WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden on Friday unveiled a plan to reopen schools in the era of coronavirus, seeking to establish federal safety guidelines that he says will be based on science and not on political pressure for the country to arbitrarily put the pandemic behind it.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee’s proposal ultimately leaves final decisions up to state and local officials. The plan to resume classes comes as the White House argues that most parents are anxious to see schools resume in-person classes in the fall. President Donald Trump says the decision to possibly avoid doing so in some areas is more motivated by politics than by legitimate fears about the pandemic.
“They think it’s going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed,” Trump said at a White House discussion on school plans last week. “No way. We’re very much going to put pressure on governors and everybody else to open the schools.”
Trump has also threatened to hold back federal funding if schools don’t bring their students back in the fall, while also instructing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to begin working on new guidance for how to do so.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that when the president “says open, he means open in full, kids being able to attend each and every day in their school. The science should not stand in the way of this.”
Biden countered that any plans for the new school year have to start by reducing the number of coronavirus cases in communities around the country: “That’s step one.”
“Everyone wants our schools to reopen. The question is how to make it safe, how to make it stick,” Biden said in a video he recorded with his wife, Jill, a former teacher. “Forcing educators and students back into a classroom in areas where the infection rate is going up or remaining very high is just plain dangerous.”
Although state and local officials would have the final say, Biden plans to enlist federal agencies including the CDC to establish “basic, objective criteria” for reopening schools. Those include districts securing necessary funding to reconfigure classrooms to better allow for social distancing, reducing class sizes, procuring protective equipment and devising plans to accommodate at-risk teachers and students.
Biden promised, if elected, to send to Congress an emergency funding package to help schools prepare for reopening, which could cost as much as $30 billion.
The former vice president also suggested schools shouldn’t be forced to reopen until the creation of federal guidelines “free from political influence.” He said they should detail how low a community’s infection rate needs to be before resuming in-person instruction, when schools might close again if virus infection cases rise, what safe maximum class sizes are and who should return to the classroom first if not everyone can be accommodated.
The Trump administration’s “chaotic and politicized response has left school districts to improvise a thousand hard decisions on their own,” Biden’s campaign wrote in its five-page “roadmap” to reopening. “Schools need clear, consistent, effective national guidelines, not mixed messages and political ultimatums.”
Politics Briefing: Liberals prepare fall fiscal update – The Globe and Mail
Circle next Monday in your calendars, because it’s the first day in a long time that we will get a glimpse of Ottawa’s books.
The Liberal government says it will table its fall fiscal statement in the House of Commons after 4 p.m. ET on Monday.
The Liberals have often used these statements to announce new measures, such as the Canada Infrastructure Bank in 2016. But this year’s update will be even more crucial, given the state of the pandemic, the need to support public health and economy, and the fact that the government hasn’t tabled a real budget since March of 2019.
Economists told The Globe they expect this year’s deficit to be upwards of $400-billion, larger than the last time the government estimated it in July.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged today that Canada won’t be first in line for COVID-19 vaccines because the drugs won’t be manufactured here.
The federal government spent $5-million in consulting fees to set up the COVID-19 relief program for large employers, but the fund has only delivered two loans so far in its six months of operations.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne says it’s up to the Canadian Olympic Committee to decide if Canada should boycott the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
A new RCMP union is pushing back on the Liberal government’s assault-rifle ban.
U.S. president-elect Joe Biden’s transition process is officially under way, after the General Services Administration deemed Donald Trump’s legal efforts to overturn the vote were not going anywhere.
And snowbirds gonna snowbird: plenty of Canadian seniors are going ahead with their annual plans to spend the winter in warmer climes down south, and at least one helicopter company is helping them hop across the border to Buffalo, N.Y. The Canadian government is, officially, recommending against the travel in light of the pandemic, but cross-border flights are still operating.
Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on how political leaders are dealing with the second wave of COVID-19: “Second-wave restrictions were supposed to be better – smarter, targeted and evidence-based – thanks to the new knowledge and tools ostensibly collected over the past eight months. But it’s as if premiers Brian Pallister and Doug Ford spent the past few months just fortifying their sledgehammers, deaf to the information that should have convinced them to opt for needle-nose pliers instead. The result is that small businesses have been forced to close their doors ahead of the busiest shopping time of the year, all while big-box retailers enjoy their governments’ blessings to welcome their customers inside.”
