Texas judge intervenes for families of trans youth
A temporary restraining order against the state was granted one day after advocacy groups sued to stop investigations of child abuse. Plus: Joe Manchin makes a counteroffer.
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1. First Things First: TX judge intervenes for fams of trans youth
Amy Clark Meachum, a Texas District Court judge, granted a temporary restraining order to prevent the state from performing child abuse investigations of families seeking gender-affirming health care for their transgender children.
— Allow me to explain: Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Texas filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to block the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services from investigating parents who work with medical professionals to provide their trans adolescents with treatments — ranging from surgery to speech therapy — that support a transgender or nonbinary person in their gender transition.
The suit followed a DFPS investigation into one of its employees with a transgender child after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott called for such inquiries.
Abbott’s order came after a nonbinding opinion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, that parents could be investigated for child abuse for providing care.
Several LGBTQ advocates spoke to Supercreator on Tuesday about what they view as sustained attacks on trans youth. Read their responses.
— In the know: Meachum’s ruling does not stop the agency from opening investigations into other families in similar situations, Eleanor Klibanoff at Texas Tribune reports.
Assistant Attorney General Ryan Kercher said Abbott’s letter has been misconstrued to imply that all parents who provide gender-affirming care would be investigated by DFPS.
Instead, Kercher claimed, Abbott was attempting to clarify that gender-affirming treatments could be considered child abuse.
It was intended to show “not that gender-affirming treatments are necessarily or per se abusive, but that these treatments, like virtually any other implement, could be used by somebody to harm a child,” Kercher said.
In a statement issued a night after he told young transgender Americans he had their back, President Joe Biden said:
“This is government overreach at its worst. Like so many anti-transgender attacks proliferating in states across the country, the Governor’s actions callously threaten to harm children and their families just to score political points.
“These actions are terrifying many families in Texas and beyond. And they must stop.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra reaffirmed HHS’s support for LGBTQ youth:
“The Texas government’s attacks against transgender youth and those who love and care for them are discriminatory and unconscionable. These actions are clearly dangerous to the health of transgender youth in Texas.
“At HHS, we listen to medical experts and doctors, and they agree with us, that access to affirming care for transgender youth is essential and can be life-saving.”
Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic congresswoman from Washington state and chair of the Progressive Caucus, said in a statement that supporting her trans child in living in her true self is a parental obligation and far from child abuse. Jayapal added:
“I am disgusted by Governor Abbott’s reprehensible, discriminatory attack on transgender youth and their families. The fear and psychological impact that such attacks will cause on transgender children and their parents is incalculable.
“No person should have their fundamental right to be who they are questioned, and no parent should ever face criminal action for simply supporting their child. This is destructive discrimination and it must be stopped.
“I speak from personal experience as the proud mother of a transgender child. I have seen my child come to understand who she is and take the risk to come out as her authentic self. I’ve seen the weight that lifts when she’s able to live freely — the joy, beauty, and creativity she brings to the world.”
— What’s next: Meachum will consider issuing a statewide injunction blocking such investigations into all parents of trans children on March 11.
2. Another day, another round of sanctions
The US announced new sanctions against Russia and Belarus, the eastern European country that supports Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine.
— Allow me to explain: The White House said the sanctions will hold Belarus accountable for enabling Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, weaken the Russian defense sector and its military power, target Russia’s most important sources of wealth, and ban Russian airlines from US airspace.
Specifically, the sanctions will place restrictions on Belarus's import of technological goods, limiting the ability of Russia and Belarus to obtain the materials they need to support their military aggression against Ukraine.
They also fully block Russian weapon development and production companies and place export controls on oil and gas extraction equipment that would support Russia’s refining capacity over the long term.
The measures will also prevent the countries from obtaining US goods and technology that can be used to support Russian technical maintenance and innovation.
A White House spokesperson said US sanctions on Russian oil exports are still on the table. But the top priority is avoiding a gas price spike.
“Putin is now isolated from the rest of the world, more than ever,” President Biden said during a speech in Wisconsin to promote his economic agenda. “Russia will be left weaker and the rest of the world stronger.”
— In the know: Here are the latest updates on the crisis in Ukraine:
The US has delivered hundreds of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine for the first time ever the last few days, Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee at NBC News report.
