No Photo, No Vote-o
April 5, 2021
The Good News
- Virginia banned the gay/trans panic defense on the Transgender Day of Visibility (LGBTQ Nation)
- Governor Lee Renews Proposal for Mental Health Trust Fund (TN Office of the Governor)
“Benito Mussolini created the word ‘fascism.’ He defined it as ‘the merging of the state and the corporation.’ He also said a more accurate word would be ‘corporatism.’ This was the definition in Webster’s up until 1987 when a corporation bought Webster’s and changed it to exclude any mention of corporations.” — Adam McKay
Georgia: No Photo, No Vote-o
(Angela Rowlings via Getty Images)
A toxic voter fraud conspiracy campaign fueled by countless members of Republican leadership has worked remarkably well. Pew research shows that in the last few years attitudes among Republicans over easy access to voting have changed dramatically: In 2018, 48% of Republicans said everything possible should be done to make it easy to vote. Today just 28% agree with that position, while 60% say easing registration and voting measures would make elections less secure. Republican lawmakers in 47 out of 50 states have introduced over 360 restrictive voting bills — undemocratic efforts claiming to ‘fix’ a problem that doesn’t exist.
For months, more than a half-dozen activist groups had urged Georgia’s business interests to denounce Republican-led efforts to restrict voting access in the Peach State. Billboards went up that parodied corporate slogans and urged action. Advocates projected campaigns on the side of a hotel hosting attendees for the NBA All-Star weekend in early March.
Georgia’s SB 202, “The Election Integrity Act of 2021,” reduces the time period during which voters can request absentee ballots, requires an ID number or photocopy of an ID to request and return ballots, and shortens the runoff period (which subsequently shortens the early voting window). It even prohibits anyone but poll workers from distributing water to voters waiting in line. Worst of all, it gives the Republican-controlled state legislature more authority over the State Election Board, including the ability to override local election certifications. In other words: to disenfranchise every voter in a district who doesn’t vote Republican.
Fortunately, the ever-louder outcry against SB202 got the attention of some hefty corporations in Georgia. On March 31, Atlanta-based Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola issued forceful condemnations of the new law. In return, Georgia House Republicans threatened to stymie their tax breaks. Then, on April 2, Major League Baseball jumped into the fray by moving this summer’s All-Star Game and its draft out of Atlanta.
That same day, executives from almost 200 companies — including Dow, HP, Twitter, Estée Lauder, Under Armour, Salesforce, and ViacomCBS — joined in a strong statement against proposals that threaten to restrict voting access in Texas and dozens more states. “We call on elected leaders in every state capitol and in Congress to work across the aisle and ensure that every eligible American has the freedom to easily cast their ballot and participate fully in our democracy,” the statement said.
Activists say corporate criticism of Republican voter suppression bills in almost every state finally reflects the urgency of the sheer number of restrictions under consideration. Texas lawmakers have introduced the largest number of restrictive bills (49 as of March 24); it’s the next battleground for activists. (Politico; NBC News; WaPo, $)
Repairing Fissions In Nuclear Talks
(Iranian Leader Press Office via Getty Images)
- After weeks of failed attempts, the US and other former signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal have gotten Iran to agree to meet informally in Vienna to begin exchanging ideas about how to restore the accord. Western officials said there won’t be direct talks at this time between the US and Iran.
- Instead, in Vienna, American officials will be down the hall while British, German, French, Chinese, and Russian officials meet with Iran. The discussion will focus on “the nuclear steps that Iran would need to take in order to return to compliance ” with the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
- Former President Trump scrapped the Obama-era pact nearly three years ago. Restoring the agreement would be a major step, and perhaps begin a thaw in the frozen hostility between Iran and the US. There is still infighting in Iran between elements of the government that are desperate to end the crushing sanctions, and hard-liners in the military and among the cleric who have demanded reparations for the damage done by Trump’s decision to pull out of the accord. It’s probably unlikely that some sort of agreement could happen before Iran’s presidential elections in June. (NYT, $)
And The Oscar Goes To…
- Oscars will be handed out at April 25’s Academy Awards; millions around the globe will be watching. A Mandarin-language film is nominated for best international feature in the documentary short category. Also nominated is a Chinese-born woman, Chloe Zhao, a front-runner for best director for her film “Nomadland.”
- This recognition should have been an opportunity for China to take a victory lap. Instead, after Chinese media regulators’ decided not to air the Oscars live on its streaming platforms, a Beijing-backed broadcaster in Hong Kong said it won’t air the show in the city — the first time in over 50 years the internationally-popular award ceremony won’t be broadcast.
- The reason appears to be the subject matter of the documentary: a front-line exposé of the 2019 democracy protests, including the siege of Hong Kong’s Chinese University. Chinese regulators want to avoid new attention being paid to Beijing’s crackdown on the protests, which led to sweeping arrests and the passage of the infamous “national security law” restricting free speech in Hong Kong. The government also doesn’t want to provide a platform for Zhao, who once made comments critical of her birthplace. (WaPo, $)
Additional World News
- Demonstrators are protesting a massive new policing bill in Britain (Vox)
- Russia fines Twitter for not taking down calls to protest (Yahoo News)
- Meet The Woman Running The Only Major News Outlet By India’s Lowest Caste (NPR). You can’t find the channel on TV, but can easily caste it from your phone.
- Taiwan’s transportation minister offers resignation after deadly train crash (CNN)
- Myanmar’s Military Has Killed Over 40 Children Since the Coup. Here’s One Child’s Story. (NYT, $)
- 533 million Facebook users’ phone numbers, personal information exposed online, report says (WaPo, $). At least their data privacy record is otherwise squeaky clean.
