The Evening Blues - 5-22-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b group The Isley Brothers. Enjoy!
The Isley Brothers - It's Your Thing
“For thousands of years, civilization did not lend itself to peaceful equalization. Across a wide range of societies and different levels of development, stability favored economic inequality. This was as true of Pharaonic Egypt as it was of Victorian England, as true of the Roman Empire as of the United States. Violent shocks were of paramount importance in disrupting the established order, in compressing the distribution of income and wealth, in narrowing the gap between rich and poor. Throughout recorded history, the most powerful leveling invariably resulted from the most powerful shocks. Four different kinds of violent ruptures have flattened inequality: mass mobilization warfare, transformative revolution, state failure, and lethal pandemics. I call these the Four Horsemen of Leveling. Just like their biblical counterparts, they went forth to “take peace from the earth” and “kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” Sometimes acting individually and sometimes in concert with one another, they produced outcomes that to contemporaries often seemed nothing short of apocalyptic. Hundreds of millions perished in their wake. And by the time the dust had settled, the gap between the haves and the have-nots had shrunk, sometimes dramatically.”
-- Walter Scheidel
News and Opinion
Underscoring 'Grotesque Nature of Unequal Sacrifice,' Richest Americans Have Added $434 Billion in Wealth Since Pandemic Hit
America's billionaires saw their combined net worth soar by $434 billion between March 18 and May 19 while the coronavirus pandemic killed tens of thousands of people and ravaged the U.S. economy, forcing more than 30 million out of work.
That's according to a new analysis released Thursday by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) titled "Tale of Two Crises: Billionaires Gain as Workers Feel Pandemic Pain."
The report shows that the five wealthiest billionaires in the U.S.—Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway, and Larry Ellison of Oracle—saw their collective wealth grow by a total of $75.5 billion between March 18 and May 19, a 19% jump.
ATF and IPS pinpoint March 18 as "the rough start date of the pandemic shutdown, when most federal and state economic restrictions were in place."
Bezos—the world's richest man—saw his wealth jump by nearly $35 billion in the two-month period. Yet even as Bezos' fortune continues to grow, Amazon announced last week that it will not extend $2-an-hour hazard pay for warehouse workers beyond the end of May.
"The pandemic has revealed the deadly consequences of America's yawning wealth gap, and billionaires are the glaring symbol of that economic inequality," Frank Clemente, ATF's executive director, said in a statement.
It's that time again: Our weekly @inequalityorg update on how much U.S. billionaires are profiting off the same pandemic that's forcing millions out of work.
There's been some shocking numbers so far.
But this week is a knockout. pic.twitter.com/pWW79IZMOo
— Institute for Policy Studies (@IPS_DC) May 21, 2020
Chuck Collins, director of the IPS Program on Inequality, said "the surge in billionaire wealth during a global pandemic underscores the grotesque nature of unequal sacrifice."
"While millions risk their lives and livelihoods as first responders and front line workers," said Collins, "these billionaires benefit from an economy and tax system that is wired to funnel wealth to the top."
In a move that alarmed nuclear experts, anti-war activists, and policymakers around the world, the U.S. government notified international partners on Thursday that President Donald Trump is withdrawing the country from the Treaty on Open Skies over alleged Russian violations.
"Once again, Donald Trump's belligerent approach to foreign policy has put us all at risk," declared Win Without War advocacy director Erica Fein, warning that the withdrawal "puts us further down the path of nuclear brinkmanship."
The Open Skies Treaty (OST), which has over 30 other party states, was signed by then-U.S. Secretary of State James Baker under President George H.W. Bush in 1992 and entered into force a decade later. The agreement aims to build trust and reduce the risk of war through unarmed aerial surveillance over territories of all participants.
"Effective six months from tomorrow, the United States will no longer be a party to the treaty," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Thursday, referencing the length of the withdrawal process. "We may, however, reconsider our withdrawal should Russia return to full compliance with the treaty."
The treaty is the third major arms agreement Trump has ditched since taking office in 2017—defying concerns about the global consequences in all three instances. He bailed on the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and began the process of exiting the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia in February 2019.
After reports of the OST withdrawal Thursday morning, Trump later confirmed the decision to reporters outside the White House, saying that "Russia didn't adhere to the treaty, so until they adhere we will pull out, but there's a very good chance we'll make a new agreement or do something to put that agreement back together."
