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CDC: People who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or physically distance indoors or outdoors!

No more masks in JDC - Prentiss Headlight | Prentiss Headlight

 

Dear Commons Community,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced yesterday that people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 no longer need to wear masks or physically distance — whether indoors or outdoors in most circumstances.

“We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” the CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said during a media briefing.

“Based on the continuing downward trajectory of cases, the scientific data on the performance of our vaccines and our understanding of how the virus spreads,” Walensky said, “that moment has come for those who are fully vaccinated.

President Joe Biden called the move a “great milestone” during remarks Thursday at the White House, adding that it was “made possible by the extraordinary success we’ve had in vaccinating so many Americans, so quickly.”   As reported by NBC News.

More than 35 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Outside experts in infectious disease overwhelmingly hailed the move.

“Today marks a true turning point in the pandemic,” said a former acting director of the CDC, Dr. Richard Besser, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “If you’re fully vaccinated, you are good to go. That’s huge.”

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said: “It’s exactly what we ought to be doing right now. I think it follows the best science

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said the move is “long overdue.”

“Our goal was to tame this virus, to defang and to remove its ability to threaten hospitals,” Adalja said. “I think we’ve accomplished that in the United States.”

The recommendations come more than a year after the CDC first recommended that Americans should wear masks to protect against spreading or catching the coronavirus. At that time, the U.S. was logging more than 1,000 Covid-19 deaths a day.

A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the last dose of Covid-19 vaccine. That gives the immune system enough time to develop antibodies against the virus.

The new recommendation is proof, Walensky said, that the vaccines are working extraordinarily well. She cited several studies from the U.S. and Israel that demonstrated vaccines are more than 90 percent effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19.

There are a few caveats, however. People who have compromised immune systems, for example, should talk to their doctors about continuing with mitigation measures. And even fully vaccinated people may still be asked to wear masks in certain places, such as in hospitals or other health care settings, as well as public transportatio

“Right now for travel, we’re asking people to wear their masks,” Walensky said. “We still have the requirement to wear masks when you travel on buses, trains and other forms of public transportation.”

Even though the vaccines work well, they are not perfect, and breakthrough infections can occur. Of the more than 117 million people in the U.S. who have been fully vaccinated, 9,245 later tested positive for Covid-19. Those illnesses have generally been mild.

Meanwhile, even those who have been vaccinated should still feel comfortable wearing masks if they choose, experts said. It is clear that masking and physical distancing this winter worked to stop the spread of respiratory diseases, such as the flu.

“We have all been getting such comfort out of wearing our masks and keeping apart,” Besser said. “And now to say, OK, it’s safe to come out? It’s going to take a little while for people to internalize that.”

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, warned against relaxing mitigation measures too much, especially in states with lower vaccination rates.

“Transmission is still high in certain parts of the country, and this needs to be monitored,” Hotez said. “If transmission starts going up again, we may have to be prepared to modify this.”

For now, the CDC guidance applies only to those who have been fully vaccinated. Soon, that group will include children ages 12 and older, now that the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration have both signed off on Covid-19 vaccines for that age group.

The CDC is expected to update its guidance on children in school and summer camps soon.

For those who remain unvaccinated or who have only had a single dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, Walensky advised continuing to wear masks.

Hallelujah!

Tony

Guest Essay:  Making the Case for Free Two-Year and Four-Year College Degrees!

tuition-free colleges

Dear Commons Community,

Stephen Adair, a sociology professor at Central Connecticut State University,  and Colena Sesanker, a philosophy professor at Gateway Community College in New Haven, Connecticut, had a guest essay in yesterday’s New York Times making the case for tuition-free two-year and four-year college degrees.  Citing issues of equity and the ever-widening income gap between those with and without college degrees, Adair and Sesanker call for embracing the College for All Act of 2021, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Pramila Jayapal, that would address the crisis in full.  In addition to making community college tuition-free for all, it would make two- and four-year public colleges and minority-serving institutions free for poor and middle-class students and increase funding for programs that target students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This is an idea whose time has come.  The college education of today is as necessary as a high school education was a century ago and should be made free.  The entire essay is below.

Tony

————————————————————–

New York Times

Should Two- and Four-Year Degrees Be Free?

