There can be only one.
Are you a Wonkette reader who's been here forever, so long that you remember that one really mean Wonkette "profile" (dumb screed) that really hurt my feelings, about how we are useless and gross and we use embarrassing fonts? It employed an excerpt of a different (nice!) profile to intimate that it was incredibly cringey to live in a Los Angeles loft and turn 40.
Well that one really dumb screed that hurt my feelings ended with the prophesy that we would outlive the dumb website on which it ran, and we (handily) did. And of course I'm not just so gauche as to be 40 now, I am so gauche as to be FIFTY! :D
We didn't expect we'd outlive Tucker Carlson's career at Fox though, or Buzzfeed News. Buzzfeed News was good, it had reporters, it broke shit all the time, and it had billions, maybe trillions????, of investor $$$$$$$$$$. And Tucker Carlson, well, evil never dies.
We? We got you babe!
So now is the time for the 644,000 of you who visited Wonkette last month and didn't give us money to throw us $2 or $5 or $500, but only if you are able.
Because good wins sometimes, and we will be the last website standing IN THE WORLD.
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There was a thing, children, it was called 'pandemic.'
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a second dose of the updated COVID booster shot that came out last fall, for older people and folks with compromised immune systems. That would be the "bivalent" boosters that were developed to protect against the original virus and the Omicron variant of the virus. The booster will be available to people over the age of 65 four months after their last dose, and to those with weakened immune systems two months after their last shot. Those guidelines apply to both the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech boosters.
On top of that, the FDA authorized making the updated vaccines the standard for all COVID vaccines from here on in, which means that anyone who hasn't been vaccinated yet will get a single dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine instead of the two-dose vaccines that were originally rolled out in December 2020.
Next, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will meet with its vaccine advisory panel on Wednesday; once the CDC signs off on the new second dose plan, boosters can begin being given immediately.
As always, anti-vaxxers are still recommended to take a daily helping of STFU.
So far, the CDC says that only around 42 percent of Americans over 65 have received a first dose of the bivalent booster, and while virtually all Americans are able to get it, fewer than 17 percent of us have done so.
The Washington Post notes that the health agencies "will not formally urge that people get a second booster. Instead, the 'permissive' policy says they may get a second dose if they want."
Experts have expressed differing views on the necessity of a second bivalent dose. While some say little data exists to justify it, others believe the extra shot is a good option for high-risk individuals. The United Kingdom and Canada already are offering spring booster shots for vulnerable individuals.
Since the effectiveness of the COVID vaccine wanes over time, you may as well get the second bivalent booster if you qualify, and you should definitely get a first one if you haven't yet, since the vaccine has a good safety record and does a good job of protecting against hospitalization and death.
NBC News points out that while the two Omicron subvariants the bivalent vaccines were designed to protect against are no longer circulating in the US, the vaccines still offer pretty good protection against the current prevalent strain, another Omicron subvariant called XBB.1.5:
A CDC report published in January found that the updated Covid boosters reduced the risk of Covid infection from the XBB.1.5 subvariant by nearly half. Another study, published by Israeli researchers in the Lancet this month, found that the Covid boosters reduced the risk of hospitalization in people 65 and older by 72%. Neither study, however, looked at the effects of receiving two doses of the bivalent booster.
Going forward, the Post says that the FDA still plans to recommend that people get a COVID vaccine annually, in the fall when they get their flu vaccine:
The FDA and its advisers hope the simplified schedule will encourage more people to get coronavirus vaccine doses. Officials will select a reformulated dose in coming months based on which coronavirus strain scientists think is most likely to be circulating in fall and winter.
Under that blueprint, most people, whether vaccinated or not, would be urged to receive a single annual dose of a coronavirus shot.
Even though Congress hasn't authorized updated funding for COVID programs, the Post reports the shots will remain free of cost regardless of whether eligible people have insurance or not, since the "government has an ample supply." Should that supply be exhausted, people with health insurance will still get free shots, but people on private insurance will want to make sure their providers are in network. The uninsured may have to pay, though, unless more funding comes from Congress. Freaking America, man.
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Plus, it's Manchin-proof!
One of the things that impressed us about the Trump administration — in a horrible, sick-making way, to be sure — was that for all the stumblefucked incompetence at the top, which thank Crom might have saved us from even worse catastrophe, there were some operatives in the Trump White House who knew what they were doing, which was far more terrifying than the chaos. Stephen Miller, Trump's immigration Gauleiter, was something of a master of the Dark Bureaucratic Arts, leading a crew of likeminded creeps to sift through all sorts of federal laws and regulations to find ways to restrict immigration and keep refugees out of the USA. Miller and his operatives quickly weaponized large parts of the federal bureaucracy to pursue Trump's immigration agenda.
