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Moments ago, Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States and Kamala Harris became the first Black and South Asian woman to serve as Vice President in the country's history.
Bridget Todd, communications director at UltraViolet PAC, a leading national women's advocacy organization, released the following statement:
"As now President Biden and Vice President Harris prepare to tackle some of the gravest challenges in our nation's short history, it is absolutely imperative to remember that women of color, especially Black women, are the reason why a Biden-Harris Administration and Democratic majorities in Congress exist at all.
"Because of the tireless efforts of Black women, Indigenous women, and women of color, we've reached a pivotal moment in the United States, where the people can finally begin to conceptualize what dismantling white supremacy means and looks like from the top down.
"The decades-long work and struggles of Black women, Indigenous women, and women of color political organizers, especially in battleground states like Georgia and Pennsylvania, were a driving force behind maintaining a Democratic lead in the House, flipping the Senate and winning the presidency.
"While the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, and as awareness of our nation's violent and ongoing struggles with racial inequity are more apparent than ever, the opportunity to acknowledge this ugliness and redefine our future starts now.
"We look forward to working with members of the incoming administration, including the new White House Council on Gender Policy, to ensure that Biden follows through on his campaign promises to expand healthcare and abortion access, implement policies that fight sexual violence and gender-based discrimination, and rebuild a nation and economy that works for everyone, especially Black women and women of color."
Specifically, UltraViolet is calling on the Biden Administration to:
Bend the curve on the COVID pandemic in order to keep our loved ones alive and healthy while also rebuilding an economy that ensures women are able to put food on their table, and be home in time to eat it. This means an end to the COVID pandemic through policy that prioritizes the needs of Black, Indigenous and women of color in both ending the public health crisis and re-imagining a feminist economy that works for women. These priorities are grounded in the We Demand More agenda.
Ensure that Black and Indigenous women, as well as women of color, can exist with dignity, free from state-sponsored violence and economic and social oppression. Work to fight against white supremacist patriarchy through a robust set of policies that ends the war on Black women and Black communities. These priorities are grounded in the Movement for Black Lives agenda.
Build a world beyond sexual violence, where all women can thrive. Following the lead of Black and Indigenous survivors, as well as survivors of color we seek to reform not just our legal or healthcare system, but society as a whole to disrupt and end sexual violence, including sexual harassment. These priorities are grounded in the Survivors' Agenda.
Ensure that women, and especially women of color, are able to fully engage in media conversations. By working to challenge white supremacist assumptions and policies that shape media coverage and social media platform operations, we are working to create media spaces where women can participate free from fear of gender and race-based attacks. While this work does not yet have a set of legislative agenda priorities, we are moving in close collaboration with the Change the Terms Coalition.
Put the priorities of women, starting with women of color, front and center in all legislation put forward by the Biden administration. By ensuring that the administration both sees gender justice as a necessary throughline in all legislation and prioritizes the needs of all women, including fair pay, bodily autonomy and reproductive rights, and freedom from discimination and harassment.
James's warning to MSG Entertainment illustrates the "growing consensus against the use of facial recognition in places of public accommodation," said one advocate.
The digital rights group Fight for the Future was among those applauding New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday as she demanded answers from MSG Entertainment, the owner of Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall, over its use of facial recognition technology to deny entry to lawyers whose firms represent people suing the company.
James wrote to MSG Entertainment and its CEO, James Dolan, to warn that they may be violating civil rights laws in New York by barring attorneys from entering their properties, even if they are not involved in litigation against the company.
"Such practices certainly run counter to the spirit and purpose of such laws, and laws promoting equal access to the courts: forbidding entry to lawyers representing clients who have engaged in litigation against the company may dissuade such lawyers from taking on legitimate cases, including sexual harassment or employment discrimination claims," wrote the attorney general.
James's letter shows that there is a "growing consensus against the use of facial recognition in places of public accommodation," said Fight for the Future director Evan Greer.
\u201cGreat to see this. Growing consensus against the use of facial recognition in places of public accommodation https://t.co/9N0Py4Mzw3\u201d— Evan Greer is on Mastodon (@Evan Greer is on Mastodon) 1674675393
The letter came a month after The New York Timesreported that Kelly Conlon, a personal injury attorney, had been informed by security guards at Radio City Music Hall that she was on an "attorney exclusion list" when she tried to enter the theater for a show in November. Conlon had been identified by facial recognition technology and flagged as being prohibited from entering because her law firm is involved in litigation against one of MSG Entertainment's restaurants.
"Reports indicate that approximately 90 law firms are impacted by the company's policy, constituting thousands of lawyers," James wrote to the company.
