Issue #217, 2022 Week 8

Last week, we said the news felt like it was holding its breath, which is never a comfortable feeling.  But this week, one of the things we were waiting for happened when Putin invaded Ukraine via Donetsk and Luhansk, and it’s definitely more miserable to have the shoe drop.  As always, we’ll keep everybody posted and have actions for everyone below. 

Events to Know

Insurrection Updates.   On the January 6 front, the head of the Oathkeepers was denied bail by a second judge this week, meaning he’ll continue to be held in jail pending his July trial. Additionally, the Washington Post published a cache of text messages to then Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that were subpoenaed by the panel, and though they’re hardly a smoking gun, they’re definitely worth reading.  An attempt by Trump to claim immunity against civil lawsuits regarding January 6 was rejected by a district court judge on Friday. Meanwhile, a Trump appointee district court judge issued an absolutely bananas opinion holding that only the Department of Justice can sue under the Voting Rights Act–which will probably get overturned on appeal, but good gravy.  And speaking of Trump news, a judge in New York also ordered Trump and his children to testify in the NY AG’s civil suit–which technically is about his business practices, not election fraud, but you know what, same difference at this point.  

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Oath Keepers Leader Stewart Rhodes Ordered To Be Jailed Until Trial On Seditious Conspiracy
  2. Washington Post – Texting Through An Insurrection
  3. New York Times – Judge Allows Civil Suits To Proceed Against Trump Over Jan. 6
  4. Vox – A Trump Judge’s New Decision Would Undo More Than 50 Years Of Voting Rights Law
  5. NPR – N.Y. Supreme Court Justice Orders The Trumps To Testify Under Oath

Land War Landmines.  As we entered the week, despite the stalemate over the weekend, the Biden administration cautioned that threat of Russia invading Ukraine remained very high.  Media began running more stories on Donetsk and Luhansk, regions of Ukraine where Russian-backed separatists had strongholds. Then on Sunday, the U.S. told the U.N. that Russia had a list of Ukranians to put in camps, and continued urging diplomats and affiliates to move to safer locations. By Monday, Russia had “recognized Donetsk and Luhansk’s independence” and began ordering Russian troops into both regions.  Very early on Thursday morning, Russia launched a multi-front invasion of Ukraine, and Biden ordered prompt  retaliatory sanctions. Needless to say, this is a volatile situation with a lot of implications, and it’s a very dangerous and stressful time for a lot of people.

Key links

  1. New York Times – Biden Says Putin Has Chosen ‘Catastrophic’ War Over Diplomacy
  2. New York Times – If War Flames in Ukraine, These 2 Little Enclaves May Be the Spark
  3. Washington Post – Ukraine’s Lviv Becomes ‘Western Capital’ As Some Diplomats Leave Kyiv
  4. NBC – Russian Troops Advance Within 20 Miles Of Ukraine Capital, Pentagon Says
  5. New York Times – The Ukraine Crisis: What To Know About Why Russia Attacked

Recent Resilience

Recent Medical Resilience. This week, a third person was cured of HIV using a novel medical procedure called a haplo-cord transplant. Notably, this patient was the first woman cured using this method, and she’s also the first mixed-race patient. It’s an awesome advancement during a very strange time.    

Key links:

  1. The Guardian – Third Person Apparently Cured Of HIV Using Novel Stem Cell Transplant
  2. NBC – Scientists Have Possibly Cured HIV In A Woman For The First Time

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19. For another week, COVID news is startling in its disconnect. We’re still learning about the BA.2 subvariant, and we’ve reached a million excess deaths total during the pandemic (though not all are directly from COVID). Experts are concerned that people are losing the thread about practices. And with California officially transitioning to “endemic” status and most states removing mask mandates, while high-risk people are… well, still high-risk, it’s easy to see why experts are saying that. Meanwhile, the “Freedom Convoy” in Canada is also ending, mostly with arrests and towed vehicles, and as Canadian truckers try to distance themselves, U.S. Congress reps are looking into who started it.  

Key links:

  1. CNN – As Ba.2 Subvariant Of Omicron Rises, Lab Studies Point To Signs Of Severity
  2. Washington Post – Americans Are Tired Of The Pandemic. But Disease Experts Preach Caution — And Endure A ‘Kill The Messenger’ Moment.
  3. NBC – Nearly Half Of State Mask Mandates Have Ended In The Past 3 Weeks
  4. Washington Post – Vulnerable To The Virus, High-Risk Americans Feel Pain As The U.S. Moves On
  5. Washington Post – Police Regain Control Of Most Of Canada’s Capital, Say Protesters Will Continue To Be Identified And Charged As Holdouts Persist
  6. CBC – U.S. Congress Asks Facebook: What Role Did Fake Overseas Accounts Have In Promoting Canada Convoys?

LGBTQ+ Kids’ Concerns. There are a number of legal actions against LGBTQ+ kids in states from the past week. In Florida, a bill known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”, which prohibits discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity, has now passed in the House and moves to the Senate. In Texas, the governor has ordered mandated reporters such as teachers, doctors, and school officials to report gender-affirming care for transgender kids as “child abuse.” (I would be remiss if I did not stress that there is absolutely no scientific evidence to suggest that gender-affirming care is a form of abuse, though many credible medical organizations have put out statements indicating that withholding gender-affirming care can hurt transgender children.)

Key links:

  1. BBC – Florida House Of Representatives Passes ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill
  2. Politico – Abbott Orders Texas Probe Of Medical Procedures For Transgender Children
  3. Society For Research In Child Development – Gender-Affirming Policies Support Transgender And Gender Diverse Youth’s Health

Actions for Everyone

Texas against Trans KidsGreg Abbot, Texas’ governor and all-around bigot, decided to criminalize trans youth, their parents and medical professionals, equating gender transition in minors to child abuse. He sent a letter to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services stating that all instances of gender-affirming procedures on minors should be reported as an instance of child abuse and included that “all licensed professionals who have direct contact with children who may be subject to such abuse, including doctors, nurses, and teachers” to report such parents or guardians. These professionals would face “criminal penalties for failure to report.” This whole ordeal happened after Texas’ Attorney General Ken  Paxton said that parents who allow gender-reassignment surgeries and procedures should be investigated as child abusers.

There is no knowledge of how this new anti-trans measure will be carried out but it’s a travesty against the queer community and an obvious violation of freedom and human rights. 

How can you help? You can write Abbot’s office as well as Paxton’s office to let them know what you think of their backwards bigoted measure. 

You can also donate to local Texas organizations who work directly with trans youth.

Transgender Education Network of Texas

Equality Texas

Black Trans Texas Connection

ACLU Texas

Texas Trans Kids

Even if you don’t live in Texas, there is lots of legislation nationwide affecting the LGBTQ community. The ACLU has a list you can check out what is going on near you.  

How to help victims of war – By now, we all know the horrible situation happening in Ukraine with Russian coming in to attack the country. People are fleeing the country and the ones that are staying need aid, as many will be losing everything because of this stupid war. I’ve been sleepless for a couple of nights now seeing this unfold and I know lots of us are feeling the same. There is a huge feeling of impotence and powerlessness about what we can do to help ease the suffering of war; but we can help somehow. It may not be what we wish we could do, but any little thing helps in the long run. 

What can we do to help? 

Call Congress and ask them to come back to DC from their recess and figure out an emergency aid package to Ukraine. This can’t wait any longer. They need to do their job in a moment of crisis. Call them and tell them to get to work!

Donate. This NPR article has a list of organizations that can use donations during times of war. 

Register and vote. This is more of a long game,but making sure we have politicians that aren’t pro-Putin is rather important. Lots of Republicans are aligning themselves with Putin and it’s just surreal and abhorrent really. 

Stay informed with trustworthy news sources. It’s hard to know where to get news that isn’t biased or full of fake news but this article from Global Citizen has a good list of sources.

Mental Health Check – It seems like nothing is going right and we haven’t been able to feel like things are ok in a long time. There is always something going on, and now with the news of war in Europe the collective mental health seems to be in decline. It’s normal to want to stay informed and know what’s going on in the world but we need to let ourselves have some space to decompress and relax. 

We can’t be as helpful to the world if we’re internally in turmoil. Take regular breaks from the news and try to manage your exposure. It’s ok, you’re not a bad person if you need to stay away for a while. Take some time to practice self-care, whatever that look like for you. 

Try to stay active and practice some sort of exercise. This is helpful to relax your body and mind and you will get the benefit of endorphins, very needed in a stressful times

Don’t be afraid to cry and let it all out. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. 

Talk to someone. Try to not isolate; talk to friends and family about your concerns and fears. You can also consider talking to a mental health professional. My favorite unknown resource for affordable mental health is Open Path Collective; this organization will help you get an affordable therapist that you can connect with online or in person. 

It’s been hard to find a reason to smile this week but this article definitely made me feel better. To see the ex-policemen that were involved in George Floyd’s murder be convicted for violating his rights is definitely a win in my book. 

Issue #216, 2022 Week 7

The news feels like it’s holding its breath, and it’s hard to know what happens next.  But we’ll be here to keep you posted and give suggestions for how to respond, no matter what happens.

Events to Know

Insurrection Updates.  You may recall that last week, Trump was in the news regarding his habit of ripping up official documents that he was legally required to preserve in office and hoarding classified information documents at Mar-A-Lago.  As a follow-up, this week we learned from Maggie Haberman’s new book that he also liked flushing document shreds down the toilet and/or eating them after he ripped them up (hopefully not at the same time).  We also learned that some White House call logs from January 6 are missing.  On top of all of that Trump news, a judge in New York has ordered Trump and his children to testify in the NY AG’s civil suit.  Meanwhile, all of this is a very disturbing backdrop to the Supreme Court’s decision this week to restore gerrymandered districting maps in Alabama.

Key links:

  1. Politico – Trump denies flushing documents down White House toilet
  2. New York Times – Trump’s Missing Call Logs Present a Challenge for Jan. 6 Investigators
  3. NBC News – Judge orders Trump, children to answer questions about their business practices under oath
  4. Washington Post – Supreme Court stops lower court order requiring Alabama to draw a new district voting map favorable to Black residents

Blinking Biden.  Biden announced a decision this week to award $3.5 billion in frozen Afghan funds to people suing the Taliban about 9/11, leaving only half of all available funds to actual Afghan people who are fleeing said Taliban. This came on the heels of his top science advisor, Eric Lander, stepping down due to systemic mistreatment of subordinates. Between that and the continued increase of inflation, it hasn’t been a particularly great week for the Biden administration.  But on the plus side, a talk with Putin on Saturday left both countries in a stalemate; though the U.S. is still evacuating diplomats, Russia has signaled that it might be open to more negotiation

Key links

  1. Associated Press – Biden frees frozen Afghan billions for relief, 9/11 victims
  2. Washington Post – Top White House scientist resigns after review finds he demeaned staff
  3. New York Times – Rapid Inflation Stokes Unease From Wall Street to Washington
  4. CNN – Biden and Putin will talk Saturday as US warns Americans to leave Ukraine in 48 hours over fears of Russian attack

Recent Resilience

Recent Constitutional Resilience.  In anticipation of the upcoming Supreme Court decisions on reproductive rights, Vermont is preparing to guarantee reproductive rights in their state constitution.  They’re the first state to consider this kind of protection, but I’m hoping they won’t be the last.    