But what if that power could be used for good, not evil? What if a president directed agencies to go through the laws and regulations to find ways to help working Americans get affordable family care, for young children and also for seniors who need home care? That's pretty much what Joe Biden is telling the federal government to do with an executive order signed today.
The EO, the White House explainers,
includes more than 50 directives to nearly every cabinet-level agency to expand access to affordable, high-quality care, and provide support for care workers and family caregivers.
The order builds on that neat idea the administration came up with earlier this year that requires companies getting funding from the CHIPS and Science Act to include plans for making affordable childcare available to their workers. Nice factory we're helping you build here, sure would be great if your employees had childcare options.
The executive order, like the CHIPS rule, aimed at finding alternative ways of increasing the availability of family care after Joe Manchin had a tantrum and declared that working families couldn't have the Build Back Better act, which included funding for child care, assistance to seniors needing home care, and universal pre-kindergarten to boot. Like similar orders that Barack Obama took on gun control — and on the evil side of the ledger, like Trump's attempts to build a border wall — the EO is intended to enact at least some of the president's agenda after Congress — or more precisely, one powerful 538th of it — blocked the more comprehensive legislation Biden had sought.
As the Washington Post explains (free guest link), shaking the administrative trees could certainly get some results:
The president’s new directive could open the door for similar rules governing a wider array of programs and spending packages, potentially including the roughly $1.2 trillion law enacted in 2021 to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, pipes, ports and internet connections.
Specifically, the administration is ordering Cabinet departments to start with the CHIPS Act model, to
[i]dentify which of their grant programs can support child care and long-term care for individuals working on federal projects, and consider requiring applicants seeking federal job-creating funds to expand access to care for their workers.
Other parts of the order have specific action in mind, like a directive for the Department of Veterans Affairs to find ways to expand access to home care services it already offers through a program that "provides veterans with a budget to hire personal care assistance including from family members."
Another provision directs the federal government to get its own childcare act together, ordering the Office of Personnel Management to review policies for providing child care subsidies for government employees, and to look into mandating standards for how all federal agencies help pay for employees' childcare.
Other parts of the order are aimed at leveraging federal agencies to improve care providers' pay, benefits, and job security. Health and Human Services, for instance, "will take steps to increase the pay and benefits for Head Start teachers and staff," and to improve reimbursements for child care providers in HHS's Child Care & Development Block Grant program.
HHS is also being directed to take similar efforts to improve the pay and benefits for long-term care workers, which will be good for the workers and provide more consistent care for people in nursing homes or home care. The EO
directs HHS to consider issuing several regulations and guidance documents to improve the quality of home care jobs, including by leveraging Medicaid funding to ensure there are enough home care workers to provide care to seniors and people with disabilities enrolled in Medicaid, as well as build on the minimum staffing standards for nursing homes and condition a portion of Medicare payments on how well a nursing home retains workers.
And because much elder care is provided by family members, HHS is being directed to test out
a new dementia care model that will include support for respite care (short-term help to give a primary family caregiver a break) and make it easier for family caregivers to access Medicare beneficiary information and provide more support to family caregivers during the hospital discharge planning process.
The employment rights of domestic workers, a longtime concern of VP Kamala Harris, also shows up in the order, with a directive for the Labor Department to develop
a sample employment agreement so domestic child care and long-term care workers and their employers can ensure both parties better understand their rights and responsibilities.
There's only so much that an executive order can accomplish without additional funding from Congress, of course, but sometimes all that's needed to upgrade the help people get is to reduce the amount of paperwork. Another For Instance, then: Since there are roughly a half million Native American and Alaska Native kids under age 13 — about half of them younger than five — the order asks HHS to streamline the process for awarding childcare and Head Start grants to tribes so they can build early childhood facilities.
Also too, let's put the Washington Post on diaper-hauling duty for a week for saying that the prospects for passing a care agenda in Congress are slim, since "spending-weary Republicans — now in charge of the House — have intensified in their opposition to new government social safety net programs." Those poor weary House Republicans! We should definitely relieve them of their heavy burden come 2024, when Biden will run for reelection on the platform of helping families. We should point out those sad sack do-nothings at every chance, and make sure they're sent home, wearily.
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