Stingers can be adapted to fire from a wide variety of ground vehicles and helicopters
US officials did not provide the newest models of the weapons in case they fall into the hands of the Russians who could still the US technology, Kylie Atwood and Zachary Cohen at CNN report.
A spokesperson for the Defense Department pointed me to previous statements from Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby when reached for comment.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said Russia has used banned weapons in Ukraine.
“We are following it very closely,” President Biden said on Wednesday before he traveled to Wisconsin. “It’s early to say that.”
The International Criminal Court opened an investigation into alleged Russian war crimes.
The UN General Assembly voted 141 to 5 to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine and called for the immediate withdrawal of its military forces. 34 countries abstained.
“This extraordinary move by the United Nations demonstrates the extent of global outrage at Russia’s horrific assault on a sovereign neighbor and showcased unprecedented global unity,” President Biden said in a statement.
The UN also said one million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, the most rapid fleeing of refugees this century.
The House passed a resolution to combine additional Ukrainian aid with a larger government funding bill.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel today through next Tuesday to Belgium, Poland, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia to consult and coordinate with NATO allies and European partners on the response to Russia.
— Related: Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday announced the launch of KleptoCapture, an interagency law enforcement task force to enforce the sanctions, export controls and economic countermeasures the US has imposed.
Senior administration officials at the White House announced the formation of the task force during a press call last week. They said the focus would be on the yachts, jets, fancy cars and luxury homes of the sanctioned Russian companies and oligarchs.
The task force will be led by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco and comprise prosecutors, agents, analysts and subject-matter experts who will use the most cutting-edge investigative techniques to identify sanctions evasion and related criminal misconduct.
“We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue this unjust war,” Garland said in a statement. “Let me be clear: If you violate our laws, we will hold you accountable.”
— See also:
“People of color are having a harder time getting out of Ukraine” [Danielle Cohen / The Cut]
“The war in Ukraine looks unwinnable (for everyone)” [Eric Levitz / Intelligencer]
“The Ukraine invasion has some war correspondents behaving badly” [Alex Shephard / The New Republic]
“What it's like to be a journalist on the frontlines in Ukraine” [Audra Heinrichs / Jezebel]
“The sunflower, Ukraine’s national flower, is becoming a global symbol of solidarity” [Jennifer Hassan / WaPo]
“War TikTok is a mess” [Rebecca Jennings / Vox]
3. Manchin’s counteroffer
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia told a group of reporters on Wednesday that he could vote for a package focused on lowering the price of prescription drugs and reforming the tax code.
This leaves out several critical priorities from Biden’s stalled Build Back Better plan, including universal pre-K, tuition-free community college, the expanded Child Tax Credit, paid leave, and affordable housing and home care.
But if Manchin is serious, this could last (and biggest) bite at the apple for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections.
— Allow me to explain: The money generated from lower drug costs and higher taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans would be split between reducing the federal deficit and investing in climate resilience.
Manchin also indicated he could support new social plans, but did not specify which ones.
He also didn’t disclose if he’s spoken to the president about his counteroffer. Manchin added Democrats know where he stands. “They just basically think that I’m going to change.”
White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to confirm if Biden and Manchin have discussed a deal.
“We are having conversation with members who are very much enthused and excited about what the president’s plan is and lowering costs,” Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday during a Q&A en route to Wisconsin where the president and First Lady Jill Biden promoted his economic agenda. “And so that’s what we’re going to do.”
A spokesperson at the White House did not respond to a request for further comment.
— In the know: Biden didn’t mention the words "Build Back Better” once during his speech. But he did speak of its constituent parts in an attempt to speak to progressives while setting the table with Manchin for a new round of negotiations.
The Senate, of course, is currently split between Democrats and Republicans. And BBB lacks support from the Senate GOP.
So Democrats planned to use a budgetary mechanism that would allow them to pass the legislation on a party-line vote with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie.
This reality gives each Senate Democrat enormous power since no bill can move forward without their vote.
Manchin and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema have flexed their leverage the most during the process, pissing off the rest of their colleagues — and, most importantly, voters — who want to see many of these long-overdue provisions signed into law.
Senate Democrats and administration officials spent much of last fall negotiating what was then known as Build Back Better, an economic plan that would make generational investments in education, health care and the environment while lowering the costs for child care and other everyday expenses.
