The Evening Blues - 3-23-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Andrew Brown. Enjoy!
Andrew Brown - I Can Hear My Baby Talking
"There is a time in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune."
-- William Shakespeare
News and Opinion
Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer and the Trump administration is negotiating a bailout package to address the coronavirus crisis. There’s been a lot of chatter about the need to support workers as the economy goes into a freeze. This is happening around the world; the British government, for instance, is willing to pay 80% of worker wages during this downturn for those affected by the crisis. But in the US, our leaders seem to be falling prey to what can only be called a corporate frenzy of favor-seeking. ... Take Boeing. The aerospace giant of course wants a $60bn bailout. Financial problems for this corporation predated the crisis, with the mismanagement that led to the 737 Max as well as defense and space products that don’t work (I noted last July a bailout was coming). The corporation paid out $65bn in stock buybacks and dividends over the last 10 years, and it was drawing down credit lines before this crisis hit. ... Using the excuse of the coronavirus, Boeing is trying to get the taxpayer to foot the bill for its errors, so it can go back to making more of them.
But that’s not all. Defense contractors want their payments sped up, and I’ve heard they want to widen a giant loophole called ‘other transaction authority’ to get around restrictions on profiteering. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos want “$5 billion in grants or loans to keep commercial space company employees on the job and launch facilities open.” They also want the Internal Revenue Service to give them cash for R&D tax credits. CNBC reported that hotels want $150bn, restaurants want $145bn and manufacturers wants $1.4tn. And the International Council of Shopping Centers wants a guarantee of up to $1tn. The beer industry wants $5bn. Candy industry wants $500m. The New York Times reported that “Adidas is seeking support for a long-sought provision allowing people to use pretax money to pay for gym memberships and fitness equipment.” Gyms are of course closed. Meatpackers want special visas so they can undercut wages of their workers, and importers want to stop paying duties they incurred for harming domestic industries for illegally dumping products into the US.
Now, I’m not opposed to supporting industries. This is a crisis, and we do not want a lot of the productive capacity of the United States to fall apart because of a pandemic. But the key to supporting enterprises is to make sure that there are strict conditions, so that power doesn’t consolidate into the hands of monopolists and financiers cherry-picking distressed assets. Otherwise, America will simply be unrecognizable after this pandemic. CNBC personality Jim Cramer, for instance, is worried that after this pandemic America will have just three retailers. And he’s right to be worried about that.
Here’s how we can stop it. There are enough members of Congress to act and prevent what really looks less like a relief package and more a corporate coup. However, the problem is that this group is split into different political parties, and Congressional leadership is taking advantage of that dynamic to jam this through. US Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell wants big business to rule, so he’s playing a trick. He is refusing aid to workers. Democrats are negotiating with him to try to get unemployment assistance and social welfare. McConnell knows Democrats won’t pay attention to corporate bailouts if he takes the public hostage, and Democrats know that they can hand out favors to big business if they just talk about how they got larger checks for workers. ...
In 2008, when Congress was on the brink of passing a $700bn bailout to Wall Street, something astonishing happened. A motley bipartisan group of roughly a hundred members, as well as outside experts, formed what was called the “Skeptic’s Caucus,” and organized enough votes to take down the package. Congressional leaders then attached some minor tweaks, and forced the package through after the stock market crashed. Ultimately, the skeptics failed, and the bailouts ended up shifting power and wealth to an unaccountable elite class. But for that brief moment, it became clear that opposition to Congressional leadership on corporate subsidies is possible. We will need another Skeptic’s caucus, and quickly. And this time, it can succeed. Because this time, no one is fooled by what is happening. We can see it plainly.
THE POSITIONING BEGINS — here are some problems with the bill, as flagged by a democrat.
Big four plus mnuchin meeting this am. pic.twitter.com/dlKVKO7WBG
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) March 22, 2020
Partisan battles in the U.S. Senate on Sunday stopped a coronavirus response bill from advancing, even as negotiations continued over Democrats' demands for more federal funding for medical care and state and local efforts to combat the outbreak.
The measure faltered after it failed to get the necessary 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to clear a procedural hurdle after days of negotiations. ...
