By David Morgan and Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate voted on Thursday to take up President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus aid bill, setting up what is likely to be a contentious, days-long debate over the merits of the sweeping package. The party-line vote of 51-50, with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie, illustrated that Democrats who narrowly control the chamber can expect little, if any, Republican support. A vote on final passage could come over the weekend. Republicans are expected to use procedural tricks to drag out the process for as l…
The story below describes in facts, figures and headlines the plight of the hundreds of thousands of seafarers who have been stranded on board their ships or in ports for many months –some for even more than a year – due to COVID-19 ramifications.
In the International Maritime Organization (IMO) video below, we see and hear how some of those men struggle to cope with their personal crises.
“Yea, and if some god shall wreck me in the wine-dark deep, even so I will endure…
For already have I suffered full much, and much have I toiled in perils of waves and war.
Let this be added to the tale of those.”
Homer, The Odyssey
On Monday, February 22, the United States reached and surpassed a grim and mournful milestone when the number of COVID-19 deaths passed 500,000.
Many of the first early infections were suffered by American passengers aboard cruise ships sailing in different parts of the world.
The first to grab such tragic headlines was the Diamond Princess that, in early February 2020, was anchored and quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, Japan, with more than 1,000 crew and 2,666 passengers aboard, including 428 Americans.
Most Americans were eventually airlifted home, several testing positive for the virus — eventually numbering more than 50.
Soon, other cruise ships became “coronavirus hotspots” and encountered similar fates as the Diamond Princess: They were refused entry into ports, forced to sail in circles or drop anchor offshore with their passengers and crews denied disembarkation and placed in quarantine.
During the two months following the Diamond Princess outbreak, at least 25 other cruise ships suffered COVID-19 cases and dozens of cruise ships returning home would meet similar restrictions on docking and disembarkation, on both coasts.
Perhaps the most publicized “homecoming” is that of the Grand Princess that was ordered to circle off the California coast for several days after 21 tested positive for COVID-19 in early March 2020.
On March 9, the Grand Princess with its 2422 passengers and 1,111 crew docked at the Port of Oakland and the process of testing, medical treatment, quarantining and relocation and repatriation of passengers and some crew began.
Around mid-April, 101 crewmembers from the Grand Princess and two other Princess cruise ships were flown home to Mexico on a charter flight. It was unclear then how many crew members remained on board the Grand Princess, but in an April 8, 2020, USA TODAY piece one gets a preview of a growing crisis on the seas surrounding us:
As of April 4, there were 52,000 crew members remaining aboard 73 cruise ships either docked or anchored in or near U.S. ports…Another 41,000 crew members were aboard 41 cruise ships underway close to American shores…
An April 8, 2020, “coronavirus timeline” for the San Francisco Bay area reads, “The Grand Princess cruise ship departs San Francisco, sailing into the Pacific Ocean, with an unreported destination…”
While it is difficult to track and ascertain the fate and whereabouts of mariners aboard every cruise ship, container ship, tanker ship, etc., during the pandemic, an overall picture is emerging of what that “unreported destination” has been for too many of these seafarers, and it “ain’t pretty.”
Hundreds of thousands of these hardworking men and women from all over the world (including from the Philippines, India, Russia, Indonesia, China, Ukraine, and Thailand), endure long family separations, live in cramped quarters, sacrifice so many things we take for granted, and work grueling hours, days, weeks and months. They seem to have been abandoned by shipowners, operators, organizations, even their governments — by the world, it seems. They have been shut out of ports, cannot leave their ships and when able to do so, are banned from traveling to their home countries and homes.
At the peak of this crisis, in October 2020, approximately 400,000 seafarers were stranded on vessels throughout the world, and a similar number were prevented from returning to ships, either to earn their living or to return home, due to COVID-19 restrictions on travel and transit, according to a United Nations report.
