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Today, the Biden Administration announced it is taking steps to advance environmental justice throughout the federal government, including strengthening environmental reviews and increasing community involvement in infrastructure projects that impact communities at the fenceline and on the forefront of climate change.
Under the new executive order, federal agencies will be required to collaborate with communities in the early stages of project development and consider the combined impacts of environmental and health stressors when siting projects from highways to pipelines. Federal agencies will now be required to notify nearby communities when toxic chemicals are released from federal facilities and conduct a public meeting to inform communities of potential health risks from release of toxic chemicals.
The Biden Administration also released the results of the first Environmental Justice Scorecard, evaluating federal agencies' progress in addressing environmental justice concerns, including through the Justice40 Initiative.
To coordinate new and existing environmental justice efforts throughout the federal government, the Biden Administration is creating a new Office of Environmental Justice within the White House Council on Environmental Quality. In meetings across the United States, the The White House Campaign for Environmental Justice will work to increase community understanding and involvement in the administration's environmental justice work, provide access to federal resources and tools, and allow for more direct interaction with government agencies.
In response, Sierra Club Executive Director Ben Jealous released the following statement:
“For decades, communities across the country have been asked to shoulder the weight of pollution and the taxing and deadly health burdens it brings. Today, just as he has numerous times throughout his administration, President Biden is taking the right action by involving these communities in the decisions made about their neighborhoods, their health, and their future. By involving communities in decision making, honoring their expertise, and ensuring they have a seat at the table, we can create more effective and just solutions to environmental and public health challenges while addressing our critical infrastructure and energy needs. We’re pleased the Biden Administration is taking steps to advance environmental justice and improve transparency throughout the federal government, and look forward to continuing to work together to build a more equitable and sustainable future for all.”
The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. We amplify the power of our 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone's right to a healthy world.(415) 977-5500
"These bills are not about election reform," said one Harris County official. "They are entirely about suppressing voters' voices."
Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo on Sunday warned that Republican state legislators had made a "shameless power grab" by passing a pair of bills aimed at allowing the state government to take control of elections in the Democratic stronghold, which includes Houston.
Senate Bill 1933 passed on Sunday as the state's legislative session came to a close, with lawmakers sending to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott's desk a bill that could give Secretary of State Jane Nelson—who was nominated by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate—the authority to run elections under circumstances in any county with more than 3.5 million residents.
The legislation was passed two days after Senate Bill 1750, which also applies to counties above that population threshold and would abolish the nonpartisan county elections administrator position.
Harris County, which President Joe Biden won by 13 points in 2020, is the only county is Texas with a population above 3.5 million, making both bills apply only to its elections.
Hidalgo denounced the legislation as two "election subversion bills" and warned that they will set a "dangerous precedent" for Republican governors who wish to take control of voting in heavily Democratic counties.
\u201cThe two Texas election subversion bills have now passed. They remove Harris County\u2019s nonpartisan Election Administrator and empower a Republican state official to micromanage elections in Texas\u2019 largest (Democratic) County. This is a shameless power grab and dangerous precedent.\u201d— Lina Hidalgo (@Lina Hidalgo) 1685331039
"These bills are not about election reform," said Hidalgo at a press conference last week, as the legislation was advancing. "They're not about improving voters' experience. They are entirely about suppressing voters' voices. The reasoning behind these bills is nothing but a cynical charade."
Hidalgo and other officials said at that event that they plan to file a lawsuit against Abbott's administration if the governor signs the bills into law. The Texas Constitution bars state lawmakers from passing laws that apply only to specific jurisdictions, but Republicans' use of a population threshold instead of naming Harris County itself in the legislation may be used at their defense if the lawsuit moves forward.
S.B. 1750 requires Harris County to change how its elections are overseen starting September 1, when Houston will be two months away from voting for its next mayor. Harris County Clerk Teneshia Hudspeth and County Assessor Ann Harris Bennett will oversee elections in the county starting in September.
If, after Hudspeth and Bennett take over, Nelson finds "good cause to believe that a recurring pattern of problems with election administration or voter registration exists in the county," the secretary of state would be permitted to take legal action to remove the two women from office and to install members of her staff in the county's election offices.
Republicans have said Harris County didn't have enough poll workers in the March 2022 primary and that polling locations opened late and ran out of ballots during the November 2022 general election.
"The fact of the matter is, there has not been a single successful lawsuit that proves that there were any kind of problems," said Hidalgo on Sunday. "And I hope that anybody talking about this understands that you are amplifying exaggerations and rumors when you repeat the excuses that these folks are using."
