Biden’s Team Tells Senate Democrats To Send Him Judicial Nominees ASAP

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington. 

The president-elect wants recommendations for all existing district court vacancies by Jan. 19, says his incoming White House counsel.

President-elect Joe Biden is signaling that he’s ready to move quickly with nominating judges once he’s sworn into office. And he specifically wants Democratic senators to recommend nominees to him who are diverse, not just in terms of race or gender, but professionally ― something progressives have been clamoring for for years.

In a letter obtained by HuffPost, Biden’s incoming White House counsel Dana Remus tells Democratic senators to try to find public defenders and civil rights attorneys in their states who they think would be a good fit for a federal judgeship.

“With respect to U.S. District Court positions, we are particularly focused on nominating individuals whose legal experiences have been historically underrepresented on the federal bench, including those who are public defenders, civil rights and legal aid attorneys, and those who represent Americans in every walk of life,” reads the Dec. 22 letter.

Biden also wants judicial nominee recommendations for existing district court vacancies “as soon as possible,” said Remus, and no later than Jan. 19 ― a day before Biden is formally sworn in.

As of Wednesday, there are 43 district court vacancies

Beyond that, the president-elect wants Democratic senators to recommend nominees to him within weeks of any vacancy opening up on a U.S. district court.

“Moving forward, we will request that you forward names to us within 45 days of any new vacancy being announced, so that we can expeditiously consider your recommendations,” she added.

Here’s Remus’ full letter, which urges senators to propose judicial nominees who are also diverse based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, veteran status and disability. 

A spokesperson for Biden’s transition team did not respond to a request for comment for more details on the judicial nominees Biden plans to put forward once he’s sworn in.

Progressives have long been calling for more diversity in federal court picks, particularly when it comes to a nominee’s professional background. President Donald Trump’s didn’t add much diversity to the courts at all; most of his federal judges are white men with ties to corporate law firms. President Barack Obama put a historic number of women and minorities onto the federal bench. But even he didn’t put forward many people who didn’t have a background in corporate law.

“We face a federal bench that has a striking lack of diversity,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said back in 2014, during an Obama-era event on professional diversity on the courts. “President Obama has supported some notable exceptions but ... the president’s nominees have thus far been largely in line with the prior statistics.”

Chris Kang of Demand Justice, a progressive judicial advocacy group, said the letter reflects “exactly the kind of priorities and processes that we have been pushing for and that will be necessary to rebalance our courts after four years of Trump and McConnell.”

That Biden is emphasizing the need for professional diversity in judicial nominees before he’s even sworn in “demonstrates his commitment to build on the historic demographic diversity of President Obama’s judges,” Kang said. “And his clear timeline underscores that judges will be a priority from day one of his administration.”

Of course, Biden’s plan for confirming judges hangs in the balance ahead of Georgia’s Senate runoff elections in January. The outcome of these elections will decide which party controls the Senate for the next two years.

Even if just one of Georgia’s two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, holds on  to his or her seat, which is likely, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will remain in charge. That would mean Biden may have to prepare for the kind of unwavering obstruction that Obama faced from McConnell in getting his judicial picks confirmed. For years, Republicans tossed aside Senate rules and traditions to block Obama’s court picks, even noncontroversial nominees they previously supported

That experience has left some experts skeptical of Biden’s chances of diversifying the courts if the GOP controls the Senate.

“I don’t think McConnell is likely to confirm many of Biden’s nominees at all,” said Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow in the Brookings Institution’s Governance Studies Program, recently told HuffPost. “Some people have said that maybe Joe and Mitch would get together, these old buddies, these members of the Senate club are going to work things out. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

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Vaccinating Black Americans Is Essential. Key States Aren’t Doing the Work to Combat Hesitancy

Vaccine

Texas, Georgia and Illinois’ state plans make no mention of how they plan to reach and reassure their Black residents.

Though African Americans are being hospitalized for COVID-19 at more than triple the rate of white Americans, wariness of the new vaccine is higher in the Black population than in most communities. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted communities of color as a “critical population” to vaccinate. But ProPublica found little in the way of concrete action to make sure that happens.