The president added that "we've had a very good relationship lately with Russia and you can see that with respect to oil," and expressed his belief that exiting the multi-party treaty with push the Russian government to come to the table seeking a new arms deal. Nuclear experts, however, denounced Trump's move as irresponsible.
“The problems we were having with #OpenSkies did not defeat the object & purpose of the treaty. It never appeared like the Trump Admin was really trying to fix these compliance problems. It seems like they only know how to break things,” says @atomicbell. https://t.co/WzlW8AzILY
— Nukes of Hazard (@nukes_of_hazard) May 21, 2020
China plans to push through sweeping national security laws for Hong Kong at its annual meeting of parliament, in a move that critics say will effectively end the territory’s autonomy. Beijing has been making it clear it wants new security legislation passed since huge pro-democracy protests last year plunged Hong Kong into its deepest turmoil since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. ...
Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the National People’s Congress (NPC), announced that delegates at the NPC – a largely rubber-stamping exercise – would “establish and improve a legal framework and mechanism for safeguarding national security” in Hong Kong. ...
“This is the end of Hong Kong,” said the pro-democracy Honk Kong legislator Dennis Kwok. “Beijing, the Central People’s Government, has completely breached its promise to the Hong Kong people ... They are completely walking back on their obligation.”
Article 23 of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, says the city must enact national security laws to prohibit “treason, secession, sedition [and] subversion” against the Chinese government. But the clause has never been implemented due to deeply held public fears it would curtail Hong Kong’s cherished rights, such as freedom of expression. An attempt to enact article 23 in 2003 was shelved after half a million people took to the streets in protest.
By passing a law in the NPC, Chinese authorities will effectively bypass local opposition.
More than 14,000 coronavirus deaths in New York could have been prevented if the state had shut down just a week earlier than it did, according to Columbia University researchers.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order closing schools on March 16, and then a statewide stay-at-home order on March 22. By the end of the March, an overwhelming majority of states had issued stay-at-home orders or at least introduced social distancing requirements.
On May 3, there were more than 65,000 deaths nationally. But the researchers at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health found that 61% of infections and 55% of deaths — roughly 36,000 deaths at that point — could have been prevented if the entire country had entered lockdown about a week earlier than it did.
And if those lockdowns had been introduced at the beginning of March, the researchers estimated that there would have been 11,253 deaths — just 17% of the actual total. “A longer response time results in a stronger rebound of infections and death,” the researchers wrote.
In New York state, there would have been fewer than 3,000 deaths if social distancing had begun a week earlier, rather than the 17,581 that there were on May 3, researchers estimated.
Another 2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance last week even as states across the US began opening up for business again, betting that the coronavirus pandemic is now under control.
The latest figures from the Department of Labor mean close to 39 million Americans have lost their jobs in just nine weeks. The rate of weekly losses has slowed sharply from its peak of 6.6m at the start of April but remains at levels unseen since the 1930s Great Depression.
This week the treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said he expects unemployment to continue to rise as the pandemic takes its toll, but warned of “permanent damage” to the economy if the lockdowns are prolonged.
The weekly jobless claims are seen as a proxy for layoffs, but they do not necessarily give the most accurate picture of the unemployment situation. A claim is an application for unemployment benefits, and not every person who is laid off immediately applies for benefits. The weekly unemployment claims are also still being affected by a backlog collapse of claims that overwhelmed many state systems.
The official unemployment rate is now 14.7%, the worst since records began. A decade’s worth of job gains have been wiped out, and most economists believe the real figure is higher and expect unemployment to rise to well above 20% in the coming months.
Rising Exclusive: Rep Jayapal reveals she's trying to work with populist right on worker legislation
While Pushing for Corporate Legal Immunity, McConnell Vows to Block Extension of Boosted Unemployment Benefits
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed in a private call with House Republicans Wednesday that the enhanced unemployment benefits keeping millions of people afloat amid Great Depression-level joblessness will not be extended in the next coronavirus stimulus legislation, effectively endorsing a major income cut for a large swath of the U.S. population.
The boosted unemployment insurance—which provides an additional $600 per week on top of state benefits and is set to expire on July 31—"will not be in the next bill," the Kentucky Republican reportedly told his GOP colleagues, calling the fact that some people are making slightly more money on unemployment than they did from their jobs "crazy." ...
