Vice President Harris announces new resources for HBCUs
The Biden administration will offer immediate, short-term grants to schools who recently experienced bomb threats to restore safe learning environments.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Good Thursday morning and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Let’s catch up.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
A bit of breaking news: President Joe Biden was scheduled today to host the Prime Minister Micheál Martin of Ireland at the White House for a meeting and the annual Shamrock presentation, but the prime minister tested positive for COVID last night.
Martin on Wednesday afternoon tested negative on an antigen test but was re-tested after a member of his delegation tested positive, according to the Irish Embassy.
A second, more reliable PCR test was positive and upon learning the news, the prime minister left a gala that President Biden spoke at last night.
Martin spent the night at the President’s Guest House and is said to be feeling well.
President Biden was last tested on Sunday and received a negative result.
The White House has not announced any changes to the schedule yet. But the meeting between Martin and Biden will likely be virtual now.
Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday announced two new steps from the Biden administration to reaffirm its support for communities that experience racism, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The first is a grant program from the Education Department for HBCUs that have recently experienced bomb threats to receive short-term immediate funding to restore safe learning environments.
The grants can be used for targeted mental health resources or enhanced security and typically range from $50,000 to $150,000, according to the Department.
Harris also introduced a compendium of resources from the federal government that can help with long-term improvements to campus mental health programs, campus safety and emergency management.
“Our administration is sending a very clear message: This intimidation will not stand and we will not be intimidated,” Harris said. “We will do everything in our power to protect all our communities from violence and from hate. We are in this together and we must stand together.”
During a six-week period in January and February, 57 institutions, including HBCUs, received bomb threats in phone calls, email, instant messages and anonymous online posts.
The FBI is investigating these cases as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes.
The House passed a resolution last week to condemn the bomb threats. And the House Oversight and Homeland Security committees today will hold hearings to examine federal support for HBCUs and the targeting of Black institutions.
The event was set against a sobering backdrop: Eight people — six of Asian descent, seven of whom were women — were killed one year ago yesterday in Atlanta in a mass shooting. The acts of violence all took place in businesses owned by Asian Americans.
“We are reminded of the terrible cost of violence, xenophobia, and hate. Every American should be able to learn, work, worship, and gather without fear,” Harris said. “It is our duty to do everything we can to protect all our communities. A harm against any one of our communities is a harm against all of us.”
In New York this past weekend, a 67-year-old Asian woman was punched more than 125 times and stomped on in her apartment lobby. Her attacker called her a racial slur.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the administration’s message to people who feel the government’s response to these attacks are insufficient.
She said that President Biden has tried to elevate anti-Asian hate so that people are aware of it and communities across the country can continue in that fight as well.
“Our work is not done. We want to stand by your side and continue to stand up for you, to protect you, to call out this type of discrimination and horrific actions,” Psaki said. “But the work clearly is not done, and we need to be steadfast in it.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine on Wednesday delivered a powerful speech to Congress as lawmakers consider the size and scope of future assistance to the war-torn country.
Zelenskyy recalled the Pearl Harbor and 9/11 attacks and even invoked the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to appeal to American sensibilities as he requested new sanctions and military equipment from lawmakers.
“I have a dream. These words are known to each of you,” Zelenskyy said. “Today, I can say, I have a need: I need to protect our sky.”
It was the latest plea from the leader to the West to establish a no-fly zone in hopes it would slow Russia’s onslaught.
The White House is unlikely to prohibit Russian aircraft from Ukrainian territory because it believes doing so would draw the US into a direct conflict with a nuclear power, which could have catastrophic consequences at home and abroad.
President Biden did authorize an additional 1 billion after a $200 drawdown was approved last Saturday.
He said he watched Zelenskyy’s speech from the private residence at the White House and called it “convincing” and “significant.”
While Russian troops find themselves stuck in position against fierce Ukrainian resistance, negotiators for President Vladimir Putin and Ukraine made progress on a peace plan that would include a ceasefire and Russian withdrawal. Ukraine, in return, would have to declare neutrality and relinquish its intention to join NATO.
Russian troops are stuck fighting in their current positions, with “no chances whatsoever to move further into Ukrainian territory.”
The practicalities of the agreement were still unclear to both sides though.
