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March 17, 2020

Coronavirus Vaccine Test Opens with 1st Doses

This Day in History | 1601

The first recorded parade honoring the Catholic feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is held in what is now St. Augustine, Florida. 

Good morning Middle Americans, 

We shouldn’t get too excited but there is some good news when it comes to our ability to fight the coronavirus. U.S. researchers gave the first shots in a first test of an experimental coronavirus vaccine Monday, leading off a worldwide hunt for protection even as the pandemic surges.

Meanwhile, a bill designed to assist Americans impacted by the coronavirus has stalled out in the GOP controlled senate. The argument is an old one – Republicans want to make sure job-providers are provided for and Democrats want to make sure their special interests are getting their ends. 

We also have a new link to video from 2018 that appears to show President Trump talking about cutting a federal pandemic task force. Even though he recently said he didn’t know anything about the cuts. 

One would have to admit that things are actually going pretty smoothly when it comes to working from home, and home-schooling. All things considered. And there’s a lot to be considered here. But what happens if there is a major internet outage. We know that our digital infrastructure is being tested by foreign actors with malice. We have a story about one such cyber attack on the Department of Health and Human Services. 

If you are running short on toilet paper, you are not alone. Have you called 911 because you are in need of something to wipe your ass with? No, we know you are smarter than that because you subscribe to this newsletter.  Welp, wait until you see where — not just one person, but multiple have wasted the time and resources of local police by dialing 911 – just because they were out of tp. 

Finally – should we the tax payers be bailing out the airline industry. Think about all those baggage fees, and times you had to pay a lot more for a little extra leg room.  Our final story today might make your blood boil. For years the big airlines have been rolling in cash. Wait til you see what they did with that money. 

Read all about it 

-Fraser Dixon

Coronavirus Vaccine Test Opens with 1st Doses

(AP) — U.S. researchers gave the first shots in a first test of an experimental coronavirus vaccine Monday, leading off a worldwide hunt for protection even as the pandemic surges.

With careful jabs in the arms of four healthy volunteers, scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle began an anxiously awaited first-stage study of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed in record time after the new virus exploded out of China and fanned out across the globe.

“We’re team coronavirus now,” Kaiser Permanente study leader Dr. Lisa Jackson said on the eve of the experiment. “Everyone wants to do what they can in this emergency.”

Learn more here

Paid Sick Leave Bill to Combat Coronavirus Hits a Snag—Senate Republicans

(Newsweek) – As the coronavirus pandemic increasingly upends daily life across the globe and exacerbates fears of an economic recession in the United States, a stimulus bill that would require some companies to provide their employees with paid sick leave has come to a grinding halt in the Senate.

Despite the bipartisan legislation passing overwhelmingly in the House early Saturday morning with the blessing of President Donald Trump, disagreements among Senate Republicans on Monday left the measure hanging in limbo.

“I don’t agree with everything 100 percent. But you know what, we need to do something right away,” Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of leadership, told Newsweek. “We know that we’re going to have people out of work, and we need to make sure that they’re getting relief.”

The issue for Republicans is centered on whether small- and medium-sized businesses with less than 500 employees would face further economic strain for having to potentially provide two weeks of paid sick leave and months of paid family and medical leave. The tax credits offered to companies to help offset the costs would be too little too late, some GOP senators contend.

“I feel urgency to get it done right,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). “Most small businesses are not going to have lines of credit, they aren’t going to be in a position to where they can weather it.”

“They will go bankrupt if we force them to advance sick leave with no revenue whatsoever,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said on the Senate floor. He said rather than “create a complicated new system” where some people may be left out, existing systems—instant tax refunds or rebates and welfare programs, like unemployment insurance—should be used to get money into American’s pockets more expeditiously.

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Video: Trump Talks About Cutting Pandemic Team in 2018

(Independent) – A video has emerged of Donald Trump talking about cutting the US pandemic response team in 2018 – days after claiming that he knew nothing about the disbanded White House unit.

Mr. Trump said of the pandemic team that “some of the people we’ve cut they haven’t been used for many, many years and if we ever need them we can get them very quickly and rather then spending the money”.

“I’m a business person, I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them,” he added. 

The US president has come under fire in recent days for his decision to disband the National Security Council directorate at the White House responsible for planning the US’s preparedness for future pandemics.

The unit had been established by the previous White House administration in 2014 after the outbreak of Ebola. 

See the video here

Cops in Oregon: Stop Calling 911 Because You’ve Run Out of Toilet Paper

(CNN) – As police across the US brace for continued emergency calls in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, one Oregon police department is dealing with 911 calls for an entirely different type of emergency: Residents are calling because they’ve run out of toilet paper.

The Newport Police Department put out a notice on Facebook urging residents to stop making emergency calls due to a toilet paper shortage.

“It’s hard to believe that we even have to post this,” the police wrote. “Do not call 9-1-1 just because you ran out of toilet paper. You will survive without our assistance.”

Read more here

Cyberattack Hits U.S. Health Department Amid Coronavirus Crisis

(Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a key part of the federal response to the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak, was hit by an unspecified “cyber incident” on Sunday, officials said on Monday.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said there was “no data breach.” National Security Council spokesman John Ullyot said HHS networks “are functioning normally at this time” and that officials are investigating the matter.

Department spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said there was a “significant increase in activity on HHS cyber infrastructure” on Sunday but that HHS was “fully operational.”

Neither Ullyot nor Oakley gave other details as to the nature of the problem. Bloomberg News, citing unnamed sources, said there had been multiple hacking incidents that appeared aimed at slowing the department’s systems.

Learn more here

U.S. Airlines Spent 96% of Free Cash Flow on Buybacks

(Bloomberg) – The biggest U.S. airlines spent 96% of free cash flow last decade on buying back their own shares. American Airlines Group Inc. — which is not shown in the chart but is included in overall figures — led the pack, with negative cumulative free cash flow during the decade while it repurchased more than $12.5 billion of its shares. United Airlines Holdings Inc. used 80% of its free cash flow on buybacks, while the S&P 500 Index as a whole allocated about 50% for the purpose. As the industry reels under the weight of the coronavirus outbreak corporate leaders are seeking federal assistance to ease the burden.

Find out more here


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