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Evolutionary Astrology Q&A / Re: Democracy
« Last post by soleil on Nov 27, 2021, 09:31 PM »
Hi Rad,

Thank you for those. Re the gerrymander issue, this bit from one of the articles sums it up:

“As long as Democrats sit in this mañana moment and do nothing on federal voting rights legislation, there’s nothing to stop Republicans from getting whatever they want." 

And what the R's want is to eliminate democracy and shift to an autocracy ruled by white supremacists---one in which the Democrats are never allowed to get power again.

As for Trump's chances in 2024, who knows....maybe fate will intervene and prevent that.


Evolutionary Astrology Q&A / Re: Democracy
« Last post by Rad on Nov 27, 2021, 09:37 AM »
Laser-focused on 2020, Trump seeks a Michigan Legislature that could help him in 2024

Trump has endorsed seven candidates for state House or Senate seats who have made election administration and investigating last year’s vote central to their platforms.

Nov. 27, 2021
By Allan Smith and Henry J. Gomez

Jon Rocha was settling in to watch the new “Ghostbusters” with his young daughter at the movies last week when he got the news: Former President Donald Trump had endorsed his bid for state representative in Michigan.

“I was checking my phone to make sure it was on silent, and all of a sudden I got a notification that I was tagged in a tweet” about the endorsement, Rocha said. He was unaware that Trump’s backing was coming. “Imagine going through an entire movie with your phone blowing up.”

It’s unusual for a former president to endorse in races so deep down the ballot, especially nearly nine months before the Republican primary. But Trump has backed seven candidates for state House or Senate seats in Michigan, an electoral battleground that he lost narrowly to Joe Biden last year — more than anywhere else. Most of the endorsements, including Rocha’s, were announced in recent weeks. All of the candidates have one thing in common: They’ve made election administration and investigating last year’s vote central to their platforms.

Trump’s focus on the state illuminates just how driven he is to exact revenge on those who haven’t supported his baseless claim that the last election was stolen from him. It’s also a play to install allies who could be helpful should he run for president again in 2024 and find himself locked in another close race. The Republican-controlled Legislature spent eight months investigating the results of the 2020 presidential election and found no reason to doubt their legitimacy. GOP leaders have also refused to accede to Trump’s demands for a ballot review like the one Republicans authorized in Arizona, which found no proof of fraud and concluded that Biden defeated Trump in the state by even more votes than the certified tally showed.

“Michigan needs a new legislature,” Trump wrote in his Nov. 15 endorsement of Rachelle Smit for state representative. “The cowards there now are too spineless to investigate Election Fraud.”

Trump also has endorsed candidates for attorney general and secretary of state, a key position in charge of election administration, as well as GOP primary challengers to two Michigan members of Congress who voted to impeach him in January after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an effort to block Biden’s victory. All of his picks have questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election results.

He hasn’t yet endorsed in Michigan’s crowded Republican primary for governor, but he has met with contenders eager for his blessing.

“President Trump is committed to saving America and saving Michigan by endorsing and supporting candidates up and down the ballot who will fight for his America First agenda,” Taylor Budowich, a Trump spokesperson, said in a statement to NBC News.

But Trump has made it clear that denying the results of the 2020 presidential election is central to his support, if not his agenda.

“There are so many great Trump people in Michigan,” he wrote in his endorsement of Rocha. “I love Michigan. It has some of the best people, and some of the worst elected officials.”

Trump’s attempt to undermine the last presidential election has met with heavy resistance from some Republicans in Michigan.

Jason Roe, then the executive director of the Michigan GOP, told Politico last year that there was no fraud and that Trump had no one but himself to blame for his loss. State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and then-House Speaker Lee Chatfield, who met with Trump at the White House after the election, ultimately declined to interfere. State Sen. Ed McBroom investigated Trump’s claims before declaring he had found no evidence of widespread fraud.

But there also have been signs of enduring loyalty to Trump. Meshawn Maddock, who later became a co-chair of the state party, helped organize buses to Washington in January and spoke briefly at a rally there before the riot at the Capitol. Her husband, state Rep. Matt Maddock, scored Trump’s endorsement for his re-election bid this month.

“The Trump train is coming and I wouldn’t want to be in the way,” Maddock said in an email, adding two arm-flexing emojis to underscore his message.

Jeff Timmer, a former Michigan GOP chair who has soured on the party and backed Biden last year, said Trump’s focus on the state is the result of his going “so far down this rabbit hole” about 2020.

“What started off as talking points about the election being rigged has become the sole gospel in his mind,” Timmer said. “He actually believes the election was stolen from him in Detroit and that he actually did win Michigan. That might be propelling a lot of this attention.”

Biden’s 3-point victory over Trump in Michigan — a 154,000-vote win — has been affirmed by court rulings, state canvassers and risk-limiting audits, which examine samples of the overall vote to confirm whether the outcome is correct. A number of claims that had circulated about the vote were debunked in the McBroom report, outraging Trump, who issued multiple statements.

The report, supported by every Republican on the state Senate Oversight Committee, was the product of an eight-month inquiry, and it concluded that there was no basis or evidence to support the Trump campaign's repeated claims that the election results failed to reflect the will of the voters.

Mike Detmer, a state Senate candidate backed by Trump, is challenging incumbent Lana Theis, who signed off on the report. Detmer said he believes that if the Trump-backed candidates win seats next fall, “we're going to at least have a coalition of people that are working for the same goal.”

“I just want to find out the truth,” Detmer said of 2020. “Was it the ‘Big Lie’? Or is there something more to it?”

Detmer, who fell short in a U.S. House primary last year, made local headlines then for defending the neo-fascist Proud Boys on Facebook and separately suggesting on Twitter that people should face “firing squads” if they are deemed to have engaged in “fixing” or “election fraud.”

Trump’s candidates for the Legislature have appeared at a number of election fraud rallies throughout Michigan over the past year. Rocha, who initially was running for a U.S. House seat this cycle until Trump backed one of his opponents, was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, although he said that he “never got close to the actual steps” and that he was unaware of the severity of the riot inside until he left at 3:30 p.m. and regained a cell signal.

“We need to restore the faith in the election, because people are not moving on,” he said. “They are just as angry today, a year later, as they were a year ago.”

Rocha is the only candidate who is running in a Democratic-leaning district, while Detmer is the only candidate taking on a GOP incumbent. Still, much about the races is subject to change when redistricting is completed and Michigan’s new electoral maps are finalized.

