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How the plagues shape the landscape

How plagues shape the landscape From cholera to AIDS, epidemics have given rise to monuments all over the world, whether they be sculptures, churches or technical feats. In this disastrous moment, their stories resonate.By Yuval Ben-Ami

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How Democrats are already maneuvering to shape Biden’s top Supreme Court choice

WASHINGTON – After a meeting at the Oval Office earlier this month with President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and fellow House Democrats, Rep. James E. Clyburn from South Carolina visited the office of Ms Harris in the West Wing to privately raise a topic that was not addressed in their panel discussion: the Supreme Court.

Mr Clyburn, the highest ranking African American in Congress, wanted to offer Ms Harris the name of potential future justice, according to a Democrat briefed on their conversation. District Court Judge J. Michelle Childs would honor Mr Biden’s pledge to appoint the first black woman to the Supreme Court – and, Mr Clyburn noted, she was also from state South Carolina having political significance for the president.

There may not be a vacant High Court post at the moment, but Mr Clyburn and other lawmakers are already maneuvering to defend candidates and a new approach for an appointment that could come as early as this summer, so that some Democrats are hoping Judge Stephen Breyer, who is 82, will retire. With Democrats holding the tiniest majority of Senate majorities and the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg still painfully fresh on their minds, these party leaders want to shape Mr Biden’s nomination, including pushing the party away from the usual Ivy CVs. League.

The precocious jockey illustrates how eager Democratic officials are to leave their mark on Mr. Biden’s efforts to elevate historically under-represented candidates to historic Supreme Court appointments. But it also highlights baffling class and credibility issues within the Democratic Party that have been just below the surface since the days of the Obama administration.

Some Democrats like Mr. Clyburn, who have nervously watched Republicans try to repackage themselves as a working class party, believe Mr. Biden could send a message about his determination to keep Democrats loyal to their blue collar roots in choosing a candidate like Ms. Childs, who attended public universities.

“One of the things we have to be very, very careful about as Democrats is being painted with this elitist brush,” Clyburn said, adding, “When people talk about diversity, they always look at race. and ethnicity – I look beyond that to the diversity of experiences.

North Carolina Representative GK Butterfield, like Mr. Clyburn, a veteran member of the Congressional Black Caucus, made a similar point in an email to White House attorney Dana Remus last month listing the criteria caucus favorites for Federal Court appointments. Near the top of the list, Mr Butterfield said, was: “The judge should have diverse experience in several contexts and in several areas, including experiences outside of the law.

Mr Biden’s pledge to nominate the first black woman to court was sort of an unusual campaign pledge: Mr Clyburn pushed him to do so during a debate in Charleston ahead of South Carolina’s pivotal primary Last year. It was a wish even some of the president’s aides resisted, fearing it might sound like complacency.

Mr Biden has spoken little in public since his election about his preferences for the court, but as the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he has a sort of split personality when it comes to personnel policy. While he’s happy to point out his Scranton, Pennsylvania roots, his roots, his public school graduation and his nickname “Middle-Class Joe,” he has long surrounded himself with gender-wielding aides and advisers. of pedigree that he lacks.

And some White House officials are already bracing for what they believe to be unfair right-wing attacks on the black woman they choose, believing that the prospective candidate must have a crisp resume. “It’s going to have to be someone with clear credentials, so it doesn’t appear to be an unqualified person,” said a senior Biden official, who spoke of possible court candidates under cover. of anonymity to share his thoughts from inside the West Wing.

Among the potential candidates proposed for a seat on the Supreme Court, Ms Childs has a background that differs from more recent candidates. Unlike eight of the nine current Supreme Court justices, Ms Childs, 54, did not attend an Ivy League college. Her mother worked for Southern Bell in Columbia, SC and Ms. Childs won a scholarship to the University of South Florida. She then graduated from the University of South Carolina Law School and became the first black woman to become a partner in one of the state’s leading law firms. Like a previous generation of jurists, she rose through the ranks in state politics before being appointed to the bench. Ms Childs was a senior official in the South Carolina Department of Labor before being appointed to the state’s workers’ compensation board.

“She’s the kind of person who has the kind of experiences that would make her a good addition to the Supreme Court,” Clyburn said.

