Weekend Open Thread
[guest post by Dana]
Hello! The weekend is upon us. Here are a few news items to chew over. Please feel free to share anything that you think might interest readers. Make sure you include links.
First news item
[T]he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people…allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.
“Today is a great day for America,” President Joe Biden said…
“If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask,” he said, summarizing the new guidance…
The guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools and other venues — even removing the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.
Clearly, businesses will not have a uniform response to new guidelines.
The conservative approach by the CDC is raising questions.
Also, not all experts agree that lifting mask requirements is a good thing:
I’m still stunned at the CDC decision. Yes, vaccinated people are well-protected and not a threat to others. But do we trust that the honor system—won’t unvaccinated people pretend to be vaccinated & stop wearing masks? What about our obligation to kids & the immunocompromised? pic.twitter.com/Iq2TUW2VKn
— Leana Wen, M.D. (@DrLeanaWen) May 14, 2021
100 epidemiologists are in the no column as well:
In the informal survey, 80 percent said they thought Americans would need to wear masks in public indoor places for at least another year. Just 5 percent said people would no longer need to wear masks indoors by this summer. In large crowds outdoors, like at a concert or protest, 88 percent of the epidemiologists said it was necessary even for fully vaccinated people to wear masks. “Unless the vaccination rates increase to 80 or 90 percent over the next few months, we should wear masks in large public indoor settings,” said Vivian Towe, a program officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.
[Ed. My 2 cents: just go get the vaccine so we can be done with this pandemic already.]
Second news item
The top Democrat and Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee struck a deal to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol, breaking a months-long logjam between House leaders about how to structure the independent panel.
House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and the panel’s ranking Republican, Rep. John Katko of New York, announced on Friday they had reached an agreement for the panel that would be modeled after the 9/11 Commission. The House could vote on it as early as next week.
After the agreement was announced Friday, it was not clear whether House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy — who has been fighting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the proposal — would sign off on the deal, as he said he was still reviewing it.
MAGA Republicans still living in their MAGA bubbles of delusion:
Gohmert downplaying Jan. 6 attack
"There's no evidence this was an armed insurrection"
Says no firearms confiscated, ignoring the other weapons that were used and confiscated
"There have been things worse than" an event with people "without any firearms coming into a building"
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 14, 2021
Third news item
The head of America’s second-largest teachers’ union is calling for all public schools to open five days a week this fall, pushing forcefully for in-person learning over the uneven progress made by the Biden administration.
“There is no doubt: Schools must be open,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a speech Thursday on how she believes schools can reopen safely amid the pandemic.
“Given current circumstances, nothing should stand in the way of fully reopening our public schools this fall and keeping them open,” Weingarten said. “The United States will not be fully back until we are fully back in school. And my union is all in.”
Fourth news item
It won’t stop the baby-killing but Planned Parenthood finally admits that Margaret Sanger is a problem :
Up until now, Planned Parenthood has failed to own the impact of our founder’s actions. We have defended Sanger as a protector of bodily autonomy and self-determination, while excusing her association with white supremacist groups and eugenics as an unfortunate “product of her time.” Until recently, we have hidden behind the assertion that her beliefs were the norm for people of her class and era, always being sure to name her work alongside that of W.E.B. Dubois and other Black freedom fighters. But the facts are complicated.
Sanger spoke to the women’s auxiliary of the Ku Klux Klan at a rally in New Jersey to generate support for birth control. And even though she eventually distanced herself from the eugenics movement because of its hard turn to explicit racism, she endorsed the Supreme Court’s 1927 decision in Buck v. Bell, which allowed states to sterilize people deemed “unfit” without their consent and sometimes without their knowledge — a ruling that led to the sterilization of tens of thousands of people in the 20th century.
The first human trials of the birth control pill — a project that was Sanger’s passion later in her life — were conducted with her backing in Puerto Rico, where as many as 1,500 women were not told that the drug was experimental or that they might experience dangerous side effects.
We don’t know what was in Sanger’s heart, and we don’t need to in order to condemn her harmful choices. What we have is a history of focusing on white womanhood relentlessly. Whether our founder was a racist is not a simple yes or no question. Our reckoning is understanding her full legacy, and its impact. Our reckoning is the work that comes next.
Fifth news item
In fact, the Democratic majority says it has no intention of negotiating with Republicans bent on slashing spending as a condition for avoiding default after the July 31 deadline. Democrats say they won’t haggle with the minority party over the faith and credit of the United States, citing lessons from the presidency of Barack Obama. The diametrically opposed views heading toward a cutoff point that regularly vexes Washington could become highly consequential as Congress labors to cut bipartisan deals on a host of issues. Moreover, the standoff may set up a major confrontation in summer or early fall between a GOP settling back into fiscal hawkishness and a Democratic Party that believes ignoring Republican demands is the only way to avoid a fiscal crisis as the national debt tops $28 trillion. Republicans’ official party position “doesn’t matter to me,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “We don’t negotiate on the debt ceiling.”
