December inflation up 7% from last year, worst in 40 years. Biden promises more tests to keep schools open. Beijing tightens grip on Hong Kong.
December inflation up 7% from last year, worst in 40 years
Inflation continues to be a worry for most Americans. Last month, prices on consumer goods like gas and groceries were up 7% over the previous December. This was the highest rate of year-to-year inflation since 1982. Ongoing supply chain headaches and increasing consumer demand have driven up prices on all types of essential and non-essential goods.
Some Democrats, including progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren, are attempting to pin the blame on price gouging by corporations. Warren says that corporations are taking advantage of the general economic tumult to pad their bottom lines.
Economists are skeptical of this view, putting rampant inflation down to the age old forces of supply and demand. As long as demand keeps rising faster than production can cope with, price hikes are inevitable. However, antitrust efforts by the Biden administration targeting tight industries like meat packing are both welcome and long overdue. “Too often”, Biden says, “they use their power to squeeze out smaller competitors, stifle new entrepreneurs, and raise the prices”.
Biden promises more tests to keep schools open
President Biden has promised to deliver 10 million more COVID-19 tests to schools in an effort to stave off pushes to return to remote learning. Across the country, school districts are wrestling with how to re-open safely after the holiday break. COVID-19 numbers are breaking records across the board, both in infections and hospitalizations. Travel and gatherings over Christmas have fueled the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant. Infections are overwhelming hospitals and forcing more workers, including teachers, to call in sick or quarantine.
In Chicago, the teachers union fought city officials over inadequate safety precautions in schools. Many parents feared the strife would ultimately lead to a return to remote learning. Ultimately, the union was able to push the city to supply more masks for teachers and establish more thorough testing protocols to keep schools open.
Even before the emergence of the omicron variant, school faculties had already reached a breaking point. Teachers and administrators are continually preoccupied with disputes over masking, struggling students, and mental and emotional fatigue among staff. As a consequence, many schools are short staffed and struggling to cover classes.
More security laws on the way for Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s 90-seat Legislative Council (or LegCo) has convened its first session since pro-democracy candidates were banned from running for office. The “patriots only” laws governing election came into force last year as Beijing attempts to cement control over the nominally self-governed city. During her address to the newly-seated LegCo, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam vowed to bring about more pro-Beijing “security laws”.
Under security laws already passed in the last two years, hundreds of activists in Hong Kong have been arrested for their part in pro-democracy demonstrations. The laws also led to a broader crackdown on journalists and pro-democratic politicians. Among them was billionaire Jimmy Lai, owner of the pro-democratic Apple Daily News, which shuttered last year. Lai, 74, has already received 3 separate prison sentences totaling 3 years and 5 months for his role in the pro-democracy movement.
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