submitted 11 months ago* (last edited 10 months ago) by ptz to c/news


This is a curated news community with high standards for submissions. US news is the primary focus, but world events are also covered and welcome.

Mis-/disinformation, propaganda, and yellow journalism are rampant on the internet, and social media has only amplified the problem. The rules, post standards, and moderation policies established for this community are an attempt to curtail that and provide a reliable and objective source of world events from as many reputable sources as possible.

The purpose of this post is to provide complete transparency to the standards for posting and the moderation policies we use. Additionally, each of the community rules is explained in detail along with the rationale for implementing that rule.



I've found several news communities on Lemmy, and the only ones that I find to be actually well-moderated are the US and World News communities on Beehaw.

Unfortunately, I've had random and ongoing federation trouble with Beehaw where posts, and especially comments/replies, would just not appear to/from either side. This has improved with each update to Lemmy, but it still seems to be a problem when Beehaw is busy. Hope it doesn't sound like I'm throwing shade (I'm not).

Beehaw has also defederated from some larger Lemmy instances because the moderation tools in Lemmy are not sufficient to field such a large number of users. As an instance admin, I totally get that and support their decision. Unfortunately, that leaves those instances without access to a well-moderated, high-standards news feed.

Aside from those on Beehaw, I've not been impressed with the moderation and standards other news communities are using. So, in true Lemmy spirit, I started my own.

Fun fact: I contributed to the community rules Beehaw is using for their news communities. I decided to be a little more strict here, though. My reasoning for each rule is explained in detail below.

How are news sources determined to be unbiased and/or reputable?

Let's just get this out of the way first. I'm not going to say "this source is allowed and that one isn't" for every possible news entity. That would take forever, and I don't want to have to cross check every submission against a list.

Sources will be checked against Media Bias Fact Check in order to determine bias and credibility. While this isn't perfect, it's a very good and highly rated tool ran by a non-profit organization. If a source's bias is determined to be too far-left or too far-right or has a low credibility rating, the post will be removed and you'll be asked to resubmit the story from a more neutral and/or credible source.

What are the limits for bias and the minimum standards for factual reporting and credibility?

Using MBFC as a gauge for each metric, the standards for this community are as follows:

  • Bias Rating: Should be no more than left-center or right-center
  • Factual Reporting: Should be "High" or "Very High"
  • Credibility Rating: Should be "High Credibility" or higher.

Community Rules Explained

Rule #1: Reputable Sources With Low Bias

All posts must be from a reputable news source that is known to report factually, in good faith, and without significant bias.

I'm not naive, and I would consider very few news sources to be completely unbiased (AP and Reuters are the closest that come to mind). That said, most reputable sources of news will report the facts in good faith and leave the rest up to the reader to decide for themselves.

Reputable sources do not speculate on every topic nor just ask questions™ to the reader. Reputable sources do not tell you how you should feel about a topic or tell you what you should think about it; they merely provide the facts of the situation with the sole purpose of informing the reader.

The good faith part is key here. There are lot of news sources that are technically "news" but are known to operate in bad faith and/or with a highly partisan bias or other agenda. I will not list any specifically, but they are out there, and they are rampant.

Additionally, do not link to tabloids, blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. Those are not news sources. They are rarely, if ever, confirmed or fact checked, have no journalistic standards, and are usually rife with opinion.

If a story is breaking and the only details are coming from a reporter's social media feed, then the information has likely not been corroborated yet. If they do not link to a full article on their organization's website, then refrain from linking to the social media post. If the social media post contains a link to an article on their organization's website, you may link to that so long as it is from a source within the community guidelines for bias, factual reporting, and credibility.

Rule #2: Do Not Editorialize in the Post

The post title must match the headline, and you should not editorialize in the post body. Any opinions you have about the news story should be in the comments.

Rule #3: Original Source is Mandatory

Posts must have the original article source as the post URL.

Let's face it. Many of us are busy and often don't bother to read the entire article. We'll just scroll through a news feed, look at the headlines, and add the tidbit of information in the headline to our collective knowledge.

The danger with that is that those headlines may be from a non-reputable news source which is fully aware of that habit and seeks to exploit it with sensationalized titles, misrepresented facts, or bad faith questions.

In the feed, the source URL is directly adjacent to the headline/title, so having an indicator of the headline's source, front and center, is an easy way to quickly discern where the information is coming from and whether it should be trusted.

If you use an archive or other paywall-bypassing link as the post URL, the source becomes obfuscated. That allows a tabloid headline to carry the same weight as one from a reputable source.

This is what we are seeking to avoid with this rule.

Similarly, do not include your own image even if the post image fails to load. The source URL will be that of the image and not the article which will prevent the source from being apparent.

To include an archive link that sidesteps a paywall, include that in the top of the post body.

Finally, do not link to shortened links that often appear on social media. Those similarly obfuscate the source, though not as badly as archive links. Always open the short link in a browser and use the full URL when posting.

Rule #4: Be Civil in the Comments

Be civil in the comments. No hate speech, bigotry, racism, "just asking questions™", or any dog-whistle versions of any of that.

Rule #5: No Bot-Generated Summaries

Do not include bot-generated summaries of the article in the post or in the comments. Let people read for themselves.

Bot summaries are hit or miss and often leave out nuance, perspective, or other pertinent details that are important to the story.

If someone prefers a bot to TL;DR things for them, then they'll likely already have some plugin/process of their own to do that. Leave them to their process and allow the rest of us to read the articles as the authors intended.

Moderation Policy

The rules in this community are strictly enforced. Infringing posts will be removed as soon as they are known to an admin/mod. I strongly believe in transparency, so here is the protocol for how posts are moderated:

  1. If your post is found to be infringing on a rule, you will receive a reply from a mod/admin stating which rule was broken and in what way as well as guidance for how to proceed (see #3 below).

  2. The infringing post will be locked for further comments and removed.

  3. Depending on the nature of the rule violation, the mod reply will advise you in one of the following ways:

    • You will be encouraged to resubmit after making the necessary corrections. (e.g. If you accidentally used an archive link for the source, you'll be asked to resubmit with the original URL)
    • You will be specifically told not to resubmit the post (e.g. you've linked to a tabloid/non-reputable source)
    • If this a repeat violation and a ban is warranted, you will be informed of that as well as the duration.

Remember: a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on. That's why we immediately remove posts that are in violation rather than allowing the poster to edit them; they may not respond immediately giving a non-truth a huge head start.

Ban Policy

Repeat offenders are subject to a temporary or ultimately permanent ban. This isn't baseball, and it's not a three-strikes policy; it depends on which rule was broken, how often, and in what way(s). Some rule violations are more egregious than others. For example, repeatedly submitting non-reputable news sources after receiving warnings will result in a ban. Being uncivil in the comments will also get you a ban.

Temporary bans range from 1 to 7 days. Continued violations after temporary bans are lifted will ultimately result in a permanent ban from the community.

All of the rules are important, but some are easy to forget about. Minor infractions to those will typically be dealt with much more leniently, typically by removing the post and providing guidance for re-submission. However, consistently and/or flagrantly violating them can still result in a ban from the community.

submitted 7 months ago by ptz to c/news

DENVER (AP) — A Colorado judge on Wednesday heard closing arguments on whether former President Donald Trump is barred from the ballot by a provision of the U.S. Constitution that forbids those who “engaged in insurrection” from holding office.

