Strange News

Strange News – January 10, 2022

from  The Boston Globe

Stimulus for a Terrorist

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On Thursday, US District Court Judge George O’Toole Jr. approved a request by federal prosecutors in Massachusetts to seize funds belonging to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the convicted Boston Marathon bomber. The money, which had accumulated in his prison canteen account, is to be turned over to the court by the Bureau of Prisons and used to pay down some of the $101.1 million that Tsarnaev owes in restitution to his victims and court fees.

Most of the money in Tsarnaev’s account had apparently been gifted to him by private individuals. It is hard to comprehend how anyone could wish to shower money on the unrepentant terrorist, whose bombs killed three innocent bystanders at the Marathon finish line and maimed more than 260 others. (Tsarnaev and his brother Tamerlan were also responsible for the death of two police officers during the manhunt that followed the bombing.) But here is something even harder to make sense of: A fair-sized chunk of Tsarnaev’s money came from the government of the United States.

As Nathaniel Mendell, the acting US attorney for Massachusetts, pointed out in his request that the funds be turned over, Tsarnaev received a $1,400 COVID-19 relief payment in June as part of the $1.9 trillion “stimulus” package passed by Congress on party-line votes last March.

This wasn’t a surprise, given what had happened with the 2020 CARES Act, which had authorized payments of up to $1,200 per person earlier in the pandemic. The Internal Revenue Service withheld those payments from prisoners, citing the Social Security Act, which restricts government payments to criminals behind bars. But a federal judge, ruling in a class-action lawsuit brought by prison advocates, came down against the IRS and ordered the 2020 payments to be sent to inmates.

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The Economy

The Economy – January 4, 2022

from  The Wall Street Journal

What the Wall Street Journal Is Watching

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 Federal Reserve officials are beginning to map out how and when they could shrink their $8.76 trillion portfolio of Treasury and mortgage securities, which more than doubled amid efforts to stabilize the economy over the past two years, Nick Timiraos reports.At their policy meeting last month, officials agreed to wind down their bond-purchase stimulus program more quickly amid growing concerns about high inflation, setting it on track to end in March.Officials began discussing at that meeting what should happen to the bondholdings after that point, and some are pushing to start shrinking them sooner and faster than they did after an earlier asset-purchase program. 
 U.S. job openings are on track to have ended last year at a record in a strong labor market where the gap between available positions and workers continues to widen, Bryan Mena reports. The gap between employers’ hiring needs and available workers started hitting records last spring and persisted through the end of the year. 
 Companies are budgeting for employee-pay raises in the new year. Employers are setting aside an average 3.9% of total payroll for wage increases in 2022, the largest increase since 2008, according to a new report from the Conference Board. 

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TexDOT News — Weekly Report 1/23 — 1/29

TexDOT – January 22, 2022

Friday Update from TexDOT

Harrison County

I-20 – At US 59 overpass, replacing bridge. US 59 traffic shifted to southbound lanes

I-20 – At Lansing Switch Road, constructing new bridge over interstate. Lansing Switch Road closed to through traffic. Possible lane closures on I-20

SH 43 – At Kansas City Southern Railroad in Karnack, widening bridge over railroad. Northbound lanes closed with signal lights controlling one-way traffic

Marion County

US 59 – From SH 49 to two miles north of SH 49, repairing and resurfacing highway. Various lane closures

US 59 – From Cass County line to 2 miles north of SH 49, installing safety barrier cable. Daily lane closures

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Marshall Pet Adoption Center

Marshall Pet Adoption Center celebrates Christmas with new medical room

From the Marshall News Messenger

Volunteers and board members with the Marshall Pet Adoption Center’s Friends of Marshall Animals Organization celebrated the holiday season this week with a group appreciation party, during which the facility’s new medical room was unveiled.

The new room, called the Alera Waite Spay and Neuter Clinic, was funded in large part by a donation campaign run and organized by 15-year-old FOMA volunteer Alera Waite, which she began in April this year.

The campaign had a goal of reaching $60,000, a price tag which Waite researched in order to be certain that the new medical room would be outfitted with everything it would need to offer full spay and neuter services, among other medical procedures.

