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PODCAST REVIEW: Deconstructed by The Intercept

The Deconstructed podcast by The Intercept dives into the controversy that has emerged in the days following the winter storm in Texas and subsequent power failure.

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Millions of Texans are dealing with the aftermath of a relentless winter storm that knocked out power and left some without running water. The storm is also being blamed for at least 26 deaths. Unfortunately, politics have taken center stage following the catastrophic failure of the state’s power grid.

The state is rich in fossil fuels and renewable power, so the power grid has been free from federal oversight for decades. The Deconstructed podcast by The Intercept dives into the controversy that has emerged in the days following the storm and subsequent power failure.

Host Ryan Grim spoke to former congressional candidate Mike Siegel and former Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, about how the state’s power grid collapsed and whether this event could have been prevented.

The episode seeks to blame state Republicans who gained control of the Texas House of Representatives in the early part of the century. The show suggests the party devised a gerrymandering scheme that ultimately resulted in an experiment in deregulation that led to the great energy collapse of 2021.

O’Rourke blasted the state’s Republican party saying that there are some politicians in the state government who are “in the highest positions of public trust who just fundamentally don’t believe in government.” While O’Rourke believes the state’s GOP party is to blame, those on the other side feel the Green New Deal is the culprit.

The argument may be flawed given the fact the deal has not become federal law yet. Fox and other Right-wing networks spent a majority of last week blaming frozen wind turbines for the state’s power failure.

“Unbeknownst to most people, the Green New Deal came to Texas, the power grid in the state became totally reliant on windmills,” said Tucker Carlson during his Feb. 16 show. “Then it got cold and the windmills broke, because that’s what happens in the Green New Deal.”

During a two-day period, windmills or wind turbines were mentioned more than 100 times on Fox News and Fox Business, according to TVEyes, a media monitoring service.

“The windmills failed, like the silly fashion accessories they are, and people in Texas died,” Carlson continued. “Green energy inevitably means blackouts.”

The State of Texas is not immune from major winter storms. According to data gathered by the National Weather Service, most of Texas gets less than an inch of snow per year on average. West Texas, places like Amarillo and El Paso, gets more snow than the rest of the state.

“It wasn’t as if Texas didn’t know cold winters were possible,” Grimm said. “In 1989 a cold snap crashed below zero and caused major power outages. “In 2011, it happened again which forced rolling power blackouts across the state. Politics got us into this mess, and only politics will get us out.”

Mike Siegel, a teacher, and civil rights attorney came up short in his first run for a Texas congressional seat in 2018 and 2020 claims state Republicans have sold residents out by controlling big oil and big gas.

“This is a catastrophic failure of Republican governance,” Siegel said. “Going back 20 years or more when they supported deregulation, allowing for an electrical system that’s basically on-demand spot bidding, these energy providers are basically buying energy on the market and so the price goes up ten-thousand percent. That is just business as usual in Texas.”

Siegel said 10 years ago the state had a major freeze where the recommendation that came out of that was that the state need to weatherize the grid and the facilities and Republican leaders never followed through on that plan.

“We have frozen wells, frozen lines, and that’s a big part of our electrical grid here in Texas,” he said. “Most of our reserve energy that is supposed to come through for us at a time like this, didn’t come online. They (Republicans) would never look at themselves in the mirror. Governor Abbott would never admit to failure.”

Siegel said the GOP’S cover-up was to blanket right-wing news outlets and create the narrative that the Green New Deal. 

Each week the Intercept’s Washington D.C. bureau brings you one important or overlooked story from the political world. Bureau Chief Ryan Grimes and a rotating cast of journalists, politicians, academics, and historians tell you what the media is missing.

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PODCAST REVIEW: Colors: A Dialogue on Race in America

Hosts JJ Green and Chris Core deliver a candid discussion on race in America by sharing the stories of those who are on the frontlines of the struggle.

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A podcast produced by WTOP Radio in Washington D.C. discusses the plight of Black farmers in the United States. Colors: A Dialogue of Race in America, hosted by WTOP National Security Correspondent JJ Green and former WTOP contributor Chris Core, delivers a candid discussion on race in America by sharing the stories of those who are on the frontlines of the struggle.

Joining Green and Core for episode 38 is Dr. John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmers Association. Boyd believes that black farmers are facing extinction because of the act of discrimination. Boyd’s organization represents 109,000 farmers in 42 states.

