schools last summer. Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty

They are deliberately using threats of violence to terrorize the majority and have us cede ground. It seems to be working, as school-board members are stepping down across the country, unwilling to tolerate the “toxic and impossible” environment.

We’re dealing with a potential criminal element, and might need to flex with more than the Education Department and broad vaccine mandates to save our kids. I asked former career federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner if the Department of Justice could step in with a criminal investigation if there’s evidence that these GOP-led state governments are actually harming children.

“I happen to believe that, because education is primarily a local issue, that local and state prosecutorial authorities should be evaluating whether the state governors and governments are recklessly and criminally endangering our children,” Kirschner told me, holding Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as “a prime example.”

He believes DeSantis’ mask bans in Florida school districts might give prosecutors enough evidence to initiate a criminal investigation. He cited the recent Florida judge who overturned the recent mask ban and sided with parents whose lawsuit alleges, in part, that the policy violates the state constitution that requires providing a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system” of public schools.

“I cannot understand why our prosecutorial authorities—federal, state, and local—seem to have concluded that we shouldn’t try to hold elected politicians accountable for killing the citizenry,” Kirschner added.

It is still possible that the Department of Education is introducing the carrot before the Department of Justice unleashes the stick. From my eyes, these GOP leaders are helping to actively kill people and harm children with their pro-death policies. That should immediately warrant criminal investigations and liability for causing avoidable COVID deaths.

The rest of us, the majority, need to stand our ground against this belligerent minority for the sake of our children’s safety and public health.

We can’t “both sides” or seek a bipartisan solution with a pro-death movement. Enough.

15 Miami-Dade Public School Staff Members Die Of COVID In Just 10 Days

15 Miami-Dade Public School Staff Members Die Of COVID In Just 10 Days


A 30-year teaching veteran was one of 15 Miami-Dade County public school staff members who died of COVID-19 in just 10 days as Florida continues to reel amid the continuing, overwhelming toll of an unfettered pandemic.

“It’s a tremendous loss,” said a school official, referring to the death of longtime teacher Abe Coleman, 55, earlier this week.

“The number of lives that he impacted are countless. So many young men had the benefit of him intervening in their lives and pointing them in the right direction,” Marcus Bright, who works with a local education program 5000 Role Models of Excellence, told NBC-6 TV.

Coleman taught at Holmes Elementary School in Miami’s Liberty City area, which is a primarily Black neighborhood with 42% of the population living below the poverty line.

Local education officials haven’t released the identities of the other teachers or staff members.

“The loss of any of our employees is one that is always profoundly felt as every member of this organization is considered a part of Miami-Dade County Public Schools family,” the district said in a statement. “We extend our hearts and prayers to the loved ones of those whose lives have recently been lost.”

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has dismissed the importance of COVID-19 vaccinations and signed an executive order banning mask mandates at schools, issued no comment on the astounding death rate in the county schools system.

The state Health Department was sued earlier this week by the Florida Center for Government Accountability and Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith for not providing detailed, daily statistics about Florida’s surging COVID-19 cases in violation of the state’s open-records laws.

The suit argues that the DeSantis administration is deliberately manipulating COVID-19 data to make it appear the problem was not as dire as it actually is.

“The DeSantis administration has consistently refused to release COVID-related public records, which not only hurts our efforts to contain this deadly virus, it is also unlawful,” Smith said in a statement after the suit was filed.

“That’s why we’re suing them — to obtain the public records our constituents are entitled to under the Florida Constitution and to force the state to resume daily COVID dashboard reporting and avoid future litigation on this matter.”

Florida is in the grip of its deadliest wave of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. As of mid-August, the state was averaging 244 deaths a day, eclipsing the previous peak of 227 a year ago. The state reported 2,345 deaths and over 129,000 cases this week. Hospitals have had to rent refrigerated units to store bodies.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19, however, eased slightly over the past two weeks from 17,000 to 14,200.

Largest study of masks yet details their importance in fighting Covid-19

Largest study of masks yet details their importance in fighting Covid-19


A study involving more than 340,000 people in Bangladesh offers some of the strongest real-world evidence yet that mask use can help communities slow the spread of Covid-19.

