Greg announced that he was taking this Labor Day off and I know…I KNOW…that the denizens here must be fed, so here is a little something for your Labor Day weekend!

The Editorial Board of The Washington Post writes that on this Labor Day, we should think of honoring the front-line workers of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For 18 long, hard months, these workers have been on the front lines in the country’s fight against the coronavirus. They have been joined by people who deliver groceries, cook meals, pick up trash, patrol streets, clean hospitals and care for the frail. Despite the hardships and health risks, they do their jobs, day in and day out, too often for little pay and few benefits. As Labor Day is celebrated Monday — with the pandemic sadly far from vanquished — these essential workers should be remembered and honored above all.

It should not be lost on anyone that many of these workers won’t have the luxury enjoyed by much of the country to relax and enjoy Monday as a holiday. Instead of barbecuing with family or squeezing in a last trip to the beach, these people will be on the job, in stores and police stations and hospitals. “We don’t have a choice,” Kristy Dutton, director of emergency services at Lee Memorial and Gulf Coast Medical Center, noted in a candid post to Facebook. In return for their service, these workers increasingly are having to contend with abuse from the very people they are trying to help because of ridiculous disagreements over masking and screening protocols. Health-care professionals report being cursed, screamed at and threatened with bodily harm. Flight attendants have had to resort to taking self-defense classes to deal with misbehavior from passengers. We have all seen the videos of retail and grocery store workers having to contend with angry and irrational customers who simply refuse to follow common-sense rules about masking. It’s all unacceptable.

John Cassidy of The New Yorker writes that the economic outlook in what remains the “coronavirus economy” is not so good.

…Despite hopes earlier this year that mass vaccination would finally break the link between the pandemic and the economy, this hasn’t happened—not yet, at least. According to the Labor Department’s monthly survey of households, which is part of the employment report, the number of people saying that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business rose from 5.2 million in July to 5.6 million in August. Yet another sure sign that the Delta variant is biting: the rate of participation in the labor force among women aged twenty and over, which fell sharply in the early months of the pandemic before rebounding somewhat, slipped again last month.

The good news? “There isn’t any,” Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a circular to his clients this weekend. “September likely will be weak too, and we’re becoming nervous about the prospects for a decent revival in October, given that behavior lags cases, and cases are yet to peak.” This pessimism could turn out to be justified, but it isn’t universal. “The August employment report was very reminiscent of April payrolls, when employment slowed sharply, only to rebound within the next two months,” Aneta Markowska and Thomas Simons, two economists at the investment bank Jefferies, wrote in another analysis out on Friday. “If anything, this one will likely be followed by an even quicker/sharper rebound given the likely influx of labor supply in September.”

Jake Bittle of The Nation writes that in the face of what will now be perpetual extreme weather events due to climate change, we have to have practical thinking and solutions to what needs to be done in terms of repairing the “built and natural worlds.”

Imagine you wanted to prevent the kind of flooding that happened in New York City during Ida. What would you do? First, you would have to find a way to soak up some of the rainwater as it falls on the city streets, because concrete and asphalt are very bad at absorbing water. One way to do this would be to create thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of natural water sinks such as bioswales or grasslands, but you’d have to make sure there were several in every single neighborhood, and you’d have to find a place to put them that didn’t interfere with private property or public rights-of-way. You could also revamp and expand the city’s storm drain system, or create a pump system to match the robust one in a city like New Orleans, but those interventions would cost untold billions of dollars, and there’s no guarantee they could keep up with the flooding during a rain event like Ida.

Let’s move on to residential damage. If you can’t fix the problem of drainage and water absorption, you need to get people out of low-lying homes, which means you have to find a way to relocate many of the 100,000-plus people who live in illegal basement and sub-grade apartments. This would entail addressing the endemic shortage of housing that forced many low-income residents to live in such converted units in the first place. There are also a million or more residents who live in or near the coastal floodplain, making them vulnerable to storm surge events like Sandy, and you’d have to find new homes for them as well. Or you could mandate that buildings in the floodplain be elevated above a certain height, but what about all the houses that are already there?

Charles M. Blow of The New York Times has some history lessons about The Ku Klux Klan of a century ago and the Trumpism of today.

