March 9, 2021

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The Headlines

U.S. Politics

Biden Takes the First Step Toward Undoing Betsy DeVos’ Title IX Rules (Mother Jones)

The Senate Just Passed Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill (Mother Jones)

Democrats Refusing to Fight for $15 Are the Best Allies Republicans Have (The Nation)

Georgia Republicans Want to Reshape Voting Laws, Burdening Voters Of Color (The Center for Public Integrity)

‘Jim Crow in a Suit and Tie’: Georgia Senate Approves Massive Assault on Voting Rights (Common Dreams)

U.S. Militarism 

End Trump and Biden’s Secret Bombing Wars (The Progressive)

Biden’s War Policy Offers Chance for Change — Or More of the Same (The Intercept)

Racial Justice

6 Things You Should Know About George Floyd’s Murder Trial (Colorlines)

Economy and Labor

Amazon Is Paying Consultants Nearly $10,000 a Day to Obstruct Union Drive (Truthout)

Climate Crisis

Federal Courts Help Biden Quickly Dismantle Trump’s Climate and Environmental Legacy (Inside Climate News)

U.S. Politics
Biden Takes the First Step Toward Undoing Betsy DeVos’ Title IX Rules

Monday morning, President Biden issued an executive order that sets the groundwork for newly confirmed Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to roll back the Trump administration’s overhaul of federal rules for how schools should handle allegations of sexual violence and harassment.

Mother Jones reports the order calls out former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ Title IX regulations to be reviewed for potential suspension, revision, or rescission. It also directs Cardonas and the attorney general to review any regulations or policies that might run counter to goal of eliminating sex discrimination in schools, including on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.

During the Trump administration, DeVos rolled back Obama-era policy that expanded protections for student survivors who reported sexual assault. Her policies, in part drafted by men’s rights activists, have narrowed schools’ responsibility to respond to sexual assault reports.

The Senate Just Passed Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Bill

On Saturday, the Senate passed a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill with a 50-49 party-line vote, moving one of President Joe Biden’s signature initiatives one step closer to becoming law. The bill includes $350 billion for state governments and extends unemployment benefits at $300-a-week through September 6.

Most famously, the package includes a round of $1,400 checks for people earning below certain cutoffs, reports Mother Jones.

The relief bill is missing some aspects progressives pushed for, such as a higher threshold for stimulus checks and a $15 minimum wage, which eight Democrats voted against.

Democrats Refusing to Fight for $15 Are the Best Allies Republicans Have

Though the Republican party is in chaos following Donald Trump’s defeat, Democrats are making for excellent allies. In President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, eight  Democrats voted against the longstaning promise to guarantee working Americans a living federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.

These same Senate Democrats slashed weekly unemployment benefits from $400 to $300 and advocated stricter means-testing for the $1,400 direct stimulus payments.

The Nation writes these compromising Democrats are, whether motivated by corporate interests or media-praised centrism, “making the mistake that Democrats regularly make at the start of a new administration.”

Georgia Senate Approves Massive Assault on Voting Rights

Typical wait times decreased at early voting sites for the January runoff in most of Georgia’s large counties, compared to the November general election. This wasn’t true in two counties, Hall and Cobb, which have sizeable communities of color that faced long waits.

Now Republicans in the state Legislature are pushing a slew of proposals that would almost certainly worsen delays by eliminating options that aided early voting locations, reports The Center for Public Integrity.

The Republican measures would reduce the availability of absentee voting and ramp up voter ID requirements. The measure passed by a vote of 29-20, with every Democratic state senator voting no, reports Common Dreams.

U.S. Militarism
End Trump and Biden’s Secret Bombing Wars

On February 25, President Joe Biden ordered the U.S. military to drop seven 500-pound bombs on Iraqi forces in Syria, reportedly killing 22 people.

The Progressive writes, “The airstrike has predictably failed to halt rocket attacks on deeply unpopular U.S. bases in Iraq, which the Iraqi National Assembly passed a resolution to close more than a year ago.”