A report published in 2019 by the U.S. Government Accountability office supports Boyd’s claims that minority farmers may not be on an even level playing field with their white counterparts. The report discovered that minorities have a difficult time obtaining loans and credit from private lenders and banks regulated by the United State Department of Agriculture.

“The USDA has done an awful thing by taking land away from Black farmers,” Boyd said. “During the peaks of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s we lost millions of acres of land. When we first started organizing and protesting and rallying around this issue in the mid 90’s the USDA had 1.5 million acres of land in its federal inventory that came from Black farmers like me.”

In addition to his work with the National Black Farmers Association, Boyd runs a Virginia farm where he manages 1500 acres. Two years ago, he was denied a farm operating loan for the first time in nearly two decades.

In 1999, he and 400 other Black farmers sued the USDA in a case known as Pigford v. Glickman where the USDA admitted to discriminating against thousands of Black farmers. The lawsuit was settled two years later when the government compensated Black farmers left out of USDA loan and assistance programs.

More than 13,000 farmers able to provide proof of their claims of discrimination were awarded $50,000 each and given debt relief in a package worth than $1 billion. On the other hand, tens of thousands of claims were denied for missing the filing deadline.

“When we started making progress in the courts, the USDA immediately began to sell and lease this land to white farmers who were on the county committee,” Boyd said. “That discrimination has led to a drastic decrease in numbers.”

The total number of Black farmers in this country has steadily been on the decline since the early 1900’s. As of 2017, there were only 50,000 Black farmers nationwide. The reason, without loans or access to USDA support programs, Black farmland has become vulnerable to sale or foreclosure.

“We would only receive a fraction of the loans we applied for to borrow,” said Boyd after being asked about systemic racism in the Black farming community. “I don’t think I have ever received a farm operating loan from the government for more than $5,000.

Colors: A Dialogue of Race in America is a revival of a similar radio show in 1993 at WMAL called Black and White. Their show aired following the beating of Los Angeles motorist Rodney King.

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PODCAST REVIEW: The DeMaio Report

Host Carl DeMaio spoke to supervisor Joel Anderson who supported police officers receiving the vaccine. The vote to not vaccinate police officers came after the local law enforcement community urged officials to consider the danger officers face responding to calls.

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The debate about who should be vaccinated first rages on in San Diego, California where the county board of supervisors has voted against police officers getting the shot. Currently, law enforcement is included in Phase 1B – Tier.

The DeMaio Report podcast hosted by former city council member and NewsRadio 600 KOGO host Carl DeMaio spoke to supervisor Joel Anderson who supported police officers receiving the vaccine. The vote to not vaccinate police officers came after the local law enforcement community urged officials to consider the danger officers face responding to calls.

“How can we possibly exclude our law enforcement when they are critical to many parts in the county?” said Anderson. “If they’re struck down by COVID, yes like firefighters and other young people they’re not likely to die but others may because they weren’t there to protect them.”

The county has already vaccinated firefighters, many of whom are cross trained as paramedics. Most police officers do not function as paramedics, but the Governor Newsome said counties can adjust the phases and tiers as they see fit.

Anderson said there are more than 20 counties that vaccinate law enforcement, including several in Southern California. Another obstacle to getting police officers vaccinated is the face that they only make up 0.2% of all COVID cases in San Diego County.

“We have lost two enforcement officers to this virus that I am aware of,” Anderson said. “The push for them to be moved ahead in the vaccination process is not because I am concerned that they are more susceptible, it’s the nature of their job, they are first responders.”

The county’s public health officer, Dr. Wilma Wooten said she would not support changing the tiers because she wanted to make sure senior citizens received the vaccine and others who might have preexisting health conditions.

The board voted 3-2 against making the item. Even if it had passed, it was only a recommendation. The final decision would have rested with Wooten, as public health officer. 

“Last year, over 10,000 people’s lives were saved by police officers gave CPR,” Anderson said. “Now, you can imagine, somebody is giving CPR, they don’t know that they have COVID, they share it with all of their fellow employees and those employees go home and share it with their family members.”

Anderson said one of his main concerns is the availability of the vaccine and if an outbreak occurs at the police department, the availability of police in the county to handle the volume of calls necessary to protect the public.

Like all issues that have to do with the coronavirus, the question about who should get vaccinated first seems like a partisan issue. All three Democrats, Nathan Fletcher, Nora Varags, and Terra Lawson-Remer voted against allowing police officers to receive the vaccine.

