Headlines: March 26, 2021
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A Georgia state legislator was arrested on Thursday evening after she knocked on the door while Gov. Brian Kemp signed a sweeping anti-voting bill into law behind closed doors. Democratic state representative Park Cannon was dragged away by white police officers even though she is an elected official and did not seem to be violating any rules or appearing to be a threat to anyone. Her arrest was captured on video and has come to symbolize what many are calling a new chapter in “Jim Crow” anti-Black laws. Later that night she tweeted, “I am not the first Georgian to be arrested for fighting voter suppression. I’d love to say I’m the last, but we know that isn’t true.” At only 24 years of age, Ms. Park, who is African American, is the youngest representative in Georgia and one of three openly gay lawmakers in the state. According to The Hill, the police charged her with, “obstruction of law enforcement as well as preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members.”
In news from the pandemic, a majority of U.S. states are opening up access to vaccines and by mid-April at least 31 states will allow all adults to make vaccine appointments. President Joe Biden, who had pledged to ensure 100 million vaccine shots would be dispensed in his first 100 days in office, has now doubled his ambitious goal saying 200 million shots will be given out in that same time period instead. The U.S. is now expected to have a glut of vaccines, just months after demand had been far outpacing supplies. By the end of May the U.S. should have enough vaccines to inoculate all 260 million adults. But the president has arranged for so many vaccines that there will be at least a 70 million surplus even when accounting for the entire nation’s population, including children. In fact, Pfizer has just started its clinical trials on children under the age of 12. It is possible the government may hold on to the excess in case there will be a future need for booster shots. But aid groups are calling on Mr. Biden to share the U.S.’s vaccines with the rest of the world where scarcity has resulted in 30 countries having zero access to vaccines and most of the rest struggling to ramp up their vaccine drives. India, which was exporting its homegrown vaccine to many nations, has now delayed deliveries as a large surge in the virus within the nation has forced it to prioritize itself.
Rutgers University has just become the nation’s first large college to require that all students who want to attend in-person classes or move into dormitories in the fall will need to get vaccinated. The university has about 70,000 students on three different campuses. Meanwhile the NFL is going in the opposite direction, saying that it has no plans to require vaccines of its players, coaches or other staff. As the vaccine war continues, the donut chain Krispy Kreme attempted to promote vaccinations by offering a free donut per person per day for those who could show proof of vaccination. But now a gym in New Jersey decided to go the opposite route and offer free memberships to people who refuse vaccines.
President Biden this week offered his priority list for a nation reeling with multiple crises and said at his first news conference on Thursday that addressing the pandemic and the U.S.’s infrastructure needs were top of his list. The issues of gun control and immigration would be secondary. Meanwhile, as residents of Boulder are reeling from the mass shooting at a supermarket earlier this week, thousands gathered at a vigil to mourn the victims. They stood quiet and still, many holding candles as music played. The Boulder shooting took place less than a week after a series of mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia claimed the lives of 8 people, mostly Asian women.
The CEOs of major tech companies were once more called in to testify in now-familiar terms in Washington DC on a popular topic – the role of social media in fomenting hate and disinformation. Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Jack Dorsey of Twitter were asked to appear at a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on Thursday specifically about the January 6th Capitol riot. Democrats in particular grilled the CEOs about why the event and related promotions of violence were allowed to be advertised on the various platforms. Democratic Representative Frank Pallone was direct in his accusations. Zuckerberg, Dorsey, and Pichai respectively, attempted to avoid responsibility for problematic contents on their platforms.
Fox News is facing yet another defamation lawsuit from a voting machine manufacturer. Dominion Voting Systems is seeking $1.6 billion in damages. The conservative news site that offered a platform for former President Donald Trump and also helped to set his agenda for four years, amplified the lie that voting machines made by Dominion were set up to change votes in favor of Biden. According to the New York Times, “In a 139-page complaint filed in Delaware Superior Court, Dominion portrayed Fox as an active player in spreading falsehoods that the company had altered vote counts and manipulated its machines to benefit Mr. Biden in the election.”
New York City has become the first in the nation to end qualified legal immunity for police officers. The mechanism by which law enforcement officers are almost never convicted on charges of brutality has protected them for decades. New York City council overturned the qualified immunity protections as part of a package of reforms. In Kenosha, Wisconsin, where police shot a Black man named Jacob Blake leaving him severely injured, Mr. Blake has now sued the officer who shot him. And the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-3 decision has cleared the way for a victim of a police shooting to file an excessive force lawsuit against the officers in question. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, LAPD officers cleared an encampment of houseless individuals in the Echo Park area. Activists had gathered to witness the event and express solidarity. Police arrested numerous people including journalists and legal observers.