Democrats had raised objections to the Senate bill throughout the day, with the Senate's top Democrat, Chuck Schumer, saying it had "many, many problems" and would benefit corporate interests at the expense of hospitals, healthcare workers, cities and states.
The failure of the measure to move forward sends Democrats and Republicans back to the bargaining table. The speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said earlier on Sunday that Democrats in that chamber will begin crafting an alternative to the Senate bill.
After the vote, Schumer said the legislation had not improved enough in negotiations to win Democratic backing. He said more money was needed for community health centers, nursing homes, masks, ventilators, personal protective equipment and aid to state and local governments.
As Senate Republicans unveiled a trillion-dollar stimulus plan for the ongoing coronavirus crisis that would cut taxes for corporations and deny aid to the poorest Americans, the leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to advance a bold alternative that includes monthly cash payments, a nationwide moratorium on all evictions, and other solutions.
"This is a pivotal moment for our healthcare system and our economy," Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus, said in a statement. "We need to give workers the financial resources to stay healthy and ensure our health system is equipped to provide life-saving, universal care to everyone in our country."
In a letter (pdf) to Pelosi on Thursday, Jayapal and Pocan outlined a dozen policy priorities they said must be included in any stimulus package to ensure adequate relief for individuals and families harmed by the coronavirus-induced economic crisis. ...
Among the progressive leaders' demands are monthly cash payments of up to $2,000 for each adult and up an additional $1,000 for families with children for up to six months, with eligibility based on income.
As Common Dreams reported on Wednesday, Pelosi has thus far refused to support direct cash payments as a way to put more money into the pockets of Americans during the worsening economic downturn. In an interview with The Atlantic on Thursday, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), a member of the Progressive Caucus, criticized Pelosi for supporting tools like refundable tax credits over direct cash payments. ...
The progressives' demands came after Pelosi on Wednesday instructed her leadership team and House committee chairs to begin crafting a counter-offer to Senate Republicans' proposal, which would provide means-tested cash payments to many individuals and families, excluding the poorest Americans and individuals earning $99,000 a year or more.
Alongside the “invisible enemy against humanity”, the coronavirus, there stands another quite visible one, world imperialism.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the increasingly desperate conditions confronting Iran and its population of nearly 83 million. The country has the third highest number of fatalities after Italy and China, and nowhere is the mortality rate greater, as the number of infections continues to rise sharply each day. Iran’s Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur announced Thursday that 149 people had died over the previous 24 hours, bringing the death toll from the virus to 1,284. During the same period, another 1,046 cases of infection were reported, raising the total number to 18,407. Both numbers are believed to be serious underestimations of the ravages of the disease. “Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran,” the spokesman said.
Rather than human solidarity, Washington’s response to this crisis has been a deliberate attempt to intensify it at the cost of countless lives of Iranian working people. The pandemic, rather than being seen as an enemy to be eradicated in every country, is viewed by the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA as a new weapon of war that must be integrated into imperialist planning. This is the inescapable conclusion from the Trump administration’s imposition Thursday of yet another round of punishing economic sanctions against Iran, targeting companies based in the United Arab Emirates that are accused of buying petroleum from the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). This follows by only two days, another set of sanctions announced by Washington’s bully-boy Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against nine separate entities in China, Hong Kong and South Africa. The blacklisted companies were charged with engaging in “significant transactions” involving Iranian petrochemicals.
Casting the pandemic in nakedly aggressive and xenophobic terms, Pompeo told a State Department press conference, “The Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice.” In the same breath, he claimed that Washington was prepared to carry out “humanitarian efforts” to “help the Iranian people stay healthy.” The level of lies and hypocrisy is breathtaking, even by the Trump administration’s standards. US sanctions, which have blacklisted the country’s central bank, make it impossible for Tehran to buy basic medicines and medical supplies supposedly allowed under the “maximum pressure” regime. This has condemned tens of thousands to early and preventable deaths well before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, according to one estimate by an Iranian physician, the country’s death toll from COVID-19 could reach as high as 3.5 million.
