ISSUES

BLM Activist Oluwatoyin Salau Found Dead After Tweeting About Her Assault

Salau is one of multiple Black people killed following the murder of George Floyd.

In the wake of protests following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, the list of lost demonstrators is growing.

This weekend, Black Lives Matter activist Oluwatoyin Salau was found dead in her hometown of Tallahassee, Fl. at just 19 years old. This follows the recent loss of Black transgender man named Tony McDade, who was murdered by Tallahassee police. A suspect has been taken into custody surrounding the death, but friends of Salau say there's much more to the story.

Sources close to Salau say she was a victim of sex trafficking near Florida A&M University. The afternoon she went missing, she tweeted that a man assaulted her, having offered to take her to a church.

"He came disguised as a man of God and ended up picking me up from nearby Saxon Street," Salau tweeted, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. "I trusted the holy spirit to keep me safe."

Salau said she had also been sexually assaulted a few days before she'd gone missing and contacted police. Ashley Laurent, a friend of Salau's, said a police officer told them more evidence was needed to pursue an investigation. This has prompted people online to condemn the Tallahassee police for their mistreatment of both McDade and Salau.

Sign a petition to demand justice for Salau here.


ISSUES

Amazon Bans Police Use of Their Facial Recognition Technology for One Year

Studies have suggested that Rekognition less accurately recognized dark-skinned faces.

Amazon announced this week that they would be implementing a one-year moratorium on police use of Rekognition, a facial recognition software.

Launched in 2016, Rekognition has been sold to a number of government agencies, including various police departments and ICE. In 2017, it started being used by law enforcement for help identifying suspects.

But studies have shown that Rekognition is less accurate in recognizing dark-skinned faces, and the software has come under fire for propagating racism that's already relevant in the police force.

Black people are already mistaken for suspects at alarming rates, and the use of Rekognition in law enforcement poses extreme dangers for them. In a statement on their blog, Amazon stated that they've advocated for stronger regulations on facial recognition technology, however the company has sold Rekognition to various police departments in the past.

Read their statement below.

"We're implementing a one-year moratorium on police use of Amazon's facial recognition technology. We will continue to allow organizations like Thorn, the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and Marinus Analytics to use Amazon Rekognition to help rescue human trafficking victims and reunite missing children with their families.

We've advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge. We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested."

POLITICS

Trump Declares May 1 "Law Day," Coinciding With Nationwide Workers' Strikes

Workers at Amazon, Target, Instacart, and other companies were planning to strike May 1.

In just the most recent example of his utter uselessness and misdirected energy, President Trump has declared May 1, 2020, as Law Day in the United States.

"We know that our Republic can continue to shine as a beacon of liberty only if Americans diligently defend our Constitution and ensure that its limits are strongly enforced," reads a statement signed by Trump on the official White House website. "On this Law Day, I urge all Americans to honor our shared inheritance of respect for the principles of the rule of law, limited government, and individual liberty. Let us rededicate ourselves to remaining ever vigilant in defending our rights secured by the Constitution so that our experiment in self‑government continues in perpetuity."

This coincides with the massive strike scheduled to occur May 1 by essential employees at Amazon, Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, Instacart, and other companies in demand of better protections and benefits in the wake of the health crisis. Over the past few weeks, organizers have called for shoppers to boycott such companies and participate in the strike in support of essential workers.

Trump's unanticipated declaration of Law Day, then, scans as a deliberate effort to suppress workplace strikes. Many of his supporters have been protesting stay at home orders and mask mandates, despite evidence suggesting that reopening the country this early could pose greater risk. Those who dismiss these preventative measures often claim to do so on the basis of protecting the country's economy, seemingly without taking into account the health care workers who have been serving on the front lines of the virus.

Trump's statement continues: "I urge all Americans, including government officials, to observe this day by reflecting upon the importance of the rule of law in our Nation and displaying the flag of the United States in support of this national observance; and I especially urge the legal profession, the press, and the radio, television, and media industries to promote and to participate in the observance of this day."

Instead of sanctifying a 200-year-old document, Trump must focus his energy on undoing the damage he's done as the crisis takes over. The Americans who have died of the virus have him to blame.

ISSUES

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's Mask Mandate Goes into Effect

New Yorkers must wear masks when leaving their homes.