“Obviously, this is coming sometime soon,” Mykhailo Podolyak, Ukraine’s lead negotiator said on Tuesday to PBS. “Because this is the only way to end this war.”
TODAY IN POLITICS
— President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing. As reported above, he was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Micheál Martin of Ireland before speaking at the Annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon hosted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the United States Capitol. The president and First Lady Jill Biden are scheduled to host a Shamrock Presentation this evening.
— Vice President Harris this morning will ceremonially swear in Shalanda Young as Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
— The House is in and will vote on a bill to end forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer, and civil rights cases.
— The Senate is in and will vote on several of President Biden’s judicial nominees.
IN THE KNOW
— The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter of a point in a step to curb inflation. It’s the first increase since 2018 and is projected to be followed by six more this year.
— Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts introduced a bill that would give federal regulators stronger tools to reject anticompetitive mergers and break up monopolies. Specifically, it would ban deals valued at $5 billion and set market thresholds for sellers and employers, overhaul the merger-review process and procedures for the antitrust agencies to conduct retrospective reviews of existing mergers.
— Rep. Jones and Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts sent a letter to Biden administration officials to fully end a Trump-era pandemic policy that prohibits asylum seekers from lawfully petitioning for asylum in the US. The lawmakers urged the Department of Homeland Security and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use their authority to suspend deportations to Haiti, as they did in their recent response to the refugee crisis in Ukraine.
— A group of Black Twitch creators released an open letter demanding that the streaming app do more to protect minority streamers from harassment and hateful messages in their chat section. The letter was written by Color of Change, a progressive civil rights advocacy group, and calls for additional safety and privacy updates, including improved algorithmic and human moderation practices to protect Black creators featured on Twitch’s front page. [Alexander Lee / Digiday]
— Netflix announced it will launch a test requiring primary account holders to pay an additional fee for users outside their household as part of a crackdown against violations of their terms of service. The feature will enable members to add secondary accounts for up to two people they don’t live with, each with their own profile, personalized recommendations, login and password. Talk about first-world problems. [Todd Spangler / Variety]
READ ALL ABOUT IT
— Umair Irfan on the complicated ways climate change affects migration:
Climate change made migration more likely in some places and trapped people in others. In Kenya, increased rainfall is linked to reduced rural-to-urban movement, whereas in Zambia, more precipitation is poised to drive more migration. In Ghana, researchers found that drought led to fewer residents saying they were planning to move.
But researchers noted that there are other factors to consider beyond climate change. Migration is also a function of the economy; wealthier parts of the world are better able to hold their ground in the face of rising heats and higher temperatures. “There are always socio-economic conditions and governance that are highly relevant to how violent conflict or migration occurs,” said Carol Farbotko, an adjunct research fellow at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia, in an email.
The IPCC report also notes that there are still some important gaps in our understanding of how climate change will influence migration: “More detailed local and regional models are needed, incorporating migrant destinations and immobility.”
— Ed Kilgore on the built-in Republican advantage when gas prices rise:
This is a particularly difficult problem for Democrats, as the party generally has less credibility on gas prices than the GOP, whose constant “solution” is simply to boost domestic petroleum production. From Sarah Palin to Lauren Boebert, Republicans have branded “Drill, baby, drill” as a counter to Democratic efforts to reduce reliance on petroleum as part of a strategy for addressing climate change (a challenge Republicans tend to reject as imaginary or less important than cheap fuel and energy-industry profits and jobs). And while consistent majorities of voters express what might be described as theoretical support for climate-change activism, tolerance for high gasoline prices as a by-product of such activism is at best limited. The simplicity of Republican supply-side panaceas for pain at the pump contrasts favorably with the complex and sometimes contradictory-sounding Democratic messages favoring less carbon in the atmosphere but also no pain for regular consumers.
— Greg Cote on why people love March Madness so much:
That is the very point of March Madness. It is a hope machine. A dream factory. Davids with slingshots ready. A three-week orgy of hoops — the original binge TV.
This is where “The Underdog” has a pedestal waiting, if only he or she can find it, and climb it. They call it The Big Dance. We pray Cinderella will be on the floor.
The Underdog is the mythic power driving the popularity of March Madness, every bit as much as the brackets and office pools and the alumni pride and the gambling.
The Underdog is what draws us in even if we have no alma mater in the hunt and no wagers placed.
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