The Sunday Subject – February 13, 2022

Welcome to Subject’s weekly news roundup. We present you the essential headlines, local and beyond.

New York State lawmakers have ratified new congressional districts.

The new districts reflect the results of the 2020 census, and relatedly, the continuing loss of upstate population. GOP officials are arguing that the redistricting process, controlled by Democratic majorities in both the Assembly and Senate, aimed to hurt Republicans. Democrats countered that the plan complied with the State Constitution and statutory rules, adding that it rectified decades of Republican-led gerrymandering. 

The Supreme Court has reinstated an Alabama Congressional map that a lower court previously struck down for diluting the power of black voters.

A special three-judge court had ordered lawmakers to redraw the lines, stating that black voters “have less opportunity” to elect their favored candidates than other voters in Alabama under the proposed map. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to reinstate the map, with Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the court’s three liberal members in dissent. In earlier decisions, the Supreme Court gutted crucial sections of the Voting Rights Act, making it easier for state officials to dilute votes on the basis of race. Representative Chris England, Chair of the Alabama Democrats, stated, “If there ever was a time for Congress to act on voting rights legislation, now would be it. Make no mistake, this is not a good outcome. Tonight, we feel the sorrow that comes from watching our forebearers’ hard-won work be wiped out with a stroke of a pen from the shadows.” Justice Kagan stated of the Court’s decision, “It does a disservice to black Alabamians who under that precedent have had their electoral power diminished — in violation of a law this court once knew to buttress all of American democracy.”

Governor Hochul announced Wednesday that New York’s mask mandate for indoor public spaces is ending.

Beginning last Thursday, New Yorkers are longer required to wear masks or show proof of vaccination upon entering indoor locations. The statewide mask mandate, however, will still remain in place in schools, healthcare facilities and public transport. Additionally, local governments and businesses will be allowed to require their own mask mandates. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz stated Wednesday that the mask mandate in county buildings will continue for the time being, though the county would eventually follow the state’s lead in easing the mandate. Poloncarz’s office said in a statement that at the end of month “we will reconsider the need for such requirement based on the then designation of whether the county is at a low, moderate, substantial or high risk of Covid transmission.” 

McKinley High School went into lockdown on Wednesday following the stabbing of a student and shooting of a security guard.

The students inside the building were placed on lockdown while local, state and federal law enforcement surrounded the Elmwood Avenue campus. Additionally, armored SWAT vehicles, ambulances and helicopters surrounded the campus. “We are aggressively working this case,” said Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia. “We have a lot of investigators on this.”

The US and Canada face looming trade disruptions as far-right protesters blockade crucial border crossings.

The Canadian protesters, upset over vaccine mandates, have blocked some of the busiest routes linking Canada and the US. The auto industry in particular has suffered, as the Canadian and American auto sectors are integrated. The Ambassador bridge, which runs from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, has been forced to partially shut down — and with it, some of $300 million worth of goods each day it carries, about a third of which are auto parts. Said Deep, a spokesman at Ford, said the blockade “hurts customers, autoworkers, suppliers, communities and companies on both sides of the border that are already two years into parts shortages resulting from the global semiconductor issue, Covid and more.” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, reiterated that the blockade posed a risk to auto industry supply chains in the US and Canada, adding that the administration was also tracking potential disruptions to agricultural exports from Michigan into Canada.