In a series of tweets Wednesday evening, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) pointed to a Brookings Institution analysis showing that boosted unemployment benefits offset around half of all lost wages and salaries in April. House Democrats passed legislation last week that would extend the boosted unemployment benefits through January of next year.
"Removing that support while eliminating access to food, shelter, and healthcare would inflict untold suffering and could cause widespread civic unrest," Beyer warned. "Cutting back federal assistance at the height of the crisis would mean self-inflicted disaster, devastation, and additional deaths. That must not happen."
McConnell, whose remarks during the private call were first reported by Politico, also said he will continue advocating aggressively for the inclusion of corporate liability protections in the next stimulus package, but did not provide a timeline for the legislation.
Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker explore new frontiers in uselessness.
'Just Give People the Money': Progressives Rip Third Way-Approved Complicated Tax Credit Relief Proposal
A new proposal from four senators—two Democrats and two Republicans—to offer a tax credit for workers displaced by the coronavirus outbreak is under fire from progressive critics who warn the convoluted plan is both insufficient to the scale of the crisis and an affront to more simple and far-reaching alternatives.
"Give people money," tweeted journalist Anand Giridharadas. "Money is like a refundable tax credit except useful."
The proposal from Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) offers a $4,000 refundable tax credit for job retraining to those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic's effect on the U.S. economy.
"The workers could use it to offset costs of training such as apprenticeships, certificates, and two- and four-year programs, including online learning, through the end of 2021," reported CNBC.
Centrist think tank Third Way's co-founder and senior vice president for policy Jim Kessler celebrated the plan.
"We like it!" Kessler tweeted.
Progressives found that praise predictable—but not indicative of the proposal's benefit to working Americans.
JetPAC executive director Mohammed Missouri said on Twitter that the debt-focused payment schemes around higher education and training made the tax credit's prerequisites bad policy in and of themselves.
"In order to get $4,000 in a tax refund, people have to incur thousands more in debt," said Missouri. "That's moronic public policy."
"Just give people the money," tweeted New York magazine writer Sarah Jones.
At The Discourse, writer Paul Blest echoed that call, writing that "giving people a $4,000 tax credit for 'skills training' right now is solving the wrong problem."
As Blest wrote:
This is a crisis. Tax credits do nothing on a macroeconomic level and provide no immediate assistance to people in the short term. Instead of fucking around with these grand plans to remake the workforce by goading people into learning how to code or be HVAC mechanics or whatever, just focus on giving people money. Cut them monthly checks, cancel their rent and mortgages, cancel their student loans, give unemployment insurance to the people who need it and help states update their unemployment systems so those people can actually access it. All of these things would go exponentially further in helping to pull as many people as possible out of the despair brought on by the economic crisis.
Trump Forced Meat Processing Plants to Stay Open. Now There's Almost 600 Workers With Coronavirus at a North Carolina Plant.
Tyson Foods has yet another massive coronavirus outbreak at one of its meat processing plants: Almost 600 workers and contractors employed at its North Carolina chicken processing complex have tested positive for COVID-19 just a week after slowing production to a crawl.
Tyson, one of the U.S.’ largest producers and marketers of chicken, beef, and pork, said Wednesday that 570 of its 2,244 workers at their Wilkesboro, North Carolina, complex have been diagnosed with the deadly respiratory disease, forcing the company to shut down operations at two of the complex’s three processing plants for deep cleaning. Last Friday, the company severely limited production to begin testing at the site. The North Carolina location is one of 30 Tyson complexes where the company is rolling out tests for all workers. The company has seen similar massive outbreaks, in the hundreds of cases, at its meat processing plants in Pasco, Washington; Madison, Nebraska; and Waterloo, Iowa.
Tyson said that 237 tests were conducted by the state’s Department of Health or local healthcare providers, while the remaining 2,007 were conducted on-site between May 6 and May 9. Though they didn’t provide an exact figure, they say a majority of the employees who tested positive were asymptomatic.
Last month, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to compel meat production companies like Tyson to remain open so as to avoid food shortages, but the tight conditions in these plants make workers particularly susceptible to the virus.
