Barak Obama: We Need to Follow John Lewis’ Example and Fight for Democracy

From today’s USA Today:

When I spoke at John Lewis’ memorial service two years ago, I emphasized a truth John knew better than just about anyone. Our democracy isn’t a given. It isn’t self-executing. We, as citizens, have to nurture and tend it. We have to work at it. And in that task, we have to vigilantly preserve and protect our most basic tool of self-government, which is the right to vote.

At the time, various state legislators across the country had already passed a variety of laws designed to make voting harder. It was an attack on everything John Lewis fought for, and a challenge to our most fundamental democratic freedoms.

Since then, things have only gotten worse.

Slow unraveling of basic democratic principles

While the American people turned out to vote at the highest rate in a century in the last presidential election, members of one of our two major political parties – spurred on by the then-sitting president – denied the results of that election and spun conspiracy theories that drove a violent mob to attack our Capitol.

Although initially rejected by many Republicans, those claims continued to be amplified by conservative media outlets, and have since been embraced by a sizable portion of Republican voters – not to mention GOP elected officials who do, or at least should, know better. Those Republican officials and conservative thought leaders who have courageously stood their ground and rejected such anti-democratic efforts have found themselves ostracized, threatened and subjected to primary challenges.

Read the complete story here.

Biden and Harris Call for Voting Rights Laws and Senate Reform in Georgia

From today’s New York Times:

President Biden will endorse changing Senate rules to pass new voting rights protections during a speech in Atlanta on Tuesday, the most significant step he will have taken to pressure lawmakers to act on an issue he has called the biggest test of America’s democracy since the Civil War.

Mr. Biden will not go so far as to call for full-scale elimination of the filibuster, a Senate tradition that allows the minority party to block legislation that fails to garner 60 votes, according to a senior administration official who previewed the speech. But Mr. Biden will say he supports a filibuster “carve-out” in the case of voting rights, the official said. Either endeavor has slim chances of winning support from all 50 Senate Democrats, who are already facing threats of retaliation from Republicans in the chamber.

Mr. Biden, citing “repeated obstruction” by Republicans, will endorse changing the Senate rules and contend that the filibuster has protected “extreme attacks on the most basic constitutional right.”

“This is one of those defining moments,” Mr. Biden told reporters on Tuesday, before departing for Georgia. “People are going to be judged, where were they before and where were they after the vote. History is going to judge this. And so the risk is making sure people understand just how important this is.”

Mr. Biden’s visit to Georgia is intended to invigorate a Democratic-led effort to pass new voting rights protections in the 50-50 Senate in the coming days, although chances are slim that he will be able to rally the necessary votes. Yet even with his new call for a filibuster carve-out, changing the Senate rules would require the support of all 50 Democrats and the vote of Vice President Kamala Harris to break a tie. Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both Democrats, have expressed strong public opposition to changing filibuster rules.

Read the complete story here.

Airlines issued billions in vouchers but can consumers get cash refunds

From today’s MarketWatch Online:

While airlines are providing refunds when they cancel flights, very few carriers are doing so when a customer proactively chooses to cancel a trip because of the coronavirus outbreak, a new report from a group of Democratic lawmakers charges.

U.S. Senators Edward Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal and Kamala Harris released the findings of an investigation into airline procedures in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Air travel has all but come to a halt as the number of COVID-19 cases around the world has continued to grow. Passenger volume is down some 97%, according to industry trade group Airlines for America, reaching levels not seen since the 1950s. The average flight today is only transporting 10 passengers, down from around 100 before the coronavirus crisis, the group notes.

As the coronavirus crisis worsened, airlines quickly began adopting relaxed policies allowing passengers to receive travel vouchers and to rebook trips without incurring fees if they wanted to change their travel plans. But airlines have been stingier when it comes to providing full refunds.

In total, U.S. carriers are sitting on more than $10 billion in customer cash in the form of vouchers, based on the lawmakers’ calculations. While most airlines refused to confirm the value of the vouchers they had extended, the senators used data provided by JetBlue to reach that amount.

