Elaine Chao, ex-transportation secretary and Mitch McConnell’s wife, hits back at Donald Trump for giving her the racist nickname ‘Coco Chow’

Elaine Chao: Trump's racist 'chow chow' remarks say 'more about him'

Elaine Chao  – former Transportation Secretary under Donald Trump

Dear Commons Community,

One-time Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has hit back at former President Donald Trump, who has for months been posting racist diatribes about her on social media.

In a statement to Politico on Wednesday, Chao — who served four years in Trump’s cabinet — voiced her displeasure at his derogatory nickname for her.  As reported by the New York Post.

“When I was young, some people deliberately misspelled or mispronounced my name,” the statement read. “Asian Americans have worked hard to change that experience for the next generation.”

“He doesn’t seem to understand that, which says a whole lot more about him than it will ever say about Asian Americans,” Chao added.

Chao released her statement after Trump in a Truth Social post on Monday once again referred to her by the nickname “Coco Chow.”

“Does Coco Chow have anything to do with Joe Biden’s Classified Documents being sent and stored in Chinatown?” he wrote. “Her husband, the Old Broken Crow, is VERY close to Biden, the Democrats, and, of course, China.”

Chao is married to Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump has repeatedly claimed without substantiation that Chao and McConnell are compromised by their ties to China. Trump has also called Chao “crazy” and described her as McConnell’s “China loving wife.”

Chao had, thus far, avoided responding to Trump directly.

“He’s trying to get a rise out of us. He says all sorts of outrageous things, and I don’t make a point of answering any one of them,” she told CNN in December. McConnell previously said he has no response to Trump calling his wife crazy.

It’s unclear why Chao — amongst all of Trump’s political foes’ spouses — has been such a magnet for the former president’s ire, but Chao was the first Trump Cabinet member to resign following the Capitol riot.

When approached for comment about Chao, Trump’s spokesperson, Steven Cheung, told Politico: “People should stop feigning outrage and engaging in controversies that exist only in their heads.”

Cheung also parroted Trump’s rhetoric about Chao.

“What’s actually concerning is her family’s deeply troubling ties to Communist China, which has undermined American economic and national security,” Cheung told Politico.

Trump has repeatedly made racist, anti-Asian remarks. He gave COVID-19 the nickname “Kung-Flu” in 2020. His other term for COVID-19, the “China Virus,” is still used in right-wing fringe circles.

Trump’s press office did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

A disgraceful Trump keeps stooping to racist lows!


CUNY Starts Spring 2023 Semester by Exceeding its Re-enrollment Goal and Adding 14,433 Returning Students!

The City University of New York

Dear Commons Community,

The City University of New York yesterday announced that 14,433 students have signed up for classes at the University this 2022-23 academic year through CUNY Reconnect, surpassing the initiative’s goal of enrolling 10,000 returning students. With this milestone, CUNY welcomes back students who earned some college credit but left before earning a degree along with many students who graduated high school but were unable to enroll in college due to personal circumstances stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program, launched at the start of the Fall 2022 Semester, was proposed by New York City Council Speaker Adrienne E. Adams and funded, following the Council’s advocacy, with a budget allocation of $4.4 million.

“Our vision for CUNY Reconnect was to help working-age New Yorkers re-enroll in college to attain degrees that enhance their economic opportunities,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “I’m elated that this groundbreaking initiative has surpassed its initial goal to help New Yorkers advance their education and careers. I am thankful for CUNY’s partnership and especially proud of the returning students who have taken advantage of the program. I look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure this initiative continues to empower more New Yorkers.”

“It is with great pride that we welcome the more than 14,000 students who have returned to CUNY or are first time students who paused their education after high school due to the pandemic. By furthering their education, they are preparing themselves to secure better-paying jobs and will lead the continued revitalization of our city,” said Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “Through CUNY Reconnect, former students receive personalized support to connect them to the opportunities for socioeconomic mobility that the University continues to provide as part of its mission. We are grateful to Speaker Adams and the City Council for supporting CUNY’s mission to uplift New Yorkers.”

CUNY’s spring semester begins today, January 25, at most of its colleges but Reconnect outreach workers have been busy connecting with former students over the winter break. The biggest gains were in Queens, where 29% of the new enrollees live, followed by 26% in Brooklyn, 21% in the Bronx, 10% in Manhattan and 5% in Staten Island. An additional 8% reside outside of the city. By ethnicity, 34% of re-enrolled students identify as Hispanic, 32% Black, 17% white and 16% Asian or Pacific Islander. The Borough of Manhattan Community College signed up the most students through the program, followed by Queensborough Community College and Queens College.