Stephen Adair and Colena Sesanker

May 13, 2021

The last 40 years have seen an ever-widening income gap between those with college degrees and those without. Over that interval, incomes have soared for those with advanced degrees and declined for those with high-school diplomas or less. As a result, the route to economic security for young people depends increasingly on access to higher education. Yet it keeps getting more expensive.

Since the Great Recession, the public portion of the operating costs for state universities and colleges in Connecticut, where we teach, has declined 20 percent; since the 1980s, it has declined by nearly half. In the 1960s, tuition for a Connecticut state university was $100 a year, which could be earned by working fewer than 100 hours at minimum wage. Today, a student needs to work nearly 1,000 hours at the state minimum of $12 an hour to pay the $11,462 required for tuition at the least expensive state university in Connecticut.

Our state is hardly unique in abdicating its responsibilities to the next generation. By 2018, only four states had returned to prerecession funding levels at public two- and four-year institutions. In Arizona the decline has been especially acute: 2018 per-student higher-education funding was down 55.7 percent from 2008, and average student tuition costs at four-year institutions increased by 91 percent. In Louisiana, these figures were 40.6 and 105.4 percent, respectively.

The Biden administration has proposed reforms to ease the student-debt crisis. But a real solution must upend a system of cascading inequities. Restoring the dream of higher education as an equalizer requires a holistic solution that attacks all the sources of the problem: a lack of investment in common goods, growing tuition and student debt and exploitative labor practices that undermine the quality of education.

The rise in tuition costs, combined with the growing economic value of a college degree, fuels the crisis of student debt, which today totals $1.7 trillion. To pay for a year of school, three-quarters of American families pay at least 24 percent of their average family income, even after grants are distributed.

As students pay more, they often receive less. Nationwide, nearly 75 percent of all faculty positions are off the tenure track, often without benefits or long-term job prospects. Ironically, hundreds of thousands of some of the most educated people in the country now shuttle to and from campus, juggling gigs to try to eke out a living while unable to give students the attention they deserve.

While President Biden’s American Families Plan includes a provision for free community college, this is an incomplete solution.

The College for All Act of 2021, introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Pramila Jayapal, would address the crisis in full. In addition to making community college tuition-free for all, it would make two- and four-year public colleges and minority-serving institutions free for poor and middle-class students and increase funding for programs that target students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Nationally, in 2016, the net average price of college attendance (the total cost minus all grants awarded) for students coming from the lowest family income quartile amounted to 94 percent of total family income. Unsurprisingly, poorer students are less present at higher levels of education nationwide. In Connecticut, students of color are overrepresented at the introductory levels and increasingly underrepresented at higher levels.

We stand to exacerbate racial and class divides if we create a dead end for poorer students by cutting off funding at the associate level, stunting their progress or requiring them to take on debt to continue. By including both two- and four-year institutions and by expanding Pell grants so they can be used to cover living and nontuition expenses, the College for All Act would help bridge the significant earning gap between those with some college education and those with bachelor’s degrees.

The measure would also address the labor precarity corroding learning conditions: It would require that at least 75 percent of courses be taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty members and help transition short-term and part-time faculty members to those positions.

To fund these reforms, the bill proposes a tax on trades of stocks, bonds and derivatives, to raise more than $600 billion over the next decade.

The College for All Act complements recent efforts in states like California, Connecticut, Georgia and New York to boost two- and four-year institutions. While these efforts are distinct, they all seek to facilitate the movement between two-year colleges and public universities and improve equity.

In “The Inequality Machine,” Paul Tough demonstrates how the financing structure of higher education fails to level the playing field. Rather, it amplifies the inherited advantages and disadvantages that were exacerbated during the Covid-19 pandemic. He documents what we have too often witnessed: Bright, able and gritty students simply cannot overcome the financial and other obstacles that prevent them from completing their degrees.

To the extent that higher education reinforces existing inequities, it contributes to the affliction it is supposed to ease. Solving this problem will expand opportunities for individuals, grow the middle class, improve the skills of America’s work force and strengthen democracy. But this won’t happen on its own; it needs a push. So let’s push.

 

Video: Attorney General Merrick Garland –  White supremacy “is the most dangerous threat to our democracy.”

