“Small restaurants are heading back to Congress for help, saying their challenges are worsening as the Omicron variant drives a surge in Covid-19 cases across the country,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Nearly two years into the pandemic, U.S. restaurants and bars are dealing with higher costs, accumulating debts and customers fearful of the latest virus variants.”
Washington Post: “The disruption for airlines and travelers is on track to become the most severe since more than 56,000 flights were canceled in a single week at the outset of the pandemic, when people didn’t want to fly. A triple whammy of robust demand for holiday travel, staffing shortages triggered by a surge in coronavirus cases and bouts of wintry weather at airline hubs has ushered in one of the worst periods for air travelers in years.”
“More than two weeks later, the surge in daily flight cancellations has shown no signs of abating: Some airlines have announced schedule cuts through the end of the month as they fight to recover.”
New York Times: “It was a striking, if unintended, display of synchronicity from two leaders who began with very different approaches to the pandemic, to say nothing of politics. Their convergence in how to handle the Omicron variant says a lot about how countries are confronting the virus, more than two years after it first threatened the world.”
“For Mr. Johnson and Mr. Biden, analysts said, the politics and science of Covid have nudged them toward a policy of trying to live with the virus rather than putting their countries back on war footing. It is a highly risky strategy: Hospitals across Britain and parts of the United States are already close to overrun with patients. But for now, it is better than the alternative: Shutting down their economies again.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited President Biden to deliver his State of the Union address to Congress on March 1.
Private equity investor Tom Barrack will go on trial with a business associate in September on charges of illegally lobbying former President Donald Trump, his close friend, on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, CNBC reports.
The founder of a Utah technology firm resigned his position after sending an email to a number of tech CEOs and Utah business and political leaders, claiming the Covid-19 vaccine is part of a plot by “the Jews” to exterminate people, KUPX reports.
“The director of a South Dakota agency has resigned amid scrutiny over Gov. Kristi Noem’s hands-on role in the agency prior to his arrival and as it was evaluating her daughter’s real estate appraiser license in 2020,” the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports.
Michigan State Police are investigating allegations of sexual assault involving former state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R), the Detroit Free Press reports. Chatfield reportedly “had a sexual relationship with a girl that began about 11 years ago when she was about 15 and ended only recently.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) announced her backing for what would be the nation’s first statewide gas ban for new buildings, adding fuel to a simmering national battle, Energy Wire reports.
A North Carolina woman who brought her 14-year-old son into the U.S. Capitol during last year’s riot was sentenced Friday to three months imprisonment, the AP reports. Said the judge: “It must have been a traumatic experience to witness this kind of violence. It’s a complete lack of judgment on your part.”
Daniel Gullotta: “Since he left office, former President Donald Trump has not receded into quiet retirement as most of his predecessors did. The activity and boisterousness with which he has continued to champion the Big Lie with which he incited the Jan. 6th insurrection bears comparison to only one other ex-president—one who also became president under a cloud of uncertainty, ignited calls for impeachment, alienated many both in opposition and within his own party, failed to win re-election, and fell into post-presidential ignominy: the tenth president, John Tyler…”
“Tyler’s retirement years have not been the source of much scholarly interest. But given his role in the secession of Virginia and his support for the Confederacy, Tyler’s role as a seditious former president is worth another look.”
Matt Johnson: “The United States isn’t going to regain its standing as an exemplary democracy any time soon. Even if global perceptions stabilize over the next few years, the specter of Trump’s return to the biggest stage in American politics will remain ever-present—refusing to convict him for his role in fomenting the insurrection was one thing, but what if the GOP rewards him with another presidential nomination?”
“What effect will the widespread acquiescence in (and the active propagation of) his lies about the 2020 election have on the Republican party’s commitment to American democracy? How certain can America’s allies (or enemies) be that Trumpism won’t continue to dominate the Republican party even long after Trump has gone?”
“Dr. Rochelle Walensky assumed her new role as the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last January with a vow to restore trust in the agency. But last fall, several months into the job and after a series of messaging missteps, Walensky sought out media training,” CNN reports. “For months, Walensky has met privately with prominent Democratic media consultant Mandy Grunwald to improve her communication skills and continues to do so.”
