Weekend Open Thread
[guest post by Dana]
First news item
White House responds to new variant:
This morning I was briefed by my chief medical advisor, Dr. Tony Fauci, and the members of our COVID response team, about the Omicron variant, which is spreading through Southern Africa. As a precautionary measure until we have more information, I am ordering additional air travel restrictions from South Africa and seven other countries. These new restrictions will take effect on November 29. As we move forward, we will continue to be guided by what the science and my medical team advises.
Besides South Africa, the other countries impacted include Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi. The variant, identified this week, was found in Bostwana, Hong Kong, and South Africa. Why it’s of such great concern for the world has to do with a rapid increase in test positivity rates:
In South Africa it has been detected in Guateng province – positivity rates in Tshwane (part of Guateng) have increased massively in the last 3 weeks from less than 1% to over 30%.
Here is an informative thread about this latest variant.
Related: According to the Africa CDC, just 6% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated.
Yes, certain letters were specifically avoided when naming the Omicron variant:
A WHO source confirmed the letters Nu and Xi of the Greek alphabet had been deliberately avoided. Nu had been skipped to avoid confusion with the word "new" and Xi had been skipped to "avoid stigmatising a region", they said.
All pandemics inherently political!
— Paul Nuki (@PaulNuki) November 26, 2021
South Africa responds to the travel restrictions:
The South African Government has noted the announcements by several countries to institute temporary travel restrictions on South Africa and other countries in our region.
This follows the detection of the new Omicron variant.
South Africa aligns itself with the World Health Organisation’s position on the latest travel bans.
The World Health Organisation has pleaded with world leaders not to engage in knee-jerk reactions and has cautioned against the imposition of travel restrictions.
Dr Michael Ryan (WHO Head of Emergencies) has stressed the importance of waiting to see what the data will show.
“We’ve seen in the past, the minute there’s any kind of mention of any kind of variation and everyone is closing borders and restricting travel. It’s really important that we remain open, and stay focused,” Ryan said.
We also note that new variants have been detected in other countries. Each of those cases have had no recent links with Southern Africa. It’s worth noting that the reaction to those countries is starkly different to cases in Southern Africa.
Second news item
Activists are calling on 82 major apparel and retail companies around the world to commit to sourcing cotton outside of China. In a letter to “apparel industry leaders,” the Coalition to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region cited a study that ties international cotton sales to accusations of brutal treatment of China’s Muslim minority…
In 2020, the United States banned the import of certain Xinjiang products, including cotton, over concerns about forced labor in the region…
Insider reached out to all 82 companies who received the letter on November 22. The brands that received the letter included retail and e-commerce giants like Amazon, Carrefour, Costco, Home Depot, Ikea, Jo Ann Stores, Kmart, Kohl’s, L.L. Bean, Macy’s, Patagonia, Sears, Target, Walmart, and Wayfair. Most of the recipients were apparel brands, including American Eagle Outfitters, Brooks Brothers, Chico’s, Duluth Trading, Eddie Bauer, Forever 21, Gap Inc., Guess, Hanes, Hugo Boss, Land’s End, Levi Strauss, Lilly Pulitzer, Lucky Brand, Madewell, Marco Polo, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Uniqlo, and Vineyard Vines.
Most did not immediately reply. JCPenney declined to comment.
Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi to stop delaying a House vote on legislation dealing with Beijing’s genocide of Uyghurs and crimes against humanity targeting other minority groups in a letter today:
We urge you to stop delaying floor consideration of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA). As you know, the House bill passed the Foreign Affairs Committee on April 21, and the Senate bill was received in the House on July 16. Both passed without any opposition….
The Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act would impose a near-ban on certain products coming from the Xinjiang region, under the presumption that they were produced using forced labor. While the bill would not by any means convince the Chinese Communist Party to end its campaign to destroy Uyghurs and other Turkic minority peoples, it would help prevent Americans from being complicit in the abuses.
Third news item
Challenges to come if Trump runs again:
DEADLINE: If Trump runs again, what do you think reporters should keep in mind in covering him just given what happened on January 6?
JONATHAN KARL: I think it’ll be one of the greatest, maybe the greatest challenge ever facing campaign reporters. How do you cover a candidate who is effectively anti-democratic? How do you cover a candidate who is running both against whoever the Democratic candidate is but also running against the very democratic system that makes all of this possible? I think it’s tremendously challenging, because you know that — especially now, more than ever — that he is just saying things that are not true, that are designed to misinform, that are designed to erode credibility and belief in our electoral system. And it’s actually dangerous. So how do you cover a debate? How do you cover a speech? How do you sit down for long live interviews with him as a candidate? I think these are really difficult questions because he is obviously not a typical candidate. He’s never been a typical candidate, but now he has been demonstrated to be a candidate that is trying to destroy the very system that makes this election possible. And yet we cover campaigns. That’s what we do. It is a very difficult, precarious situation, and I don’t know how it is going to play out, to be honest.
Fourth news item
Among the most important tools in a politician’s toolbox is the ability to dodge an unflattering question. In an interview segment released Monday, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) offered a textbook case study in how not to do it.