Mr Clyburn, whose coveted support helped revive Mr Biden’s enrollment drive ahead of the South Carolina primary last year, has been particularly active on his behalf in what his advisers say are his most important request of the administration. The 80-year-old House Whip defended Ms Childs with Ms Harris; Mrs. Remus; and Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, chairman of the judicial committee.

Bakari Sellers, a Democratic political commentator close to Ms Harris, also introduced members of the Vice President’s inner circle to Ms Childs, who was appointed to the federal bench by Mr Obama in 2010.

“Not just for our party, but also for justice, it is important to have someone who has had experiences,” Sellers said.

What prompted some of these officials to go public with a more aggressive form of advocacy are two developments.

First, they saw items on a shortlist in a column by Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post earlier this month, naming two potential successors to Breyer, who, like Ms Childs, are young enough to sit in court for a few decades. The two people named – U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington, DC, and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger – both have Ivy League law degrees and important connections. Ms Jackson, 50, was a clerk for Mr Breyer himself and Ms Kruger, 44, was deputy solicitor general to Mr Obama.

There are a handful of other black women in their forties with elite titles who have caught the attention of lawmakers, including some members of the Judiciary Committee. There is Danielle Holley-Walker, Dean of Howard University Law School, and Leslie Abrams Gardner, Federal District Court Judge in Georgia, younger sister of Stacey Abrams.

The question of the moment is more important.

There are relatively few black women in federal appeals courts, where presidents often attract their Supreme Court candidates. Very soon, however, there will be another vacancy in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit – which can be a stepping stone to the High Court – when Judge Merrick B. Garland resigns to become a prosecutor. general. Ms Childs might be in a better position to advance to the Supreme Court if she were to sit on that appeals court, some of her admirers say.

“There is an immediate vacancy there, so I would argue for its consideration for the DC Circuit,” Mr. Butterfield, himself a former state Supreme Court justice, said of Ms. Childs. “And when and if there is a vacancy in the Supreme Court, it should also be considered for that.

Cheri Beasley, who lost her re-election as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court by 412 votes in November, is another possible candidate for a seat on the court. She also went to a public university and rose through the judiciary through lower state courts. Still, Ms Beasley has told people she is considering running for the open North Carolina Senate seat next year, according to a Democrat who spoke to her.

When a court post occurs, several Democrats say they are preparing to bring out the tensions of the Obama era, which were covered up by former President Donald Trump.

Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as a number of white Democrats, say they believe the party is too closely tied to the elites and that this perception only gives Republicans political fodder during election season.

“It’s not criticizing the Harvards or the Yales, but I think there are some great lawyers who are really, really smart who come from other places on this earth,” said Senator Jon Tester of Montana, where the Democrats all lost three landmark races last year. “And I think we should consider them.”

Vi Lyles, the mayor of Charlotte, said: “Having the broadest perspective of what’s going on in the country makes you a better decision maker and a better leader.”

Persistent frustrations among black leaders, many of whom have attended public schools or historically black institutions, are even more delicate regarding Mr. Obama’s independent treatment of the Congressional Black Caucus and his administration’s apparent preference for people. nominated with elite titles.

“He was predisposed to Ivy League nominees, I think we can all agree on that,” Mr Butterfield said.

Mr. Sellers was even more brutal. “I love Barack Obama, but there was an Ivy League culture emanating from the White House, and we had to move away from it,” he said.

Frustration with Mr. Obama peaked with his selection of Mr. Garland to the Supreme Court after the death of Judge Antonin Scalia in 2016. Some Congressional Democrats thought the former president could have pressured Republicans and energized Democrats had he chosen a black woman and were furious when he said he was not looking for “a black lesbian from Skokie” .

What Mr. Clyburn will only say indirectly is that Mr. Biden owes not only black voters for his nomination, he is indebted to the African Americans who resurrected his candidacy in South Carolina and those in South which practically cemented his appointment three days later. as it swept the region on Super Tuesday.

Some African-American Democrats believe black Americans will rally behind the black woman Mr. Biden names and suspect Mr. Clyburn is looking for a rationale to elevate his home state and polish his legacy.

Yet few politicians preach more than Mr. Biden about the importance of “dancing with whoever brought you,” as the President often says. And so far Mr Clyburn has been able to install two of his closest allies into the administration, with former Rep. Marcia Fudge being appointed housing secretary and Jaime Harrison hired to lead the Democratic National Committee.

