The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.
APWA -Small Cities/Rural Communities Project of the Year – Oakley Recreation Center
How California went from model student to pandemic problem child – California was long the nation’s shining star on the coronavirus, heralded by national media and White House advisers as an example of how other states could beat the disease. The state was so confident in April that it sent hundreds of ventilators to the East Coast.
Now, the Democratic state joins Republican-dominated Florida, Texas and Arizona as America’s problem children, with new cases skyrocketing and leaders seemingly caught flat-footed as the spread grows beyond their control. California has seen a 70 percent increase in daily new cases over the past two weeks, while hospitalizations have shot up 51 percent.
Disease experts, public health officials and even state leaders themselves say they had too much faith that residents would continue social distancing in bars, restaurants and backyards. Epidemiologists are now wondering if California was too eager to reopen its economy in a state with the nation’s largest, most diverse population of nearly 40 million people.
Newsom initially laid out a slow, phased-in reopening process that started in May with retail pick-up, offices and manufacturing, all with social distancing. He then allowed restaurant dining and in-store retail to resume later that month. Facing litigation and pressure from the White House, Newsom allowed church services to start with limitations.
By June, however, Newsom opened the floodgates to other sectors. In the next stage came hair salons and barber shops. Then bars and gyms, followed by nail salons and tattoo parlors. Simultaneously, protesters were hitting the streets throughout California — though officials have insisted that demonstrations did not lead to outbreaks — while residents were increasingly tired of quarantining without seeing friends and family.
The governor has insisted that he did not allow California to reopen on a broad scale, putting that responsibility — and blame, perhaps — on officials in the state’s 58 counties. He says he only told counties “how” they could open, not “when.” Still, by issuing guidelines for each sector, his administration gave a tacit green light to counties where residents had been clamoring for a return to normalcy. Read More > at Politico
Here’s how Gov. Newsom plans to enforce his latest coronavirus order – How will the orders be enforced? That’s a key question sparked by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s latest wave of anti-coronavirus orders on Wednesday — including banning indoor dining and other inside activities at such businesses as wineries, museums and casinos in a list of counties that included Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside.
At Norco’s The Cowgirl Cafe, owner Karen Hendrickson was prepared to test the governor. By Wednesday afternoon, she had already contacted her attorney and was preparing to stay open for indoor dining, despite the state order.
The governor made it clear, however: If you run a business that’s not adhering to directives — dining outdoors, requiring face masks and six-feet separations — and you’re getting repeated complaints, you stand a good chance of getting fined. And if the virus is spreading at your establishment, you could be closed.
Newsom described the enforcement process in these terms:
- It will be “targeted,” he said, citing businesses and public attractions that are not in compliance;
- “Multi-Agency Strike Teams” will be formed to inspect businesses and follow up with those that don’t follow the rules;
- Teams will partner with county health departments;
- They will be made up of staff from such agencies as the Highway Patrol, Department of Consumer Affairs and Department of Business Oversight, CalOsha and Alcohol and Beverage Control, the Board of Barbers and Cosmotology.
Newsom said that the aim is to target people who are “thumbing their nose” at the directives — and by doing so are threatening both their workers and their customers. Read More > in the Los Angeles Daily News
A Long Talk With Anthony Fauci’s Boss About the Pandemic, Vaccines, and Faith – A big question is whether somebody who has had COVID-19 is now immune from getting it again. So far we don’t see compelling evidence of people getting reinfected, but that’s still a bit early to say for sure. That’s going to make a huge difference in everything we try to do about this going forward. A vaccine, of course, depends upon the idea that immunity is protective.
I am guardedly optimistic that by the end of 2020 we will have at least one vaccine that has been proven safe and effective in a large-scale trial. Nobody should accept it as safe and effective without that large-scale trial. There are at least four vaccines that will be getting into such large trials this summer beginning as early as July. Each one of those trials will involve roughly 30,000 volunteers, half of whom will get the vaccine, half of whom will get a dummy placebo. You have to have that control or you will never know if the vaccine worked or not.
