159.8 Million Votes Cast in 2020 Election

We will point to 2020 for many reasons once we have a few years of history between us and it. Although COVID-19 will be the obvious talking point, several unfortunate events affected people around the world.

From the death of Kobe Bryant to the Australian bush fires that ravaged 47 million acres, everyone who makes it to 2021 will feel like a survivor.

Another significant milestone for 2020 was the U.S. Presidential election. The country tallied the most votes in history, with at least 159.8 million people going to the polls, mailing in their ballot, or using other legal methods.

Voter Turnout Was the Highest Since at Least 1900

About two-thirds of eligible voters made the time to cast a ballot for their preferred candidate in the 2020 election.

It turned out that Democrats held a significant early vote advantage, gaining 43% of the absentee or initial tallies going into Election Day. Republicans were only able to secure 37% of that figure.

Texas led the way in early voting, with approximately 9.6 million ballots cast before Election Day.

The most remarkable statistic from the 2020 election might belong to Pennsylvania. After the in-person votes were counted on Election Day, Donald Trump had more than a 600,000-vote lead over Biden. After the mail-in ballots got added to that figure, there was enough for the Democratic candidate to win the state.

Although COVID-19 topped the list of voter concerns for the election, jobs, the economy, immigration, and abortion were hot-button topics that drove people out in record numbers.

Biden won the election by flipping the upper Midwest states that Trump secured in 2016 on razor-thin margins while flipping Arizona and Georgia, which have been traditional Republican strongholds.

Only time will tell if these voting numbers are a one-off because of the emphasis on mail-in voting.

$14 Billion Spent on 2020 Election

If you thought the $7 billion spent during the 2016 election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was expensive, 2020 decided to provide a shock and awe campaign.

Total election spending for the 2020 contest was $14 billion, doubling the records that happened in 2016. That figure is up approximately $3 billion from the initial estimates.

A massive influx of donations came into both campaigns at the end of the political season because of closely watched Senate races, a GOP push to win back House seats, and the Supreme Court battle that would ensue to put Amy Coney Barrett on the bench before Election Day.

Joe Biden will make history at the end of this cycle, becoming the first candidate in U.S. history to raise $1 billion from donors. Trump’s $596 million, which would have been a massive haul in any other year, looked weak compared to the excitement that Democrats achieved.

This Result Was Unthinkable a Decade Ago

Before 2010, the idea of seeing a billionaire running for the highest office in the United States was almost unthinkable. During the 2020 election cycle, we saw Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg on the campaign trail.

Although Bloomberg ran into the Biden buzzsaw during the primary season, he vowed to keep his spending levels high to defeat Donald Trump.

Bloomberg personally contributed approximately $500 million to support Democrats up and down the ticket in multiple states.

Political donations weren’t coming from the elite and wealthy alone. Even with 2020 being a pandemic year, women were crushing donation records. Small checks getting written to candidates to eight-figure checks going to super PACs all made it a record spending year.

Another trend for Americans is to donate to candidates outside of their state to support their preferred party.

If this trend continues, the idea of spending $20 billion in the 2024 election cycle is not outside the realm of possibility. That figure is significant because it represents ten times the amount spent in 2000.

Louisville Pays $12 Million Settlement in Breonna Taylor Shooting

The city of Louisville agreed to a $12 million settlement in the botched raid that took the life of EMT Breonna Taylor. 

It is the largest figure agreed upon by government officials.

A part of the settlement includes specific police reforms that the local department will implement over the coming months and years. This structure consists of a requirement for commanding officers to approve search warrants before going to a judge.

Tamika Palmer, Breonna’s mother, said at the time that the outcome was only the first step toward getting full justice for her daughter. “Her beautiful spirit and personality is working through all of us on the ground, so please continue to say her name.”

Taylor died on March 13 when three Louisville officers, dressed in plainclothes, used a battering ram to enter her apartment after midnight. They’d been granted a no-knock search warrant. 

The Drugs and Cash Police Sought Were Not There

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, is a licensed gun owner. He said that there was no announcement at the door. All he knew was that someone was breaking in after midnight, so he thought their lives were in danger.

Walker grabbed his gun and fired a warning shot at the perceived intruder. It hit Sgt. John Mattingly in the leg. 

That caused the police officers to respond, shooting into the apartment. Breonna Taylor was hit eight times with bullets, dying on the scene.

