March 31, 2021
The Good News
- Biden says up to 90% of adults will be eligible for Covid vaccine by 19 April (Guardian)
- Meet the Nepalese climbers who removed 2.2 tons of rubbish from Everest while the tourists were away (Telegraph)
“Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.” — Erich Fromm
“Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed.” — Mwai Kibaki
Take The Money And Run
(Amir Levy via Getty Images)
AT&T lobbied aggressively in favor of the 2017 Trump tax cuts, which lowered the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. That year, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said his company would spend “at least” $1 billion in capital expenditure and be able to create an estimated 7,000 jobs. “These are not entry-level jobs. These are 7,000 jobs of people putting fiber in ground, hard hat jobs that make $70,000 to $80,000 per year.”
Stephenson described passing tax reform as a “major” and “significant” item for the US economy. The tax cuts would be a “capital-freeing” event for corporate America. “You are freed up to invest more capital. We have so many initiatives and projects that we would like to invest more in,” he said.
When the tax cuts passed, the world’s largest telecommunications company saved an estimated $21 billion. The lower corporate tax rate means AT&T saves an estimated $3 billion annually. But instead of creating new well-paying jobs, the company has eliminated over 42,000 jobs.
In June 2020, AT&T announced the closing of 250 company-owned retail stores, including an estimated 3,400 cuts in technician, clerical, managerial, and executive roles. The firm said the closures were part of a $6 billion cost-cutting plan that the pandemic had just jump-started. A few months ago AT&T announced it would begin closing another 320 retail stores this spring.
Three of those stores are in the Minneapolis-St Paul area. The president of Local 7250 Communications Workers of America (CWA) pushed back, saying “It’s a move that will erase living wage jobs replaced by non-union, substandard jobs in terms of wages, benefits and safety. It’s an attack on this group of workers, the communities that they’re in and on our union.”
Mali Flores has worked as a sales representative in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area for two years. Her commission was anywhere between $800 to $1,500 a month. Flores recently learned her store will be shut down and she will be moved to a remote customer service position, where she’ll receive a lower wage and no commission. “It’s very devastating…. I’ve been having a lot of anxiety about how I am going to come up with extra funds for my kids.”
Flores is also concerned for the local communities who relied on her store, as it was the only nearby location with Spanish speakers available.
An area union official said the closures are part of a nationwide trend where AT&T is shutting down corporate-owned stores and transitioning to a model that utilizes non-union, authorized retailers. The union is working to spread public awareness and get elected officials involved. “This company promises a lot of things,” he said. “They received a lot of tax cuts with the expectation that we would have long-term jobs and a long-term solution. We aren’t going to go away. We’re going to go down fighting.” (Yahoo Finance, Guardian)
These Gray Skies Aren’t Going To Clear Up
(Narayan Maharjan via Getty Images)
- Nepal is a country of 30 million people that lies in the Himalayas between China and India, two of the world’s biggest polluters. After air pollution climbed to hazardous levels, Nepal had to order its schools to close for four days, forcing about eight million students across the country to stay home.
- Officials at Nepal’s only international airport in Kathmandu said poor visibility — which was down to about three-fifths of a mile on Monday — widely disrupted flights.
- Air pollution is a chronic problem in the rapidly growing capital city of Kathmandu, and an additional headache for a government struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic. (Al Jazeera)
Beijing Puts Its Thumb On The Scale
- As if taking a page from Georgia’s draconian changes to how the state’s residents can vote, China has made radical changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system. The city’s Basic Law, or constitution, has been amended to give Beijing control over the “election committee” that chooses Hong Kong’s chief executive. The committee’s size is expanded, and seats that had been held by directly-elected district councilors have been abolished.
- Additionally, all candidates will now be vetted for “political loyalty.” Although the district councilors already had very limited power — mostly dealing with hyper-local issues such as transport or waste disposal — they were the only city officials elected by a direct and universal franchise. When British colonial rule ended and governance was handed over to China in 1997, it was with the proviso that Hong Kong’s Basic Law enshrine limited autonomy and a promise to move towards greater democracy. Pro-democratic politicians won control of most councils in a landslide victory in 2020 elections.
- The new changes — while keeping a facade of democratic structures in place — effectively give Beijing carte blanche control over the city. Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing chief executive, Carrie Lam, held a press conference on the new measures in front of a backdrop that read: “Improve Electoral System, Ensure Patriots Administering Hong Kong.” (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Mozambique: Efforts continue to rescue civilians from Palma (Al Jazeera)
- A story of slavery — and space (WaPo, $). What happens when the US wants to fire rockets from Brazil?
