The government has re-opened and we continue to fight for what is right, focusing on the big picture. The marchers inspired us last week, but it was the women gymnasts who came forward to speak poignantly about abuse at the hands of someone who was supposed to help them. That showed us what inner strength and courage looks like. Not only were the athlete’s courage a source of positivity, there were other good things that happened this week and the highlight’s are:
- Vermont become the seventh state to allow recreational marijuana and the first state where it was legalized by a state legislature and not voter referendum. #LegalPot
- The PA Supreme Court found the state’s GOP-drawn congressional districts violate its Constitution and ordered all districts redrawn in time for the congressional primaries. This follows on the heels of good decisions in the lower courts in North Carolina and Wisconsin. #NoVoterSupression
- EPA backs away from allowing gold mining near Bristol Bay in Alaska putting one of the world’s largest fisheries for sockeye salmon at risk. #SaveThePlanet
- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the EPA cannot shelter its “waters of the United States” rule (WOTUS) from judicial review by limiting the federal courts where suits can be brought for violations. The Clean Water Act, allows those harmed by WOTUS to sue in any federal district court within six years, but the EPA rewrote the rules limiting cases to only the federal courts of appeal and only within 120 days and kept all the challenges to a single appellate court. #StoptheEPA
- Newly elected NJ democratic Governor reverted the state back to the rule that required residents to show a justifiable need to carry a firearm because they had been the target of “specific threats” or attacks. #GunControlNow
- Democrat Austin Davis won a special election to the PA House of Representatives and is the first black man in the county to be elected outside of downtown Pittsburgh. While it is a traditionally democratic district he outperformed prior candidates, winning 74 to 26. Since you can only win if you run, I will mention that Ballotpedia reports that as of January 2018, a total of 21 U.S. House races do not have a Democratic candidate and 65 do not have a Republican candidate. #Bluewave2018 IN MORE GOOD NEWS…
🗳 VOTING RIGHTS also improved in NORTH CAROLINA and CALIFORNIA now that the NC State Supreme Court struck down the Republican-led General Assembly efforts to take the democratic governor’s control over the elections boards at the state and county levels away. CA settled a voting rights lawsuit and will allow residents who renew their driver’s licenses by mail to register to vote using one form and roll out a program that will automatically register driver’s license applicants to vote unless they opt out. Florida is looking to make things better by restoring voting rights to felons on the November ballot after certifying the 799,000 signatures collected by activists needed to put it on the ballot.
👨⚖️A lot happened with CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM that makes life better for those seeking a fair and just system. A Court of Appeal in California held that a defendant was entitled to hearing where the court considers their financial resources and other circumstances, as well as alternatives to money bail.” A New York Court dismissed the indictment of a man who was held in pre-trial detention for seven years for violating his right to a speedy trial. The Municipal Court of Atlanta announced it will allow those charged with nonviolent offenses to sign signature bonds rather than requiring cash for bail. Activists in Chicago helped convince the State’s Attorney to free a man imprisoned for 21 years after he was wrongfully convicted of a crime after being subjected to police torture. Hoping to make more good changes, the ACLU sued Pennsylvania to stop them from placing all death row inmates in solitary confinement alleging it is cruel and unusual punishment and sued Dallas County claiming the money bail system discriminates against low-income defendants.
🏥 HEALTH CARE took a step in the right direction when the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that state payments to Planned Parenthood for providing non-abortion health care services, such as cancer screenings are not prohibited by the state constitution. Currently, it prohibits public funding for abortions, under the argument that it “subsidizes” abortion care at the facility. Advocacy groups sued to stop Kentucky from implementing Medicaid work rules. New York City and Maryland jumped on the bandwagon of those suing drug manufacturers for causing the opioid epidemic. A group of Satanists is challenging a Missouri law that requires women seeking an abortion to receive a booklet that says life begins at conception, arguing that the measure violated their religious beliefs that a fetus is not an individual being. Oregon voters passed a ballot initiative to prop up the medicaid expansion.
📰 There is FREE SPEECH on school property now that the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a school district in Oregon can’t prohibit striking teachers from picketing or carrying signs on school property; students also cannot be barred from carrying signs on their cars supporting them. When Herriman High School censored the student newspaper for an investigative piece on misconduct, the students created a news website unconnected with the school to tell their story. This then drew even more attention to the story.
🗽 BECAUSE MONUMENTS AND NAMES MATTER to the people who see them, the DeKalb County Commissioners (GA) voted to move the Confederate monument located near the courthouse. A U.S. District Judge refused to issue a preliminary injunction preventing the Caddo parish (LA) from removing a confederate monument, rejecting the United Daughters of the Confederacy’s claims. While I don’t condone breaking the law, sometimes people need to vent their frustrations, as they did when when they vandalized confederate statues in New Orleans, Knoxville, and South Congress (TX).
🤑In the DAVID VS GOLIATH like battle to make corporations do the right thing, Canadian regulators are suing Ticketmaster and Live Nation for allegedly misleading consumers on ticket prices by hiding large fees until late in the processing. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that Unions held their ground in 2017 and the national rate of union membership did not decline. Starbucks is giving part-time workers paid sick time and 6 weeks paid parental leave, along with raising salaries and providing stock grants.
