Sunday, January 10, 2021

U.S. Representative from Grand Rapids, Michigan, speaks out on the attack on the U.S. Capitol


Statement from Republican U.S. Representative Peter Meijer from Grand Rapids, Michigan, on the attack on the US Capitol, 1/6/2021.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

League of Women Voters statement on the Electoral College vote certification


1/4/2021

WASHINGTON – Today the League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) CEO Virginia Kase issued the following statement ahead of this week’s joint session of Congress to count and certify the Electoral College votes:

“This week, Congress will count the Electoral College votes as required by the Constitution and affirm Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States. Any objection to this process is simply political theater which directly mocks and defies our Constitution. Still, these actions will not change the legally proven result of the 2020 election.

“In November, the American people turned out in record numbers to elect the next president of the United States, and the Electoral College confirmed the people's will last month. The electors from each state have certified their results, and the role of Congress this week is to confirm that the votes sent are the ones the electors certified. Congress has no legal ability to change those results. 

“While the League believes the Electoral College should be abolished, it is our current system for electing the next president. All elected officials must respect our democracy, accept the outcome of the election, and affirm the will of the people.”

Amen

Sunday, December 20, 2020

A little hope for the New Year: Michigan legislature and the Governor agree to $465M in COVID relief

From the Associated Press, 12/19/2020:

Michigan lawmakers, Whitmer agree to $465M in virus aid

"LANSING — Michigan lawmakers and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer agreed to a $465 million pandemic spending plan, including relief payments to businesses and workers struggling to stay afloat because of the coronavirus and government restrictions to curb its spread.

"The legislation received overwhelming Senate support late Friday and is expected to win House passage on Monday before legislators adjourn for the year. Nearly half of the funding would be used to continue, through March, a maximum 26 weeks of unemployment benefits in a year instead of 20 weeks."

A Federal stimulus bill also appears to be headed for approval. Whether this is enough to help ordinary citizens survive the impending economic fallout from the COVID pandemic, at least it is not nothing.

The State bi-partisan agreement includes:

  • $220 million to extend, not expand, unemployment benefits through March.
  • $100 million in hazard pay for frontline workers helping to fight COVID-19. That's extending a $2 per hour raise offered earlier this year through the end of February.
  • $79.1 million for the administration and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.$63.5 million for a “small business survival grant program.”
  • $45 million in direct aid for people who lost their job or were furloughed because of the pandemic. Eligible Michigan residents can receive up to 
  • $1,650 through this fund.$22.55 million for testing of vulnerable communities, such as nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
  • $3.5 million for local concert venues.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Weighing the risks and benefits of newly available Covid-19 vaccines

A Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory Panel has recommended an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. Final approval by the FDA could come within days. [See “F.D.A. Advisory Panel Gives Green Light to Pfizer Vaccine” by Katie Thomas, Noah Welland, and Sharon LaFraniere, New York Times, 12/10/10]: 

“The initial shipment of 6.4 million doses will leave warehouses within 24 hours of being cleared by the F.D.A., according to federal officials. About half of those doses will be sent across the country, and the other half will be reserved for the initial recipients to receive their second dose about three weeks later. “

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has a Website for “COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Guidance and Educational Resources” with the following statement:

“This webpage will house materials to support COVID-19 Vaccine Providers in successful implementation of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program. Be sure to ‘bookmark’ this page and check back frequently for updates!”

This document, “COVID-19 Vaccine Information for Providers,” gives details for how the vaccine program will be administered including billing codes and other requirements that may not be of general interest, but it does have some relevant information for people needing a vaccine.

According to the MDHHS vaccine provider document, 

“The EUA [Emergency Use Authorization] authority allows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize either (a) the use of an unapproved medical product (e.g., drug, vaccine, or diagnostic device) or (b) the unapproved use of an approved medical product during an emergency based on certain criteria. The EUA will outline how the COVID-19 vaccine should be used and any conditions that must be met as requirements of authorized use. FDA will coordinate with CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] to confirm these ‘conditions of authorization.’ Additional information on EUAs, including guidance and frequently asked questions, is located on the FDA website.”

