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By Robert A. Vella

Before getting to the Sunday Focus, here are the latest numbers on the coronavirus pandemic plus a statistical revelation on some of those most vulnerable:

  • 321,257 infections and 13,699 deaths globally
  • 29,270 infections and 349 deaths in the U.S.

From:  Why is coronavirus so much more deadly for men than for women?

Italian health authorities last week reported that among 13,882 cases of COVID-19 and 803 deaths between Feb. 21 and Mar. 12, men accounted for 58% of all cases and 72% of deaths. Hospitalized men with COVID-19 were 75% more likely to die than were women hospitalized with the respiratory disease.

Those figures are in line with early accounts from China, where the novel coronavirus first appeared, and from South Korea, where detection and tracking of coronavirus infections have been very comprehensive.

[…]

The emerging picture of male vulnerability to coronavirus may be easily explained by a clear gender disparity with social and cultural roots: Across the world, men are much more likely to smoke cigarettes. That damages their lungs and primes them for inflammation and further damage when they are battling an infection.

My landlord raised my rent once again far exceeding the federal government’s official inflation rate.  Over the last four years, my rent has risen by over 29% which averages out to over 7 ¼% per year.  This year’s increase was announced just as the coronavirus pandemic became evident in the U.S.  It is commonly known around our apartment complex that the new landlord purchased the property as an investment strategy designed to take advantage of Portland, Oregon workers (and others fleeing high rents in urban areas) looking for cheaper homes in southwest Washington state.  It was also understood that large rent hikes would compel many longtime residents here (many of which who live on fixed incomes) to move out leaving vacancies which the landlord could then charge even higher rents to new residents.

Here are the U.S. inflation rates for the last four years:

  • 2019 = 1.7% (data available only for the first 6 months of the year)
  • 2018 = 2.4%
  • 2017 = 2.1%
  • 2016 = 1.3%

Although this kind of commercial exploitation is perfectly legal in most U.S. states, it is ethically and morally questionable during a national crisis in which the entire global economy is shutting down.  Profits-before-people got us into this mess, and it certainly won’t get us out of it.  Government, in its current dysfunctional state, is unlikely to help.  My governor is trying to stop evictions for nonpayment of rent during the pandemic, but that won’t stop price-gouging.  Renters who are being exploited need to speak out.  If enough public pressure is brought to bear, maybe these landlords might reconsider their actions.

Here are other examples of how the COVID-19 crisis is being exploited by various special interests primarily involving ideology and racism (please note how supposedly anti-socialist Republicans are now hypocritically advocating for socialistic policies to save President Trump’s skin):

From:  DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic

The Justice Department has quietly asked Congress for the ability to ask chief judges to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies — part of a push for new powers that comes as the coronavirus spreads through the United States.

Documents reviewed by POLITICO detail the department’s requests to lawmakers on a host of topics, including the statute of limitations, asylum and the way court hearings are conducted. POLITICO also reviewed and previously reported on documents seeking the authority to extend deadlines on merger reviews and prosecutions.

A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on the documents.

The move has tapped into a broader fear among civil liberties advocates and Donald Trump’s critics — that the president will use a moment of crisis to push for controversial policy changes. Already, he has cited the pandemic as a reason for heightening border restrictions and restricting asylum claims. He has also pushed for further tax cuts as the economy withers, arguing that it would soften the financial blow to Americans. And even without policy changes, Trump has vast emergency powers that he could legally deploy right now to try and slow the coronavirus outbreak.

From:  Ohio’s attorney general demanded abortion clinics stop providing surgical abortions, calling them ‘non-essential and elective’ amid coronavirus crisis

  • Ohio’s attorney general, Dave Yost, demanded all abortion clinics in the state stop performing abortions to comply with a state order against elective medical procedures.

  • Ohio, which has had some of the most aggressive coronavirus-prevention efforts, is also known for some of the most aggressive attempts nationwide to limit access to abortion.

  • “If you or your facility do not immediately stop performing non-essential or elective surgical abortions in compliance with the (health director’s) order, the Department of Health will take all appropriate measures,” Yost wrote in a letter to two abortion clinics.

  • Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio said it would keep its doors open and continue offering surgical abortions despite Yost’s order.

From:  Federal law enforcement document reveals white supremacists discussed using coronavirus as a bioweapon

WASHINGTON — White supremacists discussed plans to weaponize coronavirus via “saliva,” a “spray bottle” or “laced items,” according to a weekly intelligence brief distributed by a federal law enforcement division on Feb. 17.

Federal investigators appeared to be monitoring the white nationalists’ communications on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app that has become popular with neo-Nazis. In the conversations, the white supremacists suggested targeting law enforcement agents and “nonwhite” people with attacks designed to infect them with the coronavirus.

“Violent extremists continue to make bioterrorism a popular topic among themselves,” reads the intelligence brief written by the Federal Protective Service, which covered the week of Feb. 17-24. “White Racially Motivated Violent Extremists have recently commented on the coronavirus stating that it is an ‘OBLIGATION’ to spread it should any of them contract the virus.”

