Lazy Caturday Reads

Gathering storm, Karen Comber

Gathering Storm, by Karen Comber

Good Morning!!

Hurricane Ida is bearing down on Louisiana on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Fortunately, the seawall protections are better now and Joe Biden is president instead of George W. Bush.

AP News: Ida aims to hit Louisiana on Hurricane Katrina anniversary.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Hurricane Ida struck Cuba on Friday and threatened to slam into Louisiana with devastating force over the weekend, prompting evacuations in New Orleans and across the coastal region.

Ida intensified rapidly Friday from a tropical storm to a hurricane with top winds of 80 mph (128 kph) as it crossed western Cuba and entered the Gulf of Mexico. The National Hurricane Center predicted Ida would strengthen into an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane, with top winds of 140 mph (225 kph) before making landfall along the U.S. Gulf Coast late Sunday.

“This will be a life-altering storm for those who aren’t prepared,” National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott said during a Friday news conference with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The governor urged residents to quickly prepare, saying: “By nightfall tomorrow night, you need to be where you intend to be to ride out the storm.”

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered a mandatory evacuation for a small area of the city outside the levee system. But with the storm intensifying so much over a short time, she said it wasn’t possible to do so for the entire city. That generally calls for using all lanes of some highways to leave the city.

Orange cat, vicky mount

Orange Cat, by Vicky Mount

“The city cannot order a mandatory evacuation because we don’t have the time,” Cantrell said.

City officials said residents need to be prepared for prolonged power outages, and asked elderly residents to consider evacuating. Collin Arnold, the city’s emergency management director, said the city could be under high winds for about ten hours.

Other areas across the coastal region were under a mix of voluntary and mandatory evacuations. The storm is expected to make landfall on the exact date Hurricane Katrina devastated a large swath of the Gulf Coast exactly 16 years earlier.

More from CNN: Gulf Coast braces for Sunday arrival of Hurricane Ida, potentially a Category 4 storm.

Ida is anticipated to reach at least Category 4 strength before landfall, the National Hurricane Center said, maintaining its earlier forecast.

“Ida is expected to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane when it approaches the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday,” National Hurricane Center forecasters said Saturday morning. At 8 a.m. ET, the storm sustained winds of 85 mph.

Officials throughout the state implored people to evacuate, with some issuing mandatory orders to do so.

A dangerous storm surge of 10 to 15 feet is expected from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Mississippi River on Sunday as Ida makes landfall, the NHC said.

Hurricane conditions are likely in areas along the northern Gulf Coast beginning Sunday, with tropical storm conditions expected to begin by late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. These conditions will spread inland over portions of Louisiana and Mississippi Sunday night and Monday.

Rainfall can amount to 8 to 16 inches, with isolated maximum totals of 20 inches possible across southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi through Monday– which will likely lead to significant flash and river flooding impacts.

A hurricane warning remains in effect from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, to the mouth of the Pearl River and includes Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas and New Orleans.

In Louisiana, a hurricane watch is in effect from Cameron to west of Intracoastal City and the mouth of the Pearl River to the Mississippi-Alabama border. Tropical storm warnings and watches are also issued stretching east to the Alabama-Florida border.

The city is anticipating impacts from damaging winds of up to 110 mph, according to Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

I found this article at Yahoo News interesting: EXPLAINER: Is New Orleans protected from a hurricane?

Storm has passed, Robert Tracy

Storm has passed, by Robert Tracy

New Orleans finds itself in the path of Hurricane Ida 16 years to the day after floodwalls collapsed and levees were overtopped by a storm surge driven by Hurricane Katrina. That flooding killed more than 1,000 people and caused billions in damage. But Ida arrives at the doorstep of a region transformed since 2005 by a giant civil works project and closer attention to flood control.

The system already has been tested by multiple storms, including 2012’s Isaac, with little damage to the areas it protects….

The federal government spent $14.5 billion on levees, pumps, seawalls, floodgates and drainage that provides enhanced protection from storm surge and flooding in New Orleans and surrounding suburbs south of Lake Pontchartrain. With the exception of three drainage projects, that work is complete.

“The post-Katrina system is so different than what was in place before,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesperson Matt Roe.

