The Evening Blues - 3-18-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player Elmon "Driftin' Slim" Mickle. Enjoy!
Elmon Mickle - Jackson Blues
"Obvious cognitive decline is a stutter.
Massive exit poll discrepancies are normal.
An ex-president installing his right-hand man as his successor is democracy.
Facts are Kremlin talking points.
Journalism is a crime.
War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
Leaving your house? Don't take your cellphone.
The federal government is in talks with Facebook, Google and other tech companies about ways to use smartphone location data to tackle the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
Washington is reportedly interested in using the data to better understand how the virus spreads and to see whether people are practicing social distancing.
A new task force made up of tech and other industry executives presented ideas for the use of the location data at a White House meeting Sunday, the Post reported. Presenters included officials from Harvard University and representatives from top tech groups and Silicon Valley firms.
Turkey has pressed European leaders to make fresh cash pledges to prevent tens of thousands of refugees from leaving the country and trying to reach Europe amid a Russian-Syrian offensive in north-west Syria. After intense bombardment in Idlib province last month, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, encouraged thousands of refugees in the country to move on towards the Greek islands and the Baltics, in a repeat of the surge to Europe in 2015.
That push ended when the EU gave Turkey €6bn to house the refugees in Turkey. Nearly €4.7bn has been contractually awarded, but only about €3.2bn paid out.
In a phone call on Tuesday between the French president, Emmanuel Macron, the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Erdogan, the leaders discussed the possibility of a new refugee deal, ways to combat the continued Russian threat in Idlib, and the fear that coronavirus could sweep through the refugee camps bordering Syria in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. ...
Erdogan has been accused of blackmail by some Europeans for bussing refugees towards the EU’s borders. TV footage showed Greek security guards using water cannons and teargas against migrants who tried to force their way across the border. ...
The advocates of the 2016 EU scheme say there is no alternative but to prepare a second €6bn scheme, and start to take some of the refugees off Greek islands and on to the mainland prior to their dispersal in Europe.
The U.S. government is run by sociopaths. How else to explain the Trump administration’s callous disregard for the lives of ordinary Iranians in the midst of this global coronavirus crisis? How else to make sense of U.S. officials doubling down in their support for crippling economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic, despite the sheer scale of the suffering?
The spread of Covid-19 has been nothing less than a catastrophe for the people of Iran. On Monday, Iranian officials reported another 129 fatalities, “the largest one-day rise in deaths since it began battling the Middle East’s worst outbreak.” Dozens of Iranian government officials, parliamentarians, and religious leaders have lost their lives to the disease. The death toll now stands at 988, and the total number of cases has crossed 16,000 — roughly, nine out of every 10 cases in the Middle East! Globally, only China and South Korea have had more confirmed cases and yet, as the AP notes, the real number in Iran “may be even higher.” ...
U.S. sanctions on Iran, which have had a devastating impact on the economy, have made things much worse. The government has been forced to request an emergency $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has written to several world leaders to tell them how his country’s fight against the coronavirus has been “severely hampered by US sanctions.” His foreign minister Javad Zarif accused the U.S. government of “medical terrorism.”
The Trump administration — in the form of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin — continues to insist that sanctions do not prevent humanitarian aid. This is, technically, correct. Yet as Human Rights Watch pointed out in October 2019, months before the novel coronavirus outbreak in Iran, “while the US government has built exemptions for humanitarian imports into its sanctions regime … in practice these exemptions have failed to offset the strong reluctance of US and European companies and banks to risk incurring sanctions and legal action by exporting or financing exempted humanitarian goods.” The result, concluded the human rights group, “has been to deny Iranians access to essential medicines and to impair their right to health.”
In fact, as the Atlantic Council noted in May 2019, “despite the fact that sanctions exempted humanitarian goods, the US Treasury Department had previously prosecuted medical companies for selling small amounts of medical supplies to Iran, which in turn, has had a deterring effect on other companies doing business with Tehran.” ... On Monday, the Chinese and Russian governments demanded the U.S. suspend sanctions on Iran as a result of the pandemic. ... Yet, again, the Trump administration has refused to budge. Imagine being both so cruel and so out of step with the international community that the Chinese and Russian governments have the moral high ground over you.
ran issued its most dire warning yet Tuesday about the new coronavirus ravaging the country, suggesting “millions” could die in the Islamic Republic if people keep traveling and ignore health guidance.
