Power is slowly being restored in Texas and other states where the electric grid buckled under severe weather. But millions remain without drinking water, and at least forty people around the country have died due to the storms and the resulting infrastructure crisis.
Meanwhile, grocery workers and their union representatives say they are going unvaccinated despite having essential front-line jobs. This is as their employers bask in record profits during the coronavirus pandemic.
And lastly, Joe Biden sent his immigration bill to Congress. It’s being called the most sweeping overhaul proposed in more than three decades, and it comes as good news for new Americans and their families.
THESE ARE THE STORIES YOU NEED TO KNOW:
We hope this newscast finds you safe, warm, and with access to running water. More than one hundred million people live in areas under winter weather warnings, according to the Associated Press. Blackouts are expected to continue in some parts of the country for days. As Texas and other states battled winter storms that blew past the worst-case planning of utilities, governments and millions of shivering residents, experts said deadly weather will be hitting the US more often, and America needs to get better at dealing with it. This week’s storms – with more still heading east – fit a pattern of worsening extremes under climate change. They also show that local, state and federal officials have failed to do nearly enough to prepare for more dangerous weather.
According to the Texas Tribune, experts blamed the power system failure on the legislators and state agencies who did not properly heed the warnings of previous storms, or account for more extreme weather events warned of by climate scientists. Instead, Texas prioritized the free market. Tom “Smitty” Smith, a former director of Public Citizen in Austin, said QUOTE Clearly we need to change our regulatory focus to protect the people, not profits ENDQUOTE.
Power has been restored to nearly two million homes in Texas, according to the Washington Post, though hundreds of thousands of residents remain without electricity. In Mississippi,
more than one hundred and forty thousand households are still without electricity, while another hundred thousand are powerless in Louisiana. Finally, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz confirmed yesterday that he traveled to Cancun, Mexico, as millions were without power and safe drinking water. In a statement, Cruz said he flew with his daughters Wednesday and would return yesterday amid calls to resign over the family trip. Can you believe this mook?
Grocery Workers Demand Vaccination
This story of classism in vaccine distribution comes via the Washington Post. Though hailed as heroes early in the pandemic, the nation’s three million grocery workers lag other essential workers when it comes to vaccine priority. Just thirteen states – including Maryland, Virginia, California, New York and Pennsylvania – have begun inoculating such employees as the broader vaccine rollout is hampered by widespread delays.
At least one hundred and seventy grocery employees have died and thousands more have tested positive for coronavirus, the Post reports. Though many companies offered hazard pay early on in the pandemic, nearly all have stopped. Workers say their vaccine challenges are further proof of how they have been shortchanged, especially as their employers are pulling in record profits. Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, made $3 billion in profit last year, an eighty eight percent increase from 2019. Other big retailers, including Walmart, Target and Albertsons, also reported explosive sales gains.
According to the Post, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends including grocery workers in the second stage of the vaccine rollout, along with firefighters, police officers and other front-line essential workers. But states are free to set their own guidelines. Eleven states, including Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Texas, do not have a clear plan to prioritize grocery workers. In Tennessee, grocery workers aren’t expected to qualify for the vaccine until the second half of the year, along with camp counselors and prison inmates. Addie James, marketing director for several grocery stores in Memphis, said their employees are not being given the protections necessary to do their job. James added QUOTE It feels like you’re screaming into the void but nobody is listening ENDQUOTE. But we hear you!
Biden Unveils Immigration Bill
onald Trump’s toxic legacy is nearing its expiration. President Biden’s allies on Capitol Hill introduced his immigration overhaul in the House yesterday morning, the New York Times reports. Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, said part of Biden’s mandate is QUOTE fixing our immigration system, which is a cornerstone of Trump’s hateful horror show ENDQUOTE.
The centerpiece of the legislation, according to the Times, is an eight-year path to citizenship for most of the eleven million undocumented immigrants living in the US. After passing background checks and paying taxes, they would be allowed to live and work in the US for five years. After that, they could apply for a green card, giving them permanent status in the US and the opportunity to win citizenship after three more years. The bill would sweep away restrictions on family-based immigration, making it easier for spouses and children to join their families already in the country. And it would expand worker visas to allow more foreigners to come to the US for jobs. The legislation does not include a large focus on increased border enforcement. Instead, it adds resources to process migrants legally at ports of entry and invests $4 billion over four years in distressed economies in the hopes of preventing people from fleeing to the US because of security and economic crises.
Separately, the Washington Post reports that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers will need preapproval from a senior manager before trying to deport anyone who is not a recent border crosser, a national security threat or a criminal with an aggravated-felony conviction. The change stems from an interim enforcement memo issued by the Biden administration yesterday. The narrower priorities should result in a steep drop in immigration arrests and deportations. Here’s to more humane policy for everyone.
AND NOW FOR SOME QUICKER QUICKIES:
NASA’s rover Perseverance landed safely on Mars yesterday, the Post reports. It’s on an ambitious mission to search for signs of past Martian life and obtain samples of soil and rock that could someday be hauled back to Earth for study. Good luck, little robot.
LUCIE: federal prosecutor to help scrutinize financial dealings at the former president’s company, the New York Times reports.The former prosecutor, Mark Pomerantz, has deep experience investigating and defending white-collar and organized crime cases. Good luck to him, too.
Top lobbying groups backed by Amazon, Facebook, Google and other technology giants sued Maryland yesterday, according to the Post. The Silicon Valley companies are seeking to scuttle a new state tax on their massive online-advertising revenue – and stop other local governments from following its lead. The Maryland law seeks to raise money for education and targets technology companies that do more than $100 million in ad sales each year. Obviously they can afford to contribute to the society, they just don’t want to.
South Dakota’s Republican attorney general was charged yesterday with three misdemeanors for striking and killing a man with his car last summer, avoiding more serious felony charges, according to the AP. Jason Ravnsborg could face up to thirty days in jail and up to a $500 fine on each charge: careless driving, driving out of his lane and operating a motor vehicle while on his phone. Relatives of the man killed in the collision said they were disappointed but not surprised that the AG was only facing misdemeanor charges. That’s American justice for you.
That’s all for the AM Quickie. Join us this afternoon on the Majority Report.
FEB 19, 2021 - AM QUICKIE
HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner
WRITER - Corey Pein
PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Brendan Finn