Edoardo Campanella (The Globe and Mail) on why low-skilled workers are the essential ones: “It turns out that there are still no good technological substitutes for the street cleaners, shopkeepers, utility workers, food deliverers, truckers, or bus drivers who have kept the economy running through the darkest days of the crisis. In many cases, these workers perform tasks that require situational adaptability and physical abilities of a kind that cannot easily be coded into software and replicated by a robot.”
Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on why U.S. president-elect Joe Biden’s plan for a common front against China could work: “President Donald Trump made confronting China a big part of his rhetoric, but he did it primarily on trade balances, and threatened allies with the same tariffs – offending friends, scaring partners and killing any notion of a U.S.-led common front. But now Mr. Biden is promising to revive U.S. alliances and to work with them to counter China.”
John Ivison (National Post) on Canadian groups – including two MPs – who are calling for the release of Chinese businesswoman Meng Wanzhou: “We can probably all agree that we do not welcome a cold war with the Chinese, far less anything warmer. But to present, as the Canadian Peace Congress does, Meng’s detention as ‘an unprovoked kidnapping,’ or Canada’s participation in naval operations in east Asia as an attempt to ‘provoke and encircle the PRC,’ is to take adolescent gullibility to dangerous levels.”
Stephen Maher (Maclean’s) on reforming the RCMP: “The RCMP showed up with SWAT teams, snipers and attack dogs when Mi’kmaq protested fracking in New Brunswick in 2013, but stood by and watched when non-native fishermen terrorized Mi’kmaq fishers this summer in Nova Scotia. What are Indigenous people supposed to conclude from that?”
A novel's glimpse at the politics of another era – Anchorage Daily News
There are few works of fiction about American electoral politics and governance that are recognized works of art. Edwin O’Connor’s “The Last Hurrah” (1956) is one.
The novel is set in Boston in the early 1950s, but the setting should not be mistaken for mere background. Boston, in fiction and fact ruled by men with Irish surnames, is a primary character — its streets, public buildings, slums, magnificent private homes and raucous election night crowds.
Frank Skeffington, the incumbent mayor, is first among the Irish political class; he has held a variety of public offices since the 20th century began, including a term as governor of the state. O’Connor’s friend the critic Edmund Wilson succinctly described Skeffington as “the old-fashioned Irish political boss frankly corrupt and feudally benevolent.” His benevolence — providing a supplicant with a job, dispensing cash to a widow, finding a school for a troublesome teen — derives from his belief that “all successful political activity was based on quid pro quo.” Benevolence produces votes on election day.
Skeffington, a trim, handsome man just turned 72, is after yet another term. When asked in private why he is running again, he offers an explanation 87-year-old Don Young could not improve on: “I want to.” Skeffington is bright, if uneducated, and reflective. His electoral victories have provided a large home and a bountiful life, but he knows only politics and lacks the imagination for a life beyond the political realm.
“I suppose,” he says, “that I am the last of the old-style political leaders. who is still alive and moving around.”
The timeline of the novel runs from Skeffington’s reelection announcement through a few post-election days. As the campaign unfolds, Skeffington is as prepared as a field general entering combat. He has money, tested loyal lieutenants, eager supporters who benefit from Skeffington rule and will vote. He also has a realistic sense of his opponents and enemies. In particular, the leaders of the New England protestant establishment — the banker, the newspaper publisher, who loathe him as Irish scum — and hIs aging, angry Irish rivals who have fought him for control of the city for decades. A bitter but less open critic is the ancient cardinal who presides over Catholic Boston. He believes the mayor’s habitual crookedness has disgraced the Irish people.
Skeffington’s secular enemies aim to dethrone him by uniting behind a handsome young lawyer with a lovely wife and growing family — Irish, Catholic, Democrat, unsullied by sin. Kevin McClusky’s lack of knowledge of the city he was born in is obvious to all. Consequently, his sponsors steer him away from shaking hands with the voters. He campaigns from his living room through a series of television interviews, surrounded by his wife and adorable children. His television producer, with an eye for detail, has placed a portrait of the pope on the wall and rented an Irish setter who dozes peacefully on the set. McClusky, it turns out, has a near genius for never saying anything of substance — or anything generating controversy.
