Tyson Food managers bet on how many workers would get COVID, suit says – FRI 20Nov2020 National & International News

Lawsuits say Tyson plant managers placed bets on how many workers would get sick during a COVID outbreak at the plant.
November 20th, 2020     Today's News Summary

Tyson Food managers placed bets on workers getting COVID, suit says.12 million Americans lose jobless benefits after Xmas unless Congress acts. Calls for UK, US to investigate possible Afghan war crimes.

That and more below.

NATIONAL NEWS

Tyson Food managers placed bets on workers getting COVID, suit says

A wrongful death suit accuses supervisors at an Iowa Tyson Foods meat processing plant of placing bets on how many workers would contract COVID during a major outbreak at the plant in the spring. The plaintiff’s dad, Isidro Fernandez, was one of more than 1,000 workers who became infected during the outbreak. Fernandez and at least 5 other workers at the plant died of COVID.

The families of three other deceased Tyson workers have also brought suits. The suits allege that Tyson showed wanton disregard for the well-being of its workers. Victims’ attorneys say managers downplayed the outbreak and allowed symptomatic workers to continue working. Court records also show that the plant ignored advice from local authorities to close the plant as the outbreak spread.

The lawsuit says that Tom Hart, the plant’s manager “organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for Covid-19”.

Tyson has called the deaths of its workers “tragic” but has denied any wrongdoing. However, Tyson is taking the allegations of the betting pool a bit more seriously. They have suspended Hart and other managers who allegedly took part in the betting.

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12 million to lose jobless benefits after Christmas unless Congress acts

A report from the Century Foundation says 12 million Americans will lose vital federal jobless benefits the day after Christmas. One of the authors of the study, Andrew Stettner, says that unless Congress acts urgently, it will “cut off 12 million Americans from the only thing holding them back from falling into financial wreckage and disaster”. Federal jobless relief programs have kept millions of Americans afloat after exhausting or not qualifying for state unemployment benefits.

Even with COVID vaccines promised next year, infections are on the rise and the economic toll shows no signs of slowing. Just last week, more than 1 million Americans filed new unemployment claims. According to the Household Pulse Survey, 25% of Americans (30% of Mississippians) expect a loss of unemployment income in the next four weeks.

Too little or too late

Facing increasing pressure from cash-strapped states, Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to resume COVID-19 relief talks, as was promised when talks ground to a standstill before the election. But with a lame-duck Congress and President Trump on his way out the door, hopes are not high. The parties have been at odds for months on the size and scope of any relief bill. Democrats have opposed piecemeal legislation, such as a standalone bill to extend jobless benefits. Instead, Democrats hope for a bigger prize – a $2.2 trillion bill with aid for states, schools and health services. Republicans also want a liability shield for businesses whose workers or customers contract COVID, which Democrats say is a non-starter.

President-elect Biden says he hopes COVID relief talks will progress when he takes office and a new Congress convenes at the end of January. But that will be too late for millions of Americans who are on the financial knife’s edge now.

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INTERNATIONAL NEWS

WHO says supposed COVID wonder drug remdesivir is overhyped

The World Health Organization has advised against administering anti-viral drug remdesivir to hospitalized patients. A WHO panel says that there is a “lack of evidence that remdesivir improved outcomes that matter to patients such as reduced mortality, need for mechanical ventilation, time to clinical improvement, and others”.

Remdesivir, and its producer Gilead Pharmaceuticals of California, received much attention earlier this year following the results of a single study by Gilead itself.  At the time, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the study showed remdesivir had “a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery”. But Dr. Fauci could not have looked at this study very carefully. Throughout Gilead’s study, researchers constantly moved the goalposts on what constituted “recovery”. By the end, even patients who were still hospitalized were said to have “recovered”. Nevertheless, on the strength of this one study, remedesivir became one of the few drugs with FDA approval for treating coronavirus symptoms.

Pricey and worthless

When Trump came down with COVID, remdesivir was part of the cocktail of treatments he received. However, numerous independent studies show he could have done without it. Remdesivir also has to be administered intravenously. This makes it an expensive and complex COVID treatment. By comparison, 60-year-old steroid dexamethasone is inexpensive and has proven effective in treating severe COVID symptoms.

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Calls for UK, US to investigate possible Afghan war crimes

Human rights groups are calling on coalition partners in the Afghan war to investigate possible war crimes by their troops. The calls follow the release of a report detailing disturbing revelations about possible war crimes by Australian special forces in Afghanistan. The report recommended that federal police should investigate 25 current and former elite soldiers involved in over 30 separate incidents.

Shaharzad Akbar of Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) singles out the UK and US as countries that should investigate possible war atrocities. “In particular,” Akbar says, “the AIHRC calls on the UK to open an independent inquiry to review and investigate the allegation of unlawful killings by UK special forces.”

Akbar says media reports and AIHRC investigations indicate troops from other countries may have violated international humanitarian law and the rules of engagement. She continues, “Only through a series of independent inquiries will we uncover the true extent of this disregard for Afghan life, which normalized murder, and resulted in war crimes”.

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