The Sunday Subject – January 9, 2022

In her first State of the State address, Governor Hochul set an ambitious agenda for state government in 2022.

The Governor outlined a plan on Wednesday for New York State’s economic recovery and emphasized the importance of ethical and transparent government. Among other things, she pledged $10 billion to improve the state’s battered healthcare workforce, and offered initiatives to support small businesses and investment, curb gun violence and inequities in the criminal justice system, increase affordable housing and childcare, implement term limits on governors and state officials, and enact other ethics reforms meant to hold elected officials accountable for corruption. “For government to work, those of us in power cannot continue to cling to it,” the Governor stated, emphasizing that she would be different from her predecessor Andrew Cuomo, and that she would pursue a more collaborative relationship with state legislators. The executive budget will be unveiled later this year.

Three men have been sentenced to life in prison after killing Ahmaud Arbery.

Travis McMichael, the man who fatally shot Ahmaud Arbery, and his father Greg McMichael were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by a Georgia judge on Friday. The third man involved in the murder, William Bryan, was issued a lesser sentence of life with the possibility of parole. The three men, who had a history of vigilantism, were convicted of murder in November for chasing down the peaceful jogger before killing him.

Starbucks employees at Elmwood Avenue location, the only unionized Starbucks store in the US, have organized a walkout over unsafe working conditions.

The employees walked out Wednesday over high Covid-19 levels that have left the location short-staffed. Approximately one-third of the location’s workers are in self-isolation because they tested positive for Covid-19 or were exposed to the virus. The current 7-day average for positive cases in Western New York (which includes Erie, Niagara, Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua counties) is at a high of 2,800.

The United States has struggled to avoid widespread shutdowns as Omicron spreads.

With so many testing positive, businesses, schools, government agencies and more are facing staff shortages that are forcing them to close some operations. From flights, Broadway shows, companies, colleges and schools, many have struggled to cope with the surge. Instead of shutting down again, many elected officials of both parties have instead stressed the importance of vaccines, booster shots and masks. “I am not prepared to shut down schools or the economy at this time,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said before New York suffered a string of new daily case records last week. “I will not overreact and send this economy spiraling out of control once again.”

Apple has become the first company in history to be valued at $3 trillion, only a year and a half after being the first to break the $2 trillion barrier in August of 2020.

The computer giant became the world’s largest company in 2011, overtaking ExxonMobile. Microsoft remains in second place, as Apple briefly ceded its first place title to Microsoft several times in recent years. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, comes behind Microsoft, after passing the $2 trillion mark in November.

Protests and unrest have swept over Kazakhstan.

​​Initially sparked by anger over rising fuel prices, the protests have intensified over discontent about the authoritarian government and corruption, a Russian-led military intervention and a government-ordered ruthless crackdown on demonstrators. Protesters have begun demanding the abolishment of the kleptocratic political system that the country has maintained since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The wave of protests have created the biggest political crisis for the country’s political elite since its independence, further destabilizing an already volatile region where Russia, the United States and China compete for influence. Dozens of demonstrators have been killed by government forces.

Canada has pledged $31.5 billion to settle a massive legal battle over its indigenous child welfare system.

The landmark settlement, the largest in Canada’s history, will begin to repair the discriminatory child welfare system and compensate the many indigenous families harmed by it. The system, a product of discriminatory policies put in place and enforced over generations, was much better equipped to remove children from their families rather than to support them in place. Half of the money will go towards compensating the children who were unnecessarily removed and their families and caregivers, and the other half will go towards fixing the child welfare system for First Nations children, who are far more likely to be removed from their families.