Yoslin Reyes, 21, is returning to Queensborough Community College today after a four-year pause. “A lot of people feel like they want to finish their degree but they don’t know where to start. That’s what happened to me,” said Reyes, who stopped taking classes in 2019 when pregnant. A Reconnect specialist helped her reapply, complete financial aid forms and switch her major to health sciences. “I went back to college for my daughter. I need to be able to provide for her financially.”

CUNY Reconnect hired a team of navigators to work with prospective students and provide personalized support for their re-enrollment. These navigators, who speak six languages, guide prospective students through program selection and help them locate student support services and understand their financial aid options. Resources include access to small scholarships and streamlined access to the University’s 17 child care centers. Navigators meet monthly to discuss the barriers they are encountering in their outreach, so that strategies can be adjusted.

During the Fall semester, Speaker Adams visited York College — where she began her college studies —  as CUNY unveiled plans for a welcome center on the Jamaica, Queens, campus. The center, part of the broader CUNY Reconnect initiative, will help working adults refine their higher education aspirations and career goals.

CUNY promoted the CUNY Reconnect initiative through a TV and digital ad featuring Veronica Wanzer who gave up on college in her 20s but reconsidered 30 years later when she could not obtain a well-paying job without a degree. She was welcomed at York College where she became active with student government and a leader in the Center for Students with Disabilities. Her CUNY undergrad experience was so fulfilling that she is now seeking a master’s degree at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.

Former students who are interested in re-enrolling in college can learn more through CUNY Reconnect here

Congratulations to all those involved with this program!


Pope Francis Tells The Associated Press: “Homosexuality not a crime”

How Pope Francis is changing the Vatican's tone on LGBT people - YouTube

Dear Commons Community,

Pope Francis criticized laws yesterday that criminalize homosexuality as “unjust,” saying God loves all his children just as they are and called on Catholic bishops who support the laws to welcome LGBTQ people into the church.

“Being homosexual isn’t a crime,” Francis said during an interview  with The Associated Press.

Francis acknowledged that Catholic bishops in some parts of the world support laws that criminalize homosexuality or discriminate against the LGBTQ community, and he himself referred to the issue in terms of “sin.” But he attributed such attitudes to cultural backgrounds, and said bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change to recognize the dignity of everyone.

“These bishops have to have a process of conversion,” he said, adding that they should apply “tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us.”

Some 67 countries or jurisdictions worldwide criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, 11 of which can or do impose the death penalty, according to The Human Dignity Trust, which works to end such laws. Experts say even where the laws are not enforced, they contribute to harassment, stigmatization and violence against LGBTQ people.

In the U.S., more than a dozen states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, despite a 2003 Supreme Court ruling declaring them unconstitutional. Gay rights advocates say the antiquated laws are used to harass homosexuals, and point to new legislation, such as the “Don’t say gay” law in Florida, which forbids instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, as evidence of continued efforts to marginalize LGBTQ people.

The United Nations has repeatedly called for an end to laws criminalizing homosexuality outright, saying they violate rights to privacy and freedom from discrimination and are a breach of countries’ obligations under international law to protect the human rights of all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Declaring such laws “unjust,” Francis said the Catholic Church can and should work to put an end to them. “It must do this. It must do this,” he said.

Francis quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church in saying gay people must be welcomed and respected, and should not be marginalized or discriminated against.

“We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity,” Francis said, speaking to the AP in the Vatican hotel where he lives.

Such laws are common in Africa and the Middle East and date from British colonial times or are inspired by Islamic law. Some Catholic bishops have strongly upheld them as consistent with Vatican teaching that considers homosexual activity “intrinsically disordered,” while others have called for them to be overturned as a violation of basic human dignity.

In 2019, Francis had been expected to issue a statement opposing criminalization of homosexuality during a meeting with human rights groups that conducted research into the effects of such laws and so-called “conversion therapies.”

In the end, the pope did not meet with the groups, which instead met with the Vatican No. 2, who reaffirmed “the dignity of every human person and against every form of violence.”

On Tuesday, Francis said there needed to be a distinction between a crime and a sin with regard to homosexuality.

“Being homosexual is not a crime,” he said. “It’s not a crime. Yes, but it’s a sin. Fine, but first let’s distinguish between a sin and a crime.”

“It’s also a sin to lack charity with one another,” he added.

Catholic teaching holds that while gay people must be treated with respect, homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.” Francis has not changed that teaching, but he has made reaching out to the LGBTQ community a hallmark of his papacy.