“If these companies released that money back to the public, it would provide a significant stimulus for struggling families,” the senators said in a joint statement. “That’s why we once again urge the airlines to end their anti-consumer policies and offer real refunds during this emergency.”

The Democratic lawmakers sent inquiries to 11 airlines. JetBlue said in its response to the senators’ inquiry that it issued more than $20 million per day in vouchers to consumers in the first few weeks of March. The senators reached the $10 billion figure based on JetBlue’s domestic market share, assuming that the trend was even across the month of March and across the industry.

Read the complete article here.

NLRB HAS ‘SYSTEMATICALLY’ DAMAGED WORKER RIGHTS ON BEHALF OF LOBBYISTS, REPORT SAYS

From today‘s Newsweek:

President Donald Trump’s National Labor Relations Board has catered to the requests of a prominent business lobbying group and “systematically” eroded workers’ rights, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute released Wednesday.

The report says that the labor board, which is supposed to protect the interests of workers, has “elevated corporate interests above those of working men and women and have routinely betrayed the statute they are responsible for administering and enforcing.”

Trump has depicted himself as a champion of blue-collar workers. He regularly touts the monthly jobs report and the unemployment rate, which is currently at a half-century low. He promoted his 2017 bill to overhaul the tax code as a victory for workers, though an April report from the Center for Public Integrity noted corporations benefitted far more than workers did.

But the president has pushed policies that critics say contradict his claims of supporting worker right, including rebukes for efforts to cut the power of unions. Past reports from journalists and left-leaning think tanks have also challenged Trump’s self-depiction as a champion of the laboring class. The Center for American Progress wrote in August that Trump had enabled wage theft, empowered employer discrimination and threatened worker safety, and in 2018, detailed how his policies were “hurting American workers.”

EPI’s report further challenges Trump’s claims as a workers’ advocate by closely examining the functioning of the NLRB, which is comprised of three Trump appointees, one Democrat holdover and a Trump-appointed General Counsel. The report says that, during Trump’s time in office, the board has worked to undermine the intended duties of the agency.

Read the complete article here.

US Soccer stars ‘confident’ of winning gender discrimination lawsuit

From today’s CNN International News:

The US women’s national soccer team will “fight until the end” in its battle for equality, says one of the team’s co-captains Megan Rapinoe.With the Women’s World Cup just months away, 28 players in the US squad last week filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation, stating “institutionalized gender discrimination,” which the reigning world champions say has existed for years.

Megan Rapinoe #15 kneels during the National Anthem prior to the match between the US and the Netherlands in September 2016.

The suit, filed in a federal court in Los Angeles on March 8 — International Women’s Day — intensified the team’s long-running dispute with the federation over pay equity and working conditions, stating that “female players have been consistently paid less money than their male counterparts.”Rapinoe, a World Cup winner in 2015, told CNN Sport she was confident the team would be successful, adding that the USWNT was happy to “clear the path as much as we can” for other countries in the fight for gender equality.

The US women’s national soccer team will “fight until the end” in its battle for equality, says one of the team’s co-captains Megan Rapinoe.With the Women’s World Cup just months away, 28 players in the US squad last week filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation, stating “institutionalized gender discrimination,” which the reigning world champions say has existed for years.

The suit, filed in a federal court in Los Angeles on March 8 — International Women’s Day — intensified the team’s long-running dispute with the federation over pay equity and working conditions, stating that “female players have been consistently paid less money than their male counterparts.”Rapinoe, a World Cup winner in 2015, told CNN Sport she was confident the team would be successful, adding that the USWNT was happy to “clear the path as much as we can” for other countries in the fight for gender equality.

Read the complete article here.

The fastest-growing job in each state

From today’s Yahoo Finance News:

The unemployment rate rose slightly to 4.0% in January 2019, while the labor force participation rate hit its highest mark since 2013. Overall, the report indicated that the U.S. labor market is still chugging along.