Key Links:

  1. Washington Post – Vermont moves forward on becoming first state to guarantee the right to abortion in its constitution
  2. Associated Press – Vermont House approves ‘Reproductive Liberty’ amendment

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.  Over the last week, there were more and more stories about states removing their mask mandates as the omicron surge starts to subside.  In the case of school mask mandates, there is some science to support the call, particularly for very young children who need to see faces in order to develop communication skills.  However, in the wake of Pfizer stepping back its timeline for vaccination of young children, this is a tough pill for some parents to swallow, and the CDC isn’t supporting it either.  And certainly for more general indoor mask mandates, which are also expiring or being removed in most states, there’s no real science to support the plan–particularly when we’re still coming back from the highest COVID death rates in a year. But speaking of mandates and poor decisions, the “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa has continued on for another full week, blocking off more and more border crossing routes as the week went on.  Eventually, Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time ever, which means he’s essentially calling in the military to deal with it.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – School mask mandates are falling in states across the country
  2. STAT News – Pfizer and FDA pull back from plan to expedite review of Covid-19 vaccine in young children
  3. Reuters – U.S. CDC stands by K-12 school masking guidance as states relax rules
  4. New York Times – Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count
  5. Washington Post – Trudeau invokes Emergencies Act against Canada’s ‘Freedom Convoy’ trucker protest

Congressional Updates. There are some promising bills to watch in Congress right now.  A bill to ban stock trading in Congress has been gaining traction in both the House and the Senate, and we might see more movement on it soon! Meanwhile, both houses also passed a workplace sexual misconduct bill that banned a corporate practice of forcing arbitration for workplace harassment claims. Both of these bills are particularly unique for their bipartisan support, although in fairness, it did take four years for a #MeToo bill to actually pass.   

Key links:

  1. Vox – There’s finally momentum to stop stock trading in Congress
  2. New York Times – Congress Approves Bill to Nullify Forced Arbitration in Sex Abuse Cases

Actions for Everyone

Don’t forget to register to VOTE! Click the link to find out your local deadlines and requirements. Newsweek is already saying Republicans are looking strong for the Midterm elections and that’s something we don’t really want or need. CNN put out a very helpful article with an outline of all the important dates according to state and it’s a must read! Remember to mark your calendar so you can go out and make sure your vote counts. You can go on to Ballotpedia for a very in depth analysis of the elections too. 

Cancel ALL student debt! – The ACLU (The American Civil Liberties Union)  has a campaign that is supporting the canceling of student debt in our country. They are backed by a coalition of 105 organizations that are asking President Biden to cancel student debt loans in order to relieve younger generations from this burden. Around 45 million people hold almost $2 Trillions in student debt; it’s an unfair system, it doesn’t help the economy and with the pandemic things have gotten even worse. Freeing people from their student loans would allow the people who have been struggling with their debt to start acquiring assets like buying homes, improve overall credit scores and establish a more consumer driven economy. It’s a win for everyone! Canceling student loans would also address racial inequality, given that BIPOC people are more likely to have to acquire loans because BIPOC families are less likely to have the wealth to support their college careers. According to a letter drafted by the ACLU: the median white borrower has paid off 94% of their debt while the median Black borrower still owes 95% of their debt. For more information and in depth observations about this topic, you can visit the ACLU website. You can join their efforts on asking for a full cancellation by signing the letter they also have on there. And if you can, donate some $$$ to help them with all of their very important and just endeavors! This is a topic that affects so many of us and it would positively affect everyone if this measure was to be taken by the president. 

Small but mighty! I think it’s important for us to be able to do small things that will ultimately have a positive impact on our world. 

This week consider: Starting a garden! Gardening may seem like a very trivial and small pursuit but starting a garden is a really small but helpful direct action you can do to help yourself, your community and the world. “Why are you telling us to grow a garden in the middle of February?” you might be asking; because it’s already time to start growing your seeds indoors so once springtime comes you have sturdy plants to place on the ground. Gardens are powerful things. 

  1. They decrease carbon dioxide in the environment and at the same time produce oxygen.
  2. They protect pollinators like birds, butterflies and other insects. Pollinator gardens are so helpful, especially for species like the monarch butterfly that depends on milkweed to survive and has been endangered for a while. Visit Save Our Monarchs for more info! 
  3. It lowers your carbon footprint! Yeah we know, most of global warming and greenhouse gas emissions are produced by big corporations and those are harder to control, but we can also help by growing the food we consume at home. Plus the fresh fruits, veggies and herbs are just generally more delicious!
  4. If you happen to grow a garden on your roof, you’d be helping cities to be less hot! The EPA calculates that a building with a rooftop garden can be 30–40°F cooler than a roof without one. It can also help you reduce your air-conditioning usage and save you some money. 
  5. Growing some plants, especially native plants, will help with soil erosion. And some gardens can also help capture and filter polluted runoff water from rooftops and driveways. 
  6. A garden can help with reducing noise pollution!
  7. Helps biodiversity by producing and saving seeds. 
  8. Gardening gets you outside. It helps your mental health; it promotes community, you get to meet your neighbors and share your food with others. It’s a beautiful experience to have. 

Issue #215, 2022 Week 6

Well, another week has gone by, and the news really isn’t any better.  I’m sorry to be the bearer of 2022, y’all.  Hopefully we’ll get better luck next week.

Events to Know

Insurrection Updates.  Most of this week’s news is about the GOP being a) completely behind Trump and b) completely off the rails. First there was the part where the GOP censured two prominent Republicans who have been participating in the House panel for a year because, apparently, the January 6 insurrection–an event that, I remind you, killed ten people–was mere “legitimate political discourse.”  Unsurprisingly, Trump immediately congratulated the RNC for their decision.  I say “unsurprisingly” because he was already engaging in witness tampering by dangling pardons for January 6 participants and publicly threatening Pence when Pence defended his decision to refuse to overturn the 2020 elections.  Trump was also in the news this week regarding his multiple attempts to seize voting machines during his last days in power.  As if to punctuate this point, stories also surfaced about Trump ripping up official documents that he was legally required to preserve in office and hoarding documents at Mar-A-Lago; this eventually culminated in Maggie Haberman’s new book adding flushing document shreds down the toilet to this list.  The National Archives have asked the Justice Department to investigate all of this mishandling of records, because said behaviors are in fact flagrantly illegal.

Key links:

  1. ABC – Top Gop Lawmaker Won’t Condemn Calling Events Of Jan. 6 ‘Legitimate Political Discourse’
  2. Politico – Jan. 6 Committee Member: Trump ‘Absolutely’ Tampering With Witnesses
  3. Washington Post – Trump Says Congressional Investigators Should Examine Why Pence Didn’t Reject Electoral College Results
  4. CNN – Trump Advisers Drafted More Than One Executive Order To Seize Voting Machines, Sources Tell Cnn
  5. Washington Post – National Archives Had To Retrieve Trump White House Records From Mar-A-Lago
  6. Axios – Haberman Book: Flushed Papers Found Clogging Trump Wh Toilet

Blinking Biden.  Other than news about Russia, which I’ll cover below, Biden stories were kind of an afterthought this week.  There were, however, a couple of threads about how Biden is mad at his chief health officer, and about a COVID surge in ICE detention facilities.  There were also a couple of stories about how Joe Manchin says that Build Back Better is dead, which I frankly feel is almost as much a statement about Biden as it is a statement about Manchin.

Key links

  1. Washington Post – White House Frustrations Grow Over Health Chief Becerra’s Handling Of Pandemic
  2. Washington Post – Covid Infections Surge In Immigration Detention Facilities
  3. NBC – Manchin Says Build Back Better In Its Current Form Is ‘Dead,’ Leaves Door Open To New Talks

Black Lives Still Matter. I am extremely disheartened to be writing about not one, but two police shootings in the last few weeks. The lion’s share of media coverage is going to Minneapolis, where police fatally shot 22-year-old Amir Locke in his own home while serving a no-knock warrant for a completely different person. His parents are justifiably calling the act an ‘execution,’ and though no-knock warrants have been paused in the city, there are still no charges pending at the time that I write this. As the Washington Post notes, there was also a fatal police shooting in Tennessee, where nine police officers surrounded and shot a man holding a box cutter named Landon Eastep on I-65. And both of these stories are on top of the bomb threats being called into historically Black colleges and universities, which have been their own source of terror for Black communities over the last month.

Key links

  1. Reuters – Hundreds In Minneapolis Protest Police Killing Of Black Man In Raid
  2. Associated Press – Parents: Amir Locke ‘Executed’; Mayor Halts No-Knock Entries
  3. Newsweek – Minneapolis Police Chief Walks Out Of Conference While Being Grilled Over Amir Locke Death
  4. Washington Post – Breaking Down A Fatal Police Shooting On A Tennessee Highway
  5. Washington Post – Fear, Anxiety Follow Third Wave Of Bomb Threats Targeting HBCUs

Recent Resilience

Recent Inmate Win. California was in the news this week because the state is closing down its death row, signaling that the state’s moratorium on executions is likely to be permanent. It’s a small step in the grand scheme of things, but honestly this week has been so awful that I’m glad I have anything good to report at all. 

Key links:

  1. Associated Press – California Moves To Dismantle Nation’s Largest Death Row

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19. COVID news this week is… a lot, y’all. The U.S. has now officially lost 900,000 lives to COVID, which, in case you were wondering, is way more than any other country with reliable access to vaccines. It’s an incredible indictment of our handling of the virus, especially because nearly half of those deaths occurred after vaccines became available.  Needless to say, it’s stunning to see states already removing their mask mandates in the immediate aftermath of this dark milestone. Meanwhile, our brand of ignorant nonsense is now also infecting Canada, where a week-long vaccine protest with bonus white supremacy flavoring has caused a state of emergency in its capital city of Ottawa. But in more positive news, Moderna was fully approved this week by the FDA, and Pfizer thinks it is nearing completion of a vaccine for children under 5.

