Boris’s Garden Party – A More Pressing Issue Than Yemeni Genocide

Over the past several days, the news story that has dominated British news headlines, and consequently, the news headlines of the rest of the Western world, is controversy over a leaked email confirming Boris Johnson’s attendance at a Downing Street garden party in May 2020 – a time when the Summer weather is usually at its peak in Britain, and incidentally, the same time when the entire country was under stringent lockdown measures.

In spite of offering an almost immediate apology in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Johnson has faced intense calls to resign from his position from not only the opposition of Keir Starmer’s Labour, Ed Davey’s Liberal Democrats and Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP, but also from prominent members of his own Conservative Party such as Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross.

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Comparing The COVID-19 Responses In Cuba And The United States

With fundamental differences in health systems structure and organization, as well as in political philosophy and culture, it is not surprising that there are major differences in outcomes. The more coordinated, comprehensive response to COVID-19 in Cuba has resulted in significantly better outcomes compared with the United States. Through July 15, 2021, the US cumulative case rate is more than 4 times higher than Cuba’s, while the death rate and excess death rate are both approximately 12 times higher in the United States. In addition to the large differences in cumulative case and death rates between United States and Cuba, the COVID-19 pandemic has unmasked serious underlying health inequities in the United States.

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With Rising COVID-19 Cases, US Bases In Japan Come Under Scrutiny

The United States’ extensive military presence in Japan is coming under strong political scrutiny after a surge in COVID-19 infections. On Saturday, January 8, Japan reported more than 8,000 cases in a single day, the second time since September 2020, compared to just 456 reported on January 1.

Local officials and Japanese opposition groups have blamed the US military bases in the country for being largely responsible for the rise in cases. Unlike previous waves that affected major metropolitan cities like Tokyo and Osaka, a significant number of the new infections are being reported from regions that house US troops stationed in Japan.

On Saturday, when Japan recorded the highest daily reported numbers in months, the Okinawa prefecture which houses over 70% of all the US military personnel in Japan reported over 1,700 cases.

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Inaction On Tax Credit Condemns Millions Of Children To Poverty

Working-class families are faced with an extra burden as the new year begins – the expiration of the expanded child tax credit. The expansion provided support for families struggling during the pandemic by changing some key factors of the already existing credit. Namely, the expansion increased the annual amount per child from $2,000 to between $3,000 and $3,600, it paid the credit in monthly installments rather than in one lump sum, and it expanded the full benefits of the credit to families who previously had been ruled ineligible due to their income being too low. 

On the same day that the CTC expansion expired, there were almost 450,000 new COVID cases reported, almost double the number reported at the same time in 2021.

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Ending The Pandemic Is Not An ‘Individual Responsibility’

After a year and a half, the ravages of the pandemic show no signs of slowing down. The Omicron variant is spreading rapidly around the globe and is now the dominant version of Covid in the U.S., accounting for an estimated 73 percent of new cases. The U.S. is now averaging over 213,751 new Covid cases per day, which is equal to 85 percent of the number of cases during the peak when the highest daily average was reported on January 7, 2021.

While it is still unclear if Omicron causes more severe symptoms than other strains of Covid, it’s clear based on the variant’s high transmissibility1 that the sheer number of infections puts the most vulnerable members of the population at serious risk of illness. In just six weeks there has been a 39 percent increase in Covid-related hospitalizations all over the country, likely from the spreading of both the Delta and Omicron variants.

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Richard Wolff: US Capitalism Has Peaked And Is On The Way Down’

For the end of the year, Clearing the FOG speaks with economist Richard Wolff about the current state of United States capitalism. Wolff explains that the United States is experiencing the greatest crisis in its history – a severe economic crisis at the same time as a pandemic, as well as the climate crisis. This is unprecedented. Unlike the great depression in the last century, when the wealth divide shrank, inequality is worsening. On top of that, US empire is in decline. Wolff discusses the current state of inflation and supply chain disruption and the forces behind them. Instead of facing up to these realities and learning from the experiences of other countries, such as China, and even our own past, the ruling class is in denial and continues on the same path that created the current situation. Wolff talks about what we need to focus on going forward.

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The Year In Inequality

A year ago we had such high hopes. We expected the Covid vaccine rollout to bring a swift end to the pandemic, opening a window for pushing bold solutions to the long-standing economic, racial, and gender divides that had grown even wider under Covid.

Where are we as 2021 comes to a close? These 10 charts highlight major inequality developments of the year, covering some steps back and some important steps forward.

The combined wealth of the 745 U.S. billionaires surpassed $5 trillion in 2021, up 70 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness analysis of Forbes data.

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The Dangerous Misuse Of ‘Natural Immunity’ Against Covid Vaccination

One particularly pernicious myth going around in the US is the notion that “natural immunity,” gained from contracting Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, is preferable to getting vaccinated. One prominent politician, Sen. Rand Paul (R.–Ky.), has declared that he refuses to get vaccinated, because of his belief that he has “natural immunity” since he’s “already had the disease” (Slate, 5/23/21).

