Vaccine acceptance grows, except among Republicans – National & International News- WED 24Feb2021

Vaccine acceptance grows, except among Republicans. Two Dems block $15 minimum wage. Beijing loyalty oath for Hong Kong politicians. Myanmar junta courts Chinese support.


Vaccine acceptance growing, except among Republicans

Since the election, the percentage of Americans who say they have already been vaccinated for COVID-19 or plan to be vaccinated has grown from 45% on November 1 to 60% currently. Experts have consistently said that about 70% vaccination is required to achieve herd immunity. As vaccines have rolled out and proven to be safe and effective in preventing hospitalizations from COVID, more and more Americans are taking that message on board.

In most groups, acceptance has grown significantly since Nov. 1 by: 31% among Democrats; 18% among Independents; 17% among whites; and 31% among blacks. The only group in the poll whose numbers haven’t risen significantly is Republicans.

Some blame right-wing media for keeping confidence in vaccines down among Republicans. According to Business Insider, “the frequency with which [Tucker] Carlson and other [Fox News] hosts are seeking to undermine faith in vaccines appears to be increasing”. This may be a backlash against Democrats gaining control of the White House and Congress.

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Two Democrat Senators blocking $15 minimum wage

Democrat and GOP Senators are meeting with the Senate parliamentarian today to address potential procedural hurdles to including a $15 minimum wage in the new COVID stimulus plan. Democrats are hoping to pass the entire stimulus through reconciliation to bypass the filibuster hurdle and allow passage with a simple majority. To qualify for reconciliation, the Byrd rule requires the total package to have a significant effect on federal spending, revenues and the debt within a decade. The parliamentarian may reject the inclusion of the wage increase if the package increases deficits beyond 10 years.

The second hurdle to the inclusion of the wage increase comes from within the party itself in the form of Senator Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ). Both consider themselves moderates, but have a history of siding with Republicans on major policy issues (such as the filibuster earlier this month). Manchin comes from one the poorest states in the country and 250,000 of his constituents would benefit from the wage increase. He says the rise to $15 would be too great a burden on small businesses, despite the fact the full increase wouldn’t come into effect until 2025. Manchin wants to cap the increase to $11. Sinema says she doesn’t want the wage increase included in the bill at all.

Progressive Democrats are looking for a workaround to please the two holdouts. One proposal would provide tax relief to small businesses to offset any cost burden from the wage increase.

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Hong Kong to require Beijing loyalty oath for politicians

Last year, Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government indefinitely postponed elections that were to take place in August 2020. Now, the government says that candidates in the rescheduled polls will have to swear allegiance to Beijing to be eligible. This effectively excludes all opposition and pro-democracy voices from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo). For the last two years, LegCo has been the scene of various political (and sometimes physical) tussles over unpopular legislation, including Beijing’s security law.

Since the passage of the security law, several Hong Kong demonstrators have been retroactively prosecuted for their parts in the pro-democracy movement, as far back as 2019.

Erick Tsang, Hong Kong’s Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, said Tuesday that the loyalty oath would “ensure patriots govern Hong Kong”. Tsang continued, “You can’t say: ‘I’m patriotic but I don’t respect that it’s the Chinese Communist party which leads the country’ “.

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Myanmar junta courts Chinese support

Burmese coup leader Min Aung Hlaing and his regime have been targeted by US sanctions after a brutal weekend crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Despite threats broadcast on national television predicting “loss of life” if the protests continued, hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded the streets over the weekend. Two people were killed, and another young woman shot by police earlier this month also passed away.

Since the coup earlier this month, China, Myanmar’s neighbor and chief trading partner, has been largely silent on the issue. Chinese officials even referred to the coup as a “major cabinet reshuffle”. Chinese emissaries have also worked to soften language in UN resolutions condemning the Burmese junta. Nevertheless, the US has sanctioned several generals who are part of the junta.

To counter the effects of this, Min Aung Hlaing is now openly courting Beijing’s support. Hlaing recently announced the resumption of several currently stalled hydropower projects. Many speculate that this includes the massive Myitsone dam project backed by China. The Myitsone project has been on hold since 2011 and it is extremely unpopular in Myanmar. The dam would flood 46 villages and displace 12,000 people. It would also impound the Myitsone river, which is vital to Myanmar’s agriculture.

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