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Keep your guard up ● Deadly prison labor ● Long live Barry

Tuesday, December 15, 2020




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, Dec. 15 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 203,797 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 2,770) and 2,918 deaths (7-day average of deaths per day: 10)

Keep your guard up, Washington.

► From KUOW — With COVID-19 infections spiking more than ever, here’s what to know amid the holidays — The first doses of a Covid-19 vaccine authorized for public use have arrived in Washington state. But that’s not going to change the situation significantly before the holiday season ends. Public health officials are urging people to keep masking up and social distancing.

► From the AP — COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Washington — About 3,900 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived at UW Medical Center in Seattle early Monday. The initial doses in Washington will go to health workers and people in long-term care facilities, but it will be months before it is available to much of the broader population.

► From the Seattle Times — Vaccine heads to Washington’s nursing homes, bringing hope and questions — It could bring relief to workers and residents, who health officials have said will be prioritized along with health care workers at high risk.

► From the NY Times — If teachers get the vaccine quickly, can students get back to school? — Teachers’ unions largely support plans to put educators near the front of the line, but given availability and logistics, that might not be enough to open more schools in the spring.

► From the Washington Post — FDA review clears path for second coronavirus vaccine, this one developed by Moderna — Regulators confirmed the vaccine was 94 percent effective at preventing disease in a trial and had no serious safety concerns.

► From the Guardian — U.S. healthcare workers have faced devastating losses amid PPE shortages — Frontline healthcare worker have shouldered an extraordinary burden over the last 10 months and represent a disproportionate share of the sick. The Guardian, in partnership with Kaiser Health News, is investigating the deaths of nearly 1,500 healthcare workers who appeared to have died of COVID-19 after working on the frontlines. The number of dead is expected to climb significantly as new data sources are unlocked in the coming weeks. Our data shows that the majority of healthcare workers who have died are people of color.

► From YubaNet — Nurses: Hospital industry attack on safe staffing putting lives of patients, nurses, workers at risk — During the pandemic, California hospitals have been bombarding state health officials for individual, temporary waivers in adherence to California’s landmark safe staffing law, which requires minimum levels of registered nurse staffing for various hospital units. Hospitals exploited that process to demand more reductions in safety measures and now, have been authorized to request “expedited waivers” to require already overburdened nurses to unsafely care for more patients at a time in intensive care units and throughout the hospital setting.




► MUST-READ from the Spokesman-Review — Airway Heights inmates believe factory work is driving ‘ridiculous’ outbreak — Sick inmates at Airway Heights Corrections Center are calling conditions “obscene” and “decaying.” Some have described urine on the floor of a gym where 150 coronavirus-positive inmates are sharing four toilets. As the prison faces the fastest and largest COVID-19 outbreak in Washington state prisons yet, minimum-security prisoners are still making food in the Washington State Correctional Industries factory for between 90 cents and $1.70 an hour. Correctional Industries is a state-owned program with “private industry tools” that produces goods, including food, with prison labor to sell mainly to state agencies, according to its website. Some inmates think that work is part of the reason the virus is spreading rapidly. As of Friday, 792 inmates, more than 40% of the prison’s current population, had tested positive. Twelve days prior, the prison had only seven cases.

► From the Columbian — 100,000 in Washington could lose unemployment benefits — Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which covers contractors, the self-employed, part-time workers and others who aren’t eligible for regular jobless benefits. expires the day after Christmas unless Congress acts to extend it. But they remain deadlocked over PUA. Although Gov. Jay Inslee has promised to step in with a relief package of at least $54 million if Congress fails to act, details — including a weekly payment amount — have yet to be settled. And any state relief likely would be only temporary.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Are your benefits about to run out? Share your story!

► From KNKX — Health care workers face unemployment as coronavirus surges — As coronavirus cases surge throughout the state, people in the health care and social assistance sectors are losing jobs. The state Employment Security Department reported last week that new jobless claims from workers in hospitals, child day-care services and other health-care services rose during the week ending Dec. 5.

► From the AP — Inslee announces equity proposals as part of budget plan — The governor on Monday released a budget proposal aimed at addressing equity and systemic racism, the first of several to be released as part of his overall state budget plan this week. The plan includes $26 million toward the establishment of a proposed new office to conduct investigations of police use of excessive force and $2.5 million for the state Equity Office that was created by the Legislature earlier this year.

► From the Seattle Times — Hold employers to racial equity commitment (editorial) — A new coalition of Washington employers is making an important commitment to racial equity. More companies across the state should join Washington Employers for Racial Equity and pledge to support its mission… Washingtonians across the state should encourage companies they are involved with to take the pledge and commit to a more equitable future, then hold coalition members to their promises.

► From the Seattle Times — State schools chief says his hands have been tied in pandemic — In a state where the governor has decided to take a largely hands-off approach to schools during the pandemic, Chris Reykdal has come to see a need for a more centralized response. School districts, unions and parents are engaging in power struggles over reopening decisions, and the impact the closures have had on the state’s most vulnerable kids has yet to be fully quantified. Some are calling for more state oversight to equalize what districts are offering in the pandemic.




► From the Tri-City Herald — Tri-Cities mental health workers picket over wage concerns — Lourdes Counseling Center workers hold the first of two informational pickets Monday outside the mental health care facility on the corner of Carondelet and Goethals Drives in Richland. Workers there voted earlier in the year to join the UFCW 21 Union and are negotiating their first contract. Workers say wages and benefits are not competitive enough to recruit and retain quality staff and is causing staffing shortages and raising concerns about workplace safety for staff and patients.




