Let’s Get Stimulated
March 26, 2020
“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”
“When you choose your friends, don’t be short-changed by choosing personality over character.”
― W. Somerset Maugham
Win McNamee via Getty Images
Let’s Get Fiscally Stimulated: Take $1,200 And Call Me In The Morning
After days of contentious negotiations, administration officials and top Democrats finalized an agreement early Wednesday for fighting coronavirus and rescuing the economy. The legislation is the largest stimulus measure in modern history: two trillion dollars.
A chief sticking point was a bail out for distressed companies — many wanted to avoid a repeat of the flawed 2008 Wall Street bailout that benefited rich corporations at the expense of workers. Lawmakers agreed that loans would come from a $425 billion fund controlled by the Federal Reserve; an additional $75 billion is available for industry- specific loans, including to airlines and hotels. Democrats successfully pressed for immediate disclosure of the recipients, restrictions on stock buybacks, and stronger oversight, including installing an inspector general and congressionally-appointed board to monitor it. Democrats also secured a provision ensuring that neither Trump family businesses nor those of other senior government officials could receive loan money from the Federal Reserve fund, although they could still benefit from other parts of the legislation.
The bill provides for direct payments of $1,200 to taxpayers with incomes up to $75,000, then diminishes for incomes up to $99,000. Families receive an additional $500 per child. Unemployment insurance will expand by 13 weeks, and include a four-month benefit enhancement. Democrats got the program broadened to include freelancers, furloughed employees and gig workers.
$100 billion will go to hospitals and health systems across the country, with billions more earmarked for furnishing personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, testing supplies and new construction to house patients. Medicare payments will increase for all hospitals and providers.
Through June 30, community banks will make federally guaranteed emergency loans available to small businesses that pledge not to lay off their workers. The loan is forgiven if the employer paid workers for the duration of the crisis.
Six Degrees Of Human Bondage and Tragedy
- Venezuela’s economy has been worsening for seven years; the UN estimates that by the end of 2020 some 6.5 million people will have left the country, a number perhaps never seen outside of war. The parents who have been forced to go abroad in search of work have left behind hundreds of thousands of children, in the care of grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, even siblings who are barely past puberty themselves.
- It is reshaping the concept of childhood in Venezuela. Grade-schoolers have taken to the streets to work, exposing them to such abusers as sex traffickers and armed groups. The mass exodus is overwhelming community organizations, many of which relied on support from middle and upper class families that have also fled.
- And with the arrival of Covid-19 in Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has locked down the country and closed the borders, further cutting off these children from the rest of the world and making it impossible for their parents to return, or to come back and retrieve them. (NYT)
- Additional trailer: The Tree of Life Trailer & the song in the trailer: Patrick Cassidy’s “Funeral March”
This Will Cost A Pound of Blood, An Arm, And A Leg
- The UK imports all of its blood plasma used for the production of medicine from America. A growing source of that plasma is from Mexicans crossing the southern border into the US and donating at high frequencies, which some experts fear could risk their health. US regulations permit twice-weekly donations for a total of 104 times a year, while in the UK the limits are twice monthly, or 24 times a year.
- The concern for frequent donors is that the loss of antibodies may have a highly deleterious effect on their immune system, and in the worst case could lead to potentially deadly infections like pneumonia. More than 800 facilities similar to the blood plasma donation center in El Paso, Texas, harvest plasma from Mexicans needing cash, who travel across the border on temporary visas.
