Monday, April 6, 2020

Fwd: The boldest piece of legislation ever written in modern history:


From: Bernie Sanders <info@berniesanders.com>
Date: Mon, Apr 6, 2020 at 7:07 AM
Subject: The boldest piece of legislation ever written in modern history:


Our country is now facing its worst crisis in modern history.

Alexander -
Our country is now facing its worst crisis in modern history. We are in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic that could lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of Americans and infect millions of others, and we are entering an economic downturn that could be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Last week, 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment. This week that number doubled to 6.6 million claims — ten times higher than any other week on record. It is certain that well over 10 million people have lost their jobs — more than in the Wall Street crash of 2008.
In this unprecedented moment in modern American history, it is imperative that we respond in an unprecedented way. And that means that Congress must pass, in the very near future, the boldest piece of legislation ever written in modern history.
There are many, many issues that must be addressed in our response to this pandemic, and working together, we will make sure they are addressed.
1. Addressing the Employment Crisis and Providing Immediate Financial Relief
There is little doubt in my mind that we are facing an economic crisis that could be even worse than the Great Depression. The St. Louis Federal Reserve has projected that 47 million more people may become unemployed by the end of June, with unemployment reaching 32 percent. In my view, we must make sure that every worker in America continues to receive their paycheck during this crisis and we must provide immediate financial relief to everyone in this country.
An important precedent for that approach was taken in the recent stimulus package in which grants were provided to the airlines for the sole purpose of maintaining the paychecks and benefits of some 2 million workers in that industry through September 30. We must expand that program to cover every worker in America and we must make it retroactive to the beginning of this crisis. This is not a radical idea. Other countries, such as the UK, Norway, Denmark, France, and others have all come up with similar approaches to sustain their economy and prevent workers from losing their jobs.
Our primary goal during this crisis must be to prevent the disintegration of the American economy. It will be much easier and less expensive to prevent the collapse of the economy than trying to put it back together after it collapses.
To do this, we must also begin monthly payments of $2,000 for every man, woman, and child in our country, and guarantee paid family leave throughout this crisis so that people who are sick do not face the choice of infecting others or losing their job.
2. We Must Guarantee Health Care to All
Let's be clear: we were facing a catastrophic health care crisis before the pandemic, and now that crisis has become much, much worse. Already, 87 million people are uninsured or underinsured. Layoffs will mean tens of millions of people more will lose their current insurance — which will result in countless deaths and bankruptcies. Already in the last two weeks, an estimated 3.5 million people have lost their employer-sponsored insurance.
And as the pandemic grows, we are seeing more and more reports of people who have delayed treatment due to concerns about cost. In this pandemic, uninsurance will lead to deaths and more COVID-19 transmissions.
Therefore, during this crisis, Medicare must be empowered to pay all of the deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for the uninsured and the underinsured. No one in America who is sick, regardless of immigration status, should be afraid to seek the medical treatment they need during this national pandemic. Let me be clear: I am not proposing that we pass Medicare for All in this moment. That fight continues into the future. But, for the moment, we must act boldly to make sure everyone can get the health care they need in the coming months.
3. Use the Defense Production Act to Produce the Equipment and Testing We Need
Unbelievably, in the United States right now, doctors and nurses are unnecessarily putting their lives on the line treating people suffering from the coronavirus because they lack personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, and surgical gowns. The CDC has directed health professionals to use homemade gear like bandanas or scarves and some workers at the VA are being told to re-use one surgical mask for a week at a time. HHS estimated that our country needs 3.5 billion masks in response to this crisis.
President Trump has utilized the Defense Production Act thousands of times for the military and for enforcement of his immigration policies, yet he has resisted using its power to save lives during the pandemic. That is unacceptable. We must immediately and forcefully use the Defense Production Act to direct the production of all of the personal protective equipment, ventilators and other medical supplies needed.
We must also utilize this power to produce antibody tests so we can begin figuring out who has already contracted the virus and has developed some immunity to COVID-19.
In addition, OSHA must adopt a strong emergency standard to protect health care workers, patients, and the public during this crisis. We must crack down aggressively on price gougers and hoarders, and use any means necessary to secure supplies.
4. Make Sure No One Goes Hungry
Even before this crisis hit, one in every seven kids in America was going hungry and nearly 5.5 million seniors in our country struggled with hunger. Already in this crisis we see lines at food banks and growing concern that our most vulnerable communities and those recently unemployed may struggle to feed their families.
As communities face record levels of food insecurity, we must increase SNAP benefits, expand the WIC program for pregnant mothers, infants, and children, double funding for the Emergency Food Program (TEFAP) to ensure food banks have food to distribute, and expand Meals on Wheels and School Meals programs. When necessary, we must also develop new approaches to deliver food to vulnerable populations — including door-to-door drop offs.
5. Provide Emergency Aid to States and Cities
Even as state and local employees like police officers, firefighters and paramedics work on the front lines of this pandemic, states and cities that pay their salaries are facing enormous budgetary pressures.
Congress must provide $600 billion in direct fiscal aid to states and cities to ensure they have the personnel and funding necessary to respond to this crisis. In addition, the Federal Reserve must establish programs to provide direct fiscal support and budgetary relief to states and municipalities.
6. Suspend Monthly Payments
Even before this crisis, half of the people in our country were living paycheck to paycheck. In America today, over 18 million families are paying more than 50 percent of their income on housing. Now, with growing unemployment, families are facing financial ruin if we do not act quickly and boldly.
That's why we must suspend monthly expenses like rent, mortgages, medical debt and consumer debt collection for 4 months. We must cancel all student loan payments for the duration of this crisis, and place an immediate moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs.
Brothers and sisters: In this unprecedented moment in our history it is easy to feel like we are alone, and that everyone must fend for themselves. But that would be a mistake and a terrible tragedy. Now, more than any other moment in our lives, we must remember that we are all in this together — that when one of us gets sick, many more may get sick. And when my neighbor loses their job, I may lose my job as well.
Further, we cannot wait until our economy collapses to act. It will be far easier and less expensive to act now, in a very bold way, than to try to rebuild our country later.
If we work together and unite behind these basic principles of economic and health justice, I am confident that we will not only get through this unprecedented crisis together but that we will lay the groundwork for a better and more just America in the future.
In solidarity,
Bernie Sanders