Late last year, Manchin appeared on Fox News and ended negotiations on BBB, citing inflation and arguing that the program should fund programs for a longer period of time. (Democrats say they shortened the length of most provisions to fit under the price tag Manchin gave them.)
The White House responded with a scathing statement that sources say they believe Manchin took personally. So much so that Manchin pulled his original offer altogether and said that any future negotiations would start from scratch.
— What’s next:
For a deal to be imminent, Manchin’s proposal would have to be drafted into legislative text that Senate Democrats could then debate and vote on.
Then it would go to the House, where it would likely face resistance from progressive members for not going far not enough.
Not to mention, the Senate has a full legislative calendar right now so Democratic leadership may choose to focus on their current agenda items.
4. Three Senate Dems introduce long COVID legislation
Democratic Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois led the introduction of a bill that would improve research on long COVID as well as provide resources for people living with it.
— Allow me to explain: Long COVID is described as lingering symptoms experienced by survivors of the virus, including neurological, cardiovascular, respiratory and mental health symptoms, months after their initial infection.
One review cited by Kaine, Markey and Duckworth estimates more than half of survivors have long COVID.
“As someone with mild long COVID symptoms, I am glad to introduce this legislation to help address the lingering effects of the coronavirus,” Kaine said. “This legislation will help improve our understanding of and response to long COVID by expanding resources for those dealing with the long-term impacts of the virus.”
“While our nation is fighting to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, millions of Americans will continue to feel its lingering impacts due to Long COVID,” Markey said. “We need to take on the long-term impacts of COVID as aggressively as we’ve taken on this virus by passing the CARE for Long COVID Act to support research on how to better diagnose, treat, and prevent this disease.” Read the full bill text.
— In the know: During a White House briefing on Wednesday, Secretary Becerra at HHS said the agency will money the Biden administration will soon request from Congress to launch new community centers across the country to provide care to individuals experiencing Long COVID and better understand the symptoms they’re facing.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the chief medical advisor to the president, said during the briefing that the scientific community is working to learn more about the body’s immune response during and after infection to adapt and improve vaccines and treatments.
— How I see it: There’s always been deep tension between the science and politics of the pandemic. And Long COVID is a perfect crystallization of this friction.
On the one hand, people are exhausted from COVID and are ready to move on. And as the hospitalizations decrease and the administration stocks up on vaccines, pills, masks and tests to prevent and treat the severe cases of the virus, congressional Democrats and White House officials have responded to the mood of the majority.
On the other hand, while we’re still learning more about Long COVID, it’s clear that this isn’t a marginal illness reserved for immunocompromised people. People who were healthy prior to infection, are fully vaccinated and have been following public health guidelines experience the condition.
How the White House ultimately handles Long COVID in the next few months should factor into how voters ultimately grade the administration on its overall COVID response.
— See also:
“Long Covid symptoms may be linked to nerve damage, a small study suggests” [Phil McCausland / NBC News]
“How long COVID sheds light on other mysterious (and lonely) chronic illnesses” [Meghan O'Rourke / NPR]
“The Biden administration killed America’s collective pandemic approach” [Katherine J. Wu / The Atlantic]
“Young people with Long COVID share their experiences” [Fortesa Latifi / Teen Vogue]
5. KBJ’s historic hearings set to start on 3/21
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin has scheduled the hearings to consider the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court to begin on Monday, Mar. 21 and will last four days.
— Allow me to explain: The hearings will last four days and Durbin wrote in a letter to the committee that members will have ample opportunity to question Jackson and other witnesses. Below is a breakdown of the schedule:
Mar. 21: Statements from committee members, the people who will introduce Jackson and Jackson herself.
Mar. 22: Jackson will answer questions from committee members.
Mar. 23: Questioning will continue and the Judiciary Committee will also meet in a closed session to discuss Jackson’s FBI background check.
Mar. 24: The committee will hear testimony from the American Bar Association and additional outside witnesses.
“As I have said from the time that Justice [Stephen] Breyer announced his retirement, the committee will undertake a fair in timely process to consider Judge Jackson’s nomination,” Durbin wrote in his letter. “I look forward to Judge Jackson’s appearance before the committee and to respectful and dignified hearings.” Read the full letter.
