Tag Archive for: Poland


Over half of Mississippians struggling to pay household bills, the most in the nation.

FAA seeks to address string of near-collisions at US airports.

Poland, Slovakia to send Soviet-era jets to Ukraine.



Over half of Mississippians struggling to pay household bills, the most in the nation

A recent Household Pulse Survey by the Census Bureau found that more than half of Mississippians (52.9%) are struggling to pay typical household bills. This is the highest percentage in the nation and the only one over 50%. Mississippi narrowly edges out neighboring Alabama which came in second at 49.7% and far exceeds the national average of 39.7%. 

Over that same period (the week of Feb. 4-13), Mississippi was 5th in the nation at 48.6% among states whose residents fear eviction or foreclosure in the next two months. Mississippians also led in the category of householders that were unable to pay an energy bill in full in the last 12 months with 30.5%.

Median household income is the lowest in the nation at $46,637, far below the national average of $70,784. Recent data shows that Mississippi has the highest poverty rate in the nation with 19.07%.

State Republicans suddenly remember this is an election year

During the pandemic, states received millions in federal dollars to help people get through the economic downturn. Despite the great need, average Mississippians received far less help than people in other states. Instead, the state government decided to use this windfall to push for income tax cuts.

While income tax reduction is popular in the state (62%), the suspension of the state’s 7% grocery tax is far more popular (74%). Mississippi is one of the few states to tax groceries and has the highest rate of any of them. Grocery taxes disproportionately burden the poor while income tax cuts disproportionately benefit the wealthy. But the state’s Republican leadership hasn’t considered using the state’s surplus to cut grocery taxes, despite rising food costs. 

State legislators recently narrowly rejected proposals that would have eliminated income taxes in the state. This means the stalled bills likely won’t move forward in this year’s legislative session. However, House Ways and Means Chairman Trey Lamar said the bills’ failure was “more of a timing issue with some of these representatives as opposed to any real opposition to income tax elimination. Coming off the heels of last year’s income tax bill, and this being an election year, there are a few that would just prefer to wait a little longer before making further cuts”.

Reeves believes life begins at conception, but when does it end?

In a rare win for public welfare in the state, Gov. Reeves has just signed a bill to extend Medicaid coverage to new mothers and babies from 60 days after birth to 12 months.

Mississippi has some of the worst rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality in the country. Until Reeves signed this latest bill, Mississippi was the only state in the nation that had neither extended Medicaid coverage for new mothers nor expanded Medicaid eligibility overall. 

Reeves touted expanding Medicaid coverage for new moms and babies to 12 months as being in line with the state’s pro-life stance. However, Reeves was quick to remind us he still opposes expanding eligibility for Medicaid for low-income families under Obamacare. Maybe Reeves thinks life ends at 12 months?


FAA seeks to address string of near-collisions at US airports

So far in 2023, there have been at least nine near-collisions of commercial airplanes at eight US airports. That number may seems small in light of the fact that there are about 45,000 flights taking off each day. But when you consider the hundreds of lives put at risk each time, even one near-miss is unacceptable.

The circumstances vary in each case, but in some instances, the near-miss was the result of air traffic control clearing two planes to use the same runway. This was the case in the most dramatic near-collision in Austin, TX, in which a FedEx cargo plane came within 100 feet of a Southwest Airlines passenger plane. Controllers had cleared the FedEx plane to land on the same runway where the Southwest Airlines flight was taking off. In this case, it was the quick thinking of the FedEx pilot that averted disaster, rather than any action by air traffic control.  

On Wednesday, FAA held an emergency summit this week, its first in 14 years, to discuss the issue. The panel of aviation experts cited low staffing numbers at the FAA and a lack of experience among new hires as a major factor. The staffing issues come at the same time that US demand for air travel is surging, making accidents and near-accidents more likely.

It may also be significant that 8 of the 9 incidents took place after an outage of the FAA’s automated NOTAM (Notice to Air Missions) system which notifies pilots of potential hazards they may encounter during their flights. The NOTAM system went dark late in the night of Jan. 10 and grounded all flights in the US for two hours the following morning. An investigation found that the outage was the result of FAA contractors deleting files.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Poland, Slovakia send Soviet-era jets to Ukraine

After nearly a year of requests from Kiev, Poland yesterday agreed to send about a dozen Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. Today, Slovakia followed suit, promising 13 MiG-29s. At the time of Russia’s invasion last year, Ukraine had several dozen MiG-29s that it had retained following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s not clear how many of these remain in service over a year later.

According to Slovakia’s Defense Minister, the European Union is offering Slovakia 200 million euros ($213 million) in compensation for giving the jets to Ukraine. Slovakia will also receive $745 million in unspecified arms from the US, the minister said. There’s no reporting on whether Poland is receiving similar compensation for its pledge. However, Poland’s Defense Minister did mention that they would be replacing their MiGs with South Korean and American-made fighter jets.

The White House says it was informed of Poland’s decision before it was announced. Biden has long been under pressure to give Ukraine F-16s, a request the US has so far steadfastly refused. National Security advisor John Kirby neither endorsed nor condemned Poland and Slovakia’s decision, but said it would have no bearing on the US position on sending F-16s. 

Unlike F-16s, Ukraine’s fighter pilots require no additional training to fly MiG-29s. But maintaining them may pose a problem. Slovakia had previously grounded its MiG-29 fleet due to difficulties obtaining spare parts and the departure of Russian maintenance workers.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!


Groups seek to bar Trump’s 2024 candidacy using post-Civil War law. Same-sex marriage bill clears key Senate hurdle. World War III averted, for now.




Groups to file insurrection disqualification challenges to Trump’s 2024 candidacy 

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has vowed to file legal action to disqualify Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential candidacy under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Section 3 bars the candidacy of any official who violates their oath of office by engaging in “insurrection or rebellion” against the government or giving “aid or comfort to the enemies thereof”. The post-Civil War measure was passed to prevent former Confederates from running for office.

“The evidence that Trump engaged in insurrection is overwhelming,” CREW president Noah Bookbinder said last week. “We are ready, willing and able to take action to make sure the Constitution is upheld and Trump is prevented from holding office.”

CREW previously filed a successful action in New Mexico to have Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin removed from office due to Couy’s participation in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Other groups are also seeking to bar Trump from appearing on state ballots due to his role in stoking the attack.

Trump facing other hurdles

Following the defeat of many of Trump’s handpicked candidates in the midterms, Republican office holders have been eager to distance themselves from him. Some have publicly expressed worries that Trump’s announcement will hurt Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker in his Dec. 6 run-off against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. Herschel managed to clinch the nomination with Trump’s backing. 

Conservative news mogul Rupert Murdoch has also told Trump he will not be backing his candidacy. Popular commentators at Murdoch-owned NewsCorp outlets like Fox News were generally enthusiastic supporters of Trump during the 2016 and 2020 election cycles, and some still are. But this time around, it looks like Murdoch will be throwing his weight behind Trump’s chief GOP rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Even so, if Trump does win the GOP nomination, which he very well might, it’s likely that the Republican political and media machine will fall in line behind him for the general election.

However, Trump’s own daughter Ivanka Trump has also said she will not be part of her father’s 2024 campaign. Ivanka skipped Trump’s announcement at Mar-a-Lago last night, although her husband, Jared Kushner, was present. Since Trump left office, there has been ample speculation that Ivanka and Kushner were breaking away from the Trump camp. Ivanka and Jared both testified before the Jan. 6 committee. Both voiced their disagreement with Trump advisors who were pushing the 2020 election fraud narrative. In a statement, Ivanka says, “While I will always love and support my father, going forward I will do so outside the political arena”. Instead, she says she will be focusing on her young children.


Same-sex marriage bill clears key Senate hurdle

Since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, Democrats have been pushing to codify other rights which might be under threat. The majority decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health suggested that same-sex marriage rights could be undermined by the Court’s reading of the 14th Amendment equal protection clause.

Today, the Senate took an important step towards enshrining the right to same-sex marriage in law, and with significant bipartisan support. Fourteen Republican Senators voted alongside all Senate Democrats to open debate on the Respect for Marriage Act. Today’s procedural vote means that the bill could get a final vote and make its way to Biden’s desk as early as this week. The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. The Act would require that all states to recognize all marriages that were legal where they were performed. It would also protect interracial marriage, which could also be threatened under the Supreme Court majority’s interpretation of the 14th Amendment.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



World War III averted, for now

Yesterday, Russia launched nearly 100 missiles targeting several cities in Ukraine, including Kyiv and Lviv, near the Polish border. The attack dealt widespread damage to power infrastructure, but most who lost power now have it back. Tensions rose after a missile struck a farm on the Polish side of the border, killing two people and destroying a tractor. The missile debris suggested it might have been a Russian-made S-300 type rocket. Russia uses these and other types of rockets in their attacks, but Ukraine also uses them as part of their missile defense system.

