President Biden spoke in Tulsa, Oklahoma, yesterday on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre — one of the single greatest acts of racist terrorism in U.S. history. Over a span of 18 hours, a white mob burned down what was known as “Black Wall Street,” the thriving African American neighborhood of Greenwood, killing an estimated 300 people. This is President Biden.
President Joe Biden: “And while darkness can hide much, it erases nothing. It erases nothing. Some injustices are so heinous, so horrific, so grievous, they can’t be buried, no matter how hard people try. And so it is here. Only — only with truth can come healing and justice and repair.”
Biden also announced he was charging Vice President Kamala Harris with leading the federal push to protect voting rights. He took aim at Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema for the lack of congressional action on voting rights.
President Joe Biden: “I hear all the folks on TV saying, 'Why doesn't Biden get this done?’ Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends.”
Also on Tuesday, the White House announced measures to narrow the racial wealth gap by addressing housing discrimination and supporting businesses and infrastructure in communities of color.
A group of over 100 scholars of democracy released a joint statement calling for congressional action in the face of mounting Republican attacks on voting rights. The letter, published by the think tank New America, comes two days after Texas Democrats staged a walkout Sunday night to block a sweeping voter suppression bill. The scholars say that in addition to passing a new voting rights act, lawmakers also need to address partisan gerrymandering and regulate ethics and money in politics.
The Biden administration has formally terminated the Trump-era Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as “Remain in Mexico.” The 2019 policy forced some 68,000 asylum seekers to wait in often dangerous conditions in Mexico while their cases made their way through U.S. courts. The Biden administration says about 11,000 asylum seekers who were enrolled in MPP have been allowed into the U.S. since January. Immigrant rights groups celebrated the news but have vowed to hold the administration accountable. The ACLU said, “Now the Biden administration must ensure that everyone who was subjected to this policy can pursue their asylum claims in the U.S. Biden must also dismantle Trump’s other attacks on the asylum system.”
Rights groups are demanding the Biden administration stop using GPS-tracking ankle monitors and other technologies to surveil asylum seekers and immigrants. Nearly 100,000 people are currently tracked by the devices that critics have dubbed “digital shackles.” Mijente and Just Futures Law hosted a panel on technology in immigration practices Tuesday. This is Jacinta González of Mijente addressing the government’s use of technology on the border.
Jacinta González: “We’ve seen time and time again that the same companies — Raytheon, Northrop Grumman — that are creating this — you know, Anduril, Palantir — that are creating this technology at the border are the same companies that have created technologies for wars abroad for decades. And so now they’re really seeing this as the new frontier, the new way to make an investment. And the border — you know, we might think the border is just one line that just expands a couple of miles, but it’s actually most of the United States. And so, this way, once they start to introduce this technology in the hundred miles around the border, in our airports, in different ports of entry, in this way, it becomes normalized and then starts to trickle down to local police departments.”
King County, Washington state’s most populous county, which includes the city of Seattle and the headquarters of Amazon and Microsoft, has voted to ban the use of facial recognition technology by law enforcement and other agencies. It’s the first such countywide ban. King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles celebrated the unanimous vote, saying, “The use of facial recognition technology by government agencies poses distinct threats to our residents, including potential misidentification, bias, and the erosion of our civil liberties.”
The Biden administration is suspending oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that were issued in the final weeks of the Trump administration. The Interior Department said the Trump leasing program wasn’t properly reviewed for its environmental impacts. The move comes a week after the Biden administration defended a massive oil and gas project in northern Alaska known as the “Willow Master Project.” Environmental and Indigenous groups are suing the government in an attempt to stop the multibillion-dollar deal with ConocoPhillips, which was approved last year by the Trump administration. Groups say the project, which is set to produce more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day for the next 30 years, will disrupt fragile wildlife and contribute to the climate crisis.
In Afghanistan, three bomb blasts killed at least 10 people in the capital Kabul Tuesday. One explosion caused a power outage after it damaged an electric grid station. The latest deadly attacks come amid stalled intra-Afghan peace talks and as the U.S. continues its withdrawal, which is scheduled to be completed by September 11.
Sri Lanka is facing a major environmental disaster as a burning cargo ship carrying chemicals sinks off its west coast, spewing tons of possibly toxic plastic debris onto its coastline. Authorities have been battling the fire since it erupted on May 20. Scientists warn wildlife and sensitive ecosystems are at risk as far away as the other end of the island nation.
The World Health Organization has listed China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, making it the eighth vaccine to receive the approval, and the second for China, after Sinopharm. The vaccine is already in use in a number of countries, but the WHO listing means it can now also be distributed to poorer nations as part of the COVAX program. Meanwhile, the World Bank is urging the U.S. to immediately free up excess doses of their COVID-19 vaccine supply to send to Latin America. The WHO said the region remains one of the worst affected in the world.
Dr. Michael Ryan: “Eight out of the top 10 countries reporting the highest mortality rates per population in the last week have been from the region of the Americas, and particularly from South America. South American countries represent four of the top 10 countries globally just in case incidents over the last week.”
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials say COVID-19 has killed at least 32 lawmakers, over 5% of its Parliament. Low levels of testing have made it difficult to get a clear picture of the true toll of the pandemic in the conflict-ravaged country of over 86 million.
In a major milestone, Britain — once the epicenter of the pandemic — announced no COVID deaths Tuesday for the first time since July of last year.
Florida has become the largest state to impose a ban on transgender women and girls in school sports. Republican Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill Tuesday, the first day of Pride Month. At least six other states, all with Republican governors, have passed similar laws. The ACLU’s Chase Strangio notes more anti-trans bills have become law in 2021 than in the previous 10 years combined. Meanwhile, President Biden issued a proclamation recognizing June as Pride Month and vowed to fight for LGBTQ rights.
JBS, the world’s largest meat producer, says it will reopen the majority of its plants today after it was hit with a cyberattack over the weekend, forcing it to shut down slaughterhouses in the U.S. — including all of its beef plants — as well as in other countries. The White House says the ransomware attack likely originated from a criminal organization based in Russia.
In New Mexico, Democratic state Representative Melanie Stansbury defeated Republican state Senator Mark Moores in a special election to fill the seat left vacant by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. The Democrats now hold 220 seats in the House, and Republicans 211, with four seats vacant. Stansbury, who previously worked in the Obama administration, has backed progressive policies including Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.
In Puerto Rico, unions are planning a general strike Thursday in response to the privatization of the island’s power system. Labor leaders are demanding the cancellation of a contract with the private U.S. and Canadian company LUMA Energy, which formally took over the management of Puerto Rico’s electric grid yesterday from PREPA, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria. Unions have warned the agreement with LUMA will increase the cost of electricity, displace thousands of workers and allow the company to leave the island if another hurricane hits.