Since October, MSG Entertainment has removed at least four attorneys from their properties, forbidding them from attending sports games and concerts because of where they work. Dolan has claimed the policy is aimed at preventing attorneys from collecting evidence "outside proper litigation discovery channels."
Employment lawyer Benjamin Noren told the Times earlier this month that despite Dolan's claims, the policy is "a transparent effort... to stop attorneys from suing them."
"MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arenas," James said in a statement. "Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall are world-renowned venues and should treat all patrons who purchased tickets with fairness and respect. Anyone with a ticket to an event should not be concerned that they may be wrongfully denied entry based on their appearance, and we're urging MSG Entertainment to reverse this policy."
Caitlin Seeley George, campaigns and managing director at Fight for the Future, said MSG Entertainment's use of facial recognition illustrates "the crux of the threat of this technology" and how it is "an inherently dangerous affront to peoples' rights."
"Despite the current attention on how this policy is impacting lawyers, the truth is the impact will always be disproportionately greater for marginalized communities," said Seeley George. "James Dolan and Madison Square Garden Entertainment are adding to the long history of people in power using surveillance to silence opposition. We need lawmakers to defend peoples' rights and put an end to facial recognition in public places immediately."
"The debt limit must be cleanly raised to avoid default and ensure the continuation of funding for the government and critical programs," the AFGE president told lawmakers.
The largest union of federal workers in the U.S. urged Congress this week to raise the debt ceiling without mandating reductions in social spending, arguing that President Joe Biden is right to reject the GOP's attempt to use the nation's borrowing limit as leverage to force through devastating cuts.
"The debt limit must be cleanly raised to avoid default and ensure the continuation of funding for the government and critical programs like Social Security, Medicare, veterans' benefits, and the U.S. military," Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), wrote in a letter sent to every member of Congress on Monday. "No negotiation that puts these programs or any aspect of federal employee compensation at risk should be considered."
Several House Republicans are threatening to block the lifting of the country's borrowing cap—an arbitrary and arguably unconstitutional figure set by Congress—unless Democrats agree to slash government spending, including on vital social programs
The U.S. government's outstanding debt officially hit the statutory limit of $31.4 trillion last Thursday, at which point the Treasury Department started repurposing federal funds.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently told congressional leaders that "the use of extraordinary measures enables the government to meet its obligations for only a limited amount of time," possibly through early June. She implored Congress to "act in a timely manner to increase or suspend the debt limit," warning that "failure to meet the government's obligations would cause irreparable harm to the U.S. economy, the livelihoods of all Americans, and global financial stability."
A 2011 debt ceiling standoff enabled the GOP to impose austerity and led to a historic downgrading of the U.S. government's credit rating, but the country has never defaulted on its debt. Economists warn that doing so would likely trigger chaos in financial markets, resulting in millions of job losses and the elimination of $15 trillion in wealth.
Aware that an economic calamity is at stake, many Republican lawmakers "have announced that they will not support an increase in the debt ceiling without concomitant reductions in spending, possibly in the form of reductions to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid," Kelley wrote in the letter sent earlier this week.
"The White House says it will not negotiate such an arrangement," he added. "AFGE strongly supports the administration's refusal to negotiate on this matter."
"No negotiation that puts these programs or any aspect of federal employee compensation at risk should be considered."
In a Wednesday speech from the floor of the upper chamber, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized "the House GOP's reckless approach to the debt ceiling" and challenged Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) "to level with the American people" on which popular programs his party wants to cut.
"The debt ceiling is a subject of the highest consequence, and using it as a bargaining chip, using it as brinkmanship, as hostage-taking, as Republicans are trying to do is exceedingly dangerous," said Schumer.
"If the House of Representatives continues on [its] current course and allows the United States to default on its debt obligations, every single American is going to pay a terrible and expensive price," Schumer continued. "The consequences of default are not some theoretical abstraction; if default happens, Americans will see the consequences in their daily lives."
"Interest rates will go soaring on everything from credit cards, and student loans, to cars, mortgages, and more," he added. "That's thousands of dollars for each American going right out the door, and it will happen through no fault of their own."
As many observers pointed out repeatedly in the wake of the midterm elections, Democrats had the power to prevent this high-risk game of brinkmanship altogether by raising the debt ceiling—or abolishing it completely—when they still controlled both chambers of Congress.
On Wednesday, Schumer pleaded with GOP lawmakers to simply raise the debt ceiling without demanding policy concessions in exchange.
"I'd remind my Republican colleagues that they did it before when Trump was president three times; no Democratic obstruction or hostage-taking," said Schumer. "We did it once together when Biden was president. And much of this debt comes from spending when Trump was president, voted on by a Republican House and a Republican Senate."
