The Monday Politics Thread Expects a Fat Check Any Day Now

‘Let the people vote’: Biden signs executive order to expand voting access

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Sunday calling on federal agencies to expand voting access as part of his administration’s efforts “to promote and defend the right to vote for all Americans who are legally entitled to participate in elections.”

“It is the responsibility of the federal government to expand access to, and education about, voter registration and election information, and to combat misinformation, in order to enable all eligible Americans to participate in our democracy,” the order read.

NBC News

We’re almost done with COVID curbs, Netanyahu says as Israel reopens restaurants

Israel has almost emerged from its COVID-19 closures, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on the campaign trail, said on Sunday as restaurants reopened under an exit plan fuelled by fast-paced vaccinations.

But health officials cautioned that rising contagions could trigger another lockdown – a possible dampener on Netanyahu’s hope of parlaying his pandemic policies to victory in a March 23 ballot.

“Restaurants are coming back to life,” Netanyahu said after he and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion clinked mugs and tucked into pastries outside at a park cafe.

“We still have to watch ourselves, we have to wear masks, keep distances that people require, social distances – but we’re coming out of it, and there’s not much more,” he told Reuters.


The Differences Between the Vaccines Matter

Public-health officials are enthusiastic about the new, single-shot COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, despite its having a somewhat lower efficacy at preventing symptomatic illness than other available options. Although clinical-trial data peg that rate at 72 percent in the United States, compared with 94 and 95 percent for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, many experts say we shouldn’t fixate on those numbers. Much more germane, they say, is the fact that the Johnson & Johnson shot, like the other two, is essentially perfect when it comes to preventing the gravest outcomes. “I’m super-pumped about this,” Virginia’s vaccine coordinator told The New York Times last weekend. “A hundred percent efficacy against deaths and hospitalizations? That’s all I need to hear.”

The Atlantic

Sen. Joe Manchin open to party-line vote on future bills with voting rights legislation now in focus

Sen. Joe Manchin, the moderate Democrat from West Virginia, said he would consider passing legislation through a party-line vote again but only in a situation where Democrats have tried to engage Republicans.


From vote to virus, misinformation campaign targets Latinos

Tom Perez was a guest on a Spanish-language talk radio show in Las Vegas last year when a caller launched into baseless complaints about both parties, urging Latino listeners to not cast votes at all.

Perez, then chairman of the Democratic Party, recognized many of the claims as talking points for #WalkAway, a group promoted by a conservative activist, Brandon Straka, who was later arrested for participating in the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

In the run-up to the November election, that call was part of a broader, largely undetected movement to depress turnout and spread disinformation about Democrat Joe Biden among Latinos, promoted on social media and often fueled by automated accounts.

The effort showed how social media and other technology can be leveraged to spread misinformation so quickly that those trying to stop it cannot keep up. There were signs that it worked as Donald Trump swung large numbers of Latino votes in the 2020 presidential race in some areas that had been Democratic strongholds.

AP News

Biden announces $1,400 payments will begin this month

President Biden on Saturday announced that the $1,400 coronavirus stimulus checks will begin being distributed in March.

The payments come after the Senate passed the nearly $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill Saturday in a 50-49 partisan vote. 

This is the first round of stimulus checks that will be given out under Biden. Former President Trump passed two stimulus checks last year, one for $1,200 and another for $600.

The payments will go to 85 percent of Americans, Reuters reported.

The Hill

Uighur woman living in France speaks out about alleged Chinese ‘re-education’ camp horrors

Gulbahar Haitiwaji says when she was summoned back to China to sign documents relating to her retirement as an oil company engineer in November 2016, she could not have possibly known the fate that awaited her. A member of Xinjiang province’s Uighur ethnic minority, she had left the country for France 10 years earlier, but still possessed a Chinese passport.

After she was unable to grant one of her relatives power of attorney to handle the matter, she traveled to the country at the end of the month. She says she wasn’t allowed to leave the country — or see her husband, a fellow Uighur who had fled Xinjiang with whom she has two children back in France — for the next three years.

Haitiwaji says she was lured back to the country under false pretenses and claims she was accused of being a terrorist and sentenced to seven years of detention in one of Xinjiang’s notorious “re-education camps.”

ABC News

Texas governor backs law to prohibit Facebook and Twitter from banning users

Texas governor Greg Abbott said Facebook and Twitter are leading a “dangerous movement to silence conservative voices and religious freedoms” as he backed a state bill Friday that would allow any Texans temporarily removed or banned from Facebook or Twitter to sue the social media companies in order to get reinstated.

The bill, introduced earlier this week by Republican state senators, is the latest of more than a dozen efforts that have emerged around the country in recent weeks, following the banning of former President Donald Trump from the two social media platforms in the wake of the January 6 Capitol riot.

At a press conference in Tyler, Texas, Abbott argued that the social media companies have the obligation under a 1996 federal law known as Section 230 to keep their platforms open, and that violations of that law by Facebook, Twitter and others give Texas the right to impose its own state-specific regulations. 

CBS News

(Also, there was this Oprah thing that may have re-ignited the War of 1812 with England, but as it was after I wrote all this up, I will just suggest you Google it. It’s not good. The English Royal Family can basically fuck all the way off.)