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I-20 TRAFFIC NOW SCHEDULED TO BE DIVERTED NEXT WEEK

Local News – December 28, 2021

Tuesday – from  TexDOT

I-20 TRAFFIC TO BE DIVERTED THIS WEEK DURING BRIDGE WORK

Demolition work on bridge set for night of Sunday, January 9, 2022

DUE TO WEATHER, I-20 TRAFFIC NOW SCHEDULED TO BE DIVERTED NEXT WEEK FOR BRIDGE WORKDemolition work on bridge now set for night of Sunday, January 9, 2022 

December 28, 2021

ATLANTA – Due to weather, northbound lanes of the US 59 overpass crossing Interstate 20 in Marshall are now scheduled to be taken down the night of Sunday, January 9. In preparation, traffic over the bridge is now tentatively scheduled to be restricted to one lane in each direction starting Monday, January 3.

“The northbound lanes will be taken down piece by piece and then new lanes will be built. As that work is being done, US 59 traffic will use the southbound lanes over Interstate 20 and be restricted to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane during that time,” said Marshall Area Engineer Wendy Starkes.

Demolition work on the bridge is expected to take place from about 8 p.m. Sunday evening until about 7 a.m. on Monday, January 10. During that time, Interstate 20 traffic in both directions will be diverted onto the US 59 exit ramps in Marshall. From there, traffic can cross US 59 and then reenter the interstate.

This project consists of two phases of construction. New northbound lanes will be constructed first, then new southbound lanes will be constructed during the second phase. US 59 traffic will be restricted to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane for both phases. The project is expected to be complete in about 28 months and will raise the new overpass about three feet for more than 19 feet of clearance over Interstate 20.

———– previous announcement —————

ATLANTA – Northbound lanes of the US 59 overpass crossing Interstate 20 in Marshall will be taken down the night of Sunday, January 2.

“The northbound lanes will be taken down piece by piece and then new lanes will be built. As that work is being done, US 59 traffic will use

the southbound lanes over Interstate 20 and be restricted to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane during that time. This change in traffic

pattern is expected to begin Wednesday, December 29,” said Marshall Area Engineer Wendy Starkes.

Demolition work on the bridge is expected to take place from about 8 p.m. Sunday evening until about 7 a.m. on Monday, January 3. “During that time,

Interstate 20 traffic in both directions will be diverted onto the US 59 exit ramps in Marshall. From there, traffic can cross US 59 and simply reenter the

interstate,” Starkes said.

Once complete, the new overpass will be about three feet higher to allow for more than 19 feet of clearance over Interstate 20. US 59 traffic will be restricted

to one lane in each direction on the bridge for the duration of the project, which is expected to take about 28 months to complete.

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Today’s News – January 12, 2022

Today’s News – January 12, 2022

Wednesday

Is Omicron slowing down?

Ever since the Omicron surge began, researchers have been trying to predict when cases might peak. Estimates generally place that event sometime during this month, but some calculations seem to have been too optimistic.

However, a month into the surge, we’re beginning to see some early signs that cases may have begun to plateau in some places and that the Omicron wave may soon start to subside.

“I’m seeing some hopeful signs in the Northeast that suggest that the worst of the case growth is slowing down,” said my colleague Mitch Smith, who tracks the virus for The Times. But he added: “It’s not a well-defined trend yet. It’s a glimmer that it’s slowing down.”

Today, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York said that there were signs that the rate of new cases was beginning to plateau in New York City. But with cases still on the rise in the rest of the state, and more hospitals having to limit procedures, the state is still far from turning the corner.

“We’re not at the end,” Hochul said, but she called the numbers “a glimmer of hope in a time when we desperately need that.”

Mitch said there was one place that might even be further along than New York City: Washington, D.C. It was one of the first places to have a huge Omicron surge, and it had “off-the-charts, straight vertical line growth” through last week.

“D.C., though, looks like it may have peaked,” Mitch said. “So that, to me, feels like a new moment of the surge.”

We’ll have to watch to see if the trend continues, and if it’s replicated in other places. Currently, most places in the U.S. are in an entirely different place.

“Most of the country is in the explosive growth phase,” Mitch said. “Cases are rising pretty much everywhere. We’re seeing case levels that are way above anything we’ve ever seen before — every day.”

The wave also seems to be acting on a delay as it surges across the country. The Western half of the country seems to be a week or two behind the Eastern half in terms of case rates.

“We’re continuing to see crazy, several-hundred-percent two-week rates of growth in some of those states,” Mitch said. “And I don’t think we’re nearly as close to a peak in some of those places, just because the heat of their outbreak arrived later than New England and even the urban Midwest.”

While the shape of the case curve may help tell us when virus activity is subsiding, the more important measure of the pandemic’s strength is the hospitalization rate, which has jumped in recent days. Today the number of people in the U.S. hospitalized with Covid-19 exceeded last winter’s peak, underscoring that while Omicron may cause less severe illness, it still poses a serious threat.

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