What could possibly go wrong?

► From the Seattle Times — Boeing finds more 787 quality defects, broadens inspections — Boeing has expanded the scope of its examination of 787 Dreamliners after finding more widespread instances of a manufacturing quality defect initially thought confined to the aircraft’s aft fuselage plant in South Carolina, prompting inspections at 787 component plants around the globe. Reviews are underway at Boeing’s adjacent mid-fuselage plant in North Charleston, S.C., at the Spirit AeroSystems forward fuselage plant in Wichita, Kan., and at plants owned by Leonardo in Italy and Kawasaki in Japan that produce smaller fuselage sections.




► From The Hill — Biden rips Trump’s refusal to concede after Electoral College vote — President-elect Joe Biden on Monday blasted Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 vote and called on the nation to move beyond the divisive election season hours after the Electoral College officially certified his victory.

► From the Washington Post — Trump, who often portrayed liberal protesters as ‘thugs,’ is silent on violence among his supporters — Trump and many other Republican officials spent much of this year characterizing anti-racism protesters as “violent demonstrators” who put the safety of Americans at risk. But this past weekend’s gatherings of Trump supporters backing the president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election show that violence is an ongoing concern at these protests — one that the president and many GOP leaders have chosen to ignore.

► From WILX — Early in-person voting begins in Georgia Senate runoffs — In-person voting began Monday in the runoff elections for Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, with lines reported to be shorter than in the first days of early voting for the general election last month.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Why is the Georgia runoff so important? Because if Republicans win, this guy stays in control of the U.S. Senate…




► From HuffPost — Senators fail to reach deal on compromise version of COVID-19 lawsuit ban — After weeks of negotiations, a bipartisan working group couldn’t compromise on blocking lawsuits against corporations from people who say they were negligently exposed to COVID-19… Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has insisted since May on stifling lawsuits as part of any further coronavirus legislation, citing a looming “epidemic of lawsuits” that would cripple commerce, but that has yet to arrive. Congress has been in a stalemate for months.

► From Politico — Congress nears deal on $1.4 trillion government funding measure — Congressional negotiators are closing in on a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending deal to ward off a government shutdown on Friday at midnight, crossing one major priority off the legislative agenda and adding further urgency around the inclusion of coronavirus aid in a year-end package.

► From the Washington Post — Thankfully Trump failed to deport the ‘dreamers.’ This Rhodes scholar shows what we would have lost. (editorial) — Santiago Potes, a dreamer brought to this country at age 4, graduated from Columbia University in June. His stellar academic performance there, along with a stunning list of other achievements, were cited in a brief to the Supreme Court from 19 research universities and colleges defending DACA, the Obama-era program that granted dreamers a foothold in this country. The court’s decision, and the protections for dreamers it safeguarded, triggered Potes’s decision to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship, which he was awarded last month. He is the first Latino DACA recipient to be so honored.

► From the NY Times — William Barr is out as Attorney General




► From the Washington Post — USPS ‘gridlocked’ as historic crush of holiday packages sparks delays — As a homebound nation increasingly shops online for holiday gifts, private express carriers FedEx and UPS have cut off delivery service for some retailers, sending massive volumes of packages to the Postal Service and creating days’ worth of delays while shoppers hustle to purchase last-minute presents. The result has pushed the nation’s mail agency to the brink again. Postal employees report mail and package backlogs throughout the country, and working vast numbers of overtime hours that have depleted morale during another surge of coronavirus infections nationwide.

► From Politico — ‘The most lopsided economic event imaginable’: Wave of evictions threatens Black, Latino tenants — Evictions could put more at risk for contracting COVID-19 by forcing people to move into cramped quarters — or out on the street.

► From the Detroit Free Press — UAW, feds reach settlement after corruption scandal: Here are the details — As part of the deal, which a federal judge still must approve, an independent monitor will be appointed and union members will determine how their leaders are elected under a civil settlement announced between the UAW and U.S. Attorney’s Office.

► From Upworthy — Dr. Biden’s response to the sexist op-ed suggesting she drop her title was pure perfection





► The Stand is going on hiatus for the rest of the year. So between now and Jan. 4, your assignment is to watch The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (HBO), which documents the rise and fall, and then spectacular rise and devastating fall, and ultimate rise of one of the most successful pop groups the world has ever seen. After the band’s unrivaled success with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, the greedy record industry beat disco music to death. (“Disco Duck,” anyone?) Then came a backlash that had distinctly racist and homophobic undertones. The Bee Gees were caught up in that backlash and “canceled.” The band went from unrivaled commercial success to being essentially banned from the radio. In his 1979 year-end feature, Rolling Stone music critic Dave Marsh wrote:

“White males, eighteen to thirty-four are the most likely to see disco as the product of homosexuals, Blacks, and Latins, and therefore they’re the most likely to respond to appeals to wipe out such threats to their security. It goes almost without saying that such appeals are racist and sexist, but broadcasting has never been an especially civil-libertarian medium.”

It was during the studio recording of the following song — a favorite of The Entire Staff of The Stand — that Barry Gibb’s falsetto was born at the urging of producer Arif Mardin, who asked, “Can you scream in tune?” Although that part is sung here by brother Maurice, the falsetto voice of Barry, the last surviving member of the band, would become the signature sound of their subsequent success. And this new HBO documentary rightly celebrates their incredible legacy. Enjoy.


The Stand posts links to Washington state and national news of interest every weekday morning by 10 a.m.

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