It will be up to states to make sure residents get the vaccine, but ProPublica reviewed the distribution plans of the nine states with the most Black residents and found that many have barely invested in overcoming historic mistrust of the medical establishment and high levels of vaccine hesitancy in the Black community. Few states could articulate specific measures they are taking to address the vaccine skepticism.

And it could be hard to track which populations are getting the vaccine. While the CDC has asked states to report the race and ethnicity of every recipient, along with other demographic information like age and sex, the agency doesn’t appear ready to apply any downward pressure to ensure that such information will be collected.

In state vaccination registries, race and ethnicity fields are simply considered “nice to have,” explained Mitchel Rothholz, chief of governance and state affiliates for the American Pharmacists Association. While other fields are mandatory, such as the patient’s contact information and date of birth, leaving race and ethnicity blank “won’t keep a provider from submitting the data if they don’t have it.”

In the initial stages, vaccines will go to people who are easy to find, like health care workers and nursing home residents. But barriers will increase when distribution moves to the next tier — which includes essential workers, a far larger and more amorphous group. Instead of bringing the vaccine to them, it’s more likely that workers will have to seek out the vaccine, so hesitancy and lack of access will become important factors in who gets the shots and who misses out.

“There are individuals who are required to be on the front line to serve in their jobs but perhaps don’t have equitable access to health care services or have insurance but it’s a challenge to access care,” said Dr. Grace Lee, a professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine and member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is tasked with issuing guidance on the prioritization of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. “We can build equity into our recommendations, but implementation is where the rubber meets the road.”

Hesitancy is rooted in medical exploitation and mistreatment

About a quarter of the public feels hesitant about a COVID-19 vaccine, meaning they probably or definitely would not get it, according to a December poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Hesitancy was higher than average among Black adults in the survey, with 35% saying that they definitely or probably would not get vaccinated.

Mistrust of the medical community among people of color is well-founded, stemming from a history of unscrupulous medical experimentation. The infamous Tuskegee study, conducted from 1932 to 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service, still looms large in the memories of many Black Americans, who remember how researchers knowingly withheld treatment from African American sharecroppers with syphilis in order to study the disease’s progression.

But the injustices aren’t confined to the past. The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine has found that minorities tend to receive lower-quality health care than white counterparts, even when adjusting for age, income, insurance and severity of condition. Black Americans are also more likely to be uninsured and utilize primary care services less often than white Americans.

“It’s not just about history. It’s about the here and now,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, an infectious disease physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. “People point to racial injustice across the system. It’s not just hospitals; people don’t trust the government, or they ask about the pharmaceutical industry’s profit motive. From the very beginning, Black and brown people are marginalized from the enterprise of research. They think: ‘So few people look like us in research, industry and academia, why should we trust that someone at that table is thinking of our interest?’”

When it comes to vaccinations, the consequences can be grave. Black and Hispanic people are less likely to get the flu shot than white people, according to the CDC. At the same time, Black Americans have the highest rate of flu-associated hospitalizations, at 68 people per 100,000 population, compared to 38 people per 100,000 in the non-Hispanic white population.

Health officials have tried to assuage vaccine concerns in the traditional way, by publicizing specific individuals receiving the shot. The U.S. began its mass immunization effort by injecting a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine into the left upper-arm of Sandra Lindsay, a Black woman and critical care nurse in New York.

Meanwhile, an onslaught of memes and conspiracy theories characterizing the vaccine as harmful are making the rounds on social media. One reads, “Just had the covid-19 vaccine. Feeling great,” along with the picture of the character from the 1980 movie “The Elephant Man.” Another image circulating on Twitter features the photos of three Black people and claims they are suffering from Bell’s palsy due to the vaccine. The Twitter user who shared the image asked followers, “still want those Tuskegee 2.0 genocide vaccines?”

It may only take one or two negative headlines to further sow fear, said Komal Patel, who has 16 years of experience as a pharmacist in California. After two health care workers in the United Kingdom experienced allergic reactions to Pfizer’s vaccine, Patel said she saw anxiety spike on social media, even though regulators have said that only people with a history of anaphylaxis — a severe or life threatening immune reaction — to ingredients in the vaccine need to avoid taking the shot. “Just two patients, and here we go, there’s all this chatter.”