Key links:

  1. New York Times – U.S. Has Far Higher Covid Death Rate Than Other Wealthy Countries
  2. Center For Infectious Disease Research And Policy – US Covid-19 Death Toll Hits 500,000 As Hospital Cases Drop
  3. Politico – CDC Weighs Updating Messaging Around Transmission And Masking
  4. BBC – Canada Trucker Protest: Ottawa Declares Emergency
  5. Stat – Moderna Wins Full Approval For Its Covid-19 Vaccine, As Novavax Seeks Authorization For Its Version
  6. Associated Press – Pfizer Asks FDA To Allow Covid-19 Vaccine For Kids Under 5

Land War Landmine.  This one’s a bit complicated, and a bit outside my professional expertise, but I wanted to touch on it nonetheless. The short version is that this is a tense time regarding Russia, as there are a lot of signals to suggest that Russia may invade Ukraine in the near future. Unsurprisingly, Russia is saying otherwise, and argues that the U.S. stationing troops in Eastern Europe is unnecessary.  But the U.S. troops are actually there reinforcing NATO troops that were already deployed to respond to Russia’s military buildup, so obviously that’s an oversimplification.  Needless to say, this is a tense time and we’ll want to keep an eye on this.     

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – U.S. Accuses Russia Of Planning To Film False Attack As Pretext For Ukraine Invasion
  2. Washington Post – Putin Accuses West Of Using Ukraine As A Pawn In Showdown With Russia
  3. Politico – U.S. Deploys Troops To Eastern Europe; Thousands More On Standby

Actions for Everyone

It’s Black History Month! Take time this month to cultivate your knowledge on black history. Buy some art by a black artist. Start following more black creators. actively look to diversify your life. Becoming a true ally to the black community is about being anti-racist. 

Seek out media that challenge your perceptions of race and culture.

Support organizations that are involved in anti-racist efforts like the NAACP, the ACLU, The Black Youth Project, Color of Change, Black Lives Matter, The National Coalition of Black Civic Participation and many others. 

If you are an educator or a parent, pay attention to your local government and school board meetings . 7 states have already banned the teaching of Critical Race Theory, (even if CRT is not actually being taught in schools) because they are trying to prevent  educators to bring new perspectives on race, speak about racial injustice and introduce BIPOC discourse into the curriculum; a much needed approach to cultivate an anti-racist youth.  

Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Tennessee have all taken measures to make sure CRT isn’t introduduced in school and Florida has come as far as to propose a bill that would prohibit public schools and private businesses from inflicting “discomfort” on white people during lessons or training about discrimination. We need to have our eyes and ears alert to stop these bills to become law in our states and to fight them when they arise in our community. 

Links: 

More about CRT

Florida “Individual Freedom” bill

#YouTubeBlack Class of 2022

USPS bill goes to Senate. This week the House passed the Postal Service Reform Act and come next Monday the Senate will be voting too. Call your representatives and voice your support for this bill! This bill would save $50 billion in the coning decade. That’s huge!

Small but mighty! I think it’s important for us to be able to do small things that will ultimately have a positive impact on our world. This week I’m suggesting you change your default search engine for one that helps with every click!

Try using GiveWater, which produces revenue to help with water sanitation across the developing world. 

You could also use Ecosia, that uses their profit to plant trees and fight deforestation. 

Try using Lilo instead and raise money for a charity of your choice. 

Issue #214, 2022 Week 5

If I had to catalog my own reaction to the news this week, I think it would be ‘pronounced disgust’–it’s hard to read about so many system dysfunctions coming home to roost at once.  If you’re feeling that way as you read this week, know that it’s not just you!  At minimum, we can be disgruntled weirdos together–and as always, we’ll have ways you can take action below.

Events to Know

Insurrection Updates.  This week’s rain of subpoenas from the House Panel includes, among others, fourteen people who apparently tried to file fake electoral college certificates during the 2020 election. Meanwhile, a baseless challenge to last week’s subpoena of Trump’s attorneys has already been tossed out by a judge.  And the Oathkeeper charges continue forward, with ten members pleading not guilty, but Trump’s publicly assuring them that he’ll pardon them once he’s President again.

Key links:

  1. CNN – Federal Prosecutors Looking At 2020 Fake Elector Certifications, Deputy Attorney General Tells CNN
  2. Politico – Judge Rejects Effort By Trump Ally Eastman To Sideline Jan. 6 Committee Subpoena
  3. Washington Post – Oath Keepers Founder Stewart Rhodes Pleads Not Guilty To Seditious Conspiracy In Jan. 6 Attack On Capitol
  4. New York Times – Trump Says He Would Consider Pardons For Jan. 6 Defendants If Elected

Biden Missteps.  There were a lot of stories this week about Biden dropping balls.  The big and overblown story was Biden getting picked up on a hot mic again, though in his defense I think he said what a lot of us were thinking when he called Fox correspondent Peter Doocy a ‘stupid sonofabitch.‘  (He apparently later phoned Doocy and apologized.)  It’s more concerning that he misused a COVID hospital fund to pay pharma companies for vaccine doses just like Trump did with Operation Warp Speed–which, given the strain hospitals face during the pandemic, is a really big deal even though we did also need the vaccine doses.  Also, the Washington Post pointed out that Biden promised to halt fossil fuel leasing when he took office but a year later had issued more drilling permits than Trump did. Finally, the vaccine mandate for businesses issued by OSHA last year is being officially withdrawn, though that last one is probably more the fault of the Supreme Court that shot it down.

Key links

  1. CNBC – Biden Calls Fox News Reporter Peter Doocy ‘A Stupid Son Of A Bitch’
  2. STAT – The Biden Administration Used Billions In Hospital Covid-19 Funds To Pay Drugmakers
  3. Washington Post – Biden Outpaces Trump In Issuing Drilling Permits On Public Lands
  4. CNN – Biden Administration To Withdraw Covid-19 Vaccination And Testing Regulation Aimed At Large Businesses

Recent Resilience

Recent Health Field Resilience. We’ve apparently had a record enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act, which is perfectly logical given the circumstances but still honestly quite good to see. And a recent study that highlights the positive health impact that financial support has on infants has been getting a surprising amount of outlet attention–the study isn’t truly news for most people in-field, but the fact that it’s being taken so seriously is nonetheless very promising. 

Key links:

  1. NBC – Record 14.5M Sign Up For Health Insurance Since November, White House Says
  2. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences – The Impact Of A Poverty Reduction Intervention On Infant Brain Activity
  3. New York Times – Cash Aid To Poor Mothers Increases Brain Activity In Babies, Study Finds

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.  We’ve touched on some of the biggest stories already, but there were a number of research publications in the past week, particularly regarding the efficacy of boosters and Omicron hospitalization rates, and legislators are beginning to seek data on long COVID as well.  Additionally, Pfizer and BioNTech are beginning testing on Omicron-specific vaccines, which may be related to the fact that we’ve identified a new Omicron variant called BA.2 (though at present, it appears pretty similar to Original Flavor Omicron).  

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Lab Study Shows Omicron-Blocking Antibodies Persist Four Months After A Pfizer-Biontech Booster
  2. Washington Post – CDC Study Finds Shorter Hospital Stays During Omicron Wave, Even As Infections And Death Toll Mount
  3. New York Times – When Omicron Isn’t So Mild
  4. NPR – Pfizer And Biontech Begin Testing An Omicron-Specific Covid-19 Vaccine
  5. STAT – Early Data Indicate Vaccines Still Protect Against Omicron’s Sister Variant, Ba.2

 

Scope of SCOTUS. The Supreme Court was in the news a lot this week, and there’s a lot to watch, between Justice Breyer announcing that he’s stepping down this term, Biden then recommitting to nominating a Black woman as the next Justice, and the court itself agreeing to hear a case that is challenging affirmative action. (Of course, Republicans lost no time in claiming those last two things were related, though both women considered to be the main frontrunners for the next SCOTUS pick are extremely qualified appellate justices.) 

Key links:

  1. NBC – Justice Stephen Breyer To Retire From Supreme Court, Paving Way For Biden Appointment
  2. New York Times – Biden Plans To Name Breyer’s Successor By The End Of February.
  3. Axios – Affirmative Action On Campus Is Endangered
  4. Washington Post – Breyer’s Retirement Renews Focus On The Black Female Jurists Who Could Replace Him

Actions For Everyone

Turns out freedom of speech is not as important as right wingers will lead you to believe as a rising trend of banning books is slowly creeping into our libraries and schools. Pushed mostly by conservative groups like No Left Turn in Education and Moms For Liberty together with Republican politicians, the American Library Association has seen a large increase in “book challenges”; used to ban books from public libraries and curriculums. 

The state of Tennessee voted to remove the Pulitzer prize winner Maus, a graphic novel about the holocaust (and a damn good book imo). Oklahoma introduced a bill to prohibit public school libraries to carry books about sexuality and gender. And just yesterday a book burning rally was carried out by pastor Greg Locke focusing on books about “witchcraft” like Harry Potter and Twilight. The majority of books being challenged all regard topics of sexuality, gender and race. It’s making right wingers uncomfy and they want to control what the kids are reading (as if they didn’t have access to the Internet anyway!) Even though most of these challenges have been started by the right; a school district in Washington state also voted to ban To Kill A Mockingbird because it uses racial slurs and is racially 

insensitive.

No matter where it’s coming from, banning books is a big problem and we must protect the right to be free to read! The director of the American Library Association has voiced her concerns regarding librarians and teachers facing prosecution or having to censor themselves in fear. Students find refuge in these books, especially students who are part of marginalized communities. According to a study done by Stetson University, reading “banned books” does not affect students’ GPAs, their likelihood to be violent and it actually promotes increased civic behavior. 

How can you help to preserve the freedom to read?

Pay attention to what the ALA has to say! You can also contact them at their Office for Intellectual Freedom if your local school district is trying to ban a book. They also have great resources on their website to know what to do in case books start to get challenged in your community. 

Hold Banned Book reading events! Buy banned books and participate in Banned Book Week, which is happening on September 26th this year.

Address your local representative and participate in school board meetings.

Support the Freedom to Read Foundation and #Freadom

Go to your local library and check out books that are trying to get banned or were once famously banned. Read em to your family! Be a rebel. 

And last but not least, vote! Here are all the deadlines to register by State: https://www.vote.org/voter-registration-deadlines/

More info here: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/30/books/book-ban-us-schools.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/rcna13886

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2022/02/maus-book-ban-tennessee-art-spiegelman/621453/

Here are 50 books Texas wants to ban

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/rcna12986

National Butterfly Center closes indefinitely because of right-wing harassment – Yeah, it sounds ridiculous but some republicans and Trumpists are at war with a butterfly conservatory in Texas. The Center filed a lawsuit against the Federal Government because they came in to the protected area that serves as habitat for 200 butterfly species and cut down trees and constructed roads in order to keep building the border wall in the Mexico-Texas frontier. Because of this lawsuit, right wing groups have targeted them saying th Center is secretly smuggling people and participating un child sex-trafficking; part of the popular Q-anon conspiracy. It’s gotten so bad the Center’s director has decided to close indefinitely because of the harassment and they fear for their staff and their own safety. If you can, help the National Butterfly Center by donating so they can keep paying their staff while things calm down and they can go back to their regular work of protecting butterflies. 

