Texans still freezing, without power – National & International News – WED 17Feb2021

Texas residents fume and politicians point fingers for power failures in state that prides itself on energy independence.

Texas residents still freezing, without power. Workers strike for $15 minimum wage. Dutch court briefly strikes down COVID curfew. Pentagon refocuses on China.

NATIONAL NEWS

Texas residents still freezing, without power

There’s been no shortage of finger-pointing over the immense blackouts in Texas following recent record snowstorms. At one point on Monday, more than 4 million Texans were without power and had no way of heating their homes amid plummeting temperatures. Around 3 million are still without power, and have little assurance that they’ll have it back anytime soon.

The power grid in several cities appears to have buckled due to increased demands on the system. Several in the state have died in house fires or from carbon-monoxide poisoning after taking desperate and unsafe measures to keep warm. Residents outside major cities also fumed that despite calls to conserve energies, downtown skylines shone while their neighborhoods were in darkness.

On top of increased energy demands, the state also suffered catastrophic energy production failures. State Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, rushed to blame failures on renewable sources, such as frozen wind turbines. But wind power only account for 10% of the state’s energy output, and only 10% of turbines froze. The overwhelming culprit was Texas’ natural gas and coal-powered providers, which provide the bulk of the state’s energy. Gas-powered plants suffered instrument and other component failures, which further diminished power supplies when the state needed them most.

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Fast food workers strike for $15 minimum wage

Yesterday, fast food workers in 15 cities went on strike to demand a rise in the minimum wage. Current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and hasn’t risen since 2009.

Taiwanna Milligan, a McDonald’s worker in Charleston, SC, makes $8.75 an hour after working at the restaurant for eight years. Milligan had this to say in a recent op-ed:

“We hear you out there applauding essential workers. We see the big show you make of thanking us. But to be honest, that hasn’t translated into changes for my life. We were living on a razor’s edge long before Covid-19 hit South Carolina. And we’re living on it still”.

Milligan’s sentiments sum up the frustrations of millions of Americans who were struggling to make ends meet for years before anyone had heard of COVID-19. The workers are striking to demand Congress include a provision in the next COVID stimulus to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Despite vocal support from many Democrats, the measure may lose in the Democratic-led Senate because of two people: Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Both Democrats have a history of siding with Republicans and have ruled out supporting the $15 minimum wage.

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Dutch court briefly strikes down COVID curfew

The Dutch citizens’ group Viruswaarheid (Virus Truth) has for weeks been leading massive protests against the country’s 9pm COVID curfew. Viruswaarheid sued to have the curfew struck down, alleging that the government wrongly used its emergency powers to invoke it. The group won a brief victory yesterday when a court struck down the curfew, ruling it must be lifted immediately.

The ruling caught the Netherlands’ caretaker government by surprise. The government asked the court to reinstate the curfew pending an appeal on Friday. A higher court reinstated the curfew minutes before it was to go into effect. The Dutch parliament is currently working on crafting new laws to support the lockdown, but this may have to wait until after elections next month.

Several other European nations have established curfews to curb movement. Spain, Italy and Greece all have 9pm curfews (with a 6pm curfew in Greece at weekends). France has not instituted a lockdown, but has established a daily 6pm curfew.

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Pentagon rethinking deployments to counter China

In recent years, China has been flexing its military muscle in an attempt to dominate the Asian sphere. Movement on this has accelerated in the last year as the pandemic ravaged its neighboring countries’ coffers and resources. Recent aggressions include flyovers in the disputed state of Taiwan, overland incursions into India, and increasing naval activity in disputed waters in the South China Sea.

This increasingly militaristic posture has brought China into increasing conflict both with its neighbors and the US. The Biden administration and the Pentagon are now looking at ways to counter China without abandoning existing fronts in the Middle East. The efforts are complicated by a push to slim down the Pentagon’s hugely bloated budget as well as internal moral crises within the military, including racism, rising extremism, and sexual harassment scandals. New strategies will also have to account for advances in surveillance technology and robotics and global threats such as pandemics and climate change.

Smaller is better

One of the strategies the Pentagon is examining is a move away from permanent bases to create a more mobile, less costly and less predictable military presence. More mobile forces also avoid the political and security pitfalls of huge bases that provide valuable and static military targets for attackers.

Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley recently gave his view that, “Smaller will be better in the future. A small force that is nearly invisible and undetectable, that’s in a constant state of movement, and is widely distributed — that would be a force that is survivable. You’re not going to accomplish any objective if you’re dead”.

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