Bearing Witness to Good News March 2021

As the month begins the US is now averaging 2 million vaccinations per day. Over 50 million people have received at least one shot and more than 82 million shots have been administered.

The Biden administration put sanctions on Russian officials and a dozen organizations due to the Kremlin’s treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalany. Oh how Putin must wish he had his boy Trump back in the White House where no such thing would have occurred.

The House passed a long overdue voting rights bill that will restrict gerrymandering, remove hurdles to voting, and add transparency to campaign donations. It would be the biggest improvement to US election law in a generation.

The White House has placed a hold on the use of drone strikes outside of war zones and will require more oversight and approval for their use.  For years the casualties caused by American drones to civilian populations has been largely hidden from the public.

President Biden says that the country was on track for every adult in America to be vaccinated by the end of May. Biden also brokered a deal between Johnson & Johnson and Merck to partner on the production of J&J’s recently approved one-shot vaccine.

The president spoke clearly and succinctly when he called out the governors of Texas and Mississippi for their Neanderthal thinking in removing COVID restrictions such as wearing masks and limiting business occupancy.

Over 200,000 people signed up for ACA insurance in the first two weeks after Biden ordered that enrollments be reopened.

Employers added nearly 380,000 new jobs last month and official unemployment fell to 6.2%. By the end of the month the number of new unemployment filings was below 700,000. Less than 20 million are now receiving assistance.

President Biden signs a $1.9T bill to rescue Americans and the economy from the ravages of the pandemic. The bill provides relief to the unemployed, families with children, local and state governments, schools, testing and  vaccination programs, reducing ACA healthcare insurance premiums, renters and homeowners, small businesses, and direct payments to help stimulate the economy. The bill also included assistance to public broadcasting networks which Americans have increasingly depended upon for their news while locked down in their homes.

In his first prime time speech to the nation, President Biden announced that all Americans will now become eligible for receiving vaccinations by May 1, months earlier than many had expected. During the month, Biden’s goal of 100 million shots into the arms of Americans was achieved a month sooner than even he had promised.

The US begins looking at distributing millions of excess vaccine doses it has ordered, and may not need, to our North American neighbors Canada and Mexico. Biden has also moved for the US to restart contributing funds to the international COVAX vaccine distribution effort for developing and impoverished economies of the world.

In a sign of non-partisanship patriotism, all living presidents are participating in a “It’s Up To You” campaign to urge all Americans to do their part and get a vaccine. That is with the exception of former president Trump who did not participate. No surprise and no loss.

The House passed two bills requiring background checks on all firearm sales and transfers. Attempts to close gun control loopholes have been thwarted for over a decade by Republicans, despite mass killings every year. (Two new mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder would occur after the bill passed and was sent to the senate where it will meet resistance from Republican lawmakers.)

The House passed two more progressive pieces of legislation; one aimed to protect women against domestic violence and the other to remove the deadline for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

On International Women’s Day, the president directed the Education Department to revisit changes that the Trump administration had made to rules on sexual assaults and gender discrimination in our nation’s schools and college campuses. Biden also established a Gender Policy Council within the White House.

Merrick Garland, whose nomination by Obama to the Supreme Court was blocked for a year by Senate Republicans, was confirmed as the next US Attorney General in Biden’s Justice Department. He will inherit a department left in turmoil and turnover by the outgoing Trump administration.

After 4 years of the Trump administration appeasing Russia, the Biden team has put Putin on notice. National intelligence agencies issued a declassified report substantiating that the Kremlin had indeed authorized influence operations to help Trump’s reelection in the 2020 election. Biden responded by telling the Russians they would pay a price for meddling into US politics as well as recent security cyber attacks and hacks. Biden went so far to refer to Putin as a killer in attempting to poison and kill dissidents such as Alexei Navalny.

Biden also does not mince words about the GOP’s attempts to limit voting rights across the country, especially in states they recently lost in like Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin. The President called the effort sick, despicable, un-American, and Jim Crow of the 21st century.

President Biden’s new Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, is reversing former President Trump’s attempts to limit the promotion of international human rights, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ rights in dealing with other countries.

On the anniversary of the civil rights Bloody Sunday incident in 1965, the President issued an executive order that directed federal agencies to promote voting registration and access to the polls. This comes in stark contrast to dozens of Republican-led states which are feverishly working to suppress voter turnout of the magnitude which allowed the Democrats to take control of the House, Senate, and White House.

Biden’s nomination of the first openly transgender federal official was approved by the Senate. Rachel Levine will serve as assistant secretary of health. Biden’s DOD also announced it was reversing Trump’s policy to ban self-identified transgender people from serving in the armed forces.

The House passed an immigration bill to provide a gateway to citizenship for undocumented children of immigrants, also known as dreamers. Another bill provided protections for an estimated 1 million farm workers who perform jobs at wages and in conditions that Americans won’t.

Fertility rates continue to fall across America, and even more so last year. It is now a record low of about 1.7 births per woman. Why is a lower birth rate good news? The planet is dying under the strain of 7.5 billion people and is facing the 6th mass extinction. We have to evolve to a new paradigm and economy that is not based on perpetual growth when our planet home is of a finite size, and nature can no longer support a species like us that is devouring our own habitat as if we were a mindless parasite.

The Iran and US said they would begin indirect negotiations through intermediaries in hope that both parties will return back to compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement. Trump had abandoned the accord then of course blamed his victim, Iran, for not honoring its terms when it started  acting like the agreement was broken.

The  Biden administration announces a massive $2 trillion plan and legislative blitz to take on many challenges that our country has overlooked for decades. Priority number one is investing to rebuild a crumbling infrastructure, followed by green energy, climate change, jobs, utilities, education, childcare, and more. It is estimated that the plan will create close to 20 million well paying jobs. Biden said we will pay for it by raising taxes on high income Americans and businesses that have done well and prospered while the nation overall suffered and declined.

US employers added over 900,000 new jobs in March with official unemployment rate falling to 6%. In an especially good sign, it was reported that nearly 500,000 women reentered the work force due in part to schools reopening. Although the economy is still said to be down close to 10 million jobs from before the pandemic.

As the month ends, the rate of vaccinations hits a record of 3.3 million per day.  With a death rate from COVID that has been a stubborn 1-2% we may be saving around 30,000 lives per day. Thirty thousand lives.

The above news items have been taken from a number of local, regional, national and international news media  including print, broadcast, and digital sources, but no social media. Additional editorial opinions and comments about these news items are those of this author.

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