The Full Belmonte, 10/18/21

100% Pure News. Distilled.

Store shelves stand empty in New York City.

  • “Supply chain issues that have led to empty shelves, rising prices and consumer frustration could continue well into 2022. That’s the prediction of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who said Sunday that some of those troubles could be alleviated if Congress passes President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal. These issues have huge political implications for Biden and Democrats as the midterm election season approaches, but they are also affecting consumers in unexpected ways. For instance, some toymakers are adjusting the kinds of toys they’re shipping this holiday season to accommodate a scarcity of shipping containers.” Read more at CNN 

  • “The murder trial of the three white men charged in the death of 25-year-old Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery is set to begin Monday, a case where no arrests were made for months until video of the shooting emerged publicly and sparked protests. Arbery was fatally shot while jogging just outside the city of Brunswick, about 70 miles south of Savannah in Georgia, on Feb. 23, 2020. The video of his last moments recorded by one of the defendants is at the center of the case. Public figures including civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms have condemned the killing, calling it a ‘lynching.’ The defendants' attorneys say the men pursued Arbery to make a citizen’s arrest because they suspected he was a burglar and that Travis McMichael shot Arbery in self-defense.” Read more at USA Today

  • “U.S. officials are working with Haitian authorities to try to secure the release of 12 adults and five children  who were kidnapped on Saturday. The 16 Americans and one Canadian were in the country with the Ohio-based Christian Aid Ministries. Police said the group were abducted by a gang called 400 Mawozo as they left a Haitian orphanage. It came days after a team of U.S. officials visited the country and pledged $15 million to help reduce gang violence. The National Association of Owners and Drivers of Haiti called for a nationwide strike Monday to denounce increasing security breakdowns in the country. In recent months, 400 Mawozo members have increasingly engaged in mass kidnappings involving buses and carloads of victims.” Read more at USA Today  

  • “Democrats are still trying to decide how to bring down the cost of the $3.5 trillion spending bill, and highly-prized health care measures could be on the chopping block. The proposed package includes broadening Medicare to provide dental, vision and hearing benefits, and expanding Medicaid in the 12 states that refused to adopt the Affordable Care Act provision. Democrats would also enable Medicare to negotiate drug prices to help pay for these measures. However, it looks like the spending bill could have to be shrunk down to between $1.5 trillion and $2.2 trillion to appease moderate party members. (Remember, the package needs all 50 Dem votes to pass.) Even the most widely supported health care measures in the package have their detractors. Some fear that beefed up Affordable Care Act subsidies would eventually require a difficult rollback if they aren’t extended indefinitely, and moderate Democrats and pharmaceutical companies have pushed back on allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.” Read more at CNN

  • “The US is now averaging about 85,000 new Covid-19 infections a day, which is down by more than 8,000 from the week before. Covid-19 deaths are also down. This could be an optimistic sign if the US manages to avoid a seasonal spike. It’s possible, but Dr. Anthony Fauci and other experts are still worried about low overall vaccination rates. While boosters are becoming widely available, there’s also concern that an additional shot could widen the gap between vaccinated Americans and those skeptical of the vaccines’ efficacy. Meanwhile, countries in the Asia-Pacific region are scrambling to place orders for an antiviral pill produced by US drug manufacturer Merck that’s supposed to be an effective treatment against Covid-19. It’s not authorized for use yet, but health experts are already warning it’s not a replacement for vaccination.” Read more at CNN

  • “LONDON — Police searched for answers Sunday about what might have motivated a 25-year-old British man of Somali heritage, the suspect in the brutal slaying of a Conservative Party lawmaker during a meeting with his constituents that has shaken Britain’s political establishment.

    Scotland Yard has not yet publicly named the suspect, though British news organizations, including the BBC, have identified him as Ali Harbi Ali. Ali’s father, Harbi Ali Kullane, told The Times of London that his son was being held in custody and described himself as ‘very traumatized’ by the accusations.” Read more at Boston Globe

  • “Investigators believe a 1,200-foot (366-meter) cargo ship dragging anchor in rough seas caught an underwater oil pipeline and pulled it across the seafloor, months before a leak from the line fouled the Southern California coastline with crude.

    A team of federal investigators trying to chase down the cause of the spill boarded the Panama-registered MSC DANIT just hours after the massive ship arrived this weekend off the Port of Long Beach, the same area where the leak was discovered in early October.

    During a prior visit by the ship during a heavy storm in January, investigators believe its anchor dragged for an unknown distance before striking the 16-inch (40-centimeter) steel pipe, Coast Guard Lt. j.g. SondraKay Kneen said Sunday.

