ARKANSAS, LIKE many other American states, is in the middle of another wave of the covid-19 pandemic. Its only health-sciences university hospital, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), is near capacity as it battles severe covid-19 infections, mostly among the unvaccinated. Across the state, covid-19 infections are worryingly high: the positivity rate, the percentage of all tests that are positive for covid-19, is five times the national average, according to a UAMS report. And vaccination rates are low: only 41% among people aged 12 and older, compared with the nationwide average of 58%, the Arkansas Department of Health said on July 26th. UAMS researchers describe the situation as “a raging forest fire”.
Meanwhile restaurants in Little Rock, the state capital, are packed with diners, most of them unmasked. (The state’s Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, signed a law in April banning public institutions, but not private businesses, from requiring masks.) Customers chatter away inside air-conditioned restaurants, ignoring the patios outside. Some establishments post signs encouraging face coverings: “Consistent with CDC guidelines, unvaccinated guests and customers should wear masks,” says one sign in a hotel lobby. But that same lobby was filled with unmasked visitors. Many employees at these places wear face coverings, though not all.
The contrast between the situation inside hospitals and life elsewhere in Little Rock is striking. “The truth is, walking around here, you should be seeing people who are masked up,” says Cam Patterson, the chancellor of UAMS. “What you’re seeing is actually part of what is causing this forest fire to rage.”
Throughout the United States covid-19 is spreading rapidly, mostly owing to the highly contagious Delta variant. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the seven-day moving average of daily new cases on July 23rd (40,246) increased by 47% compared with the average a week earlier . This is 251% higher than the lowest average in the past 12 months, recorded on June 19th.
Areas with the lowest vaccination rates are being hit the hardest. Arkansas has had 367 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week. About 45% of its adults are fully vaccinated. Louisiana has 306 new cases per 100,000 people and a 47% vaccination rate among adults. By contrast, Vermont, with a vaccination rate of 78%, has only 13 new cases per 100,000 residents, and New Hampshire, where 68% of adults are vaccinated, has 15.
Many Democrats have been quick to blame Republican politics for the soaring infections. Republicans are less likely than Democrats to get vaccinated. They were also less likely to comply with social distancing last year.
Prominent Republican leaders have long politicised the jab and other covid-19 prevention methods, such as masks and social distancing. In Texas, where new cases are running at 120 per 100,000 residents, the governor has decreed that people cannot be obliged to wear masks in public spaces. Several Republican governors and state legislatures, including Arkansas and Florida, have some form of ban on vaccine passports. Republican legislators in Tennessee pressed their state health department to stop outreach to teens for any vaccinations, covid or otherwise.
Fox News, America’s most-watched cable news outlet, has been a forum for vaccine scepticism for months, though it recently began encouraging the jab during prime time. Former President Donald Trump hid his vaccination status for weeks before touting inoculation.
But the problem goes beyond that disinformation and poor leadership. The barrage of scepticism would have been much less effective had people been equipped with a better understanding of health and science. “We have really struggled with health literacy over the years, this is not new,” explains Jennifer Dillaha of the Arkansas Department of Health. “People struggle with how to get good health information and apply it to their lives. And this existed as a problem in our state, long before the previous administration.”
Covid-19 is not the only health epidemic raging across the United States. The states struggling the most with covid-19 infections also have the least healthy populations. About two out of five American adults are obese, according to the CDC. One in four young adults is too heavy to serve in the military, and America is the fattest country in the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries. Heart disease accounts for one in four deaths. Almost half of Americans have high blood pressure, and 12% have high cholesterol. About one in ten has type 2 diabetes. For all of these diseases, states with the highest prevalence also tend to have the lowest vaccination rates.
Many Americans have trouble staying healthy because they lack access to resources. Only 23% of people get enough exercise and only one in ten eats enough fruit and vegetables, says the CDC. But more than half of Americans do not live within one mile of a park, and 40% of all households do not live within a mile of shops where they can buy fresh produce.
