What's Going on: Mask Bans, Chick-fil-A Summer Camp

What's Going on: Mask Bans, Chick-fil-A Summer Camp
Photo by Malhar Patel on Unsplash

North Carolina votes on masks

Today, the North Carolina State House votes on a revised version of Bill 237, misleadingly titled as the "Unmasking Mobs and Criminals Act." The new version of the bill technically allows anyone to wear a medical or surgical mask in public, but a police officer or a store owner can ask you to remove your mask at any time "temporarily" for "identification." A Covid infection can happen in seconds. According to an article in Nature, "the peak of viral exposure risk was within 5 seconds during face-to-face encounters under both ventilated and non-ventilated conditions." So it's entirely possible, even likely, for a police officer to infect someone with Covid and ruin their lives.

Columnist Rob Hall with The Charlotte Observer gives a great rebuttal to this disastrous bill, which now includes a reform of campaign finance, tacked on at the last minute. As he writes, "Ironically, while the first part of the bill makes it illegal for you to wear an ordinary mask to protect your health, this second part allows the super-rich to hide their identity from public view while sending big campaign donations to their favorite candidates." In short, it allows the ultra-rich to donate money to politicians without having to be associated with their "vile rhetoric." It serves them just fine.

If this bill passes, it's not the end by any means. Other states will try to pass similar laws. We have to fight them. We can also continue protesting the NC bill until it's repealed and replaced with language that follows science.

Chick-fil-A opens a summer camp

A Chick-fil-A in Louisiana recently advertised a summer camp for children age 5-12, promising to teach them customer service skills like how to operate a cash register or bag an order. It comes just as the state is trying to eliminate mandatory breaks for child workers. Over the last three years, 23 different states have introduced more than 60 bills to reduce or eliminate protections for minors in the workforce. Some of the bills allow teenagers as young as 14 to work up to 30 hours per week in fast food restaurants, meat packing plants, industrial sites, and bars while serving alcohol.

When you pair these reports with numbers on Long Covid and rising disability claims, it's clear that states are trying to plug holes in their workforce by exploiting child workers.

It's not a good look.

CDC approves Covid vaccine for old variant

The FDA has approved a monovalent vaccine for this fall focusing on the JN.1 variant, while declining to include other variants like KP.2. They say they want to offer better protection against "the dominant variant." There's an obvious problem here. The KP.2 variant is now dominating, and a KP.3 variant now makes up 25 percent of cases. Bottom line, Covid is now mutating far faster than vaccines can keep up. The CDC and FDA continue to ignore the data while pretending they can roll out vaccines for last year's variant. These lackluster efforts won't protect anyone from Long Covid, and they won't restore the public's confidence.

That ship has sunk.

It's long overdue for the FDA and CDC to abandon this wrecked strategy and start pushing for Gen 2, pancoronavirus vaccines while implementing better mask guidance and clean air.

The world "prepares" for bird flu

Yesterday, we learned that the European Union is signing a contract for 40 million doses of bird flu vaccine. They plan on delivering the vaccine to "those most exposed to the virus, such as poultry farm workers and veterinarians." Meanwhile, we have absolutely no instrument to know if and when bird flu begins spreading between people. The FDA has only authorized one test, made by the CDC, and they're only using it to test livestock workers. There's only two ways to know if bird flu is spreading, by looking at Flu A in hospitals and wastewater.

Canada prepares for civil war

As reported in Politico, a quiet little report from a think tank in Justin Trudeau's administration has raised the possibility of "ideological divisions, democratic erosion, and domestic unrest... plunging the country into civil war." The report cites "hundreds of experts and government officials" on the likelihood of civil war and what it could look like. They're not talking about a full-blown civil war like the one we saw in 1861. Instead, they mean something more stochastic. We can count on one thing here, we're heading into uncharted territory. A Biden victory this year will almost certainly spark violence in some form. A Trump victory will effectively end democracy as we know it.

Fun times, huh?

Our far-right Supreme Court

Every day, we learn more about what's really going on at the Supreme Court. A new piece in The Intercept further underscores Justice Samuel Alito's lean to the far right. As he recently told a journalist, he believes "one side or the other" is going to win the culture clash between secularists and religious fundamentalists. He's not confident the two can coexist. Of course, we could coexist if religious fundamentalists would stop forcing their views on everyone else and micromanaging our lives, something they often accuse their opponents of doing. That probably won't happen, because the entire premise of religious fundamentalism negates the possibility of leaving people alone.

Liberals also display fundamentalism

A Palestinian human rights lawyer named Rabea Eghbariah recently published a paper in The Columbia Law Review. The publication's review board shut down the publication's website to keep people from reading the article (and to punish the editors). The student editors went on strike and won. We can now read the paper. Eghbariah wants to break down the cultural and legal taboo around the Nakba, because it's crucial to understanding the issues surrounding Palestinian life and the events leading up to Israel's genocide.

About that jobs report...

The latest jobs report has corporate media cheering over strong job growth, gloating as they describe the GOP as "speechless." Critics are pointing out something less cheerful. While the U.S. added 272,000 jobs in May, the number of full-time workers fell by 625,000. The number of part-time workers rose by 286,000. As Brian Kim points out, the biggest gains happened in government jobs and healthcare. We've seen this trend over the long term.

This jobs report hits as a story in Forbes blows the lid off a scheme by nearly 20 percent of employers to conduct "secret layoffs" by mandating returns to the office. A survey by BambooHR shows that companies ultimately admitted that when they ordered their employees back to the office over the last two years, they were hoping it would spark a wave of resignations. When that didn't happen, they conducted layoffs anyway.

So, it turns out that all these claims about quiet quitting and quiet vacations are simply providing cover for companies who want excuses to lay off their employees and protect commercial real estate investments. Meanwhile, they indulge in the biased assumption that all their employees are ripping them off if they aren't working every waking minute. All of this fits into a wider effort to create an economy run by part-time employees, gig workers, and robots.

Maximum profits, minimum quality.

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