Starting with a giant surge barrier east of the city, the system is a 130-mile (210-kilometer) ring built to hold out storm surge of about 30 feet (9 meters). The National Hurricane Center on Friday projected Ida would bring a surge of 10 feet to 15 feet (3 to 4.6 meters) on the west bank.

At that level, it could come over the levees in some areas, said emergency manager Heath Jones of the Army Corps of Engineers’ New Orleans District.

“They’re designed to overtop in places” with protections against worse damage, including armoring, splash pads and pumps with backup generators, he said.

“We’ve built all that since Katrina,” and they’re designed for a worse storm than the Ida is expected to be, he said.

Governments as of Friday were not ordering people protected by the levees to evacuate, showing their confidence in the system.

A number of floodgates are being closed as the storm approaches. That includes massive gates that ships can normally sail through, such as ones that close off the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal near the Lower 9th Ward. That has reduced the risk of flooding in an area long viewed as among the city’s most exposed. At least one smaller floodgate on land has been removed for maintenance, though, with officials planning to close the gap with sandbags.

Read more at the Yahoo link.

Afghanistan News

The Guardian: Afghanistan drone strike targeted Islamic State ‘planner’ in car, US says.

The US drone strike in Afghanistan targeted a mid-level “planner” from the Islamic State’s local affiliate who was travelling in a car with one other person near the eastern city of Jalalabad, US official sources said on Saturday.

The strike came two days after Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing outside Kabul airport, as western forces running the airlift braced for more attacks.

Erzhena with cat, by Indira BaldanoThe US president, Joe Biden, has promised to hunt down those responsible, striking in a place and time of his choosing.

The drone strike is likely to be in part aimed at reassuring a shaken US public that its government’s counter-terrorist capabilities in Afghanistan remain intact despite the chaotic withdrawal.

There is no indication that the target of the drone was involved in Thursday’s blast, which killed around 180 people, including 13 US marines.

The attack focused attention on ISKP, which had previously been seen as only a minor actor in Afghanistan and one of the weaker IS affiliates around the world.

The group was founded in 2014 by a few dozen disaffected Taliban commanders and defectors from other militants from the region and made early gains in districts close to the border with Pakistan in the eastern Nangarhar province, where the drone strike occurred around midnight on Friday night. The name Khorasan was given by medieval Islamic imperial rulers to a region including modern Afghanistan.

Read more about ISKP at the Guardian link.

The Washington Post: The 13 U.S. service members killed in the Kabul airport attack: What we know so far.

The U.S. toll from Thursday’s terrorist attack in Afghanistan came into sharper focus Friday, as the identities of 13 U.S. service members who were killed began to surface.

A suicide bomber detonated explosives at a Kabul airport gate where U.S. troops were searching evacuees rushing to depart the country. At least 18 other troops were wounded in the bombing that killed at least 170 people and the 13 U.S. service members. The attack was the single deadliest enemy strike against U.S. forces in Afghanistan since August 2011, when militants shot down a Chinook helicopter, killing 30 U. S. troops on board.

Woman with cat soul, Madalena Lobao-Tello

Woman with cat soul, Madalena Lobao-Tello

The Pentagon has yet to release the names of American service members killed. In a Friday briefing, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby did not say when the remains of the service members will arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, the first transit place for U.S. service members killed overseas.

But names began to emerge in news reports, as family members confirmed the identities of the dead. Many of the slain service members were in their infancy in 2001, the year the 9/11 terrorist attacks triggered the U.S. war in Afghanistan, bookending their lives as the American effort comes to a close.

This story will be updated as more names are confirmed.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee McCollum, 20, Jackson, Wyo.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared Schmitz, 20, of Wentzville, Mo.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Tex.

Navy Hospital Corpsman Max Soviak, of Berlin Heights, Ohio

Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Riverside County, Calif.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 20, of Norco, Calif.

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Taylor Hoover, 31, of Utah

Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan William-Tyeler Page, 23, of Omaha

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss, 23, of Knoxville, Tenn.

Read personal details about these young men at the WaPo link.

What SCOTUS Has Wrought

The Washington Post: Millions of Americans face financial cliff as eviction ban, unemployment aid lapse amid Washington inaction.

The clock is now ticking for millions of Americans who are set to face a series of stinging financial hardships in a matter of days, with the loss of federal protections against eviction and looming cuts to their weekly unemployment checks.