This human suffering is not collateral damage from Washington’s “maximum pressure” sanctions regime, it is its direct purpose. Through brutal collective punishment, hunger and the spread of disease, US imperialism seeks to foment regime change in Tehran with the aim of eliminating a regional obstacle to its hegemony over the oil-rich Persian Gulf while, in turn, preparing for war with China. The coronavirus pandemic is seen as yet one more weapon in the US arsenal.
The Mojahedin-e Khalq started as a militant revolutionary movement, committed in principle to bringing human rights and democracy to Iran. But over the last four decades, it has devolved into a secretive, cult-like group that resembles a militant, Islamist version of the Church of Scientology. The MEK has carried out bombings, sabotage missions, and murders. Since its founding in 1963, it is believed to have killed hundreds or even thousands of Iranians, as well as a handful of Americans.
From 1997 to 2012, the United States designated the MEK a foreign terrorist organization. But the group, which once opposed U.S. intervention in Iran, has effectively switched sides, becoming a convenient proxy force for Tehran’s enemies, particularly American neoconservatives, the Gulf Arab states, and Israel. The current MEK leadership maintains close ties with several prominent American politicians, including Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton and the president’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, both of whom have been paid speakers at MEK events.
Yet despite the harm it has caused to Iranians and others, the MEK’s most numerous victims may have been its own members. Interviews with six defectors in Europe reveal that the MEK has isolated, disappeared, and tortured many of its cadres into submission, including forcing dozens of female members to have sex with [the group's leader, Massoud] Rajavi and undergo medical sterilization so they could devote themselves more fully to the leader and his cause.
Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, is facing an intensifying public backlash after his muddled reaction to the coronavirus crisis sparked five successive nights of protests and predictions that his political authority had sustained a potentially fatal blow.
Brazil has recorded 1,128 coronavirus cases and 18 deaths, with the country’s health minister last week saying the public health system was likely to collapse by the end of April.
But Bolsonaro has continued to downplay the pandemic, despite more than 20 members of a delegation he recently led to the US becoming infected with Covid-19. In an interview on Saturday, he criticised efforts to contain the virus through large-scale quarantines or shutdowns and described the governors of states including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo as “irresponsible”, saying they were creating a “climate of terror” by doing so. ...
A growing number of Brazil’s 209 million citizens appear to disagree.
Since last Tuesday, cities across the country have witnessed nightly panelaço (pan-banging) protests where dissenters express their dissatisfaction with Bolsonaro by pummelling saucepans from windows and balconies. ...
On Friday, the conservative Estado de São Paulo newspaper said: “Scientists around the world are fighting to find a treatment for Covid-19. In Brazil, meanwhile, the current government’s incompetence is found to be incurable.”
The Department of Justice is using the coronavirus outbreak to ask Congress for sweeping emergency powers including suspending habeas corpus during an emergency, a power grab that was denounced by civil liberties advocates.
"Oh hell no," tweeted Fletcher School professor Daniel Drezner.
The DOJ plans were reported on by Politico's Betsy Woodruff Swan, who reviewed the request documents.
According to Swan:
The proposal would also grant those top judges broad authority to pause court proceedings during emergencies. It would apply to "any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings," according to draft legislative language the department shared with Congress. In making the case for the change, the DOJ document wrote that individual judges can currently pause proceedings during emergencies, but that their proposal would make sure all judges in any particular district could handle emergencies "in a consistent manner."
The request raised eyebrows because of its potential implications for habeas corpus-the constitutional right to appear before a judge after arrest and seek release.
"You could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency or the civil disobedience is over. I find it absolutely terrifying," National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers executive director Norman L. Reimer told Swan. "Especially in a time of emergency, we should be very careful about granting new powers to the government."
https://t.co/47scHASQPz This is abhorrent (also: predictable). Congress must say no.
— Jon Fasman (@jonfasman) March 21, 2020
The documents also ask for the authority to conduct videoconference hearings even without the defendant's permission, banning people with the coronavirus from applying for asylum, and pausing the statute of limitations during an emergency.
The asylum rules, said Tahirih Justice Center CEO Layli Miller-Munro, are unnecessary and cruel.