Now, the Republican Party is officially embracing its position as the anti-vaccine political party, advocating what they call “natural immunity” as an alternative or substitute to getting vaccinated, as the Associated Press (11/21/21) reported:

Republicans fighting President Joe Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandates are wielding a new weapon against the White House rules: natural immunity.

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Most American Homeowners Are ‘House Poor’

In a recent survey, 40% of homeowners with mortgages said they work second, full-time jobs to afford housing expenses. A majority of the 1,002 people surveyed by Consumer Affairs feel like they can’t afford their housing expenses, and did not anticipate the extra costs of upkeep when they bought their homes.

The report comes amid record surges in US home prices, also finding that more than a third of respondents are incurring extra credit card debt to pay their bills. Despite these challenges, homeowners ultimately prefer owning a home to renting one.

The survey found that although 40% of people rely on second, full-time jobs to ease the costs of homeownership, nearly 100% of “house poor” homeowners have taken on side gigs to offset home costs.

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Barbados: The Long Road To The Republic

On November 30, 2021, on the 55th anniversary of its political independence, Barbados will become a republic. It is commonly assumed this was some sudden decision by Mia Mottley’s government. The most bizarre suggestion came from British voices, who asserted this had to do with Barbados tilting to China. But the roots of this change go back decades, and are anchored in the politics of the wider Caribbean.

Forbes Burnham’s decision in 1970 to proclaim the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, and Eric Williams’s push towards the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 1976, are the key precedents. Both were underpinned by the politics of what I have called ‘secondary decolonization’, for which, in the long 1970s, the global Black Power moment was central.

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WHO Stands With African Nations And Calls For Borders To Remain Open

As a growing number of countries impose flight bans on southern African nations due to concerns over the new Omicron variant, World Health Organization (WHO) urges countries to follow science and the International Health Regulations (2005).

Travel restrictions may play a role in slightly reducing the spread of COVID-19 but place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods. If restrictions are implemented, they should not be unnecessarily invasive or intrusive, and should be scientifically based, according to the International Health Regulations which is a legally binding instrument of international law recognized by over 190 nations. This week, nations will be joining a special session of the World Health Assembly, organized by WHO to discuss how to collectively prepare and respond better to pandemics, building on their commitments to the International Health Regulations.

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Not Everyone Is Feasting

As the COVID pandemic upended the economy in the spring and summer of 2020, tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs and became ever more vulnerable to hunger. In consequence, the country’s network of food banks saw a sudden spike in usage.

Just prior to, and at the start of the pandemic, food banks distributed 1.1 billion pounds of food in the first quarter of 2020. By the fall of that year, they were handing out 1.7 billion pounds.

Since then, that dizzying increase has leveled off or fallen somewhat in many places, but that doesn’t mean the country’s no longer suffering an epidemic of food insecurity. To the contrary: Large food banks around the country are still reporting far higher levels of need — and of food distribution to attempt to meet that need — than was the case prior to COVID.

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Student Loan Payments Resume Soon, But Working Borrowers Aren’t Ready

On February 1, 2022, the relief student-loan borrowers have had since the start of the pandemic will be stripped away and they will be thrown back into repayment — whether they’re ready or not.

And most of them are not.

The Student Debt Crisis Center, in partnership with Savi — a social impact technology startup — released the results of the fourth installment of the Student Debt x COVID-19 series on Wednesday examining the impact of the pandemic on student-loan borrowers. It found that although student-loan company communication to borrowers has improved since June, 89% of fully-employed borrowers say they do not feel financially secure enough to resume payments in a few months.

One in five of the respondents said they will never feel financially-secure enough to restart their student-loan payments.

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These Billionaires Received Taxpayer-Funded Stimulus Checks

In March 2020, as the first wave of coronavirus infections all but shut down the U.S. economy, Congress responded with rare speed, passing a $2.2 trillion relief package called the CARES Act. The centerpiece of the law was an emergency payment to over 150 million American households that needed help.

Congress used a simple filter to determine who was eligible for assistance: The full $1,200 was limited to single taxpayers who’d reported $75,000 a year or less in income on their previous tax return. Married couples got $2,400 if they had reported less than $150,000 in income. Money was sent automatically to those who qualified.

Ira Rennert, worth $3.7 billion according to Forbes, did not appear to need the cash infusion offered by the CARES Act.

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Mutual Aid Goes Mainstream

Last spring, within hours of the University of Chicago’s announcement that classes would be held online, students created a Facebook group to coordinate mutual aid efforts. Even with finals right around the corner, UChicago Mutual Aid came alive with activity. Students eagerly offered and accepted support in the form of advice, essential supplies like food and moving boxes, and spreadsheets listing leads on resources like housing. 

What I witnessed at my college was just one example of the many mutual aid networks, both college-based and non-college-based, that sprung up across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mutual aid, a radical practice that has been undertaken by marginalized groups for decades, became a mainstream buzzword almost overnight.

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