A new mandate that went into effect Saturday means New Yorkers now must wear a mask when leaving their homes.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order last Wednesday stating that people in the state must wear a mask in situations where maintaining six feet of social distancing is less plausible, like going to the grocery store. Technically, this means you could still go to the park and sit alone, but masks are still ideal in order to help cease the spread of coronavirus.

It should also be emphasized that wearing face coverings doesn't replace the need for social distancing. You should still keep yourself a minimum of six feet apart from others.

Naturally, though, the mandate has been politicized by right-wingers who believe the government is infringing on their personal liberties. You know, the way they're infringing on the liberties of children of immigrant parents, or people who want to get a safe abortion.

Anyway—please stay inside, maintain social distancing, and don't forget your mask.


ISSUES

5 Charities You Can Donate to During COVID-19

Feeling generous?

The Trump Administration's solution to aid the 16 million Americans who are out of a job thanks to coronavirus? One big, shiny, $1,200 check.

As MarketWatch explains, "The Internal Revenue Service will send $1,200 payments to individuals with adjusted gross income below $75,000 and $2,400 to married couples filing taxes jointly who earn under $150,000. The government will also pay $500 per qualifying child." That plan is a little skewed—$1,200, after all, isn't even enough for one month's rent for a studio in NYC's outer boroughs. And for everyone who's receiving the check, there's someone else who, fortunately, is able to work from home and hasn't faced a huge setback due to COVID-19.

If you're one of the lucky ones, or if you're just feeling generous, here are just a few good causes that deserve your donations to help those in need.

WeCount!'s Immigrant Worker COVID-19 Fund: Florida nonprofit WeCount! is on a mission to address the gap in medical support for undocumented immigrants, emphasized by COVID-19.

Immigrant Worker Safety Net Fund: National Day Laborer Organizing Network allocates cash donations to worker leaders, organizers, and volunteers who have already contracted the COVID-19, as well as undocumented laborers who are especially vulnerable to the virus, such as those over 60 or with preexisting health concerns.

National Bailout: Prisons, jails, and detention centers have raised big health concerns in the coronavirus's wake. National Bailout is galvanizing funds to get people out, in an effort to slow the spread. The organization also already hosts an annual #FreeBlackMamas campaign to specifically help incarcerated black mothers each Mother's Day, but donations are welcome and encouraged year-round.

Restaurant Workers' Community Foundation: With restaurants limited to takeout only, many folks in the service industry are taking a major hit. RWCF's emergency relief fund collected $2.8M since its launch in late-March. Of that, half goes directly to individual restaurant workers, 25 percent to non-profits serving restaurant workers, and another 25 percent for zero-interest loans to keep restaurants running.

Coalition for the Homeless: Homeless people are predisposed to major risks year-round, but the pandemic has brought additional attention to their health care. In New York City, the Coalition for the Homeless is providing temporary safe housing to the community thanks to donations.

ISSUES

Texas Can Ban Abortions Now

Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order suspending "non-essential" medical procedures in the wake of the coronavirus, including abortions.

Most of our country's current administration certainly won't go down in history for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

The nation's top leaders long ignored warning signs of the virus, but that doesn't mean Republicans can't use COVID-19 to push their anti-abortion agenda. A number of governors, including Texas' Greg Abbott, are suspending "non-essential" medical procedures for the time being, which so conveniently includes abortions. It must be nice to live a life in which accessing a safe abortion doesn't directly affect you!

Lawmakers in favor of this have framed it as a way to minimize use of hospital resources in the wake of COVID-19. However, as we already know, cutting off access to safe and legal abortions doesn't prevent abortions from happening; patients desperate for the procedure now will now be forced to travel, which creates the possibility of further spreading COVID-19 across states. Suspending abortions isn't going to minimize the spread of coronavirus—it's only going to put more people at risk.

Nevertheless, Governor Abbott issued an executive order to "postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary" from March 22 to April 21. As Jezebel reports, "On March 30, the ban was briefly lifted when a lower court ruled it unconstitutional in response to a complaint jointly filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Lawyering Project. But just one day later, three federal judges granted a temporary stay, which means the ban will resume."

Progressives have been criticized by conservatives for weaponizing the coronavirus against Trump. But what's more disgusting: rightfully criticising the most powerful man in the world's poor handling of a pandemic, or abhorrently using the virus to further prevent Americans from getting necessary health care?

