October 14, 2021
The Good News
- Unvaccinated Florida man got the covid vaccine after talking with UF doctor at a bar (WaPo, $)
- France to ban plastic packaging for fruit and vegetables from January (CNN)
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” — Calvin Coolidge
A Low Blow For Joe
President Biden’s approval rating has plummeted in the last four months. Some still list the chaotic U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan as the main reason, but it’s becoming more apparent that people are blaming the president for his inability to get COVID under control, so they can return to life as it was before the pandemic.
Monumental efforts have been made to get Americans vaccinated against the coronavirus, from rapidly ramped up vaccine production and universal availability, to cajoling and incentivizing people, to Biden finally issuing vaccine or testing mandates. But obstructionists and their media allies have so politically weaponized the issue that even some Democrats, and especially Independents, are beginning to throw the president under the bus.
A focus group of Democratic voters met in Pennsylvania last week to discuss why Biden’s job approval ratings aren’t rebounding. All nine participants gave Biden C- grades or lower. Their answers circled back to a similar point: The pandemic and the many ways it continues to hinder normal life is souring their views of the president. One woman said she wanted to buy a car but supply chain issues were delaying new shipments to the dealership. A man complained about understaffed restaurants. “There is a malaise,” the group’s leader said. “People don’t feel like their lives have been improved. They did sort of feel that promises aren’t being kept.”
The much more potent Delta variant reversed the progress vaccinations were making in reducing hospitalizations and deaths, but the new crisis was one almost exclusively of and by the unvaccinated. Examples are abundant of unprotected people winding up in ICUs with COVID and begging for a shot. It was too late, and many died — a difficult, preventable lesson learned.
When the “pretty please” method of persuading reluctant Americans to get their shots failed, Biden issued executive orders to make vaccination mandatory for federal government workers, contractors and employees of large private businesses. The right-wing irrational resistance was immediate and fervent. Texas’ governor Greg Abbott (R) wasted zero time banning vaccine mandates for all entities in the state — including private businesses — for employers or customers, with a $1,000 fine per violation. Abbott’s action, which has nothing to do with public health, means the many Texas businesses that contract with the federal government must either comply with federal law and violate Abbott’s ban, or comply with Abbott and turn down business from the federal government. Economists believe Abbott’s decision not only confuses business owners, but is unnecessary and likely economically “counterproductive.” Elsewhere, full-on obstructionism continues. How Biden is expected to get COVID under control with hard-wired resistance is a preposterous conundrum. (Politico, NPR, Texas Tribune, AP News)
Terror In Norway
- A lone individual armed with a bow and arrows killed five people and wounded two others Wednesday in the Norwegian town of Kongsberg, about 53 miles west of Oslo. The Kongsberg police chief told reporters that authorities had not ruled out the possibility of a terror attack.
- Police did say, however, “the apprehended person has not been questioned, and it is therefore too early to say anything about this and what was the person’s motivation.” The attack occurred the day before a new government comes in, after last month’s parliamentary elections unseated the long-ruling Conservative party. Labor leader Jonas Gahr Støre will assume the role of prime minister on Thursday. (CNN)
A Chile-ing Discovery
- Chile’s president Sebastián Piñera is facing impeachment over possible irregularities in the sale of a mining company after new details about the deal were revealed in the Pandora Papers. The documents appear to outline a 2010 deal involving the stake sale by Piñera’s family in the Dominga mining project, a sprawling copper and iron project that activists have long said would cause undue environmental damage.
- Chile’s public prosecutor’s office said earlier this month that it would open up an investigation into possible bribery-related corruption charges and tax violations linked to the sale, which was completed in the British Virgin Islands. In bringing impeachment articles, opposition lawmakers called it an “ethical duty” to hold the president accountable for the alleged irregularities in his involvement in the controversial project. (Guardian, Al Jazeera)
Additional World News
- Dutch royals can marry same-sex partner without giving up crown (NBC)
- Afghan artists destroy their work in anticipation of Taliban retribution (CNN)
- G20 pledges help for Afghan humanitarian crisis at special summit (CNN)
- Countries call for urgent action on biodiversity with ‘Kunming Declaration’ (Reuters)
- White House to host virtual ransomware summit with 30 countries — but not Russia (NBC)
- UK Escalates Dispute With EU Over Northern Ireland (NYT, $)
- Shrinking Schools Add to Hong Kong Exodus (NYT, $)
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- The House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol took eight hours of closed-door testimony Wednesday from former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen regarding the final days of the Trump administration. The panel has been focusing on witnesses who’ve agreed to testify voluntarily.