 

Merrick Garland’s Testimony starts at about the 25-minute mark.

Dear Commons Community,

Attorney General Merrick Garland told Congress yesterday that violence incited by white supremacists poses “the most dangerous threat to our democracy.”  That assertion reflects near-universal consensus among national security experts, including those who worked for the Trump administration.

Garland’s warning came during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol (see video above), which was conducted by supporters of then-President Donald Trump and incited by white supremacist groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys. Five people died as a result of the attack.

“In my career as a judge and in law enforcement, I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the Capitol,” Garland said, calling the attack an “attempt to interfere with a fundamental element of our democracy, the peaceful transfer of power.” The attorney general went on to say that “there has to be a hierarchy of things that we prioritize. This would be the one we’d prioritize.”

In 1995, Garland investigated the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City by white supremacists, an attack that killed 168 people, including 19 children. The bombing came at a time when militants were galvanized by violent encounters with federal authorities in Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

The threat of domestic terrorism receded in the public imagination after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which were carried out by Islamic fundamentalists from Saudi Arabia and other nations. But as that threat has receded in recent years, militant white nationalism has returned as a top concern.

“The horror of domestic violent extremism is still with us,” Garland said in his opening remarks, discussing his work on the Oklahoma City bombing and the Unabomber case. He noted that encrypted internet messaging and the increased availability and sophistication of “lethal weaponry” make the threat of domestic terror greater than it has ever been.

Some of the Trump administration’s own top advisers came to the same conclusions. Last fall, the FBI warned about extremists planning violent actions to coincide with November’s presidential election. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security tried to get Trump to pay attention to white nationalist groups, some of which expressed open affinity for him and his political movement.

Trump infamously told one such group, the Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by” during a presidential debate when a moderator confronted him on the topic. But instead of taking meaningful steps to address the white supremacist threat, Trump urged officials in his administration to focus on antifa, a loosely organized network of leftist radicals that is not widely considered a threat to national security.

Republicans continue to insist that antifa and Black Lives Matter are as great a threat to national security as white supremacy, though research has shown that most of last summer’s Black Lives Matter-inspired protests were peaceful. While some violence and looting did occur, intense media coverage — in particular by conservative outlets like Fox News — may have provided a distorted image of those protests.

That strategy was evident on Wednesday, with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., wondering if what he called last summer’s “rioting and pilfering” should have been subject to federal prosecution. Garland noted that violence and destruction of property were, in fact, crimes — but not necessarily ones deserving scrutiny from the Department of Justice.

Testifying alongside Garland was Alejandro Mayorkas, who heads the Department of Homeland Security. Republicans questioned him intensely about the situation on the border with Mexico, in what appeared to be another attempt to turn the hearing away from Jan. 6.

“The foreign threats persist,” Mayorkas said at one point. “It’s not as though they have disappeared. But the threat landscape is always evolving.” Much like Garland, he plainly sees that evolution favoring the continued emergence of homegrown terrorists with white nationalist ties.

Garland and Mayorkis tell it like it is!

Tony

 

Video: Liz Cheney – “I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”

 

Dear Commons Community,

House Republicans voted yesterday to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from the No. 3 position in caucus leadership after she vocally rebuked Donald Trump and refused to accept his “Big Lie” about the 2020 election..

“We must be true to our principles and to the Constitution,” Cheney, R-Wyo., told fellow House Republicans before the closed-door vote, according to a source in the room. “We cannot let the former president drag us backward and make us complicit in his efforts to unravel our democracy. Down that path lies our destruction, and potentially the destruction of our country.”

After the vote, Cheney said that if Trump tries to run again, “I will do everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”  As reported by NBC News.

The conference, led by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., held a speedy voice vote to oust her, lawmakers said after it occurred. Republicans had planned to vote via secret ballot, but opting instead for a voice vote means it will be impossible to know how many in her caucus supported her removal and how many would have kept her in leadership.

“There were no speeches really. It was just Kevin standing up and then the vote happened,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a Cheney ally who called it a “sad day.”

“Truth cannot coexist with lies,” he told reporters.

Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 riot, responded to the former president’s most recent claim last week that the 2020 election was “fraudulent,” calling his words “THE BIG LIE.” And she remained defiant on Tuesday evening, describing his claims as a threat to democracy.

