Consenting To A Consent Decree
April 22, 2021
The Good News
- Free school lunch for all extended to June 2022 (CBS 10)
- Judge orders LA to provide shelter for skid row residents (LA Times)
“The fate of millions of people—indeed the future of the black community itself—may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in our society.” — Michelle Alexander
Minneapolis Consents To A Consent Decree (Andrew Harnik-Pool via Getty Images) It just may be that we’re seeing the beginnings of a realignment of the way police go about their “policing” in this country. In the aftermath of former officer Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Tuesday that Department of Justice (DoJ) lawyers will begin an inquiry into Minneapolis Police Department policing practices. Civil rights attorneys will review the department’s use of excessive force, including during protests, discriminatory conduct, and whether its treatment of people with behavioral health issues follows the law. “[The investigation] will include a comprehensive review of … policies, training, supervision and use-of-force investigations,” Garland said. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arrandondo — who broke the “blue wall of silence” to testify against Chauvin — said Wednesday he welcomed the investigation and that his department would fully cooperate. The chief hopes the DoJ’s assistance will give him the additional support he’s been needing to pursue changes in his department. Following Rodney King’s beating by Los Angeles police in the early 1990s, Congress authorized the DoJ to conduct these kinds of civil rights investigations into local police departments and sheriff’s offices. Over the next two decades, the government opened some 70 separate investigations and entered into 40 reform agreements with abusive police departments across the country. 15 of the so-called “Consent Degrees” were finalized by Obama’s DoJ, up from three under the Bush DoJ. That changed when Donald Trump entered the Oval Office in 2017. Trump had christened himself the “law and order” president; he embraced police departments and labeled those protesting for reform as lawless and violent. Attorney General Jeff Sessions dramatically scaled back police investigations and put on hold enforcement of existing consent decrees, virtually freeing up troubled police departments from that federal oversight. On April 16, Garland reversed that practice. Meanwhile, there’s a growing movement to change the criminal justice system’s approach to sex work. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said Wednesday his office would no longer prosecute sex work cases. Vance moved to dismiss 914 open prostitution and unlicensed massage cases and 5,080 cases where the charge was loitering for the purpose of prostitution. In a statement, Vance explained what his office had learned from past experience: “Criminally prosecuting [sex workers] does not make us safer, and too often, achieves the opposite result by further marginalizing vulnerable New Yorkers.” The broader national conversation on policing, criminal and racial justice, and social equity must also include the War on Drugs, which for years has been used as a tool to target Black and Brown Americans. Studies show that despite the similarity of cannabis usage rates between Blacks and Whites, Black Americans are arrested four times more than whites. Almost 700,000 cannabis-related arrests are made each year, with far more people of color going to jail, suggesting American drug policy is significantly contributing to racial inequality. Being such a huge drain on law enforcement personnel and resources, it’s a legitimate question to ask whether prosecuting pot users, like prosecuting sex workers, really makes us safer. (NBC, ProPublica, NYT, Brookings)
A Tentatively Tentative Agreement (Thierry Monasse via Getty Images)
- This week President Biden hosts a virtual summit on climate change, with attendance via Zoom. On the eve of the meeting, the EU announced a tentative climate deal putting the 27-nation bloc on a path to being “climate neutral” by 2050. The agreement has binding targets for carbon emissions.
- European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday: “Our political commitment to becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 is now also a legal commitment. The climate law sets the EU on a green path for a generation.” Under the provisional deal reached after officials had negotiated all night, the EU will also commit itself to an intermediate target of cutting greenhouse gasses by 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.
- Critics of the deal said too many accounting tricks were used to reach the level of 55%. Others said: “This Climate Law is nothing more than a new package for what already exists.” (AP)
- In the spring of 2020, as coronavirus was closing down everyday life, “non-essential” health services like abortions were also being shuttered. In countries where the procedure was already a highly contested right, some governments swiftly enacted restrictions.
- Andorra, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, and Poland banned abortions outright. Surgical abortion was made less available in another 12 countries; in 11 more, services became unavailable or delayed for women with Covid-19 symptoms.
- Other countries took a very different approach. Regulatory barriers to abortion lifted to varying degrees in Belgium, Estonia, Ireland, Finland, France, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
- The practice of conducting “telemedicine abortions” — as opposed to in-person consultations — was embraced during the pandemic by five of those countries: England, Wales, Scotland, France, and Ireland – in addition to Denmark and the Stockholm region of Sweden where it was already in use. The vast majority of abortions in the UK are now medical ones, via pills administered before 10 weeks of pregnancy. (Guardian)
- Putin warns of tough Russian action if West crosses ‘red line’ (BBC)
- EU regulator finds possible link between Johnson & Johnson vaccine and blood clots, but says benefits outweigh risks (CNN)
- A Super League Plan, but No One to Defend It (NYT, $)
- A New Bird Flu Jumps to Humans. So Far, It’s Not a Problem. (NYT, $)
- Killing of female polio vaccinators puts Afghan eradication campaign at risk (Guardian)
- Japan Sexual Slavery Suit Rejected by Korean Court (NYT, $)
- Project Force: Who will win the underwater arms race? (Al Jazeera)
- Humanitarian system not listening to people in crises, says UN aid chief (Guardian)
- Journalist Absar Alam Shot After Criticizing Pakistan Military (NYT, $)
- Germany: Protest erupts as parliament votes on COVID rules (Al Jazeera)
- 27,000 trees are cut down every day to make toilet paper. That felt like too many, so honeycomb created toilet tissue made from bamboo.
