How will a Biden pick change the court?



Kaiser Health News:

In Super-Vaxxed Vermont, Covid Strikes — But Packs Far Less Punch

But experts are quick to note that Vermont also serves as a window into what’s possible as the U.S. learns to live with covid. Although nearly universal vaccination could not keep the highly mutated omicron variant from sweeping through the state, Vermont’s collective measures do appear to be protecting residents from the worst of the contagion’s damage. Vermont’s covid-related hospitalization rates, while higher than last winter’s peak, still rank last in the nation. And overall death rates also rank comparatively low.

Children in Vermont are testing positive for covid, and pediatric hospitalizations have increased. But an accompanying decrease in other seasonal pediatric illnesses, like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, and the vaccinated status of the majority of the state’s eligible children has eased the strain on hospitals that many other states are facing.

“I have to remind people that cases don’t mean disease, and I think we’re seeing that in Vermont,” said Dr. Rebecca Bell, a pediatric critical care specialist at the University of Vermont Health Network in Burlington, the only pediatric intensive care hospital in the state. “We have a lot of cases, but we’re not seeing a lot of severe disease and hospitalization.”


Gregory Svirnovskiy/Washington Monthly:

Why Geographic Inequality Tilts the Map Against Democrats

Missouri’s 2nd Congressional District is a case study.

Several promising Democratic hopefuls are running in the primary for a chance to unseat Republican Ann Wagner. They include freshman state Representative Trish Gunby, who narrowly defeated a Republican incumbent in 2020; Ray Reed, a 24-year-old Black progressive who was an aide to the state’s former Democratic Governor Jay Nixon; and Ben Samuels, a 30-year-old moderate with a Harvard MBA who worked for former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a centrist Democrat, and for Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a moderate Republican. Of the three, Samuels’s bipartisan profile most closely matches the district, and he has raised the most money.

Yet moving Missouri’s 2nd into the Democratic camp will be tough. That’s partly because of Biden’s low poll numbers, as well as a potential GOP-led redistricting plan that, depending on how it plays out, could increase Wagner’s advantage. But at a deeper level, Missouri’s 2nd lacks a key factor that has propelled other suburban districts from red to blue in recent cycles: high levels of economic growth, and with it, rapid demographic change. That anemic growth, common in other heartland metro areas, is an underappreciated reason why Democrats continue to struggle politically, as Daniel Block has reported in these pages.



Conspiracy theorists, banned on major social networks, connect with audiences on newsletters and podcasts

Newsletter company Substack is making millions off anti-vaccine content, according to estimates

Prominent figures known for spreading misinformation, such as Mercola, have flocked to Substack, podcasting platforms and a growing number of right-wing social media networks over the past year after getting kicked off or restricted on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Now these alternative platforms are beginning to face some of the scrutiny that has imperiled social media services. But there’s a fundamental difference in the architecture of newsletters and podcasts when compared to that of social media companies. Social networks use algorithms to spread content — sometimes misinformation — to users who don’t want to see it. Newsletters and podcasts don’t.

These newer platforms cater to subscribers who seek out specific content that accommodates their viewpoints — potentially making the services less responsible for spreading harmful views, some misinformation experts say. At the same time, the platforms are exposing tens of thousands of people to misinformation each month — content that can potentially lead people to engage in behaviors that endanger themselves and others.

Earlier this month, 250 doctors and scientists wrote an open letter to the music streaming platform Spotify asking the company to drop host and comedian Joe Rogan — one of its most popular podcasters — for discussing conspiracy theories about vaccines. Neil Young asked the company to remove his music in protest this week, saying in a letter that Spotify “can have Rogan or Young. But not both.” (Spotify dropped Young on Wednesday.) Former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon, who was booted from Spotify in 2020, used his popular podcast, available on multiple platforms, to disseminate violent rhetoric and false claims about the election in the weeks leading up to the Capitol siege on Jan. 6.


Mia Bloom and Sophia Moskalenko/TPM:

Oath Keepers Are Better Trained Than Other Extremists: Two-Thirds Of Members Are Vets Or Retired Police

Behind the 11 Oath Keepers charged with sedition are many more who have been trained by the U.S. military.

As experts on violent extremism, we believe it isn’t only the number of Oath Keepers that is a problem, it is their makeup. A significant number of their members are veterans – both female and male – who bring military skills to the group and also serve as recruiters for other active and former armed service personnel.


Jamelle Bouie/NY Times:

We Still Can’t See American Slavery for What It Was

From 1787 to 1788, Americans would write and ratify a new Constitution that, in a concession to Lower South planters who demanded access to the trans-Atlantic trade, forbade a ban on the foreign slave trade for at least the next 20 years. But Congress could — and, in 1794, did — prohibit American ships from participating. In 1807, right on schedule, Congress passed — and President Thomas Jefferson, a slave-owning Virginian, signed — a measure to abolish the importation of enslaved Africans to the United States, effective Jan. 1, 1808.

But the end to American involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade (or at least the official end, given an illegal trade that would not end until the start of the Civil War) did not mean the end of the slave trade altogether. Slavery remained a big and booming business, driven by demand for tobacco, rice, indigo and increasingly cotton, which was already on its path to dominance as the principal cash crop of the slaveholding South.


Zoe Tillman/BuzzFeed:

Biden’s Supreme Court Promise Underscores A Reality: Black Women Rarely Get to The Federal Judiciary

Biden pledged to nominate the first Black woman for the US Supreme Court. The rest of the judiciary hasn’t fared much better in representing them or other women of color.

Representation has improved in the past few decades but continues to lag. Black women make up approximately 7.4% of the US population, according to BuzzFeed News’ analysis of census data. There are 1,395 sitting federal judges, a number that includes judges who are fully active as well as judges in a type of quasi-retirement known as senior status who have the option of smaller caseloads. Of the current cohort, 56 judges are Black women — making up 4% of the group, including judges who also identified as being multiracial — and a total of 114 are women of color, making up just over 8%. Judges who identify solely as white make up 78.5% of the federal bench, compared to 61.6% of the total US population, according to the 2020 Census.

On the federal appeals courts, representation of women of color has gone up by just a few percentage points as well. Of the 809 appellate judges to have ever served, 13 have been Black women — making up 1.6% — and a total of 24 have been women of color, making up 2.9%. Out of 293 federal appeals court judges serving today, 10 are Black women, making up 3.4%, out of 20 women of color, coming to 6.8%.


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