Friday, October 30, 2020
Thursday, October 29, 2020
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Giffords Invests Big to Flip Control & Secure a Majority in Texas State House Willing to take Action on Gun Safety
Factsheet: The State of Gun Violence in Texas
Report: Gun Laws and Violence in Texas
Interactive: Texas Gun Laws
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 28, 2020
CONTACT: Jason Phelps, firstname.lastname@example.org
Giffords Invests Big to Flip Control & Secure a Majority in Texas State House Willing to take Action on Gun Safety
Giffords supports the Texas House Democratic Committee with $300,000 while investing another $100,00 in candidates and efforts to turn out voters while proving gun safety is a winning issue in the Lonestar State
Washington, DC — Giffords PAC, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, has invested $300,000 to support the Texas House Democratic Committee’s effort to flip control of the chamber and achieve a gun safety majority. The initiative comes on top of another $100,000 to support candidates up and down the ballot, boost efforts to turn out voters, and fund polling with Latino Victory Project showing Latinx voters care about gun violence.
“Despite the horrific mass shootings in El Paso and Midland-Odessa in 2019, the Texas legislature offered only thoughts and prayers, with zero action” said Peter Ambler, Giffords Executive Director. “Rather than prioritizing the safety of communities, Republicans in Texas have cowered at the feet of the gun lobby. Texas voters are ready for change. Giffords is proud to support gun safety champions up and down the ballot who have the courage to act.”
Texas currently earns an “F” on the Giffords Law Center Annual Gun Law Scorecard because of its failure to enact commonsense solutions such as requiring background checks on all gun sales, enacting an extreme risk protection order law, and strengthening laws that restrict access to firearms by domestic abusers.
After decisive wins in the Virginia State Legislative races a year ago, Giffords PAC turned its attention to states, including Texas, long seen as off-limits for gun safety. Now, thanks to changing demographics and long-term attitudinal shifts, candidates up and down the ballot are running and winning on promises to take action on gun safety. Especially in the vote-rich suburbs of Houston and Dallas, democratic state house candidates recognize that gun safety has become a key issue for swing voters.
Examples of how house candidates are embracing gun safety can be seen here and here. One mailer, paid for by the Dallas County Democratic Party, attacks Republican incumbent Morgan Meyers for his unpopular, extreme stances on guns in schools and on college campuses. In contrast the other mailer, from Democractic incumbent Ana-Maria Ramos, promises to protect families by supporting universal background checks, banning high capacity magazines, and keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
While focusing on breakthroughs in the state house, Giffords PAC also made backing MJ Hegar for Senate a priority, endorsing her ahead of the Democratic Senate primary. The group held a number of events for Hegar, including a discussion as part of the Senate Road to Background Checks Tour where she explained how she’d fight to protect Texans from gun violence in the Senate. Additional investments went to Workers Alliance and Corazón de la Frontera PAC for Get Out the Vote efforts geared toward turning out voters in communities of color.
The effort in the Senate race builds on a successful campaign in 2018 by Giffords PAC to support gun safety champions running for Congress. In one of the defining campaigns of the cycle for Giffords PAC, they spent $1.1 million on a campaign against then-Congressman John Culberson. The ads showed Culberson siding with the NRA while Houston kids suffer through lockdowns and active shooter drills.
Giffords released Public Policy Polling showing nearly 8 in 10 Texas voters support universal background checks. Over 60% of voters said that a candidate’s support for universal background checks laws made it more likely that they would vote for that candidate. Only 8% of those polled said they would more likely vote for the candidate who opposed background checks.
Together with Latino Victory Project, Giffords also released new polling showing that 3 out of 4 Latinos in Texas support strong gun safety legislation. Giffords and Latino Victory Project also teamed up last year for a bus tour, ¡YA BASTA! Latinos Rise Against Gun Violence and Hate, beginning in El Paso and stopping in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
Factsheet: The State of Gun Violence in Texas
Report: Gun Laws and Violence in Texas
Interactive: Texas Gun Laws
Giffords PAC works to reduce gun violence and save lives by empowering voters with information and supporting candidates who will fight for safer gun laws.
