The British Government confirmed Wednesday that a new and potentially more infectious variant of the coronavirus was identified in South Africa, and has emerged in the United Kingdom earlier this month.
What We Know:
- British Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced to reporters on Wednesday that a new variant of coronavirus was identified in two cases “thanks to the impressive genomic capability of the South Africans”.
“This new variant is highly concerning, because it is yet more transmissible, and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant has been discovered in the UK,” he said.
- Differing from other mutations of the virus, this new variant is likely more contagious than previous versions of the virus. The variant, which now accounts for more than 60% of the cases in London, has 17 different mutations in its genetic code. Eight of those mutations occur in a critical part of the virus, called the spike protein, which reaches out and binds to human cells during the initial stages of infection.
- As scientists learned more about the genetic mutation of the disease, countries around the world began closing their borders to those coming in from South Africa. Earlier this month, scientists in the United Kingdom detected the new strain of the virus, which is believed to have mutated as early as September. Health officials have now closed international travel to the U.K. and the British government has locked down much of the country, as well.
- According to the World Health Organization, the new variant has yet been identified in Denmark, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, and Australia. Many European countries, including those mentioned, have begun to close their borders as a result.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the new coronavirus strain could be circulating in the U.S. unnoticed. Thus far, the new variants have not yet been detected within the United States. Meanwhile, countries are also re-implementing stay-at-home orders and mask mandates.
- President Trump’s vaccine czar, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, said Monday that the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 shots should be effective against the new strain.
Individuals around the world are beginning to receive the first dose of the vaccine for the coronavirus, which is nearing a global death toll of 2 million in just one year.
Inclusion of Minimum Wage Increase in COVID Relief Bill Denied
Parliamentarian says the $15 hourly minimum wage increase is not allowed in the Covid Relief Bill.
What We Know:
- On Thursday, February 25, the Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, denied the proposed Covid Relief Bill’s inclusion of a minimum wage increase. This bill was not compliant with the governing rules budget, and the process enabled Democrats to pass the rescue package without the GOP votes. Democrats considered raising the federal minimum wage a priority.
- The minimum wage is supposed to be a living wage, but that is not the case. Nearly half of all private-sector workers do not have earned sick time, according to oxfamamerica.org. The hourly rate hasn’t kept up with the cost of living since the late 1960s. The earnings of a minimum-wage worker with a family of four fall well below the poverty line, according to investopedia.com.
- Many struggling Americans claimed Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) relief, which helps low-to-moderate-income workers get a tax break. The amount of credit may change if children, dependents, or the disabled meet the criteria. If this bill passes, then the EITC can expand. The number of jobs lost more than doubles the numbers seen in the 2007-2009 Great Recession, when 8.7 million Americans lost their jobs, according to cidrap.umn.edu.
- The advantages of increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 would be taking tax deductions away from large profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour. It will lift almost 1 million people out of poverty, and raise the pay floor.
Raising the federal minimum wage would hopefully provide more financial security for many of those still in a financial bondage position.
Florida Sheriff Uses Grades and Abuse Histories to Label Schoolchildren Potential Criminals
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office (Pasco County, FL) reportedly keeps a list of students they think could “fall into a life of crime” based on their history of abuse and violence or whether the student has gotten bad grades in school, according to the office’s internal intelligence manual, first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.
What We Know:
- The list is assembled using sensitive data from several middle and high schools. Using the school district data, they are able to see which children are struggling academically, racking up absences, or are sent to the office for disciplinary purposes. Furthermore, records from the State Department of Children and Families flag kids who have witnessed household violence or experienced it themselves.
- There are currently four hundred and twenty students on the list. According to the Sheriff’s office manual, these students are more likely to become criminals due to the factors included in the criteria.
- According to several statements released by the Sheriff’s Office, the list is used only to help the deputies assigned to middle and high schools offer “mentorship” and “resources” to students. Specifically, the statements explained a program where school resource officers take children fishing and another where they give clothes to kids in need.
- The process of identifying “at-risk students” is mainly executed in secret. The Sheriff’s Office does not advise the kids or their parents about the designation on the list. In an interview, school superintendent Kurt Browning said he had no knowledge of such a list, along with the principals of two Pasco high schools.
- Law enforcement experts, including some that focus on student privacy issues, questioned the justification for the Sheriff’s Office digging through children’s education and welfare records. They consider the program highly unusual and claim it was a “clear misuse of children’s confidential information that stretched the limits of the law.”
The Department of Children and Families has yet to answer whether or not it knew its data was being used for such purpose. Additionally, Sheriff Chris Nocco declined requests to be interviewed, and the agency refused to make anyone from the intelligence-led policing or school resourcing divisions available for questions.
Boy Scouts Face About 90,000 Sex Abuse Claims Filed in Bankruptcy Case
About 90,000 sexual abuse claims were filed against the Boy Scouts of America as the organization’s deadline for submitting claims in its bankruptcy case arrived on Monday.
What We Know:
- The Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection back in February after hundreds of lawsuits came to light alleging incidents of sexual abuse by Scout Leaders. Since the organization’s filing, lawyers across the country have been gathering clients to represent against the Boy Scouts. One attorney, Andrew Van Arsdale, created a network called Abused in Scouting, which he said gained about 16,000 claimants. The attorney claimed that his clients doubled after the Boy Scouts released a late August campaign, notifying abuse victims that they had until Nov. 16 to seek compensation.
- In a statement, the Boy Scouts address, “We are devastated by the number of lives impacted by past abuse in Scouting and moved by the bravery of those who have come forward.” “We are heartbroken that we cannot undo their pain,” they added. In efforts to repair the decade-long damages to victims, they state it “intentionally developed an open, accessible process to reach survivors and help them take an essential step toward receiving compensation.”
- Although the organization has not yet announced how much they plan to spend on settlements, NBC News reports that they are expected to contribute a substantial portion of their assets, including financial investments and real estate. Additionally, the Boy Scouts’ insurers and roughly 260 local councils and companies that insured them in the past will also be contributing to the compensation. Van Arsdale comments, “They spent millions trying to encourage people to come forward. Now, the question is whether they can make good on their commitment.”
- Due to the numerous claims of child sexual abuse, the organization has seen a significant decline in membership since its peak of over 4 million in the 1970s. Around this time, most pending sex abuse claims are dated before the Boy Scouts implemented criminal background checks, abuse prevention training for all staff and volunteers, and a rule that two or more adult leaders must be present during activities.
The influx of claims makes this case the largest regarding child-sex abuse claims in a single organization. “More sexual abuse claims will be filed in the Boy Scouts bankruptcy than all claims filed against the Catholic Church throughout the nation,” the Torts Claimants Committee said.
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