Biden administration extends eviction moratorium for 30 days
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has extended the nationwide ban on evictions for a month to help tenants who are unable to make rent payments during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extended the evictions moratorium until July 31. It had been scheduled to end June 30. The CDC said Thursday that “this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.”
The White House had acknowledged Wednesday that the emergency pandemic protection will have to end at some point. The trick is devising the right sort of off-ramp to make the transition without massive social upheaval.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the separate bans on evictions for renters and mortgage holders were “always intended to be temporary.”
This week, dozens of members of Congress wrote to Biden and Walensky calling for the moratorium to be not only extended but also strengthened in some ways.
The letter, spearheaded by Democratic Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Jimmy Gomez of California and Cori Bush of Missouri, called for an unspecified extension in order to allow the nearly $47 billion in emergency rental assistance included in the American Rescue Plan to get into the hands of tenants.
Ending the assistance too abruptly, they said, would disproportionately hurt some of the same minority communities that were hit so hard by the virus itself. They also echoed many housing advocates by calling for the moratorium’s protections to be made automatic, requiring no special steps from the tenant in order to gain its protections.
“The impact of the federal moratorium cannot be understated, and the need to strengthen and extend it is an urgent matter of health, racial, and economic justice,” the letter said.
Diane Yentel, president of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, called an extension of the eviction ban “the right thing to do — morally, fiscally, politically, and as a continued public health measure.”
But landlords, who have opposed the moratorium and challenged it in court, are against any extension. They have argued the focus should be on speeding up the distribution of rental assistance.
Stocks add to weekly gains, pushing S&P 500 back to record
Stocks were moderately higher in early trading Thursday, helped by some modestly positive economic data as well as a continued belief that the U.S. economy is recovering from the pandemic and inflation, while higher than usual, will not be a long-term problem.
The S&P 500 index rose 0.5% as of 10 a.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.7% and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.7%.
Markets have calmed notably since the Federal Reserve surprised investors last week by saying it could start raising short-term interest rates by late 2023, earlier than expected, if recent high inflation persists.
The super-low rates the Fed engineered to carry the economy through the pandemic have propped up prices across markets, and any change would be a big deal, so the Fed’s announcement triggered selling of stocks and a rise in Treasury yields last week. However that selling reversed this week. The three major indexes are all up more than 2% this week and are once again near records.
Investors had little negative reaction to a report that showed that 411,000 Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, down 7,000 from the week before. That was a much more modest decline than investors had expected, and the second week in a row where unemployment benefits claims stalled after declining steadily for months.
Meanwhile, orders to U.S. factories for big-ticket manufactured goods rose for the 12th time in the last 13 months in May, pulled up by surging demand for civilian aircraft. The Commerce Department said Thursday that orders for durable goods — meant to last at least three years — climbed 2.3% in May, reversing a 0.8% drop in April and coming despite a backlogged supply chain and a shortage of workers.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was at 1.47% largely unchanged from a yield of 1.48% late Wednesday.
Shares of drugstore chain Rite Aid plunged nearly 15% after the company said it expects to report a loss for the year, due to pressure on its pharmacy benefits services and lower-than-expected sales.
Disney honors Black experience
NEW YORK — Disney is celebrating this year’s Juneteenth with a new EP about the Black experience featuring actor and activist Yara Shahidi, Chlöe Bailey of Chloe x Halle and rapper YBN Cordae, who is donating his proceeds to students attending historically Black colleges and universities.
“Music for the Movement Volume III – Liberated,” which was released Friday, is the third volume in Disney’s four-part series of EPs honoring Black lives and social justice under a joint venture between Disney Music Group and The Undefeated, ESPN’s platform for exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture.
Shahidi delivers the original spoken word track “To Be A Black Girl” on the EP, while Bailey covers Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” The Grammy-nominated Bailey performed the track on “Juneteenth: Together We Triumph – A ‘Soul of a Nation’ Special Event,” that aired Friday on ABC and marked her first solo TV performance.
Cordae and Common join forces for “What’s Life,” and Cordae agreed to donate his proceeds from the album release to fund scholarships for students from underrepresented communities attending HBCUs. As a result, Disney Dreamers Academy and The Undefeated agreed to match his donation.
“So many people need the money more than I do. I feel as though when you’re in such a blessed position, it’s important to pay that forward to be a blessing to others. It’s especially important to me to invest in our youth and the future,” 23-year-old Cordae said in a statement. “Young people are the future of our society and the world, so we must do all we can to ensure they are properly positioned to succeed. If I can spark the brain of a few future world leaders and geniuses, I’ll die a happy man.”