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
"A Biden win in Texas would be a political earthquake in American politics."
We so need this considering our Trumpian leadership.
Here's the new definition: "The CDC now defines a close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period." However, this is described as simply a report, meaning that it's preliminary.
October 21, 20207:46 PM ET
by Rob Stein | NPR
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has broadened the definition of what it means to be a "close contact" of a person with COVID-19.
Previous language defined a close contact as someone who spent at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of a person with a confirmed case.
The CDC now defines a close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
People who are considered close contacts are supposed to quarantine and get tested for the coronavirus.
In a study published Wednesday, the CDC and Vermont health officials found that multiple short exposures to people confirmed to have COVID-19 led to transmission of the virus.
During a contact tracing investigation detailed in the study, it was discovered that the coronavirus was transmitted to a correctional facility employee who interacted with individuals later found to be positive for the coronavirus. The employee had 22 interactions totaling 17 minutes during an eight-hour shift.
Some of the employee's contacts with those later found to have COVID-19 occurred when the individuals who were positive for the coronavirus were not wearing face masks. The CDC says the finding "highlights again the importance of wearing face masks to prevent transmission."
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Epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health told NPR in an email that the new definition "captures most of the instances where there would be transmission but doesn't vastly expand the number."
The change will "mostly impact workplaces, schools and other places where people spend all day together off and on," according to Caitlin Rivers, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She says it does have "the potential to significantly increase the number of people who are asked to quarantine."
Crystal Watson, another Johns Hopkins researcher, agrees.
"This will mean a big change for public health when it comes to contact tracing and for the public generally in trying to avoid exposure," she wrote in an email to NPR.
"The earlier standard for a significant exposure was somewhat artificial, but the purpose was to provide a target for contact tracers so that they would identify the contacts who were most at risk of infection," Watson said. "Now, contact tracing will become even more difficult because it will probably mean a much higher number of contacts per case on average."
Watson added that she was "a bit surprised that the CDC would change its definition based on one case study, especially because the case study doesn't seem to definitively show that the corrections officer was infected through these brief encounters."
"I would love to hear more from CDC about their reasoning for the change in definition, and how they would advise that public health change their operations going forward," Watson wrote.
Jeffrey Engel, senior adviser for the COVID-19 response for the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, said he doubted most health departments would have the resources to do the kind of detailed case investigations needed to identify people who have accumulated 15 minutes of exposure through multiple encounters.
"Detailed case investigations occur rarely and close contact determinations are estimated by busy staff," Engel told NPR by email.
The Vermont case does provide new insight as to how the virus can spread, which will be helpful "going into the fall and winter," according to William Hanage of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
But because the new definition is based on just one case report, it shouldn't cause undue alarm, according to Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
"It is just a report, so I don't want to read into it too much or alarm people," Plescia wrote in an email. "Ultimately, if infection after short interactions were widespread we would see much higher infection rates."
NPR's Rob Stein contributed to this report.
Monday, October 26, 2020
Fascinating read on how it came to be that a food so nutritious to Mesoamerican peoples could be so dangerous that it was outlawed, especially since it helped form the "near-perfect core" of their diet. I think that all of the reasons provided below are mutually consistent in explaining why it was banned, particularly considering the end-goal of weakening native peoples so that they could be conquered and colonized.
If you've not tasted it, it's delicious. You find it in some cereals in some stores. I like it in my smoothies. I've eaten it in mole in Mexico, too. I was not aware of any of these aspects of its history, however, that I indeed find intriguing.
By Chola con Chelo | Nov. 18, 2017
Huaútli is the Aztec name for a plant so important to the people, it was banned by the invading Spanish Empire led by Hernán Cortez and the Catholic Church in 1519.