\u201cAs intriguing as an impeachment of the Texas Attorney General is, we can\u2019t lose sight of the fact that legislators in Texas are still trying to disenfranchise 4.7 million of their own constituents by taking over elections in Harris County. This fight is far from over.\u201d— Lina Hidalgo (@Lina Hidalgo) 1685308988
The legislation was passed two-and-a-half months after Abbott's administration announced its takeover of the Houston Independent School District, which has made recent improvements in academic performance that were achieved despite chronic underfunding.
"Houstonians," Emily Eby French, a staff voting rights attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, said last week, "will soon live in a different Texas than the rest of us."
"Erdoğan's victory will consolidate one-man rule and pave the way for horrible practices, bringing completely dark days for all parts of society," warned one Kurdish opposition leader.
As supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at home and abroad celebrated his win of Sunday's runoff election, human rights defenders and marginalized people including Kurds and LGBTQ+ activists voiced deep fears about how their lives will be adversely affected during the increasingly authoritarian leader's third term.
Turkey's Supreme Election Council confirmed Erdoğan's victory over Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Sunday evening. Erdoğan, the 69-year-old leader of the right-wing Justice and Development Party who has ruled the nation of 85 million people since 2014 and dominated its politics for two decades, won 52.18% of the vote. Kılıçdaroğlu, a 74-year-old social democrat who leads the left-of-center Republican People's Party, received 47.82%.
Erdoğan—who was seen handing out cash to supporters at a polling station in an apparent violation of Turkish election law—mocked his opponent's loss outside the president's home in Istanbul, saying, "Bye, bye, bye, Kemal" as the winner's supporters booed, according to Al Jazeera.
\u201cInstead of congratulating Erdogan, EU leaders should ask about the backsliding democratic and human rights. \n\nTurkey is already 103rd of 167 countries on democracy index, and we know Erdogan wants to take it further down...\u201d— Guy Verhofstadt (@Guy Verhofstadt) 1685354462
"The only winner today is Turkey," Erdoğan declared as he prepared for a third term in which his country faces severe economic woes—inflation has soared and the lira is at a record low against the U.S. dollar—and is struggling to recover from multiple devastating earthquakes earlier this year.
However, in Turkish Kurdistan—whose voters, along with a majority of people in most of Turkey's largest cities favored Kılıçdaroğlu—people expressed fears that the government will intensify a crackdown it has been waging for several years.
Ardelan Mese, a 26-year-old cafe owner in Diyarbakir, the country's largest Kurdish-majority city, called Sunday's election "a matter of life and death now."
"I can't imagine what he will be capable of after declaring victory," Mese said of Erdoğan in an interview with Reuters.
After initially courting the Kurds by expanding their political and cultural rights, Erdoğan returned to the repression that has long characterized Turkey's treatment of a people who make up one-fifth of the nation's population, while intensifying a war against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a far-left separatist group that Turkey, the United States, and other nations consider a terrorist organization.
\u201cKurds fear that an Erdogan victory "could reinforce a crackdown the state has been waging against them for years, alarmed by a surge in nationalist rhetoric ahead of Sunday's vote." https://t.co/aAhHVqjmf4\u201d— Kenneth Roth (@Kenneth Roth) 1685018787
"Erdogan's victory will consolidate one-man rule and pave the way for horrible practices, bringing completely dark days for all parts of society," Tayip Temel, the deputy co-chair of Turkey's second-largest opposition party, the center-left and pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP)—which backed Kılıçdaroğlu—told Reuters.
Human rights defenders—many of whom have chosen or been forced into exile—also sounded the alarm over the prospect of a third Erdoğan term.
"If the opposition wins there will be space, even possibly limited, for discussions for a common future. With Erdoğan, there is no civic or political space for democracy and human rights," Murat Çelikkan, a journalist who founded human rights groups including Amnesty International Turkey, said in an interview with Civil Rights Defenders just before Sunday's runoff.
Çelikkan called Erdoğan a "very authoritarian, religious, pro-expansionist conservative."
"Turkey, according to judicial statistics, has the largest number of terrorists in the world, because the prosecutors and judges have an inclination to use anti-terror laws arbitrarily and lavishly," he continued. "There are tens of thousands of people who are being trialed or convicted by anti-terror laws. Thousands of people insulting the president."
\u201cToday #Turkey is holding a presidential election runoff. But what is at stake?\n\nRead the interview with Murat \u00c7elikkan, human rights defender from Turkey, about possible impact of the election outcome on #HumanRights:\n\nhttps://t.co/7a8HTEELUp\u201d— Civil Rights Defenders (@Civil Rights Defenders) 1685253600
"Nowhere in Turkey you can make a peaceful demonstration and protest," Çelikkan added. "The security forces directly attack and detain you. The minister of interior targets and criminalizes LGBTI+ people on a daily basis."