Those trials will have to be conducted in areas where the virus is actively spreading because that’s the only way you’re going to know whether it was protective. With four different vaccines with four different approaches, we’ve kind of hedged our bets against putting too much emphasis on one particular strategy. That’s good — because vaccines are really interesting science, but every new virus presents surprises in terms of how the vaccine turns out to work. So I’d be very worried right now if we had one platform that everybody was counting on. Having four makes me feel a lot better.
Maybe all four of them will work. As long as one of them works, we’ll be in a far better position by the end of the year to see our way out of this global pandemic mess. But there will be, then, a time of having to do the scale-up to have billions of doses, which might be what the world needs. So there will still be some time involved, even though we are doing everything possible to prepare for that by manufacturing millions of doses of each of those vaccines even before we know if they would work, so that the highest-risk people can get access right away. So I’m guardedly optimistic that we will see all that happen. But again — this is uncharted territory. Read More > at New York Magazine
Study: World’s pile of electronic waste grows ever higher – The world’s mountain of discarded flat-screen TVs, cellphones and other electronic goods grew to a record high last year, according to an annual report released Thursday.
The U.N.-backed study estimated the amount of e-waste that piled up globally in 2019 at 53.6 metric tonnes (59.1 tons) — almost 2 million metric tons more than the previous year.
The authors of the study calculated the combined weight of all dumped devices with a battery or a plug last year was the equivalent of 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2.
Among all the discarded plastic and silicon were large amounts of copper, gold and other precious metals — used for example to conduct electricity on circuit boards. While about a sixth of it was recycled, the remainder of those valuable components — worth about $57 billion — weren’t reclaimed, the study found.
Discarded electronic equipment also poses a health and environmental hazard, as it contains substances such as mercury that can damage the nervous system. Read More > from the Associated Press
Oakland Zoo teeters on permanent closure – The Oakland Zoo is reckoning with a common existential question in the time of Covid: Can it survive?
The zoo is bleeding money — $2 million each month — according to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle, and is at risk of having to shutter permanently. The facility has been closed since the first shelter-in-place orders were given in mid-March. Zoo President and CEO Joel Parrott said emergency federal funds have been exhausted and the zoo is now surviving on a $3 million reserve fund, which will be gone in months, the Chronicle reported.
The zoo is now requesting permission from the county to be classified as an outdoor museum so that it can begin to accommodate a limited number of visitors each day by reservation only. Masks and social distancing would be required, indoor exhibits and restaurants would be closed and the number of daily visitors would be reduced from 7,000 per day to just 2,500, the Chronicle reported. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times
Stanford research provides a snapshot of a new working-from-home economy – The new “working-from-home economy,” which is likely to continue long past the coronavirus pandemic that spawned it, poses new challenges – from a ticking time bomb for inequality to an erosion of city centers – according to Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom.
We see an incredible 42 percent of the U.S. labor force now working from home full-time. About another 33 percent are not working – a testament to the savage impact of the lockdown recession. And the remaining 26 percent – mostly essential service workers – are working on their business premises. So, by sheer numbers, the U.S. is a working-from-home economy. Almost twice as many employees are working from home as at work.
More strikingly, if we consider the contribution to U.S. gross domestic product based on their earnings, this enlarged group of work-from-home employees now accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
Without this historic switch to working from home, the lockdown could never have lasted. The economy would have collapsed, forcing us to return to work, reigniting infection rates. Working from home is not only economically essential, it is a critical weapon in our fight against COVID-19 – and future pandemics.
Not everyone can work from home. Only 51 percent of the survey respondents – mostly managers, professionals and financial workers who can carry out their jobs on computers – reported being able to work from home at an efficiency rate of 80 percent or more.
The remaining (nearly) half cannot work remotely. They work in retail, healthcare, transport and business services, and need to see customers or work with products or equipment. Read More > from Stanford
Record jobs gain of 4.8 million in June smashes expectations; unemployment rate falls to 11.1% – Nonfarm payrolls soared by 4.8 million in June and the unemployment rate fell to 11.1% as the U.S. continued its reopening from the coronavirus pandemic, the Labor Department said Thursday.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting a 2.9 million increase and a jobless rate of 12.4%. The report was released a day earlier than usual due to the July Fourth holiday.