Mike Davis: Workers Face "Sophie's Choice" Between Income & Health as 50 States Reopen Amid Pandemic
The U.S. president recently ordered meatpacking employees back into workplaces plagued by coronavirus. He did not order the employers to make their slaughterhouses safe. GOP-proposed legislation exempts employers from lawsuits by employees sickened or killed by coronavirus infections at workplaces. The GOP is mostly silent about requiring employers to maintain safe or healthy workplaces. Employers across the country threaten workers who refuse to return to jobs they find unsafe. They demand that employees return or risk being fired. Job loss likely means loss of health insurance for employees’ families. Being fired risks also losing eligibility for unemployment insurance.
Employers are now going to extremes to evade the costs of safe and healthy workplaces. Recently, New Orleans’ authorities and their contractors fired their $10.25 per hour garbage collectors after a short strike. The strikers had demanded protective equipment against garbage possibly infected with the coronavirus and also $15 per hour “hazard” pay. New Orleans replaced the striking workers by contracting for nearby prison inmates paid $1.33 per hour and individuals from halfway houses. Capitalism’s iron fist hits the working class with this “choice”: unsafe job, or poverty, or slave labor with both.
Capitalism has always struggled to minimize outlays on workplace safety and health. Workers have protested this wherever capitalism became the prevailing economic system over the last three centuries. Upton Sinclair’s popular book, The Jungle, published over a century ago, exposed spectacularly unsafe and unhealthy conditions in Chicago’s meatpacking industry. The 1906 passages of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act responded to public outrage over that industry’s working conditions. Coronavirus infection rates among employees of U.S. pork processing plants as high as 27 percent illustrate how employers forever “economize” on workplace health and safety. ...
Capitalism has always sacrificed the safety and health of the employee majority to boost profits of its employer minority. That minority makes all the key enterprise decisions and excludes the employee majority from that decision-making. No wonder employers figure disproportionally among society’s rich, safe, and healthy, while employees figure disproportionally among the poor, unsafe, and unhealthy. Capitalism displays not only extreme inequalities of wealth and income, but also all their derivative inequalities: economic, political, and cultural. Pandemics expose and worsen them all.
"I personally get really sick and tired of turning on the TV and seeing these companies run these ads "THANK YOU HEROES AND HEROINES," but of course we're not going to pay you any more money, and that is, to my mind, nauseating." @BernieSanders pic.twitter.com/tMJHKOHo22
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) May 21, 2020
A top US scientist has said that people should not count on a Covid-19 vaccine being developed any time soon, as global infections passed 5 million after surges in Latin America, including Brazil, which has recorded nearly 20,000 new cases.
William Haseltine, the groundbreaking cancer, HIV/AIDS and human genome projects researcher, has said the best approach to the pandemic is to manage the disease through careful tracing of infections and strict isolation measures whenever it starts spreading. He said that while a vaccine could be developed, “I wouldn’t count on it”, and urged people to wear masks, wash hands, clean surfaces and keep a distance.
“Do not listen to the politicians who say we’re going to have one by the time my re election comes around,” he said. “Maybe we will (but) I’m just saying it’s not a slam-dunk case by any means ... because every time people have tried to make a vaccine – for Sars or Mers – it hasn’t actually protected.” Vaccines developed previously for other types of coronavirus had failed to protect mucous membranes in the nose where the virus typically enters the body, he said.
The United States and other countries has not done enough to “forcibly isolate” people exposed to the virus, Haseltine said, but praised China, South Korea and Taiwan’s efforts to curb infections. Haseltine said the US, Russia and Brazil – which rank first, second and third for infections – have done the worst.
Cuomo Order That Sent Estimated 4,300 Covid-19 Patients to Nursing Homes Denounced as 'Single Dumbest Decision Anyone Could Make'
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is facing new criticism after the Associated Press reported Friday that a state directive led to over 4,300 still recovering coronavirus patients being sent to New York's "already vulnerable nursing homes."
"It was a death sentence," tweeted Daniel Choi, a doctor at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. He called the directive a "horrendous idea" and "definitely not something any doctor taking care of nursing home patients would have signed off on."
The state health department directive (pdf), issued March 25, barred nursing homes from requiring patients deemed "medically stable" from being tested for Covid-19 prior to admission. Cuomo, a Democrat, rescinded the order May 10, but not before thousands of infected patients likely entered nursing homes and contributed to the coronavirus's spread.
The estimated number tallied by the AP amounts to what would have been a "big and indefensible problem for facilities," the outlet reported.