Starting with his famous 2013 declaration, “Who am I to judge?” when he was asked about a purportedly gay priest, Francis has gone on to minister repeatedly and publicly to the gay and trans community. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he favored granting legal protections to same-sex couples as an alternative to endorsing gay marriage, which Catholic doctrine forbids.

Who are we to judge?


Classified Documents Found in Former Vice President Mike Pence’s Home!

🇺🇦Paula Chertok🗽 on Twitter: "💥Classified documents found at PENCE's  Indiana home, not in a secured location, retrieved by FBI and returned to  National Archives, CNN reports https://t.co/uo0fAQpFeD" / Twitter

Dear Commons Community,

Here we go again!  The New York Times and CNN reported yesterday that aides to former Vice President Mike Pence found a “small number of documents” with classified markings at his home in Indiana during a search last week, according to an adviser to Mr. Pence.

The documents were “inadvertently boxed and transported” to Mr. Pence’s home at the end of President Donald J. Trump’s administration, Greg Jacob, Mr. Pence’s representative for dealing with records related to the presidency, wrote in a letter to the National Archives.

The discovery of the classified documents in Mr. Pence’s home was reported by CNN.

The letter, dated Jan. 18, said that the former vice president was unaware of the existence of the documents and reiterated that he took seriously the handling of classified materials and wanted to help.

Mr. Jacob wrote that Mr. Pence relied on an outside lawyer after classified documents were found in recent days at the residence and former private office of President Biden. A person familiar with the search identified that lawyer as Matthew E. Morgan, who has a long history with the Pences and who worked as a lawyer on the 2020 re-election campaign. Mr. Jacob also said the lawyer could not specify anything more about the documents because the lawyer had stopped looking once it was clear the documents had classified markings.  As reported by The New York Times.

“Counsel identified a small number of documents that could potentially contain sensitive or classified information interspersed throughout the records,” Mr. Jacob wrote of the search, which he said was conducted on Jan. 16. A person familiar with the matter said the lawyer who conducted the search previously worked with Mr. Pence in the Trump administration and had a security clearance while there.

“Vice President Pence immediately secured those documents in a locked safe pending further direction on proper handling from the National Archives,” Mr. Jacob wrote.

In a second letter dated four days later, Mr. Jacob wrote that despite having a conversation with archives officials on Jan. 19 about procedures for obtaining records from former presidents and vice presidents, the Justice Department that evening “bypassed the standard procedures and requested direct possession” of the documents.

Mr. Pence was in Washington attending the March for Life anti-abortion event, Mr. Jacob wrote, but he still granted permission to turn over the documents. Mr. Jacob also wrote that there were two boxes in which the records with classified markings had been found, as well as two additional boxes with copies of administration papers.

He said he would personally bring those boxes to the National Archives on Jan. 23. An archives spokesperson declined a request for comment.

Mr. Pence’s transition out of office was notoriously bumpy, after Mr. Trump spent weeks pressuring him to effectively overturn the results of the 2020 election so that Mr. Trump could stay in power.

Still, the disclosure brings more questions about how classified material is handled at the top levels of government at a moment when Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump are both subjects of special counsel investigations on the matter.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland had no comment when asked about the retrieval of the documents from Mr. Pence’s house. He declined to say whether the Justice Department’s involvement in the matter signaled an impending criminal investigation that might warrant referral to a special counsel.

I just did a quick check of my house and office and I can take an oath that I do not have any classified documents.  I think!


Microsoft to Invest $10 Billion in OpenAI, the Creator of ChatGPT!

Dear Commons Community,

Microsoft announced yesterday that it was making a “multiyear, multibillion-dollar” investment in OpenAI, the San Francisco artificial intelligence lab behind the experimental online chatbot ChatGPT.

The companies did not disclose the specific financial terms of the deal, but a person familiar with the matter said Microsoft would invest $10 billion in OpenAI.

Microsoft had already invested more than $3 billion in OpenAI, and the new deal is a clear indication of the importance of OpenAI’s technology to the future of Microsoft and its competition with other big tech companies like Google, Meta and Apple.

With Microsoft’s deep pockets and OpenAI’s cutting-edge artificial intelligence, the companies hope to remain at the forefront of generative artificial intelligence — technologies that can generate text, images and other media in response to short prompts. After its surprise release at the end of November, ChatGPT — a chatbot that answers questions in clear, well-punctuated prose — became the symbol of a new and more powerful wave of A.I.

The fruit of more than a decade of research inside companies like OpenAI, Google and Meta, these technologies are poised to remake everything from online search engines like Google Search and Microsoft Bing to photo and graphics editors like Photoshop.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s chief executive, made clear in his company’s announcement that the next phase of the partnership with OpenAI would focus on bringing tools to the market, saying that “developers and organizations across industries will have access to the best A.I. infrastructure, models and tool chain.”

