Issue #190, 2021 Week 15

Hey everyone,

Spring seems to be bringing us warm weather and news. Want to keep up? Let us help. Read on to make sure that you’re staying informed!
As always, please reach out (activism@patrothfuss.comwith any tips, suggestions, questions, or concerns!

Thanks,
The Activism Team

This is the first roller coaster week I think we’ve had in a little while; it had a lot of notable dips but we also had some exciting advances. (Though I would prefer an abjectly good week, I’ll take the wins where I can!)

Events to Know

New Voting Suppression Laws. When it became apparent that no voter fraud evidence was forthcoming, a lot of states began a coordinated push to restrict voter access, and some of those toxic plans are starting to bear fetid fruit. At the time that I type this, over 250 voter suppression bills have been introduced in 45 different states. Though there have been a few earlier bills passed, we need to talk about the bill that passed in Georgia this week specifically, and there are a few different reasons for that: 1) It is particularly comprehensive, imposing limitations on early voting, runoff elections, dropoff boxes, voter transportation, and voter identification methods; 2) It is particularly onerous, including draconic provisions such as criminal consequences for giving voters food and water while they wait in line; and 3) A Black legislator was arrested for attempting to witness the bill’s signature.  Needless to say, there has also been a lot of pushback.  First Major League Baseball announced that it was taking its ball and leaving Atlanta, or at least, wouldn’t host its annual All Star Game there, and made it very clear that this was motivated by the new law. After facing boycotts as well as public statements from Black business leaders, several prominent Georgia-based companies also issued statements against the law, and by the time that I type this we’re up to almost 200 companies issuing statements in support of free elections. This is, of course, in addition to the three lawsuits that have already been filed against the Georgia law.

Key links:

  1. ACLU – Amidst A Wave Of Voter Suppression Bills, Some States Expand Access To The Ballot
  2. NBC – Georgia Governor Signs Sweeping Election Regulations Into Law. There Are Even Restrictions On Snacks
  3. Mother Jones – Georgia State Rep. Arrested While Protesting A Restrictive Voting Law, Video Shows
  4. Associated Press – Georgia Governor Vows A Fight After MLB Yanks All-star Game
  5. New York Times – Black Executives Call On Corporations To Fight Restrictive Voting Laws
  6. Reuters – Georgia Sued For Third Time Over Voting Restrictions As Delta, Coke Face Boycott Calls

Dismantling the Deportation Machine? President Biden made the decision this week to name former prosecutor Kamala Harris the point person at the border, noting that she will be working with Northern Triangle countries to address root causes of destabilization. I can’t say I’m thrilled about having a former prosecutor in charge of this, but he also authorized border agents to begin releasing detainees without court dates and moving unaccompanied minors out of CBP centers, so it remains pretty hard to see a pattern in this administration’s approach.

 Key links: 

  1. Politico – Biden Makes Harris The Point Person On Immigration Issues Amid Border Surge
  2. NBC – Amid Surge, Border Agents In Rio Grande Valley Are Releasing Migrants Without Court Dates
  3. CNN – Pentagon Approves Hhs Request To House Migrant Children At 2 Military Bases

Confirmation Tango (Still)We had a few more interesting appointments this week. On the labor end of things, former Boston mayor Marty Walsh was confirmed as the next Secretary of Labor, which in this Bostonian’s opinion is mostly interesting because it cleared the way for Kim Janey to serve as Boston’s first-ever Black or female mayor. And Rachel Levine was confirmed as Assistant Health Secretary, making her the first openly transgender person to ever hold a Cabinet level position.

 Key links: 

  1. NPR – Marty Walsh, Boston Mayor With Union Roots, Confirmed As Labor Secretary At Key Time
  2. WBUR – Kim Janey Sworn In As First Woman, First Black Mayor Of Boston
  3. CNN – Senate Confirms First Out Transgender Federal Official, Rachel Levine, As Assistant Health Secretary

Recent Resilience

Recent Racial Equity Resilience.  Though it was a bad week for transgender rights, we did see some promising racial equity developments.  In Illinois, a city named Evanston became the first city in the U.S. to offer reparations to its Black residents.  And a recent Supreme Court case expanded citizens ability to sue police for use of excessive force, which has a lot of positive implications for moving away from qualified immunity doctrine in that context.  The timing is good, because we’re also witnessing Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd, which has proven re-traumatizing for many Americans.