"I think it's a humanitarian tragedy that fails to recognize that vulnerable people from those countries are among the most persecuted and that protecting them is exactly what the refugee convention was designed to do," said Miller-Munro. ...
According to Swan, it's unlikely the bill will pass the Democrat-led House.
President Donald Trump said he’ll give the governors of New York, California, and Washington states “maximum flexibility” to use the National Guard to help combat the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S, which has now infected more than 30,000 people as of Sunday.
“We’ve signed what we have to sign, and it’s been activated,” Trump said at a press conference Sunday night.
The president added that the move would enable the states access to the National Guard without worrying about cost: The feds will pick up the tab. The three states in question have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19, the contagious respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. As of Sunday, New York has more than 15,000 confirmed cases, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. That’s about half of all confirmed U.S. cases.
“This is not martial law,” said FEMA chief Pete Gaynor, who also emphasized the governors would remain in control.
For the average American the best way to tell if you have covid-19 is to cough in a rich person’s face and wait for their test results
— Harry Moroz (@hrmoroz) March 20, 2020
This can unfortunately yield false positives if the rich person got covid-19 from somewhere else. To be rigorous you should probably cough in 3-5 rich people's faces and take the number of positives that come back as a confidence level
— Ben Morse (@snowyote) March 21, 2020
“Hope Is Not a Strategy”: Emergency Doctor Asks, Where Are COVID-19 Tests? Where Is Protective Gear?
To cope with the coronavirus outbreak, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo postponed any non-critical surgeries at hospitals and urged the Trump administration to nationalize the production of crucial medical supplies.
"I think the federal government should order factories to manufacture masks, gowns, ventilators, the essential medical equipment that is going to make the difference between life and death," Cuomo said at his daily press briefing on Sunday.
“There are masks that we were paying 85 cents for, we’re now paying $7. Why? Because I’m competing against other states and in some cases other countries around the world,” he added.
From Saturday to Sunday, New York State confirmed 4,812 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the number up to 15,168, according to Cuomo. That's about half of all the cases in the U.S. and 5% of all cases worldwide. And as more tests become available, the number of patients could continue to grow. Cuomo has already ordered enormous convention centers to be turned into hospitals, and the Navy is sending its 1,000-bed hospital ship to New York City’s harbor.
An official working for Vice President Pence has tested positive for the coronavirus, his office announced Friday, becoming the first known positive test to date for a White House staffer.
"This evening we were notified that a member of the Office of the Vice President tested positive for the Coronavirus," Pence's press secretary, Katie Miller, said in a statement.
"Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual. Further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines," the spokeswoman added.
The positive test reflects the degree to which the virus is spreading across the country, including to those in proximity to the country's leaders. The news comes days after two congressmen tested positive for the virus, prompting several other lawmakers to self-quarantine.
'Two $1 Trillion Coins': Rashida Tlaib Proposal Calls on US Treasury to Fund Coronavirus Recovery From US Mint
Progressives on Saturday welcomed news that Rep. Rashida Tlaib is calling on the U.S. Treasury to exercise its power to issue platinum coins to fund the coronavirus recovery, calling the move an example of thinking outside the box and celebrating the universality of her proposal to give everyone in America cash payments.
"I fully support the House Financial Services Committee Democrats #COVID19 economic response proposal," the Michigan Democrat tweeted Saturday. "I also want to encourage leadership to consider my truly universal relief proposal on behalf of #13thDistrictStrong."
This includes the Treasury using its legal authority to create a new mint program to fund:
Direct payments via preloaded $2,000 cash cards to everyone.
Recharging with $1,000/month until a year after the economy recovers.
Read all about it here: https://t.co/JJI0z2bNFy
— Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (@RepRashida) March 21, 2020
"This is a really ambitious and creative plan from Rep. Tlaib taking advantage of ideas that financial experts began exploring during the debt crisis showdowns of the Obama years," tweeted HuffPost reporter Zach Carter.
