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COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Is Way Behind Schedule. Should We Be Concerned?

Operation Warp Speed put a big focus on the production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines but left planning for the "l

Operation Warp Speed put a big focus on the production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines but left planning for the “last mile” — getting shots into arms — mostly to state and local authorities.

Dear Commons Community,

CNN, MSNBC and other media have been reporting all week about the lack of Trump administration planning and the failure of state and local governments to keep a COVID-19 vaccination schedule that originally promised 20 million people vaccinated by the end of this year.  As of right now, the best estimate is that about 2 million people have been vaccinated.  Here is a recap of where the country is regarding coronavirus and vaccinations courtesy of multiple media sources.

CNN reported yesterday that the US hit a new dismal daily coronavirus record, with 3,725 deaths recorded. What was once an unthinkable number is now a possible precursor to what medical experts are warning will be an “awful” rest of the winter. One epidemiologist said the US is now past the point of waves and spikes and is in the middle of a “viral tsunami.” The new Covid-19 variant first found in the UK has also made it to the US, with a case recorded in Colorado. The new variant spreads more quickly but does not appear to be more deadly. Meanwhile, health officials are concerned over the slow rollout of tens of millions of vaccine doses. The federal government’s Operation Warp Speed promised that 20 million doses would be administered before January 1, but only 11 million have been distributed, and just over 2 million have actually been given to people according to the latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even allowing for a lag in the reporting of data, the final numbers for 2020 will be well short of the administration’s goal, as Operation Warp Speed officials have acknowledged.

The question going forward is what the failure represents. Is it nothing more than the predictable, ultimately temporary early difficulties that come with such a complex and massive undertaking — or a sign that vaccine distribution is about to become a major failure, just like testing and the distribution of personal protective equipment were earlier in the pandemic? 

Over the past week, HuffPost put that question to a group of experts, including some who have been working with federal, state and local officials throughout the COVID-19 crisis. And nobody seemed quite sure of the answer. 

Most said patience was important. Vaccine distribution was bound to be difficult in the United States because of our chronically underfunded public health infrastructure, our dispersed and diverse population, and the way we divide power between federal and state government. Not surprisingly, the country leading the world in per capita COVID-19 vaccinations is Israel, which has none of those problems.

But the U.S. is also behind the United Kingdom, and now that vaccinations have started in the European Union as well, it’s likely other countries will overtake us. A big reason, experts agree, is that the overwhelming focus of Operation Warp Speed was on producing the vaccines and shipping them from factories, and not what comes after. 

The ‘Last Mile’ Of Distribution May Be The Toughest

The Trump administration left most of the planning for the “last mile” of distribution almost entirely to state and local public health departments, which were already overwhelmed dealing with the pandemic. And although those agencies are about to get a funding boost, thanks to the COVID-19 relief package that Congress passed and Trump signed this week, the agencies needed that money months ago. 

“We’ve had a slow start on distribution in most of the U.S. ― a result of insufficient support and belated attention to the nitty-gritty of getting the vaccines from the freezers into people’s arms,” said Joshua Michaud, associate director for global health policy at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Jason Schwartz, a health policy professor at Yale specializing in vaccine policy, was even blunter. “It’s been striking to me, for months, that there hasn’t been every bit as much urgency and attention to how we actually get a vaccine to a few hundred million people … as there has been to the research and development of the vaccine itself,” he said.

Some parts of the country are doing better than others, as a recent state-by-state survey from Bloomberg found. 

West Virginia, for example, has already delivered shots to its entire nursing home population, according to officials there. In Maine, a state whose vaccination rate is also among the nation’s best, the detailed, ready-to-go delivery plans included acquiring dry ice from seafood supply companies. In Florida, by contrast, seniors in one county are camping out overnight on lawn chairs because officials there decided to offer vaccines through mass clinics on a first-come, first-serve basis.

States will learn best practices from each other, experts predicted, and they will work through some of the early kinks, especially when it comes to uncertainty over who should get the vaccine when. As soon as that happens, the pace of vaccination is likely to pick up. 

But there is more to be done, especially at the federal level, because in many ways, this initial phase of vaccine distribution is the easy part. Front-line medical workers and people living or working in long-term care facilities can be vaccinated with relatively minimal outreach and organization. Getting shots to the rest of the country is going to be a lot more difficult.

