Issue #204, 2021 Week 37

After a brief break, the news is back to being a bad parody of itself–seriously, folks, I couldn’t make half of this stuff up.  But here we are, and I haven’t found an escape hatch from this timeline yet, so here we will remain. Which means you know where to find us, if anybody needs anything–and as always, we’ll have actions for everyone below.

Events to Know

Election Rejection Collection.  Okay, this one kind of runs the gamut again. There was a rally for the January 6 rally in DC this weekend, which unsurprisingly had a lot more proactive policing this time, and equally unsurprisingly had fewer participants as a result. There were also some stories about Mike Pence and his sad, sidelong peer over the gates of Treasonville last fall– presumably as part of the news about Trump’s head general ahead of yet another tell-all book about the Trump administration.  And Californa’s governor successfully survived yet another recall election, which marks his fifth in four years.

 
Key links:

  1. NBC News – Small Crowd Gathers Near Capitol To Protest Treatment Of Those Jailed In Jan. 6 Riot
  2. CNN Politics – Memo Shows Trump Lawyer’s Six-step Plan For Pence To Overturn The Election
  3. CBS News – Top General Feared Trump Might Launch Nuclear War, New Book Says
  4. Washington Post – What to know about California Gov. Newsom’s recall

Distressing Deportations.  The Biden administration is showing a marked mismanagement of border policy yet again this week, this time regarding Haitian displaced persons. The administration began deporting people via plane back to Haiti on Sunday, ignoring the fact that Haiti cannot accommodate them–remember, the President was assassinated in July and they had a devastating hurricane in August–and many of these people haven’t been living in Haiti for over a decade.  Then after this began, footage began surfacing of border patrol officers on horseback brandishing whips at Haitian migrants, which is particularly galling when Haiti, the oldest black republic in the world, was founded by slave revolution.

Key links

  1. Washington Post – Biden Administration To Ramp Up Deportation Flights To Haiti, Aiming To Deter Mass Migration Into Texas
  2. New York Times – Haiti Protests Mass U.S. Deportation of Migrants to Country in Crisis
  3. Associated Press – US Officials Defend Expulsion Of Haitians From Texas Town
  4. Axios – Photos show Border Patrol whipping at migrants from horseback

Recent Resilience

Roe v. Why Are You Like This Reprise (again). There are more updates on this front, and it’s kind of good and kind of “are you kidding me.” Attorney General Garland, following up on his lawsuit against the bill, has moved for an injunction while the case is pending. (This part is not surprising, although it is edifying.)  A doctor in Texas, Dr. Alan Braid, also wrote a public op-ed about the fact that he violated the law, essentially writing “come at me, bro” in giant neon letters.  And sure enough, he’s already being sued, but neither plaintiff even lives in Texas, because standing is more of a suggestion under the new law apparently, and both plaintiffs are disbarred attorneys. In fact, one of the two plaintiffs is still serving out a criminal incarceration for felony tax evasion and is seeking $100,000 in “damages,” spelling out all kinds of things in a brief that is one wild ride to read.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – In Asking For Emergency Halt On Texas Ban, Justice Dept. Describes Women, Girls Desperately Seeking Abortions Out Of State
  2. Forbes – First Private Citizen To Be Sued Under Texas Abortion Law Is Doctor Who Publicly Admitted Performing Abortion
  3. NBC News – Arkansas Man Sues Texas Doctor Who Admitted He Violated State’s Strict New Abortion Law

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.  There were some highlights this week, which I suppose is something.  In vaccine news, Pfizer is apparently ready to submit data for emergency approval of vaccines for folks ages 5-11; the FDA also endorsed booster shots for elderly and immunocompromised Americans.  In social news, census data also shows that COVID relief impacted national poverty rates. But most of this week’s COVID news… well it’s bad, Jim. The U.S. hit the gruesome milestone of 1 in every 500 Americans dying from COVID, disproportionately in places with low vaccination rates and among people of color. Our hospitals are overwhelmed in many places, especially in the South.  Yet a quarter of eligible adults refuse to vaccinate, and GOP officials increasingly are publicly fighting vaccine mandates, despite the fact that experts increasingly are saying that mandates are the only way out of this mess. It’s like we’re all trapped in a lifeboat with people who insist that they have a constitutional right to poke holes in the lifeboat.

  

Key links:

  1. NBC News – Pfizer Says Its Covid Vaccine Is Safe And Effective For Children Ages 5 To 11
  2. Associated Press – Census: Relief Programs Staved Off Hardship In Covid Crash
  3. CNN – 1 In Every 500 Us Residents Have Died Of Covid-19
  4. New York Times – Covid Hospitalizations Hit Crisis Levels in Southern I.C.U.s
  5. Washington Post – Republicans maneuver to block vaccine mandates, undercutting a policy widely seen as an effective tool to end pandemic

Spectacular Senate Dysfunction.  For a number of reasons, it’s best if the budget reconciliation bill, which we’ve been talking about being dysfunctional and stalled for weeks, passes on a particular deadline,  Nonetheless, the Democrats still have to make it to fifty votes, and multiple moderates of their own party are refusing to vote for it, again. It’s further complicated by GOP threats regarding the debt ceiling, which would be legitimately very dangerous for our current economy if carried out, and intersect with the budget process in a number of ways. If we can’t find some kind of consensus on any of this, we have a government shutdown in the middle of a pandemic. So needless to say, this is very important to watch and to call about, and we need to keep a firm eye on it especially in the next week.

Key links:

  1. NPR – A $3.5 Trillion Question: What Is Budget Reconciliation? Here’s An Explainer
  2. Washington Post – Democrats Prepare For Next Phase Of Budget Fight As House Readies Package And Biden Meets With Senate Skeptics
  3. NBC News – House Passes Stopgap Bill To Avert Government Shutdown, Debt Default

Actions for Everyone

Haitian Refugee Crisis: Last week, terrible and disturbing images of Border Patrol agents on horseback using their whips against Haitian refugees went public. Such treatment of immigrants is unacceptable. The Biden administration is refusing asylum for Haitians under Title 42, which singles out asylum seekers under “public health” grounds. “This violent treatment of Haitians at the border is just the latest example of racially discriminatory, abusive, and illegal US border policies that are returning people to harm and humanitarian disaster” said the managing director at Human Rights Watch. 

How can you help?

Donate to Black Freedom Factory is working on site with the refugees and they are asking for the following:

Non-Perishable food items

Menstrual products

Hygiene products

Water

Baby supplies & diapers

Blankets, towels, socks and undergarments

You can also donate money directly to their website: https://blackfreedomfactory.org

Possible Shutdown: Congress has till September 30th to reach a deal where they can suspend the debt ceiling and approve emergency funds. House Democrats already approved a measure to do so, but top Senate Republicans have already said they will not support said emergency measures.The legislation could fail in the Senate, as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans will vote against raising the debt ceiling.

A government shutdown right now would mean hundreds of thousands of government workers going home, others deemed “essential” to work without pay and even agencies like the CDC could be affected. It would be the first time there is a shutdown during a national emergency like the Coronavirus pandemic. 

What can you do? Call your representatives! While you’re at it, you can also ask them to support asylum for Haitian refugees. 

Here is an article from Refinery29 to help you:

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2017/01/138465/how-to-call-senator

Covid Booster Shot: You may be eligible for your third Covid shot! The FDA just announced they are authorizing booster shots for the following people:

-Those 65 and older

-Those who are at high risk for severe disease or are immunocompromised

-Those who are at a higher risk for infection because of their line of work

If it’s been 6 months from your first shot and you fall under these categories, go get your shot to get protected. You can find where to get your shot by going to the following website: https://www.vaccines.gov

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2021/09/23/shutdown-congress-budget-debt-ceiling/

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/21/government-shutdown-house-passes-funding-debt-ceiling-bill.html

https://www.cnn.com/2021/09/22/health/fda-authorizes-covid-booster-bn/index.htm

Issue #203, 2021 Week 36

This was a very eventful week, and a lot of it was even promising! (I suggest you don’t think too hard about the fact that people bringing lawsuits about illegal things and requiring humans to get basic vaccines is promising. Just take the endorphins and call it a day.)

Events to Know

Election Rejection Collection.  We have a random collection of bits and bobs regarding election rejection this week, and they pretty much run the gamut.  On the scary end of things, we have that one dude who was picked up outside DNC headquarters in D.C. with a bunch of knives and swastikas, although apparently he didn’t have any ranged weapons on him.  Additionally, after a protracted and dramatic legislative battle that involved, among other things, Texas Democrats going awol for months, the Texas legislature managed to pass its godawful voting suppression bill.  But on the plus side, several advocacy organizations have already filed lawsuits intending to challenge Texas’s new voter suppression law, and I’ll definitely keep folks posted on that one.

Key links:

  1. CNN – Capitol Police Arrest Man With Bayonet And Machete In Truck Near DNC Headquarters
  2. Washington Post – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Signs Law Creating New Voting Restrictions As Opponents Sue

Modest Vaccine Mandates.   This week, Biden took some very decisive action on the current pandemic. The main headline is that he issued a federal vaccine mandate that requires all federal workers, as well as many healthcare providers, to get the vaccine within the next 75 days. He also passed a separate mandate requiring  all businesses with 100+ staff to require either testing or vaccination for their workers and grant paid time off during vaccination. Additionally, he provided incentives for schools to require masks, and though Biden’s provisions stopped short of requiring vaccination to fly, his top infectious disease expert implied that might be on the table as a future order. When asked about the fact that Republicans are already threatening to sue him over this (because of course they are), Biden apparently simply replied, “Have at it.”

Key links

  1. CNN – White House Releases Biden’s Updated Covid Response Plan
  2. Associated Press – Sweeping New Vaccine Mandates For 100 Million Americans
  3. NPR – Biden Dangles New Federal Funds For Schools That Defy Mask Mandate Bans
  4. Washington Post – Fauci Says He Supports Vaccine Mandates For Air Travel. Will It Actually Fly?
  5. Business Insider – Biden’s Vaccine Mandate Sparks Furious Reaction Among Republican Leaders, Who Are Threatening To Sue Him Over The ‘Cynical’ Decision

Climate Change Crises.  Natural disasters continue to be a rough and constant presence.  As I mentioned earlier, Hurricane Ida, a category 4 hurricane, touched down in New Orleans last Sunday, leaving nearly 1 million people without power for the foreseeable future.  True to that prediction, the power remained off in many places, and some parts of New Orleans have begun evacuating due to heat-related concerns. But after Ida left Louisiana, it went on to wreak major climate change devastation in the American Northeast, creating tornadoes and floods and killing at least 41 people. Meanwhile, fires raged in California and near Lake Tahoe again, highlighting the fact that climate-related disasters are happening all over the country with alarming frequency. A new study also suggests that people of color are disproportionately impacted by this phenomenon.