A state TV journalist who also is a medical doctor gave the warning only hours after hard-line Shiite faithful on Monday night pushed their way into the courtyards of two major shrines that were finally closed due to the virus. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious ruling prohibiting “unnecessary” travel. ...
In announcing the new warning, the Iranian state TV journalist, Dr. Afruz Eslami, cited a study by Tehran’s prestigious Sharif University of Technology, which offered three scenarios: If people cooperate fully now, Iran will see 120,000 infections and 12,000 deaths before the outbreak is over; if they offer medium cooperation, there will be 300,000 cases and 110,000 deaths.
But if people fail to follow any guidance, it could collapse Iran’s already-strained medical system, Eslami said. If the “medical facilities are not sufficient, there will be 4 million cases, and 3.5 million people will die,” she said.
The Italian government lamented that “not a single EU country” has responded to its request for medical equipment — unlike China, which immediately helped. And it is not just Italy; Britain has also relied on Cuba to help it battle the contagious virus.
The northern Italian region of Lombardy has been particularly hard hit by coronavirus, with tens of thousands of cases and more than 1,000 deaths. The pandemic has devastated the region, which is the richest and most populous area in the country. ... In response to the crisis, Lombardy’s government requested that China, Cuba, and Venezuela send doctors and other medical personnel to help to contain the outbreak.
“We are in touch with Cuba, Venezuela, and China, who have made doctors available,” said Lombardy’s health minister, Giulio Gallera, in a press conference. ... The local government in the major Italian city Milan has also relied on shipments of medical equipment from China. A team of Chinese doctors arrived in Italy on March 12.
The European Union, on the other hand, has left Italy out to dry. Italy’s ambassador to the EU, Maurizio Massari, published an op-ed noting that his country requested support through the body’s Mechanism of Civil Protection, seeking medical equipment to contain the coronavirus outbreak. “But, unfortunately, not a single EU country responded to the Commission’s call. Only China responded bilaterally,” Massari wrote.
In fact the European Union has done the opposite of help. The European Commission, which leads the EU, called on member states to cut medical spending and privatize health services at least 63 times between 2011 to 2018. The EU’s obsession with cutting and privatizing state institutions has greatly weakened the continent’s health infrastructure, making it much more susceptible to deadly pandemics like coronavirus. ...
Even the United Kingdom, one of the richest countries on the planet, has relied on Cuban help to contain the coronavirus. The British government asked numerous countries in the Caribbean to let the cruise ship MS Braemar dock in their port, after there were several reports of coronavirus among its more than 1,000 passengers. CNN noted that “British officials launched an intense diplomatic effort to find a country willing to take the” infected ship, but were rejected by Barbados and the Bahamas. On March 16, Cuba agreed to assist Britain, offering to dock the MS Braemar in a Cuban port and help fly the passengers back to the UK.
Brazil, currently under the control of a far-right administration that has joined the US in demonizing Cuba’s socialist government, has fallen back on the small nation for much-needed medical support — requesting help from the very same Cuban doctors it expelled months ago. ...
Before Bolsonaro was elected president in 2018, 10,000 doctors Cuban doctors were inside Brazil, working in some of the poorest, most remote regions of the country. Their assistance arrived thanks to an agreement between Havana and the country’s left-wing Workers’ Party government, which sought Cuban help to treat those that the Brazilian health system had long failed to reach. Throughout his presidential campaign, Bolsonaro slammed the Cuban doctors in his country as a nefarious fifth column, denigrated them as “terrorists,” and pledged to expel them.
When he took power following a US-backed soft coup against the Workers’ Party government, Bolsonaro made good on his promise. He kicked out many of the Cuban doctors, leaving impoverished rural regions without medical personnel. By February 2020, however, the Brazilian government began to reverse course. The Bolsonaro administration had been unable to find doctors who would serve in these remote areas, so it agreed to allow the 1,800 Cuban doctors who remained in the country to return to the communities they had previously served.