“These problems are still correctable,” said Juliette Kayyem, a former federal and state homeland security official who is now a senior lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “It’s really important that we not rush to judgment about how this is going. It’s also really important we fix the problems as quickly as possible.”

Vaccinating the American Public Is a Daunting Challenge

Figuring out how to vaccinate the full U.S. population against COVID-19 begins with some arithmetic. There are more than 330 million people here, and establishing “herd immunity” requires reaching at least 75% of them, according to the prevailing consensus among scientists.

That’s roughly 250 million people, and as long as the U.S. relies on vaccines that require two doses, 500 million shots. Reaching the entire population ― or at least getting close, which is the ultimate goal ―  would require more like 660 million shots.

Nobody knows for sure how many shots the U.S. can provide at this point, but Topher Spiro, vice president for health policy at the Center for American Progress, helped to put together the estimate that was circulating on Capitol Hill as Congress negotiated over the COVID-19 relief package. 

A functioning federal government provides a floor, for the minimum that has to be accomplished, and then it provides the resources to do it. That’s all the federal government had to do when it came to COVID, and it didn’t do that. Juliette Kayyem, former homeland security official said.

Based on available data from flu vaccines, peak capacity is around 70 million shots a month, Spiro said. That includes the shots delivered in pharmacies and private physician offices, as well as employer pop-up clinics, government-run vaccination centers, and other venues. Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, told the HuffPost the 70 million figure seems about right.

At that pace, it would take six or seven months to reach herd immunity, potentially putting it within reach by summer, though it would depend on how long ramping up to that full capacity takes. It would take another few months after that to reach nearly the entire population.

But those figures are based on a vaccine that is more straightforward to administer than the COVID-19 shots are. With the flu shot, there’s no need to make sure people are signed up for follow-up doses, for starters, and less need for counseling because people are familiar with it. There’s also no need for social distancing while flu shots are being given.

And it’s not just the sheer number of people to vaccinate that represents a big challenge. It’s also the difficulty of reaching those in rural and low-income communities ― especially when it comes to the Pfizer vaccine, which requires ultra-cold storage typically unavailable outside of major health care facilities. Another issue with Pfizer’s vaccine is that it ships in boxes of 975 doses. Some rural areas won’t need that many and nobody wants to waste vaccine supply.

When you take all of those factors into account, achieving herd immunity by summer starts to seem a lot more difficult ― unless, somehow, the United States can figure out a way to deliver vaccines a lot more quickly. 

States Made Plans But Needed More Federal Help

Figuring out how to vaccinate the public has been a topic of conversation for months and, at the CDC’s direction, states and territories submitted formal distribution plans in October. 

Many of those plans use existing flu vaccination programs as the starting point. They rely primarily on existing private providers like doctors’ offices and pharmacies, then fill in the gaps with some combination of mass vaccination centers and drive-through clinics. They also call for increasing the number of people who can administer the vaccine, whether through training, tapping volunteers or calling up the National Guard ― an option that the Trump administration just made easier for governors by issuing some new regulatory guidance

Some vaccination plans mention using strategies that states have developed through biological disaster drills. Others talk about building on the infrastructure states have created for COVID-19 testing, and at least one state, Pennsylvania, has already tested drive-through vaccination clinics that would operate the same way its drive-through testing sites have.

But the state plans are generally not specific, as researchers at ProPublica and the Kaiser Family Foundation found in a pair of investigations. The plans didn’t typically have figures on the number of free-standing clinics they would have to set up, for example, or how many new vaccinators they might have to train.

Some of this was by necessity. In early fall, when officials were putting the plans together, they still didn’t know for sure which vaccines would be ready first or precisely which groups of people the federal government would recommend vaccinating first. State and local health departments were also inundated with other coronavirus-related tasks, like contact tracing, and they were desperate for money. 

That is precisely why the federal government should have taken more aggressive action, experts now say. Had the federal government been on top of things, these experts told HuffPost, it could have helped with tasks like setting up a nationwide online registry, both for the sake of documenting who got the vaccines and sending out reminders for second doses ― something that states are now doing on their own. 

“You see pictures of people holding up cards saying that I got vaccinated today and that’s great, but what year are we living in?” said Richard Serino, former deputy administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and director of emergency services in Boston. “I’m not a techie, but something tells me that we can do better than giving people a card.”

More importantly, perhaps, the federal government could have provided better guidance on how to construct clinics or mobile units ― specifying, for example, how many people it would take if you include counseling, data entry and actual administration of the shots. “It’s everything down to the floor plans,” said Serino. “This is how people can flow through in an hour, how many staff you need per 1,000 people, and so on.”