- Why is bamboo better? It grows 80 times faster than an average tree – meaning that it can create thousands of toilet tissue rolls in the same time it would take a single tree to grow back. Its short fibers are perfect for making toilet tissue, and honeycomb’s 3-ply texture strikes the perfect balance between soft and strong.
- In other words: it feels just like regular high-end toilet tissue, but it doesn’t harm trees. Biodegradable and plastic-free, they also deliver right to your door.
- Even better? In honor of Earth Day (4/22), they’re giving 25% off w/ code P25 through tonight.
The Quest For Demand
- Over half of American adults have received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine. Now the rest — the vaccine-hesitant and the indifferent — must be persuaded to get it. State health officials, business leaders, policymakers, and politicians are trying to tailor their messaging and tactics to reach those people.
- There are mobile vaccination vehicles going into rural areas to make it easier for those folks to get shots. Many states are eschewing mass vaccination sites and opting for patients getting vaccinated at their doctors’ offices, where they feel most comfortable. That shift will require the Biden administration to ship vaccines in much smaller quantities.
- White House officials are calling this next phase of the vaccination program “the ground game” — similar to a get-out-the-vote effort. The work will be labor-intensive, and much of it may fall on private employers. But what’s at risk for taking too long to reach “herd immunity” is the chance new variants might emerge that could overpower currently available vaccines. (NYT, $)
- Brendan Hunt, an avid Trump supporter from New York City, will be the defendant in the first federal trial — starting this week in Brooklyn — that will force jurors to dive deep into the national debate over how much the government should police violent rhetoric in the wake of the January 6 Capitol attack.
- Hunt wasn’t in Washington for the insurrection. But two days after the attack the 37-year-old posted an 88-second video online entitled: “KILL YOUR SENATORS.” According to the government’s complaint, Hunt says in the video: “we need to go back to the US Capitol” ahead of President-elect Biden’s inauguration and “slaughter” members of Congress. “If anyone has a gun, give me it,” Hunt says. ‘I’ll go there myself and shoot them and kill them.”
- The jury will have to decide whether the video and three other social media posts Hunt made crossed the line from free speech into illegal threats. The trial could be a bellwether of how authorities balance the pursuit of serious domestic threats with constitutional protections for political speech. (NYT, $
- Progressive Lawmakers to Unveil Legislation on Energy and Public Housing (NYT, $)
- Ma’Khia Bryant: 16-year-old girl shot dead by police in Columbus, Ohio (Guardian)
- Los Angeles could become largest US city to trial universal basic income (Guardian)
- Sanders And Top Progressives Push To Make College Free For Most Americans (NPR)
- The Death of George Floyd Reignited a Movement. What Happens Now? (NYT, $)
- HIV/AIDS Cases Go Undetected, Untreated During COVID-19 Pandemic (NPR)
- Harriet Tubman: archaeologists find abolitionist’s lost Maryland home (Guardian)
- Welcome to the YOLO Economy (NYT, $)
- Four in 10 Americans live in counties with unhealthy air pollution levels (Guardian)
A Deep-Seeded Problem Years In The Making
- In 1879 William James Beal, a botanist at Michigan State University, embarked on an experiment he thought would last a century. Instead it’s been going on for 142 years and counting.
- Beal knew that when seeds are shed by their seed parents, they don’t always grow right away. On any given patch of land there are sleeping seeds, just biding their time, as it were. The seeds could lie dormant for a season, a few years, even longer, until they get the right set of cues to sprout.
- This plant reserve is known as the seed bank. Beal decided to recreate what happens with a seed bank, hoping to better understand how long-dormant plant embryos could last in the soil, and what triggers them to grow.
- For his experiment, Beal filled 20 bottles, each containing over a thousand seeds — 50 seeds each of 21 different species, like black mustard, white clover, and redroot amaranth. seeds. Then he buried the bottles in a row somewhere on campus. He planned for himself and later his successors to unearth a bottle every five years and plant the preserved seeds inside.
- He might have been trying to help local farmers tired of having to endlessly de-weed their fields. Of course, anyone who’s ever had to hack weeds out of their vegetable garden or flower bed time and time again would like to know the answer to when the weed-soil-seed-bank might begin to run out.
- For the first few rounds of the experiment, a number of species flourished, with seeds growing readily after 10, 15, or 20 years. As time went on the seeds began to drop one by one until only one reliable sprouter was left: Verbascum blattaria, a splay-leafed yellow-flowering herb. Nearly 50% of the Verbascum seeds from the 2000s bottle bloomed even after being underground for over a century.
- Today’s farmers don’t really need the kind of help with weeds that motivated Beal. But for plant scientists, the soil seed banks underlying different habits are “great unknowns” in restoration ecology, as experts try to promote native species while fending off invasive ones. And in some cases, seeds of endangered or long-lost plants might even still be hiding out in the soil.
- Carol Baskin, professor of plant and soil sciences at the University of Kentucky, said Dr. Beal’s is the longest-running experiment to mix natural conditions with carefully recorded data. Baskin has used its results in her work, and thinks Beal “has the top experiment here. I wish he’d have buried more bottles.” (NYT, $)
- Brace yourselves. Facebook has a new mega-leak on its hands (ArsTechnica)
- Europe proposes strict regulation of artificial intelligence. (NYT, $)
- Wild animal suffering is the new frontier of animal welfare (Vox)
- True Love? On TV, There’s an App for That (NYT, $)
- AirTags Are the Perfectly Boring, Functional Future of AR (Wired)
- We instinctively add on new features and fixes. Why don’t we subtract instead? (WaPo, $)
- The Pandemic Proved That Our Toilets Are Crap (Wired)
- The Humble Shrub That’s Predicting a Terrible Fire Season (ArsTechnica)