More info: https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/02/03/kimberly-lowe-national-butterfly-center/

Issue #213, 2022 Week 4

Last week was a rough time for democracy, and I know many of us are disappointed.  But there’s a lot of work left to do, and we will do what we can.  As always, we’ll have suggestions below for things you can do to help.

Events to Know

Insurrection Updates. The Justice Department had a busy week–they announced the creation of a new unit to address domestic terrorism, and for an encore they charged the head of the Oathkeepers with seditious conspiracy for his role in January 6.  Also in January 6 news, the panel has begun to subpoena social media, which has the capacity to prove very interesting over the next few weeks. They’re also still negotiating with Mike Pence about interviews while Kevin McCarthy refuses his own interview request, which is probably going to mean another subpoena. We’re also meandering closer and closer to Trump culpability; this week, the subpoenas include several of Trump’s attorneys, including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell.  The panel also is beginning negotiations to interview Ivanka Trump due to her direct knowledge of the day’s events. And speaking of Trump, the first set of Trump’s disputed documents are being turned over to the panel–but more on that below.  Meanwhile, Trump hung up on the good people at NPR when his narrative was questioned on the 2020 election, and is also back to pestering courts to halt the NY AG investigation, which he claims is a political attack.

Key links:

  1. Associated Press – Justice Dept. Creating Unit Focused On Domestic Terrorism
  2. New York Times – Oath Keepers Leader Charged With Seditious Conspiracy In Jan. 6 Investigation
  3. CNBC – January 6 Committee Subpoenas Google, Facebook, Twitter And Reddit In Probe Of Capitol Attack
  4. Washington Post – House Jan. 6 Committee Will Consider Subpoena To Kevin Mccarthy After He Refuses To Cooperate
  5. NPR – Pressed On His Election Lies, Former President Trump Cuts NPR Interview Short
  6. ABC – Trump Asks Federal Judge To Halt Civil Investigation Into His Business Practices By NY Attorney General

2024 Election Rejection News. Though it’s depressingly early for this nonsense, we’re also already seeing a lot of concerning groundwork for 2024.  The biggest story is that the RNC is now refusing to work with the org that runs Presidential debates because the latter refuses to make various changes to the format per Republican demands.  Lindsey Graham also had a soundbite on Fox News this week about how he won’t support McConnell anymore as Senate leader unless McConnell “ha[s] a working relationship with President Donald Trump,”  referring to Trump in the same interview as “the leader of the Republican Party.” This is an incredibly striking thing for a sitting senator to say about his own congressional leader, but it’s even more disturbing in context–Trump has been out of office for over a year, and has not even formally announced plans to rerun. (I’m not gonna lie, I had to double-check the date of that article before linking it, because it reads like a 2019 fever dream.)

Key links

  1. Politico – RNC Feud With Presidential Debate Commission Escalates With Boycott Threat
  2. CNN – Lindsey Graham Just Threatened Mitch Mcconnell Over Donald Trump

Biden’s Omicron Microprogression. The Biden administration announced several more pandemic supports in the past few weeks.  Last week, he announced that private insurance companies will now be required to reimburse the cost of antigen testing starting on January 15.  Biden also launched an initiative to send four antigen tests per household to households that order them at covidtests.gov, beginning in late January. Similarly, the administration is making plans to distribute 400 million N-95 masks, which will be available at community health centers in the near future. Nonetheless, as this week marked the one-year anniversary of his inauguration, many outlets were talking about the ways in which Biden’s pandemic response has fallen flat, and Biden himself has expressed regrets about his delayed responses as well.

Key links

  1. Politico – ​​Biden Administration Lays Out Rules For Reimbursing At-Home Covid Tests
  2. CNN – How To Get Free At-Home Covid-19 Tests From The Government
  3. Associated Press – Biden To Give Away 400 Million N95 Masks Starting Next Week
  4. Washington Post – A Year Ago, Biden Unveiled A 200-Page Plan To Defeat Covid. He Has Struggled To Deliver On Some Key Promises.
  5. NPR – Biden Acknowledges His Team Should Have Done More Covid Testing Earlier

Recent Resilience

Recent Jan 6 Resilience. The current Supreme Court managed to (mostly) clear a low bar this week, when everybody except Thomas voted to release Trump’s records to the House January 6 panel. That may not feel like a huge victory, but given the rest of the current judicial season, and how many justices Trump personally appointed, it’s still worth writing home about. Additionally, a Georgia DA is seeking a special grand jury to investigate Trump’s interference with the Georgia 2020 election, and it will be interesting to see what happens there.  

Key links

  1. CNN – Supreme Court clears the way for House to get Trump White House documents
  2. CNBC – Atlanta DA seeks special grand jury in Trump Georgia election interference probe

Recent Medical Resilience. I do have a bit of positive medical news for you as well. Maryland saw the first successful organ transplant for a human patient using a genetically modified pig heart, which is potentially groundbreaking news for organ transplant. And in less groundbreaking but still edifying news, Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli is now officially banned from the pharma industry for life, as well as out $64M, per a final court settlement.   

Key links

  1. New York Times – In A First, Man Receives A Heart From A Genetically Altered Pig
  2. CNBC – Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli Banned For Life From Drug Industry In Monopoly Case, Ordered To Pay $64.6 Million

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.  I do have a bit of positive news for you regarding the Omicron wave, which is that case rates are going down in some of the country as I type this. There have also been several recently-published studies showing the high efficacy of boosters, and some experts are beginning to speculate about what “hybrid immunity”–created when vaccinated people get mild breakthrough infections–will mean for us as a country. But there is a lot of less positive news, as well; hospitals are still overwhelmed in many parts of the U.S., and people are needing sick leave in unprecedented numbers. Meanwhile, there’s yet another vaccine mandate lawsuit pending, and jackasses rallied in Washington over their right to refuse to vaccinate themselves this past Sunday. 

Key links:

  1. New York Times – Coronavirus In The U.S.: Latest Map And Case Count
  2. Washington Post – Booster Shots In U.S. Have Strongly Protected Against Severe Disease From Omicron Variant, Cdc Studies Show
  3. Washington Post – Federal Judge In Texas Blocks Biden’s Vaccine Requirement For Government Workers
  4. Forbes – Anti-Vaccine Mandate Protest: RFK Jr., Proud Boys And Holocaust Imagery

Recent Senate Dysfunction.  As foretold by prophecy, debate began last Tuesday in the Senate regarding federal voting rights legislation; unsurprisingly, the debate lasted for many hours.  But when the vote came down on the filibuster issue on Wednesday night, both Sinema and Manchin voted against permitting the Senate to pass the bill by simple majority, and that doomed the Act to fail with a 48-52 vote. Sinema has been officially censured by the AZ Democrats for her actions as I write this, and some PACs have pulled funding as well.  But in the Senate, advocates are shifting back to talking about Build Back Better, accepting that the voting rights bill is truly dead. As I type this, Biden’s current theory is that the main provisions will need to be passed piecemeal–the original Build Back Better Act is dead in the water as well.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Manchin, Sinema Join With Gop In Rejecting Attempt To Change Filibuster Rules, Effectively Killing Democratic Voting Bill
  2. NPR – Arizona Democrats Have Censured Kyrsten Sinema Over Her Pro-Filibuster Vote
  3. News & Guts – EMILY’s List – Sen. Sinema’s Biggest Donor in 2018 – Says They No Longer Support Her
  4. CNBC – Biden Says He Thinks Congress Can Pass Parts Of Broken-Up Build Back Better Plan
  5. Axios – Tim Kaine: Build Back Better Is “Dead” But Core Provisions Will Pass

Actions for Everyone

Happy 49th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade everyone! Let’s not let it be our last. Hope everyone is staying safe and warm and healthy. Here’s some stuff we can think on and work on for the week. 

Helping our beloved manatees: I’ve been living in Florida for a couple of months and one of the most beautiful things about this state is the springs. They are clear, and super blue and filled with life. Manatees live in these springs and they are as magical as you could imagine a sea cow ever being. But they are in trouble, an already endangered species, their deaths have been increasing due to lack of food. According to environmental scientists, there has been a decline of over 46,000 acres of seagrass, which is the manatee’s main diet. Most of the deaths have been seen in an area called Indian River Lagoon, considered one of the most biodiverse estuaries in the northern hemisphere. There have been so many deaths that it’s been designated as an Unusual Mortality Event and U.S. Fish & Wildlife has opened an investigation. The water’s of this important estuary are being polluted by run-off water, septic systems and other harmful chemicals. Climate Change is also part of the problem. How can you help these gentle giants?

Call representatives: You can call your congress-people as well as reach out to Florida’s governor Ron Desantis (there’s a lot you can actually tell him about, not just manatees!) 

You can send an email to your reps and Biden in this following link: Email!

Tell Ron Desantis to restore the Great Florida Riverway: Email him here! More info on the Riverway can also be found in that link. 

Adopt a Manatee! You can find more info about this program here. 

If you are in the Florida area, you can also become a citizen scientist in helping with manatee sightings, red tide sightings and more. 

You can also donate to Save The Manatee and Fight For Zero, organizations that work directly with manatees and the communities being affected by the pollution in these waterways to the point of seeing rises in disease and cancer. 

Forgive Student Loan Debt Already: Joe Biden avoided the entire question when asked what his timeline was for the $10,000 student loan forgiveness that he campaigned on. In 2022, colleges & universities industry is $568.2bn and which seems to reflect exponential growth – I’m no economist, but as a person with student loan debt, I’m gonna guess a little something called interest is a big factor in that. This campaign promise has been put on the backburner, and it’s time to put pressure on our elected officials to make it a priority cause what are they waiting for?! Here is contact info, https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

Reclaim the American Dream has compiled a list of groups working on this issue. In the short term, some people do qualify for forgiveness programs. This article has a list of ways to apply for student loan cancellation as well as different repayment plans

Practice Selfcare: Much of the US is in the doldrums of a gray, cold winter plus years of covid caution venn diagram and it’s exhausting. In Wisconsin, the air is painful and the sunshine is scarce. I want to remind everyone to slow down, practice some breathing techniques and read up on herbs and supplements to fight the winter blues. Don’t underestimate the power of kitten videos, getting hugs, and when I’m really maxed out, I turn on rainforest sounds and pretend I’m anywhere else. Anyway, be gentle on yourselves, sweet activist friends.  

Roe vs Wade: We often write about the importance of pro choice legislation. This year has been a rollercoaster in regards to protecting our bodies, and we can’t lose this right. Be mindful of where you state laws fall when talking about abortion and reproductive rights. Call your state legislature!You can go to https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy to check out all the policies applied to each state. You can also donate to the Guttmacher Institute.  

