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LATEST USRENEW NEWS
Brief #152—Civil Rights
By Rod Maggay
On February 18, 2021 Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced H.R. 5 in the House of Representatives. The bill is popularly known as the Equality Act and had been introduced in various forms in previous sessions of Congress. The bill seeks to “prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation, and other purposes.” The text of the bill uniquely specifies and amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to state that discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation are protected categories under that law. In addition to adding these new protected categories to that landmark law the bill also expands coverage for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act housing and education laws and a number of other federally funded programs. And finally, the bill states specifically that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993 cannot be used to challenge a provision in the Act and cannot be used as a defense to a claim of unlawful discrimination under the Act. On February 25, 2021, the House of Representatives voted to pass the bill by a 224 – 206 vote. The bill was then sent to the Senate for a vote in the coming weeks. LEARN MORE
By Emily Carty
Schools are an ideal place to plant the seeds of democracy and cultivate a culture of learning, participation, and will to be informed and take action for one’s rights and ideals. Commentary from a recent Brookings Institute article contrasts the emphasis placed on preparing kids for a modern economy with the lack of resources to prepare kids for a modern democracy. Citing the constant criticisms of schools being unable to prepare graduates for the job market or college, the author notes that a demand for prepared, active citizens is lacking. Conservatives and progressives have their respective fears about civic education in schools — will it be propaganda, whitewashed history, or activist training to make major changes to our country? While those concerns do have their place, no one can deny that basic education around the political process, civil rights, and modern media literacy is much needed in this country.
By Erin McNemar
Throughout his presidential campaign, President Joe Biden made it clear that women’s rights were going to be a leading issue during his administration. Over the summer, Biden released a policy proposal titled “The Biden Agenda for Women.” The plan outlined different areas in which women are disproportionately impacted, and how he intends to level the playing field. One of the major areas the plan focuses on is expanding and protecting healthcare for women.
By Scout Burchill
A new experiment in online moderation governance has been taking shape at Facebook over the past two years and its most consequential test is fast approaching. By the end of April Facebook’s Supreme Court, officially called the Oversight Board, will declare a ruling on the company’s permanent ban of Donald Trump from the platform. Facebook’s Oversight Board was first conceived of in 2018 as an independent quasi-legal governing body that would advise Facebook on its content moderation policies and litigate appeals of users over content moderation enforcements. In the years since, Facebook has invested considerably in developing the operational procedures, powers and composition of the Board. The Board abides by an official public charter and currently consists of 20 members from various areas of expertise as well as diverse backgrounds. By design, the Oversight Board only has the authority to review user appeals that involve ‘take-downs’ of content and can rule to either uphold or overrule them. The Board is indirectly funded by Facebook through a trust to the tune of around $130 million.
By Charles A Rubin
Fully autonomous weapons, the stuff of dystopian sci-fi novels, are now approaching reality. The US, China, Israel, South Korea, Russia, and the UK are developing weapons systems with significant autonomy in their critical functions of selecting and attacking targets. If left unchecked the world could enter a destabilizing robotic arms race. These weapons include autonomous submarines, precision bombs and autonomous machine guns similar to the one that Iranians authorities claimed to have killed scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in late November. Unlike drone weapons, which have a human albeit remote handler, Fully Autonomous Weapons Systems (FAWS) decide algorithmically who lives and who dies without further human intervention. FAWS systems cross a moral threshold that lack the inherently human characteristics such as compassion that are necessary to make complex ethical decisions. With a new administration the United States must take a leadership role in banning these weapons worldwide.
By Katherine Cart
I came to Amaknak Island by plane. The mountains the plane passes between were, in June, very green. The visual sense that the Aleutian Chain gives is of a treeless Hawaii – its geology is similar; the landscape is very young, and active volcanoes grow the islands sporadically. Extending like a hooked arm, the Aleutians delineate the southern edge of the Bering Sea. Amaknak rises from the North Pacific, 800 miles south of Anchorage. Around the smidge of land that is the Aleutian Chain, there is very little but sea. Amaknak’s Iliuliuk Bay, where 300 foot vessels dock, offload fish, and fuel, drops dramatically to twenty fathoms. The basalt and andesite flows and pyroclastic rocks that form the cliffs of Mounts Ballyhoo and Split Top, and through which obdurate roads have been blasted, rise nearly two thousand feet from the bay edge. Thin soil, reddish, capped by tall grasses and shrub like a fur, holds tremulous purchase on the volcanic substrate. There is a wildness and fragility to Amaknak. With nearly three thousand residents, Amaknak is the most populous of Aleutian islands, and where Dutch Harbor provides anchorage to the North Pacific fishing and shipping fleets. Billions of dollars pass through each year.