The two developments arrive at a moment of great tension in Washington, where the White House and Congress have grappled over the state of the country’s pandemic aid — and confronted their limited ability to authorize more of it — even as the economy shows potential signs of strain in the face of a resurgent coronavirus.

Beryl-Cook-Feeding-the-Tortoise-with-Siamese-Cat-Looking-On-1250x996

Feeding the Tortoise with Siamese Cat Looking On, by Beryl Cook

The first blow arrived Friday, as landlords now can more easily begin removing tenants who have fallen behind on their monthly payments. The potential wave of evictions comes after the Supreme Court found the Biden administration’s recent eviction moratorium to be unconstitutional, leaving the White House powerless to issue its own new directive protecting as many as 6.4 million households that are not current on their rents, according to federal survey data. Many Americans also have struggled to obtain federal rental aid from state and local programs that were allocated tens of billions of dollars in past stimulus packages.

Ten days later, some of those same families could face additional financial peril as enhanced unemployment insurance benefits are set to lapse. Congress repeatedly has extended these weekly checks, but President Biden and some of his congressional allies have not sought to renew them ahead of their planned expiration Sept. 6. That could threaten 7.5 million people with the loss of much-needed income, according to a recent estimate from the Century Foundation.

The developments portend a potential shock to the economy, and they highlight the difficult political realities even in Democratic-dominated Washington. Biden has only so much power to act on his own to provide pandemic relief, and lawmakers in his party do not always see eye to eye about the need for additional economic stimulus.

Caught in the middle are millions of Americans who have relied on these generous but temporary federal programs to pay their bills since the coronavirus first swept the nation in March 2020. With fewer federal protections at their disposal, the financial hardships they face may only intensify, especially as new variants threaten to shutter businesses and schools — and overrun hospitals with patients — in communities already ravaged by the pandemic.

Major News from NBC

With all that is happening, this is what NBC is using as clickbait today: ‘Minor’ Major issues: Emails show Biden dog was nippier than White House said.

The Biden family dog was a bit more of a problem pooch than the White House initially acknowledged, according to Secret Service emails obtained by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch.

The White House said at the end of March that Major, the Bidens’ 3-year-old German shepherd, was involved in a pair of “nipping” incidents, but the emails show he was involved in several more.

“At the current rate an Agent or Officer has been bitten every day this week (3/1-3/8) causing damage to attire or bruising/punctures to the skin,” one of the emails said.

When asked on Friday why the administration had provided reporters with a misleading account of the dog’s difficulties, White House press secretary Jen Psaki sidestepped the question.

“As we’ve stated previously, Major has had some challenges adjusting to life in the White House. He has been receiving additional training as well as spending some time in Delaware where the environment is more familiar to him and he is more comfortable. I don’t have any additional specifics but I think that speaks to where Major is located, to be fully transparent in your ongoing interest in the dog,” Psaki said.

The emails were released after a FOIA request from right wing nut organization Judicial Watch. NBC is being mocked on Twitter for hyping this ridiculous story.

What’s happening in your neck of the woods? If you’re in the path of Ida, please stay safe!


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!!

20210303edhoc-aJoe Biden has been POTUS for less than two months, and he has already accomplished so much. A few days ago, he announced that all adults in the U.S. could be vaccinated by the end of May. He has reversed many of Trump’s worst policies. And the massive $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill should pass the House in the next couple of days. Relief checks could start going out before the end of March.

USA Today: President Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus bill is on the brink of becoming law. Here’s where it stands.

The House is expected to pass the bill this week and as early as Tuesday evening. The House Rules Committee must first set the parameters for debate, and then the House must vote to approve the rules of debate.

Once the House approves the rules for debate, lawmakers will first debate the bill and then vote on final passage, which could happen late in the night Tuesday. 

Biden said Monday that he would sign the legislation “as soon as I get it.” 

The House passed the bill last month, but the Senate made changes that the House will have to approve.

The House first passed the bill at the end of February. The Senate took it up the next week, and it made changes to the bill’s provisions. A key Senate official, the parliamentarian, ruled that a provision increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour could not stay in the final legislation, for example. 

The Senate also lowered the unemployment benefit to $300 a week, down from $400 in the first version of the legislation the House passed, but extended it through the beginning of September, and made the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits non-taxable for households making less than $150,000. 