“Music for the Movement Volume III – Liberated” also features songs by R&B singer Lucky Daye and jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington.
Disney’s first volume called “I Can’t Breathe/Music for the Movement” was released in October and featured songs by Rapsody, Bilal, Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, Alex Isley, Jensen McRae and Keedron Bryant. “Black History Always — Music for the Movement Vol. 2” was released in February and included songs by Tinashe, Freddie Gibbs, Tobe Nwigwe, Brent Faiyaz and Infinity Song.
‘Billie Jean’ video tops 1B views
“Billie Jean” may have been about “just a girl” who was not Michael Jackson’s lover, but the music video for the song has reached a historic milestone.
Debuting on MTV in March 1983, the Steve Barron-directed clip — where Jackson lands on his toes and illuminates tiles on the ground — has crossed 1 billion views on YouTube, making it only the third music video of the ‘80s to rack up that many viewers, and the first ‘80s clip by solo artist to hit that benchmark.
Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’Mine,” from 1988, and a-ha’s 1984 groundbreaking video for “Take On Me,” previously entered the Billion Views club.
According to YouTube, the “Billie Jean” video has been averaging 600,000 daily views globally this year.
Some could argue that Jackson wouldn’t have reached the levels of superstardom he enjoyed in the ‘80s if MTV hadn’t been bullied by his record company into playing “Billie Jean.”
Because of racism and segregation in the music business, MTV wouldn’t play any videos by Black acts during its early years.
When Jackson’s record company, CBS Records, first asked MTV to play “Billie Jean,” the programming executives at the channel refused, because they reportedly didn’t feel that Black music was “rock” enough. Subsequently, Walter Yetnikoff, then president of CBS, told MTV that if it didn’t air “Billie Jean,” he’d pull all the label’s other artists off the channel, never give them any videos in the future, and would tell the media that MTV didn’t want to play music by a Black artist.
MTV reluctantly caved and put the “Billie Jean” video in heavy rotation only after it topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. It was a move credited with generating an extra 10 million in sales for the “Thriller” album, which was the bestselling album of all time for decades.
Meanwhile, the video for the album’s title track is nearing 765 million views on YouTube.
“Billie Jean” — which was inducted into the Music Video Producers Hall of Fame in 1992 — is considered one of the greatest videos of all time.
The infectious track, written by Jackson and produced by Quincy Jones, won two Grammy Awards and two American Music Awards.
In Our View: Leadership required in drought, climate crisis
For Clark County residents, drought is largely inconceivable. The Great River of the West runs through our backyard, driving the economy and defining the culture as it has for thousands of years, and we typically have no shortage of rain.
But the western United States is providing a harbinger of what could be a very dry future that alters food chains and humans’ very ability to live in this part of the country. “Droughts have been around in the West forever – that’s just a function of life in the West,” John Berggren of Western Resource Advocates, told the Los Angeles Times. “The connection is that climate change is making drought more common and making it more difficult for us to recover.”
In Washington, climatologists say we just experienced the driest spring in nearly 100 years. Since data collection started in the 1890s, only 1924 saw a spring with less precipitation.
That dries out vegetation, reduces wildlife habitat, makes irrigation of crops more difficult and creates conditions more prone to major wildfires. In one example of the impact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently predicted that this year’s yield of winter wheat will decline by 28 percent.
Most wheat produced in Washington is winter wheat. A drought not only hurts wheat farmers, but drives up the price of hay for ranchers and leads to an increase in meat prices. The interconnectedness of the economy means that a drought impacts all residents, even those in relatively moist Western Washington.
An estimated 68 percent of Washington is currently experiencing some level of drought. Other western states are facing even tougher conditions.
Lake Mead and Lake Powell – the nation’s two largest reservoirs – were created by dams along the Colorado River. They provide water to 40 million Americans and irrigation for more than 4 million acres of farmland, but both are at about 30 percent capacity. That is the result of what researchers recently identified as the most severe drought in the Western U.S. in about 1,200 years – a drought that could last decades.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, parts of Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico all are experiencing extreme or exceptional droughts – the two most severe categories. That directly translates to wildfire risk.
Washington has seen 475 wildfires this year on public lands, compared with 318 at the same time in 2020. And last year turned out to be one of the most devastating wildfire seasons in state history, with smoke inundating even populated areas typically untouched by the blazes.