The hearing came on the heels of two losses elsewhere for advocates who are trying to remove Trump from the ballot under Section Three of the 14th Amendment, which bars from office those who swore an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection” against it. The measure has only been used a handful of times since the period after the Civil War, when it was intended to stop former Confederates from swamping government positions.

Last week, the Minnesota Supreme Court dodged the question of whether the provision applies to Trump, who is so far dominating the Republican presidential primary. It dismissed a lawsuit to toss him off that state’s primary ballot by saying that political parties can allow whomever they want to qualify for primaries.

The court left the door open for a general election challenge if Trump becomes the GOP nominee.

On Tuesday, a Michigan judge dismissed another lawsuit seeking to bounce Trump from that state’s primary ballot with a more sweeping ruling. He said whether the provision applies to the former president is a “political question” to be settled by Congress, not judges. The liberal group that filed the Michigan case, Free Speech For People, said it plans to appeal the decision.

Trump attorney Scott Gessler told Colorado District Judge Sarah B. Wallace during closing arguments that the rulings in Minnesota and Michigan demonstrate “an emerging consensus here across the judiciary across the United States.” Throughout the weeklong hearing that concluded earlier this month, he said the plaintiffs had failed to show that the 14th Amendment’s insurrection provision applies to Trump.

“The petitioners are asking this court to do something that’s never been done in the history of the United States,” Gessler said. “The evidence doesn’t come close to allowing the court to do it.”

Another left-leaning group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed the Colorado lawsuit. While there have been dozens of cases nationally, many of them have been filed by individual citizens acting alone, sometimes not even residing in the state where the complaint is lodged. The Colorado, Michigan and Minnesota cases have been seen by legal experts as the most advanced, partly due to the legal resources the liberal groups bring to bear.

The Colorado plaintiffs’ attorney, Sean Grimsley, told the judge during Wednesday’s hearing that the evidence was clear.

“We are here because, for the first time in our nation’s history, the president of the United States engaged in an insurrection,” he said, summing up their case. “Now he wants to be president again. The Constitution does not allow that.”

The Trump campaign has called the lawsuits “election interference” and an “anti-democratic” attempt to stop voters from having the choice they want next November. The former president’s attorneys asked Wallace, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, to recuse herself because she donated $100 to a liberal group that called Jan. 6 a “violent insurrection.”

Wallace said she had no predetermined opinion about whether the Capitol attack met the legal definition of an insurrection under Section 3 and stayed with the case.

There are a number of ways the case can fail: Wallace could, like the Minnesota high court, say she is powerless in a primary or, like the Michigan judge, defer to Congress’ judgment. Trump’s attorneys and some legal scholars argue that Section 3 is not intended to apply to the president and that Trump did not “engage” in insurrection on Jan. 6 in the way intended by the authors of the 14th Amendment.

An attorney representing Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold urged the judge not to dodge the constitutional issues by ruling, as the Minnesota Supreme Court did, that she did not have the power to remove someone from a primary ballot

“Ballots are what voters use to select their candidate,” said Mike Kotlarczyk of the state attorney general’s office. “Having candidates that are ineligible to serve in the offices they seek frustrates that purpose.”

He said Griswold, a Democrat, did not have a stance on whether the provision disqualifies Trump but said she would follow the court’s direction.

The petitioners in the case called a legal scholar who testified that the authors of Section 3 meant it to apply even to those who offered aid to the Confederate cause, which could be as minimal as buying bonds. They argued Trump “incited” the Jan. 6 attacks and presented dramatic testimony from police officers who defended the Capitol from the rioters.

Gessler argued that the prior weeklong hearing in Denver could barely scratch the surface of the facts of Jan. 6, and warned there could be information mitigating to Trump the judge may not have had time to hear.

“This is a big issue and that was a small hearing,” Gessler said.

Wallace will have 48 hours to rule after the end of arguments, although that deadline can be extended. Whatever she decides is likely to be appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court. From there it could go to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has never ruled on Section 3.

During his hourlong closing argument, Grimsley tried to address the Trump argument that disqualifying him would deprive voters of their choice for president.

“The argument that Section 3 should not apply because Trump is popular could not be more dangerous,” Grimsley said, adding: “The rule of law must apply whether a candidate has no choice of winning an election or is a potential frontrunner.”

submitted 7 months ago by ptz to c/news

WASHINGTON (AP) — It was a meeting a year in the making.

President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping sat down together on Wednesday just outside of San Francisco, where Asian leaders gathered for an annual summit. It was almost exactly one year since their last encounter in Bali, Indonesia, on the sidelines of another global gathering.

In addition to a formal bilateral meeting, Biden and Xi shared a lunch with top advisers and strolled the verdant grounds of the luxury estate where their meeting took place.

Biden said afterwards that the meeting included “some of the most constructive and productive discussions we’ve had.” He added that they will “keep the lines of communication open” and Xi is “willing to pick up the phone” — no small thing in the world of high-risk, high-stakes diplomacy between Washington and Beijing.

In another potential sign of warmer feelings, Xi signaled later in the night that China would send new pandas to the United States after the three at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington were returned earlier this month. In a speech, Xi said he wanted to “deepen the friendly ties between our two peoples.” Xi also said he learned that Americans — particularly children — were “really reluctant” to say goodbye to the rare and popular animals.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the day panned out.


Biden left the meeting with commitments on key issues.

Xi agreed to help curb the production of the illicit fentanyl that is a deadly component of drugs sold in the United States. A senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a private meeting, said the shift will be a setback for Latin American drug dealers.

“It’s going to save lives, and I appreciated President Xi’s commitment on this issue,” Biden said at a press conference after his meeting.

In addition, Biden and Xi reached an agreement to resume military-to-military communications. That means Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will speak with his Chinese counterpart once someone is named to the job, the official said. Similar engagements will take place up and down the military chain of command.

The official said Biden was “very clear” to Xi that such communications between U.S. and China should be institutionalized and that they are “not done as a gift or as a favor to either side.”

Biden said the U.S. and China would talk more about artificial intelligence as well.

“We’re going to get our experts together and discuss risk and safety issues,” he said.

The agreements helped fulfill the White House’s goal for the meeting — prove to voters that Biden’s dedication to personal diplomacy is paying off.

On Sunday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN that Biden wanted “practical ways” to show that meeting with Xi can help “defend American interests and also deliver progress on the priorities of the American people.”

Zoe Liu, a fellow for China studies at the Council for Foreign Relations, described the meeting between Biden and Xi as a positive step, albeit an incremental one.

“These agreements will not change the structural challenges in the bilateral relations, but it paves the way for more detailed working-level discussions, which is more important,” she said.


Beijing has long sought to be treated as an equal by Washington, and Biden sought to leverage those ambitions with Xi to address two devastating wars.

In their private session, Biden appealed to Xi to use his influence to try to calm global tensions, particularly to try to pressure Iran not to widen the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

A U.S. official said Biden did most of the talking on the matter, and that Xi mostly listened, and that it was too soon to tell what sort of message China was sending to Tehran and how it was being received.

Biden has also pressed Xi to continue to withhold military support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


Biden and Xi held a “clear-headed” and “not heated” discussion on Taiwan — the most sensitive topic in the relationship with the greatest potential to spiral into wider conflict. Biden said he reaffirmed the United States’ “One China” policy and its belief that any resolution must be peaceful.

