News & Analysis of Economic, Racial, Gender Justice and More

President Joe Biden on Wednesday formally unveiled his $2 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan. In a speech in Pittsburgh, the President explained that he wanted to rebuild the U.S. economy from “the bottom up.” He also explained the types of infrastructure that needs fixing, and how only those making over $400,000 a year would be taxed to pay for the plan.  The American Jobs Plan as Biden is calling it, includes $174 billion investment over 10 years to incentivize the purchasing of electric cars, as well as $100 billion investment in improving broadband internet access. Immediately Republicans expressed opposition to the plan even though most aspects of it are popular with the American people. Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain said on Thursday that the President wants to work with the GOP on passage of the bill, “if it’s at all possible.” But Biden faces opposition from Democrats too. New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said much more than $2 trillion is needed to fix the crisis of climate change.

Unemployment claims rose once more last week as per the latest Labor Department figures revealing on-going uncertainty about the nation’s economic outlook in the midst of a pandemic that is still not on its way out. More than 714,000 people filed for jobless benefits, a bit higher than the week before. Meanwhile new research shows that American food banks distributed far more food aid to Americans last year than the year before, revealing the scale of suffering. Low income children were badly affected given that many relied on school-based food assistance before the pandemic. Elderly Americans were also among the worst impacted. Cruelly, some of the wealthiest private hospitals in the nation became even richer during the pandemic as they qualified for government-backed pandemic loans even as smaller, struggling health clinics shuttered. There have been more than 30 million documented cases of COVID-19 infections in the U.S. since the pandemic began and the official death toll stands at 553,000.

As Covid infections tick back up in the U.S. President Biden on Thursday revealed a new network of community leaders tasked with convincing Americans to get vaccinated. The COVID-19 Community Corps is inviting people to apply to join them to help convince family, friends, and neighbors to get vaccinated. A day after Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine was reported to be effective for young adolescents in preliminary trial results, a new trial shows that the vaccine works well against a COVID-19 variant that was traced back to South Africa. And it also appears as though the immunity gained from the Pfizer vaccine remains strong after at least 6 months. Other vaccine manufacturers are conducting similar studies. Meanwhile a Baltimore-based vaccine manufacturing plant run by Emergent BioSolutions has apparently ruined a batch of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines that they mixed up the ingredients for. Regulators, showing that safety standards are indeed working, discovered the error before the vaccines were shipped. Emergent has been cited multiple times in the past for quality control issues.

The trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd continues in its fourth day on Thursday. Among the witnesses who testified were Floyd’s former girlfriend Courtney Ross and the paramedic who confirmed that he was unresponsive after Chauvin knelt on him for nearly 9 minutes, Seth Zachary Bravinder. Morries Hall, the man who was in the front passenger seat of the car with Floyd on the day of the incident in question, has refused to testify citing his fifth Amendment right. New footage from the body camera worn by officer Thomas Lane shows Floyd begging police officers to spare him and saying that he, “will do anything you tell me to.” A witness on Wednesday named Charles McMillan, took to the stand and answered one of the prosecutors’ questions about what happened to Floyd and also about his past experience with Officer Chauvin.

The state of New York is ending its use of long-term solitary confinement in prisons and jails in a victory for prison reform advocates. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law on Wednesday restricting facilities from holding incarcerated people in isolation for more than 15 consecutive days. The new rules will take effect next year. Long term solitary confinement has been shown to be akin to torture.

Four people were killed including a child at a mass shooting in Southern California on Wednesday evening – the nation’s third mass shooting in as many weeks. The shooting took place at an office complex and so far authorities have not revealed many details.

The state of Georgia is about to repeal its “citizens arrest” law a year after two vigilantes killed a Black jogger named Ahmaud Arbery. The type of arrest can be traced back to the Civil War era when whites were empowered to arrest enslaved people attempting to escape to freedom. Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign the bill into law making his state the first to repeal a citizen’s arrest law. Georgia is also under fire for passing a set of anti-voter bills disproportionately impacting Black voters. Now, sports teams and corporations that have headquarters in Georgia have begun speaking out against the law after days of grassroots pressure. Leading voting rights advocate and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, said it was not yet necessary to launch a boycott of Georgia-based corporations over the anti-voter bills.

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