Walker was initially charged with attempted murder. 

The family filed a wrongful death lawsuit on April 27, alleging excessive force and negligence. This settlement exceeds the $8.5 million that Louisville offered to Edwin Chandler after a police detective lied on the stand to send him to prison for over nine years.

The settlement includes incentives for police offers who agree to live in Louisville while serving the city.

Mattingly recently filed a counterclaim against Walker, requesting compensatory and punitive damages for being shot. He’s demanding a jury trial and asking that Walker cover all legal costs.

39 Nations Criticize China’s Human Rights Policies

China’s treatment of minority groups in Tibet and Xinjiang received more attention in 2020 when the United Nations gathered to criticize its human rights policies.

Almost 40 countries, mostly in the West, expressed their concerns about the national security law recently implemented in Hong Kong.

Japan and several European countries joined the United States to request “unfettered access” to independent observers. Michelle Bachelet, the UN’s human rights chief, joined that chorus, demanding that the government stop detaining Uighurs and other minorities.

55 Countries Issued a Response to That Edict

Once the 39 countries had their joint account read to encourage the rights, freedoms, and autonomy of Hong Kong and its judiciary, a rebuttal was offered by another joint statement.

Pakistan led a coalition of 55 nations that announced their opposition to interference with regard to China’s handling of Hong Kong. This group stated that the existing national security law ensures that the one country, two-system approach continues for the city.

Cuba came with a 45-country joint statement to support deradicalization in Xinjiang and other counter-terrorism activities. It was a carefully-worded piece that spoke of extremism and terror organizations within the ethnic groups of the province. Carrying out the enforcement activities was seen as a way to safeguard human rights instead of violating them.

North Korea, Russia, Syria, Pakistan, Venezuela, and Cuba signed both rebuttal statements.

Human Rights Arguments Continue Throughout the World

China isn’t the only country where human rights are in the spotlight. The United States is also on the hot seat for how they’ve handled immigration, housing children who request asylum, forced hysterectomies, and the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Western countries expressed their concerns that religious restrictions and limiting the movement of people as part of the Uighur culture targeted that minority group. The widespread surveillance of the population also seems to be disproportionately targeting these groups in the mentioned regions. 

China rejected the 39-nation statement outright, accusing several countries of abusing their platform to politicize the issues and create confrontations.

15.7 Million Coronavirus Cases; Nearly 300,000 Deaths in U.S.

At the end of October, the United States set a record for its total number of COVID-19 cases with over 100,000 in a single day. That figure represents more than some countries have had over the entire pandemic.

Americans are now facing over 3,000 deaths per day because of the new coronavirus once again.

At the start of November, over 46.7 million people globally have the disease, with over 1.2 million people dying from it. Approximately 1 in 6 global deaths from COVID-19 occur in the United States.

Why Is the United States Struggling with COVID-19?

The unique governmental structures found in the United States are likely contributing to the continued outbreak and high numbers.

Each state government issues the rules for wearing masks, taking precautions, and limiting business activities. Democratic states tend to be more aggressive in these areas than Republican ones.

Some people take care of themselves better, using products from great brands like Argentyn 23 and Amazing Grass, to boost their immune system. 

The federal government didn’t help matters during the outbreak.

Federal Officials intercepted State PPE Shipments

When hospitals needed ventilators in April 2020, the federal government said the equipment stockpile was not meant for state requests. Jared Kushner said at the time that they were for the national government.

This comment trend caused state governors and hospital officials to reach out to China and other countries to secure supplies. Many of these items were overpriced. At the height of the COVID-19 worries, the federal government started intercepting shipments.

Dr. Andrew Artenstein, who is the Chief Physician Executive for a non-profit healthcare network in Massachusetts, said he had to ship PPE in food-service trucks to avoid confiscation.

While countries like New Zealand have almost eradicated COVID-19, the U.S. is on its third surge. It is clear that the Trump Administration is tired of dealing with this story, but a virus never goes away.

Over 300,000 empty chairs are around dining room tables in the United States in 2020. That’s why it is a scary time to be an American right now.

Most Popular Instruments to Learn During the Pandemic

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, lockdown rules have risen around the world. These rules and curfews have been put in place to curb the spread of the virus as well as third or fourth waves in respective countries. As a result of the lockdown, more people are working from home which gives them a lot of free time they usually wouldn’t have.

