Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Airbnb offers free lodging to COVID-19 responders

As Tourism Craters, Airbnb and Hotels Offer Shelter to Coronavirus Responders | Reason - Scott Shackford:

March 26, 2020 - "The spread of the coronavirus has decimated tourism across the world, shutting down hotels, restaurants, airports, tourism destinations, amusement parks, beaches, cruise ships, and concert halls.... The result is a devastating drop in demand for home-sharing services provided by companies like Airbnb. People aren't staying in hotels, and they're also not renting Airbnb units.

"Eventually, tourism and room rentals will recover. But for now, Airbnb is announcing that it is trying to assist with the coronavirus fight by encouraging its hosts to offer their rental units to temporarily house coronavirus responders, such as doctors, nurses, and other health care workers.

"According to Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky on Twitter, the program was piloted in France and Italy, where nearly 6,000 hosts volunteered to allow coronavirus responders to stay in their rentals. Today, the service announced it's expanding this program worldwide and is looking for 100,000 hosts to participate.... Airbnb is currently working with the International Rescue Committee, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and the International Medical Corps in order to connect responders and hosts.

"In order to offer up your space to host, you have to follow a strict cleaning and disinfecting regimen to prepare the space, and no other people can be present at the listing. You can't just rent a spare bedroom to a nurse or aid worker. Airbnb is also waiving all of its own fees. Unit owners and operators have the option to host for free if they want to 'donate' their rental, but it's not necessary in order for them to participate.

"On Twitter, Chesky is noting that hosts have been quick to volunteer. As of noon today, he says 1,500 Airbnb hosts have offered up their homes since this morning's announcement. It's not clear how many of these homes or rentals are proximate to locations where health care workers need to be, or what percentage of hosts have reduced their rates....

"Hotels are getting in on the act as well, both in America and other countries. Veronique de Rugy noted that the private sector is working to solve a number of problems the government is too slow to tackle. Hotels and private residences make for better and safer resting places for coronavirus workers than some tent cities that will force these people (who themselves are at constant risk of infection) into regular close proximity."

Monday, March 30, 2020

Private sector tackling coronavirus emergency

The Private Sector's Heartening Response to COVID-19 | Reason - Veronique de Rugy:

"It's easy to feel depressed and scared these days. News about the impact and death toll of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, is constant. Government responses have been chaotic, ranging from near-indifference to suddenly shutting down the economy, with politicians offering to pay for everything. Yet we shouldn't lose sight of the exceptional vitality that the private sector is demonstrating during this mess. It will make a difference....

"After what can only be described as a multilevel government failure that resulted in the United States having practically no coronavirus tests available for weeks after the onset of the pandemic, the private sector ramped up its production so much that we're now testing 65,000 people every day. This number is bound to grow..... Singapore's Veredus Laboratories, for example, said it will soon release "Lab-on-Chip" kits to test patients for three kinds of coronavirus within two hours. Four American startups had also launched at-home tests for COVID-19, until the Food and Drug Administration unwisely demanded they stop....

"[O]nly a few weeks after the beginning of this outbreak in the United States, many pharmaceutical firms worked at lightning speed to develop a vaccine. Last week, the first doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine were administered to a group of volunteers....

"Companies nationwide are shifting resources to produce more masks. The firm 3M, for instance, announced that it 'ramped up to maximum production levels of N95 respirators and doubled our global output to a rate of more than 1.1 billion per year'.... A group of American apparel and textile companies like Fruit of the Loom and Hanesbrands came together almost overnight to create a medical face mask supply chain....

"Researchers trying to understand where best to send supplies or how to mitigate outbreaks are now being helped by Facebook's disease prevention maps that display population density, demographics, and travel patterns. As George Mason University's Tyler Cowen also explains for Bloomberg, 'Skype and Zoom sessions will replace many a class, and the textbook companies are stepping forward with electronic portals that present classroom materials, interactive exercises and grade student answers'....