The changes mean the House had to pass the bill again. If the House does not make any changes of its own, then the bill can go straight to Biden for his signature.

From Politico:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team, who spent the weekend working the phones with their members, are confident they will have the votes for one of Congress’s largest-ever economic relief bills. They’re set to once again contend with unified GOP opposition that will brand Biden’s rescue package as a Democratic offering ahead of next year’s midterms, when Republicans could recapture the majority by flipping just a handful of seats.

Pelosi shrugged off Republicans’ lack of support for the Covid aid plan,telling reporters that “I feel sad for them” and painting them as “oblivious to the support that this bill has among Republicans across the country.”

lk030521daprMore details on what the bill will do:

The Washington Post: Relief bill is most significant legislation for Black farmers since Civil Rights Act, experts say.

A little-known element of President Biden’s massive stimulus relief package would pay billions of dollars to disadvantaged farmers — benefiting Black farmers in a way that some experts say no legislation has since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Of the $10.4 billion in the American Rescue Plan that will support agriculture, approximately half would go to disadvantaged farmers, according to estimates from the Farm Bureau, an industry organization. About a quarter of disadvantaged farmers are Black. The money would provide debt relief as well as grants, training, education and other forms of assistanceaimed at acquiring land.

While it’s a fraction of the $1.9 trillion bill that passed in the Senate on Saturday, advocates say it still represents a step toward righting a wrong after a century of mistreatment of Black farmers by the government and others. Some say it is a form of reparations for African Americans who have suffered a long history of racial oppression.

“This is the most significant piece of legislation with respect to the arc of Black land ownership in this country,” said Tracy Lloyd McCurty, executive director of the Black Belt Justice Center, which provides legal representation to Black farmers.

Black farmers in America have lost more than 12 million acres of farmland over the past century, mostly since the 1950s, a result of what agricultural experts and advocates for Black farmers say is a combination of systemic racism, biased government policy, and social and business practices that have denied African Americans equitable access to markets.

Read more at the WaPo.

HuffPost: Democrats Just Approved The Biggest Investment In Native Programs In U.S. History.

The bill, which is expected to pass the House and be signed into law by President Joe Biden as soon as this week, includes more than $31.2 billion for tribal governments and Native communities. The money will go directly to helping American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians focus on economic recovery in their communities devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic….

Since the start of the pandemic, Native American communities have been among the hardest hit by the virus. Compared with white people, Indigenous people are nearly twice as likely to be infected by COVID-19, more than three and a half times as likely to be hospitalized and more than twice as likely to die from the virus, according to Feb. 18 data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention….

249317_rgb_768More than $6 billion will go to Native health systems. That includes $2.3 billion for COVID-19 vaccines, testing and tracing at the Indian Health Service, along with another $2 billion for lost third-party medical billing reimbursements. IHS will also get $600 million for health facilities construction and sanitation programs, $500 million for clinical health services, $420 million for mental and behavioral health services, $140 million for improving health IT and telehealth access, and $10 million for potable water delivery.

More than $1.2 billion will go to tribal and Native Hawaiian housing programs under the Department of Housing & Urban Development.

More than $1.1 billion will go to Native education programs.

More than $1 billion will go Native families, in the form of tribal child care programs and assistance to tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families grantees.

Roughly $900 million will go to Bureau of Indian Affairs programs; $600 million will go to Native communities’ economic and infrastructure investments; $20 million will go toward mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on Native languages; and $19 million will go toward combating domestic violence.

I’ve been worried that Democrats could lose their slim majority in the Senate in the 2022 midterms, but it turns out that quite a few Republican Senators are not going to run again. 

Raw Story: ‘Bad news’: GOP campaign consultants are panicking — here’s why.

With Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) announcing he won’t run for re-election in 2022 — joining four other GOP incumbents who have already announced they will be stepping down — Republican campaign consultants are worried about more Senate losses after losing control during Donald Trump’s last year in office.

In an interview with U.S. News and World Report, one Republican insider looked at some of the potential candidates expected to run for the open nominations and worried they might be unelectable.

In addition to Blunt’s seat in Missouri, Republican-held Senate seats in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Alabama are also opening up meaning the Republican Party will lose the built-in advantage of incumbency, meaning more work and money will have to flow into the races than normal….

