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American workers have been taken to the brink

January 19, 2021 in Blogs

By Tom Conway

When COVID-19 forced the 66-bed Maryhill Manor into lockdown, a resolute Veronica Dixon and her colleagues realized they had to make a choice: band together or fall apart.

So they put in longer hours, shouldered extra duties and leaned on each other to keep the Niagara, Wisconsin, nursing facility operating as the coronavirus swept through, sickening dozens of residents and staff members.

What saved Maryhill Manor also offers hope for a country convulsed by storms. Only by working together can Americans end the pandemic, create a more equitable society and build a just economic system.

Dixon, a cook at the nursing home and the financial secretary of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 3168, noted that COVID-19 exacerbated the inequality that mires millions in poverty and tears at the nation’s social fabric.

“How can you not come together and try to work it out?” she asked.

“The rich keep getting richer, and the poor keep getting poorer,” observed Dixon, who’s seen more people in Niagara struggle since a local paper mill shut down, eliminating hundreds of family-sustaining jobs, more than a decade ago. “There has to be something in between so people can live a decent life and not worry about how to pay their bills.”

So many Americans see the nation at a crossroads that they came together in record numbers to elect Joe Biden, charting a course for healing and progress.

Then, in runoff elections for U.S. Senate in January, Georgia voters propelled the nation yet another step along the path of change by electing Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, inclusive candidates committed to progress.

“You can’t lie about the numbers,” Dixon said of the historic election results. “People want change.”

But it isn’t enough for Americans to band together at the ballot box. It’s just as important to rally behind the initiatives that build a fairer country, just as the solidarity of union workers yielded the 40-hour workweek, decent benefits and workplace safety in previous decades.

Right now, it’s essential that every citizen pitch in to arrest a pandemic that’s already stolen more than 398,000 lives and left the economy in tatters.

Scientists and researchers maintained a feverish pace during the months they spent developing the vaccines, and pharmaceutical manufacturing workers put in grueling hours producing millions of doses. USW members <a target=_blank href="http://feeds.feedblitz.com/~/t/0/0/alternet/~https://www.usw.org/blog/2020/never-again" …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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New report reveals multiple GOP lawmakers sought pardons for their roles in the Capitol riot

January 19, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

With President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony less than 24 hours away, reporters have been wondering who President Donald Trump will grant pardons to during his remaining time in the White House. And according to CNN’s sources, Trump has decided against granting them to GOP lawmakers who spoke at or helped put together his “Save America Rally” in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6.

That rally took place before a violent mob of far-right extremists and Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol Building. The U.S. House of Representatives has since indicted Trump on an article of impeachment for “incitement to insurrection.”

In an article published by CNN’s website the day before Biden’s inauguration, reporters Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak and Pamela Brown explain:

“Several Republican lawmakers who are alleged to have been involved in the rally that preceded the deadly riot on the U.S. Capitol have sought clemency from Trump before he leaves office. But after meeting with his legal advisers for several hours on Saturday, the president decided he would not grant them, according to two people familiar with his plans.”

The CNN reporters add, “The fear of legal exposure is not limited to Republicans who promoted or spoke at the rally, including Reps. Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks and Paul Gosar. Those who participated, organized and fundraised for it are also concerned, sources told CNN, including his eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., and his girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, who both spoke at the rally.”

The report doesn’t explicitly specify which Republican lawmakers sought out the pardons. But it’s noteworthy that any feel pardons for their conduct would be necessary. Some Democrats have suggested that Republican members of Congress may have had even more insidious roles in the attack than organizing or speaking at the rally that helped fuel the attack; they have indicated that some Republicans may have even played a part in planning the invasion of the Capitol Building itself, though it’s not clear what evidence for these claims exists.

Collins, Liptak and Brown report that Trump allies associated with the GOP groups that promoted the “Save America Rally,” which included Women for America First and Turning Point Action, “have also voiced private concern about …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Biden chokes up with emotion in pre-inauguration speech

January 19, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

The day before his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden spoke at a send-off event in Delaware — and he was overcome with emotion when discussing his connection to his adopted state.

