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COVID on the rise (again) ● Jobless benefits cliff ● Rich get richer

Thursday, October 15, 2020




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Oct. 15 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 95,509 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 571) and 2,221 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 7)

► From the NY Times — U.S. virus cases climb toward a third peak — The number of new coronavirus cases in the United States is surging once again after growth slowed in late summer. While the geography of the pandemic is now shifting to the Midwest and to more rural areas, cases are trending upward in most states, many of which are setting weekly records for new cases.

► From the LA Times — Husband-and-wife nurses contract COVID-19. She died in the hospital where she worked. — The 51-year-old nurse worked more than two decades at the same medical center in Apple Valley where she fell ill and ultimately died.

► From the NY Times — For 200 years courts upheld rules to protect Americans’ health. Until now. (by ) — The Republican Party’s campaign to take over the federal and state courts is quietly upending a long and deeply embedded tradition of upholding vital public health regulations. The result has been a radically novel and potentially catastrophic sequence of decisions blocking state responses to the coronavirus pandemic… In the past, when epidemics have threatened white Americans and those with political clout, courts found ways to uphold broad state powers. Now a new generation of judges, propelled by partisan energies, look to deprive states of the power to fight for the sick and dying in a pandemic in which the victims are disproportionately Black and brown. The results are already devastating.

► From The Atlantic — The new burden on COVID-19 families — There are thousands of Americans for whom the past few months have been nothing less than a nightmare. To many of them, Trump’s downplaying of his own COVID-19 diagnosis, and his rhetoric equating sickness with weakness, has been a profound insult. Before Trump’s hospitalization, most Americans already disapproved of his handling of the pandemic. With each dismissive comment, he minimizes the suffering of an ever-growing share of Americans.

► BREAKING from the AP — Kamala Harris suspends travel after staffer tests COVID-19 positive




► BREAKING from the Seattle Times — Washington Supreme Court strikes down I-976 to reduce car-tab taxes — The Washington Supreme Court struck down Initiative 976 to reduce car-tab taxes, nearly a year after statewide voters approved the tax-cutting measure. The measure is unconstitutional because it “contains more than one subject, and its subject is not accurately expressed in its title,” the court ruled. The ruling Thursday comes as Seattle officials attempt to plug a revenue hole due to the pandemic and the state faces a projected shortfall of about $4.2 billion through 2023. State and local governments use car-tab fees to fund road and transit projects.




► From the Seattle Times — City staff lean toward replacing, not repairing, West Seattle Bridge; hope to finish in 3 years — Seattle transportation managers are raising doubts about a long-term repair option for the cracked West Seattle Bridge, while raising hopes the city can build a new high-rise span within three years. Their role model is the Lake Champlain Bridge between New York state and Vermont. It was completed in late 2011 using “accelerated bridge construction” tactics, such as skipping a full environmental-impact statement and building a giant arch off-site.

► From the Spokesman-Review — Massive Amazon-like distribution facility planned in Spokane Valley — An unnamed company has filed for permits to build a massive distribution facility in Spokane Valley that bears similarities to an Amazon fulfillment center warehouse.




► From Politico — Postal Service agrees to reverse service changes — The U.S. Postal Service agreed Wednesday to reverse changes that slowed mail service nationwide, settling a lawsuit filed by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock during a pandemic that is expected to force many more people to vote by mail. The lawsuit filed against Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and the U.S. Postal Service on Sept. 9 argued changes implemented in June harmed access to mail services in Montana, resulting in delayed delivery of medical prescriptions, payments, and job applications, and impeding the ability of Montana residents to vote by mail.

► From Politico — Trump team finds early success in restricting mail-in ballots — Trump is increasingly finding success in his strategy to restrict voting by mail — using lawsuits to stop late-arriving ballots from being counted in swing states.

► From Reuters — Split screen: Trump and Biden to headline dueling town halls — They will hold dueling prime-time town halls on Thursday instead of their second presidential debate, which was canceled after Trump declined to take part in a virtual matchup.