Key links:

  1. Associated Press – Illinois City 1st In US To Offer Black Residents Reparations
  2. Reuters – U.S. Supreme Court Widens Ability To Sue Police For Excessive Force
  3. New York Times – What To Know About The Trial Of Derek Chauvin

Recent Trans Equity Resilience.  We also saw some small progress in trans right this week.  During Trans Day of Visibility, President Biden announced he was rescinding a Trump era policy that banned transgender individuals from serving in the military.  And in a move I honestly did not see coming, an awful transgender discrimination bill in Arkansas–which would have banned access to gender-affirming care for all minors–was vetoed by Governor Hutchinson.  The bill could still be passed by override, but it’s nonetheless really noteworthy that the Governor refused to sign it.

Key links:

  1. Washington Post – Arkansas governor vetoes bill banning medical treatments for transgender youths

Recent Medical Advances. In other “I can’t believe I’m typing this” news–of the good kind, not the Trump kind–an early study shows 97% effectiveness of a novel HIV vaccine. We definitely need to do more research, but it’s tentatively looking like breakthroughs that resulted in COVID vaccines may have implications for HIV infection as well.

Key links:

  1. European Pharmaceutical Review — Novel HIV Vaccine Approach Shows Promise In “Landmark” First-in-human Trial

Things to Watch

State of the COVID-19.   COVID news has been a mixed bag of late.  On the one hand:  1) Infection rates are rising again, likely because we’re reopening too quickly and testing less despite most locations having less than 25% total vaccination rate, and experts disagree about what this means; 2) AstraZeneca was in the news for sketchiness regarding its efficacy study; 3) there was a manufacturing error in Maryland that ruined 15 million Johnson and Johnson doses, though the company says it’s still on track to produce 100 million doses by late May; 4) Dr. Deborah Binx let us know just how many deaths were preventable in the last year; and 5) The CDC has announced that vaccinated Americans are low-risk while traveling, which would be good except that discussion of “vaccine passports” that has already prompted backlash (and in Florida, an executive order banning them).  But on the other hand: 1) Studies are beginning to test vaccine efficacy in children, and some early research suggests that Pfizer may be effective for adolescents, though further study is still needed; 2) Moderna and Pfizer are both found 90% effective in real-life conditions; and 3) the Biden administration estimates that 200 million doses will become available by April 30; and 4) Experts are beginning to discuss travel and documentation protocols for vaccinated people.
Key links:

  1. Politico – Internal CDC Data Shows Virus Regaining Foothold As Biden Urges States To Pause Reopening
  2. Washington Post – AstraZeneca Used ‘Outdated And Potentially Misleading Data’ That Overstated The Effectiveness Of Its Vaccine, Independent Panel Says
  3. CNN – Birx Shares Her Chilling Conclusion As America Arrives At A Moment Of Introspection On The Coronavirus
  4. Stat – Pfizer And BioNTech To Begin Testing Covid-19 Vaccine In Children
  5. Washington Post – Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Are 90% Effective After Two Doses In Study Of Real-life Conditions, Cdc Confirms
  6. Washington Post – More Americans To Become Eligible For Vaccines And FEMA Sites To Open

Gun Violence Updates. It truly pains me to say this, but gun violence remains highly relevant for yet another week.  There was yet another mass shooting in Boulder last Tuesday, which resulted in ten dead and occurred immediately on the heels of a judge tossing out responsible gun legislation in the state.  This was followed within four days by a mass shooting on Virginia Beach, which brings us to three mass shootings in a two-week period.  Then in Orange, California, an assailant fatally shot at least four people, including a nine-year old boy.  Finally, there was also a vehicular assault on Capitol Hill which has resulted in the death of yet another Capitol Police officer as well as fatal shooting of the assailant.  News articles are beginning to emerge about the Capitol Police struggling to maintain staffing during this period of unprecedented strain, and apparently two officers are suing over the January 6 riots.

