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Parents and students caught in political skirmishes over mask and vaccine mandates – CNN



(CNN)The back-to-school season is turning into a frightening one for parents and children as they find themselves in the middle of political skirmishes over mask and vaccine mandates, leaving students’ safety determined more by geography and the political whims of governors than the science that should be guiding best practices.

In this dangerous new phase of the pandemic, when the seven-day average of new Covid-19 cases is topping 100,000, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other acolytes of former President Donald Trump have made school mask requirements the new front in the Covid culture wars.
Republicans like DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, both potential 2024 presidential contenders if Trump doesn’t run, are trying to burnish their conservative credentials by holding fast to their bans on mask mandates, which are increasingly headed to the courts. Under the guise of giving parents control, these Republicans have dispensed with the long-cherished GOP principle of local control and are taking a life-and-death gamble with children’s lives.
At the same time, many teachers’ unions — who are normally allied with Democrats — have balked at the idea of vaccine mandates, a stance that is seemingly at odds with their insistence last year that students and teachers should not return to the classroom until it was safe. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, failed to come up with a linear explanation of their positioning Friday on CNN’s “New Day,” stating that if a city or jurisdiction requests a vaccine requirement for schools, the unions would be “bargaining over those policies.”
The dogged obstruction on common-sense safety measures coming from both ends of the political spectrum is unnerving parents, many of whom still worry about the lack of data about the long-haul effects of Covid on children — particularly those under the age of 12, who are still not eligible for Covid-19 vaccines.
A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics last month noted that although “it appears” that severe illness due to Covid-19 is “uncommon” among children, “there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children.”
US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona made a plea Sunday for political and education leaders not to stand in the way of safety measures that would do the most to protect school children. He said he has personally reached out directly to many governors, including Abbott and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who recently changed his position on banning mask mandates in schools.
“To those who are making policies that are preventing this, don’t be the reason why schools are interrupted, why children can’t go to extracurricular activities, why games are canceled,” Cardona said Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” “We need to do our part as leaders like Gov. Hutchinson is doing, to make sure that they have access to the decision that they need to make to get their students safely back in school.”

Florida’s Covid surge tests DeSantis

DeSantis’ reckless experiment with turning his state into a zone of “no restrictions and no mandates” could yield some alarming results as the Delta variant ravages the state.
On Friday, Florida reported more Covid-19 cases over the past week than any other seven-day period during the pandemic, and the state has accounted for about one in five of the nation’s new Covid cases over the past couple of weeks. But in stark contrast with this time last year, public health officials are beginning to sound the alarm about the impact on children.
Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease expert at Florida International University, told CNN’s Jim Sciutto last week that “our children’s hospitals are completely overwhelmed.”
“Our pediatricians, the nursing, the staff are exhausted, and the children are suffering, and it is absolutely devastating,” Marty said on CNN’s “AC360” Friday night. “Our children are very much affected. We’ve never seen numbers like this before.”
While some school districts in Florida are ignoring DeSantis’ order by requiring masks — daring him to carry out his threat to withhold funding from those that defy him — a group of parents with school-aged children from counties all over the state are now also challenging the constitutionality of his executive order in court.
Charles Gallagher, an attorney working on the lawsuit, told CNN’s Rosa Flores that “they are framing this as a parent choice issue when this is really a public health issue.” The lawsuit, which notes that the Florida constitution mandates a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools,” accuses DeSantis and other state officials of usurping the powers of local school districts to make decisions for themselves.
DeSantis’ order, the lawsuit argues, “wrongfully assumes that state authorities can better determine the local health risks and educational needs of students and teachers than the local officials that were elected for that purpose.”
“The community spread that will inevitably result from the unsafe reopening of schools without a mask mandate will yield unfortunate and avoidable increases in disease, long-term health complications, and deaths across Leon County and the State of Florida,” the lawsuits says.
Some Florida school districts are trying to get around DeSantis’ order with verbal gymnastics. Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, for example, said on Saturday that the district will “require face coverings” when schools open, but they will allow parents to “opt out” if they fill out a form stating they don’t want their child to wear a mask.
Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools Albert Carvalho said Sunday on “Face the Nation” that his school system is trying to work through a safe school reopening strategy while avoiding the “punitive defunding strategies” that could be a consequence of defying DeSantis’ order.
“It is sad that currently in America we see this rhetorical narrative that’s deeply influenced by politics rather than medicine and the wise advice of those who know best what’s in the best interests of our students and the professionals who teach them,” Carvalho said. “We ought to pay less attention to the loud voices that are often disconnected from reason and focus our attention on students, teachers, and healthy, protective environments,” he said, adding that the strategy should include some degree of “parental choice.”