Poland’s Prime Minister called an emergency security meeting and ordered an investigation to determine where the rocket came from and whether it was accident or an intentional attack. Conveniently, President Biden is in Indonesia at a G20 meeting. There he convened an emergency meeting of the G7 countries to discuss how to respond. Since Poland is a NATO member, the strike could have triggered NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense clause, launching us into World War III.

Fortunately, cooler heads seem to have prevailed. Both Russia and Ukraine deny the rocket is theirs. Nevertheless, the consensus now seems to be that the missile strike was a tragic accident.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!



Reports: Russian missiles strike NATO ally Poland. Jan. 6 panel weighs contempt charge for Trump. DOT fines airlines over cancelations, delays. FBI to probe killing of American journalist in Israel.





Jan. 6 committee weighs contempt charge after Trump skips deposition

Mississippi Congressman and Jan. 6 committee chair Bennie Thompson says that contempt of Congress charges against former President Trump “could be an option” after Trump failed to show up for a deposition with the committee that was scheduled yesterday. A few weeks before the mid-terms, the committee issued a subpoena compelling Trump to testify about his role in stoking the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol in 2021. On Friday, Trump filed a lawsuit to try to block the subpoena. Thompson says Trump’s lawsuit, “parades out many of the same arguments that courts have rejected repeatedly over the last year”.

The committee will disband at the end of the year. With the House likely to come under Republican control, Trump is likely hoping to run out the clock on the subpoena. Unless the committee and the DOJ act quickly, he will probably succeed.

Why is Trump planning to announce his 2024 candidacy now?

Today, Trump is expected to formally announce his candidacy for President in 2024. Republican strategists have begged Trump to hold off on any announcement until after the Dec. 6 runoff in the Senate race between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. GOP operatives believe that Trump’s candidacy will actually hurt Walker’s chances. 

Trump himself has little to gain and a lot to lose from announcing his candidacy this early. His reputation as a GOP kingmaker just took a big hit in the mid-terms. Many of his handpicked candidates lost, while his chief GOP rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did very well. 

Trump also stands to lose financially from announcing this early. Once his candidacy his official, his finances and fundraising are subject to greater scrutiny. Moreover, the Republican National Committee has said publicly they will stop paying Trump’s attorney fees in his various legal fights if he announces a 2024 run.

Former US Attorney Dennis Aftergut believes there is only one reason for Trump to announce his candidacy at this time. Trump hopes his candidacy for President will head off criminal indictments in at least two cases. A Georgia District Attorney is currently probing efforts by Trump and his circle to overturn his 2020 loss to Biden in the state. Fani Willis, the Fulton County DA, hopes to bring indictments in that case as soon as December. The Justice Department may also be preparing to indict Trump for his mishandling of classified documents.

Unfortunately for Trump, the law doesn’t shield Presidential candidates from investigation or prosecution. Aftergut says Trump wants to exploit his candidacy and accuse prosecutors of politically-motivated attacks. However, given his waning influence, Aftergut thinks that strategy may blow up in Trump’s face. 


DOT orders 6 air carriers to repay $600 million in refunds for cancelations, delays

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced that 6 air carriers have been ordered to pay a total of $7.5 million in fines and refund $600 million to customers whose flights were either cancelled or unreasonably delayed. In one of the early COVID stimulus packages in 2020, US airlines received over $50 billion to keep its workforce whole and prepared for when normal travel would resume. Instead, the airlines furloughed thousands of employees and pushed many experienced pilots into early retirement. Airline CEOs used the billions it received from US taxpayers for stock buybacks.

As a result, airlines were not prepared when Americans took to the skies again. Throughout the summer of 2022, airlines canceled thousands of flights within hours of their scheduled take-off. Others were delayed to the extent that it violated consumer protection laws. Under these circumstances, US law requires the airlines to refund passengers’ money. But most airlines will only offer vouchers in these cases, which often expire quickly. There have been thousands of complaints to the DOT for airlines’ refusal to refund customers’ money. All the while, Buttigieg and the DOT did little other than publicly wag their fingers at the airline CEOs.

