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623,323 PEOPLE HAVE DIED FROM CORONAVIRUS IN THE U.S.
199.3 MILLION PEOPLE IN THE U.S. HAVE RECEIVED A VACCINATION DOSE
Democrats have finally identified the greatest threat to voting rights — the Supreme Court
Two things are clear about House Democrats’ new plan to undo a conservative Supreme Court’s efforts to restrict the right to vote: One is that Democrats are starting to recognize the existential threat that a 6-3 conservative Court could present to American democracy. The other is that, unless a handful of key Senate Democrats stop propping up the filibuster, the Court will win this engagement. […]
The latest version of the John Lewis Act is far more ambitious than the one Democrats supported in 2019. Among other things, the new bill would undo the Supreme Court’s very recent decision in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (2021), which imposed new, seemingly made-up limits on the Voting Rights Act’s safeguards against racism in elections. […]
If nothing else, in other words, the latest version of the John Lewis Act recognizes that one of the greatest threats to American democracy is the Supreme Court of the United States — and that Congress needs to confront the Court’s recent decisions directly if it hopes to protect democracy in the United States.
Why Biden was so set on withdrawing from Afghanistan
To understand President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan against the advice of the US military establishment, you need to go back to a debate that played out more than a decade ago, during the early years of Barack Obama’s presidency.
In 2009, the new Obama administration debated whether to “surge” troop levels in Afghanistan after nearly eight years of war had failed to quell the insurgency from the overthrown Taliban forces. Top generals asked early that year for 17,000 more US troops and then, having gotten those, asked for an additional 40,000 to try to weaken the Taliban and strengthen the Afghan government.
Then-Vice President Biden was consistently one of the biggest skeptics of the military’s recommendations. Throughout months of debate, he repeatedly raised the inconvenient point that the generals’ preferred strategy seemed extremely unlikely to lead to actual victory. “We have not thought through our strategic goals!” he shouted during the Obama administration’s first meeting on the war in Afghanistan.
“There’s No Clarity.” A Lawyer Helping Afghan Refugees Reckons with US Visa Failures.
[…] Few Americans understand the plight of America’s Afghan allies as acutely as the attorneys who are working to evacuate them. Julie Kornfeld, a senior staff attorney at the International Refugee Assistance Project, told me her organization is representing more than 150 Afghan nationals as they look to leave the country. Many of them have applied for entry to the United States through the Special Immigrant Visa program, which has been wracked with delays and other bureaucratic problems since its creation.
The program’s issues, which Kornfeld attributes to a lack of staffing, proper training, and funding, have had a catastrophic impact on Afghans now under threat of retaliation from the Taliban. “There’s no organization, there’s no clarity,” she said. “It seems like no one really knows what’s going on.”
Internal Government Watchdog Slams Afghanistan War Effort as Inept and Reckless
A devastating report from the US government’s internal watchdog on the war in Afghanistan, coincidentally released just after the Afghan government collapsed in the face of a takeover by the Taliban, paints a bleak picture of the 20-year US campaign there marred by an incoherent strategy and the lack of a long-term plan. […]
The new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko—the official tasked by Congress with monitoring US government spending in Afghanistan—says there’s plenty of blame to go around. SIGAR issues an annual report on the state of the war in Afghanistan, and Sopko’s latest one, released at midnight on Monday night, not only delivers a blistering critique of US actions in Afghanistan but offers lessons for decision-makers for the next time the US government takes over a country and seeks to rebuild it.
Afghan ambassador says Ghani stole millions, calls for arrest
Afghanistan’s ambassador to Tajikistan has accused Afghan President Ashraf Ghani of stealing nearly $170 million from the country, and is now calling for international authorities to arrest him.
Ambassador Zahir Aghbar, during a news conference on Wednesday, said Ghani, who fled the country as the Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday, “stole $169 million from the state coffers,” according to The Associated Press. […]
Ghani denied the allegations against him in a video streamed on Facebook on Wednesday, according to Reuters, which were his first public remarks since fleeing Afghanistan
Afghanistan disaster puts intelligence under scrutiny
[…] Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley on Wednesday said officials underestimated the pace at which Taliban insurgents would overrun the Afghan government, an extraordinary admission likely to put more scrutiny on intelligence assessments.
“There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in 11 days,” Milley told reporters during a Pentagon briefing.