Lavora Barnes, the chair of the state Democratic Party, said Trump’s endorsements “reflect his out-of-touch and unfounded wild conspiracy theories.”

“Michigan voters,” she said, “will not be fooled by his support of fringe candidates that are attempting to keep the ‘Big Lie’ alive.”

Tudor Dixon, a Republican candidate for governor who has met with Trump to seek his endorsement, sees his interest in Michigan as being more about the future — specifically 2024, when he could run again for president.

“Michigan was a huge state for him in 2016, and he sees that, as Michigan goes, sometimes goes the nation,” said Dixon, a conservative commentator. “So for him, whether it is Donald Trump running in 2024 or he is supporting another candidate in 2024, he is looking forward to the future.”


'Dangerous' Trump will disrupt coverage of the 2024 election: ABC's Karl

Tom Boggioni
Raw Story
November 27, 2021

In an interview with Deadline, ABC White House correspondent Jonathan Karl predicted a Donald Trump run for the presidency in 2024 will present even more and new problems for reporters covering his third presidential bid, saying it will be one of the "greatest challenges" they will ever face.

In the interview where he explained how he was able to write his bombshell book "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show," Karl was asked what the future holds for the former president should he make a third stab at running -- and how the press should cover it in light of how the ex-president left office casting a cloud of suspicion about the 2020 election results.

In Karl's opinion, Trump has become more dangerous and reporters should proceed with caution.

Noting the way Trump was able to create confusion late election day 2020, by preemptively claiming he was going to win as the results showed the opposite, Karl suggested, "How do you cover a candidate who is effectively anti-democratic? How do you cover a candidate who is running both against whoever the Democratic candidate is but also running against the very democratic system that makes all of this possible?"

"I think it's tremendously challenging, because you know that — especially now, more than ever — that he is just saying things that are not true, that are designed to misinform, that are designed to erode credibility and belief in our electoral system. And it's actually dangerous," he told Deadline. "So how do you cover a debate? How do you cover a speech? How do you sit down for long live interviews with him as a candidate? I think these are really difficult questions because he is obviously not a typical candidate."

Adding that the New York businessman never was a "typical candidate," Karl claimed -- after four years in office and the way he left office -- the Trump will present new difficulties.

"Now he has been demonstrated to be a candidate that is trying to destroy the very system that makes this election possible. And yet we cover campaigns. That's what we do," he explained before warning, "It is a very difficult, precarious situation, and I don't know how it is going to play out, to be honest."

You can read the whole interview here: https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/q-jonathan-karl-betrayal-why-153004948.html
Evolutionary Astrology Q&A / Re: ENVIRONMENT, CULTURE, WORLD NEWS
« Last post by Rad on Nov 27, 2021, 09:30 AM »
US says 'all options' on the table over Russian troop build-up near Ukraine

November 27, 2021

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -All options are on the table in how to respond to Russia's 'large and unusual' troop build-up near Ukraine's border, and the NATO alliance will decide what the next move will be following consultations next week, the State Department's top U.S. diplomat for European affairs said on Friday.

"As you can appreciate, all options are on the table and there's a toolkit that includes a whole range of options," Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried told reporters in a telephone briefing.

"It's now for the alliance to decide what are the next moves that NATO wants to take," she said, speaking ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Latvia and Sweden next week to attend NATO and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meetings, where she said Moscow's "large and unusual" troop build up would be topping the agenda.

"Next week, we will talk about our assessment of what's happening on Russia's border with Ukraine and we will begin that conversations of what are the options that are on the table and what it is that NATO as an alliance would like to do together," she said.

U.S., NATO and Ukrainian officials have raised the alarm in recent weeks over what they say are unusual Russian troop movements closer to Ukraine, suggesting that Moscow may be poised to launch a attack on its neighbor, accusations Russia has rejected as fear-mongering.

Asked if Blinken was going to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while in Stockholm, Donfried said she had no announcements to make on such a bilateral but added: "Stay tuned."

On Friday, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Ukraine's head of presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, in a call spoke about their concerns over Russian military activities near Ukraine's border.

The two discussed Russia's "harsh rhetoric" towards Ukraine and agreed all sides should pursue diplomatic efforts to ease tensions, National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said in a statement. "Mr. Sullivan underscored the United States' unwavering commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," Horne said.

The head of Ukraine's military intelligence told the Military Times outlet this weekend that Russia had more than 92,000 troops massed around Ukraine's borders and was preparing for an attack by the end of January or beginning of February.

Moscow has dismissed such suggestions as inflammatory and said it was not threatening anyone and defended its right to deploy its troops as it wished.

Donfried was asked what the United States saw specifically different in Russia's troop build up this time, but she did not elaborate aside from saying it was 'large and unusual.'

Russia's intentions remain unclear, and East-West tensions are running high with Ukraine, Russia and NATO all conducting military drills and Moscow accusing Washington of rehearsing a nuclear attack on Russia earlier this month.

Asked if recent escalation has prompted Washington to more seriously consider deploying permanent troops in NATO's eastern flank, Donfried did not elaborate on the specific point but said NATO foreign ministers next week would be discussing the wider strategy for alliance's posturing in 21st century.

At the OSCE meeting in Stockholm, Donfried said, Blinken will also raise Russia's occupation of Ukrainian and Georgian territories, the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and the crisis in Belarus.
Hi All,

Here is the chart for Madeleine Madden The Wheel of Time actor.  ‘As an Aboriginal woman, my life is politicised’

Early life

Madden grew up around Redfern, a Sydney inner city suburb, and attended Rose Bay Secondary College. The daughter of Lee Madden (Gadigal and Bundjalung) and art curator and writer Hetti Perkins, Madden grew up in a political family; she is the great-granddaughter of Arrernte elder Hetty Perkins and the granddaughter of activist and soccer player Charles Perkins.] Her aunt is director Rachel Perkins. She has two older sisters and two younger half-sisters, including actress Miah Madden. Their father died in a car accident in 2003.


In 2010, at age 13, Madden became the first teenager in Australia to deliver an address to the nation, when she delivered a two-minute speech on the future of Indigenous Australians. It was broadcast to 6 million viewers on every free-to-air television network in Australia.


Madden starred in Australia's first indigenous teen drama, Ready for This, and in the critically applauded Redfern Now. She has also starred in The Moodys, Jack Irish, My Place and The Code. In 2016 she starred in the miniseries Tomorrow, When the War Began which is based on the John Marsden series of young adult books. In 2018 she played Marion Quade in the miniseries Picnic at Hanging Rock, Crystal Swan in the TV miniseries Mystery Road and Immy DuPain in the series Pine Gap. She currently stars as Egwene al'Vere in Amazon's adaptation of The Wheel of Time novels.