"In Canada, an anesthetist managed to turn one life-saving ventilator into nine. In Italy, a company used its 3-D printer to manufacture much-needed ventilator valves to be used in that country's overwhelmed hospitals. These entrepreneurs then ... modified 'a snorkeling mask already on the market to create a ventilation-assisted mask for hospitals in need of additional equipment, which was successful when the hospital tested it on a patient in need.' And where I live in Virginia, a couple has been 3D-printing shields to protect N95 masks. The Washingtonian reports, 'For each request received, the Filkos are covering shipping costs and sending four free masks to doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers'....

"Burger King is giving out two free kids' meals to everyone who orders food through their app. U-Haul is providing one month of free storage for students displaced from their universities by the virus."

Read more: https://reason.com/2020/03/26/the-private-sectors-heartening-response-to-covid-19/

Sunday, March 29, 2020

U.S. Congress triples 2020 federal deficit

$2 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Bill Presents A Reckoning For Libertarians | NPR - Ron Elving

May 22, 2018 - "Let us all have a moment of sympathy – and perhaps even understanding — for Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky. Massie was the guy who caught hell from all sides Friday when he tried to force a roll call vote on the coronavirus relief bill in the House of Representatives. He said he wanted every individual member to record his or her vote on the gargantuan $2 trillion package, which he called the biggest relief bill in the history of mankind. For Massie and many like him, the bill that aims to forestall economic disaster in the face of a pandemic is, in itself, a fiscal calamity and a radical turn in governing philosophy. Letting this go without a recorded vote was capitulation on a profound scale....

"'If this bill is so great for America, why not allow a vote on it?' he fumed on Twitter.... 'I’ve been told that they don’t even have 1 minute available for me to speak against this bill during the 4 hour debate. The fix is in. If this bill is so great for America, why not allow a vote on it?  Why not have a real debate? #SWAMP'....

"Massie had a point.... Explicitly, the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act spends money faster than any legislation in history, shoveling it out with an air of near-desperation....  Implicitly, the act says that when the chips are down, we as a nation turn to our national parent — the federal government....

"Speaking about federal outlays decades ago, Republican Senate leader Everett Dirksen once joked: 'A billion here, a billion there and pretty soon you're talking about real money.' Have we now translated that to the language of trillions?

"If one were writing a 30-second TV spot attacking a free-spending Congress ... one might have written something like this: 'This is an unprecedented gusher of taxpayer money — with no offsetting revenues or spending cuts — that not only balloons the federal budget but triples this year's anticipated deficit of a trillion dollars (already among the highest in history). With this single vote, Congress has added as much to the national debt as was accumulated in the first 200 years of the Constitution's existence'....

Yet the power of this current crisis and the force behind this bill in this hour was such that even the leading fiscal conservatives who would normally be front and center were conspicuous by their absence. President Trump wanted the bill on his desk now. The Senate had voted 96-0. So even members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus stood back as a big bipartisan majority of the House played the matador and let the bull roar past.

"That's what Massie decided he could not brook without a protest.... But the derision arrived without delay.... President Trump demanded Massie be ousted from the Republican Party.... Back on Capitol Hill, the floor leaders of both parties scrambled to stymie Massie. Within a few hours, they had established the rule of debate on the bill so that the Senate's version of CARES could be approved without a roll call vote....

"[W]hile his lonely crusade was joined by none of the leaders of his own party, Massie was at least speaking for others across the country who could scarcely believe what they saw unfolding on C-SPAN — and the lack of any meaningful opposition in Washington.

"Matt Welch, an editor-at-large for Reason, a libertarian magazine, called the CARES Act 'a massive course of experimental economics' and compared the American public to 'laboratory rats.' Even the trillion-dollar stimulus package of President Barack Obama, opposed by Republicans in 2009, had not been so robust. 'There is no more politics of fiscal prudence in America,' Welch added."

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Governments prevented early coronavirus testing

How Delays in Testing Set Back the U.S. Coronavirus Response | New York Times - Sheri Fink & Mike Baker

March 10, 2020 - "Dr. Helen Y. Chu, an infectious disease expert in Seattle, knew that the United States did not have much time. In late January, the first confirmed American case of the coronavirus had landed in her area. Critical questions needed answers: Had the man infected anyone else? Was the deadly virus already lurking in other communities and spreading?