For many, illiteracy is also part of the trouble. Less than half of Americans are proficient readers, and only 12% are considered by the country’s health department to be “health-literate”. Over one-third struggle with basic health tasks, such as following prescription-drug directions. Couple this widespread illiteracy with a lack of access to consistent health care (one in eight adults reports not going to a doctor in the past year because of the cost), and America was bound to have a vaccination problem.
In the short term, policymakers are implementing pandemic-mitigation measures. California and New York City are requiring public employees to be vaccinated or tested regularly. The Department of Veterans Affairs announced vaccination requirements for its medical employees on July 26th. The next day President Joe Biden said the federal government was considering a similar requirement for its employees.
Masks are also returning for the vaccinated. Los Angeles county reimposed its mask-wearing requirement on July 22nd, and the CDC advised on July 27th that everyone (jabbed or not) should wear masks indoors in areas with high covid-19 transmission. In Arkansas the mayor of Little Rock is prepared to defy the state’s ban on mask mandates. “I took an oath to serve and protect the public health, safety, and welfare of every resident of Little Rock,” explains Frank Scott junior, a Democrat. “And so if it gets to the point that we need to do something, we will. Even if it means we go against the state.”
But in the longer term, education and trusted information—along with access to better health care—will be vital in overcoming disinformation, raising vaccination rates and improving America’s overall health.
“I’m not finding that blame is very useful,” says Dr Dillaha. “No one is choosing to not get vaccinated because they’re wanting to make a bad decision for themselves.”
Ontario election: 4 ways Doug Ford has changed the province's politics – The Conversation
The dismal environmental record of the Doug Ford government in Ontario is well-documented. Despite some recent moves on “greening” the steel sector and electric vehicle manufacturing initiatives, the province is on track to see major increases in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from the electricity sector.
The government’s emphasis on highway expansion in the Greater Toronto Area is further evidence of this trend.
The Ford government’s record on environmental issues is an extension of its wider approach to governance. It has broken from the traditional norms of Ontario politics, which have emphasized moderation and administrative competence, as reflected through the long Progressive Conservative dynasty.
Looking back on Ford’s four years in power reveals four themes about his approach to governance — and what the next four years might have in store if public opinion polls are correct and he wins again on June 2.
1. Reactive governance
The Ford government’s agenda seems driven by instinct more than ideology. It came to power with scant vision for what a provincial government should do other than cut taxes, red tape and hydro rates. It’s struggled when confronted with more complex problems that required the province to play a much more active role.
The resulting governance model has been fundamentally reactive, and grounded in relatively short-term perspectives. The government has tended to act once a situation reaches the crisis stage, rather than identifying potential problems and taking action to prevent them.
This pattern has been most evident in the government’s hesitant responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. It tended to react to waves of COVID-19 infections rather than anticipating them and taking measures to minimize their impacts, even when given clear and consistent scientific advice to do so.
Issues like the environment and climate change are destined to do poorly under such a reactive governance model. They require taking action now to avoid problems in the future.
We are constantly reminded of this by the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and federal and provincial environmental commissioners. Only responding when problems have become too obvious to ignore tends to mean it’s already too late.
2. Creeping authoritarianism
The government’s run-up to the election has placed a strong emphasis on “getting it done” — it’s the Progressive Conservative party’s campaign slogan — in areas like housing and highway and transit construction, in particular.
The flip side of this emphasis has been increasingly aggressive exercises of provincial authority, particularly over local governments. One of the government’s first moves was to arbitrarily cut Toronto City Council in half. The province threatened to invoke, for the first time in the province’s history, Sec. 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, known as the notwithstanding clause, to get its way.
Ontario’s planning rules have also been rewritten, not only at the provincial level, but down to the level of site-specific development plans within individual municipalities, almost universally in favour of developers’ interests. Ministerial zoning orders — which circumvent local planning processes and public consultations, designating land use without the possibility of appeals — are no longer the exceptions they once were.