“I’m not going to change that,” Biden said. “That’s not going to change.”

He reiterated, though, that the U.S. would continue to arm Taiwan as a deterrent against any attempt by China to use force to reunify the self-governing island with the mainland. The U.S. had maintained strategic ambiguity about whether it would directly intervene to protect Taiwan in the event of an invasion by Beijing.

Xi, a U.S. official said, told Biden he had no plans to invade the island, though Biden chided him for China’s massive military build-up around Taiwan. Biden also called on China to avoid meddling in Taiwan’s elections next year.


Xi arrived in San Francisco at a time of economic challenges back in China, where an aging population and growing debt have hampered its recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Beijing’s description of the meeting, Xi pressed Biden to lift sanctions and change policies on export controls for sensitive equipment.

“Stifling China’s technological progress is nothing but a move to contain China’s high-quality development and deprive the Chinese people of their right to development,” the readout said. “China’s development and growth, driven by its own inherent logic, will not be stopped by external forces.”

There’s no indication that Biden will agree to take such steps. But even the meeting itself could calm jittery nerves back in China, where there have been signs foreign investment is tapering off.

Zhang Lei, a Chinese businessman whose company, Cheche Group, is listed on NASDAQ, said high-level meetings such as the one between Biden and Xi can help assure companies that have been hesitant to invest in China.

“Confrontations don’t work,” he said. “You don’t make money with confrontations.”


Biden and Xi go back years, and Biden often repeats the story of their meetings when they were both vice presidents.

But on Wednesday, it was Xi’s turn to reference their previous encounters during brief public remarks, although he eschewed the embellishments that Biden usually adds to the tale.

“It was 12 years ago,” Xi said. “I still remember our interactions very vividly, and it always gives me a lot of thoughts.”

Biden also emphasized the length of their relationship and the value of their interactions.

“We haven’t always agreed, which was not a surprise to anyone, but our meetings have always been candid, straightforward and useful,” Biden said. He added that “it’s paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader, with no misconceptions or miscommunication.”

Bilateral meetings aren’t always conducive to a personal touch, and Biden and Xi were flanked by advisers on opposite sides of a long table. However, a senior administration official said they spoke about their wives, and Biden wished Xi’s wife a happy birthday.

The official, who requested anonymity to discuss a private conversation, said Xi was embarrassed, and he admitted that he had forgotten his wife’s upcoming birthday because he’s been working so hard.

submitted 8 months ago by ptz to c/news

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Counties in Pennsylvania have told Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro and lawmakers that it is too late to move up the state’s 2024 presidential primary date if counties are to successfully administer the election.

In a letter, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania said there is no longer enough time for counties to handle the tasks associated with moving next year’s primary election from the current date set in law, April 23.

The counties’ association drafted the letter after weeks of efforts by lawmakers to move up the primary date, in part to avoid a conflict with the Jewish holiday of Passover. That became embroiled in partisan and intraparty disagreements after Senate Republicans then touted moving up the date as a way to give the late primary state more say in deciding 2024’s presidential nominees.

County officials say they are planning for 2023’s election, less than five weeks away, and already spent many months of planning around holding 2024’s primary election on April 23.

“While we thank the General Assembly and the administration for their thoughtful discussions around this matter, at this date counties can no longer guarantee there will be sufficient time to make the changes necessary to assure a primary on a different date would be successful,” the organization’s executive director, Lisa Schaefer, wrote in the letter dated Friday.

Schaefer went on to list a number of challenges counties would face.

Those include rescheduling more than 9,000 polling places that are typically contracted a year or more ahead of time, including in schools that then schedule a day off those days for teacher training. Schools would have to consider changing their calendars in the middle of the academic year, Schaefer said.

Counties also would need to reschedule tens of thousands poll workers, many of whom were prepared to work April 23 and had scheduled vacations or other obligations around the date, Schaefer said.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania — a presidential battleground state won by Democrat Joe Biden in 2020 — is still buffeted by former President Donald Trump’s baseless lies about a stolen election.

Schaefer said county elections staff are facing an increasingly hostile environment that has spurred “unprecedented turnover.”

Changing the presidential primary at this late date would put the state “at risk of having another layer of controversy placed on the 2024 election, as anything that doesn’t go perfectly will be used to challenge the election process and results,” Schaefer said. “This will add even more pressure on counties and election staff, and to put our staff under additional pressure will not help our counties retain them.”

Senate Republicans had backed a five-week shift, to March 19, in what they called a bid to make Pennsylvania relevant for the first time since 2008 in helping select presidential nominees. County election officials had said April 9 or April 16 would be better options.

House Democrats countered last week with a proposal to move the date to April 2. House Republicans opposed a date change, saying it threatened counties’ ability to smoothly administer the primary election.

Critics also suggested that moving up the date would help protect incumbent lawmakers by giving primary challengers less time to prepare and that 2024’s presidential nominees will be all-but settled well before March 19.

submitted 8 months ago by ptz to c/news

House Republicans were on the verge of open revolt Wednesday after the ideologically fractious conference failed to coalesce around a speaker nominee, leaving the chamber rudderless and leaderless for an eighth day.

The inability of House Republicans to agree on who will lead them has left the chamber in an effective standstill since Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was ousted as speaker, unable to consider any legislation to aid Israel in its war against Hamas or pass any appropriation bills to avoid a potential government shutdown in mid-November. Neither issue produced enough urgency for Republicans to quickly elect a speaker as many had hoped, again highlighting the conference’s deep divisions.

Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.) was nominated for speaker by a majority of Republicans during a closed, secret-ballot conference meeting early Wednesday. But a significant number of Republicans from across the ideological spectrum said they planned to protest his official election on the House floor. Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Scalise’s challenger, initially refused to say he would back Scalise on the House floor. A spokesperson for the Judiciary chairman later clarified Jordan would back Scalise and offered to give a nominating speech on his behalf.

But in a conference where emotions are raw, divisions are deep and grudges are held after the McCarthy ouster, the slight was another example of the discord that has complicated House Republicans’ ability to elect a new speaker.

“Anyone who thought that the same problems that caused the chaos last week would magically disappear today now know how wrong they were,” Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) said.

With a narrow majority, Republicans can only lose four members to allow anything to pass through their ranks. Democrats have no plans to help elect either Republican candidate as speaker and instead will vote for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) as they did during the 15 rounds of balloting it took for McCarthy to win the gavel this year.

The stalemate led Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.) to recess the House to avoid the embarrassment of a failed speaker vote. Republicans stood by, wandering around the Capitol, waiting to see if they would meet behind closed doors. Word spread early Wednesday evening that there would be no immediate conference meeting, and eventually the House adjourned, as no clear path emerged for how to elect a speaker.

At least a dozen Republicans have refused to back Scalise for speaker. Their reasons include what they say is the lack of a plan to fund the government, no plan to change how Washington works, anger that McCarthy lost the job, and opposition to giving the next person in line a promotion. Some lawmakers also were angry at Scalise’s effort to block a proposed conference rule change that would have kept House Republicans voting behind closed doors until a speaker nominee earned 217 votes. A vote on the proposed rule change failed in Wednesday’s meeting, and Scalise was able to grab the nomination with a simple majority.