Milley said that intelligence showed “multiple scenarios were possible,” including a rapid Taliban takeover over the course of weeks or months or years. But he made it clear the 11-day collapse was not something that had been foreseen.
Who is Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s de facto leader?
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was not among the Taliban men who strode, unopposed, into the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, on August 15th. But he is credited with getting them there. Having just returned to the country for the first time in over a decade, he is expected to be anointed as the leader of the hastily resurrected Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Who is he?
Born into an influential Pushtun tribe in southern Afghanistan in 1968, in his youth Mullah Baradar fought with mujahideen guerrillas against Soviet troops, and the Afghan government they left behind. After the war he helped Mullah Muhammad Omar, his former commander (and, some say, brother-in-law), found the Taliban (“students”), a posse of hard-line seminarians united to sweep away heathen local warlords, who then swiftly conquered much of the country in 1996. […]
In 2010 he was tracked down by America’s CIA and arrested by the Pakistani intelligence services in Karachi. In 2018, at the request of the Americans, Pakistani officials released him from prison to participate in peace negotiations in Doha… As a political deputy in 2020 he met Mike Pompeo, then Secretary of State, twice and spoke with … Donald Trump by telephone. It was Mullah Baradar’s signature on an agreement made by America to withdraw its forces…
In Case Anyone Was Wondering Why the Taliban Actually Were Able To Retake Afghanistan So Easily, It Is Because the Trump Administration Agreed the US Would Unconditionally Surrender To Them
The title is not hyperbole. The agreement negotiated by Ambassador Khalilzad, the Special Representative for Afghan Reconstruction working under the direction of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the direct orders of then President Trump makes the Treaty of Versailles look like strategic genius.
The abject surrender is in part one and sections 2 and 3 of part 3. Part 2, which is the Taliban’s responsibilities as a result of the agreement, are not enforceable by the US once the US and its Coalition allies complete the withdrawal from Afghanistan and because of what the US agreed to in part 1: to never again threaten to use force, use force, or interfere in any way in Afghanistan.
What did the US agree to:
- Release of Taliban prisoners,
- Lifting of all sanctions,
- Complete withdrawal from Afghanistan,
- To never again threaten to use force, use force, or interfere in any way in Afghanistan
- To seek positive relations with the Taliban
- To establish economic reconciliation with the new post occupation Islamic government of Afghanistan
The Washington Post
Trump let this pesticide stay on the market. Under Biden, EPA is banning its use on food.
The Environmental Protection Agency will ban the use of a pesticide widely applied on food crops but linked to neurological damage in children, reversing one of the Trump administration’s most fraught public health decisions.
The final rule released Wednesday will put a stop to the spraying of chlorpyrifos on fruits and vegetables across the country, to protect the health of both farmworkers dispersing the pesticide and children eating produce treated with it.
The move to curtail use of the potent insect-killing chemical on food overturns a 2017 decision by then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to keep the pesticide on the market despite a recommendation by the agency’s scientists to restrict it, given its potential risks.
“This comes after more than a decade of science in which it became pretty clear that there were potential neurodevelopmental effects on children that were being observed at lower levels than people had previously thought,” Michal Freedhoff, the EPA’s top official for chemical safety and pollution prevention, said in a phone interview.
Barbara Lee doesn’t feel vindicated for voting against Afghan war: ‘I almost wish ... I had been wrong’
“I wasn’t sure what was going on” as the man walked up to her, the California Democrat recalled Tuesday. He explained that he was initially furious about her vote but, over the years, had a change of heart. “What you did, I hated you,” he told her with tears in his eyes. “But I understand now exactly what that was all about. I came here because I want to personally apologize and I want my son to see me apologize to you for that.”
For 20 years, Lee was like the mythical Cassandra: Gifted with the ability to predict the future, cursed that no one would believe her…
“I almost wish, in many ways, that I had been wrong,” she said. “Because what’s taking place today is terrifying.”
Alabama Media Group
Alabama doctor says he won’t treat unvaccinated people: ‘COVID is miserable way to die’
An Alabama doctor is taking a bold stance in the efforts to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19.
Dr. Jason Valentine, a physician at Mobile’s Diagnostic and Medical Clinic Infirmary Health, posted a photo on his Facebook page showing him posed next to a sign that says “effective Oct. 1, 2021, Dr. Valentine will no longer see patients that are not vaccinated against COVID-19.”
