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 Finally, the vaccine mandate for businesses issued by OSHA last year is being officially withdrawn, though that last one is probably more the fault of the Supreme Court that shot it down.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/

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