Ronald Brownstein/Atlantic:

Democracy Is Already Dying in the States

Republicans around the country are proving Joe Manchin wrong.

In places such as Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, and Montana, the most restrictive laws approved this year have passed on total or near-complete party-line votes, with almost all state legislative Republicans voting for the bills and nearly all Democrats uniting against them, according to an analysis of state voting records provided exclusively to The Atlantic by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU.

That pattern of unrelenting partisanship has left many state-level Democrats incredulous at the repeated insistence by Manchin, a conservative Democrat from West Virginia, that he will support new federal voting-rights legislation only if at least some Republican senators agree to it.

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Bill Scher/Washington Monthly:

Why They Hate Kamala Harris

The left and the right savage the pathbreaker, holding the Veep to a double standard. But that abuse only makes her stronger.

Notably, the anti-Harris comments spanned the ideological spectrum. I can’t analyze every missive, but right-wing Harris critics seem inclined to let me know that Harris will perform a variety of sex acts to become president, while left-wing Harris haters shared that she is a fascist  cop who loves oppressing people of color. And haters of all kinds made the point that Harris must be a terrible politician since she didn’t win any delegates in the 2020 presidential primary—a contest from which she withdrew from before the first ballots were cast.

Of course, attacks on Harris can be found in other places besides my Twitter feed. Fox News’s website blared, “Harris falsely claims ‘we’ve been to the border’ when pressed on lack of visit”—making an issue out of her use of the royal ‘we’ even though she soon awkwardly clarified “and I haven’t been to Europe” either.

Perhaps no vice president in history has been the source of this much controversy, this early in an administration, since 1925, when Charles Dawes tongue-lashed the Senate for abusing the filibuster on the day he was inaugurated, then a few days later, failed to cast a tie-breaking Senate vote because he was napping. (Dawes won the Nobel Peace Prize that year for his work on World War I reparations, which offers more proof that a vice president’s journey can be a long one.)

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WaPo:

The media called the ‘lab leak’ story a ‘conspiracy theory.’ Now it’s prompted corrections — and serious new reporting.

The journalistic reconsideration of the lab story has been told not just in probing new stories — The Washington Post has published five stories about it on its front page in the past 2 1/2 weeks, some prompted by President Biden’s order of a 90-day review of the theory by intelligence agencies — but in corrected headlines and in editors’ notes affixed to last year’s stories. New information often casts out old, but it is unusual for news outlets to acknowledge so publicly that they have changed their understanding of events.

The retroactive takes seem to raise a theoretical question: Were news reports diminishing or disregarding the lab-leak theory actually “wrong” at the time, or did they in fact accurately reflect the limited knowledge and expert opinion about it?

To some pundits, the early dismissals of the lab thesis now look like media malpractice. “The media’s credibility is taking yet another hit,” Dan Kennedy, a veteran media critic and college professor, wrote earlier this month. He suggested the alleged mishandling of the story last year “may make it that much harder to persuade Trump supporters to get over their skepticism about vaccinations.”

But that analysis has the great advantage of hindsight. Many scientific experts were dismissive of the leak theory at first, thus validating the early skeptical reporting. As with any story that is new, complex and evolving, conventional wisdom undergoes a metamorphosis as new information arrives.

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Nature (editorial):

Embrace the WHO’s new naming system for coronavirus variants

The World Health Organization’s system should have come earlier. Now, media and policymakers need to get behind it.

The long-awaited system is intended for use by the media, policymakers and the public — and is published in Nature Microbiology (F. Konings et al. Nature Microbiol. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41564-021-00932-w; 2021). It should have come earlier, because its absence has fuelled the practice of naming variants after the places in which they were discovered — such as the ‘Kent variant’, which is otherwise known as B.1.1.7. Under the WHO’s new system, B.1.1.7 is also called Alpha. The B.1.617.2 lineage, first identified in India, is now called Delta.

The new system is both a more user-friendly alternative and designed to reduce the geographical stigma and discrimination that can come from associating a virus with a place. It’s also important because, when countries are singled out by news organizations that have millions of readers and viewers, governments can become hesitant. They might delay collecting data on coronavirus strains, or announcing new variants, to avoid what they perceive as negative publicity or the risk of being blamed for creating a variant.

The new system does not change the alphanumeric nomenclature systems that researchers use. It also does not prevent the naming of a location where a virus variant has been identified, for example to indicate areas where variants are spreading. What it does do is provide an alternative to names that mean little to people outside research.

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Mia Brett/Editorial Board:

Who’s afraid of critical race theory? After reading this essay, hopefully you’ll see it isn’t scary at all

Mia Brett explains the current right-wing boogeyman.

Critical race theory (CRT) is the current conservative media boogeyman spreading moral panic about poor white people being confronted with the history of racism in the United States. Claims about critical race theory range from plausible but incorrect (it’s about white privilege and white people’s racism) to outlandish and bizarre (it supports a white genocide and confiscating all white people’s property). The truth of critical race theory is that it’s a socio-legal framework for analyzing the disparate impact of policies on marginalized communities, most often Black people.

OK but what does that mean right? Since CRT was an academic methodology taught in law schools and advanced college courses until recently, those who truly understand CRT often speak in academic language that can be difficult to understand. However, unlike a lot of academic methodologies, CRT has clear and practical real-world applications. Due to its name and origin, people often believe it’s an overly theoretical study without concrete evidence. In reality the scholarship in CRT is often based on the study of statistics, laws and legal cases (about as concrete as you can get).

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Reuters:

Trump-inspired death threats are terrorizing election workers

Note: This story contains offensive language 

Late on the night of April 24, the wife of Georgia’s top election official got a chilling text message: “You and your family will be killed very slowly.”

A week earlier, Tricia Raffensperger, wife of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, had received another anonymous text: “We plan for the death of you and your family every day.”

That followed an April 5 text warning. A family member, the texter told her, was “going to have a very unfortunate incident.”

Those messages, which have not been previously reported, illustrate the continuing barrage of threats and intimidation against election officials and their families months after former U.S. President Donald Trump’s November election defeat. While reports of threats against Georgia officials emerged in the heated weeks after the voting, Reuters interviews with more than a dozen election workers and top officials – and a review of disturbing texts, voicemails and emails that they and their families received – reveal the previously hidden breadth and severity of the menacing tactics.

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