LGBTQ+ Turks voiced fears for their future following a campaign in which Erdoğan centered homophobia in his appeals to an overwhelmingly Muslim electorate and repeatedly accused Kılıçdaroğlu and other opposition figures of being gay. During his victory speech Sunday evening, Erdoğan again lashed out at the LGBTQ+ community while excoriating Kılıçdaroğlu for his campaign pledge to "respect everyone's beliefs, lifestyles, and identities."
Erdoğan vowed in his speech that gays would not "infiltrate" Turkey and that "we will not let the LGBT forces win." At one point during his address, an Al Jazeera interpreter stopped translating a 45-second portion when the president called members of the opposition gay.
\u201cDuring his victory speech President Erdo\u011fan repeated: \u201cWe will not let the LGBT forces win!\u201d. \n\nHe then emphasised \u201cLGBT cannot infiltrate among us. We will be reborn. The family is sacred for us. The violence against women is forbidden and haram for us, no one can resort to this\u2026\u201d— \u2022 (@\u2022) 1685309623
Ilker Erdoğan, a 20-year-old university student and LGBTQ+ activist, told Agence France-Presse that "I feel deeply afraid."
"Feeling so afraid is affecting my psychology terribly. I couldn't breathe before, and now they will try to strangle my throat," he added. "From the moment I was born, I felt that discrimination, homophobia, and hatred in my bones."
Ameda Murat Karaguzu, a project assistant at an unnamed pro-LGBTQ+ group, told AFP that she has been "subjected to more hate speech and acts of hate than I have experienced in a long time."
Karaguzu blamed Erdoğan's government for the increasing hostility toward LGBTQ+ Turks, adding that bigots are keenly "aware that there will be no consequences for killing or harming us."
Ilker Erdoğan struck a defiant tone, telling AFP that "I am also part of this nation, my identity card says Turkish citizen."
"You cannot erase my existence," he added, "no matter how hard you try."
"There are too many Americans trying to survive and raise families on $9, $10, or $12 an hour," said the senator. "This injustice must end."
On the heels of launching an effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $17 an hour over five years, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday announced upcoming rallies to demand the pay hike in three states, where he will be joined by Bishop William Barber II.
Barber—Repairers of the Breach president, Poor People's Campaign co-chair, and founding director of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School—plans to join Sanders (I-Vt.) to "make the moral case for raising wages."
Sanders and Barber are first headed to Durham, North Carolina, where they are set to be joined by Democratic Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam—who worked for the senator's 2016 presidential campaign—for a 7:00 pm ET rally at the Hayti Heritage Center on June 1.
The pair then plans to visit the Henderson A. Johnson Memorial Gymnasium at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee at 7:00 pm CT on June 2. State Rep. Justin Jones (D-52)—who gained national attention earlier this year for being expelled by GOP legislators over a protest demanding gun control, only to be promptly reinstated by Nashville's Metropolitan Council—is expected to join them.
A third rally hosted by the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1422 at their union hall in Charleston, South Carolina is scheduled for 4:00 pm ET on June 3. State Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-111) plans to join the event, in partnership with the South Carolina AFL-CIO.
"Low-income workers need a pay raise and the American people want them to get that raise."
A longtime advocate of increasing the U.S. minimum wage, Sanders and labor leaders announced their push for $17 per hour earlier this month. Though several states have set higher minimums, the federal rate of $7.25 hasn't changed since 2009.
"At a time of massive and growing income and wealth inequality and record-breaking corporate profits, we must stand up for working families—many of whom are struggling every day to provide a minimal standard of living for their families," Sanders—who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee—said Monday.
"There are too many Americans trying to survive and raise families on $9, $10, or $12 an hour. It cannot be done. This injustice must end," he added. "Low-income workers need a pay raise and the American people want them to get that raise."
The progressive think tank Data for Progress last week released polling results that show 76% of likely voters across party lines would support a $17 hourly minimum wage—and 74% would support $20.
The survey, conducted in early May, also revealed that all likely voters believe Americans need to earn $26.20 per hour "to have a decent quality of life (that is, the ability to afford basic necessities such as groceries, rent or mortgage payments, transportation, and other essential bills without struggling)."
\u201c$26 per hour: The wage voters think you need to earn to have a decent quality of life in the U.S.\n\n$7.25 per hour: The current federal minimum wage.\u201d— abby springs (@abby springs) 1684955759
Plans for the rally series come after researchers at the University of California, Berkeley kicked off May by putting out a working paper that shows significant minimum wage increases can have positive effects on earnings and employment—countering claims from corporate lobbying groups that oppose such pay hikes.
While Sanders has the power to ensure his panel takes up the issue, legislation to increase the minimum wage nationwide is unlikely to reach President Joe Biden's desk, given the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a Senate that still includes
Democrats who partnered with the GOP in 2021 to block a measure that would have mandated a $15 hourly rate.