Trouble for school-aged children in other states

In some states where schools have already opened, the anecdotal results of students heading back to the classroom without masks in places with high community transmission are not encouraging.
Fifth and sixth grade classes at Ellsworth Elementary School in Pinal County, Arizona — where the governor and legislature banned mask mandates — are already back in remote learning two weeks into the school year due to Covid cases. In a letter to the governor this week, more than 150 Arizona doctors urged GOP Gov. Doug Ducey to reverse course, arguing that scientists don’t yet know the impact on young brains.
In Arkansas, a judge has temporarily prevented the state from enforcing its law banning masks mandates in schools. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox issued a preliminary injunction last week in response to two lawsuits, one from officials from the Marion School District, which has more than 900 students and a dozen teachers in quarantine after discovering positive cases during the first two weeks of school.
Even before that injunction, Hutchinson had been one of the few GOP governors who has said publicly that he regrets preventing the state’s school districts from making their own decisions with that state’s ban.
“Facts change and leaders have to adjust to the new facts,” Hutchinson said Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “Whenever I signed that law cases were low. We were hoping that the whole thing was gone in terms of the virus, but it roared back with the Delta variant. … I realized that we needed to have more options for our local school districts to protect those children.”
This story has been updated with additional details Sunday.

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Politics Briefing: Quebec introduces legislation to ban pandemic-related protests near hospitals, other facilities – The Globe and Mail




Quebec’s Premier says he is taking a cautious approach to proceeding with legislation to outlaw COVID-19-related protests within 50 metres of hospitals, vaccination sites and testing centres, among other facilities.

“It’s never easy to say you cannot go on the street,” Premier François Legault told a news conference on Thursday, responding to a media question about why he had decided to proceed now with Bill 105.

The legislation, with details on prospective fines, was tabled Thursday by the province’s Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault in response to recent anti-vaccine protests outside such facilities.

“It’s not something that you can do every day. You have to be careful. We want to make sure that people will not win, trying to say that the law is unacceptable, and we cannot enforce it,” said Mr. Legault.

“We wanted to do it correctly and I think that also we need to have the support of all the other parties, and I think that it’s the right time.”

Provisions of the bill will cease to have effect when the public health emergency declared in March, 2020, ends.

More details on the legislation here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


TRUDEAU FACES CABINET CHALLENGES – Justin Trudeau will have to contend with the defeat of three female cabinet ministers as he crafts his senior leadership team in what’s expected to be a quick return to governing. Two senior government officials told The Globe and Mail Mr. Trudeau will outline his government’s next steps once Elections Canada has finalized the seat counts, which could be as early as Thursday. Story here.

QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT O’TOOLE LEADERSHIP – In the first public challenge to Erin O’Toole from within his own ranks, a member of the Conservative Party’s national council says the Tory Leader should face an accelerated leadership review for “betraying” members during the election campaign.

LIMITED DIVERSITY IN TORY CAUCUS – CBC has crunched the the numbers, and concluded that the vast majority of the MPs making up the new Conservative caucus — nearly 95 per cent — are white, even as the country’s racial makeup is diversifying. Before this election, 9 per cent of Tory MPs were BIPOC. Story here,

LPC CANDIDATE ACCUSED OF TAKING RIVAL PAMPHLET – A Calgary resident says he has doorbell security camera footage showing Liberal candidate George Chahal, the night before the election, approach his house in the Calgary Skyview riding and remove an opponent’s campaign flyer before replacing it with one of his own. He posted the footage to Facebook, which has now received thousands of views. Story here.

FORMER LPC CANDIDATE TO SERVE AS INDEPENDENT – Kevin Vuong, who won the Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York as a Liberal candidate, said he will serve as an Independent MP, days after his party said he will not sit as a member of the caucus. Story here.

TWITTER BERNIER BAN – Twitter restricted People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier’s account, preventing him from posting any new messages for 12 hours after he used the platform to encourage his supporters to “play dirty” with journalists covering his campaign. From CBC. Story here.


KENNEY FENDS OFF LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE – Jason Kenney appears to have quelled another challenge from within his own caucus. A non-confidence vote against the Alberta Premier was withdrawn on Wednesday, but he committed to an earlier-than-planned leadership review, to be held well in advance of Alberta’s 2023 general election. Don Braid of The Calgary Herald writes here on how Mr. Kenney survived this fight against his leadership.

NEW CHARGES AGAINST FORMER SNC-LAVALIN EXECS – SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and two of its former executives are facing new criminal charges related to a bridge contract in Montreal nearly 20 years ago, plunging the Canadian engineering giant into another legal maelstrom as it tries to rebuild its business after years of crisis. Story here.

FORD LOOKING FOR CHILDCARE DEAL – Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he wants to make a child-care deal with the federal government. The province has acknowledged it was in discussions with Ottawa about a potential agreement into the last hours before the federal election was called in August.


“Private meetings,” according to an advisory from the Prime Minister’s Office.


No schedules released for party leaders.


Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on whether this is the end of majority governments in Canada:But in Canada, for one reason or another, the grip of two-party politics has been broken – irrevocably, it seems. As a result, something else that is not supposed to happen under first past the post has been happening, with remarkable frequency: minority governments. This is not just the second straight federal election to produce a Parliament without a majority party: it is the fifth in the past seven, 11th in the past 22.”