In honor of the 49th Anniversary, here’s a history lesson, an in-depth New York Times article, and an overview from the Center for Reproductive Rights (which you can donate to!)

Issue #212, 2021 Week 45

All three of this week’s biggest stories are exceptionally bleak, and the news has been a slog for months. That creates predictable struggles–we’re all running out of steam, but we’ve got swaths more to iron out. It’s okay if you need some time to regroup; the burnout struggle is very real. We’ll be here when you get back.

Events to Know

Insurrection Updates.   Several more subpoenas have gone out, largely to organized groups like the Proud Boys and more high-profile Trump aides like Roger Stone. The House panel is also looking into law enforcement failures that exacerbated the Jan 6 attack and considering holding more Trump aides in contempt. After being threatened with a bad time last week, Trump former chief of staff Mark Meadows did eventually start cooperating with Congress, and was supposed to appear before the Jan 6 panel this week–but then he stopped cooperating, so now he may be held in contempt again.  His contemporary Jeffrey Clarke, in contrast, is pleading the fifth in response to threats of being held in contempt himself. (The panel has already interviewed 250 people and expects to be holding public hearings beginning next year.) Meanwhile, Trump is still trying to block the release of his records, but it’s looking increasingly likely that they will be released.  And on a related tangent, news also broke this week that Trump’s first positive COVID test was before the first Presidential debate, which means he endangered Biden’s life by refusing to wear a mask during the debates before vaccines were available.    

Key links:

  1. CNN – New January 6 Committee Subpoenas Issued For 5 Trump Allies Including Roger Stone And Alex Jones
  2. Washington Post – House Jan. 6 Committee Intensifies Focus On Law Enforcement Failures That Preceded Capitol Attack
  3. Associated Press – Jan. 6 Panel Sets Contempt Vote For Former Doj Official
  4. NBC – Appeals Court Order In Jan. 6 Documents Case May Be Bad News For Trump
  5. New York Times – Trump Tested Positive For Virus Days Before Debate, 2 Ex-Officials Say
  6. Associated Press – Jan. 6 Panel Sets Contempt Vote For Former DOJ Official

Biden Administration Updates.  After months of needling from Democrats, Biden began discussing inflation, likely because this month’s unprecedented price hikes will impact holiday commerce. But the biggest news for the Biden administration this week is that GOP members threatened a government shutdown over his vaccine and testing mandates, though a stopgap measure was passed and signed into law by the week’s end.  Meanwhile, the House GOP is wrangling with the latest blatant bigotry parade from Marjorie Taylor Green and Lauren Boebart, concerned that attempts to rein them in could muck with their midterm elections.   

Key links

  1. Washington Post – Democratic Allies Press The White House To Focus More — And Say More — On Inflation Worries
  2. Vanity Fair – Republicans: Let People Die Of Covid Or So Help Us We’ll Shut Down The Government
  3. NPR – The Omicron Variant Is Cause For Concern — But Not Panic, Biden Says

Forced Birth News.  The Supreme Court heard oral arguments last Wednesday for a very high-profile forced birth case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, regarding a Mississippi law that makes abortion illegal after 15 weeks.  The law, along with a Texas law that was heard earlier this season, are both intentionally and blatantly unconstitutional under current legal precedent, which is commonly referred to as “Roe v. Wade” precedent. Nonetheless, in oral arguments, the current Supreme Court appeared to signal that it was planning to overturn about sixty years of settled precedent.  If that happened, reproductive healthcare would become substantially limited in about half the states in the country. And in the meantime, the Supreme Court announced just today that they’ll be leaving a comparable Texas law in effect while they decide the issue more generally.

Key links

  1. SCOTUSblog – Dobbs V. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
  2. Guardian – The Courts Have A New Chance To Block Texas’s Abortion Law. They Must Take It
  3. New York Times – Supreme Court Allows Challenge to Texas Abortion Law but Leaves It in Effect
  4. Washington Post – What Abortion Laws Would Look Like If Roe V. Wade Were Overturned

Recent Resilience

Black Lives Still Matter. After the slow-motion mockery of the Rittenhouse trial, it is a modest comfort, but comfort nonetheless, to report that all three defendants in the Ahmaud Arbery trial were convicted of murder this week. It’s another case with major racial implications, and given the response in Congress to the Rittenhouse trial, it’s pretty evident that there are political ramifications to mishandling these trials. On a related note, we’re increasingly seeing courts all over the country revisit wrongful convictions that were based on racial animus from years past. It’s a trend that highlights very old systemic bias in this country, and it’s my hope that we’ll continue to see systemic reform.  

Key links:

  1. Associated Press – 3 Men Charged In Ahmaud Arbery’s Death Convicted Of Murder
  2. New York Times – How A Prosecutor Addressed A Mostly White Jury And Won A Conviction In The Arbery Case
  3. CNN – 4 Black Men Exonerated More Than 70 Years After Being Wrongly Accused Of Raping A White Teen Girl
  4. NPR – These 7 Black Men Were Executed For An Alleged Rape. Now, They Have Been Pardoned

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.  The main COVID news this week is the Omicron variant, which has everybody justifiably very concerned.  It’s a new mutation first identified in South Africa that has been found in several countries, including Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, and Italy–and as of last Wednesday, it also has been found in the U.S. (At the time that I type this, it has been found in seventeen states and it’s believed the mutation may have been here for weeks already.)  Early studies suggest that omicron may be three times more likely to cause reinfection than delta, possibly because it shares genetic material with the common cold. Needless to say, this may signal new restrictions in our future, which is disheartening given the mass tantrums about vaccine and mask mandates we were already seeing. Nonetheless, early research does not suggest that omicron is more dangerous than previous variants; it’s just more contagious. And of course, everybody eligible is urged to get their booster shot as soon as possible

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – What To Know About The Omicron Variant Of The Coronavirus
  2. Stat – What’s Known And Unknown About Omicron, The Coronavirus Variant Identified In South Africa
  3. Washington Post – Announcement Of New Virus Variant Alarms World, As Stocks Crash And Flights Are Banned
  4. New York Times – Coronavirus In The U.S.: Latest Map And Case Count

Shifting Political Landscape.  With Congress in recess all of last week, this seems like a good time to talk a bit more about the redistricting occurring across the country. The process occurs after every census, but for the first time in many decades it’s occurring with a gutted Voting Rights Act and more permissive redistricting rules. Unsurprisingly, this is leading to massive amounts of gerrymandering for both state and federal districts, to say nothing of the mess naturally created by population movement.  Overall, it seems clear that Republican districts are growing and competitive districts are shrinking, and increasingly districts will not reflect the actual ideology of the majority of voters. In a time when we’re already seeing so much challenge to democracy, obviously, this is very concerning.  It’s also a fine reason to urge your representatives to support pending voting legislation in the House and Senate.  

Key links:

  1. Brennan Center – The Redistricting Landscape, 2021–22
  2. New York Times – Republicans Gain Heavy House Edge In 2022 As Gerrymandered Maps Emerge
  3. Politico – States Are Redrawing Every Congressional District In The U.S. Here Is Where We Stand.

Michigan School Shooting.  A student in Michigan opened fire on his classmates on Tuesday, resulting in four fatalities and eight major injuries. As details slowly leaked out, more and more attention was drawn to the shooter’s parents, who had been called into the school that day to discuss concerns about their son’s behavior.  Eventually, the parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter; the shooter himself was charged with a count of terrorism as well as murder. Both the shooter and his parents are in custody as I type this, the latter held with a $500,000 bond due to their attempt to evade arrest.  This is the 29th school shooting this year and the 21st since August 1. Despite the prevalence of shooter drills in American schools, gun violence remains a major systemic educational problem.

Key links:

  1. Associated Press – Authorities: Student Kills 3, Wounds 8 At Michigan School
  2. NPR – Michigan Authorities Consider Charges Against The School Shooting Suspect’s Parents
  3. Washington Post – 15-Year-Old Charged With Terrorism, Murder In Oxford High Shooting As Fourth Victim Dies
  4. NPR – Parents Of Michigan School Shooting Suspect Are Held On $500,000 Bond After Manhunt
  5. Education Week – ​​School Shootings This Year: How Many And Where

Actions for Everyone

This week we’re going to focus specifically on what we can do about Roe V. Wade, the possibility of it being overturned by a majority conservative Supreme Court and what that would mean for reproductive rights in our country.

If Roe V. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that guarantees acceess to save abortion in all 50 states, ends up being oveturned it would affect everyone differently and it will ultimately depend on where you live. 

In the absence of the federal protection of Roe, abortion bans that pre-date 1973 and newer “trigger” laws that have been implemented in mostly the South and some areas of the Midwest, would automatically be enacted as the law of the land in those states. 

What can we do? Speak to your local government. Be mindful of where you state laws fall when talking about abortion and reproductive rights. Call your state legislature!

You can go to https://www.guttmacher.org/state-policy to check out all the policies applied to each state. You can also donate to the Guttmacher Institute.  

Here is an in depth New York Times article about an America without Roe V. Wade: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/05/upshot/abortion-without-roe-wade.html And an overview from the Center for Reproductive Rights (which you can donate to!) https://maps.reproductiverights.org/what-if-roe-fell  

You can also call your congresspeople and ask them what is their stance on protecting the right to choose, since Congress has the power to protect it even if Roe is overturned by the Supreme Court. Also, keep an eye out for the people running in the 2022 midterms and their policies! 

Call your reps: A reminder! We always talk about calling your elected officials on Actions for Everyone but we haven’t touched on the topic of how to actually get in touch with them in a while now! It’s always good to be reminded or refresh on this info. 

How to find their number? Go here for the Senate and here for the House of Representatives.

Here is a quick how-to by the APA!

You can see how your elected officials voted here:

Senatehttps://www.senate.gov/legislative/votes_new.htm

Househttps://clerk.house.gov/Votes

Pay attention of which bills your congresspeople are sponsoring by following https://www.govtrack.us or https://www.congress.gov

And as always: wear a mask, get vaccinated and boosted! We’re still in a pandemic and we want you to be safe. 

Issue #211, 2021 Week 44

The news this week contains a lot of doubling down on all sides, and I honestly can’t decide whether that’s good or bad.  But whatever it is, we’re here to summarize it for you, and we’re also here if anybody needs anything.

