Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Sept. 17, 2020

By Lorraine H. Marie
Reader Columnist

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

Despite pleas from the Federal Reserve for more funding to stop further erosion of the economy, the second COVID-19 relief bill, which needed 60 votes to pass in the Senate, had only 52 votes, The Washington Post reported. The Democrat-controlled House passed a more far-reaching stimulus bill in May, but the Senate did not take action on it. The so-called “skinny” relief bill fronted by Senate Republicans failed when 51 Democrats and one GOP-er lined up against it. 

The proposal did not include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks and no money for cities and states suffering a decline in revenues. “The threat of eviction, hunger and poverty remains high,” The Post reported, since half of jobs lost in March-April have not been recovered and rehiring has slowed. Meanwhile, the U.S. death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic is approaching 200,000. 

Smithfield Foods meat plant in South Dakota was recently fined $13,500 in the aftermath of four employee deaths from COVID-19 and close to 1,300 COVID-19 infections in workers, Democracy Now reported.

The CDC said recently in its weekly report that adults with confirmed COVID-19 were twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant in the previous 14 days as those testing negative. The lowest risk was from food businesses with delivery, drive-through or curbside pickup; the highest risk was where seating capacity was not reduced and tables placed within six feet apart, according to USA Today.

As of last week, at least six teachers have died from COVID-19 since schools started reopening in late August, reported. The teachers were from Iowa, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Carolina. 

Bob Woodward’s just-published book, Rage, took its title from a conversation with President Donald Trump, wherein Trump said, “I bring rage out … I always have … I don’t know if that’s an asset or a liability.” 

Woodward was a key reporter who helped expose Watergate in 1972, which led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation two years later. Trump had been warned not to talk to Woodward, but consented to 18 taped interviews used in the book — he also urged administration members to talk. Of particular note is Trump confiding that he knew early on that COVID-19 is “more deadly than even your strenuous flus,” but preferred to play down the threat to avoid panic. When Trump is asked if he has a sense that his privilege has isolated him from others’ suffering, and that white people have to work to understand others’ anger and pain, Trump accused Woodward of drinking “the Kool-Aid.”

Politico revealed that appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services have been making changes to COVID-19 information from the weekly CDC reports. The changes were intended to create alignment with the downplayed threat rhetoric put out by Trump. Democratic members of Congress have since launched an investigative probe.

As of Sept. 14 at least 35 people have died as a result of dozens of large wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington, CBS News reported. Converging with an unprecedented heat wave, blazes have consumed more than 5 million acres, along with homes and entire towns, in the West Coast states, according to The New York Times. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom pointed out that fires in his state could foreshadow similar fires all over the nation “unless we get our act together on climate change” and move away from all the “B.S.” fronted by climate science deniers.

Several members of Congress have introduced the End Polluter Welfare Act of 2020. If enacted, it would end handouts and tax loopholes created by Congress for fossil fuel billionaires.

States have been short of firefighters due to releasing inmates early to lighten prison loads during the COVID-19 pandemic. In his state, Newsom signed a bill expunging former prison firefighters of their records, which now enables them to get jobs as municipal firefighters.

Causes of the fires have included lightning, power lines that were faulty or knocked down, and accidents, NBC News reported. Rumors of arson by so-called “Antifa” saboteurs are being flatly denied by law enforcement.

To help victims of wildfire, donate to the Red Cross and designate which state should benefit in the memo line of the check: P.O. Box 37864, Boone, IA 50037-0864.

Blast from the past: “True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.” Karl Popper, Austrian-born philosopher, academic and social commentator, 1902-1994.

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