The jobs growth marked a big leap from the 2.7 million in May, which was revised up by 190,000. The June total is easily the largest single-month gain in U.S. history. Read More > at CNBC
Without firing a shot, China has killed Hong Kong – At the height of the protests in Hong Kong there were fears that the Xi administration would send in the troops, that we might see a 21st century rerun of Tiananmen Square.
But Beijing is not so stupid. The last thing it wants is images of chaos and bloodshed to be sent around the world. Its solution to what it sees as the problem of Hong Kong has therefore been administrative. The new National Security Law came into force at 11pm last night, and criminalises a wide range of ‘subversive’ activities (in effect making it easier to punish the slightest form protest). With Beijing having sole control over how the law is interpreted, it has legally, publicly, and effectively killed Hong Kong.
No matter that Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms were guaranteed for 50 years from 1997 under the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984. That was publicly torn up years ago, when China forbade British parliamentarians from visiting the Special Administrative Region in 2014. Since then Chinese officials have repeatedly asserted that as sovereignty returned to China in 1997, the agreement is null and void. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, for example, said the Declaration was a “unilateral policy announcement by China, not a promise from China to the UK, even less a so-called international commitment”.
In one sense it does not matter what, exactly, the National Security Law states. It is a simple, brutal, assertion of the power of the mainland over Hong Kong. Beijing has struck against the one area over which it governed which still guaranteed some freedoms. Xi does not believe in contested areas. The unity of China, the party and the people is his ceaseless watchword.
He fears becoming the Chinese Gorbachev: the man seen as losing the battle of ideas with the West and so overseeing his nation’s collapse. Xi’s entire approach to governing has been about emphasising the ideological battle between China and the West. No dissent is permitted, no liberties may be taken. This is a new Cold War, a form of ideological and diplomatic autarky in which China has chosen its path. The time has come for others to consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which Hong Kong is having to wrestle. Read More > at CapX
Russians vote to allow Putin’s rule to extend for 16 more years – Russian voters approved changes to the constitution that will allow President Vladimir Putin to hold power until 2036, but the weeklong plebiscite that concluded Wednesday was tarnished by widespread reports of pressure on voters and other irregularities.
With the nation’s polls closed and 30% of all precincts counted, 74% voted for the constitutional amendments, according to election officials.
The vote completes a convoluted saga that began in January, when Putin first proposed the constitutional changes. He offered to broaden the powers of parliament and redistribute authority among the branches of government, stoking speculation he might seek to become parliamentary speaker or chairman of the State Council when his presidential term ends in 2024.
His intentions became clear only hours before a vote in parliament, when legislator Valentina Tereshkova, a Soviet-era cosmonaut who was the first woman in space in 1963, proposed letting him run two more times. The amendments, which also emphasize the primacy of Russian law over international norms, outlaw same-sex marriages and mention “a belief in God” as a core value, were quickly passed by the Kremlin-controlled legislature.
Putin, who has been in power for more than two decades — longer than any other Kremlin leader since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin — said he would decide later whether to run again in 2024. He argued that resetting the term count was necessary to keep his lieutenants focused on their work instead of “darting their eyes in search for possible successors.” Read More > in the New York Post
Support All Schools – “A state need not subsidize private education. But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.” With those words, Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by four other members of the Supreme Court, gutted the nineteenth-century Blaine Amendments—a legacy of anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant sentiment from the nineteenth century—still found in 37 state constitutions. Those amendments barred the use of public money for religious schools. With this week’s ruling in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the Court leaves it up to individual states to decide if they support private and religious schools directly with taxpayer dollars, grants, and school vouchers, or indirectly, through tuition-tax credits.