Together with corn, beans and chia, amaranth was a key part of the near-perfect core diet of Mesoamerican Indian civilizations, and a tribute item demanded by the Aztecs. But the invading conquerors prohibited its cultivation and consumption calling it an ungodly pagan food, something full of sin. So for hundreds of years under the rule of Spain, amaranth all but disappeared from the face of the earth except in the highlands of Oaxaca and to the south among the Mayan people where its cultivation most probably began some 10,000 years ago.
But more importantly, it was used in religious rituals offered to certain deities, as a dish called tzoali, a delicacy of popped amaranth and sweet magüey blue agave syrup or honey, mixed together and shaped. Today those same tzoali are called alegrías and can be found in bakeries and stores throughout Mexico and in the Southwestern United States, or anywhere Mexican culture and cuisine flourish.
Yet when Spain invaded the Americas, they soon criminalized the cultivation of amaranth, as they did with the quinoa plant in South America. In doing so they banned the cultivation of one the world’s best sources of plant protein. The Spanish Empire imposed the most cruel and uncompromising punishments for growing huaútli, including cutting off the hands of those who dared to plant it.
So why did this beautiful nutritious and mystical plant elicit such a savage response from the invaders? This atrocity was most likely triggered by the importance of amaranth both in the people’s diet and in their spiritual life, a plant rightly held in high esteem.
Upon their arrival, the Catholic priests were horrified to find that amaranth was considered a deity and used in religious ceremonial rituals. It was consumed and mixed, according to some sources, with the blood of people who were sacrificed, and was perhaps a tad too close to the religious ceremonial ritual of the holy Eucharist, the Catholic ritual that consecrates the body and blood of Christ and is also eaten. But the Eucharist is of course not considered savagery by the church. To the contrary, it is considered a blessed sacrament.
As many scholars have noted, amaranth was an important part of the diet of warriors as well as a sacred plant that came into the cross-hairs of the Church’s war against paganism. So the more likely truth is that the criminalization of amaranth was both a military strategy intended to weaken the Aztec people allowing for an easier conquest. It was also a brutal tactic used by Catholic Church to eliminate any practices or evidence of an indigenous religion.
Like all warriors, the Mexica Eagle Guild Warriors ate amaranth and were responsible for fighting off and killing about 80% of the Spanish invaders who died in battle, despite their iron swords and their use of horses and dogs as weapons of war. So it was urgent for the Empire and the Church to weaken and crush the masses of people and their warriors by any
Despite its near extinction, today’s amaranth, the hardy survivor huaútli, can be found in contemporary cooking from granola to pancakes and is once again taking it’s place as an important plant food in defiance of its illicit past.
Diverse varieties of amaranth were cultivated all the way to the lands of the Inca people in the South American Andes, where it is consumed to this day. High in protein and the essential amino acid, lysine, amaranth found its way to Europe and is even consumed in India where it is known as rajeera, or the king’s grain.
How ironic that this offering of forbidden toasted amaranth seeds, held together by the sweetness of agave nectar and honey, made round in the shape of the sun and the circle of life, should survive to be called alegría, happiness or joy. No blood this time. Plenty of that was spilled by the Spanish invaders.
From Mesoamerica to East of The L.A. River, from street vendors to neighborhood mercados, bakeries and marketas you will find amaranth sold as the popular treat called alegría, the Spanish word for happiness or joy.
WRITTEN BY María Elena Gaitán (Chola Con Cello) writes about her obsessions, musings and rants from the heart of the universe, East of the Los Angeles River. This is first in a series about the global contribution, politics and cultural impact of Pre-Columbian foods. Thank you for following.
Thoughtful political analysis below by Dr. Ed Rincón on the Latina/o vote from his Culture of Research blog. The short of it is greater outreach in English to Latina females who generally support Biden, especially the more educated. Note: This analysis is consistent with Voto Latino headed up by CEO María Teresa Kumar, another important read.
I agree with Dr. Rincón that fracking is a major health issue for our community, but needs to be languaged correctly. That is, while the industry has provided significant employment opportunities, "The reality, however, is that the oil and gas industry had already lost 118,000 jobs during the pandemic as demand and prices for oil fell dramatically...[and] it would take more than 16 years to recover the energy jobs lost since February." The jobs that will get created as a consequence of renewable energy is thusly the way to go.