While they welcomed the announcement of fines and refunds, consumer advocate groups say it is “too little, too late”.  Consumer advocates are particularly unhappy that Frontier was the only US carrier to be punished, the rest were foreign. There have been complaints against all the major airlines, including Delta and United.  

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Reports: Russian missiles strike NATO ally Poland

Since its forces withdrew from the southern Ukrainian province of Kherson last week, Russia has escalated missile strike across Ukraine. For the first time in weeks, missiles have struck the capital Kyiv and the major city of Lviv in the west of the country. Russian forces have targeted energy infrastructure, leaving much of the country without power. 

Lviv is quite close to Ukraine’s Polish border. There are unconfirmed reports that Russian missiles struck on the Polish side of the border, killing two people. According to reports, the missiles struck near a facility for drying grain. This is the first time since the war began that Russian missiles have struck on NATO soil. 

A Pentagon spokesman says the US is still evaluating the situation and seeking to confirm the reports. Russia has denied its missiles struck Polish soil and called the reports a “deliberate provocation. Some analysts have said the missiles could have come from Ukraine’s air defense system. 

Poland’s PM Mateusz Morawiecki has called an emergency national security meeting and placed his country’s military in heightened readiness. Poland is also weighing a call for an emergency NATO meeting.

What it means

It’s difficult to overstate the gravity of the situation. A strike on a NATO ally could trigger Article 5 and force other NATO countries, including the US, to take a more active military role in the war.

While an unintentional strike is unlikely to trigger Article 5, Poland’s government has pushed for more active involvement in the conflict since the beginning. Back in March, Poland attempted to transfer some of its warplanes to Ukraine via US military bases in Germany. The Pentagon says Poland didn’t consult with them about this plan. Poland apparently hoped to circumvent US objections by presenting it as a fait accompli. The US Department of Defense nevertheless shot this plan down immediately, calling it untenable.

If a Russian strike is confirmed on their territory, Poland may use it as a pretext to escalate their involvement in the war.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Israel angry after FBI announces probe of Palestinian-American journalist’s killing

In May this year, Israeli military snipers opened fire on a group of journalists covering Israeli raids against Palestinian militants. Shireen Abu Aqla, a Palestinian-American reporter working for Al-Jazeera, was killed. An internal probe by the Israeli military ruled the death accidental. But Abu Aqla’s family and colleagues believe that she was targeted for assassination. Abu Aqla and the other journalists present wore brightly colored vests and helmets identifying them as press. Journalism advocates, Abu Aqla’s family, and even members of Congress have called for the US to investigate.

Today, the finally got their wish. The US Department of Justice and the FBI have informed the Israeli government that they will be investigating Abu Aqla’s death. Abu Aqla’s family welcomed the news, but Israel’s government has responded angrily. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz called the FBI’s decision “a mistake” and vowed not to cooperate with the US investigation.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!



Chauvin seeks to overturn conviction in George Floyd’s death. Poll: Nearly 2/3rds have cut back household spending. Russia cuts off gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria.




Chauvin attorneys seek to overturn conviction in George Floyd’s death

Attorneys representing former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin are seeking to overturn his conviction for the murder of George Floyd. Floyd’s 2020 death after Chauvin knelt on his neck for 9 minutes revived the Black Lives Matter movement and sparked nationwide protests. Last year, a jury convicted Chauvin of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin received a 22 1/2-year sentence.

Chauvin’s attorneys now argue that the politically and emotionally-charged atmosphere in the city denied their client a fair trial. The attorneys are asking the court to do one of three things: reverse Chauvin’s conviction; grant him a new trial in a different venue; or refer the case to a lower court for resentencing.

Policing and politics

At the time, many saw Chauvin’s conviction and sentence as both as a vindication of long-standing grievances of the Minneapolis black community regarding police brutality and discrimination, and as a turning point in the fight against it. However, the political winds have since shifted.

State Attorney General Keith Ellison, once lauded for his aggressive prosecution of Chauvin, has since come under fire from the state’s conservative-leaning power brokers. Ellison is up for re-election this year and now seems to be softening his stance on police misconduct and reform.

