Headlines: March 9, 2021
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Americans are still struggling with financial losses from the pandemic, one year after the global emergency was declared. A new AP NORC poll found 40% of Americans are struggling financially directly as a result of the pandemic. One quarter of respondents reported being laid off from their jobs during the pandemic. Black and Latino workers and those without a college degree were the hardest impacted. The poll results are consistent with economic data reported by the government. There are still 18 million Americans actively seeking work who remain jobless. Meanwhile a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development projects that after the passage of President Biden’s COVID relief bill and given the vaccine rollout, the U.S. economy will grow twice as fast as expected. The COVID relief bill is expected to pass and be signed into law this week. Amid the many provisions is help for Black farmers who have lost 90% of their land over the past century. The American Rescue Plan includes $5 billion for farmers of color and is considered the, “most significant legislation for Black farmers since [the] Civil Rights Act.”
Biden visited a small hardware store in the Washington area that finally received a government loan after the President signed an executive order changing eligibility to benefit “mom-and-pop” establishments. Store owner Mike Siegel explained to the President how his store weathered the pandemic. Mr. Biden on Monday released a statement marking International Women’s Day where he acknowledged that, “we are seeing decades of women’s economic gains erased by this pandemic,” and that, “COVID-19 is hitting the poorest and most marginalized women the hardest.” The White House announced that a large number of vulnerable Americans who qualify for the $1,400 checks in the COVID-relief bill will likely receive them before the end of the month.
A Gallup poll has found a strong correlation between continued social distancing by Americans and a drop in COVID-19 infections. In fact, the percentage of Americans that are still sheltering in place is higher than at the peak of the crisis in late 2020. The national daily death toll has dropped to less than 1,000 for the first time in months. A new study of the virus in California in the early part of the pandemic found that many of those infected who were initially asymptomatic report having long-term health impacts. The New York Times summarized the dozens of symptoms that emerged including, “anxiety, low back pain, fatigue, insomnia, gastrointestinal problems and rapid heart rate.” Additionally, “researchers identified five clusters of symptoms that seemed most likely to occur together, like chest pain and cough or abdominal pain and headache.” A separate study found a correlation between severe obesity and dangerous Covid symptoms. The study examined a large cohort of 150,000 people showing that obesity significantly raised the chances of being hospitalized from the virus and dying.
In other virus-related news, the Brazil variant of the Covid-19 virus that is thought to be far more transmissible, may not be a match for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The New England Journal of Medicine published the findings of a clinical study of 44,000 people and concluded that the vaccine remained 95% efficient. But in a study published in Nature, which tested Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both were found to be 10 to 12 times less effective against the South Africa variant of the virus.
The U.S. Congress continues to examine the violent pro-Trump mob that attacked the Capitol on January 6th as a review of police failures found that Capitol police were “understaffed, insufficiently equipped, and inadequately trained” to protect lawmakers. Federal prosecutors found that Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the militant hate group the Oath Keepers, was in direct contact with some of the January 6th rioters and those that, “were actively planning to use force and violence.” Several Oath Keepers leaders have been arrested and charged including one who is linked to Trump loyalist Roger Stone. Meanwhile Jacob Chansley, the rioter known as the QAnon Shaman, remains jailed after a judge deemed him “too dangerous to be released.” A judge rejected Chansley’s request to be released saying his arguments were, “meritless,” “mistaken” and “so frivolous as to insult the Court’s intelligence.” Judge Royce Lamberth in his scathing memo added that Chansley “believes that he — not the American people or members of Congress — was the victim on January 6th.”
The Georgia state senate just voted along strict party lines to approve a bill that critics have slammed as a serious assault on voting rights particularly of Black people and people of color. The Atlanta Journal Constitution explained that the bill would, “roll back no-excuse absentee voting and require more voter ID,” and “ reduce the availability of absentee voting, restricting it to those who are at least 65 years old, have a physical disability or are out of town.” In justifying the vote in spite of no evidence of voter fraud, Mike Dugan, the Republican state senator who sponsored the bill said, “You don’t wait until you have wholesale issues until you try to meet the need…You do it beforehand.” Iowa’s governor has also signed a bill to reduce access to early voting and closing polls earlier. And New Hampshire’s Republican Party is moving to restrict voting for college students.
The Intercept just reported that Nevada’s Democratic Party staff quit en masse after a slate backed by the Democratic Socialists of America won every seat. Judith Whittmer, a long time supporter of Bernie Sanders’ Presidential candidacy won the state party chair position and her DSA allies won every other position. After funneling out nearly half a million dollars from the state party’s budget, all staffers quit their positions, ostensibly in protest. The battle represents a strong progressive takeover of a state-level Democratic party machine.
A journalist in Iowa is being tried for her coverage of last year’s Black Lives Matter protest during which she was arrested. Andrea Sahouri is a public safety reporter for the Des Moines Register and was covering protests sparked by George Floyd’s police killing in Minneapolis last May when she was arrested. The rare trial of a journalist arrested while doing their job is being viewed with alarm by journalists across the nation. It comes just as jury selection in the trial of Derek Chauvin who is accused of killing Floyd, commences this week.
The Biden administration has extended protections for Venezuelan immigrants in the United States—a move that impacts 320,000 residents. The Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Venezuelan nationals only applies to those already in the country as of March 8th. Meanwhile Biden’s White House announced that those people who were denied a U.S. visa during the Trump administration’s “Muslim ban” can reapply if they wish. Those who applied and were denied over the past year since January 20, 2020, can resubmit their applications without paying fees. And on the U.S. border with Mexico, a record number of children are being held in detention facilities as the numbers of unaccompanied minors surge to three times the average over the past 2 weeks alone.
And finally, Dr. Cornel West is leaving Harvard University after a dispute with the institution over its denial of his tenure. One of the most prominent leftwing figures in the nation today, West is heading back to Union Theological Seminary. According to the New York Times, “He has been a tenured professor at Yale, Princeton and Harvard in the past but left Harvard once before, in 2002 after a public fight with Lawrence Summers, the university’s president at the time. He returned to a nontenured position at Harvard in 2017.”