Biden, now 78, was only 29 when he was first elected to the U.S. Senate via Delaware back in 1972. After decades in the Senate, Biden was sworn in as vice president in January 2009 as part of President Barack Obama’s administration.

The president-elect, originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, explained, “My colleagues in the Senate used to always kid me for quoting Irish poets. They thought I did it because I’m Irish. I didn’t do it for that reason; I did it because they’re the best poets in the world.”

Biden added, “(Irish novelist/poet) James Joyce was said to have told a friend that when it comes his time to pass — when he dies, he says, ‘Dublin will be written on my heart.’”

Overcome with emotion, Biden continued, “Well, excuse the emotion. But when I die, Delaware will be written on my heart and the hearts of all of us — all the Bidens.” At one point, he wiped way a tear from his eye.

…read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Joe Biden is about to inherit a Trump-style 'deep state': reporters

January 19, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

President Donald Trump has repeatedly railed against the “deep state,” which is his term for bureaucrats and career employees of the federal government. But according to Politico reporters Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Cassella, it is Trump who has arguably promoted a “deep state” in the U.S. — and it is former Vice President Joe Biden who will have to contend with it after he is sworn in as president this week.

“A higher-than-usual number of Trump administration political appointees — some with highly partisan backgrounds — are currently ‘burrowing’ into career positions throughout the federal government, moving from appointed positions into powerful career civil service roles, which come with job protections that will make it difficult for Biden to fire them,” Ollstein and Cassella explain. “While this happens to some degree in every presidential transition, and some political appointees make for perfectly capable public servants, Biden aides, lawmakers, labor groups and watchdog organizations are sounding the alarm — warning that in addition to standard burrowing, the Trump administration is leaning on a recent executive order to rush through dozens, if not hundreds, of these so-called ‘conversions.’”

The Politico reporters continue, “The fear is that, once entrenched in these posts, the Trump bureaucrats could work from the inside to stymie Biden’s agenda, much of which depends on agency action. The October executive order — which Biden is expected to swiftly rescind — has allowed federal agencies to help political appointees circumvent the usual merit-based application process for career civil service jobs, while moving career policymakers into a new job category with far fewer legal protections.”

Ollstein and Cassella note that although the Office of Personnel Management is “required to report any conversion of political appointees into career positions to Congress on a quarterly basis,” the federal government has “gaps in terms of which agencies must be included in the reports.”

A Biden “transition official,” quoted anonymously, told Politico, “The incoming Biden-Harris administration is keenly aware of last minute efforts by the outgoing administration to convert political appointees into civil service positions. We anticipate learning more in the weeks ahead as our work to restore trust and accountability across the federal government begins, including reviewing …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Here's why Trump will be remembered as 'the worst president America has ever had': historian

January 19, 2021 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson

The Trump era — much to the delight of President Donald Trump’s liberal and progressive critics, as well as Never Trumpers — will come to an end this week when Joe Biden is sworn in as president of the United States and former Sen. Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president. Tim Naftali, a history professor at New York University, looks back on Trump’s presidency in an article published by The Atlantic the day before Biden’s inauguration — and lays out some reasons why he considers Trump the worst president in U.S. history.

Trump is the 45th president of the U.S., and Biden will be the 46th. Saying that Trump was worse than all 44 of the presidents who came before him is saying a lot, but Naftali offers a lot of history to back up his argument.

“As his four years in office draw to an end,” Naftali writes, “there’s only one title to which he can lay claim: Donald Trump is the worst president America has ever had.”

The NYU professor goes on to say that a U.S. president serves as “head of state, head of government and commander in chief” and promises to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

“Trump was a serial violator of his oath — as evidenced by his continual use of his office for personal financial gain — but focusing on three crucial ways in which he betrayed it helps clarify his singular historical status,” Naftali explains. “First, he failed to put the national security interests of the United States ahead of his own political needs. Second, in the face of a devastating pandemic, he was grossly derelict, unable or unwilling to marshal the requisite resources to save lives while actively encouraging public behavior that spread the disease. And third, held to account by voters for his failures, he refused to concede defeat and instead instigated an insurrection, stirring a mob that stormed the Capitol.”

