We Need a Coronavirus Truce — International cooperation must take priority in the war against coronavirus. Fair Observer discusses the need for and leaders’ pushback against even temporarily ending divisive expressions of state power. Though the military has been called on for medical aid in some cases, the U.S. continues pushing aggressive force against Iran, like March 12 airstrikes. Wars across the world, in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and throughout Africa, continue draining resources and costing lives that could combat the pandemic. U.S. economic sanctions against North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela are withholding critical humanitarian aid, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo apparently ignoring the pandemic. And while prisons are the perfect breeding ground for coronavirus, countries are reluctant to issue releases, especially to political detainees.
Democratic Leaders Silent on Deadly Iran Sanctions — Leaders of the Democratic Party remain silent as calls grow loud to suspend U.S. sanctions on Iran, which are raising the already staggering death toll by cutting off medical supplies. Iran’s health ministry says the COVID-19 outbreak is killing one Iranian every 10 minutes. On March 31, 34 members of Congress, led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, released a letter urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to suspend the sanctions in a humanitarian gesture to enable the Iranian people to fight the virus. Powerful Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, have sidestepped any mention of the sanctions, reports In These Times.
The Death of Hungary’s Democracy is a press-freedom warning — As concern spread about Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister, using the pandemic to consolidate power, Politico troublingly published a piece by Judit Varga, Orbán’s justice minister, disparaging the regime’s critics. But on Monday, Hungary’s Orbán-dominated Parliament granted Orbán sweeping powers for unlimited time; Parliament and elections are closed, and the prime minister has the right to suspend and create laws with executive power, reports Columbia Journalism Review. Liberal European leaders insist Hungary cannot remain a European Union member state under these conditions. Other governments are grabbing power in the pandemic, including India, Iran, and Turkmenistan. These governments, like Hungary, have implemented draconian limitations on press coverage concerning coronavirus.
Donald Trump took the pandemic as an opportunity to quietly fire Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community inspector general who informed Congress last year of the whistleblower complaint that kicked off Trump’s impeachment, reports Common Dreams.
We’re Going to Need a Bigger Bailout — Climbing death tolls and skyrocketing unemployment claims prompted Congress’s largest economic emergency package in history, The Nation reports. The supposedly $2 trillion package will push $6 trillion toward countering the economic collapse—but it won’t be enough. Though Democrats strengthened some pathetically inadequate measures for laid-off workers, hospitals, and schools, the bill throws 80% of the total package to banks and corporations. This leaves workers with about 8% and states, localities, hospitals, and schools with even less. Democrats must step up, and not be walked all over as they were last time, as the debate continues, to ensure support for states and localities, extended paid sick leave, voting by mail, payments to individuals, and Medicare-covered coronavirus testing and treatment.
Reporting on Panic Buying May Fuel Panic Buying — Media coverage across every medium has been telling consumers repeatedly that their neighbors are buying out stores’ stocks. Columbia Journalism Review suggests this coverage may perpetuate panic buying, as journalism sensationalizing hysteria moves more people to hoard. Outlets could frame stories as more of a community than individual issue, highlighting how hoarding is unnecessary for the individual and detrimental to society. Panic buying also particularly harms the poor, who don’t have time to wait out snaking lines or drive to another grocery store. Covering the state of supply chains helps alleviate fears, as food shortages are far off—farther off still if people would buy less.
The Right’s Coronavirus Miracle Cure Obsession — Despite copious evidence for their uselessness against coronavirus, people are buying out two antimalarial drugs: hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. The resulting shortage endangers patients who need these to treat arthritis or prevent organ damage from lupus. Salon looks into the at-first obvious answer to why: the hoarders are devotees of Trump and Fox News personalities, who have told them these drugs are a “game-changer” that can save them from the virus. Media Matters compiled a list of medical disinformation Fox has espoused concerning these drugs—repetition sells people. But Salon argues the obsession with a miracle cure speaks to conservative ideals, too; proven public health measures like vaccine and quarantine require solidarity and equality across class and race lines, whereas a miracle cure promises better care than what others can access.
A View From Inside Rikers Island, a Coronavirus Hotspot —The Indypendent shares an anonymous inmate’s account from the Rikers Island prison, which saw a two-day strike from inmates last week. Over 300 inmates and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19, and inmates are being offered $6 an hour and crucial protective gear to dig mass graves. The interviewed inmate said officials lied about an absence of tests on the island to quiet inmate demands, assuring them that doctors would conduct screenings every day. But these quickly devolved into doctors shouting questions at groups, ignoring reports of symptoms from non-English speakers. Prison staff moved eight people from a building with a confirmed coronavirus case to the inmate’s dorm, which had 40 people inside. They tested the eight and left them in the packed dorm for 24 hours awaiting test results. They tested positive. The inmate describes how maintaining hygiene is impossible in cramped quarters.
Bill Barr’s Prisoner Release Plan May Favor White People — On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr ordered the federal prison system to release some elderly or sick people, rather than keep them in overcrowded prisons with spreading coronavirus, Colorlines reports. But the plan may exclude vulnerable prisoners and create racial disparities. Prisons are to prioritize release according to “risk assessment” algorithm PATTERN—a never-before-used computerized rating system that deems white-collar offenders, who are disproportionately white, generally safe for release. Drug addicts with a history of prior arrests, who are disproportionately black due in part to the practices of the War on Drugs, are not deemed safe. Only 7% of black men in federal prisons would be low risk enough for release under this system, in contrast to 30% of white men.
How COVID-19 Affects the Clean Energy Transition —InsideClimate News looks at questions concerning COVID-19’s impacts on the clean energy transition. The low gasoline prices resulting from the outbreak will harm electric vehicle sales in 2020, especially as the U.S. auto industry as a whole struggles. New car sales are projected to drop 15% from 2019. Though the solar power industry was primed for growth, panel installations are being cancelled or postponed and sales are stagnating. State regulators are accustomed to remote work, so meetings and voting can continue. The coal industry is in trouble, but coronavirus may lead to a brief pause in the decline as utility companies decide about closing plants. There may be hope that the pandemic teaches the public to better listen to science about climate change.
1. Coronavirus: Ship whose captain was sacked for raising alarm sees more infections (The Independent)