OpenAI was created in 2015 by small group of entrepreneurs and artificial intelligence researchers, including Sam Altman, head of the start-up builder Y Combinator; Elon Musk, the billionaire chief executive of the electric carmaker Tesla; and Ilya Sutskever, one of the most important researchers of the past decade.

They founded the lab as a nonprofit organization. But after Mr. Musk left the venture in 2018, Mr. Altman remade OpenAI as a for-profit company so it could raise the money needed for its research.

A year later, Microsoft invested a billion dollars in the company; over the next few years, it quietly invested another $2 billion. These funds paid for the enormous amounts of computing power needed to build the kind of generative A.I. technologies OpenAI is known for.

OpenAI is also in talks to complete a deal in which it would sell existing shares in a so-called tender offer. This could total $300 million, depending on how many employees agree to sell their stock, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions, and would value the company at around $29 billion.

In 2020, OpenAI built a milestone A.I. system, GPT-3, which could generate text on its own, including tweets, blog posts, news articles and even computer code. Last year, it unveiled DALL-E, which lets anyone generate photorealistic images simply by describing what he or she wants to see.

Based on the same technology as GPT-3, ChatGPT showed the general public just how powerful this kind of technology could be. More than a million people tested the chatbot during its first few days online, using it to answer trivia questions, explain ideas and generate everything from poetry to term papers.

Microsoft has already incorporated GPT-3, DALL-E and other OpenAI technologies into its products. Most notably, GitHub, a popular online service for programmers owned by Microsoft, offers Copilot, a tool that can automatically generate snippets of computer code.

Last week, it expanded availability of several OpenAI services to customers of Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing offering, and said ChatGPT would be “coming soon.”

The company said it planned to report its latest quarterly results on Tuesday, and investors expect the difficult economy, including declining personal computer sales and more cautious business spending, to further hit revenues.

Microsoft has faced slowing growth since late summer, and Wall Street analysts expect the new financial results to show its slowest growth since 2016. But the business still produces substantial profits and cash. It has continued to return money to investors through quarterly dividends and a $60 billion share buyback program authorized by its board in 2021.

Both Microsoft and OpenAI say their goals are even higher than a better chatbot or programming assistant.

OpenAI’s stated mission was to build artificial general intelligence, or A.G.I., a machine that can do anything the human brain can do. When OpenAI announced its initial deal with Microsoft in 2019, Mr. Nadella described it as the kind of lofty goal that a company like Microsoft should pursue, comparing A.G.I. to the company’s efforts to build a quantum computer, a machine that would be exponentially faster than today’s machines.

“Whether it’s our pursuit of quantum computing or it’s a pursuit of A.G.I., I think you need these high-ambition North Stars,” he said.

That is not something that researchers necessarily know how to build. But many believe that systems like ChatGPT are a path to this lofty goal.

In the near term, these technologies are a way for Microsoft to expand its business, bolster revenue and compete with the likes of Google and Meta, which are also addressing A.I. advancements with a sense of urgency.

Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, recently declared a “code red,” upending plans and jump-starting A.I. development. Google intends to unveil more than 20 products and demonstrate a version of its search engine with chatbot features this year, according to a slide presentation reviewed by The New York Times and two people with knowledge of the plans, who were not authorized to discuss them.

But the new A.I. technologies come with a long list of flaws. They often produce toxic content, including misinformation, hate speech and images that are biased against women and people of color.

Microsoft, Google, Meta and other companies have been reluctant to release many of these technologies because they could damage their established brands. Five years ago, Microsoft released a chatbot called Tay, which generated racist and xenophobic language, and quickly removed it from the internet after complaints from users.

We have just taken a step closer to the A.I. world!


Richard Barnett:  Man who propped feet on Speaker Pelosi desk in January 6 case  found guilty of civil disorder and obstruction!

Constitution Loving' Capitol Rioter Flunks Basic Bill Of Rights Question At  Trial

Richard Barnett

Dear Commons Community,

Richard “Bigo” Barnett, the man who propped his feet up on a desk in then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office during the U.S. Capitol riot, was convicted yesterday of joining a mob’s attack on the building two years ago.

A jury unanimously convicted  Barnett on all eight counts in his indictment including felony charges of civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding.

Barnett lounging at a desk in Pelosi’s office made him one of the most memorable figures from the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, the day when Congress convened a joint session to certify President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

He’s scheduled to be sentenced in May. Prosecutors sought to jail Barnett while he awaits sentencing but the judge denied that request so Barnett will remain free on certain conditions.