Vaccine
Sandra Lindsay, left, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester on Dec. 14 in the Queens borough of New York. Mark Lennihan / Associated Press

Key states lack concrete plans to promote vaccines in Black communitie

It falls to states to make sure their residents of color are vaccinated. But the speed at which the vaccine needs to be disseminated means that states haven’t had much time to plan communications efforts, said Lee, from CDC’s advisory group. “How do we make sure messaging is appropriate? You may want to emphasize different messages for different communities. We don’t have the time for that.”

ProPublica found that few states can articulate specifically what they are doing to address vaccine skepticism in the Black community.

Texas, Georgia and Illinois’ state plans make no mention of how they plan to reach and reassure their Black residents. Black communities make up between 13% and 33% of the population in the three states, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. None of the three states’ health departments responded to requests for comment.

California’s state plan includes “a public information campaign … to support vaccine confidence,” but does not provide details apart from the state’s intention to use social media, broadcast outlets and word of mouth. In an email, the California Department of Public Health did not provide additional information about outreach to Black residents, only saying, “this is an important issue we continue to work on.”

A spokesman for New York’s Department of Public Health said the state has been working since September to overcome hesitancy with expert panels and events like Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s November meeting with community leaders in Harlem to discuss concerns with the Trump administration’s vaccine plan, specifically for communities of color.

“Governor Cuomo has been leading the national effort to ensure…black, brown and underserved communities have equal access to, and confidence in, the vaccine,” a Saturday statement said.

Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said: “Media outreach is not enough. TV ads are one thing, but usually public service announcements are at midnight when nobody is listening, because that’s when they’re free.” Normally, public health officials go to barber shops, beauty salons, bowling alleys and other popular locales to hand out flyers and answer questions, but due to the pandemic and limits on congregating, that’s not an option, Benjamin said, so officials need to plan a serious social media strategy. That could involve partnering with “influencers” like sports figures and music stars by having them interview public health figures, Benjamin suggested

Dr. Mark Kittleson, chair of the Department of Public Health at New York Medical College, said he’s not surprised to hear how vague some of the state health plans are, because states often focus on providing high-level guidance while county or regional level health departments are left to execute the plan. But he said specific efforts need to be undertaken to reach residents of color.

“Spokespeople for the vaccination need to be a diverse group,” Kittleson said. “Dr. Tony Fauci is fantastic, but every state needs to find the leading health care experts that represent the diversity in their own state, whether it’s Native American, African American or Latino.” Kittleson also suggested partnering with churches.“Especially in the African American community, when the minister stands up and says, ‘Folks, you need to take your blood pressure medication and take care of yourself,’ people listen to that,” he said. “The church needs to be brought into the fold.”

Maryland’s state plan acknowledges the distrust among Black and Latino communities as well as rural residents, and says it will aim to tailor communication to each group by working with trusted community partners and representatives of vulnerable groups. A Department of Health spokesperson said in an email that “as vaccination distribution continues to ramp up, we urge all individuals to get the vaccine.”

Florida’s written plan includes a messaging strategy for everyone in the state, but does not specifically address the Black community. A “thorough vaccination communication plan continues to be developed in order to combat vaccine hesitancy,” a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health said in response to ProPublica’s queries.

In North Carolina and Virginia, however, health officials started preparing months ago to reassure residents about potential vaccines. North Carolina formed a committee in May with leaders from marginalized communities to guide the state’s overall response to the pandemic. Vaccine concerns were a priority, said Benjamin Money, deputy secretary of health services for North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services.

The politicization of the pandemic has mobilized the Black and brown medical scientific community to dig into the research and how the vaccines work, Money said, “so that they can feel assured that the vaccine’s safe and it’s effective and they can convey the message to their patients and to their community constituents.”

The committee is advising North Carolina officials on their vaccine messaging and hosting a webinar for Black religious leaders. Similarly, the Virginia Department of Health has staff devoted to health equity across racial and ethnic groups and is putting on a series of town hall-style meetings speaking to specific communities of color.

Black residents in Virginia have expressed concerns about how rapidly the early vaccines were developed, said Dr. Norman Oliver, Virginia’s state health commissioner.