From the AP:
"It was the single dumbest decision anyone could make if they wanted to kill people," Daniel Arbeeny said of the directive, which prompted him to pull his 88-year-old father out of a Brooklyn nursing home where more than 50 people have died. His father later died of Covid-19 at home.
"This isn't rocket science," Arbeeny said. "We knew the most vulnerable—the elderly and compromised—are in nursing homes and rehab centers."
CBS New York reported Friday that the conoravirus has taken the lives of almost 5% of nursing home residents in the state, and this week the Cuomo tried to deflect blame for the directive.
"Why did the state do that with Covid patients in nursing homes?" asked Cuomo. "It's because the state followed President Trump's CDC guidelines. So they should ask President Trump."
In an op-ed at the Guardian on Wednesday questioning the recent accolades heaped on the New York governor—including suggestions that Cuomo run for president—journalists Lyta Gold and Nathan Robinson of Current Affairs magazine write that "Cuomo should be one of the most loathed officials in America right now. "
Gold and Robinson argue that blame for New York's high death toll from the virus should sit largely with Cuomo.
"Federal failures played a role, of course, but this tragedy was absolutely due, in part, to decisions by the governor," they wrote, citing as examples his failure to take swift action, delays in imposing social distancing measures, Medicaid cuts both before and after the start of the pandemic, and his partnership with Silicon Valley billionaires to "reimagine education."
"This is the problem: for too long, Democrats have measured their politicians by 'whether they are better than Republicans,' wrote Gold and Robinson. "This sets the bar very low indeed, and means that Democrats end up settling for incompetent and amoral leaders who betray progressive values again and again."
Battle Covid-19, Not Medicare for All: Doctors Demand Hospital Industry Stop Funding Dark Money Lobby Group
A progressive organization of 23,000 physicians from across the U.S. demanded Thursday that the American Hospital Association (AHA) divest completely from a dark-money lobbying group that has spent millions combating Medicare for All and instead devote those financial resources to the fight against Covid-19 and to better support for patients and healthcare workers.
Dr. Adam Gaffney, president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), said in a statement that "the Covid-19 pandemic has stretched hospitals' resources to the limit, and the AHA should not waste precious member hospitals' funds lobbying against universal health coverage" as a member of the Partnership for America's Health Care Future (PFAHCF).
Because Medicare for All would provide a lifeline to hospitals in underserved areas that have been hit hard by Covid-19, Gaffney argued, the AHA "cannot claim to represent hospitals while also opposing a single-payer system that would keep struggling hospitals open." The AHA represents around 5,000 hospitals and other healthcare providers in the U.S.
As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, public health officials are accusing the Trump administration of directing billions of dollars in Covid-19 hospital bailout funds to high-revenue providers while restricting money to hospitals that serve low-income areas.
"The AHA should immediately leave the PFAHCF," Gaffney said, "and redirect that money to supporting patients and frontline healthcare workers."
"As physicians, we can no longer tolerate a health system that puts profits ahead of patients and public health," Gaffney added. "It's time for health professionals to hold accountable the organizations that claim to represent us."
Formed in the summer of 2018 by an alliance of pharmaceutical, insurance, and hospital lobbyists with the goal of countering the push for universal healthcare, PFAHCF's anti-Medicare for All "army" has grown rapidly since its founding, with the AHA joining the fray in 2019.
As The Intercept reported last October, the for-profit hospital industry has played an "integral role" in the corporate fight against single-payer.
Worth a read:
Why do Americans represent less than 5% of the world’s population but nearly a third of the known coronavirus death toll? Not because of government incompetence, the Trump administration is arguing, but because Americans are very unhealthy. The United States’ organized response to the pandemic had been “historic”, Trump’s health secretary, Alex Azar, told CNN on 17 May, but America “unfortunately” has a “very diverse” population, and black Americans and minorities “in particular” have “significant underlying disease”.
Jake Tapper, the CNN anchor interviewing Azar, paused and squinted. Surely, he asked, Azar was not arguing that “the reason that there were so many dead Americans is because we’re unhealthier than the rest of the world?” Azar doubled down: “These are demonstrated facts.” ...