Madden has starred in short films by Deborah Mailman, and Meryl Tankard and co-starred with Christina Ricci and Jack Thompson in Around the Block. Her first film acting job was at 8 years old. She aims to become a director in the future.

When she was 21, Madden made her big Hollywood debut as Sammy in the 2019 Nickelodeon film Dora and the Lost City of Gold.

More: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2021/nov/23/the-wheel-of-time-actor-madeleine-madden-as-an-aboriginal-woman-my-life-is-politicised

Her natal Lilith is 3 Libra, N.Node 1 Capricorn, S.Node 25 Taurus. Her natal Amazon is 6 Aries, N.Node 4 Taurus, and the S.Node is 7 Sagittarius.

Please feel free to comment or ask questions.

Goddess Bless, Rad
Evolutionary Astrology Q&A / Re: ENVIRONMENT, CULTURE, WORLD NEWS
« Last post by Darja on Nov 27, 2021, 05:11 AM »
Covid News: Biden Restricts Travel from Southern Africa 

The United States joined several countries that acted on Friday to restrict travelers from southern Africa in an effort to slow the spread of a new coronavirus variant. South Africans complained the travel bans were unfair.

United States will bar travelers from 8 countries in southern Africa.

President Biden will restrict travel from South Africa and seven other African countries to try to contain a troubling new variant of the coronavirus, senior administration officials said on Friday, though they said it would be impossible to prevent it from entering the United States.

Starting on Monday, the administration will prohibit travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi from coming to the United States, the officials said.

The travel ban will not apply to American citizens or lawful permanent residents, officials said. But they will need to show a negative coronavirus test before coming to the United States.

Mr. Biden made the decision after he was briefed by advisers including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who said in an interview Friday that the variant appeared to be spreading rapidly and that he and other health officials in the United States were consulting with South African scientists. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in a statement late Friday that no cases of the new variant had been identified in the United States.

The White House announced the decision after the World Health Organization said the newly detected version of the virus, labeled Omicron, was “a variant of concern,” a category for dangerous variants that may spread quickly, cause severe disease or decrease the effectiveness of vaccines or treatments.
Coronavirus Variants and Mutations

Tracking recent mutations, variants and lineages.

“I’ve decided that we’re going to be cautious,” Mr. Biden told reporters in Nantucket. “We don’t know a lot about the variant except that it is a great concern and seems to spread rapidly.”

By imposing the travel restrictions, the administration will not stop the virus from coming to the United States. But it can give health officials and pharmaceutical companies time to determine whether the current vaccines work against the new variant — and if not, to create new vaccines that do.

“It’s going to buy us some time,” Dr. Fauci said. “It’s not going to be possible to keep this infection out of the country. The question is: Can you slow it down?”

Dr. Fauci said the new variant has about 30 mutations, and roughly 10 of them are on a part of the virus that is associated with transmissibility and immune protection. That suggests the virus may be more transmissible and may escape the current vaccines “to an extent yet to be determined.”

He said there had been some breakthrough infections among those who had recovered from the Delta variant, and among those who were vaccinated.

But at the same time, he said, scientists do not know the severity of the infections caused by the new variant. It is entirely possible that it spreads more quickly but causes less severe disease.

“You don’t want to say don’t worry, and you don’t want to say you’ve got to worry yourself sick, because we’re gathering information rapidly,” he said, adding, “Even though the numbers are still small, the doubling time is pretty rapid and the slope of the increase is really rather sharp.”

Biden administration officials said they were continuing to work with health officials in other countries to learn more about the variant.

“Restricting travel is going to slow its coming, not stop it from coming,” said Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, chair of the department of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania and an adviser to the president during his transition. “The fact that it’s coming here is inevitable. The environment in which it comes may not be inevitable. We can alter the environment.”

Mr. Biden said on Friday that the rise of the Omicron variant was another reason for vaccinated Americans to get boosters and unvaccinated Americans to get inoculated — a point Dr. Fauci echoed. And Mr. Biden said the development should push the international community to donate more vaccines to nations suffering from a lack of access or poor vaccination rates.

Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota who also advised Mr. Biden during his transition, said the administration had little choice on implementing the travel ban.

But Dr. Osterholm said it could take time before scientists know if the current vaccines are effective against the variant, and how transmissible it is. One way to figure that out is through laboratory studies, which will take several weeks, he said. Another way is to follow breakthrough cases in people who are already vaccinated, which could take months.


‘A core threat to our democracy’: threat of political violence growing across US

Republicans’ muted response to Paul Gosar’s behavior has intensified fears about where incendiary rhetoric may lead

Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted Republican house minority leader Kevin McCarthy for failing to condemn Gosar’s tweet.

Joan E Greve in Washington
Sat 27 Nov 2021 10.00 GMT

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stood on the House floor and implored her colleagues to hold Paul Gosar accountable for sharing an altered anime video showing him killing her and attacking Joe Biden.

“Our work here matters. Our example matters. There is meaning in our service,” Ocasio-Cortez said in her speech last week. “And as leaders in this country, when we incite violence with depictions against our colleagues, that trickles down into violence in this country.”

House Republicans heard Ocasio-Cortez’s impassioned plea and responded with a collective shrug. All but three Republican members voted against censuring Gosar and stripping him of his committee assignments, while every House Democrat supported the resolution.

The Gosar incident served as the latest data point in an alarming trend in American politics. In a year that began with a deadly insurrection at the US Capitol, lawmakers have seen a sharp rise in the number of threats against them. Republicans’ muted response to Gosar’s behavior has intensified fears about the possibility of more political violence in America in the months to come.

Jackie Speier, the Democratic congresswoman who spearheaded the effort to censure Gosar, warned that Republicans’ refusal to hold him accountable could have dangerous repercussions.

“If you are silent about a member of Congress wanting to murder another member of Congress, even in a ‘cartoon’, you are inciting violence,” Speier told the Guardian. “And if you incite violence, it begets violence.”

That cycle is already playing out in the halls of Congress. The US Capitol police reported earlier this year that the agency had seen a 107% increase in threats against members compared with 2020. The USCP chief, Tom Manger, has said he expects the total number of threats against members to surpass 9,000 this year, compared with 3,939 such threats in 2017.

