Under the Influence is Tarbell’s weekly roundup about how special interests influence America. To subscribe, sign up at on our newsletter page, or you can make a donation and you will be enrolled automatically.
This Week in Tarbell
Boeing Caught Red Handed: Following up to his recent tell-all with Tarbell, industry whistleblower Charles Shi breaks down how he attempted to raise alarms both in China and the U.S. about substandard parts being used on Boeing aircrafts, and how he was targeted as a result.
China’s Prescription Supply: As the U.S. becomes the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s reliance on Chinese supply chains becomes more evident. In her op-ed, health writer Monica Romano notes how China has become the primary source of generic drugs for the U.S., but consumers are still uncertain about regulations on China’s pharmaceutical industry, and how much they can trust the source of drugs.
Unprepared America: Health care workers’ appeals to citizens to send in masks, goggles and gloves, and the DIY mask projects they share on social media, are just a tiny peek into the disturbing situation that’s unfolding in America’s hospitals. Columnist Asher Schechter writes this week about how COVID-19 has amplified the worst aspects of America’s health care.
States Go It Alone: City and state officials are making increasingly desperate pleas, on behalf of their hospitals and citizens, for more doctors, equipment and beds to treat COVID-19. Though the federal response has been nearly nonexistent, reporter Brent Korson reached out to state and city officials to see their biggest needs, which include stronger implementation of the Defense Protection Act.
Notable Reporting and Solutions
Essential Debt? While cities like New York and Chicago are suspending debt collection in order to help vulnerable people amid the pandemic, debt collection agencies are gearing up lobbyists to protect their profits. The collectors’ lobbying group, which spent $780,000 last year to give themselves the right to spam people with robocalls, tried to argue that their staff was majority female and “ethnically diverse” in order to protect themselves, the Intercept reported.
Pollution’s Impact on COVID-19 Patients: It might be too early to truly understand the factors that exacerbate the spread of COVID-19 and the intensity that the virus inflicts on a human body. However, scientists have been studying for years how cities with higher rates of ozone damage and coal use have been linked to higher death rates from illness. For a respiratory infection that leaves even some young people gasping for breath, air pollution has the potential to be a contributor.
Unions Supporting DPA: Major service workers, education and teachers unions united to condemn the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been fighting efforts to use the Defense Protection Act to switch consumer product production to medical equipment. President Trump ordered General Motors to ramp up production of ventilators last week, but unions expressed concern about how much the industry would push back via lobbying.
Philadelphia’s Empty Hospital Rooms: Hahneman University Hospital’s 500 hospital rooms at the center of Philadelphia remain empty as the city’s cases rise. The city and the real estate company couldn’t agree on a rental price for the critical rooms after the company shuttered the hospital that served Philly’s low-income patients last year, saying it was losing money.