Not Quite The End Of The Line
September 16, 2022
Not Quite The End Of The Line
A quiet crisis has found a tentative solution in the U.S. early Thursday morning as the Biden administration secured a deal with rail workers to avert a railway strike that would have begun on Friday. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh led roughly twenty hours of deliberations between railroad companies and unions representing tens of thousands of workers. Unions agreed not to strike while they tally member votes on the new agreement brokered by the White House.
The deal would give workers who have seen their wages frozen a 24% raise over five years, and would be allowed to seek out certain types of medical care without fear of retaliation from employers. The deal also includes an immediate 14.1% wage increase for all workers. The strike came after three years of stalled contract negotiations, during which wages were locked in place. Over the past six years, despite railroad companies posting healthy profits and dividends for investors, the industry has cut almost 30% of its workforce, going from over 600,000 workers in 1970 to roughly 150,000 this year.
This puts undue and, frankly, inhumane pressure on employees who are on call at all hours and might be forced to cover a shift at any time. Besides unforgiving scheduling and outdated wages, railroad employees have also dealt with lack of access to healthcare due to workforce shortages – many cited irregular scheduling as a reason they were not able to schedule basic doctor appointments. A railroad strike could have frozen the country, stopping up to 30% of U.S. cargo shipments by weight while increasing inflation and costing the economy up to $2 billion per day. While union and industry leaders have agreed to the deal temporarily, labor experts warn that it might be a tough sell to members who feel resentful of the industry’s wage freezes and blocking of access to basic healthcare. (Reuters, NYT ($))
“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert
A Helping Hand
- On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in support of a bill that would vastly increase U.S. military aid for Taiwan as China ups the pressure on its neighbor. The committee backed the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022 17-5, with votes from both sides of the aisle despite concerns about backlash from Beijing.
- “If we want to ensure Taiwan has a fighting chance, we must act now,” said Senator Jim Risch, the top Republican on the committee. The bill sends $4.5 billion over four years to Taiwan, all of it marked for security assistance. It also supports Taiwan’s participation in international organizations.
- Hsiao Bi-khim, Taiwan’s unofficial ambassador to the U.S., stated her “gratitude” for the legislation and discussed hopes for future cooperation between the two countries, with the possibility of sanctions on the table. “We talked about integrated deterrence in a broader sense of the need to explore different tools to ensure that the status quo in the Taiwan Strait can be maintained,” she said. The bill has yet to be voted on by the House and Senate, and may be folded into a larger defense bill later this year. (Reuters)
Unfazed In Ukraine
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was involved in a car crash in Kyiv on Wednesday. Luckily, Ukraine’s wartime leader emerged from the incident unscathed with “no serious injuries,” according to a statement by his press secretary.
- “A car collided with the car of the President of Ukraine and escort vehicles,” continued the release, but “the president was examined by a doctor, no serious injuries were found.” Medics in Zelensky’s escort administered emergency aid to the injured driver before getting them into an ambulance. Ukrainian authorities are reportedly looking into the incident.
- Earlier on the day of the accident, Zelensky visited Izium, a city in the northeastern region of Kharkiv, just days after it was liberated from Russian forces. “Our blue-yellow flag is already flying in the de-occupied Izium. And it will be so in every Ukrainian city and village. We are moving in only one direction — forward and towards victory,” said a statement from the Ukrainian presidential Telegram channel. (CNN)
Additional World News
- U.S. to redirect Afghanistan’s frozen assets after Taliban rejects deal (WaPo, $)
- U.S. senators introduce bill to designate Russia state sponsor of terrorism (Reuters)
- ‘We are not here forever,’ says UN as Haiti searches for path to election (CNN)
- WHO: COVID end ‘in sight,’ deaths at lowest since March 2020 (WaPo, $)
- God does not back war, pope says in apparent criticism of Russian patriarch (Reuters)
- Woman arrested in South Korea after bodies found in New Zealand suitcases (NBC)
- Iran to join Asian security body led by Russia, China (Reuters)
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TikTaking Your Data
- TikTok has refused to commit to cutting off the flow of data from U.S. users to China. China has a law on the books that requires companies to comply with any and all data requests, and TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in China. TikTok does not operate in China, but has an office there.