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Sub-Saharan Africa Needs Your Help

Doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe are not going to hospital. They are on strike because they do not have the masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as the testing kits, that can adequately protect them. The nearly 15 million people of Zimbabwe are at risk, where . So is the rest of sub-Sahran Africa. Always the poorest and hardest hit place, I am asking you to contribute to the American Friends Service Committee to help, at a minimum, get the striking health workers of Zimbabwe back to work. (They are working with Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Council of Churches, and the National Council of Churches, USA.)

Donate Today!

Over the last couple weeks, more than half of which was spent in solo quarantine, I have lost countless hours of sleep working with a network of Chinese-American expats and other well-intentioned expatriates to ship masks to the United States. One acquaintance has seen a large shipment arrive in LAX a few hours ago, but is uncertain what will happen next. While I have learned a lot, I feel an awful lot like a potential Mr. Blank:

Blank Industries is a real company, but it’s an ice-melt manufacturer in Hudson, Mass. In an interview, Andrew Blank, the founder, said he had upended his business to sell masks after hearing from a former Chinese supplier he had once hired to make a new kind of toothbrush. (Mr. Blank had invented it.) After the coronavirus hit, the supplier turned his dental-products plant into a mask factory. Mr. Blank told his 12 employees to stop selling rock salt and start selling masks.

Why was he charging $4.92 for each N95? “To be honest, I don’t even know what an N95 normally sells for,” he said.

I told him. “50 cents?” he repeated. His supplier was charging him $4.75. (His margin would cover shipping costs; he planned to take no profit.)
The eruption in demand for dwindling amounts of masks has resulted in a kind of global supply-chain bedlam.

The pace of news updates about masks alone has been dizzying. We learned on April 3, the FDA will allow the use of KN95 masks approved by China, an alternative to scarce N95 masks that have FDA approval. At the same time that we are suddenly opening the door to China-approved products, the President has gotten into a spat with our biggest trading partner and closest neighbor, Canada, saying that he will use the War Production Act to prohibit export of 3M masks to Latin America and Canada.

Both the Premier of Newfoundland & Labrador and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (whose spouse has been diagnosed) will do what they can to keep Canadians safe.