Events to Know

Election Rejection Eruption. Basically everybody doubled down on the ongoing January 6 fights this week. In the court case about whether Trump’s documents must be turned over, the obviously-annoyed district court judge issued an opinion stating that Trump et al had to fork everything over. But that decision was immediately appealed, and the circuit court panel issued a stay on releasing the documents while the appeal is pending. Meanwhile, the House January 6 panel, increasingly done with all the obstruction nonsense being shoveled their way, continued to just make it rain subpoenas. Former Trump aide Steve Bannon was officially indicted for contempt of Congress as well, and turned himself in earlier today. Also on the criminal side, the first person to plead guilty to assaulting a police officer on Jan 6 was sentenced to 41 months of incarceration.  More information was also released about Mike Pence’s precarious situation that day, which Trump immediately downplayed with characteristic surrealist garbage.  And speaking of Trump, a recent report noted that 13 of his officials committed Hatch Act violations by campaigning for him while serving as federal officials, though it’s unclear whether there will be any consequences for it. All told, there’s a lot to watch right now.    

Key links:

  1. CNN – January 6 Committee Is Losing Patience With Trump’s Former Chief Of Staff Mark Meadows As It Seeks His Testimony
  2. Washington Post – House Jan. 6 Committee Issues Subpoenas To 6 Top Trump Advisers, Including Pair Involved In Willard Hotel ‘Command Center’
  3. Politico – Watchdog: 13 Trump officials violated Hatch Act during 2020 campaign
  4. New York Times – Bannon Indicted on Contempt Charges Over House’s Capitol Riot Inquiry

Biden Bill Updates.   Last week, a deal was brokered for potentially voting on the Building Back Better Act sometime in the next few weeks, but after the initial procedural vote there wasn’t been much movement–the party experienced a lot of gridlocked, and Manchin is now citing our massive and unprecedented pandemic inflation problem as his new reason he won’t vote for it. Nonetheless, today the House passed the Build Back Better Act in a 220 to 213 vote. This complements the final version of the infrastructure bill, which last Friday night; since it had previously passed in the Senate, Biden signed it into law earlier this week. Meanwhile, disgruntled and violent Republicans continue to fling death threats at the thirteen GOP members that voted yea on that bipartisan bill. Of course, implementation of the bill will be its own process, especially with Biden struggling to address related supply chain issues and several provisions of the bill potentially tied to the reconciliation package. Also, somewhere in there, Senate Republicans yet again blocked debate on passing voter protection laws, which makes the third or fourth time in the past month.

Key links

  1. Washington Post – With Infrastructure Victory In Hand, Democrats Brace For Next Battle Over $2 Trillion Spending Bill
  2. ABC News – House Democrats pass sweeping social spending, climate policy bill
  3. New York Times – House Republicans Who Backed Infrastructure Bill Face Vicious Backlash
  4. NBC News – Manchin repeats worries about inflation amid final social spending bill battle
  5. CNN – Senate Republicans Block John Lewis Voting Rights Bill In Key Vote

Recent Resilience

Same Sex Survivor Social Security. The Biden Administration announced this week that it will be abandoning defense of a Trump-era policy barring survivors from receiving social security benefits if our history of marriage inequality barred them from meeting the formal requirements. This is a much bigger deal than might be obvious, because social security policy looks at federal definitions of marriage, which have only included same-sex couples for about six years. In fact, the plaintiff in Obergefell, the court case that resulted in full marriage equality in the U.S., was denied survivor benefits because his spouse died only three months later. This policy was likely leaving a lot of people behind.   

Key links:

  1. NBC – Same-Sex Partners Win Survivors Benefits After Justice Dept. Dismisses Lawsuits

Tiktok Hand Signals.  A missing teen was rescued this week because she made, and an onlooker recognized, an aid-seeking hand gesture popularized on Tiktok from the window of a moving car.  The gesture is designed to signal a need for help relating to intimate partner violence or risk of abuse, and it hopefully will remain a useful tool for people who need it.

Key links:

  1. ABC News – Missing teen rescued using popular TikTok hand gesture to signal help

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.   By far, the biggest news this week is the implementation of the pediatric vaccine, which began this week and has vaccinated over a million children as I type this. Most people I know consider this extremely positive news, but it somehow still resulted in Ted Cruz getting into a fight with Big Bird, because protective vaccines remain extremely partisan in this country. On a related note, a federal judge has stayed the federal vaccine mandate for work environments, despite the fact that it creates exemptions for medical and religious reasons and almost certainly is constitutional. Shortly after,  the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion on Friday which affirmed the first decision.  In Oklahoma, the head of the National Guard elected to ignore the vaccine mandate ordered by the Pentagon for armed service members.  In Florida, the governor has called a special legislative session purely to challenge vaccine and mask mandates. Meanwhile, infection rates are rising again and several states are identifying a new substrain of Delta.  But there are some other bright spots as well; travel bans are being lifted for vaccinated travelers from many countries as of Monday, and both Merck and Pfizer have made strides towards a form of effective pill-based treatment for COVID.  

Key links:

  1. NPR – Nearly 1 Million Kids Ages 5-11 Will Have Their First Covid Shots By The End Of Today
  2. NBC – Big Bird’s Vaccination Announcement Sparks Backlash From Conservatives, GOP 
  3. Politico – Federal Court Blocks Biden Administration’s Vaccination Mandate
  4. CBS News – A potentially faster-spreading Delta variant, AY.4.2, has been spotted in 8 states
  5. Stat – Merck’s Covid-19 Antiviral Pill Receives First Authorization In U.K.

The Political Role of ViolenceThis week, we’re seeing a lot of news about political discourse including threats of violence.  In addition to the death threats addressed to bipartisan GOP voters that I referenced above, Rep Paul Gosar was in the news for tweeting a video that depicted him murdering fellow congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  (Nancy Pelosi is calling for an investigation, House Democrats are calling for a censure, and AOC took it as an opportunity to talk about workplace violence.) Meanwhile, the Kyle Rittenhouse trial over the past week highlights the role political contexts play in protest-related violence. While we’re discussing the Rittenhouse trial, I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that the prosecutor, the judge and the defense on that case have all displayed an appalling lack of professionalism that I believe is probably motivated by its own political context.  Nonetheless, Rittenhouse was acquitted today, which many people (including myself) believe to be a reflection of our system’s inherent bias against accountability for white supremacist action.

Key links:

  1. NBC News – Twitter flags GOP lawmaker’s anime video depicting him killing Ocasio-Cortez, attacking Biden as ‘hateful conduct’
  2. Washington Post – House Democrats introduce resolution to censure Rep. Gosar over animated video that depicted him killing Rep. Ocasio-Cortez
  3. New York Times – Key Moments From Kyle Rittenhouse’s Testimony

Actions For Everyone

Well my dear friends, sh*t’s effed as usual. Here’s some stuff we can do about it. Action items actually can feel pretty good when times are this rough, and remember we’re in this together. 

Build a new Justice System: The Rittenhouse verdict is in and he was found not guilty on all five felony counts of things he actually did, and many people watched on live streams as he did them. There’s a lot that needs to be done with our justice system, but one actionable item is to submit a formal complaint to the Wisconsin Judicial Commission with regards to Judge Bruce Schroeder’s bias during this trial. When I wrote my email it went simply:

“Dear Wisconsin Judicial Commission, 

I’m writing to file a complaint against Judge Bruce Schroeder’s clear and apparent bias during the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.

Sincerely,

(your name)”

Here’s the address, phone number and email you can write or call into:

Wisconsin Judicial Commission

110 East Main St. Suite 700

Madison WI, 53703

Ph: (608) 266-7637

Email: judcmm@wicourts.gov

The Milwaukee Freedom Fund will provide bail and legal support for protestors. If you have money to spare you can also donate to them.

Legalize Sex Work: Another ongoing case that’s heading into trial is that of Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex crimes. She’s accused of grooming underage girls for now-deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse. 

I wanted to share this article called It’s Dangerous to Confuse Sex Work and Trafficking, because it really is dangerous, and the Epstein ring is one of the wicked byproducts of that.

Decriminalizing and legalizing sex work maximizes sex workers’ legal protection and their ability to exercise other key rights, including to justice and health care. Legal recognition of sex workers and their occupation maximizes their protection, dignity, and equality. This is an important step toward destigmatizing sex work. 

Visit Human Rights Watch Take Action page to learn more about what you can do about it, http://www.hrw.org/take-action

Take care of your body: There’s nothing more radical than self love. As we approach Winter and cloudy days, I wanted to remind everyone to keep up your Vitamin D levels and get / give hugs (consensually) to keep Oxytocin going,

Here are some foods that can boost your Vitamin D – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-foods-high-in-vitamin-d

Issue #210, 2021 Week 43

Though things have been rough for a while now, this week was definitely a new low in American news. I certainly felt discouraged watching a lot of this unfold, so I’m not going to tell you not to; instead, I’ll just note that I’m here if anybody needs anything. And also, Halloween candy is very cheap right now, if you need some comfort food. Just sayin’.

Events to Know

Building Back Better Bust.  A whole laundry list of things were cut from the Building Back Better Act this week as Biden attempted to negotiate a deal with Senate moderates Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema. In particular, the complete removal of paid family leave got a lot of attention, as that’s an area where the U.S. lags badly behind the rest of the world. Then, in response to a rapidly-shrinking Building Back Better bill, progressives in the House forced another delay on the infrastructure bill. Then after Biden released his new comprehensive plan, which was designed to placate moderates in the first place, Joe Manchin still refused to vote for it. Because, I don’t know, inscrutable Manchin reasons. But in the House, family and medical leave got added back in, and a provision that lowers prescription prices also was added as part of a negotiated deal with the Senate. (But that last part was negotiated with Sinema, not Manchin, so it’s honestly not clear whether we’ll see another take-backsie from him.) Just another successful week for the Democrats, amirite?

Key links:

  1. New York Times – The World ‘Has Found A Way To Do This’: The U.S. Lags On Paid Leave
  2. Politico – Liberal Frustration Imperils Quick Dem Social Spending Deal
  3. Washington Post – Biden Unveils $1.75 Trillion Spending Plan, But Divisions Delay Economic Agenda
  4. CNBC – Democrats Reach A Breakthrough Deal On Drug Prices, As Spending Bill Nears The Finish Line

Facebook Fakeout.  In the immediate aftermath of the release of the Facebook Papers, a major leak which outlined lots and lots of sketchy decisions made inside the company, Congress wants to grill Zuckerberg and journalists are starting to share more details about their process. But it’s okay, because Mark Zuckerberg has a brilliant plan!  (The brilliant plan consists of changing the company’s name and recreating Google Glass, but, y’know,  you can’t fault his commitment to moving fast and breaking things.)

Key links

  1. NPR – The Facebook Papers: What You Need To Know About The Trove Of Insider Documents
  2. CNBC – Senators Demand Facebook Ceo Mark Zuckerberg Answer Questions After Whistleblower’s Revelations At Hearing
  3. Verge – What Is The Metaverse, And Do I Have To Care?