- A report from BuzzFeed released in June found leaked audio from a meeting that confirmed ByteDance employees had accessed U.S. user data on multiple occasions, and TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas confirmed that its Chinese employees do have access to U.S. user data.
- However, she added that TikTok has said it would “under no circumstances … give that data to China,” but wouldn’t go as far as committing to saying that ByteDance would keep user data from the Chinese government, or if the company is influenced by China. The Senate Homeland Security Committee was questioning Pappas about ongoing concerns that U.S. user data could be used by China to undermine U.S. interests. (CNN)
The Road To Recovery
- Detroit’s Paradise Valley saw the displacement of over 100,000 residents from its primarily-Black residents when a highway was put in through the area many decades ago. On Thursday, the Biden administration announced it would give Michigan a $105 million grant to fill in the highway trench and turn Interstate 375 into a mile-long boulevard.
- This is the biggest investment made by the White House so far in reaching their goal made last year to repair community issues presented by infrastructure. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (D) said the federal money will shorten the project’s timeline by two years, helping to repair damage that has persisted over three generations. (WaPo, $)
Additional USA News
- 3 men convicted for Jan. 6 attacks on Capitol Police (Axios)
- Covid caused huge shortages in US labor market, study shows (Guardian)
- Supreme Court reverses course on religious school’s LGBTQ club in 5-4 vote (WaPo, $)
- Trump’s ex-chief of staff Mark Meadows complies with January 6 subpoena (Guardian)
- How Ken Starr’s Moralism Helped Give Us Donald Trump (Politico)
- Tropical Storm Fiona could menace Puerto Rico this weekend (ABC)
- Mosquito Fire Becomes California’s Largest of Year (NYT, $)
Hanging Up The Racket
- 20-time Grand Slam winner and 5-season World No. 1 tennis great Roger Federer announced his retirement early Thursday. The 41-year-old’s retirement marks the end of a golden age for the sport of tennis, headed by Federer and his younger rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
- “I am 41 years old. I have played more than 1500 matches over 24 years. Tennis has treated me more generously than I ever would have dreamt, and now I must recognize when it is time to end my competitive career,” Federer said in a social media statement Thursday. “I’ve worked hard to return to full competitive form. But I also know my body’s capacities and limits, and its message to me lately has been clear.” He hasn’t played a competitive tennis match since the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2021, and announced this August that he had undergone knee surgery.
- Nadal, one of Federer’s partners at the top of the sport, shared his gratitude for his competitor over Twitter, saying, “I wish this day would have never come,” but that it was “a pleasure but also an honor and privilege to share all these years with you, living so many amazing moments on and off the court.” The tennis icon is set to play in one last dance as part of Team Europe at the Laver Cup in London later this month, alongside Djokovic, Nadal, and Andy Murray. The cup, hosted by Federer’s management company, is an exhibition pitting six of Europe’s top players against six other players from across the globe. (ESPN)
- Colorado Sheriff’s Office Finds Golden Retriever Missing for 3 Months During Drone Training (People)
- How Bill Gates and his partners took over the global Covid pandemic response (Politico)
- ‘Santa came today’: Brett Favre texts show his role in Mississippi welfare scandal (NBC)
- Viral video shows the “astonishing” moment a shark jumped on board a fishing boat off the coast of Maine (CBS)
- The Search for Intelligent Life Is About to Get a Lot More Interesting (NYT, $)
- Kanye West says he’s terminating his partnership with the Gap (CNN)
- Queen’s funeral service to end with two-minute nationwide silence, palace officials say (CNN)
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