Calling it “an unparalleled crisis” and referring to these mariners as “collateral victims” of the pandemic, the report emphasized how “This situation has severe impacts over the basic human rights of seafarers and other marine personnel, including the right to physical and mental health, the right to freedom of movement, and the right to family life.” The UN urged business, human rights organizations, and governments “to act on behalf of hundreds of thousands of seafarers and other maritime workers stuck at sea for endless months, in some cases more than a year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
• Recognize seafarers as key workers and give them priority access to Covid-19 vaccines.
• Establish and implement gold standard health protocols based on existing best practice.
• Increase collaboration between ship operators and charterers to facilitate crew changes.
• Ensure air connectivity between key maritime hubs for seafarers.
By Laura Gottesdiener MATAMOROS, Mexico (Reuters) – A sprawling camp in the Mexican city of Matamoros, within sight of the Texan border, has since 2019 been one of the most powerful reminders of the human toll of former President Donald Trump’s efforts to keep migrants out of the United States. The camp has dwindled to just a few dozen in residents in recent days, after hundreds of asylum seekers living there were finally allowed to cross the border to press their claim to stay in the United States. President Joe Biden last month rolled back the program – known as the Migrant Protection Protoc…
By Alex Guerrero Classrooms full of children. Flying to see distant family and new places. Sitting on a full train, looking out the window. Wandering through the mall on a rainy Saturday. Rooms full of people dancing. Plays, concerts, movies, piano recitals — sharing something, together. My daughters at the park playing with just any other kids, running, hugging, laughing, smiling. Unmasked. Free. Fearless. Much will return to how it was before. There might be yearly COVID shots, immunization ID cards, temperature stations, masks on planes and other new precautions. We will get used to them, j…
KFAR SABA, Israel — A Christian, a Muslim, and a Jew enter a bar. The bartender asks, “Is this a joke?” That’s how I feel after reading a recent Reuters article (3/4/21) entitled, “West scraps plan for IAEA rebuke of Iran.” Evidently Britain, France and Germany scrapped their plan, backed by the US, criticizing Iran for its many, serious actions regarding its nuclear activity. This must mean that the three European countries believe that they will be more successful in reining in Iran by being nice and continuing negotiations than by showing diplomatic strength.
Reuters: “The European powers, all parties to the 2015 deal, have been lobbying for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors to adopt a resolution at its quarterly meeting this week expressing concern at Iran’s latest breaches, including ending the basis for snap IAEA inspections…. Just as time for a resolution was running out, the IAEA announced a new diplomatic push to get answers from Iran.
We are trying to sit down around the table and see if we can resolve this once and for all,” IAEA chief Rafael Grossi told a news conference called at short notice, outlining a process that will start next month.”
Good luck with that.
What could possibly validate the idea that Iran is trustworthy? There is no treaty or agreement that validates Iran as an honest party to negotiations. The Iranians love to negotiate because they are Olympic “gold medal” winners at it. Iran literally runs rings (OOOOO) around its negotiating adversaries by broadly smiling, promising to adhere to provisions, broadly smiling, refuting evidence of its duplicity, and broadly smiling some more. As negotiations dawdle, Iran acts malevolently through its proxies and advances its nuclear weapon activities.
Iran’s negotiators are tough, smart, and realistic. They know their partners across the table will do just about anything to sign some kind (any kind) of agreement. For the Europeans and Americans, a bad deal is better than no deal. For the Iranians, talking about a deal is even better than signing one.
With proven prevaricators like Iran, N. Korea, or China, there must be overt, punitive consequences for bad acting. Concerning the JCPOA (Iran nuclear deal), the Western negotiators fell all over themselves acquiescing to Iran’s demands. Not only that, the deal failed to address ancillary issues such as ballistic missile development and Iranian’s proxy armies’ activities.
You might remember President Obama’s claim that a “snap-back” would immediately happen if there were any deviation from the (woefully inadequate) plan. That was nonsense from the beginning. When President Trump tried to initiate a snap-back via the UN, none of the other signatories to the Iran deal agreed. The Europeans were content to let Iran violate any and all provisions of the agreement regardless of Iran’s bad behavior. Their remedy was to complain about Iran’s bad behavior.
