Polar Vortex Causes Deadly Low Temps, Severe Winter Conditions
A polar vortex caused record-low temperatures in Texas last weekend, resulting in dangerous, and sometimes deadly, winter conditions. More than 4 million people were left without power while an estimated 14 million people were without water or under a boil advisory due to unsanitary water conditions. BBC News reported at least 60 people have died so far, with a higher toll expected. While some deaths were suspected to be due to hypothermia, others were reported in traffic accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning, and at least one house fire.
The increased demand for heat was too much for part of the state’s energy grid, and this could have been in part due to infrastructure that remained without winter protection despite a rare ice storm in 2011. Water pressure dropped due to bursts in frozen pipes, and water treatment plants were knocked offline due to snow and ice.
President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster in the state, allowing more federal funds to be distributed for relief. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, reportedly raised more than $3 million in donations as part of Texas’s relief efforts. Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas abandoned the state on Wednesday for a trip to Cancun, Mexico. He returned on Thursday.
Scrutiny has fallen upon the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) for answers to questions of why the power grid was so vulnerable and why residential power bills have exceeded $17,000 due to the storm.
Racism and Attacks Against Asian Americans Continue, At ‘Crisis Point’
A rash of violence against Asian Americans has created fear for citizens throughout their communities. Some have been verbally assaulted while others have been physically attacked, leading to the death of an 84-year-old man in San Francisco.
Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Chairperson Rep. Judy Chu said at a virtual press conference held on Friday that the situation is at a “crisis point that cannot be ignored.” Chu and other lawmakers called for action in the form of the “No Hate Act” in order to provide grants to improve hate crime reporting from states.
Asian Americans have faced a much higher rate of violence since the start of the pandemic due to anti-Asian rhetoric, including from the former president. In 2021, there has been an uptick in Chinatown’s in Oakland and San Francisco in particular.
Many different organizations have formed a coalition to provide different forms of mutual aid to help affected communities. For instance, the Anti Police-Terror Project compiled a list of safety programs meant to help form more community protections that do not involve an increased police presence.
Cornel West May Leave Harvard University After Being Denied Tenure
Dr. Cornel West, prominent Black author, social activist, and philosopher, has been denied tenure by Harvard University for being “too controversial.” West believes the decision is connected to his outspoken support for the liberation of Palestine and related criticism of Israel. His tenure has been denied in spite of receiving a positive five-year review.
Other Black professors have complained of similar treatment while working at the school. Last year, more than 100 faculty members signed a letter to the school, urging a review of the tenure process and how it promotes diversity and inclusivity.
West reported that he may leave his position at the school due to their decision to deny his request.
2 Deaths Reported in Myanmar Protests
The protests which have raged in Myanmar since the Feb. 1 military coup turned deadly again on Saturday. Two people were reportedly killed after police fired live rounds, tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets, according to NPR.
Citizens were forced to flee when security forces began chasing and firing on them. Reports say one person was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest and another after being shot in the head. It marked the deadliest day of protests since the military overthrew the government.
Confirmed Coronavirus Cases Surpass 100 Million Worldwide
According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the number of COVID cases reported worldwide has surpassed 100 million and the death toll rose above two million deaths have been reported worldwide since the start of the pandemic roughly a year ago. The United States surpasses all other countries in both cases and deaths.