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Sunday Briefing — May 16, 2021

Trigger Warning: This article covers sensitive topics including sexual violence, police brutality, and the crisis in Palestine. Reader discretion is advised.

Bennington

Bennington County Looks to End COVID, Police Brutality

Bennington County is considered “high risk” for the spread of COVID-19, despite an average of daily cases slightly down to 13.7 per 100,000. As of Thursday (5/13), the county has administered at least one dose of a COVID vaccine to 68.8% of eligible county residents.

The Community Policing Work Group of the Bennington Select Board proposed the creation of a new town board dedicated to community involvement on public safety and equity issues. In addition, the proposal would allow community members to join in the decision-making process in “establish[ing] or improv[ing] oversight of police officers” (The Bennington Banner).

Vermont

Governor Scott Flexes Conservative Streak while UVM Demonstrates Organizing Power

Governor Scott (R) announced Friday that fully vaccinated (two weeks post-final dose) Vermonters would no longer be required to follow the mask and social distancing mandates. This announcement came on the heels of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) put out a similar statement, but Governor Scott hinted that “regardless of the CDC guidance, Vermont likely would have announced ‘something similar in the next few days anyway,’ suggesting changing the mask ‘mandate’ to a mask ‘recommendation’.

In Montpelier, the Vermont State Senate voted unanimously to approve H.183, a landmark update to Vermont’s sexual consent laws. Pressure to pass the legislation mounted following a campus-wide walk-out by thousands of University of Vermont (UVM) students demanding justice for survivors of sexual assault. State Senator Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) was also instrumental in introducing a previously cut provision that establishes and funds an intercollegiate sexual violence prevention council

The most significant change is in the wording of the nearly 40-year old legislation, which now defines consent as the “‘affirmative, unambiguous, and voluntary’ agreement to engage in a sexual act, and that consent can be revoked at anytime” (VT Digger).

After a delay in signing a bill that allows police officers to use chokeholds in self-defense, Governor Phil Scott finally signed the bill into law last Thursday. The wait was due to Gov. Scott’s concern, which is shared by the NRA, over the alteration of the justifiable homicide statute. Nevertheless, after some clarification with legislators, he quickly signed the bill.

The U.S.

CDC Guidelines Usher in Relief, Confusion

On Thursday, the CDC unexpectedly lifted the mask mandate and social distancing guidelines for fully vaccinated (two weeks post-final dose) people, marking a major shift in the United States’ year-long fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the decision was not without its backlash, with several medical experts and immunologists warning that the change was premature

The CDC’s mask ruling coincided with their endorsement of the Pfizer vaccine for vaccinating children ages 12-15 years old. The move will be significant in lifting obstacles to inoculate all ages, and experts predict it will facilitate the end of the pandemic quicker.

International

Palestinian Civillian Causalties Climb While Israel Deflects Blame

In the latest escalation in Gaza, the Israeli military ordered an airstrike on a 12-story building that housed offices of several international media organizations. This attack on the “vantage point for the world on Gaza” comes amidst increasing hostilities by the Israelis against the sovereignty of the Palestinian people in a longtime clash with Israeli settlers (N.Y. Times). As of writing, the Israeli airstrikes have killed 42 Palestinians today (5/16) alone. This week saw over 950 Israeli ordered airstrikes that have killed 181 Palestinian adults and 52 Palestinian children (The Guardian).

Israel defended the airstrike against the press building with an unsubstantiated claim that Hamas, a militant Palestinian group, had intelligence assets inside. The Associated Press, who had an office in the bombed building, has refuted this claim.

The Palestine Authority (the governing body of the area) is not recognized by Israel or its most reliable ally, the United States, as an independent state, despite recognition and admittance as a “non-member state” to the United Nations and nearly 135 of its member nations.


Lauren Yanase is a first-year student with a passion for strong coffee and environmental education. When not playing in the woods, Lauren enjoys studying the interplay between history and storytelling through a multi-medium platform. Her award-winning documentary, Shikata Ga Nai: An Inconvenient Americanhas been shown at cultural and historical events, awareness seminars, and in classrooms across the West Coast.

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