Working together across the aisle for a better Maryland

Last summer, the citizens of Maryland learned from The Baltimore Sun’s reporting that the former executive director of the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) spent lavishly in his tenure and ultimately negotiated a significant payout when he left to become the governor’s chief of staff that summer. This at a “not-for-profit business unit of the state of Maryland,” according to the MES website. The spending raised many questions about the organization’s oversight and whether officials were abusing its resources for personal gain rather than in alignment with the organization’s public mission to “provide operational and technical services to protect and enhance the environment for the benefit of the people of Maryland.”

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Solomon Jones: George Floyd was somebody and his death can’t be in vain

As the murder trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who is accused of killing George Floyd by mercilessly pressing his knee against Floyd’s neck, begins this week, I am convinced that Black people need healing as much as we need justice. There is a persistent heartache that comes with the knowledge that some of those who are sworn to protect Americans believe that doing so involves killing citizens who look like me. That pain is coupled with anger each time I see a still from the video of George Floyd’s death—a still in which Chauvin stares defiantly into a camera as Floyd dies beneath his knee.

Our Say: Maryland should make Juneteenth a state holiday celebrating freedom

Juneteenth is the celebration of Black American emancipation that started in Texas, marking the date in 1865 that enslaved people there were told they had been freed two years earlier. A group of Maryland lawmakers wants to make this a state holiday, giving state employees a paid day off and closing state offices, courts and other official functions. If it is approved, it is likely that local governments will follow and pressure will build for local schools still holding classes that late in the spring to join the shift.

Editorial: Ransomware attacks are crippling cities, schools and hospitals. Congress can help.

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on the economy, but members of at least one profession are making out better than ever: cybercriminals. The average ransom paid by hacked organizations nearly tripled last year over the previous year; the highest reported ransom paid, $10 million, also was double the previous year’s high. Worse, many of the victims are those most essential to keeping communities safe, healthy and in good working order: state and local governments, schools and hospitals. Ransomware attacks use malicious software to lock a target out of its files — until the target pays to regain access to its own computers.

Lane: Here’s some hope for supporters of criminal justice reform

How many more months in prison do federal courts give Black drug offenders as opposed to comparable White offenders? The correct answer, through fiscal 2018, is: zero. The racial disparity in federal drug-crime sentencing, adjusted for severity of the offense and offender characteristics such as criminal history, shrank from 47 months in 2009 to nothing in 2018, according to a new research paper by sociologist Michael Light of the University of Wisconsin. For federal crimes of all types, there is still a Black-White discrepancy, but it, too, has shrunk, from 34 months in 2009 to less than six months in 2018.

Brown, Nethercut & Torres: Maryland lawmakers not doing enough to help working families this General Assembly session

With little time remaining in the Maryland General Assembly session, it’s useful — and discouraging — to look back at the working families policy agenda that nearly 50 organizations, representing hundreds of thousands of Marylanders, proposed at the beginning of the pandemic to help essential workers and those most affected by the shutdown. At the time, we called for a special legislative session to address Marylanders’ urgent needs related to housing, worker protections, health care and much more. Nearly one year later, our elected leaders have made some progress, but too many of these needs remain unmet and too many Marylanders are still struggling.

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Our Say: Windstorms are a reminder of life on the Chesapeake Bay

In the South of France, the cold, northwesterly wind that blows seasonally into the Gulf of Lion is called the Mistral. On the other side of the globe, Aussies know the summer wind that brings hot air from the outback to the coast is called the Brickfielder. And way out in the Northwest, the annual Chinook carries warmed air down the Rocky Mountains into the cool Pacific valleys. But on the Chesapeake Bay, winds of the sort that roared through over the weekend are just called wind, which is a shame. Surely there must be a name for this kind of remarkable phenomenon.

Daniels: GOP steps up voter suppression efforts, it’s time to fight back

A high level of voter engagement during the last election, spurred by the ability to vote early or via absentee mail-in ballots and drop boxes, has renewed GOP efforts to ensure that only certain people have access to the ballot box. Dozens of states with Republican legislatures are using the disingenuous concerns of “voter fraud” and “ballot security” to consider restricting the voting methods that helped millions of voters cast ballots during the pandemic.

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Zurawik: Biden is right about autocracy and democracy at war as the big story that connects all others

I have never considered President Joe Biden a thinker of big ideas. Former President Barack Obama, sure. Mr. Biden, not so much. But in his news conference last week, Mr. Biden said something that I have been thinking about since. And the more I chew on it as I try to sort through all the major stories vying for the media and the public’s attention this week, the keener an insight Mr. Biden’s words seem to offer.

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Editorial: Hogan top COVID adviser Redfield tosses viral kindling on anti-Asian fires

Last week, CNN aired an interview during which former head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield said that COVID-19 “most likely” originated in a lab in Wuhan, China. This was unfortunate for a number of reasons, one of which being that it’s probably untrue. Most leading experts have dismissed the theory of accidental infection of a lab worker (deliberate release by the Chinese government is strictly the province of QANon conspiracy theorists) as doubtful, including the World Health Organization.

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