Climate change, nuclear weapons, peak oil, viral pandemics, asteroids, oh my! The end of the world has never seemed nearer. But hasn’t it always been that way? This week saw the passing of the great comic fantasy author Terry Pratchett, whose massive body of work includes one of the great Armageddon stories ever conceived: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (written in collaboration with Neil Gaiman), a wickedly funny satire about the end times, and our endless fascination with our own demise. Read it soon; you’re running out of time.
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The price of gasoline is not Joe Biden's fault, nor did it break records. Adjusted for inflation, it was higher in 2008 when Republican George W. Bush was president. And that wasn't Bush's fault, either.
We don't have to like today's inflation, but that problem, too, is not Biden's doing. Republicans are nonetheless hot to pin the rap on him. Rising prices, mostly tied to oil, have numerous causes. There would be greater supply of oil and gas, they say, if Biden were more open to approving pipelines and more drilling on public land.
Nope. Any added supplies from new drilling would be months in the future. Additional pipelines would take more than a year to build. And if you want to make unfair comparisons, note that the U.S. produced more oil under the first year of Biden than it did under the first two years of Donald Trump.
What we have is a spike in demand and constricted supply because of the war in Ukraine. Sure, we and our NATO allies could hand Ukraine over to Vladimir Putin, and the price at the pump would rapidly fall. Surrendering would give the unhinged Russian leader free rein to bomb more of Europe, and that would end up costing us a lot more. Biden says we must work to defeat Putin "as long as it takes." Biden is right.
There is good news mixed in with the bad. Inflation may be at a 40-year high, but unemployment is a near-50-year low. Consumers are still consuming, which drives up inflation but also counters the assumption that everyone's depressed about the economy. (It's often said that the best cure for high prices is high prices.)
From the left come gripes that Biden hasn't done enough to offset the Supreme Court's decision on Roe ending the right to abortion. But his administration is working to protect access to FDA-approved pills used to end pregnancies. It's unclear what else he could do. (If the left hadn't demonized Hillary Clinton in 2016, we'd almost certainly have a different Supreme Court today and Roe would be secure.)
Allies of Brittney Griner are lengthening the lines at the Biden complaint department. They accuse the administration of not doing enough to free the professional basketball player, arrested while trying to leave Russia with some hash oil in her bags.
Griner's long detention is absurd, and we should try to get her out, certainly. But suggestions that the U.S. exchange the imprisoned arms dealer Viktor Bout for the basketball player — an arrangement that understandably interests the Kremlin — are also absurd. Known as the "Merchant of Death," Bout conspired to sell weapons to kill Americans.
This would be a highly uneven trade. Griner's wife, Cherelle, is broadcasting how she's "fed up" because the State Department is not prioritizing Brittney's release. The administration, Cherelle says, is "wasting time from my wife's life." How about the time lost by the Merchant of Death's murdered victims?
Biden would do well to ignore the organized protests by groups representing LGBTQ interests, women and people of color. And these groups would do themselves a service by dropping demands we secure Griner's release in return for freeing the Merchant of Death. While trying to secure Griner's release, Biden must put national security first. And further complicating the issues, Griner was foolishly carrying a substance that is highly illegal in Russia.
For some reason, Biden is getting attacked from all political sides and for things that are not his fault. He's been handed a bad hand to play on so many fronts. Given the cards he's been dealt, Biden is actually doing a pretty good job.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators webpage at www.creators.com.
Heat deaths in the U.S. peak in July and August, and as that period kicks off, a new report from Public Citizen highlights heat as a major workplace safety issue. With basically every year breaking heat records thanks to climate change, this is only going to get worse without significant action to protect workers from injury and death.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration admits that government data on heat-related injury, illness, and death on the job are “likely vast underestimates.” Those vast underestimates are “about 3,400 workplace heat-related injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work per year from 2011 to 2020” and an average of 40 fatalities a year. Looking deeper, Public Citizen found, “An analysis of more than 11 million workers’ compensation injury reports in California from 2001 through 2018 found that working on days with hotter temperatures likely caused about 20,000 injuries and illnesses per year in that state, alone—an extraordinary 300 times the annual number injuries and illnesses that California OSHA (Cal/OSHA) attributes to heat.”
Extrapolating from that would suggest more like 170,000 heat-related workplace injuries and illnesses every year. Similarly, looking past the official fatality data, Public Citizen estimates as many as 2,000 workplace heat deaths each year. And heat can contribute invisibly to injury rates, as workers whose bodies are stressed are more likely to have falls and other causes of injury.
The workers most at risk are the most vulnerable workers—low-income workers, people of color, immigrants, and especially undocumented immigrants. The lowest-paid 20% of workers account for five times as many heat-related injuries as the highest-paid 20%, and “A recent review by Columbia Journalism Investigations of records relating to workplace heat injuries—including workplace inspection reports, death investigation files, depositions, court records, and police reports—found that since 2010, Hispanics/Latinos have accounted for a third of all heat-related fatalities, despite representing only 18% of the U.S. workforce.”
This is in part because the industries in which heat-related problems are most common are disproportionately Black and brown: farming, warehouse work, certain kinds of construction, food preparation, and more. These workers are also less likely to have health insurance or worker's compensation to help them when they do get sick or injured.
Public Citizen is calling on OSHA to issue an emergency temporary heat safety standard while it works through the long process of getting to a final rule on heat. Such a standard should include temperature thresholds, lower workloads during dangerous heat, indoor and outdoor cooling, hydration, training, record-keeping, non-retaliation requirements, and an emergency action plan in affected workplaces.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.