Approximately 4 million students across the country attend religious schools, and another 1 million go to private, nonsectarian schools. All these schools serve a “public” function, in that the education they provide is of benefit to a functioning society. Private and religious schools are a small but critical portion of our K-12 educational system, giving families and communities greater choice in schooling. That educational pluralism is an American virtue. Read More > at City Journal
How Empty Stadiums Could Influence Referee Decision-Making – …After the Calcio-Palermo brawl, two Swedish economists, Per Pettersson-Lidbom and Mikael Priks, studied the various Italian soccer matches played in the empty venues. And they found something remarkable. In Serie A, as in most sports leagues worldwide, the home team won the majority of the matches, according to the study, published in the journal Economics Letters. Why? For a variety of possible reasons, but, chief among them, home teams received the majority of favorable calls from the officials. In Serie A—as in virtually all leagues—home teams received fewer red cards and yellow cards, and fewer penalty and foul calls. When home teams were trailing, they received more injury time, the minutes that officials discretionarily tack onto the end of games, increasing their odds of catching up. When home teams were leading, injury time dwindled.
Yet when the Swedish economists looked at games played between Serie A teams with no fans in the stands, the home team advantage effectively vanished. Teams didn’t win at home any more than on the road.
And when no fans were in the stands, the home/away penalty differential shriveled. The favorable calls conferred on the home team dropped by 23%–70%, depending on the type of calls (a decline of 23% for fouls, 26% for yellow cards and 70% for red cards). Subjective close calls no longer favored the home team. Injury time favoring the home team declined as well.
The researchers looked closely at officiating crews pre- and post-riot. They noted that the same referees overseeing the same two teams in the same stadium behaved dramatically differently when spectators were present, versus when no one was watching.
Why would officials call a game so differently based on the presence of a crowd? Let’s dispense with the conspiracy theories: It is not because officials are biased, much less because they are corrupt. It is because they are human. As such, they are susceptible to the powerful force that is social influence. Read More . in Sports Illustrated
Dow caps off best quarter since 1987 as strong economic data drives gains – US stocks rose on Tuesday as better-than-expected economic data outweighed mounting concern over a second wave of COVID-19 cases.
The Dow Jones industrial average’s 18% gain in the three-month period from April through June marked the index’s best quarterly return since 1987. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 saw its best gain since 1998 during the period, while the Nasdaq capped off its best quarter since 2001.
FBI Says Background Checks on Gun Buyers Surged 70% to a Record 3.9 Million in June – The FBI says gun sales are soaring. Data from its National Instant Criminal Background Check System showed a record 3.9 million background checks were conducted in June, surpassing the previous record of 3.7 million in March.
Criminal background checks are up over 38% in 2020, with three of the top four busiest months ever occurring this year. In fact, the 19.1 million investigations done over the first six months is almost as many as were performed in all of 2012, when 19.5 million background checks were done.
Fear-based buying is typically the cause of such surges, whether it’s due to concern over more restrictive gun laws being passed or worries for personal safety. It is undoubtedly the latter that is driving the latest wave of gun purchases. Protests, riots, city centers being annexed, and even calls from politicians to defund law enforcement or drastically reduce such budgets have people deciding they need to be better prepared to protect themselves, their families, and their property. Read More > at The Motley Fool
Is it safe to send kids back to school? – Covid-19 has been disruptive and bewildering for everyone, but especially for children. In the UK and in most US states, schools closed in March. Many of them will keep their doors shut until the fall. That’s six months without the normality of a school day, not to mention a significant break without any formal education for the many children who cannot access online classes.
It’s a global issue. Schools have had to close in 191 countries, affecting more than 1.5 billion students and 63 million teachers, according to the United Nations. But in many countries, schools are now cautiously reopening: in Germany, Denmark, Vietnam, New Zealand, and China, children are mostly back behind their desks. These countries all have two things in common: low levels of infection and a reasonably firm ability to trace outbreaks.
What about the UK or the US, where the number of cases is relatively high and tracing systems are still in the early stages? How will we know when it’s safe for children to return? There can never be a cast-iron guarantee. But for parents to be able to gauge the level of risk, there are three questions that need answering. How susceptible are children to covid-19? How badly does it affect them? And do they spread it to others?