The mishandling of the pandemic and the disparate effects of COVID on Latina/os deserves greater focus—so yes, an "immediate realignment" is needed, in general.
In a recent New York Times story,[i] writer Jennifer Medina discusses the curious support of Donald Trump by Hispanic voters, estimated at 30 percent by recent polls. Who are these “Latino Trumpers” and how do they justify their support for Trump given the numerous racists comments made by Trump about Latinos and immigrants in addition to the aversive policies targeted to Latinos?
In reviewing general polling results of Latino voters, Medina first discusses some demographic differences among Latino voters. For example, there is a large gender gap in preferences for the Biden vs. Trump: Hispanic males (35%) are more likely to support Trump than Hispanic females (23%), while Hispanic females (67%) are more likely to support Biden than Hispanic males (59%).[ii] This gender gap is partially explained by the higher tendency of Hispanic women to be college educated, while Hispanic men tend be over-represented in jobs related to law enforcement, such as the military, Border Patrol, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In addition, Trump reportedly shows more support from “American born” Latinos who are under 45 years old, non-college graduates, and evangelicals. In Florida, support is reportedly stronger among Cubans and Venezuelans who oppose communism.
To better understand the psychological profile of Latino male Trumpers, Medina analyzes the results of a research study of Mexican male Trumpers that captured their perceptions of Donald Trump. Little information was provided about the study methodology, so proceed with caution in generalizing her observations to other Latinos. Nonetheless, the writer points to the concept of “machismo” to describe Trump’s appeal to Hispanic male Trumpers – a concept that is often used in reference to Hispanic males who are dominant, over-bearing, and indifferent to the needs of others. This rationale for this allure to the “macho” image projected by Trump is described by the following phrases articulated by the Hispanic males who participated in this research study. To Hispanic male Trumpers, Donald Trump:
· Is forceful, wealthy and unapologetic
· Is a symbol of economic success
· Is confident of his own opinions
· Disdain for face masks is a sign of power
· Relies on his own research as a basis for denying medical guidance by experts
· Is committed to the military
In addition, Hispanic male Trumpers enjoy being the subject of curiosity for supporting Trump and willing to tolerate criticism for supporting Trump by friends and family members. Although the imagery associated with Joe Biden was minimal, these Trumpers described Biden as “weak” and deserving of the title “Basement Biden.” Thus, Hispanic male Trumpers appear to share the same beliefs and values as Donald Trump, and may not be deserving of attention by the Biden campaign.
Biden’s Campaign is Urged to Step it Up in Texas
Medina’s analysis further underscores several observations by industry experts that the Biden campaign has not invested enough financial resources to engage Hispanics, especially in Texas, where the Biden vs. Trump competition is close. In a recent news article,[iii] for example, both Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke reinforced the message to the Biden campaign that they need to step up their game in Texas during the remaining days before the election on November 3rd. According to our recent analysis of Latino support for Biden in battleground states, [iv] about two-thirds of Latino voters voiced support for Biden while only one-third supported Trump. With less than 10 days until the election, a new poll by The Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler of Texas likely voters showed strong continuing support by Latino for Biden (67%) while the support for Trump (20%) has declined --- which may be one reason that among all Texas likely voters, support for Biden (46%) is now slightly higher than Trump (44%). It is conceivable that a more aggressive investment of the Biden campaign towards increasing Latino voter turnout could prove to be a significant factor in turning the state blue.
Strategy Going Forward
Based on Medina’s recent review of the Latino voter profile and my own past experience in conducting surveys of U.S. Latinos, it seems that the Biden campaign needs to make some immediate changes in its Texas Latino voter strategy in the remaining weeks of the election. Following are some suggested ideas.