— In the know: Jackson met on Wednesday with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley, the top Senate Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
“Before the meeting, I said Judge Jackson is brilliant and beloved. But now that I’ve met her, I will add another word — belongs,” Schumer said during a floor speech after his meeting. “She is not only brilliant and beloved, but belongs on the Supreme Court. I believe her nomination certainly merits a good number of votes from both parties, and I hope we see that as we move forward in the process.”
— What’s next: Jackson will meet this morning with Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont in the next of a series of courtesy meetings leading up to the confirmation hearings.
— See also:
“Republicans’ attempt to demonize Ketanji Brown Jackson isn’t going well” [Jennifer Rubin / WaPo]
“Who’s afraid of Ketanji Brown Jackson?” [Sherrilyn A. Ifill / NYT]
6. For Your Information
— Secretary Becerra has kicked off the National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health, HHS announced in a statement.
The tour is billed as an effort for the Biden administration to hear directly from Americans across the country about the behavioral health challenges they're facing.
President Biden during his State of the Union on Tuesday listed mental health as the second focus of his “unity agenda”: “Let’s get all Americans the mental health services they need,” he said. “More people they can turn to for help, and full parity between physical and mental health care.”
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff traveled to Ohio on Wednesday to push the president’s focus on the mental health of youth during the COVID-19 pandemic, as nationwide and in the Buckeye State, providers for youth mental health services have seen increased demand as well as increased staffing shortages from the pandemic.
Tour stop details will be announced in the coming weeks and throughout Spring 2022.
— When your finances are tight, you’re likelier to enjoy less “purchase happiness” from buying new stuff, according to a new study from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. The research also found that this dissatisfaction could also prompt you to leave worse reviews for those purchases. Read the full study.
— Several state attorneys general launched a probe into TikTok, focusing on whether the app's design and operations negatively impact young users’ physical or mental health, Lauren Feiner at CNBC reports.
— Apple announced a digital-only event dubbed “Peek performance” will be held on March 8, Juli Clover at MacRumors reports. The company is expected to introduce a 5G iPhone SE, revamped iPad Air, and new Macs.
7. Today in Politics
— President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing. Then he’ll hold a cabinet meeting. Vice President Harris will attend. After the meeting, he’ll sign into law a bill that ends forced arbitration for sexual assault and sexual harassment survivors. Biden and Harris will also speak at the event.
— The House is in and will complete work on legislation to expand health care benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on missing Black and brown girls.
— The Senate is in and will continue work on legislation to overhaul US Postal Service. Acting Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will testify at a Banking Committee hearing on the economy.
8. Read All About It
— Jason Okundaye on the narcissism of queer activist influencers:
Through a combination of self-assertion and a collective culture of low standards, these influencers have established themselves as thought leaders — particularly when it comes to finding the “queer angle” on whatever latest news item, whether serious or banal. If you spend any time observing queer social media, these people become inescapable. Maybe you side-eye when you see a follower mindlessly reshare a graphic from that same account again, or perhaps you yourself throw something a “like” while passively scrolling. It’s a great engagement strategy for the influencer — calls to “share,” “save,” and (my favorite) “boost this post” equate so-called “algorithm-defiance” (gaming Instagram’s system of prioritizing or hiding posts by using all engagement tools) with activism through digital communication. Resharing an infographic about “how to be a good ally during Pride month” or whatever is presented as akin to tweeting during the Arab Spring.
Beyond simply being annoying, the bigger problem is that the content and claims these influencers post are so often specious. Many of their posts, endlessly reshared, fall into a category of folk knowledge I call “things that sound true, and so must be true.” The verification system many followers use to vet the accuracy of these posts seems to be pure vibes. A sense that, because what is written feasibly aligns with a vague understanding of structural oppression, then it is undeniably true, and unquestionable.
— What else I’m reading:
“The Texas primaries were a case study in polarization” [Nicole Narea / Vox]
“The Costs of Oversharing With Your Boss” ****[Charlotte Cowles / The Cut]
“How Humans of New York became a one-man philanthropy machine” [Lisa Miller / Intelligencer]
— Best of Supercreator: “Is Instagram really the best platform for you to earn a living?”
9. Thursday’s Question
President Biden said he gave up all sweets for Lent, the 40-day period preceding Easter. “And you know me, I start off with dessert,” he said. “No ice cream. Nothing.” I’m curious to know what’s your favorite dessert and why?
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10. Last Not Least
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