Not all states would have used these plans, just as many states have modified federal guidance on who should get shots when. But with ready-to-go schematics ― and, ideally, money to start acquiring equipment and training extra personnel ― states could have been putting systems in place months ago so they were ready to go once the supply arrived.

“In the same way that the CDC should have provided better guidance about school re-openings and masking, it could have provided guidance on administering the vaccine,” said Kayyem. “A functioning federal government provides a floor, for the minimum that has to be accomplished, and then it provides the resources to do it. That’s all the federal government had to do when it came to COVID, and it didn’t do that, so now we’re stuck.”

The States and Feds Still Have Time

An essential caveat is that, among developed countries, the U.S. is among the least well-equipped for mass vaccination delivery. The lack of a truly universal health care system means large portions of the population have tenuous or no connection to health care providers. A lack of spending on public health infrastructure has left local agencies without the staff they need to do their jobs in ordinary times, let alone in the middle of a crisis.

“Given the circumstances, and given the funding over the last 10 years for public health, you could argue it’s amazing where we are,” Hannan said.

And it’s not too late to make things better. It will be a few weeks before the vaccine supply really ramps up and becomes available to people outside the highest-priority groups. That’s enough time to find and train new vaccinators, or to make arrangements for paying existing vaccinators to do more. It’s also enough time to set up new facilities, acquire equipment and make arrangements for public clinics.

On Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden indicated that his team was already thinking about this. In a speech attacking the Trump administration for the slow vaccine distribution, Biden said his administration would “work to set up vaccination sites and send mobile units to hard-to-reach communities.” 

But Biden didn’t specify what, exactly, that will entail, and it will be three more weeks before he and his team take charge. Until then, it looks like the success of delivery will depend heavily on local and state officials’ ability to make adjustments on the fly and expand capacity now that federal funding is finally on the way. 

“States will learn as they go and the pace of distribution will surely accelerate,” Michaud said. But, he also noted, “we’ll be playing catch-up for a while.”

Catch-up and patience will be the key words to consider as the vaccine continues to be rolled out.  In the meantime, keep social distancing, wear masks, and avoid people gatherings.

Tony

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp Responds to Trump’s Ridiculous Tweet Calling for His Resignation!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday I saw part of a press briefing by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp who responded to a ridiculous tweet (see above) by President Donald Trump demanding his resignation.  Kemp showing a good deal of class called Trump’s tweet  a “distraction” and said he was focused on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and upcoming runoff elections for two U.S. Senate seats.

Trump said earlier in the day that Kemp, a fellow Republican, was an “obstructionist who refuses to admit that we won Georgia, BIG!” Trump lost the state to Democrat Joe Biden but has repeatedly made baseless accusations that illegal votes cost him the state’s electoral votes. He had also previously criticized Kemp, who has rejected his demands to undermine the results. In Wednesday’s tweet, he said Kemp “should resign from office.”  As reported by the Associated Press.

“All of these things are a distraction,” Kemp said at a news conference at the state Capitol. “I mean, I’ve supported the president. I’ve said that many times. I worked as hard as anybody in the state on his reelection up through Nov. 3.”

Kemp said the focus should be on the state’s Jan. 5 elections. Democrats need to win both seats to take control of the U.S. Senate.

“All these other things, there is a constitutional and legal process that is playing out, and I’m very comfortable letting that process play out,” he said.

The spat flared as Georgia officials continued to defend the election results.

Investigators who audited the signatures on more than 15,000 absentee ballot envelopes in one Georgia county found “no fraudulent absentee ballots,” according to the audit report.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced earlier this month that his office would work with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to do the signature audit in suburban Atlanta’s Cobb County. Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said at the time that Trump’s campaign had alleged that Cobb County didn’t properly conduct the signature match for the June primary.

“This audit disproves the only credible allegations the Trump campaign had against the strength of Georgia’s signature match processes,” Raffensperger, also a Republican, said in a news release Monday.

Biden narrowly won Georgia by about 12,000 votes out of 5 million cast.

The investigators reviewed 15,118 absentee ballot envelopes from randomly selected boxes, about 10% of the total received in Cobb County for the November general election, according to the audit report. That sample size was chosen to “reach a 99% confidence level in the results.”

The Cobb County elections department had “a 99.99% accuracy rate in performing correct signature verification procedures,” the audit report says.