Since posting the sign, Valentine wrote that three unvaccinated patients asked where they could get a vaccine.
“No conspiracy theories, no excuses. Just where do they go,” he added.
Valentine had a blunt answer for those who asked him about his decision.
“If they asked why, I told them COVID is a miserable way to die and I can’t watch them die like that,” he wrote.
The Coronavirus Is Here Forever. This Is How We Live With It.
[…] That future may be hard to imagine with intensive-care units filling up yet again during this Delta surge. But the pandemic will end. One way or another, it will end. The current spikes in cases and deaths are the result of a novel coronavirus meeting naive immune systems. When enough people have gained some immunity through either vaccination or infection—preferably vaccination—the coronavirus will transition to what epidemiologists call “endemic.” It won’t be eliminated, but it won’t upend our lives anymore.
With that blanket of initial immunity laid down, there will be fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths from COVID-19. Boosters can periodically re-up immunity too. Cases may continue to rise and fall in this scenario, perhaps seasonally, but the worst outcomes will be avoided.
We don’t know exactly how the four common-cold coronaviruses first came to infect humans, but some have speculated that at least one also began with a pandemic. If immunity to the new coronavirus wanes like it does with these others, then it will keep causing reinfections and breakthrough infections, more and more of them over time, but still mild enough. We’ll have to adjust our thinking about COVID-19 too. The coronavirus is not something we can avoid forever; we have to prepare for the possibility that we will all get exposed one way or another.
‘Panjshir stands strong’: Afghanistan’s last holdout against the Taliban
[…] Panjshir valley, north of Kabul in the Hindu Kush, was a resistance stronghold for decades, first against the Soviets in the 1980s, then against the Taliban in the 1990s. It is still dotted with rusting tanks from the fights of those decades.
The vice-president, Amrullah Saleh, who was born and trained to fight there, vowed it will reprise that role, after he declared himself “caretaker” head of state under the constitution the Taliban effectively seemed to have swept aside.[…]
Panjshir’s geography, nestled on the edge of the Himalayas, makes it a natural fortress and for now the Taliban have not attacked it – despite their lighting sweep across Afghanistan and the capture of huge stashes of weapons, ammunitions, vehicles and other military supplies.
That may be because they are focused on structuring their new government after the previous one collapsed so fast it took even the militants by surprise.
But it may also be because the retreat to Panjshir seems – at least for now – as much political as military. The current leaders of the historic anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, who have holed up there and vowed to fight, may be bidding for a stake in the new government as well as planning a guerrilla campaign.
Thousands forced to evacuate by wildfire near Saint-Tropez
Hundreds of French firefighters battled to contain a raging wildfire near the Mediterranean resort of Saint-Tropez on Tuesday, with thousands of residents and holidaymakers forced to evacuate.
Roughly 900 firefighters were using high-pressure hoses, aircraft and helicopters in an attempt to control the flames, which began racing through the scrubland and trees of the Plaine des Maures nature reserve on Monday evening. […]
The Mediterranean basin has long faced seasonal wildfires linked to its dry and hot weather in the summer, but climate scientists warn they will become increasingly common because of human-made global heating.
Los Angeles Times
Colorado governor voids an 1864 order to kill Native Americans
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday rescinded a 19th century proclamation that called for citizens to kill Native Americans and take their property, in a move to atone for what he called “sins of the past.”
The 1864 order by Colorado’s second territorial governor, John Evans, eventually led to the Sand Creek massacre, one of Colorado’s darkest and most fraught historic moments. The brutal assault left more than 200 Arapaho and Cheyenne people — mostly women, children and older people — dead.
Evans’ proclamation was never lawful because it contravened established treaty rights and federal law regarding Native Americans, Polis said at the signing of his executive order on the Capitol steps.
Taliban cracks down on protests — and those seeking to leave
The Taliban on Wednesday faced the first known street protests against the militant group’s lightning-quick takeover of Afghanistan, and disorder again erupted near Kabul’s international airport, where weapon-carrying insurgents violently rebuffed Afghans trying to make their way inside to board outgoing flights. […]
A Taliban promise of “safe passage” to the airport for would-be evacuees, touted by the White House, appeared to apply mainly to foreigners, and not even always to them. Kirby, speaking to reporters, summed up the grim dynamic by acknowledging that U.S. forces who once dominated the landscape could do little to help people make their way through the perimeter.