Some of those threats have been on vivid display in the past month. In addition to Gosar’s violent video, the 13 House Republicans who voted in support of the bipartisan infrastructure bill earlier month have received threatening messages.

Representative Fred Upton of Michigan publicly shared one such message, in which a man called the Republican congressman a “fucking piece of shit traitor”. “I hope you die. I hope everybody in your fucking family dies,” the man said in the message.

And those kinds of threats are not reserved solely for members of Congress. Election workers and school board members also say they are receiving more violent messages. According to an April survey commissioned by the Brennan Center for Justice, nearly one in three election officials are concerned about their safety while on the job.

Stephen Spaulding, senior counsel at the government watchdog group Common Cause, described such violent tactics as “a core threat to our democracy”.

“The threat of violence is really to intimidate people from doing their jobs and upholding their oath of office,” Spaulding said. “When you start having these violent episodes enter the system, it is totally counter to the way that we are supposed to engage in open and fair debate about policy issues in this country.”

There are already signs that fears over personal safety are pushing lawmakers out of office. When the Republican congressman Anthony Gonzalez announced in September that he would not seek re-election, he said his vote to impeach Donald Trump for inciting the insurrection had affected the lives of his family members.

Gonzalez told the New York Times that, at one point earlier this year, unformed police officers had to escort him and his family through the Cleveland airport because of security concerns.

“That’s one of those moments where you say, ‘Is this really what I want for my family when they travel, to have my wife and kids escorted through the airport?’” Gonzalez said.

Even though threats are affecting their own caucus members, House Republicans rejected the opportunity to send a message by voting to censure Gosar. Instead, the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, attacked the censure resolution as a Democratic “abuse of power” and suggested he would award Gosar with “better committee assignments” whenever Republicans regain control of the chamber.

“He’s got a number of radical extremists in his caucus that are very effective communicators to the right fringe, and he can’t really rein them in because reining them in means they will attack him,” Speier said. “You might as well put a brass ring in Kevin McCarthy’s nose because they’re pulling him around.”

Dr Joanne Freeman, a Yale history professor and author of The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War, warned that McCarthy’s response to Gosar’s behavior may encourage similar incidents in the future.

After all, there are other historical examples of lawmakers being rewarded for violent behavior, Freeman noted. After Congressman Preston Brooks attacked Senator Charles Sumner with a cane over his anti-slavery views in 1856, he resigned from the House but was then quickly re-elected by South Carolina voters.

“He’s going to be rewarded for it in some ways, and because of that, there will be others that follow in that model,” Freeman said. “It’s a moment that shows how far party is above government and above institutions of government and above institutional stability.”

While acknowledging the possibility of future violence within Congress, Freeman added that the Gosar incident could also provide an opportunity for a course correction in political discourse.

“We’re in a moment of extreme contingency, and indeed things might become much worse,” Freeman said. “But during that kind of moment of extreme contingency where anything can happen, those are also moments where it’s possible to make positive change.”

For Speier, Gosar’s behavior served as a reminder of how far some of her colleagues have strayed from their duties to constituents. The California congresswoman, who announced her retirement last week, urged fellow members to focus on advancing policy rather than spewing violent rhetoric to raise money and rack up retweets.

“I love this institution. It’s such a privilege to serve,” Speier said. “We’re given the opportunity to fashion legislation to make lives better for the American people. And that’s what we should be doing.”


Biden sees gains in supply chain battle, but the fight isn’t over

New problems arise as old ones are fixed

WA Post

President Biden’s claim to have eased bottlenecks at a vital U.S. port complex marks an initial win in what is likely to prove a long campaign to free Americans from tangled supply chains.

The president in recent days cited progress in moving shipping containers off Southern California’s crowded docks and a decline in spot rates for ocean cargo as evidence that the administration’s push to ensure that store shelves are stocked for the holidays is paying off.

“Because of the actions we’ve taken, things have begun to change,” Biden said in a speech at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Coupled with assurances of adequate inventories from retailers including Walmart and Target, the sunny shipping news represented a welcome development for Biden. The president’s public approval ratings have sagged in recent weeks as consumers soured on goods shortages and the highest inflation in 30 years.

How to buy gifts in a supply chain crisis

Yet even as Biden took credit for the turnaround, industry groups and logistics specialists warned that a return to the smooth flow of goods that was typical before the pandemic remains a long way off.

“It’s still a hot mess,” said Stephen Lamar, president of the American Apparel and Footwear Association. “We have to dig ourselves out of a daunting hole to get a sense of anything like normalcy, and that’s going to take a long, long time.”

Administration officials in recent weeks have steered supply chain participants toward coordinated action to clear clogged freight channels, including calling for round-the-clock dock work. And the mountains of freight marooned on wharves have slowly started to shrink.

Inside America's Broken Supply Chain

But the goods pipeline won’t really operate normally until Americans return to their traditional spending patterns, abandoned amid the pandemic. And there is no sign such a shift is imminent. Likewise, some of the president’s policy remedies, including $17 billion in new port spending and potential antitrust moves against the three main shipping alliances, will take years to produce benefits.

Disjointed supply chains have become a distinguishing feature of the global recovery, affecting each of 45 economies surveyed by Oxford Economics. Current disruptions are likely to peak before year’s end and “mostly ease” by the second half of next year, the investment firm said, citing falling shipping rates and signs that companies are succeeding in rebuilding depleted inventories.

Spot rates to send containers from China to the U.S. West Coast have dropped 25 percent in less than three weeks, as the holiday cargo tide recedes, according to the Freightos index. But in a reminder of today’s unusual conditions, the current $14,185-per-container cost remains more than 10 times its pre-pandemic level.

As supply hiccups escalated this summer, the White House formed a task force drawing on multiple Cabinet agencies and appointed a “ports envoy” to untangle the cargo jams.

The cost of delay

Quick improvements proved elusive, since the nation’s supply chain is almost entirely a private-sector enterprise. John Porcari, the president’s ports envoy, has focused on jawboning cargo carriers, terminal operators, port directors, trucking companies and retailers in hopes of producing a consensus on needed steps.

The most visible progress came earlier this month following port officials’ threats to levy daily fines on containers left clogging the docks. Within weeks, dockworkers had whittled the 95,000 shipping containers blocking L.A. terminals’ work areas down to 71,000, according to Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles. The neighboring Long Beach facility saw similar gains.

Citing significant improvement, the ports have now delayed implementation of the fines until Monday. But carriers, which face potential multimillion-dollar penalties, are hounding customers to collect their goods.