In two cases, the audit team determined that a voter should have been contacted to fix a problem. In both those cases, investigators interviewed the voters and determined they were the ones who cast the ballots, the report says.

Georgians can request absentee ballots either through an online portal that Raffensperger established in September or by submitting an application. For online requests, they provide their driver’s license number and date of birth to verify their identity. If they use an application, they must sign it for verification.

When an application is received, county election workers compare the signature on the application to the voter’s signature on file, and if it is consistent, a ballot is mailed, Raffensperger has said.

Before submitting an absentee ballot, a voter must sign an oath on an outer envelope. When county election officials receive an absentee ballot, they must compare the signature to the absentee ballot application if one exists and to the signature on file. The signatures must be consistent but don’t have to match exactly, Raffensperger has said.

If the signature doesn’t match, the voter is notified and can take other steps to verify identity. If the signature does match, the ballot is separated from the envelope to protect the right to ballot secrecy guaranteed by Georgia law.

Congratulatons to Kemp and Raffensperger who have put the country and truth over party and Trump’s pathetic bullying. Trump continues to make himself look like a miserable sore loser who blames everyone else for his failure to win reelection.

Tony

 

Advice to Joe Biden:  Stop Making Major Coronavirus Commitments in First 100 Days – Get it Right Not Fast!

Chasing The Elusive Dream Of A COVID Cure | Kaiser Health News

The Elusive Coronavirus

Dear Commons Community,

On the heels of major vaccine developments, Biden committed yesterday that his team will get “at least 100 million COVID vaccine shots into the arms of the American people in the first 100 days.” 

“This will be the most efficient mass vaccination plan in US history. I credit everyone who has gotten us to this point, but developing the vaccine is one herculean task,” Biden said.

“Distributing it is another.”

This is on top of his pending nationwide 100-day mask mandate. 

Last week, in selecting Miguel Cardona as his nominee to lead the Department of Education, the president-elect  pledged to reopen  schools within his first 100 days in office amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Thanks in part to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, presidents’ first 100 days are seen as an important benchmark — their first chance to deliver on campaign promises and get to the business of governing before public opinion shifts (and elections start to get in the way). 

But none have faced a never-before-attempted vaccine distribution plan amid an economic crisis — on top of Biden’s own other ambitious policy goals.   In addition, in order to roll out almost any new national coronavirus initiatives, Biden will need the support of the state governors, many of who are Republican and may not be as cooperative as he would hope.

My advice to Joe Biden is stop promising that many of the coronavirus problems will be corrected in the first 100-days.  If anything, the coronavirus has taught us and Dr. Anthony Fauci has commented that it is elusive and plays by its own rules.

The emphasis should be on getting our plans to fight this virus right NOT fast! And be prepared for setbacks!

Tony

Congressman-elect Luke Letlow Dies Of COVID-19 Complications!

Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow dies after being hospitalized with  coronavirus

Luke Letlow

Dear Commons Community,

Congressman-elect Luke Letlow (R-La.) died yesterday of COVID-19.  The 41-year-old Louisiana Republican was set to be sworn in next week.

Letlow contracted the virus on Dec. 18 and was later moved to an intensive care unit in Shreveport, Louisiana, for treatment as his condition worsened. 

He “apparently suffered a cardiac event this evening,” and efforts to resuscitate him failed, Dr. G.E. Ghali of LSU Health Shreveport told The New Orleans Advocate. Ghali added that Letlow’s condition, though still critical, had apparently been improving when the cardiac event occurred. 

Letlow, who was elected in a December runoff, was set to take office Sunday as Louisiana’s youngest ever congressman. 

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) expressed grief at Letlow’s passing. 

“COVID-19 has taken Congressman-elect Letlow from us far too soon,” he wrote on Twitter. “I am heartbroken that he will not be able to serve our people as a U.S. Representative, but I am even more devastated for his loving family.”

Letlow is survived by his wife, Julie Barnhill Letlow, and two young children, his spokesperson Andrew Bautsch said in a statement.

He is the first member or member-elect of Congress known to have died from complications of the coronavirus, Politico noted

May he rest in peace!

Tony

Hand-Written Notes from France Honor American Soldiers’ D-Day Sacrifice!

