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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by LORRAINE H. MARIE
| January 21, 2022 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

New data indicates that even after a five-day quarantine, a third of people infected with COVID-19 could still be infectious, according to a study at England’s University of Exeter Medical School.

Sanctions against Afghanistan may cause 1 million children to die and double the rate of poverty, Commonweal magazine reported. When the Taliban took over, the U.S. froze their assets, most of which were U.S. held. But, as The Atlantic pointed out, sanctions may not prove productive when a country’s leaders don’t care if their citizenry suffers. Commonweal argued that aid to Afghans does not have to equate to formal recognition of the Taliban. Rather, assets could be released on a conditional basis.

Oakland Unified School District students plan to boycott unless more COVID-19 safety protocols are adopted. The students want either remote learning or twice weekly testing for everyone, expanded outdoor lunch seating and KN95 or N95 masks for all. The students’ action followed that of 500 teachers calling in sick, prompting the closure of 18 of the district’s 80 schools. Some staff at a school district in Connecticut also are protesting unsafe COVID-19 conditions for students, Newsweek reported.

While COVID-19 cases spike across the globe, the Word Health Organization announced the recommendation of two new drugs for treatment. Axios said the recommendation came after observation of more than 4,000 patients ill with the disease.

COVID-19 cases are soaring in nursing homes, but the death rate is a fraction that of 2020’s, NPR said. The bigger problem is unvaccinated staff with a higher sick rate, which has affected the level of care.

NBC News said the U.S. has info that the Russian government is preparing to stage “false flag” incidents, using Russian influence actors to sabotage Russian forces, to justify a possible invasion of Ukraine.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, striking down his requirement that businesses with more than 100 employees need those workers to be either vaccinated or get tested weekly and wear a mask on the job. The mandate was to be implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but The New York Times said six of the nine Supreme Court justices claimed OSHA had no authority in the case, even though OSHA, established by President Richard Nixon, is directed to “assure safe and healthy working conditions.” Employers objected to the mandate, saying it would be expensive.

The dissenting justices stated that COVID-19 poses a grave danger in the workplace since nearly a million in the U.S. have died from the disease and another 4 million have been hospitalized. All of the justices are vaccinated, the Associated Press reported.

In a 5-4 ruling the Supreme Court also ruled that health care workers in facilities accepting Medicare and Medicaid could be mandated to get vaccinated against COVID-19. That will affect 76,000 facilities with 10.4 million workers, as well as home health care providers.

Some U.S. hospitals have allowed COVID-infected staff to stay on the job if they have mild or no symptoms, the Associated Press said.

The struggle to shore up voting rights via the Freedom to Vote Act — after a Supreme Court decision struck down the 1965 Voting Rights Act — is so far being thwarted by all Republicans and two Democrats. The two Democrats say they support the voting bill, but disagree with passing it if it requires sidelining the filibuster, which Republicans said they will use to stop the bill. What’s in the proposed voting bill, according to The Guardian and Business Insider: making Election Day a federal holiday, creating more protections and resources for voters with disabilities and for overseas/military voters, automatic voter registration, 15 days of early voting, an easier path for voters to go to court to ensure their votes aren’t tossed, provisions to make it more difficult to remove election officials without justification, allowing a wider range of non-photo identification, restoring voter rights to those formerly incarcerated and convicted of felonies, and a requirement to get federal approval before making changes regarding voting where there is evidence of recent voting discrimination. The bill is up for a vote.

Historian and columnist Heather Cox Richardson on the difference between voter fraud and election fraud: the first is rare and doesn’t impact voting results. The second involves a rigged system and overturns voters’ will.

Blast from the past: In the early 1960s Mississippi had a 40 percent Black population; most didn’t vote due to violence directed at them, poll taxes and literacy tests. The issue of white dominance came to a head when three young men were tortured and murdered by the KKK for helping Blacks register to vote. With national attention on Black voting rights, Congress passed the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

It was gutted in 2013 when right-leaning Supreme Court members claimed it was no longer needed. Immediately certain states began putting up roadblocks to voter turnout. In 2020 alone, 19 states passed laws making it more difficult to vote.