The "Automatic BOOST to Communities Act" (pdf) would deliver a $2,000 pre-paid debit card to every American, with $1,000 being paid monthly after that until a year after the coronavirus crisis ends. Tlaib proposes to pay for the cost of the program by calling on the Treasury to use its authority under federal law to issue two trillion dollar platinum coins. The move would not add to the debt.
"Tlaib wants to take advantage of an obscure Treasury authority to issue new currency through minting platinum coins, and then give that currency to people," said Carter. "No new debt, no weird Federal Reserve programs, just cash straight to folks."
While Fed and Treasury officials have been repeatedly assuring Americans that these Wall Street behemoth banks have plenty of capital, they’ve actually been bleeding their common equity capital faster than a snow cone in July. In just the past five weeks, from the close of trading on Friday, February 14 through the close of trading on Friday, March 20, five of the largest Wall Street banks have lost an average of 45 percent of their common equity capital.
Adding to the embarrassment for the Federal Reserve, Citigroup, the bank it propped up with $2.5 trillion in secret cumulative loans the last time around, is once again leading the herd with losses in its common equity capital. Citigroup’s market capitalization has lost a stunning 51.7 percent in just the past five weeks. And we are certainly in the early innings of this bank rout.
Morgan Stanley, which was second in line behind Citigroup at the Fed’s trough in the last financial crisis, receiving $2.04 trillion cumulative in secret revolving loans, has lost 46.9 percent of its common equity capital in just the past five weeks. ...
Losses in these Wall Street bank stocks dwarfs the losses in the broader market as measured by the Dow Jones Industrial Average – meaning that despite what U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says, there is a Wall Street bank problem that is being aggravated by the coronavirus outbreak but whose roots are independent of it.
New York City was hit by the nation’s largest coronavirus jail outbreak to date this week, with at least 38 people testing positive at the notorious Rikers Island complex and nearby facilities, more than half of them incarcerated men, the board that oversees the city’s jail system said Saturday. Another inmate, meanwhile, became the first in the country to test positive in a federal jail.
In a letter to New York’s criminal justice leaders, Board of Correction interim chairwoman Jacqueline Sherman described a jail system in crisis. She said in the last week, board members learned that 12 Department of Corrections employees, five Correctional Health Services employees, and 21 people in custody at Rikers and city jails had tested positive for the coronavirus. And at least another 58 were being monitored in the prison’s contagious disease and quarantine units, she said.
“It is likely these people have been in hundreds of housing areas and common areas over recent weeks and have been in close contact with many other people in custody and staff,” said Sherman, warning that cases could skyrocket. “The best path forward to protecting the community of people housed and working in the jails is to rapidly decrease the number of people housed and working in them.”
Oakland Hospital Took in Coronavirus Cruise Patients. Now, Low on Supplies, Nurses Asked to Reuse Disposable Masks.
Nurses at an Oakland, California hospital caring for patients being tested for Covid-19 received instructions this week to reuse disposable medical equipment, including masks and eye protection. The hospital, Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center, issued guidelines to nurses explaining how to clean single-use supplies to serve multiple patients during one shift.
Staff at the center have been caring for a number of people who were aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, which docked in the city on March 9 after being stranded offshore for several days with 3,531 people on board. At least 21 passengers tested positive for the coronavirus. Patient privacy protections prohibit health care providers from disclosing how many patients aboard the ship are now receiving treatment at the facility.
Two nurses at the hospital spoke with The Intercept about working conditions amid the outbreak, describing hastily changing directives and frustration among nurses who feel they are being asked to endanger themselves and other patients. Staff only started to receive training on how to care for Covid-19 patients after the first cases had already arrived at the hospital, one nurse said, asking for anonymity to avoid retaliation from their employer. “We’ve been blindsided the whole time,” they said. “And we knew the boat was there, so I don’t understand why.”
Before the ship disembarked, Vice President Mike Pence, who is running the nation’s Coronavirus Task Force, said people would be quarantined as necessary, and every person on board would be tested. Passengers were later informed there weren’t enough tests to do that. Last week, they were told it was up to them whether or not to be tested, the New York Times reported. More than ten days after the ship docked, many passengers are still quarantined at various military bases. ...
