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Sunday Briefing — May 2, 2021

Trigger Warning: This article covers sensitive topics including racial targeting. Reader discretion is advised.

Bennington

Town Settles with Former Black Lawmaker, Apologizes for Harm

Kiah Morris (right), gives a press conference in 2019.

The town of Benningtons’s Select Board voted unanimously on Thursday to approve a settlement agreement with former State Representative Kiah Morris at the recommendation of the Human Rights Commission (HRC). Ms. Morris and her family filed a complaint to the HRC over a year ago, alleging that the Bennington Police did not adequately investigate harassment and racial targeting Ms. Morris received as Vermont’s second-ever Black lawmaker. The Select Board has not yet released the report’s findings, but has ordered Bennington town to pay Ms. Morris $137,000 and issue a public apology as part of the settlement. Ms. Morris resigned in 2018 from her second term in office, citing racially motivated threats and harassment, and has since relocated her family from Bennington to Burlington, VT.

As Bennington cases have risen slightly from last week, county officials have confirmed the emergence of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 (first identified in Britain) in Bennington and Windham Counties. The variant has been found to be 30-50% more contagious and potentially more deadly than other variants.

Vermont

Scott Eases Mask Mandates to Push for Full Reopening

Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) announced Friday that the state would be moving into the second phase of reopening, allowing for relaxing outdoor mask-wearing restrictions. Citing the over 60% statewide vaccination rates, Scott argued that so long as people follow social distancing, wearing masks in non-crowded outdoor settings is unnecessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The U.S.

Biden Touts 2 Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Bill in First Address to Congress

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden gave his first joint address to Congress on the eve of his 100th day in office. Usually a flashy, large scale production, Biden’s address was tempered by the devastating pandemic he inherited: a smaller guest list, less pomp and circumstance, and even a markedly muted response from his target audience–  the less than half of the entire Congress permitted into the House Chamber were quiet, reserved listeners compared to the usual behavior (think Rep. Joe Wilson (R) yelling “You lie!” during President Obama’s 2009 address, or the many suffragette-white-clad Democrat women jeering at President Trump in 2019). President Biden, known for struggling with a stutter at times, powered through his speech, at times going off-script to extend a hand to the Republicans who have so far opposed nearly all of his initiatives. Analysts have hailed the vision he laid out in his address as the most progressive in decades, even going as far as ousting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for advocating for big, structural changes and public investments

International

A Fatal Stampede in Israel While India and Latin America Face Worsening COVID Crises

A religious holiday and celebration became a tragedy on Friday in northern Israel when a stampede on Mount Meron killed 45 people and injured hundreds more. Around 100,000 people had gathered to celebrate Lag b’Omer, (a traditional holiday for Ultra-Orthodox Jews) despite warnings and guidance from health officials who feared a COVID-19 superspreader event.

COVID-19 has continued to rampage across India as the country reached a record 400,000 cases a day. This second wave has overwhelmed local hospitals, particularly in rural areas, which are struggling to keep up with demands for oxygen and beds. Despite being the world’s largest producer of COVID-19 vaccines, India has struggled to vaccinate its own residents, with several states citing dose shortages and lack of infrastructure. The United States, along with almost a dozen other nations, have pledged support and resources to help India combat this surge. Halfway around the world, Latin America continues to suffer the world’s highest death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic, accounting for 35% of global COVID-related deaths, despite only accounting for 8% of the world’s population. Experts cite lack of access to the long-awaited vaccine, and, in Brazil, a president who has so far refused to acknowledge the severity of the virus and has denounced public health measures.


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.

One Comment

  1. Kevin Deeb Kevin Deeb October 2, 2021

    Please note that while there are many reasons to communicate with various audiences about racial justice issues. To due to the sensitive and often politicized nature of this issue, discussions about police use of force often seem polarized.

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