“They send me an email every day. They’ve put on a lot of pressure,” said Craig Grossgart, senior vice president for Seko Logistics. “It’s very consistent. Every single day without fail.”

Dockworkers also are clearing space by shifting containers full of out-of-season goods, like patio furniture, to lots near the water, including a mothballed L.A. terminal once used for coal exports. Many of these containers would have occupied truck trailers, known as chassis, which now are free to transport other goods.

Fewer boots, more slippers: How a shortage of shipping containers is changing what shows up on shelves

“That’s going to improve the overall fluidity,” said Val Noel, chief operations officer for Trac Intermodal, a chassis provider.

Yet even as loaded containers are moving out, empty containers bound for Asia are moving in. Cargo carriers have deployed a handful of dedicated vessels known as “sweepers” to retrieve thousands of empties. But the ships are much smaller than the typical container ship arriving from China and can only make a dent in the growing container pile.

More than 100,000 metal boxes are stranded at the twin Southern California ports, slowing normal terminal operations, according to Matt Schrap, chief executive officer of the Harbor Trucking Association.

Other administration initiatives have been less successful.

Last month, the White House announced that the two California ports would begin operating around-the-clock, seven days a week to clear the cargo jam. But more than a month later, that remains only an aspiration.

No terminal at either port is truly open on a 24-7 basis. One of seven container terminals in Long Beach is open 24 hours, four days a week on a trial basis.

Truckers generally are not interested in picking up shipments in the predawn darkness, since few inland warehouses are open at that hour to receive them. Many terminals also require truckers to drop off particular brands of empty containers, further complicating the pickup and drop-off process.

From ports to rail yards, global supply chains struggle amid virus outbreaks in the developing world

For months, the most visible sign of supply chain dysfunction has been the floating traffic jam off the Southern California coast as container ships lined up to await an unloading berth.

Before the pandemic, ships typically sailed directly from Asia to a spot along the docks. But in recent weeks, more than 80 ships each day could be glimpsed swinging at anchor a few miles offshore.

Effective Nov. 16, a new queuing policy took effect, which essentially shifted the seaborne traffic jam farther from the coast. Instead of parking within sight of the docks, ships will now be forced to loiter 150 miles from shore.

The maritime industry groups that developed the new procedure, including the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, said the goal was “to improve safety and air quality” by moving container ships.

The shift has had the added advantage of triggering a decline in one of the most closely watched indicators of supply chain trouble. From 86 ships on the day the new policy took effect, the number of anchored container vessels has fallen to 61, according to the nonprofit Marine Exchange.

As holiday shipping volumes drop, the supply chain may get a temporary respite. But fresh headaches loom in 2022, including potential labor unrest before the expiration of the dockworkers’ contract at the end of June.

There also is little sign that Americans’ demand for imported goods is cooling. On Wednesday, White House economists noted that consumer spending on goods, as a share of total consumption, remains unusually high.

Unless Americans devote a larger share of their spending to services such as restaurant meals, hotel stays and concert tickets, and buy fewer goods that need to be shipped to their homes, the supply chain will struggle.

“The worst is behind us,” said Thomas O’Brien, executive director of the Center for International Trade and Transportation at California State University in Long Beach. “But it’s going to take some time not only to get the backlog cleared, but also to meet the still-accelerating consumer demand. That’s going to keep these cargo ships full and coming.”


Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on public lands and waters, Interior Department says

WA Post

In an effort to boost revenue and protect the environment, the Biden administration on Friday laid out plans to make fossil fuel companies pay more to drill on federal lands and waters.

The 18-page Interior Department report describes an “outdated” federal oil and gas leasing program that “fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs.”

The document calls for increasing the government’s royalty rate — the 12.5 percent of profits fossil fuel developers must pay to the federal government in exchange for drilling on public lands — to be more in line with the higher rates charged by most private landowners and major oil- and gas-producing states. It also makes the case for raising the bond companies must set aside for cleanup before they begin new development.

Though Friday’s report focuses on the fiscal case for updating the leasing program, Interior officials say they will also consider how to incorporate the real-world toll of climate change into the price of permits for new fossil fuel extraction. The Biden administration this year set its “social cost of carbon” at $51 per ton of emissions, but suggested the number could go even higher as researchers develop new estimates of the damage caused by raging wildfires, deadly heat, crop-destroying droughts and catastrophic floods.

“The direct and indirect impacts associated with oil and gas development on our nation’s land, water, wildlife, and the health and security of communities — particularly communities of color, who bear a disproportionate burden of pollution — merit a fundamental rebalancing of the federal oil and gas program,” the report says.

But many activists were dissatisfied with the document, which they say breaks President Biden’s campaign promise to ban new oil and gas leasing on public lands.

“We are destroying life on Earth by extracting fossil fuels,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The process needs to end, not be reformed.”

Economic analyses suggest the changes to royalty and bonding rates will increase revenue, but they will not significantly curb carbon emissions.

After a summer during which 1 in 3 Americans experienced a climate disaster, Spivak compared the administration’s plans to “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”

The American Petroleum Institute’s Frank Macchiarola criticized the proposal for increasing the cost of fuel development in the United States.

“During one of the busiest travel weeks of the year when rising costs of energy are even more apparent to Americans, the Biden Administration is sending mixed signals,” Macchiarola, API’s senior vice president for policy, economics and regulatory affairs, said in a statement.

The long-awaited Interior Department report comes just days after Biden released 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to combat rising gasoline prices. Earlier this month, Biden also approved the largest sale of offshore oil and gas leases in U.S. history, which a government analysis said could generate up to 1.1 billion barrels of oil and 4.42 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the coming decades.

The report also coincides with efforts from congressional Democrats to pass a suite of oil and gas leasing changes included in the Build Back Better budget deal. The version of the bill passed by the House last month includes provisions that would raise the minimum royalty rate for onshore drilling for the first time in a century, shorten the length of leases from 10 to five years and eliminate a noncompetitive program that lets speculators buy leases for as little as $1.50 per acre.

That legislation now rests in the hands of the Senate, where Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) — a powerful Democrat from a fossil fuel-producing state — has said he wanted to review the Interior Department’s leasing report before agreeing to new laws.

The Interior Department is able to increase royalty and bonding rates on its own. But enshrining the higher rates in legislation would shield the policies from the court battles that have held up other environmental initiatives.

In a statement, House Natural Resources Committee chairman Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) called the current leasing program a “public subsidy for oil and gas drilling and extraction” and said the Interior report helps make the case for congressional action.