Key links

  1. Washington Post – New Orleans Begins Evacuating Residents Amid Outages As Power Could Come Back On In Coming Days
  2. New York Times – 43 Die As Deadliest Storm Since Sandy Devastates The Northeast
  3. New York Times – Overlapping Disasters Expose Harsh Climate Reality: The U.S. Is Not Ready
  4. Washington Post – Epa Just Detailed All The Ways Climate Change Will Hit U.S. Racial Minorities The Hardest. It’s A Long List.

Recent Resilience

Roe v. Why Are You Like This Reprise. It’s a silver lining, but we saw relatively quick actual response to last week’s SCOTUS nighttime nightmare adventure, which allowed a blatantly unconstitutional law to take effect in Texas. More specifically, Attorney General Merrick Garland filed a lawsuit against the bill on the grounds that it illegally infringes on constitutional rights, and it’s my hope that he’ll get a stay in place on the new law relatively quickly. In the meantime, Indivisible has advocacy suggestions for this issue if you’re looking for things you can do as well.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – Texas Abortion Case Highlights Concern Over Supreme Court’s ‘Shadow Docket’
  2. Washington Post – Justice Department Sues Texas To Block Six-week Abortion Ban

Black Lives Still Matter.  A grand jury indicted three police officers and two EMTs, concluding that their actions in 2019–namely, administering a chokehold and forcibly injecting ketamine–resulted in Elijah McClain’s death. There are thirty-two indictments total, and each defendant has been charged with manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide at minimum. It’s not ‘good’ news, per se, but it definitely needed to happen, and it’s what we’ve got on tap this week.

Key links:

  1. CNN – Grand Jury Indicts Police Officers And Paramedics In 2019 Death Of Elijah McClain

The Denver Post – Elijah Mcclain Case: Grand Jury Indicts Police, Paramedics In Death

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.  As was foretold by prophecy, pandemic unemployment benefits expired this week, but our workforce is still out of whack from the pandemic–which means the end of these benefits is likely to be rough for both individual workers and the whole economy.  Meanwhile, cases in some places are so high that hospitals are reinstituting crisis standards of care. On one side of the country, Los Angeles became the first major district in the nation to mandate vaccination in schools for all students twelve and older. On the other, in Florida, an appeals court hearing the mask mandate court case decided to reinstitute the mandate ban on a temporary basis.

  1. Washington Post – Millions In U.S. Lose Jobless Benefits As Federal Aid Expires, Thrusting Families And Economy Onto Uncertain Path
  2. New York Times – The U.S. Surpasses 40 Million Known Coronavirus Cases.
  3. New York Times – Los Angeles Mandates Vaccines For Students 12 And Older
  4. Politico – Appeals Court Reinstates Florida Ban On School Mask Mandates, Delivering Win To Desantis

Your Standard Senate Dysfunction. Biden’s decisive action does make the mess in the Senate look extra bad, but we’re pretty much just seeing the status quo there.  The short version is that Joe Manchin is earning his title as Country’s Most Useless Democrat, announcing that he’s just gonna refuse to vote for his own party’s reconciliation bill because he doesn’t like the deadline and he doesn’t like the compromise reached. So now it’s an open question whether they’ll manage to pass anything by the internal deadlines, since reconciliation needs votes from all 50 Democrats in order to go through.

Key links:

  1. CNBC – Sen. Joe Manchin Says There’s No Way To Pass $3.5 Trillion Budget Bill By September 27
  2. Politico – Schumer Rejects Manchin’s ‘Strategic Pause’ On $3.5T Bill

Actions for Everyone

Does anyone else feel like we should all get a Summer break? A paid one. I’ve been out of college for awhile, but let me tell you, I feel the most nostalgic about that time in my life when we didn’t have class or homework for just a few weeks and could breathe before getting back into the workload. 

Met Gala: Here’s the rub on the Met Gala – each ticket to the Met Gala costs $35,000. Not including the high fashion statement pieces on top of that which I can only assume could cost just as much. Protesters were arrested outside the Met Gala while the attention was one AOC’s dress – AOC, we still love you.

The real work here is that of anti displacement, so I want to link to the Association of Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD) https://anhd.org/issue/ending-displacement. ANHD builds community power to win affordable housing and thriving, equitable neighborhoods for all New Yorkers. Please check out their training programs because gentrification is a nation-wide pandemic and is certainly happening near you. If you’re in NYC, share their events – https://anhd.org/trainings-and-events. 

Hurricane Ida Relief: Climate Change is real. I know I don’t have to tell you that, but usually when hurricanes hit land they usually dissipate, at least a little bit, but Ida just ramped up and continued up the East Coast. Although this was several weeks ago, people still need our support. Here are a few groups you can and should donate to:          

If you know of other resources we can share through the newsletter, send them to activism@patrothfuss.com 

Pro-choice in Texas: TEXAS! Texas. Ok, there are a few things I’d like to discuss here. For starters, I wanted to make sure everyone knows that all genders are capable of birth because our bodies don’t define our gender. So, what that means for the sake of this write up is: the abortion laws in Texas do not effect only ciswomen, so don’t post information or discuss the topic under that harmful assumption.   

Secondly, the Texas legislation is terrifying. It’s now illegal to get an abortion after six weeks – which about two weeks after a missed period. Abortion bans are scary at any stage, but six weeks is like, barely enough time to grow a Chia Pet let alone decide if you want to birth and raise a human being. 

Here’s a link to groups you can learn from and support who are working on rectifying this legislative harm, https://nymag.com/strategist/2021/09/texas-abortion-ban-2021-where-to-donate.html 

Issue #201 Week 34

Issue #201 Week 34

Well readers, we’re back, and just in time for yet another clearance sale here at Bargain Basement Dystopiaville. The writers have really jumped the shark this week, so I recommend reading this with your comfort food of choice.

Events to Know

Climate Change Crises. Natural disasters continue to arise at a very unnatural clip as climate change, well, changes our baseline for weather.  In Tennessee, flash flooding caused major devastation outside of Nashville on Saturday.  This was immediately followed by a cat 4 hurricane touching down in New Orleans on Sunday, leaving nearly 1 million people without power for the foreseeable future.  The storm made landfall on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, because irony is dead, and almost certainly was exacerbated by climate change. We also saw major climate change devastation in the American Northeast, as Ida made its way north and created tornadoes and floods, killing at least 41 people

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Tennessee Floods Show A Pressing Climate Danger Across America: ‘Walls Of Water’
  2. Reuters – Hurricane Ida Lashes Louisiana, Knocking Out Power In New Orleans
  3. New York Times – Ida Strengthened Quickly Into A Monster. Here’s How.
  4. Washington Post – Deaths Climb To At Least 44 From Northeast Floods Caused By Hurricane Ida’s Remnants

Supreme Court Malfunction. Unfortunately, the other major news story of the week is pretty rough as well.  The Supreme Court, illustrating why appointments matter, temporarily blocked reinstatement of a terrible and probably illegal Trump era asylum policy known as Remain-in-Mexico, only to pull a 180 and order the policy reinstated in its final opinion.  I would need to do a deeper immigration law dive than I’m prepared to do to really unpack just how kangaroo this court ruling is, but it has serious consequences for families exercising their lawful right to seek asylum.  Then for an encore, in the dead of night they released an unsigned 5-4 opinion that  permits enactment of the new Texas abortion law, which is both blatantly and strategically unconstitutional and literally designed to create a new McCarthy era. I seriously cannot overstate how concerning these opinions are, not just politically, but because they indicate that the rule of law is being willfully and repeatedly disregarded on a very basic level.

Key links

  1. Associated Press – Supreme Court Orders ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy Reinstated
  2. Texas Tribune – Revival Of “Remain In Mexico” Policy Could Have Deadly Consequences For Asylum-seekers, Advocates Warn
  3. Washington Post – Abortion Opponents Watch For Violations Of Texas Ban As Providers Weigh Legal Options

Congressional Updates.  This was a busy couple of weeks for the House.  On the Biden package front, they managed to advance both the infrastructure and budget bill, and passed the budget bill on Tuesday. The infrastructure bill is expected to pass in late September, though whether we hit more roadblocks before then is anybody’s guess.  The John Lewis Act, which restores and preserves a number of federal voting rights, passed this past week in the House as well. Unfortunately, that last one is expected to languish in the Senate, which is kind of its own commentary.
 

Key links

  1. Washington Post – House Passes $3.5 Trillion Budget Plan, Aims To Vote On Infrastructure Package By Late September
  2. NPR – The House Has Passed A Bill To Restore The Voting Rights Act
  3. New York Times – House Passes A Voting Rights Bill, But A G.O.P. Blockade Awaits In The Senate

Recent Resilience

COVID Legal News. For all that this was a bad week for both COVID and court news, we did have some promising COVID legal developments. As I insinuated above, the Pfizer vaccine is officially fully approved, which opened the legal doors for vaccine mandates from all kinds of entities. Meanwhile, a Florida court ruled that schools may impose mask mandates, and the Biden administration is investigating states that prevent mask wearing in schools on the basis of disability rights. The action might end up being the basis of several other lawsuits around the country, so it’s an encouraging development.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – With F.D.A. Approval For A Covid Vaccine, The Pentagon And Others Add Vaccine Requirements.
  2. New York Times – Florida Court Rejects Effort By Gov. Ron Desantis To Ban Mask Mandates.
  3. Washington Post – Biden Administration Opens Civil Rights Investigations Over Bans On School Mask Mandates
  4. Associated Press – Mask Debate Moves From School Boards To Courtrooms

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.  COVID news is… well it’s not great on the whole, to be honest (though I do have some positive updates below).  The Supreme Court, keeping with the theme above, threw out the CDC eviction moratorium because, I don’t know, Reasons, which will leave a lot of people in rough spots when unemployment aid also ends this week.  Meanwhile, the EU is again restricting American travel to those who can show vaccination.  And I can’t say I blame them, given that we’re a country full of people who refuse to take perfectly good vaccines even after they’re fully approved by the FDA, opting instead to ingest horse medication that’s not even an anti-viral drug.   