Western media reported the airstrike as an isolated incident, and there has been blowback from the public, Congress, and the world. But the U.S. military and its allies are bombing and killing people in other countries on a daily basis: they’ve dropped more than 326,000 bombs and missiles on people in other countries since October 2001, including more than 152,000 in Iraq and Syria.

That’s an average of 46 bombs and missiles per day for nearly twenty years, and 42 per day in 2019. Records of U.S. airstrikes are incomplete for 2020. To end Trump-era secrecy, Biden must resume the publication of complete and accurate U.S. Airpower Summaries.

Biden’s War Policy Offers Chance for Change — Or More of the Same

Most of Joe Biden’s national security policy is under review, including troop deployments, global counterterrorism, the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay—which Biden has promised to close, just as Obama did—and more.

While Biden campaigned on ending “forever wars,” he appears poised to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 deadline negotiated by Trump, reports The Intercept.

Perhaps the most significant review will be the administration’s reexamination of Trump-era rules governing counterterrorism drone strikes and commando missions outside of conventional war zones. Reconsidering these attacks in countries including Yemen and Somalia offers a chance for Biden to break from the policies of Trump, Obama, and George W. Bush.

Racial Justice
What You Should Know about George Floyd’s Murder Trial

The trial of former Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin was set to begin March 8. Chauvin killed George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes, sparking protests across the U.S. and world this summer.

The trial has been paused until March 9, pending the inclusion of a third-degree murder charge. Chauvin is currently charged with both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The trial is expected to take nine weeks, and will be streamed live via CourtTV, a first for Minnesota.

The City of Minneapolis has been working on “Operation: Safety Net” since July 2020. The operation is a phased response to community anger meant to be implemented before, during, and after the trial, and includes nine law enforcement agencies.

Colorlines reports if Chauvin were to be acquitted, the other three officers who were on the scene during Floyd’s murder will likely have their charges dismissed.

Economy and Labor 
Amazon Is Paying Consultants Nearly $10,000 a Day to Obstruct Union Drive

Amazon’s ongoing anti-union campaign in Bessemer, Alabama, where 5,800 workers are voting by mail on whether or not to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store (RWDSU) union demonstrates Martin Levitt’s statement that “The only way to bust a union is to lie, distort, manipulate, threaten, and always attack.”

Truthout reports Amazon hired one of the country’s most expensive union-avoidance firms, Morgan Lewis, and is paying almost $10,000 per day to three consultants. Two of them previously campaigned against nurses preparing for the COVID-19 pandemic at Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.

This relentless, consultant-driven, anti-union campaign makes a case for the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. This is the labor movement’s main legislative priority for the Biden administration, which was passed by the House of Representatives in February 2020. It remains a longshot in the Senate, as it would restrict corporations’ ability to conduct no-holds-barred anti-union campaigns.

Climate Crisis
Federal Courts Help Biden Quickly Dismantle Trump’s Climate and Environmental Legacy

In the Biden administration’s first few weeks of rebuilding U.S. climate policy after Donald Trump’s copious rollbacks, federal judges—three of whom were appointed by Trump—have ruled against some of the former president’s deregulatory policies.

Judges scrapped the Trump administration’s weak power plant pollution regulation, its rule limiting science in environmental decision-making, and a decision opening vast areas of the West to new mining.

These rulings allow the Biden administration to move forward with some confidence about its own ambitious regulatory agenda, reports Inside Climate News. The Biden team’s work on writing new climate regulations begins in earnest soon, with the Senate slated to vote Wednesday on his nomination of Michael Regan, North Carolina’s top environmental official, to head the Environmental Protection Agency.

In Other News

1. First juror chosen in George Floyd trial says he has not seen video of Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck (The Independent)

2. We Now Can See a Virus Mutate Like Never Before (The Atlantic)

3. Judge Dismisses Criminal Case Against Breonna Taylor’s Boyfriend, Kenneth Walker III (HuffPost)

4.Covid vaccines: How fast is progress around the world? (BBC)

5. Quarter of women and girls have been abused by a partner, says WHO (The Guardian

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The Indy Brief is edited by Jeremy Lovelett.