The research, conducted across 600 villages in rural Bangladesh, is the largest randomized trial to demonstrate the effectiveness of surgical masks, in particular, to curb transmission of the coronavirus. Though previous, smaller studies in laboratories and hospitals have shown that masks can help prevent the spread of Covid, the new findings demonstrate that efficacy in the real world — and on an enormous scale.

“This is really solid data that combines the control of a lab study with real-life actions of people in the world to see if we can get people to wear masks, and if the masks work,” said Laura Kwong, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of the co-authors of the study.

The preprint study was posted online Wednesday by the nonprofit organization Innovations for Poverty Action and is currently undergoing peer review. The research was led by Kwong, Jason Abaluck and Mushfiq Mobarak from Yale University, and Steve Luby and Ashley Styczynski from Stanford University.

Related video: Study confirms vaccine effectiveness

The study’s findings have important implications for countries that are relying on mitigation measures to slow the virus’s spread until vaccines are more readily available. But there are also applicable lessons for nations like the United States, where some communities are reimposing mask mandates to stem outbreaks of the delta variant.

“The policy question we were trying to answer was: If you can distribute masks and get people to wear them, do they work?” said study co-author Mushfiq Mobarak, a professor of economics at Yale.

For five months beginning last November, Mobarak and his colleagues tracked 342,126 adult Bangladeshis and randomly selected villages to roll out programs to promote their usage, which included distributing free masks to households, providing information about their importance and reinforcing their use in the community.

Among the roughly 178,000 individuals who were encouraged to wear them, the scientists found that mask-wearing increased by almost 30 percent and that the change in behavior persisted for 10 weeks or more. After the program was instituted, the researchers reported an 11.9 percent decrease in symptomatic Covid symptoms and a 9.3 percent reduction in symptomatic seroprevalence, which indicates that the virus was detected in blood tests.

While the effect may seem small, the results offer a glimpse of just how much masks matter, Mobarak said.

“A 30-percent increase in mask-wearing led to a 10 percent drop in Covid, so imagine if there was a 100-percent increase — if everybody wore a mask and we saw a 100-percent change,” he said.

The scientists said masks significantly reduced symptomatic infections among older adults, and found that surgical masks were more effective than cloth versions.

Kwong said those findings may be especially important for countries such as the U.S., where people spend much more time indoors compared to those in rural Bangladesh.

“Right now, places say to cover your face but they don’t say what type of face covering,” she said. “If schools and workplaces and other indoor public spaces are going to mandate masks, they should be working to mandate surgical masks.”

Ajay Sethi, an epidemiologist and associate professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who was not involved with the study, called the research “thoughtfully put together” and “impressive on many different levels.”

He added that the project demonstrated that strategies can be effectively implemented in communities to change mask behavior. In the U.S., public health officials have struggled to promote their usage after masks were politicized early in the pandemic.

“Normative behavior is what needs to be targeted,” Sethi said. “It’s not just mask use that needs to be adopted, it’s also an understanding of why masks need to be used and reinforcement that the virus is serious.”

Kwong and her colleagues are now expanding their research to include other villages and cities in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The researchers also intend to track the effect of masks on asymptomatic transmission.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, said the research helps reinforce what was known about the effectiveness of masks, but he stressed that people should see them as just one of multiple interventions needed to stop the spread of Covid.

“We need vaccinations, better ventilation in indoor settings, crowd control, physical distancing — all these different added layers of protection,” he said. “Masks certainly help, but we can’t mask our way out of the pandemic.”

FACT FOCUS: Trump, others wrong on US gear left with Taliban

FACT FOCUS: Trump, others wrong on US gear left with Taliban


Taliban special force fighters arrive inside the Hamid Karzai International Airport after the U.S. military’s withdrawal, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. The Taliban haven’t obtained $80 billion or more in U.S. military equipment despite claims this week from social media users and political figures including Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Rep. Lauren Boebert and former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Khwaja Tawfiq Sediqi).
The Taliban have seized both political power and significant U.S.-supplied firepower in their whirlwind takeover of Afghanistan, recovering guns, ammunition, helicopters and other modern military equipment from Afghan forces who surrendered it.


But the gear the Taliban have obtained isn’t worth the $80 billion or more being claimed this week by social media users and political figures including Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Rep. Lauren Boebert and former President Donald Trump.