In the interview, Axios’s Jonathan Swan pressed Tlaib on the BREATHE Act, a bill authored by the social-justice coalition Movement for Black Lives and backed by Tlaib and fellow “Squad” member Ayanna Pressley, among others. Swan noted that the proposal would empty federal prisons—home to about 12 percent of prisoners nationwide—within a decade of passage.
Tlaib denied this (“Everyone’s like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to just release everybody’”), but the bill’s text clearly instructs the federal Bureau of Prisons to cut the prison population in half within five years and attain “complete decarceration” within 10, in addition to “physically closing all federal prisons.” Pressed further, Tlaib hemmed and hawed, insisting that the real problem was providing mental health and drug addiction care, while never quite coming out against freeing thousands of drug traffickers, weapons offenders, and other serious criminals in federal detention.
Make sure to read the report in its entirety at the link above.
Fifth news item
On this issue, Mr. Monk – a Black man from one of America’s most liberal cities – agrees with his white Republican governor. In October, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced $150 million to “refund the police.” Around two-thirds of the money would go to police aid and salary. Another one-third would fund accountability programs, neighborhood safety, and victim services.
The plan almost certainly won’t pass the state’s heavily Democratic General Assembly. But, oddly enough, it communicates some consensus. A year after widespread calls to defund or abolish the police, those options are increasingly unpopular. In Maryland, the legislature, governor, and citizens in high-crime areas like Baltimore mostly agree that law enforcement can be reformed, and needs to be.
That’s true across the country, says University of Nebraska Omaha Professor Emeritus Sam Walker. Police reform and police spending aren’t part of a zero-sum game.
“If Governor Hogan is talking about refunding police, then money becomes the leverage for doing things differently, and I think that’s an important strategic lever to change things,” says Dr. Walker. “I don’t think you have to go through the defund part to say that we want to create a modern and progressive police department that’s going to handle routine problems in a better way.”
Sixth news item
A shareholder advocacy organization filed a lawsuit this week challenging a state law that mandates public corporations headquartered in California to appoint people of color or LGBTQ leaders to their boards of directors. The National Center for Public Policy Research filed the complaint on Tuesday, claiming “the diversity quotas injure Plaintiff’s right to vote for the candidate of its choice, free of a government-imposed race, sex, and sexual orientation quotas,” according to the lawsuit filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of California.
Daniel Ortner, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, said he aims for the courts to declare both diversity laws unconstitutional. “The state of California is intruding into corporate affairs to impose quotas based on race and sex and they don’t have a good justification for doing so,” he said. “Companies are already diversifying, without the need of the state of California forcing the matter. And doing so through a quota, in particular, is discriminatory and unlawful.”
Seventh news item
The Dutch government made a public apology Saturday for a now discredited and scrapped law that required transgender people to undergo surgery and sterilization if they wanted to change their gender on their birth certificate.
“Nobody should have experienced what you have experienced. I am truly sorry that it happened,” said Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven in an emotional speech at a ceremony in the historic Knights Hall in the Dutch parliamentary complex.
The law was in place for nearly 30 years until being scrapped in 2014.
“For decades, people underwent medical procedures that they did not want at all. But they knew they had no other choice,” Van Engelshoven said. “Others have waited because of this law; they were forced to postpone becoming themselves for years.”
She said that “standards about what a body should look like do not belong in a law and a law should never force people to undergo an operation. And today I make our deeply sincere apologies for this on behalf of the full Cabinet.”
Eighth news item
Eh, charm and good looks are almost always a winning hand:
Matthew McConaughey would defeat either incumbent GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott or Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke in a head-on race if he ran for governor in 2022, a new poll suggests.
In the scenario of a one-on-one showdown, the Oscar-winning actor was preferred by voters over both Abbott and O’Rourke, according to results from a new poll by the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas Tyler.
However, in a three-way race, Abbott edges out the other two.
Ninth news item
Neither one of these is the best and the brightest, and both are inclined to show their bigoted underpants. As you recall, Rep. Ilhan Omar has made her share of anti-Semitic slurs – and then been compelled (by Pelosi) to apologize. This slur by Rep. Lauren Boebert is a direct and personal attack on Rep. Omar, as well as smearing the Muslim community at large:
Over the Thanksgiving break, Lauren Boebert said she was recently in a Capitol elevator with Ilhan Omar when a fretful Capitol police officer ran up.
Lauren Boebert said: “Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine.”
Boebert then called Ilhan Omar, “jihad squad.” pic.twitter.com/Y7f0nFbnud
— PatriotTakes 🇺🇸 (@patriottakes) November 25, 2021
She later tweeted a non-apology (at which politicians excel):
I apologize to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar. I have reached out to her office to speak with her directly. There are plenty of policy differences to focus on without this unnecessary distraction.
— Rep. Lauren Boebert (@RepBoebert) November 26, 2021
P.S. I am reading that Boebert was joking when she made the comment. Sure… Just like Omar was joking about the Benjamins… They both play to the cheap seats of their narrow-minded, bigoted bases. I want nothing to do with either of them or their fans.
Have a great weekend.