► From the NW Labor Press — Platforms show parties increasingly divided on unions — It wasn’t always this way, but today the two major political parties in the United States are highly polarized—for and against unions. The Republican Party, particularly at the national level, has increasingly become explicitly anti-union. Meanwhile, there are signs that Democrats are returning to more robust pro-union stances.

► From the NY Times — Will we choose the right side of history? (by Nicholas Kristof) — In Amy Coney Barrett, Republicans are once again backing a Supreme Court nominee who could take us backward. Voters can’t weigh in on the Barrett nomination, but they can correct this country’s course. Here’s the fundamental question: Will voters reward the party that is working to provide more health care, or the party that has painstakingly robbed one million children of insurance? Will voters help tug the United States forward, or will they support the backward thinkers who have been on the side of discrimination, racism, bigotry and voter suppression? At the polls, which side of history will you stand on?




► From Politico — Millions of workers face jobless benefits cliff with lifeline set to expire — A failure by Congress to enact a new economic relief package would prolong the pain of the coronavirus crisis for many Americans, but those without jobs face a special threat — millions could run out of unemployment benefits altogether by the end of the year. If the government doesn’t pass legislation, more than half of those receiving unemployment benefits — about 13.4 million people — stand to be left with no income.

► Meanwhile, today from Politico — U.S. layoffs remain elevated as 898,000 seek jobless aid — The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to 898,000, a historically high number and evidence that layoffs remain a hindrance to the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession that erupted seven months ago.

► From Roll Call — States seek more federal funds as Medicaid enrollment grows — The number of Americans on Medicaid continues to rise as people lose their insurance during the economic downturn, but policy experts disagree on how much additional funding states facing higher costs may need.

► From Reuters — Exclusive: U.S. offers tariff truce if Airbus repays billions in aid, sources say — The United States has offered to settle a long-running aircraft subsidy dispute with the European Union and remove tariffs on wine, whisky and other products if Airbus repays billions of dollars in aid to European governments, several sources close to the matter told Reuters.




► From the AP — Wildfire smoke in U.S. exposes millions to hazardous pollution — Wildfires churning out dense plumes of smoke as they scorch huge swaths of the U.S. West Coast have exposed millions of people to hazardous pollution levels, causing emergency room visits to spike and potentially thousands of deaths among the elderly and infirm, according to an AP analysis.

► From The Guardian — She was a farmworker. Her grandson is a Lyft driver. A fight for workers’ rights unites them — More than 40 years ago, Maria Cardona laid her livelihood on the line to demand change in the hot central California fields where she picked grapes and other produce for $1.75 per hour. Ultimately, they won a collective bargaining victory that benefited more than 10,000 farm workers. But soon after, corporate growers funded a ballot measure called Proposition 22 to block similar action and keep workers from organizing in the future. Proposition 22 ultimately failed after an intense and public fight. But decades later, in a remarkable twist of fate, Cardona’s grandson, Carlos Ramos, is fighting his own battle against another Proposition 22. This one, too, is backed by a powerful corporations – including Uber, Lyft and Instacart – and would limit workers’ power to unionize. And while Ramos’s job as a Lyft driver may seem far removed from picking grapes, the struggle of today’s gig workers in many ways echoes that of the farm workers in the 1960s and 70s.

► From the Seattle Times — Amazon workers say Prime Day rush breaks coronavirus safety vows — has recklessly reinstated dangerous warehouse productivity quotas despite telling a judge that it was suspending them during the pandemic, workers said in a court filing. “Amazon has not been honest and forthcoming,” employees at a warehouse in Staten Island, New York, told the judge handling their lawsuit, which contends the company’s “oppressive and dangerous” policies violated public-nuisance law and exacerbated COVID-19 hazards.

► A related story from HuffPost — The pandemic has benefited one group of people: billionaires — Roughly 3 out of 4 American billionaires have seen a rise in their net worths. Elon Musk alone has tripled his net worth during the pandemic. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who was already worth $113 billion at the start of 2020, is heading into the year’s final stretch $73 billion richer.


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