The hospital had previously been following protocols aimed at protecting medical staff from airborne contamination. The new guidelines follow those set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which earlier this month downgraded to protocols for contamination via droplets and contact in response to a shortage of N95 masks. That change prompted protests from other nurses’ groups. The CDC noted that those changes were based on supply, not science.
Heh, one donor funded Warren's "Progressive Unity My Ass," campaign extension.
Silicon Valley Megadonor Karla Jurvetson Fueled Elizabeth Warren’s Super PAC with $14 Million Donation
In a campaign finance filing late on Friday, Persist PAC, the super PAC that attempted to revive Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign finally disclosed its donors.
Karla Jurvetson, a Silicon Valley megadonor, who made over 500 donations over the last year alone, provided 96 percent of the super PAC’s financing through a $14.6 million donation. Barbara Lee, a prominent Democratic donor in Massachusetts, and Women Vote! — the super PAC affiliate of EMILY’s List, a pro-choice group previously financed by Michael Bloomberg, among other wealthy donors — also provided significant funding for Persist PAC.
Jurvetson is a physician and philanthropist. A profile of the Palo Alto-based donor in the Mercury News notes that Jurveston walked door-to-door for Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., during her undergraduate years, and has long been involved in political causes, but saw the election of President Donald Trump as a major turning point. Over the last three years, she has lavished Democratic candidates with funding, with an eye towards supporting Democratic women, including conservative Democratic Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema as well as progressive insurgent Jessica Cisneros. ...
The filing for Persist PAC, which was formed on February 18, has been much anticipated given charges of hypocrisy leveled at the Massachusetts senator for receiving the type of loosely regulated, big-money support she has long assailed as corrosive to democracy.
'Not Done Yet': Bernie Sanders Campaign Mobilizes Donors for Coronavirus Relief and Raises $2 Million
Sen. Bernie Sanders' for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination campaign's prodigious fundraising operation raised $2 million for charities helping those most affected by the coronavirus outbreak crisis in the last 48 hours in a move that supporters said exemplified the message of solidarity the Vermont lawmaker has run on.
"Bernie Sanders supporters have contributed more than $2 million in 2 days to charities helping people whose lives have been impacted by the coronavirus," tweeted political strategist Tim Tagaris. "Not done yet."
The campaign mobilized staff and volunteers to text and call to raise money for five charities: Meals on Wheels, No Kid Hungry, Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, One Fair Wage Emergency Fund, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
Robin Curran, the campaign's digital fundraising director, said in a statement that the money raised showed the importance of Sanders' "Not me, us" slogan.
"What we've seen in the last two days is the definition of 'fighting for someone you don't know,'" said Curran. "The people supporting this campaign have made more than 50,000 donations to help those most impacted by coronavirus because they understand that now more than ever it is important that we are in this together."
According to the campaign, there will be more efforts to raise money for the least fortunate affected by the crisis in the coming days.
Decades of chronic underfunding of water infrastructure is putting many countries at worse risk in the coronavirus crisis, with more than half the global population lacking access to safely managed sanitation, experts said as the UN marked World Water Day on Sunday.
Good hygiene – soap and water – are the first line of defence against coronavirus and a vast range of other diseases, yet three quarters of households in developing countries do not have access to somewhere to wash with soap and water, according to Tim Wainwright, chief executive of the charity WaterAid. A third of healthcare facilities in developing countries also lack access to clean water on site.
“It’s really obvious that in Africa and parts of Asia we should be very fearful of what is to come,” he said. “The coronavirus crisis highlights how vulnerable the world is.”
The UN World Water Development report, published on Sunday, pointed to the underfunding of water infrastructure around the world, despite its importance. Richard Connor, editor-in-chief of the report, told the Observer that water was often overlooked for spending and investment because the economic benefits of better water and sanitation were not emphasised. The coronavirus crisis sheds new light on those mistakes.
“One of the reasons underlying the investment gap in water and sanitation is that these services are perceived mainly as a social - and in some cases environmental - issue, rather than an economic one, like energy,” he said. “Yet the economic costs of an outbreak [such as Covid-19] are enormous, both in terms of national economies and stock markets, as well as in terms of household revenue - when people cannot work because of sickness or lockdowns. Realising the economic importance of water and sanitation should provide an additional catalyst for greater investment.”