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Friday’s report does not propose a new royalty rate, though officials have expressed openness to higher rates like those required by most oil- and gas-producing states, including North Dakota and Texas.

Raising the royalty rate to 18.75 percent — the rate charged for drilling in deep waters offshore — would generate an additional $1 billion per year between now and 2050, according to research by Brian Prest, an economist at the think tank Resources for the Future. A royalty rate of 25 percent for both on- and offshore drilling would double that number to nearly $2 billion annually. Neither policy would significantly impact energy prices for U.S. households.

But nor would they make much of a dent in greenhouse gas emissions, Prest said in testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee this spring. Less than 10 percent of oil and gas produced in the United States comes from Interior-controlled land, and cuts to U.S. production will be partly offset by increases in other countries. Prest estimated that the reductions from raising the onshore royalty rate to 18.75 percent would amount to just 0.1 percent of U.S. annual emissions.

Changing the bonding rate could have a more significant environmental impact, according to University of Chicago economist Ryan Kellogg.

The Interior Department said its lands contain scores of “orphaned wells” — abandoned oil and gas infrastructure the owners of which have disappeared, gone bankrupt or been lost to history. These facilities can continue to leak pollution for years, but the current minimum bond rate — just $25,000 for all a company’s facilities across an entire state — is not enough clean up even one shuttered well.

“Each one of these wells is a little time bomb in the ground that is ultimately going to leak methane” — a potent greenhouse gas, Kellogg said.

Raising the bonding rate ensures that funds for plugging old wells are dedicated ahead of time, rather than as an afterthought, he said.

The Interior Department document also calls for policy changes to discourage speculation and give communities more input in the leasing process.

Currently, there is no requirement that bidders on leases be publicly identified. Leases that don’t get sold at competitive auctions are put into a “noncompetitive” pool from which companies can rent land for a small administrative fee. This leads to firms buying and reselling leases at a higher price, the agency says — generating profits for speculators, rather than taxpayers. And it creates an incentive for companies to purchase leases even if they have no plans to develop, preventing that land from being used for recreation, habitat restoration or other purposes.

Many of these shortcomings have been identified in decades of reports from the Government Accountability Office and the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General.

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« Last post by Darja on Nov 27, 2021, 04:59 AM »
Solomon Islands unrest: three bodies found in burnt-out building

The badly burnt victims were discovered in a building in Chinatown in Honiara after days of rioting

Charley Piringi and agencies
Sat 27 Nov 2021 04.49 GMT

The bodies of three people have been discovered in a burnt-out building in the Solomon Islands capital of Honiara, the first reported deaths after days of rioting.

The charred bodies were discovered in a store in the Chinatown district of Honiara, police said on Saturday.

Australia’s early intervention can help Solomon Islands but the roots of the conflict run deep
Read more

A security guard, Edie Soa, said the bodies had been found in the OK Mart in Honiara’s Chinatown on Friday night.

“Three of them were in the same room with a cash box and money on the floor,” he said.

Many buildings in the Chinatown district have been torched and Soa said the bodies were very badly burnt.

“We couldn’t tell if they are Chinese people or locals.”

Police said forensic teams had launched an investigation and were still on the scene but that the cause of the deaths was unclear.

The streets of the capital remained relatively quiet on Saturday morning as locals begin to assess the damage left by days of rioting. More than 100 people have been arrested.

A curfew had been imposed on the restive capital overnight after a third day of violence that saw the prime minister’s home come under attack and swathes of the city reduced to smouldering ruins.

Australian peacekeepers, who arrived in the country late on Thursday, also joined police on the streets to restore order and protect critical infrastructure.

The explosion of violence is partly a result of frustrations with prime minister Manasseh Sogavare’s government and chronic unemployment – made worse by the pandemic.

Experts say the crisis has also been fuelled by long-standing animosity between residents of the most populous island Malaita and the central government based on the island of Guadalcanal.

The archipelago nation of around 700,000 people has for decades endured ethnic and political tensions.

Malaita residents have long complained that their island is neglected by the central government, and divisions intensified when Sogavare recognised Beijing in 2019.
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« Last post by Darja on Nov 27, 2021, 04:56 AM »
Myanmar junta accused of forcing people to brink of starvation

Advisory group say military has destroyed supplies, killed livestock and cut off roads used to transport food since February coup

Kaamil Ahmed
27 Nov 2021 13.58 GMT

Myanmar’s military junta has been accused of forcing people to the brink of starvation with repeated offensives since it seized power in a coup earlier this year.

The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar said the junta had destroyed food supplies and killed livestock while cutting off roads used to bring in food and medicine.

The council said military offensives in the country’s north-west and east have prevented farmers from harvesting their crops.

The council of experts, which includes people who previously worked on Myanmar for the UN, said the international community should work with the parallel national unity government (NUG), set up by pro-democracy politicians, to get support to people.

Chris Sidoti, former member of the UN fact-finding mission, said: “Instead of wringing our hands wondering what to do, the international community can and must work formally with the NUG and get assistance across borders into the country and to the people who need it.

“There are trusted local humanitarian and medical networks including service providers [and] community-based and civil society organisations that are already helping people. They need to be supported and empowered.”

The council has accused the junta of crimes against humanity, including intentionally depriving people of food.

Yanghee Lee, former UN envoy to Myanmar, said it was important that the junta continued to be spurned internationally because of the impact of its actions.

Lee said: “Anyone claiming to accommodate the military in the interests of the people is in fact only prolonging their suffering. These actions can be viewed as being complicit in the military’s crimes.”

A UN emergency update said 234,600 people have been internally displaced since the February coup, with more than 600,000 displaced in the country in total as of November. The report said most internally displaced people and host communities were struggling for food, medicine and fuel.

According to the UN, about 3 million people require life-saving assistance in Myanmar, with 2 million of them identified since the coup.
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« Last post by Darja on Nov 27, 2021, 04:54 AM »

Workers’ paradise? Portugal's new teleworking law takes flak


LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal’s new law on working from home makes the European Union country sound like a workers’ paradise. Companies can’t attempt to contact their staff outside working hours. They must help staff pay for their home gas, electric and internet bills. Bosses are forbidden from using digital software to track what their teleworkers are doing.

There’s just one problem: the law might not work. Critics say the new rules are half-baked, short on detail and unfeasible. And they may even backfire by making companies reluctant to allow working from home at all.

