FROM OTHER SOURCES: NEWS AND FEATURES FOR AND ABOUT AMHERST (#22)

Editor’s Note: “From Other Sources” offers links to selected articles that might be of interest to Amherst readers. While so much of the news has focused lately on the COVID-19 emergency, there are lots of other things going on that might be of interest to Amherst readers and there is plenty of good writing out there to describe them.  While we will continue to provide a daily rundown of pandemic news and we will also present this roundup of other news and features, as well as a listing of our top five COVID-19 articles from the previous week. 

CORONAVIRUS TOP FIVE

The Pandemic Is A Threat.  The President is Worse. by Greg Gonslaves (6/4/20). First, what most if not all of the articles linking protests to the pandemic fail to mention are the major events and situations that present a far greater ongoing risk of amplifying SARS-COV-2 transmission in the United States. Foremost among these are the decisions by many governors to reopen their states without their seeing case numbers in decline or having sufficient testing in place. Reopening in the context of uncontrolled local outbreaks presents opportunities day after day for the virus to spread. In addition, we already know that prisons and jails, ICE detention facilities, meatpacking plants, and Amazon warehouses are sites for super-spreader events; these all remain settings with a high risk of transmission of SARS-COV-2. Instead of being invoked to put the protests in context, these larger drivers of infection have just been erased from the discussion. There is a distinct “out with the old, in with the new” flavor to this focus on the protests across the country against police violence—it’s as if the media has become bored with the sustained catastrophe of our national response to Covid-19 and needs something fresh to highlight. (The Nation)

You Can Stay Safe From COVID-19 And Peacefully Protest by Andy Slavitt (6/4/20). Peaceful protests, demonstrations, making your voice heard, marching — all of that sounds challenging in the face of Coronavirus, and it is a health risk. But so is racism. We have the duty to make peaceful protests safe.Compared to other things — a large indoor church gathering, a crowded casino, a bar, or say a major political convention — the risk of being outdoors in a crowd is lower risk, particularly with some common sense precautions. Marching and carrying a sign is reasonably safe. Aggressive police responses and the tactic of jamming a crowd together, trapping them in from all sides, is not safe. Tear gassing crowds which causes sneezing and coughing, also not safe. (Medium)

When Social Distancing Ends, Will We Re-envision The World We Want?
by Bill McKibben (5/14/20). Long before the virus, Americans had become socially isolated, retreating into sprawling suburbs and an online world of screens. When we emerge from our pandemic-mandated separation, can we reconnect with each other and reconsider how the way we live impacts the natural world? (Yale Environment 360)

What Parents Need To Know About Kids And COVID-19 This Summer  by Aimee Cunningham (6/3/20). As states reopen, the coming months bring the prospect of gatherings at pools, playgrounds and even amusement parks. But in this summer of COVID-19, many parents are left wondering what their kids can safely do. There isn’t a satisfactory answer, because there’s still so much unknown about the coronavirus in regards to children. While studies from China to Italy to the United States have reported fewer confirmed cases of COVID-19 in children than adults and fewer seriously ill children than adults, recent reports of a dangerous inflammatory condition (SN: 5/12/20) illustrate that harms may still emerge.  (Science News)

The Virus’ Tale: How Could A State Famous For Health Care Excellence Have Suffered Such A Vast Loss Of Human Life? by Evan Allen, Bob Hohler, and Neil Swidey (5/30/20). (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Colleges That Reopen Are Making A Big Mistake by Michael J. Sorrell (5/15/20) Institutions are letting their financial and reputational worries cloud their judgment about when they can safely reopen. (The Atlantic)

Research Shows Children Falling Months Behind During Virus Disruptions by Dana Goldstein (6/5/20). New research suggests that by September, most students will have fallen behind where they would have been if they had stayed in classrooms, with some losing the equivalent of a full school year’s worth of academic gains. Racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps will most likely widen, because of disparities in access to computers, home internet connections and direct instruction from teachers. (New York Times)


DEMOCRACY

Trump Threatens to Unleash Military Against US Citizens. By Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Nicole Gaiulette.  (6/2/20).  Defense officials tell CNN there was deep and growing discomfort among some in the Pentagon even before President Donald Trump announced Monday that he is ready to deploy the military to enforce order inside the United States. As tear gas wafted through the air in Lafayette Park across from the White House, Trump announced from the Rose Garden that if state or city leaders refuse “to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents,” he will invoke the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that allows a president to deploy the US military to suppress civil disorder. (CNN)