- How a Chicago teacher sparked a ‘memory war,’ forcing Lithuania to confront its Nazi past (NBC)
- Philippines’ defence chief says China intends to occupy more South China Sea areas (Reuters)
- Kenya vaccine rollout exposes inequality (WaPo, $)
- CDC: Fully vaccinated people can travel safely again (AJC)
- How Jamaica failed to handle its JamCOVID scandal (Yahoo News). The failures began with the name.
- Is The US In For Another Big COVID Surge? (NPR)
The Wretched Ransom In Higher Ed
- Nationwide, both public and private colleges and universities are withholding diplomas and transcripts from 6.6 million students who owe money to the institutions. The unpaid bills are in some instances as low as $25, or less. While that amount probably isn’t a substantial impediment, for students owing several thousands of dollars, a policy of preventing access to transcripts, diplomas, and certifications means they can’t take credits with them if they transfer, can’t enter graduate schools, or even get a job that could help them pay off their balances.
- Besides tuition, unpaid bills can be for room and board, fees, parking and library fines, and other costs that students sometimes don’t know they owe. Often late charges are added, significantly increasing the original amounts. One young man left Ohio University after three semesters and then withdrew, ultimately resuming at a community college closer to home. But the university won’t release his transcript — or any of those credits already earned — because of an unpaid bill for three months’ worth of room and board that, with interest and penalties, has grown to $18,000.
- Unsurprisingly, the impact of transcript holds falls almost entirely on low-income students. The practice also disproportionately affects students at community colleges, which promote themselves as affordable and transfer-friendly. Some states are passing, or considering, legislation to curb the practice of blocking students who owe money from obtaining their transcripts.
- Last year California became the first state to ban the practice, and a new Washington State law requires that students who owe money be allowed to get their transcripts to apply for jobs. (NPR)
Schumer Joins The Green Party
- In April 2018, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer introduced a bill to legalize marijuana as part of his pitch to vote for Democrats in the 2020 election. Now with an arguable majority, Majority Leader Schumer is putting together new federal marijuana reform legislation with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore).
- Last week, after years of failed efforts, Schumer’s home state of New York legalized marijuana use for adults. President Biden is on record as opposing legalizing marijuana, but Schumer said the President’s reticence won’t deter the Senate from taking aggressive action to loosen federal restrictions.
- More than 40 percent of Americans now live in states that have embraced full legalization, and it’s “worked out remarkably well,” Schumer said. “They were a great success. The parade of horribles [rising crime, rising drug use, etc., etc.] never came about, and people got more freedom.” (Politico)
Additional USA News
- Capitol attack again raises security questions (Vox)
- Florida county under state of emergency as reservoir with millions of gallons of “contaminated, radioactive wastewater” could collapse “at any time” (CBS)
- All carrot, ‘no stick’ in Biden’s affordable housing plan (NBC). The plan comes horse-approved.
- US fossil-fuel companies took billions in tax breaks – and then laid off thousands (Guardian)
- Biden infrastructure plan calls for $100 billion to fix broadband internet (Vox)
- Inside the Brotherhood: Why police officers are rarely prosecuted (Vox)
- Uber ordered to pay $1.1m to blind passenger who was denied rides 14 times (Guardian)
- Culture wars strain once unshakeable bond between Republicans, corporate America (NBC)
- Dominion: will one Canadian company bring down Trump’s empire of disinformation? (Guardian)
They Didn’t Keep This Mummy Parade Under Wraps
- It was a spectacle worthy of royalty — 18 kings and 4 queens to be exact. That’s the number of mummified members of ancient Egyptian royalty paraded through downtown Cairo Saturday on their way to a new museum.
- The 22 mummies were being relocated from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square to the new National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, about 3 miles away. Officials hope the new museum will be a boon for tourism, a lucrative industry for the country that’s taken a big hit over years of political turmoil and a pandemic.
- Saturday’s pageant was named The Pharaohs’ Golden Parade. Among the prominent past rulers was King Ramses II, one of Egypt’s most famous Pharaohs, who reigned in 12th Century BC. Ramses II ruled the New Kingdom for 67 years, and was renowned for signing the first known peace treaty.
- The 22 fragile royal figures were placed in nitrogen-filled boxes for protection, and each one was transported in a stylized vehicle specially rigged to carry the remains. Roads along the route were repaved to ensure a smooth relocation; a security motorcade surrounded the convoy.
- The elaborate procession and its hundreds of costumed workers drew huge crowds and gave widespread attention to Egypt’s robust collections of antiquities. Visitors can see the mummies in their new home in Royal Mummies Hall starting April 18. (NPR)
- Google Maps will start showing you slower routes. Here’s why. (FastCompany). Now, those not willing to carpool or give up meat can save the environment in their own way.
- Can my boss read my Slack messages? (Vox)
- Brown gold: Why pine needles are a $200 million industry in the Southeast (WaPo, $)
- ‘So Deep And So Rich’ Seniors Talk About Their New Life On Zoom (NPR)
- People Are Stealing Legos. Here’s Why (NPR). Move over, Bitcoin. Legos are the next big currency.
- String theorist Michio Kaku: ‘Reaching out to aliens is a terrible idea’ (Guardian)
- See where NASA zapped this odd Martian rock with a laser (Mashable)
- ‘We Will Never Break’: In Iraq, A Yazidi Women’s Choir Keeps Ancient Music Alive (NPR)
- Carbon labels on food may be more effective than you think (Fast Company)
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