GOP recoils from Graham’s national 15-week abortion ban. Nationwide railroad strike looms; could cost US $2 billion per day. Famine fears grow in flood-ravaged Pakistan.
GOP recoils from Graham’s national 15-week abortion ban
Yesterday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) proposed a bill that would impose a 15-abortion ban on most abortions across the country. The bill would leave in place state laws that impose tighter restrictions on abortions but replace laws in states that are more permissive. It also would impose 5-year prison sentences on abortion providers who violate the terms of the ban. Graham’s bill does include exceptions for rape, incest and to save the mother’s life. “If we take back the House and the Senate”, Graham said, “I can assure you we’ll have a vote on our bill”.
It’s worth noting that just weeks ago, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Graham was among those praising the decision to leave abortion up to the states.
While some abortion opponents celebrated, many of Graham’s fellow Republicans were quick to distance themselves. They may agree in spirit with he proposal, but the timing of Graham’s announcement was less than welcome. Shortly after Graham’s announcement, a more-than-usually grim faced Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that most Republicans wanted to leave abortion to the states.
Graham’s legislative roll-out comes just as GOP candidates nationwide are busy walking back previously harsh views on abortion.
Another GOP operative said Republicans focused on tight midterm contests reacted to Graham’s proposal with “disbelief”. “I just can’t believe this happened. I cannot believe this happened,” the operative said. “Surely Democrats are high-fiving across the country. Imagine how much money they’re going to raise, and they didn’t even have to talk about inflation. They had a press conference on inflation today, and they didn’t even have to talk about it!”.
The operative concluded that, “In the history of unforced political errors, this is a first ballot hall of famer”.
Even the right-leaning editorial board of the Wall Street Journal panned the timing of Graham’s proposal. Recent polling shows that most Americans oppose harsh restrictions on abortion and that this will be an important issue for them when they vote in November.
Nationwide railroad strike looms; could cost US $2 billion per day
The Biden White House has been busy this week trying to head off a nationwide freight rail strike that could begin as soon as Friday. Railroad companies and unions representing railroad workers have so far failed to agree a new contract after three years of negotiations.
US railroads carry about 28% of the country’s freight. That freight includes grain, finished consumer products, raw materials for production, fuel for power plants and industry, and other vital goods. A trade group representing the rail companies says a work stoppage could cost the US economy as much as $2 billion per day.
Biden has said he is looking into emergency powers he could invoke in the even that a strike happens. The rail companies and other industry groups are pressuring Congress to block the strike and impose a contract on rail workers.
What do the workers want?
A deal currently on the table would give railroad workers a 24% raise over 5 years, $5000 in yearly bonuses, and one additional day of paid leave per year. Most of the unions representing various occupations in the industry have tentatively agreed to the deal. However, the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) union, which represents conductors, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), which represents railroad engineers and conductors, wants the railroad companies to address their concerns about harsh “attendance policies”. If SMART and BLET declare a strike, the other unions will join them.
According to BLET president Dennis Pierce, his members are “pissed off”. They haven’t had a raise in three years despite working longer hours than ever before, but Pierce says that’s not the issue. The so-called attendance policies mean that conductors and engineers are on call for weeks on end. “They do not have days off. They do not have a schedule.” Pierce says.
Michael Lindsey, an engineer for Union-Pacific, says these policies make it impossible to have a life. “You can’t even make a dentist appointment. You don’t know when you’re going to be working. And then when you’re gone, you’re gone 36-48 hours at a time”.
Pierce says conductors and engineers need more predictable and flexible work schedules, and the rail companies can afford it. “Union Pacific reported its best year ever last year,” Pierce says. “And that’s like 160 years-worth of best years, billions of dollars in profits. They can afford everything their employees are asking for. … Like hiring enough employees to cover for employees absences when engineers or conductors need time off on short notice”.
Famine fears grow in flood-ravaged Pakistan
Since mid-June torrential monsoon rains and floods have killed at least 1,314, including 458 children and displaced millions. As of last week more than a third of the country was underwater. People were taking refuge where they could. The lucky ones made it to overcrowded government shelters in towns and cities. Most have camped out on high ground or levies.
Even when floodwaters eventually recede. Pakistan’s problems will be far from over. Aside from the over 1.1 million homes lost, 800,000 hectares (nearly 2 million acres) of farm land and over 750,000 head of livestock have also been washed away. Flooding has completely removed the top soil in some of Pakistan’s most productive arable land.
Pakistanis in rural areas also now especially at risk for diseases like malaria and cholera. Flooding has also contaminated drinking water in many areas with toxic overflows from industrial pollutants and sewage.
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