There is more information on the CDC Communications Website: 

“Looking for information on ensuring safety of COVID-19 vaccine, how CDC is making recommendations, FAQs and more? Visit CDC’s new website featuring information on COVID-19 vaccine..."


PRIORITY GROUPS for Vaccination from the MDHHS Website

The phases distributing the vaccine are outlined below, according to the CDC Playbook and most recent ACIP meeting (11/23/2020).

PHASE 1: Potentially limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses available - Concentrate efforts on reaching the initial populations of focus for COVID-19 vaccination. The interim subsets for phase 1 are as follows: 

Phase 1-A:

  • Healthcare personnel: Paid and unpaid persons serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials…
  • Long-Term Care Facility Residents: Residents of skilled nursing facilities and/or assisted living facilities, homes for the aged, adult foster care, etc

Phase 1-B: 

Essential Workers: People who play a key role in keeping essential functions of society running and cannot socially distance in the workplace (e.g., Education Sector, Food & Agriculture, Utilities, Police, Firefighters, Corrections Officers, Transportation)…

Phase 1-C:

High-Risk Adults: Adults with high-risk medical conditions who possess risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness

Adults 65 years of age or older

PHASE 2: Large number of vaccine doses available: Focus on ensuring access to vaccine for all critical populations who were not vaccinated in Phase 1, as well as for the general population; expand provider network.

PHASE 3: Sufficient supply of vaccine doses for entire population (surplus of doses): Focus on ensuring equitable vaccination access across the entire population. Monitor vaccine uptake and coverage; reassess strategy to increase uptake in populations or communities with low coverage.

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There is also information in the MDHHS document referring to the Moderna vaccine that may be available soon. Keep in mind that different versions of a vaccine will be available and there may be different recommendations for who should take these vaccines and varying side effects.

We are looking at over 3,000 deaths per day nationally from Covid-19 and a persistent resistance by a significant minority of the population to even acknowledge that the virus exists. I have friends who have had the virus and have survived, but say it is one of the worst experiences they have had. They continue to have lingering effects. I also know others who are critically ill during this current surge of cases. My husband’s second cousin recently died of the disease. Most cases of Covid are asymptomatic or relatively mild. That, along with how contagious the disease is and the fact that it can be transmitted before an infected person even knows they have it, make it especially difficult to contain its spread.

A vaccine is crucial to achieving control over the virus, but there is no federal mandate for anyone to take it. Private businesses, schools, hospitals, etc., may eventually require vaccination for employment or participation, but it is highly unlikely that this will happen with vaccines approved under an emergency authorization. [See "Yes, some Americans may be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine but not by the federal government" by Grace Hauck, USA Today, 12/06/20]

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See also:

"Are there side effects to a COVID-19 vaccine? What are the 'ingredients'? The cost? Answers to your vaccine questions" by Adrianna Rodriguez and Grace Hauck, USA TODAY,12/02/20

"Side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine means 'your body responded the way it's supposed to,' experts say" by Adrianna Rodriguez, USA TODAY, 12/07/20

"Pfizer and Moderna use mRNA in their COVID-19 vaccines. This never-before-used technology could transform how science fights diseases." by Karen Weintraub,USA TODAY, 11/23/20

"Britain warns against Pfizer vaccine for people with history of ‘significant’ allergic reactions" by William Booth and Erin Cunningham, The Washington Post, 12/09/20

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Michigan Direct Care Workers for People with Disabilities are Facing a Cut in Pay

Michigan Direct Care workers were given a pittance of a wage increase of $2 per hour to continue providing care to people with developmental and other disabilities during the Covid Pandemic. It helped, but now direct care workers will be losing even that if the state does not move to fund these workers.

An opinion piece from Bridge Michigan, “Michigan direct care workers, families headed for choppy waters” by Robert Stein, Todd Culver, and Robert White, 12/02/20, warns of what lies ahead if state government does nothing to prevent this undermining of an already fragile system of care for people with disabilities.

Robert Stein is general counsel of the Michigan Assisted Living Association, Todd Culver is CEO of Incompass Michigan and Robert White is a parent advocate.

Here are some excerpts:

"Many people are approaching the end of 2020 with a sense of relief and hope for a better new year. But for those Michigan families who care for someone with a mental illness or developmental disability, Jan. 1, 2021 is a day fraught with dread.

