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BG welcomes first Afghan refugees with more to come

A tense silence settled over a room at Bowling Green’s International Center on Monday as Hamishah Gul Rashid and his wife, Tamom Bibi, anxiously awaited the arrival of their interpreter.

The couple and their eight children, all roughly school-age, were among the first Afghan refugees to arrive in Bowling Green over the weekend after they were flown into Nashville from across the country on Friday, having initially entered the U.S. at a military base in New Mexico.

Eager to resolve an issue with their documentation and join their family in Texas, the couple launched into a flurry of questions and concerns once their interpreter eventually walked through the door.

Tamom worried about the safety of extended family back home and whether they’d be able to make it out of the chaos in Afghanistan alive. Hamishah feared that his children weren’t eating enough without access to Halal food.

Despite the significant challenges ahead for the couple – who will both need to learn English and soon prepare to get full-time jobs – an interpreter who spoke for them expects the family will do well here.

“These guys will integrate very well into society,” said the man, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak with the media as a member of the military.

That is, if they’re allowed to stay in the country permanently. The situation remains uncertain for the Rashids and other Afghan refugees expected to arrive at the center this year.

They are classified as “parolees,” a designation that means they’ve been offered conditional and temporary admission into the country.

Like Afghan parolees across the country, the family will still need to apply for permanent residence in the U.S., and failing that, they could be sent back to Afghanistan, International Center Executive Director Albert Mbanfu told the Daily News.

“There is no guarantee that they will obtain the status,” Mbanfu said, referring generally to all Afghans admitted into the U.S. under that parolee status.

For now, the Rashids must play the waiting game. They can’t begin working until they have formal permission from the U.S. government to do so (though that process has been expedited for them). They must also get their children immunized and ready to enroll in public school, Mbanfu said.

Asked by the Daily News about their hopes for their future in the U.S., the couple responded through their interpreter that they want their children to get an education and learn English, otherwise the family’s future may be thrown into jeopardy.

Mbanfu said the initial group of 14 arrivals have all worked with U.S. military forces in some respect doing a wide range of jobs, from acting as interpreters or as informants for American troops in Afghanistan or even as dishwashers.

Hamishah, in particular, was a member of the Khost Provincial Force, a regional militia in eastern Afghanistan that’s worked with the CIA to conduct counterterrorism operations in the region. While with the group, Hamishah was shot twice – once in the ankle, his interpreter said.

The Rashids were among the first Afghan refugees to begin arriving in Bowling Green last week, with more expected. The center is expecting about 200 Afghan refugees to arrive in the coming months, Mbanfu has said.

Going forward, Mbanfu said the center would greatly appreciate any gently used furniture the community can spare, including couches, tables and chairs for furnishing the refugees’ apartment units. The center is still also seeking volunteers and families to help sponsor newly arriving families to show them around town, Mbanfu said.

Monetary donations to help cover rent and other basic expenses are also greatly welcomed, Mbanfu said.

– Donations to the International Center of Kentucky can be made online at icofky.com/donate

State Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, visits with freshman Guadalupe Miguel Felipe and other students in Tamie Wolfe’s multilingual pre-algebra class at Bowling Green High School as she participates in the Bowling Green Independent Schools District’s Principal for a Day program on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)

State Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, visits with students in Tamie Wolfe’s multilingual pre-algebra class at Bowling Green High School as she participates in the Bowling Green Independent Schools District’s Principal for a Day program on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. (Grace Ramey/photo@bgdailynews.com)

Local officials set recommended trick or treat hours

With vaccinations rising and COVID-19 cases on a downward trend, Halloween is largely expected to have a return to normalcy with trick-or-treating times being scheduled across the area.

City of Bowling Green Public Information Officer Debi Highland West said trick-or-treat hours in the city will be from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 31.

Highland said the city recommends children wear some sort of reflective gear while walking and to be accompanied by an adult. She also asked for motorists to drive safely during the holiday.

Concerning the ongoing pandemic, Highland advised families to use their discretion while enjoying the Halloween festivities.

“Parents of children who are interested in celebrating Halloween by trick-or-treating should use their own best judgment with regard to the health and wellness of the people in their household,” she said.

The city’s position comes after the U.S. government’s top infectious diseases expert gave his thoughts on trick-or-treating this year.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that Dr. Anthony Fauci said families can feel safe trick-or-treating outdoors this year as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. decline, especially for those who are vaccinated.

He told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that it’s an important time of year for children, so “go out there” and “enjoy it.”

Unlike last fall, there will be a formal “Pumpkin Alley” event – an annual Halloween celebration that draws thousands of visitors – on and around Mooreland Drive in Bowling Green this year during the city’s recommended hours.

The road will be open to the public while homes and hundreds of jack-o’-lanterns will be lit up in the neighborhood for viewing.

Warren County Judge Executive Mike Buchanon said the county’s hours would also be from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m, and he called it a “good time for trick-or-treaters.”

Glasgow Mayor Harold Armstrong said the city is recommending similar hours for trick-or- treating on Oct. 31 from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

However, Armstrong said they are recommending people avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters and set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take, wash hands before handling treats and to wear a mask while trick-or-treating.

“It’s mainly because we are still in a red county during a pandemic,” Armstrong said. “We want kids to be safeguarded as much as possible.”

He also said the city would once again have a special drive-thru event at Gorin Park on Oct. 30 from 2 to 5 p.m.