We know that children are less likely to catch covid-19 than adults. They’re about half as likely, to be precise, according to a recent study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) using data from China, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Canada, and South Korea, published in Nature Medicine. …
The LSHTM study suggests that when children catch covid-19, they usually get very mild effects. Only one in five of those aged 10-19 had any clinical symptoms, compared with 69% of adults over 70. Children are extremely unlikely to die from coronavirus…The message seems to be that parents should not worry unduly about what might happen to their kids should they catch the virus.
It is possible for children to introduce covid-19 into their household—a study from China identified three occasions when a child under 10 was the “index case” in a home. But it seems to be rare.
The crux of the issue is data, or more precisely a lack of it. Because children are less likely to catch covid-19, and are likely to have milder symptoms if they do, they are less likely to be seen by doctors or tested. That means high-quality, reliable data on this question is hard to come by. Read More > at MIT technology Review
Mea culpa: Another leading environmentalist admits he got it wrong over climate change, but MSM tries to CENSOR him – Michael Shellenberger, a well-known US green campaigner, has sparked controversy by admitting that climate change alarmism is out of control in a new book and an article for Forbes – which, ominously, has now been ‘deactivated’.
Michael Shellenberger’s green and left-wing credentials are solid. He sought the Democratic nomination for governor of California in 2018, was named a Hero of the Environment by TIME magazine in 2008, and was winner of the 2008 Green Book Award.
He’s not the usual run-of-the-mill green, however. He has long been a critic of some of the policies put forward by environmentalist groups, while accepting the seriousness of environmental issues like climate change. But now he may finally have burned his bridges with the tree-huggers.
His new book is called Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All and it explodes multiple myths about supposed ecological crises. In his article for Forbes, Shellenberger argues, among other things, that humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction,” that the Amazon is not “the lungs of the world,” that climate change is not making natural disasters worse, that fires have declined 25 percent around the world since 2003 and that the build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more and more dangerous fires in Australia and California.
His sources for these statements are not fringe climate skeptic websites but “the IPCC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other leading scientific bodies.”
His confession now is that he should have been more critical of the alarmist statements made by environmentalists. In a tweet pointing to his Forbes article, he tweeted: “On behalf of environmentalists, I apologize for the climate scare. Climate change is real but it’s not the end of the world. It’s not even our most important environmental problem.” Read More > at RT
What’s Behind the Great American Fireworks Boom? – When it comes to government no-win scenarios, this fireworks crisis is as close as they come. Municipalities across the country are grappling with calls to defund the police and abolish prisons in the wake of nationwide protests over police brutality and racism, and local leaders are under fire to justify the disproportionate spending for law enforcement in city and county budgets. At the same time, a spike in neighborhood fireworks displays has unleashed a deluge of reports to law enforcement. Block Club Chicago reports that Chicago residents have made 7,042 noise complaint calls over fireworks this year, a whopping 736% increase over the figure for this time last year. Boston logged 1,445 calls in the first week of June versus just 22 for the same week in 2019, an absurd 2,300% spike in complaints. Philadelphia residents registered nearly 1,000 fireworks calls over the last three weeks. This latest calamity pits reformers of urban policing against the equally powerful phenomenon of urban complaining.
This summer’s Great American Fireworks Conflagration has everything: It’s a culture story about cooped-up teens finding release during the summer of shutdown. It’s a postcard from the Covid economy, with the pyrotechnics industry offering fire-sale discounts in the wake of so many canceled Fourth of July shows. And it’s a multi-city portrait of the nation’s Karens, those much-memed embodiments of white entitlement who demand police intervention over every trifling annoyance. But centrally, the fireworks discourse offers a test case in the national conversation over policing, with reformers and abolitionists arguing that most police work should be handed off to social workers even as residents dial up quality-of-life noise complaints to police faster than dispatchers can log them. In the middle are America’s mayors, caught between the Scylla of #DefundThePolice activists and the Charybdis of Nextdoor NIMBYs.