With Cheney’s ouster, party leaders have coalesced around elevating Rep. Elise Stefanik, a staunch Trump ally who represents an upstate New York district. A vote on her to take the spot is expected on Friday.

Stefanik, of New York, met with with the House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday evening. As she departed, she said, “We’re going to be unified as Republicans moving forward.”

The clash between Cheney and Trump has caused consternation among some House Republican lawmakers who are weary of having the leadership fight overshadow their criticism of President Joe Biden, or answering for the ex-president’s ongoing false claims about the election.

“Having heard from so many of you in recent days, it’s clear that we need to make a change. As such, you should anticipate a vote on recalling the Conference Chair this Wednesday,” McCarthy wrote in a letter on Monday, after days of mobilizing to oust Cheney.

Republicans have sought to cast her ouster as a move to unify the party ahead of next year’s midterm elections, in which they’re hopeful they can gain seats and capture control of the House.

McCarthy’s letter contains some contradictions that reflect the party’s struggles to navigate Trump.

He implicitly criticized Cheney for “relitigating the past” despite the fact that she was responding to Trump’s ongoing statements about the past. He called on Republicans to focus their criticism on Democrats’ agenda, which Trump has said little about. He labeled the GOP a “big tent party” of “free thought and debate” while arguing for the ouster of a conference chair who broke with Trump.

After the vote, Trump released a statement taunting Cheney, calling her “a bitter, horrible human being.”

“I watched her yesterday and realized how bad she is for the Republican Party. She has no personality or anything good having to do with politics or our Country,” he said.

GOP strategists are torn about the political impact of Cheney’s removal, with some arguing it would further alienate Trump-skeptical voters, particularly in the suburbs.

“The suburban voters who’ve switched voting from Republican to Democrat are the new swing voters in American politics,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “It remains to be seen whether they are permanently in the Democratic camp or come back to the Republicans. But the suburban voters who are most at risk of becoming permanent Democrats are the college-educated suburban women. And removing someone like Liz Cheney pushes them further away from the GOP.”

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the party is worse off if it rejects the former president.

“We need everybody in the party but we’re not going to erase Donald Trump. And she’s been advocating that we can’t go forward with him. And I’m saying you can’t go forward without him,” he told reporters Monday. “I like Liz Cheney, but the damage done from trying to drive Donald Trump out of the party is greater than keeping him in the party.”

Cheney, who represents Wyoming and is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has no plans to resign from Congress and intends to run for re-election, according to a source familiar with her thinking, despite having numerous opponents already challenging her in a party primary.

Some Democrats said the move against Cheney means Republicans are giving up on democracy and becoming a cult of Trump.

“It’s appalling that the Republican Party seems to be solely captured by this big lie. They so want to please Donald Trump that they go along,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters Tuesday. “In the House, Ms. Cheney — Liz Cheney spoke truth to power, and now they’re firing her.”

After a White House meeting Wednesday with Biden, Schumer and other congressional leaders, McCarthy downplayed the attempts within his party to de-legitimize the 2020 contest.

“I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. I think that is all over with,” the House Republican leader said. “We’re sitting here with the president today.”

The Republicans led by McCarthy has become the party of hypocrisy.

Tony

 

JPMorgan, CVS, GM, Walgreens join corporate fight against laws targeting LGBTQ community!

Don't Let That Rainbow Logo Fool You: These 9 Corporations Donated Millions To Anti-Gay Politicians

Dear Commons Community, 

President Biden announced earlier this week that health care providers can’t discriminate against transgender patients, reversing a Trump-era policy and wading into a partisan flashpoint as hundreds of Republican-backed bills restricting the rights of LGBTQ individuals make their way through statehouses nationwide.  As with a similar wave of state-level restrictive voting bills, corporate America is speaking out against the anti-LGBTQ measures.

Many of these laws target transgender youth, including preventing them from playing on sports teams aligned with their gender identity or receiving gender-affirming medical treatment. During the past several weeks, a number of companies have expressed their opposition to anti-LGBTQ legislation.  Below is an excerpt of an article courtesy of Yahoo News reporting on this development.