When asked if he could support Ms Childs in the High Court, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, a Republican and the first black South Senator elected since Reconstruction, said he was not ready to to commit. But he congratulated her on having “a very good reputation” and said her appointment “would reflect the positive and powerful progress we have made in the great state of South Carolina.”

Mr. Scott was more blunt, however, when asked if Mr. Biden owed it to black voters in South Carolina, given the role they played in his path to the presidency.

“Jim Clyburn would say so,” he said with a smile.

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Biden’s climate team begins to take shape

WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to announce a major part of his energy and environment team this week.

In the coming days, Mr Biden intends to appoint prominent climate and clean energy leaders to two senior positions: Gina McCarthy, former director of the Environmental Protection Agency, will be its senior advisor on climate change, and Jennifer M Granholm, former governor of Michigan, will head the Department of Energy.

Mr Biden on Tuesday appointed Pete Buttigieg, the former Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend., Ind., As secretary of the Department of Transport, a post expected to become climate-focused in the next administration in as long as Mr. Biden encourages policies to promote electric vehicles and climate-resilient infrastructure.

However, the choice of the president-elect to lead the Environmental Protection Agency remains undecided. This person will be at the heart of his campaign pledges to adopt an ambitious agenda to fight climate change and restore environmental regulations that President Trump has overturned.

“A new era of climate responsibility is upon us,” former Vice President Al Gore said in a statement. “The United States is back to work.”

Mr Gore described Ms McCarthy as “perfectly suited for the job” and said her appointment, along with John Kerry’s role as global climate envoy, “says Joe Biden takes seriously the fact that America is leading by example and leading to deep reductions in pollution and climate. emissions. “

Ms. McCarthy, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency under the Obama administration, was the architect of historic rules to reduce pollution caused by global warming. In her new role, she would be responsible for coordinating national climate change policies across the federal government.

In addition to developing the Clean Power Plan, which sets the first-ever national limits on carbon emissions from power plants, it also advanced rules to reduce mercury emissions from power plants, increase the energy efficiency of power plants. vehicles and to limit the leakage of methane from petroleum. and gas wells.

The coal, gas and oil industries opposed all of these policies, which were ultimately repealed or weakened by the Trump administration.

Ms. McCarthy’s deputy will be Ali Zaidi, New York State’s Assistant Secretary for Energy and the Environment. Mr. Zaidi worked in the Obama Administration’s Office of Management and Budget, where he helped coordinate and implement climate change policies and was a senior climate change advisor for Mr. Biden’s campaign.

John Podesta, founder of the Center for American Progress and former adviser to President Barack Obama on climate change, called Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Zaidi a “powerful team”.

Some Republicans were less enthusiastic. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso said in a statement he was concerned about the revival of Obama-era policies that he called “punishing” his state as well as others whose economies depend on fossil fuels.

“Increased innovation – not the appointment of countless uncontrolled czars – will help protect our environment without punishing our economy,” Barrasso said.

In her new role, Ms. McCarthy will be empowered to lead agency heads across the federal government to enact climate policies, from emissions rules at the EPA to financial regulations of companies in relation to their financial exposure to climate risks. .

However, it is not yet clear who will occupy her former EPA trustee position, a position that will come with the power to restore and strengthen the Obama-era climate rules that Ms McCarthy once wrote.

Mr. Biden’s first choice to lead the EPA was Mary D. Nichols, California’s leading climate change regulator. But liberal activists argued that she had not done enough in her state to address racial disparities in environmental policy.

This sparked a rush to find a new candidate to lead the agency. Opportunities now include Richard L. Revesz, professor of law and former dean of the New York University School of Law; Michael S. Regan, who currently heads the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality; and Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles.

A member of Biden’s transition staff said a final EPA choice may not come until Christmas.

Ms Granholm and Mr Buttigieg are also expected to be among Ms McCarthy’s top lieutenants in the clean energy arena.

As Chief of the Department of Energy, Ms. Granholm will oversee the U.S. nuclear weapons complex as well as 17 national laboratories and a wide range of energy research and development initiatives, including included a major loan office that supported the launch of Tesla.