Naftali notes that some historians have slammed Warren G. Harding as the worst president in U.S. history. Others hold Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson and James Buchanan in low regard.

“Does Trump have any modern competitors for the title of worst president?,” Naftali writes. “Like …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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The US National Guard's 400-Year History

January 19, 2021 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

The reserve force of men and women traces its roots to Colonial America.

Founded in 1636 as a citizen force, the U.S. National Guard is a “ready” reserve group of 450,000 men and women voluntarily serving in all 50 states and four U.S. territories. Guard members hold civilian jobs and maintain part-time military training. They are called to service in times of civil unrest, natural disasters, labor strikes, wars, health emergencies and riots.

Uniquely existing as both a state and federal force, as per the on May 7, 1915, Congress passed, and President Woodrow Wilson signed into law, the National Defense Act of 1916, which made significant changes to the organization, including giving it the official name of National Guard, increasing and standardizing training, adding funding, administering annual inspections and requiring the passage of fitness and eligibility tests.

“The law codified the dual state and federal mission of the National Guard and required new Guardsmen to swear allegiance to both the Constitution of the United States and their state of record,” the Guard notes. “The president of the United States could now federalize the National Guard in time of declared federal emergency and provided for expeditionary service.”

After the United States entered World War I, Harry S. Truman, as a captain in the Missouri National Guard, fought in Argonne, France in 1918 with the U.S. First Army. During that conflict, Harlem’s celebrated Hellfighters, a group of black guardsmen who fought as the 369th Infantry Regiment, were given the Croix de Guerre French military decoration for their heroism.

In September 1940, with America’s entry into World War II on the horizon, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called up the National Guard for a year of training. “The federalization of the Guard doubled the size of America’s active duty forces,” the USO reports. “That, combined with the institution of America’s first peacetime draft, provided the manpower for America’s eventual intervention in Europe.”

READ MORE: The Pictures that Defined World War II

The National Guard in Modern Times

Armed National Guard soldiers hold a line in front of a post office in South Central, Los Angeles, where several days of rioting took place due to the acquittal of the LAPD officers who beat Rodney King.

Today, only the U.S. Army boasts more members than the National Guard, and while 10 presidents, including George …read more

Source: HISTORY

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First confirmed case of COVID-19 found in U.S.

January 19, 2021 in History

By History.com Editors

Following a rapid spread from its origin in Wuhan, China, the first U.S. case of the 2019 novel coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, is confirmed in a man from Washington state.

The virus, which would spark a pandemic, was first reported in China on December 31, 2019. Halfway across the world, on January 19, a man who had returned home to Snohomish County, Washington near Seattle on January 15, after traveling to Wuhan, checked into an urgent care clinic after seeing reports about the outbreak.

Experiencing a cough, fever, nausea and vomiting, the Centers for Disease Control announced on January 21 that the 35-year-old had tested positive for COVID-19. He was hospitalized, where his condition grew worse and he developed pneumonia. His symptoms abated 10 days later.

In the following months, the Seattle area became the epicenter of an early U.S. outbreak. 39 residents of Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, died from complications from the virus in one four-week span.

According to the CDC, 14 U.S. coronavirus cases were noted by public health agencies between January 21 and February 23, 2020; all patients had traveled to China. The first non-travel case was confirmed in California on February 26, and the first U.S. death was reported on February 29.

As the virus quickly marched across the country, businesses, schools and social gatherings were largely shut down, while, by May, unemployment rates reached their highest levels since the Great Depression.

Spreading to almost every country, more than 83 million have contracted the virus worldwide, and 1.8 million have died from it. The first U.S. vaccinations for COVID-19 were administered on December 14, 2020, with the rollout falling well short of expectations. As of mid-January 2021, 24.1 million cases and 400,000 deaths had been reported in the United States alone.

READ MORE: Pandemics That Changed History

…read more

Source: HISTORY