Key links:

  1. CNN – Supreme Court Throws Out Biden Administration Eviction Moratorium
  2. Washington Post – Millions Of Americans Face Financial Cliff As Eviction Ban, Unemployment Aid Lapse Amid Washington Inaction
  3. Associated Press – EU Takes Us Off Safe Travel List; Backs Travel Restrictions
  4. NBC – Vaccine Hesitancy Unlikely To Disappear Because Of FDA Approval
  5. NBC – ‘Stop It’: Fda Warns People Not To Take Veterinary Drugs To Treat Covid-19

Updates on Afghanistan.  The other terrible news of the week, of course, is the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, which has resulted in a surge of violence as U.S. and Afghan nationals attempt to flee.  On Thursday, a suicide bomber attacked Kabul airport, killing 170 people (including 13 American service members).  A subsequent attack was threatened on Saturday, prompting the U.S. embassy to encourage people to clear the area.  Monday was the last day of U.S. evacuation due to a deadline set by the Taliban, according to the deadline the Taliban set, and 98 countries have agreed to take in Afghan refugees after the evacuation is complete. 

Key links:

  1. New York Times – As U.S. Troops Searched Afghans, A Bomber In The Crowd Moved In
  2. The Hill – US Tells Americans To Leave Kabul Airport ‘Immediately’
  3. Washington Post – Last U.S. Military Flight Leaves Kabul; Biden To Address Nation Tuesday
  4. New York Times – 98 Countries Pledge To Accept Afghans After U.S. Military Departs

Actions for Everyone

This past two week has been sort of a rude awakening. The Delta variant Covid surge is in full force and after a 20 year long war in Afghanistan, the Taliban have also come back in full force.  I don’t have answers to what America should or shouldn’t do. The only thing I know is that the people of Afghanistan need the world’s help. 

How to help Afghans right now:

Contact the White House:  You can ask President Biden to take action and protect at-risk Afghans. You can go to the International Rescue Committee to send an email to the White House. According to this organization, “”many Afghans say they fear for their lives as violence continues to increase. Women and children represent 80% of Afghans who have been forced to flee since May. The rapidly escalating need for protection options in Afghanistan demonstrates how imperative it is for the Biden Administration to take immediate action to help the estimated 18.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.”

Give away your air miles: You can pledge your accumulated air travel miles, credit card points or travel vouchers towards getting refugees a plain ticket. The organization Miles 4 Migrants does exactly this!

Volunteer: The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is asking for volunteers to help refugees upon their arrival. They will need rides from the airport, help with food and shelter, tutoring and friendship. Click HERE to sign up as a volunteer. 

Donate: These organizations are trustworthy according to NPR.

Women for Afghan Women

International Refugee Assistance Project

Support Afghanistan’s Journalists 

Aid for Haiti after Earthquake aftermath: Haiti was hit by a destructive and deadly 7.2 magnitude earthquake. There have been almost 2,000 deaths and many people need help. I found this Tweet that can guide you towards organizations you can donate to who are on the ground and are trustworthy. You can also donate to Lambi Fund of Haiti, who provide resources to other local Haitian community led organizations. 

Covid vaccine boosters: Starting September, Americans will be able to get a third booster shot of the Covid vaccine. It is encouraged you get it! Please get vaccinated and help your community get vaccinated too. I believe we should do what we can to stop this spread, but we shouldn’t turn a blind eye on the lack of access most poor countries have had to the vaccine. We have been very lucky, but for many, the idea of getting the vaccine isn’t possible yet. In order to stop the pandemic, everyone must have access to the same resources to fight this deadly and ugly virus. We must get vaccinated and encourage others to do so, while also doing whatever is possible to help others in need. I know, it’s not our responsibility, corporations and governments should do that, but the system is broken; our hearts don’t have to also break with it. You can help refugees to get vaccinated by donating to the International Rescue Committee. 

Issue #200, 2021 Week 33

The news continues to be A Lot for another week, and COVID stories in particular continue to show a country that is bizarrely divided over simple questions of health. It’s very exhausting, but as always, we’ll have ways you can respond below.

Events to Know

Election Rejection News. Voting news was all over the place this week. In legal news, there’s the Texas judge who refused to allow the arrest of Democrats over their group jaunt to DC, as well as former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen’s testimony to the Justice Department regarding Trump’s attempts to subvert the election while Rosen was in his cabinet. In election audit news, Maricopa County is officially ending the farcical audit that has been ongoing for the past several months, calling the whole thing an “adventure in never-never land” in their delightfully blunt letter. And Trump is still trying to block the release of his tax returns because… reasons, I guess? I honestly can’t tell what legal argument there even is at this point, and apparently neither can his legal team.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Texas Supreme Court Halts Ruling That Protected Democrats From Arrest In Voting Rights Standoff
  2. New York Times – Former Acting Attorney General Testifies About Trump’s Efforts To Subvert Election
  3. CNN – Maricopa County Defies Latest Subpoena Request From Arizona State Senate Seeking To Expand 2020 Ballot Review
  4. NBC – Trump Seeks To Block Treasury Department From Giving His Tax Returns To Congress

Administration Updates.  There is technically an update on the infrastructure package, because it cleared another procedural hurdle this week, but it remains a slow slog towards law.  Nonetheless, the Senate passed a version of it this past week, and now it makes its way to the house.  The budget reconciliation package introduced in the Senate is slightly more interesting, but we’ll have to see what comes of the actual voting.  I’ll keep everybody posted!   

Key links

  1. NBC – Senate Grinds On With Infrastructure Bill Votes As Timing Of Final Passage Remains Unclear
  2. Politico – Senate Adopts Budget That Paves Way For $3.5T Spending Plan
  3. Associated Press – Senate Dems Unveil $3.5t Budget For Social, Climate Efforts

Recent Resilience

COVID Relief News. The dingy silver lining of the COVID news above is that pandemic relief programs are being extended as part of the hunkering down process.  Though the eviction moratorium, which I touched on last week, did indeed expire on Sunday, ongoing pressure eventually caused Biden to put a new 60-day moratorium in place by Wednesday afternoon.  Similarly, in early October, student loan payments were supposed to become due again. Instead, after a group of Democrats continually pushed to extend that benefit as well, Biden announced that payments will stay paused until February.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – The Biden Administration Issues A New Eviction Moratorium As The Virus Surges.
  2. The Hill – Schumer, Warren Call On Biden To Extend Student Loan Pause And Wipe Out $50K Per Borrower
  3. Politico – Biden Extends Freeze On Student Loans As Progressives Push To Cancel Them

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.  It’s tough to know where to even begin with this week’s COVID news.  Infection rates in Louisiana and Florida have exploded, with the latter experiencing one-fifth of all new national infections and record-breaking rates for six days straight at the time that I type this.  Nonetheless, mask mandates are still banned in Florida, and Texas has retained its ban on mask and vaccine mandates as well despite some high-profile COVID deaths in the state.  (The Florida bans are already being challenged by lawsuits, and some school districts are just ignoring them.)  Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, vaccine mandates are increasing.  New York City announced it will require proof of vaccination for indoor activities such as dining or attending gyms, Virginia announced it is mandating vaccination or weekly testing for its state workers, and the Pentagon announcing it will require vaccination for active duty.  And this makes sense, because vaccines remain highly effective for preventing deadly breakthrough infection and full FDA approval is expected within the next month or so.  In fact, with vaccination remaining effective for at least six months after inoculation, the WHO is calling for a moratorium on booster shots through September–but Europe is still administering them.

Key links:

  1. NBC – Florida Breaks Record For New Daily Covid Cases For Third Time This Week
  2. Texas Tribune – As Coronavirus Rages Again In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott Resists Statewide Action, Hamstrings Local Leaders
  3. CNN – Florida Gov. Ron Desantis’ Order On Masks In Schools Faces First Legal Challenges Over Constitutionality
  4. The Hill – NIH Director Remains Hopeful On Covid Surge But Says ‘We’re Paying A Terrible Price’
  5. New York Times – F.D.A. Aims To Give Final Approval To Pfizer Vaccine By Early Next Month
  6. Washington Post – Who Calls For Moratorium On Booster Vaccine Shots Through September, Citing Global Disparity

Climate Change Crises.  You got a week off, but we’re back with more terrible news about climate change realities.  The word this week is that humans are bad for penguins, as a report noted that emperor penguins may go extinct by the year 2100 due to rapidly melting Antarctic sea ice.  This is, of course, in addition to the melting arctic sea ice that we already knew about, and the collapse of the Atlantic current system that scientists worry both of these changes will bring about.  Meanwhile, the California Dixie Fire is now the second-largest fire in state history, the Bootleg Fire in Oregon may rage until October, and we can expect more hurricanes than normal this season.  Scientists do think it is possible to curb further climate change if we enact strict regulations now, but the drought and floods we’re already experiencing from global temperature increase will likely remain.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – Climate Change Could Devastate Emperor Penguins, U.S. Officials Warn
  2. Washington Post – A Critical Ocean System May Be Heading For Collapse Due To Climate Change, Study Finds
  3. NPR – California’s Dixie Fire Is Now The 2nd Largest In State History
  4. New York Times – As Hurricane Season’s Peak Looms, Experts Issue An ‘Above Normal’ Forecast.
  5. New York Times – A Hotter Future Is Certain, Climate Panel Warns. But How Hot Is Up To Us.

Actions for Everyone

California recall election: If you live in California and you can vote, be aware that the Recall election ballots will be sent in the next two weeks to every registered voter in the State and election day will be on September 14th. It is important to vote; even though California is known to be a bastion for the Democrats, polls have shown that there is a very small margin. According to NBC registered voters likely to participate in the special election, the outcome becomes much closer with 47% favoring Newsom’s recall compared to 50% opposed. Having such a big and influential state lost to a Republican governor sounds horrible, specially when we compare how  republicans like Ron Desantis in Florida and Greg Abbot in Texas are handling the pandemic; prohibiting mask mandates and going as far as blaming undocumented immigrants for the latest Delta varian Covid surge. If you can, go out and vote! If you’d rather go to the polls, they will be open 10 days prior to election day. 

