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More MAXes | Is Tacoma ready? | Labor shortage myth | Still going on

Friday, May 21, 2021




► LIVE from the Seattle Times — Coronavirus daily news update, May 21 — The latest count of COVID-19 cases in Washington totals 425,848 infections (7-day average of new infections per day: 1,065) and 5,690 deaths. Vaccination: 47.52% of Washington residents have received their first dose; 38.23% are fully vaccinated.

► From the Seattle Times — Businesses should continue indoor masking policies or check vaccine cards in King County, health officials say

► From Roll Call — Parents getting kids shots left out of COVID-19 paid leave optionsAdministration and many company vaccination benefits don’t apply to children.

► From the NY Times — First they faced the virus. Now come the medical bills. — Americans with other serious illnesses regularly face exorbitant and confusing bills after treatment, but things were supposed to be different for coronavirus patients. Many large health plans wrote special rules, waiving co-payments and deductibles for coronavirus hospitalizations. When doctors and hospitals accepted bailout funds, Congress barred them from “balance-billing” patients — the practice of seeking additional payment beyond what the insurer has paid. Interviews with more than a dozen patients suggest those efforts have fallen short. Some with private insurance are bearing the costs of their coronavirus treatments, and the bills can stretch into the tens of thousands of dollars.




► From Reuters — Exclusive: Boeing plans new 737 MAX output jump in late-2022, sources say — Boeing has drawn up preliminary plans for a fresh sprint in 737 MAX output to as many as 42 jets a month in fall 2022, industry sources said. The plans would extend the U.S. company’s recovery from overlapping safety and COVID-19 crises and lift output beyond an early 2022 target of 31 a month, which the sources said Boeing aims to reach in March. As an interim step, Boeing hopes to speed monthly output from single digits now to about 26 a month at the end of 2021 at its Renton factory near Seattle, two of the sources said. The Puget Sound aerospace industry has already started to pick up steam. Sources say Boeing has been placing parts orders again, while fuselages can be seen heading by rail to the Seattle area from Spirit AeroSystems’ Wichita factory.




► From the News Tribune — Decision day looms on fate of cops who killed Manuel Ellis. Is Tacoma ready? (editorial) — Less than one week, and counting. That’s the time left before the clock turns to May 27, the Washington Attorney General’s self-imposed deadline to complete its review of the Tacoma police homicide of Manuel Ellis and issue a charging decision for the five officers involved. To have a real date to circle on the calendar — the AG says it will release its findings next Thursday, maybe sooner — is a welcome development. That means the mirror will soon turn back to our city. Will Tacoma leaders, public safety officials and residents be prepared for the charging decision, whichever way it goes?

► From MLK Labor — MLK Labor endorses Lorena Gonzalez for Seattle mayor — “Lorena Gonzalez is a proven friend to Seattle’s working families and we are proud to give her the exclusive endorsement of the Labor Council,” said MLK Labor Executive Secretary-Treasurer Nicole Grant. “Councilwoman Gonzalez has both the experience and vision to lead Seattle into the future as a city where all people can live, work, and raise a family.”

► From the Bellingham Herald — ‘Sometimes we were not sure if we could find a way forward’ as Cherry Point ban is renewed — A six-month ban on unrefined fossil fuel changes in the Cherry Point industrial zone was approved Tuesday, May 18, by the Whatcom County Council. Meanwhile, oil company representatives and environmental groups have been meeting since summer 2020 to build consensus over the new rules that would be acceptable to both environmentalists and industry.

► From the Columbian — Benton, others prevail in lawsuit against Clark County over firingDon Benton, the former director of the now-defunct Clark County Department of Environmental Services and former Republican state senator, was awarded $67,798 Thursday in his lawsuit against Clark County. In total, Benton and two of his former employees were awarded $693,998 by the jury. The trio had been laid off from their county jobs in May 2016 about two weeks after Benton submitted a whistleblower complaint about then-county manager Mark McCauley, accusing him of hostility and political retaliation.

EDITOR’S NOTE — The irony here is that Benton’s 2013 hiring for the county job sparked accusations of political cronyism because, among other things, the then-state senator did not meet the minimum requirements for the job. After he was fired, he quickly became local campaign manager for Trump’s 2016 campaign, which led to more cronyism: his appointment to two federal positions within the Trump administration. His federal employment ended on Biden’s inauguration day.




► From KNKX — Second lawsuit filed to overturn capital gains tax in Washington — A second lawsuit has been filed to overturn a newly passed capital gains tax in Washington. The lawsuit by the Opportunity for All Coalition (OFAC), which successfully fought Seattle’s high-earners income tax in 2017, was filed Thursday in Douglas County Superior Court. Last month, the conservative Freedom Foundation filed a similar lawsuit in Douglas County court on behalf of five high-worth individuals and one couple.

EDITOR’S NOTE — We linked to KNKX’s coverage of this story today because the Seattle Times’ version positively fawns over former Republican state AG and failed gubernatorial candidate turned lobbyist Rob McKenna, who filed the complaint on behalf of OFAC. Apparently, the Times isn’t through shilling for this guy.