“To do it today would be taking a vaccine away from a senior,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who opposed the item. “For that senior, COVID can be a death sentence.”

The DeMaio Report offers candid discussion on the latest in local and national political headlines. The show also features input and commentary from listeners, fueling political engagement in the San Diego community.

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PODCAST REVIEW: The Daily Dive

The Daily Dive podcast hosted by Oscar Ramirez dives into the complexity of unionizing an Amazon warehouse in the Deep South and what a move like this means for the future of one of America’s largest employers.

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An effort is underway by Amazon workers in Alabama to form a union. The effort is being led by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU) who says that despite Amazon’s last-ditch effort to delay a vote on unionizing, a vote will indeed take place on Monday.

If workers vote yes, it would be the first Amazon warehouse in the United State to have union representation.

The Daily Dive podcast hosted by Oscar Ramirez dives into the complexity of unionizing an Amazon warehouse in the Deep South and what a move like this means for the future of one of America’s largest employers. Joining Ramirez on the podcast is Jay Green, technology reporter for the Washington Post.

“There are a group of workers at a warehouse that Amazon opened last March in Bessemer, Alabama, and they want to organize a union,” Green said. “The workers have filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to form the union. The NLRB determined that there would be 5,805 workers that would be considered part of the bargaining unit.”

The head of the RWDSU recently issued a statement on the impending unionization vote accusing Amazon of blatantly disregarding the health and safety of its own workforce.

“The decision to move forward with the vote to form a union proves that it’s long past time that Amazon start respecting its own employees; and allow them to cast their votes without intimidation and interference.”

Amazon has said that a union is unnecessary because the company already offers competitive wages, health insurance, and a retirement plan.

“The union countered and said this really isn’t about money, they want dignity and respect,” Green said. “Workers in Amazon’s warehouses are measured on specific performance metrics. Workers say the facility in Bessemer can get hot in the summer, some workers say  they’ve been overwhelmed by heat.” 

A vote to unionize has brought endless amounts of texts, Facebook ads, and anti-union pamphlets from Amazon. The Washington Post reported that the company is even putting anti-union literature in warehouse bathrooms. “They get right in your face when you’re using the bathroom,” said one worker.

Amazon created a website to tell its workers that if they vote to form a union they will have to pay dues to RWDSU. “Be a doer, not a due’r,” the site warns. “If you’re paying dues…It will be restrictive, meaning it won’t be easy to be as helpful and social with each other. So be a doer, stay friendly and get things done versus paying dues.”

“At the beginning of the pandemic, Amazon gave workers a bonus. but at the end of May, the company eliminated that bonus,” Green said. “Workers would like to see that bonus come back because as we all know, the pandemic continues to rage.”

Despite claims in Bessemer that the unionization vote isn’t about money, there is tangible proof that union workers earn better wages than nonunion workers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, among full-time wage salary workers, union members had median weekly earnings of $1,144 compared to $958 for nonunion members in 2020.

The desire to unionize seems to be driven by a couple of things; “Most of this is being driven by the pandemic,”Green said. “They’re showing up to a job and they see coworkers getting the virus and they get scared that they might get it too. The other thing that is going on is that as the pandemic rages on, more and more people started ordering online. Amazon has made a ton of money off that, but that has also put a lot of pressure on its workers.”

Amazon has been criticized, and in one case sued, for its failure to provide workers with adequate protection amid the pandemic. In November, former warehouse worker Christian Smalls filed suit, citing a failure to provide workers with proper personal protective equipment.

“I was a loyal worker and gave my all to Amazon until I was unceremoniously terminated and tossed aside like yesterday’s trash  because I insisted that Amazon protect its dedicated workers from COVID-19,” Smalls said. “I just wanted Amazon to provide basic protective gear to the workers and sanitize the workplace.” Smalls filed the lawsuit eight months after he was fired for organizing a walkout at a State Island fulfillment center.

The big fear for Amazon is that if Bessemer votes to unionize, it’s going to spark interest around the country for other warehouses to do the same thing. 

“That’s why Amazon is particularly concerned about this,” Green said. “You see it in the methods that they are using to discourage workers from voting to join the union.” 

You can hear a new The Daily Dive podcast each weekday morning beginning at 6:00 a.m. ET as the show takes a deeper look into the top news topics happening now. The podcast is available for streaming or download via iHeartMedia and podcast platforms.

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