Part of all this is the earth’s natural climate cycle. But climate change driven by the’ burning of fossil fuels has contributed. As a Washington State University climate scientist told the Los Angeles Times: “The warm conditions have resulted in low snowpack, which is the case pretty much across the mountains in the West. The heat and rapidly declining snowpack levels are both pretty certainly attributable to climate change.”
Whether or not public policy can stem the tide of climate change, drought is likely to impact the region for decades to come. And it likely will lead to questions about whether portions of the Western United States are habitable.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox recently asked residents to pray for rain, abdicating leadership in favor of wishful thinking. Dealing with the current and coming crisis will require more effective guidance from elected officials.
Jane Austen details uncovered
LOS ANGELES — While Jane Austen admirers savor the wit and romance of “Pride and Prejudice” and her other enduring novels, scholars ferret out details of Austen’s life and times, including a family link to slavery that surfaced 50 years ago.
The effort to place the writer in the social and political context of her day has yielded a new and contrasting discovery: A favorite brother was part of the 19th-century abolition movement.
Devoney Looser, an Arizona State University professor and author of “The Making of Jane Austen,” unearthed the Rev. Henry Thomas Austen’s attendance at the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, which drew some 500 delegates.
“I was stunned to find that fact,” Looser said in an interview. She first detailed her research in an essay for The Times Literary Supplement.
“The family’s commitments and actions changed profoundly, from known complicity in colonial slavery to previously unnoticed anti-slavery activism,” Looser wrote. “Henry became a next-generation Austen publicly supporting a political commitment to abolish slavery across the globe.”
Looser’s essay also addresses patriarch George Austen’s previously revealed ties to another family’s West Indian sugar plantation, calling them “very real” but “both under-described and overstated.”
The latest research was welcomed by Patricia A. Matthew, an associate professor of English at Montclair State University who focuses on literature of the period that encompasses Austen. Her courses include British abolitionist literature.
“I’m always excited about new information about the authors I teach,” Matthew said. While it doesn’t change her view of Austen’s work — “I don’t believe that I’m reading someone who’s actively engaged in debates about the slave trade” — it could resound with Austen’s most devoted admirers, sometimes called “Janeites.”
“I think they are having a kind of reckoning in how they think about not just Austen, but the Regency period,” said Matthew, referring to the British era of the early 1800s. “It raises all manner of interesting questions about how they understand this author.”
The six major novels that Jane Austen wrote before her death at 41 in July 1817 are sharply observed works about human nature and relationships, not anchored in current events. There is a reference to slavery in “Mansfield Park,” and a conversation between two characters in “Emma” includes mentions of abolition and the sale of “human flesh.”
As for Austen’s own beliefs, Looser said, “we know from her letters that she refers to having loved the writings of a prominent white abolitionist, Thomas Clarkson. So we know that she read and cared about issues of race and racial injustice.”
A diary entry from another Austen brother, Francis, called it regrettable that any trace of slavery “should be found to exist in countries dependent on England, or colonised by her subjects.” His opinion was not made public until the early 1900s.
Seger: Tours likely over after sax player’s death
An emotional Bob Seger said he can’t imagine hitting the concert road again following the loss of close friend and saxophonist Alto Reed.
Speaking on a new SiriusXM program marking the 45th anniversary of his “Live Bullet” and “Night Moves” albums, Seger choked up as he recounted the phone call from the longtime Silver Bullet Band player revealing he had colon cancer. Reed died Dec. 30 at age 72.
“I listened really hard to him,” Seger recalled. “And he said ‘how grateful I am for my wonderful life.’ … I thought that was so beautiful, and I thought he was so brave. I don’t think I could go out (on tour) without him.”
Rock journalist David Fricke was host as Seger beamed in by Zoom from metro Detroit for the hourlong program, part of SiriusXM’s Town Hall series. The show premiered Wednesday on the Classic Rewind channel and will air again Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s also available on demand on the SiriusXM app. Video of the program is also expected soon.
Seger and Silver Bullet played extensively in 2019 as part of the Roll Me Away Tour, which was billed at the time as “a final tour” but with no firm end date ever announced. The last show on that 2019 leg was Nov. 1 in Philadelphia. The outing did nearly $100 million in box-office revenue that year, making it the third most successful tour of 2019.
“You know, I’ve had a great life, oh my goodness,” Seger said as he elaborated on the end of his touring career. “I loved what I did. Never worked a day in my life, really. The hard parts were in sleeping in hotels, having rotten food.”
Seger, who turned 76 in May, went on to add: “I’m a lucky guy. What can I say? I got to do what I wanted to do.”