ISSUES

Joe Biden Has Officially Been Accused of Sexual Assault

Time's Up, one of the largest organizations fighting against sexual assault, says they can't help the alleged victim.

Content warning: the following article contains a brief depiction of sexual assault.

For the entirety of his run in the 2020 presidential race (and much of his decades-long career), Joe Biden hasn't had the best track record regarding his treatment of women.

The former vice president, who's earned a shocking lead in the Democratic primaries thus far, has racked up multiple accusations from women who say he was inappropriate towards them. Many of these recounts involve a disregard for personal space, improper comments about appearance, and even some condescending finger-wagging, but none of them explicitly depicted a sexual assault. Until now.

Tara Reade didn't initially go public with her sexual assault story about Joe Biden when it allegedly occurred in 1993. A staff assistant of Biden's at the time, Reade told her brother and close friend but otherwise kept her story silent. But, in an episode recently aired of Katie Halper's podcast, Reade has finally let her story out in the world.

Reade says that she was called to bring a gym bag to Biden, who was Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time, near the Capitol. Nobody else was around. "We were alone, and it was the strangest thing," Reade said. "There was no exchange, really. He just had me up against the wall." In what seemed like one swift motion, she added, Biden had his hands under her clothes and then began penetrating her digitally. "I pulled back, and he said, 'Come on, man, I heard you liked me'...It's like he implied that I had done this."

Reade tried to come forward with her story in April 2019, but she was halted after her claims of sexual harassment got her doxxed and smeared as a Russian agent. In January of this year, Reade tried again telling her story to Time's Up, the organization that rose as Hollywood's initial #MeToo movement unfolded. However, as Ryan Grim reports in The Intercept, Time's Up couldn't provide assistance "because Biden was a candidate for federal office, and assisting a case against him, Time's Up said, could jeopardize the organization's nonprofit status."

Reade told Grim she was conflicted about coming forward with her sexual assault allegation as the 2020 election carried on because she feared she'd be "help[ing] Trump" win over Biden. But, if our two presidential front-runners are both men accused of sexual assault, and one of the largest organizations intended to help survivors can't help at all, there's a much larger issue than simply defeating Trump: It's how we handle assault at the hands of the world's most powerful men.

POLITICS

The End of Elizabeth Warren's Campaign Proves America's Lasting Sexism

With the Democratic nomination essentially a toss-up between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, America's fear of electing competent, prepared women is prevalent.

This week, Senator Elizabeth Warren suspended her campaign in the 2020 presidential election.

The announcement arrived after a disappointing Super Tuesday for the progressive candidate, who failed to win her home state of Massachusetts. "I refuse to let disappointment blind me— or you—to what we've accomplished," Warren wrote. "We didn't reach our goal, but what we have done together—what you have done—has made a lasting difference. It's not the scale of the difference we wanted to make, but it matters—and the changes will have ripples for years to come."

Warren built a successful grassroots movement and, for much of the race, was a Democratic front-runner. She supports key issues like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, and she mapped out proposals for affordable housing and free college for lower-income students. Her liberal policies earned her numerous comparisons to Bernie Sanders, but as Warren fell behind and her more moderate opponents, like Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bloomberg, and Pete Buttigieg, exited the race—each endorsing former Vice President Joe Biden—it became clearer that her participation might be splitting the progressive vote. Her choice to bow out for the sake of the country's future is honorable, but her departure makes the Democratic nomination a toss-up between Sanders and Biden as congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard trails behind significantly. That shouldn't be the case.

Yes, Biden has decades of experience; he first became a senator in 1972, while Warren wouldn't be elected until thirty years later. Despite serving two terms as vice president, however, Biden failed to match Warren's sharp wit in debates—his muddled answers and seemingly inattentive performances spurred headlines like "Is Joe Biden OK?" Additionally, there's an ongoing list of allegations about his creepy behavior towards girls and women, for which he's never formally apologized.

When it comes to policy, Biden can be moderate to a dangerous degree. His stance on abortion has wavered throughout the years (to be fair, Warren was a Republican until the '90s), and he supported a constitutional amendment in the '80s that would have let states overturn Roe v. Wade. In the '90s, he voted against legalization of gay marriage, and later in the early '00s, he voted in favor of the Iraq War. Today, he opposes Medicare for All, would let states individually allow to legalize recreational marijuana, doesn't believe in abolishing ICE, and wouldn't bring U.S. troops home from overseas; Warren's stance on each of those issues is the opposite, which makes the trending #WarrenToBiden hashtag so disappointing.

