Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond
East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:
A positive impact from COVID-19 in 2020: new business applications grew significantly, The Wall Street Journal said. The Economist noted that “a recovery with lots of start-ups tends to be more jobs-rich than one without.”
Merck is joining forces with Johnson & Johnson to hasten the production of the single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Washington Post. The joint effort is expected to allow the government to have enough vaccines for all U.S. adults by the end of May, two months ahead of schedule. To accomplish this, the Biden Administration used the Defense Production Act, which enables the government to manage production of a product in the interest of the national defense.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people can mingle with each other free of masks and social-distancing, and can visit indoors with unvaccinated family members (if no one is at severe risk) two weeks after their last COVID-19 vaccination shot. On average, 2.2 million people are being vaccinated daily, but 90 percent of the population is not yet vaccinated, the Washington Post reported.
A fully vaccinated person can still get the virus, but is expected to have a reduced reaction. According to the CDC, the least risky activity would be small private gatherings of vaccinated people. As long as they remain symptom-free, fully vaccinated people will not need to quarantine if exposed to a case of COVID-19.
Had Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) wealth tax been passed in 2020, it would have raised $114 billion for federal coffers from the nation’s 650 billionaires, Americans For Tax Fairness recently reported. Warren and two U.S. representatives are trying again, with the introduction of the Ultra Millionaire Tax Act, which could raise $3 trillion over the next decade by putting a two cent tax on every dollar of wealth between $50 million and $1 billion, and a three cent tax per dollar on wealth over $1 billion.
The New York Times called parts of the Senate-passed American Rescue Plan “the largest antipoverty effort in a generation,” noting it seeks to curtail the pandemic, address an ailing economy and protect the neediest. It was 100 percent opposed by Republicans. The bill calls for: $1,400 stimulus checks for those earning less than $75,000; jobless aid of $300 a week through the summer (down from the request for $400, due to resistance by two Democrats); money for COVID-19 vaccines, testing and tracing; relief for small businesses; aid for states, cities and schools; tax credits for children (which could cut child poverty in half); broadening eligibility for the Affordable Care Act; expansion of food benefits; and help with rent.
At $1.9 trillion, it is less than the $2.2 trillion package approved by a Republican-dominated Senate last March. Barring unforeseen events, it should become law in time to avoid a lapse in unemployment benefits, which would have kicked in March 14. To pass, the bill had to omit the $15 an hour minimum wage.
Columbia University researchers declared that the overall aid package will lift over 13 million people out of poverty this year. Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called the bill “haphazard spending” while the Democrat’s Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said “the danger of undershooting is far greater than the danger of overshooting.”
Tax breaks for the rich and corporations under the Trump Administration included an average $1.6 million tax cut for 43 millionaires. At the same time, Americans for Tax Fairness said 661 American billionaires saw their wealth go up by $1.2 trillion after the pandemic started. ATF is calling on Congress to expand the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
On Sunday, the 56th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday attack on black protesters in Alabama, President Joe Biden signed a voting rights executive order. The president stated that, “every eligible voter should be able to vote … If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote.” The executive order calls for federal agencies to create a strategic plan for promoting registration and participation, and includes voter access expansion among active duty military members.
In 43 states 250 bills have been introduced that would make it harder to vote, the Washington Post reported.
The FBI arrested Federico Klein, a former State Department aide and Donald Trump staff transition assistant, for his actions during the Jan. 6 Capitol building insurrection to block the certification of Biden’s electoral win. So far, more than 300 people have been charged, Politico reported.
Snow ecology, a growing field, studies the relationship between snow habitats and plants, animals and microbes. A deep and long-lasting snowpack insulates soil from frigid air temperatures, National Wildlife magazine says, which prevents freezing of plant roots and houses many creatures at night. In the far north, polar bears need at least six feet of snow for birthing dens.
Blast from the past: Having witnessed the unsavory political control wielded by corporations in Great Britain, Adam Smith, regarded as the founder of modern economics (1723-1790), thought corporations should have a charter for 10 to 20 years. After that, the charter would be reviewed for social impact and rejected if found wanting. This became law at the time in Pennsylvania.