…The World wrote that at times the Klan would tailor its message of hate by region, appealing to Japanophobes on the Pacific Coast, framing itself as a bulwark against radicalism in the “Central West,” fanning hatred of immigrants on the Atlantic Coast and stoking fears about Jews and Catholics throughout the country. As The World put it, “Wherever a prospective member lives, he has been promised that his pet aversion will be made an object of Klan action.”

This sounds eerily similar to the successful campaign that Donald Trump ran in 2016.

Many of his supporters view America not as a grand idea, malleable and expandable, but as a white man’s invention in which the displacement and slaughter of Native people and the enslavement of Africans was a necessary evil.

Olivia Goldhill of STATnews pens an exclusive about a look that STATnews was granted into a Pfizer research center.

STAT was granted a rare look inside Pfizer’s Pearl River research center, which has remained a place of frenetic activity for its 900 workers through the pandemic. The long, squat red brick buildings have operated as a laboratory for more than a century and played a role in past international emergencies, producing penicillin and typhus vaccines in World War II and the major oral polio vaccine in the ’60s. The site is now adapting to the current crisis, as unprecedented numbers of patient specimens crowd its loading bays. Inside the white, fluorescent-lit corridors, Pfizer built a high-security laboratory with enough safety protocols and air locks to create copies of the variants and contain SARS-2.

Monitoring the virus so closely has yielded some surprises, including calling into question old assumptions about vaccines: Recipients have protection before the vaccines have generated a significant antibody response, for example, a finding that is leading researchers to devise new methods of evaluating future vaccine candidates.

The work is exhausting, but the researchers cannot afford to pause. “My goal is to go to bed before the sun rises,” said Kristin Tompkins, associate director of vaccine research and development, and the first person at Pfizer to receive data on how each new variant responds to the vaccine.

Columbia University professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, writing for The Boston Globe,  pleads that America changes its foreign policy direction.

Americans didn’t want to save the Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians, who were despised in US popular culture; America wanted to stop communism and the supposed “falling dominoes” across Southeast Asia. America didn’t want to save Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, and others in poverty-stricken Central America; it wanted to stop leftist radicals who threatened American investments in the region. America didn’t want to save the Iraqis, Libyans, and Syrians; it wanted to topple regimes and replace them with US-backed regimes.

And America cared not a whit about Afghanistan, a point confirmed repeatedly by President Biden in recent days. Biden has noted, approvingly, that the United States went to Afghanistan for one reason and one reason only: to get Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda after 9/11, not to help the people of Afghanistan.

Tellingly, Biden has not been truthful about the real origin of US intervention in Afghanistan, following a pattern set by his predecessors. America’s intervention in Afghanistan goes back to 1979, more than 20 years before 9/11, when the CIA secretly trained, armed, and funded Islamic jihadists in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union. The US-created fighting force morphed into Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but no president, including Biden, has honestly explained the basic facts to the American people.

Plenty to agree and disagree with in that column.

Finally, David M. Herszenhorn writes for POLITICO Europe that the Afghanistan debacle has exposed the need for the European Union to confront the policy implications of that debacle, including the need to further develop its own military capabilities.

While some leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have said the experience in Afghanistan confirms the need for a conversation about European “strategic autonomy,” independent experts and analysts say the discussion that’s really needed is about basic strategic functionality, given the evidence that Europe cannot defend itself, especially if it faced conflict against military powers like Russia or China.

Meetings last week among EU defense ministers and foreign ministers were little more than directionless group therapy sessions. A tentative, guarded decision by foreign ministers to set benchmarks for engaging with the Taliban, and continuing reluctance among defense ministers to bolster EU military capabilities, only added to a pervasive sense that Brussels is dysfunctional and powerless, and unlikely to learn much from the mistakes in Afghanistan.

Senior officials clearly feel compelled to talk about Afghanistan while having little or nothing to offer in the form of concrete proposals — a point evidenced in a lengthy written statement issued by European Council President Charles Michel.  

“As a global economic and democratic power, can Europe be content with a situation where it is unable to ensure unassisted the safety and evacuation of its diplomats, its citizens and those who have helped them and are therefore under threat?” Michel wrote. “What other major geopolitical event do we need to lead Europe to aim for more decision-making autonomy and capacity for action?”

Have a great Labor Day on what would be my grandmother’s 98th birthday!

Happy Birthday, Granny!

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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