“The House GOP Conference is broken. So we oust Kevin McCarthy and all other leaders are rewarded with promotions? How does that make sense or change anything? We need to chart a different path forward,” Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.) said on X, formerly known as Twitter. Smucker said he would vote for Jordan on the floor.

The battle for speaker has become a pivotal moment for House Republicans as they look to settle scores related to divisions that have plagued the conference for years. A handful of McCarthy allies were ready to vote for him on the House floor Wednesday — even though McCarthy has publicly and privately told his colleagues not to nominate him for the role — instead of Scalise because of a years-long feud between both leaders.

“I just choose not to participate in what I consider to be an injustice,” said Rep. Carlos A. Gimenez (R-Fla.), who has pledged to vote for McCarthy when the election comes to the House floor.

Another group of conservatives, many of whom supported Jordan during the closed meeting, remained undecided about whether to back Scalise or continued to say they would back neither candidate if nominated. Scalise narrowly topped Jordan in a conference-wide vote, winning the majority 113-99, with nearly a dozen voting present or for someone else — a significant number since Scalise can only lose four votes on the House floor.

Many members of the House Freedom Caucus, an ideological faction Jordan founded in response to Scalise’s leadership of the Republican Study Committee years ago, have continually expressed worry that Scalise as speaker would just be an extension of McCarthy’s leadership, given that both have served in GOP leadership for about a decade.

“We have to quit having this place run the way it was run,” said House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who has not committed to supporting Scalise.

Multiple Republican lawmakers said it was a monumental mistake for Scalise to block a measure that would have united the Republican conference behind a speaker nominee behind closed doors.

Nearly 100 members backed a rule change that would require the speaker to find 217 Republican votes before they adjourned from their closed, no-phones-allowed conference meeting. Scalise and his allies worked on tabling the motion because they knew he would win the nomination with a simple majority, and made a bet that it would be easier to coalesce around him on the House floor with the public pressure of the cameras rather than if the vote were closed. They were able to successfully table the proposed change.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) said he was a “hard no” on Scalise because the vote to elect a speaker was “rushed” to the floor, saying Scalise made a huge “mistake.”

Several McCarthy allies left the closed meeting looking serious and angry, with many refusing to talk with reporters. A handful had been discussing nominating McCarthy on the floor, but when Scalise won the nomination in conference, it solidified the decision for a certain bloc to do so.

For some members, the decision to stick with Jordan was based on various plans to ensure the government is funded by Nov. 17, when a short-term funding extension expires. Multiple lawmakers who attended candidate forums this past week said Jordan proposed putting forward a stopgap spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, that funds the government at current levels for six months.

But many hard-right members are vehemently against any short-term spending bill because it would rely on Democratic support to pass — a reason McCarthy was ousted. But they are also supportive of a mechanism that would be triggered if the government is funded at current levels through the beginning of the year. A six-month CR would trigger an automatic 1 percent cut in government spending in April if Congress is unable to pass its funding bills.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who proposed the 1 percent cut that became law during the debt ceiling debate earlier this year, met with Scalise after the closed meeting and said on X that he “let Scalise know in person that he doesn’t have my vote on the floor, because he has not articulated a viable plan for avoiding an omnibus.”

“It’s really, really hard for this Republican House to govern. We have incredibly tight margins and, frankly, some members who have a hard time getting to yes on almost anything on almost every week,” Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) said. “I’m a pragmatist. I just understand that I never get everything I want in any negotiation. There are a lot of people around here who don’t understand that, and it makes it hard to govern.”

Asked whether this standstill complicates House Republicans’ ability to retain the majority in next year’s elections, Johnson skirted the question saying, “it would be easier with bigger margins and, frankly, I think would be easier in a political environment where people understood that governing requires some give and take.”

Compounding the challenges for both Scalise and Jordan are their pasts.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who voted in support of ousting McCarthy last week, said she could not vote for Scalise because she learned Tuesday evening that he spoke at a white supremacist rally while serving as a state representative in Louisiana.

While a Scalise adviser confirmed he spoke at an event founded by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke in 2002, he denied knowing that the event was affiliated with racists and neo-Nazis. “Given what’s happening in Israel right now, I just cannot support someone who’s associated with anything that is divisive, whether it’s race or religion. I’m just a hard pass on that,” she said.

Many other moderate Republicans have expressed similar concerns over Scalise’s past, but they have not done the same with Jordan, who has been accused of ignoring a sexual abuse allegation that Ohio State wrestlers made against a doctor while Jordan coached there.

submitted 8 months ago by ptz to c/news

WASHINGTON, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives met on Wednesday to choose between two candidates - Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan - to lead their narrow majority a week after a small group of dissidents ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

As lawmakers gathered for the closed-door vote, neither candidate appeared to hold a clear advantage. Scalise, who is No. 2 on the leadership ladder, has drawn the support of many veteran and establishment Republican lawmakers, while Jordan, an outspoken leader of the party's right wing, had the backing of many conservatives.

McCarthy could be in the mix as well, as he has not discouraged talk of a comeback, as could Patrick McHenry, the acting speaker.

The secret-ballot vote is the start of what could be a long and messy process to install a new speaker after a small faction of far-right Republicans deposed McCarthy last week and threw the chamber into chaos.

Before lawmakers start voting on a speaker, they are expected to decide on what threshold is needed to win: a simple majority of Republicans, or an absolute total of 217 votes, enough to ensure victory in the full House.

Representative Tom Cole said the higher threshold could allow a handful of holdouts to create gridlock, as they have repeatedly done this year. "It's just overly complicated and we ought to just pick a winner," he said.

Republicans, who control the House by a narrow 221-212 majority, say they need to quickly resolve a leadership vacuum that has prevented the House from addressing the war in Israel, approving more aid to Ukraine and passing spending bills before current funding runs out on Nov. 17.

"It's really, really important that this Congress get back to work," Scalise said.

Scalise and Jordan told Republicans at a closed-door forum on Tuesday night that they would each back the candidate chosen as nominee, an agreement that could help expedite matters.


But some predict they will not be able to resolve their differences and unite behind a candidate quickly.

"My unfortunate estimation is that it will take several rounds and maybe even days of voting," Republican Representative Ben Cline said in an interview.

It took only eight Republicans to oust McCarthy last week, a fact that could make leading the caucus a challenge for any new speaker.

Representative Ken Buck, one of the eight, said a "significant number" of Republicans could decline to vote for a candidate in Wednesday's first ballot.

Buck said Jordan and Scalise provided unsatisfactory answers on the question of reining in spending on Tuesday night. He predicted that more candidates could join the race.

While McCarthy was the first speaker in U.S. history to be removed in a formal vote, the last two Republicans to hold the job wound up leaving under pressure from party hardliners.

Americans have little confidence in Congress' ability to overcome its partisan differences - and the Republican infighting that led to McCarthy's historic ouster on Oct. 3. Some 64% of respondents to a Reuters/Ipsos poll last week said did not believe Washington politicians could put aside partisan disagreements for the good of the nation.

Scalise and Jordan have both racked up several dozen endorsements, but neither has a clear path to success.

Difficult decisions could come if neither candidate wins a clear majority. Some moderates, for example, have warned that Jordan becoming speaker would give Democrats plenty of ammunition for next year's congressional elections.

Others say they could be flexible if their preferred candidate doesn't appear to be winning.