While the U.S. spent $83 billion to develop and sustain Afghan security forces since 2001, most of it did not go toward equipment. Nor will the Taliban be able to use every piece of American gear that was supplied to Afghanistan over two decades.

Here’s a closer look at the facts.

CLAIM: Taliban fighters now possess U.S. military equipment worth between $80 and $85 billion.

THE FACTS: Those numbers are significantly inflated, according to reports from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, which oversees American taxpayer money spent on the conflict.

In the last days of August, as U.S. troops completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan, social media users began claiming that the “Taliban’s new arsenal” was worth as much as $85 billion. Trump amplified the falsehood in a statement Monday, writing that “ALL EQUIPMENT should be demanded to be immediately returned to the United States, and that includes every penny of the $85 billion dollars in cost.”

Their $85 billion figure resembles a number from a July 30 quarterly report from SIGAR, which outlined that the U.S. has invested about $83 billion to build, train and equip Afghan security forces since 2001.

Yet that funding included troop pay, training, operations and infrastructure along with equipment and transportation over two decades, according to SIGAR reports and Dan Grazier, a defense policy analyst at the Project on Government Oversight.

“We did spend well over $80 billion in assistance to the Afghan security forces,” Grazier said. “But that’s not all equipment costs.”

In fact, only about $18 billion of that sum went toward equipping Afghan forces between 2002 and 2018, a June 2019 SIGAR report showed.

Another estimate from a 2017 Government Accountability Office report found that about 29% of dollars spent on Afghan security forces between 2005 and 2016 funded equipment and transportation. The transportation funding included gear as well as contracted pilots and airplanes for transporting officials to meetings.

If that percentage held for the entire two-decade period, it would mean the U.S. has spent about $24 billion on equipment and transportation for Afghan forces since 2001.

But even if that were true, much of the military equipment would be obsolete after years of use, according to Grazier. Plus, American troops have previously scrapped unwanted gear and recently disabled dozens of Humvees and aircraft so they couldn’t be used again, according to Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command.

Though no one knows the exact value of the U.S.-supplied Afghan equipment the Taliban have secured, defense officials have confirmed it is significant.

This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.

Tomatoes are in full bloom: Between hot weather and uneven moisture, tomato growing is tough. These tips may help

Between hot weather and uneven moisture, tomato growing is tough. These tips may help


Ice cream, sweet corn and tomatoes are some of the best flavors of summer. More than any other vegetable, tomatoes have a wide variety of home remedies to grow the best-tasting fruit or produce higher yields. Some of these recommendations shared have validity, while others have no effect.

Midwest summer conditions make tomato harvest unpredictable. Heat and uneven moisture will decrease fruit set and quality. Managing weather patterns is a challenge, but here are some research-based tips to make sure you enjoy tasty tomatoes this summer and into fall.

Fluctuation of water

Uneven moisture slows plant growth, reducing flowering and fruit set. Tomatoes produce best when actively growing. Starting and stopping the growing process due to lack of water disrupts the plants’ ability to produce flowers.

When the fruits split or crack before harvesting, it is often a result of uneven moisture. An influx of water after stress results in the rapid growth of the fruit, causing the splits.

New hybrids are bred to be more crack resistant. Heirloom varieties tend to be prone to cracking because of their less firm skin and meat, which many people desire. Mulching around the plant to conserve moisture as well as timely watering are the recommendations.

Lack of fruit

Tomato plants set fruit best with nighttime temperatures in the 60s and daytime highs in the 80s. Temperatures like these are not as common in Kansas City.

Temperatures over 95 degrees, which frequently occur in our area during the summer, hinder pollination. Hot, windy days dry the pollen before it has time to fertilize the fruits. Tomatoes are wind pollinated, and drying winds kill the pollen, which lowers pollination.

Controlling weather patterns like these is not possible. The best recommendation is to continue to provide good care and even moisture. A healthy plant will recover more rapidly as the stressful periods come and go.

Slow to ripen

Temperatures in the 90s also affect fruit ripening. Tomatoes maturing under hot weather fail to develop the deep beautiful red color. Instead, tomatoes ripening under heat are more orange-red in color. The flavor is the same, just not the color.

Achieving red fruit in a hot summer can be accomplished by picking at the breaker stage. This stage occurs when the fruit has reached about half green, half pinkish-red in color.