If you’re one of such people with extra time on your hands and no hobbies to indulge in, this article is for you. Perhaps you’d consider learning an instrument. This could be a hobby or an extra source of income for you. Learning an instrument is great because it occupies your time, teaches you how to focus, and also fosters creativity.

Piano

The piano is one of the most popular instruments you can learn. The best thing about pianos is that you don’t have to commit to purchasing a piano right away. There are lots of piano simulators you can get on your app store. Instead of purchasing a piano, you can try out these apps for a few days or weeks till you make your decision. Great songs for beginners to learn on the piano include the classic Twinkle Twinkle Star and do re mi from the sound of music.

Guitar

The guitar is perhaps the most popular stringed instrument. The guitar was invented in the 13th century and there have been many variations across the years. There are acoustic guitars, bass guitars, vintage guitars, and also electric guitars. Guitars are fun to learn and there are a lot of free online resources available to anyone who wants to learn how to play the instrument. If you’re considering purchasing a guitar, check out your local charity or thrift shops for vintage guitars.

Ukelele

This is one of the easiest instruments to learn. With proper focus, you can learn the basics in 15 minutes and learn how to play a couple of songs in 3 to 6 months. The ukulele is small and affordable which makes it a great choice for beginners. Once you understand the ukulele, you can also go on to learn how to play the guitar because they are in the same class of instruments.

Recorder

Everyone, at one point or another has been required to play the recorder. It’s one of the first musical instruments you’re taught in schools as a child. A recorder is a great option for adults as well as children. It’s relatively simple to learn and inexpensive to purchase.

Bongo Drums

The bongo drum is an open bottom drum with Afro-Cuban heritage. The bongo is part of drum and percussion musical family. It is very fun to play and there are no cords or strings to maneuver. It can be quite loud but it is generally a very enjoyable and simple musical instrument.

Harmonica

The harmonica is a great instrument for adults who want to get into musical instruments. Harmonicas are affordable and easy to learn. They are slightly harder than the flute but still very enjoyable.

These are our top picks for instruments to learn during the pandemic. Good luck learning a new instrument!

25 Years in 25 Weeks: Gates Foundation Warns of Global Equality Setbacks from COVID-19

The Gates Foundation is issuing a stark warning to anyone who is willing to listen. Since mid-September 2020, they’ve discussed their report on the worldwide economy that shows global health progress is regressing.

The 2020 Gatekeepers report outlines that women and children see the worst results caused by the pandemic.

One of the best indicators for how health systems function involves vaccination coverage. The rates discovered in 2020 were last seen in the 1990s.

Although global actions have been taken to stop the coronavirus pandemic, more is at stake than COVID-19. Worldwide regression in many areas, including malnutrition, HIV transmission, education, gender equality, and poverty is happening right now.

We’re left with a choice. Do we tackle these concerns, or do we take a different direction?

COVID-19 Kills Men; Poverty Kills Women

Although COVID-19 is a life-threatening disease for many men, poverty and a lack of clean resources is killing more women.

The disease diagnosis rates for pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus are at their highest levels in almost 30 years. Fewer people are completing the three doses of the DTP vaccine that stops these health issues from happening.

Newborns are also especially vulnerable. COVID-19 affects children at a disproportionate rate, but it is not the same with poverty. Infants are more likely to die from preventable causes when health systems fail, and that issue is happening in today’s world.

About 37 million people have become exceptionally poor, living on less than $1.90 per day. That means they are clawing through each day trying to stay alive. There is no way for them to get ahead because of the complete systematic breakdown happening.

How can we make a difference? It starts by supporting the organizations that have boots on the ground in these high-risk areas. A small donation can change a person’s life.

You can always share the information from the Gatekeepers report. When more people understand what is happening, we can do even more to change lives.

Over 22,000 Acres Burned Following Gender Reveal Party Fire

Following a gender reveal party, the El Dorado fire outside San Bernardino destroyed ten structures, damaged six more, and caused 13 injuries. One firefighter lost his life while battling the blaze.

Clouds of blue smoke to indicate a boy preceded the flames. The expectant parents attempted to put out the fire with bottled water without much success.

The incident was enough to have many people start calling for these events to stop.

How Gender Reveal Parties Got Out of Control

When the first gender reveal parties were held, the intent was to bring families together. It allowed everyone to get involved with the pregnancy early, creating a closer experience for the baby upon arrival.