Barnett, 62, testified last Thursday that he was looking for a bathroom inside the Capitol when he unwittingly entered Pelosi’s office and encountered two news photographers. He said one of the photographers told him to “act natural,” so he leaned back in a chair and flung his legs onto the desk.  As reported by the Associated Press and other news media.

“Did it dawn on you that what you were doing could cause some trouble?” defense attorney Joseph McBride asked Barnett.

“I was just in the moment,” Barnett replied. “I’m just kind of going with the flow at this point.”

Prosecutors said Barnett had a stun gun tucked into his pants when he stormed the Capitol and invaded Pelosi’s office. He took a piece of her mail and left behind a note that said, “Nancy, Bigo was here,” punctuating the message with a sexist expletive.

Before leaving Capitol grounds, Barnett used a bullhorn to give a speech to the crowd, shouting, “We took back our house, and I took Nancy Pelosi’s office!” according to prosecutors.

Videos support Barnett’s testimony that a crowd pushed him into the Capitol as he approached an entrance, causing him to briefly fall to his knees as he crossed the threshold.

“We have no choice!” he shouted repeatedly as he entered the Capitol.

After police ordered him and others to leave Pelosi’s office, Barnett realized he had left his American flag behind. Body camera video captured Barnett shouting at a police officer in the Rotunda for help in retrieving the flag.

More than 940 people have been charged with federal crimes related to the Jan.6 attack. Nearly 500 of them have pleaded guilty. Barnett is one of several dozen Capitol riot defendants whose case has gone to trial.

A grand jury indicted Barnett on eight charges, including felony counts of civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding. He also faces a charge of entering and remaining in restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon — a stun gun with spikes concealed within a collapsible walking stick.

Barnett, 62, is a retired firefighter from Gravette, Arkansas. He said he regrets coming to Washington for the “Stop the Steal” rally where then-President Donald Trump addressed a crowd of supporters.

“Two years of lost life. Misery for my family,” he said.

A prosecutor told jurors during the trial’s opening statements that Barnett planned the trip for weeks and came prepared for violence.

McBride told jurors that Barnett was just a “crazy guy from Arkansas” who didn’t hurt anybody on Jan. 6 and couldn’t have harmed anybody with the stun gun device because it was broken that day. McBride sarcastically called it “the most famous trespass case of all time.”

Prosecutors said Barnett had a history of arming himself at political demonstrations. In July 2020, they said, a 911 caller reported that a man matching Barnett’s description had pointed a rifle at her during a “Back the Blue” rally.

Four members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia were also found guilty of seditious conspiracy yesterday for their roles in trying to keep Donald J. Trump in office after his 2020 election defeat, nearly two months after the group’s leader — Stewart Rhodes — was convicted of the same offense in a separate trial in November.

A jury in Federal District Court in Washington also found the four defendants guilty of two separate conspiracy charges.

The defendants — Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett, David Moerschel and Edward Vallejo — were originally charged along with Mr. Rhodes and other members of the group. But their trial was broken off as a separate proceeding by the judge in the case, Amit P. Mehta, because of space constraints in the courtroom.

All of these criminals deserve long jail time!


Fox’s Neil Cavuto: ‘We owe more than we’re worth as a country”

Debt ceiling: America's budget crisis of its own creation - BBC News

Dear Commons Community,

Fox News host Neil Cavuto warned the U.S. is inching dangerously close to defaulting on its debts and pressed Gene Sperling,  a top economic adviser to President Biden on the issue.

“We obviously spend more money than we take in, a lot more money,” Cavuto said during an interview with Sperling on his afternoon news program last week.  “And something has to be done about this. I don’t know if this debt thing is the means or the way to do it. But it seems like Democrats are very resistant to talk about entitlements, maybe understandably. Republicans are very resistant to talk about curbing defense.”  

Cavuto added the country now has “a debt-to-GDP ratio of over 100. In other words, we owe more than we’re worth as a country,” asking Sperling “That’s not sustainable, right?”

“Well, listen, we inherited the largest debt increase. It was a — it was very large,” Sperling responded. “It wasn’t just due to the pandemic. It was also due to a $2 trillion tax cut in 2017, at a time where our economy did not need stimulus, $2 trillion in debt increase.”

The host interjected, saying “I think it’s fair to say the pandemic —  the pandemic was a huge part of that, Gene. I think you would have to admit that.”

“Absolutely. Absolutely,” the top White House adviser said. “Sixty-two percent of the pandemic funding that wasn’t paid — that affected our debt was done under President Trump. And, yes, much of that was absolutely needed.”