Several people close to the transition said advisers struggled with whether the energy department should be headed by someone grounded in its core mission of ensuring the security of the country’s nuclear arsenal, or whether Mr. Biden should choose someone with a vision to lead a clean cleanup. -energy transformation.

Ms Granholm, a longtime champion of renewable energy development, is widely recognized during her two terms as governor of Michigan for leading her state through a recession and working with the Obama administration on a bailout. the auto industry in 2009 which included clean energy investments and incentives for automakers to invest in technologies like battery storage.

After the end of her second term in 2011, she became an advocate for the development of renewable energies. She gave a TED talk on how investing in alternative energy resources can strengthen state economies, which Biden focused on in his coronavirus recovery plan.

Mr Buttigieg, as Secretary of Transportation, is expected to play a key role in setting stricter rules on car emissions, the main source of pollution from global warming in the United States, to encourage electric vehicles and to finance public transport.

“Transportation should really be seen as a green agency,” said Carol Browner, who has been President Barack Obama’s senior advisor on climate change.

During his presidential campaign, Mr. Buttigieg pledged to restore Obama-era vehicle emissions standards and called for making the United States carbon neutral by 2050.

Climate change is also expected to play a larger role in planning for infrastructure such as roads, bridges, dams and dikes, as the department takes into account new climate science showing how heat and flooding could damage these. structures, and construction and planning accordingly.

Mr. Buttigieg has often traced his awareness of the climate emergency to his experience managing two massive floods on the St. Joseph River when he was Mayor of South Bend, Ind.

Mr Biden is also reportedly set to decide who to appoint the Home Secretary, who would oversee the country’s 500 million acres of public land, including national parks, oil and gas drilling sites and habitat. endangered species. The Home Secretary is also said to be leading any effort to strengthen federal protections for vast swathes of land and water that the Trump administration has opened up to drilling, mining, logging and construction.

The lead nominee would be Rep. Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico, a nomination that would resonate with symbolism. If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Haaland would be the first Native American appointed to a cabinet secretary position.

For much of the country’s history, the Home Office ruled federal lands and often dislodged and mistreated Native Americans. Ms. Haaland is a citizen of Laguna Pueblo, one of 574 federally recognized Native American tribes.

A growing coalition of progressive Democratic groups, Native American tribal leaders and Hollywood celebrities have spent weeks campaigning for Mr. Biden to choose Ms. Haaland. These efforts have had an effect, according to the people of the transition.

However, Mr Biden is also reluctant to remove a Democrat from the House, which would temporarily diminish the already narrow majority of Democrats in the House until a special election can be held in Ms Haaland’s district.

Other candidates vying for the Home Office position are Michael Connor, a former Assistant Home Secretary in the Obama administration, who is a citizen of the Taos Pueblo tribe, and Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Brunswick. Mexico, a longtime friend of Mr. Biden who has spent his career promoting nature conservation.

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Sports helped shape Biden. But expect a quieter fan in the White House.

President Trump has a long association with the sport, starting as a baseball player in his youth, and more recently as an avid golfer with something, often inflammatory, to say about athletes and leagues.

But White House Biden is likely to bring a lower temperature when it comes to commentary and influence on sports-related issues, but not a lack of interest. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. was a high school football player and played baseball and track and field and is committed to dismantling the policies of the Trump administration which he believes negatively affect the access of transgender athletes to sport and how sexual assault is investigated. on university campuses.

Although Mr. Biden did not wear his sports allegiances on his sleeve – as Mr. Trump and many politicians did – the playing fields have often intersected with his life, dating back to his childhood, when the sport provided a universal communication language while it handled a stutter. He was the vice-president of a big sports fan, President Barack Obama, who this summer advised NBA players who boycotted playoff games in protest against the Jacob Blake shooting.

“You see these two things happening in his life at the same time,” said Evan Osnos, the author of “Joe Biden: Life, Race and What Matters Now,” said, referring to the high school days by Mr. Biden. “First, it breaks the back of the stutter, and second, it finds its place on the football field. These converged to give him that altered sense of himself, and it’s really the start of what at that point was almost a ridiculously ambitious notion of what he might be able to do for a living. .

Mr. Biden celebrated on the field when the Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl in the 2017 NFL season. Washington Nationals have already guest him to throw the first ceremonial throw on opening day. (The White House declined the Nationals’ invitation to Mr. Trump to deliver an opening speech in 2017, citing a scheduling conflict.)