"I think Jim Jordan will end up getting it, and if not, Scalise would be fine," said Representative Ralph Norman, who supports Jordan.

submitted 8 months ago by ptz to c/news

DUBAI, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Israel calls last week's devastating attack by Hamas its 9/11 moment. The secretive mastermind behind the assault, Palestinian militant Mohammed Deif, calls it Al Aqsa Flood.

The phrase Israel's most wanted man used in an audio tape broadcast as Hamas fired thousands of rockets out of the Gaza strip on Saturday signalled the attack was payback for Israeli raids at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa mosque.

It was in May 2021, after a raid on Islam's third holiest site that enraged the Arab and Muslim world, when Deif began planning the operation that has killed 1,200 people in Israel and wounded more than 2,700, a source close to Hamas said.

"It was triggered by scenes and footage of Israel storming Al Aqsa mosque during Ramadan, beating worshippers, attacking them, dragging elderly and young men out of the mosque," the source in Gaza said. "All this fuelled and ignited the anger."

That storming of the mosque compound, long a flashpoint for violence over matters of sovereignty and religion in Jerusalem, helped set off 11 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

More than two years on, Saturday's assault, the worst breach in Israeli defences since the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict, pushed Israel to declare war and launch retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza that have killed 1,055 people and wounded more than 5,000.

Israel also said on Wednesday it had killed at least 1,000 Palestinian gunmen who infiltrated from Gaza.

A survivor of seven Israeli assassination attempts, the most recent in 2021, Deif rarely speaks and never appears in public. So when Hamas's TV channel announced he was about to speak on Saturday, Palestinians knew something significant was afoot.

"Today the rage of Al Aqsa, the rage of our people and nation is exploding. Our mujahedeen (fighters), today is your day to make this criminal understand that his time has ended," Deif said in the recording.

There are only three images of Deif: one in his 20s, another of him masked, and an image of his shadow, which was used when the audio tape was broadcast.

The whereabouts of Deif are unknown, though he is most likely in Gaza in the maze of tunnels under the enclave. An Israeli security source said Deif was directly involved in the planning and operational aspects of the attack.

Palestinian sources said one of the homes Israeli airstrikes hit in Gaza belonged to Deif's father. Deif's brother and two other family members were killed, according to the sources.


The source close to Hamas said the decision to prepare the attack was taken jointly by Deif, who commands Hamas's Al Qassam Brigades, along with Yehya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, but it was clear who was the architect.

"There are two brains, but there is one mastermind," the source said, adding that information about the operation was known only to a handful of Hamas leaders.

Secrecy was such that Iran, Israel's sworn foe and an important source of finance, training and weaponry for Hamas, knew only in general terms that the movement was planning a major operation and did not know the timing or the details, a regional source familiar with the group's thinking said.

The source said that while Tehran was aware a major operation was being prepared, it was not discussed in any joint operation rooms involving Hamas, the Palestinian leadership, Iranian-backed Lebanese militants Hezbollah, and Iran.

"It was a very tight circle," the source said.

Iran's top authority Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday Tehran was not involved in the attack on Israel. Washington has said while Tehran was complicit, it had no intelligence or evidence that points to Iran's direct participation in the attacks.

The plan as conceived by Deif involved a prolonged effort at deception. Israel was led to believe that Hamas, an ally of Israel's sworn foe Iran, was not interested in launching a conflict and was focusing instead on economic development in Gaza, where the movement is the governing power.

But while Israel began providing economic incentives to Gazan workers, the group's fighters were being trained and drilled, often in plain sight of the Israeli military, a source close to Hamas said.

"We have prepared for this battle for two years," said Ali Baraka, the head of external relations for Hamas.

Speaking in a calm voice, Deif said in his recording that Hamas had repeatedly warned Israel to stop its crimes against Palestinians, to release prisoners, whom he said were abused and tortured, and to halt its expropriation of Palestinian land.

"Every day the occupation storm our villages, towns and cities in the West Bank and raid houses, kill, injure, destroy and detain. At the same time, it confiscates thousands of acres of our land, uproots our people from their houses to build settlements while its criminal siege continues on Gaza."


For well over a year, there has been turmoil in the West Bank, an area about 100 km (60 miles) long and 50 km wide that has been at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since it was seized by Israel in 1967.

Deif said Hamas had urged the international community to put an end to the "crimes of the occupation", but Israel had stepped up its provocation. He also said Hamas had in the past asked Israel for a humanitarian deal to release Palestinian prisoners, but this was rejected.

"In light of the orgy of occupation and its denial of international laws and resolutions, and in light of American and western support and international silence, we've decided to put an end to all this," he said.

Born as Mohammad Masri in 1965 in the Khan Yunis Refugee Camp set up after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the militant leader became known as Mohammed Deif after joining Hamas during the first Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which began in 1987.

He was arrested by Israel in 1989 and spent about 16 months in detention, a Hamas source said.

Deif earned a degree in science from the Islamic University in Gaza, where he studied physics, chemistry and biology. He displayed an affinity for the arts, heading the university's entertainment committee and performing on stage in comedies.

Rising up the Hamas ranks, Deif developed the group's network of tunnels and its bomb-making expertise. He has topped Israel's most wanted list for decades, held personally responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israelis in suicide bombings.

For Deif, staying in the shadow has been a matter of life or death. Hamas sources said he lost an eye and sustained serious injuries in one leg in one of Israel's assassination attempts.

His wife, 7-month-old son, and 3-year-old daughter were killed by an Israeli air strike in 2014.

His survival while running Hamas's armed wing has earned him the status of a Palestinian folk hero. In videos he is masked, or just a shadow of him is seen. He doesn't use modern digital technology such as smart phones, the source close to Hamas said.

"He is elusive. He is the man in the shadows."

submitted 8 months ago by ptz to c/news

Tens of millions in the Americas will have front-row seats for Saturday’s rare “ring of fire” eclipse of the sun.

What’s called an annular solar eclipse — better known as a ring of fire — will briefly dim the skies over parts of the western U.S. and Central and South America.

As the moon lines up precisely between Earth and the sun, it will blot out all but the sun’s outer rim. A bright, blazing border will appear around the moon for as much as five minutes, wowing skygazers along a narrow path stretching from Oregon to Brazil.

The celestial showstopper will yield a partial eclipse across the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

It’s a prelude to the total solar eclipse that will sweep across Mexico, the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada, in six months. Unlike Saturday, when the moon is too far from Earth to completely cover the sun from our perspective, the moon will be at the perfect distance on April 8, 2024.

Here’s what you need to know about the ring of fire eclipse, where you can see it and how to protect your eyes:


The eclipse will carve out a swath about 130 miles (210 kilometers) wide, starting in the North Pacific and entering the U.S. over Oregon around 8 a.m. PDT Saturday. It will culminate in the ring of fire a little over an hour later. From Oregon, the eclipse will head downward across Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Texas, encompassing slivers of Idaho, California, Arizona and Colorado, before exiting into the Gulf of Mexico at Corpus Christi. It will take less than an hour for the flaming halo to traverse the U.S.

From there, the ring of fire will cross Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and, finally, Brazil before its grand finale over the Atlantic.

The entire eclipse — from the moment the moon starts to obscure the sun until it’s back to normal — will last 2 1/2 to three hours at any given spot. The ring of fire portion lasts from three to five minutes, depending on location.