From:  Rep. Judy Chu says it’s dangerous for Trump to call coronavirus the ‘Chinese virus’

The chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American caucus on Saturday said it is “dangerous” for President Donald Trump to continue referring to Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus” at a time when misinformation has led to racist and xenophobic attacks against Asian Americans or anyone in the US who looks East Asian.

“It is dangerous for him to continue calling it the Chinese coronavirus,” Rep. Judy Chu, a California Democrat and the first Chinese American woman elected to Congress, told CNN’s Victor Blackwell on Saturday. “He is creating more xenophobia every single time he does that. And we can see the results in what’s happening to Asian Americans across this country.”

From:  Contrary to Trump’s Claim, A Pandemic Was Widely Expected at Some Point

At a White House briefing March 19, President Donald Trump said, “Nobody knew there’d be a pandemic or an epidemic of this proportion.” But that’s simply not the case.

[…]

A week before the Trump administration took office in January 2017, Obama administration officials focused on the dangers of a pandemic in a briefing for top Trump aides, according to Politico. One of the possible scenarios sketched out included a fast-spreading global disease leading some countries to impose travel bans.

In an article in Foreign Affairs, Lisa Monaco, Obama’s homeland security adviser, wrote, “We included a pandemic scenario because I believed then, and I have warned since, that emerging infectious disease was likely to pose one of the gravest risks for the new administration.”

The U.S. intelligence community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment for 2019 also aimed a spotlight on the probability of a pandemic.

“We assess that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or large-scale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support,” the report said.

The report said it anticipated “more frequent outbreaks of infectious diseases because of rapid unplanned urbanization, prolonged humanitarian crises, human incursion into previously unsettled land, expansion of international travel and trade, and regional climate change.”

From:  Mexican president passes coronavirus buck to allies, rivals, business

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – As Mexico scrambles to contain the coronavirus outbreak, many initiatives aimed at tempering the threat have come not from the president, but lesser officials, businesses and ordinary people.

Mexico’s peso has plunged to record lows against the dollar and analysts expect the economy to suffer a major hit.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says there is no cause for alarm, and is continuing to hold regular public rallies around Mexico. He argues the country must keep going to limit damage to the economy lest it hurt the poor and the elderly.

[…]

Some fear that failure to do enough may end up hurting the very people the president says he wants to protect.

From:  Push for Cash in Rescue Package Came From Unlikely Source: Conservatives

WASHINGTON — The idea to funnel cash directly to millions of Americans to help them weather the economic disaster ravaging the globe amid the coronavirus pandemic got its jump-start not from the liberal left, but from a more unlikely source: the most conservative reaches of the Republican Party.

Recognizing a looming calamity for anxious people who are losing their incomes because of a government-ordered shutdown of much of the nation’s economy, some senators who would normally be expected to block a direct federal payout to the poorest Americans, potentially costing $500 billion or more, instead got behind it early.

The idea is at the heart of an emerging economic stabilization package whose price tag was swelling beyond $1 trillion on Saturday as top Republicans and Democrats and Trump administration officials drew closer to an agreement that could be enacted within days.

32 thoughts on “Sunday Focus: The Exploitation of a Pandemic

  1. The rent situation you speak of is abhorrent. I live in a building for poor folks making under a certain amount of $$. The building, I just found out, will be under new management now and I’m terrified I’ll be forced to move again. I THINK this new management company will be keeping the same tax-break/fixed income rent situation as the old one because multiple people have just signed new leases under that system. But I’m not certain, so I’ve had no sleep the last two nights because I’m sick with worry over this. Hundreds of people will be forced to move from my place should this new group go ape shit with rent, including me. More sleepless nights are ahead for me. If not for sound leadership of Trump and the GOP under this current crisis, I’d TRULY be worried. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Although I personally have serious reservations and very cautious hope that I will EVER see those government checks (2x? 3x?) like many struggling middle-class Americans. Throwing money at a problem often results in a domino-effect of other problems. It becomes a bad can-of-worms. Yet, it is ALWAYS the most preferred method of “helping” the less fortunate by the mega-wealthy isn’t it? There are certainly several/many tax benefits/write-offs for them too.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Excellent point! If Republicans really wanted to help people severely impacted by this economic collapse, they would instead put that money into unemployment aid so that laid-off workers can keep their homes. IMO, what Trump and the GOP are doing is trying to buy votes for the election.

        Liked by 3 people

      • PT, surely you know by now that $$$$$ is the only language these folk know.

        Compassion? Sympathy? Concern? Personal Involvement?

        NOT in their vocabulary.

        Liked by 2 people

        • You are certainly correct about that Nan, I know. However, if there is at least ONE simple principle I do try to hold close and dear to my heart is this…

          The very least I can do for total strangers—whose verified track-record is not public or common knowledge—is to give them the benefit of the doubt straight off. I hope for that in return with strangers I meet. Everyone deserves that… with of course wise, reasonable forethought into WHAT they might be asking (conning?) me to do. But at the same time I totally know that “kindness of neutrality” is sometimes a disadvantage in gullibility. I realize that. I accept that one-time risk, perhaps two if I learn/know more facts.