"As luck would have it, Dr. Chu had a way to monitor the region. For months, as part of a research project into the flu, she and a team of researchers had been collecting nasal swabs from residents experiencing symptoms throughout the Puget Sound region. To repurpose the tests for monitoring the coronavirus, they would need the support of state and federal officials. But nearly everywhere Dr. Chu turned, officials repeatedly rejected the idea, interviews and emails show, even as weeks crawled by and outbreaks emerged in countries outside of China, where the infection began.

"By Feb. 25, Dr. Chu and her colleagues could not bear to wait any longer. They began performing coronavirus tests, without government approval. What came back confirmed their worst fear. They quickly had a positive test from a local teenager with no recent travel history. The coronavirus had already established itself on American soil without anybody realizing it.... In fact, officials would later discover through testing, the virus had already contributed to the deaths of two people, and it would go on to kill 20 more in the Seattle region over the following days.

"Federal and state officials said the flu study could not be repurposed because it did not have explicit permission from research subjects; the labs were also not certified for clinical work. While acknowledging the ethical questions, Dr. Chu and others argued there should be more flexibility in an emergency during which so many lives could be lost. On Monday night [March 1], state regulators told them to stop testing altogether.

"The failure to tap into the flu study ... was just one in a series of missed chances by the federal government to ensure more widespread testing during the early days of the outbreak, when containment would have been easier. Instead, local officials across the country were left to work in the dark as the crisis grew undetected and exponentially.

"Even now, after weeks of mounting frustration toward federal agencies over flawed test kits and burdensome rules, states with growing cases such as New York and California are struggling to test widely for the coronavirus. The continued delays have made it impossible for officials to get a true picture of the scale of the growing outbreak, which has now spread to at least 36 states and Washington, D.C."

Friday, March 27, 2020

Colorado Libertarian convention cancelled

Colorado Libertarians cancel state convention, blast state's 'draconian regulations' | Colorado Politics - Ernest Luning:

March 19, 2020 - "The Colorado Libertarian Party on Thursday canceled its annual convention in response to an order issued by Gov. Jared Polis limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. The party, which counts more than 46,000 registered voters in Colorado, is developing 'a digital option for conducting necessary party business,' state party chairman Victoria Reynolds said in an online post that called the public health order issued late Wednesday 'draconian regulations.'

"State Libertarians had been planning to convene April 3-5 at a Lakewood hotel after moving their annual meeting from Glenwood Springs earlier this week, due to an order by a local health department banning large gatherings.

"Polis issued a series of executive orders Wednesday night to further restrict public gatherings in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, including extending an order requiring all schools to close through April 17 and keeping downhill ski areas closed through April 6. The Colorado Department of Public Health issued an order Wednesday prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people, in accordance with federal recommendations, Polis said.

"Reynolds told Colorado Politics that the party had expected at least 100 people to attend the weekend convention, which featured speakers, panel discussions and a Roaring '20s party. At the meeting, the Colorado Libertarians [were] planning to nominate candidates to Colorado's general election ballot and send delegates to the national convention, as well as elect board members and take care of other party business."

Reynolds said in ... that the government restrictions fly in the face of the party's basic tenants. 'It has long been a cornerstone of Libertarian beliefs that the world works best when people use personal responsibility and exercise their right to freely assemble,' she said. 'Not only are political and activist organizations forced to set their work aside when people need them most, but businesses have been forced to close, as well. By shutting down our convention and others like it, the state of Colorado has compounded the economic damage already being done through our society grinding to a halt.'"

Read more: https://www.coloradopolitics.com/quick-hits/colorado-libertarians-cancel-state-convention-blast-state-s-draconian-regulations/article_7ee5a7c8-69fd-11ea-9bfb-477374d4fdfb.html

Thursday, March 26, 2020

2020 Libertarian National Convention in limbo

Libertarian Party's Presidential Nominating Convention in Coronavirus Limbo | Reason - Matt Welch:

March 25, 2020 - "On Tuesday, the city of Austin, Texas, issued a coronavirus-avoidance stay-at-home order that permits residents to leave their homes only for 'essential' work and activities, such as providing medical care or buying groceries. The order, which lasts preliminarily until April 13, could have at least an indirect impact on the 2020 presidential race....