“It all boils down to telling people the truth,” Oliver said. “The first thing to let folks know is that one of the reasons why these vaccines were developed so quickly is because of the advances in technology since the last time we did vaccines; we’re not trying to grow live virus and keep it under control or do attenuated virus and develop a vaccine this way.”

In addition to promoting reliable information, Virginia health officials hired a company to monitor the spread of vaccine misinformation in the state and to locate where falsehoods appear to be taking hold, Oliver said. The state hopes to target its communications in places where distrust is most intense.

The CDC has set aside $6.5 million to support 10 national organizations, according to spokesperson Kristen Nordlund. The funds are “to be disbursed by each organization to their affiliates and chapters across the country so they may do immunization-focused community engagement in the local communities they serve,” Nordlund said in an email. She didn’t respond to questions on whether the funds had already been disbursed and to which organizations.

Vaccine
Registered nurse Corie Robinson administers the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 to Kaiser Permanente nurse Sally Bing during a vaccine event at Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill Medical Center in Washington on Dec. 17. Shawn Thew / Associated Press

Data collection on the race of vaccine recipients is likely to be incomplete

Every state has a vaccination registry, where data on administered shots is routinely reported, from childhood vaccinations to the flu shot. What’s new in this pandemic is that the CDC has requested all the data be funneled up to the federal level, so it can track vaccination progress across the nation.

“Race and ethnicity data should be recorded in states’ immunization data, but we do not know how reliably it is collected,” said Mary Beth Kurilo, senior director of health informatics at the American Immunization Registry Association. “We really don’t have good data on how well it’s captured out there across the country.”

Many immunization records are fed into the state’s registry directly from a doctor’s electronic health record system, Kurilo said, which can present technological stumbling blocks: “Is [the data] routinely captured as part of the registration process? Can they capture multiple races, which I think is something that’s become increasingly important going forward?”

When asked about historic rates of compliance and how they planned to gather information on race and ethnicity of vaccine recipients this time, health departments from Georgia, Texas, Illinois, Florida and California didn’t respond.

Maryland’s state plans indicate it intends to use information gathered through its vaccine appointment scheduling system, including demographic data gathered from recipients, to direct its communication outreach efforts. The Maryland Department of Health, which didn’t provide more detailed information, said it is “currently exploring all options as far as vaccine data reporting.”

North Carolina’s immunization records system routinely collects race and ethnicity information, and a spokesperson told ProPublica it has that type of demographic data for 71% of people in the system. Stephanie Wheawill, director of pharmacy services at the Virginia Department of Health, said that providers will be “asked to record that information” but didn’t elaborate on how the department planned to encourage or enforce compliance.

Data fields for vaccine recipients’ race and ethnicity are standard in New York, a spokesman said. But the state didn’t provide any details about rates of compliance in supplying that data.

“You’ve got to have the data to compare,” said Martha Dawson, president of the National Black Nurses Association and an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s nursing school. “Because if you don’t have the data, then we’re just guessing. There’s no way to know who received it if you don’t take the data.”

There is tension between gathering enough data to understand the extent of the rollout and the possibility that asking for too much information will scare away people who are already leery of the vaccine.

“The biggest concern people have is how will this information be used?” said Lee, from the CDC’s advisory group. “People need to trust that the data will be used with a good intent.”

Rothholz, with the American Pharmacists Association, said there could be ways apart from state registries to estimate vaccine uptake among minorities. “If I’m a community pharmacy in a predominantly African American community, if I’m giving away 900 or 1000 vaccines, you can track penetration that way,” he said. Geographic-based analysis, however, would depend on the shots being distributed via community pharmacies rather than by mass vaccination sites — a less likely scenario for the Pfizer vaccine, the first to be administered, which requires ultracold storage that will be difficult for many small pharmacies to manage.

It will be up to doctors and community leaders to encourage trust

The best way to help a worried individual, whether scared about data collection or the vaccine itself, is a conversation with a trusted caregiver, according to Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association.

“Time and again it’s been shown that one of the most valuable things to encourage a patient to undertake a change, whether it’s stopping smoking or losing weight, is a one-on-one conversation with a trusted caregiver — having your physician saying, ‘I took it and I really want you to take it too,” she said. “But patients have to have the opportunity to ask questions, and not to be blown off or belittled or feel troublesome for asking all their questions.”