Improving Social Security Income: Last month, democrat senator for Ohio Sherrod Brown re-introduced the Supplemental Security Income Restoration Act. This bill would raise Social Security monthly income, update the amount of assets an individual or couple receiving SSI may have (which hasn’t been updated since 1989), update new rules where individuals receiving SSI could make up to $399 in other income and also receive benefits from other programs and much more. Around 8 million elderly and/or disable Americans depend on this program to live and they shouldn’t be in poverty because they aren’t able to work anymore. That’s literally what government and society are for, to help the people that need it and keep everyone afloat. Considering how the Covid-19 Pandemic could be categorized as a mass disabling event in between the Covid long-haulers and people who survived the disease but now have permanent chronic systemic issues that can prevent them from going back into the workforce. It’s important for this bill to pass with flying colors! Please call your congresspeople and tell them you want their support in making this bill into law! You can also use Resistbot to sign a petition that will be sent to Congress!

And here are some Things That Made Me Smile:

In some good news, the Biden administration has extended Student Loan payment pause till January 31st. So that’s a little relief. 

This New York Times article about Alexis Nicole Nelson a black forager that has a huge following on TikTok! I love her, she is one of my favorite content creators and I’m happy to see her gain recognition in other media. Lover that “filthy vegan!” 

Issue #199, 2021 Week 32

Hey everyone,

Some things still need some work. Read on to make sure that you’re staying informed!
As always, please reach out (activism@patrothfuss.com) with any tips, suggestions, questions, or concerns!

Thanks,
The Activism Team

This was a major news week for COVID, which is pretty noteworthy when there’s COVID news basically every week. If you can’t catch up on everything, we strongly recommend you catch up on that section, and after that we strongly suggest you eat some comfort food. As always, we’ll have suggestions for how to help below!

Events to Know

Election Rejection Throwback. The big election rejection news this week was the release of notes from a December 2020 phone call between Trump and the Department of Justice. Spoiler: they’re just as bad as you’re expecting, with Trump telling the DOJ to “just say that the election was corrupt” and “leave the rest to me [and the GOP].” If you share my weird talent for deciphering handwriting, you can do a more prolonged wade around the cesspool, but I assure you, the notes don’t get better from there. (My ‘favorite’ less-publicized bits are the part where Trump tells them “you figure out what to do with Biden” and his note that “statistically, the election night it was a done deal” with zero evidence whatsoever.)

Key links:

  1. New York Times – Trump Pressed Justice Dept. to Declare Election Results Corrupt, Notes Show
  2. NPR – Notes Show Trump Pressed The Justice Department To Declare The 2020 Election Corrupt

Infrastructure Updates.  The big news on the Biden front is that the infrastructure bill–or a watered-down version of the original one, anyway–is in fact moving forward on the Senate floor after a filibuster-proof vote on Wednesday. Now we begin another tedious and likely lengthy amendment process, and ostensibly that will be followed by addressing additional agenda items via budget reconciliation.  But let’s be honest; that will probably be a lengthy mess also.  

Key links

  1. Politico – Senate Negotiators Finalize Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
  2. NPR – The $1 Trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Is In. Next Up: Amendments And Votes
  3. E&E News – Questions Emerge On Reconciliation As Infrastructure Moves Ahead
  4. Roll Call – House Moderates May Oppose Budget Without Infrastructure Vote

Recent Resilience

Vaccine Mandate Trends. The one silver lining of the COVID news below is that it appears to be accelerating the vaccination mandate trends, as more and more companies exercise their legal right to require vaccination or a hybrid mandate/testing model for their employees. Among the entities now requiring employee vaccination: 1) Google; 2) the federal government; 3) over 600 colleges; 4) Walmart; 5) Disney; 6) Facebook; and 7) Netflix. It seems likely that we can expect this list to continue to grow.

Key links

  1. Associated Press – Explainer: Employers Have Legal Right To Mandate COVID Shots
  2. Washington Post – Biden To Federal Workers: Get Vaccinated Or Face Restrictions
  3. CNN – From Offices To Restaurants, Companies Are Requiring Proof Of Vaccination

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.  As I mentioned above, this is a major week for COVID news, and not in a fun, “pandemic’s over” kind of way. A CDC document leaked this week which concluded, based on unpublished new data, that the Delta strain was “as contagious as chicken pox” (read: extremely contagious) and may cause more severe illness for older unvaccinated people than previous strains. The document did confirm that vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness, and infection is rarer among vaccinated populations overall–vaccination reduces the overall risk of infection threefold.  That said, infection is still very possible, and these infected vaccinated people can still infect those around them; in fact, new research suggests they might be as contagious as unvaccinated infected people.  All of this information contextualizes the CDC’s decision this week to reverse prior guidance on indoor mask use and recommend that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in COVID hotspots. 

Key links:

  1. CNN – CDC Document Warns Delta Variant Appears To Spread As Easily As Chickenpox And Cause More Severe Infection
  2. CNBC – Cdc Warns That Delta Variant Is As Contagious As Chickenpox And May Make People Sicker Than Original Covid
  3. Stat – What Delta Has Changed In The Covid Pandemic — And What It Hasn’t
  4. WFLA – Florida Breaks Covid-19 Record With Biggest One-day Total In New Cases
  5. Stat – Cdc Recommends Masks Indoors Even For Some Vaccinated Against Covid-19
  6. Washington Post – House Republicans Refuse To Follow New Mask Mandate, Leading Pelosi To Call Mccarthy A ‘moron’ For His Comments

Social Supports Expiring.  Several pandemic relief programs received attention this week because their end is imminent, and they provided valuable support on ongoing social problems.  At the top of the list is the eviction moratorium, which did indeed expire on Sunday after a final round of hot potato between Congress and the President, though pressure eventually caused Biden to put a new 60-day moratorium in place.  Obviously, this means many people may become at risk of losing their homes, both because of eviction of tenants and because of homeowners hit with foreclosures.  In a few weeks, all of this will be followed by the expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits, though some states have curtailed those programs already–and are finding that this did not improve unemployment.  And after that, in early October, student loan payments will become due again, though some Democrats are pushing to extend that benefit as well. Relatedly, Nancy Pelosi was in the news this week for arguing that Biden does not have legal authority to cancel student loans. However, that broad statement is laughably incorrect from a legal perspective–the President definitely can cancel loans in some instances, even if there’s an open question about how extensive that power is–and so we’re not going to spend much time on it. 

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – A Tsunami Of Deferred Debt Is About To Hit Homeowners No Longer Protected By A Foreclosure Moratorium
  2. New York Times – The Biden administration issues a new eviction moratorium as the virus surges
  3. CNBC – Cutting Off Unemployment Benefits Early Is Not Pushing People To Find Work, Data Suggests
  4. The Hill – Schumer, Warren Call On Biden To Extend Student Loan Pause And Wipe Out $50k Per Borrower
  5. CNBC – Pelosi Says Biden Doesn’t Have Power To Cancel Student Debt
  6. NY1 – As Pandemic Pause On Loan Payments Winds Down, Will President Biden Cancel Student Debt?

Actions for Everyone

Extended eviction moratorium: After the Supreme Court, Congress and the President failed to protect renters from being evicted in the middle of a Covid surge,the CDC was able to extend the eviction moratorium.Thanks to the work of progressive congresswomen like Ayanna Pressley and Cori Bush, who has been sleeping at the steps of the Capitol in protest, now renters that are living in areas with high infection rates will be protected until October 3rd. According to NBC News, more than 11 million Americans remain behind on their rent and research has found evictions lead to a spike in virus cases and deaths. This extended moratorium could help buy some time while the Federal funds allocated to help renters are finally distributed. Sadly, said funds have been rolling out super slowly, with states like Florida, who has the most Covid cases in the country, only giving out 2% of funds to renters. Check out last week’s Actions for Everyone to see the different programs you can qualify for to receive funds to pay rent. There is a full list of programs you can apply to at the National Low Income Housing Coalition. 

Stop Line 3!: Line 3 is a proposed pipeline expansion that would bring millions of tar sands per day from Canada to Wisconsin, using the Mississippi river to end up in Lake Superior.. It is owned by Canadian company Enbridge, a corporation already known for being responsible for the largest inland oil spill in the US. They are seeking to build through preserved wetlands and would violate treaty territory of the Anishinaabe peoples. It would cause terrible environmental destruction and will damage the fields of the ancestral wild rice, so important to natives of the area. The Pipeline has been kept from expansion since 2014 but they keep insisting in its construction and currently many water protectors are protesting in Minnesota, where they have been arrested and met with police brutality. 

How can you help?  

  1. Go to Stop Line 3 and send a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers
  1. Text PUCZGE to 50409 (or DM it on Twitter) to use Resisbot to send letters to important elected officials
  1. Email the Minnesota EPA: line3.pca@state.mn.us and remind them that Line 3 threatens the already endangered Higgins mussel.
  1. Use the following hashtags: #stopline3pipeline #stopline3 #landback #indigenousrights
  1. Indigenous creators have been getting banned on Social Media for speaking and protesting against Line 3, they need our following now more than ever. Here are some of the creators: @ugrunna, @quiiroi, @nishgay, @showmeyourmask. Donate if you can!
  1. Check out Lakotalaw.org and check out their Instagram too for resources and to send emails to the President and Senators. They have an Ally Took Kit on their highlights!
  1. If you are able, go join the water protectors in Minnesota. 

Please stay safe! And don’t forget: get vaccinated, wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands! 

Issue #198, 2021 Week 31

This was another week of monumental change on scant few topics, which seems like it’s becoming our new normal.  It can feel a bit overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time, but that’s why we’re still doing the Activism Newsletter!  As always, we’ll have suggested actions below, and we’re here if anyone has questions.

Events to Know

Insurrection Updates.  The January 6 probe kicked off this past week with Nancy Pelosi blocking two obviously bad-faith nominations from House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, noting that both of them had already made public statements promising to undermine the investigation. In response, McCarthy refused to let his other GOP picks participate at all, and the House Freedom Caucus urged McCarthy to remove Pelosi as speaker. Nonetheless, the probe moved forward, with the committee hearing emotional testimony from four police officers present during the insurrection on its first day of testimony.

Key links:

  1. NPR – Pelosi Rejects 2 GOP Nominees For The Jan. 6 Panel, Citing The Integrity Of The Probe
  2. Politico – House Freedom Caucus Asks Mccarthy To Try To Remove Pelosi As Speaker
  3. Washington Post – ‘A Hit Man Sent Them.’ Police At The Capitol Recount The Horrors Of Jan. 6 As The Inquiry Begins.

Biden Administration Updates.  As was the case last week, many Democrats and activists remain frustrated with the lack of federal action to protect voting rights, and senators do appear to be working on a new voting rights bill as I type this.  Meanwhile, budget and infrastructure package negotiations began the week as a hot mess, but the Senate successfully began debate on an infrastructure deal towards the end of the week. All things considered, it has been a pretty productive week.  