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on why, if any federal leader should be stepping down, it’s the likeable Jagmeet Singh: ‘Strange business, politics. While a bit short of a majority, Justin Trudeau wins a third successive election by a large margin in the seat count. Yet some critics say he should be put out to pasture. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh suffered a drubbing in the 2019 election, losing almost half his party’s seats. With much higher expectations, he did badly again in Monday’s vote, electing (pending mail-in vote counts) only one more member. Yet hardly anyone says a word.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on why the knives are out for Erin O’Toole, but not Jagmeet Singh: “Theoretically, Mr. O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh should be in the same boat. Both failed to channel national frustration over a pandemic election call and turn it into material support; both delivered underwhelming results. But Mr. Singh, who led a campaign that saw the party claim 25 seats as of this writing – just one more than it held before – doesn’t appear to be in immediate jeopardy of losing his job. The saga of former NDP leader Tom Mulcair, who was turfed by his party when the NDP won 44 seats in 2015 (that is, about 75 per cent better than it did on Monday), offers an explanation for why.”

Jen Gerson (Maclean’s) on why Tories should not “do that stupid thing” they’re thinking of doing: “If you dump your affable, moderate, centrist leader at the first opportunity because he didn’t crack the 905 on his first try, and you replace him with someone who will chase Maxime Bernier’s vanishing social movement like a labradoodle running after the wheels of a mail truck, you will wind up confirming every extant fear and stereotype this crowd already holds about you and your party.”

Steve Paikin (TVO) on advice for Justin Trudeau, inspired by the political experiences of former Ontario premier Bill Davis: I think if Davis were still alive, he’d tell the current Prime Minister: “A lot of people are underestimating you right now. They think you’re damaged because you called this snap election, and it didn’t work out as you’d hoped. Well, I’ve been there. My advice, Prime Minister, is to reach out. Be more collegial and less ideological and adversarial. Establish a good working relationship with your opponents.”

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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Japan’s ruling party puts legacy of Abenomics in focus.



Japan’s widening wealth gap has emerged as a key issue in a ruling party leadership contest that will decide who becomes the next prime minister, with candidates forced to reassess the legacy of former premier Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” policies.

Under Abenomics, a mix of expansionary fiscal and monetary policies and a growth strategy deployed by Abe in 2013, share prices and corporate profits boomed, but a government survey published earlier this year showed households hardly benefited.

Mindful of the flaws of Abenomics, frontrunners in the Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership race – vaccination minister Taro Kono and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida – have pledged to focus more on boosting household wealth.

“What’s important is to deliver the benefits of economic growth to a wider population,” Kishida said on Thursday. “We must create a virtual cycle of growth and distribution.”

But the candidates are thin on details over how to do this with Japan’s economic policy toolkit depleted by years of massive monetary and fiscal stimulus.

Kono calls for rewarding companies that boost wages with a cut in corporate tax, while Kishida wants to expand Japan’s middle class with targeted payouts to low-income households.

The winner of the LDP leadership vote on Sept. 29 is assured of becoming Japan’s next prime minister because of the party’s parliamentary majority. Two women – Sanae Takaichi, 60, a former internal affairs minister, and Seiko Noda, 61, a former minister for gender equality – are the other candidates in a four-way race.

Parliament is expected to convene on Oct. 4 to vote for a successor to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who announced his decision to quit less than a year after taking over from Abe.

A government survey, conducted once every five years and released in February, has drawn increasing attention to trends in inequality during Abe’s time.

Shigeto Nagai, head of Japan economics at Oxford Economics, said the survey revealed “the stark failure of Abenomics to boost household wealth through asset price growth.”

Average wealth among households fell by 3.5% from 2014 to 2019 with only the top 10% wealthiest enjoying an increase, according to a survey conducted once every five years.

Japanese households’ traditional aversion to risk meant they did not benefit from the stock market rally, with the balance of their financial assets down 8.1% in the five years from 2014, the survey showed.

“We think the new premier will need to consider the failures of Abenomics and recognize the myth that reflation policies relying on aggressive monetary easing will not solve all Japan’s problems without tackling endemic structural issues,” Nagai said.

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda defended Abenomics and said the pandemic, not slow wage growth, was mainly to blame for sluggish consumption.

“Unlike in the United States and Europe, Japanese firms protected jobs even when the pandemic hit,” Kuroda said when asked why the trickle-down to households has been weak.

“Wage growth has been fairly modest, but that’s not the main reason consumption is weak,” he told a briefing on Wednesday. “As the pandemic subsides, consumption will likely strengthen.”


(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Politics Podcast: FiveThirtyEight Goes To Canada And Germany – FiveThirtyEight





On Monday, Canadians granted Justin Trudeau a third term as Prime Minister but did not give his party a majority in Parliament. Germany will have an election on Sunday to determine who will be the next Chancellor now that Angela Merkel is stepping down after sixteen years in power. In this installment of the Politics podcast, polling analyst and writer at The Writ, Éric Grenier along with FiveThirtyEight’s Kaleigh Rogers come on to discuss the outcome of the Canadian election. Later, Politico Intelligence Analyst and co-founder of Poll of Polls Cornelius Hirsch and Berlin-based journalist and Politico Europe contributor Emily Schultheis join to talk about how the race is playing out in Germany.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

How to spot gerrymandering in your state | FiveThirtyEight

GOP critics of Trump’s ‘Big Lie’ struggling to win reelection

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