And now, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Brasilia’s right-wing occupant has done a complete about-face. In a press conference on March 15, Brazilian Secretary of Health João Gabbardo beseeched Cuba to send back the doctors who were expelled to prevent the country’s health system from collapsing as it battled a spreading pandemic. ...
The Bolsonaro administration’s reversal was particularly embarrassing considering that, just last year, the president claimed the Cuban doctors were not real medical experts, but ideological brain-washers training poor Brazilians to become communist guerrillas.
France’s 65 million people were put under lockdown Tuesday, with 100,000 police officers deployed to enforce harsh new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.
From midday Tuesday (7 a.m. ET), French residents are forbidden from leaving their homes except for essential trips, such as to buy food or medicine, or for necessary travel for work. The measures will last for at least 15 days, and will be enforced with fines of up to 135 euros ($151). ...
France had already shuttered all bars, restaurants, and shops deemed “non-essential,” along with all nurseries, schools and universities. But Macron said those measures had proved insufficient, as the number of infected people continued to surge: France has recorded 148 deaths from COVID-19, the third-highest in Europe, with 6,655 confirmed infections.
"Even while medics were warning about the gravity of the situation, we saw people get together in the parks, busy markets and restaurants and bars that did not respect the order to close,” he said.
“There can be no more outside meetings, no more seeing family or friends on the street or in the park.”
'Cannot Go On Like This': Ordered to Work Despite Coronavirus Outbreak, Spanish Autoworkers Shut Down Mercedes Factory
Employees shut down a large Mercedes factory in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain on Monday to protest being required to work despite the coronavirus outbreak which forced the Spanish government to impose a nationwide lockdown over the weekend.
After talks with management over factory conditions and precautions against the spread of COVID-19 broke down, employees stopped working and staged a sit-in at the end of the assembly line, refusing to allow the production process to continue.
The factory's works council, which represents employees, alleged that Mercedes management failed to comply with on-the-job safety requirements such as ensuring that workers have masks, adequate gloves, and other supplies.
The employees demanded that "the health of workers be prioritized over production in the face of the coronavirus health crisis," according to local Spanish outlet Naiz. ...
Major automakers like Ford, General Motors, and others have instructed non-factory employees in the United States and across Europe to work from home amid the coronavirus outbreak, but factory workers have been required to work.
Jalopnik reported Monday that the Mercedes factory in Vitoria-Gasteiz "had at least one case of coronavirus and 23 workers in quarantine."
'Despicable': Insurance Industry Front Group Ramps Up Propaganda Against Medicare for All Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the United States, laying bare the myriad dysfunctions and inefficiencies of America's for-profit healthcare system, a powerful insurance industry front group is openly ramping up its campaign against systemic healthcare reforms that experts say would help mitigate the outbreak and guarantee essential care for all.
Forbes Tate Partners, the lobbying firm behind the anti-Medicare for All group Partnership for America's Health Care Future (PAHCF), tweeted late Monday that while its employees have been working from home since last Friday, "our work on behalf of our strategic partners and clients continues full steam ahead."
To that end, PAHCF last week launched a Facebook ad blitz against Connecticut's state public option plan and began laying the groundwork for propaganda efforts in other major states, including New York and California. PAHCF was formed in 2018 by major healthcare industry interests with the goal of squashing growing public support for single-payer. ...
Ahead of the Democratic presidential primary debate between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden Sunday night—held without an in-person audience due to the coronavirus outbreak—PAHCF published a lengthy memo condemning single-payer and other more incremental proposals like the public option as "one-size-fits-all" plans that would hike taxes on the middle class.
The memo, authored by former Obama administration official Lauren Crawford Shaver, does not mention recent studies showing single-payer would slash U.S. healthcare spending by hundreds of billions of dollars and save tens of thousands of lives each year.
The PAHCF memo also does not once mention the coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19, which has infected at least 4,400 people in the United States and killed 86. As Common Dreams reported last week, the insurance industry has pushed back against calls to waive all costs related to coronavirus treatment.
"In the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, the corporate front group for the hospital, pharma, and insurance industries continues to churn out anti-Medicare for All propaganda," tweeted pro-Sanders group People for Bernie. "Despicable."