Key links

  1. Business Insider – White House Officials Tell Civil Rights Leaders They Can ‘Out-Organize Voter Suppression’ As Voting Rights Bills Stall: Report
  2. Washington Post – Democrats Craft Revised Voting Rights Bill, Seeking to Keep Hopes Alive in the Senate
  3. Politico – Infrastructure Vote Fails As Senators Try To Salvage Bipartisan Deal
  4. CNN – Senate Opens Debate On Trillion-Dollar Infrastructure Bill After Bipartisan Group Strikes Deal

Recent Resilience

Recent Health Law Resilience.  We did see some promising health law developments this week.  The Biden Administration indicated that long COVID will be legally considered a disability under the ADA, and also announced that HIV prevention medication must be fully covered by all insurance.  A federal judge in Arkansas also granted an injunction on the state’s extreme abortion ban, which is particularly welcome on the same week that Mississippi’s attorney general went ahead and urged SCOTUS to overturn Roe v Wade.

Key Links:

  1. Politico – Biden Administration Says Long Covid Can Be Considered A Disability Under Law
  2. NBC – PrEP, the HIV Prevention Pill, Must Now Be Totally Free Under Almost All Insurance Plans
  3. Washington Post – U.S. Judge Blocks Arkansas Ban On Nearly All Abortions
  4. The Hill – Mississippi’s Attorney General Asks Supreme Court To Overturn Roe V. Wade

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.  COVID updates remain important to track as the Delta variant shifts our landscape even further.  The variant now accounts for 83% of all sequenced cases in the U.S., and COVID cases are rising dramatically, especially in undervaccinated areas.  Even some GOP leaders are starting to push for vaccination, and the CDC issued guidance today urging people to resume wearing masks indoors–something leaders are increasingly doing across the country.  Incredibly, we’re still arguing about whether unvaccinated children need to wear masks in schools, even though pediatric groups are saying all kids should wear masks in schools–even vaccinated ones–and younger children might not have a vaccine until November.  Meanwhile, taking a page out of Europe’s book, at an increasing rate American universities, health groups, and even government entities are mandating vaccination.  Finally, several outlets are covering a variety of food shortages around the country as the economy still struggles to recover from the bizarre year we’ve had.  

Key links:

  1. CNBC – Delta Variant Now Accounts For 83% Of All Sequenced Covid Cases In The U.S., Cdc Director Walensky Says
  2. Washington Post – CDC Urges Vaccinated People In Covid Hot Spots To Resume Wearing Masks Indoors
  3. NBC – All Children Should Wear Masks In School This Fall, Even If Vaccinated, According To Pediatrics Group
  4. NPR – More Colleges Say They’ll Require Students To Have Covid-19 Vaccines For Fall
  5. Business Insider – Starbucks Has Run Low On Baked Goods, Its CEO Says — But Denies A Shortage Of Coffee Or Cups

Climate Change Crisis.  Climate change plagues continue for another week, with more West Coast fires and heat waves everywhere, which is messing up air quality in large swaths of the country.  There was another devastating flood, this time in China, which has caused at least 61 casualties at the time that I type this. In Utah, the drought conditions exacerbating sandstorms led to a twenty-two car pileup which killed several people.  Just like last week, there’s still a lot to do on this front.    

Key links:

  1. New York Times – See How Wildfire Smoke Spread Across America
  2. NPR – Record-Breaking Flooding In China Has Left Over One Million People Displaced
  3. ABC – At Least 8 Killed In 22-Car Pileup In Utah During Sandstorm

Actions for Everyone

Stand Up Against Evictions: The Federal moratorium on evictions is due to end on July 31st and many people are still unemployed or depending on unemployment benefits, need assistance in paying their rent or may have even gotten sick with Covid and are enduring the effects of the virus. We’re still in an on-going pandemic with surging cases all around the country and on top of that many will be facing homelessness come the end of the month. What can we do?

Check with your State – even though the moratorium ends nationwide, some States have enacted their own eviction moratoriums like New York and Nevada; this list compiles the moratorium stance per state. 

Apply for Rent Relief – Congress allocated $45 billion in Federal rent assistance as part of pandemic relief measures. By June 2021 only $1.5 billion had been given out so there is still lots of funds to be given for people in need.  The National Low Income Housing Coalition has a list of almost 500 different programs that can help pay your rent. They are listed by State on their website. 

Get a lawyer – If your landlord is trying to evict you in these trying times and the rent relief hasn’t been handed out to you or you were not approved,  you still have the law on your side. You can find a low income or pro-bono lawyer by going to LawHelp.org and also check out the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, they are updating constantly on the topic. For example, Milwaukee county just decided they will provide free counsel for any tenants facing eviction. 

Learn about Tenant Unions! – Renters have started to unionize to take care of each other and their rights. A group of neighbors will form a coalition to fight for rent control, eviction protection and more. Here are some cool resources: 

Tenants Together 

National Housing Law Project 

Tenants Union of Washington State has a list of unions by state. 

It’s also a good idea to keep calling your representatives in the House and Senate about them extending the eviction moratorium since the pandemic is far from over. 

Wear a mask, social distance when possible and get vaccinated! Stay safe everyone. 

Issue #197, 2021 Week 30

I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I needed a nap even before I caught up on this week’s news.  Then I read about the past week, and I needed a nap that lasted all season.  Tragically, bears only hibernate in winter–but hey, at least we have the Activism Newsletter!

Events to Know

Insurrection Litigation News.  The first Capitol rioter convicted of a felony was sentenced this week, though he received eight months’ incarceration rather than the eighteen months the prosecutor was seeking. In other Trump election court news, apparently I was pretty prescient with the Laugh Test comment, last week because attorneys who filed spurious election cases are now getting dragged through a sanctions hearing.  Apparently, at least one is also refusing to follow rules for said proceeding, so we’ll see if any consequences happen. Of course, at least one election challenge is somehow still going, and Maricopa County just approved $3M to replace the voting machines that Cyber Ninja probably tampered with during the recount. 

Key links:

  1. Associated Press – Capitol Rioter Who Breached Senate Gets 8 Months For Felony
  2. Washington Post – ‘A Propaganda Tool’ For Trump: A Second Federal Judge Castigates Attorneys Who Filed A Lawsuit Challenging The 2020 Results
  3. Reuters – Judge Eyes Sanctions On Pro-trump Lawyers Who Claimed Voter Fraud
  4. The Hill – Arizona’s Maricopa County Approves $3m For New Vote-counting Machines

Democrats In Action.  Moving from old election rejection to new, there were a number of different responses from Democrats to, y’know, everything this week.  The Texas Democrats are still in DC as I type this, and though Biden gave a speech about voting rights he hasn’t really done much else.  Vice President Harris has insinuated that something may be coming down the pike, but for now, it’s not really clear what organized action may be forthcoming.    

Key links

  1. Washington Post – Texas Democratic Lawmakers Who Left The State To Block Restrictive Voting Law Plead With Congress To Act
  2. CNN – Civil Rights Leaders Say Biden Fell Short On Outlining Action Steps To End Filibuster
  3. NPR – Vice President Harris Hints That She Has Discussed Filibuster Changes With Senators

Biden Administration Updates.  Though there wasn’t much action on voting rights, the Biden administration did start delivering child tax credits this week. They also released a $3.5T budget plan to go with the infrastructure package, which would tackle climate change and healthcare as well as raising taxes for the wealthy.  (Unsurprisingly, Republicans are already fighting about that last part, and have blocked a vote as I type this.)  Meanwhile, Attorney General Garland has formally banned prosecutors from seizing journalists’ records unless they have, y’know, some kind of reason to investigate said journalist.  It’s depressing that this is news, but here we are.

Key links

  1. Washington Post – Irs Begins Sending Monthly Checks To Millions Of American Parents In Crucial Test For Biden
  2. NBC – Senate Democrats Reveal $3.5 Trillion Plan To Invest In Health Care, Climate Change And More
  3. CNN – Republicans Block Vote On Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, Pushing For More Time To Write It
  4. Associated Press – Garland Bars Prosecutors From Seizing Reporters’ Records

Recent Resilience

Awesome Medical Advances.  A neurosurgeon was in the news this week for creating a machine that successfully taps into brain waves to aid in verbal communication.  Though the technology is still being refined, it has incredible implications for speech therapy, and it’s also just really cool to see this kind of scientific breakthrough. It’s a great piece of news from the health sector!

Key Links:

  1. New York Times – Tapping Into The Brain To Help A Paralyzed Man Speak
  2. Associated Press – Device Taps Brain Waves To Help Paralyzed Man Communicate

Things to Watch

Climate Change Crisis.*  Unsurprisingly, climate change news remains bad for another week, implying that this is our new normalUnprecedented heat waves continue in the Pacific northwest and California, resulting in severe fires and an extreme drought.  Meanwhile, Europe has the opposite problem, with unprecedented floods in Germany and Belgium killing at least 180 people.  As I mentioned above, there is some legislation on the table in Congress right now, but it’s unclear whether that will go through or how much it will ultimately help. And, of course, Jeff Bezos launched himself into space this week, and is already talking about how to increase space tourism, which will in turn increase climate change.  There’s a lot to do on this front, and that isn’t changing anytime soon.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Extreme Heat Bakes Northwest And Northern Rockies Amid High Fire Danger
  2. New York Times – ‘No One Is Safe’: Extreme Weather Batters The Wealthy World
  3. Washington Post – Democrats Push Sweeping Climate Legislation Amid A Scorching Summer
  4. Vox – Welcome To The Age Of Billionaire Joyrides To Space

Bad Court Decisions. This was also a bad week for federal court decisions, though those are rapidly emerging as a new normal as well.  The Fourth Circuit concluded that a gun law imposing age restrictions was unconstitutional, willfully concluding that “virtually every Amendment” applies to 18-year-olds even though we literally have an amendment about alcohol consumption. And a federal judge in Texas concluded that DACA has always been unconstitutional because… I don’t know, reasons?  I’m gonna be honest with you, we’ve litigated this exact issue multiple times already so it’s pretty broken that this judge is even opining about it. There will almost certainly be further litigation on that.

