Monday News: What balance of powers?


AFTER SENATE REJECTION, TRUMP PUTS TATA AT PENTAGON ANYWAY: Just days after a Senate committee canceled his nomination hearing, former North Carolina state official Tony Tata has been placed in a top Department of Defense position. Tata, a former Wake County schools superintendent and NC Department of Transportation chief, had been nominated by President Donald Trump for the No. 3 post in Defense. “Our system of checks and balances exists for a reason and the Senate’s role in the confirmation process for administration appointees ensures individuals at the highest levels of government are highly qualified,” said Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington state Democrat. “If an appointee cannot gain the support of the Senate, as is clearly the case with Tata, then the President should not put that person into an identical temporary role. This evasion of scrutiny makes our government less accountable and prioritizes loyalty over competence.”

SOME NC PRIVATE SCHOOLS ARE OPENING DANGEROUSLY: This fall, Grace Christian Academy will look fairly normal. The Cleveland County private school will welcome full classes of students, pre-K through 12th grade, to in-person instruction. Neither teachers nor students will have to wear face coverings and no virtual academy will be offered. While public schools must practice 6-feet social distancing, limit class sizes, and require face coverings, hundreds of North Carolina private schools have the autonomy to decide how to resume lessons during the coronavirus. No single approach categorizes all private schools, but many — like Grace Christian — plan for more aggressive reopenings as school leaders say families and staff are ready to reenter classrooms. There will be some new procedures at Grace Christian. Staff will take temperatures by the entrance. Lunch rotations will lessen cafeteria congestion. And like many private schools, Grace Christian Academy will require parents sign waivers before sending their children to school during the COVID-19 pandemic. Larry Haggard, administrator of Jacksonville Christian Academy, is having families sign waivers ahead of returning full enrollment — around 250 students — in August. “It’s just an extra precaution,” Haggard said. “It hopefully will remind the parents that they are actually in charge of their students’ instruction, as well as their lives and well-being.”

COLLEGE HOUSEKEEPERS ON THE FRONT LINES OF PANDEMIC: “It’s a scary feeling, needing this job, but not feeling like it’s safe,” UNC-Chapel Hill housekeeper Jermany Alston said. “It is a lose-lose situation, and there’s no way around it.” Alston, 31, is assigned to regularly clean two residence halls and said she was around the UNC football players who tested positive earlier this year. She said the universities should not be reopening with coronavirus cases in North Carolina rising, because it’s putting everyone on campus at risk. “I think they’re asking for it to spread … with everyone living in dorms,” Alston said. UNC-CH plans to allow full capacity in its residence halls, with the exception of those that are designated for students who are in isolation with COVID-19 or quarantined. In some buildings, as many as eight students will be sharing a suite, one bathroom, kitchen and common area. There will be physical distancing and occupancy limits for all common areas, according to UNC. That congregate living plan is deemed “highest risk” by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for on-campus housing.

SCIENTISTS ARE CONCERNED POLITICS IS DRIVING PUSH FOR CORONAVIRUS VACCINE: Given that it typically takes years to develop a vaccine, the timetable for the initiative, called Operation Warp Speed, was incredibly ambitious. With tens of thousands dying and tens of millions out of work, the crisis demanded an all-out public-private response, with the government supplying billions of dollars to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, providing logistical support and cutting through red tape. It escaped no one that the proposed deadline also intersected nicely with President Trump’s need to curb the virus before the election in November. “There are a lot of people on the inside of this process who are very nervous about whether the administration is going to reach their hand into the Warp Speed bucket, pull out one or two or three vaccines, and say, ‘We’ve tested it on a few thousand people, it looks safe, and now we are going to roll it out,’” said Dr. Paul A. Offit of the University of Pennsylvania, who is a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee. “They are really worried about that,” he added. “And they should be.” Mr. Trump relentlessly touts progress toward a vaccine, raising hopes of quick approval. Touring a North Carolina biotechnology lab last week, he vowed to “deliver a vaccine in record time.” In a tweet last month, he explicitly tied vaccines to his re-election hopes. Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, has not ruled out emergency approval of a vaccine. “We would consider using an emergency use authorization if we felt that the risks associated with the vaccine were much lower than the risks of not having a vaccine,” he told The Journal of the American Medical Association in an online interview.

FOREIGN SUPPLIERS GO UNPAID AS U.S. COMPANIES FILE BANKRUPTCY: One major problem for suppliers: they are at a lower priority level for debt repayment under Chapter 11 bankruptcy rules compared with secured creditors such as banks. That means for many factories, their new orders have not only stopped, but they face grim chances of recouping payment for products already shipped. In southern China, Jay Chiang, chief executive of Pier 1 Imports supplier Live Oak (Yiwu) Co., said he had given up hope of the U.S. retailer paying him the $240,300 that it owes for bulk orders of wind chimes he shipped months ago. “I feel a bit cheated,” he said. “We didn’t understand the severity of their situation until it was too late.” Pier 1 Imports did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Some Asia-based clothing suppliers of J.C. Penney are even worse off. Several have filed claims for more than $1 million in owed payments after the department store chain declared bankruptcy in May. Razat Gaurav, chief executive officer of Michigan-based supply chain consultancy Llamasoft, said that many factories across Asia are small and midsized enterprises with limited balance sheets, which makes them vulnerable in this downturn. The hit to industries like textiles in particular threatens livelihoods in the developing world. Countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Vietnam and Ethiopia rely heavily on making shirts, socks and other apparel to provide jobs and support their economies.



People are idiots

My grandson Jack just had his first birthday yesterday, and my daughter and son-in-law did their best to make is safe. They had a sign in the driveway asking people to wear masks and social distance, and had a box of masks for people to use. Most ignored it. It was supposed to be only family, but some neighbors walked over (also not wearing masks), and joined in. My older son and I kept our masks on the whole time (proud of him), hoping others would get the message. No such luck.

The reason I tell you this is to drive home the message: you can't have gatherings. Not even small ones, that you think have been planned safely. People are just too irresponsible, too ready to assume a "please wear a mask" sign does not apply to them.