Family of Breonna Taylor Awarded Settlement by the City of Louisville

Yesterday, the city of Louisville announced a $12 million settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor, as well as some reforms to the Louisville police force.

Breonna Taylor was shot to death in March after three police officers erroneously entered her apartment using a “no knock” warrant, which has since been banned by the city of Louisville. The wrongful death suit alleges that the officers fired more than 20 rounds at Taylor and her boyfriend during the botched drug raid. No illegal substances were found in Taylor’s home.

“This settlement is of mutual interest,” said Sam Aguiar, one of the attorneys for the Taylor family. “The city was able to afford this level of justice, and Breonna Taylor’s mother has been adamant from day one that reform was needed to reduce the likelihood that no other family has to endure this type of tragedy.”

The settlement includes several reform measures including pairing police with social workers to handle cases related to mental health, houselessness, and addiction. It establishes a housing credit incentive for officers to live in low-income neighborhoods in the city, and adds more stringent requirements for the use of body cameras and obtaining a warrant.

The officers involved in Taylor’s killing have not been arrested or charged since her death. One was fired, while the two others were reassigned to administrative duties in the police department.

“Justice for Breonna Taylor is multilayered,” Lonita Baker, another attorney for the family stated. “We’re not gonna stop our cause to hold the officers responsible for Breonna’s death accountable. We’re gonna continue to put pressure on the attorney general’s office to present a fair case to the grand jury. We know that that indictment is coming from the grand jury.”

The city has not admitted any wrongdoing in the case of Breonna Taylor’s death. Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer encouraged supporters to continue the fight for justice.

“We must not lose focus on what the real drive is. With that being said, it’s time to move forward with the criminal charges because she deserves that and much more,” said Palmer. “Her beautiful spirit and personality is working through all of us on the ground. So please continue to say her name: Breonna Taylor.”

Sources: HuffPost 9/15/20; Washington Post 9/15/20; CNN 9/15/20

Mexican Feminists Take Over Federal Building in Response to Femicides

Last week, feminists rushed the National Human Rights Commission federal building in downtown Mexico City, ejecting workers and declaring the site a shelter for victims of violence.

The action is a latest in a series of increasingly radical measures taken by feminist collectives in response to the high rate of femicides in Mexico. On average, 11 women are killed every day in Mexico and despite ongoing protests President Andrés Manuel López Obradorn and other government officials are dismissive of the need for more protections.

“We’re here so that the whole world will know that in Mexico they kill women and nobody does anything about it,” said Yesenia Zamudio, who whose daughter was murdered four years ago.

Around 30 women and several children remain in the building, camping out on cots. Activists have torn down paintings of historical figures and defaced them with graffiti, while covering the building with photos and memorials of women who have disappeared or been slain.

President Andrés Manuel López Obradorn has expressed sympathy to the activists’ message but has expressed outrage at the destruction of the valuable paintings of Mexican revolutionaries.

“He thinks a painting has more value than a woman’s life,” said Erika Martinez, whose 7-year-old daughter was molested by a family member and joined the movement after authorities neglected to act.

So far, the president has not decided to send in police to clear out the protestors, which has led to a standoff between the activists and authorities.

Sources: AP 9/9/20; LA Times 9/9/20; FR24News 9/10/20

New Report Finds Prison Inmates Twice As Likely To Die from COVID-19

According to a new report released on Wednesday, incarcerated people are twice as likely to die from coronavirus in prison than those on the outside.

Kevin T. Schnepel, assistant professor of economics at Simon Fraser University, found that the mortality rate in state and federal prisons is twice as high as in the general population. The infection rate is even more drastic, with close to 7,000 cases per 100,000 incarcerated people, more than four times the rate of cases per 100,000 people in the general public.

The report was published by the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice, which was created by the Council on Criminal Justice to study the effects of the pandemic on the U.S. criminal justice system.

While the numbers as a whole are alarming, the rates vary widely between states.

