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.
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):
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.