    The impact would have knocked an inch-thick concrete casing off the pipe and pulled it more than 100 feet (30 meters), bending but not breaking the line, Kneen said.

    Still undetermined is whether the impact caused the October leak, or if the line was hit by something else at a later date or failed due to a preexisting problem, Kneen said.” Read more at AP News

  • “AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Republicans on Saturday night closed in on redrawn US House maps that would shore up their eroding dominance as voters peel away from the GOP in the state’s booming suburbs.

    In a key late-night vote in the Texas House, Republicans gave an early sign-off to new congressional boundaries that would give them more breathing room after some close calls in 2018 and 2020, while also opening a new path for the GOP along the border with Mexico.

    But in a preview of legal challenges to come, Democrats spent hours blasting the maps as discriminatory and all but blind to the state’s surging number of Latino residents, who made up more than half of the nearly 4 million new Texans over the past decade. Many live around Dallas and Houston, where under the GOP-engineered maps, there would be no new districts that give Latinos a majority.

    Republican state Representative Todd Hunter, who has presided over the redrawn maps in the House, defended the changes and said they comply with the law.

    The maps will still need final negotiations in the coming days between the House and Senate before being sent to Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, who is expected to sign them.” Read more at Boston Globe

  • “Republicans believe they have a good shot at taking Congress next year. But there’s a catch.

    The G.O.P.’s ambitions of ending unified Democratic control in Washington in 2022 are colliding with a considerable force that has the ability to sway tens of millions of votes: former President Donald J. Trump’s increasingly vocal demands that members of his party remain in a permanent state of obedience, endorsing his false claims of a stolen election or risking his wrath.

    In a series of public appearances and statements over the last week, Mr. Trump has signaled not only that he plans to work against Republicans he deems disloyal, but also that his meritless claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the White House in 2020 will be his litmus test, going so far as to threaten that his voters will sit out future elections.

    ‘If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020,’ Mr. Trump said in a statement last week, ‘Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24. It’s the single most important thing for Republicans to do.’

    The former president’s fixation on disproved conspiracy theories is frustrating to many in his party who see it as needlessly divisive at a time when Republicans feel they are poised to take back the House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. They worry he could cost Republicans otherwise winnable seats in Congress and complicate the party’s more immediate goal of winning the governor’s race in Virginia next month.” Read more at New York Times

  • Former President Bill Clinton was released on Sunday from a California hospital, where he was admitted late last week to be treated for an infection.” Read more at CNN

  • “As a woman was being raped while on a train near Philadelphia on Wednesday night, riders watched, failed to intervene and did not call 911, the authorities said.

    A man whom officials identified as Fiston Ngoy sat down next to a woman at about 10 p.m. on a train that was traveling westbound on the Market-Frankford Line toward the 69th Street Transportation Center. Mr. Ngoy “attempted to touch her a few times,” said Andrew Busch, a spokesman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, known as SEPTA.

    The woman pushed back and tried to stop Mr. Ngoy from touching her, Mr. Busch said. ‘Then, unfortunately, he proceeded to rip her clothes off,’ Mr. Busch said on Sunday.

    The assault lasted about eight minutes, and no passengers in the train car intervened, the authorities said….

    Mr. Ngoy, 35, was charged with rape, sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault without consent, among other crimes, court records show. The authorities said Mr. Ngoy was homeless and was not armed during the attack. He was being held at the Delaware County Jail in lieu of $180,000 bail and did not have a lawyer as of Sunday afternoon.” Read more at New York Times

  • One person was killed and seven were wounded in a shooting at Grambling State University in Louisiana, the second fatal shooting on the campus within a week, officials said.” Read more at USA Today

  • “The global drive to set out concrete steps to tackle climate change could hardly have come at a worse moment.

    An avalanche of crises — Covid-19, energy shortages, tanking economies, snarled supply lines — don’t augur well for crunch climate talks among the Group of 20 nations in Rome this month and the United Nations summit in Scotland, known as COP26.

    Europe and the U.K. are scrambling to shield people and businesses from high oil and gas prices that have revealed the danger of trying to give up fossil fuels before less polluting renewables are ready to fill the gap.

    In the U.S., political infighting is jeopardizing key elements of President Joe Biden’s plans to cut greenhouse-gas emissions in a sharply divided Congress and raising the possibility that he will show up in Glasgow with little to offer.