► From the Seattle Times — How auto dealers’ lobbyist wrote an exemption into Washington’s new capital gains tax law

► From the Seattle Times — Washington hit by second wave of unemployment fraud — but state says criminals aren’t getting paid much — This second wave of fraud is smaller than what struck last year, ESD officials said. And so far, the ESD’s updated security flagged most of the suspicious claims before any funds went out and without further delaying legitimate benefit payments, agency officials said.




► From Politico — Filibuster brawl amps up with GOP opposition to Jan. 6 panel — After more than four months of letting their power to obstruct lie unused in the Senate, the 50-member Senate GOP is ready to mount a filibuster of House-passed legislation creating an independent cross-aisle panel to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection. If Republicans follow through and block the bill, they will spark a long-building fight over the filibuster’s very existence.

► From Politico — Biden’s bank shot to win GOP support for his infrastructure bill — Over the past few weeks, senior White House officials, Cabinet members, and President Joe Biden himself have held dozens of calls or meetings with local Republican leaders to talk roads, bridges, and modern infrastructure investments. Much of the outreach has been done in private, with the White House not providing readouts of what was discussed. But in conversations with more than a dozen local officials familiar with the White House’s efforts — including those on the receiving end of the outreach — a few themes emerge. Chief among them is that the White House wants local GOP mayors and governors to convince their Republican representatives in Congress of the need to back the president’s proposals.

► From the Washington Post — The federal government puts out a ‘help wanted’ notice as Biden seeks to undo Trump cuts — Some programs that are crucial to Biden’s agenda are so short-staffed that his administration can’t yet fully implement his policies, among them enforcement of fair-housing and workplace safety laws. A number of decisions by the Trump administration, including the relocation of key economic research and land management offices, are proving hard to reverse.

► From HuffPost — Biden signs anti-Asian hate crimes bill into law — The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act was written in response to a sharp rise in anti-Asian racist violence over the past year.

► From The Hill — Democrats, GOP face crowded primaries as party leaders lose control — The democratization of both fundraising and the ability to communicate with voters has robbed party leaders of much of their power to anoint a favored candidate. The result has been a mad dash to enter the races that will decide which party controls the Senate in the next Congress.




► From The Guardian — Millions of unemployed in U.S. face hardship under Republican benefit cuts — At least 22 Republican-led states have announced plans to cancel the extended unemployment benefits. The cancellations will affect more than 3.6 million workers currently relying on unemployment benefits by either wiping out or severely cutting their pay. Republicans have blamed the perceived labor shortages on unemployment benefits, despite economists dismissing the benefits as a driving factor, with data showing labor shortages are confined to the leisure and hospitality sector and show no signs of spilling over to other industries or reducing growth within the leisure and hospitality sector, according to a recent analysis.

► From the NY Times — The myth of labor shortages (by David Leonhardt) — The idea that the United States suffers from a labor shortage is fast becoming conventional wisdom. But before you accept the idea, it’s worth taking a few minutes to think it through. Once you do, you may realize that the labor shortage is more myth than reality. Companies have an easy way to solve the problem: Pay more. That so many are complaining about the situation is not a sign that something is wrong with the American economy. It is a sign that corporate executives have grown so accustomed to a low-wage economy that many believe anything else is unnatural.

► From the AP — Cooks, nurses guard inmates with U.S. prisons down 6K officers — Nearly one-third of federal correctional officer jobs in the United States are vacant, forcing prisons to use cooks, teachers, nurses and other workers to guard inmates. Overworked employees are burning out quickly and violent encounters are being reported on a near-daily basis. Union officials have raised the alarm about staffing problems, even holding a rally this week outside a medium-security prison in Mendota, Calif. But federal efforts to attract more workers with 25% recruitment bonuses have, so far, barely made a dent. Starting salary is just under $43,500, with some promises of making up to $62,615. But that’s much less than what even some other federal agencies are offering, not to mention competition from police departments, state prisons, oil refineries, factories and warehouses.

► From The Hill — Nevada weighs public option as blue states eye health care reform — Nevada legislators are working on a bill to create a public option that would compete with private insurers through the state-run insurance marketplace, established under the Affordable Care Act. The measure would require companies that provide Medicaid services to offer public option plans, a notion supporters say would increase access to affordable care.

► From the NY Times — Soaring prices herald boom time for steel makers — For decades, the story of American steel had been one of job losses, mill closures and the bruising effects of foreign competition. But now, the industry is experiencing a comeback that few would have predicted even months ago. Steel prices are at record highs and demand is surging, as businesses step up production amid an easing of pandemic restrictions.




► Today is the 50th anniversary of the release of Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece LP What’s Going On, which is now regarded as one of the greatest recordings in pop music history. In a Rolling Stone interview, Gaye explained why he shifted from singing love songs to writing/recording this socially conscious album:

“In 1969 or 1970, I began to re-evaluate my whole concept of what I wanted my music to say … I was very much affected by letters my brother was sending me from Vietnam, as well as the social situation here at home. I realized that I had to put my own fantasies behind me if I wanted to write songs that would reach the souls of people. I wanted them to take a look at what was happening in the world.”

The lyrics throughout this album are about social issues our country is still struggling with 50 years later: police brutality, environmental degradation, drug addiction, disadvantaged children. If you own a turntable and you don’t have this record, go get it! Here’s the silky smooth “Prince of Soul” performing the title track live. “Picket lines and picket signs / Don’t punish me with brutality / Talk to me, so you can see / What’s going on.”


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