“Earlier this month, 95 companies — among them Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOGGOOGL), Amazon (AMZN), American Airlines (AAL), Marriott (MAR), Nike (NKE), AT&T (T) and Pepsi (PEP) — voiced their opposition to the anti-LGBTQ bills in a letter written in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign. However, 37 of the Fortune 500’s top 50 companies did not sign.

In response to outreach from Yahoo Finance, some of those 37 companies added their voices to the chorus opposed to the bills, including JPMorgan Chase (JPM), General Motors (GM), MetLife (MET), CVS Health (CVS), and Walgreens (WBA).

But the remainder did not respond or declined to comment directly on the bills. That set of companies includes Walmart (WMT), Chevron (CVX), Target (TGT), Disney (DIS), and Exxon (XOM).

Even as the Biden administration works to reverse the discriminatory behavior toward transgender individuals, anti-LGBTQ legislation is being introduced at a record clip across at least 33 states. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest lobbying group for LGBTQ rights in the U.S., this year has surpassed 2015 “as the worst year for anti-LGBTQ legislation in recent history.”

Seventeen bills, ranging from preventing trans girls from playing spots to erasing transgender people from school curricula, have been signed into law across eight states — Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

“The rights of LGBTQ people — and especially transgender people — across the country are being systematically threatened and undermined by national anti-LGBTQ groups coordinating with anti-equality lawmakers to wage an unprecedented war on the LGBTQ community … These bills are not only harmful and discriminatory, but also represent a failure in our democracy and the commitment elected officials make to protect and serve their constituents,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement.

‘An environment… where everyone is valued and accepted’

Several companies have expressed their explicit disapproval of the legislation that would restrict the rights of trans people across America.

“MetLife is a purpose-driven company,” the company told Yahoo Finance. “That purpose — building a more confident future for all — informs and inspires our strong support for LGBTQ rights. We oppose any legislation that would limit the rights of the LGBTQ community.”

General Motors echoed a similar sentiment, stating it works with bipartisan groups like TechNet on a state-by-state basis, aligning with the coalition’s position in opposing anti-LGBTQ legislation.

“General Motors’ commitment to the LGBTQ community is at the core of our company’s policies. At GM, promoting a culture that is inclusive and free of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, allows all team members to proudly be who they are at work — in an environment that is open, supportive, and empowering — where everyone is valued and accepted,” a company spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase has been clear that it opposes legislation that discriminates against members of the LGBTQ community, a spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

A representative for CVS Health says the health care giant has “consistently demonstrated support publicly for the LGBTQ community in a variety of ways,” including opposing the Trump administration’s decision to reduce health care protections for the trans community. CEO Karen Lynch posted on LinkedIn about overall support and commitment to the LGBTQ community last summer. 

CVS Health vocalized disapproval of the statewide legislation in a statement to Yahoo Finance: “We strongly oppose legislation at the state or federal level that infringes upon the rights of the LGBTQ community and will continue to support this community through inclusive hiring practices, workplace policies and service to our diverse customers.”

Walgreens expressed support for LGBTQ equality, including transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage, and touted “15 years of perfect 100 scores on the Corporate Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign.”

“We believe in equal opportunities for all and strongly oppose efforts that seek to oppress or exclude groups based on race, religion, gender identity, origin or orientation. Walgreens Boots Alliance is committed to ensuring safe and welcoming work and store environments where our team members and customers are treated with respect and dignity,” a Walgreens spokesperson said.

Companies that have not taken a position on the statewide measures

On a federal level, HRC spearheaded the Business Coalition for the Equality Act, which calls for a federal law providing the same protections to LGBTQ employees other protected groups have. Home Depot (HD), Chevron, Target, and Disney were part of a group of 420 companies that have supported this national initiative, but have not engaged on a state level.

Exxon Mobil responded to outreach about the bills with lament over partisan gridlock but did not take a position on the measures.

“Over the last several years, we’ve seen an increasing divide in our country,” Casey Norton, Exxon’s corporate media relations manager, told Yahoo Finance.

“Elected officials at all levels must work together to bridge this divide. They need to take the time to understand the differing points of view and find solutions that address the key issues. In short, they must demonstrate the leadership needed to work together and resolve complex issues that impact us all,” he added.

