Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell was re-elected for his seventh term on November 3rd, his success can be attributed to his swift confirmation of republican judges. McConnell has assisted in Donald Trump’s ability to appoint a quarter of all the active federal judges in the United States.
What We Know:
- On October 27th, Mitch McConnell confirmed Amy Coney Barrett’s position as Supreme Court justice, a move that caused tension and upset. It was believed by many that Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s seat should have been left open until after the election but McConnell and Tump have moved ruthlessly in their efforts to create a republican majority in federal courts.
- Donald Trump has now confirmed 200 federal, life-time judges. This large number can be greatly attributed to Mitch McConnell who withheld confirming Obama’s nominees. The senate and McConnell’s obstruction allowed for there to be over 100 federal vacancies open when Donald Trump was elected.
- McConnell has made it a personal goal to take Republican control of the courts. On Hugh Hewitt’s talk show he said, “Let’s leave no vacancy behind”. “We’re going to clean the plate, clean all the district judges off as well.”
- Under Trump and McConnell, the makeup of these confirmations have become less diverse. The new appointees are 76% male and 85% white, compared to Obama’s appointees being 58% male and 64% white.
- When speaking about hyper-partisanship of the Republican Party in an interview that took place on October 27th McConnell said it was, “So, good for the country and good for us politically as well”.
The intentional large scale appointing of republican judges will cause a generational shift in politics, with many court ruling being informed by conservative ideologies.
Minnesota AG Keith Ellison Requests Aggravated Sentence for Chauvin
The state’s attorney general has requested the former Minneapolis police officer receive a harsher sentence for his role in the death of George Floyd.
What We Know:
- According to a legal brief filed on Friday, Attorney General Keith Ellison asked Hennepin County Judge to hand Chauvin a harsher sentence. Ellison based his request on “five aggravating factors” that justify a longer sentence.
- The brief states that Floyd was a “vulnerable victim” and “treated with particular cruelty.” The filing states that Floyd was already restrained on the ground when most of Chauvin’s actions took place and that he ignored Floyd’s calls for help as he could not breathe. Ellison went on to say, “[the] Defendant’s actions inflicted gratuitous pain, and caused psychological distress to Mr. Floyd and to the bystanders.”
- In addition, the brief states Chauvin “abused his position of authority” by violating the “sanctity of life” and public responsibility standards that police officers are held to. The final two factors Ellison says, are that Chauvin committed the crime as part of a group of officers and in the presence of children.
- Chauvin was charged with second and third-degree murder along with second-degree manslaughter. On April 20th, the former officer was found guilty on all charges after a deliberation process that lasted several weeks. However, due to Minnesota state law, Chauvin will only be sentenced according to the most serious charge–second-degree murder.
The death of George Floyd last year sparked nationwide protests that lasted for several months. Chauvin’s sentencing hearing has been scheduled for June 25th.
National Pharmacy Chains Have Wasted Hundreds of Thousands of Covid Vaccine Doses
Two nationwide pharmacy chains trusted with handling vaccinations are largely responsible for the majority of wasted doses.
What We Know:
- According to the CDC, there were 182,874 wasted doses of the covid vaccine as of late March. The pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens are responsible for 128,500 wasted shots. According to Kaiser Health News, CVS accounted for nearly half of those, with Walgreens representing 21%.
- The CDC data indicates that the two companies wasted more shots of the vaccine than all of the states, territories, and federal agencies combined. The data, however, does not indicate how the pharmacies were able to waste so many of the vaccine doses. Many critics cited the disorganized rollout of the vaccine as the primary factor contributing to the waste.
- The Trump administration heavily leaned on the two pharmacies to vaccinate those long-term care facilities during the early phase. A CVS representative stated “nearly all” of its wasted vials came during this period.
- The report found that freezer malfunctions were the most common source of wasted vials. The Pfizer was the first to be distributed in December. The vaccine initially required that it be kept in ultra-cold storage, making it difficult to transport and store properly. The report found that the Pfizer vaccine made up 60% of all lost doses.
- In a statement, CDC spokesperson Kate Fowlie said, “though every effort is made to reduce the volume of wastage in a vaccination program, sometimes it’s necessary to identify doses as ‘waste’ to ensure anyone wanting a vaccine can receive it, as well as to ensure patient safety and vaccine effectiveness.”
According to the CDC, nearly 250 million doses of the covid vaccine have been administered. Over 100 million Americans have been fully vaccinated so far, which amounts to about 32% of the population.
Wildfire Survivors, Experts Urge Congressional Action Ahead of Fire Season
Wildfire Survivors and Experts urged Congress to act quickly to prevent more devastation on the West Coast.
What We Know:
- Fire season this year threatens to be a historic one amid rising temperatures and drought. The House Natural Resources subcommittee recently listened to testimonies on managing forests, fighting climate change, and equipping federal firefighters. The hearing finished right before a brush fire erupted in Southern California. The fire forced some residents to evacuate their homes in Ventura County.
- According to the U.S Drought Monitor, much of the West is experiencing levels of drought ranging from severe to exceptional. About 75% of the West is in a “megadrought.” The drought includes the Colorado River and the Rio Grande, both of which supply water for millions of people and businesses.
- Congressional leaders remain split on how to address the crisis despite warnings from experts. Some members blame climate change, while others blame forest management. Some lawmakers are pushing for federal agencies to hire more firefighters. Other lawmakers would rather states take more proactive roles in securing communities.
- Idaho Rep Russ Fulcher believes the main culprit of this disaster is decades of insufficient forest management. Fulcher asserts that the negligence has led to “overgrown, diseased and dying forests.” Rep. Joe Neguse made a statement saying Congress must stop the “drain” of federal resources to land agencies and increase the federal wildland workforce. Last year Neguse’s district was hit by two of the largest wildfires in Colorado’s history.
The East Troublesome Fire in Colorado claimed nearly 200,000 acres and killed two people.