Instead, they seem the new norm for planning in Ontario. Broad powers have been given to provincial agencies, most notably the provincial transit agency Metrolinx, to build what are often poorly conceived and politically motivated transit projects.
The notwithstanding clause was ultimately invoked by the government as it pertained to its election financing legislation that seemed designed to silence potential critics.
Even local school boards were forbidden to adopt COVID-19 containment measures more stringent that those put in place at the provincial level.
3. Friends with benefits
While the Ford government has gone to great lengths to silence voices of critical constituencies, it’s been extraordinarily open to the voices that support it.
The government has demonstrated a distinct tendency to uncritically accept whatever its favoured industry lobbyists tell it to do. This has been evident in its approaches to COVID-19, housing and infrastructure, mining, aggregate extraction sites like gravel pits and quarries, energy and long-term care.
4. Spend but don’t increase taxes
A final defining feature of the Ford government has been a tendency to disregard the fiscal consequences of its decisions. The focus instead has been on short-term savings for consumers.
The cancellation of the previous Liberal government’s cap-and-trade system immediately following the 2018 election cost the provincial treasury billions in forgone revenues. Hundreds of millions more were spent cancelling renewable energy projects.
Hydro rates are being artificially lowered through an annual $7 billion in subsidies from the provincial treasury, money that could otherwise be spent on schools and hospitals. The pre-election cancellation of tolls on Highways 412 and 418 will cost at least $1 billion over the next 25 years, while the cancellation of vehicle licensing fees will cost the province an estimated $1 billion each year.
All of this is at odds with previous Progressive Conservative governments in Ontario, which were largely fiscally prudent.
It isn’t clear yet to what extent the potential political success of a governance model organized around these four themes represents a fundamental break from the traditional norms of Ontario politics. If Ford wins again, is it due to the weaknesses of the alternatives being offered to Ontario voters, or does it signal a permanent realignment in the province’s politics?
Either way, June 2 could be a watershed moment in the province’s history, defining a “new normal” for politics in Ontario.
CNN Poll: Most Americans are concerned about the US and 'burned out' on politics – CNN
(CNN)Americans across political lines are united in their generally negative feelings about the US and its politics, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS, with Democrats particularly unlikely to express political enthusiasm.
In defense of office politics – Smartbrief
“Office politics” often gets a bad rap. It’s thought of as the domain of catty gossip, shady backroom deals or sycophantic compliments reminiscent of the movies “Office Space” or “9 to 5.”
Thankfully, in real-life, office politics is often much tamer — and also unavoidable for anyone with the ambition to advance.
Why? Because, at its core, office politics is about relationships with colleagues and decision-makers. And nurturing those relationships can go a long way toward advancing your career goals.
What is office politics?
While politics is often derided as purely a popularity contest, there are actually two components — being popular and getting things done.
Let’s think about “real” politics for a moment. You can be very good at getting things done, but if you’re unpopular, you’re not going to be elected in the first place. On the other hand, if you get elected because you’re popular, but fail to accomplish anything, you’ll probably find yourself voted out in the next election.
In office politics, exactly as in “real” politics, you can often get small things done without the support of others. But the more impactful your goals, the more you need to get other people on board to make them happen.
Liked + Trusted + Respected = Influence
To have influence, colleagues need to like you, trust you and respect you.
If you’re not liked, well, that’s pretty much curtains for influencing decisions, unless you’re already the boss. It’s worth noting that to be liked, you must first be known.
If you’re liked, but not respected, you might be involved the discussion, but your view won’t carry any weight. We could call this “Charlie Brown syndrome” after the classic Peanuts character.
If you’re respected but not trusted (think of a well-qualified politician whose agenda you dislike), you may be consulted on an issue but colleagues may have misgivings about your motives.
To influence behavior and decisions in the office requires all three. Liked + Trusted + Respected = Influence.
Can office politics drive value?
Everything we do at CareerPoint is based on our philosophy that career success is driven by the value you create for your employer.