Delivery Vehicle for Campaign Messaging: First, after months of criticism to step up his game, the Biden campaign reportedly released a series of Spanish-language ads to engage Hispanics. However, a Spanish-language strategy is a tactical mistake if one is trying to reach native-born Hispanics, especially in Texas. Our past 45 years of experience in analyzing the media habits of U.S. Hispanics confirms that a majority of native-born Hispanics utilize English-language media for their news and information, while Spanish-language media is more effective in capturing immigrant audiences. Pew Research Center reports also confirm this trend. [v] So the delivery vehicle really needs to change as follows: 75 percent focus on English-language media and 25 percent on Spanish-language media.
Demographic Target: The most desirable demographic target for Biden should be Hispanic women. Why? Because Biden already enjoys great standing among Hispanic women, especially the college-educated, and they would be great ambassadors for convincing other Hispanics who are undecided or independent to support the Biden ticket. Moreover, Hispanic women are more likely than Hispanic males to be college graduates, politically active, and entrepreneurs. Hispanic males who share similar attributes as these Hispanic women would also be included as a target segment. However, since Latino male Trumpers share many of the same values and attributes as Donald Trump, it may be a waste of resources to change their fascination with Donald Trump at this point in time.
Message Strategy: Hispanic women should be reminded about the programs and policies advocated by Joe Biden that have benefited Hispanics as well as proposed future programs, especially as it concerns COVID-19, food insecurity, jobs, education, childcare, healthcare, a women’s right to choose, and business development.
Although climate and environmental issues have not been reported as major concerns in recent polls of Hispanic voters, the most recent Biden vs. Trump debate focused on Biden’s statements about limiting fracking because “the oil industry pollutes, significantly.” Fracking is a technological innovation that has brought fortunes to the economies of the oil and gas industry, especially in states like Texas and Pennsylvania. When Biden stated that he would not eliminate fracking but transition over time to other types of cleaner and renewable energy, President Trump and GOP members charged that Biden was trying to “destroy the oil and gas industry,” “kill many jobs,” “Democrats are coming hard for Texas’ oil and gas industry,” and “he just killed paychecks earned by hardworking families in Texas.” The reality, however, is that the oil and gas industry had already lost 118,000 jobs during the pandemic as demand and prices for oil fell dramatically. [vi] According to an industry research firm, it would take more than 16 years to recover the energy jobs lost since February. [vii] As underscored by Joe Biden, renewable energy is the best solution for the future, has surged sharply with the downturn in the oil and gas market, creating numerous jobs, and providing a cleaner environment for families.
The fracking debate should be a top concern for Texas Hispanic voters. While it has provided jobs and a significant boost to the Texas economy, fracking comes at a heavy cost to the environment and the health of Hispanics and other poor families who live in close proximity to these fracking sites. The following map shows the distribution of the 415,354 oil and gas facilities in Texas as of 2017 (black points) and the distribution of the state’s schools and day care facilities (lighter points). [viii]
The web site authors define a threat radius as the area within ½ mile of active oil and gas wells, compressors and processors. Persons who live within a threat radius have cause for concern about potential health impacts from oil and gas pollution. An estimated 782,627 students live within a threat radius. This pollution includes dangerous chemicals that have been associated with various medical illnesses to residents living in close proximity to these sites, including the following:
· Congenital heart defects
· Brain damage
· Respiratory tract infections
· Oral clefts and neural tube defects
In Texas, the oil and gas facilities are concentrated in highly populated Hispanic and lower income communities. In addition to a higher prevalence of these medical illnesses, the fracking process utilizes large amounts of water that is draining the water resources for many of these communities, some which are also experiencing drought conditions.
The conclusion for messaging seems clear: Joe Biden should be honored, not criticized, for taking the bold step to protect our environment and the health of our residents from the toxic pollutions that are generated by fracking sites. Hispanic campaign messaging should include information about the consequences of fracking to their families’ health and environments – a message that may resonate more strongly with Hispanic women but may also capture the attention of Hispanic males who are exposed to these toxic work environments.