    Key members of his own political party oppose his proposals — including Senator Joe Manchin of gas- and coal-rich West Virginia, who raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars from energy-industry donors last quarter.

    China is racing to boost output from its coal mines after a shortage forced factories in more than 20 provinces to curb output or shut down. There’s no sign President Xi Jinping will be attending either the G-20 or the meeting in Scotland.

    Likewise, it doesn’t look there will be an appearance by President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, where the Amazon basin plays a critical role in absorbing carbon.

    However much intensifying droughts and floods point to the need for urgent action, chances are dimming for groundbreaking commitments to prevent more irreparable damage to the climate.” — Karl Maier Read more at Bloomberg

    Climate activists near the Bank of England in London on Aug. 27.

    Photographer: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

  • In the United States, the phenomenon dubbed as the ‘Great Resignation’ seems to be picking up speed. A record 4.3 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in August, according to new data from the Labor Department — a figure that expands to 20 million if measured back to April. Many of these resignations took place in the retail and hospitality sectors, with employees opting out of difficult, low-wage jobs. But the quitting spans a broad spectrum of the American workforce, as the toll of the pandemic — and the tortuous path to recovery — keeps fueling what Atlantic writer Derek Thompson has described as ‘a centrifugal moment in American economic history.’

    Wages are up and businesses face staffing shortages, while the experience of a sustained public health emergency has prompted myriad Americans to reevaluate their work options.

    ‘This [pandemic] has been going on for so long, it’s affecting people mentally, physically,’ Danny Nelms, president of the Work Institute, a consulting firm, told the Wall Street Journal. ‘All those things are continuing to make people be reflective of their life and career and their jobs. Add to that over 10 million openings, and if I want to go do something different, it’s not terribly hard to do.’

    The ‘Great Resignation’ in the United States was preceded by a far greater — decades-long, arguably — stagnation in worker wages and benefits. In lower-end jobs, earnings have not matched the pace of inflation, while work grew more informal and precarious. Workers’ rights activists now see a vital moment for a course correction. October has been a banner month for American organized labor, with major strikes across various industries sweeping the country.

    ‘Workers are harder to replace and many companies are scrambling to manage hobbled supply chains and meet pandemic-fueled demand for their products. That has given unions new leverage, and made striking less risky,’ my colleagues reported.

    For the average worker in a developed Western economy, there are reasons for encouragement. ‘The truth is people in the 1960s and ’70s quit their jobs more often than they have in the past 20 years, and the economy was better off for it,’ wrote Thompson in the Atlantic. ‘Since the 1980s, Americans have quit less, and many have clung to crappy jobs for fear that the safety net wouldn’t support them while they looked for a new one. But Americans seem to be done with sticking it out. And they’re being rewarded for their lack of patience: Wages for low-income workers are rising at their fastest rate since the Great Recession.’

    In social democratic Western Europe, a stronger safety net has led to somewhat less disruption in the workforce. But similar trends are at play: ‘Data collated by the OECD, which groups most of the advanced industrial democracies, shows that in its 38 member countries, about 20 million fewer people are in work than before the coronavirus struck,’ noted Politico Europe. ‘Of these, 14 million have exited the labor market and are classified as ‘not working’ and ‘not looking for work.’ Compared to 2019, 3 million more young people are not in employment, education or training.’

    A survey published in August found that a third of all Germany companies were reporting a dearth in skilled workers. That month, Detlef Scheele, head of the German Federal Employment Agency, told Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that the country would need to import 400,000 skilled workers a year to make up for shortfalls in a host of industries, from nursing care to green tech companies. Pandemic-era border closures and rising wages in Central and Eastern European countries have led to shortages of meatpackers and hospitality workers in countries like Germany and Denmark.

    ‘Frankly, this is a pay issue,’ said Andrew Watt, head of the European economics unit at the Macroeconomic Policy Institute at the German trade unions’ Hans Böckler Foundation, to Politico. ‘Wages will have to increase in these sectors to get people back into tough, low-paid jobs. That’s no bad thing.’

    But the story gets a bit more uneven, and certainly more grim, in the developing world. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 26 million people lost their jobs last year amid pandemic-era shutdowns, according to the U.N.'s International Labour Organization. The vast majority of jobs that have returned are in the informal sector, an outcome that often means even lower pay and greater precarity in a region already defined by profound economic inequality.

    ‘These are jobs that are generally unstable, with low wages, without social protection or rights,’ said Vinícius Pinheiro, regional director for the ILO, at a briefing last month. He also noted the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the region’s youth. According to one study earlier this year, 1 in 6 people aged between 18 and 29 in Latin America and the Caribbean had left work since the pandemic began.