Meanwhile, the lack of a coordinated national response that should have been set in place a couple months ago led to Governor Mario Cuomo (D-NY) blaming, on March 31, ventilator shortages on competition with FEMA and other large states. The fact that the President of the United States has allowed his inept and corrupt son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to run the White House effort is appalling. Even a Republican governor, albeit one who has been critical of Trump, has seen two shipments of supplies seized by the federal government and, reportedly, at least one order redirected to Spain by the Chinese government, even after money had been wired.

After his plane brought 1.2 million medical masks from China back to the United States, Thursday, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said he was glad to be part of the effort to fight the coronavirus.

The rich and famous have made things worse. Boston Red Sox owner and alleged prostitution solicitor Bob Kraft has donated only to Boston (and in a Benedict Arnold moment that will not live in infamy: to New York, home of the NY Yankees).

Mark Zuckerberg has donated primarily to the Bay Area, but he stands to gain more from prolonged social distancing than almost anybody else...if his tool can truly be used to connect and not divide.

Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders has continued his Presidential campaign with a clarion call to improve the social contract, but his campaign manager and Jeff Weaver seem to be pressing him to withdraw. Even the conservative Financial Times has demonstrated that the frailty of the social contract has been laid bare. Sanders raised over $2 million for coronavirus relief efforts. Meanwhile, Biden, focused only on his election, says the 2020 convention in Milwaukee may be 'virtual' and he will wear a mask in public amid COVID-19 outbreak. Sadly, Senator Elizabeth Warren seems to be gearing up for an endorsement of a man who spent the last several weeks in his basement, we can only hope for different reasons than Chris Cuomo.



"Somehow sitting in the Oval Office, behind that beautiful Resolute Desk," Trump said, indicating he thought it would be uncomfortable wearing a mask as he met with "presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens – I don’t know, somehow I don’t see it for myself."

Friday, April 3, 2020

Help Send Zimbabwe's health workers back to work

Dear Colleagues,

I hope you are staying safe in this COVID-19 pandemic. As you may have heard, doctors and nurses in Zimbabwe are on strike. They do not have protective gear, and they fear for themselves and their families. No one can blame them. They need personal protective equipment to go back to work. My colleagues on the ground are saying the situation is dire.

I am writing to ask if you can reach out to your networks requesting them to support Zimbabweans in their hour of need. Hospitals without health workers are a nightmare for a country. This is happening during the coronavirus pandemic. I know that people around the world are dealing with their emergency, but I wanted to check in with you to see if there is anything we can do to change this. Below is the link where you can donate. AFSC will host the fundraising and will do the procurement in Asia. Then, collaborate with WHO and other humanitarian agencies to airlift to Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, and AFSC Zimbabwe will ensure transparency and distribution of the PPEs. Please read the concept at the links below.

https://www.afsc.org/story/zimbabwe-nurses-and-doctors-need-protective-gear-now

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/afsc_org/status/1245807779627126792

Facebook:

https://business.facebook.com/AmericanFriendsServiceCommittee/posts/10157180940982444

Please share widely with your networks and let's send Zimbabwe 's health workers back to work so that they are prepared to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Thank you so much for your support,


Pauline Muchina
American Friends Service Committee
pmuchina@afsc.org

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Story That Will Break Your Heart

A 40 year-old, athletic young woman writes on Facebook,

was told that if I get Coronavirus and they don't have enough ventilators or beds or care, healthy and young ones are treated first.

I have stage 4 cancer so they are just going to make me comfortable and won't even treat me if that was the case.

Is this true?

I get it that it could be the case, but I just wanted to be prepared and making me really sad...
This breaks my heart. Another person responds, "Only 2-5% of people require a ventilator. The problem is at a state level, if 20% get sick, in New York, that is 4 million sick. Two percent is 80,000. Flattening the curve means not all need ventilators at the same time. This pandemic is bad, but it could be worse. We are just utterly unprepared and have poor leadership." 

Another person opines, "As of now, we have enough [ventilators] and are producing a lot. ZOLL alone is building 10,000 more per month. Other factories are converting. Dyson is building ventilators now. She will be fine. Even if she gets COVID, she may not need one."

I don't know what to think but there are extant supplies a plane ride away with willing sellers (and lots of willing donors to pay top-dollar).  If we fail to deliver and the poor relations between our nations are what made that impossible (except in 50,000 mask per day droplets through DHL), then it is a failure of leadership much bigger than the big failures already on plain display

War-profiteers?


Appearances matter in politics and I am sorry that the President's son-in-law appears to possibly be war-profiteering and is almost the only one who can bring in mass quantities of equipment to JFK. 

