Bits ‘n’ Pieces: May 13, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

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

The U.S. economy is close to recovering from pandemic losses, with a growth of 1.6% during the first three months of the year. That growth is linked to vaccinations and federal stimulus spending,” The Washington Post stated. Unemployment has fallen, but 8.4 million jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic have not returned. One issue is the supply chain, but that’s expected to improve.

With 9.7 million American seeking work, and businesses claiming a labor shortage, what gives? Slate pointed out that lack of child care and hybrid school schedules due to COVID-19 are major issues.

Deaths from COVID-19 may be approaching 1 million in the U.S., according to a new study from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The worldwide COVID-19 deaths may be more like 7 million, compared to the reported number of 3.24 million. Researchers have discovered “dramatic” undercounts. In calculating excess mortalities, they took into account an increase in opioid deaths, health care that had been deferred due to the virus and a number of other factors. 

Oklahoma will receive a $2.6 million refund for hydroxychloroquine pills the state bought for treating COVID-19 cases, according to Axios. The drug, determined to be risky, had been promoted by former-President Donald Trump.

Close to half of COVID-19 patients found to have “altered mental status” have been younger than age 60, according to The Lancet Psychiatry. It remains unknown if that “sets the stage for serious long-term cognitive decline and dementia later on,” according to Sanjay Gupta, M.D., writing in AARP magazine. 

After Facebook’s oversight board recently agreed Trump should be kept off Facebook — at least for now. The board recommended Facebook revisit its Trump ban in six months.

President Joe Biden’s administration has joined the U.S. with more than 100 countries to support a waiver of intellectual property rights for the COVID-19 vaccine, expected to end a significant COVID-19 vaccine shortage. The organization, Public Citizen, commented that greater vaccine access worldwide will create greater ability to dodge vaccine-resistant variants, while also making everyone safer — not just in the U.S.

Despite a 93% record of voting with Trump, Republican Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney has drawn party ire for stating he lost the election and for opposing the Capitol insurrection of Jan. 6. Because a number of corporations have declined to support Trump-backing lawmakers with donations, they are worried about fundraising for retaining office. As well, lacking Trump’s access to Facebook for fundraising, candidates are further in limbo for campaign resources. 

They believe that without Trump voters, the party cannot win (as president, Trump never broke 50% approval in polls). Many Republicans want to replace Cheney, but one Republican likens that to the band still playing as the Titanic sunk, USA Today reported. 

Asked for his thoughts on Cheney, Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, “100% of my focus is on stopping this new administration.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki responded, “I guess the contrast for people to consider is 100% of our focus is on delivering relief to the people and getting the pandemic under control.”

The U.S. Justice Department has raised concerns about the election recount in Maricopa County, Ariz. The count was already certified, but state Republicans asked for yet another recount by a private contractor, Cyber Ninjas. 

Concerns raised, according to The Seattle Times: audit observers being forced to sign non-disclosure agreements; procedures state election officials say are haphazard and contrary to regular ballot counting procedures; ballots and laptops being left unattended; untrained workers using varying rules for counting; lack of appropriate building security; severe restrictions on media access; forensic analysis done out of public view; lack of bi-partisan volunteers; and lack of transparency. 

As of late April the U.S. experienced 139 mass shootings, according to Axios.

Blast from the past: In 1981 Ronald Reagan declared that “government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem.” What’s often excluded was the preface: “In this present crisis.” Since then there’s been a focus on tax cuts and deregulation to create “trickle-down economics.” Critics called it “get trickled-on economics,” since wealth primarily moved upward resulting in big gaps between the wealthy and the rest. President Joe Biden recently told Congress that trickle-down “has never worked, and it’s time to grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”

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