Headlines: March 30, 2021
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A surge in Covid-19 cases in the United States is being fueled by new variants of the virus as states race to vaccinate as many Americans as fast as possible. Cases of infection have now risen to a nationwide average of 65,000 a day, a nearly 19% increase from just 2 weeks ago. If the past year is any indication this increase is most likely to give way to a massive new surge of cases. States like California and most recently New York are dramatically expanding access and ending strict eligibility rules. In fact, a judge just ruled that the state of New York must offer vaccines to all incarcerated people immediately as well. The race between vaccines and variants is particularly important as a new survey of epidemiologists, virologists and infectious disease specialists shows that a majority are predicting one year or less before variants catch up to the vaccine and render them less effective or even ineffective.
While he has yet to waive the vaccine patents of American manufacturers in order for the rest of the world to catch up to the U.S. on vaccinations, President Joe Biden on Monday announced that by April 19th up to 90% of Americans could be eligible for the vaccines. He also begged states that had removed all safety precautions to reinstate mask mandates saying, “Please, this is not politics — reinstate the mandate…The failure to take this virus seriously is precisely what got us into this mess in the first place.” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, in the middle of prepared remarks, went off script in making an emotional plea.
In other news, a 65-year old Asian American woman was brutalized in broad daylight out of the blue in New York City on Monday in what appears to be another clear cut case of anti-Asian hate. The incident took place in midtown Manhattan and was captured on a surveillance camera from inside the lobby of a luxury apartment building where security guards witnessed the whole incident and refused to intervene. The suspect is at-large and the guards have been suspended. The victim has been hospitalized and is being treated for serious injuries. The attacker reportedly yelled anti-Asian racist slurs at her while kicking her. The New York Police Department is now investigating it as a hate crime.
Meanwhile, in Minneapolis the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd continues in its second day of arguments and testimony. Mr. Chauvin’s lawyers are attempting to claim that Floyd died because he had narcotics in his bloodstream. The group Drug Policy Alliance responded with a statement saying, “This is unconscionable, but not at all surprising. Drug involvement—whether perceived or real—has long been used as a cover for law enforcement to harass, inflict violence upon and even kill Black, Latinx and Indigenous people.” While Chauvin’s lawyers urged jurors to look beyond the horrific videotaped incident where the police officer choked Floyd to death, prosecutors are urging them to take the video at face value and believe their own eyes. A witness named Donald Williams, who is a former wrestler and Mixed Martial Arts practitioner explained what he saw as Floyd’s life ending before his eyes while Chauvin’s knee remained on his neck. PLAY VIDEO. That’s Donald Williams, a witness who testified in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.
In other news, dozens of LGBTQ students at Christian universities and colleges across the United States are filling lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Education over the religious exemptions that these government-funded institutions enjoy in order to justify homophobic discrimination against them. The lawsuits are aimed at pressuring Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would help to hold these institutions accountable under existing civil rights protections. The House has already passed the Equality Act but it remains held up by Republican in the Senate and beholden to current Senate filibuster rules. Meanwhile a new Gallup poll has found that the percentage of Americans who identify with an organized religion has fallen below 50% for the first time in a century.
President Biden has picked his first set of judicial nominations and is attempting to compensate for the monochromatic choices of his predecessor. He has put forward a slew of racial and gender-diverse nominees for federal district and appeals court judge-ships. Biden has also picked people outside of the traditional pool of qualified applicants, including some public defenders. During his tenure former President Donald Trump appointed a record-breaking 220 judges, who were disproportionately white conservative men.
While the President prepares to publicize new legislation on infrastructure, progressive Democrats in Congress are readying their own $10 trillion plan called the THRIVE Act which appears to include elements of the Green New Deal. According to Truthout, THRIVE stands for “The Transform, Heal and Renew by Investing in a Vibrant Economy (THRIVE) Act,” and will invest $10 trillion in “renewable energy, green infrastructure and climate justice initiatives over the next decade.” It is meant to counter Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion plan. Senate sponsors include Ed Markey, who had co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution last year. As per the Sierra Club, the bill would apparently, “create 15 million jobs while cutting pollution.” Meanwhile the Institute for Policy Studies’ Inequality.org published a new analysis finding that if the minimum wage had risen at the same rate as Wall Street firms’ executive bonuses since 1985, it would currently be $44 an hour. Today far too many Americans are struggling to make ends meet and there are fears that millions could risk getting their power cut off as they fail to make payments on overdue electricity bills which have ballooned during the pandemic.
Finally, former Vice President Mike Pence, whose life was in danger on January 6th from rabid Trump supporters calling for his death, has reemerged into public view. Mr. Pence is laying the groundwork for a Presidential run in 2024. He appears to be in direct competition with his former boss.