During this time, individuals can trick or treat from the comfort of their vehicles. Armstrong said the event had over 600 attendees last year.

House sends debt limit hike to Biden, staving off default

WASHINGTON – Members of the House on Tuesday pushed through a short-term increase to the nation’s debt limit, ensuring the federal government can continue fully paying its bills into December and temporarily averting an unprecedented default that would have decimated the economy.

The $480 billion increase in the country’s borrowing ceiling cleared the Senate last week on a party-line vote. The House approved it swiftly so President Joe Biden can sign it into law this week.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had warned that steps to stave off a default on the country’s debts would be exhausted by Monday, and from that point, the department would soon be unable to fully meet the government’s financial obligations.

A default would have immense fallout on global financial markets built upon the bedrock safety of U.S. government debt. Routine government payments to Social Security beneficiaries, disabled veterans and active-duty military personnel would also be called into question.

The relief provided by passage of the legislation will only be temporary though, forcing Congress to revisit the issue in December – a time when lawmakers will also be laboring to complete federal spending bills and avoid a damaging government shutdown. The yearend backlog raises risks for both parties and threatens a tumultuous close to Biden’s first year in office.

“I’m glad that this at least allows us to prevent a totally self-made and utterly preventable economic catastrophe as we work on a longer-term plan,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

Republicans signaled the next debt limit debate won’t be any easier and warned Democrats not to expect their help.

“Unless and until Democrats give up on their dream of a big-government, socialist America, Republicans cannot and will not support raising the debt limit and help them pave the superhighway to a great entitlement society,” said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

Procedurally, the House took a single vote Tuesday that had the effect of passing the Senate bill. The measure passed by a party-line vote of 219-206.

The present standoff over the debt ceiling eased when Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., agreed to help pass the short-term increase. But he insists he won’t do so again.

In a letter sent Friday to Biden, McConnell said Democrats will have to handle the next debt-limit increase on their own using the same process they have tried to use to pass Biden’s massive social spending and environment plan. Reconciliation allows legislation to pass the Senate with 51 votes rather than the 60 that’s typically required. In the 50-50 split Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris gives Democrats the majority with her tiebreaking vote.

Lawmakers from both parties have used the debt ceiling votes as leverage for other priorities. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threatened to vote against raising the debt ceiling when President Donald Trump was in office, saying she had no intention of supporting lifting the debt ceiling to enable Republicans to give another tax break to the rich. And Republicans in 2011 managed to coerce President Barack Obama into accepting about $2 trillion in deficit cuts as a condition for increasing the debt limit – though lawmakers later rolled back some of those cuts.

Pelosi told reporters Tuesday that over the years Republicans and Democrats have voted against lifting the debt ceiling, “but never to the extent of jeopardizing it.”

Pelosi offered her hope that Congress would lift the debt ceiling in a bipartisan way this December because of the stakes involved. But she also floated a bill sponsored by Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., that would transfer the duty of raising the debt limit away from Congress and vest it with the Treasury secretary, saying, “I think it has merit.”

In his focus on the debt limit, McConnell has tried to link Biden’s big federal government spending boost with the nation’s rising debt load, even though they are separate and the debt ceiling will have to be increased or suspended regardless of whether Biden’s $3.5 trillion plan makes it into law.

“Your lieutenants on Capitol Hill now have the time they claimed they lacked to address the debt ceiling through standalone reconciliation, and all the tools to do it,” McConnell said in a letter to the president. “They cannot invent another crisis and ask for my help.”

McConnell was one of 11 Republicans who sided with Democrats to advance the debt ceiling reprieve to a final vote. Subsequently, McConnell and his GOP colleagues voted against final passage.

The debate over the debt ceiling has at times gotten personal. McConnell last week suggested that Democrats were playing “Russian roulette” with the economy because they had not dealt with the debt ceiling through the process he had insisted upon. He called out Pelosi for traveling to Europe last week.

“I can only presume she hopes the full faith and credit of the United States will get sorted out,” McConnell said.

Pelosi did not let the shot pass. “Russian roulette from Moscow Mitch. Interesting,” she said.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday’s vote marked the 50th time dating back to President Ronald Reagan that he has voted on extending the debt limit.

“Nobody has clean hands when it comes to the debt limit,” he said.

Because the Senate bill only allowed for a stopgap extension, Hoyer called it a “lousy deal.”

“And then we’re going to play this game one more time, a despicable and irresponsible act for adults who know better,” Hoyer said.

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said he wanted to “thank” Hoyer for sharing that he had previously voted for raising the debt ceiling 49 times.

“When he came into this body, the debt was about a trillion dollars,” Roy said. “Thank you, I guess, on behalf of the people of America who are staring at 28-and-a-half trillion dollars of debt.”

The current debt ceiling is $28.4 trillion. Both parties have contributed to that load with decisions that have left the government rarely operating in the black.

The calamitous ramifications of default are why lawmakers have been able to reach a compromise to lift or suspend the debt cap some 18 times since 2002, often after frequent rounds of brinkmanship.

FILE - This Aug. 23, 2018 file photo shows an arrangement of aspirin pills in New York. Older adults without heart disease should not take daily aspirin to prevent a first heart attack or stroke. That's according to preliminary updated advice from an influential health guidelines group. The draft guidance posted online Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force back tracks a bit but puts the panel more in line with other medical groups. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison, File)