Group urges Valentine’s Day message push to end pandemic / Public News Service


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The Valentine message of the Trade Justice Education Fund is to remember people who lost their lives to COVID-19, and ask the U.S. government to do more to bring the pandemic to an end. (Ivelin Radkof/Adobe Stock)

Group urges Valentine’s Day message push to end pandemic / Public News Service

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Valentine’s Day is a day to honor those close to us. But after two years of COVID, one group says it’s time to remember those we’ve lost and push for policies to end the pandemic.

Clayton Tucker, organizer of the Texas Trade Justice Education Foundation, said a letter-writing event is planned today in Texas and other parts of the country.

“We’re asking people to write to people they’ve been missing because of Covid-19, or people they haven’t seen because of Covid-19,” or just to essential workers like our teachers, medical staff and farms, Tucker said Worker. “

People in central Texas can participate in the all-day event by dropping letters and cards at the Alvarez Community Garden at 408 N 18th Street in Killeen.

The event is part of a larger campaign by the Trade Justice Education Fund to urge government officials to take action that will help end the pandemic.

IMF director Hilary Harden noted that billions of people around the world still lack access to vaccines and treatments, and said these unnecessary shortages are causing thousands of unnecessary deaths.

“We’re really trying to get the coronavirus under control and get back to normal,” Harden said. “But to do that, the U.S. really needs to take the lead in helping the world scale up the production of vaccines and therapeutics.”

Hayden said last May that the Biden administration supports a temporary waiver of World Trade Organization intellectual property rules around vaccines.

“But they didn’t do a lot to push the waiver,” Harden said. “So some of the actions that we’re taking in these Valentine’s Day spaces, and others that our organizations are doing, are really urging the Biden administration to do more at the WTO to really move forward.”

Disclosure: The Trade Justice Education Fund contributes to our fund reporting Liveable Wages/Working Families, Social Justice. If you would like to help support journalism in the public interest, click here.

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This week marks the 17th annual Sunshine Week, a national initiative to increase government transparency and ensure the public truly has access to public information.

In Arizona, good government groups encourage people to check out two state-run websites: AZcheckbook.com and openbooks.az.gov, so they can track money and track their hard-earned taxes.

Putting budget information online promotes government integrity and efficiency, said Diane Brown, executive director of the Education Fund for the Arizona Public Interest Research Group.

“Budget and spending transparency can hold government officials accountable, prevent corruption, and provide citizens the opportunity to influence how taxpayer funds are spent,” Brown outlined.

The state’s financial transparency portal, Openbooks.az.gov, displays checkbook-level fees. This coming Wednesday is also Freedom of Information Day as part of Sunshine Week.

Arizona Treasurer Kimberly Yee said AZcheckbook.com is a tool that shows how much money Arizona receives from all sources so that spending trends from year to year can be identified.

“You can see how the state is spending taxpayer money,” Yee explained. “You can also check regularly to see if an institution has unusual or excessive spending.”

She noted that both sites aim to simplify data so citizens, journalists, policymakers and watchdog groups can understand information with just a few clicks. In addition, anyone can call to tune in to Treasury’s monthly investment meetings, which are recorded and posted online.

Disclosure: The Arizona PIRG Education Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on budget policies and priorities, consumer issues, energy policy and urban planning/transportation. If you would like to help support journalism in the public interest, click here.

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In response to increased threats to election workers after the 2020 election, Oregon lawmakers passed a measure this session to provide them with greater protections.

House Bill 4144 increases penalties for harassing election workers and protects their personal information.

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Chris Walker is the Jackson County Clerk responsible for the county’s elections. She said elections are always tense — especially presidential elections, because about half of the population will be disappointed.

“We haven’t experienced a level of anger directed at election officials themselves since the 2020 election, and this is new territory for us,” Walker said.

Walker saw the threat firsthand. In the weeks following the 2020 election, she found graffiti that read “Vote Invalid” and “Next Bullet” in a parking lot near her election office in Medford.

Under the measure, the maximum penalty for harassing election workers is 364 days in prison and a $6,250 fine.

The bill was introduced at the request of Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. In a survey of Oregon Elections staff in her office, Fagan found that 10 of 13 respondents had experienced threats or harassment.

Ben Morris, communications director for the Office of the Secretary of State, said the measure would support an already well-run election.

“It sends a very clear message to those who may try to interfere that threats and harassment against election workers will be punished – but these actions will not change the outcome of the election,” Morris said.

Walker said people have been outraged by misinformation, especially on social media. She said she wants people to look to the county clerk as a source of accurate information.

She added that election staff will continue to work regardless of the situation.

“We’re very resilient when it comes to election officials and county clerks,” Walker said. “We’ll do our job, and we’re not going to live a life of fear.”

A handful of states, including Washington, are also considering greater protections for election workers this year.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York provided support for this report.

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Montana voters can decide to change how the state Supreme Court justices are elected.

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During the 2021 session, the Montana legislature passed a bill that mentions a measure for this year’s ballot that would elect judges in seven districts rather than statewide.

The measure’s sponsor, state Rep. Barry Usher – R-Billings – said it would help the court more closely align with voters.

Kimberly Dudik is the CEO and former state legislator of the Rocky Mountain Institute for Public Policy. She disagreed, saying Supreme Court justices make decisions for the entire state, so it doesn’t make sense to elect them by district.

“Given that our Constitution clearly provides for the statewide jurisdiction of the Supreme Court,” Dudick said, “then we can explain that the Constitution should limit the election of these justices to districts, which is incongruous.”

Dudik said the district court is currently deciding whether a legislative referendum will appear on the November ballot. In court, Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen argued that the measure better represents the state’s diverse population.

Dudyk said the election of statewide Supreme Court justices was included in Montana’s first constitution, drafted in 1889.

“When we drafted the new constitution in 1972, this right was still in the constitution,” Dudik said. “Although a small number of delegates to the Constituent Assembly attempted to insert a provision for district election of judges, there was a lot of contentious debate around this and it was thoroughly defeated.”

A similar measure was supposed to be on the 2012 ballot after it was submitted to the Montana legislature in 2011. However, a district court judge rejected the measure, ruling that requiring judges to live in their proposed district violated the state constitution.

The new measure does not require judges to live in the districts they represent.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York provided support for this report.

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