Getting To Work On Labor
January 11, 2021
The Good News
- No Children Died in Fires in Massachusetts in 2020 (Mass.gov)
- Bald Eagle Lays Egg Near Big Bear (NBC LA)
“Think well before selecting your leader, and when you have selected him, follow him. But in case you find his policy detrimental to your interests, kick him out.” — Muhammad Ali Jinnah
“When you see how the President makes political or policy decisions, you see who he is. The essence of the Presidency is decision-making.” — Bob Woodward
Biden Getting To Work On Labor
(Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)
Incoming President Joe Biden is appointing strong leaders to head up federal agencies that need revitalization and redirection after four years of Trumpian mishigas. His nominee for labor secretary is Marty Walsh, current mayor of Boston. Walsh is a long-time labor leader who not only should welcome increased spending on infrastructure projects like upgrading roads and bridges to strengthen the economy and create good-paying jobs, but also help advance Biden’s promises to support the expansion of unions.
Many job safety experts say it’s urgent that Biden issue nationwide regulations directing businesses to take specific steps to protect their workers — whether in retail, restaurant, factory, or construction — from a still-raging coronavirus. President Trump’s business-friendly Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) repeatedly rejected labor unions’ pleas to adopt such safety standards.
A top labor department official in the Obama administration said OSHA under Biden should get far tougher in holding employers accountable for failing to take steps to minimize infections. “Clearly priority one is an emergency standard for OSHA dealing with Covid and equally a focused, full-on press on inspections, enforcement, and guidance. It means doing everything OSHA hasn’t been doing,” he said.
Biden has repeatedly called for a $15 per hour minimum wage and for guaranteeing workers 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave; he’s also backed sweeping legislation that would make it easier to unionize. Biden’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will likely reverse many Trump labor board decisions that made it harder for workers to join unions.
Even with Democrats narrowly controlling both houses of Congress, passing legislation to expand the minimum wage, family leave, and more won’t be a cakewalk as long as it takes 60 votes to overcome a Senate filibuster. “It’s going to be a slog to undo all the damage that’s been done the past four years by the Trump majority on the board,” said a former NLRB chair. “They’ve overruled precedents that went back decades.”
Will The Kyrgyz Stan Authoritarianism?
(Guliza Urustambek Kizi via Getty Images)
- Kyrgyzstan, a predominantly Muslim country in Central Asia, declared its independence from Russia almost 30 years ago and became a parliamentary republic. Nationalist politician Sadyr Japarov has led the impoverished nation battered by the coronavirus since protests broke out following a rigged parliamentary election on October 4th, the results of which were canceled.
- Japarov supports changing the constitution to give the president greater powers at parliament’s expense. Critics called the initiative authoritarian, thus making the snap election held on Sunday the most polarizing in three decades. Japarov had 17 opponents when polls opened, but early results Monday showed he’d garnered almost 80% of the ballots cast, and over 80% of voters approved the referendum calling for an increase in executive powers.
- One opposition supporter said of Japarov: “People see him as a martyr or a hero, but his plan to change the constitution is a disaster. We can’t keep on changing it. I don’t know why people don’t understand that.” (Al Jazeera)
Additional World News
- Full Hospitals In Lebanon Turn Away Coronavirus Patients (NPR)
- London Mayor Says City ‘At Crisis Point,’ Declares ‘Major Incident’ (NPR)
- Scarce doses and empty vaccination centres: Germany’s vaccine rollout headache (Reuters)
- Saudi carves path out of US partisan politics with Qatar detente (Al Jazeera)
- ‘South Africa is going to get a third wave of coronavirus, even a fourth’ (Guardian)
- Twitter removes China US embassy post saying Uighur women no longer ‘baby-making machines’ (Guardian)
- At a Yemen hospital wracked by U.S. funding cuts, children are dying of hunger (WaPo, $)
- Sudan signs deal to normalise relations with Israel (Al Jazeera)
- Israeli prosecutors detail corruption charges against Netanyahu (Al Jazeera)
- The bold plan to save Africa’s largest forest (BBC)
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In Summation: Court Protects Asylum, Foundation Of An Immigration Nation
- On Friday, a US district judge for California’s Northern District blocked the implementation of a new Trump administration rule published last month that that would have dramatically reshaped America’s asylum system and restricted asylum eligibility for refugees.