…The widespread nature of the fireworks freakout seems to lend credence to the notion that these aren’t just the usual pre–Independence Day detonations. But, as many local news stories have concluded, there are more mundane explanations for it: At least 15 states, for example, passed laws relaxing access to fireworks over the last two decades. After lockdown lulls, fireworks retailers are marking down their inventories and racking up big sales this season. And some cities have many years of experience in dealing with amateur seasonal fireworks. Arguments over the prosumer-grade excesses of the “people’s fireworks” have riled residents of Washington, D.C., for years. Police in the District confiscate tens of thousands of pieces of explosive contraband every year, with a big jump in 2017, when police seized more than 72,000 fireworks off the streets — a six-fold increase from the previous year. “Clearly New Yorkers have never been to D.C. between June and August before,” reporter Abdallah Fayyad observed. Read More > at CityLab
With single-use bag ban back, you’ll be paying for grocery sacks again – Get ready to pack your own reusable bags again, or pay for 10 cents for store bags when you go shopping, if you aren’t already.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s April 22 suspension of the state’s single-use bag ban expired June 22, and stores are eliminating their interim free-bag policies.
Suspension of the state law came after some retailers unilaterally stopped allowing reusable bags out of concern that they could contribute to the spread of COVID-19.
Now, environmentalists are celebrating the return of the single-use ban. They — along with many health experts — say reusable bags pose little health risk, particularly if they’re washed regularly and handled only by the shopper.
The most recent Cal-OSHA guidelines, dated May 26, simply say that customers should leave their reusable bags in their cart, that employees should not touch the bags and that customers should bag their own purchases. Read More > in The Orange County Register
Want to Reform the Criminal Justice System? End the Drug War. – Protesters say America’s criminal justice system is unfair.
Courts are so jammed that innocent people plead guilty to avoid waiting years for a trial. Lawyers help rich people get special treatment. A jail stay is just as likely to teach you crime as it is to help you get a new start. Overcrowded prisons cost a fortune and increase suffering for both prisoners and guards.
There’s one simple solution to most of these problems: End the war on drugs.
Our government has spent trillions of dollars trying to stop drug use.
It hasn’t worked. More people now use more drugs than before the “war” began.
What drug prohibition did do is exactly what alcohol prohibition did a hundred years ago: increase conflict between police and citizens.
Because drug sales are illegal, profits from selling drugs are huge. Since sellers can’t rely on law enforcement to protect their property, they buy guns and form gangs.
Cigarettes harm people, too, but there are no violent cigarette gangs—no cigarette shootings—even though nicotine is more addictive than heroin, says our government. That’s because tobacco is legal. Likewise, there are no longer violent liquor gangs. They vanished when prohibition ended. Read More > at Reason
Here Comes the Hard Part: States, Cities Face Grim Budget Picture – The new fiscal year is here but budget writers are still in the bargaining phase. Although it starts for most states and localities on July 1, so many uncertainties remain that budgets are effectively works in progress, with lawmakers still hoping for an after-the-last-minute rescue from Washington.
All but a few states have enacted budgets for fiscal 2021, but several have punted harder decisions until later this summer or perhaps the fall — either formally pushing back the start of the budget year or passing continuing resolutions to keep spending levels intact for a while yet, in hopes cuts can still be avoided. On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new budget that is filled with asterisks. Billions of dollars’ worth of scheduled spending cuts will be canceled, if Congress comes up with an aid package.
That may well happen. Congressional Republicans have been wary of sending more aid to states, cities and counties, wanting to see whether the economy would recover without additional priming. There now appears to be a grudging realization that further aid is necessary. No one knows what that will look like, however, and help isn’t likely to come any time sooner than the end of the month.
Waiting on Washington may be the hardest part, but states and localities face other unknowns. For one thing, most states followed the feds in moving their income tax filing deadlines back, from April 15 to July 15. Since returns will reflect last year’s income levels, they should be pretty healthy. Still, quarterly payments that normally would have been due in June may come in short of expectations. Read More > at Governing
California cities begin embracing cannabis in desperate search for cash – California local governments scrambling to find tax revenues during the coronavirus pandemic are turning toward an industry they had considered taboo until now: cannabis.
It has been almost four years since voters legalized recreational marijuana in California, and nearly 70 percent of cities and counties have yet to embrace pot businesses because they see regulatory problems or have concerns about public safety and negative publicity.