Key links:

  1. CBS – Federal Court Says Restrictions On Handgun Sales To People Under 21 Are Unconstitutional
  2. New York Times – Judge Rules DACA Is Unlawful And Suspends Applications

State of the COVID-19.  Speaking of immigration, Ted Cruz was in the news this week for blaming COVID numbers on immigrants, because of course he freaking was, but it seems infinitely more likely that the zillion GOP antivaxxers are playing a role.  That situation is getting worse, by the way, with Tennessee firing an official for vaccine outreach to teens and Florida selling ‘Don’t Fauci My Florida’ merch.  Abroad, however, vaccination is being mandated for health workers, and there’s an in-field push to require the same here in the U.S.  This may be in part because cases are unquestionably rising here due to Delta variant contagion, which also caused a massive Dow drop today.  The CDC also released a report outlining the massive uptick in overdoses that have occurred since the pandemic began, which really should be getting more national attention.  And Canada announced it would reopen the U.S. border in early August, but with everything else going on we may see that walked back before it happens.  

Key links:

  1. NBC – Sen. Ted Cruz Says Covid-19 Cases Rising In South Texas Due To Border Crisis
  2. Washington Post – Health Official Fired In Retaliation For Coronavirus Vaccine Guidance For Teens, She Says
  3. New York Times – ‘It’s Huge, It’s Historic, It’s Unheard-of’: Drug Overdose Deaths Spike
  4. Washington Post – Canada To Open Border To Fully Vaccinated U.S. Citizens On Aug. 9

Actions for Everyone

My Body, My Choice: In an unsurprising twist of events, the party that is using “my body, my choice” rhetoric to avoid wearing masks and getting a proven effective vaccine against Covid-19 have been preoccupied this week with asking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and inhibit bodily autonomy for pregnant people. Oh, the irony! The country is going through a surge of Covid cases, in what people are calling the “pandemic of the unvaccinated” yet these people are still obsessed with governing over other’s uteruses. Mississippi’s AG is asking to repeal the constituational right to abortion calling it “egregiously wrong” and in place sustain a State law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks. The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments about Roe V. Wade in the fall and with the support of other GOP and with the now conservative majority in the highest court of the land, this could be a true attempt to repeal the right to end a pregnancy. 

Missouri republican Josh Hawley has joined two of his colleagues Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas in support of Mississippi’s attorney general’s move against reproductive rights. If you live in one of these states, it would be a good idea to give them a call and let them know how you feel about their urge to repeal constitutional rights and also how they should be focusing on the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that is still ravaging our country and the world. 

You can find your representatives here: 

Senate 

House

You can also be connected directly via the Capitol switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Mississippi’s Attorney General Lynn Fitch; his office number is 601-359-3680.

The ACLU has a good list of actions you can take to help to protect the right to a legal abortion, and it is always a good idea to donate to Planned Parenthood.  As fall approaches, there will probably be more actions to come, we’ll keep you updated! We must stay vigilant of this case. 

Promoting vaccination! We are already seeing what vaccine hesitancy and misinformation has done to the country. We’re seeing a surge with the Delta Covid-19 variant and the unvaccinated are the ones dying. This is extremely sad to see, we have a way to control it but the lack of information, science literacy and trust in our officials has literally driven people to death. We’re also seeing a rise in children being hospitalized and dying of Covid with this new variant, and kids cannot get vaccinated yet, so it comes up to the caretakers to be the first line of defense against them contracting the virus. How can you help? The CDC has resources to help educate your community on why taking the vaccine is the best step. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases also has lots of good info. Next month (August) is actually National Immunization Awareness Month! In 2019, the World Health Organization stated that vaccine hesitancy is now considered a global threat and this was before we were in the midst of a pandemic. Consider how you can affect people around you, your family,  your co-worker, your community and help end vaccine hesitancy. 

Issue #196, 2021 Week 29

Somehow, this week’s news feels like a firehose and a slow news week at the same time, which is kind of a neat trick.  Though there are only a few main major stories, those stories all have significant and interrelated developments, and the week’s COVID news is particularly extra.  All told, the net result is a weird week that makes it hard to see which end is up, but at least I get to write about civil disobedience.

Events to Know

Insurrection Litigation News. The Laugh Test sure is getting a work out this week.  First up we have Representative Mo Brooks arguing he can’t be liable for the insurrection on Capitol Hill because he works on Capitol Hill. (I think this is supposed to be a qualified immunity argument, but it reads more like the congressional equivalent of arguing that you can’t be charged for robbing a liquor store because you work at the liquor store.)  Meanwhile, Trump is suing Facebook because something something First Amendment, by which I mean he’s pissed that nobody read his blog.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Rep. Mo Brooks Says He Can’t Be Sued For Inciting Capitol Riot Because He Is A Federal Employee
  2. Washington Post – Trump Files Class Action Lawsuits Targeting Facebook, Twitter And Google’s Youtube Over ‘censorship’ Of Conservatives

Texas Dems Go to WashingtonWe did have a noteworthy attempt to suppress Native American votes in Montana, and the DNC has unveiled vague plans to do something about the coordinated attack on voting rights generally.  But the real story of the week is the Texas Democrats and their trip out of state.  You may recall, dear reader, that these folks walked out of a legislative session in late May to protest egregious voter suppression legislation, capitalizing on a state rule that requires 2/3 of the legislative body for any official process.  This time, in response to a special session called to reintroduce that bill–which the governor reinforced with all kinds of extreme legislation regarding bail process, trans rights, and critical race theory–the Texas Democrats took that strategy up another notch and simply flew out of the state en masse for the duration.  Apparently this isn’t even the first time they’ve used this method to protect voter rights in the state; in 2003, they relocated to Oklahoma over a redistricting fight.  The Texas Democrats note in their official statement that this time, they are headed as a group to Washington, DC to advocate for federal voting reform.

Key links

  1. New York Times – How G.O.P.-Backed Laws in Montana Could Hurt Native American Voting
  2. Texas Tribune – Gov. Greg Abbott Includes Voting Restrictions, Critical Race Theory And Rules For Transgender Student Athletes On Special Legislative Session Agenda
  3. Washington Post – Texas Governor Says Democratic Lawmakers Who Left State To Stop Passage Of Voting Restrictions Could Face Arrest When They Return
  4. Official Statement from Texas House Democratic Caucus Leaders 

Biden Administration Updates.  Boy howdy are there a lot of Biden updates this week.  The biggest story is Biden’s decision to pull troops from Afghanistan by August 31, ending just about twenty years of ongoing aggression.  In immigration news, ICE is also going to stop detaining people who are pregnant or nursing.  The Department of Education is trying to convince Biden to keep student loans paused past October 2021.  But Biden was busy signing an executive order designed to limit the growth of corporate monopolies and firing the MAGA head of Social Security that was put in place by Spray-Tan Perón.

Key links

  1. NBC – U.S. Military Mission In Afghanistan Will End By August 31, Biden Says
  2. Washington Post – ICE To Avoid Detaining Pregnant, Nursing And Postpartum Women
  3. Forbes – Postpone Student Loan Payments Until At Least January 31, 2022, According To This List Of People
  4. Politico – Biden Launches Assault On Monopolies
  5. CNN – Biden Fires Top Official At Social Security Administration After He Refuses To Resign

Recent Resilience

Flipping the Scripps.  Fourteen-year-old Zaila Avant-garde became the first African American champion of the Scripp Spelling Bee this week, correctly spelling ‘murraya’ correctly to win the competition.  Incredibly, she already held three Guinness World Records for her achievements in basketball at the time of her win. She sounds pretty Avant-garde!

Key Links:

  1. New York Times – Scripps Spelling Bee 2021: Zaila Avant-garde Wins

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.  There is a lot of COVID news this week, and a lot of it is pretty weird.  Pfizer is requesting authorization for booster shots for the Delta variant, which has the CDC, FDA, and WHO united in irritation because they all think it’s too soon–and besides, we have like a third of the U.S. still refusing to take the dang vaccine in the first place while other countries struggle to gain access to any doses at all.  Meanwhile, the CDC is also updating its guidelines for children returning to school in the fall, despite rising infection rates in many anti-vax areas of the country and the likelihood of more changes by the time fall rolls around.  And we also learned that it’s possible to contract multiple COVID variants at once, presumably because we have so many variants emerging all over the world (though at present, the Delta strain is the dominant strain in the United States).  Somehow, none of this is stopping Republicans from trying to argue that unvaccinated people are a protected class experiencing discrimination.

Key links:

  1. CBS – Pfizer And Biontech Plan To File For Emergency Use Authorization For Covid Vaccine Booster As Delta Variant Spreads
  2. Stat – WHO Director-general Slams Notion Of Covid-19 Vaccine Booster Doses Given Global Health Needs
  3. NPR – CDC Updates Guidelines To Protect Kids From Covid In School. Plus: Vacation Tips
  4. CNBC – Americans Will Need Masks Indoors As U.S. Heads For ‘Dangerous Fall’ With Surge In Delta Covid Cases
  5. Livescience – Coronavirus Variants: Here’s How The Sars-cov-2 Mutants Stack Up
  6. Axios – Republicans Push To Ban “Discrimination” Against Unvaccinated People

Climate Change Crisis.*  In a gruesome expression of new normal, the western side of the country is experiencing another serious and unprecedented heat wave this week, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Unsurprisingly, California is already experiencing wildfires, and studies are suggesting that these changes are definitely part of systemic climate change.  This news coincides with the first successful space tourism voyage, led by Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, and Jeff Bezos plans to embark soon as well.  Experts predict that this space tourism will likely accelerate climate change as well, because it will create a significant secondary source of black carbon emissions.  Needless to say, this remains a topic that will require attention.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Records Torched As Western U.S. Sizzles Amid Major Heat Wave
  2. ABC – California’s Largest Wildfire Of The Year Raging As Heat Wave Continues
  3. Reuters – Pacific Northwest Heat Wave ‘virtually Impossible’ Without Climate Change – Research
  4. Associated Press – Billionaire Richard Branson Reaches Space In His Own Ship
  5. Nature – Space Tourism To Accelerate Climate Change

Actions for Everyone 

Fleeing Texas: As y’all probably already know, it’s going down in Texas. In effort to protect voting rights in the state, Texan Democrats have left the state and are staying in D.C. in order to break quorum and stop the legislature from voting in favor of an anti-democratic bill pushed by the Republicans. 

Is there anything we can do? 

Donate. 

Call your representatives and tell them you support both the For The People Act and The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement. The passing of these bills would secure the right to vote for every American, protecting voting rights which are in trouble by State laws that are making it hard for people to have access to voting, mail-in votes or early voting. 

You can learn more by reading this letter written to Congress by The Leadership Conference On Civil and Human rights. 

While you’re talking to your representatives… Our Post Office still needs our help! Congress is still sitting on bills that could help stabilize the USPS financially but they keep sweeping it under the rug. 