State of the COVID-19.   By far, the biggest news this week is the pediatric vaccine–significantly more details have been shared about how its rollout will work, and the Pfizer vaccine was officially approved by the FDA on Friday and by the CDC the following Wednesday. This cleared the way for implementation of the pediatric vaccine to begin this week. But the CDC also added several psychiatric diagnoses to the list of qualifying booster conditions, and Biden is trying to expand access to rapid testing as well.

Key links

  1. Washington Post – White House Unveils Plans To Roll Out Coronavirus Vaccines For Children Ages 5 To 11
  2. NPR – CDC Recommends Pfizer’s Covid Vaccine For Children Ages 5 Through 11
  3. Healthline – People With Anxiety And Depression May Need A Covid-19 Booster Shot


Recent Resilience

X Marks the Passport. This week, the United States issued its first passport with an X gender marker. Admittedly, this was the a result of a lawsuit regarding intersex rights, but nonetheless it is progress! And frankly, given the state of the news this week, I’ll take it.  

Key links:

  1. Associated Press – United States Issues Its 1st Passport With ‘X’ Gender Marker
  2. Reuters – Navy Veteran Sues U.S. State Department For Denying ‘Intersex’ Passport

Things to Watch

Roe v. Why Are You Like This (cont again). As I mentioned last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the Texas abortion law on Monday. All told, several justices signaled that they might be willing to strike down some of the more disturbing provisions, but we’re far from out of the woods on this topic; this isn’t even the last abortion challenge that SCOTUS will hear this year. We definitely need to keep our eyes on this, and now’s a great time to donate to funds supporting access to reproductive healthcare.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Supreme Court Seems Willing To Allow Challenge Of Texas’s Restrictive Abortion Law
  2. CNBC – Supreme Court Will Hear Arguments In Mississippi Abortion Case Challenging Roe V. Wade On Dec. 1

Election Rejection Eruption.  Trump is still trying to block subpoenas regarding the January 6 insurrection, and Biden is still refusing to invoke executive privilege for him.  As the panel gathers information, we also learn more about just how much the authorities ignored warnings regarding the planned insurrection in the days leading up to January 6. This is shaping up to be a major ongoing fight between our two political parties with a lot of very important implications; it’s going to be very important that we keep our eyes on this.

Key links:

  1. CBS – White House Rejects More Trump Claims Of Executive Privilege
  2. Washington Post – ‘Like Any Other Day’: Frequency Of Violent Threats On Capitol Hill Unnerves Staffers

Actions for Everyone 

Lots going on this week, SCOTUS, election week, and so much more. Here are some ideas of actions you can take to make a difference. 

Off Year Elections: Van Jones called this election seasons’ results in New Jersey and Virginia a “five alarm fire” for Democrats as they prepare for the 2022 midterm elections. I have to admit I’ve been disillusioned by the Democratic Party (still vote for them though) and the two-party system for years, but it is thee institution and the Republican party is the worst, so we obvs don’t need them to win anything, but it makes real change feel almost impossible.

You could find your local dems office and start volunteering, especially if you have new ideas and energy to bring to the table cause the strategies going into those last elections didn’t work. Find local candidates you can get behind and start volunteering for them or donate to them if you can.

Also, can we keep talking about how to dismantle the two party system though? Here’s an article on the topic just in case you’re curious to dig into it a little bit more.

Be Pro-Choice: Challenges against the Texas abortion laws were heard by SCOTUS this week. So wanted to take the chance to remind everyone the options to end a pregnancy through Planned Parenthood, https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/abortion including the abortion pill.

This is obviously not the last that will come up in front of SCOTUS, and Planned Parenthood is only one option, but it’s a national option and ya’ll shouldn’t forget about it.      

Rittenhouse Trial: Do not take your eyes off this case. The jury was skewed heavily white, one juror has been removed already for making a joke about the Kenosha Police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha. Please watch this trial 

Issue #209, 2021 Week 42

This week, though outlets and public officials are reluctant to acknowledge it, the news really highlights just how many different systems are broken at once. It’s rough to watch, and it’s even rougher when everyone acts like it’s no big deal. But it’s not just you; it is a big deal. And as always, we’ll have suggestions for ways to respond below.

Events to Know

Immigration Updates. The Washington Post ran a story this week saying that border arrests were at an all-time high in FY 21, which would be a pretty disturbing indictment of Biden’s first six months in office.  But the Migration Policy Institute–a nonpartisan and highly respected authority on migration–says this view of the data is an oversimplification of patterns caused by high desperation during the pandemic. Either way, there was also significant news about CBP misconduct this week; the Human Rights Watch released internal reports of staff abusing detainees and a House investigative report revealed a flawed internal disciplinary system for addressing these types of agent infractions.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Border Arrests Have Soared To All-Time High, New CBP Data Shows
  2. Migration Policy Institute – It Is Too Simple To Call 2021 A Record Year For Migration At The U.S.-Mexico Border
  3. Human Rights Watch – “They Treat You Like You Are Worthless”: Internal DHS Reports Of Abuses By Us Border Officials
  4. Washington Post – Border Agents Who Made Violent, Lewd Facebook Posts Faced Flawed Disciplinary Process At CBP, House Investigation Finds

Worker Conditions.* This is an unprecedented time for many industries, as unsafe working conditions–and to some extent, labor shortages–combine with gilded age rule enforcement and practices to create untenable employment situations.  As a result, people are quitting jobs in record numbers, and we’ve seen a sharp increase in organized strikes as well.  Right now, over 10,000 workers at Deere & Co are striking for safer work conditions and fair pay.  Hollywood workers also nearly went on strike last week, and though a deal was reached, it’s possible the recent fatality on the set of Rust due to unsafe working conditions will mean a strike happens regardless. Workers at Kellogg’s have continuously been on strike all month, marking the third food conglomerate with workers protesting unsafe conditions for low pay since July.  And in New York, desperate taxi drivers are staging a hunger strike as part of ongoing protest of the taxi medallion bubble.

Key links

  1. Time – What The Labor Movement Needs To Keep ‘Striketober’ Going, According To New Afl-Cio Leader Liz Shuler
  2. Guardian – Is America Experiencing An Unofficial General Strike?
  3. New York Times – How Working-Class Life Is Killing Americans, In Charts
  4. Associated Press – Deere & Co. Workers Go On Strike After Rejecting Contract
  5. LA Times – ‘Rust’ Crew Describes On-Set Gun Safety Issues And Misfires Days Before Fatal Shooting
  6. NBC – ‘I Lost Everything’: Desperate N.Y.C. Taxi Drivers Begin Hunger Strike For Debt Relief

State of the COVID-19.  After some initial confusion, because experts didn’t agree about whether the second shot should be a different vaccine or the same one, the CDC officially recommended a mix-and-match approach to boosters last Wednesday and subsequently officially approved Moderna and J&J boosters in general.  The FDA is also considering authorizing boosters for everyone over 40, though that will wait until after the pediatric vaccine rollout.  And speaking of the pediatric vaccine, significantly more details have been shared about how its rollout will work, and the Pfizer vaccine was officially approved by the FDA on Friday.  We’re now expecting implementation may begin as soon as early next week.

Key links

  1. New York Times – F.D.A. Authorizes Moderna And Johnson & Johnson Booster Shots
  2. Washington Post – FDA Strongly Considers Authorizing Vaccine Boosters For People As Young As 40
  3. Washington Post – White House Unveils Plans To Roll Out Coronavirus Vaccines For Children Ages 5 To 11

Recent Resilience

Recent Medical Resilience. It was actually a decent week for medical news. Rachel Levine became the country’s first female four-star officer of the health corps, which as well as the first transgender four-star officer. In other cool health news, in New York, surgeons successfully transplanted a pig kidney into a human body for the first time ever. Progress!   

Key links:

  1. NPR – Dr. Rachel Levine Is Sworn In As The Nation’s First Transgender Four-Star Officer
  2. Associated Press – Pig-To-Human Transplants Come A Step Closer With New Test

Things to Watch

Roe v. Why Are You Like This (cont again). Though the Supreme Court yet again refused to block the terrible Texas abortion law like the Department of Justice requested, they did agree to grant expedited review next week–which, given the current court constellation, is vaguely terrifying. We’re also starting to see projected nightmare scenarios play out in other states–in Oklahoma, a woman was convicted of manslaughter because she experienced a miscarriage at 15 weeks. I would be remiss if I didn’t stress that this type of prosecution is definitely a violation of Roe v. Wade, in addition to being an unconscionable violence against people who just experienced a traumatic loss. Needless to say, this topic continues to need our attention and will likely require a lot of local action in the near future.

Key links:

  1. CNN – Supreme Court Lets Texas 6-Week Abortion Ban Stay In Place And Will Hear Oral Arguments November 1
  2. CBS – Manslaughter Conviction Of 21-Year-Old Oklahoma Woman Who Suffered Miscarriage Sparks Outcry
  3. National Advocates For Pregnant Women – Oklahoma Prosecution And Conviction Of A Woman For Experiencing A Miscarriage Is Shameful And Dangerous

Current Senate Dysfunction.  Last Wednesday, all 50 Senate Republicans voted to block consideration of a supposedly bipartisan voting rights bill, highlighting the need to revisit the filibuster discussion. Surprisingly, this appears to be something of a final straw for Biden, who is now saying he would be open to eliminating the filibuster.  That said, this opinion somewhat contextualizes the way reconciliation negotiations are going as I type this. As he finalizes negotiations, Biden is signaling that many key provisions will be cut to appease Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema; though he appears to believe he can achieve things by executive order, that may or may not be successful.  In response to a rapidly-shrinking Building Back Better bill, progressives in the House forced another delay on the infrastructure bill.  And speaking of Sinema, she also received five resignations from her own advisors this week for her actions, who told her that she was “one of the principal obstacles to progress” on their way out.

Key links:

  1. NBC – Voting Legislation Blocked — Again — In Senate As Republicans Unite For Filibuster
  2. CBS – Biden Says He’d Be Willing To Eliminate Filibuster To Pass Voting Rights And “Maybe More”
  3. CNN – Biden Discusses $1.9 Trillion Top Line For Economic Package And Tells Democrats Free Community College Is Out
  4. New York Times – Calling Sinema An Obstacle To Progress, 5 Veterans Quit Her Advisory Council

Election Rejection Eruption. There were leaked details this week about planning done by sitting Congresspeople as well as White House officials in the days leading up to the insurrection.  Additionally, at least twelve people involved in the insurrection are running for office next week. This is shaping up to be a major ongoing fight between our two political parties with a lot of very important implications; it’s going to be very important that we keep our eyes on this.