“We’re not outside the airport,” he said. Referring to the Taliban, he said: “And they are.” […]
In Afghanistan, the Taliban promised not to exact reprisal from people who have opposed the group’s takeover, but some Kabul residents described armed men making unexpected visits to homes and compounds, asking whether anyone there had worked with the U.S. military, the government or with Western organizations.
California builds a ‘Noah’s Ark’ to protect wildlife from extinction by fire and heat
It was just before sunrise in July when the botanists Naomi Fraga and Maria Jesus threw on backpacks and crunched their way across a brittle alkaline flat in the hottest corner of the Mojave Desert. Their mission: to rescue a tiny plant teetering on the brink of extinction.
A decade ago, the Amargosa River Basin east of Death Valley National Park was a vast muddy wetlands studded with millions of Amargosa niterwort, a fleshy herb that grows only here and that scientists call Nitrophila mohavensis.
Today, the species has dwindled to fewer than 150,000, and most of the plants that still sprout from this salt-white playa have stopped producing viable seeds — stressed victims of decreasing rainfall, rising temperatures and the loss of groundwater due to pumping.
The botanists aimed to collect seeds until the temperature hit triple digits. Later, their bounty would be sealed inside aluminum foil packets for storage in California Seed Bank freezers at the nonprofit California Botanic Garden in Claremont.
Satellite video shows the "explosive growth" of the Caldor Fire in California
The Caldor Fire burning in Northern California exploded overnight and is now burning more than 53,700 acres, fire officials said Wednesday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tweeted a satellite video of the wildfire that showed the blaze's "explosive growth" east of Sacramento.
The blaze, which is zero percent contained, tripled in size over the past 24 hours and threatens more than 5,800 homes, officials said. Two people were injured by the blaze and airlifted to hospitals for treatment, they said. Thousands of residents have been evacuated from their homes.
Justice Department says new Missouri gun law unconstitutional, hurts public safety
The Justice Department on Wednesday asked a Missouri court to invalidate a new state law that prohibits state and local officials from enforcing federal firearms laws, arguing it violates the Constitution and has already done harm to public safety in the state.
Federal prosecutors filed a statement of interest in a challenge to the Missouri law brought by St. Louis and Jackson Counties, which seeks to block enforcement of the measure. The Justice Department told the Cole County Circuit Court it supports a finding that the law, known as HB85, is unconstitutional and an order halting its enforcement.
San Francisco Chronicle
Federal judge investigating PG&E's role in Dixie Fire orders utility worker to appear in court
The Pacific Gas and Electric Co. worker who found damaged power equipment near the origin point of the monstrous Dixie Fire has been ordered to appear in federal court next month for questioning.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup on Wednesday told PG&E to produce the employee in person at a San Francisco hearing Sept. 13. Alsup indicated that he and attorneys would question the unnamed worker.
Thousands of live sand dollars wash up on Oregon coast at Seaside
Scores of live sand dollars began washing ashore on the Oregon coast Sunday, mystifying locals and breaking the hearts of marine life lovers.
The Seaside Aquarium posted photos of the sand dollars to Facebook on Sunday evening, reporting that thousands washed up with the afternoon high tides on the south end of Seaside Beach near Tillamook Head.
“At this time, we do not know what has caused this, and these types of incidents usually have several contributing factors,” the aquarium wrote on Facebook. “We are also unaware if this is an isolated incident or if this is happing on other beaches. It is hard to convey how many sand dollars [are] washing in.”
The Seattle Times
Washington’s COVID vaccine mandates ordered by Gov. Jay Inslee are among the strictest in the nation
Even before Gov. Jay Inslee expanded his COVID-19 vaccination order to K-12 and higher education employees on Wednesday, Washington’s vaccine mandate ranked among the most sweeping and strict in the nation.
Most governors who have imposed such mandates have built in wiggle room, allowing public employees and health care workers to undergo regular coronavirus tests if they choose not to get vaccinated.
Inslee’s orders offer no such slack. Employees at state agencies, schools and universities must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 or face termination. Inoculations also will be a condition of employment for hundreds of thousands of people working in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
The Denver Post
Colorado’s Boebert discloses husband’s work for energy firm
Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert’s husband made $478,000 last year working as a consultant for an energy firm, information that was not disclosed during Boebert’s congressional campaign and only reported in her financial disclosure forms filed this week.
In paperwork filed with the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the Republican congresswoman reported that her husband, Jayson Boebert, received the money as a consultant to “Terra Energy Productions” in 2020, and earned $460,000 as a consultant for the firm in 2019.
Boebert did not report the income last year… during the GOP primary in Colorado’s sprawling 3rd district…
Ethics and campaign finance laws require candidates and members of Congress to disclose sources of their immediate family’s income, along with major investments and assets, to let voters evaluate potential conflicts of interest. Boebert has been a defender of the energy industry, which is very active in her district.
Taliban keep some evacuees from reaching Kabul airport, as U.S. vows to finish airlift
Armed members of the Taliban kept people desperate to flee Afghanistan from reaching Kabul's airport on Wednesday, witnesses said, while President Joe Biden vowed to keep U.S. troops in the country until all Americans are evacuated.
Since the Taliban entered Kabul over the weekend, scenes of chaos have unfolded as thousands seek to leave, fearing a return to the austere interpretation of Islamic law imposed during the previous Taliban rule that ended 20 years ago.
"Everyone wants out," said a member of an Afghan family after it arrived in Germany. "Every day is worse than the day before. We saved ourselves but we couldn't rescue our families."
Witnesses said Taliban members prevented people from getting into the airport compound, including those with the necessary documents to travel.
Haitians grow impatient for quake aid as hungry crowd gathers
A hungry crowd gathered outside an airport in southern Haiti on Wednesday as victims of an earthquake that killed some 2,000 people voiced anger that government aid was slow to arrive five days after the disaster, leaving many without food and water.
Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who flew to visit the worst-affected city of Les Cayes in southwest Haiti soon after Saturday's magnitude 7.2 quake, had praised the dignity shown by survivors and promised a rapid escalation of aid.
But following another night of rains, residents in Les Cayes, including those camped in a mushrooming tent city in the city center, complained of scant help on the ground.
Afghan girls return to school in Herat after Taliban takeover
Girls wearing white hijabs and black tunics are streaming into classrooms in the western Afghan city of Herat just days after the Taliban’s takeover.
As the school opened its doors, the students scurried down corridors and chatted in courtyards, seemingly oblivious to the turmoil that has engulfed the country in the past two weeks.
The scenes – which many feared would be banned under the Taliban – were filmed by an AFP cameraman this week, just days after fighters from the armed group took the city following the collapse of government forces and local militias.
Where does the world stand on Afghan refugees?
[…] The Taliban has also promised to grant amnesty to ex-Afghan army soldiers, as well as contractors and translators who worked for international forces with the US-led coalition that invaded Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
But there are concerns in Western capitals and among rights organisations that the Taliban’s resurgence could yet lead to recriminations, and several countries are organising evacuation flights for the Afghans who worked for their armies and institutions […]
▶︎ Pakistan to keep refugees close to border…
▶︎ Turkey steps up border wall construction…
▶︎ United Kingdom to welcome 20,000 people over several years…
▶︎ Canada to resettle 20,000, prioritising minorities including LGBTQ Afghans…
▶︎ Switzerland refuses to accept large groups of Afghans…
▶︎ Austria refuses refugees, favours deportation centres…
▶︎ United States focuses on evacuation efforts…
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia hospitals stretched with influx of kids battling COVID-19, other viruses
The soaring number of children contracting COVID-19 is straining Georgia’s pediatric health care system.
More kids than ever before are suffering from coronavirus cases so severe that they need to be hospitalized, filling pediatric wards at a time when physicians are also contending with an unseasonable surge of other respiratory viruses.
Many area children’s hospitals are reporting that more than three-quarters of their ICU beds are occupied — in some places, it’s closer to 90%.
While ER doctors and pediatric specialists interviewed this week say they’re able to keep up with cases for now, many fear what could come in the weeks ahead as the delta variant tears across the region and schools continue with in-person, often mask-optional learning.
Houston-area Afghan interpreter mourns sister slain in Afghanistan
The calls came in late Sunday, after hours of news about the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul. A former Afghan interpreter for the United States military who now lives in Houston learned his sister had been killed in a barrage of gunfire after answering her door.
The interpreter, whom the Houston Chronicle is not naming to protect him and his family, said he believes his sister was killed by the Taliban due to her family’s association with Allied forces.