On Thursday Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in a letter to congressional leaders that the department would now resort to “extraordinary measures” to ensure the U.S. does not default on its debt payments, The Hill previously reported. The U.S.’s debt eclipsed $31.4 trillion this week.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also said Thursday he is confident that the U.S. will never default on its debt.

“In the end, I think the important thing to remember is that America must never default on its debt. It never has, and it never will,” the Republican leader said. “We’ll end up in some kind of negotiation with the administration over what the circumstances or conditions under which the debt ceiling be raised.” 

This will be “the” major political battle in late spring!


Video: Rallies Across the Country on the 50th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade!

Dear Commons Community,

From beach cities to snow-covered streets, abortion supporters rallied by the thousands yesterday to demand protections for reproductive rights and mark the 50th anniversary of the now-overturned Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision that established federal protections for the procedure.

The reversal of Roe in June unleashed a flurry of legislation in the states, dividing them between those that have restricted or banned abortion and those that have sought to defend access. The Women’s March, galvanized during Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration in 2017 amid a national reckoning over sexual assaults, said it has refocused on state activism after Roe was tossed.  As reported by the Associated Press.

“This fight is bigger than Roe,” Women’s March said in a tweet. “They thought that we would stay home and that this would end with Roe — they were wrong.”

A dozen Republican-governed states have implemented sweeping bans on abortion, and several others seek to do the same. But those moves have been offset by gains on the other side.

Abortion opponents were defeated in votes on ballot measures in Kansas, Michigan and Kentucky. State courts have blocked several bans from taking effect. Myriad efforts are underway to help patients travel to states that allow abortions or use medication for self-managed abortions. And some Democratic-led states have taken steps to shield patients and providers from lawsuits originating in states where the procedure is banned.

Organizers with the Women’s March said their strategy moving forward will focus largely on measures at the state level. But freshly energized anti-abortion activists are increasingly turning their attention to Congress, with the aim of pushing for a potential national abortion restriction down the line.

Sunday’s main march was held in Wisconsin, where upcoming elections could determine the state Supreme Court’s power balance and future abortion rights. But rallies took place in dozens of cities, including Florida’s state capital of Tallahassee, where Vice President Kamala Harris gave a fiery speech before a boisterous crowd.

“Can we truly be free if families cannot make intimate decisions about the course of their own lives?” Harris said. “And can we truly be free if so-called leaders claim to be … ‘on the vanguard of freedom’ while they dare to restrict the rights of the American people and attack the very foundations of freedom?”

In Madison, thousands of abortion rights supporters donned coats and gloves to march in below-freezing temperatures through downtown to the state Capitol.

“It’s just basic human rights at this point,” said Alaina Gato, a Wisconsin resident who joined her mother, Meg Wheeler, on the Capitol steps to protest.

They said they plan to vote in the April Supreme Court election. Wheeler also said she hoped to volunteer as a poll worker and canvass for Democrats, despite identifying as an independent voter.

“This is my daughter. I want to make sure she has the right to choose whether she wants to have a child,” Wheeler said.

Buses of protestors streamed into the Wisconsin capital from Chicago and Milwaukee, armed with banners and signs calling for the Legislature to repeal the state’s ban.

Eliza Bennett, a Wisconsin OBGYN who said she had to stop offering abortion services to her patients after Roe was overturned, called on lawmakers to put the choice back in the hands of women. “They should be making decisions about what’s best for their health, not state legislatures,” she said.

Abortions are unavailable in Wisconsin due to legal uncertainties faced by abortion clinics over whether an 1849 law banning the procedure is in effect. The law, which prohibits abortion except to save the patient’s life, is being challenged in court.

Some also carried weapons. Lilith K., who declined to provide their last name, stood on the sidewalk alongside protestors, holding an assault rifle and wearing a tactical vest with a holstered handgun.

“With everything going on with women and other people losing their rights, and with the recent shootings at Club Q and other LGBTQ night clubs, it’s just a message that we’re not going to take this sitting down,” Lilith said.

The march also drew counter-protestors. Most held signs raising religious objections to abortion rights. “I don’t really want to get involved with politics. I’m more interested in what the law of God says,” John Goeke, a Wisconsin resident, said.

In the absence of Roe v. Wade’s federal protections, abortion rights have become a state-by-state patchwork.

Since June, near-total bans on abortion have been implemented in Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Legal challenges are pending against several of those bans. The lone clinic in North Dakota relocated across state lines to Minnesota.