CREW, an ethics watchdog, says Jared Kushner’s ‘Shadow’ COVID-19 Task Force Appears to Violate at Least Two Laws.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Canary in a Coal Mine? Hardly.

A letter of gratitude arrived from a friend today, who works as an EMT in Norther New England. She wrote, "Most of the patients [I visit] can stay home but people are freaking out. I would be too if not for your educational efforts. Honestly I can't thank you enough. Our govt did shit but there you were educating for all who would listen. Our govt totally sucks." While I will take the compliment, I think it is important to distinguish between different levels of government and different levels of response. (By most accounts, America's Governor, as I have started to call Andrew Cuomo, is doing a great job.)



While the US was better prepared than almost every other country, according to both WHO and Johns Hopkins, we were not prepared in some very important ways. Ed Yong says it better than I could in The Atlantic:

Perhaps the nation will learn that preparedness isn’t just about masks, vaccines, and tests, but also about fair labor policies and a stable and equal health-care system. Perhaps it will appreciate that health-care workers and public-health specialists compose America’s social immune system, and that this system has been suppressed.

When some of you read the pieces in the Concord Monitor, the Boston Globe, or the Charleston Post and Courier, your response was disgust that I would be so public about what I was doing and about my private life. One friend's spouse said to me that my efforts were little more than an effort to garner attention for myself and hold myself out as an expert. She went further to say that I was being over-sensitive for defending myself against her charges of corrupt purposes. The host of my AirBNB, who was one of the wonderful humans I have ever met, was so angry that I had taken a picture with his woodstove, unbeknownst to him, for The Globe that he wrote me, "This might be an interesting publicity stunt for you, but it's how I pay my bills." (At that point, I was for the duration of my two-week stay, the only one in his county in quarantine or isolation because of the novel coronavirus. I understand his concerns.) Another spouse of a dear friend wrote some of the most hurtful words that I have ever read, "I hope you are well. I also contacted the Boston Globe and Concord, NH paper to let them know how you played them! Publicity on top of your cowardice actions. Sure you made the Lee legacy proud." (I can forgive and excuse this comment, because he is not well, but, people, please be not cruel to those in quarantine or isolation. This is not an easy time for anybody.)

Little did you all know, that in less than a month, you would be unable to read or listen to any news that was not related to COVID-19. Little did you know that alcoholism and domestic violence, not to mention anxiety, would skyrocket, as your friends and neighbors are trapped at home in a society that relies on trappings for its sanity. Since I had been locked down since January 23, I knew what was coming and it broke my heart. My heart still breaks everyday as I watch what is happening. 

It is hard to admit that the country to which I returned, China, whose government so many of my friends and family despise, has done a much better job than our own. It is an existential crisis for me, who agrees with so many of you that the doctor in Wuhan who blew the whistle is a martyr. However, the Rep. Seth Moulton approach was wrong and I am glad that he saw the errors of his ways. (Softball interview with Moulton about his experience with the disease begins at 2 minutes in video below. The part where he talks about the resolution starts at 12 minutes and 50 seconds. Sympathy to him and his wife as they recover from what they have to guess is "the disease"; he takes VA health benefits instead of Congressional benefits...and VA won't test a virile middle-aged man. There are not enough tests, as Science Friday explains, and the results sometimes take a long time.)

 

Here in Guangzhou, in my second fortnight long quarantine, this is what I am doing. I am reaching out to groups that are working to deliver quality supplies of test kits, PPE, and other equipment to the United States. It is hard to figure out who is a "carpetbagger" and who is really involved in this effort because they want to save lives. Luckily, my partner is an extremely well-connected businesswoman and we have been able to identify reputable factories that make test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE). We will be working over the next weeks to send out as much as we can, but, sadly, Trump's tariffs, his "Wuhan virus" rhetoric, and stories of bad test kits from China in Europe and elsewhere in Asia are making it hard to send these supplies to the United States, where we both most want to send them. Chinese testing kit exports have soared as COVID-19 spreads, but the cancellation of most China Airlines flights and the failure of American airlines to resume cargo flights to China are additional challenges.

