Millions of Texans are still suffering without power as the state scrambles to deal with the effects of a brutal winter storm, as a second storm looms right on the horizon.
Meanwhile, a study group established by the Biden Administration to shape policy in Afghanistan includes 11 members who have close ties to the weapons industry. You’ll never guess what they recommended to the President!
And lastly, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is still struggling to contain the growing scandal over his corrupt and dangerous handling of the state’s nursing home system during the pandemic, and a new report alleges that he vowed to quote “destroy” a critic within his own party.
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Texas’s brutal power crisis continues for the third day in a row. By this point, some Texans have been without electricity for over 72 hours. Tens of thousands of people in Oklahoma, Kentucky, and West Virginia have also been affected.
In Texas alone, the energy authority said that 3.4 million people were still without power, after service was restored to some 750,000 today. At least 31 people have died nationwide in the widespread storms. On Wednesday, a new stormfront blew through many of the affected areas, bringing more sleet and snow onto homes where people have been huddled for days without working heat.
For houseless people living on the street, the situation is even more dire. Mutual aid groups active in the Austin area reported that some houseless people are afraid to leave their tents for warming centers in case the police come to sweep away their belongings.
The New York Times reports that the blackouts in Texas have hit minority neighborhoods particularly hard, with blackouts coming sooner and predicted to last longer.
And to make matters worse, analysts worry that surging energy prices will make it so even those who have power are crippled by exorbitant bills next month. Texas has a largely deregulated energy market, so prices often rise and fall according to demand, meaning that consumers could be at the mercy of massive price gouges in crises like this.
The weather isn’t letting up either. A new storm is expected in the next two days, and the frigid temperatures may not lift until it has passed.
Afghanistan Advisors Sell War
The Biden Administration’s first defining foreign policy test is rapidly approaching, as the new president has a deadline of May 1 to decide whether or not to keep a small contingent of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
To help him make the call, Congress established a study group made up of former generals, politicians, and nonprofit board members. The group recommended that Biden extend the May 1 deadline. Why would they do that? Well. Let’s take a look.
A new report by the Quincy Institute’s magazine Responsible Statecraft shows that two of the group’s co-chairs and nine of its other members have deep ties to the weapons industry. The two co-chairs in question were Ret. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Kelly Ayotte, a former Senator from New Hampshire. Guess what their side gigs are now? Well, Ayotte, for one, is on the board of BAE systems, a major UK-based weapons manufacturer. Oops!
Dunford, for his part, owns roughly $290,000 worth of Lockheed Martin Stock, as part of something called the Directors Equity Plan. Responsible Statecraft reports that program is intended give stock to people in order to quote “further align their economic interests with the interests of stockholders generally.” endquote. In other words, to make sure they’re beholden to the company so they use their pull to keep making it money.
Part of this problem is systemic, of course: you’d be hard-pressed to find a former military leader or national security-inclined politician who doesn’t jet right over into the private weapons industry after leaving public service. But the fact that the Biden administration is still taking advice directly from this cesspool of war is a telling sign that the endless conflict in Afghanistan may not be over anytime soon.
Cuomo Coverup Spirals into Federal Probe
Ah, Andrew Cuomo. Fearless leader of New York City. Emmy-award winning public communicator. Ruthlessly centrist gatekeeper devoted to insuring his state never makes too much progress. And now, potentially, the leader of a corrupt coverup that cost elderly lives in nursing homes at the very beginning of the crisis.
Earlier this week, Cuomo finally admitted that his administration was guilty of obscuring the true toll of the coronavirus on nursing home patients in his state in the early days of the pandemic. He did not, of course, admit to covering up deaths for political gain, despite the fact that one of his top aides let slip that his team had withheld evidence and data from state legislators. As an
aside, one of Cuomo’s top donors is the Greater New York Hospital Association, which could have been on the hook for some of those deaths.
The aide’s reasoning for that deception, the New York Times reports, was that Cuomo didn’t want the Trump administration to start a federal investigation, citing the friction between the Governor and former President. The whole ruckus devolved into a nasty fight between Cuomo and another Democratic State Assemblyman, involving irate late night phone calls and several fiery public statements. At one point, the Times reports, the Assemblyman says Cuomo threatened to quote “destroy” him.
But after all that, Cuomo couldn’t dodge his due. On Wednesday, The Albany Times Union reported that the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn have launched an investigation into the Cuomo COVID task force’s handling of nursing homes. And as that news broke, the State Senate moved to strip Cuomo of his unilateral emergency pandemic powers. The governor’s carefully constructed image as a leader during crisis appears to be crashing down, but his constituents have already paid the price.
AND NOW FOR SOME QUICKER QUICKIES:
Conservative radio talk host and notorious bigot, racist, and homophobe Rush Limbaugh died on Wednesday at the age of 70. He will be missed mostly by all of the people who shared his abhorrent views.
A new report by the Daily Beast shows that one third of current U.S. military service members are refusing the coronavirus vaccine, which is roughly in line with civilian numbers, despite the close proximity that many units live and work in, particularly on Naval ships.
Americans took out more mortgages in the fourth quarter of 2020 than the previous peak in 2003, taking advantage of low interest rates offered during the pandemic. But for anyone getting flashbacks to the last crash, don’t worry -- this time the Fed says that both borrowers and lenders are being more cautious, whatever that means.
Facebook took the extraordinary step of completely removing news content from its users in Australia in advance of government regulation against it. Australian users will not be able to post any news content on their feed, including national and international news sources. This is a step that Facebook notably refused to take in Myanmar, when rampant fake news was directly fueling genocide, so we’ve seen what Facebook’s red line is: government regulation.
FEB 18, 2021 - AM QUICKIE
HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner
WRITER - Jack Crosbie
PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Brendan Finn