Nancy Pelosi once again proves that she is a sneaky-assed shitweasel and that Democrats are the working peoples' oppressor.
With Many Lawmakers Out of Town, Democratic House Quietly Weakens Paid Leave Provisions in Coronavirus Relief Bill
The Democrat-led House of Representatives on Monday quietly weakened paid leave provisions in a coronavirus relief bill that was already facing criticism from progressives for excluding 80 percent of the U.S. private-sector workforce.
The changes to the legislative package—formally known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act—passed the House with unanimous consent Monday evening under the guise of "technical corrections." The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate, where its prospects for passage are unclear.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday morning that "Democratic aides were alarmed by the changes, which were passed with no objections because House lawmakers are away from Washington [on recess]. The changes weren't shown to most lawmakers before the vote."
The new version of the bill, according to the Journal, "would still provide two weeks of sick leave to a wide swath of workers affected by the pandemic, including those who are in quarantine, caring for family members with COVID-19, and those who have children whose schools or day-care centers have closed."
"But for the next 10 weeks," the Journal noted, "paid leave would be limited only to workers caring for a child whose school or day care had been shut. Healthcare providers and emergency responders, as well as workers who had been in quarantine or caring for a family member affected by the virus, wouldn't be eligible for the additional 10 weeks of leave."
The changes were negotiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. The original version that passed the House early Saturday before lawmakers left Washington for recess sparked swift backlash from the business community, which chafed at the paid leave requirements.
Earlier Monday, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) delayed passage of the changes but eventually withdrew his objections, concluding that "what are being called technical corrections make the bill better than it was when it got passed in the wee hours Saturday morning."
Progressives, along with a handful of Republican members of Congress, characterized the original legislation as woefully inadequate to provide meaningful relief for those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
"Democrats are scaling back the paid sick leave bill that already left out 80% of workers," tweeted Max Berger, co-founder of progressive Jewish advocacy group IfNotNow. "Instead of proposing solutions as big as the crisis, it looks like they're still playing small ball."
In case you missed this: After the weekend uproar over large corporations not being subject to the paid sick leave provisions, Congress responded by *scaling it back* https://t.co/Z7outR7WXa
— Jeffrey Stein (@JStein_WaPo) March 17, 2020
As large parts of the economy shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration announced Tuesday that it will propose direct payments to Americans, delay tax penalties, and keep the stock market open, among several measures aimed at protecting the health and livelihood of Americans.
President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin promised direct payments to Americans, many of whom work in industries like travel and dining, which have all but shut down as citizens self-quarantine to slow the spread of the infectious virus. They also said it will include sweeping measures to bail out industries.
“These will be payments to small businesses. We've talked about loan guarantees to critical industries such as airlines and hotels, and we've also talked about a stimulus package to the American worker,” Mnuchin said at a White House press conference. “We're looking at sending checks to Americans immediately. Americans need cash now, the president wants to get cash now, I mean now, in the next few weeks.” ...
Swift Congressional action is anything but assured, however, as it would need the support of 60 senators, and individual lawmakers have various ideas about how the stimulus should be crafted.
— Kate Grumke (@KGrumke) March 17, 2020
Service industry workers across the country who rely on tips, service fees and foot traffic to pay their bills are confronting a bleak reality. Their livelihoods are either in serious jeopardy or have completely vanished, at least for the time being.
As Americans practice social distancing to combat the spread of a global pandemic from the coronavirus, establishments that rely on a steady stream of clients are being forced to cut hours or close entirely either because of government regulations or lack of business.
Those decisions are dealing a catastrophic blow to service workers, who can’t just work from home like others, and who can’t immediately find a new job in their industry when no one is hiring.
“That’s our business, to serve people. And these are our customers, and our customers are not able to come to us. We can’t go to them. So fiscally, it’s not gonna work,” said Simone Barron, a restaurant server in Seattle and the co-founder of Full Service Workers Alliance and Restaurant Workers of America.
