The Pandemic Recession has seen millions of Americans forced to rely on state unemployment insurance programs to keep them economically alive, many of which depend on outdated computers and ancient software. It has taken many applicants months to navigate the bureaucracies, get their checks in a timely fashion as the country was enveloped in joblessness that was initially worse than anything since the Great Depression. One state especially hard hit by the both the pandemic and recession is Florida. Not only does it have the fourth-highest count of COVID-19 deaths in the country, it also has had the second-most unemployment claims in the country—an incredible 1,683% increase compared with January 2020—according to data compiled by WalletHub. The Guardian reports that Floridians who have lost their jobs and applied for jobless benefits have suffered delays and system crashes. Throughout 2020, Florida was the second-worst state at paying benefits on time. For years before the pandemic, Internal audits had exposed a range of problems and reviews are still underway to figure out how to overcome the failures. In addition to all the bureaucratic and technological issues, Florida also insults the unemployed by capping the maximum weekly benefits payout at $275. That doesn’t get a family of two above the poverty line. Nationwide, weekly benefit payments average $378.
On a party-line vote, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee okayed a bill mandating that the state legislature must agree before any of the state’s municipality, school district, or other government entity can rename a school, street or park now named for a historical figure or event. The vote sent the measure to the full House. Republican Rep. Doug Okuniewicz said, “I don’t think we should be bashful about exercising the legislature’s constitutional prerogative in this way,” He and supporters on the committee say they want to keep these government bodies from “erasing history.” Representatives of the Idaho School Boards Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho testified at the hearing for the legislation. “The Idaho School Boards Association has a longstanding position of opposing legislation that restricts our members from making decisions on behalf of the constituents that they represent when it comes to their local public schools,” said Quinn Perry, ISBA policy and government affairs director. “School boards are keenly aware of how critical it is to have input from all of their patrons, and they do go to great lengths for community input on all matters before the board.” ACLU policy strategist Lauren Bramwell told the committee, “This legislation strips power from local governments and communities who are directly affected by the monument or marker.”
Remember what press briefings were like under Donald Trump? Boehlert reminds us that while “the irregularly scheduled events were used to spread lies as well as to denigrate and openly bully the news media, press briefings today resemble open exchanges between reporters and the White House spokeswoman, whose job it is to help inform the public about administration policy.” But now, three weeks into the Biden administration, some reporters are complaining that there is something nefarious going on because White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has been probing to see what questions they plan to ask. “The press can’t really do its job in the briefing room if the White House is picking and choosing the questions they want,” said one anonymous White House correspondent in a Daily Beast piece. Foxaganda hinted that inquiring about possible press questions, “makes them look unprepared.” Says Boehlert:
But the story is a non-starter, and the kerfuffle seems more like Beltway journalists frantically trying to find a way to ding the Biden White House — a way to show they’re not part of the “liberal media” — by inventing conflicts where none exists. […]
News outlets collectively failed to defend themselves against Trump’s purposeful onslaught of attacks and misinformation. Yet journalists become indignant over a minor process issue surrounding today’s White House briefings?
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author talks with Jeff Goodell about her new book Under a White Sky, the trouble with climate solutions, and what it’s like watching coral sex. Here’s a question from the interview to whet your appetite:
One of my pet peeves when I talk to people about climate change is this notion that we’re going to “fix” the climate. “How are we going to fix the climate?” You take that on directly in this book, about the implications and consequences of “fixing” the climate. Can you talk a little bit about that?
First the good news: We are having a conversation about climate change and what to do. What those in the climate change world would say, I think, is “mitigate” climate change. Whenever someone says we’re going to “solve” climate change or we are going to “fix” the climate, your ears should definitely perk up, because as you know, climate change is like a supertanker. You are pushing a humongous system, a system the size of planet Earth, in one direction. And you don’t get to just stop that when you decide you don’t like it. One of the messages that I think haven’t really gotten out yet is that carbon dioxide is not like particulate matter, where you can say, “OK, if we stopped emitting that, it would dissipate.” That problem could be solved in fairly short order if we took dramatic steps. [But] if we reduced our [carbon] emissions by half tomorrow, which is obviously not going to happen, we would still continue to push the climate, we would just be doing it more slowly. If we reduced our emissions to zero, we would still see warming.