According to CNN, “Prisons with the most Covid-19 cases were those operated by state governments, those in the South, and large prisons, while the highest mortality rates were at large prisons and those in the Midwest. The worst adjusted mortality rates were among prisons in Arkansas, New Mexico, Kentucky and Ohio, the analysis found. By contrast, in New York, where nearly 33,000 people died of coronavirus, just 17 deaths were reported in state prisons.”

Schnepel says that more research is needed to determine why there are such wide variations between state infection and mortality rates.

Sources: NCCCJ 8/2/20; CNN 8/3/20; WDJT Milwaukee 8/3/20

U.S. Coronavirus Cases Rising Rapidly Among Children

Amid school re-openings and 6 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S., new data from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that instances of COVID-19 related hospitalizations and deaths among children and teens are increasing at a more rapid pace than the general public.

According to an article from the New York Times, while children and teenagers are less likely to contract and experience severe symptoms related to COVID-19, “Dr. Sean O’Leary, vice chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases, said that substantial community spread in many parts of the United States corresponded with more infections among children.”

While the new data comes from increased testing, there is evidence that children and young adults are contracting the virus more frequently than earlier in the year, due to the uptick in hospitalizations and deaths among children.

While there is still much that is unknown about how the virus affects minors, Black and Latino children are more likely to be hospitalized than their white peers.

“Since the beginning of the summer, every state in the country has had an increase in the number of young people who have tested positive for the coronavirus, as a share of all cases. In late May, about 5 percent of the nation’s cases were documented in minors. By Aug. 20, that number had risen to more than 9 percent,” says the Times.

Sources: The Washington Post 8/31/20; New York Times 8/31/20; American Academy of Pediatrics; CDC 8/14/20

The Feminist Majority Foundation Stands with the March on Washington Against Police Brutality

Below is a statement of Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, on the March on Washington:

“Today marks the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. The Feminist Majority Foundation is proud to be a partner in the anniversary march today convened by Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III. “The Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” honors this anniversary and demands an end to the violence Black people in the U.S. face every hour of every day. Sadly, almost 60 years after Dr. King’s powerful call to action we are still demanding an end to racism and justice for those whose lives have been lost to anti-Black racist violence.

Despite the mammoth 2020 movement for racial justice that was sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, state-sanctioned police brutality against Black people continues unabated. We stand with the marchers who are on the streets today demanding accountability.

No law enforcement officer has been charged for the killing of Breonna Taylor in her own apartment. No officer has been arrested in the shooting of Jacob Blake, who was shot seven times at a point-blank range in the back while his children screamed in terror. A Black person is three times more likely to be shot by police than a white person in the U.S. Despite the outrage, the rate of police killings is increasing. To date in 2020, 751 people have been killed by police while 1,004 people in 2019 were killed by police violence.

The time for action is now. The twin pandemics of racism and COVID-19 are killing Black people in the U.S. at an unprecedented rate. The lack of action by policymakers and law enforcement has resulted in what amounts to a genocide. The time is long overdue to heed the calls to defund the police and make real changes to end racism that both endangers and terrorizes millions of Black Americans. As we reflect on the message of today’s march, we join the calls for immediate justice for the many lives needlessly lost to racist violence.”

Federal Court Rules That Students May Use Bathrooms That Match Their Gender Identity

In a win for transgender rights, a federal appeals court has ruled that a Virginia high school’s transgender bathroom rule is unconstitutional, discriminatory, and a violation of Title IX rules.

Gavin Grimm sued his Virginia high school in 2015 after being barred from using the boys restroom, citing Title IX protections against sex discrimination. While the Virginia school board had previously argued that these protections only covered sex and not gender identity, the recent Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ protections in the workplace has prompted the lower courts to rule the bathroom ban unconstitutional.

“At the heart of this appeal is whether equal protection and Title IX can protect transgender students from school bathroom policies that prohibit them from affirming their gender,” U.S. Circuit Judge Henry Floyd stated in the court’s majority opinion. “We join a growing consensus of courts in holding that the answer is resoundingly yes.”

“After the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, we have little difficulty holding that a bathroom policy precluding Grimm from using the boys restrooms discriminated against him ‘on the basis of sex,'” the ruling continued.

