Bits ‘n’ Pieces: July 30, 2020

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

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

The Trump administration’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recently approved a request to sell chicken infected with leukosis, according to Food and Water Action. The virus causes tumors in a chicken’s skin and organs. The government had previously said such meat was unfit for human consumption.

COVID-19 and reopening schools: President Donald Trump claimed that children don’t readily contract or transmit COVID-19, and if they do, “they get better fast,” The Washington Post reported. But risk of COVID-19 transmission is higher for children, according to a paper published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the Miami Herald, five children in Florida have died from pediatric COVID-19, even though schools were closed at the time. 

A four-month moratorium on rent collection and evictions has expired, putting as many as 23 million people at risk for eviction, The Washington Post reported. People can’t shelter in place without shelter, which can lead to even more COVID-19 cases, the Center for Public Integrity has pointed out. There is speculation that eviction could also mean some people would be hampered in their ability to vote.

The mayor of Portland, Ore., Ted Wheeler recently took time to listen to protesters and was tear-gassed by federal forces currently patrolling the city against the wishes of local authorities. Wheeler told a New York Times journalist that, “I saw nothing which provoked this response … I am pissed off.” Law enforcement also recently shot a protester in the head with an impact munition. The woman — a professor of history who specializes in the authoritarian regimes of modern Europe at a Portland college — was taken to an emergency room for treatment. Meanwhile, NPR reported legislation has been introduced in Congress: Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act.

Trump said on July 23 that he was sending federal troops to Chicago and Albuquerque, per his Executive Order on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence. The same day Tom Ridge, who was the first to serve as the director of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, stated that the agency “was not established to be the president’s personal militia … It would be a cold day in hell before I would give consent to a unilateral, uninvited intervention in one of my cities.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, said “something” to aid the COVID-19 economy should work its way through Congress “by the end of the next few weeks.” Last week saw 1.4 million new unemployment claims, according to The Washington Post.

With new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. up 50% in recent weeks, William Hanage, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said larger numbers of cases and deaths are now unavoidable. The U.S. had more than 75,000 new cases daily in mid-July, which The Guardian reported is five times the number in all of Europe. 

The new postmaster general is backing away from speedy deliveries and has approved delaying mail processing to reduce overtime. According to analysts consulted by The Washington Post, the changes shift the U.S. Postal Service from being a government service to that of a business. Critics are indicating that’s intentional: lessening the USPS’ effectiveness will provide a competitive edge to private sector rivals and could create problems for mail-in voting. Trump has said the USPS should quadruple its package rates if it wants federal financial help.

The USPS was authorized to get $10 billion from the Treasury Department as part of the first COVID-19 relief bill. But the money has been withheld since Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the loan would require a significant turnover of the USPS operations to the Treasury Department. 

With 36.4 million people out of a paycheck, the Economic Policy Institute disagrees with plans to cut Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes as part of a COVID-19 aid package. “Payroll tax cuts deliver the most money to the wealthy and powerful while providing nothing to those who need it most,” commented Social Security Works President Michael Phelan. Another bone of contention in the relief bill: Republicans want to grant “liability shields” for businesses whose workers or customers get COVID-19. Democrats don’t approve.

Blast from the past: Since Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014, at least 6,500 people in the U.S. have been killed by law enforcement. At the same time, at least 843 officers have died while on duty.

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