    In Asia’s diverse economies, other pains are being felt. China is seeing its own version of the ‘Great Resignation,’ with a younger generation of workers more disenchanted by their prospects and turned off by the relatively low wages in the manufacturing centers that powered China’s economic rise. Authorities in Beijing warn of a growing shortage of skilled workers in its crucial tech industry, a challenge for China’s leadership as it tries to steer the national economy toward more skilled sectors. And as global demand picks up after the fallow months of the pandemic, China’s factories are feeling the pinch of labor shortages.

    Another labor-related pandemic phenomenon is crystallizing in neighboring Vietnam: Many migrant workers who left for their rural homes when jobs in big cities dried up amid lockdowns are not coming back….

    In their villages, many of Asia’s working poor can at least count on roofs over their head and food to eat. It’s another form of resignation. Those who clung to what jobs they could keep were often coping with more dire conditions. When the pandemic snarled fast-fashion supply chains, millions of garment workers in South Asia, as a recent study by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance documented, had to swallow wage losses and endure work arrangements marked by widespread human rights abuses.

    In a survey interviewing 1,140 garment workers in Myanmar, Honduras, Ethiopia and India, researchers from Britain’s University of Sheffield and the U.S.-based Worker Rights Consortium found that a majority had been forced to borrow money and many incurred greater debt over the course of the pandemic. About a third of workers who changed jobs reported worse working conditions, including lower pay and more risk.

    ‘Workers were already not being paid fair wages and had little savings at the beginning of the pandemic,’ said Zameer Awan, field worker with the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, to Reuters. ‘Now most are deep in debt and those who have found jobs again find themselves in more abusive conditions but without a voice anymore.’” Read more at Washington Post

  • Democracy fight | The European Union may trigger a new tool as soon as this week that allows it to withhold payments to members that don’t adhere to its democratic standards. With concern growing that nationalist governments in Poland and Hungary are breaching the rule of law, the bloc already withheld approval of their plans to spend billions of euros from the EU’s pandemic stimulus package, while the new mechanism could also freeze a different pot of cash from the 27-nation alliance’s budget.” Read more at Bloomberg

  • “China is urging its citizens to be on the lookout for American espionage after the CIA announced the launch of a mission center dedicated to China earlier this month. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV published a video, without citing sources, that the CIA was recruiting Chinese-speaking agents. The claim has lit up Chinese social media networks. However, it’s not unusual for the Chinese government to push the narrative that the country’s national security, and the lives of its everyday citizens, are under grave threat from American espionage. In 2015, China set up a national hotline for citizens to report on suspected spies or espionage activities. In 2016, Beijing launched the first annual National Security Education Day.” Read more at CNN

  • “Thousands of demonstrators gathered in Sudan’s capital city of Khartoum this weekend calling for the military to seize power. The east African nation is grappling with its biggest political crisis since long-standing President Omar al-Bashir was ousted during a coup in 2019. Military and civilian groups have been sharing power since then, but a failed coup attempt in September attributed to forces loyal to Bashir led military leaders to demand a new cabinet and coalition. Now, protesters want General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the armed forces and Sudan's joint military-civilian Sovereign Council, to initiate a coup and overthrow the government. Several political conundrums, like the restructuring of the military and disputes around justice issues, have contributed to the current crisis.” Read more at CNN

  • Hungary’s opposition. Peter Marki-Zay will lead Hungary’s opposition into elections next year as its candidate for prime minister after he won an unprecedented primary of six opposition parties on Sunday. Marki-Zay, the mayor of Hodmezovasarhely (population 44,000) won out over Social Democrat Klara Dobrev in the second round of voting.

    Marki-Zay, who is a conservative Catholic, is regarded as having a decent chance against Prime Minister Viktor Orban, given that he has already defeated Orban’s Fidesz party in the sort of rural district that will be crucial in a national election. He is hoping to follow in the footsteps of the Czech Republic, where an ideologically diverse coalition recently defeated Andrej Babis’s party in parliamentary elections. Polls currently show Fidesz neck-and-neck with the opposition slate.” Read more at Foreign Policy

  • “CHICAGO — Candace Parker… came home in the offseason for one reason — to bring the Chicago Sky its first WNBA title. She finished the job Sunday afternoon as the Sky rallied from a 11-point fourth-quarter deficit by scoring 15 of the final 17 points for an 80-74 victory over the Phoenix Mercury.” Read more at Washington Post