A handwritten post card from a resident of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, France thanks U.S. paratroopers for liberating their village from Nazi occupation.  The town sent 500 notes to Fort Bragg, North Carolina which were read by soldiers.  (AP Photo/Sarah Blake Morgan)

Dear Commons Community,

This heartfelt story appeared in The Associated Press on Christmas Eve and commemorates the sacrifice that American soldiers made on D-Day on June 6, 1944.  Read it and remember!

Tony

—————————————————————————————————-

The Associated Press

Notes from France honor American soldiers’ D-Day sacrifice

By SARAH BLAKE MORGAN

December 24, 2020

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) —

Lt. Col. Michael Burns didn’t know exactly what was inside the small brown box that arrived on his Fayetteville, North Carolina, doorstep but the return address in the left corner let him know he couldn’t open it right away.

The package had made the long journey from Sainte-Mere-Eglise, the first French village to be liberated from Nazi occupation by the U.S. Army’s storied 82nd Airborne Division on June 6, 1944. Every year since, division paratroopers travel to Normandy to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day, a trip that was canceled this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Weeks later, Burns, a public affairs officer, sat the unopened box down inside the 82nd Airborne Division Museum on Fort Bragg, surrounded by glass cases filled with perfectly preserved green service uniforms, shining jump boots and other World War II relics.

He’d assembled a group of paratroopers and a historian to take part in the unboxing as his team set up cameras and lights to capture the reveal.

History looms large over the men and women of the 82nd. This is the type of story they live for.

Capt. Darren Cinatl began pulling open the tightly wrapped package. The history buff jumped into Normandy for the commemoration three times. Each time he tries to imagine what it was like for the young men unknowingly on the verge of history.

“To stand in the door of a C-47 and think about what that jumpmaster saw on the night of June 5 as they departed England, into June 6,” Cinatl said. “You can’t put yourself quite in their shoes, but you can only imagine what motivated them to fight the way they did.”

Beneath the brown paper lay a keepsake box decorated with American decals — 500 handwritten postcards from the residents of Sainte-Mere-Eglise inside.

After the celebrations were canceled in June, town Mayor Alain Holley organized an effort alongside U.S. Army Europe to express their gratitude for the longstanding relationship they share with the division. Earlier in the year, the division had sent red and blue All American Division patches to the town’s children.

Holley grew up hearing D-Day stories from his grandparents.

“Nobody should forget the sacrifices that the American soldiers made for France,” he told The Associated Press.

While Holley watched by video call, the group took turns reading the cards out loud.

“I’m so glad to write a few words from the ground you know so well,” someone wrote. “Thanks to you I’m free to do so.”

Most were in English, but two soldiers sat by ready to translate the French cards.

A 9-year-old child named Gabriel told U.S. soldiers his birthday is June 6. He wanted to thank them for the sacrifice they made to make him free.

During his visits to Normandy, Cinatl is always struck by the local’s grasp of U.S. history, specifically how well they know the ins and outs of the 82nd. Children in France know much more about American military history, he admits, than kids in the United States do.

“To them, it’s their family story,” he said.

Twelve thousand men from the 82nd joined Allied forces on June 5 and 6, 1944, to liberate German-occupied France. Thousands parachuted blindly out of low-flying planes into unknown territory alongside the 101st Airborne Division.

The 82nd had 1,400 casualties during the campaign and the ones who survived are passing at a staggering rate, especially in a pandemic that is more deadly for older people.

Cinatl said keeping their stories alive is integral to the division’s future success.

“It is vitally important that this current generation carries on that history,” he said.

One final postcard came from Christophe, a waiter at a restaurant in Sainte-Mere-Eglise’s church square. He told the American soldiers to look for the tall guy in the Yankees cap when they return to Normandy next June.

“Show me this postcard and there will be a free beer in it for you,” he wrote.

 

Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives Rebuke Trump and Override His Veto of Defense Bill

 

House, Senate schedule first veto override votes – Maryland Daily Record

Dear Commons Community,

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (322-87) to override President Donald Trump’s veto of a defense policy bill, setting the stage for what would be the first veto override of his presidency.

The veto override was supported by 212 Democrats, 109 Republicans and an independent. Twenty Democrats opposed the override, along with 66 Republicans and an independent.  The Senate, which is expected to vote on the override this week, also needs to approve it by a two-thirds majority.

Trump rejected the defense bill last week, saying it failed to limit social media companies he claims were biased against him during his failed reelection campaign. Trump also opposes language that allows for the renaming of military bases that honor Confederate leaders. As reported by the Associated Press.