- Those who’ve refused the committee’s requests could be subpoenaed, as Jeffrey Clark was on Wednesday. Clark is a former Justice Department official who sought to use department resources to support Trump’s false claims of massive voting fraud in the 2020 election.
- Tensions over compliance with the investigation are increasing, and the committee’s plan to hold depositions this week is already facing headwinds. Panel members want to depose Steve Bannon, along with former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, and Kash Patel, who on January 6 was serving as chief of staff to then-acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller. (WaPo)
- President Biden spoke from the White House Wednesday, outlining his plans to try to relieve the supply chain nightmare that has led to shortages of some goods, higher prices for consumers, and the slowing of America’s economic recovery. His administration will work with companies and ports on a “90-day sprint” to alleviate bottlenecks.
- The Port of Los Angeles will move to 24/7 service, bringing it in line with operations at the Port of Long Beach, which is already working on a 24/7 schedule. Those two ports handle 40% of container traffic in the U.S., and the additional port hours will increase the time spent unloading container ships by 60 hours a week.
- Prior to his announcement Biden met with port operators, truckers’ associations, labor unions and executives from Walmart , FedEx , UPS and Target. Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, committed to a 50% increase in moving goods during off-peak hours; FedEx and UPS will also increase their overnight operations. The government is also working with state DMVs to help increase the issuance of commercial drivers licenses to boost the number of truck drivers in the country. (CNN)
Additional USA News
- Marine who criticized military over Afghan withdrawal to plead guilty at court martial, lawyer says (CBS)
- The mild-mannered senator behind a major liberal push (Politico)
- Debt ceiling: House passes short-term extension, sends bill to Biden (USA Today)
- Moderna has no plans to share its COVID-19 vaccine recipe (AP)
- Fauci says vaccine mandate for domestic air travel is not expected ‘immediately’ (WaPo, $)
- Florida fines Leon County $3.5 million for enforcing Covid-19 vaccine passports (CNN)
- Pamela forecast to intensify into hurricane and bring life-threatening flooding to parts of Mexico and Texas (CBS)
- Until now, the earliest evidence of tobacco use by humans was a 3,300-year-old smoking pipe found in Alabama. But a new discovery suggests humans in the Pleistocene Americas used tobacco 9,000 years earlier than believed. Archaeologists found the remnants of a primitive hearth that was surrounded by bone and stone artifacts at the Wishbone site, an ancient camp in the desert in what is now northern Utah. The artifacts included duck bones, stone tools, and a spear-tip bearing the remains of blood from a mammoth or an early form of elephant.
- Also found in the archaic Utah fireplace were four charred tobacco plant seeds. The researchers believe Native American hunter-gatherers in the Great Salt Lake Desert may have sucked or smoked wads of the plant, perhaps while cooking or toolmaking. Today the area is a large dry lake, but 12,300 years ago, the camp would have been on a vast marshland. The tobacco plant is native to the Americas and contains the psychoactive addictive substance nicotine. It was widely cultivated and dispersed around the world following the arrival of Europeans in the Americas at the end of the 15th Century.
- A member of the Far Western Anthropological Research Group that made the discovery said “The tobacco seeds were the big surprise. They are incredibly small and rare to be preserved. This suggests that people learned the intoxicant properties of tobacco relatively early in their time here rather than only with domestication and agriculture thousands of years later.” The scientists’ discovery is featured in a paper published in the journal Nature Human Behavior. (BBC)
- Carbon-Capturing Sunglasses Offer a View of Fashion’s Future (Wired)
- NASA James Webb Space Telescope stirs controversy over name, LGBTQ discrimination (WaPo, $)
- Another Global Pandemic Is Spreading—Among Pigs (Wired)
- Astronomers Found a Planet That Survived Its Star’s Death (NYT, $)
- New findings a ‘complete reversal’ in understanding why Earth became hospitable to life and its ‘twin’ didn’t (CNN)
- Australia plans lunar rover to help NASA find oxygen on moon (ABC)
- Who stung JR? Hornets nest puts sting in Smith’s golf debut (AP)
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