Last month, the Arkansas House and Senate overrode Governor Asa Hutchinson’s veto of HB 1570, which prevents doctors from providing any gender-affirming health care to transgender youth under the age of 18. Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart did not respond directly to requests for comment regarding the dozens of anti-LGBTQ bills being deliberated across the country, with at least six additional pieces of legislation in Arkansas. Instead, a company spokesperson shared an April 12 tweet from CEO Doug McMillon regarding an alternative to a hate crimes bill that was signed into law.

While the nation’s largest private employer has been notably silent on commenting specifically on the anti-LGBTQ legislation, the Walton Family Foundation shared a statement regarding the discriminatory laws.

“We are alarmed by the string of policy targeting LGBTQ people in Arkansas. This trend is harmful and sends the wrong message to those willing to invest in or visit our state…Arkansas has been called the land of opportunity because it is a place where anyone can think big and achieve the extraordinary. Any policy that limits individual opportunity also limits our state’s potential.”

Congratulations to those companies standing up for the rights of all Americans.

Tony

 

Video: Liz Cheney Stands Up for Her Principles – “We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.”

Dear Commons Community,

Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, who is facing a vote today aimed at removing her from her Republican leadership post, took to the House floor last night  “to discuss freedom and our constitutional duty to protect it.”

Listen to her words in the video above and understand the problem in today’s Republican Party.

The text of her speech is below.

Tony

 

———————————————————

 

“Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to discuss freedom and our constitutional duty to protect it.

“I have been privileged to see first-hand how powerful and how fragile freedom is. 28 years ago, I stood outside a polling place, a schoolhouse in western Kenya. Soldiers had chased away people lined up to vote. A few hours later, the people began streaming back in, risking further attack, undaunted in their determination to exercise their right to vote.

”In 1992, I sat across a table from a young mayor in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia and listened to him talk of his dream of liberating his nation from communism. Years later, for his dedication to the cause of freedom, Boris Nemtsov would be assassinated by Vladimir Putin’s thugs.

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”In Warsaw, in 1990, I listened to a young Polish woman tell me that her greatest fear was that people would forget what it was like to live under communist domination, that they would forget the price of freedom.

”Three men – an immigrant who escaped Castro’s totalitarian regime; a young man who grew up behind the iron curtain and became his country’s minister of defense; and a dissident who spent years in the Soviet gulag have all told me it was the miracle of America captured in the words of President Ronald Reagan that inspired them to seek freedom.

”I have seen the power of faith and freedom. I listened to Pope John Paul II speak to thousands in Nairobi in 1985, and 19 years later I watched that same pope take my father’s hand, look in his eyes, and say, “God Bless America.”

“God has blessed America, but our freedom only survives if we protect it, if we honor our oath, taken before God in this chamber, to support and defend the Constitution, if we recognize threats to freedom when they arise.

“Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president, who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him. He risks inciting further violence.

“Millions of Americans have been misled by the former President. They have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.

“I am a conservative Republican and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law. The Electoral College has voted. More than sixty state and federal courts, including multiple judges he appointed, have rejected the former president’s claims. The Department of Justice in his administration investigated the former president’s claims of widespread fraud and found no evidence to support them. The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process.

“Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution.

“Our duty is clear. Every one of us who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans. Remaining silent, and ignoring the lie, emboldens the liar.

”I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.

“As the party of Reagan, Republicans championed democracy, won the Cold War, and defeated the Soviet Communists. As we speak, America is on the cusp of another Cold War – this time with communist China. Attacks against our democratic process and the rule of law empower our adversaries and feed Communist propaganda that American democracy is a failure. We must speak the truth. Our election was not stolen, and America has not failed.

”I received a message last week from a Gold Star father who said, “Standing up for the truth honors all who gave all.” We must all strive to be worthy of the sacrifice of those who have died for our freedom. They are the patriots Katherine Lee Bates described in the words of America the Beautiful: “Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life.”

”Ultimately, this is at the heart of what our oath requires – that we love our country more. That we love her so much we will stand above politics to defend her. That we will do everything in our power to protect our constitution and our freedom – paid for by the blood of so many. “We must love her so much we will never yield in her defense.

 

F.D.A. Authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine for Children 12 to 15!