“The defense bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, affirms 3% pay raises for U.S. troops and authorizes more than $740 billion in military programs and construction.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said after the vote that the House had done its part to ensure the NDAA becomes law “despite the president’s dangerous sabotage efforts.″

Trump’s “reckless veto would have denied our service members hazard-duty pay,″ removed key protections for global peace and security and ”undermined our nation’s values and work to combat racism, by blocking overwhelmingly bipartisan action to rename military bases,″ Pelosi said.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the bill “absolutely vital to our national security and our troops,″ adding, “Our men and women who volunteer to wear the uniform shouldn’t be denied what they need — ever.”

Trump has succeeded throughout his four-year term in enforcing party discipline in Congress, with few Republicans willing to publicly oppose him. The bipartisan vote on the widely popular defense bill showed the limits of Trump’s influence in the final weeks before he leaves office, and came minutes after 130 House Republicans voted against a Trump-supported plan to increase COVID-19 relief checks to $2,000. The House approved the larger payments, but the plan faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled Senate, another sign of Trump’s fading hold over Congress.

Trump has offered a series of rationales for rejecting the defense bill. He urged lawmakers to impose limits on Twitter and other social media companies he claimed are biased against him, as well as to strip out language that allows for the renaming of military bases such as Fort Benning and Fort Hood that honor Confederate leaders. Trump also claimed without evidence that the biggest winner from the defense bill would be China.

In his veto message, Trump also said the bill restricts his ability to conduct foreign policy, “particularly my efforts to bring our troops home.″ Trump was referring to provisions in the bill that impose conditions on his plan to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan and Germany. The measures require the Pentagon to submit reports certifying that the proposed withdrawals would not jeopardize U.S. national security.

House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of California missed the vote, but Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of Republican leadership, supported the override, as did Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas, the top Republican on the House Armed Services panel. Thornberry is retiring this year and the bill is named in his honor.

The Senate approved the bill 84-13 earlier this month, well above the margin needed to override a presidential veto. Trump has vetoed eight other bills, but those were all sustained because supporters did not gain the two-thirds vote needed in each chamber for the bills to become law without Trump’s signature.

Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Trump’s declaration that China gained from the defense bill was false. He also noted the shifting explanations Trump had given for the veto.

“From Confederate base names to social media liability provisions … to imaginary and easily refutable charges about China, it’s hard to keep track of President Trump’s unprincipled, irrational excuses for vetoing this bipartisan bill,″ Reed said.

Reed called the Dec. 23 veto “Trump’s parting gift to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and a lump of coal for our troops. Donald Trump is showing more devotion to Confederate base names than to the men and women who defend our nation.″

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Trump’s veto “made it clear that he does not care about the needs of our military personnel and their families.″

The measure guides Pentagon policy and cements decisions about troop levels, new weapons systems and military readiness, personnel policy and other military goals. Many programs, including military construction, can only go into effect if the bill is approved.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a rare break with Trump, had urged passage of the defense bill despite Trump’s veto threat. McConnell said it was important for Congress to continue its nearly six-decade-long streak of passing the defense policy bill.”

Good to see some Republicans finally show a bit of courage in following their consciences and not Trump!

Tony

 

Paper Tiger Trump Signs Coronavirus Stimulus and Federal Spending Bills!

Inside Donald Trump's White House Chaos | Time

Dear Commons Community,

After throwing the bills into chaos last week, President Donald Trump caved last night and signed the coronavirus relief and federal spending measures, averting a government shutdown and ensuring millions of unemployed Americans get some relief going into the new year.

It was an act of mercy for millions, after the president suddenly indicated Tuesday night that he wouldn’t support the bill. Trump said he wanted to increase direct stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000 ― as well as eliminate a number of foreign aid provisions that were included in his own budget request earlier this year ― but Republicans wouldn’t go along with his call to increase checks, and Trump seemed to realize that holding out on the bill would cause chaos and distress across the country. On top of ending unemployment benefits for more than 10 million people, Trump would have caused a government shutdown, delayed vaccine distribution, and held up stimulus checks for weeks ― if they ever even came.

Instead, Trump folded and agreed to the bill that lawmakers and his own administration negotiated. An hour before signing the bill, Trump tweeted from his Mar-a-Lago resort that he had “good news on Covid Relief Bill.” He is vacationing at the Florida resort for the Christmas holiday.

Trump’s decision to sign the bill is a major sigh of relief for Republican lawmakers, who were surprised to see the president, who spent months seemingly uninterested in negotiations, suddenly turn on a bill that’s been tediously hashed out for months.