Blaming black Americans for dying from a novel virus because they had diabetes or high blood pressure was precisely what Azar was doing. Someone had to be held responsible for an American death toll approaching 100,000 people, worse than any other country’s reported deaths. In order for the Trump administration to remain blameless, someone else had to be blamed, and the administration was now blaming the dead.
It took less than a month after the first shelter-in-place orders to devolve into a full-blown partisan culture war, complete with armed protests egged on by the president; conservatives questioning or denying death numbers; pundits arguing against a continued lockdown with lines like, “You can call me a Grandma killer”; attempts by hair salons and barbers to stage acts of civil disobedience; and some states led by Republican governors moving to quickly reopen, even as other states with Democratic governors announced months of continued restrictions. ...
It would be wrong to argue that racism was the sole motivation for the protests, or even a decisive factor for the many different protesters who showed up. But the moment when the US response to coronavirus escalated into a full culture war is revealing. The big protests at state capitols, with crowds of white Americans demanding their governors reopen the economy, started about a week after national news outlets began reporting in early April that black Americans made up a disproportionate number of the dead.
For some wealthy Americans eager to reopen the economy, the motivating fear may be the risk of social change, the historian Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz said. “The capitalist class, those who benefit most from the unequal system, they know it’s not sustainable,” she said. “They’re desperate not to stay locked down too long, so people get used to fresh air, breathing air without carbon in it,” she said. “People might get ideas of a different kind of world.” To Dunbar-Ortiz and other historians, Americans’ push to reopen the economy during a pandemic, and some Americans’ willingness to hold armed demonstrations in order to do so, looks like a case of almost psychotic repetition. It’s not a new idea that thousands of people must die to preserve America’s “business as usual”. It’s not a new assumption many of those people will be brown or black.
Facing one of the biggest economic slumps in recent history, legislators and judges nationwide quickly created a patchwork of rules that temporarily barred landlords from evicting tenants or taking them to court. Those emergency rules, for the most part, kept millions of tenants in their homes after they failed to pay rent this month and last.
But some property-owners, frustrated by their inability to act, have since tried to illegally drive their tenants out using intimidation tactics. Legal aid attorneys in Rhode Island, Virginia, Kentucky, Texas, and California told VICE News that they’ve seen a rise in so-called “self-help” evictions since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March. Some landlords, they said, cut power or water, changed locks, or even threatened to call child protective services or immigration authorities on non-paying tenants.
In some circumstances, the victims of those illegal evictions — often vulnerable, marginalized people without an acute knowledge of landlord-tenant law — wound up homeless.
“It’s anything from wrongly telling someone you have to go, and this person doesn’t know they have a right to remain, to levels of harassment, knocking on the door, fake notices, threats, to cutting off utilities,” said Oliver Ehlinger, a Solano-based attorney with Legal Services of Northern California. “We’ve seen examples of all of those.”
Earlier this month, for the first time in recent memory, pronghorn antelope ventured into the sun-scorched lowlands of Death Valley national park. Undeterred by temperatures that climbed to over 110F, the animals were observed by park staff browsing on a hillside not far from Furnace Creek visitor center. “This is something we haven’t seen in our lifetimes,” said Kati Schmidt, a spokesperson for the National Parks Conservation Association. “We’ve known they’re in some of the higher elevation areas of Death Valley but as far as we’re aware they’ve never been documented this low in the park, near park headquarters.”
The return of pronghorns to Death Valley is but one of many stories of wildlife thriving on public lands since the coronavirus closures went into effect a month and a half ago.
In Yosemite national park, closed since 20 March, wildlife have flocked in large numbers to a virtually abandoned Yosemite Valley. More than 4 million visitors traveled to Yosemite last year, the vast majority by way of automobile. On busy late-spring days, as visitors gather to see the famed Yosemite, Vernal and Bridal Veil Falls, the 7.5-mile long valley can become an endless procession of cars.
But traffic jams seem a distant memory as the closure approaches its two-month mark. Deer, bobcats and black bears have congregated around buildings, along roadways and other parts of the park typically teeming with visitors. ...
A handful of workers who have remained in Yosemite during the closures, who have been able to travel by foot and bike along the deserted roadways, describe an abundance of wildlife not seen in the last century. “The bear population has quadrupled,” Dane Peterson, a worker at the Ahwahnee Hotel, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not like they usually aren’t here … It’s that they usually hang back at the edges or move in the shadows.”