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Helping to shape the words of the president-elect: a presidential historian

WASHINGTON – Jon Meacham, the presidential historian and biographer best known for studying the lives of past presidents, has taken on a relatively unique role in a contemporary political moment: helping to draft speeches for the next president.

Mr Meacham helped craft many of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s rhetorical moments, according to multiple sources, including helping to draft the acceptance speech Mr Biden gave on Saturday night from Wilmington, Del., His first remarks as president-elect.

In this remarks, Mr. Biden spoke of a mission “to rebuild the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, the middle class, and to make America respected again in the world. entire ”and has been widely recognized for striking the right tone. to bring the country closer together. The language echoes the title of Mr. Meacham’s 2018 book, “America’s Soul: The Battle for Our Best Angels,” which has long served as a touchstone for Mr. Biden, who contacted Mr. Meacham in the past to discuss passages he liked.

“Saving history doesn’t mean you’re far from it,” Mr Meacham said over the summer, noting that he had been friends with Mr Biden for a long time.

Mr. Biden’s speech-writing process is led by Mike Donilon, his longtime advisor. But behind the scenes, Mr. Meacham played a bigger role than previously known, writing draft speeches and offering edits on others, including the one Mr. Biden gave in Gettysburg, Pa. , last month and his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in August.

“President-elect Joe Biden wrote the speech he gave to the American people on Saturday night, which outlined his vision to unite and heal the nation,” said TJ Ducklo, spokesperson for Mr. Biden.

“Given the importance of the speech, he consulted a number of important and diverse voices as part of his writing process, as he often does,” Ducklo added. A Biden official said Mr Meacham was involved in discussions about the themes of the victory speech.

Mr. Meacham, who voted for presidents of both parties and wrote a favorable biography of former President George HW Bush, played an unusual role during the 2020 campaign. He publicly endorsed Mr. Biden in a Washington editorial Post in March and received a top notch speech at the Democratic convention.

In that speech, he addressed the nation from his home in Nashville and warned that “our democracy is beset by an incumbent more interested in himself than the rest of us.” He called the choice voters faced in November “a choice that goes directly to the nature of the American soul.”

Mr. Meacham is not expected to join the administration. But his connection to Mr. Biden is reminiscent of historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s relationship with President John F. Kennedy. Mr. Schlesinger worked for Mr. Kennedy’s campaign and as a member of his White House staff, then chronicled his presidency.

Mr. Biden’s use of a historian contrasts with President Trump’s lack of interest in the past. Mr. Biden is known as someone who enjoys using historical analogies in his public speeches and his own thinking, and historians have said it makes sense that he would want someone like Mr. Meacham to be involved in the process. writing the speech.

“The fear of this kind of work is that you will be called a court historian and seen as a hyperpartisan,” said Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University. “But if anyone can do it, Meacham can. He is loved by moderate Republicans. He’s a successful writer. He’s a word maker and that’s what Biden needs. He’s probably able to keep a foothold in both worlds.

Mr Brinkley added that Mr Meacham was uniquely placed to help Mr Biden incorporate “patriotic traditions” into his speeches.

Mr Meacham declined to comment on his role.

During the Trump years, Mr. Meacham had also been a regular feature on MSNBC and NBC News shows. But as of Monday, he was not a paid contributor to the network, according to two people familiar with the decision. Mr Meacham was due to return to NBC as an unpaid guest and could return to his paid role next year, possibly after the inauguration, people said. NBC declined to comment.

Indeed, Mr. Meacham appeared on MSNBC before and after Mr. Biden’s acceptance speech on Saturday. About half an hour after Mr. Biden’s conclusion, presenter Brian Williams introduced Mr. Meacham by saying, “I’m not the historian that you are, and I don’t have the Pulitzer that you do, but do you agree what are we used to hearing our presidents? “

“Absolutely,” Meacham replied, without revealing that he had participated in the writing of the speech.

Shortly before Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and Mr Biden took the stage, Mr Meacham commented on the symbolism of a new administration featuring a 77-year-old institutionalist and a vice-president-elect “who represents in many ways changing demographics. from the country.”

“It’s poetic,” Meacham said. “There is a lot of poetry tonight.”