Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond
| May 21, 2021 7:00 AM
East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:
Starting in 2022 all agricultural workers in Washington state will be eligible for overtime pay, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported. The article noted that agriculture workers spent long hours, at great personal risk during the pandemic, on the job and will now be paid fairly.
A year of tuition 40 years ago was around $2,400 even after adjusting for inflation. Today, according to The New Republic, it is four times that and one in six adults owe “outstanding student loan debts.”
COVID-19 variant cases rose dramatically in Florida after spring break, causing 67 deaths and more than 240 hospitalizations, ABC News said. Over 10,000 cases were reported by Florida’s Department of Health.
The FDA has authorized the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for minors between 12 and 15. Trials of 2,260 vaccine recipients and a placebo group showed 18 cases of symptomatic COVID-19 infection in the placebo group and no cases among those in the vaccinated group. Side effects were comparable to those seen in ages 16 and older, although fevers were slightly more common.
The largest jump in consumer prices in nine years came in March, Bloomberg.com reported, noting that “almost half” the overall rise was due to a 9 percent spike in the price of gasoline.
The U.S. leads the world in geothermal electricity production, according to The Week. But that accounts for only 0.4 percent of energy. Nonetheless, AltaRock Energy estimates that “just 0.1 percent of the heat content of the Earth could supply humanity’s total energy needs for two million years.”
With a decline in COVID-19 cases, attributed to vaccinations, the CDC recently announced that face mask guidelines have been eased. The fully vaccinated can stop wearing masks in most places with the exception of crowded locations. The unvaccinated are still advised to wear a mask to avoid endangering people who are at risk but cannot get vaccinated. National Nurses United spoke against the CDC guidance, saying it has caused confusion and is endangering healthcare workers. They added that hundreds of people are still dying daily from COVID-19 and variants are on the rise.
Gaslighting: After a voice vote (no one had to go on record for their vote) U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) was removed from her position as conference chair last week. Her offense? She refused to stop acknowledging that President Joe Biden won the November election and continued to place some blame on former President Donald Trump for the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) switched gears, saying no one questions the legitimacy of the election, despite having himself challenged the election as “fraudulent” the week prior.
Further gaslighting: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) commented that “I don’t think anyone on our [Republican] side has been arguing that [voter fraud] has been pervasive all over the country,” despite the prevalence of such claims since the election and a flood of Republican-led state-level proposals to tighten voting regulations. And even more gaslighting: U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) said the Jan. 6 footage of the insurrection, which caused more than $30 million in damages, as well as five deaths and two suicides, and more than 400 criminal charges, was indicative of a “normal tourist visit.” He said calling it an insurrection was a “bald-faced lie.” As Business Insider noted, “Normal tourists, of course, don’t usually erect gallows, shout about hanging the vice president or attack police officers.”
A Call for American Renewal, signed by more than 100 prominent Republicans, announced plans to explore the creation of a third party free of Trump’s influence. Cheney, appearing on NBC’s Today show, stated that Republicans cannot persuade voters to trust them “if we are building our party on a foundation of lies.” The coalition behind the letter says it “cannot stay quiet in the face of rising political extremism.”
Blast from the past: With Liz Cheney no longer the U.S. House conference chair, there are now four Republicans in top leadership positions that voted to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential win. Republicans say their aim is to stop socialism, but historian Heather Cox Richardson says their definition of the term predates the rise of international socialism and instead stems from particularly American circumstances following the Civil War.
The U.S. government had turned to national taxation, including an income tax, to pay its debts. And Black Americans suddenly could participate, via the ballot box and elected office, in how those tax dollars were spent.
Southerners, according to Richardson, claimed elected Blacks would waste white people’s money by encouraging government funding of hospitals, roads and schools. Elected Blacks, they suggested in the 1870s, would implement socialism — redistributing wealth from the largely White property owning class — and destroy America.