The NMPA will clamp down on the bad products and I would guess eventually people will go to jail.  Yesterday, NMPA gave emergency approvals to COVID-19 test kits. Sadly, the bigger problem, which we have known for over a month, is that there are not enough US FDA workers here to do their job. Claims that the FDA is taking further steps to help mitigate supply interruptions of food and medical products should be taken with a grain of salt. This is an agency that answers to a protectionist President who would, in the words of one of my friends, "rather die than be conciliatory with China." This press release does offer hopeful words:
The [FDA] is taking steps to facilitate importation of PPE into the U.S. and we are ready and available to engage with importers to minimize disruptions during the importing process. This means that when products come in from overseas, their authorization via our EUA authority allows them to quickly enter the country. These products aren’t hindered from entry and we’ve already determined, among other criteria, that the known and potential benefits of these products being used in health care settings outweigh the known and potential risks.

Will keep you posted as things develop.

I have had my second free COVID-19 test and when the results come back, I may be free to go outside. Rumor has it that we may return to physical school in April, but as Dr. Anthony Fauci says, "You don't make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline."  There will be a knock at the door and they will remove the camera monitor from the outer door when I am done with quarantine. I am excited to see 丫丫 and the kids, as well as take a hike. I am feeling very healthy, having lost about 10 kg from my plant-based diet. Have even watched a few movies during this second quarantine--notably, "Dirty Money"!

Back to the trenches...and first breakfast. Eat well, sleep well, wash your hands, and take care of each other. May God bless America!

Alexander Lee
Guangzhou, China

Thursday, March 26, 2020

"Made in China": Provision of PPE and Test Kits Stat!

Trump and his lot seem to think that taking supplies from China would threaten American safety so they are relying on 3M to come through in a matter of weeks, which he mentioned in his press conference today.  Weeks, when we could have what we need in days! A decent President would repair relations with China and ask that this nation, which makes about 50% of the PPE in the world, get them on planes to New York, New Orleans, and New England tomorrow. I believe that we could have masks that would save the lives of health professionals and others on hand in a matter of days, if we could get them out of China....but we cannot. I have an Indian friend who has crates of FDA-approved N95 masks ready to go, but he cannot find an airplane to get them out.

A friend of mine who usually knows what's going on told me, "There were some disparaging reports out of China about faulty supplies so it might be difficult to expedite anything or get traction [for your effort to send test kits and personal protective equipment (PPE)]." Meanwhile, the US is trying to get test kits from Korea. I cannot speak to a few bad apples or masks that seem to have poisoned the pot, but the people that I am working with have a high level of professional integrity and quality control. They make test kits to be used in China so it would be a baseless accusation to say that they had a side operation of making sub-standard kits for sale in other countries where China might want the disease to spread. China does not want the disease to spread. Our economy and theirs are in a symbiotic relationship. The crippling economic blow of the last couple months of lock-down which looks like it is about to be repeated in the US and Europe is good for nobody, especially the low-paid essential workers who deliver our mail and check us out at the grocery store.

There are reasons to be worried about greedy capitalists in both countries, but the vast majority of folks want to save lives and do good in a time of incredible need. 

Hatemongers, such as Senator Tom Cotton, who does not even realize that Advil is iubprofen, continue to spew their bile. There are also propaganda efforts, for sure, in China, which Axios has detailed in their newsletter; however, the vast majority of regular folks in both countries do not want nurses and doctors, grandmas and grandpas to die, because we do not have enough masks on hand. Of course, lots of young people are dying, too, and masks won't save them all.

What we, in our group, are struggling with as we try to decide where to send supplies is whether FEMA will do a good job at speedy and just distribution. They have such a poor record in Puerto Rico and elsewhere. In fact, FEMA's clumsy form does not bode well. (In the last 24 hours, they changed the URL so we had to look it up again and the old URL-- does not redirect.) On the other hand, the prospect of sending PPE and test-kits to the points on this map below is daunting. We should be able to trust FEMA to send supplies where they are needed most.

https://getusppe.org/about/


There are exciting efforts afoot in places like Australia, where a young man named Milton Zhou founded a not for profit called RapidWard.com. They are trying to get rapid test kits and other in demand critical medical supplies to the people in need around the world, but there are so many challenges. Will Americans donate to an Australian nonprofit? I am pushing to find an American organization that is licensed to operate in China--such as the American Friends Service Committee or the American Red Cross--which could help us get these test kits and masks to the US as fast as possible. There are so many challenges, but I know that it will be faster than waiting for 3M--makers of your sticky notes and PFAS.