Naturally, the Europeans’ along with Russia’s and China’s reluctance to confront Iran impacted the American plan. Still, American punitive financial measures managed to somewhat constrain Iran’s efforts to forge ahead towards its goal of nuclear weapons capability. Now that there’s a new American administration, one would expect the Europeans to grow a little backbone to support the weak changes in behavior that President Biden seems ready to accept. But, no, not even a rebuke is necessary. More negotiating will bring the best result, the Europeans aver.
In contrast, the Abraham Agreements between Israel, Bahrain, and the UAE are a promising development which may produced a more muscular approach to keeping Iran from “exploding” the region. Israel alone may be strong enough to force Iran to back down. With its two new “partners,” it is that much more potent. If Saudi Arabia cooperates, the quartet would be stronger still against Iran.
Who has the most to lose by Iran’s dangerous, destructive behavior? Not Europe, although they are now vulnerable to Iran’s powerful ballistic missiles. Not the US, although it is Iran’s reputed #1 enemy, the Big Satan. It’s the aforementioned four Middle Eastern countries in Iran’s neighborhood. So far, Israel and its Arab partners and near-partners haven’t been asked to participate in strategizing about Iran’s behavior.
On March 5 another news item appeared, this one from the UK’s Daily Mail:
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for a new ‘Trump deal’ on the same day European signatories to the Iran nuclear treaty said they would trigger the agreement’s dispute mechanism, paving the way for fresh sanctions on Tehran…. ‘Let’s work together to replace the JCPOA and get the Trump deal instead.’ If that joint commission is unable to resolve the dispute, it is again forwarded to the United Nations Security Council….The first meeting of the process will take place in Austria by the end of the month, a diplomatic source said. They [paradoxically] added that they would like to ‘once again express our commitment’ to the deal and would not join ‘a campaign to implement maximum pressure against Iran’ championed by US President Donald Trump who walked out of the accord in 2018.”
I’m confused by the contradictory pronouncements by PM Johnson. But I am convinced that sitting around a negotiating table with a metaphorically unloaded gun isn’t the best strategy. Nevertheless, it’s the one pacifistic Westerners like to use. One thing is sure: allowing the weak Europeans to let Iran steamroll them isn’t a policy that Israel will accept. Unfortunately, this isn’t a joke.
After working through the night and seeking to win over moderate Democrats, Democrats have passed President Joe Biden’s cornerstone $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill. Every Republican voted against it.
Democrats voted to adopt the bill without any Republican support after a more than 24-hour, around-the-clock session. It will now fall to the House to consider the sweeping package once again before it can become law and any of the aid can be dispersed.
What’s in the Senate’s $1.9 trillion covid bill: Checks, unemployment insurance and more
The Senate’s passage of the measure marked an early win for Biden and his congressional Democratic allies, who had promised in the wake of the 2020 presidential election to authorize a robust package of new coronavirus aid –- including another round of one-time checks for families -– as one of their first acts.
But a prolonged standoff between centrists and progressives within the Democratic caucus quickly served to illustrate the precarious politics of the party’s meager tie-breaking majority in the Senate, where even one holdout can upend Democrats’ economic agenda in the early days of Biden’s presidency.
The relief measure includes a new round of up-to $1,400 stimulus checks for millions of Americans, $350 billion for cash-strapped cities and states, $130 billion for schools, and other sizable sums for a wide array of programs including food assistance, rental relief and coronavirus vaccine distribution. The bill also authorizes an additional $300-per-week in unemployment payments until early September, trimming the amount that House Democrats initially had approved earlier in the month.
After some surprise last-minute haggling Friday between moderates and progressives, Senate Democrats passed the landmark bill Saturday morning by a vote of 50 to 49, with all Democrats voting in favor and all Republicans opposed. Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) was absent due to a death in the family.
The measure next moves back to the House, which is expected to approve the Senate changes next week and then send the bill to the president before March 14, when some current unemployment benefits are set to expire.
The sweeping package could be the last major legislative response to the pandemic. It includes direct financial assistance for struggling Americans, targeted aid to the restaurant, childcare and airline industries, funding for vaccines and testing, aid to small businesses and support for state and local governments.