“The law is badly written and doesn’t meet anybody’s needs,” says José Pedro Anacoreta, an employment attorney at PLMJ, one of Portugal’s main law firms. “It’s no good for anyone. ... It doesn’t make any sense.”

In many places around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a prior trend toward the digitalization of work and more flexible work arrangements. Amid such a sudden and massive shift in the employment landscape, governments are scrambling to accommodate working from home in their employment laws. Those efforts are largely still in their infancy.

Many Europeans have stopped going into the office regularly since March last year to help curb the spread of COVID-19. In Europe, unlike in the United States, worker protections are widely regarded as cherished entitlements. Laying off a staff member, for instance, can entail substantial severance pay.

Without a promised European Commission directive on how to legally frame the shift to more extensive working from home, governments’ legislative responses have been patchy and piecemeal. During the pandemic some countries have recommended teleworking. Others — like Portugal — have demanded it. Most EU countries have specific legislation on teleworking, though with different approaches, and others are considering it through amendments, extensions or conventions.

As home working grew in recent years, workers’ “right to disconnect” — allowing staff to ignore work matters outside formal working hours — was adopted before the pandemic in countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Belgium. It is now becoming the standard.

But Portugal is taking that concept a step further, by flipping the onus onto companies. “The employer has a duty to refrain from contacting the employee outside working hours, except in situations of force majeure,” meaning an unanticipated or uncontrollable event, states the new law.

Also, parents or caregivers with children up to eight years old have the right to work from home if they choose, as long as the type of work they do is compatible with teleworking. Fines for companies breaking the law go up to almost 10,000 euros ($11,200) for each infringement.

The Portuguese rules are meant to address the downside of what has become known as WFH. The technology that enables working from home has also opened the door to abuses, such as drawn-out workdays as staff remain reachable outside their normal eight-hour shift. The consequences may include attrition between work and private life and a sense of isolation.

But the new law has met with skepticism from those it is intended to protect. Andreia Sampaio, a 37-year-old who works in communications in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, agrees with the law's purpose but thinks it is too general and will be “very hard” to enforce.

“We have to have common sense,” she says, adding that she doesn't mind being contacted out of hours if it's an urgent matter. “We have to judge each case by its merits.” And she reckons authorities will mostly only act on employees' complaints — “but people will fear losing their job if they do.”

Prompted by the pandemic but designed to apply in the future irrespective of COVID-related measures, the law could come into force as soon as Dec. 1. It is largely the brainchild of the center-left Socialist Party, which has governed Portugal since 2015. Ahead of an election for a new government on Jan. 30, it is keen to burnish its progressive credentials and hoist a banner about workers’ rights.

Nevertheless, practical questions abound: must staff be taken off company email lists when their shift finishes and then put back on when they start work again? What about Europeans who work in financial markets and need to know what’s going on in, say, Hong Kong, and have colleagues working in different time zones?

What if an industrial machine that can’t be stopped requires the attention of an engineer who’s off? Who is it that can’t “contact” the employee — the department supervisor? The company CEO? What constitutes “contact” — a phone call, a text message, an email?

“The devil is always in the details ... but also in the implementation,” says Jon Messenger, a specialist on working conditions at the International Labor Organization, a United Nations agency based in Geneva.

The Portuguese Business Confederation, the country’s largest grouping of companies, wasn’t involved in drawing up the new law and thinks it is full of holes. Teleworking rules need to be flexible, tailored to each sector and negotiated between employers and staff, says Luís Henrique of the confederation’s legal department.

“We’re treating situations that are completely different as if they were all the same. That’s not realistic,” Henrique said. “(The law) can’t be one-size-fits-all.” Policing and enforcing the new rules may also be challenging in what is one of the EU’s economically poorest countries. In Portugal, which is notorious for red tape and slow justice, as well as poorly resourced public services, how long will a complaint take to filter through the system and achieve a result?

Across Europe over the past decade the number of labor inspections has “collapsed,” according to data analyzed by the Brussels-based European Trade Union Confederation, which represents 45 million members in 39 European countries.

The country with the biggest drop in the number of inspections since 2010? Portugal, with 55% fewer checks up to 2018. “Ambitious, progressive laws ... run up against the reality that ways of policing them aren’t in place yet,” said Henrique of Portugal’s business confederation.
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« Last post by Darja on Nov 27, 2021, 04:50 AM »
<b?Omicron variant spreads to Europe as UK announces countermeasures

Experts stress importance of delaying import of new Covid variant to UK to avoid Christmas mixing
Rowena Mason, Hannah Devlin, Nicola Davis and Daniel Boffey
27 Nov 2021 19.13 GMT

As an alarming new Covid variant spread to Europe on Friday, scientists warned that it would inevitably reach Britain, while ministers faced calls to urgently speed up the vaccination programme.

Thousands of travellers were left stranded or with their plans in disarray after flight bans were introduced targeting countries across southern Africa, where the variant was discovered. Hotel quarantine and enhanced testing would be brought in across the UK, the health secretary, Sajid Javid, said.

B.1.1.529, or Omicron, was designated as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday night due to its “concerning” mutations and because “preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant”.

It is feared to have an R or reproduction value of 2 with the potential to evade vaccines. Javid said it “may pose substantial risk to public health”.

Belgium reported a case in a traveller who had been in Egypt and Turkey rather than southern Africa, suggesting community transmission, while cases were also detected in Israel and Hong Kong. Experts predict it is only a matter of time before it reaches Britain.

No 10 is still debating further steps to prevent or delay its arrival. But Labour called on ministers to bring forward booster jabs by a month for over-50s to create a five-month gap and demanded an update on when under-40s can expect approval for their third vaccinations.

Discussions are live within government over what would trigger a move to “plan B” including mandatory mask wearing, working from home, Covid passports and other measures. Javid said on Friday there was no change yet, but added: “If we need to go further, we will.”

    If we need to do something more muscular at a later stage, can we still take people with us?

Chris Whitty

Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said it was his “greatest worry” that people may not abide by a return to restrictions after almost two years of the pandemic. “If we need to do something more muscular at some point, whether it’s for the current new variant or at some later stage, can we still take people with us?”

However, he said he believed the public would overall be responsive “provided you are clear with people what the logic is, provided they feel that we’re being entirely straight with them as to all the data”.

With scientists still unsure whether Omicron poses a greater danger than other variants, further developments include:

    Thousands of UK nationals face paying thousands of pounds for mandatory hotel quarantine on their return from South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia after Sunday. Non-UK and non-Irish nationals from those countries will be banned, while people arriving in England before 4am on Sunday will have to take PCR tests and quarantine at home.

