Senate confirms big slate of Biden ambassadors to end 2021
The Senate has confirmed more than 30 ambassadors and other Biden administration nominees after Majority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to schedule a vote on sanctions on the company behind the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany.
Many environmentalists back Biden's move to tap oil reserve
Democrats and climate activists generally support President Joe Biden’s decision to release a record-setting 50 million barrels of oil from America’s strategic reserve, even as the action appeared to contradict Biden’s long-term goal to fight climate change.
Republicans explain their vote against Asian American hate crimes legislation
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act will expedite the review of hate crimes related to the pandemic and expand efforts to make the reporting of hate crimes more accessible at local and state levels, including providing online reporting resources in multiple languages.news.yahoo.com
California will mandate masks for another month. Texas will ban mask mandates in schools. Are both states going too far?
Nothing better demonstrates the polarization of the U.S.'s response to COVID-19 than the different ways that California and Texas have responded to the CDC’s announcement that fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to cover their faces in most indoor situations.news.yahoo.com
Keys, Wallet, Pepper Spray: The New Reality for Asian Americans
NEW YORK — Last spring Annie Chen, who works in human resources, read about an Asian woman who had been punched in the face and yelled at by a stranger just a few blocks from where she lived in midtown Manhattan. Five days later, Chen, 25, bought her first canister of pepper spray. She had been struck by the way the public perception of Asian Americans had suddenly changed, she said, and simply wanted to protect herself. “I felt like if people had any anger or frustration — and if you were just walking around being a person who looks Asian — they might take it out on you.” Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Over the last year, more than 6,600 anti-Asian hate incidents have been recorded nationwide, according to the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate. New York had the largest increase in anti-Asian hate crimes relative to other major cities, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. In response, organizers have formed watch groups, volunteer buddy systems and other initiatives. Many Asian Americans have also changed the way they go about their daily lives, avoiding the subway, staying hyper-alert in public and remaining at home as much as possible. But as more New Yorkers get vaccinated, the city is unquestioningly opening up. Many Asian Americans, responding to the continuing spate of attacks, are now increasingly arming themselves with items for personal defense. “People are talking about whether to buy pepper spray, whether to buy a Taser gun, like which one is better? Which one is safer, which one would you actually use? These are conversations that we’re having now,” Chen said. “I think it just speaks to the urgency that people are feeling,” said Kenji Jones, one of several New Yorkers raising money to give away personal-defense devices in Chinatown and Flushing, Queens. On March 31, Jones, 23, posted a call for donations on Instagram. He ended up raising more than $18,000 in three days, he said. In April, he distributed nearly 3,000 canisters of pepper spray and more than 1,000 personal alarms. During another giveaway, he was met with throngs of people and ran out of supplies within 20 minutes. And last weekend, at a Chinatown event, thousands more devices — including kubotans (keychain weapons), whistles and more pepper spray — were distributed. It is legal for adults who have not been convicted of a felony or assault to carry pocket-size pepper spray in New York, as long as it complies with regulations set by the state Department of Health. Sales are restricted to authorized dealers and customers can buy only two canisters at a time (Jones amassed the pepper spray for his giveaways through a friend in New Jersey, which has more relaxed rules). At Esco, a pharmacy in Hell’s Kitchen, pepper spray sales increased eightfold in the month after the Atlanta spa shootings, in which a gunman killed eight people, six of whom were Asian or Asian American women. Danny Dang, the owner of Esco, said that 90% of the customers buying the spray were Asian American. For Arthur Bramhandtam, a 36-year-old journalist, pepper spray is just one more thing on his check list when he leaves the apartment. “You have to bring your keys with you, you have to bring your wallet, you have to bring your iPhone — I have to bring my pepper spray now, it’s habitual,” he said. Both Bramhandtam and Chen called the pepper spray a last resort, sharing concerns about using it effectively and escalating an already dangerous situation. To this end, they have adopted other precautions to minimize the possibility of having to use it. Chen has taken to zipping around on a bicycle so she can get away from assailants quickly. Bramhandtam and his husband have discussed distraction techniques, especially in enclosed spaces, like subway cars. And even though Hyesu Lee, a 42-year-old illustrator who lives in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, recently started carrying pepper spray, she said she was planning to sign up for Brazilian jujitsu classes. She feels more vulnerable because English is her second language and fears her accent might mark her as a target. Two nonprofits, the Asian American Federation and the Center for Anti-Violence Education, have teamed up to provide self-defense training. Stressing the need for more grassroots community programs, the federation’s deputy director, Joo Han, added that she has also noticed more Asian Americans buying guns. “When people feel like they don’t have alternatives, they feel like they have to defend themselves using extreme measures,” Han said. “The fear that advocates have is that something is going to go wrong and it’s going to end in greater violence.” Lee, who questions whether she will ever be accepted in the United States, has considered leaving the city — her home for more than 10 years — and returning to South Korea. “But I have to live my life,” she said. “You want to believe that this wouldn’t happen to you — but it could.” Confronted with these challenges, many Asian Americans are feeling the toll after an already stressful year. “I don’t know what they’re seeing when they look at us, that they’re just attacking,” said Florence Doo, a resident physician at Mount Sinai West, who despite taking safety precautions said she had been publicly heckled and scapegoated for the coronavirus on two occasions. “And that thought process — that baseline stress that I’m carrying, I can see now how that affects people’s bodies and their lives. That’s not healthy.” As for the deeper issue of racism, Dang, the pharmacist, said: “Is pepper spray really the solution? I don’t know. We want to help those who feel vulnerable. But fear is not healthy. I’d rather not sell this product and have everyone be calm and feel OK.” Bramhandtam questioned the burden of making changes in his life. “When you do that, you’re letting this insidiousness that is pervading our society get to you, and like, that would win. And I don’t want that either. You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Companynews.yahoo.com
Senators to Biden: Waive vaccine intellectual property rules
Ten liberal senators are urging President Joe Biden to back India and South Africa’s appeal to the World Trade Organization to temporarily relax intellectual property rules so coronavirus vaccines can be manufactured by nations that are struggling to inoculate their populations.
Damage from virus: Utility bills overwhelm some households
A study done by Arcadia, which runs a service that helps households lower utility bills, found that the average past-due amount by those in its network was roughly $850. And many people have lost income even while remaining employed, leaving them unable to buy food, pay rent or afford utility bills. Combined with other government financing allotted for energy aid since the pandemic began, the total available to help struggling households pay utility bills is about $9.1 billion. With their sharply reduced income, Desper and her husband fell nearly $700 behind on energy bills and more than $1,100 behind on mortgage payments. Even bigger past-due bills have been emerging in New Jersey, said Kathy Kerr, director of utility assistance for the Affordable Housing Alliance.
Biden hopes to boost offshore wind as Mass. project advances
If approved, the $2 billion project would be the first utility-scale wind power development in federal waters. Vineyard Wind is significantly farther offshore than Cape Wind, a previous Massachusetts offshore wind project that famously failed amid opposition from the Kennedy family and businessman William Koch, among others, who considered it a bird-killing eyesore in their ocean views. AdAs president Donald Trump frequently derided wind power as an expensive, bird-slaughtering way to make electricity, and his administration resisted or opposed wind projects nationwide, including Vineyard Wind. Despite the enthusiasm, offshore wind development is still in its infancy in the U.S., far behind progress made by countries in Europe. The group expects 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy to be built over the next decade.
Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez seek 'climate emergency' declaration
A week after President Joe Biden signed executive orders intended to combat the worst effects of global warming, Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez and other lawmakers urged him to go even further and declare a national emergency on climate change. “If there ever was an emergency, climate is one,'' the New York Democrat told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow last week, adding that an emergency declaration would give Biden “more flexibility.'' The sweeping plan is aimed at staving off the worst of global warming caused by burning fossil fuels. Sanders said the climate emergency has long been clear. But Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate energy panel, said declaring a climate emergency would effectively “muzzle Congress.''
VIRUS TODAY: Lawmakers call for race data on vaccine access
FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2020, file photo, people line up for the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site outside St. Luke's Episcopal Church in the Bronx borough of New York. Data from some states has shown hard-hit nonwhite Americans who are eligible to get the vaccine are not receiving it in proportion to their share of the population. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, all of Massachusetts, say the agency must work with states, municipalities and private labs to collect and publish demographic data about vaccine recipients. Without that information, policymakers and health workers cannot efficiently identify vaccine disparities in the hardest-hit communities, the lawmakers say. Dr. Paul Offit of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a vaccine adviser to the U.S. government, on the slow and steady process of scaling up vaccine production.
Democratic lawmakers push for race data in vaccinations
Along with Hispanic and Native American people, Black Americans are dying from COVID-19 at nearly three times the rate of white Americans. AdPressley, who made early calls for racial case data last year, said communities of color cannot afford to wait longer for vaccine demographic data to become available. During a White House briefing on Wednesday, Nunez-Smith said federal officials were calling for states to “get better, more consistent data” on the already administered vaccinations. Nationwide, health officials in 18 states included ways to measure equity in their vaccine distribution plans last fall. But as issues in the vaccine supply chain emerged, some states have had to slow or rework distribution plans.
Julián and Joaquin Castro call on Ted Cruz to resign after he objected to Joe Biden’s victory just before pro-Trump rioters breached Congress
Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas faced calls for his resignation Wednesday as Texas Democrats said his leading role in efforts to block the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's electoral victory empowered the pro-Donald Trump rioters who breached the Capitol and disrupted the certification process. Texas Democrats U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro and his brother Julián Castro, a former presidential candidate, asked Cruz, also a former presidential candidate, to step down on twitter. Trump for months has falsely insisted that he won the election — and has turned to Cruz to make his case. Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote on Twitter that, “Texans should hold Sen. Ted Cruz accountable for this fiasco.”Houston Chief of Police Art Acevedo echoed that sentiment. “Will you stand with me?”An aide to Cruz said the messages were sent "from a firm" and not approved by Cruz to be sent.
Retiring Rep. Joe Kennedy III says greed hinders aid to poor
In this image from video, retiring Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., speaks on the floor of the U.S. House Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (House Television via AP)WASHINGTON – Retiring Rep. Joe Kennedy III used his farewell speech from Congress on Wednesday to deride the “great lie of our times” that the government lacks the resources and will to help people in need. Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., said he is pursuing the post of director of the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy under President-elect Joe Biden. Patrick Kennedy, cousin of the retiring congressman, battled drug addiction and has worked privately to bolster mental health substance abuse programs. ___Associated Press writer Michelle R. Smith contributed to this report from Providence, R.I.___This story has been corrected to show that Patrick Kennedy is Joe Kennedy's cousin, not his great-uncle.
US lawmakers unveil anti-slavery constitutional amendment
FILE - This Nov. 29, 2011, file photo shows the signature of president Abraham Lincoln on a rare, restored copy of the 13th Amendment that ended slavery, in Chicago. As ratified, the original amendment has permitted exploitation of labor by convicted felons for over 155 years since the abolition of slavery. Constitutional amendments are rare and require approval by two-thirds of the House and Senate, as well as ratification by three-quarters of state legislatures. In Merkley’s Oregon, voters in 2002 approved the elimination of constitutional language that prohibited Black Americans from living in the state unless they were enslaved. The prevalence of prison labor has been largely accepted as a means for promoting rehabilitation, teaching trade skills and reducing idleness among prisoners.
Senate Latest: Kelly win gives Arizona 2 Democratic senators
The former astronaut defeated Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed to the seat after McCain’s death in 2018. Daines’ first election in 2014 broke a Democratic lock on the Senate seat that had lasted more than 100 years. The six-term congressman from northern New Mexico defeated Republican Mark Ronchetti, a former television meteorologist, and Libertarian Bob Walsh. Reed cruised to victory over Waters, an investment consultant who mounted earlier unsuccessful campaigns for state Senate and U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. Warner defeated Republican challenger Daniel Gade in a low-key race in which the incumbent had a massive cash advantage.
Some Dems, not yet Biden, talk of expanding Supreme Court
For now at least, Biden is spurning talk of court expansion, dubbed “court packing” by its opponents, although the Democratic platform does include support for amorphous “structural court reforms to increase transparency and accountability." In the Democratic primaries, Biden prevailed over candidates who supported big changes for the court, including former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Roosevelt lost the fight in Congress over court expansion, though retirements soon eliminated FDR's need for legislation. One of the attractions of court expansion is that it does not require amending the Constitution, as imposing term limits on justices might. “The conversation about court expansion is not so much about the court but restoring democracy.
2020 serves another blow as Ginsburg's death ignites fight
The political battle is being quickly joined over replacing Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle, File)WASHINGTON – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death drew mourners to the steps of the Supreme Court, where they sang “Amazing Grace” in the dark. Inevitably, and against her last wishes, Ginsburg became a political football mere minutes after her death was disclosed Friday night. “BREAKING: The future of the Supreme Court is on the line,” said a fundraising email from Republican Sen. Joni Ernst’s Iowa campaign shortly after the justice's death was announced. But not Christopher Scalia, son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative foil to the liberal Ginsburg who also happened to be a dear friend.
Ex-Marine wins Democratic primary for Joe Kennedy IIIs seat
Jake Auchincloss has won a packed primary to become the Democratic nominee in the race to fill the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rep. Joe Kennedy III in Massachusetts. Nearly 1 million voters, skittish over the coronavirus pandemic, used the mail option for Tuesdays primary. He was elected to the Newton City Council in 2015. Kennedy opted not to seek reelection so he could challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Edward Markey in the Senate Democratic primary, but lost that bid Tuesday, becoming the first member of the Kennedy political dynasty to lose a congressional race in Massachusetts. The few other members of Massachusetts all-Democratic congressional delegation who had faced primary opponents Reps. Richard Neal, Stephen Lynch and Seth Moulton all breezed through Tuesdays runoff.
Progressive challengers' year: 3 wins and some close calls
But some challengers lost, and their overall wins were a modest number compared with the 535 House and Senate members. Kessler wasn't impressed with the three progressive challengers who defeated Democratic incumbents, either. Other high-profile progressive hopefuls lost Senate Democratic primaries in Colorado, Maine and Texas, and House contests in states including Georgia, New York and Ohio. Jamaal Bowman, a Black educator raised by a single mom, defeated House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel of the Bronx and Westchester, New York. They're an effective and well-funded operation now," said Sean McElwee, who does polling and research for progressive Democrats.
5 Things to Know for Today
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:1. MIGRANT ROUTE TAKES DEADLY TURN They are increasingly crossing a treacherous part of the Atlantic to reach the Canary Islands in what has become one of the most dangerous migration routes to European territory. STORIED POLITICAL NAME FALLS Sen. Edward Markey defeats Rep. Joe Kennedy III in a hard-fought Democratic primary for Senate the first time a Kennedy has lost a race for Congress in Massachusetts. NOTORIOUS KHMER ROUGE COMMANDER DIES Kaing Guek Eav, who admitted overseeing the torture and killings of as many as 16,000 Cambodians while running the regimes most notorious prison, was 77. FIRST LADYS EX-ADVISER SAYS SHE TAPED CALLS FOR PROTECTION Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, author of a new book about Melania Trump, says she needed evidence to protect herself amid questions about costs of the inauguration.
Kennedy loss in Massachusetts may mark end of 'Camelot' era
The loss marks the first time a member of the political dynasty has come up short in a race for Congress in Massachusetts. The Kennedy legacy hung over the race, especially in the closing weeks, when Kennedy more explicitly invoked his pedigree including JFK; former U.S. Kennedy helped raise millions of dollars for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats campaign arm, during the 2018 midterm elections. Massachusetts voters may have rejected him, but few remaining House Democrats carry the same national fundraising appeal as Kennedy. In 1986, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend lost a U.S. House race in Maryland, and in 2002, Mark Kennedy Shriver also lost a congressional primary in Maryland.
Heal the country? Disease specialists running for Congress
BOSTON A background in science specifically, infectious disease and epidemiology may not spring to mind as a key selling point for candidates hoping to land a seat in Congress. Kennedy is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Edward Markey in the states Democratic primary, creating an open race to fill his seat. I cant go anywhere in this district and not talk about anything but my experiences as an infectious disease doctor, he said. Goldstein said he also sees himself as part of a wave of younger Democratic candidates trying to push the party toward a more progressive agenda. Brookline resident Barbara Kamholz, a 48-year-old associate professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine, said she's pleased with the variety of Democratic candidates running to fill Kennedys seat.
A troubling pandemic thought: Are THESE the good old days?
A man wearing a mask leaves a gift shop on Wednesday, July 15, 2020, in Hope Valley, R.I. Could these be the good old days? But consider this: What if THESE are the good old days? The pandemic continues to buffet the planet economically, dashing hopes that the worst of the joblessness might be behind us. The pandemic is "going to get worse and worse and worse, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters last week. These times were in right now perilous as they are will soon be looked back on fondly as the good old days. Prepare accordingly, tweeted Columbia University philosopher Rory Varrato.
White House turns on Fauci as Trump minimizes virus spike
At the same time, the president and top White House aides are ramping up attacks against Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert. Fauci has been increasingly sidelined by the White House as he sounds alarms about the virus, a most unwelcome message at a time when Trump is focused on pushing an economic rebound. Last week, Fauci contradicted Trump about the severity of the virus during a FiveThirtyEight podcast. Asked whether the president still had confidence in Fauci, a White House official on Monday insisted Trump did. The effort is part of a White House effort to counterpunch on behalf of Trump, who believes all slights must have a forceful response, said one official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal White House thinking.
White House turns on Fauci as Trump minimizes virus spike
Asked whether the president still had confidence in Fauci, a White House official on Monday insisted Trump did. But that supportive message was not echoed by Peter Navarro, a top White House trade adviser who has been working on the coronavirus effort. However, one senior White House aide insisted frustration with him was directed more at outsiders, including some in the media who elevate Fauci" and fault the White House for not showing more deference. The effort is part of a White House effort to counterpunch on behalf of Trump, who believes all slights must have a forceful response, said one official, who, like others, spoke on condition of anonymity to describe internal White House thinking. America should be applauding Dr. Fauci for his service and following his advice, not undermining his credibility at this critical time," they wrote.
Where's Markey? Senator misses dozens of votes in pandemic
Only Markey and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state missed the vote. Of 42 Senate votes in May and the first half of June, Markey missed 34 or about 80%, according to information from GovTrack, an independent clearinghouse for congressional data. Of those missed votes, one of the more notable for Markey was last weeks vote on the Great American Outdoors Act. The bill, which passed on a bipartisan 73-25 vote vote, would spend $3 billion on conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands. In all of 2019, Markey missed just 19 of 428 votes or less than 5%.
U.S. lawmaker says any COVID-19 contact tracing tech should be voluntary and limited
The federal government must provide leadership, coordination, and guidance to ensure that contact tracing efforts are effective and do not infringe upon individuals civil liberties, including the right to privacy, Markey wrote in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence. Markey urged that any contact tracing be limited to what is needed to track disease exposure, include investment in public health, and be voluntary, subject to enforceable rules and transparent about what data is collected and what happens to it. He urged that a minimum of data be collected and that it be kept securely and discarded in a timely fashion. Markeys concerns echoed those of fellow Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who has said that the companies face a rightfully skeptical public when it comes to privacy. If you seek to assure the public, make your stake in this project personal, Hawley wrote.feeds.reuters.com
Boeing in talks with Trump administration for short-term government aid as aviation reels from coronavirus
An aerial photo shows Boeing 737 MAX airplanes parked on the tarmac at the Boeing Factory in Renton, Washington, March 21, 2019. Boeing said it is in talks with Trump administration officials about potential aid for the aircraft manufacturer and others in its supply chain as coronavirus and measures to contain it roil the travel industry. The travel industry is at the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis and airline chiefs have slashed flights, frozen hiring and either laid off or asked employees to take unpaid leave. The crisis hits Boeing after it was struggling with the fallout of two fatal crashes of its 737 Max, which is its best-selling plane. Boeing's conversations with Trump administration officials are ongoing and include assistance throughout aviation, a sector that includes Boeing suppliers like General Electric and Spirit Aerosystems, and airports.cnbc.com
Amazon says working with state AGs to nab sellers engaged in price-gouging over coronavirus
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc said on Friday it is working with state attorneys general to identify and prosecute third-party sellers who are taking advantage of fears of the spreading coronavirus to engage in price-gouging on the Amazon website. FILE PHOTO: Amazon boxes are seen stacked for delivery in the Manhattan borough of New York City, January 29, 2016. Markey wrote Amazon earlier this week asking the company to stop third-party sellers from ramping up prices for items like Purell hand sanitizers as people seek to protect themselves from the coronavirus. U.S. retailers have been witnessing a surge in panic-buying from shoppers racing to stock up on essential items. We have suspended thousands of accounts of sellers who have engaged in price gouging and we have begun working with several state attorneys general to prosecute the worst offenders, Amazon said in the letter.feeds.reuters.com
Purell for $400? U.S. lawmaker urges Amazon to tamp down price gouging
REUTERS/Mike Segar/File PhotoWASHINGTON (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) should stop third-party sellers from price gouging for items like Purell hand sanitizer as people seek to protect themselves from the coronavirus, U.S. Senator Edward Markey said in a letter to the online retailer on Wednesday. A box of small Purell bottles that usually sells for $10 was listed online for $400, he said. Amazon called the price-gougers bad actors. There is no place for price gouging on Amazon, a spokesman said in a statement. Markey asked the online retailer to respond to his questions about its anti-gouging efforts by March 18.feeds.reuters.com
Senator asks Tesla to rebrand its Autopilot feature because it can confuse drivers
Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., wants Tesla to rebrand and add safeguards to its cars' Autopilot feature. Markey said his two recommendations come after media reports that show Tesla drivers abusing the Autopilot system. The first recommendation is a rebranding of the Autopilot feature to clarify that it is not fully autonomous, meaning the driver has to remain in control of the vehicle while Autopilot is turned on. According to Tesla's website, "Current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous." Markey criticized Tesla's Autopilot feature at a Commerce Committee hearing on self-driving vehicles in November.cnbc.com
Two US senators raise privacy concerns over Facebook's Messenger Kids
Democratic U.S. senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal have written to Facebook questioning whether there was a "worrying pattern" of poor privacy protection for children using its Messenger Kids app. The app, launched in December 2017, is designed for users under the age of 13. It lets them do video chats and send photos, videos and texts. "Facebook has a responsibility to meet its promise to parents that children are not exposed to unapproved contacts, a promise that it appears that Facebook has not fulfilled," they said. "Children's privacy and safety online should be Messenger Kids' top priority."cnbc.com