Trump released a ranting four-minute video on Twitter Tuesday, where he called the government spending Congress had passed “wasteful” and criticized the COVID-19 provisions as inadequate. He also demanded $2,000 stimulus checks, even though he hadn’t pushed for them in a package his own White House negotiated.

The bill, which was largely seen as the only compromise that could get through a deeply divided Congress, passed with veto-proof majorities — 359-53 in the House and 92-6 in the Senate.

Tony

The “New York Post” Rips Trump’s ‘Shameful’ Attack on Legitimate Election as ‘Undemocratic Coup’ – Refers to Him as the King Lear of Mar-a-Lago!

Would Shakespeare impeach the president?

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Post scathing editorial yesterday called on President Trump “… to end this dark charade”  of unfounded voter fraud in the November election and get back to running the country.  This is a complete turn around for the New York Post, a right-wing tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, that has backed Trump’s every step since 2016.

“Mr. President, it’s time to end this dark charade.” the editorial began.

“We’re one week away from an enormously important moment for the next four years of our country,” which he should be focusing on, it added, referring to the double Senate runoff in Georgia on Jan. 5.

“Unfortunately, you’re obsessed with the next day, Jan. 6, when Congress will, in a pro forma action, certify the Electoral College vote. You have tweeted that, as long as Republicans have ’courage, they can overturn the results and give you four more years in office. In other words, you’re cheering for an undemocratic coup,” the piece slammed.

“You had every right to investigate the election,” the editorial added. “But let’s be clear: Those efforts have found nothing.”

The newspaper lashed Trump’s fringe attorney ally Sidney Powell, who is challenging election results in court, as “a crazy person.” Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn “suggesting martial law” to keep the president in the White House is “tantamount to treason,” the Post wrote. “It is shameful.”

The Post urged Trump to set aside his election charade and focus instead on the Georgia races, which will determine which party controls the Senate.

“If Georgia falls … you will leave your party out of power,” the editorial warned. “Democrats will try to write you off as a one-term aberration and, frankly, you’re helping them do it: The King Lear of Mar-a-Lago, ranting about the corruption of the world.”

It concluded: “If you insist on spending your final days in office threatening to burn it all down, that will be how you are remembered. Not as a revolutionary, but as the anarchist holding the match.”

Trump is an anarchist who has trouble holding the match in his little stubby fingers.

Tony

Unemployment Benefits Expire for Millions as Trump Golfs!

Donald Trump 'Won' Golf Club Championship After Stealing a Ball from the  Son of the Actual Champion

Dear Commons Community

Unemployment benefits for millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet lapsed overnight as President Donald Trump refused to signed an end-of-year COVID relief and spending bill that had been considered a done deal before his sudden objections.

The fate of the bipartisan package remained in limbo today as Trump continued to demand larger COVID relief checks and complained about “pork” spending. Without the widespread funding provided by the massive measure, a government shutdown would occur when money runs out at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.  As reported by the Associated Press.

“It’s a chess game and we are pawns,” said Lanetris Haines, a self-employed single mother of three in South Bend, Indiana, who stood to lose her $129 weekly jobless benefit unless Trump signed the package into law or succeeded in his improbable quest for changes.

Washington has been reeling since Trump turned on the deal after it had won sweeping approval in both houses of Congress and after the White House had assured Republican leaders that Trump would support it.

Instead, he assailed the bill’s plan to provide $600 COVID relief checks to most Americans — insisting it should be $2,000. House Republicans swiftly rejected that idea during a rare Christmas Eve session. But Trump has not been swayed in spite of the nation being in the grip of a pandemic.

“I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill,” Trump tweeted Saturday from Palm Beach, Florida, where he is spending the holiday. “Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork.’”

President-elect Joe Biden called on Trump to sign the bill immediately as the midnight Saturday deadline neared for two federal programs providing unemployment aid.

“It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority,” Biden said in a statement. He accused Trump of an “abdication of responsibility” that has “devastating consequences.”

“I’ve been talking to people who are scared they’re going to be kicked out from their homes, during the Christmas holidays, and still might be if we don’t sign this bill,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat.

Lauren Bauer, a fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, has calculated that 11 million people would lose aid from the programs immediately without additional relief; millions more would exhaust other unemployment benefits within weeks.

Andrew Stettner, an unemployment insurance expert and senior fellow at the Century Foundation think tank, said the number may be closer to 14 million because joblessness has spiked since Thanksgiving.