….The lingering tensions threaten to loom large over the Senate as it prepares to turn soon to Biden’s plans to upgrade the country’s infrastructure and rethink the U.S. tax code.
“The Senate has never spent $2 trillion in a more haphazard way, or through a less rigorous process,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
To jump-start the ailing economy, President Biden is turning to the lowest-paid workers in America, and to the people who are currently unable to work at all.
Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic relief package, which cleared the Senate on Saturday and could be headed for the president’s signature in a matter of days, would overwhelmingly help low earners and the middle class, with little direct aid for the high earners who have largely kept their jobs and padded their savings over the past year.
For the president, the plan is more than just a stimulus proposal. It is a declaration of his economic policy — one that captures the principle Democrats and liberal economists have espoused over the past decade: that the best way to stoke faster economic growth is from the bottom up.
Mr. Biden’s approach in his first major economic legislation is in stark contrast to President Donald J. Trump’s, whose initial effort in Congress was a tax-cut package in 2017 that largely benefited corporations and wealthier Americans.
The “American Rescue Plan” advanced by Mr. Biden includes more generous direct benefits for low-income Americans than the rounds of stimulus passed last year under Mr. Trump, even though it will arrive at a time when economic and coronavirus vaccine statistics suggest the broad economy is poised to take flight. It is more focused on people than on businesses and is expected to help women and minorities in particular, because they have taken an outsize hit in the pandemic recession.
Researchers predict it could become one of the most effective laws to fight poverty in a generation. Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy estimates that the plan’s provisions, including a generous expansion of tax credits for low-income Americans with children, would reduce the poverty rate by more than a quarter for adults and cut the child poverty rate in half.
As with Mr. Trump’s stimulus bills, the new legislation contains provisions intended to attack the virus itself, including money for Covid testing and vaccine distribution.
But it also includes elements of longstanding Democratic priorities that will apply widely to lower-income Americans whether they are hurting financially from the pandemic or not. In addition to the tax credits, the bill increases subsidies for child care, broadens eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, and expands food stamps, rental assistance and unemployment benefits, among other provisions. Mr. Biden also tried to include a $15 minimum wage in the bill, but it did not survive Senate parliamentary rules.
UPDATE: President Joe Biden’s reaction to the bill’s passage:
Today, the Senate passed the American Rescue Plan – bringing us one step closer to delivering much-needed relief. Tune in as I deliver remarks. https://t.co/wX8fXNGYqi
The way our politics now works, expect Congressional Republicans to seek some kind of retribution for the bill’s reconciliation passage by slowing down or nixing other Biden initiatives. Republicans have taken a calculated risk that by the time 2022 rolls around the bill will not have lived up to its hype, so the GOP can then increase seats in the 2022 congressional elections. If it turns out to be the opposite, GOPers will have taken a calculated risk due to perceptions frozen in 2009, when Democrats believe they settled on too little to really stimulate the economy. Biden made it clear he remembers 2009 and decided this time to go big.
We just passed the pandemic relief bill! Americans need help now and we got it done. This package expands vaccine distribution and delivers economic support to workers, families and small businesses. As we round the corner of this pandemic, help is on the way.
The just-passed Covid relief bill was supported by some 76% of voters, including most Republicans, yet every single Republican Senator voter against it. In wake of this GOP abdication, Dems have a duty to pursue unity—defined by what Americans want, not GOP elected officials.
By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former President Donald Trump intensified his war with the Republican establishment on Thursday by attacking Karl Rove, a longtime Republican strategist who criticized Trump’s first speech since leaving office for being long on grievances but short on vision. “He’s a pompous fool with bad advice and always has an agenda,” Trump complained in a statement issued by his office in Palm Beach, Florida. Rove, the architect of Republican George W. Bush’s presidential victories in 2000 and 2004, wrote in an opinion article in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday …
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania — The city of Lowell, Massachusetts., did it right confronting anti-Semitism. It was not so right when Manhattan dealt with distortions on Israel.