In the U.S. alone, more than 6.5 million people live along the so-called path of annularity, with another 68 million within 200 miles (322 kilometers), according to NASA’s Alex Lockwood, a planetary scientist. “So a few hours’ short drive and you can have over 70 million witness this incredible celestial alignment,” she said.

At the same time, a crescent-shaped partial eclipse will be visible in every U.S. state, although just barely in Hawaii, provided the skies are clear. Canada, Central America and most of South America, also will see a partial eclipse. The closer to the ring of fire path, the bigger the bite the moon will appear to take out of the sun.

Can’t see it? NASA and others will provide a livestream of the eclipse.


Be sure to use safe, certified solar eclipse glasses, Lockwood stressed. Sunglasses aren’t enough to prevent eye damage. Proper protection is needed throughout the eclipse, from the initial partial phase to the ring of fire to the final partial phase.

There are other options if you don’t have eclipse glasses. You can look indirectly with a pinhole projector that you can make yourself, including one made with a cereal box.

Cameras — including those on cellphones — binoculars, or telescopes need special solar filters mounted at the front end.


One patch of Texas near San Antonio will be in the cross-hairs of Saturday’s eclipse and next April’s, with Kerrville near the center. It’s one of the locations hosting NASA’s livestream.

“Is the city of Kerrville excited? Absolutely!!!” Mayor Judy Eychner said in an email. “And having NASA here is just icing on the cake!!!”

With Saturday’s eclipse coinciding with art, music and river festivals, Eychner expects Kerrville’s population of 25,000 to double or even quadruple.


April’s total solar eclipse will crisscross the U.S. in the opposite direction. It will begin in the Pacific and head up through Mexico into Texas, then pass over Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, the northern fringes of Pennsylvania and New York, and New England, before cutting across Canada into the North Atlantic at New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Almost all these places missed out during the United States’ coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in 2017.

It will be 2039 before another ring of fire is visible in the U.S., and Alaska will be the only state then in the path of totality. And it will be 2046 before another ring of fire crosses into the U.S. Lower 48. That doesn’t mean they won’t be happening elsewhere: The southernmost tip of South America will get one next October, and Antarctica in 2026.


NASA and others plan a slew of observations during both eclipses, with rockets and hundreds of balloons soaring.

“It’s going to be absolutely breathtaking for science,” said NASA astrophysicist Madhulika Guhathakurta.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Aroh Barjatya will help launch three NASA-funded sounding rockets from New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range before, during and after Saturday’s eclipse. The goal is to see how eclipses set off atmospheric waves in the ionosphere nearly 200 miles (320 kilometers) up that could disrupt communications.

Barjatya will be just outside Saturday’s ring of fire. And he’ll miss April’s full eclipse, while launching rockets from Virginia’s Wallops Island.

“But the bittersweet moment of not seeing annularity or totality will certainly be made up by the science return,” he said.

submitted 8 months ago by ptz to c/news

Exxon Mobil is buying Pioneer Natural Resources in an all-stock deal valued at $59.5 billion, its largest buyout since acquiring Mobil two decades ago, creating a colossal fracking operator in West Texas.

Including debt, Exxon is committing about $64.5 billion to the acquisition, leaving no doubt of the Texas energy company’s commitment to fossil fuels as energy prices surge.

Pioneer shareholders will receive 2.32 shares of Exxon for each Pioneer share they own.

“I think fossil fuels, as the world looks to transition and find lower sources of affordable energy with lower emissions, fossil fuels oil and gas are going to continue to play a role over time,” Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods said during an interview with CNBC. “ That may diminish with time. The rate of that is, I think, not very clear at this stage. But it will be around for a long time.”

Woods explained that Exxon and Pioneer will be able to use their combined capabilities to drive down emissions and produce lower carbon intensity oil and gas.

Exxon purchased XTO Energy in 2009 for approximately $36 billion. In the late 1990s, the merger between Exxon and Mobil was valued around $80 billion.

The deal with Pioneer Natural vastly expands Exxon’s presence in the Permian basin, a massive oilfield that straddles the border between Texas and New Mexico. Drilling the Permian accounted for 18% of all U.S. natural gas production last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Pioneer’s more than 850,000 net acres in the Midland Basin will be combined with Exxon’s 570,000 net acres in the Delaware and Midland Basin, nearly contiguous fields that will allow the combined company to trim costs.

That is a big driver of the deal.

Natural gas rigs in operation have declined over 26% in the U.S. since the start of the year, according to government data, largely due to the rising costs for drilling materials and labor over the past two years.

“Their tier-one acreage is highly contiguous, allowing for greater opportunities to deploy our technologies, delivering operating and capital efficiency as well as significantly increasing production,” Woods said of Pioneer in a prepared statement.

The company will have an estimated 16 billion barrels of oil equivalent in the Permian.

Once the deal closes, Exxon Permian production volume will more than double to 1.3 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, based on 2023 volumes. It’s expected to climb to about 2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day in 2027.

“The combination of ExxonMobil and Pioneer creates a diversified energy company with the largest footprint of high-return wells in the Permian Basin,” Pioneer CEO Scott Sheffield said in a prepared statement.

Citi’s Alastair Syme wrote that the transaction could provide multiple benefits to Exxon.

“Across the industry, the logic of consolidation in the highly fragmented Permian shale remains compelling with significant gains to be achieved from economies of scale by minimizing facilities spend, optimizing drilling and reducing” general spending, Syme wrote.

Exxon is flush with cash. The company posted unprecedented profits last year of $55.7 billion, breezing past its previous record of $45.22 billion in 2008 when oil prices hit record highs.

Exxon Mobil Corp. has been using some of that cash on acquisitions. In July the company announced that it was buying pipeline operator Denbury in an all-stock deal valued at $4.9 billion.

Pioneer Natural has been making similar maneuvers. In 2020 the company said it was buying Parsley Energy in an all-stock deal valued at approximately $4.5 billion. It then purchased DoublePoint Energy in a cash-and-stock deal worth about $6.4 billion in 2021.

The boards of both companies have approved the transaction, which is expected to close in the first half of next year. It still needs approval from Pioneer shareholders.

Shares of Exxon fell more than 4% in Wednesday morning trading.

submitted 8 months ago by ptz to c/news

NEW YORK (AP) — From auto production lines to Hollywood, the power of labor unions is back in the national spotlight.

But despite historic strikes and record contract negotiations this year, there’s a lot stacked against labor organizers today. Union membership rates have been falling for decades due to changes in the U.S. economy, employer opposition, growing political partisanship and legal challenges.

“Even though we’re seeing stronger support for unions, (with) the highest popularity of union favorability in polls since at least 1960s, translating the worker desire for representation into actual representation is really hard under our current system,” Alexander Colvin, dean of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, told The Associated Press.

At least 457,000 workers have participated in 315 strikes in the U.S. just this year, according to Johnnie Kallas, a Ph.D. candidate and the project director of Cornell University’s Labor Action Tracker.

The strikes have led to more than 7.4 million days of missed work in 2023, S&P Global Market Intelligence said, the highest level in almost a quarter century.

Labor activism is reaching a boiling point amid soaring costs of living and rising inequality, particularly the growing pay gap between workers and top executives. Those inequities only became more glaring during the COVID-19 pandemic as U.S. corporations raked in record profits.