“If someone says that they’re afraid of being a guinea pig, maybe drill a bit deeper,” Bailey suggested. “Ask, ‘What are you concerned about? Are you concerned about side effects? Are you concerned that not enough people have taken it?’”

The American Academy of Family Physicians uses the mnemonic “ACT” to guide their members in conversations with patients of color, president Dr. Ada Stewart said in an email: “Be Accountable and Acknowledge both historical and contemporary transgressions against Black, brown and Indigenous communities. … Communicate safety, efficacy and harms such that individuals can weigh their own personal risk to potential benefits, and exercise Transparency with regard to the development of vaccines and the distribution process.”

David Hodge, associate director of education at Tuskegee University’s National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care, urges Black and brown leaders such as pastors and community organizers to take control of the messaging right now and not wait for their local governments to tackle the issue.

“We’re not in a position right now to be patient. We’re not in a position to sit on the sidelines, we have to make it happen.”

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MSNBC is getting a new president, the first Black person to run a major cable news network

Rashida Jones, a senior vice president with a wide portfolio at NBC News and MSNBC, will become president of the network on February 1.
The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news of her appointment, said that Jones will be the first Black person to run a major cable news network.
The transition was announced by NBCUniversal News Group chair Cesar Conde on Monday afternoon.
    "She has an outstanding track-record and she leads with a laser-like focus and grace under pressure. I know she will be an excellent leader for MSNBC," Conde wrote in an internal memo.
    Conde said that Griffin came to him shortly after the presidential election and spoke about "his desire to depart at a time of his choosing and when he felt confident about the strength of the network he loves."
    Transitions in Washington, D.C. often lead to turnover in the news business as well.
    Griffin, 64, "has many interests and passions outside news -- and he is energized right now by the prospect of being able to participate in them professionally," Conde said in his memo.
    November was MSNBC's most-watched month in its 24-year history. But the channel finds itself in a challenging competitive landscape at the end of President Trump's time in office. In November the channel still ranked third in cable news behind CNN and Fox News, since cable news viewership was up across the board during the election period.
    MSNBC's biggest strengths are political talk shows like "The Rachel Maddow Show" and "The Beat with Ari Melber," which have big and loyal audiences.
    Conde's memo credited Griffin with "six straight record years" in the ratings, "each one better than the last," which is in part a testament to intense interest in Trump's campaign and presidency.
    The beginning of the Biden presidency may scramble the cable news wars in ways that remain to be seen.
    Jones has been at MSNBC and NBC News since 2013. She previously worked at The Weather Channel and at local stations. She rose through the ranks at NBC and became the senior vice president for specials in 2017.
      Jones' portfolio was expanded earlier this year when she was put in charge of MSNBC's daytime and weekend news schedule.
      "In the last year alone that has meant, of course, that she has masterfully guided our coverage of the global pandemic, the social justice protests and unrest, Decision 2020, and the two most-viewed Democratic presidential debates in television history," Conde wrote on Monday.
      CNN.COM

      Second top Black female Google employee says she was recently ousted

      Image: Google Inc. Campus As Company Aims At Privacy Law

      Former students say the latest fired executive was an inspiring mentor.

      On Monday night, April Christina Curley, a diversity recruiter at Google, announced on Twitter that she had been fired in September.

      She started at Google in 2014, helping the company improve its relationships with historically Black colleges and universities. Before taking the job, Curley tweeted that the company had not “hired a single HBCU student into a tech role.”

      Six years later, Curley tweeted that she had "brought in over 300 Black and Brown students from HBCUs who were hired into [engineering] roles."

      Curley’s departure from Google is the second public dispute this month between the leadership of the company and Black women who have been celebrated for success in the tech field. Earlier this month, one of Google’s top female executives, Timnit Gebru — a highly respected research scientist, well known for her advocacy for increased diversity in the tech industry — said she also had been fired. The company's head of research said Gebru had resigned.

      The departure of Gebru, who served as a co-lead of the company’s Ethical Artificial Intelligence Team, came after she sent an email to colleagues saying that the company had forced her to retract a paper on ethical problems involving artificial intelligence systems used to understand human language, including one that powers Google’s search engine.