As families started posting their gender reveal parties online, expecting couples felt the need to start outdoing each other.

Some of the more extreme options have been to burn car tires, use exotic animals, and shoot explosive canisters.

The goal is no longer about bringing families together. It’s about trying to perform the event for others to get some notoriety online.

The El Dorado fire isn’t the only one to have started because of this event in recent years. A 2017 party in Arizona had an explosion that ended up burning over 47,000 acres.

What Can We Do in the Future?

Although some are calling for gender reveal parties to stop, the issue is more of one that involves responsibility.

If you’re going to have explosives at this event, contact your fire department to be standing by should something go out of control.

We can also return to the communal experience without being overly destructive. We’ve made progress on our views about gender in recent years, but these events still celebrate duality. Whether you’re for or against the idea of multiple genders, we can turn these events into a life celebration.

It is time for us to be in control of our choices and consequences. The El Dorado fire, and others like it, are entirely preventable.

Why Microscopic Particulate Matter in Wildfire Smoke is Concerning

Particulate Matter pollution is a significant health threat. You breathe it into your lungs every time wildfire smoke is in the air.

Even if the pollution blows in from hundreds of miles away, the reduced air quality can be dangerous to your health.

If you’re generally healthy, short-term exposure to smoke won’t create significant risk factors to manage. It is still a good idea to avoid breathing it because of the microscopic items it contains.

How Come PM Pollution is Dangerous?

When you inhale particulates, the microscopic pollution penetrates deeply into the lung tissue. Large materials can coat your air passageways, leaving their contaminants to leech into your body.

You can tell if the particulate matter affects you because your eyes start burning, it becomes harder to breathe, and you might experience chest pain.

Anyone with heart or lung disease may experience worsening symptoms with exposure to wildfire smoke.

You may also have more phlegm to manage, experience wheezing, or have a cough develop that doesn’t go away.

How to Protect Yourself From Particulate Matter

The best way to protect yourself from particulate matter is to avoid going outside. Staying indoors while filtering any air that comes from the outside can prevent PM exposure. You may need to run your air conditioner to accomplish this outcome, cleaning your filter periodically to ensure it operates correctly.

Try to avoid using anything that burns when outside pollution levels are high. Even candles can stir up the microscopic particles that worked their way indoors.

Taking care of yourself during these times is critical. Now is an excellent opportunity to stock your cabinet with health items from brands like NOW Foods and Nutri-Dyn.

A dust mask won’t stop the particulates from entering your lungs. It would be best if you had a P-100 or N-95 respirator to protect your breathing. These items are often sold out at stores because of the COVID-19 threat.

It also helps to follow your common sense. When it smells like a wildfire outside, don’t mow the lawn. If you must go out, stay in your vehicle with the air filter engaged to reduce exposure levels.

$41 Million Mansion Renovation Uncovers 30-Year-Old Mystery

After spending big money to acquire an exclusive Parisian mansion in the Seventh District, the new owners came to discover that a body was in the basement of the home. The property had been abandoned since the mid-18th century. 

The individual was found in a place that hadn’t been visited by the bailiff, the property managers, or anyone else affiliated with the auction.

Authorities believe that the man had been there for approximately 30 years. While police have opened an active homicide investigation, the new owners are starting the renovation process.

It Is an Impressive Parisian Property

Why would someone spend over $40 million on a Parisian mansion that hadn’t been maintained in over a century?

It’s the perfect combination of location and space. The property contains an inner courtyard and private gardens, along with some significant square footage.

The crumbling mansion will have 17,000 square feet of usable space once the restoration process is complete. 

Investment banker Jean-Bernard Lafonta purchased the property after a 15-minute bidding war. He ended up paying six times the reserve price, which is located just down the road from the French prime minister’s private residence.

During the initial investigation, law enforcement officials noted knife wounds on the body, along with several broken bones. The individual was identified as Jean-Pierre Renaud.

Who Was the Victim in This Case?

Although no one really knows the motive behind the apparent murder, Renaud was identified as a homeless individual who had a drinking problem. Police suspect that he may have gotten into a fight with someone else in the same circumstances, potentially for access to the abandoned mansion’s basement.

Lafonta says that he doesn’t plan to make the restored mansion his new residence. It’s getting renovated to become office space for an unidentified international company.

Although authorities suspect Renaud’s murder to become a cold case, they are still following up on leads to see if they can offer some closure to his story.