And some jobs are growing faster than others. Construction and extraction jobs are in high demand in the U.S., along with installation, maintenance, and repair services. Production jobs are also quickly developing, as are mathematical and technology-focused occupations.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and projections from the government-backed Projections Managing Partnership (PMP), we mapped out the top jobs by growth rate (as opposed to plentifulness).

Read the complete article here.

Under Trump Regime, Sweeping Shift on #VotingRights Undermines Democracy

From today’s New York Times:

A new voter ID law could shut out many Native Americans from the polls in North Dakota. A strict rule on the collection of absentee ballots in Arizona is being challenged as a form of voter suppression. And officials in Georgia are scrubbing voters from registration rolls if their details do not exactly match other records, a practice that voting rights groups say unfairly targets minority voters.

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department would often go to court to stop states from taking steps like those. But 18 months into President Trump’s term, there are signs of change: The department has launched no new efforts to roll back state restrictions on the ability to vote, and instead often sides with them.

Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the department has filed legal briefs in support of states that are resisting court orders to rein in voter ID requirements, stop aggressive purges of voter rolls and redraw political boundaries that have unfairly diluted minority voting power — all practices that were opposed under President Obama’s attorneys general.

The Sessions department’s most prominent voting-rights lawsuit so far forced Kentucky state officials last month to step up the culling from registration rolls of voters who have moved.

In the national battle over voting rights, the fighting is done in court, state by state, over rules that can seem arcane but have the potential to sway the outcome of elections. The Justice Department’s recent actions point to a decided shift in policy at the federal level: toward an agenda embraced by conservatives who say they want to prevent voter fraud.

Read the complete article here.

Breaking News: Dick’s Sporting Goods To Stop Selling Assault-Style Weapons

From today’s New York Times:

One of the nation’s largest sports retailers, Dick’s Sporting Goods, said Wednesday morning it was immediately ending sales of all assault-style rifles in its stores.

The retailer also said that it would no longer sell high-capacity magazines and that it would not sell any gun to anyone under 21 years of age, regardless of local laws.

The announcement, made two weeks after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 students and staff members, is one of the strongest stances taken by corporate America in the national gun debate. It also carries symbolic weight, coming from a prominent national gun seller.

Late last week, after coming under attack on social media for their ties to the National Rifle Association, a number of major companies, including Hertz car rental, MetLife insurance and Delta Air Lines, publicly ended those relationships, issuing brief, carefully phrased statements.

But Edward Stack, the 63-year-old chief executive of Dick’s whose father founded the store in 1948, is deliberately steering his company directly into the storm, making clear that the company’s new policy was a direct response to the Florida shooting.

“When we saw what happened in Parkland, we were so disturbed and upset,” Mr. Stack said in an interview Tuesday evening. “We love these kids and their rallying cry, ‘enough is enough.’ It got to us.”

He added, “We’re going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view and, hopefully, bring people along into the conversation.”

Mr. Stack said he hoped that conversation would include politicians. As part of its stance, Dick’s is calling on elected officials to enact what it called “common sense gun reform’’ by passing laws to raise the minimum age to purchase guns to 21, to ban assault-type weapons and so-called bump stocks, and to conduct broader universal background checks that include mental-health information and previous interactions with law enforcement.

Read the complete article here.

Fake News, #Pizzagate, and the Ugly Turn to the Right after Trump

From today’s New York Times:

The North Carolina man who was arrested on Sunday for firing a rifle in a popular Washington pizzeria confirmed he was motivated by the storm of fake online news about a suspected child trafficking ringallegedly running out of the restaurant and led by Hillary Clinton.

Edgar M. Welch said in an arraignment released on Monday that he had read online that the Comet Ping Pong restaurant in Northwest Washington was “harboring child sex slaves, and he wanted to see for himself if they were there,” according to court documents.

Read the full article here.