Similar behaviors have been documented in other national parks including Rocky Mountain, in Colorado, and Yellowstone, in Wyoming. “Without an abundance of visitors and vehicles, wildlife has been seen in areas they typically don’t frequent,” said the National Park Service spokesperson Cynthia Hernandez, “including near roadways, park buildings and parking lots, spending time doing what they usually do naturally: foraging for food”.
Lots more detail at the link:
ExxonMobil, Koch and Mercer family are past funders of critics of stay-at-home orders as fossil fuel industry struggles amid lockdowns
Dozens of individuals and groups urging states to reopen amid the Covid-19 pandemic have historical financial ties to coal and oil and gas companies and conservative billionaires who have invested in climate disinformation. Past funders of the current critics of stay-at-home orders include the bankrupt coal company Murray Energy and oil giant ExxonMobil, as well as Koch and Mercer family foundations, according to DeSmog, a group that tracks the money behind anti-climate-action campaigns.
Some of the contributions tallied are recent and others are at least five years old or older. ExxonMobil, for example, had broken ties with two of the groups in this story by 2006. There is no evidence that these companies and foundations are funding ongoing campaigns to reopen businesses. But Brendan DeMelle, executive director of DeSmog, said the “information echo chamber” of interests downplaying both the climate crisis and the pandemic would not be what it is today without fossil fuel funding.
“While we don’t have direct evidence of specific grant money going for Covid denial, none of these operations would exist without their support over the years,” DeMelle said.
Donations to not-for-profit thinktanks are nearly impossible to track in real time because of a lag in reporting. It could take years to reveal which interests are currently funneling money to the groups helping to organize and expand shutdown protests. Even then, much of the funds could be hidden, donated anonymously through third-party not-for-profits, DeMelle said. But DeSmog’s research shows many of the calls to end stay-at-home orders are coming from people associated with a wide-ranging network of organizations that together seek to limit the power of government and thwart intervention in business. That web of thinktanks was built years ago on contributions from the fossil fuel industry and conservative philanthropists.
Now, the fossil fuel industry is struggling amid government lockdowns aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, and allowing people to move freely and return to work would help the sector by boosting energy demand.
As the US continues to be pummeled by the coronavirus pandemic, a fresh looming threat is set to complicate efforts to contain the outbreak – an unusually fierce hurricane season. The official season for Atlantic hurricanes doesn’t start until 1 June, but for the sixth year in a row there’s been a named storm occur before this date, with tropical storm Arthur brushing the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Monday.
Arthur is set to be just the opening salvo in an active period of hurricanes, according to forecasters, with Penn State’s Earth System Science Center estimating there will be between 13 and 24 named storms – a category reached when the National Hurricane Center deems a storm to have wind speeds of at least 39mph.
Penn State researchers’ best guess is there will be 20 named storms, eight more than the 30-year average, which would make 2020 one of the most active years for hurricanes on record. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) will release its own projection on Thursday.
While it’s uncertain how many of these storms will hit the US, researchers at Colorado State University have calculated that there is a nearly 70% chance this year that at least one major hurricane – a category three event or greater with winds exceeding 111mph – will make landfall on American soil. ...
The prospect of a disastrous hurricane making landfall is causing growing angst in coastal US states, such as Florida and Louisiana, that are already in the process of restarting economic activity during the coronavirus pandemic. The normal strategy of cramming displaced people into temporary shelters to escape flooding risks spurring a fresh wave of infections, forcing authorities to tear up their standard hurricane plans.
“In our first meeting about this, we were like, ‘Oh my God, we will have to have shelters with Covid,’” said Steven Davis, president of All Hands Consulting, a disaster preparation firm. “This year is different because you can’t put a bunch of people in an elementary school with a disease spreading. It’s going to be challenging. We are having to redo all of our plans.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
The Isley Brothers - I Know Who You Been Socking It To
The Isley Brothers - Twist And Shout
The Isley Brothers - Black Berries(Parts 1 & 2)
The Isley Brothers - I Turned You On
The Isley Brothers - Freedom
The Isley Brothers w/Jimi Hendrix - Move Over And Let Me Dance
The Isley Brothers - Spanish Twist
The Isley Brothers - Teach Me How To Shimmy
The Isley Brothers - I’m Gonna Knock On Your Door
The Isley Brothers - Shout Part 1 & 2
Isley Brothers - Testify