High schoolers are getting the COVID-19 vaccine. What do they think? - ABC  News

Dear Commons Community,

The Food and Drug Administration yesterday authorized use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds in the United States, a crucial step in the nation’s steady recovery from the pandemic and a boon to millions of American families eager for a return to normalcy.

Shots could begin as soon as Thursday, after a federal vaccine advisory committee issues recommendations for how to use the two-dose vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds.   As reported by the Associated Press.

“Most COVID-19 vaccines worldwide have been authorized for adults. Pfizer’s vaccine is being used in multiple countries for teens as young as 16, and Canada recently became the first to expand use to 12 and up. Parents, school administrators and public health officials elsewhere have eagerly awaited approval for the shot to be made available to more kids.

“This is a watershed moment in our ability to fight back the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president who’s also a pediatrician, told The Associated Press.

The Food and Drug Administration declared that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and offers strong protection for younger teens based on testing of more than 2,000 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15. The agency noted there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared with 16 among kids given dummy shots. More intriguing, researchers found the kids developed higher levels of virus-fighting antibodies than earlier studies measured in young adults.

The younger teens received the same vaccine dosage as adults and had the same side effects, mostly sore arms and flu-like fever, chills or aches that signal a revved-up immune system, especially after the second dose.

Pfizer’s testing in adolescents “met our rigorous standards,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. “Having a vaccine authorized for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech recently requested similar authorization in the European Union, with other countries to follow.

The latest news is welcome for U.S. families struggling to decide what activities are safe to resume when the youngest family members remain unvaccinated.

“I can’t feel totally comfortable because my boys aren’t vaccinated,” said Carrie Vittitoe, a substitute teacher and freelance writer in Louisville, Kentucky, who is fully vaccinated, as are her husband and 17-year-old daughter.

The FDA decision means her 13-year-old son soon could be eligible, leaving only her 11-year-old son unvaccinated. The family has not yet resumed going to church, and summer vacation will be a road trip so they do not have to get on a plane.

“We can’t really go back to normal because two-fifths of our family don’t have protection,” Vittitoe said.

President Joe Biden said Monday’s decision marked another important step in the nation’s march back to regular life.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and today it got a little brighter,” Biden said in a statement.

Pfizer is not the only company seeking to lower the age limit for its vaccine. Moderna recently said preliminary results from its study in 12- to 17-year-olds show strong protection and no serious side effects. Another U.S. company, Novavax, has a COVID-19 vaccine in late-stage development and just began a study in 12- to 17-year-olds.

Next up is testing whether the vaccine works for even younger children. Both Pfizer and Moderna have begun U.S. studies in children ages 6 months to 11 years. Those studies explore whether babies, preschoolers and elementary-age kids will need different doses than teens and adults. Gruber said Pfizer expects its first results in the fall.

Outside of the U.S., AstraZeneca is studying its vaccine among 6- to 17-year-olds in Britain. And in China, Sinovac recently announced that it has submitted preliminary data to Chinese regulators showing its vaccine is safe in children as young as 3.

Children are far less likely than adults to get seriously ill from COVID-19, yet they represent nearly 14% of the nation’s coronavirus cases. At least 296 have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. alone, and more than 15,000 have been hospitalized, according to a tally by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

That’s not counting the toll of family members becoming ill or dying — or the disruption to school, sports and other activities so crucial to children’s overall well-being.

The AAP welcomed the FDA’s decision.

“Our youngest generations have shouldered heavy burdens over the past year, and the vaccine is a hopeful sign that they will be able to begin to experience all the activities that are so important for their health and development,” said AAP President Dr. Lee Savio Beers in a statement.

Experts say children must get the shots if the country is to vaccinate the 70% to 85% of the population necessary to reach what’s called herd immunity.

In the meantime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says unvaccinated people — including children — should continue taking precautions such as wearing masks indoors and keeping their distance from other unvaccinated people outside of their households.”

This is very good news and should eliminate one of the hurdles to getting our schools open.

Tony

 

 

NY Governor Cuomo Announces SUNY and CUNY to Require Vaccinations for All Students Attending In-Person Classes This Fall!

Gov. Cuomo announced SUNY/CUNY vaccination requirement for students | WRGB

Dear Commons Community,

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo yesterday announced that SUNY and CUNY will require proof of vaccination for all students attending in-person classes this fall, and encouraged all private universities and colleges to adopt the same guidelines. 