Sixth news item
Hmm, human rights and/or clean energy?:
[N]ew research suggests that much of that work could rely on the exploitation of the region’s Uyghur population and other ethnic and religious minorities, potentially tainting a significant portion of the global supply chain for a renewable energy source critical to combating the climate crisis.
The report published Friday — titled “In Broad Daylight: Uyghur Forced Labor and Global Solar Supply Chains” — presents evidence of a troubling reality: that components for clean energy may be created with dirty coal and forced labor…
Allegations have been raised before that forced labor in Xinjiang has been used to produce polysilicon, a key component for making solar panels. But this latest research indicates that the practice is also used in the mining and processing of quartz, the raw material at the very start of the solar panel supply chain.
“The global demand for solar energy has encouraged Chinese companies to go to great lengths to make our climate responsibility as inexpensive as possible,” the report states, “but it comes at great cost to the workers who labor at the origin of the supply chain.”
Birthrates in Xinjiang fell by almost half in the two years after the Chinese government implemented policies to reduce the number of babies born to Uyghur and other Muslim minority families, new research has claimed…
The data adds to mounting evidence of coercive fertility policies in Xinjiang, including first-person accounts of forced sterilisation or birth control, and leaked policing data on the internment of women for violating family planning regulations…
The Chinese government denies allegations of mistreatment, genocide and crimes against humanity, saying many of its policies – including the mass detention network it says includes vocational training centres – are anti-terrorism efforts. It says birth control is entirely the choice of individuals and there is no agency interference. This claim has been contradicted by women who claim they were coerced into sterilisation or contraception.
Seventh news item
Telling CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead” that there are “more members who believe in substance and policy and ideals than are willing to say so,” Cheney cited the impeachment vote earlier this year, in which she was one of only 10 House Republicans who voted to hold Trump accountable for the Capitol riot.
“If you look at the vote to impeach, for example, there were members who told me that they were afraid for their own security — afraid, in some instances, for their lives,” she said. “And that tells you something about where we are as a country, that members of Congress aren’t able to cast votes, or feel that they can’t, because of their own security.”
Eighth news item
Because it’s going to take a helluva lot more than a free Krispy Kreme to get enough people vaccinated:
To the many propositions that governments have used to try to bolster slumping demand for the coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio raised the ante considerably on Wednesday, announcing that the state would give five people $1 million each in return for having been vaccinated as part of a weekly lottery program.
The lottery, whose legality could raise questions, will be paid for by federal coronavirus relief funds, Mr. DeWine, a Republican, said during a statewide televised address.
The first of five weekly drawings will be held on May 26, according to Mr. DeWine, who said that Ohio Lottery would conduct them.
“I know that some may say, ‘DeWine, you’re crazy!’ ” Mr. DeWine said on Twitter. “‘This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money.’ But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic — when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it — is a life lost to COVID-19.”
We shouldn’t, but apparently, we do:
We shouldn’t have to bribe to vaccinate. And while people can do what they want with their own bodies, that doesn’t include the right to carry a deadly disease into public spaces. The way to get people vaccinated should be simply to require vaccination or documented medical exemption in order to return to schools, businesses, and crowded public spaces.
Note: West Virginia and Detroit are already paying people to get vaccinated, and Maryland and News Jersey are also offering incentives for residents to get the Covid vaccine.
Ninth news item
With little notice, California on Saturday is increasing early release credits for 76,000 inmates, including violent and repeat felons, as it further trims the population of what once was the nation’s largest state correctional system.
More than 63,000 inmates convicted of violent crimes will be eligible for good behavior credits that shorten their sentences by one-third instead of the one-fifth that had been in place since 2017.
That includes nearly 20,000 inmates who are serving life sentences with the possibility of parole.
More than 10,000 inmates convicted of a second serious but nonviolent offense under the state’s “three strikes” law will be eligible for release after serving half their sentences. That’s an increase from the current time-served credit of one-third of their sentence.
The same increased release time will apply to nearly 2,900 nonviolent third strikers, the corrections department projected.
Note: The changes were approved this week by the state Office of Administrative Law, with little public notice. They were submitted and approved within a three-week span as emergency regulations.
Motivating the drastic decision: According to officials, to “increase incentives for the incarcerated population to practice good behavior and follow the rules while serving their time” so they can get out sooner. Also, it would reduce prison populations, which would then allow Gov. Newsom to fulfill his promise to close a second prison.
Book recommendation: Old Bones by Preston and Child. An engrossing mystery about an archeologist and historian searching for the rumored “Lost Camp” of the Donner Party. Based on the real-life events of 1847 in which a group of pioneers out of Missouri resorted to cannibalism when they found themselves snowbound and stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountains because they left the wagon train and took an unsure shortcut.
A few vacation photos:
Have a good weekend!