Labor Leader Sara Nelson Demands Stimulus Package That Bails Out Airline Industry Workers—Not Shareholders and CEOs
As the Trump administration signaled that it would take measures to support the airline industry as the coronavirus pandemic led to international flight restrictions and a slowdown in bookings, the union representing flight attendants called on Congress to ensure airline workers—not executives and shareholder profits—are at the center of the effort to shore up the industry.
Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, released a video on social media early Tuesday morning calling on lawmakers to prioritize the interests of working people in the industry as Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin prepared to meet with Senate Republicans to discuss an $850 billion economic stimulus package, which is set to include $50 billion for the airlines.
The industry stimulus was included following a request for $58 billion in aid from the trade group Airlines for America, but Nelson implored Congress to include direct support for flight attendants, pilots, and other workers in their plan to help keep airline companies afloat during the pandemic.
"We have told Congress that any stimulus funds for the aviation industry must come with strict rules that includes requiring employers across aviation to maintain pay and benefits for every worker," Nelson said in the video. "No taxpayer money for CEO bonuses, stock buybacks, or dividends; no breaking contracts through bankruptcy; and no federal funds for airlines that are fighting their workers' efforts to join a union."
We have told Congress that any stimulus funds for the aviation industry must come with strict rules: continued paychecks for every worker and NO stock buy backs, dividends, executive bonuses, broken contracts, or interference with organizing. #coronaviruspic.twitter.com/WoYhe0lnY4
— Sara Nelson (@FlyingWithSara) March 17, 2020
Nelson also shared her union's proposal for a bailout for workers rather than corporations in a Twitter thread. Mass layoffs for airline workers, she said, who need to go through a months-long security clearance process before being hired, would delay recoveries for many industries once the coronavirus pandemic is over.
The proposal submitted to the administration by Airlines for America mentions the country's 750,000 airline workers only in passing.
Terrible. Heartbreakingly predictable and preventable.
— Diane Yentel (@dianeyentel) March 17, 2020
As the coronavirus outbreak spreads across the country, leading to fears of overrun hospitals and shortages of key items in ERs, many have begun to look for help from something they didn't previously know existed: the Strategic National Stockpile. The stockpile was established in 1999 as a key piece of America's disaster-response infrastructure. It's a series of warehouses in undisclosed locations across the country, containing huge stores of medicines, vaccines, and equipment in preparation for a national disaster, like a hurricane or an epidemic.
In 2016, VICE News Tonight was the first television news crew allowed inside one of these facilities, although we couldn't reveal where it was or what exactly it had inside. It looked like a prepper’s Ikea, with row after row of containers filled with mystery medications and equipment — including that one item everyone’s been talking about lately, ventilators. ... But if you’re looking for the SNS to save us from our current coronavirus crisis, former director Greg Burel has a message: Don’t hold your breath. Burel, who ran the stockpile program for more than a decade until his retirement in January, says the stockpile was never really meant to play that role.
"The role of the SNS right now is to try to help bridge the gaps that currently exist between what the supply chain should be doing and what it's not able to do," Burel told VICE News. "We receive limited appropriations from Congress, and we've tried to make it clear to public health officials, locally and at the state level, that we can't buy everything, we can't afford everything, and the SNS is really not going to be the right place to be the answer to everything we need." ...
"We cannot solve the problem we have now with the stockpile," said Tara O'Toole, a former Homeland Security official under Obama and now executive vp at the intelligence firm In-Q-Tel, who led a National Academy of Sciences review of the stockpile in 2016. "The real problem is the medical supply itself, of which the stockpile is one small piece of the chain." That chain has become increasingly efficient, O'Toole and others say, to the point where manufacturers produce barely enough of any given product to meet demand, and suppliers purchase only what they know they will need to sell, meaning there simply aren't backlogs of supply to tap into in an emergency.
"It was very clear to the committee that a lot of people were under the misapprehension that the feds were going to come in and rescue them," O'Toole said. "But what the executives we met with told us is, if you have an emergency or crisis in one region, we could redirect all our supplies to address needs of that one place. But if you have a problem that covers the entire world, like we have now with the coronavirus, we won't be able to get you what you need."
Voters faced confusion, a shortage of poll workers, and shifting or closed polling stations on Tuesday in Florida, Illinois and Arizona – the three key states that still held their primaries despite concerns over coronavirus and pressures to delay the elections.
