Headlines: March 1, 2021
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Former President Donald Trump dominated the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend in an incendiary speech that was not unlike the one he gave in Washington DC on January 6th before a mob of his supporters broke into the Capitol with the intent of harming lawmakers. The Sunday speech was Trump’s first public appearance since leaving the White House and included repetition of the lie that he won the 2020 election. Trump also attacked the U.S. Supreme Court for refusing to overturn the election in his favor. Trump lost both the electoral college and the popular vote by a significant margin. But his repeated lies to a loyal base continue to generate an alternate reality for millions of his loyalists who truly believe he won. During his CPAC Speech Trump listed by name every Republican lawmaker that opposed him saying ominously, “get rid of them all.” He ruled out the creation of a third party which reports had indicated that he was contemplating in recent weeks.
In other news from CPAC, observers pointed out the extremely disturbing shape of the conference stage that exactly matches the so-called “Odal rune,” the symbol worn by Nazi SS guards in Hitler’s Germany. Meanwhile anti-Trump Republicans singled out by the former President are attempting to marshal their own army of financiers and activists. Representative Adam Kinzinger who opposed Trump and voted to impeach him is at the center of new SuperPAC to financially support those conservative lawmakers hoping to salvage their party’s future. Among the lies that Trump repeated was the implication that the election was unfair and that reforms were needed – which of course is code for making it harder for Democratic-leaning voters to cast ballots.
Meanwhile the U.S. Supreme Court will soon be considering how state voting practices may or may not be violating federal laws intended on protecting the voting rights of minority groups. The Washington Post explained that, “The cases at the Supreme Court involve two voting regulations from Arizona that are in common use across the country. One throws out the ballots of those who vote in the wrong precinct. The other restricts who may collect ballots cast early for delivery to polling places, a practice then-President Donald Trump denounced as “ballot harvesting.”
After the House passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus economic relief package early on Saturday morning, progressive representatives are now pressuring Senators to overrule the Senate Parliamentarian’s decision to disallow a federal minimum wage increase in the Senate version of the bill. Nearly two dozen House Representatives, mostly newly elected and younger lawmakers of color including California’s Ro Khanna, New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ritchie Torres, Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, Missouri’s Cori Bush, and Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, signed on to a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris citing earlier precedent in overruling the Senate Parliamentarian. “You have the authority to deliver a raise for millions of Americans,” said the signatories. Meanwhile the White House is considering the outlines of a new relief bill focusing on improving the infrastructure needs of the United States, particularly in light of the devastating electrical grid failures in Texas.
In news from the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have just recommended the use of the new FDA-approved single-dose vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson. The new vaccine is easier to manufacture, transport and store, making it more attractive to distribute. However already skepticism toward the vaccine abounds because clinical trials showed lower efficacy rates than the vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna. Still the J&J vaccine’s effectiveness is far higher than the minimum FDA standard, and its testing in countries like South Africa where a more virulent strain has developed may reflect on its lower efficacy numbers. Nearly four million doses of the new vaccine were shipped out on Sunday night. There are fears that the J&J vaccine will be disproportionately given to vulnerable communities while the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be set aside for more privileged communities. Dr. Anthony Fauci has urged Americans to get vaccinated as soon as possible and accept any of the three vaccines they may be offered – an important race against the development of newer variants. Thousands of farm workers in California have finally been prioritized to receive the vaccine – many of the workers are undocumented. Meanwhile several governments are calling on vaccine companies to give over the blueprint for the life-saving products so that other companies could begin producing them and getting them around the globe as fast as possible.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an apology after a second woman came forward to allege that he sexually harassed her. In a statement the 63-year old Democrat said, “I never intended to offend anyone or cause any harm…I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended. I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.” He has said he would support a special investigator to look into the allegations.
A Louisiana state trooper has been suspended without pay from his position after new details emerged in a May 2019 incident where he dragged a Black man by leg shackles after violently arresting him. The victim, Ronald Greene, died in custody. State trooper Kory York’s actions have been likened to that of Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin in the 2020 killing of George Floyd. According to AP graphic body camera footage shows, “troopers choking and beating the man, repeatedly jolting him with stun guns and dragging him face-down across the pavement.” State police, who had refused to release the footage, initially blamed Greene’s death on a car crash, indicating a cover up.
President Joe Biden, after facing pressure from progressive labor groups has finally offered support to Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama who are currently in the middle of a union vote. Biden tweeted a video of himself on Sunday night offering support for Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama as they decide whether to join a union.
Biden will meet virtually with Mexico’s leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday to discuss several issues including immigration, the coronavirus, and more. According to AP, “The Mexican leader has said he intends during the meeting to propose to Biden a new bracero-style immigrant labor program that could bring 600,000 to 800,000 Mexican and Central American immigrants a year to work legally in the United States.” The Biden administration on Monday also announced that it would allow those immigrant families that had been separated by the Trump administration to reunite and remain in the U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, “We are acting as restoratively as possible.”