“They knocked (on) the door of my sister,” the interpreter said. When his sister answered the door they asked for one of her brothers. “(My sister said), ‘We don’t know.’ Because of that they shoot her straight away,” the interpreter said.
66% of Americans disapprove of governors quashing local mask mandates, poll says
Two-thirds of Americans oppose state prohibitions on mask mandates, like Gov. Greg Abbott has issued barring Texas schools from requiring face coverings, according to a new Ipsos poll.
There's a major partisan split on the issue, however, with 57 percent of Republicans in support of state rules that ban local governments from issuing mask mandates. Just 16 percent of Democrats support them.
California’s Dixie Fire Burns Clear Across a Mountain Range
California’s Dixie Fire has achieved a staggering distinction by becoming the first wildfire in history to burn clear across the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
It’s the first known fire to start in the range’s western foothills, burn up and over the crest and then descend into the eastern valleys, said Thom Porter, director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.
“We don’t have any record of that happening before,” he said during a press conference Wednesday.
The portion scorched by the Dixie Fire boasts numerous peaks higher than 6,000 feet (1,800 meters).
After a Year Without Rowdy Tourists, European Cities Want to Keep It That Way
[…] Cities across the continent want to mold visits into shapes less onerous for residents, and perhaps more lucrative for business. Optimally, a virtuous circle can be created where loud partiers are supplanted by museum-goers with more money to spend—or so the thinking goes. Call it curated tourism.
“We met with representatives from Amsterdam, Barcelona and Florence during the pandemic, and all of us were thinking the same thing,” said Hana Třeštíková, Prague’s councilor of tourism. “Before Covid, over-tourism had become almost unbearable, and Covid gave a pause to try and make some changes in what our cities represent, how we promote ourselves and how we must focus on quality of visits—not quantity.”
Saving the Ozone Layer Also Helped Buy Us Time to Address Climate Change
Strangely, here’s a good piece of news about the work humanity has done to save the world. A major international agreement to phase out ozone-harming chemicals has also helped the world avoid a whopping extra 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit (2.5 degrees Celsius) of global warming by the end of this century, according to a new study.
That study, published in Nature on Wednesday, is a little unusual in that it doesn’t look at an existing problem. Rather, it floats a hypothetical scenario, trying to imagine a world where the groundbreaking international agreement to protect the ozone doesn’t exist. It shows that in a world without that agreement in place, the climate would also suffer.
Detroit Free Press
Prosecutor: Corruption case involving Fiat Chrysler Automobiles might be unmatched in U.S. history
The merger that formed Stellantis in January created the world's fourth-largest automaker, but it didn't erase a scandal that saw millions of dollars in prohibited payments and lavish goodies flow from former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles executives to UAW officials.
The company's U.S. operating arm, formally known as FCA US and a member of the Detroit Three automakers, was ordered Tuesday to pay $30 million and submit to a compliance monitor for three years for its role in the years-long scandal, which prosecutors have said was an attempt to warp the labor-management relationship.
FCA, which will be on probation for three years but will not have to pay restitution, pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiring to violate the Labor Management Relations Act.
Biden taps Oregon's Charles Sams to head the National Park Service
President Biden will nominate Charles F. Sams III to be the next director of the National Park Service, where, if confirmed by the Senate, he'll face the growing toll of global warming on the U.S. iconic park system, the White House stated Wednesday.
Why it matters: Sams is of Native American heritage, and the Park Service has never been led by an enrolled tribal member before. In addition, the Park Service has not had a Senate-confirmed leader since the Obama administration, with four people serving in that role in an acting capacity during the Trump administration.
Amtrak Joe vs. the Modern Robber Barons
For a chief executive whose love of trains won him the nickname “Amtrak Joe,” this must be a pretty exciting moment. President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, which designates an unprecedented $66 billion to expand rail service across the country, appears poised to pass the Senate.
The bill promises to furnish a more convenient and environmentally friendly mode of travel between destinations that are far enough apart to make driving tedious but close enough together to make flying impossible or at best impractical. You may never use these new trains yourself, but those who do will create less traffic congestion, cleaner air, and a cooler planet. Removing more freight from pavement-pounding long-haul semi-trucks onto super fuel-efficient trains will make driving safer and more pleasant, and may yield huge reductions in carbon emissions.
But for any of this to happen on any meaningful scale, the Biden administration will need to do more than invest more public money in train travel. It will also need to reverse decades of deregulation, lax antitrust enforcement, and other policy blunders that left latter-day robber barons in control of nearly all the nation’s highly monopolized railroad infrastructure, just as they were in the worst days of the Gilded Age. This time, the financiers aren’t presiding over an expanding rail system; they’re selling it off and permanently liquidating its assets for short-term economic gain.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minnesota's drought reaches levels not seen since 1988 and the Dust Bowl
Entire channels of the Mississippi River are caked dry. Rocks, riverbeds and islands of the St. Croix and Minnesota rivers are visible for the first time in decades. Dozens of streams are at their lowest recorded levels since at least 1988, or even the Dust Bowl.
On Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) put much of the state in a "restricted phase" as the drought continues to get worse. That means water utilities and suppliers will need to cut down the total amount of water used to no more than 25% above what they used in January.
Parts of Minnesota have even slipped into the most severe level — "exceptional drought" — for the first time since the U.S. Drought Monitor began ranking droughts by four levels of intensity. The ranking system wasn't around during the Dust Bowl, but meteorologists believe that and the drought of 1988 might be the only times Minnesota has been this dry.
America's Security May Depend On Critical Minerals. But Mine Workers Are Scarce
America's mines are open for business. Not for coal necessarily, but definitely for the critical minerals seen by the Biden administration as essential for economic and national security, like lithium to power batteries or aluminum for wind turbines.
But there's a hitch. Companies are struggling to hire miners.
Mining and geological engineering employment is estimated to grow 4% from 2019-2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As demand keeps rising for these minerals, there are fewer skilled employees to fill job openings in the industry.
"We need more workers," says mining consultant Catherine Joyner. "It is not going to be sustainable for our industry if it stays at the level that it is."
Why A Push For Boosters Could Make The Pandemic Even Worse
In September, the U.S. will start offering a third COVID-19 shot to all adults vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna, even though these vaccines still offer high protection against hospitalization and death from the delta variant.
Officials at the World Health Organization said Wednesday that it strongly opposes booster shots for all adults in rich countries because the boosters will not help slow down the pandemic. By diverting doses away from unvaccinated people, booster shots will help drive the emergence of more dangerous mutants, the WHO doctors said.
"I'm afraid that this [booster recommendation] will only lead to more variants. ... And perhaps we're heading into an even more dire situation," WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said.
The problem with a call for boosters, she said, is that the virus is primarily circulating in unvaccinated people — not in the fully vaccinated.
If Liz Cheney’s Assigning Blame for an “Epic Failure” in Afghanistan, She Can Start With Her Father
“This has been an epic failure across the board, one we’re going to pay for for years to come,” declared Representative Liz Cheney, of Wyoming, as she denounced Joe Biden’s decision to complete the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
Cheney spewed most of her vitriol at Biden. But she did not stop there. Rejecting “the notion of we’re going to end endless war,” Cheney complained Sunday on ABC’s This Week that “the Rand Paul, Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, Joe Biden view of the world here is fundamentally dangerous and irresponsible and wrong.”
But the Republican representative neglected to identify the most dangerous, irresponsible, and wrong player of all. She had no criticism for her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The US military presence in Afghanistan did not begin with Joe Biden, or Donald Trump, or Barack Obama. It began with the flailing co-presidency of George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney. It was the Bush-Cheney administration (for which Liz Cheney served as the nepotistic deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs) that responded to the September 11, 2001, attacks with a boundless “war on terror” that first targeted Afghanistan but quickly evolved to include the primary project of the Cheneys: the invasion and occupation of oil-rich Iraq.
Sacklers say they won’t pay $4.5B settlement if judge rejects immunity deal
The Sackler family is threatening to back out of a $4.5 billion opioid settlement if it is not granted broad immunity from lawsuits. The pending settlement between the Sacklers and 15 states includes an immunity provision, but other states oppose it, and a bankruptcy court judge is still considering whether to approve the deal.
Forty-one-year-old David Sackler, a former Purdue Pharma board member and grandson of one of the company's founders, "vowed in court on Tuesday that the family would walk away from a $4.5 billion pledge to help communities nationwide that have been devastated by the opioid epidemic, unless a judge grants it immunity from all current and future civil claims associated with the company," The New York Times wrote. […]
Without immunity protecting the Sacklers from lawsuits over the activities of Purdue Pharma, "I believe we would litigate the claims to their final outcomes," Sackler said, according to CBS News.