Though Warren has generally kept her gender out of her campaign (aside from telling little girls that she's running for president because "that's what girls do"), much of Biden's sudden lead ahead of her can be accredited to sexism. Despite experience, Warren has proven time again and again that she's incredibly fit to be president; how has Biden become our most "electable" option?

Yes, Democrats need to unite to ultimately defeat Donald Trump. But we also can't risk electing a candidate who repeatedly appears mentally unwell, poses dangers to women, and doesn't have an aggressive plan to tackle the climate crisis. Thankfully, we have a viable candidate left with Sanders, but Biden shouldn't be the other choice. The U.S. deserves better than Biden, but it'll be hard to get there until we've overcome our fear of electing a woman.

POLITICS

We Shouldn't Be This Worried About Bernie Sanders' Health

It's time we stop acting like the leading Democratic candidate is the only old guy who's ever had a heart attack.

Whoever your pick might be in the 2020 Presidential Election, there's an overarching issue that's been largely prominent: the age of the Democratic front-runner, Bernie Sanders.

At 78, Sanders would be the oldest elected president in the country's history (a title currently held by Trump). The topic of his health became more hotly debated after he suffered a heart attack last October, resulting in him having two stents inserted. Though he bounced back to give one of his best debates yet that very same month, critics have been quick to cite Sanders' declining health as a hindrance to his electability. The backlash is getting even louder as Sanders claims he won't divulge his comprehensive health records. "We have released a detailed medical report, and I'm comfortable on what we have done," he said this week during a CNN town hall.

Sanders' campaign has released letters from three doctors who all asserted the senator is in good health. "I do not see a reason why he would not be able to function effectively in a high stress job," said Dr. Mary Ann McLaughlin, director of cardiovascular health and wellness at Mount Sinai Heart in New York. Why are Sanders' opposers so adamant that his health will fail him in office?

Yes, the senator is the oldest candidate in the race, but not by much: Michael Bloomberg and Joe Biden are 78 and 77 respectively, while Sanders' fellow progressive Elizabeth Warren is 70—the same age as Trump when he was elected. The health of Bloomberg, Biden, and Warren hasn't been scrutinized nearly as much as Sanders'. Sure, he might be the only one of the bunch who's suffered a heart attack, but that alone shouldn't be a disqualifier; notable politicians including President Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Lyndon Johnson, and Vice President Dick Cheney all proceeded with lengthy, successful careers in office despite suffering heart attacks early on.

A heart attack should not render an otherwise healthy candidate unfit for presidency, and Sanders' campaign has offered enough proof of his well-being. Our country's entire history has been predominantly dictated by old white men—why make an exception for someone who can actually instigate radical change?

POLITICS

Virginia Could Become the First Southern State to Pass Anti-Discrimination Laws

This is a major step towards fairer treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.

Virginia just made history in the name of equality.

The state just passed the Virginia Values Act, effectively becoming the first Southern state to pass a bill that protects the lives and rights of people in the LGBTQ+ community. The bill outlines anti-discrimination protections for queer folks on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Though it must still go through more procedural votes before going to the governor, a victory on this bill is feasible based on the results of the 2019 midterm elections. If passed, the Virginia Values Act will make the commonwealth the first state in the South to have non-discrimination policies related to sexual orientation.

"Today, history was made in Virginia, and LGBTQ Virginians are one step closer to being protected from discrimination. No one should be discriminated against simply because of who they are or whom they love," said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "This day would not have been possible without the years and years of tireless work from advocates across the commonwealth, or the voters in Virginia that filled the halls of the General Assembly with pro-equality champions who fulfilled their promises. HRC is proud to have worked to elect pro-equality lawmakers across Virginia in 2019, and we are thrilled to see that effort culminate in this important victory today."

Based on previous presidential campaigns, Virginia has been considered a "swing state," and more left-leaning bills like the Virginia Values Act could indicate how the state votes in this year's presidential election. So far, fifteen states and Washington, D.C. have passed laws that include protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. For the rest, it's time to catch up.