      This time, Curley’s accusations about the company were even broader. Curley alleged on Twitter that during her time at Google she was denied multiple promotions, put on performance improvement plans, had her compensation reduced, was yelled at, excluded from meetings, denied leadership roles and harassed by managers, including being told that her Baltimore accent was a disability that she needed to disclose to colleagues. Curley further alleged that she was once asked by another manager “which of my teammates I would sleep with,” she wrote on Twitter.

      Google declined repeated requests for comment on these allegations.

      Familiar Story

      Curley’s announcement this week caps a year in which Google employees have spoken out about the company’s treatment of Black and brown employees. In the three weeks since Gebru announced on Twitter that she was fired, over 2,690 Google employees signed a letter of support for her.

      “Instead of being embraced by Google as an exceptionally talented and prolific contributor, Dr. Gebru has faced defensiveness, racism, gaslighting, research censorship, and now a retaliatory firing,” the statement reads.

      An investigation by NBC News in May found that the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion programs had been reduced, according to current and former employees, who separately said that the reductions were made in an apparent effort to avoid being perceived as being biased against conservatives. Google denied that cuts were made in reaction to conservative criticism. But the investigation prompted an inquiry by 10 members of Congress into how Google is working to cultivate diversity within its workforce.

      In June, the Black Googler Network, an employee resource group, worked with thousands of employees to come up with a list of demands regarding workforce representation, internal recognition, mental health and adequate time off, said one Google employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of being fired for speaking publicly.

      The co-chairs of the network had a meeting with Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet, Google's parent company, and other leaders to present their demands on June 9, the employee said.

      "All they did was say, 'We're going to commit to hiring (30) percent of underrepresented leaders by 2025," the employee said in an interview.

      But "watered down" commitments are just one response to Black and brown employees demanding equity, the employee added.

      “This Dr. Timnit story really stings because we've seen what happens to Black women in Google who push against the status quo and try to push for more equitable outcomes," the employee said. "It's usually that they're forced to leave the company, seeing people who weren't fired but were made miserable so they did end up resigning. I've seen those tactics used. I've also seen, 'Oh this person is speaking out. Get them out of the company.'”

      Google declined repeated requests for comment about these discussions.

      “Constantly dehumanized”

      Gebru’s email, sent shortly before she left the company, detailed her frustration with Google's efforts to create a more inclusive workspace. She said that she felt “constantly dehumanized” at Google. The company declined to comment, but pointed to an email from Google’s head of research, Jeff Dean, to employees, published by the technology newsletter Platformer, in which he said that Gebru had resigned.

      After Gebru left the company this month, members of Congress started to raise questions about diversity hiring. They drafted a letter demanding answers into how Google intends to improve its issues with retaining a diverse workforce.

      “Full stop — We can’t prevent algorithmic bias in innovative tech if POC don’t have a seat at the table,” wrote Rep. Yvette Clark, D-N.Y., who spearheaded the letter, on Twitter, using an acronym for people of color.

      Google isn’t the only tech company that has faced serious allegations of internal racism this year. Pinterest was accused of racism by two former ex-public policy officials, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, who quit at the end of May and went public with their claims in June. At the time Pinterest told CNBC that the company had conducted an investigation and found that the employees had been treated fairly.

      The technology industry has long been known for being dominated by white men, particularly in technical jobs. At Google, Black women represent only 0.7 percent of its technical workforce and Black employees make up 2.4 percent of the technical workforce overall, according to the company’s 2020 diversity report. At Facebook, Black employees make up only 1.7 percent of its tech workforce, the diversity report said.

      Loyal following

      After Curley shared her experience on Monday, students from historically Black colleges and universities with whom she worked over the years responded with an outpouring of support.

      “I can tell y’all personally and professionally that April had an impact on my journey into CS [computer science] with her active presence on campus, resources she helped me get, and events she held for students,” wrote Brianna Fugate on Twitter. Fugate is an engineer at Mailchimp, and graduated from Spelman College in 2018.

      Others who work to elevate students from HBCUs expressed dismay at Curley’s story as it spread rapidly across social media Monday night.

      Nicole Tinson founded HBCU20x20 three years ago to connect Black people from the HBCU community with well-paying jobs and internship opportunities. The organization began a partnership with Google in September, she said.