It was a poignant grace note to an otherwise upbeat, freewheeling conversation, as Seger looked back on the pair of 1976 albums that broke him into the big time — the moment when “we went from station wagons to jets overnight.”
Seger said he recently listened to “Live Bullet” for the first time in many years and was once again “stunned” by the musicianship and discipline on display from Silver Bullet.
There was little pressure going into the hometown September 1975 shows at Detroit’s Cobo Arena that resulted in the live record, Seger said.
He said last year was tough on him as he struggled with the pandemic and the prospect of retirement. Bruce Springsteen encouraged him to get busy with songwriting.
“I was getting kind of down on myself, down on the world and down on everything,” said Seger. “(Springsteen) said, ‘Bob, go out there and start writing, start singing, start playing, start recording.’ ”
Apartments going up by Providence Academy; smokestack’s fate to be decided
A new apartment complex is rising adjacent to the Providence Academy as the historic building’s owner, the Historic Trust, welcomes a new interim president and a newly finished balcony — and as it continues to seek approval to demolish its landmark smokestack.
The construction of two six-story buildings, called the Aegis development, began within the last two months, part of a master plan for the 2.21-acre site. The property is owned by Marathon Development, which it bought from the Historic Trust.
The project’s first building, to the north near C Street and East 12th Street, is under construction and should be finished by early 2022.
Both buildings will include 140 apartments: 28 studio units averaging 549 square feet, 71 one-bedroom units averaging 670 square feet and 41 two-bedroom units averaging 965 square feet. The buildings will also have 12,808 square feet of ground-floor retail and 151 surface parking spaces.
Plans include a rooftop terrace and an outdoor theater.
Pence Construction plans to put up a tower crane for Building 2 today, said Marc Thompson, vice president of preservation and property management for the Historic Trust.
A piece of the Academy campus to the north and northeast of the Academy will eventually be developed under the name Aegis Phase 2, also owned by Marathon Development. The latter includes more apartment buildings that will rise near the smokestack that’s visible to drivers on Interstate 5.Academy upgrades
Porches on the northwest section of the Academy have been renovated with mostly new wood, painted with the building’s classic “Academy yellow” color, Thompson said. The northeast porches are next on the Historic Trust’s list of projects.
The balconies are a new feature for tenants as the building sees a comeback in office space; during the pandemic, the occupancy rate was as high as 95 percent, according to Thompson, but as of Wednesday, about 15 office units were available to rent.
The Historic Trust has invested about $16 million in the building’s interior and exterior since it purchased the Providence Academy in 2015 for $5 million.
“At least $30 million more trying to raise to cover the rest of it,” interim president and CEO Stacey Graham said.
Graham replaced former Historic Trust CEO David Pearson on March 1. She served on the board for 10 years before replacing Pearson.
Graham is also on the board of directors for Riverview Bank and was the president of the Humane Society of Southwest Washington for nearly eight years. She plans to stay at the Historic Trust through the end of the year while the board of directors meets with candidates over the summer, she said.
Graham said she hopes to hire someone by October.
“We have a new strategic plan and vision for the Trust, the Academy and the portion of the site we are managing — think collaboration, partnerships, destination,” she wrote in an email to The Columbian. “ The board will vote on it in early July.”Smokestack
The Historic Trust will request demolition of the smokestack during the July 7 Historic Preservation Commission meeting.
The city of Vancouver decided not to order demolition — as it did with the properties’ laundry and boiler buildings — so the Historic Trust will have to go through the full process and meet the requirements set by Vancouver code for the demolition of historic buildings at the Academy site, according to Sean Denniston, a former commissioner who was term-limited off the Historic Preservation Commission.
According to Denniston, because the city has not ordered demolition, the commission will be the decision-making body — serving in more than just an advisory role, as it has regarding other issues on the Academy site. If the commission denies demolition, the Trust has the option to appeal to the city council, Denniston wrote in an email.
Denniston said that during the July 7 meeting, he will speak in opposition to the Historic Trust’s plan to demolish the smokestack; he claims the Historic Trust isn’t hiring a “sufficient level of expertise to do these preservation tasks adequately.”
“We have consulted with professional engineers, architects, preservationists and contractors and spent thousands of dollars to determine a way to stabilize the smokestack for the safety of the community in an economically feasible way,” Graham wrote in an email. “Because this was not possible, we are now committed to preserving the history of the smokestack through stories, reusing the bricks and other materials, exhibits and more.”
It’s not the Democrats’ Obamacare anymore
The prevailing story about Obamacare's endurance is that it is a tribute to the public's aversion to risk. And over the years, it has shed some of its most objectionable features.