This year, Ellison signed off on a lenient 16-month sentence for Kim Potter, another former Minneapolis-area police officer. Potter accidentally killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man, during a traffic stop. Ellison also defended the decision to file no criminal charges in the death of Amir Locke, a 22-year-old black man. Locke was asleep on a couch in a Minneapolis apartment when officers executing a no-knock warrant stormed in looking for Locke’s cousin. Startled, Locke reached for a weapon to defend himself and was killed. Locke’s family have called his death “an execution”.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Inflation poll: Nearly 2/3rds of voters have cut back household spending

A new poll finds that 65% of voters have had to reduce household expenditures in order to afford gas. Similarly 63% say they have cut back due to grocery prices. Meanwhile, 37% have cut back on other expenses to pay their utility bill.

Rising housing prices are also forcing Americans to tighten their belts. Nearly half of renters (48%) say they’ve had difficulties keeping up with rent. One-third (34%) of homeowners with mortgages also report having trouble keeping up with payments.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).

Related: Many forecasters believe a recession is coming (4-minute listen)



Russia cuts off gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria

The Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom has announced it will no longer supply gas to Poland and Bulgaria. The leadership of both countries recently announced new sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine. EU leaders have accused the Kremlin of “blackmail” and said that this underscores the necessity of reducing the continent’s dependency on Russia for its energy needs.

Despite sanctions on nearly every other form of state commerce with Russia, Europe continues to buy around $1 billion in Russian oil and gas every day. Analysts have said that if that funding were to cease, the war would be over very quickly. EU leaders have vowed to gradually reduce their dependency on Russian gas in the coming years and are seeking alternative sources. 

Russia has demanded that “unfriendly” countries purchase their gas in Russian rubles rather than US dollars. The Kremlin sees this as an important step to keep their ailing currency afloat. So far, Hungary is the only European country that has agreed to pay in rubles. Poland and Bulgaria also have relatively low-volume gas orders, meaning that Putin can make a point without suffering a huge loss. Moscow also sees Poland and Bulgaria as weak links in the Western alliance against it and hopes to stoke divisions.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!



Millions of families hope for return of expanded child tax credit. Former prosecutors: increasing likelihood Trump faces Jan. 6 charges. Putin recruits “foreign volunteers” to fight in Ukraine.




With $1.5T omnibus passed, millions of families hope for return of expanded child tax credit

From July to December of last year, the American Rescue plan increased the child tax credit (CTC) and delivered monthly payments to parents. It also expanded eligibility to families who normally don’t qualify for the CTC because they don’t make enough money. The monthly payments were a godsend for many struggling families. But in January, the month after the payments ended, the families of 3.7 million children who had temporarily lived above the poverty line fell right back into poverty again

The now-defunct Build Back Better bill would have made the increased benefit, broader eligibility and monthly payments permanent. If the increased total yearly benefits of $3600 per child 5 and younger and $3000 per child 6-17 had remained the same, the plan would have cost about $100 billion per year until 2025. But it likely would have also increased productivity since more mothers could have afforded to pay for childcare and enter or re-enter the workforce.

During his State of the Union address, President Biden called on Congress to revive the expanded CTC as a standalone bill. So far, there’s been no serious movement on that.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Former prosecutors say likelihood of Trump facing criminal charges increasing

Several former federal prosecutors say it is becoming more likely that former President Trump will face criminal charges in connection with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The prosecutors were asked to comment on a recent court filing by the House Jan. 6 committee. In the filing, the committee challenged former Trump lawyer John Eastman’s refusal to turn over documents Eastman says are subject to attorney-client privilege. The committee filed a 61-page dossier detailing a “criminal conspiracy” between Trump and Eastman, which would void the protections of attorney-client privilege. 

After reviewing the dossier, former federal prosecutor Paul Pelletier said the Department of Justice could bring charges based on the evidence. “Given the gravity of the revelations”, Pelletier said, “the [DOJ] should consider a strike force or even a special counsel to coalesce sufficient resources to focus on these criminal attacks that strike at the heart of our democracy”.

The other prosecutors who reviewed the case seem to largely concur with this view. But however strong the evidence, it’s not certain by any means that the DOJ will charge Trump. Even if they did, the likelihood that such a case would be in court before the midterms is low. Bringing criminal charges against Trump would be a chaotic, time-consuming and divisive undertaking.

