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.
- Associated Press – Justice Dept. Creating Unit Focused On Domestic Terrorism
- New York Times – Oath Keepers Leader Charged With Seditious Conspiracy In Jan. 6 Investigation
- CNBC – January 6 Committee Subpoenas Google, Facebook, Twitter And Reddit In Probe Of Capitol Attack
- Washington Post – House Jan. 6 Committee Will Consider Subpoena To Kevin Mccarthy After He Refuses To Cooperate
- NPR – Pressed On His Election Lies, Former President Trump Cuts NPR Interview Short
- 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.)
- Politico – RNC Feud With Presidential Debate Commission Escalates With Boycott Threat
- 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.
- Politico – Biden Administration Lays Out Rules For Reimbursing At-Home Covid Tests
- CNN – How To Get Free At-Home Covid-19 Tests From The Government
- Associated Press – Biden To Give Away 400 Million N95 Masks Starting Next Week
- Washington Post – A Year Ago, Biden Unveiled A 200-Page Plan To Defeat Covid. He Has Struggled To Deliver On Some Key Promises.
- NPR – Biden Acknowledges His Team Should Have Done More Covid Testing Earlier
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.
- CNN – Supreme Court clears the way for House to get Trump White House documents
- 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.
- New York Times – In A First, Man Receives A Heart From A Genetically Altered Pig
- 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.
- New York Times – Coronavirus In The U.S.: Latest Map And Case Count
- Washington Post – Booster Shots In U.S. Have Strongly Protected Against Severe Disease From Omicron Variant, Cdc Studies Show
- Washington Post – Federal Judge In Texas Blocks Biden’s Vaccine Requirement For Government Workers
- 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.
- Washington Post – Manchin, Sinema Join With Gop In Rejecting Attempt To Change Filibuster Rules, Effectively Killing Democratic Voting Bill
- NPR – Arizona Democrats Have Censured Kyrsten Sinema Over Her Pro-Filibuster Vote
- News & Guts – EMILY’s List – Sen. Sinema’s Biggest Donor in 2018 – Says They No Longer Support Her
- CNBC – Biden Says He Thinks Congress Can Pass Parts Of Broken-Up Build Back Better Plan
- 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.