A Final Thought: The profile of Hispanic male Trumpers describes a person that is fascinated with power and an indifference to factual information about Trump’s achievements. As a long shot strategy, it may be useful to include messaging for Hispanic male Trumpers to clarify the following misconceptions that were previously voiced about Donald Trump:
· Trump is a successful businessman. If Trump is so successful, why is he over $1 billion in debt, and why has he filed for bankruptcy several times in past years? [ix]
· By not using a mask, Trump shows that he has power. Rather than symbolizing power, not using a mask reveals ignorance of medical advice that is known to save lives. Hispanics, in particular, are experiencing more COVID-19 illnesses and deaths than other groups in the U.S. This is not power.
· Trump does his own research to reach his own conclusions. Trump has no medical training or knowledge and often ignores the scientific advice of experts, especially on health issues. An example of his ignorance was his advice for using Lysol disinfectant to treat the coronavirus.
· Trump respects the military. On the contrary, Trump has been disrespectful of war heroes like the late Sen. John McCain and called soldiers who died in European war “suckers and losers.” He avoided military service due to a supposed bone spur medical diagnosis arranged by his father. Trump often disparages our military leaders but idolizes world dictators who have historically oppressed their people.
· Trump shows confidence in his opinions, but his opinions are usually based on lies that contradict the scientific facts. If science does not matter, do you also ignore the advice of doctors that prescribe medications and perform surgeries --- both which are based on the results of scientific research?
· Trump is not a racist. If Trump is not a racist, why did his administration separate Hispanic children from their families? There are now 545 Hispanic children in U.S. custody who were separated by the Trump administration from their parents, and their parents cannot be found.
In summary, a successful strategy to turn Texas blue during this election may depend on the ability of the Biden campaign to accelerate their targeting of Hispanic voters, especially women, with the right messaging using English-language media. Let’s hope that Biden’s campaign manager is listening.
[i] Medina, J. (2020, October 14). The macho appeal of Donald Trump. The New York Times. Access at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/14/us/politics/trump-macho-appeal.html
[ii] Krogstad, J.M. and Lopez, M. H. (2020, October 20). Latino voters have growing confidence in Biden on key issues, while confidence in Trump remains low. FACTTANK, Pew Research Center. Accessed at https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/10/16/latino-voters-have-growing-confidence-in-biden-on-key-issues-while-confidence-in-trump-remains-low/
[iii] Gillman, T.J. (2020, October 22). Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro fume that Biden has neglected Texas, demand ‘crunch time’ investment. Accessed at https://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/2020/10/22/beto-orourke-and-julian-castro-fume-that-biden-has-neglected-texas-demand-crunch-time-investment/
[iv] Rincon, E.T. Polls provide conflicting views of Hispanic support for Biden vs. Trump. The Culture of Research Blog, Accessed at https://thecultureofresearch.blogspot.com/2020/09/polls-provide-conflicting-views-of.html
[v] Lopez, M.H. and Gonzalez-Barrera, A. (2013, July 13). A growing share of Latinos get their news in English. Pew Research Center. Accessed at: https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2013/07/23/a-growing-share-of-latinos-get-their-news-in-english/
[vi] Peacock, B. (2020, May 11). Renewable energy booming in Texas as oil and gas struggles. The Texan. Accessed at https://thetexan.news/renewable-energy-booming-in-texas-as-oil-and-gas-struggles/#:~:text=EnergyIssuesRenewable%20Energy%20Booming%20in%20Texas%20as%20Oil%20and%20Gas%20Struggles&text=Solar%20energy%20also%20reached%20its,is%20down%20over%2010%20percent.
[vii] Takahasi, P. (2020, August 21). U.S. oil and gas industry sheds 118,000 jobs during pandemic. Houston Chronicle, accessed at https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/U-S-oil-and-gas-industry-sheds-118-000-jobs-15505020.php#:~:text=Texas%20had%20the%20largest%20number,19%20percent%20of%20its%20workforce.
[ix] Alexander, D. (2020, October 16). Donald Trump Has At Least $1 Billion In Debt, More Than Twice The Amount He Suggested. Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/danalexander/2020/10/16/donald-trump-has-at-least-1-billion-in-debt-more-than-twice-the-amount-he-suggested/#632ff0f14330