The public systems join other major city schools, including NYU and Columbia, that have already issued the same mandate.

Cuomo had previously resisted requiring vaccinations for CUNY and SUNY, contending that the measure would likely induce legal pushback.

“No excuses,” he said at a Manhattan press conference. “SUNY and CUNY boards will require vaccinations for all in-person students beginning this fall.”

Cuomo also urged all private campuses to require the shot for in-person learning next year.

“Let’s make a global statement,” he said. “You cannot go back to school in person in September unless you have a vaccine. That will be a major motivation for people to get the vaccine.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted that requiring students to be vaccinated will send a strong message to increase total vaccinations.

The mandate does not apply to SUNY and CUNY teachers and staffers.

In announcing the requirement last month, NYU officials said widespread vaccinations will allow for a fuller reopening of campus next school year.

“Requiring vaccinations is consistent with our intent to minimize the spread of COVID-19 within our own community and more generally in New York City and to enable more in-person on-campus activities,” the school said.

To date, 9,661,944 have received at least one dose of the vaccine in New York out of a population of 19.5 million, 14.2 million of whom are adults.

Tony

 

 

NRA Posts Disgusting Meme Showing Mother and Daughter Holding Assault Weapons!

Image

Dear Commons Community,

Last Thursday a sixth-grade girl in Idaho pulled a gun in school and shot two fellow students and a member of the school staff.  To date, there have already been  194 mass shootings  this year according to the nonprofit group Gun Violence Archive. 

The wave of violence that’s rocked the nation has led to new calls for gun control measures.

But yesterday ― Mother’s Day ― the National Rifle Association posted a meme suggesting that mothers arm their young daughters.

“MAMA DIDN’T RAISE A VICTIM” read the text over an image of a woman and a young girl with assault rifles.

The NRA is a disgusting organization that should be banned in this country for its callousness.

Tony

Video: Congressman Adam Kinzinger Likens the Republican Party to the Titanic!

Dear Commons Community,

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said yesterday (see video above) that the sharply divided Republican Party is in a “slow sink,” like the Titanic, doomed by leaders’ stubborn fascination with reelection loser Donald Trump.

“Right now it’s basically the Titanic. We’re … in the middle of this slow sink,” he explained on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “We have a band playing on the deck telling everybody it’s fine. And, meanwhile, Donald Trump’s running around trying to find women’s clothing and get on the first lifeboat.

“I think there’s a few of us that are just saying, ‘Guys, this is not good’ — not just for the future of the party, but this is not good for the future of this country.”

Kinzinger pulled out the Titanic metaphor as he criticized party leaders’ attacks on Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) for blasting Trump for his “big lie” that the presidential election was rigged and for inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“It’s incredible. Liz Cheney is saying exactly what [House Minority Leader] Kevin McCarthy said the day of the insurrection,” holding Trump accountable for urging the violence, Kinzinger said. “A few weeks later, Kevin McCarthy changed to attacking other people.

McCarthy was reportedly rebuffed by the former president on Jan. 6 when he implored Trump to call off the Capitol rioters. McCarthy said later on the House floor that Trump “bears responsibility for the attack on Congress by mob rioters.” Trump “should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding,” he added. McCarthy called then for “justice” and for a “censure resolution” against Trump.

Kinzinger said the Republican Party still needs to have “an internal look and a full accounting as to what led to Jan. 6.” It’s been only four months since the “insurrection — something that was unthinkable in this country,” he noted.

Meanwhile, the message from the Republicans who want to get rid of Cheney is that it’s time to “move on,” Kinzinger said, adding that they refuse to admit the Capitol violence was “an insurrection led by the president of the United States.” 

Kinzinger and Cheney were among 10 Republicans in the House who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the attack on the Capitol. Cheney faces a vote Wednesday by her colleagues, who may strip her of her leadership role as Republican Conference chair.

The Washington Post reported Saturday that the Republican Party’s own hidden internal polling data had shown weak numbers for Trump against Joe Biden in crucial voting districts. Despite those figures, and Trump’s clear defeat in the presidential election, party leaders are still staking their futures on him.

Kinzinger is telling it like it is!

Tony