Gavin Grimm is now 21 and lives in California where he is a transgender rights activist. In a statement from the ACLU, who represented Grimm in his case, he said that the decision “is an incredible affirmation for not just me, but for trans youth around the country…all transgender students should have what I was denied: the opportunity to be seen for who we are by our schools and our government.”

Sources: CNN 8/26/20; Washington Post 8/26/20; Politico 8/26/20

Nebraska Public College Pays $900,000 in Title IX Settlement

The Nebraska State College System will pay $900,000 in a settlement for inadequately addressing a case of dating violence that resulted in a student’s suicide in 2015.

The settlement comes after the family of Fatima Larios, who died at 19, filed a federal suit in 2017. In addition to the monetary amount, Chadron State College, where Larios attended, promised to implement suicide training for staff and students, hire an outside consultant for its Title IX policy, and establish a scholarship in Larios’s name, among other provisions. The college does not admit to any wrongdoing for Larios’s death.

Before her death, Larios played on the softball team and was in an abusive relationship. The lawsuit says that coaches had observed suspicious bruising on her body and changes in her emotional state. Other students also overheard violent arguments with her then boyfriend.

The coaches reported what they saw, which made its way to the school’s Title IX office. The Title IX coordinator, which was not a full-time position then, emailed Larios the college’s policy on sexual violence but did not meet with her in-person or offer additional resources.

While monetary settlements for Title IX cases are common, the non-monetary aspects of this settlement make the case distinct. These agreements, such as the scholarship fund, illuminate the college’s inadequacies despite it not accepting liability, according to Saunie Schuster, an expert hired by the Larios family.

The college’s Title IX staff showed a clear lack of understanding during depositions, according to Schuster, which likely contributed to the unprecedented settlement.

Both parties claim they were confident that they would win in court, but instead chose to settle to avoid the exorbitant fees and trauma associated with a long trial.

The settlement is important in preserving Larios’s legacy, her family wrote in a statement.

“This settlement ensures that legacy will endure and that she will continue to help others while also making Chadron a safer and more welcoming community,” her family wrote.

Sources: Union Journal Star 05/23/20; Omaha World-Herald 05/22/20

British Political Party’s Divide Deepens Over Transgender Inclusion

Last week multiple senior members of Britain’s Labour party endorsed a “trans equality manifesto” that supports more inclusive party values and claimed that anyone with transphobic views should be thrown out of the party. Backlash from this controversial charter comes with a call to produce evidence for transphobia allegations.

The two women in the center of the debate are Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long Bailey. Other leaders expressed support for the charter which labels Women’s Place UK as a “trans-exclusionist hate group.” Lisa Nandy tweeted her support stating that the Labour Party “should always be an open and safe space for all.” Controversy stems from Labour’s Gender Recognition Act, a policy that allows ‘self-identifying’ trans-women to participate on women shortlists. Critics say that without restrictions it will allow for abuse of the system allowing men to be ahead of women running for parliamentary seats just by checking a box.

Lachlan Stuart, who has already faced past transphobic allegations, fired back stating that Long Bailey was not fit to lead because of her views on trans rights. He also insisted evidence needs to be provided and that none has been produced. In his statement, he called the opposing women leaders “virtue signaling ill-informed cowards.” Women’s Place UK responded in a letter to Lisa Nandy, stating, “I hope you understand that expulsions of women from the party on the grounds you are suggesting (and being cavalier about evidence) will provoke a huge backlash. It will be fiercely opposed by all fair-minded members, who insist on reason and evidence.”

The tension creates more division amongst Labour party members and unified ambitions.

Sources: The Daily Mail 2/15/20; The Guardian 2/17/20

Gender-Based Violence on the Rise as Climate Crisis Continues

The climate crisis is becoming increasingly linked to violence against women and girls, and gender-based exploitation is rendering attempts to curb the adverse effects of environmental degradation ineffective.

There are increasing calls for more intersectionality in governments and institutions’ efforts to combat the climate crisis while centering girls and women in their strategies. Over the course of two years, and with the involvement of over 1,000 sources of research, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has undertaken the most comprehensive look into the issue yet.