          That said, I have known and do know personally many, many super mega-wealthy individuals and families. Mom retired from Mobil Oil. And this rule of thumb about them has always ALWAYS rung true: they become enslaved to their wealth, lifestyle, and material accumulations.

          It eventually reaches the point where our natural sensitivities of humane behavior, social and civil duties for the greater good that we’ve typically inherited from 100,000 years of evolution… decays and deteriorates to almost non-existent. As you mentioned Nan, their “Compassion? Sympathy? Concern? Personal Involvement?” and most of all empathy disappears or constantly gets bumped to lower and lower priorities. Their 24-hour days just gets crammed full of protecting and growing that wealth.

          Liked by 3 people

      • Hey Robert, want to share this 8-minute PBS mathematical and science video on COVID-19 and why it is so critical to be well-informed, diligent, and reacting based on proven facts!

        Share it freely if you like it. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

        • No kidding Nan! But I am guilty of ASSUMING most all American’s with at least a high school diploma or more… would have this common sense and PASSED their Algebra 1 & 2 classes and some basic Calculus!

          But wow, have I learned my lesson about America’s basic levels of science (biology, Earth sciences, etc.) and mathematics. I have been SO NAIVE about this for 2-3 decades. 😦

          Liked by 3 people

        • Yes, indeed I have and didn’t really realize it until my mid-20’s into my late 40’s when I’d been around most of the world (Sierra Leone & Liberia W. Africa) AND all over the USA… particularly when I went into many various impoverished areas/neighborhoods AND actually spent time WITH those impoverished families, almost 10-yrs Mississippi especially.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Robert, I wasn’t aware of that bit of news about the coronavirus being more deadly for men than women.

    Sorry about your excessive rent increase. It’s also a problem here in Los Angeles and accounts for a lot of the explosion of our homeless population.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Sounds as if you are dealing with the exact same Housing Costs vs. Cost of Living and Inflation that I am dealing with now too. Sorry to hear/read this Robert. 😦

        But hey, we both know this is/these are the proven consequences/results of hyper-Capitalism without necessary and sufficient regulation and oversight! DUH, right? 🙄

        And Robert, I’ll TRY not to point the finger at one specific political, mega-wealthy party in the U.S. or social institutions… with various crosses everywhere and pews with hymnals and books throughout. 🤐 😉

        Liked by 3 people

        • Yeah, rising housing costs vis-a-vis inflation is a common problem these days.

          Unrestrained capitalism is its own worst enemy because it inevitably causes economic collapse (e.g. Great Depression and Great Recession). And, which party was at the helm in 1929 and 2008? That’s right, Republicans.

          Liked by 3 people

        • Yep. And if truly good, honest, equitable people would just STUDY and learn their history, I mean FULL CONTEXTUAL history, they’d already know the best answers or right answers.

          But I have begun wondering Robert WHY my generation and those behind me do not have a CLUE as to how to research a topic, issue, or event(s) from an investigative journalist’s POV with a large bibliography, one-on-one interviews (if possible), or how to gather context at a local public library with TONS of resources. What tha FRACK happened over the last 30-40 years!? 🥺

          Liked by 3 people

        • The short answer is neoliberalism, the evisceration of public governance, the systematic disintegration of education, growing cultural animosity towards intellectualism and science, just to name a few.

          Liked by 3 people

        • Agreed! 👍🏼 From the outstanding book The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters:

          Universal education, the greater empowerment of women and minorities, the growth of a middle class, and increased social mobility all threw a minority minority of experts and the majority of citizens into direct contact, after nearly two centuries in which they rarely had to interact with each other. And yet the result has not been a greater respect for knowledge, but the growth of an irrational conviction among Americans that everyone is as smart as everyone else. This is the opposite of education, which should aim to make people, no matter how smart or accomplished they are, learners for the rest of their lives. […]

          And some of us, as indelicate as it might be to say it, are not intelligent enough to know when we’re wrong, no matter how good our intentions. Just as we are not all equally able to carry a tune or draw a straight line, many people simply cannot recognize the gaps in their own knowledge or understand their own inability to construct a logical argument.
          Tom Nichols, The Death of Expertise (p. 7-8). Oxford University Press

          Liked by 1 person

        • I know sometimes I fall into that trap of “feeling” like an expert when the reality dictates otherwise! 🤢 Yuk! I think I have fever Robert. Am I coming down with… with… OMG!!!…

          Ferocia-trumpanitis?

          Liked by 1 person

  3. The housing crisis is a worldwide problem on which ‘TV Ontario’ (our sort of PBS) has been doing a series called ‘The Housing Gap’. It includes a great explanatory documentary called ‘Push’, and I wonder if you can access it on YouTube. Well worth time, especially while ‘social-distancing’ in coronavirus times…. Here’s a link in case it works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWSVG9nsRa4

    Liked by 3 people

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