But this is only the story. What makes “the Last Hurrah” memorable is O’Connor skillful revealing Skeffington through differing points of view: his nephew Adam Caulfied, the scrum of aides who follow him everywhere, those desperate supplicants, the enemies and rivals who have fought him for years. They all see pieces of the man through the roles he plays, as does the reader — but the reader knows a man is his not his roles. There is performance in life, but a performance is not a life — and no one sees the whole Skeffington. He remains, at least in part, a mystery.
On election night, the early returns tell Skeffington he will lose. He senses the truth before anyone in his campaign. A majority of the voters no longer want the old boss. They want new houses, new cars, new television sets and a new government. They want the new (if unknown) McClusky, his family, and that snoozing setter. There is no place for a Skeffington; he soon will be dead.
An aged lawyer with the perfect WASP name of Nathaniel Gardiner, who has known Skeffington most of his life, muses to himself as he watches the mayor’s funeral procession wind through the narrow Boston streets. “Where there had been a Skeffington there was now a McClusky. The old buccaneer, for all his faults, had at least been a capable, vivid personality; he had been succeeded by the spearhead of a generation of ciphers.”
Perhaps this is a sentimental farewell of a departing legend, but it was a perspective many Americans apparently shared in the 1950s. “The Last Hurrah” was a bestseller and a major motion picture starring Spencer Tracy as Skeffington. Book sales and the movie made Edwin O’Connor wealthy, with a mansion worthy of the mayor he created.
Michael Carey is an occasional columnist and the former editorial page editor of the Anchorage Daily News.
How We Can Reconcile With Each Other When Our Politics Are So Polarized – The Wall Street Journal
On a Sunday afternoon earlier this month, eight Democrats, seven Republicans and one Independent attended a three-hour Zoom meeting to discuss politics. There was no screaming. No one hurled accusations or stereotypes. People thanked each other for sharing their opinions.
It felt like a miracle.
The meeting was a “Red/Blue Workshop,” conducted by Braver Angels, a nonpartisan nonprofit that was created after the 2016 election by people concerned about the increasingly polarized tone of political discourse in the U.S. The aim of these workshops is to bring people with different political views together to share their beliefs and search for commonalities. “You look for the glue, for that which binds,” says William Doherty, a marriage and family therapist, professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota, and one of the group’s co-founders, who designed the workshop. “Now is the perfect time to begin this process of reconciliation.”
A majority of Americans—67%—believe it’s important to get along with people they disagree with politically, according to a recently released study by researchers at Harvard Graduate School of Education called “Bridging America’s Political Divide.” Eighty-three percent of the survey’s approximately 1,400 respondents said they could respect someone who disagrees with them politically as long as the person respected them back. And 80% said they would be “happy” to engage in conversations with people who have opposing political views—as long as the conversation was considerate, with neither party belittling or disparaging the other.
Focus on what you have in common: the shared history, goals, aspirations and values.
And yet true reconciliation will take more than good communication skills. To restore genuinely friendly relations with friends, family members and those in our communities, we need to move past our mutual hostility and heal. This will require us to listen, to try to understand why people feel differently than we do, and to find and focus on the things we have in common.
There’s an urge to break off ties right now, to claim we “can’t possibly understand” how someone could hold the views they hold. This is a personal decision. But Dr. Doherty says we should be very careful: The vast majority of people who hold different views from us aren’t bad folks. Their political opinions aren’t the only thing that defines them. And we lose a lot when we lose a relationship that was important to us.
Dr. Doherty designed the Braver Angels workshops based on techniques used in couples therapy. The group’s name was inspired by the words of Abraham Lincoln, who encouraged Americans to summon the “better angels of our nature.” It is funded by membership fees from its 13,000 members and grants from foundations across the political spectrum. In the past four years, Braver Angels has created chapters in all 50 states and run thousands of workshops, debates and presentations—first in person and now via Zoom—that bring conservative (or “red” in the group’s lexicon) and liberal (“blue”) participants together to discuss politics, as well as issues such as climate change and race.
In the Red/Blue sessions, people learn to express their views in constructive ways and listen carefully without leaping to contradict others. Just like sparring spouses, participants learn to adhere to the major tenets of marriage therapy: Speak for yourself; don’t interpret what’s going on in the other person’s mind. Accept your own contribution to the problem—and that you can only change yourself. Focus on what you have in common: the shared history, goals, aspirations and values.