The report goes on to note that the five GOP senators who have already announced they won’t seek re-election may see their ranks swell as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is hedging his bets and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has refused to say what his plans are.

_117500928_dogs2-drbiden

Major (sitting) and Champ Biden

The White house dogs had to be sent back to Wilmington, after an incident involving the younger of the two, Major Biden.

CNN: Biden German Shepherd has aggressive incident and is sent back to Delaware.

The two German Shepherds belonging to President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden were returned to the Biden family home in Delaware last week after aggressive behavior at the White House involving Major Biden, two sources with knowledge tell CNN.

Major, who was adopted by Biden in November 2018 from a Delaware animal shelter, had what one of the people described as a “biting incident” with a member of White House security. The exact condition of the victim is unknown, however, the episode was serious enough that the dogs were subsequently moved to Wilmington, Delaware, where they remain….

Major, who is 3 years old, is the younger of the two Biden dogs, and has been known to display agitated behavior on multiple occasions, including jumping, barking, and “charging” at staff and security, according to the people CNN spoke with about the dog’s demeanor at the White House. The older of Biden’s German Shepherds, Champ, is approximately 13 and has slowed down physically due to his advanced age.

I can see why living in the White House  could be stressful for a young dog because of all the activity and so many people coming and going. I hope the move won’t be permanent.

“I’ve been getting obsessed with getting our dogs settled because we have an old dog and we have a very young dog,” Jill Biden told Kelly Clarkson last month during an appearance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show.” “They have to take the elevator, they’re not used to that, and they have to go out on the South Lawn with lots of people watching them. So that’s what I’ve been obsessed with, getting everybody settled and calm.”

Biden also said the only place the dogs are not allowed is on the furniture, though she admitted to catching Major on the couch. “They run all over,” said Biden.

A person familiar with the dogs’ schedule confirms to CNN they are in Delaware, but noted they have been known to stay there with minders when the first lady is out of town. Biden departed Monday afternoon for a two-day trip to Washington and California to visit military bases.

Another small White House story from CNN: Bush and Clinton portraits are back on display in White House’s Grand Foyer.

The White House has rehung the official presidential portraits of former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton after they were removed last July during the Trump administration, an official tells CNN.

They are back on display in the Grand Foyer of the executive mansion, the official said.

The portraits were removed last July and were replaced by two portraits of Republican presidents who served more than a century ago.

White House tradition calls for portraits of the most recent American presidents to be given the most prominent placement, in the entrance of the executive mansion, visible to guests during official events. However, the Trump White House moved the Clinton and Bush portraits into the Old Family Dining Room, a small, rarely used room that is not seen by most visitors.

What  a petty little man Donald Trump is!

20210304edbbc-aMore stories to check out today:

Josh Rogin at Politico: In 2018, Diplomats Warned of Risky Coronavirus Experiments in a Wuhan Lab. No One Listened.

The New York Times: Many ‘Long Covid’ Patients Had No Symptoms From Their Initial Infection.

Axios: DeSantis faces deepening controversy over vaccines for ultra-rich Florida community.

The Washington Post: Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was in direct contact with rioters before and during Capitol breach, U.S. alleges.

The Washington Post: Man charged in Capitol riot is linked to Oath Keepers, seen with Roger Stone on Jan. 6, prosecutors say.

Tax Policy Center: Pandemic Bill Would Cut Taxes by An Average of $3,000, With Most Relief Going to Low- And Middle-Income Households.

StatNews: With the ear of Joe Manchin, West Virginia hospitals helped secure billions in new Covid relief funds.

Karen Attiah at The Washington Post: Opinion: How two Black women took down whatever fantasies remained about the British monarchy.

Ari Berman at Mother Jones: Georgia Republicans Pass the Most Restrictive Voting Laws Since Jim Crow.

The Daily Beast: Inside Team Trump’s New Plot to Suppress the Vote Under Biden.

The Atlantic: We Already Got Rid of the Filibuster Once Before. The House used to have a filibuster too. And when legislators got rid of it, the result was a more democratic, productive institution.

CNN: NYC prosecutors’ probe into Trump finances expands to include millions loaned for Chicago skyscraper.

Have a great Tuesday Sky Dancers!