The votes came at a crucial point in the Democratic primary contests as Bernie Sanders vies to stay in the race against Joe Biden. But there was low in-person turnout in Florida and Illinois, though the overall count is not clear since both states saw significant numbers of voters cast votes by mail or vote early.
Chicago election officials reported mid-Tuesday afternoon that 126,499 votes had been cast in the city, less than half the number cast at the same point during the 2016 primary, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
— Brian Prigge (@brprigge) March 17, 2020
There also were some glitches. Rebecca Gross, a 16-year-old student and election judge, said she showed up to set up her precinct on the city’s north side at 5am, but still hadn’t received the materials by late afternoon. ...
In Florida, a state where around 20% of the population is over age 65, election officials have scrambled in recent days to move polling locations out of senior facilities and shore up poll workers. In Palm Beach County, polls opened late or not at all after hundreds of poll workers dropped out. Wendy Sartory Link, the Palm Beach County supervisor of elections, tweeted that some polling places were being moved the day of the election. ...
I voted. I was no. 30. It will be 34 by the time I leave the parking lot. My poll workers are heroes, with hand sanitizer & gloves doing what they needed; each so appreciative for everyone who turned up. Florida asking its citizens to choose voting or public health is wrong. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/2mTxmBdqKl
— Dr Stephenie McGucken (@StephenieEloise) March 17, 2020
In Arizona, Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county, closed 80 polling places in recent days locations amid concerns over poll worker shortages and a lack of sanitary supplies. The remaining 150 polling locations, however, were vote centers where anyone could cast a ballot. More than three quarters of active registered Democrats are also on a state list that allows them to automatically receive a mail-in ballot ahead of an election, said Murphy Hebert, a spokesperson for Arizona secretary of state Katie Hobbs.
Bernie Sanders Proposal for $2 Trillion Coronavirus Emergency Plan Includes $2,000 Direct Monthly Payments to Every American
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders put forth a far-reaching plan Tuesday night that calls for at least $2 trillion in emergency funding—including for free healthcare and direct cash payments of $2,000 per month to every American—as a way to "mobilize on a scale not seen since the New Deal and World War II to prevent deaths, job losses, and economic ruin" caused by the deadly and growing threat of the coronavirus outbreak now sweeping the United States and much of the world.
"In terms of potential deaths and the impact on our economy, the crisis we face from coronavirus is on the scale of a major war, and we must act accordingly," Sanders said in Tuesday night address. "We must begin thinking on a scale comparable to the threat, and make sure that we are protecting working people, low-income people, and the most vulnerable communities, not just giant corporations and Wall Street."
The new plan—which Sanders set out in a live-streamed address just before polls closed in the primary voting states of Illinois, Florida, and Arizona—gives new policy details to his repeated call that the response to the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, be adequately robust and specifically targeted to help those who need it most and done in a way that centers both the short-term and long-term health of the nation's people and its economy.
While former Vice President Joe Biden was declared the winner in each of Tuesday's primary contests—adding to his already substantial delegate lead—the release of the new plan by Sanders made it clear that the Vermont senator still believes he has a role to play and a vision to share with the nation even as his prospects for winning the Democratic nomination continue to diminish.
"In this moment of crisis, it is imperative that we stand together," Sanders said. Referencing people in the U.S. already out of work, those sick or fearful that they or someone they love could become sick, and everyone worried about their ability to get tested or treatment if they need—Sanders emphasized how it is now essential that the needs of working people and the most vulnerable in society are put before corporate interests or those seeking to profit in the midst of the society-wide shock.
The plan would guarantee that all healthcare needs related to the coronavirus would be free and available to all, including testing, any treatments, and ultimately—when available—the vaccine. The plan also calls for a dramatic investment in the public health system—including an urgent overhaul in terms of testing for the virus—and increased preparedness and support for frontline medical workers, hospitals, clinics, and community health centers. It would also mobilize the National Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, and military resources to build healthcare capacity nationwide.
On the economic front, Sanders' plan would issue direct cash payments, in the form of $2,000 check to every American each month for the duration of the crisis. The plan would also establish what the Sanders campaign calls the "Emergency Economic Crisis Finance Agency," which would be charged with handling the financial downturn unleashed by what is now a global pandemic.