Bans passed by lawmakers in Ohio, Indiana and Wyoming have been blocked by state courts while legal challenges are pending. And in South Carolina, the state Supreme Court on Jan. 5 struck down a ban on abortion after six weeks, ruling the restriction violates a state constitutional right to privacy.

Wisconsin’s conservative-controlled Supreme Court, which for decades has issued consequential rulings in favor of Republicans, will likely hear the challenge to the 1849 ban filed in June by the state’s attorney general, Josh Kaul. Races for the court are officially nonpartisan, but candidates for years have aligned with either conservatives or liberals as the contests have become expensive partisan battles.

Women’s rallies were expected to be held in nearly every state on Sunday.

The eldest daughter of Norma McCorvey, whose legal challenge under the pseudonym “Jane Roe” led to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, was set to attend the rally in Long Beach, California. Melissa Mills said it was her first Women’s March.

“It’s just unbelievable that we’re here again, doing the same thing my mom did,” Mills told The Associated Press. “We’ve lost 50 years of hard work.”

The Women’s March has become a regular event — although interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic — since millions rallied in the United States and around the world the day after the January 2017 inauguration of Donald Trump.

Trump made the appointment of conservative judges a mission of his presidency. The three conservative justices he appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court — Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — all voted to overturn Roe v. Wade.


Michelle Goldberg on the Next Phase of the Abortion Fight Happening Here in New York!

Telehealth providers are navigating murky legal territory as abortion bans  take effect

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times columnist, Michelle Goldberg, has an essay this morning entitled, “The Next Phase of the Abortion Fight Is Happening Right Now in New York,” focusing on the legal ramifications of sending abortion pills across state lines.  Essentially, before doctors can feel safe mailing abortion pills,  they are pushing for New York to pass a bill ensuring that the state will try to protect them from red state prosecutors and lawsuits.  The issue is complicated involving safety and the mother’s length of pregnancy as well as New York’s limited ability to protect doctors from legal action brought on by other states. 

Goldberg comments that:  “Shield laws for telemedicine abortions are at the cutting edge of pro-choice lawmaking. They’re an attempt, at a time of staggering loss, for supporters of abortion rights to go on the offensive. In anticipation of the fall of Roe v. Wade — a decision that would have turned 50 next week — several blue states, including New York, passed laws protecting abortion providers who care for those traveling from places with abortion bans. Telemedicine shield laws go much further, attempting to protect doctors who break the laws of anti-abortion states by helping the women in them have abortions at home.   Right now, only Massachusetts has such a law.”

The entire essay is below. 

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.



The New York Times

The Next Phase of the Abortion Fight Is Happening Right Now in New York

Jan. 20, 2023Top of Form

By Michelle Goldberg

Opinion Columnist

Linda Prine is a New York physician and co-founder of the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline, which provides support to people using pills to end their pregnancies on their own. She started the hotline during the Trump administration in response to escalating state restrictions. At first, with abortion clinics still operating in every state, there weren’t many calls. Then Texas banned most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, and more calls started coming in.

After Roe v. Wade was overturned, “it just went through the roof, and it continued to get busier and busier,” said Prine. Now, 60 volunteers keep it staffed 18 hours a day. “Pretty much the phone rings almost nonstop, and we’re getting texts at the same time,” she said.

For those with unwanted pregnancies who live in states with abortion prohibitions, using medication to self-manage an abortion is sometimes the only option. “It’s only a minority of people who can afford the travel,” said Prine. Nonprofits like the Brigid Alliance can help cover expenses, but they can’t ensure people have child care they trust, make their bosses give them time off from work, or explain their absence to unsupportive parents. “So some people are figuring out how to get pills as best as they can,” Prine said.

Doing so can take a frighteningly long time. The Biden administration has authorized telehealth providers to prescribe and ship abortion pills, but online pharmacies won’t mail pills to states where abortion is illegal. Women can rent post office boxes in blue states and then have their mail forwarded, but Prine said that some telehealth providers check their patients’ IP addresses. For people in prohibition states, one of the most reliable sources of mail-order pills is the European organization Aid Access, which Prine works closely with. But because those pills are shipped from India, they can take up to three weeks to arrive, an eternity for someone desperate to end an unwanted pregnancy.

“They’re into the second trimester, not infrequently, when they finally get their pills and when they finally can have two days off from work to use them,” Prine said of the people who call the hotline. Though the F.D.A. authorizes pills for use only up to 10 weeks of pregnancy, in some countries they’re employed much later, and taking them in the second trimester isn’t usually considered medically dangerous. Still, self-managing a late abortion can be harrowing psychologically, especially, said Prine, “if you’re a teenager and nobody’s supposed to know what’s happening to you.”