"That’s the date Michigan’s budget will no longer provide its $2 hourly pay increase for the direct care workers these families rely upon. As a result, they may lose the help and support they need to manage their busy households, continue their employment and ensure the best possible help for their loved ones." 

Last Spring, “more than $100 million in federal funds was matched by a generous $40 million in state appropriations to ensure ongoing direct care worker support.” 

“…The work our state’s direct care workers do is arduous, important and noble, and their positive impact is widespread, with over one million Michiganders relying upon the support direct care workers provide.“

If nothing happens, direct care workers will receive a cut in pay. 

“This will exacerbate Michigan’s direct care worker shortage. Current turnover in the field already is a staggering 37 percent and growing. Meanwhile, demand for the services these workers provide has never been higher. The COVID-19 pandemic and all the stress and uncertainty it has produced has undoubtedly strained the collective mental health of Michiganders, and families throughout the state are struggling to deal with the fallout.“

...“Direct care worker salaries are tied to state Medicaid funding, which, at present, are exceedingly low. Today’s workers currently receive, on average, a starting wage of $10.70 per hour, with many receiving minimal or no additional health or other benefits. When one considers that the average starting wage at a retail outlet or a fast-food restaurant is typically anywhere from $11 to $14 per hour, it’s clear to see that we can and must do better for Michigan’s direct care workforce. “

As we know, COVID-19 has not gone away and neither has the burden on people with disabilities, their families, and direct care workers to maintain some sense of normality and hope for the future. Direct care workers’ wages “…should continue to reflect the extraordinary responsibility they bear. “ 

“We urge state policy leaders to act before the end of the year to continue the funding needed to extend the $2 per hour as a permanent increase through 2021 to ensure the well-being of everyone.”

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This is a good time to figure out who your state legislators are, if you do not already know, and keep those contacts available for the year ahead. You may get to know individual aides who work for legislators and the governor and have an easier time of getting your message across.

Here are some useful contacts:

Contact the Governor 

Find your state representative

Find your state senator


 Update from a FaceBook comment: "The gov's office submitted a supplemental budget request on 12/3, one of the items is an extension of the $2/hr increase through March 31. Still a drip-drip-drip approach, but better than cutting it at the end of the month."

Friday, December 4, 2020

2020 Election Results by the Numbers and the Foofaraw in Detroit

Election results by the numbers

National election results as of 12/2/20:  

Joe Biden has won the presidential election with 306 electoral votes (270 needed to win). Trump lost with 232 electoral votes. 

Georgia has gone through its third recount with Biden still winning and no substantial changes over the other recounts.

Popular vote, as of 12 02 20: Biden with 81,009,468 votes or 51.3% to 74,111,419 or 47% for Trump

In Michigan, Biden won 2,804,040 or 50.6% of the vote to Trump’s 2,649,852 or 47.8% of the vote.

The Democrat Gary Peters won a second term in the U.S. Senate with 2,734,568 votes or 49.9% to 2,642,233 or 48.2% votes for the Republican John James.

For more election results, see your local county or state election Website or check out Ballotpedia, an online encyclopedia of American Politics.

Without credible evidence, the Democrats in Michigan have been accused of stealing the election for Biden with fraudulent mail-in or absentee ballots. Using the same allegedly fraudulent ballots, however, the Democrats were not clever enough to steal the state House of Representatives that remains in Republican control. 

Nationally, the Trump appointed Attorney General William Barr declared on 12/1/20 that the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election.

President Trump declared months ago, before a single vote was cast, that if he lost the election, it would be because it was “rigged”. Without evidence, he complained that allowing voters to use Mail-in or absentee ballots would result in massive fraud. That’s his story and he's sticking to it. 

Despite losing the election, Trump and the Republican Party have raised over $170 million on claims of election fraud, but the funds can be used for far more than legal challenges to elections. They can ultimately be used to pay down campaign debt, to launch a new political action committee, and to cover the personal expenses of Trump and his family.  [see “Trump campaign, GOP raised at least $170 million since Election Day pushing baseless election fraud claims” by Will Steakin and Soo Rin Kim, 12/1/20 from ABC News] 

One of the false claims made by the President regarding the election in Michigan, was that Michigan instituted universal mail-in voting "right in the middle of an election year." As some of you may recall, Republican and Democratic voters overwhelmingly approved changes to the state constitution that expanded absentee voting in 2018. 

