Bits ‘n’ Pieces: October 29, 2020

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

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

South Korea, which observed its first COVID-19 cases and deaths at the same as the U.S., (with a sixth of the population of the U.S.) has seen 500 deaths as opposed to 225,000 in the U.S. The east Asian country’s response included intense contact tracing and establishment of isolation wards, according to 

NPR reports that two new studies show the risk of dying for those hospitalized for COVID-19 has gone from 25.6% to 7.6%. It still remains more deadly than the flu, and the possibility of being a COVID-19 “long-hauler” looms. Long-haulers, The WEEK writes, seem to never quite recover and can have lingering symptoms, including scarred lungs, heart damage, headaches, kidney damage, hand tremors, fatigue, fever, nausea, hair loss, blurry vision, short-term memory loss and brain fog. 

At least five of Vice President Mike Pence’s aides have tested positive for COVID-19, the Washington Post reported. Pence chairs the White House COVID-19 task force. The White House chief of staff told CNN that, “We’re not going to control the pandemic,” and the administration has instead opted to look at mitigations. Despite COVID-19 surrounding him, Pence is not following CDC recommendations to quarantine for 14 days after exposure and plans to continue campaigning and showing up in the Senate. 

COVID-19 cases reached a new peak on Monday with 74,323 new cases. Cases have been rapidly rising in Republican states and counties, according to Harvard University data. And the American Academy of Pediatrics says 800,000 children have now been infected, with those numbers rising.

Nonetheless, President Donald Trump has declared that the pandemic is ending, and predicted at a mostly mask-less rally on Oct. 24 that after Election Day “the media will stop covering the pandemic.” In his recent presidential debate, Democratic contender and former Vice President Joe Biden objected to Trump saying we have to “learn to live” with COVID-19,” and responded: “We’re learning how to die with it, and it’s wrong.” 

After a rapid election-year confirmation process, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett was approved in a 48-52 vote party-line vote, with one Republican dissenting. Barrett replaces Ruth Bader Ginsburg who was approved with a 96-3 vote. Objections to Barrett are grounded in her lack of experience (she’s never argued an appeal or performed notable pro bono work, according to Mother Jones) and her “originalist” ideas of looking at constitutional decisions according to what the nation’s founders intended, with no regard for ramifications under different circumstances. 

As noted by former insurance executive Wendell Potter, the founders were not thinking about health insurance, which did not exist at the time. Barrett will hear a case on Nov. 10 challenging the future of the Affordable Care Act. She also does not appear neutral on numerous topics, saying she cannot enforce secular laws against her religious beliefs (The Nation) and she disagreed with the Supreme Court’s previous finding that the ACA was constitutionally sound (The Atlantic). In commenting on Barrett’s rushed seating, Democractic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Republicans “can’t win” when “playing by the rules” (they refused to seat numerous judges proposed by the prior president) so “the American people will expect us to use every tool we have to undo the damage and restore the court’s integrity.

The Economic Policy Institute says there are 22 million more people on unemployment today as compared to one year ago, a contrast to Trump’s claim of having created a “great economy.”  

Texan Harrison Hunter, 26, is the third Boogaloo Boi to be charged in connection to the protests in Minneapolis after the police killing of George Floyd in May, The Guardian reports. Boogaloo Bois are linked to at least five deaths this year and more than two dozen arrests, and were allegedly involved with the plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor.

Changes to the disposal of nuclear waste are being proposed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Food and Water Watch says under current regulations, the waste is sent to specially-licensed disposal sites. But the NRC wants to reclassify some radioactive waste so it can go to unlicensed facilities, and even to local landfills, where it can leak into local water and food supplies. And if it’s incinerated it can be released into the air without the public’s knowledge.

Blast from the past: In the past two decades two winners of the popular presidential vote — both Democrats — lost out to votes from the Electoral College, giving new momentum to replace the Electoral College with a national popular vote.

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