At this point, the plant forms a layer of cells across the stem, stopping the movement of sugars, which creates the flavor. In other words, all the flavor compounds are inside the fruit at this point.

Pick the partially red tomato and ripen it indoors under home temperatures. Once fully ripe and deep red, the color is more appetizing and the flavor is the same.

Indoor ripening is controlled by temperature, not exposure to light or dark. The optimum ripening temperature is in the mid 80s.

Picking at the breaker stage may help protect the fruit from the neighborhood squirrels as well. They have a knack for getting the bounty a day or two before you.

Dennis Patton is a horticulture agent with Kansas State University Research and Extension. Have a question for him or other university extension experts? Email them to

‘Times have changed’: some Afghan women defiant as Taliban return

‘Times have changed’: some Afghan women defiant as Taliban return

Afghan women wait to receive free wheat donated by the Afghan government during a quarantine, amid concerns about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Kabul.


(Reuters) – Afghan women and girls who have won freedoms they could not have dreamt of under the last Taliban rule that ended 20 years ago are desperate not to lose them now the Islamist militant movement is back in power.

Taliban leaders have made reassurances in the build-up up to and aftermath of their stunning conquest of Afghanistan that girls and women would have the right to work and education, although they have come with caveats.

Some women have already been ordered from their jobs during the chaos of Taliban advances across the country in recent days. Others are fearful that whatever the militants say, the reality may be different.

“Times have changed,” said Khadija, who runs a religious school for girls in Afghanistan.

“The Taliban are aware they can’t silence us, and if they shut down the internet the world will know in less than 5 minutes. They will have to accept who we are and what we have become.”

That defiance reflects a generation of women, mainly in urban centers, who have grown up being able to attend school and university and to find jobs.

When the Taliban first ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, their strict interpretation of sharia, or Islamic law – sometimes brutally enforced – dictated that women could not work and girls were not allowed to attend school.

Women had to cover their face and be accompanied by a male relative if they wanted to venture out of their homes. Those who broke the rules sometimes suffered humiliation and public beatings by the Taliban’s religious police.

During the past two years, when it became clear that foreign troops were planning to withdraw from Afghanistan, Taliban leaders made assurances to the West that women would enjoy equal rights in accordance with Islam, including access to employment and education.

On Tuesday, at the Taliban’s first press conference since seizing Kabul on Sunday, spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said women would have rights to education, health and employment and that they would be “happy” within the framework of sharia.

Specifically referring to women working in media, Mujahid said it would depend on what laws were introduced by the new government in Kabul.

On Tuesday, a female anchor for the private Afghan channel Tolo TV interviewed a Taliban spokesman live on air.


Afghan girls’ education activist Pashtana Durrani, 23, was wary of Taliban promises.

“They have to walk the talk. Right now they’re not doing that,” she told Reuters, referring to assurances that girls would be allowed to attend schools.

“If they limit the curriculum, I am going to upload more books to (an) online library. If they limit the internet … I will send books to homes. If they limit teachers I will start an underground school, so I have an answer for their solutions.”

Some women have said that one test of the Taliban’s commitment to equal rights would be whether they give them political and policy making jobs.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by a Pakistani gunman in 2012 after she campaigned for girls’ rights to education, said she was deeply concerned about the situation in Afghanistan.

“I had the opportunity to talk to a few activists in Afghanistan, including women’s rights activists, and they are sharing their concern that they are not sure what their life is going to be like,” Yousafzai told BBC Newsnight.

The United Nations’ children’s agency UNICEF expressed cautious optimism about working with Taliban officials, citing their early expressions of support for girls’ education.

It is still delivering aid to most parts of the country and has held initial meetings with new Taliban representatives in recently seized cities like Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad.

“We have ongoing discussions, we are quite optimistic based on those discussions,” UNICEF’s chief of field operations in Afghanistan, Mustapha Ben Messaoud, told a U.N. briefing.

But U.N. chief Antonio Guterres warned on Monday of “chilling” curbs on human rights under the Taliban and mounting violations against women and girls.

Reuters reported last week that in early July, Taliban fighters walked into a commercial bank branch in Kandahar and ordered nine women working there to leave because their jobs were deemed inappropriate. They were allowed to be replaced by male relatives.

(Writing and editing by Mike Collett-White)