As the 2020-21 flu season comes to an end, good news and lessons for the future come from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This year’s flu season was far less serious than any previous year, and far less deadly as well.
Last year—2019-2020—the CDC estimated that estimated 38 million influenza-type illnesses in the United States, with 18 million medical visits, 405,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths.
“In 2014, China’s Head of State, President Xi Jinping, launched the ‘People’s War on Terror’ in XUAR [Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region], making the areas where Uyghurs constitute nearly 90 percent of the population the front line. High-level officials followed up with orders to ’round up everyone who should be rounded up,’ ‘wipe them out completely … destroy them root and branch,’ and ‘break their lineage, break their roots, break their connections, and break their origins.’ Officials described Uyghurs with dehumanizing terms and repeatedly likened the mass internment of Uyghurs to ‘eradicating tumors.’”
The U.S. government names this persecution as genocide. The Chinese government denies it, of course. That denial lacks all plausibility.
• “Guaranteed income reduced income volatility, or the month-to-month income fluctuations that households face.
• “Unconditional cash enabled recipients to find full-time employment.
• “Recipients of guaranteed income were healthier, showing less depression and anxiety and enhanced wellbeing.
• “The guaranteed income alleviated financial scarcity creating new opportunities for self-determination, choice, goal-setting, and risk-taking.”
Some of the benefits were intangible: “I can breathe,” said one participant who, like others, said she could now spend more, and calmer, less anxious time with her children. For program participants overall, more than one-third of the monthly $500 was spent on food.
I remember an old and possibly apocryphal story about Benjamin Franklin and the framing of the Constitution. Supposedly, someone accosted him after the 1787 Constitutional Convention and shouted, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Today, the republic is threatened by Republicans attacking voting rights a cross the country. They propose state voting legislation targeting people of color and poor people. Some proposals also aim to disenfranchise any other population that might be more Democratic-leaning than Republican, such as college students.
Even in the best of times, meat-packing and poultry-processing workers face astronomically high risks of injury. Now COVID has made those industries much more dangerous, and government agencies charged with protecting workers have utterly failed them.
After a week of electricity blackouts, heat failures, and frozen water pipes, many Texans now face thousands of dollars in unexpected electric bills. The reason: a conscienceless rip-off by an unregulated electric utility. For Texans who have an auto-pay arrangement, that means bank accounts emptied or thousands of dollars already charged to their credit cards.
Ripple effects of the Texas disaster will reach almost every Minnesotan. Demand for natural gas, in Minnesota and across the country, was higher than normal because of February’s subzero temperatures. Supply was dramatically smaller than normal because the irresponsible inaction of Texas natural gas producers and public utilities led to failure of production and delivery systems. When supply is low and demand is high, producers can and do hike their prices.
Texas produces huge quantities of natural gas for the national market. Texan natural gas and public utilities largely ignored warnings from 2011 and failed to winterize natural gas production and distribution facilities. They froze up, leaving Texans out in the cold, literally freezing to death. When Texas natural gas producers froze up, national natural gas prices shot up—as much as 100 times the pre-freeze level. The cost to Minnesotans for the February price spike is estimated at $300 to $400 per household.
Black Minnesotans, Asian Minnesotans, American Indians, and Latino Minnesotans are far more likely than White Minnesotans to become infected, to be hospitalized, to suffer severe cases, and to die of COVID. That is the grim truth reported by the Minnesota Department of Health in its weekly COVID report.
That might suggest that Black, Latino, Native American, and Asian Minnesotans should be a priority for COVID vaccination. That is not happening. In fact, the way that vaccines are targeted—both in Minnesota and across the country—suggests that the opposite could be true.
The filibuster is a long and undemocratic Senate tradition that needs to end. Using the filibuster, a small minority can block Senate passage of legislation that is supported by a bi-partisan majority.
Historically, filibusters blocked civil rights and voting rights legislation. Filibusters blocked anti-lynching bills in 1922 and 1935. In 1957, Senator Strom Thurmond spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes in opposition to the 1957 Civil Rights Act. The filibuster against 1964 Civil Rights Act ran on for 60 days, with Southern Senators holding the bill hostage despite majority support. Finally, a bi-partisan coalition mustered enough votes to end the filibuster, and the Civil Rights Act passed by a vote of 73 to 27.
President Obama called the filibuster “a Jim Crow relic.” In 2010, that relic killed the Dream Act. A majority of Senators supported the Dream Act, but they could not get it to a vote. In order to stop the filibuster, they needed 60 votes: they had only 55.
President Joe Biden has proven to be anything but “sleepy,” filling his first week with a pile of proclamations, plans, and executive orders. I’m finding it hard to keep up with the news—but in a good way. So here’s my recap of recent developments:
Less than two weeks ago, Tennessee ordered an end to all vaccination in schools and no more information to teens about vaccine availability—for Covid-19 or for anything else. Just three weeks ago, only 195 people in Tennessee were hospitalized with COVID-19. In Memphis, Methodist University Hospital had no COVID patients at all. Now numbers are soaring. […]
Just three weeks ago, only 195 people in Tennessee were hospitalized with COVID-19. In Memphis, Methodist University Hospital had no COVID patients at all. Now numbers are soaring. Covid-19 hospitalizations across Tennessee almost tripled, to 579. More than 95 percent of these new wave of COVID patients are unvaccinated. Nearly 80 percent are tied to the […]
Screaming about crime is a favorite past time of conservative politicians and headline writers. Like most things, facts about crime are more complicated than the fear-mongers want us to know. Here are a few of the complicated facts. Murders are up in 2020 and 2021, compared to 2019. That is true in many states and […]
Some employers say they can’t find workers after the pandemic. People are lazy. They would rather collect unemployment. Et cetera. Do I believe that? No. The story is more complicated. Many of the jobs that go unfilled are low-wage jobs. They pay so little that people literally cannot afford to work.
You might think Republican law-and-order types would support funding for more prosecutors. Nope. Not when that request comes from Minnesota’s chief prosecutor, Attorney General Keith Ellison. In this legislative session, they would not fund much-needed attorneys for the criminal division of the attorney general’s office. Originally published in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder