Tag Archive for: congress



George Santos steps down from Congressional committees.

Memphis: 3 EMTs fired, 7th officer disciplined in Nichols case.

Video: Trump pleaded the 5th over 400 times in deposition.




George Santos steps down from Congressional committees

Rep. George Santos (R-NY, alias Anthony Zabrovsky, alias George Devolder, alias Anthony Devolder, alias Kitara Ravache) has just performed his first decent act since entering Congress by stepping down from his committee assignments. Since his election, Santos has been exposed for innumerable lies about his past and been implicated in various crimes including theft and fraud. Of most immediate concern are accusations that he may have violated campaign finance laws.

Despite the ever-growing number of scandals and credible accusations, Santos received two Congressional committee assignments, the Small Business Committee and the Science, Space and Technology committee. Today, it was reported that Santos told fellow Republicans in a closed-door meeting that he would step down from the assignments to avoid being a “distraction”.

Santos has not yet released a public statement on his resignations. Several of his Republican colleagues have told reporters that they thought Santos had done the right thing for the party. However, many are still calling on him to resign from Congress entirely.

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Memphis: 3 EMTs fired, 7th officer disciplined in Nichols case

Yesterday we learned a 6th Memphis police officer, Preston Hemphill, had been placed on paid administrative leave due to his involvement in the fatal police confrontation with Tyre Nichols. Hemphill was the only white officer disciplined so far in the matter. Five other officers, all Black, have been fired and charged with second-degree murder and other charges. Later in the day, we learned that a 7th officer, so far unnamed, had also been relieved of duty in connection with the case.

Additionally, three Memphis Fire Department EMTs who attended the scene have been fired. MFD EMTs Robert Long and JaMicheal Sandridge and Lt. Michelle Whitaker had previously been suspended pending investigation. The three arrived at the scene when Nichols was already handcuffed on the ground and slumped against a squad car. While Whitaker remained in the engine, Long and Sandridge stepped out but made no attempt to assess or aid Nichols. It wasn’t until 27 minutes after they arrived that another ambulance crew transported Nichols to a hospital.

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Video: Trump pleaded the 5th over 400 times in deposition

CBS has obtained video (37 mins long) of an August 2022 deposition during which former President Trump was questioned by New York State Attorney General Letitia James. Last year, James brought a $250 million civil lawsuit against Trump, his children Ivanka, Eric and Don, Jr. and the Trump Organization alleging a “staggering” number of over-valued assets. James says that Trump and his co-defendants routinely inflated the values of properties they owned in order to obtain loans and other business advantages.

In addition to the $250 million in penalties, the suit seeks to bar the Trumps and their organization from transacting business in New York for five years.

Reading a prepared statement at the start of the proceeding, Trump characterized the suit as “the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country” and James as “a renegade and out of control prosecutor”. Before questioning commenced, Trump described the entire proceeding as “very unfair.” He then went on to plead the 5th over 400 times as he was asked about various financial dealings.

‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the 5th amendment?’ – Trump referring to Hillary Clinton

On several occasions during the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly took his opponent Hillary Clinton to task over the fact that her staffers repeatedly pleaded the 5th in inquiries about the private e-mail server Clinton used while serving as Secretary of State. Trump repeatedly asked why anyone would plead the 5th if they’d done nothing wrong?

Following his deposition in August, Trump stated, “I once asked, ‘If you’re innocent, why are you taking the 5th amendment?’ Now I know the answer to that question.”

“When your family, your company, and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated witch hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors, and the Fake News Media, you have no choice,” Trump explained.

During the deposition itself, Trump admitted, “Anyone in my position not taking the 5th amendment would be a fool, an absolute fool”.

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Questions over Rep. George Santos’ ties to Ponzi scheme.

CA braces for more floods this week; 19 already dead.

Saudi academic may get death penalty for having a Twitter account.



Questions over Rep. George Santos’ involvement in Ponzi scheme

Newly-seated House member George Santos (R-NY) already has a proven track record as a liar, having been caught in lies about his work and education history and his family background among many other things. There’s some question about whether George Santos is even his real name. At the very least, he seems to have a growing number of aliases.

The extent of Santos’ lying is so great that even several of his fellow New York Republicans have called on him to step down. But the Republican contingent in the House has largely circled the wagons to defend him, or at least his seat.

With a tight majority in the House, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy facing opposition from within his own party, the GOP can hardly afford to send Santos packing, despite his embarrassing antics. Rep. James Comer (R-TN), the new House Oversight Committee Chairman, underscored this yesterday. Comer admitted that Santos was “a bad guy”, but indicated he wouldn’t lose his seat for lying. However, Comer said that Santos would be removed if he’d violated campaign finance laws.

Ponzi, puppet, or both? 

Revelations of Santos’ previous prevarications raised questions about a drastic and mysterious change in his fortunes in the last couple of years. In 2020, the first time Santos ran for Congress, he listed no assets and a salary of $55,000 in his financial disclosure. During his 2022 run, Santos declared assets worth between $2.6 million and $11.25 million.

Santos may have run afoul of campaign finance laws with a $700,000 donation to his campaign from one of his companies, the Devolder Organization. The only clients of this firm that have been traced all happen to be major donors to Santos’ campaign. Some believe Santos set up a sham organization to get around campaign donation limits by laundering donations from his “clients”. 

More recently, news outlets uncovered another potential source of revenue for the Devolder Organization- outright fraud. In 2020 and 2021, Santos worked at Harbor City Capital, an organization that the Securities and Exchange Commission dubbed a “classic Ponzi scheme”. Harbor City Capital was selling fake bonds and promissory notes and paying off investors with money from other investors. The scam netted around $17 million and defrauded over 100 investors. Here you can see a Twitter thread where an investor confronts Santos (under the alias “George Devolder”) about the scam.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Santos didn’t report his Harbor City income on his 2020 financial disclosure.


California braces for more floods this week, with 19 already dead

Communities all over California are cleaning up from recent floods while simultaneously preparing for more. So far, 19 people have been confirmed dead in the storms since Christmas. None of these storms has been very strong individually, but the unrelenting succession of them has made already soaked areas more vulnerable to floods and mudslides from even the slightest rain. This is in part due to drought-parched ground that can’t readily absorb water and the loss of tree cover due to wildfires.

Over the weekend, about 25 million people were under flood watches. President Biden also issued a federal disaster declaration to free up funds for California’s recovery effort. What is passing over the state now is the 8th successive storm system in less than 3 weeks, and a ninth is on its way this week.

Some drought relief, but not a game changer

Much of California has been experiencing drought conditions for years. The recent storms and accumulation of water and snowpack have offered at least a partial reprieve. Before the rains, 27% of California was under “extreme drought” (the second-highest level of drought while 71% was under “severe drought” (the third highest). Now, less than 1% of the state is experiencing “extreme drought” and only 46% is under “severe drought”. 

Even more critically, the state has about 226% of its normal snowpack for this time of year. It’s even higher than the normal amount for April, when the snowpack is typically greatest.

While this is no doubt welcome, and certainly a silver lining for all the recent storm clouds, the state’s drought woes are far from over. Experts say that several seasons of 120% to 200% of normal rain and snowfall will be needed before the drought in the West will pass. The recent rains have also been confined to the area between the coast and the Sierra Nevada mountains. This will not benefit the West’s most important reservoirs, Lake Meade and Lake Powell, which are continuing to dry up.

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Saudi academic may get death penalty for using Twitter

Prosecutors in Saudi Arabia are asking that a professor receive the death penalty for his use of social media. Awad Al-Qarni, a 65-year-old reformist law professor, is accused of having a Twitter and WhatsApp account and of using them to share his opinions which are “hostile to the kingdom”.

Having a Twitter account is not formally prohibited in Saudi Arabia. However, it seems even having a Twitter account can itself be an offense if a user doesn’t support the regime. In August last year, PhD student and mother Salma al-Shehab received a 34-year sentence for having a Twitter account and for following and retweeting posts from dissidents and activists. Later in the same month, another Saudi woman, Noura al-Qahtani, received a 45-years prison sentence for using Twitter “to tear the social fabric”.

Under the increasingly dictatorial rule of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom is attempting to project an image that it is keeping up with the modern world by embracing technology, cutting edge infrastructure, and making strong inroads into international sports with its LIV Golf league. The kingdom has invested heavily in tech companies like Meta (Facebook’s parent company), and even Twitter itself.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is Twitter’s second-largest investor and a major backer of Elon Musk’s recent takeover bid. Musk’s deal with his major investors gives them “access to confidential information about the social media platform”. Members of Congress and human rights watchdogs fear that this deal has made it easier for Saudi Arabia to identify the holders of dissident accounts on the platform.

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Computer system failure grounds all US air travel for hours.

Debt ceiling fight ahead in Congress, jeopardizing economy.

Peru under genocide investigation after deadly protests.




Computer system glitch grounds all US air travel for hours

An overnight malfunction in the system that notifies pilots of hazards grounded all US air travel for several hours up until 9am (ET) this morning. According to the flight tracking website FlightAware, over 8000 flights were delayed today and over 1000 were canceled. The numbers of delays continue climbing as a knock-on effect of delays or cancellations this morning.

The system that crashed was the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses this system to notify pilots of unusual hazards and conditions and to convey other vital safety information. 

It isn’t clear what caused the system to crash. Analysts have said it is unlikely to have been the result of a cyber attack because of the way the outage progressed. It’s possible that the system became overloaded or couldn’t cope with the complexity of tasks it had to perform. A former FAA official suggested that NOTAM may have encountered a capacity problem, similar to the problem that forced Southwest airlines to cancel thousands of flights between Christmas and the first week of January.

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Debt ceiling fight ahead in Congress, jeopardizing economy

The federal government’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling will soon max out, possibly as soon as the end of this month. The Treasury Department can then implement some measures that may carry the country through until the summer. Before those measures run out, Congress will have to agree to raise the debt ceiling to pay debts the federal government has already incurred, not to allow for new spending. If this does not happen, the government will shut down and the country will default on its debts. This would be catastrophic for the national and global economy and for everyday Americans.

With Republicans now in control of the House, the stage is set for a showdown over the debt that could jeopardize the US economy. During the Obama administration in 2011, Republicans in Congress held the debt ceiling hostage in order to win major concessions on government spending, mostly by cutting government programs to support the poor. After months of brinksmanship, Congress finally hammered out an agreement. But the debt rating company Standard & Poor’s downgraded the US credit rating, citing the turmoil and delay in raising the debt ceiling. This downgrade in credit rating raised the borrowing costs for the US by billions of dollars.

The recent fight over the Speakership in the House resulted in the new Speaker Kevin McCarthy making concessions that could make it much harder for him to force through a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Some of those who blocked McCarthy from winning the Speakership through 14 ballots have vowed to challenge his leadership again if he tries to force a debt ceiling vote without massive spending cuts.

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Related: What happens if the US defaults on its debt? (opens in new tab).



Peru under genocide investigation after deadly protests

Back in December, Peru’s elected President Pedro Castillo attempted to break an impasse with Congress by dissolving the body and calling snap elections. This led to Castillo being deposed and arrested for rebellion. Castillo’s VP Dina Boluarte then became President, though it appears the Cabinet is really in charge of the country.

Castillo’s arrest angered many Peruvians, especially poor indigenous people in rural areas for whom Castillo had been a long-sought champion. Days of deadly protests followed, leading the Cabinet to impose martial law. The measures criminalized any public assembly, severely restricted people’s movements, and empowered the country’s police force to raid anyone’s home without a court order.

Since Castillo’s ouster in early December, at least 46 civilians have been killed most of them indigenous. On Monday alone, security forces killed at least 17 people. The country’s interior minister claimed the protesters were attempting to storm an airport and that the security forces acted appropriately. The office of Peru’s National Human Rights Coordinator disagrees, calling Monday’s deaths “extrajudicial killings”. 

Peru’s Attorney General has announced that Boluarte and her Cabinet are under investigation for possible acts of genocide in connection with the deaths of these protesters.

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“I earned this job”: Behind-the-scenes drama in Speaker vote.

New FDA, DOJ rules will make abortion medication more widely available.

More signs of US normalizing relations with Venezuela.



“I earned this job”: Behind-the-scenes drama in Speaker vote

When Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) attended the first official session of the new Congress yesterday, he knew his fight to take the podium as Speaker of the House wouldn’t be an easy one. Since the November 2022 elections 8 weeks ago, McCarthy and his allies have been horse-trading and cat-herding to win over a small number of far-right Republican holdouts. He’s made several concessions, most notably a change to the rules that would allow just 5 lawmakers to call for a new Speaker vote.

In an attempt to rally the troops before the first vote, McCarthy held a closed-door meeting with Republican lawmakers. Lawmakers in the room told reporters that McCarthy told the assembly, “I earned this job. We earned this majority, and Goddammit we are going to win it today”. While McCarthy received a standing ovation, not all present were impressed. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), one of the holdouts, reportedly responded, “Bullshit!“.

There were three votes yesterday, in which each member of the narrowly-divided House was called by name and asked who they were voting for. McCarthy’s supporters seem to have gone in accepting they would lose the first vote. But surely, they thought, by the third vote, McCarthy’s opposition would have lost steam and he would prevail. Not only were they wrong about that, as the voting went on, McCarthy’s numbers got worse. 

No breakthrough

Frustrated at his losses, McCarthy led more frantic closed door meetings overnight. Speaking to NPR this morning, Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) reported there were was “no breakthrough overnight” and no new concessions to the holdouts. The House will vote again at noon today.

NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked Johnson about the possibility of striking a deal with Democrats to get past the impasse. If some Democrats don’t vote, McCarthy could theoretically squeak through with a majority. But Johnson said he wasn’t eager to ask Democrats for help with this issue. The resistance to compromise or collaboration doesn’t bode well either for today’s vote or for the prospects for the next two years of this Congress.


FDA, DOJ set rules that will make abortion medication more widely available

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will now allow commercial pharmacies to carry the drug mifepristone, commonly used for medication abortions. The use of mifepristone must be followed up with misoprostol. Currently, people wishing to mifepristone drug can only do so through a healthcare provider. It will now be possible to get a prescription either in-person or through telehealth and purchase mifepristone from a pharmacy.

The change will make it easier for women living in states with abortion bans to obtain the pills from another state. However, in states (including Mississippi) which have passed abortion bans that specifically target medication abortions, the pictures is more complicated. It’s questionable whether any state can legally ban an FDA-approved medication. Despite this, many pharmacies in states that have enacted bans have stopped carrying the drugs, even though both mifepristone and misoprostol have uses that have nothing to do with abortion or even pregnancy. 

In a separate development, the Department of Justice says that the US Postal Service can legally deliver abortion pills, even in jurisdictions where medication abortion is banned. There are already pharmacies all over the country that will mail the pills anywhere in the country as long as the purchaser has a prescription. Some overseas medication providers have reported that women who weren’t pregnant were stocking up on the pills as a precaution.

Legally, the situation remains messy and complicated, and many women still have a difficult time in accessing the medication. These moves by the FDA and DOJ should at least help to remove some logistical barriers for women seeking a medication abortion.



More signs of US normalizing relations with Venezuela

During the Trump administration, the US and many of its allies adopted a preposterous diplomatic fiction regarding Venezuela. Trump declared that Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó was in fact the president of Venezuela. This was despite the fact that Venezuela already had an elected president, Nicolas Maduro. Guaidó hadn’t even run in the last congressional election. 

As ludicrous as it was, this diplomatic fiction had wide-ranging implications for Venezuela’s government and its people. For example, at the height of the pandemic, Maduro’s government wanted to sell off some of his country’s gold to purchase needed medical supplies. The National Bank of England, which was holding the gold, refused to release. This was because the British government had recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s president.

Recently, the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia have force the Biden administration to look elsewhere for oil. This led to a thaw in US relations with oil-rich Venezuela. After a series of meetings between US officials as well as representatives of the Maduro government and opposition, the US allowed oil giant Chevron to resume work in Venezuela. 

Now, Venezuela’s opposition coalition has voted to dissolve its parallel government and remove Juan Guaidó as its leader. Maduro’s government and the opposition coalition recently signed a preliminary agreement to find a resolution to Venezuela’s political crisis. Maduro and the coalition also issued a joint statement requesting that foreign institutions holding billions of dollars of Venezuelan assets release them for the benefit of Venezuela’s people.

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Newly-elected Congressman who lied about family, resume now in legal hot water.

Did an employee walkout in Denver contribute to Southwest’s cancellation fiasco?

Israel swears in its most right-wing government in its history




Newly-elected Congressman who lied about family, resume now in legal hot water

Lies are nothing new in politics, but one newly-elected Congressman from New York has shocked even seasoned political commentators with a growing list of falsehoods he told about himself during the campaign. GOP Rep.-elect George Santos recently won an 8-point upset in a wealthy Democratic-leaning district in New York’s Long Island. However, recent reporting has questioned a number of claims Santos has made about his background, education and work experience. Now, reporters and internet sleuths trawling though Santos’ social media history are turning up even more falsehoods.

During the campaign, Santos claimed to have degrees from both Baruch College and New York University. Neither institution has any record of him attending. He also claimed to have worked at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup; this claim has also proved to be false.

Padding one’s resume is one thing, but Santos’ false claims have extended well beyond his education and career. Santos claimed to be a practicing Jew whose grandparents fled Ukraine to escape the Nazi Holocaust, neither of which appears to be true. He claimed that employees of his died in the 2015 shooting at the LGBT Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Also untrue

In a Twitter post, Santos claimed that his mother had died in the September 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center. Another tweet just five months later indicated his mother only died in 2016. Santos has also claimed that his mother “fled socialism” in Belgium, when in fact she was Brazilian.

Authorities probing Santos’ finances, possible campaign fund violations

Even though Santos has admitted he “embellished” his record and biography, he has no intentions of resigning. Other House GOP members have remained silent on the revelations, including the Rep. Kevin McCarthy who is vying to be the next Speaker of the House. Santos has pledged his support to McCarthy, who may be facing a tight contest for the position.

Santos is unlikely to face any immediate political consequences, since it would be up to the House GOP leadership to impose such consequences. It’s equally unlikely that Santos will face legal consequences for misleading voters about his bona fides. Ultimately, this will have to be a lesson in the importance of due diligence for parties and voters when vetting candidates.

Santos’ finances may be a different matter. When Santos first ran for Congress in 2020, he listed no assets and a salary of $55,000 in his personal financial disclosure. By 2022, however, Santos’ fortunes had changed drastically. His 2022 disclosure claimed assets worth between $2.6 million and $11.25 million, including an apartment in Rio de Janeiro. Between 2021 and December 2022, Santos reported earning millions through his firm, the Devolder Organization.

Such rapid upward mobility isn’t unheard of, especially for people willing to shamelessly “embellish” their qualifications. However, the source of Santos’ money is somewhat mysterious. Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York have questions and are probing Santos’ finances. Further reporting suggests that Santos may have violated campaign finance laws during his recent campaign. This is no small feat, as campaign finance laws are so lax, one has to be particularly inventive to find oneself on the wrong side of them.


Did an employee walkout in Denver contribute to Southwest’s cancellation woes?

Southwest Airlines is facing increasing scrutiny over the complete collapse of its services during the recent storms. Of all the airlines, Southwest has canceled the most flights by far, and are continuing to do so even as the worst of the weather subsides. The explanations for this vary depending on who you ask. Corporate spokespeople for the carrier are blaming severe weather at Southwest’s hubs in Denver and Chicago. The president of Southwest’s pilot union cited outdated scheduling software and an overall lack of leadership. All of these seem to have played a role, but another piece of the puzzle has emerged.

Reports have surfaced of a massive employee walkout of Southwest’s ground crew in Denver, which further complicated the situation. Bear in mind, the company claims that these reports are just rumors. But the story begins with a memo (which you can read here) that was sent out to Southwest’s ramp employees on Dec. 21. In the memo, the company is ordering all its Denver airport ramp crew to report for mandatory overtime. The memo also says that any employee who calls in sick must submit a doctor’s note (from an in-person visit; telehealth not accepted) when they next report for work. Failure to comply with either of these “emergency” measures will result in termination, the memo says.

The reporting has it that after receiving that memo, over 100 of Southwest’s ramp employees in Denver walked out. Last Thursday, a Southwest flight from Tampa to Denver abruptly turned back over Oklahoma and flew right back to Tampa. According to reports, the plane couldn’t land at Denver because there was no ramp crew to handle luggage and other ground operations. Members of Congress are looking into these reports while the Department of Transportation is conducting its own investigation into Southwest’s failures.



Israel swears in its most right-wing government in its history

After Israel’s fifth round of parliamentary elections in three years, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to squeeze out a victory after being briefly unseated by a fragile coalition government. In order to form his new government, Netanyahu has formed a coalition with extreme far-right parties. The leader of one of these parties had previously been convicted for inciting racial hatred.

Before taking the helm, Netanyahu sought to reassure international observers that he would not allow his new coalition partners, who are unabashed religious-nationalist extremists, to trample the rights of Israeli Arabs and LGBT individuals. “They’re joining me; I’m not joining them,” Netanyahu said. “I’ll have two hands firmly on the steering wheel. I won’t let anybody do anything to LGBT or to deny our Arab citizens their rights or anything like that, just won’t happen. And the test of time will prove that”.

However, Netanyahu has come in with a series of priorities that will allow him to mold Israel into a more hardline nationalist state. This includes a plan to make it impossible for the Supreme Court to strike down a law passed by the Knesset, Israeli’s parliament. This would include laws the court deems as unconstitutional or in violation of human rights.

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Congress unveils $1.7 trillion 2023 budget bill. Supreme Court blocks lifting of Title 42, for now. Germany sentences former Nazi typist, 97, for complicity in 10,500 murders.




Congress unveils $1.7 trillion 2023 budget bill

It has become the norm to push approval of these bills to the end of the year, but in fact they are supposed to be finished by Oct. 1, when the government’s fiscal year begins. The last time Congress managed to pass all its spending bills this deadline was in 1996. Nowadays, what should be boring and routine budget negotiations become opportunities for protracted horse-trading and brinksmanship by lawmakers. 

After passing a continuing resolution to buy yet another week to negotiate, Congress has released its $1.7 trillion 2023 spending proposal. In addition to $858 billion for the Pentagon, the 4,155-page bill also contains $772 billion for domestic priorities. Senate Republican leader

Mitch McConnell was happy to take credit on behalf of his party for massively increasing the defense budget and shrinking the domestic spending in the bill, in direct defiance to President Biden’s priorities. Even after claiming credit for this victory, McConnell said it was likely that many Republicans would vote against the new bill. If this budget fails to pass, McConnell said he would push for yet another continuing resolution to push debate on the budget into the coming year. At that time Republicans will take control of the House and thus have even more opportunities to whittle away at domestic spending.

The domestic spending proposals include, among other things, $40 billion for US communities recovering from natural disasters. About $600 million of that is to address the water crisis in Jackson, MS.

The bill also increases funding for the Capitol Police, the agency charged with protecting lawmakers, by $132 million for a total of $734.5 million.

Non-budget items

The proposal also includes provisions that don’t have much to do with the budget. One of these provisions is a bipartisan reform of the Electoral Count Act. The reform would clarify the language of the laws governing how the US certifies presidential elections by clarifying that the role of the Vice President in the certification is entirely ceremonial. The hope is that this will prevent any future Jan. 6-style insurrections.

Another proposal would ban the popular video-sharing app TikTok from cell phones belonging to members of the federal executive branch, including Defense Department officials. Several national security agencies and watchdog groups have raised concerns about TikTok’s ties to China. TitTok’s parent company ByteDance is headquartered in Beijing. National security officials worry that China’s ruling Communist Party could use TikTok’s advertising-related data collection to gather information and even spy on Americans.

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Supreme Court blocks lifting of Title 42, for now

Title 42, the pandemic-era policy that allowed the US to turn away asylum seekers at the border, was due to be lifted tomorrow after a court order last month. However, a group of 19 Republican state attorneys general appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. The group argued that lifting Title 42 might lead to disaster on the border and asked that the policy remain in place.

The court’s Chief Justice John Roberts granted the group’s request for a temporary stay on lifting the order. Robert’s decision offered no hint of a timeline for when the Justices would hear the appeal. However, the court did ask the Justice Department to file the Biden administration’s response to the appeal by 5 pm today. This suggests it’s at least possible that the court could rule quickly on whether or not to lift Title 42.

Meanwhile in El Paso, TX, Customs and Border Patrol are already processing and releasing about 2000 asylum seekers per day coming over the border from Juarez, Mexico. The city’s leadership have been seeking additional resources from the state and federal government to deal with the arrival of more migrants once Title 42 ends. So far, both the state and federal government has been slow to respond. Officials say there are at least 20,000 people in Juarez waiting for Title 42 to end. When that happens, officials say as many as 5,000 people a day may begin arriving. With limited space to shelter migrants in freezing overnight temperatures, city leaders want more help transporting migrants to their destinations of choice. 

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Germany sentences former Nazi typist, 97, for complicity in 10,500 murders

A court in Germany has found Irmgard Furchner, 97, guilty of complicity in 10,500 killings that took place during her time at the Stutthof death camp near Gdansk, Poland. Furchner was only 18 or 19 when she took work as a stenographer and typist at camp from 1943 until the end of the Nazi occupation in 1945. Because of her age at the time, she was tried in a juvenile court. Furchner received a two-year suspended sentence, meaning she will not have to serve any time in jail.

Throughout the camp’s operation from 1939 to 1945, experts believe about 65,000 prisoners died. These included Jews, non-Jewish Poles and captured Soviet soldiers. The camp employed a variety of methods to murder prisoners, including its infamous gas chambers.

Furchner worked directly with the camp’s commander as his secretary and handled correspondence and processed official orders regarding Stutthof’s detainees. Shortly before the trial commenced in September 2021, the then-96-year-old Furchner went on the run, but was found and detained only hours later.

Stutthoff camp survivor Josef Salomonovic gave evidence in the trial last December. Salomonovic was six years old when his father was shot dead at Stutthof in September 1944. “She’s indirectly guilty,” Salomonovic told reporters, “even if she just sat in the office and put her stamp on my father’s death certificate.”

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Senate races to pass stopgap funding bill. Male prison employees have assaulted female prisoners in 2/3 US prisons. Peru declares police state to curb political protests.


Senate races to pass stopgap funding bill

As seems to happen every few months these days, Congress is scrambling to put together a must-pass funding bill. Before the end of this year, they hope to pass a full budget that will carry us to September 2023. However, House Republicans threatened to vote down the measure, which they claim is “trillions” in “wasteful spending” that they contend will drive up inflation. The entire proposal is $1.7 trillion which includes funding the massive $858 billion Pentagon budget which members of both parties enthusiastically passed last week. House Republicans want to put off passing the final bill until they take control of the chamber next month. At that point, they’ll have more leverage to chisel away at domestic spending.

Democrat and GOP leaders have said they have a “framework” for an agreement over the final bill. But the deadline to pass the budget to avoid a government shutdown is midnight on Friday. To buy themselves more time to work out the finer points of this “framework”, Congress is planning to pass a one-week continuing resolution, possibly as soon as today. The House has already voted on this one-week extension and it has headed to the Senate.

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Male prison employees have assaulted female-prisoners in two-thirds of US prisons

A bipartisan Senate inquiry has found cases of male prison employees assaulting female prisons in two-thirds of federal prisons. The scope of the inquiry covered the last decade. The inquiry examined the federal Bureau of Prison’s (BOP) internal affairs records and found a backlog of hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse of inmates by Bureau employees. 

Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA), who headed the Senate inquiry called its findings, “deeply disturbing”. The report shows that the Bureau of Prisons “is failing systemically to prevent, detect and address sexual abuse of prisoners by its own employees”. Ossoff pointed to a few particularly egregious examples. In one California prison, both the prison’s warden and its chaplain had assaulted female prisoners. Even the prison’s compliance officer in charge of enforcing laws against prison rape was abusing female prisoners.

Allegations of abuse are rarely met with any official action. Law professor Brenda Smith of American University points to the lack of independent oversight within the Bureau. “We have the people who are supposed to be being audited auditing themselves, essentially,” Smith says. Even in cases where the abuse is confirmed by some means, prison workers who’ve abused the female prisoners in their care face few if any official consequences. In one example cited by Ossoff, “several officers who admitted under oath to sexually abusing prisoners were able, nevertheless, to retire with benefits”.

Colette Peters took over as head of the Bureau of Prisons five months ago. Peters says she’s examining how wardens in women’s facilities are selected and supervised. She also says she plans to update camera systems in prison, as abusers often take advantage of surveillance blind spots.

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Peru declares police state over political protests

So far, at least 7 people have died in protests in Peru since the elected President Pedro Castillo was deposed and imprisoned last week. In response, the new government has declared martial law for the next 30 days. The declaration came from the council of ministers and it’s unclear if Castillo’s VP Dina Boluarte, who was sworn in as President last week, was involved.

The emergency declaration suspends the right to “personal security and freedom” and vastly expands the powers of police.  For the next month, Peruvians will have no freedom of assembly or movement. Additionally, police can now conduct searches of homes at will, without a court order. And the military will be helping the police to keep order.

Early last week, Castillo attempted to dissolve Congress as the body mounted its third attempt to impeach him since he took office in July 2021. Peru’s Congress has broad impeachment powers which it has increasingly weaponized in recent years to bring down Presidents with whom members have political differences.

Peruvian authorities are planning a hearing to decide whether to imprison Castillo for the next 18 months while they build a rebellion case against him. The protesters are demanding Castillo’s release, Boluarte’s resignation and immediate elections to replace members of Congress.

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Amid fears of losing Congress, Dems look for lame-duck wins on child tax credits, same-sex marriage. US quietly pushes for Ukraine-Russia talks.



Fearing losing Congress, Dems look for lame-duck wins on child tax credits, same-sex marriage

Most projections for tomorrow’s elections aren’t very sunny from the Democrats’ point of view. Republicans are widely expected to win the House, and control of the Senate is a toss-up. In some of the tighter races, final results may not be available for days. However, even if the Democrats have to hand over the reins in January, they still have a few weeks of legislating to do before year’s end. Here are some things to watch for.

Must-pass funding bill

Back in September, Congress passed a continuing resolution to keep the government fully-funded until mid-December. When Congress comes back into session, they’ll only have a few weeks to hammer out an agreement to head off a federal government shutdown just before Christmas. The last time around, there was a considerable amount of drama over a proposal from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to streamline energy production permits, including oil drilling and coal mining. Manchin himself is a coal baron and would have profited handsomely. However, Republicans blocked his proposal in retaliation for Manchin’s support of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. It’s possible this provision will come up again, either as part of new budget negotiations, or as a standalone bill.

Possible train strike

In mid-September, marathon talks with the White House, the Secretary of Labor and the Department of Transportation narrowly averted a major railroad strike. Numerous unions had been in contract negotiations for years with the major rail companies. The companies were offering workers a hefty raise, but refused to budge on workers’ concerns about working conditions and paid time off. The White House finally brokered a deal to head off a major supply chain disruption (which would cost the US economy about $2 billion a day).

However, all this did was keep a lid on things until after the midterms. The individual unions still needed ratify the terms of the deal. Two unions have already rejected the deal and others are likely to do the same. This is setting the scene for another showdown, this time right before the holidays. If the unions call another strike, Congress has the power to put an end to the strike by forcing workers to accept the terms of the deal. Sharp political divisions arose among Democrats and Republicans on the issue back in September before a deal was announced. It’ll be worth watching what happens if the issue re-emerges after elections are over. 

Child tax credits

For just a few months in 2021, an expanded child tax credit lifted millions of American children out of poverty. The program expanded eligibility to families who normally didn’t earn enough income to qualify, and also doled out half the yearly tax credit in monthly payments rather than a single lump sum. When the program ended in January 2022, millions of children slipped right back under the poverty line, just as inflation was heating up and grocery and gas prices skyrocketed.

Now, Democrats are looking to revive a permanent expanded child tax credit in the lame-duck session. If they can get the votes, it’s possible this could be part of that must-pass government spending bill.

Same-sex marriage

Although LGBT rights have been a cultural flashpoint between Democrats and Republicans this year, same-sex marriage surprisingly has at least some bipartisan support, even in the contentious Senate. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer, the court’s opinions seemed to leave the door open for walking back other rights whose basis is the 14th Amendment. One of these is the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision which required all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. 

Over the summer, the Democrats crafted legislation to codify a right to same-sex marriage to allay fears the Supreme Court could repeal it in a future decision. They chose not to move ahead before the August recess because they didn’t want the legislation to be front and center before the midterms. After the election, they’ll be looking to bring it up again



US quietly pushes for Ukraine-Russia talks

Confidential sources have told the Washington Post that the Biden White House has been pushing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to soften his public stance on refusing peace negotiations with Putin. However, the sources say it isn’t Biden intention to actually push Zelensky and Putin to resolve the conflict. It’s more of a public relations move to combat Ukraine fatigue among Ukraine’s Western allies in Europe, Africa and South America which have suffered the worst economic damage due to sanctions on Russia and blockades of food commodities.

In response to these reports, one of Zelensky’s aides stated that Ukraine had never refused to talk with Moscow, but that they would not speak with Putin. Instead, the aide said “We will talk with the next leader of Russia“.

Biden may also be hoping to temper opposition within the US to continual aide and weapons packages to Ukraine. Last month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that he would not “write a blank check to Ukraine” if becomes Speaker of the House in January, as seems likely.



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Quinton Simon: Police ‘seize evidence’ in missing toddler case. Railroad union rejects contract, renewing possibility of strike. Calls grow in Congress to ban arm sales to Saudi Arabia.



Quinton Simon: Police ‘seize evidence’ in missing toddler case

The search for a missing toddler in Savannah, GA, has entered its sixth day. The Chatham County police today announced they had “seized evidence that we believe will help move this case forward” and that they would “analyze the evidence to see where it leads us”. There was no further statement on where the evidence had come from or what it was.

Chatham County Police Chief Jeff Hadley told reporters yesterday that police and FBI agents had again searched the home where 20-month-old Quinton Simon disappeared. Local media also reported yesterday that there was a huge law enforcement presence at the home and that it appeared they were pumping out a backyard pool. Hadley also acknowledged that there was now a criminal investigation connected with the search for the missing boy. He did not name the persons of interest, but did say Quinton’s biological father, who was not in the area at the time, was not a suspect.

There are several odd details already known in the case which have caused many to speculate that Quinton’s mother, Leilani or possibly her live-in boyfriend, Daniel Youngkin, were involved in the disappearance or at the very least knew more about what happened than they initially let on. When asked yesterday, Chief Hadley would not comment about whether or not the boy’s mother and her boyfriend were still cooperating with investigators. He also didn’t comment when reporters asked if he knew why the boy’s family hadn’t made any public appeal for Quinton’s return.

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Railroad union rejects contract, renewing possibility of strike

A few weeks after fraught White House negotiations narrowly averted a crippling railroad strike, one of the major unions has rejected the terms of the deal that came out of those negotiations. More than half the membership of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED) rejected the deal over concerns about insufficient paid time off and sick time.

While the terms of the new contract offer generous increases in compensation, one of the main sticking points has been a decline in workers’ quality of life. Workers are often on-call for extended periods of time and their schedules are unpredictable. During the pandemic, many railroad companies also adopted harsh attendance policies that heavily penalize workers if they have to miss work for a doctor’s appointment or any other pressing personal business.

Despite these concerns, most of the rail unions have approved the new contract, but all the unions must approve it to avoid a strike. For now, BMWED will return to the negotiating table with employers. Unions have agreed to hold off any strike until Congress is back in session in November. If a strike does happen, companies estimate it will cost the US economy billions of dollars per day and compound existing supply chain woes.

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Calls grow in Congress to ban arm sales to Saudi Arabia

Since OPEC+ decided to cut back oil production last week, the idea of banning or cutting back US arm sales to Saudi Arabia has been gaining traction among Democrats. The OPEC+ decision just weeks ahead of the midterms is seen as an attempt to sway US voters to punish Democrats for high oil prices, while simultaneously helping fellow oil power Russia to continue funding its offensive war in Ukraine.

Yesterday, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lent the most powerful endorsement yet to the proposal. Menendez said that has committee chair, he “will not green-light any cooperation with Riyadh until the Kingdom reassesses its position with respect to the war in Ukraine. Enough is enough”. Previously, Democratic lawmakers have penned both legislation and op-eds to very much the same effect.

The US has long been Saudi Arabia’s chief supplier of weapons, a bargain struck to ensure a steady flow of cheap oil. Over recent years, the Saudis have been involved in, among other things, 9/11, rampant human rights abuses in their own country, the murder of a journalist in Turkey, and an 8-year-long war in Yemen that has amounted to genocide. Through it all, administration after administration has continued selling them weapons. But now that the Saudis have broken their end of the oil covenant, Democrats at least think it’s time at long last to re-evaluate the US position.

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Judge OKs release of Mar-a-Lago affidavit; Trump urged to announce 2024 run to avoid criminal charges. Ukraine says Russia plans to cut nuclear plant from grid, with disastrous implications.




Florida judge OKs release of affidavit that led to Mar-a-Lago search

Federal magistrate Bruce Reinhart said yesterday that he’s inclined to allow the release of the affidavit submitted by the Justice Department to obtain a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, former President Trump’s home. His decision came after various media organizations argued there was legitimate public interest in the DOJ’s justification for the search.

Reinhart made his rulings over the objection of DOJ attorneys, including Jay Bratt, the DOJ’s chief of counterintelligence and export control. Bratt argued in court that although there was public interest in the contents affidavit, it was also in the public interest to maintain its secrecy. The DOJ said that releasing the affidavit could endanger witnesses and undermine an “ongoing criminal investigation”. Bratt said that if Reinhart approved the affidavit’s release, the DOJ would propose redactions so extensive as to render the document meaningless.

Reinhart has given the DOJ one week to propose redactions for the affidavit. If Reinhart approves those redactions, the affidavit could be made public as soon as next week. If not, the DOJ will appeal and it could be months before the affidavit is released, if ever.

Trump’s allies urge him to announce 2024 run now to avoid indictment

Sources close to former President Trump are reportedly urging him to announce his candidacy for 2024 in the next few weeks. They hope that this announcement will head off any potential criminal indictment. This would include potential charges for violations of the Espionage Act stemming from Trump’s misappropriation of classified documents. But there are several other criminal probes of Trump and his associates. Here’s an incomplete list:

  • The DOJ is also investigating Trump’s efforts to introduce false slates of electors in 6 states following the 2020 election.
  • In Fulton County, GA, a special grand jury is investigating Trump’s attempt to influence Georgia state officials to overturn the results of the election.
  • Former CFO of the Trump Organization Andrew Weisselberg has pled guilty to 15 tax evasion felonies. In exchange for a short prison sentence (about 5 months), Weisselberg will testify in the trial touching on the Trump Organization itself in the fall. Weisselberg has not agreed to give testimony against Trump specifically, but the proceedings of the Trump Org. trial may yield incriminating evidence against him.
  • The DOJ may yet decide to bring other criminal charges against Trump in connection with the violence on Jan. 6, 2021.

However, there is no law that prohibits the DOJ or any other legal authority from bringing charges against a presidential candidate. Historically, the DOJ has been reluctant to do so since they don’t like to appear to be meddling in politics.



Ukraine accuses Russia of plan to cut nuclear plant from the grid, with disastrous implications

Energoatom, Ukraine’s state nuclear power firm, say that the Russian military is attempting to establish deliveries of large amounts of diesel to the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia. This may indicate the Russians are planning to shut off power generation at the plant. Without electricity to power the cooling apparatus at the towers, the cooling system has to rely on diesel-powered generators to avoid a meltdown.

Zaporizhzhia supplies about 1/5 of Ukraine’s electricity. Ukrainian operators are still running the plant, but under Russian control and occupation. The Russians have also apparently used the grounds of the plant to launch missiles at neighboring facilities, using Zaporizhzhia as a nuclear shield.

The situation at the plant, especially several recent instances of shelling that have damaged its infrastructure, has raised alarms at the UN. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has asked to access the site for an inspection. The Russians initially said they would allow an inspection but then imposed so many restrictions as to make an inspection impossible.

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Bipartisan gun control bill moves forward. Murder conviction overturned in case of GA man who left son to die in hot car. Afghanistan: At least 1000 dead after 6.0 magnitude earthquake.




Bipartisan gun control bill moves forward

A group of Republican and Democratic Senators has released the full text of the new gun control legislation. The Senate also voted to fast track voting on the bill. In addition to all Senate Democrats, 14 Republicans voted to fast track the bill, suggesting it has enough support to overcome a Republican filibuster. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has also said that she will move for a swift vote once the bill arrives in her chamber.

What’s in the bill?

The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act does include financial incentives for states to pass “red-flag laws”. These laws allow law enforcement to temporarily confiscate guns from individuals who are adjudicated mentally ill or who have expressed intent to harm themselves or others. However, if a state chooses not to pass a red-flag law, they can still get money for other “crisis management” programs. The bill also provides funding for community mental health programs and in-school resources.

The legislation will also close the “boyfriend loophole”. Until now, only people convicted of domestic violence against a marriage partner banned from buying a gun. Now that will also apply to people convicted of domestic violence against a dating partner. 

Also included in the bill is expanded background checks for gun purchasers between the ages of 18 and 21. Juvenile records will now also show up in background checks for people in this age group.

The bill does not include many of the measures that a majority of Americans (both Republicans and Democrats) support. For example, it does not establish universal background checks or close the “gun show loophole”. It also does not ban high-capacity magazines or end sales of military-style assault rifles. Nor does it raise the legal age to purchase such weapons.

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Murder conviction overturned in case of GA man who left son to die in hot car

In June 2014, Justin Ross Harris, then 33, was supposed to drop his 22-month-old son Cooper off at daycare on his way to work. Instead, with Cooper strapped into a rear-facing child seat inches behind the drivers seat, Harris pulled into the parking lot at his workplace and got out of the car at 9:25am. A little after noon, Harris returned to the car and opened the drivers side door to leave some lightbulbs he’d bought after lunch. By then, Cooper had already been in the car for over 3 hours in 92-degree heat.

Then at 4:16, Harris pulled into a mall parking lot after leaving work, having discovered his son dead in the backseat. He got out of the car and frantically yelled for passers by to call for help. A witness said Harris made three phone calls (none to 911) and never attempted CPR on Cooper, contradicting Harris’ later statement to police. Harris also neglected to mention his visit to the car after lunch during his interrogation.

Police were immediately suspicious about Harris’ behavior when they arrived to the scene. One moment he would be wailing frantically, and the next he’d be dead calm. He told officers he’d simply forgotten Cooper was in the backseat. As they put him in the back of the squad car, Harris complained about how hot it was.

Infidelity and Google searches on hot car deaths

After Harris’ arrest, police searched his home computer. They found that he’d been contacting women (and some underage girls) online and meeting them for sex. They also discovered that Harris had researched how long it takes a child to die in a hot car just days before Cooper’s death.

At his trial, prosecutors argued that Harris was unhappy in his marriage and intentionally killed his young son to free himself. The jury convicted Harris of “malice murder” (equivalent to first degree murder) in Cooper’s death and seven other charges. A judge later sentenced Harris to life in prison on the murder charge plus 32 years for the other charges.

Today, in a 6-3 decision, Georgia’s Supreme Court overturned the murder conviction against Harris. This means that Harris is entitled to a new trial on the murder and child cruelty charges. The majority ruled that the inclusion of the evidence of Harris’ infidelity was “extremely and unfairly prejudicial” and “improperly admitted”. The three dissenting judges wrote that the state was “entitled to introduce, in detail, evidence of the nature, scope, and extent of the truly sinister motive it ascribed to Harris”. 

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Afghanistan: At least 1000 dead after 6.0 magnitude earthquake

At about 1.30 am local time this morning, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck rural parts of Afghanistan and also shook part of neighboring Pakistan. Most people were in bed as their houses tumbled in on top of them. Many of the homes in this part of Afghanistan are mud-built. Since the area is remote, it took hours for rescue crews to arrive with heavy equipment to search for any survivors.

The latest information we have says that at least 1000 people were killed and about 1,500 injured, but the death toll is expected to rise higher. Rescuers have yet to reach some of the affected villages.

Images from local news shows rows of destroyed homes in numerous villages. Rescue and recovery efforts are ongoing. The country’s ruling Taliban government has sought UN assistance in assessing damage and aiding those affected. Several foreign governments have offered assistance. 

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Senate passes historic healthcare expansion for veterans. FDA OKs COVID shot for youngest kids. UK official approves Assange extradition. Bodies found in search for missing Amazon pair.




Senate passes historic expansion of healthcare for veterans

Yesterday, the Senate has overwhelmingly (84-14) approved the Honoring our PACT Act. If the bill becomes law, it will significantly expand health coverage for veterans exposed to toxic chemicals during their service.

Many have referred to the bill as the “burn pits” bill because of the many Iraq and Afghanistan war vets who’ve suffered rare cancers from exposure to burn pits near US military bases. Rather than trucking waste away from base and burying it, contractors just opened huge pits next to bases and burned the waste. This included every kind of waste, such as medical waste, human waste, food waste, plastic, broken furniture and other defunct equipment. For years, these fires burned day and night next to areas where soldiers ate, drank, worked and slept. President Biden has said he believes burn pits were responsible for the rare brain cancer that claimed the life of his son Beau, who served in Iraq.

Presumption of connection to service

However, the PACT Act goes further than merely addressing cancers related to burn pits. The bill demands that the VA presume that any cancer or other ill-effect a veteran may suffer is connected to their service. This means that veterans who suffered chemical exposures during Vietnam, Desert Storm or any foreign military action will be covered for treatment.

Lawmakers project that the bill will cost an extra $280 billion over the next decade. Some Republican lawmakers had raised objections to the bill due to its high price tag. But ultimately, the bill won broad bipartisan support in the Senate. Veterans’ groups brought a lot of public pressure on Congress to pass the bill. In recent years, former Daily Show host John Stewart has also lent his voice to the cause. Stewart was instrumental in pressuring Congress to pass a bill to cover the medical bills for 9/11 first responders. 

Stewart joined veterans and other campaigners for the bill outside the Capitol yesterday. After the vote, Stewart paid tribute to the family members of already deceased veterans for their tireless campaigning on behalf of others. “Advocating for a cause is – it’s a lovely thing to do, but to do that in your grief, when you know that it’s not going to help your loved one. But that’s not what matters to you – it’s that no one goes through what you went through”.

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FDA authorizes first COVID-19 shot for kids as young as 6 months

The FDA has granted emergency authorization for the first COVID-19 vaccination for children between 6 months and 6 years old. The authorization was for a Moderna vaccine, but Pfizer and others are still working on their own formulas. For months, Pfizer, Moderna and others have been conducting studies of young children to determine what dosage is appropriate and therapeutic for the youngest patients. Earlier this year, there was a false start when the FDA encouraged the companies to apply for authorization, only for the biomedical firms to tell them the application would be premature.

The FDA approval means that the government can start shipping doses out to states that have pre-ordered them. All that remains is for CDC Director Rochelle Walensky to grant approval. After that, doctor’s offices and hospitals can start administering the shots. That will likely happen early next week.

All but one of the states will have shots available by then. Florida has refused to pre-order, leaving up to individual doctors and hospitals to order the shots themselves.

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UK Home Secretary approves Assange extradition to US

Britain’s Home Secretary (roughly equivalent to Attorney General) Priti Patel has authorized an extradition order for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to face trial in the US. In 2010, Wikileaks released a trove of documents exposing war crimes perpetrated by the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most infamously, this included the “Collateral Murder” video, in which the crew of a US military helicopter fires and kills two Reuters cameramen, then fires on and kills civilians who came to their aid. The act of firing on first responders is known as a “double-tap” and is a war crime.

Because of these and other leaks of secret documents, Assange faces multiple charges of espionage and hacking in the US. Assange has fought extradition for years, first taking asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Since Ecuador revoked his asylum, Assange has spent two years in London’s notorious Belmarsh prison.

Human rights considerations

Owing to Assange’s failing health, his legal team has argued that his extradition to the US would violate his human rights. In early 2021, a judge agreed with them, saying that Assange would be at risk of suicide if subjected to harsh US federal prison conditions. Attorneys from the US Justice Dept. appealed, offering assurances that Assange’s detention would be safe and humane. Judges on the High Court (equivalent to our federal appeals court) thus overturned the lower court judge’s ruling. The UK’s Supreme Court then upheld the High Court’s ruling.

Patel’s approval of Assange’s extradition is not yet the end of the story. Assange’s team has 14 days to appeal this decision and as vowed that they will. If no other British court will hear their case, Assange’s team could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

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Brazil: Bodies found in search for pair missing in Amazon

A suspect has confessed to involvement in the murders of UK journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian indigenous expert Bruno Pereira. The suspect has led police to two bodies he buried, purportedly those of Phillips and Pereira. 

Phillips and Pereira were cooperating on a book Phillips was writing about conservation concerns in the Amazon. Phillips had written for the UK Guardian and the Washington Post as an environmental correspondent. Pereira was an expert on the indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest and had campaigned against illegal fishing in the area. Illegal fishing may sound fairly innocuous, but many of the groups involved in illegal fishing are also connected with smuggling of narcotics and other contraband. 

The Amazon rainforest is a hotbed of illegal and destructive exploitation of natural resources, including illegal mining and logging. Phillips’ hoped to shine a light on these activities and their impact in his book and to offer workable solutions.

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