“Both sides have temptations to resist,” Dr. Doherty says. “If you are happy about the election, your temptation will be toward triumphalism. And those who have lost will have a temptation for vengeance.”
So what does Dr. Doherty suggest we do? First, if your side won, don’t gloat. (Sorry.) It doesn’t foster goodwill. You also should not expect someone on the other side to apologize. You don’t need that to move on. And the goal is to restore the relationship, not punish the person.
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Everyone needs an attitude adjustment. In order to repair our relationships, we need to be willing to accept our differences. We need to see our family members, friends and people in our community for more than their political beliefs. And we need to spend more time focusing on what is admirable in someone’s character. “We should remind ourselves that this is someone I care about. We have a history together. We love a lot of the same people. We have bonds that are deeper and more powerful than politics,” says Dr. Doherty.
In the Braver Angels Red/Blue workshops, participants take part in structured discussions that allow them to practice listening to one other. In one exercise, they take turns explaining why they think their side’s values and policies are good for the country, as well as what reservations they have for these policies. They break into groups—one for “reds” and one for “blues”—to explore stereotypes. And they pair up—one red and one blue—and discuss their views.
Braver Angels volunteers Steve Saltwick, a Republican, and Lynn Heady, a Democrat—who work closely together as co-directors of the group’s field operations—have tried to put the group’s advice into practice in their own friendship. When they met last year, they deliberately avoided talking about politics, bonding instead over work, family, dogs and barbecue. (He is from Austin. She is from Nashville.) But right before the election, Ms. Heady mentioned that she was upset about something she heard in the news, and the two agreed to talk about it. So she shared her views. Then he shared his. And each tried to really listen.
It went OK. And so they keep trying. If tensions rise, one of them will say: “I don’t think we are going to agree on this one. We should stop talking.” Then they return to what they have in common.
After the recent Sunday Red/Blue workshop, Howard Reitz, an 81-year-old retired music professor and violinist from St. Paul, Minn., who is a Republican, said that one of his most important takeaways “was learning that not showing one’s emotions—approval, shock, disapproval—is a valuable and necessary skill.” Teresa Collett, 63, a law professor in St. Paul, Minn., who is a Republican, said she was struck by how important it is to have a shared vocabulary around issues, such as police reform.
Martha Brown, a Democrat from Red Lodge, Mont., and Ken Goodpaster, a self-described “conservative independent” from St. Paul, Minn., were paired up during the one-on-one discussions. They discussed gun violence, immigration, racism and Covid-19. Both said they were surprised to find common ground on a variety of issues, including gun regulation, controlled immigration, police reform and the need for Covid-19 precautions to protect the most vulnerable.
“We learned a lot from each other,” says Dr. Brown, 62, a retired university administrator.
“It was exciting,” says Mr. Goodpaster, 76, a professor emeritus of business ethics. “There were a lot of themes that resonated with both of us, including the importance of unifying the country in the wake of a close election.
“We have a family here and it needs to be healed.”
Share Your Thoughts
What suggestions do you have for constructively talking with family and friends with whom you have different political views? Join the discussion below.
Tips For Talking With Someone With Different Views
Here is some advice from William Doherty, a marriage and family therapist and co-founder of Braver Angels, a nonprofit that works to depolarize Americans.
Be humble and accept responsibility. “Meaningful progress occurs when both sides see that they have contributed to the problem,” Dr. Doherty says.
Stop trying to change the other person. It rarely works and leads to endless arguing. Remember: We can only change ourselves.
Seek to understand. This means we need to talk less and listen more—a lot more. Stop explaining your point of view and try to understand why the other person sees the world as they do.
Try the LAPP Technique: Listen to understand, not reload. Acknowledge what you heard. Pivot by assessing whether it is OK to offer your views. Offer your perspective (if the person has signaled a willingness to hear it).
Use “I” statements instead of dogmatic ones. (“This is how I see it” instead of “How can you not see this?”)
Depolarize your language. Avoid labels, such as “bigoted” or “unpatriotic.” If someone offers their opinion and you put a label on it you are never going to have a meaningful conversation or mend the relationship.
Write to Elizabeth Bernstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter at EBernsteinWSJ.
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