Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Nov. 18, 2021

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Staff

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

The New Orleans-based Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently granted an emergency stay over the OSHA requirement that workers in businesses of 100 or more employees be vaccinated, or mask up and get weekly COVID-19 testing, according to the Huffington Post. 

Ten states filed a lawsuit last week to block the vaccine mandate for health care workers, claiming it would cause an “alarming shortage” of health workers, particularly in rural communities, which are currently most vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks. Unlike the mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees, health care workers could not continue working if unvaccinated, The Guardian reported. The mandate only applies to health care businesses that accept federal funds. Quitting rather than being vaccinated may not be all that threatening: The police union in New York predicted 10,000 officers would quit due to the mandate, but only 34 declined vaccination — five times as many police officers have died from COVID-19 as compared to the number who died from gunfire, according to CNN.

On Monday the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure and Jobs Act was signed into law; 18 Senate Republicans voted for the bill. Some economists fault the bill for spending too little, and want more spent on the care and green economies, which could occur under the Build Back Better Act currently under consideration. For now the pared-down Infrastructure bill invests in: power grids that will also help carry renewable energy, new rail lines and upgrades to existing ones, high speed internet for hard-to-reach populations, new funding for “climate resiliency” (battling wildfires and for protection against hurricanes and flooding), removing lead water service lines, EV charging stations and grants for rural transportation. President Joe Biden commented, “This law is a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.”

The Infrastructure bill, according to White House projections, will add two million jobs a year over the next decade. If the Build Back Better Act also becomes law, the independent economic groups Oxford Economics and Moody’s Analytics predict economic growth will be even higher due to greater productivity and more women in the workforce; they claim that will offset any “drag” from tax increases, whatever funding sources those increases are finally determined to be.

A Congressional committee investigating the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, using new emails and documents, along with interviews, is revealing the extent of efforts to interfere with the CDC’s warnings about the volatility of the virus, Politico says. There were efforts to block media access to CDC officials and attempts to alter public safety guidance while down-playing the severity of the virus. Of particular concern to the former White House’s COVID-19 task force coordinator, Deborah Birx, was the decision to ease up on COVID-19 testing for the asymptomatic. Birx said she felt that was a “primary reason for the early community spread.” There have been more than 760,000 confirmed U.S. deaths from COVID-19. Worldwide the number exceeds 5 million. Deaths may actually be significantly higher due to under-reporting in most countries, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Axios says the economy grew by 5.7% this year and checking accounts grew 50% over pre-pandemic numbers, 6 million jobs were created and earnings were up 5% this year. But, polling shows  57% say the economy is weak, and that appears due to inflation, with consumer prices up by 6.2% in October, which is occurring all over the planet. In the U.S., adjusting for inflation, wages fell 1.2% in the last year. The Nation reported that workers’ paychecks rose 1.8% in 2020; CEO’s rose 16%. 

A TV ad portraying the Biden administration as generating chaos actually uses several images that occurred under the Trump administration, CNN discovered. As well, Fox News recently edited the president’s Veteran’s Day speech to indicate use of a racial slur, which The Guardian said did not occur.

Blast from the past: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” — First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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