- Here’s Where The First Guantánamo Detainees Are Now (NYT, $)
- The Quiet End of Kazakhstan’s Denuclearization Program (Atlantic)
- China generated over half world’s coal-fired power in 2020: study (Reuters)
- ‘Garbage strike’ and candle-lit vigils as Myanmar death toll passes 500 (Guardian)
- Nearly 200 Baby Tortoises Are Seized at Galápagos Airport (NYT, $)
- The Taliban Think They Have Already Won, Peace Deal or Not (NYT, $)
- Biden Pushes Mask Mandate as C.D.C. Director Warns of ‘Impending Doom’ (NYT, $)
- WHO report finds coronavirus probably emerged in bats, ‘extremely unlikely’ to be result of lab leak (NBC)
- World leaders unite to call for pandemic treaty, saying: ‘No one is safe until we are all safe’ (CNN)
- What Can You Do Once You’re Vaccinated? (NYT, $)
Not So Grand Juries
- In 2014, a St. Louis grand jury declined to indict Darren Wilson, the White officer who shot and killed an unarmed 18-year-old Black teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri. Less than three years before that, a White St. Louis police officer, Jason Stockley, shot to death a 24-year-old Black motorist after a car chase. At Stockley’s bench trial in 2017, prosecutors said he had planted the gun found in the motorist’s car — the gun had only Stockley’s DNA on it. Regardless, the judge acquitted Stockley.
- Luther Hall is a Black St. Louis police officer who was working undercover at the protests following Stockley’s acquittal. He was recording criminal activity during the 2017 protests when he became separated from his partner while fleeing police who were firing pepper spray and rubber bullets into the crowd. Hall was apprehended and beaten so severely by three White police officers that he required multiple surgeries. Afterward, he sued the officers and the department. Two of the officers’ trials ended in mistrials.
- On Monday, an all-White jury acquitted the third officer on charges of deprivation of rights under color of law and of lying to the FBI in connection with the attack on a fellow officer. Tuesday was Day Two of the trial in the death of George Floyd. (Guardian)
Biden Builds His Bench
- The Trump administration reshaped the federal courts with nominees who were overwhelmingly White and male. On Tuesday, President Biden announced his first slate of 11 judicial nominees that includes three Black women for appeals court vacancies and the first Muslim American to serve on a District Court.
- Among the picks is US District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, whom Biden has nominated to succeed Merrick Garland on the influential appeals court in Washington DC. Jackson is often considered a contender to be the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. The group is designed to send a message about the administration’s desire for more diversity on the federal bench and how rapidly the President wants to put his mark on it.
- In addition to Jackson, Biden’s initial list includes Zahid N. Quraishi, a magistrate judge in New Jersey and former military prosecutor, who would be the nation’s first Muslim American on a District Court bench; Candace Jackson-Akiwumi, a former longtime federal public defender and current litigator in Washington, for the Chicago-based 7th Circuit; and Tiffany Cunningham, an intellectual-property lawyer in Chicago, for a spot on the Federal Circuit in Washington, where she once was a law clerk. (WaPo, $)
Additional USA News
- The NCAA is Under Scrutiny in Washington (NYT, $). Will college athletes finally get paid?
- Nonbinary New Yorkers sue state agency over not providing X gender option (Guardian)
- How debt can lead to prison (Vox)
- Bringing words to a gun fight. Stop It With ‘Gun Control.’ Enough Already. (NYT, $)
- 5 Ways Racist 1930s Housing Policies Still Haunt Schools (The 74)
- Californians have recall fever, and Newsom could just be the start (Politico)
- The States Where Efforts To Restrict Voting Are Escalating (FiveThirtyEight)
- As Bad Information Spreads, Florida Schools Seek To Teach ‘Digital Literacy’ (NPR)
- California relocates mountain lions making a meal of endangered sheep (Guardian)
- Housing prices are out of control. Connecticut and other states battle over a fix and housing segregation. (Vox). NIMBYism’s ultimate challenge.
Lego Of My Legos
- French police, who say they are building a case against an international gang of toy thieves specializing in stealing Lego, have warned specialist shops and even parents to be aware of the global trade of the bricks.
- The alert comes after officers arrested a woman and two men last June as they attempted to steal boxes of Lego from a toy shop in Yvelines, outside Paris. The suspects, all from Poland, reportedly admitted they were part of a team stealing Lego sought by collectors.
- “The Lego community isn’t just made up of children,” one investigator said. “There are numerous adults who play with it; there are swaps and sales on the internet. We’ve also had people complaining their homes have been broken into and Lego stolen.”
- The arrested gang were first reported in France in November 2019, and again in February 2020. “They come to France, set up in a hotel in the Paris region, then set about raiding toy stores before returning to Poland to sell off their haul,” the officer said. A Lego specialist who advises the online auction platform for buying and selling collectibles says sales on the French site doubled last year. “Investing in these pieces isn’t new but this niche market has reached new heights with the pandemic. People have more time at home because of the health restrictions and the game market has exploded. We often have more than 1,000 Lego sales a week,” he said. (Guardian)
- A Billionaire Names His Team to Ride SpaceX, No Pros Allowed (NYT, $)
- Scientists Get Closer To Redefining The Length Of A Second (NPR). You’d think we’d have that one figured out by now.
- The Louvre Has Digitized 482,000 Works — Wander The Museum Online, For Free (NPR)
- Crystal brains and witches’ butter: discover the fabulous world of fungi (Guardian)
- What is the dining table really for? (Vox)
- The Growers, Bakers and Beekeepers Embracing the Terroir of American Cities (NYT, $)
- Listen: Opinion | The Author Behind ‘Arrival’ Doesn’t Fear AI. ‘Look at How We Treat Animals.’ (NYT, $)
- Augusta Savage, the Black Woman Artist Who Crafted an Unlikely Life (NYT, $)
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