“All these folks and their families will suffer if Trump doesn’t sign the damn bill,” Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the liberal Economic Policy Institute, tweeted Wednesday.

How and when people would be affected by the lapse depended on the state they lived in, the program they were relying on and when they applied for benefits. In some states, people on regular unemployment insurance would continue to receive payments under a program that extends benefits when the jobless rate surpassed a certain threshold, Stettner said.

About 9.5 million people, however, had been relying on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that expired altogether Saturday. That program made unemployment insurance available to freelancers, gig workers and others who were normally not eligible. After receiving their last checks, those recipients would not be able to file for more aid, Stettner said.

While payments could be received retroactively, any gap would mean more hardship and uncertainty for Americans who had already grappled with bureaucratic delays, often depleting much of their savings to stay afloat while waiting for payments to kick in.

They were people like Earl McCarthy, a father of four who lives in South Fulton, Georgia, and had been relying on unemployment since losing his job as a sales representative for a luxury senior living community. He said he would be left with no income by the second week of January if Trump refused to sign the bill.

McCarthy said he already burned through much of his savings as he waited five months to begin receiving about $350 a week in unemployment benefits.

“The entire experience was horrifying,” said McCarthy. “I shudder to think if I had not saved anything or had an emergency fund through those five months, where would we have been?”

He added, “It’s going to be difficult if the president doesn’t sign this bill.”

The bill, which was in Florida awaiting Trump’s signature, would also activate a weekly $300 federal supplement to unemployment payments.

Sharon Shelton Corpening had been hoping the extra help would allow her 83-year-old mother, with whom she lives, to stop eating into her social security payments to make their $1,138 rent.

Corpening, who lives in the Atlanta area, had launched a freelance content strategy business that was just taking off before the pandemic hit, prompting several of her contracts to fall through. She was receiving about $125 a week under the pandemic unemployment program and says she would be unable to pay her bills in about a month. This, despite her temporary work for the U.S. Census and as an elections poll worker.

“We on the brink,” said Corpening, who lobbies for Unemployment Action, a project launched by the Center for Popular Democracy to fight for relief. “One more month, if that. Then, I run out of everything.”

In addition to the unemployment benefits that have already lapsed, Trump’s continued refusal to sign the bill would lead to the expiration of eviction protections and put on hold a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses, restaurants and theaters, as well as money for cash-starved transit systems and for vaccine distribution.

The relief was also attached to a $1.4 trillion government funding bill to keep the federal government operating through September, which would mean that failing to sign it by midnight Tuesday would trigger a federal shutdown.

While all of this projected misery and anxiety has fallen on working people, Trump has been golfing at his Mar-A-Lago Resort since Thursday.

Tony

 

The Centre for Economics and Business Research Predicts that China Will Overtake the U.S. as World’s No.1 Economy by 2028!

Dear Commons Community,

The British Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) released a report yesterday which predicts that China is set to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in dollar terms in 2028, half a decade earlier than previously estimated.  A major reason for its prediction is that China has handled the coronavirus pandemic much more effectively than the U.S.  As reported by Reuters.

“The Chinese authorities reacted vigorously and as a result the Chinese economy has sustained less economic damage than any other major economy,” the CEBR said in its report.

“Thanks to a strict early response, China has managed to avoid re-introducing the harshest pandemic-fighting measures after the first wave,” the consultancy commented on how the pandemic and corresponding economic fallout have tipped the Sino-U.S. competition in China’s favor.

“The big news in this forecast is the speed of growth of the Chinese economy,” said Douglas McWilliams, the CEBR’s deputy chairman. “We expect it to overtake the U.S. a full five years earlier than we did a year ago,” he added.

China’s GDP topped $6 trillion in 2010, surpassing neighboring Japan as the world’s second-largest economy. The country’s share of global GDP has increased from 3.6 percent in 2000 to close to 18 percent in 2019 and will continue to grow, the CEBR said.

In a report released earlier this month, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predicted China will be the only country to see growth this year, at 1.8 percent, and will speed up to 8 percent in 2021.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said last month that it was “completely possible” for China to meet the current standards for high-income countries by the end of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) period and to double the total economic volume or per capita income in 15 years.

The consultancy estimated that the world economy will contract by at least 4 percent this year, before a sharp economic recovery takes place in 2021, when global GDP is expected to expand by 3.4 percent.

Tony