It’s because of this terror and distress that Prine, along with a few other intrepid doctors, is preparing to start mailing abortion pills across state lines. Before she can get up and running, though, she needs New York to pass a bill ensuring that the state will try to protect her from red state prosecutors and lawsuits.

“If we want to expand access to abortion, we need to think outside the box and try to make some new things happen,” said Prine. “And that’s what this shield law should do: It should let us prescribe into these red states.”

Shield laws for telemedicine abortions are at the cutting edge of pro-choice lawmaking. They’re an attempt, at a time of staggering loss, for supporters of abortion rights to go on the offensive. In anticipation of the fall of Roe v. Wade — a decision that would have turned 50 next week — several blue states, including New York, passed laws protecting abortion providers who care for those traveling from places with abortion bans. Telemedicine shield laws go much further, attempting to protect doctors who break the laws of anti-abortion states by helping the women in them have abortions at home.

Right now, only Massachusetts has such a law, but New York may soon join it; this week, a bill sponsored by State Senator Shelley Mayer was voted out of committee. “We just can’t back away because it’s complicated,” said Mayer. “The doctors are not backing away.”

As Emily Bazelon reported in The New York Times Magazine, some abortion-rights groups initially hesitated to throw their weight behind Mayer’s proposal. The New York Civil Liberties Union worried, among other things, about giving providers a false sense of security, since New York’s ability to protect doctors from legal action by other states is limited, especially once they step outside New York’s borders. But after working with Mayer to refine the bill’s language, the N.Y.C.L.U. has come on board, even though Donna Lieberman, its executive director, said, “It is not the panacea that I wish we could provide for Linda and others.”

Prine knows that, but she’s willing to accept a degree of risk. “I think the PTSD that a lot of people will have from this is going to last a long time,” she said, speaking of some of the women who call her hotline. “And it could all be avoided.” New York lawmakers can help.


Florida Gives Reasons for Rejecting A.P. African American Studies Class!


College Board Offers First-Ever AP in African American Studies This Year - The Reconstruction Era

Dear Commons Community,

After rejecting an Advanced Placement course in African American studies for high school students last week, the Florida Department of Education offered an explanation of what it found objectionable in the curriculum — citing examples of what it calls “the woke indoctrination” of students that would violate state laws restricting how race can be taught in the classroom.  As reported in The New York Times.

In a document released on Friday, the Department of Education seemed to object to the more contemporary and, therefore, the more inherently politicized, parts of the curriculum, which is being developed by the College Board. The department cites the inclusion of readings from many major African American scholars, activists and writers, who explored subjects like Black queer studies, Black feminist literary thought, the reparations movement and intersectionality.

The state says intersectionality — which refers to the way various forms of inequality often work together and build on one another — is foundational to critical race theory and “ranks people based on their race, wealth, gender and sexual orientation.”    In 2021, the state Board of Education banned public schools from teaching critical race theory, an academic framework for understanding racism in the United States that became a political rallying cry for parents and political activists on the right.

The Education Department also singled out activists like Angela Davis, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for being “a self-avowed Communist and Marxist”; Kimberlé Crenshaw, a professor at Columbia Law School and the U.C.L.A. School of Law, who it said was “known as the founder of intersectionality”; and the feminist writer bell hooks, for using language like “white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.”

The College Board did not respond to requests for comment, but it said in a statement on Thursday that the multidisciplinary course was still undergoing a multiyear pilot phase.

“The process of piloting and revising course frameworks is a standard part of any new A.P. course, and frameworks often change significantly as a result,” the organization said. “We will publicly release the updated course framework when it is completed and well before this class is widely available in American high schools.”

Florida law requires the study of African American history. But Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely considered a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination, has gained national prominence for backing restrictions on what students in Florida can and cannot learn. Last year, he signed the Individual Freedoms Act — known as the Stop WOKE Act — into law, which regulates how race-related issues are taught in public universities, colleges and in workplace trainings. (A federal judge blocked part of the law, which still applies to public schools.)

He also signed legislation last year, referred to by critics as “Don’t Say Gay,” that prohibits classroom instruction and discussion about sexual orientation and gender identity in some elementary school grades.

And this month, the Education Department informed the College Board, the nonprofit organization that administers A.P. exams, that it would not include the African American studies class in the state’s course directory, asserting that it was “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”

Manny Diaz Jr., Florida’s education commissioner, said on Twitter on Friday that the state had “rejected an AP course filled with Critical Race Theory and other obvious violations of Florida law.”

“We proudly require the teaching of African American history,” he said. “We do not accept woke indoctrination masquerading as education.”

Culture was at its highest!