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An update from D.C.

03 cdc d3fe9qJDqaI unsplashBenjamin Franklin is famously quoted as saying, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” The United States has long prepared for pandemics, such as the one we are facing with the coronavirus right now, through programs established in the aftermath of the anthrax attacks of the early 2000s. These vital programs give the United States the necessary infrastructure to respond to both natural disease outbreaks and biological and chemical warfare.

I worked on improving these bipartisan programs in 2018 and 2019 with President Donald Trump signing the reauthorization bill into law last June. We made numerous improvements, incorporating lessons learned from the Zika and Ebola outbreaks earlier in the decade. Unfortunately, the coronavirus is a sophisticated virus unlike any the world has seen before.

As we continue to address the coronavirus, I am committed to getting our country the resources we need so that we can reopen and rebuild our economy.

My colleagues and I immediately began assessing the weak links in our defenses and crafting solutions to improve the programs we rely on for pandemic preparedness. Since early March, we have been working with the Trump administration to identify what solutions are necessary to better equip our country to respond to outbreaks like the coronavirus.

That’s why my colleagues and I introduced the Strengthening America’s Strategic National Stockpile Act, a bipartisan package of measures to reduce America’s dependence on foreign sources of critical medical supplies needed to fight COVID-19. We must boost domestic manufacturing so American workers can make those supplies here at home. We also must make much-needed improvements and updates to America’s Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of personal protective equipment and the Strategic National Stockpile and this legislation will deliver critical investments in our ability to respond to and prepare for public health crises like coronavirus.

Building on this legislation, this week I will be introducing a bipartisan bill to establish a commission to study the drug supply chain. This commission will provide recommendations to Congress on two fronts. The first is solutions to increase drug manufacturing capacity in the United States. Second is actions necessary to ensure domestic manufacturing is able to maintain a sufficient supply of drugs in the event of a public health emergency such as the coronavirus outbreak.

This builds on the incredible and groundbreaking work President Trump is doing through Operation Warp Speed. This project aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe and effective vaccine for coronavirus by January 2021. The president has invested in building manufacturing capacity for several vaccine candidates, which have shown promise in safety and efficacy trials. One of these candidates, manufactured by Moderna Therapeutics, is already enterting phase 3 of clinical trials—the last phase before final FDA Approval. It is important to note that while this groundbreaking program has accelerated development of vaccines at an unprecedented rate never seen before, it has not compromised the safety or standards needed for a drug to come to market.

Coronavirus has taken a heavy toll on the United States and the rest of the world, but it has not dampened our fighting spirit or drive for innovation. I am proud of the bipartisan work we are doing in Congress, working with the Administration to beat coronavirus and improve our ability to respond to future outbreaks. By working together, I am confident that we can protect public health and get our economy back on track to set new records for jobs and prosperity in our community.

Free Speech Center launches campaign

02 01 Ann Patchett color 2Fayetteville is the greatest and we love this community. I personally want to say “thank you” for the dozens of calls, emails, letters, tweets and texts we have received from like-minded residents of Fayetteville who share our concerns, love and passion for this community.  Unfortunately, I cannot share their thoughts with you because we must respect their privacy and take precautions as not to expose them to the “cancel culture” mob whose mission is to retaliate against those whose opinions and demands do not adhere to theirs. They do this regardless of race, color or creed. No one is exempt. This being the case, I thought it would be fitting to remind them and the community of our inherent constitutional rights and the amendments therein that separate us from totalitarian Marxist, socialist and communist tyrants. You know, that document that makes America, America. Home of the brave and land of the free! So, to this end, thanks to the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University, the North Carolina Press Association with the support from USA Today and the Associated Press we are sharing with you a national campaign featuring celebrities to remind us about the value and importance of freedom of press, speech and other freedoms of the First Amendment.

Enjoy and thanks for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
 
 
02 02 Colton Dixon color 102 05 Michael W Smith color 0
02 03 Darius Rucker color 0
 
02 06 Ruta Sepetys color 202 04 Kane Brown color 1


 

My interview with Civil Rights icon Congressman John Lewis

In 2014, I had the pleasure of interviewing Civil Rights icon Congressman John R. Lewis. I remember having a busy day at work, and on my way home, my cellphone rang. On the other end of the phone was the former chancellor of Fayetteville State University, James A. Anderson. He told me that Lewis was visiting FSU and asked if I would like to interview him on my TV show, “Let’s Talk with Shanessa Fenner.” I immediately agreed and hung up the phone, thinking about the carefully constructed questions I would ask him. I wanted to have an informative interview that would serve as a rich history lesson for everyone to learn and reflect upon. I knew that I wanted to discuss the tragic events surrounding the demonstration known as “Bloody Sunday,” as well as the plight of the Black male, the Civil Rights movement and the reason why the Black race has always been disliked.