Cate Orwen, a lead author of the report, noted the presence of clear evidence to suggest that the climate crisis is related to growing rates of gender-based violence. “As environmental degradation and stress on ecosystems increases, that in turn creates scarcity and stress for people, and the evidence shows that, where environmental pressures increase, gender-based violence increases.”

More than eighty case studies demonstrated the link between gender-based violence and climate change, and six in ten respondents answered an IUCN survey said they had seen gender-based violence perpetrated to female environmental rights defenders, environmental migrants, and refugees.

The IUCN report also noted that there has been a rise in human trafficking in areas where the natural environment is under stress. The climate crisis has put heavy pressure on the earth’s resources, and extreme weather is occurring with a higher frequency and inflicting more damage. In a world where women are already among the most marginalized and excluded, the climate crisis only exacerbates exploitation of women and girls.

In periods of protracted drought, women and girls are the ones making the longer journeys to obtain water or food, rendering them more vulnerable to sexual assault and harassment. A study from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) found that girls who take more time to find water attend school less which can result in the girls dropping out. A report by CARE, a major humanitarian agency, stated that women and girls are the most affected in most disasters, and the report shows that one out of five refugee or displaced women has undergone sexual violence.

Bob Ward of the Grantham Institute on climate change and the environment at the London School of Economics highlighted the role of women in bringing about awareness to this issue. “The empowerment of women and girls and their protection from the direct and indirect consequences of climate change must lie at the heart of the just transition to zero-carbon and climate-resilient societies.”

Sources: The Guardian, 1/29/20; United Nations, 9/25/19; UNDP, 1/28/20, CARE International, 2016.

Legal Abortion Upper Limit Raised to 24 Weeks in India

The Union Cabinet of India, chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 which will raise the upper limit for abortion to 24 weeks from 20.

Union minister Prakash Javadekar said that this was passed as “here was the demand from section of women, doctors and court has also requested the same”. This would be an amendment to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971. An amendment to this bill has been in the works since 2014 and has only come to the floor after extensive research and consultation with stakeholders and other ministries.

Besides raising the upper limit on gestational age allowed for abortion, the amendments other main features include requiring two medical providers opinions for abortions from 20-24 weeks, and an anonymity clause that names and other personal information of women who have had abortions shall not be revealed except for specific authorized personnel.

While the amendment does say that two medical providers opinions would be needed from 20-24 weeks, it also asserts that the upper gestation limit will not apply in cases where there are substantial fetal abnormalities, and that survivors of rape, victims of incest, and other vulnerable women would not have to consult two providers, only one, before having an abortion up to 24 weeks into the gestational period.

The Prime Minister’s website cites this amendment as “a step towards safety and well-being of the women… The proposed increase in gestational age will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate pregnancy”.

Sources: Business World India 1/29/20; pmindia.gov.in 1/29/20

Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments on DACA Case

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) case. The Obama-era federal program that has allowed over 700,000 undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation, was rolled back by the Trump administration. The initiative allows children of undocumented immigrants who’ve arrived in the US when at a very young age, to remain in the country.

The current administration says the program which was enforced through executive order was illegal and therefore ought to be rolled back. Ted Olson, the Washington DC lawyer defending DACA in court has responded that the administration, does not want to “take responsibility for it. Instead of saying, ‘We want to eliminate DACA because we don’t like the program, because we want to send a message,’ they didn’t want any of those things.”

The decision by the Trump administration prompted a public outcry by immigration rights activists, educational institutions, and business leaders. Microsoft was one of the companies which filed a lawsuit against Trump’s decision to end the program, it said in the court documents that more than 60 DACA recipients are employed in the company.

These young people contribute to our company and serve our customers. They help create our products, secure our services, and manage our finances,” it said in the lawsuit.  According to official figures, more than 90 percent of DACA recipients are employed and around half are in school. Majority of them are from Mexico and Central America, however they’ve never been to their parents’ home countries.