🌎 So many are SUING TO PROTECT THE ENVIRONMENT, including a group of scientists who sued the EPA for limiting the participation of scientists from advisory boards. California sued the Interior Dept to reinstate rules protecting the environment from fracking on public lands. The Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin sued to stop the Back Forty Mine. Thanks to one court case Cokenergy and Sun Coke Energy reached an agreement with the EPA. They have to spend $250,000 on cleaning up lead contamination in East Chicago, overhaul pollution control at its facility, and pay a $5 million fine, court approval pending.
👩🔬Research and funding also SAVE THE PLANET so Australia announced plans to invest $60m to reduce damage to the Great Barrier Reef. Scientists at UCLA discovered a cheaper metal can be used to spark the reaction in hydrogen fuel cells; this will make cars that emit water lighter, cheaper, and more possible.
🦸♀️The #MeToo movement gets needed help and support with Texas announcing an initiative giving driver’s license applicants the option to donate toward testing old rape kits has raised nearly $25,000 in January. The Producers Guild of America created anti-sexual harassment guidelines and Wonder Woman 2 will be the first film production to officially adopt them. The Voters in Santa Clara obtained enough signature to bring a recall vote on the judge who gave the shockingly short sentence in the Brock Turner case. We Said Enough has developed an app to bring immediate social support to victims of sexual harassment.
💗 Helping to STOP HATE a U.S.District Judge threw out a lawsuit against charity information site GuideStar over its use of the SPLC’s designation of certain organizations as “hate groups”. The count found that it was “an informative statement” and “not commercial speech.” Jackman, Maine, fired the town manager they hired after finding out he publically expresses racially biased views.
🚪 DON’T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT RNC finance chairman Steve Wynn, who stepped down following sexual misconduct allegations on the magnitude of Harvey Weinstein’s #GOPreturnWynnMoney. The 24-year-old campaign intern appointed to a top position in the Office of National Drug Control Policy resigned after his complete lack of experience and misrepresentations on his resume were reported. The former nominee to lead the EPA’s chemical safety office, who withdrew his name because even republicans disapproved of his close industry ties is now finally leaving his “temporary” position as a senior adviser to Pruitt. Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) is not seeking re-election following reports of a sexual harassment complaint filed against him. The upside to Brownbacks’s new appointment is that he is no longer governing Kansas.
👳 TEMPORARY HELP FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS from Somalia and Cambodia when two different U.S. District Judges granted them stays from deportation while they decided their legal claims. Three Israeli pilots stated they would not fly planes deporting asylum seekers.
👩🎓WOMEN continue to BREAK GLASS CEILINGS BIG AND SMALL as more colleges like St. Michael’s College and the business sector such as the Tucson Metro Chamber select their first female Presidents. Vivian Olivier became the first woman Chairperson of the St. Landry Parish Council and Nancy Carriere won for Vice Chair. The first woman to Chair the Housing Authority of the City of Charleston was appointed. Mexican officials selected the first woman to serve on the board of the Mexican central bank. Rachel Morrison is the first woman to be nominated for a best cinematography Oscar.
👨🏾👩🏽LATINX and PEOPLE OF COLOR EARNED NEW LEADERSHIP ROLES as City College of San Francisco named a latina woman as the President of it’s board of trustees. She will serve alongside will serve alongside the newly appointed latino Chancellor. Burien (WA) elected its first Latino mayor. Kenneth Chenault was appointed to the Facebook Board of Directors making him the first black director on its all-white board.
🏳️🌈LGBTQ progress continues as Russia recognized a gay marriage for the first time when a gay couple married overseas had their passports stamped to indicate married. Glenbrook High School (IL) opted for a policy requiring schools to consider cases on an individual basis taking into account a student’s “consistent gender identity.” Yance Ford became the first trans director to be nominated for an Oscar.
🌐The fight to save NET NEUTRALITY is just getting started with both the Montana and New York Governors signing executive orders barring state agencies from doing business with internet service providers that violate net neutrality. Even the U.S. Government Accountability Office agreed to take up an investigation into fake comments being filed to the FCC regarding proposed net neutrality rule repeal.
🤣 FOR YOUR AMUSEMENT we had the Guggenheim Museum reject a request from 45 for a Van Gogh for the private residence and instead offered him a gold toilet 🚽 called “America”. Additionally, a U.S. District Judge rejected a bid by Jared Kushner related companies to keep secret the details of a pending lawsuit claiming their buildings collected illegal fees from tenants.
🕬 ADVOCATES CONTINUE TO GET CREATIVE and my favorite find this week is the website that helps you support black women candidates by providing one site to promote all black women running for office at https://blackwomeninpolitics.com/ As of now they list a total of 414 women. While boycotts are not new, Big city Mayors canceled a planned meeting with 45 over a Dept. of Justice demand of sanctuary cities that they prove they have not kept information from federal immigration authorities and threatened subpoenas for those that don’t comply. The Take the Knee movement has brought us the NFL formation of an owner-player committee to further social justice and equality and the start of a “Let’s Listen Together” multimedia campaign to encourage dialogue about social justice.