      But Tinson and her team became wary of the company after learning of Gebru’s situation. When they read Curley’s Twitter thread on Monday evening, Tinson decided to end the partnership between HBCU20x20 and Google.

      “It’s really important for me to know that when we partner with a company — whether it’s a student looking for an internship or a professional looking for their next career move — we want to know that they’re going somewhere where they’ll be appreciated,” Tinson said.

      “We want to know they’re going somewhere where there’s some sort of culture set up for inclusion where they can feel comfortable being themselves and feel a part of the team. What we’re continuing to see with Google specifically is a culture that isn’t willing to be disrupted and to accept everyone as they are, and who they are.”

      Experts say that what happened to Gebru and Curley is a symptom of a larger problem with how Black people are treated in the technology industry. Meredith Broussard, a professor of journalism at New York University who specializes in artificial intelligence research and data journalism, described Gebru as “one of the most talented AI ethics researchers in the world.”

      “The fact that she was pushed out is terrible and it brought to light these long-standing issues that Black women face inside big tech companies,” Broussard said. “There are long-standing issues of systemic racism, of institutionalized sexism, at big tech companies the same way that there are these issues everywhere else in the world. And big tech really needs to recognize these issues.”

      Top News Virginia Deputy Fired After Far Right Calls For Violence On Social Media

      All-New 2020 Ford® Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid SUV

      A post on Aaron Hoffman’s Parler account suggested that Supreme Court Justice John Roberts’ life “needs to be shortened.”

      A Virginia sheriff’s deputy was fired Saturday after a freelance journalist linked his social media account to chilling threats against politicians and judges.

      One of the comments — posted on the deputy’s “WeThePeopleWarrior” profile on rightwing social media platform Parler — called on followers to find the homes of politicians and “liberal” judges, and “remove them from their sanctuary.” 

      “Take back your state capitals,” the post urged. “Find the homes of every governor, mayor, attorney general, liberal judge, senator, congressman and every major media/social media CEO. Find them. Remove them from their sanctuary. Bring the nightmare to where they lay their heads and kiss their loved ones. Show them that they are NOT untouchable.”

      The deputy was identified in a local press report and by The Washington Post as Aaron Hoffman. He was exposed by Charlottesville freelance journalist Molly Conger, who revealed the posts in a Twitter thread. 

      Hoffman told the Post that the account was his, but insisted he didn’t post the comments.“ I did not make those posts,” Hoffman said. “I’m trying to figure out who did.” He said the comments also “disturbed” him.

      By Saturday afternoon all of Hoffman’s social media accounts had either been set to private or deleted. 

      Another post from Hoffman’s account included a threat to kill anyone who touched his children to vaccinate them against COVID-19 without his consent. “Not a threat, but a promise,” the post added.

      The person behind the WeThePeopleWarrior account also posted that he would become “insanely violent” if anyone tried to make him wear a face mask. There was also a threatening comment about Barack Obama, and a suggestion that the life of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts “needs to be shortened.” Roberts has become a particular target recently of the extreme rightwing because of his lack of action to overturn the presidential election.

      WeThePeopleWarrior posts in response to a comment about "corrupt" Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.
      WeThePeopleWarrior posts in response to a comment about “corrupt” Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.
      Prince William Sheriff Glendell Hill (R) told the Post that he found the comments “very despicable. That’s why I took the action that I took,” he added, referring to Hoffman’s firing. “I certainly don’t approve of that, and, of course, it’s against our policy.”

      The Sheriff’s Office issued a statement on Facebook Saturday noting that it had been “notified about disturbing comments being made on several social media outlets by a deputy sheriff,” who was not named.

      Following an internal affairs investigation, the “deputy has been terminated from employment with our office,” the statement added. The office thanked the public for “bringing this to our attention.”

      People commenting on the Facebook page hailed the quick action by authorities, but feared that Hoffman might seek employment now on another police force. Many were also concerned that he’s still apparently heavily armed. Conger reposted a Hoffman post on Parler showing off his weapons.

      An Arkansa police chief resigned last month after a Parler message calling for “death to all Marxist Democrats” was linked to him. Lang Holland, now the former police chief of Marshall, initially claimed his account had been hacked, but later admitted he had penned the posts.

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