Key links:

  1. ABC – 10 Killed In Boulder Shooting: Victims Identified, Suspect Charged
  2. Associated Press – Judge Rules Colorado Cities Unable To Enact Gun Restrictions
  3. New York Times – The Shooting Occurred Less Than A Week After Eight People Were Killed In Atlanta.
  4. Washington Post – Suspect In Southern California Shooting Had A Relationship With Victims, Police Say
  5. CNBC – One Capitol Police Officer, Suspect Dead After Car Rammed Into Two Officers
  6. New York Times – Two Capitol Police Officers Sue Trump Over January Riot

Infrastructure Updates.  Right now, the most important federal legislation to track is probably the comprehensive infrastructure package the Biden administration revealed this past week. The plan is extremely ambitious in scope, and includes a lot of things not traditionally considered infrastructure purview. On the more-traditional side, it would rebuild roads, expand train track infrastructure, repair bridges, eliminate lead pipes from our water supplies, and modernize the electric grid. But it would also make several less-traditional infrastructure changes, such as funding electric vehicle charging stations along highways, building new schools, and broadening access to broadband Internet. And, of course, there’s always the fact that the whole thing is funded by corporate tax increases. Unsurprisingly, this plan is less than popular with many Republicans, who have spent the last four years railing against things like “corporate tax increases” and “clean water” and “education.”

Key links:

  1. New York Times – Biden Details $2 Trillion Plan To Rebuild Infrastructure And Reshape The Economy
  2. Associated Press – Biden announces huge infrastructure plan to ‘win the future’
  3. Washington Post – 5 Key Takeaways From Biden’s $2 Trillion Infrastructure Plan
  4. New York Times – Biden Wants To Pay For Infrastructure Plan With 15 Years Of Corporate Taxes

Actions for Everyone

2020 did something to unravel time, right? The days are flying by. The spring thaw seems to have created even more action nation-wide. Suffice to say, there’s been a lot going on. Read on to learn more about some of it.

Celebrate Trans Day of Visibility: Though the week has come and gone, I hope everyone was able to celebrate! There are more people who are able to transition now than ever before, and although the legislative blow in Alabama happened a few weeks ago @thequeeradvocate posted so much helpful information that I want to share here. Click the link to learn about Trans

  • Books
  • Film, TV, Webseries
  • Fictional Characters
  • Organizations
  • Instagrams

To dismantle the binary, it’s important to diversify your media and environment. In addition to uplifting the trans men, women, and people in your lives, diversify your books, podcasts, movies, TV shows and other art. Art and media help create shifts in your awareness and culture. Trans Awareness Month will be November 2021.

Derek Chauvin Trial: For those who haven’t been watching, this trial is incredibly painful to witness. Please consider this when sharing videos and images on your social media platforms that are traumatic. Violence against Black people being shared across the internet forces folks to relive that trauma over and over. Please be considerate of that. If you feel that you have to share information because it will be helpful for your followers, be sure to mark them with Content Warnings (CW) with a brief summary of what people will find if they keep watching.

The death anniversary of George Floyd’s death is coming soon, May 25th. What will you be doing in your community? I’ve heard that there are caravans driving to Minneapolis, MN to be there with the City. Mark the date now, and start making plans if you haven’t already.

End Voter Suppression: Voter suppression is active, everyday, everywhere. Our nation’s history and daily actions are riddled with oppression. During November election season, I got so frustrated hearing “That’s why you young people need to get out and vote!” Because it’s like, yeah, of course please do go vote, but also recognize how complicated that seemingly simple action is.

Stacy Abrams et. al. have their work cut out for them in Georgia. The voter suppression laws that passed there recently have been hit with their first lawsuit. What can you do about it? Be informed about State Senate hearings in your state – senators usually have hearings on bills before they pass. My state’s website is clunky and sterile and it’s hard to find information, so another thing you can do is go through the work of finding out when your State Senate hearings are, pull them out, and make a cool design to share on your socials. Also, do voter empowerment work around every election that works for your community.

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

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

Best,
The Activism Team

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