We talk about value creation by referencing eight drivers of value. You could think of these as the atomic elements of employee value. It’s a framework you could use to analyze almost anything in relation to HR or career advancement. Why? Because anything that affects your value as an employee influences both the success of your career and the success of your company.
What we know as “office politics” touches on several of these value drivers, but let’s focus on just two: Relationships and positioning.
Of all the categories of relationships that drive value for a company, none are more significant than customer relationships. If customers like, respect and trust you, they are more likely to highly value your services, keep buying them and recommend them to others. They’re also likely to be patient with you when things go awry, as things inevitably do.
The value of customer relationships can be tremendous and long-lasting. In a law firm, a single relationship can be worth tens of millions of dollars. Relationships are so important that when a partner moves from one firm to another, they often take the relationships with them. In fact, it’s hard to think of an industry where good customer relationships can’t move the dial on company success.
This means good customer relationships are a source of influence for employees. If customers highly regard you, the business won’t want to lose you and ought to value your opinion. If, on the other hand, no customer would notice or care if you left, your influence on decisions and events will be more limited.
Positioning yourself for advancement
The value driver most closely aligned with office politics is the one we’ve named Positioning. It’s all about navigating office politics to position yourself for advancement. After all, you could be the hardest working and most valuable employee in the business but fail to secure advancement if you don’t understand the politics.
The best way to think about this is to imagine a meeting of your company’s management team. Your potential promotion is being discussed. What do you want everyone to say and do?
Obviously, you want everyone to say that you are the best choice for the role. But will they?
There’s nothing you can do at this moment. It’s too late to influence any further.
In some ways, the discussion is a culmination of everything you’ve said and done since you’ve joined the company. The decision will be made largely on how the participants feel about you and the idea of you in a new, more influential role.
This is no idle abstraction. This is exactly how most advancement decisions are made. If you want to advance, the advocacy of every person around the table is what you’re solving for in the game of office politics.
5 tips for becoming an effective office politician
Here are five quick tips you can use to help build trust, respect and likeability in your workplace.
- Get involved with projects and initiatives outside of your team and department whenever possible. This will help you begin to widen your network.
- Avoid overusing email with new connections. It’s impossible to establish a relationship over email. Use the phone or arrange a quick Zoom/Teams/Webex meeting.
- Aim to impress every single new person you work with, both inside and outside the organization. First impressions count and impressing people is often easier than you think. Just be reliable, responsive and helpful. Do things faster or better than they expect.
- You don’t build influence by being a weathervane who simply goes along with everything, but you don’t build influence by opposing everything, either. The middle course is to articulate your position clearly, call the pros and cons as you see them, accept that others will see it differently and get on board with decisions you don’t agree with.
- Do favors for people when it helps them without expecting anything in return. If you are generous by nature, you will build a network of influence and appreciation, and you’ll be seen as a team player. This network will help you get things done down the line.
Remember, no matter how much you hate it, office politics is a part of office life we all have to contend with. Instead of avoiding it, put your best foot forward, take smart risks, make mistakes, and learn from them.
To find out how CareerPoint can help you and your team navigate office politics and create the win/win relationships you need to succeed, visit CareerPoint’s website today.
Originally from the west coast of Scotland, Steve McIntosh is a recovering accountant (ICAEW), HR professional (GPHR) and MBA (University of Oxford). After starting his career with global accounting firm KPMG in 1998, Steve founded offshore financial services recruitment firm CML in 2004, which he led as CEO for 16 years.
In 2020, he founded CareerPoint.com, the virtual coaching platform that helps companies and their people get ahead of the curve. With customers and coaches in more than 30 countries around the world, CareerPoint is well on its way to achieving its twofold mission to help a million young people advance in their careers and level the playing field for underrepresented groups.
McIntosh is a “zealous convert” to the value of HR as a driver of business value and the author of “The Employee Value Curve: the unifying theory of HR and career advancement helping companies and their people succeed together.“
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