"Austin is the site for what was scheduled to be the May 21-25 Libertarian National Convention, ... the sole venue and mechanism by which the party's presidential and vice presidential nominees are determined. Rather than arrive with delegate slates earned in binding state primaries and caucuses the months before, Libertarian candidates show up, vie for scarce space on the debate stage, then endure however many rounds of voting it takes (lowest candidate lopped off after each round) among the 1,000 or so delegates in attendance until someone wins 50.1 percent of the vote.

"'We are evaluating all of our contingency plans,' Libertarian National Chair Nicholas Sarwark told Reason Friday.... The Libertarian National Committee (LNC) is scheduled to discuss precisely that [at] a special meeting conducted via Zoom Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET. Sarwark reckons that some kind of remote meeting, or an Austin plus remote hybrid, might be set up with a pared-down agenda focusing mainly on candidate selections both for the presidential ticket and the LNC.

"The convention website on March 19 informed delegates, 'The Coronavirus crisis is of an incredibly fluid nature, and as of the writing of this 61 days before our event, it is still too early to make any "permanent" plans.... Expect more definitive guidance as to the plan for the event about one month before the delegates and attendees are scheduled to arrive for registration and credentialing. For now, we can expect release of more definitive guidance on 4/20.'

"Added Sarwark: 'Basically the convention oversight committee meets weekly with updates and is in constant contact with the venue, and then they give me updates at a slightly lower periodicity. We're looking at probably somewhere around 30 days out, maybe three weeks out, to make a final decision.'"

"There have been seven nonbinding Libertarian primaries and caucuses thus far.... In the overall popular vote thus far, according to this Wikipedia page, [Jacob] Hornberger leads [Vermin] Supreme 22 to 10 percent, with 1996 L.P. vice presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen just behind with 9 percent. The rolling shutdowns across the country — postponing primaries and most large gatherings — alter the basic calculus for winning delegate votes, which is usually: Show up to state conventions, glad-hand, and perform in debates....

"The L.P.'s presidential nominating process can be a lengthy event, filled with horse-trading and intrigue. Since the goal is to win a majority of delegates on-site, ... candidates have in prior cycles invested much energy into making sure friendly state delegates show up. Canceling or significantly physically altering the Austin gathering will certainly upend business as usual for America's third party."

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Amash may delay new coronavirus stimulus bill

Rep. Amash Signals He May Single-Handedly Delay Coronavirus Relief Bill | National Review - Mairead McArdle:

March 25, 2020 - "Representative Justin Amash signaled Wednesday that he may delay the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package Senate leaders reached with the Trump administration hours earlier, calling the plan 'a raw deal for the people.'

"The Michigan independent, who left the Republican Party last year, suggested he may block unanimous consent should the House choose to use it for the coronavirus package, forcing a roll call vote on the emergency funding bill that would require lawmakers to return to Washington. Such a move would delay consideration in the lower chamber of the package, which was agreed to after five days of marathon negotiations between Senate leaders and the Trump administration.

"'This bipartisan deal is a raw deal for the people,' Amash wrote in a Wednesday morning tweet. 'It does far too little for those who need the most help, while providing hundreds of billions in corporate welfare, massively growing government, inhibiting economic adaptation, and widening the gap between the rich and the poor.'

"The bill, the third coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress, provides $367 billion in loans to help small businesses hit hard by the outbreak to keep making payroll, $100 billion for hospitals, and $150 billion for state and local governments. The plan also provides for Americans who make up to $75,000 to receive a one-time payment of $1,200. A $500 billion fund earmarked for corporations that have been economically damaged by the pandemic will be overseen by an inspector general and a congressional panel in accordance with Democrats’ demands....

"Amash’s office did not respond immediately to request for comment."

Read more: https://www.nationalreview.com/news/rep-amash-signals-he-may-single-handedly-delay-coronavirus-relief-bill/