Thirty miles north of Boston, a school board member uttered an anti-Jewish slur on a live television show while a Saturday Night Live cast member vaguely joked about Israel’s Covid-19 vaccine distribution.
The flap in Lowell commenced last week, Feb. 24, when Robert Hoey Jr., a 66-year-old member of the Lowell School Committee, said: “We lost the k—, oh, I mean the Jewish guy. I hate to say it, but that’s what people used to say behind his back – Gary Frisch…He was the guy in charge of our budget.”
Hoey issued the statement on the morning show “City Life” on Lowell Telecommunications Corporation cable access Channel 8 at 6:35 a.m. in reference to Gary Frisch, who formerly worked for the Lowell Public Schools and is now director of finance and operations for the Gloucester Public Schools.
Perhaps the two worst slurs one can make about Jews is to call one of us a “kike” or brand us as Christ-killers. I am spelling out the k-word once to clear up any confusion as to Hoey said.
As anti-Semitic episodes persist, Hoey is the first elected official of whom I am aware who used the word in a public setting. A year ago, a local daily newspaper in Halifax, Canada, published a letter from a reader who compared the deicide charge – that the Jews killed Jesus – to Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians.
Then something uplifting happened in Lowell. Hoey’s neighbors refused to stand for it. Local newspapers reported the episode. Two days later, Hoey resigned from the school committee.
There were glitches in the community response, but most of it offers a textbook example of how to contend with any bias incident. Hours after the broadcast, Mayor John Leahy requested that City Council and the School Committee hold a joint meeting to demand Hoey’s immediate resignation.
“Earlier today, a member of the Lowell School Committee, Robert Hoey, used an offensive and repulsive racial slur on a televised morning show,” Leahy said in a statement. “As a result, I am calling Lowell’s elected officials to join me in demanding the immediate resignation of Robert Hoey.
“This School Committee has focused on issues of equity and racial equality in our schools and in our community,” he continued. “To fully represent the interest and diversity of our students and our community, we must not only join together in rejecting this language but continue working towards that more perfect union.”
Others in Lowell and at Frisch’s current employer in Gloucester swiftly joined in Leahy’s rebuke. The daily Lowell Sun and the biweekly Jewish Journal in Salem covered the story and The Boston Globe on Saturday reported Hoey’s resignation. The single drawback was that after Hoey made the slur the program continued for another 85 minutes without any guests responding to it, as pointed out by Robert Trestan, executive director of Anti-Defamation League’s Boston office, according to The Jewish Journal.
“It happened on a live program, but if you hear someone say this and you remain silent and don’t call it out,…in some ways you’re just as culpable,” said Trestan. “One of the primary things we teach kids in school is that you should be calling out racism, anti-Semitism and hate in real time. Imagine if a teacher used that word in a school. What would the school do to the teacher?”
Trestan also noted that Hoey applied the k-word in relation to financial issues, adding, “He uses it in the context as an attack on a former employee who apparently had some responsibility over funds. And so the combination of using the word k— and connecting it to this man’s job – and it being related to money – only enforces an anti-Semitic stereotype about Jews and money. So it’s not just the use of the slur – which is horrible – he’s using it in a way that reinforces and sends a message to others that’s anti-Semitic.”
Hoey clumsily announced his resignation in a video last Friday, adding, “We can’t be saying the k-words, the n-words, the s-words, the h-words. We just can’t be doing it no more.”
That produced confusion among readers on the Globe’s comment stream as they wondered what he meant by the h-word, or “h-words.” Noted one reader: “It would also be nice to have a school committee member who knows how to speak English properly.”
This Globe reader demonstrated sharper comic timing than Michael Che, anchor of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” who nearly two weeks ago cracked his big joke of the night: “Israel is reporting that they vaccinated half of their population, and I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half.”
It must be that we Jews have no sense of humor. Israeli officials and Jewish leaders blasted Che and SNL, with the American Jewish Committee preparing a petition pressing for NBC to retract the joke. AJC called the line “ a modern twist on a classic anti-Semitic trope that has inspired the mass murder of countless Jews.”