Washington Post: “The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a calculated gamble Friday as she sought to assume greater control over confused public health messaging about the coronavirus as the pandemic enters its third year.”
“Rochelle Walensky held her first solo covid-19 news conference since becoming the chief of the public health agency nearly a year ago, vowing that it would be ‘the first of many.’”
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) called on Republicans to ditch Twitter after the social media company banned her for spreading Covid-19 misinformation, Insider reports.
Said Greene: “I’m asking all of my Republican colleagues to leave Twitter. It is a complete waste of time and all they do is try to control our political speech.”
“The White House is strongly considering nominating Sarah Bloom Raskin to become the Fed’s top banking regulator, and Lisa Cook and Philip Jefferson as Fed governors,” the Washington Post reports.
“The nominees would complete President Biden’s roster to the Fed’s seven-seat board, while appealing to Democrats who have pushed for stronger Wall Street oversight and those who have pressed for more diversity within the Fed’s top ranks.”
Washington Post: “A year after taking office, Biden’s efforts to unwind the Trump immigration policies he sharply condemned have been messy, sporadic and politically fraught. After moving quickly to curb some of his predecessor’s most controversial approaches, Biden has, in some key ways, adopted a more restrictive posture toward migrants in recent months.”
Marianne Lavelle and Nicholas Kusnetz of Inside Climate News discuss some of the executive actions that the Biden Administration has taken in lieu of the stasis of the Build Back Better legislation.
Although environmental groups for the most part are continuing their push for Build Back Better, many activists and Biden’s own team are focusing on what the president can do without new legislation from Congress.
“Using executive authority—and boldly—may be the only way that Biden will get anything done, as long as Manchin (and, perhaps, [Sen.] Kyrsten Sinema [D-Ariz.]) block effective legislative action, alongside a solid phalanx of fifty Republicans,” wrote Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org, in The New Yorker.
There are signs that the courts may stand in the way of some executive actions by Biden, especially on big items like clean power. But from the start, Biden has talked about mobilizing an “all-of-government approach” to fight the climate crisis. Here are some examples of how his administration has begun to implement climate policy that have not gotten as much attention as the fight on Capitol Hill. Climate activists say in nearly every case, Biden could be doing even more.
Lizzie Widdicombe of The New Yorker notes that 2021 was one of the most active years of labor strife in recent times, paying specific attention to the strike by New York City’s yellow cab drivers.
During the second year of the covid-19 pandemic, the social side effects of the virus started to become more apparent. Amid continued mass demonstrations against lockdown measures, and worldwide civil unrest, the U.S. population broke out in hives of labor activism. Workers at corporate behemoths like Amazon and Starbucks attempted to form unions, with mixed results, and workers who were already unionized went on strike in order to demand better wages and working conditions. Employees walked out of John Deere plants in Illinois, Kellogg’s cereal plants in Michigan, Kaiser Permanente health-care clinics in California, and Nabisco and Frito-Lay snack factories in Oregon and Kansas. (The energy even found its way to this very publication, where, this summer, newly unionized employees reached a deal after two and a half years of negotiations.)
What was happening? Stephanie Luce, a labor scholar at cuny, explained that covid-19 appears to have lit a match beneath at least a decade’s worth of late-stage-capitalist tinder. “Wages have been mostly stagnant since the economic crash of 2008,” Luce said, adding, “People have been seeing the quality of their jobs deteriorate.” Then came the virus, and, all of a sudden, a dismal situation became life-threatening. Health-care and manufacturing workers found themselves ordered to work double shifts in dangerous conditions. Earlier this month, six people died at an Amazon warehouse, in Illinois, and another eight workers were killed at a candle factory, in Kentucky, after the facilities were hit by a tornado. (In both cases, employees allege that they were not allowed to leave work before the storms hit.) Meanwhile, corporate profits have continued to roll in. Luce explained the mindset of many employees this year: “They’re thinking, This company is making millions—billions—during a pandemic. Management’s not coming in—they’re in their second homes, while I’m here risking my life. For a lot of people, that was it.”