Trump’s suit against his rape accuser thrown out

In a separate case, Trump has lost his bid to sue a woman who has accused him of rape. Author E. Jean Carroll alleges that Trump raped her in the changing room of a Manhattan department store in the mid-90s. While Trump was still in office, Carroll sued Trump for defamation after he made disparaging comments about her and accused her of lying. Trump then attempted to countersue. But today, the judge in the case ruled that Trump’s countersuit was “in bad faith” and part of a delaying tactic.

In January, Carroll’s attorney said they would be seeking a DNA sample from Trump to test against a stain on a dress resulting from the assault.



Putin wants to recruit “foreign volunteers” to fight in Ukraine

Today, Vladimir Putin held a televised security council meeting with his defense minister Sergei Shoigu. During this meeting, Shoigu informed Putin that there were 16,000 “Middle Eastern volunteers” who wished to fight with Russian forces in Ukraine. It wasn’t clear where exactly the volunteers would be coming from, but the US has speculated that they could be Syrian. Putin asked Shoigu to make the necessary arrangements to bring them into the fight. Curiously, 16,000 just happens to be the exact number of “foreign legion” fighters Ukrainian President Zelensky claims to have recruited.

Fighting expands to western Ukraine

In a likely effort to head off incoming weapons and other Western aid to Ukraine, Russian forces have expanded their bombing campaign to the west. Previously, this part of Ukraine had been relatively quiet. Today, the cities of Lviv, Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk saw heavy shelling. This expansion also brings Russian forces and artillery dangerously close to borders Ukraine shares with Poland, a NATO country.

This is worrisome as there is an increased presence of NATO troops currently at the border. The Poles are also clearly spoiling for a fight, having twice proposed convoluted schemes to pass Soviet jets on to Ukraine. The White House and Pentagon rejected both these plans as “not tenable” since it would essentially mean involving NATO in the conflict and starting World War III.



Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!


Top 3 reasons Americans are quitting jobs: Bad pay, bad bosses, bad prospects. House passes $1.5 trillion omnibus. Russia-Ukraine talks yield no progress.




Top 3 reasons Americans are quitting jobs in droves: Bad pay, bad bosses, bad prospects

The latest jobs report shows that slightly more Americans filed for unemployment last week than the previous week. Even with hiring up and firings and layoffs down, new unemployment claims have continued a steady upward trend since last year. In January, more than 4.3 million people quit their jobs.

Economists have called it the “Great Resignation” and have attributed it to tight labor market. Many workers left jobs last year and a significant percentage has dropped out of the labor market entirely in recent months. A recent Pew poll asked resigning workers themselves about their reasons for quitting. The top three reasons workers cited for leaving their workplaces were low pay, bad bosses and a lack of opportunities for advancement.

Companies in nearly all sectors of the economy are now in the position of competing for workers. Offers of better pay and benefits, more flexibility and other perks are luring workers towards greener pastures. Many of the poll’s respondents also pointed to more intangible reasons for quitting, including feeling disrespected or undervalued at work.


House passes $1.5 trillion omnibus bill, but few lawmakers know what’s in it

The House has passed an omnibus government funding bill totaling about $1.5 trillion, which will now advance to the Senate. The bill contains funding to keep the federal government running until September. The bill is split into two parts. The first sets aside $780 billion for defense spending, including an 11% rise in spending for the Department of Homeland Security; this portion also includes about $14 billion in humanitarian, security and economic assistance for Ukraine. This portion passed with broad bipartisan support with a 361-69 vote. The second portion contains domestic spending, and passed closer to party lines with a 260-171 vote.

What did not make it into the bill was $22 billion the White House had requested for COVID control funding. According to a White House official, the results of not appropriating this funding could be “dire”. Without the funding, “In March, testing capacity will decline. In April, the uninsured fund — which offers coverage of testing and treatments for tens of millions of Americans who lack health insurance — will run out of money. And in May, America’s supply of monoclonal antibodies will run out”, the official said. “Simply put, failing to take action now will have severe consequences for the American people”.

Pork and earmarks

Members of both parties have expressed misgivings about the bill for another reason, namely that many lawmakers do not know what’s in it. This is especially true of the “domestic” spending portion. The omnibus totaling 2,741 pages was only published on Wednesday, and the Senate leadership hopes to have it passed by Friday.

