Flint, Michigan water plant

Ex-Michigan Governor Charged for Racist Lead Poisoning of Flint Water Supply; COVID-19 Vaccines Not Increasing in Availability; Democrats Plan to Repeal Trump Rules; and More

Former Michigan Governor formally charged for poisoning thousands of predominantly Black Flint citizens with water containing lead.

In 2014, when the city of Flint was forced by the state to begin taking its water supply from the Flint river rather than using water from nearby Detroit as it had for decades before, citizens immediately noticed a difference. The water was cloudy and discolored and had an odd taste. Still, Governor Rick Snyder insisted the decision couldn’t be reversed — despite numerous objections from city leaders and public health officials — because the change was saving the state a significant amount of money. 

What Snyder’s disastrous decision didn’t account for was that the new supply of water was also being significantly under-treated in local processing plants and ended up corroding pipelines throughout the city, filling them with lead that leaked into the water and poisoned thousands of Flint’s predominantly Black and lower-income citizens.

Ultimately, 12 Flint residents died as a result of Snyder’s actions and although numbers aren’t known, the death toll is thought to be much higher. Equally alarming: children in Flint who were exposed to the water now face a lifetime of potential health challenges. (Children are especially susceptible to even small amounts of lead when their bodies are developing. It can lead to brain and nervous system damage; slower growth and development, learning and behavioral problems; and hearing and speech issues.)

The state agreed to a $600 million settlement for Flint residents whose health was impacted by lead-tainted drinking water in the summer of 2020. And now Snyder himself may have to pay for the damage his actions wrought. On Thursday, Jan. 14, the ex-Governor and eight state officials who worked under him at the time the Flint lead poisoning occurred were charged for what they’d done in what one prosecutor said was a long-delayed attempt at finding justice for the thousands of lives which had been permanently impacted.

According to NBC News reporters David K. Li and Erin Einhorn, charges for the nine individuals include misconduct in office; willful neglect of duty; perjury; obstruction of justice; extortion; and even involuntary manslaughter for Former Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Eden Wells.

“This case has nothing whatsoever to do with partisanship,” said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, whose criminal investigation ultimately led to the charges being filed. “It has to do with human decency, the complete abandonment of the people of Flint and finally, finally, finally holding people accountable.”

“Pure and simple, this case is about justice, truth, accountability, poisoned children, lost lives, shattered families that are still not whole and simply giving a damn about all of humanity,” she added.

 

COVID vaccine
(M-Foto/Shutterstock)

COVID-19 vaccines not increasing in availability next week, despite botched GOP messaging suggesting otherwise.

Even as President-elect Biden has announced a potential $1.9 trillion plan for battling COVID-19, evidence of the ongoing botched coronavirus response from the existing administration continues to mount. In breaking news on Friday, Jan. 15, the Washington Post has reported that the supposed existing vaccine reserve many states had been anticipating in order to ramp up distribution of shots to eligible citizens had already been exhausted when the Trump administration vowed to release it, crushing expectations of expanded access to millions including Black and brown individuals who have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic.

According to Washington Post reporters Isaac Stanley-Becker and Lena H. Sun, “health officials across the country who had anticipated their extremely limited vaccine supply as much as doubling beginning next week are confronting the reality that their allocations will not immediately increase, dashing hopes of dramatically expanding eligibility for millions of elderly people and those with high-risk medical conditions.”

Government officials had said they were stockpiling doses of the vaccines as they became available from drug companies, but in reality, the recently revealed information shows that they were shipping the drugs out directly as they came off the manufacturing line — meaning a suggested stockpile of vaccine that could be released when Biden takes office doesn’t actually exist.

“States were shocked and surprised that they did not see an increase in their allocations, and when they asked for explanations, some of them were told there was not a large stockpile of second doses to draw from,” an anonymous source revealed to Post reporters. “They thought they were getting more doses and they planned for more doses and [lowered the age requirement] to 65 and up, thinking they were getting more.”

Just days earlier, outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar held a major press conference announcing COVID-19 vaccines would no longer be held back and that the supply would greatly increase — apparently either unaware, or unwilling to admit, that his office had actually failed to make such a stockpile actually available for use. President-elect Biden’s team has yet to respond with how they plan to deal with the news.

 

Democrats plan massive repeal of Trump rules issued within his administration’s last 60 days.

A little known and rarely used federal act passed in 1996 may allow the upcoming Democratic-led Senate and House to “undo” and reverse many of the controversial rules issued by the Trump administration in its last 60 days. According to NBC News reporter Suzy Khimm, the Congressional Review Act allows Congress to “quickly overturn a rule through a fast-track vote of disapproval and a simple majority in the House and the Senate — lower than the 60-vote threshold needed to pass most legislation in the Senate.”

Khimm has reported that the Act applies “only to rules that have been finalized during Congress’ previous 60 working days” — a period that would currently stretch back to late August since Congress has only been in session sporadically due to the 2020 election. Trump and his camp have released a “flurry” of controversial new acts during their final time in office, many of which incensed environmental, civic, equality and immigrant advocates.

Potential Trump-endorsed rules that could be quickly overturned include weakened restrictions for regulating air pollutants for the Environmental Protection Agency; increased requirements for migrants seeking asylum within the U.S.; limits in the use of scientific research to justify changes in public health policy; and lower energy efficiency standards for showers, washing machines and other bathroom fixtures — all of which the outgoing President championed.

While Republicans might cry foul, Khimm also pointed out the incoming Trump administration in 2016 used the same Act to repeal Obama-era legislation, “undoing new record-keeping requirements for workplace injuries and illnesses, prohibitions against dumping coal-mining waste into streams and hunting bans in Alaskan wildlife refuges, among other changes.”

A senior Democratic aide in Congress confirmed to Khimm that Democrats are definitely planning to use the tool to overturn at least some of these Trump regulations, eliminating the need for court interjection or the creation of new legislation that could comparably reverse their intent but would take significantly more time and resources.

 

 

D.I. Fast Facts

90,000+

Number of COVID-19 related deaths that the CDC expects will take place in the next three weeks as coronavirus cases continue to soar following the end of year holidays.
CBS News

 

20 years

Length of time it’s been since there was a Presidential Cabinet without a person of Asian American or Pacific Islander descent. Although President-elect Biden has announced his intention to nominate AAPI individuals like Neera Tanden and Katherine Tai to Cabinet-level positions, critics such as House Veterans Affairs Chairman Mark Takano from California say the slight is not presenting the “vision of what America really looks like” that Biden said his cabinet would provide.
PBS

 

20,000

Estimated number of National Guard service members who have been stationed in the nation’s capital to prevent further outbreaks of violence ahead of President-elect Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
NPR

 

Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.

 

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