But some, facing insurmountable budget gaps as unemployment rises to its worst level since the Great Depression, would now rather open their doors to cannabis than lay off more workers or cut services. So far, a handful of cities have begun developing cannabis tax measures for the November ballot since voter approval is required to add local taxes. It’s a trend many in the industry expect to continue over the next month absent approval of a federal bailout for state and local governments. Read More > at Politico
Nearly Half Of All COVID-Related Deaths In The US Are Directly Tied To Nursing Homes: Report – More than 50,000 people have died from coronavirus-related illness at the country’s nursing homes for older adults, The New York Times reported Saturday.
The Times’s database collected data showing that coronavirus, or COVID-19, has infected more than 282,000 people at 12,000 facilities. Total deaths from such long-term facilities constitute roughly 43% of all COVID-19-related deaths, the paper reported.
Nursing homes constitute only 11% of all COVID-19 cases even though they account for nearly half of all deaths, data show.
The Times compiled a database of coronavirus cases and deaths at nursing homes in the absence of comprehensive information from states. Some states regularly collect and release data on cases and deaths at nursing homes, as well as assisted-living facilities.
New York releases facility-level data on deaths but not about cases, while Wisconsin and Minnesota provide details on cases but not on deaths. Other states report practically nothing, the report showed. The Times based its data on official confirmation from states, along with the facilities themselves.
The data could be undercounted, the paper noted.
A recent report has highlighted the degree to which regulators have been unable to monitor the country’s nursing homes.
More than 82% of the United States’ 15,500 nursing homes were cited for infection prevention and control deficiencies between 2013 and 2017, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) wrote in a blog post in May. Read More > at the Daily Caller
1 in 5 Ballots Rejected as Fraud Is Charged in N.J. Mail-In Election – Following accusations of widespread fraud, voter intimidation, and ballot theft in the May 12 municipal elections in Paterson, N.J., state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced Thursday he is charging four men with voter fraud – including the vice president of the City Council and a candidate for that body.
With races still undecided, control of the council hangs in the balance. Paterson is New Jersey’s third largest city and the election will decide the fate of a municipal budget in excess of $300 million, in addition to hundreds of millions more in education spending and state aid.
In the City Council election, 16,747 vote-by-mail ballots were received, but only 13,557 votes were counted. More than 3,190 votes, 19% of the total ballots cast, were disqualified by the board of elections. Due to the pandemic, Paterson’s election was done through vote-by-mail. Community organizations, such as the city’s NAACP chapter, are calling for the entire election to be invalidated.
Mail-in ballots have long been acknowledged by voting experts to be more susceptible to fraud and irregularities than in-person voting. This has raised concerns from President Trump and other Republicans about the integrity of national elections in November, which are expected to include a dramatic increase in mail-in ballots. If Paterson is any guide, it ought to concern Democrats as well. Read More > at Real Clear Politics
Californians continue to trek to Texas – If Texas does indeed turn blue this November, the yearslong exodus of Californians to the Lone Star State will be one major reason.
It’s a trend that continues even during the coronavirus pandemic, according to reporting from Marketplace. The news organization spoke to members of a “Move to Texas From California!” Facebook page and a Riverside county resident who’s moving to Texas in early July. Despite the difficult logistics of the pandemic and explosive virus rates in places like Houston, the soon-to-be ex-pats are not disuaded.
More than 86,000 Californians packed up and left for the Lone Star State in 2018, according to a 2020 Texas Relocation Report published by Texas Realtors. That represents a 36% increase. Motivations range from cost of living and lack of affordable housing to political climate, high taxation, and legislation that is onerous for small business. Read More > at California County News
Call it the Do-Over Ballot – Label the coming election on ballot measures the Do-Over Ballot. Many of the propositions headed for the November ballot are intended to re-do previous actions taken by voters and/or legislators.
Removing some property tax limits, changing other property tax rules, undoing a ban on affirmative action, toughening criminal penalties—all these ballot measures are intended to undo what California voters did with initiative measures in the past.