“It’s kind of a perfect storm, (so) you see a lot of union movement these days,” said Eunice Han, an assistant professor at the University of Utah specializing in labor economics.

The tightest U.S. labor market in decades is adding to leverage workers feel they have to challenge their employers.

The unemployment rate in the U.S. is close to 50-year lows and there are now about 1.5 open jobs for every unemployed person, according to recent government data.

In August, American employers posted a shocking 9.6 million job openings, far exceeding the expectations of economists in and out of the U.S. Federal Reserve, which as been attempting to cool the labor market with a string of interest rate hikes.

Open jobs means American workers are quitting in higher numbers because they are confident of landing a better paying job.

The unemployment rate in September and August was 3.8%, further signaling leverage for workers.


While pickets lines seem to be everywhere, union membership rates have been declining for decades. Only 6% of private U.S. sector workers belong to unions today, a sliver of the 35% that were union members in 1953.

Todd Vachon, an assistant professor in the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, points to the post-World War II Taft-Hartley Act, which restricted the power of labor unions — as well as factors like relocating manufacturing jobs overseas and an uptick in anti-union stances from both employers and lawmakers that grew in the 70s and 80s.

Vachon notes one pivotal moment in particular, when President Ronald Reagan fired all striking air traffic controllers in 1981.

“That sent a really clear signal to the business community that it’s a-okay to be completely anti-union and to be so in a very belligerent way, because even the president of the United States is doing it,” he said.

Separately, with the rise of the gig economy, some large companies have recategorized employees as “contractors,” making it harder for them to unionize. And growth in sectors that haven’t had a strong history of union membership, such as technology, has also contributed to the decline in unionization.

Last year, the number of both public and private sector workers belonging to unions actually grew by 273,000, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the U.S. workforce grew at an even faster rate, meaning the percentage of those belonging to unions fell slightly.


The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 granted private sector employees the right to unionize, but legal backing for public workers came decades later and even that varies by state.

A 1961 executive order from President John F. Kennedy allowed federal employees to organize. That came around the same era that states also began to pass labor laws for their own public workers.

Generally, states in the Northeast, upper Midwest and West Coast adopted more expansive collective bargaining laws — reaching all different categories of public employees, Vachon explains.

Some states in the South and lower Midwest “will allow police and firefighters to collectively bargain, but not state employees. Or they’ll let state employees bargain, but they can only bargain over wages,” Vachon said. “That shows you how important the labor law is. It really sets the framework for which workers can either organize a union successfully or not.”

A handful of states also have “right to work” laws which, in unionized workplaces, require unions to represent everyone regardless of whether individuals choose to pay dues or formally join. Such legislation has been criticized for undermining the financial resources and bargaining power of unions.

Attitudes towards unionization have become increasingly partisan, too, and also divided geographically. Politically “blue” states tend to have higher unionization rates than “red” states. Several states have also dialed back on union protections in recent years, Han said.


Unionization efforts have expanded but many are taking place where there is little history of organized labor, creating a higher bar for workers.

Colvin points to Starbucks workers who have seen union drives clipped in the last year. Starbucks has been accused of chilling organization by closing unionized stores and firing pro-union workers. There are limits for organizers under current labor law.

“We have a labor law that was designed in the era in the 30s and 40s, when auto plants of 10,000 workers (were organizing),” he said. Starbucks is “split into these small coffee shops of 15 workers... They need to join together to have any kind of bargaining power against a big employer. But our labor law isn’t structured to help them do that,” Colvin said.

Service jobs can be hard to organize due to part-time work and high turnover rates. The same can be said for Amazon warehouses, where there have been pushes for unions.

Still, more workers in numerous industries have begun organizing in recent years. And, particularly with high-profile strikes and contract negotiations seen this summer, there is a reinvigorated spotlight on labor.

According to Gallup public approval of stronger unions stood stood at 67%, down slightly from the 71% approval seen last year, but mirroring levels last seen in the 1960s.

But the desire to organize can only go so far without policy change, experts say.

“We’re absolutely at a turning point in people’s consciousness,” Vachon adds. “Whether that translates into actual a change of direction for union density, I think, is going to depend a lot on how that consciousness plays out in the political arena.”

submitted 8 months ago by ptz to c/news

NEW YORK (AP) — In his two decades as a professional drug snitch, Jorge Hernández was a master of the double cross.

He lied to his handlers, threatened to unmask fellow informants and even admitted killing three people during his days as a cocaine runner. But time and again, he leveraged his extensive contacts in the narcotrafficking underworld to stay alive, avoid the inside of a jail cell and keep making money.

Now Hernández has turned the tables again, this time on the same U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that launched his lucrative career as the go-to fixer for traffickers, prosecutors and defense attorneys alike. And he’s delivered his most explosive trophy yet: two veteran DEA agents charged in a $73,000 bribery conspiracy involving leaked information about ongoing drug investigations.

Hernández, a beefy, bald-headed figure known by the Spanish nickname Boliche – bowling ball – made secret recordings for the FBI and is expected to play a key role this month in the Manhattan federal court trial of former DEA supervisors Manny Recio and John Costanzo Jr. It’s a case that threatens to expose the seamy underbelly of the nation’s premier narcotics law enforcement agency, which has seen at least 18 agents charged or convicted of crimes since 2015, many for being too cozy with informants.

Not on trial but in the middle of it all is a fiercely competitive circle of high-priced Miami defense attorneys flippantly referred to as the “white powder bar.” Their stock in trade is not so much the finer points of law but in scrambling to sign up kingpin clients before the ink is dry on their indictments, negotiating surrender deals and converting them into government cooperators.

In such a world, informants like Hernández thrive by trading in the currency of information — who will be charged and when, said Steven Dudley, co-founder of Insight Crime, a research center focused on Latin America.

“He’s a linchpin in a corrupt system that is about making cases and making money,” Dudley said.

“When cases are made everyone wins,” he added. “The narcos get lower sentences and get to keep some proceeds, the prosecutors and agents get promotions, and the lawyers rake in the money. The only loser is Lady Justice.”

The case is just the latest embarrassment for the DEA, following the arrest of a standout agent in Colombia who laundered money for the cartels and spent lavishly on Tiffany jewels and VIP travel, and another accused of accepting $250,000 in bribes to protect the Mafia in Buffalo, New York.

Hernández’s central role in the latest case emerged from an Associated Press review of hundreds of court records, some of which have never been revealed publicly, and interviews with 12 current and former law enforcement officials familiar with his career as a confidential informant, including several who spoke on the condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter.

Lawyers for Recio and Costanzo have raised concerns in court papers about Hernández’s criminal history, particularly the three people he admitted to killing prior to becoming an informant. But prosecutors insist he is reliable, pointing to bank records and wiretapped calls they say corroborate his testimony.

“Just because someone has committed crimes doesn’t mean that we immediately discount everything they say,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheb Swett told a judge earlier this year.

Neither the DEA nor the Justice Department responded to requests for comment. Hernández hung up when contacted by the AP.

“Call the Justice Department’s customer service line,” he later texted. “They have all the information you desire.”

Court records show the 56-year old Hernández began his criminal climb in the 1990s dispatching boatloads of cocaine for the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia, a right-wing group that later morphed into one of the world’s largest drug-trafficking organizations.