- The judge granted an injunction sought by immigrant advocacy groups on the grounds that Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, who authorized the rule scheduled to take effect Monday, was not lawfully appointed to office. It is the latest judicial determination undermining last-minute efforts to solidify the administration’s hard-line immigration policies before President-elect Biden takes office on January 20th.
- In November, a federal judge in Brooklyn blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects certain migrants from deportation, on the same grounds. (Reuters)
Summer Starts Early For America’s Head Educator
- Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s controversial education secretary, resigned in the aftermath of Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol Building. DeVos leaves behind a legacy that is an anathema to a purposeful, equal public education. She was a tireless advocate for school choice, an ally of for-profit colleges, and a frequent opponent of federal consumer regulations and civil rights protections.
- She used her executive authority to roll back Obama-era civil rights protections for transgender students, rules aimed at eliminating racial disparities in school discipline rates, and requirements for college campuses to recognize free-speech rights. DeVos was a staunch Trump supporter, even defending White House annual budgets that proposed slashing funding for her department.
- Much of DeVos’ policy work will likely be reversed by the Biden administration, just as she reversed the policies of the Obama administration. Harder to unwind will be her sweeping directive which governs how schools handle allegations of sexual assault and harassment. Those rules give more due-process rights to the accused, making it harder for a victim to prove a case. (WaPo, $)
Additional USA News
- OPEC crude output cuts should help U.S. shale profits in 2021 (Reuters)
- With Democrats poised to take over Washington, Supreme Court’s Breyer faces renewed calls to retire (WaPo, $)
- ‘New York is not dead, but it is on life support’ (BBC)
- ‘There’s a red flag here’: how an ethanol plant is dangerously polluting a US village (Guardian)
- US sets new record with nearly 290,000 COVID cases (Al Jazeera)
- Police departments across the U.S. open probes into whether their own members took part in the Capitol riot (WaPo, $)
- Democrats push toward second Trump impeachment, Republican support uncertain (Reuters)
- Twitter purged thousands of QAnon-spreading accounts, including some of the conspiracy’s most prominent backers (Vox)
Bored Citizen Researchers Aid The Ever-Expanding Zooniverse
- With many people now stuck at home and finding themselves with extra time, the pandemic is creating a huge increase in participation in citizen science. That’s where individuals without specialized training collect data out in the world, or perform simple analyses of data online, to help out the professionals.
- Scientists can ask the public to analyze project data on citizen science platforms like Zooniverse and SciStarter. Each project has a discussion forum where participants can pose questions to each other and sometimes to the scientists behind the projects — like crowdsourcing, with the added bonus of friendly connections and a sense of community.
- One climate change project, Rainfall Rescue, involves transcribing historical weather records to understand how weather has changed over the past few centuries. Scientists at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium uploaded a set of 10,000 weather logs to Zooniverse that needed transcribing; the task was completed in a day.
- Snapshot Safari is a Zooniverse project that asks participants to classify animals in images from wildlife cameras. Before the pandemic, daily classifications were about 25,000; then, in the initial lockdown, classifications rose to 200,000 per day. And across all its projects, Zooniverse reported that 200,000 participants contributed more than 5 million classifications of images in one week — the equivalent of 48 years of research. (Vox)
- Nasa’s Curiosity rover: 3,000 days on Mars (BBC)
- The Composer Tyshawn Sorey Enters a New Phase (NYT, $)
- Antarctic base opens briefly as berg watch continues (BBC)
- We live in a wake-centric world, losing touch with our dreams (Aeon)
- Now It Can Be Told: How Neil Sheehan Got the Pentagon Papers (NYT, $)
- Black Gun Ownership: From Negro Militias To Black Armament (NPR)
- How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers (BBC)
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