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June 3, 2021: Democrats Pressure Manchin On Voting Rights; Sri Lanka Faces Environmental Disaster; Stimulus Checks Reduced Hunger, Anxiety

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Democrats including President Joe Biden are losing patience with Senator Joe Manchin. He’s waffling on supporting a nationwide voting rights package that could be crucial to the party’s electoral future.

Meanwhile, cleanup and containment efforts are underway off the coast of Sri Lanka, where a sinking container ship threatens environmental disaster. The beaches are suffocated with tiny plastic pellets, and now there are worries about an oil spill, as well.

And lastly, the evidence is in on the effects of the stimulus checks that went out to Americans earlier this year, and guess what – they really helped people! It looks like there’s something to the old saying that the problem with poor people is that they don’t have enough money.


This spotlight on a weak link in the ruling Congressional coalition comes from the Washington Post. Democratic leaders and activists are stepping up pressure on Senator Joe Manchin to support legislation to fight Republican-led voting restrictions across the country. Party officials are concluding that the battle over voting rights could come down to what the centrist Democrat from West Virginia does. In a rare show of public frustration with his own party on Tuesday, President Biden appeared to lash out at Manchin when he accused a pair of unnamed senators of aligning too closely with Republicans and stalling efforts to pass sweeping voting standards. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer recently announced that his chamber would vote this month on a House-passed elections bill co-sponsored by every Democratic senator except Manchin – a move that would force Manchin to pick a side. Even some of Manchin’s Democratic colleagues are beginning to prod him more aggressively to join their cause, while activists and civil rights leaders are loudly decrying his hesitation.

According to the Post, Manchin has said his overriding concern is a lack of bipartisan support for the measure. But Democrats increasingly see an existential threat from Republican-led state governments determined to place new limits on voting, which critics say would disproportionately affect voters of color, a core part of the Democratic coalition. One

Democratic congressional aide said panic is the right word to describe the mood in the party. By all rights, though, Manchin is the one who should be sweating.

Sri Lanka Faces Environmental Disaster

This is just tragic. NBC News reports that a cargo ship laden with chemicals sank yesterday after nearly two weeks ablaze off the west coast of Sri Lanka, worsening fears of a major environmental disaster. The vessel has already left the country’s coastline covered in tons of plastic pellets and now threatens to spill oil into its rich fishing waters. The government has banned fishing, a crucial industry, along fifty miles of coast in the wake of the incident. Authorities have also deployed hundreds of soldiers to clean affected beaches and warned residents not to touch the debris because it could be contaminated with harmful chemicals. Where there was once gold sand and coconut trees, there is now a sea of plastic waste.

A Sri Lankan Navy spokesman told NBC News yesterday that an effort to tow the ship into deeper waters was not successful and had to be abandoned halfway through. Silva said there was water inside the ship and their main concern was the possibility of an oil spill, although they had not yet observed any oil slicks. The fire-ravaged ship was transporting one thousand four hundred and eight six containers, including twenty five tons of nitric acid, along with other chemicals and cosmetics. As the fire was being extinguished, flaming containers laden with chemicals had fallen from the ship's deck or broken open on the deck, spilling their cargo into the sea. It shows how our economic system sometimes does damage that cannot be undone.

Stimulus Checks Reduced Hunger, Anxiety

This social science deep dive comes from the New York Times. In offering Americans two rounds of stimulus checks in the past six months, totaling $2,000 a person, the government effectively conducted a huge experiment in safety net policy. A new analysis of Census Bureau surveys argues that the two latest rounds of aid significantly improved Americans’ ability to buy food and pay household bills and reduced anxiety and depression. The largest benefits went to the poorest households and those with children. The analysis offers the fullest look at hardship reduction under the stimulus aid. Among households with children, reports of food shortages fell forty two percent from January through April. A broader gauge of financial instability fell forty three percent. Among all households, frequent anxiety and depression fell by more than twenty percent. The largest declines in measures of hardship coincided with the $600 checks that reached most people in January and the $1,400 checks mostly distributed in April.

According to the Times, the aggressive use of stimulus checks coincides with growing interest in broad cash payments as a tool in social policy. The evidence that they can have an immediate effect on the economic strains afflicting many households could influence that debate. Starting in July, the government will mail up to $300 a month per child to most families in a yearlong expansion of the child tax credit that Democrats want to make permanent. But this research raises another question: Why not two grand for everyone, every month?


CNN reports that the US military has apologized after soldiers accidentally stormed a factory in Bulgaria during a training exercise last month. The factory produces machinery for making olive oil. Luckily, no weapons were fired. Bulgarian President Rumen Radev condemned the incident and said he expects there will be an investigation. It’s like a Three Stooges routine about US imperialism.

According to the Guardian, the climate crisis is causing a widespread fall in oxygen levels in lakes across the world, suffocating wildlife and threatening drinking water supplies. A study, published in the journal Nature, analysed data collected from nearly four hundred lakes worldwide. Humanity is really doing a number on marine life, maybe we should ease up.

The Associated Press reports that the NFL yesterday pledged to halt the use of race- norming – which assumed Black players started out with lower cognitive function – in the $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims. The league will also review past scores for any potential race bias. More than two thousand NFL retirees have filed dementia claims, but fewer than six hundred have received awards. And this racist policy was one reason why.

The Washington Post reports that Donald Trump’s blog, celebrated by advisers as a beacon of freedom that would keep him relevant, is dead. It was twenty nine days old. Upset by reports highlighting its measly readership, Trump ordered his team Tuesday to put the blog out of its misery. My kingdom for a verified Twitter account!


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