The day of the interview, I was a bit nervous. I arrived at the TV studio to prepare and got my emotions together. He walked into the studio and introduced himself. We began to talk a little before the interview. I immediately took notice that he was a very humble man with a forgiving spirit. His mere presence was captivating, and during the 30-minute interview, I was in awe the entire time. I looked in his eyes as he talked and hung on to every word. When he talked, he took you back to the time and the place of the event, and it made you feel like you were there experiencing it with him.

When the interview was over, I felt like I had been sitting in a history class because he shared many things that had happened to him, including the many times he was beaten nearly to death. He spent his entire life fighting for equality.

I feel this is the perfect time for the interview to circulate, during this time of tragic events in our country. One disheartening thing is that our younger generation does not know who John Lewis is, so we have to do a better job of educating them about this great man and his powerful journey — even though they have the ability to conduct research on their own. They need to know about these historical events because history has a way of repeating itself, and it sets the tone for the path to move forward. My favorite quote from him is, “There comes a time when you have to say something. You have to make a little noise. You have to move your feet. This is the time.”

I have had people tell me that after they watched the interview, they cried. They shared their experiences of racism and the utter disdain of being mistreated because of the color of their skin.

Some shared that the interview made them ask themselves if are they doing all that they can to make a difference in the lives of others.
I am elated that I was given the honor of a lifetime to interview a Civil Rights icon on my TV show.


My thoughts and prayers are with the Lewis Family. You are blessed to have had a strong icon in your family. He is a rich part of history. We will continue to ensure his legacy lives on. May he rest in peace.

Search “Let’s Talk with Shanessa Fenner” episode 7 on Youtube to see the interview.

Latest job numbers look promising

For inveterate optimists, the past several months have been excruciating. A global pandemic has produced great suffering and death. A protest movement that began with righteous anger about the death of George Floyd has devolved in all too many locations into vandalism, looting and violence. Reeling from these blows, economies sank into recession as businesses bled money, shed jobs and, in some cases, shut down for good. Families struggled. Social ties frayed. Partisan divides widened.

To be an inveterate optimist, however, is to reject despair as unhelpful and, in the end, unrealistic. You champion context. You look for unforeseen opportunities. You counsel patience. And you spotlight outcomes that aren’t as bad as worse-case scenarios had predicted.
Consider the latest economic and fiscal trends here in North Carolina. After a combination of consumer behavior and government mandates shoved the state into recession, tens of thousands of North Carolinians lost their jobs in March, followed by hundreds of thousands in April.
Something comparable happened across our region, as well. But during the month of May, most labor markets in the Southeast rebounded more strongly than North Carolina’s did. Indeed, our state’s headline unemployment rate barely changed from April (12.9%) to May (12.8%).
In June, though, North Carolina began to catch up. Employers added back some 173,000 jobs last month — one of the largest monthly gains in employment in state history. Sectors with notably large increases included accommodation and food service (56,000), retail trade (18,000), entertainment and recreation (13,000), health care (11,000) and local government (26,000, including employees of summer camps and other local offerings).

Does Gov. Roy Cooper’s slower approach to phased reopening explain these events? Surely to some extent. In many cases, jobs that other state economies recovered in May, North Carolina’s recovered in June.

But that’s not the whole story. Individuals are also making their own decisions, quite apart from what public officials are doing. In a study just posted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, two University of Notre Dame economists found that the relative importance of the two factors — government regulation and private choice — differ by type and sector. Using GPS tracking, they discovered that stay-at-home orders had a surprisingly small effect on overall mobility, for example, while restrictions on restaurants and retail matter a great deal.

To be sure, one good monthly jobs report does not a recovery make. North Carolina has still lost a net 377,000 jobs since the beginning of the crisis. And while our headline jobless rate for June (7.6%) now compares more favorably with our regional peers, some of the decline in measured unemployment occurred not because jobless North Carolinians found jobs but because they stopped looking. Our labor-force participation rate was 57.4% in June, compared to 61.6% in February. Among the 12 Southeastern states, only Kentucky has experienced a worse decline.

Still, as more North Carolinians manage to get and stay employed, our immediate economic future becomes less gloomy. The same could be said for the fiscal outlook of state and local government.

Another piece of relative good news, to my mind, was that state government’s General Fund revenue for the first 11 months of the 2019-20 fiscal year came in $973 million below what was originally projected. Given the economic devastation of March, April and May, I had expected a larger revenue hit. If the positive economic momentum of June can be sustained into the fall, state and local budget deficits will become more manageable.

The headwinds are daunting, admittedly. People continue to be worried, understandably, about daily reports of COVID-19 cases and deaths. And Cooper’s decision to limit access to public schools, and subsequent decisions by many districts to deliver only online education this semester, will put a substantial strain on parents — potentially forcing some to cut back hours or exit their jobs entirely to care for their children.
North Carolinians will need all their resilience and inventiveness to get through this. As an inveterate optimist, I wouldn’t bet against them.

Ask Mr. Science: Why is it so hot?

04 01 IMG 2486In case you haven’t noticed, it is a bit warm outside. Not just a wee bit toasty. We are talking second circle of hell toasty. Have you been wondering why the heat? Are you tired of saying, “It’s not the heat. It’s the humidity.” Go ahead, say it again. It won’t cool the temperature, but it will make you sound wise to whomever you are trapped inside with during Corona time. Trigger warning: Be careful how often you say it, as you may irritate your housemates into murdering you in your sleep. As only about five people read this column, the loss of even one of my gentle readers would cut my audience by 20%. Please say it sparingly.

If you have gotten this far without throwing up a little bit in your mouth or falling asleep, stick around. The reason for the unseasonably seasonable heat will be laid beneath your feet like a cloak across a mud puddle placed by a gentleman for his lady love. You may have seen the pictures of the sun from NASA’s Parker Solar Probe. The images are spectacular. Kindly absorb some facts: The Solar Probe 04 02 IMG 2487was launched way back in 2018 B.C. — Before Corona. It is flying at 430,000 miles an hour, which is faster than someone grabbing the last piece of bacon at a Weight Watchers breakfast buffet. The Solar Probe will fly within 4 million miles of the sun. This is the closest a satellite has photographed the sun. The Solar Probe sling shots around Venus and the sun 21 times while getting closer with each orbit. The Solar Probe will fly into the sun’s corona to take a gander at the solar wind and find out what is doing inside the corona.

The reason the sun is so hot is that it is on fire. Fire is hot. The sun is a flaming gasbag of fire, not to be confused with Mitch McConnell speaking in the Senate. The sun is 109 times bigger than the earth. That is enough heat to cook a whole passel of s’mores if you could get close enough. Mr. Science says the sun has been hanging around about 4.6 billion years. It is used to being alone. The sun is getting up in years. Sol is cranky like an old man yelling at the kids, “Get off my lawn!” The Solar Probe is now messing with the sun’s corona.

Some readers may remember the old ad in which Mother Nature is fooled into thinking that Chiffon margarine is actually butter. When Mother Nature finds out it is margarine, she becomes wrathful. She brings on a violent storm yelling, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” Same thing applies to the sun. Unhappy at having his solar corona disturbed by the Solar Probe, old Sol sent the coronavirus to Earth to smite us mere mortals with COVID and excessive heat. It is not an accident. The ancient Egyptians foretold this eventuality with their story of the sun god Ra.
Give me that old-time religion. Ra showed up in the 25th century B.C. as the King of the Egyptian gods. He created humans from his sweat and tears. Egyptians viewed the sky as a giant celestial cow, calling themselves the cattle of Ra. The celestial cow was not a carnation-contented cow. Ra crossed the sky each day on the morning boat the Mandjet and then left at night on the good ship Meseket to travel through the Underworld, only to pop up in the East the next morning. Each night, a giant snake named Apophis would try and fail to stop Ra from showing up the following day. As usual, humankind tried to overthrow Ra. You would not like Ra when he is angry. Feeling betrayed, Ra sent his psychotic daughter Sekhmet in the form of a lion to clamp down on man’s rebellion. Similar to the storm troopers in Portland putting down protesters.

Sekhmet was really good at killing humans. Like eating peanuts, it was hard to stop once she got going. She was the COVID-19 of the 25th century B.C. She was so good at wiping out humankind that Ra became concerned that she might do in all of humanity. Ra was confronted with the existential question, “What good is being a god if all of your worshippers are dead?” This was a conundrum. Ra was upset that man had strayed from his straight and narrow. But it would be pretty boring being a God if there is no one to kiss your feet and offer up a human sacrifice to make sure the Nile flooded on time and the sun came up tomorrow.

What to do?

Ra concluded he didn’t want all of humanity wiped out. So Ra ordered all the beer in Egypt to turn red. Ra had the red beer poured out all over Egypt. Sekhmet, in her killing rage, thought the red beer was blood. She tried to drink it all. She drank so much red beer she got drunk and passed out. The killing stopped. The Egyptians lived happily ever after, at least until the Arab Israeli war of 1967.

So what have we learned today? NASA has its version of the sun’s story. The ancient Egyptians have their version. Teach the controversy. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Ra is watching. He may have sent the coronavirus with his vengeful daughter Sekhmet to get us.

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