- In a regular week, before the coronavirus outbreak, thousands of donors crossed into the US to make money this way. The activity, which appears to be in a legal gray area, was temporarily interrupted when the Trump administration ordered the border partially closed for 30 days. (Guardian)
- Additional song: ‘Blood’ The Middle East
- Coronavirus: ‘Nature is sending us a message’, says UN environment chief (Guardian) (We agree)
- Mobile phone industry explores worldwide tracking of users: Talks about global data-sharing to counter coronavirus will raise privacy concerns (Guardian)
- Italy’s inspiring response to the coronavirus: As Italy becomes the global epicentre for the coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s beautiful, shared showcase of Italian culture is nothing short of remarkable. (BBC)
- Cairo, the city that never sleeps, shuts for coronavirus night-time curfew (Reuters)
- Quarantined In India: No Soap, Dirty Toilets, Not Enough Coronavirus Tests (NPR)
- Mexicans fear looting spree as shops robbed, online messages incite theft (Reuters)
- First ICE detainee tests positive for coronavirus (CNN)
- Covid-19: The ways viruses can spread in offices (BBC)
- Defense Secretary Esper Says Military Has ‘Limited Capacity’ To Provide Hospital Beds (NPR)
- The Long Goodbye: Funerals Are Another Thing That Now Must Wait (NYT)
- The Church has a separate view than the State on this matter: US Christian leaders criticise Trump’s Easter coronavirus deadline: The Rev Al Sharpton said ‘a premature resurrection will lead to a disaster’ as Rev William Barber called it ‘the height of hypocrisy’ (Guardian)
- Surprise: Trump Started Itching to End Social Distancing After His Six Most Profitable Clubs Closed: Did the president’s about-face have anything to do with his own financial situation? (Vanity Fair)
- Trump says reopen by Easter, Corporate America says not so fast (Reuters)
- More than 1m Californians have filed for unemployment amid coronavirus crisis: Governor cites jump in claims since 13 March, marking an unprecedented surge (Guardian)
- How ‘Muscle Memory’ May Help Keep Us Fit (NYT, $)
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I Won’t Die With A Little Help From My Friends
- Britain’s Supreme Court delivered a blow Wednesday to Justice Department attorneys who had hoped to prosecute two ISIS detainees accused of horrific crimes against Western hostages.
- The ruling stated the British government must withhold key evidence for the trial of the men because the Trump administration hasn’t given assurances it will not seek the death penalty.
- The men are currently being held by the American military in Iraq. The two detainees were half of a cell of four ISIS Brits in charge of Western hostages, who had nicknamed them the ‘Beatles’ because of their accents. Some of the hostages were exploited on propaganda videos, including James Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded in August 2014.
- The British government stripped the two men of their citizenship, and originally agreed to share evidence about them for use in an American trial, even though Britain has abolished the death penalty.
- In Wednesday’s ruling Justice Brian Kerr wrote: “No further assistance should be given for the purpose of any proceedings” against the men “in the United States of America without the appropriate death penalty assurances.” It was a major setback for senior law enforcement officials in both countries. (NYT)
Additional USA News
- Women Should be Eligible for US Military Draft (NYT, $)
- How the Midwest became ordinary (Vox)
- Joe Biden’s Strategy To Reach Voters On TV And Online (NPR)
- Eleven States Now Letting Uninsured Sign Up for Obamacare (NYT)
Bookstores Are Trying to Stay Beyond Chapter 11
- In a time when the world has felt increasingly tumultuous, independent bookshops — once threatened by online retailers and big chains — have experienced something of a resurgence, providing a place of solace and a sense of community.
- So it’s particularly painful that this global pandemic has caused such comforting settings to become increasingly off limits. As more countries go into lockdown, bookstores around the world are coming up with creative ways to serve their customers and communities, from ramping up their delivery service and dropping off orders by bicycle, to recreating their community spaces on social media, recommending the perfect books for those stuck in self isolation and running virtual events.
- Mike Gustafson owns Literati Bookstore, an award-winning shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It took only 15 minutes for Gustafson and his wife to decide they must close the shop. But they turned immediately to prioritize online ordering, and the community rallied behind them.
- “We usually get around 5 or 10 orders a day. In less than a week we’ve had over 800,” Gustafson said. “[Customers] have placed many orders, left overwhelmingly kind comments and boosted our morale on social media pages. I fully grasp that during times like these, books are not high on the hierarchy of survival needs. And yet, for so many, books offer a unique kind of comfort, and perhaps are really needed right now.”
- The Gustafsons are also exploring digital book clubs and online writing courses. “We are taking a look at creating a community online, so neighbours can still interact with neighbours about ideas, new voices, art and books.” (BBC)
- Additional quote: “If you haven’t read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate, and you will be incompetent, because your personal experiences alone aren’t broad enough to sustain you.” ― Jim Mattis
- Books, the original internet and still better than the internet: Book sales surge as self-isolating readers stock up on ‘bucket list’ novels: Paperback fiction sales rose by 35% last week, with a notable interest in challenging classics (Guardian)
- Make it so: CBS All Access is offering a free one-month trial, just in time to binge Star Trek: Picard: Perfect for your next social distancing TV marathon (The Verge)
- Urban Coyotes Eat a Lot of Garbage—and Cats (Smithsonian Magazine)
- Could synthetic fish be a better catch of the day? (BBC)
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