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May 21, 2021: Republicans Ban History Education; FEMA Workers Are Exhausted; Gaza Ceasefire Takes Effect

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Republican state legislators across the country are passing laws to micromanage the history that gets taught in schools and make it seem like racism doesn’t exist. For some reason the party of bigoted white men is touchy about this particular subject.

Meanwhile, forecasters are predicting another year of intense storms and wildfires. So it’s rather concerning that FEMA’s workforce is reportedly stretched to the breaking point.

And lastly, after eleven days of fighting, Israel has agreed to a ceasefire in Gaza. The work of rebuilding is urgent, as Palestinian medical facilities are overwhelmed.


The curriculum wars continue. CBS News reports that this month, Idaho Governor Brad Little became the first Republican governor to sign into law a bill that restricts educators from teaching a concept called critical race theory. And more could follow: Nearly a dozen states have introduced similar Republican-backed bills that would direct what students can and cannot be taught about slavery in American history and the ongoing effects of racism. But critics say the legislation isn’t aimed at what children are learning in the classroom. Idaho’s law prohibits teaching that individuals are responsible for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, religion, et cetera. A proposal in Rhode Island would prevent teaching that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist. However, proponents of critical race theory say it does not teach that any race is inherently racist, but how race is ingrained in our history.

Jazmyne Owens, of the think tank New America, told CBS that the wave of legislation is; "aimed at erasing and whitewashing American history." For example, Owens pointed to a Texas bill that just passed in the state's House that bans discussion of privilege and white supremacy. The state bills have similar goals as two executive orders Donald Trump introduced, one that called for patriotic education and a one that sought to ban diversity training for federal workers. President Joe Biden has revoked both. But at this rate, Republicans will soon be pushing to ban schools entirely.

FEMA Workers Are Exhausted

This report on essential worker burnout comes from the New York Times. Workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been scouting shelters for migrant children. They’ve been running coronavirus vaccination sites in Colorado, Massachusetts and Washington. And they are still managing the recovery from a string of record disasters starting with Hurricane Harvey in 2017. On the cusp of a destructive season of hurricanes and wildfires, just thirty eight hundred of the agency’s nearly fourteen thousand emergency workers are available now to respond to a new disaster. That’s twenty nine percent fewer than were ready to deploy at the start of last year’s hurricane period. FEMA has seldom been in greater demand – becoming a kind of 911 hotline for some of President Biden’s most pressing challenges. And the men and women who have become the nation’s first responders are tired. Deanne Criswell, Biden’s pick to run the agency, identified employee burnout as a major issue during her first all-hands FEMA meeting, according to Steve Reaves, president of the union local that represents employees.

According to the Times, the shortage is severe for some categories of workers. Among the agency’s senior leadership, just three out of fifty three are currently available to deploy. Other specialized personnel have less than fifteen percent of their workers available. In interviews, current and former FEMA employees described twelve-hour days, canceled vacations, and not enough time to recover between assignments. Sounds like they should hire and train more staff and create some good-paying government jobs.

Gaza Ceasefire Takes Effect

At last, a breather. Al-Jazeera reports that Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire yesterday to halt eleven days of fighting in the Gaza Strip. A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the security cabinet had unanimously accepted an Egyptian initiative for an unconditional ceasefire. Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad then confirmed the ceasefire in a statement. At least two hundred and thirty two Palestinians, including sixty five children, have been killed. On the Israeli side, twelve people, including two children, have been killed. Following the announcement of a ceasefire, Egypt’s representative at the United Nations announced to member states that it will fund efforts to rebuild Gaza.

And there is much rebuilding to be done. According to the Associated Press, the Gaza Strip’s already feeble health system has been brought to its knees. Hospitals have been overwhelmed with waves of dead and wounded from Israel’s bombardment. Many vital medicines are rapidly running out in the tiny, blockaded coastal territory, as is fuel to keep electricity going. Two of Gaza’s most prominent doctors, including the Number Two in Gaza’s coronavirus task force, were killed when their homes were destroyed during barrages. Just as Gaza was climbing out of a second wave of coronavirus infections, its only virus testing lab was damaged by an airstrike and has been shut. Health officials fear further outbreaks among tens of thousands of displaced residents crowded into makeshift shelters after fleeing massive barrages. And absolutely none of this needed to happen.


The Wall Street Journal reports that prosecutors in the case of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with abetting Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd told an appellate court yesterday they are considering adding a third-degree murder charge against the three men. Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane are expected to stand trial next March. They could have stopped Chauvin, but didn’t.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday signed legislation that bans abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy and, in a first, would give nearly any Texan the ability to sue providers who they believe have broken the law. It is one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the nation and is certain to face legal challenges. Strike it down on the double!

The Intercept reports that the Department of Homeland Security will be shutting down the controversial immigration prison in Georgia where dozens of women were subjected to nonconsensual gynecological procedures, including hysterectomies. The Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, Georgia, run by LaSalle Corrections, was the focus of criticism last fall when a nurse alleged pervasive medical misconduct. Good riddance.

The Guardian reports that relations between the US and Russia have taken a tentative step forward after the Kremlin welcomed a decision by the Biden administration not to impose sanctions on a Russian pipeline delivering gas to Germany. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, also reacted positively. Let’s everybody just hug it out, okay?

AM QUICKIE - MAY 21, 2021

HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner

WRITER - Corey Pein

PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw