Headlines: March 19, 2021
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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visited Atlanta, Georgia on Friday in an effort to address growing anger over their inaction on anti-Asian racism and hate crimes. The trip was originally planned as part of a multi-city tour to promote the benefits of the American Rescue Plan. During their visit Biden and Harris met with several state-level Asian American leaders. The visit came a day after a House Judiciary Subcommittee meeting to address anti-Asian hate. But Republican lawmakers, revealing clearly that they are part of the racist problems in America, fixated on their right to criticize the government of China. Across the nation, Asian Americans see the mass shootings in the Atlanta area this week that claimed the lives of 8 people including 6 Asian women, as the culmination of a year of hate. Their fears are well-founded as a new study shows racist anti-Asian social media posts spiked last year soon after then-President Donald Trump first began calling COVID-19, the “China virus” or “Chinese virus.”
As more details come to light about the Tuesday mass shooting eye witness accounts of the alleged shooter Robert Aaron Long rampaging with a gun he had just purchased paint a sordid picture of violence and blood. Police and media, after facing criticism for painting a sympathetic portrait of the suspect, are finally focusing on the victims of the attack. Police have just named all 8 victims comprising 6 Asian woman, 1 white woman and 1 white man: 74-year old Soon Park, 51-year old Hyun Grant, 69-year old Suncha Kim, 63-year old Yong Yue, 49-year old Xiaojie Tan, 44-year old Daoyou Feng, 33-year old Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez, and 54-year old Paul Andre Michels. The incident could be a test case for a newly passed hate crimes law in Georgia. Two other incidents in different parts of the U.S. are now sparking speculation of copy-cat attacks including a shooting at a Seattle-area spa that left one Asian man wounded, and an attack on a 13-year old Asian American boy in New York where perpetrators allegedly hurled racist insults.
In other news, the House on Thursday passed two major immigration reform bills that would help young immigrants who arrived to the U.S. as children and are registered in the DACA program to obtain legal status, as well as farm workers allowed into the U.S. The Dream and Promise Act passed 228-197 and if it became law would impact 2.5 million so-called “Dreamers” as well as those in the U.S. with “Temporary Protected Status.” The second bill, called the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2021 passed 247 to 174 and would offer a path to citizenship for farmworkers, affecting about a million people. President Biden released a statement on Thursday urging Senators to take up the bills and pass them. He said, “it’s long past time Congress gives a path to citizenship for Dreamers . . . who strengthen our country and call our nation home.” His statement came at the same time that he is under scrutiny for keeping newly arriving unaccompanied minors in hastily built border detention facilities for longer than allowed and in potentially unsafe conditions.
Meanwhile as part of what appears to be border diplomacy in addressing the surge of migrants heading north, Biden is offering Mexico excess doses of coronavirus vaccines. The President announced that his goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans by his 100th day in office was being met on Friday – a month before his self-imposed deadline. In Europe, a hold on the AstraZeneca vaccine, produced in conjunction with Oxford University, was just lifted as cases of infection and death surge across the continent and vaccination rates remain appallingly low. Here in the U.S. a new survey of healthcare workers, who were the first to be offered vaccines, shows that about 40% remain unvaccinated. A whopping 18% say they don’t plan to get vaccinated and although that figure seems high, it is lower than the percentage of vaccine-skeptics in the general public.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the state of California has had one of the most unequal vaccine distribution programs in the nation. The CDC also released new guidelines on Friday that could greatly impact school reopenings. Based on new research the agency is now recommending only 3 feet of social distancing between masked children rather than 6. Meanwhile one of the scientists behind the ground-breaking messenger RNA technology that has driven many of the new COVID-19 vaccines says that tackling cancer is her next goal. Ozlem Tureci, who is the co-founder of BioNTech, said, “We have several different cancer vaccines based on mRNA,” and that addressing cancer cells was the original goal of the technology.
In Minneapolis where the trial of Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd continues, the trial judge has just denied motions from Chauvin’s lawyer for a delay and for a change in venue. The intersection where Floyd died after Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes remains the site of anger and violence. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo vowed to reopen 38th and Chicago, an area that has been renamed George Floyd Square. In other news of police brutality, a coroner’s report in a case in Columbus, Ohio of a black man named Casey Goodson Jr has been released. According to the report Goodson died after a white officer named Jason Meade fired six shots at him from behind. Five of the six entered the 23-year old’s body, killing him. Meade was suspended but has yet to be arrested.
Criminal charges have been filed in a 2020-state election race in Florida where a GOP candidate won by only 32 votes. Frank Artiles, a former senator from the Miami area had paid $44,000 to a man name Alex Rodriguez to run as a third-party candidate in a race where the Democratic candidate had a similar sounding name, Jose Javier Rodriguez. The idea was that voters intending to vote for the Democrat might accidentally vote for the candidate paid to run. Mr. Jose Javier Rodriguez lost to the Republican candidate Ileana Garcia by just 32 votes. Artiles now faces felony charges.
Newly elected Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock is denouncing the harsh anti-voter bills that his state’s GOP dominated legislature has just passed. Calling it “Jim Crow in new clothes,” Warnock said in a recent speech, “Politicians in my home state and all across America, in their craven lust for power, have launched a full-fledged assault on voting rights. They are focused on winning at any cost, even the cost of the democracy itself.”
The FBI has just released new footage of the Capitol riot on January 6th showing the extent of violence that Donald Trump’s supporters engaged in to keep him in office past his tenure. The disturbing footage shows, as described by The Hill that “a man can be seen in a crowd fighting with law enforcement while wielding an apparent electroshock device. He repeatedly jabs the baton-like device at officers as it emits a loud buzz and bright flashes.” Steven D’Antuono, head of the FBI field office in Washington released a statement saying, “These individuals are seen on video committing egregious crimes against those who have devoted their lives to protecting the American people.”