Despite the foofaraw over alleged election fraud at the TCF center in Detroit where absentee ballots were counted, no credible evidence of massive fraud has been found throughout numerous court challenges. Problems with vote counting in Detroit were mostly clerical errors and fewer than 500 votes were ever in question, nowhere near enough to change the results of the election. [see The DD News Blog, "2020 election misinformation and disinformation…"] The situation there became chaotic when Trump began losing his lead in Michigan to Biden. A call went out to Trump supporters to flood the TCF center. It was perfectly predictable that more Biden votes were counted later than same-day election results. Democrats had been encouraged for months to vote by mail-in or absentee ballots and Republicans were urged to vote in-person on Election Day. Absentee ballots took longer to count because they had to be handled and processed without much lead time to have been counted more quickly.

This article from Politico,"The Inside Story of Michigan’s Fake Voter Fraud Scandal" by Tim Alberta,11/24/2020, is a good summary of how Michigan became the center of national attention following the election and unsuccessful legal challenges to overthrow the results of the presidential election. 

Most memorable was a statement by Aaron Van Langevelde, a Republican member of the State Board of Canvassers, made before it was clear that the Board was going to certify the vote that had already been certified locally in all of Michigan’s 83 counties: 

“'We must not attempt to exercise power we simply don’t have,' declared Van Langevelde, a member of Michigan’s board of state canvassers, the ministerial body with sole authority to make official Joe Biden’s victory over Trump. 'As John Adams once said, 'We are a government of laws, not men.' This board needs to adhere to that principle here today. This board must do its part to uphold the rule of law and comply with our legal duty to certify this election.'"

I am personally tired of the drama and want this thing to be over, but I suppose it is not up to me.

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By the way, here is what real voter fraud looks like:

"Florida attorney under investigation for registering to vote in Georgia, encouraging others to do the same" by Nicole Carr, WSB-TV, 12/2/20

See more on responses to Michigan legal challenges:

"State elections director knocks down Trump claims about TCF, fraudulent vote count" by Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press,12/03/ 20

Monday, November 23, 2020

COVID Disinformation: The Anatomy of a Rumor

USA Today routinely fact checks statements made by the media to sort out fact from fiction and information from disinformation. These articles always include references to sources so that you can investigate further and determine the reliability of your own sources of information.

In this Fact Check article, “COVID-19 vaccine recommendations don't link government aid to immunization” by Brinley Hineman, 11/22/20, the reporter tracks down the sources of a false rumor spread on Instagram to discredit the Biden administration’s Corona virus task force. It claims falsely that the Biden Administration will withhold food stamps and other assistance from people who refuse to be vaccinated.

“A screenshot of a Distributed News article posted on Instagram last week wrongly claims that a member of Biden's recently assembled task force recommended withholding food stamps and aid from those who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it's available.

“The post was shared on Instagram by Angela Stanton-King, who was released from federal prison after being pardoned by President Donald Trump in February after she gave birth while incarcerated.

“She ran for Congress as a Republican in the late-Rep. John Lewis' district in Georgia and was defeated by Georgia Democratic Party Chair Nikema Williams. Stanton-King calls herself a criminal justice expert and is a former reality television star.” 

According to the article, the Website Distributed News routinely publishes false information: “The website's post incorrectly says that Dr. Luciana Borio, an infectious disease doctor who is part of Biden's task force, wants to bar people who refuse the vaccine from receiving food stamps and rent assistant.”

The Website falsely states that Dr. Borio is a CIA-linked operative. It sites a paper by a task force unaffiliated with the Biden campaign of which Borio was a member. The task force wrote a report that recommends partnering with organizations already offering services to vulnerable populations to “…to build trust and streamline vaccine provision…” 

“The paper doesn't mention withholding needed aid at all. “

Be prepared for more of this in the weeks to come.

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Read more: Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris outline their approach to curbing the pandemic on Biden's website.
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