Ask them to support the Postal Service Reform Act!

Here is more info from the National Association of Letter Carriers. 

Patria o Vida in Cuba: The people of Cuba took to the streets on the 11th in what has proven to be the biggest protests seen in the country since the revolution led by Fidel Castro, which culminated in 1959. Cubans are asking for basic necessities like access to food, medicine and electricity, all while a Covid-19 surge. Cuba is always a touchy subject in American politics. And everyone has a different opinion of what should be done; if the US should intervene, if the embargo should be lifted, and much, much more. What we do know is that Cubans need help to survive because their government is not doing it’s job, to protect the Cuban people. I don’t want to push a specific narrative when it comes to this subject, I’m biased, like everyone else. I’m also half-Cuban, and I want my people to stop suffering. I think the most important thing to do when these types of issues arise, as Americans, is to first of all listen to Cuban voices, try to keep away politics from a human rights issue and help however you can. 

Amnesty International has a good insight on what has been going on regarding imprisonment of protestors. They also suggest using social media to call out Cuban leaders. 

Easy Action Alert! Show support for a bill that would increase Social Security Income for disabled Americans. You can go to Resistbot to sign a petition and share with your peers. 

And here are some Things That Made Me Laugh: July is National Anti-Boredom month!

Issue #195, 2021 Week 26

We’re back, and just in time for another relatively weird news week!  This one feels less like the news holding its breath and more like Groundhog Day, but we’ll nonetheless have all the repeats for you below.  Though nobody enjoys a rerun week, I suppose this could have been worse.   

Events to Know

Elections on a Theme. There was a bunch of information in the news this week about how much Trump tried to strong-arm the Department of Justice to falsely assert election fraud after he lost the 2020 election–something we already knew was happening, but now we know about it in technicolor. Meanwhile, Georgia is leading yet another massive voter purge, and of course lots and lots of suppression laws are still in the works at the state level.

Key links:

  1. NPR – Trump Pressed The Justice Department To Reverse The Election Results, Documents Show
  2. NBC – ‘Pure Insanity’: Emails Detail Trump’s Pressure On Justice Department To Overturn Election
  3. CNN – Georgia Removes 100,000 Names From Voter Registration Rolls
  4. New York Times – How Republican States Are Expanding Their Power Over Elections

Biden Highlights. A couple of significant Trump policies were rolled back this week, which I’ll call a win: 1) The Department of Justice overturned limits on survivors of domestic or gang violence seeking asylum, which was an improper unilateral change by Jeff Sessions in the first place; and 2) The Department of Education clarified that Title IX protections extend to trans students, reversing the Trump’s administration’s limitations. But there was innovation as well; Ketanji Brown Jackson was appointed to the DC Circuit Court, becoming the first Black woman appointed in a decade. Additionally, the White House announced a new strategy for countering domestic terrorism, which is more comprehensive than any prior planning but falls short of creating new law.

Key links: 

  1. NPR – The Justice Department Overturns Policy That Limited Asylum For Survivors Of Violence
  2. CNN – Education Department Says Title IX Protections Apply To LGBTQ Students
  3. ABC – Senate Confirms Ketanji Brown Jackson To 2nd Highest Court In US
  4. NBC – White House Unveils New Strategy To Counter Domestic Terrorism ‘Laser-focused On Violence’

New National Holiday.  After a unanimous vote in the Senate (though there were fourteen holdouts in the House), President Biden officially signed the bill which makes Juneteenth a federal national holiday, the first added since Martin Luther King Day was added in the 1980s.  Since Juneteenth is a holiday which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Americans, there are many schools of thought about what the new holiday means and how white Americans should approach it.  Suffice to say, it is a space that we can use for reflection about the best way to reckon with our country’s racist history, and Biden’s remarks remind white Americans to use that space and time given.  

Key links: 

  1. CNN – Biden Signs Bill Into Law Making Juneteenth A National Holiday
  2. Reuters – Biden Signs ‘Juneteenth’ Bill, Asks U.S. To Reflect On Slavery’s ‘Terrible Toll’

Recent Resilience


Affordable Care Act Still Intact (Again).  It’s peak Groundhog Day, but also good news, to note that the Supreme Court refused to strike down the Affordable Care Act this week, marking approximately the zillionth time that the law has survived Republican challenge to it.  The opinion is on the grounds that the complainants lacked standing, which means it’s ultimately a pretty narrow holding. Nonetheless, it’s an important decision, and it’s also interesting that the decision was 7-2.

Key links:

  1. NPR – Obamacare Wins For The 3rd Time At The Supreme Court
  2. The Hill – Supreme Court Upholds ObamaCare in 7-2 Ruling

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.  COVID news is all over the place for yet another week. The presence of the more-dangerous Delta variant continues to increase in the U.S. and globally, though vaccination remains effective against infection.  We’ve also reached 600,000 COVID-related deaths nationally, which is a number that is hard to even conceive of, let alone process–it’s larger than all the American deaths from Vietnam, World War I, and World War II put together.  But on the other hand, we had at least one state reach 80% vaccination of its adult population, which is promising.  Additionally, several hospital employees in Houston suing their employer for requiring vaccination found their lawsuit dismissed this week.  

Key links:

  1. ABC – Delta Variant Infecting Mounting Number Of People In Rural Kansas And Missouri
  2. Axios – U.S. Covid-19 Death Toll Surpasses 600,000
  3. New York Times – Vermont Is The First State To Partially Vaccinate At Least 80 Percent Of Its Eligible Population.
  4. ABC – 117 Employees Sue Houston Methodist Hospital For Requiring Covid-19 Vaccine

No Voting Rights Progress.  It is a grotesque and very American reality that the Senate can pass the Juneteenth bill unanimously, but cannot pass a bill that protects the right of that same population to vote. This week is a second verse that is absolutely the same as the first, with Joe Manchin first refusing to support the Voting Rights Act, then clarifying what provisions he would support, then watching Mitch McConnell laugh in his face about supporting the moderate bill yet again.  Eventually Manchin changed his tune and voted for it, but the bill was filibustered by the GOP anyway, so no progress was made.

Key links:

  1. Associated Press – Civil Rights Leaders Don’t Budge Key Senator On Voting Bill
  2. Politico – Senate Republicans Block Dems’ Sweeping Elections Reform Bill



Infrastructure Updates.  Joe Biden announced on Thursday that his administration has reached a deal with Republicans regarding an infrastructure package. He was quick to state, however, that the deal could still fall apart, as he considers it to be in tandem with more comprehensive legislation enacting Democrat priorities. It seems clear that everybody is also considering backup plans, and Nancy Pelosi appears to be flat-out refusing to consider it, so I’m not sure how much a deal was truly reached here. That said, we’ll have to keep an eye on this and see what happens.

Key links:

  1. Politico – Biden Endorses Senate’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement
  2. CNN – Biden: ‘We Have A Deal’ On Infrastructure With Bipartisan Group Of Senators

Actions for Everyone

Deprogramming our loved ones:  All of us know at least 1 person in our lives that has fallen through the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, fake news and cult-ish nonsense. We’ve all seen it happen, and it’s almost like experiencing the death of a loved one, mourning for the person we used to know. 

Recently I contacted my father after almost a year of no communication and sadly, I now regret  it. Instead of asking me about my life, my well-being, how I lived through a worldwide pandemic, how my cats are doing; he immediately went on a hate spewing rant about “Biden bringing communism” and the “need for a new civil war that would kill many democrats”. 

I was floored. My dad was never into politics, but something happened after 2016 that has made him into a man I don’t recognize anymore. I can’t tell exactly what happened but a mix of social media articles, Trump being in office and the onset of the Pandemic created a perfect storm that washed away his brain. 

The reason I wish to share my experience is because I’m sure there are many of us struggling with the same problem and we are lost without knowing what is the next step. Just this past week The New York Times released an article citing that the Public Religion Research Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core released a poll that finds around 15% of Americans believe the Q-Anon conspiracy pushed by Trump-adjacent figures and right-wing media. The same percentage believes “American patriots may have to resort to violence to restore the country’s rightful order”. 

I can’t list all the many reasons why we have lost such a big chunk of our society to these outlandish ideas but the 24 hour news cycle, the internet and the lack of media literacy of our older generations are all parts of this phenomenon. The reason why I chose to write about this today is because I want people to know they are not alone in this and there is strengh in numbers. I recently saw the documentary The Brainwashing Of My Dad which gave me some insight, that I never thought would hit so close to home, on how so many people fall under the conspiracy spell. 

It’s the same reasoning behind Republicans shutting down the January 6 Commission some weeks ago, claiming that  “If you didn’t know the footage was from January 6, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit” at the Capitol instead of an obvious violent insurrection that resulted in 5 deaths. 

Another issue has been the struggle towards Herd Immunity because of the anti-vax movement that started online and spread like wildfire. The US is trying to keep the Covid-19 cases low but we need more people to get vaccinated to stop new strains and mutations. 

Some people have resulted in contacting deprogrammers who specialize in bringing people out of dangerous cults to rescue their family members and loved ones from the right wing fringe. There are organizations like Antidote, an Al-Anon style recovery and support group for the unduly influenced and their loved ones. 

Here is a Forbes article: How To Talk With—And Maybe Help—Someone Who Believes In QAnon And Other Conspiracy Theories that could help prepare you to start considering if deprogramming your loved ones is something you’d like to try. And here is an NPR article that goes more in depth trying to understand this fake media debacle. 

So, what can we do? 

Empathy: Understanding why and how our loved ones have fallen into the conspiracy hole is the first step.

Act: Keep calling your representatives! We must hace the January 6th insurrection investigated by Congress. 

Keep learning: Become media literate. Always research before you share. Trust experts. Follow media outlets that are trustworthy. Use common sense.

Here are some Media Literacy specific links:

Common Sense Media 

Media Literacy Now 

Media Smarts

California judge overturns Assault Weapons law:  If you live in the state of California, you may want to call your local government and raise your voice because a decade’s long law that banned assault weapons like the AR-15 was overturned last week by Judge Roger Benitez. Give your local government a call!

Issue #194, 2021 Week 20

Hey everyone,

Some things still need some work. Read on to make sure that you’re staying informed!
As always, please reach out (activism@patrothfuss.comwith any tips, suggestions, questions, or concerns!