    The EU agreed there was a need to suspend flights from countries in southern Africa following restrictions announced by countries including the UK, Japan, Germany, Italy and Spain. The US and Canada also brought in travel curbs on Friday night.

    South Africa said it was “unjustified” for other countries to impose travel bans and Boris Johnson held a call with the country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, to discuss the restrictions.

    The FTSE 100 had its worst day since June 2020, closing down 3.6%, with £72bn wiped off the index. The British Airways owner, IAG, ended the day nearly 15% lower, while Rolls-Royce slumped more than 11%.

As the UK recorded 50,091 daily Covid cases and 160 more coronavirus-related deaths on Friday – the highest level in a month – scientists said it was highly likely the variant would come to the UK, risking a surge in cases.

Prof Sharon Peacock of the University of Cambridge, the director of the Covid-19 Genomics UK Consortium, said: “Once a new variant emerges and it is fitter than previous variants it can be difficult to stop it going into a country unless you have very stringent lockdown rules.”

Dr Jeffrey Barrett, the director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, agreed it was “probably right that it’s a case of buying time because of past experience”. But he added that, because Omicron has been identified at a far earlier stage than the now-dominant Delta variant, “there might be some hope for some amount of containment or that time-buying phase to be longer”.

Prof Christina Pagel, the director of University College London’s clinical operational research unit and a member of the Independent Sage group of experts, said delaying the import of Omicron to the UK would be beneficial.

“If we can keep it out until after the Christmas break then we’ve bypassed a massive mixing opportunity,” she said. “I think we do need to do something to get transmission down now and ramp up our testing and contact-tracing abilities. When Delta arrived in the UK, we were in lockdown. So it spread but it was harder for it to spread.

“Now, if [Omicron] comes here and it spreads through a few people then there’s nothing to stop it carrying on … So that’s why if we start putting in things like mask wearing and working from home – now you’re in a situation where it’s not going to stop it, but it’ll slow it down. We’re boosting about 2.5 million people a week, so delaying even a few weeks really does help.”

The Belgian health minister urged people not to panic. Frank Vandenbroucke, speaking at a press conference to announce new Covid restrictions including the closure of nightclubs, said: “I want to repeat that it is a suspect variant. We do not know if it is very dangerous. So: absolute precaution, but no panic pending further scientific analysis.”

On Friday night, the European centre for disease prevention and control, an EU health agency, published an assessment that “the probability of further introduction and community spread” in the EU was high and the impact could be “very high”.

Dr Andrea Ammon, director of the ECDC, said: “We must be proactive and implement measures as a precaution to buy time until we gain more knowledge.” The assessment warned that the Omicron variant was “the most divergent variant that has been detected in significant numbers during the pandemic so far, which raises concerns that it may be associated with increased transmissibility, significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness and increased risk for reinfections”.

Omicron: everything you need to know about new Covid variant..Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/26/vaccine-resistant-what-scientists-know-new-covid-variant

Labour said ministers needed to act quickly to “get a grip” of the issues before Omicron had a chance to take hold. The party said No 10 should bring forward eligibility for boosters to five months after the previous dose to “ensure continuous protection and mitigate against waning immunity”.

It also demanded “immediate clarity” on when those under 40 will be eligible for boosters and any rollout of the Covid vaccine to children under the age of 12, as well as a robust plan to ensure all hospitals have an adequate supply of antiviral drugs to treat patients.

The shadow health secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, is currently isolating with Covid and high levels of the virus appear to be circulating in Westminster, with MPs saying a number of colleagues are absent. Ashworth’s deputy Alex Norris, a shadow health minister, said: “This new variant is a wake-up call. The pandemic is not over. We need to urgently bolster our defences to keep the virus at bay. We must not lose the gains we have made through vaccine rollout. Ministers must grip this fast.”
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« Last post by Darja on Nov 27, 2021, 04:45 AM »
Tanzania to lift ban on teenage mothers returning to school

Girls to have two years in which to return to school after giving birth, but will still be excluded whilst pregnant

Alice McCool in Kampala
27 Nov 2021 10.10 GMT

The Tanzanian government has announced it will lift a controversial ban on teenage mothers continuing their education.

Girls will have two years in which to return to school after giving birth, the ministry of education said. However, the move is not legally binding and girls will continue to be banned from class while pregnant.

The ban, rooted in policy from the 1960s, was reaffirmed in 2017 by the late president John Magufuli, who stated that pregnant students would not be allowed to continue education because “we cannot allow this immoral behaviour to permeate our primary and secondary schools”.

Tanzania’s Education Act permits expulsion when a student has “committed an offence against morality”.

The policy change has been seen as an attempt by Samia Suluhu Hassan’s administration to distance itself from Magufuli.

Hassan took office in March after Magufuli’s death. She is the country’s first female president.

“Pregnant schoolgirls will be allowed to continue with formal education after delivery,” said education minister Joyce Ndalichako, in a speech on Wednesday.

Leonard Akwilapo, permanent secretary at the ministry of education, said the policy change will be implemented with immediate effect. He said the two-year window to return to class is necessary “to help the girls to be able to follow the classroom instructions … because if they come after five years then maybe they will have to start afresh”.

Girls will not be permitted to attend school while they are pregnant because “there are a lot of activities which may or may not be favourable for pregnant girls,” he said, adding that he also believes “the situation will not be favourable for the other pupils”.

If a teenage mother does not re-enrol in school within two years, she can enrol at a paid-for education centre, which offers a condensed version of the curriculum. Last year, the World Bank came under fire for approving a $500m loan to the government to fund the centres, despite the country’s discriminatory education policies.

Judy Gitau, regional coordinator for Africa at Equality Now, which filed a joint case at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights against the government to overturn the policy, said: “The statement indicates goodwill and is a move in the right direction. However, it does not address the root of the problem, nor does it protect girls from discriminatory laws or the whims of political actors.”

Tike Mwambipile, executive director of the Tanzania Women Lawyers Association, said: “We are excited with this announcement for now, so let us celebrate. Then after we have recovered from the excitement, we have to see how best to do more advocacy.

“This is a step towards meaningful change – it will be meaningful once the laws reflect the same. Time will tell if this is posturing or not. But I think they mean business.”

Human Rights Watch called on the president to immediately mandate all education officials and headteachers to accept girls who are pregnant, mothers or married, back to school. “Asking girls to wait until after they deliver only pushes them further from getting an education,” it said.
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