Joe Biden celebrated his primary victories in Florida and Illinois, saying his campaign had had a “very good night” and moved closer to securing the nomination.
The former vice president then made a pitch for unity, directly addressing the supporters of Bernie Sanders and asserting it was time to “put politics aside.”
Biden said he and Sanders shared a “common vision” to provide Americans with affordable health care and reduce income inequality in the country.
Biden commended the “remarkable passion and tenacity” of Sanders’ supporters, asserting they had “shifted the fundamental conversation in this country.”
“I hear you,” Biden told his opponent’s supporters. “I know what’s at stake. I know what we have to do.”
A former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official who worked on some controversial administration actions is returning to the agency Monday. Mandy Gunasekara, who previously led the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, tweeted a picture of herself being sworn in as Administrator Andrew Wheeler's chief of staff. ...
In her previous role at the agency, Gunesakara helped write regulations to ease pollution controls for coal-fired power plants and vehicle emissions. She was also involved in the Trump administration's effort to leave the Paris climate accord.
The Affordable Clean Energy rule, a replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, aims to give states more time and authority in the implementation of new technology to ease net emissions from coal-fired plants.
A growing number of Democrats are voicing concern that the White House may pursue broad relief for the oil and gas industry amid sinking prices and the coronavirus pandemic.
Twenty House Democrats sent a letter to President Trump on Tuesday cautioning against dolling out further funds to the fossil fuel industry after the White House announced late last week that the government would purchase oil to shore up the industry.
“Diverting public funds to bail out this industry will do nothing to stop the spread of this deadly virus or provide relief to those in need,” lawmakers wrote in a letter spearheaded by Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.).
“A bailout tells the American public that fossil fuel investors can rely on U.S. taxpayers to cover their bills when the industry’s corporate executives’ risky investments don’t pan out.”
On Friday, Trump announced that the U.S. would buy as much as 77 billion barrels of oil to help the industry as prices slump amid an ongoing trade dispute between Russia and Saudi Arabia as well as the coronavirus.
Even as Broadway shows were shuttered and Disneyland was closed due to the Covid-19, most US national parks were open for business on Tuesday, confounding public health officials and worrying park staff who did not want to be exposed to the virus.
National parks have become a haven over the past week as the public seeks places to go during spring break. One park employee reported on Facebook that a visitor center at Big Bend national park was full on Monday with hundreds of people. Another shared a photo of shoulder to shoulder crowds at Zion national park waiting to board shuttle buses. (The park closed its shuttle bus system later in the day.)
The only units in the system that have closed in response to Covid-19 are Golden Gate national recreation area, the National Mall and the Statue of Liberty.
National park staff who were interviewed for this story but requested anonymity for fear of retribution reported that superintendents in charge of at least two parks had requested permission from the Department of the Interior to close their units but so far no approvals have been granted. The Department of Interior did not respond to a request for comment on its park closure policy. ...
Many national parks offer wide open spaces that are ideal for social distancing and are not inherently risky environments during the coronavirus pandemic. However, park infrastructure such as restrooms and trash cans require regular upkeep from staff in order to prevent the kind of rapid deterioration that occurred during the 2018-2019 government shutdown. ...
It may be private concessions operators that finally push the Department of Interior to close parks as coronavirus spreads. On Monday, Eastern National, which runs retail stores in 170 national parks, announced it would no longer provide staffing at those facilities. “Our store staff are unable to maintain the social distancing that the CDC recommends in our store while serving visitors,” wrote Eastern National’s CEO, Kevin Kissling, in a memo sent to national park managers.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Elmon Mickle - Lonesome Highway
Drifting Slim (Elmon Mickle) - My Sweet Woman
Elmon Mickle - Short and Fat
Model T Slim (Elmon Mickle) - Oh Babe
Model "T" Slim (Elmon Mickle) - 15 Years My Love Was In Vain
Driftin' Slim - Hoo-Doo Man Blues
Drifting Slim - My Little Machine
Elmon Mickle - Flat Foot Sam
Model T Slim - Take My Hand
Drifting Slim - I Feel So Good