Spring Break Recap: What We Missed While We Were Away

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Infrastructure Bill

On March 31, President Biden announced more details about his administration’s proposed infrastructure bill, revealing that the infrastructure bill would not only focus on building and remodeling roads and bridges, but would also invest in expanding high-speed fiber cables, remodeling the electrical grid and building new schools. The price tag for this initiative has raised concerns from Republicans since it would cost the government 3 trillion dollars to implement the bill. Mitch McConnell and his party have stated that they are open to discussion about the bill, although the Republican caucus in the Senate made it clear that they were not in favor of any corporate tax hikes to fund the plan.

Amazon Workers in Alabama Vote to Not Unionize

On April 9, the effort to create Amazon’s first union was defeated. In a warehouse in Alabama, the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store union, along with many workers at the plant, campaigned for months to establish the first Amazon workers union in America. The vote was seen as a potential precedent that workers at other warehouses could use to establish their own unions. However, the RSDW claims that Amazon engaged in practices that tainted the vote, such as placing ballot boxes at the front of the warehouse and holding employee meetings where they would encourage them to vote down the union effort. The RSDW commented that Amazon “corrupted the election” and has since filed a lawsuit against the retailer.

Russia Faces off Against Ukraine

Russian armies have been deployed on the Ukrainian border in their largest numbers since the 2014 annexation of Crimea. Two weeks ago, concerns of Russian intentions with Ukraine flared up when images and videos of columns of Russian tanks and artillery were seen being transported to the border region. Russian officials have seemingly been justifying a war against Ukraine to protect against ethnic Russians from a potential genocide in the Donbass region of Ukraine. An official in the Kremlin also stated that if Ukraine were to go to war with Russia it would be the “beginning of the end” for them. The United States has had meetings with government officials from all over Europe and recently deployed Secretary of State Blinken to an emergency NATO conference in Brussels to discuss the issue. America and its European allies have stated that it fully stands behind the Ukrainians. It remains to be seen whether or not this aggression by the Russians is saber-rattling for concessions from Kiev or a desire to invade Ukraine.

Vaccine Rollout

The goal of the US government to have enough vaccines for anyone who wishes to be vaccinated is well on its way to being met. With three different vaccines approved in the US — Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — over 20% of the total population has been fully vaccinated. However, recent cases of rare blood clots in people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have prompted the US government to halt the distribution of that vaccine while the CDC and the FDA can review and investigate further. This decision has drawn ire from many people, who say that only 6 cases of blood clots in almost 7 million doses is much lower than many commonly used drugs, like birth control, which sees that 3 to 9 users out of 10,000 develop blood clots. However, Dr. Jen Villavicencio, a fellow with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, says that the blood clots which develop from birth control are easy to treat with anticoagulants and are different from the type seen in those who were vaccinated.

The Debate About Vaccine Passports

As the push for national vaccination against COVID-19 is in full swing, a debate about the ethical and legal basis of vaccine passports is also gaining momentum. The differing opinions have found homes in both the Democrat and Republican parties and many conservative states, like Texas, Florida and Montana, have already passed state laws which will prohibit any organizations which receive state funding from being able to require proof of vaccination from their patrons. Weighing in on the debate, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, stated that the administration is opposed to requiring citizens to provide proof of immunization. While the White House will provide guidelines in the future about privacy surrounding the vaccine, she stated during a press conference that “our interest is very simple from the federal government, which is Americans’ privacy and rights should be protected so that these systems are not used against people unfairly.” So while the US government won’t be requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination, private businesses and individual states are entirely different matters. Many colleges, including Duke University, Brown and Cornell, are requiring students to get vaccinated before returning to campus this fall, unless they can provide sincere medical or religious exemptions.

New Voting Law in Georgia 

A recent law passed in Georgia includes intense new restrictions for the state’s voting processes. Supporters of the law say that it will ensure a more secure and fair election process, while those opposed say it suppresses minority voters. The law enacts strict new voter ID rules, requiring either a drivers license or state ID number in order to request and return ballots. Changes have also been made to absentee voting, with sooner deadlines for requesting ballots and modifications in the way they are filled out and dropped off. The law also prohibits anyone other than poll workers from soliciting votes or signatures from voters and refuses anyone from offering gifts or money — even food and drinks — to voters waiting in line at polling places. It also restricts the presence of campaign materials near polling places and those waiting in line to vote. Poll workers must also be trained by their respective parties and participate in the training under oath. Another provision of the law ensures that once the count has begun on election day, it can’t be stopped. SB 202 can be read here.