There are also attempts to undo legislative actions. There is a referendum to turn over the law passed by the legislature to eliminate cash bail. There is an initiative to separate app-linked drivers that work with companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash from the new labor mandates of AB 5, the worker classification law. There is a measure to supplant rent control limitations set by the legislature with a broader rent control law.
The California ballot is giving current voters a chance to reconsider what was codified in the past and rewrite the law.
However, just because voters can make changes does not mean they will or they should. The wisdom on certain issues expressed by voters in the past can stand the test of time. Read More > at Fox and Hounds
Mexico Is Facing A Dual Crisis: Deadly Drug Cartels And A Deadly Pandemic – With so much turmoil and trouble across the country right now, most Americans are probably not thinking about our southern neighbor. But they should be, because Mexico is in trouble, facing a dual crisis of deadly drug cartels and a deadly coronavirus pandemic. As conditions there deteriorate, we should expect Mexico’s problems to become our own.
First, the cartels. Last week, one of Mexico’s most powerful cartels brought the country’s ongoing drug war right into the heart of Mexico City, long considered an island of calm in an ocean of chaos and violence.
Not anymore. Gunmen believed to be members of the violent Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) unleashed a carefully coordinated assassination attempt against Mexico City Police Chief Omar García Harfuch in one of the city’s most posh neighborhoods, attacking García’s armored vehicle at dawn on Friday with grenades, assault rifles, and a .50-caliber sniper rifle. García was hit three times but lived. Two of his bodyguards and a bystander were killed….
So much for Mexico’s worsening drug war. Meanwhile, the country is also facing a deadly pandemic that risks spiraling out of control. Like the United States, Mexico has seen rising coronavirus infection rates in recent weeks. But unlike in the United States, the coronavirus death rate is rising, not falling…
Between the rising power of the cartels and the destabilizing effects of the pandemic, the Mexican state is in serious trouble. A collapse of government authority, and perhaps of the regime itself, isn’t unthinkable under these conditions.
Americans shouldn’t wave away the consequences of a collapse of the Mexican state. Our history with Mexico has shown time and again that chaos and disorder south of the Rio Grande never stays there. Read More > in The Federalist
Mexico’s demolition derby picks up speed – The situation in Mexico is getting increasingly desperate. Last Friday, the chief of police of Mexico City, a man who commands a force of 80,000 armed police, was attacked on his way to work in one of the city’s best neighborhoods. Some 28 assailants fired nearly 500 bullets – including several rounds from high-velocity sniper rifles that pierced the police chief’s armored vehicle, killed two of his bodyguards and hit him three times. Fortunately, he survived but stray bullets killed an innocent passerby and penetrated several nearby houses.
In AMLO’s first 18 months in office, the President’s strategy to confront organized crime with “embraces, not bullets” has led to double the number of murders compared with the administration of Felipe Calderón (2006-12), who began the war against organized crime, and 55% more than Enrique Peña Nieto’s term (2012-18), and reached 54,000 by the end of May. June has been even worse with 100 deaths per day on average, the deadliest of all months so far.
If the public security situation is dire, the state of the economy is worse. In April, GDP had collapsed by 19.7%, very much in line with my forecast that second-quarter GDP would fall by about 20%. Twelve million jobs have been lost, in a country with virtually no social network to help those who lose their source of income. It is estimated that this year 15,000 corporations will go bankrupt, just in the formal sector. Casualties in the more vulnerable underground economy are expected to be huge, but no statistics exist.
AMLO’s hostility to foreign investment was again illustrated when the government blocked a plan by the Spanish firm Iberdrola to build an electricity-generating plant in northern Veracruz. The decision was cloaked with anti-Spain nationalist rhetoric, insinuating that corruption was involved. Phrases such as “we will no longer tolerate being treated like a conquered nation” were frequently used by the government. Spain is the second largest foreign investor in Mexico behind the US. Its vote will be crucial to gain the ratification of the new free trade agreement between Mexico and the European Union.
As has been the case with other incompetent populist leaders, AMLO’s management of the pandemic is disastrous, first by denying that Mexicans could be susceptible to Covid-19 infection, and then by minimizing the damage it could do. Read More > in the Asia Times