By Lorraine H. Marie
East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:
Beginning Sept. 1, FICA collection, which funds Social Security, was suspended until Dec. 31. A White House adviser told Fox News there are plans to delay collection of SS funds indefinitely through a series of executive orders from President Donald Trump. According to Social Security Works, a long-term funding suspension will starve Social Security, creating a crisis. What’s more, Social Security’s chief actuary reports that defunding Social Security will result in no SS disability payments next year and the end of program payments in 2023.
Currently 10 million people get SS Disability (averaging $1,125 per month), and 55 million receive SS old-age and survivor benefits (averaging $1,440 per month). To close Social Security all that is required is for Trump, if re-elected, to renew disaster declarations, which allows suspension of FICA collection. Prior to the election Trump advocated for privatizing Social Security and upping full retirement age to 70. Today the trust fund can pay all benefits for the next decade, then 80% after that. But if the wealthy paid in their proportionate share, the program would be on solid ground and benefits could be expanded, according to Social Society Works President Nancy Altman.
More than 7 million children returning to school this year lack computers, according to politico.com. A further 17 million live in homes without high speed internet.
If 90% of U.S. citizens would wear masks, the COVID-19 pandemic could be brought under control within four to 12 weeks, according to CDC Director Robert Redfield.
Hong Kong confirmed the first case of COVID-19 re-infection. The 33-year-old male had moderate symptoms in his first bout and no symptoms the second time. His case was detected at an airport. Two more re-infection cases were reported from Belgium and the Netherlands, according to The WEEK.
Republicans will not renew $600 a week unemployment benefits, and are instead aiming for less, using emergency funds diverted from FEMA. According to Politico, distribution has varied from state to state, with some states delaying checks due to computer problems.
The claim that a man in Texas filled out 1,700 ballots, made by Attorney General William Barr on CNN, was false, The Washington Post confirmed after an investigation. Rather, one man cast a ballot fraudulently. Barr was said to have been given an inaccurate memo.
Meanwhile, in North Carolina, Trump urged his supporters to first cast ballots by mail, then go to the polls again “to test the system.” The state’s Board of Elections quickly said voting twice would be a Class One felony.
Homeland Security stated that Russia is spreading the same kinds of vote-by-mail rumors as those shared by Barr and Trump. A quarter of Americans already vote by mail, and in the five states with vote-by-mail, none have had any voter fraud scandal, according to numerous data and the Brennan Center for Justice.
A Military Times poll showed 74% of active duty personnel oppose Trump wanting to use them at civil unrest locations while 22% are in support.
Wildfires in California are being compared to the devastating fires in Australia last year, according to The WEEK.
The physics of fire tornadoes are understood by scientists, but, Scientific American reported, “they cannot yet predict when and where one will appear.” The phenomenon is increasing in frequency. Fire tornado damage from the Carr Fire included picking up a 100-foot-tall power line tower from its base and carrying it 1,000 feet through the air. Estimates for one fire tornado included winds at 165 miles per hour, a base 1,000 feet wide and a height of three miles. Fire tornadoes have been triggered by earthquakes that start fires, by massive bombing and by weather conditions that combine with fire.
Blast from the past: Unemployment Insurance (UI) was created in 1935, one of the New Deal programs inspired by hardships of the Great Depression. To operate, employers pay into a state’s trust fund, and that is paid out to the unemployed — those who have not quit or been fired — at 50% of normal wages, which can vary from state to state. The more UI claims linked to an employer, the more they pay into the UI fund. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities reported the program was “barely functioning,” since only 29% of unemployed workers received UI benefits.
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