While it looks like Israel could have done more for the Palestinians, Che’s joke ignores key circumstances, such as: Israel has vaccinated Arab citizens of Israel, Palestinian health workers and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem; and the Palestinian Authority operates its own health system and ordered vaccines that had not arrived at the time.
Critics of the Authority claim that it went far out of its way to avoid any coordination with Israel.
Unlike the people of Lowell, Mass., the people at NBC were conspicuous by their silence. At this writing, neither Che nor his bosses at NBC and SNL (which broadcasts in New York City) have responded to complaints of Jewish organizations.
The New York Times has not reported on the broadcast since Che’s routine on Feb. 22. I have seen nothing in my edition of the Times and a search of the Times internet archives yielded nothing. The New York Post ran a story later in the week.
Jewish media outlets covered the situation, and the only major general-circulation newspapers I have found in the Northeast to report on it were the NY Post and The Washington Post.
Some Jewish leaders condemned SNL’s uncharacteristic concept of comedy, and a tiny segment of the Jewish community led by Dov Hikind, a former state assemblyman, protested outside NBC studios in Manhattan last Saturday night. There was no known reaction beyond that.
Lowell’s response worked because it was swift and overwhelming. In New York City and at the network, so far, so shameful.
By Makini Brice, David Morgan and Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate on Saturday inched toward passage of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan in an around-the-clock session that began on Friday involving nearly two dozen votes and hours of closed-door negotiations. Democrats, who narrowly control the chamber, agreed to scale back aid to the millions who have lost their jobs in the crisis. As Friday night turned to Saturday morning, they stuck together to turn back Republican attempts to modify the bill, which according to the Congressional Budget Offic…
When asked about the six main Friends characters, Harley Quinn said, “They seem nice.”
In her 13 June 2019 POPSUGAR column “Why I’ve Decided to Stop Watching Reruns of Friends — For Good”, Rayna Rossitto writes, “Lately I’ve found myself struggling to enjoy the show, and instead of reveling in the nostalgia, I focus on its problematic elements, questioning how a storyline filled with blatant sexism, body-shaming, and homophobia could be heralded as the best of its time.”
“It appears a new generation of viewers has discovered the show thanks to Netflix. And let’s just say, they’re less than impressed. Numerous millennials have taken to Twitter to claim the show is sexist, homophobic, and transphobic, not to mention nonchalant when it comes to sexual assault. Let’s reflect by taking a look at some of the most offensive moments in Friends’s history.”
Here is the first offensive Friends moment that Webb cites:
“Though Friends is widely loved and celebrated by much of our generation, it’s time to question why we allow such questionable shows to remain our favourite Netflix binge series. From toxic masculinity to homophobia, racism to ableism, Friends is a harmful show that we shouldn’t continue to praise . . . it encourages us to laugh at, and celebrate, racial stereotypes, toxic masculinity, and homophobia. . . Overall, Friends is just one of those shows that needs to be left in the past. Yes, it may have paved the way for friendship group based sitcoms, however it’s not as if the sitcoms to follow haven’t copied similar questionable narratives and themes. The only way Friends can be seen as acceptable to watch is if its fans know that these characters should be condemned, not celebrated.”
“Like a bajillion other people, I watched the show off and on throughout its 10-season run, and I even liked some of the episodes, appreciated the chemistry of the cast, thought the writing was strong, and found moments of its comedic timing to be absolutely impeccable. And like at least many of the black folks I know, especially those of us who actually live in New York, I struggled with how to enjoy a show in which my experience as a black twenty-something New Yorker was pretty much erased entirely. As an ensemble cast of semi-ambitious young white people trying to make it in New York City, Rachel and Ross and Phoebe and Joey and Monica and Chandler were ultimately able to live in delusion and thrive in ways that black and brown people never could or can. In doing so, they also perpetuated a racist myth that doubles as a white intellectual fantasy.”
In short, Friends ought not to be revived in any way. That much is obvious to people looking back at the show with a critical view. Sure, some of the show’s cast-members won Emmy awards for their roles in the show. That just illustrates how unawake many Americans were (and still are) about the show’s flaws.