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

The second night of the first round of Democratic Presidential debates took place on Thursday night with ten candidates battling it out on a variety of issues. A general consensus in the media was that California Senator Kamala Harris emerged as the clear winner of the debate, particularly during a pointed and powerful confrontation with former Vice President and frontrunner Joe Biden on issues of race and segregation. In the 1970s Biden had opposed a federal student-busing bill. Here is part of the exchange.  A day earlier ten other candidates faced off, with the highest profile one being Senator Elizabeth Warren, who held her ground with her popular progressive policies. Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders went in to that debate as the top two frontrunners in a crowded field of more than 20 candidates. After the debate polls may reflect a different reality. What is clear from the debates however is that the Democratic Party appears as a whole to have moved closer to the left on issues of immigration, climate change, healthcare, war, and more.

In other news the Supreme Court this week issued a number of rulings of critical importance. First on the question of the US Census, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal justices in blocking the Trump Administration’s desire to ask Census respondents their citizenship status. According to the majority ruling the Commerce Department’s, “sole stated reason — seems to have been contrived. We are presented, in other words, with an explanation for agency action that is incongruent with what the record reveals about the agency’s priorities and decision making process.” The ruling suggested that had the Commerce Department’s reasoning been sincere it might have passed muster. President Trump said on Twitter, “I have asked the lawyers if they can delay the Census.” The Census is required by the Constitution and has never before been delayed.

While progressives cheered the Census decision they denounced the Court’s ruling on a gerrymandering case on Thursday. In a vote of 5 to 4 the Supreme Court decided that federal courts do not have the authority to hear challenges to districts that are drawn in an extremely partisan manner. Writing for the dissenting justices, Elena Kagan denounced the majority saying, “in the face of escalating partisan manipulation whose compatibility with this nation’s values and law no one defends — the majority declines to provide any remedy. For the first time in this nation’s history, the majority declares that it can do nothing about an acknowledged constitutional violation because it has searched high and low and cannot find a workable legal standard to apply.”

The Supreme Court on Friday announced that it would take up the case of whether the Trump administration had the right to shut down the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program gives reprieve from deportation and authorization to work for a sub-group of young immigrants who call themselves the “Dreamers.” Arguments for the case will be heard this fall and a decision could come next spring or summer.

In other immigration news, Congress sent President Trump an emergency border-funding bill of $4.6 billion dollars after the Democrat-dominated House passed a Senate version of the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi conceded to what many consider her first major political defeat in the Trump era after she dropped her demand that the bill include funding to protect immigrant children in detention centers. Progressive Democrats were outraged. Pelosi was apparently pressured by the Problem Solvers Caucus, a grouping of centrist lawmakers. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “This Senate Bill will have us write a $4.6 Billion blank check (incl military $) for the border w NO accountability – just a verbal pinky promise. Trump is not to be trusted with protecting our immigrants.” Representative Mark Pocan wrote, “Since when did the Problem Solvers Caucus become the Child Abuse Caucus? Wouldn’t they want to at least fight against contractors who run deplorable facilities? Kids are the only ones who could lose today.”

A black woman in Alabama has been charged with manslaughter in a case that has generated nationwide outrage. Twenty-eight year old Marshae Jones was 5 months pregnant when she was involved in an altercation with another woman last year when she was shot and lost her fetus. Prosecutors initially charged the other woman with manslaughter but a grand jury did not indict her. Now Ms. Jones is the one being charged and blamed with the termination of her own pregnancy. Alabama is one of several states where fetal tissue is being granted the same rights as a fully formed human being and advocates of abortion point out that women of color are more likely to be criminalized.  Meanwhile the US Supreme Court on Friday declined to hear a case defending the banning of abortion procedures in Alabama.

Two weeks of climate talks in Bonn, Germany ended on Thursday with little progress. Representatives from some 200 nations that have signed onto the Paris climate accord punted major decision making to the next meeting in Chile even as a brutal heat wave engulfed Europe. The US and Saudi Arabia led the effort to stymie the climate talks.

Elsewhere in Europe, negotiators attempted to salvage the Iran nuclear deal and set up an alternative system of trading between Iran and Europe. But, according to the Washington Post, “The U.S. special representative for Iran said … that European companies have a choice: Do business with the United States, or do business with Iran.” Meanwhile Senate Republicans on Friday blocked a Democratic bill to require Trump get Congressional authorization for a war with Iran.

President Trump during a trip to Osaka, Japan, ahead of the G-20 meeting dismissed the decades old security relationship between the US and Japan. Trump said on Fox News, “If Japan is attacked, we will fight World War III. But if we’re attacked, Japan doesn’t have to help us at all. They can watch it on a Sony television.” Historians pointed out that the US had negotiated the treaty Trump denounced.

And finally Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in New York City, a seminal moment in the movement for LGBTQ, and particularly transgender rights. Massive pride parades are planned in the city on Sunday to mark the occasion.

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