Republican lawmakers have complained that Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have secured a huge number of earmarks for spending in their districts. But some Republican lawmakers, notably Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, have gotten in on the act as well. The earmarks include spending on housing, communities and infrastructure projects, all of which will help bolster their sponsors’ chances in the mid-terms.

Some lawmakers view this as an opportunity to secure funding for their districts that might otherwise have come from the now-defunct $1.75 trillion Build Back Better Plan. Progressives in the House also voiced frustrations that the winners and losers of this stimulus spending have been decided in backroom deals. This is in contrast to Build Back Better, which offered a more inclusive and holistic nationwide blueprint for stimulus spending.



Ukraine: No progress towards ceasefire, but Zelensky hopeful

Talks between the foreign ministers of Ukraine and Russia haven’t produced any new prospects for an end to hostilities. Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba says the terms offered by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov amounted to unconditional surrender. Regardless, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he believes that Putin will soon negotiate to end the war. Zelensky said he believed that Putin did not anticipate the strong resistance in Ukraine and that this would soon force him back to the negotiating table. This is likely wishful thinking on Zelensky’s part and a signal to rally his troops and beleaguered countrymen.

Meanwhile in Washington, the White House raised alarms about a possible chemical attack by Russia. Citing Kremlin accusations about US biological weapon labs and chemical weapon development in Ukraine, Press Sec. Jen Psaki said this may be a pre-justification for Russia to deploy chemical weapons in Ukraine.

The US has also nixed a Polish plan to supply some of its Soviet-era war planes through a US base in Germany. The Pentagon says this proposal as “not tenable”, since it would likely spark a broader conflict.  


Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below!


FDA may approve Pfizer boosters for all adults today. Activists call on OK governor to halt execution of man who may be innocent. Belarus shelters migrants stranded on Polish border.



Pfizer booster eligibility for all adults come come as early as today

The FDA is likely to authorize Pfizer COVID boosters for all adults who have been fully vaccinated for at least six months. The announcement could come as soon as today. The governors of some states have already expanded booster access to all adults, despite federal guidelines making them available only to adults with high-risk jobs or health conditions.

Moderna has also applied the the FDA for emergency authorization of its booster.

White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that hospitalizations are on the rise among fully-vaccinated who have not yet received boosters. There is some evidence to suggest that the protection from the vaccines wanes after a time. This drop-off in efficacy seems to vary from individual to individual. There is also some debate among scientists about how to measure this efficacy. But with cases on the rise once again and the holidays upon us, many health professionals think it’s time to allow all previously vaccinated adults to get an added immunity boost.

Fauci has also suggested that at some point, a booster may be a requirement to consider someone fully-vaccinated.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Activists call on OK governor to halt imminent execution of man many believe was wrongly convicted

Many fear that Oklahoma will execute an innocent man today unless the state’s governor intervenes. Julius Jones, now 41, was convicted of the murder of businessman Paul Howell in 1999. Jones was 19 at the time. Jones’ family has maintained consistently that Jones was at home with them when the murder took place. For some reason, the jury in Jones’ trial never heard this testimony.

Jones’ attorneys have also pointed out that the description of the assailant given by Howell’s family more closely resembled his co-defendant, Christopher Jordan, who testified against Powell.

Oklahoma’s Pardon and Parole board have already recommended clemency for Powell based on questions surrounding the conduct of the trial, including evidence not presented at trial that pointed away from Jones.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).



Belarus shelters migrants stranded on Polish border

For the last several months, Belarus, a non-EU country, has been admitting refugees with tourist visas and transporting them its border with EU-member Poland. Human rights groups have accused Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko of weaponizing the refugees in an effort to force the EU to lift sanctions on Belarus.

Last year, Lukashenko claimed a controversial electoral victory. The EU imposed sanctions when Lukashenko brutally suppressed protests of what many considered a rigged result.

As a result of this political chess game, thousands of migrants, including many very young children have had to camp out on the border. With the weather getting colder and some migrants having already died due to poor conditions, Belarus has admitted about a thousand of them to a temporary shelter. Critics say the highly publicized move to the shelter was another bit of political theater by Lukashenko.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


Please share any thoughts, comments or questions in the Comments section below.