Many DACA recipients will be at the hearings on Tuesday. Claudia Quiñez from Maryland says she came to the US with her mother at age 11. “DACA truly changed my life. I have a Social Security number. I have the ability to work, to contribute, and pay taxes,” she said. Quiñez is one among thousands of DACA recipients whose residence in the US is on the line and will be nervously watching the hearings on Tuesday.

Afghan President: Human Rights and Women’s Rights Must Be Protected

In an interview with the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, the president of Afghanistan once again reiterated his commitment to ensuring and protecting human rights and women’s rights in Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani is committed to never “surrender” to the Taliban or allow Afghanistan to be a country where women are “held at home as if in a cage.” His position on the negotiations with the Taliban is clear: “any deal with the Taliban must include a guarantee for the values of the Afghan Constitution, human rights, democracy and women’s rights.” For him, without these, the “talks are pointless.”

While still being open to negotiating with the Taliban, President Ghani has been demanding “ironclad guarantees” on these issues. In the interview, he is firm that the Afghan government will not accept “any inclusion of the Taliban in the government or even Afghan society” if they do not respect the Afghan Constitution and human and women’s rights.

President Ghani is hopeful to be reelected for the second time in the recent presidential elections. The latest presidential election, which was held on September 28, was the fourth in the last 18 years.

Around 9.6 million eligible voters had registered to cast their votes, and based on reports from the Afghanistan Independent Election Commission, 2.5 million voted. Considering the risks and constant threats from the Taliban that they would kill voters or attack voting sites, President Ghani stated that he has the “utmost respect” for those who voted under these circumstances. In his interview, he asked “would anybody in another country participate in an election if they were up against the same massive threats and dangers that every voter here is facing?”

Despite the constant threats, the presidential election was executed in relative security, provided primarily by the Afghan forces. The president gives much credit to the security forces of his country for taking full “responsibility.” In the previous elections, especially in the 2014 presidential elections, international troops took part in providing security on the polling sites. According to reports, more than 70,000 members of the Afghan security forces were deployed this time across the country to protect voters. Despite bomb and mortar attacks, in which four people were killed and 80 wounded, people continued to vote throughout the day.

In the parliamentary elections in 2018, 78 people were killed, including 28 security forces and 470, mostly civilians, were wounded. In the last year’s election, the turnout was estimated at 3 million people.

Sources: Der Spiegel 10/7/19; Tolo News 10/1/19; BBC World News 9/29/19; Al Jazeera 9/26/19; NYT 10/20/18

Nike Nets Four Times as Much Apparel Revenue from this Year’s Women’s World Cup Than the Last One

Nike netted four times as much apparel revenue from this year’s Women’s World Cup than the last tournament in 2015, CEO Mark Parker said on it first-quarter earnings call yesterday.

Overall sales in its women’s business increased 10% “on the back of an incredible summer celebrating female athletes,” he said.

Strong demand for Women’s World Cup jerseys, along with increased sales of sportswear and Jordan sneakers in China, fueled a 10% increase in Nike’s constant-currency revenue last quarter, propelling earnings up 28% to exceed Wall Street’s projections. Nike’s stock also jumped about 5% in pre-market trading, putting it on track for an all-time high.

By selling women’s shirt designs in men’s sizes in more countries, Nike fed the World Cup sales boom. As a result, the company has sold more USA women’s jerseys this season than it has of any other soccer team’s shirt ever.

Nike also fed the World Cup sales boom by taking advantage of interest in French, English, Brazilian, and Nigerian women’s team shirts, as well as training and lifestyle apparel tied to the Chinese and Chilean teams.

Prior to Team USA winning the Women’s World Cup this summer, high-profile member of the Women’s National Team and equal-pay activist Megan Rapinoe rejected an invite to the White House, causing some controversy. “I’m not going to the f—— White House,” she said. The President then took to Twitter and said she should win the tournament before talking.

Following the 2019 Women’s World Cup, both Team USA and Nike are winners.

Sources: Business Insider 9/25/19; Business Insider 7/8/19; TWP 7/10/19

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