Why The Killing of George Floyd Sparked An American Uprising by Alex Altman (6/4/20) The killing of George Floyd was shocking. But to be surprised by it is a privilege African Americans do not have.A black person is killed by a police officer in America at the rate of more than one every other day. Floyd’s death followed those of Breonna Taylor, an emergency medical technician shot at least eight times inside her Louisville, Ky., home by plain-clothes police executing a no-knock warrant, and Ahmaud Arbery, killed in a confrontation with three white men as he jogged through their neighborhood in Brunswick, Ga. Even Floyd’s anguished gasps were familiar, the same words Eric Garner uttered on a Staten Island street corner in 2014: “I can’t breathe.”  (Time)

Masha Gessen on Trump’s Autocratic Attempt on America: An Interview by Stepahnie deGooyer (6/3/20). On June 2, Riverhead Books will publish Gessen’s latest book, Surviving Autocracy. Gessen’s decades-long experience covering the resurgence of totalitarianism in Russia puts them in a unique position to help Americans understand what is happening to the United States under President Donald Trump. Cataloguing the corrosion of political language, legal institutions, and democratic ideals over three and half years, Gessen argues that Trump is making an “autocratic attempt” on America. While Trump threatens to destroy American norms and institutions, Gessen shows us that having the language to understand what is happening is the first step to surviving, and ultimately resisting, an autocratic future. (The Nation)

Uprisings Are Driving A Big Surge In Mutual Aid In Minneapolis And Beyond by Mike Ludwig (6/4/20). Mutual aid is flourishing in south Minneapolis, where the police killing of an unarmed Black man and a revolt against state violence has left a community hungry for connection and racial justice. The alleged murder of George Floyd and the ensuing powerful uprisings have made the need to forge material support networks among neighbors all the more apparent, say activists – and they are up to the challenge.  (Truthout

Local and Green.  Now More Than Ever We Need A Democratic Process by Darcy DuMont (6/4/20). Our towns are committed to reaching out to the community as part of the democratic process, but there are now few mechanisms for incorporating public input in a meaningful way. Seeking residents to participate in town events and services and to serve on town boards and committees is the baseline of what most towns are doing — and doing well. Getting broader and more diverse input into towns’ overarching planning is much more challenging.
(Daily Hampshire Gazette). 

Over 550 People Attend Northampton Virtual Budget Meeting.  Call On Council to Defund The Police by Brian Z Zaytz (6/4/20).   In total, 71 individuals spoke during public testimony, and every single one spoke in favor of decreasing the police budget. Public testimony did not start until almost four hours into the meeting (by which time two hundred attendees had left the public hearing), and lasted for roughly three hours. Numerous people recounted, at times in detail, traumatic incidents involving the Northampton police. Nearly every one of these incidents involved a person of color, a person experiencing homelessness, or someone experiencing an episode of mental illness. Several social service workers spoke about how police routinely make their jobs more difficult. (The Shoestring)

What Does Defund The Police Mean?  Background On The Movement. by Matt Yglesias (6/3/20).  A three-word slogan is not a detailed policy agenda, and not everyone using the slogan agrees on the details. The basic idea, though, is less that policing budgets should be literally zeroed out than that there should be a massive restructuring of public spending priorities. Brian Highsmith, writing in the American Prospect, calls for “significant, permanent reductions to existing policing and carceral infrastructures.” Sarah Jones in New York magazine says that in the contemporary United States, “the punitive impulse [the police] embody saturates nearly every facet of American life,” where officers “take the place of social workers and emergency medical personnel and welfare caseworkers, and when they kill, we let them replace judges and juries, too.” (Vox)

Will We Actually Get To Vote In November? by Sue Halpern (6/4/20). A few weeks ago, when I asked the legal scholar Rick Hasen about a scenario, then circulating, that laid out a “legal” way for the Trump Administration to bypass elections and keep Trump in power, he said it would lead to rioting in the streets. That was before there was rioting in the streets, which has given the Trump Administration an opportunity to mobilize U.S. soldiers to police U.S. citizens, and local governments to deploy militarized police forces that have shown little respect for constitutional rights as they fire rubber bullets, deploy tear gas, and charge and beat peaceful protesters. The spectre of violence in the streets, which horrifies most Americans, appears to energize our self-declared “law-and-order President.” Certainly, it gives cover for greater surveillance and the thwarting of dissent. On Tuesday, as voters went to the polls in eight states and the District of Columbia, with many citizens under curfew orders, we saw a whole new way to keep citizens from voting. (The New Yorker)

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