"It's a bit of hypocrisy now to say that they can't do it again, and they are holding it hostage and are playing a dangerous form of brinksmanship," Schumer argued. "It shouldn't matter who is president. It's still bills we already incurred that must be paid for the good of all Americans."
"We can either electrify the status quo to reach zero emissions, or the energy transition can be used as an opportunity to rethink our cities and the transportation sector," says lead author of new report.
Since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year, the Biden administration has been making a broad push for a future centered around electric vehicles—but a first-of-its-kind study released Tuesday warned that the EV transition —but a first-of-its-kind study released Tuesday warned that the transition must go hand-in-hand with major investments in mass transit and other steps to reduce U.S. dependence on cars altogether.
Researchers at the Climate and Community Project and University of California, Davis noted in the study, titled Achieving Zero Emissions with More Mobility and Less Mining, that the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) that the Biden administration is envisioning would require the country to mine three times the amount of lithium domestically than it currently does—all from the single U.S. mine in operation.
Global demand for lithium, which powers electric batteries, is expected to rise over 40 times by 2040, if the International Energy Agency's (IEA) "sustainable development scenario" is met, with the world reaching roughly two billion EVs on the road by 2050 in order to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
"The report brings into light possibilities for a future without fossil fuels that minimizes mineral extraction and new harms to communities in lithium-rich areas."
"Replacing all of the [internal combustion engine] vehicles on the road with EVs on a 1:1 basis is infeasible, particularly on the urgent timeline needed for climate mitigation," reads the report. "This would require significant increases in extraction of minerals like lithium and cobalt for EV battery packs and would also require an enormous amount of electricity."
The extraction of lithium can have "oftentimes devastating consequences," reads the report, including consumption of massive amounts of water—often in areas already facing climate crisis-fueled drought like Nevada, where 50 new lithium mine projects are being developed—water contamination; violations of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent standards for Indigenous people; and the destruction of landscapes that serve as carbon sinks.
While "preserving the status quo" and maintaining the number of cars on the road may be "politically easier," lead study author Thea Riofrancos toldThe Guardian, "it's not the fastest way to get people out of cars or the fairest way to decarbonize."
"We can either electrify the status quo to reach zero emissions, or the energy transition can be used as an opportunity to rethink our cities and the transportation sector so that it's more environmentally and socially just, both in the U.S. and globally," she added.
\u201cCheck out our latest report covered by the Guardian! \n\nOur groundbreaking research shows that we can massively reduce the need for lithium by:\n \n\ud83d\ude8e investing in buses, subways, and walkable cities\n\ud83d\ude97 limiting car size (no EV hummers, please!)\n\u267b\ufe0f recycling\u201d— Climate and Community Project (@Climate and Community Project) 1674575193
The researchers created models to determine the amount of lithium the U.S. would need to extract in order to achieve zero emissions for personal vehicles, comparing scenarios with a number of variables including car ownership rates, the size of EVs and the batteries they use, city density, public transit use, and battery recycling rates.
\u201cHow much lithium is needed to electrify the car-dependent status quo vs transforming the transportation system to increase mass transit, walking & cycling? Our new @cpluscp report finds dramatic differences. We can achieve more mobility with less mining 1/ https://t.co/hzgDJ6gm1o\u201d— Thea Riofrancos (@Thea Riofrancos) 1674572126
In the best-case scenario, the U.S. would have to extract 40,000 tons of lithium to power EVs in 2050—with demand 92% lower than under the car ownership status quo. In this scenario, battery recycling would be widespread, EVs would use small batteries, and the vehicle ownership rate would be sharply reduced.
"But results show that even if Americans can't wean themselves off cars with big lithium batteries, increasing the density of metropolitan areas and investing in mass transit would cut cumulative demand for lithium between 18% and 66%," reported The Guardian. "Limiting the size of EV batteries alone can cut lithium demand by up to 42% by 2050."
Keith Stewart, a climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, said the study contained "fascinating and important research on how policies like investing in mass transit, walkable cities, and battery recycling, while reducing size of EVs, can cut the amount of lithium for fossil-free transportation."
"The report brings into light possibilities for a future without fossil fuels that minimizes mineral extraction and new harms to communities in lithium-rich areas," Pía Marchegiani, policy director at the Environment and Natural Resources Foundation in Argentina, told The Guardian.
The report was released a month after U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) unveiled legislation to invest in bus and light rail transportation to cut down on emissions from transportation.
"The findings of this report," Payal Sampat, mining program director at Earthworks, told The Guardian, "must jumpstart policies to invest in robust, accessible public transit systems that advance equity, reduce pollution, and get people where they need to go."