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HeadlinesMarch 17, 2021

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Gunman Kills 8 People, Almost All Women of Asian Descent, at Three Atlanta Spas

Mar 17, 2021

In Atlanta, a gunman shot dead eight people at three massage parlors Tuesday evening. Six of the victims were of Asian descent; all but one were women. A 21-year-old white male suspect, Robert Aaron Long, has been taken into custody. Anti-Asian hate crimes have surged since the start of the pandemic. The group Stop AAPI Hate says nearly 4,000 anti-Asian crimes have been reported over the past year. Several cities, including New York, have said they would deploy more police officers to Asian neighborhoods in the wake of the attack, despite many in Asian American communities saying more policing does nothing to fix the underlying issues but contributes to systemic, structural racism.

Report Finds a Third of COVID Deaths Tied to Lack of Insurance as Dems Reintroduce Medicare for All

Mar 17, 2021

A new report by Public Citizen finds about one-third of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. were tied to a lack of insurance. Nearly 537,000 deaths have been reported since the start of the pandemic. Millions of infections would likely have been prevented under a Medicare for All system, says Public Citizen.

This comes as Democratic Congressmembers Pramila Jayapal and Debbie Dingell are introducing the Medicare for All Act of 2021 today — one year after the first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill has over 100 co-sponsors. President Biden has rejected Medicare for All, even though the majority of Americans support it.

WH to Increase Vaccines for COVID Hot Spots; Tribal Groups Open Up Inoculations for All Oklahomans

Mar 17, 2021

CNN is reporting the White House is planning to send additional vaccines to emerging coronavirus hot spots in an effort to stem new surges, including those linked to variants believed to be more contagious. Although overall cases have sharply declined since this winter’s surge, over a dozen states have reported a rise in new cases.

In Oklahoma, the Chickasaw Nation and other tribal territories have started offering vaccine appointments to all Oklahoma residents. Native Americans have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic, but tribal health providers have outpaced many states and counties in getting out the vaccine.
Moderna is starting human trials on its vaccine in children and babies starting as young as 6 months old.

In Washington, D.C., the Senate confirmed Isabel Guzman to lead the Small Business Administration, where she will oversee the implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program, a key part of the recently passed coronavirus stimulus package.

WHO Urges Against “Vaccine Passports” Due to Widespread Inequality in Access

Mar 17, 2021

The World Health Organization urged caution for countries considering vaccination certifications, including the potential use of “vaccine passports.”

Dr. Michael Ryan: “We have to be exceptionally careful, because right now we’re dealing with a tremendously iniquitous situation in the world, where the likelihood of you being offered or getting a vaccine is very much to do with the country you live in, very much to do with the level of wealth, the level of influence that you or your government has on global markets.”

New Report Details Horrific Blaze That Killed Dozens of Refugees at Yemeni Migrant Jail

Mar 17, 2021

In Yemen, Human Rights Watch published a report Tuesday on the devastating fire that killed at least 60 refugees, most of them from Ethiopia, at an immigrant jail in the capital Sana’a earlier this month. The blaze was reportedly triggered after Houthi security forces launched projectiles into the jail, where refugees had been protesting their conditions. This is one of the survivors of the fire.

Ibrahim Mohamed: “The smoke went through my nose, and I was suffocated and passed out. I covered myself with a blanket and jumped through the window. I saw my friends burning to death.”

In other news from Yemen, dozens of protesters stormed the presidential palace in the port city of Aden Tuesday, demanding payment of delayed wages and better living conditions. The protesters, who were public-sector workers, left peacefully after they delivered their demands. The U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war and blockade have crippled Yemen’s economy and created the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

Colombian Journalist Accuses Paramilitaries of Rape, Torture in Testimony to Inter-American Court

Mar 17, 2021

The Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya has accused state-backed, right-wing paramilitaries of abducting, torturing and raping her in 2000. Bedoya told the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that she was abducted outside a prison in Bogotá while on a reporting trip. She was then drugged, beaten and repeatedly raped by several attackers. At the time, Bedoya was investigating U.S.-backed, right-wing paramilitary death squads in Colombia. Bedoya said she has since faced decades of “persecution, intimidation and constant threats.” Colombia is attempting to block the Inter-American Court of Human Rights from moving ahead with the case by seeking the recusal of five of the six judges. Bedoya spoke about the impact of her case in a video posted on social media earlier this month.

Jineth Bedoya: “To bring my case before an international court is not only to vindicate what has happened to me as a woman and as a journalist, but to open a window of hope for thousands of women and girls who, like me, had to face sexual violence in the midst of the Colombian armed conflict.”

U.K. Lifts Cap on Nuclear Arsenal as U.S. Considers Plan for $100 Billion “Cold War-Era” Missile

Mar 17, 2021

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his government is lifting the cap on its nuclear stockpile, increasing the number of Trident nuclear warheads by over 40%. The move ends three decades of gradual nuclear disarmament.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., a new report by the Federation of American Scientists says plans to build a new $100 billion nuclear missile are being driven by industry lobbying and politicians whose states will economically benefit from the project, despite objections from military and civilian leaders around the cost and lack of security relevance for the “Cold War-era weapon.” The cost of building and maintaining the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent, or GBSD, which would be built by Northrop Grumman with help from Lockheed Martin and others, would swell to $264 billion over the coming decades.

Filibuster Debate Heats Up as Biden Backs Reform, McConnell Threatens “Scorched Earth” in Senate

Mar 17, 2021

The debate over the Senate filibuster continues in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, President Biden said he supports a return to the “talking filibuster,” which requires senators to delay a bill by talking on the Senate floor. Earlier in the day, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened he would go “scorched earth” if Democrats move to eliminate the filibuster, turning the Senate into “a hundred-car pile-up,” and warned Republicans would retaliate with conservative laws if and when they retake the Senate. On Monday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin took to the floor to call for an end to what he called “legislative rock bottom.”

Sen. Dick Durbin: “Today, nearly 65 years after Strom Thurmond’s marathon defense of Jim Crow, the filibuster is still making a mockery of American democracy. The filibuster is still being misused by some senators to block legislation urgently needed and supported by a strong majority of the American people.”

At least two Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, have objected to doing away with the filibuster, though Manchin recently indicated he may be open to reforming it.

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Sen. Whitehouse Calls for Probe into FBI’s 2018 Background Check of Brett Kavanaugh

Mar 17, 2021

Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is calling on the Justice Department to probe the FBI’s 2018 background check of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which Senator Whitehouse says was “politically constrained and perhaps fake.” Justice Kavanaugh was accused by Christine Blasey Ford of sexually assaulting her when they were both teenagers, as well as several other allegations of sexual misconduct. But the FBI failed to interview Blasey Ford and others who came forward during their investigation. Whitehouse is also raising questions about Kavanaugh’s history of substantial personal debts, which seemingly vanished shortly before Donald Trump nominated him to the Supreme Court.

16-Year-Old Daughter of Jan. 6 Capitol Rioter Testifies in Court Her Father Threatened to Kill Her

Mar 17, 2021

As investigations continue into the deadly January 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, a 16-year-old testified in a court hearing against her father, a Texas Three Percenter who allegedly set up a security company to circumvent gun laws. After the riot, Guy Reffitt threatened to kill his two teenage children if they reported him, saying, “Traitors get shot.”

3,000 Columbia Graduate Workers Go on Strike After Failed Union Negotiations

Mar 17, 2021

Here in New York, over 3,000 research and teaching assistants at Columbia University have gone on strike after two years of unsuccessful negotiations with the prestigious college over their union’s first contract. Graduate workers are seeking fair wages, improvements to healthcare and childcare provisions, as well as protections against discrimination and sexual harassment at work. Workers say Columbia has threatened to withhold pay for those on strike and is spreading anti-union messaging to students.

Taxi Drivers Slam Mayor de Blasio’s Lender Bailout, Demand Debt Relief

Mar 17, 2021

In more labor news from New York, taxi drivers have led daily protests for over a week against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan he claims will offer relief to heavily indebted taxi medallion owners, who have suffered even more economic loss during the pandemic.

Taxi drivers: “No more suicide! No more bankruptcy! No more bankruptcy! No more suicide!”

De Blasio’s plan does not provide any debt relief, and instead offers modest loans to taxi drivers to pay off their debt, accrued largely because of the artificially inflated cost of taxi medallions. Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance said, “It’s a cash bailout for lenders while drivers are left to drown in debt, foreclosure, and bankruptcy. … The mayor’s plan is a disgraceful betrayal from a city that already has blood on its hands.”

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