With Nation Distracted by Public Health and Economic Crises, Trump Moves to Allow GMO Crops in Wildlife Refuges
As the U.S. faces an unemployment crisis, economic meltdown, and a public health emergency with the coronavirus, the Trump administration moved quietly on Friday to further threaten dozens of endangered species in the southeastern United States by proposing the planting of genetically engineered crops on wild public lands.
The administration proposal this week aims to allow the planting of GE seeds in the 44,000 acres of farmland within the Southeastern Region of the national wildlife refuge system—a reversal of existing policy.
The move would increase the use of glyphosate and other pesticides that have been linked to harmful effects on bees, butterflies, and other pollinators necessary to humans' food supply, as well as other species that live in the wildlife refuges.
"It's a no-brainer that this kind of pesticide-intensive agriculture shouldn't be allowed on public lands that are critical to wildlife conservation and preservation of the unique ecosystems of the southeastern U.S," said Hannah Connor, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement.
"Only the Trump administration would aggressively promote the use of crops genetically engineered for pesticide tolerance on wildlife refuges." - The Center's Hannah Connor on the Trump administration's approval of GE crops on national wildlife refuges https://t.co/4kIWBNaOiG
— Center for Bio Div (@CenterForBioDiv) March 20, 2020
The new proposal comes two years after President Donald Trump reversed the Obama administration's 2014 order to phase out the use of genetically engineered crops in wildlife preserves. If approved, the decision could result in the escalation of pesticide use in up to 131 refuges in 10 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, comprising about four million acres.
"Permitting genetically engineered crops and neonicotinoid pesticides on the refuges threatens one of the few places that pollinators and protected species should be able to find shelter from the onslaught of toxic pesticides threatening their existence," said Sylvia Wu, an attorney at the Center for Food Safety, one of the groups which pushed the Obama administration to ban the crops.
Critics said Trump's move would worsen the threats already faced by the region's wildlife, including pollution and habitat destruction.
"We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis," said Ben Prater, Southeast program director at Defenders of Wildlife. "Industrial agriculture with genetically engineered crops has no place on national wildlife refuges dedicated to conservation of our most vulnerable species, including pollinators like hummingbirds, bumblebees and monarch butterflies."
The Trump administration is ramping up construction of its multibillion-dollar southern border wall, despite the rapidly escalating coronavirus epidemic which threatens to kill thousands of Americans and plunge the country into economic recession. Earlier this week, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced plans to erect more than 150 miles of the 30ft border wall in Arizona, New Mexico and California – in addition to ongoing construction work at at least 15 sites across those states and Texas.
The announcement came shortly after Donald Trump declared a national emergency, amid mounting criticism about his handling of the coronavirus epidemic which looks likely to cost billions – if not trillions of dollars to tackle. ...
Building work continues in many parts of the country, but for the wall, skilled welders, engineers and contractors commute from states as far flung as Montana, Maine, Wyoming, Texas, North Dakota and Kentucky. Along the border, they work together, car-pool, stay at local hotels and motels, and eat together at restaurants over several consecutive days, before traveling back to their families.
On Friday, work continued in the San Bernardino Valley in south-east Arizona where a national wildlife refuge is located and several endangered species are threatened by the project.
“There is no sign of construction slowing down, hundreds of construction workers from all over the country and Mexico continue working on the wall, commuting back and forth on weekends, staying in hotels and eating at restaurants in our communities, before returning home and potentially transferring Covid-19. This is a public health hazard and it needs to be stopped,” said Myles Traphagen, ecologist with Wildlands Network, who has written to the congressional appropriations committee urging construction be suspended during the pandemic.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Andrew Brown - You Better Stop
Andrew Brown - Tin Pan Alley
Andrew Brown - Let's Get Together
Andrew Brown - You Made Me Suffer
Andrew Brown - I Got News For You
Andrew Brown - If we try, You ought to be ashamed
Andrew Brown - On The Case, This Time You Gonna Pay
Andrew Brown - It Took A Long Time