Key links:

  1. Rolling Stone – Exclusive: Jan. 6 Protest Organizers Say They Participated In ‘Dozens’ Of Planning Meetings With Members Of Congress And White House Staff
  2. Buzzfeed News – At Least 12 Republicans Who Participated In Jan. 6 Are Running For Office Next Week

Actions for Everyone 

FDA vaccine approval for kids: It’s official! The FDA has approved use of the Pfizer covid vaccine for kids ages 5 and up. In studies, a pediatric dose – one third of the one given to adults – of the vaccine, proved to be safe and  90% effective in preventing Covid-19.  The CDC said that after approval there are “plans to distribute the jabs via more than 25,000 paediatric offices and 100 children’s hospitals, as well as through pharmacies, school-based clinics and community health centres” according to BBC News. I thought we could start this week with some actions that are good news! Make sure to contact your local clinics or pediatricians to get your eligible kids vaccinated and win this battle against the virus. 

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-59044853

Reproductive Rights in the Supreme Court: This next Monday, the Supreme Court will be entering deliberations regarding the strict abortion law in Texas, where getting access to abortion has become almost impossible. This marks the beginning of important discussions in the highest court of the land which next month will be hearing to consider overruling landmark cases like Roe V. Wade and Planned Parenthood V. Casey. This action is more a HEADS UP, cause we could see ourselves having to go hard on calls, emails and more civil actions if the access to these important reproductive rights are taken from us. 

Source:https://apnews.com/article/us-supreme-court-texas-abortion-1af2a23b9641e4f19ff6a7f6165fc850

Spending Plan Woes: Congress is trying to pass a spending plan and it’s being held back by Republicans who just don’t want to give people paid sick leave, family leave and access to healthcare. The plan is still being discussed and there needs to be a need for consensus within both parties but not at the expense of the American people. Please call and email your congresspeople, they need to hear what the people want. Tell them you support Sanders’ plan with Medicare dental/vision coverage and that we can do better as a nation. This is the switchboard for the Senate: (202) 224-312. 

Source: https://www.npr.org/2021/10/29/1050294669/paid-family-leave-gets-slashed-as-democrats-try-to-reach-consensus-on-spending-p

Issue #208, 2021 Week 41

As is fitting for late October, we’re starting to see the specter of elections really shift the news, especially on Capitol Hill. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but at least for this week, it sure is insufferable. Here’s hoping things get a bit less dysfunctional in DC in coming weeks.

Events to Know

Election Rejection Eruption. January 6 news is exploding, particularly regarding the House panel subpoena fight.  The panel is moving to subpoena former Trump official Jeffrey Clark because they believe Clark has information about how Trump attempted to misuse the Justice department to claim election fraud.  Meanwhile, former Trump aide and overall garbage human Steve Bannon pissed off so many people with his flagrant refusal to testify last week that the House has officially voted to hold him in criminal contempt.  Notably, President Biden also gave his blessing on that tactic, saying that his Justice Department should go after anyone who ignores the committee’s subpoena.  And Trump is suing the panel because they’ve subpoenaed his records, as well as apparently threatening to get voters to stay home if GOP candidates don’t adopt his election fraud narrative.  (Mitch McConnell is not best pleased about that last part, and is trying to talk Trump down.)

Key links:

  1. MSNBC – With New Subpoena, Investigation Into Jan. 6 Attack Intensifies
  2. Washington Post – Jan. 6 Committee Will Move To Hold Former Trump Aide Bannon In Criminal Contempt For Not Complying With Subpoena
  3. Washington Post – Biden Says Justice Department Should Prosecute Those Who Refuse Jan. 6 Committee’s Subpoenas
  4. Politico – Trump Sues Jan. 6 Committee, National Archives
  5. Business Insider – Trump Claims His Supporters Won’t Vote In The 2022 And 2024 Elections Unless The Gop Backs His Groundless Election-Fraud Theories

Immigration Updates. In the past week, the Biden administration reversed a Trump-era policy encouraging workplace ICE raids.  Unfortunately, this change coincides with preparations to reinstate the Remain in Mexico asylum policy created under the Trump administration.  In the administration’s defense, the latter is by court order, and I could fill an entire roundup with what I think of that august opinion.  But since Mexico appears to have its own legal challenge going, we might not see the Remain in Mexico program reinstated by mid-November anyway.

Key links

  1. NPR – Homeland Security Secretary Orders Ice To Stop Mass Raids On Immigrants’ Workplaces
  2. CNBC – Biden Administration To Reinstate Trump-Era ‘Remain-In-Mexico’ Asylum Policy To Comply With Court Order
  3. KRGV – Mexican Government To Have A Say In ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy

Recent Resilience

Can We Use Cannabis (DOJ Edition). There was scant good news this week, but we did get a small gem in the Senate: Senators Booker and Warren are requesting that the Department of Justice remove cannabis from the federal schedule of controlled substances. The senators are hoping that this move will encourage more states to legalize its use, but it seems like they’re hoping to pass federal legislation as well.  

Key links:

  1. Regina Leader-Post – U.S. Senators Say Attorney General Should Exercise His Authority To Deschedule Weed
  2. National Conference Of State Legislatures – State Medical Marijuana Laws

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19. COVID news was pretty focused on boosters again this week, with the FDA recommending booster shots for some Moderna recipients who are over 65 and immunocompromised and for all adults who got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.  There was initially some question about how the J&J recommendation would be implemented, because experts didn’t agree about whether the second shot should be a different vaccine or the same one, but the CDC officially recommended a mix-and-match approach on Wednesday.  And speaking of shots, the White House is also urging states to prepare for the release of pediatric vaccination, which might come as soon as next month.  With so much of the international population potentially vaccinated, the U.S. is also opening its borders to vaccinated international travelers.

Key links:

  1. CNBC – FDA Panel Unanimously Recommends J&J Covid Booster Shots To Adults Who Already Got The First Dose
  2. Washington Post – FDA Panel Recommends A Booster Shot Of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine For People 18 And Older
  3. News 10 – White House Urges States To Prepare To Vaccinate Kids 5-11
  4. Politico – U.S. To Reopen Border To International Travelers On Nov. 8

Current Senate Dysfunction.  The House did vote to pass the temporary debt relief bill from last week, so that’s over with until December, although notably no Republicans voted to pass the damn thing.  But now we’re just back to Democrats fighting with Joe Manchin again, as he refuses to back key climate change and child care provisions of the Build Back Better legislation.  Though progressives are downplaying it, it’s looking very likely that the party will have to cave to Manchin’s singular demands, which is galling when those demands come from an obvious conflict of interest.  Nonetheless, reconciliation negotiations are ongoing as I type this.  And on Wednesday, all 50 Senate Republicans voted to block consideration of a supposedly bipartisan voting rights bill, highlighting the need to revisit the filibuster discussion.

Key links:

  1. Politico – Congress Punts Debt Limit Crisis Into December
  2. Axios – Manchin’s Red Lines
  3. New York Times – This Powerful Democrat Linked To Fossil Fuels Will Craft The U.S. Climate Plan
  4. NBC – Voting Legislation Blocked — Again — In Senate As Republicans Unite For Filibuster

Broken Supply Chain.  Several outlets have run stories this week on our country’s ongoing supply chain issues, which are causing shortages in various places around the country and the world.  President Biden announced that he would dramatically expand work hours at the Port of Los Angeles to facilitate processing of goods; the Port of Long Beach’s hours were dramatically expanded a few weeks ago as well.  But the shipping crisis is only part of a much larger problem, because price jumps from shortages and rent increases are also fueling inflation issues.  It’s likely we can expect this to continue into 2022, because the pandemic created all kinds of issues that won’t resolve overnight.

Key links:

  1. BBC – The Shortages Hitting Countries Around The World
  2. The Hill – Port Of Los Angeles To Move To 24/7 Service To Address Supply Chain Bottlenecks
  3. New York Times – Inflation Warning Signs Flash Red, Posing Challenge For Washington
  4. BBC – The Shortages Hitting Countries Around The World

Actions for Everyone

I’d like to talk about cryptocurrency and NFTs. Do I understand what they truly are really? No. Are they a complicated subject? Yes. Is it still a new concept and we should try to understand it especially if it’s something that could cause more harm than good? Definitely. For the last couple of years we’ve seen cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Doge make people into billionaires by basically having hundreds and thousands of computers processing some transactions in what they call a “blockchain”, this is what is called “mining”. It’s hard to understand so here is an article I had to read to understand a little which basically tries to explain crypto to a child. So when you hear someone went mining for crypto, they just got a bunch of computers running in some warehouse, they aren’t actually digging up stuff. 

Now, what are NFTs? These are Non-Fungible Tokens, basically it’s a type of cryptocurrency that cannot be interchanged for another because it’s unique, and that’s why most NFTs are digital art. So why should we care? Crypto consumes tons of energy and it’s creating tonnes of CO2 comparable to that of small countries. Bitcoin alone is generating around 37 million tonnes of CO₂ every year. I just think we should know what these things are, so we can know what we’re talking about and where our economy is moving towards. Climate Change is imminent right now and now we have a whole new class of billionaire we must be wary of, the crypto billionaires. 

Not only are they polluting the world, some of these new digital miners have been going to my country, Puerto Rico, and trying to move their businesses there to use the island as a tax haven. They are taking advantage of policies that are trying to promote companies to come to the island and create jobs, but they are not creating jobs at all. They are just being wise guys to exploit the island which has had to establish these types of austerity measures because of a US imposed Federal Oversight Board. They’re also serving as gentrification agents in a country that is already filled with poverty.  

I don’t have a specific action to follow on this topic but I think knowing is the first step and this topic isn’t being talked about much in the media. I’ll keep you posted!

Sources:

https://www.wired.com/story/nfts-hot-effect-earth-climate/

https://mashable.com/article/nft-cryptocurrency-bad-environment-art

https://paxful.com/blog/bitcoin-for-kids-and-grandparents/

https://time.com/5955629/puerto-rico-tax-haven-opposition/

Support the Freedom to Vote Act – Congress announced a couple of days ago they will begin debating on the Freedom to Vote Act in the Senate and this means we should start calling! This bill is an all around win. It would expand early voting, mail-in voting, establish Election Day as a national holiday, crack down on voter suppression, establish automatic voter registration and much more. Please call your representatives and tell them you support this bill! 

You can find your representatives here: http://icalledmyreps.weebly.com/find-your-reps.html

Source: https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/freedom-vote-act

Keep an eye out for what will happen with the Texas abortion law. The Supreme Court is scheduled to review it but they have decided to keep the law in place till it is reviewed. This is a delicate one, and I think we should be very vigilant to ensure we can keep our reproductive rights. 

Source:

https://t.co/HM3CdWosJL?amp=1

We’d like to share with you this Ted Talk by Erica Chenoweth about nonviolent civil resistance. We may have shared this video with you before,to be honest it’s been a couple of years writing the newsletter and we’re not quite sure if it’s a double or not, but it’s still equally good. Please enjoy! Don’t lose hope.

The success of nonviolent civil resistance: Erica Chenoweth at TEDxBoulder