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. 


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. 


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. 


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