Thanks,
The Activism Team

Another week, another holding pattern, dear readers.  As I type this, things are coming closer and closer to a head on regarding S. 1, the For the People Act; there was a mark-up on the Senate floor on Tuesday and discussion is ongoing.  It remains a great idea to reach out to your senators, whether you live in a progressive area or not–less progressive senators can use the nudge and more progressive senators can use the numbers in negotiation!  And as I’ll get to below, the state push for voter suppression is intense, and federal legislation can make a real difference for folks living in those states.

Events to Know

Voter Suppression Law Redux (Florida Edition). This week, it’s Florida passing the crappy law designed to suppress voting, and as you might imagine from the Florida Man State, it’s pretty bad. Among other things, it limits mail-in voting and drop boxes, it restricts distribution of food and water to people in line, and it encourages bipartisan ‘observers’ with a lengthy history of use for voter intimidation. Florida is particularly noteworthy because it’s the first swing state where Trump won and they’re passing a law like this anyway. Meanwhile, the state voter suppression fight is moving to Texas, which didn’t flip in the 2020 election either. And all the while, the bonkers Arizona recount that is somehow moving forward in May 2021 has garnered significant attention, mostly because it might be a civil rights violation.

Key links:

  1. NPR – Florida Legislature Oks Bill That Limits Voting By Mail, Ballot Drop Boxes
  2. New York Times – Florida Republicans Pass Voting Limits In Broad Elections Bill
  3. Washington Post – Florida ran a nearly flawless election in 2020. Republicans decided to change the voting rules anyway. Here’s how.
  4. New York Times – Inside Democrats’ Scramble to Repel the G.O.P. Voting Push
  5. The Hill – DOJ: Arizona Recount Could Violate Civil Rights Laws

Russia Investigation Rerun. We also had more 45 in the spotlight this week than in other recent weeks (for a variety of reasons). There was a messed-up story about 45’s Justice Department obtaining journalists’ phone records as they investigated collusion with Russia, which definitely does not sound like an abuse of power at all. And speaking of the Russia investigation, Judge Amy Berman Jackson–whom you may remember as the judge who had to deal with the neverending flood of Roger Stone trial nonsense–issued an irate opinion which ordered the release of Mueller’s full memorandum summarizing the Russia investigation findings. The order also had many choice words to say about then-Attorney General William Barr’s decision to withhold it; my favorite is the part where she notes that the ethics watchdog organization that filed the suit “had never laid eyes on the document [in question, but] its summary was considerably more accurate than the one supplied by [Trump’s administration].”

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Trump Justice Department Secretly Obtained Post Reporters’ Phone Records
  2. New York Times – Judge Says Barr Misled On How His Justice Dept. Viewed Trump’s Actions

Dismantling the Deportation Machine?  Immigration news remains a bit mixed, though mixed is a step up from previous updates. Both Biden and Harris appear to be struggling to grapple with immigration policy tasks, but there was very modest progress in reuniting families separated at the border. Additionally, Biden did officially raise the refugee cap to 62,000 people by executive order this week. On that last point, I would be remiss if I didn’t do some unpacking, so I want to give you a bit more context. While 62,000 is obviously much better than the historically low 15,000 that Trump set in his final year, and was Biden’s original goal, outside of Trump’s unconscionable numbers it is the lowest cap in thirty years–even the Dubbya years generally had a cap of 70,000 people per year. (Trump does deserve the lion’s share of the blame for this, as he had only admitted 1,000 refugees in the first fiscal quarter of 2021, but I want to make sure folks reading this understand that 62,000 is not a high number–it just seems comparably high because Trump’s cap was in the sub-basement.)

Key links: 

  1. NBC – Biden Lays Border Crisis On Trump Admin’s Refusal To Cooperate
  2. Washington Post – Biden Says He Will Raise Refugee Cap From 15,000 To 62,500, After Widespread Criticism For Extending Trump-Era Levels
  3. Migration Policy Institute – U.S. Annual Refugee Resettlement Ceilings And Number Of Refugees Admitted, 1980-present

Recent Resilience

Transgender Health Updates.  The Biden administration announced this week that it is reinstating protections for transgender patients in healthcare settings, shielding individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  The decision is being framed as implementing a recent Supreme Court decision that states that both are protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  However, it can also reasonably be viewed as a rejection of conservative policy regarding the “freedom” of providers to refuse to treat people because they don’t like them. Frankly–and here I speak as a health professional–I think that it’s incredibly important to reject that line of thought, so I’m really pleased to see the Biden Administration take these steps.

Key links:

  1. Associated Press – US Restores Transgender Health Protections Denied By Trump
  2. NBC – Biden Administration Announces Reversal Of Trump-era Limits On Protections For Transgender People In Health Care

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.   On the one hand, vaccine redistribution has become necessary, in part because some states have too much vaccine hesitancy to need additional doses, though vaccine hesitancy among populations of color has lessened somewhat as rollout continued.  Additionally, a federal judge struck down the CDC eviction moratorium despite the sluggish job growth mentioned above, reasoning that the moratorium was beyond the scope of the CDC’s authority.   (I personally don’t agree with the reasoning of the opinion at all, and am unsurprised that the Justice Department is already appealing this decision.)  But on the other hand, the Biden administration agreed to support a WTO push to waive patents for COVID-19 vaccines, making it easier to distribute to countries that badly need support. President Biden believes the country can reach 70% adult vaccination by July, despite the vaccine hesitancy in some parts of the country, and is planning his next stages accordingly.  Europe is on track to reach roughly 70% vaccination in July as well.  And Pfizer is officially authorized to vaccinate adolescents aged 12 and older as of today, which is a huge relief for many families in the United States.
Key links:

  1. NBC – White House To Shift How Vaccines Are Allocated To States As Biden Sets New Inoculation Goals
  2. New York Times – Federal Judge Strikes Down Moratorium On Evicting Renters
  3. NPR – Biden Backs Waiving International Patent Protections For Covid-19 Vaccines
  4. Associated Press – Biden Aims To Vaccinate 70% Of American Adults By July 4
  5. Washington Post – Europe’s Vaccine Campaign Is Accelerating. It Expects To Match The U.S. By July.

American Violence Updates. This was a truly horrific week for police brutality and American violence in general.  In Arkansas, new DNA evidence has been released that potentially exonerates an inmate already executed in 2017.  In Atlanta, the police officer that shot Rayshard Brooks has been reinstated to his job.  In Chicago, a man intentionally drove his car into a group of picnickers while yelling anti-Asian slurs.  And there were a stunning ten mass shootings over the weekend, though the most attention is being directed towards Colorado, where a man killed six people at a birthday party before shooting himself as well. It’s hard for many of us to make sense of this ongoing violence, but it remains a stark reminder that our country still has so much work to do.

Key links:

  1. NBC – After death row inmate is executed, attorneys find DNA that belongs to someone else
  2. ABC – Atlanta police officer fired after fatally shooting Rayshard Brooks has been reinstated
  3. Washington Post – He yelled at ‘yuppies’ in a park. Then he drove his truck into a crowd of picnickers, police said
  4. CNN – There were at least 11 mass shootings across the US this weekend
  5. New York Times – 7 Dead in Shooting at Birthday Party in Colorado, Police Say

Congressional Updates Again. As the Senate moves closer to deciding whether to protect voting rights, the House is bizarrely preoccupied with ejecting Liz Cheney from her role as House Republican Conference Chair due to her apparently unacceptable adherence to objective reality regarding the 2020 election.  (After even House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy started to back away slowly, it became clear that her time was nigh, and she was indeed removed from her position this afternoon.)  Meanwhile, in response to a sluggish economy and, presumably, Biden’s relief plans, Republican governors in a few states are cutting COVID federal unemployment benefits to try to force workers to return.

Key links:

  1. CBS – Senate Committee To Hold Markup On Controversial Voting Bill
  2. NBC News – Cheney defiant as Republicans oust her from leadership for rebuking Trump
  3. Washington Post – GOP Governors Slash Jobless Aid To Try To Force More Americans To Return To Work

Actions for Everyone

Asian American-Pacific Islander Heritage Month: May is Asian American-Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI Heritage Month) in the US, a month devoted to celebrating the rich history and culture of the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have contributed to America’s diversity and success. Since the Covid-19 pandemic started there has been a rise in Asian hate crimes and discrimination; celebrating AAPI Heritage Month is a way to raise awareness and raise the voices of those who need it right now. Check out this website for daily online events,  articles, art exhibits and more.

Here are some good organizations you can contribute to this month:

Stop AAPI hate: Started in March 2020 as a response to the pandemic, this organization tracks and responds to incidents of hate and xenophobia.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice: Their mission is to advance civil and human rights for Asian Americans and to build and promote a fair and equitable society for all.

Hate is a Virus: They are aiming to give back to not just national community organizations but local organizations with programs that serve various short-term and long-term goals of the community, including mental health services, improving safety & care for the elderly and efforts that build solidarity and consider the effects on other BIPOC communities.

Get trained against harassment: I was recently made aware of this amazing organization called Hollaback! Their mission is to help stop harassment. They have been around since 2005 and they specialize in training people on how to respond, intervene and heal from harassment. Anyone can join their training (they are online) and they are free (but they run on donations!). I personally just joined a police violence and anti-black racism bystander intervention workshop for next week.  I work in customer service and have to deal with many different issues on the daily, but there are instances of racism and hate that I have encountered and haven’t had the skills to know how to de-escalate and handle the situation correctly. I think these training sessions would benefit everyone! They also train groups in work settings. Check them out.

Supporting the vaccine patent waiver: About 40% of Americans are vaccinated and now kids from 12-16 can get it too; but it hasn’t been the same for most of the global south. The rest of the world needs vaccines desperately. President Biden and his administration have publicly acknowledged that they support a waiver on the patents for the Covid vaccine so that the rest of the world is granted access and some equity is reached regarding global vaccinations. This week they released a statement that says they will actively participate in World Trade Organizations to free the patent.   A waiver on patents was established in 1996 regarding AIDS/HIV medications and treatment, which resulted in a global turning point of that pandemic. We always talk about calling your elected officials when you disagree with their actions but it also helps to call when you support them too!

Call your elected representatives and let them know you support this decision, it is the right thing to do.

We hope this newsletter left you feeling more informed and more energized to go out there and make a difference in whatever way you can.

We’d love to hear from you, not only for tips or suggestions (though they’re always welcome), but also to hear about how the activism has been going. Do you have any success stories? Did anything surprise you that you weren’t expecting? Let us know at activism@patrothfuss.com and hopefully we can use your stories to help encourage and educate others!

Best,
The Activism Team

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