In 2000, after a warlord placed a hit on him, he fled to neighboring Venezuela, where he was arrested. After paying bribes to secure his release, he approached the DEA about becoming an informant.

By all accounts, Hernández proved an adept casemaker, developing a reputation for delivering results but also aggressive behavior toward friends and foes alike.

Agents grew so reliant on Hernández’s network of more than 100 informants across Latin America and the Caribbean that they set him up with a phone and desk at the Tampa headquarters of Operation Panama Express, a federal anti-narcotics task force combining resources from the FBI, DEA, U.S. Coast Guard and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

However, people familiar with Hernández’s past say his luck ran out in 2008 when he was recorded threatening to expose federal informants as snitches unless they paid him to keep quiet. Court records show the DEA abruptly terminated his cooperation agreement and he returned to Venezuela.

But when one door closed, another opened. Despite being blackballed as an informant, Hernández continued to keep in close contact with the DEA and in 2016 met Costanzo, who was supervising agents in Miami investigating Colombian businessman Alex Saab, a suspected bag man for Venezuela’s socialist leader, Nicolas Maduro. At some point, Hernández was also receiving money transfers on Saab’s behalf from offshore accounts and banished from the case, people close to the probe said.

Shortly after, Hernández started cooperating with the FBI in New York, which had its own investigation into Saab. This time his payout wasn’t in cash — it was in seeking to avoid his own criminal exposure.

In 2017, Hernández connected Saab with Bruce Bagley, a University of Miami expert on narcotics trafficking. At Hernández’s urging, Bagley received $3 million from accounts controlled by Saab in the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland. He then transferred the money to Hernández, prosecutors have said, believing it would be forwarded to Saab’s U.S. attorneys, who were secretly negotiating a deal for Saab to turn on Maduro.

But the professor admitted keeping a 10% commission and in 2021 was sentenced to six months in prison for money laundering.

People familiar with the case told the AP that Hernández was also charged under seal in the same money laundering scheme, and that may have pushed him to keep cooperating.

Court papers show that in early 2019, at the FBI’s direction, Hernández recorded conversations with Recio as well as Miami attorney Luis Guerra in which they discussed recruiting targets of DEA investigations as clients using confidential information allegedly furnished by Costanzo. Recio had recently retired from DEA and was working as a private investigator with Guerra and another attorney, David Macey.

Recio is accused in the indictment of speaking hundreds of times on a burner phone he purchased for Costanzo to allegedly coordinate unlawful searches of criminal databases. In exchange, Recio allegedly directed purchases to Costanzo totaling $73,000, including plane tickets and a down payment on a condo. Prosecutors did not allege in the indictment that the lawyers were aware of those gifts.

Also under scrutiny were conversations between Recio and Costanzo discussing confidential DEA plans in 2019 to arrest another potential client. César Peralta was a high-level trafficker in the Dominican Republic who was able to elude capture for more than four months despite a massive search involving 700 law enforcement officials, according to court documents and people familiar with the case.

The task of reaching out to drug suspects to steer them to the attorneys of choice was assigned to Hernández, who was allegedly promised a generous cut of any legal fees.

“Don’t tell anybody where that information comes from,” Guerra tells Hernández in one recorded conversation, according to court documents and the people familiar with the case. “Do it the way you always do it, brother. Using your magic.”

Prosecutors declined to say whether any attorneys have been or will be charged. Attorneys for Recio and Costanzo did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Macey and Guerra.

Costanzo, who was suspended by the DEA after being indicted, denied in a 2019 FBI interview that he ever took anything of value. But he acknowledged that he and other agents sometimes tipped off defense attorneys as part of their mission to encourage suspects to turn themselves in and cooperate.

“We’ve been doing this for years,” he said.

As for Hernández, he’s still involved in Miami’s legal community, running Hernández de Luque Brothers, billed on its website as a “new kind of consulting firm for a changing world.”

“An integral part of our services is to work closely with our clients so that they can make the right decisions in selecting the right attorney.”

submitted 8 months ago by ptz to c/news

WASHINGTON (AP) — Stalemated over a new House speaker, the Republican majority is meeting behind closed doors Wednesday to try to choose a new leader, but lawmakers warn it could take hours, if not days, to unite behind a nominee after Kevin McCarthy’s ouster.

The two leading contenders, Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, appear to be splitting the vote among their Republican colleagues. McCarthy, who had openly positioned himself to reclaim the job he just lost, told fellow GOP lawmakers not to nominate him this time.

“I don’t know how the hell you get to 218,” said Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, referring to the majority vote typically needed in the 435-member House to become speaker. “It could be a long week.”

It’s an extraordinary moment of political chaos that has brought the House to a standstill at a time of uncertainty at home and crisis abroad, just 10 months after Republicans swept to power. Aspiring to operate as a team and run government more like a business, the GOP majority has drifted far from that goal with the unprecedented ouster of a speaker.

Americans are watching. One-quarter of Republicans say they approve of the decision by a small group of Republicans to remove McCarthy as speaker. Three in 10 Republicans believe it was a mistake, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The hard-right coalition of lawmakers that ousted McCarthy, R-Calif., has shown what an oversize role a few lawmakers can have in choosing his successor.

“I am not thrilled with either choice right now,” said Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., who voted to oust McCarthy.

Both Scalise and Jordan are working furiously to shore up support. Both are easily winning over dozens of supporters and could win a majority of the 221 Republicans.

But it’s unclear whether either Scalise or Jordan can amass the votes that would be needed from almost all Republicans to overcome opposition from Democrats during a floor vote in the narrowly split House. Usually, the majority needed would be 218 votes, but there are currently two vacant seats, dropping the threshold to 217.

Many Republicans want to prevent the spectacle of a messy House floor fight like the grueling January brawl when McCarthy became speaker.

“People are not comfortable going to the floor with a simple majority and then having C-SPAN and the rest of the world watch as we have this fight,” said Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla. “We want to have this family fight behind closed doors.”

Some have proposed a rules change that Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., the interim speaker pro tempore, is considering to ensure a majority vote before the nominee is presented for a full floor vote.

McCarthy himself appeared to agree with a consensus approach. “They shouldn’t come out of there until they decide that they have enough votes for whoever they bring to the floor,” McCarthy said.

But short of a rules change, Republican lawmakers would be expected to agree to a majority-wins process — whichever candidate wins the internal private vote would be given the full backing of the Republicans on the floor.

It’s no guarantee. Scalise and Jordan indicated they would support the eventual nominee, lawmakers said. But many lawmakers remained undecided.

While both are conservatives from the right flank, neither Scalise nor Jordan is the heir apparent to McCarthy, who was removed in a push by the far-right flank after the speaker led Congress to approve legislation that averted a government shutdown.

Scalise, as the second-ranking Republican, would be next in line for speaker and is seen as a hero among colleagues for having survived severe injuries from a mass shooting during a congressional baseball practice in 2017. He is now battling blood cancer.

“We’re going to go get this done,” Scalise said as he left a candidate forum Tuesday night. “The House is going to get back to work.”

Jordan is a high-profile political firebrand known for his close alliance with Donald Trump, particularly when the then-president was working to overturn the results of the 2020 election, leading to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Trump has backed Jordan’s bid for the gavel.

Scalise and Jordan presented similar views at the forum about cutting spending and securing the southern border with Mexico, top Republican priorities.

Several lawmakers, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who engineered McCarthy’s ouster, said they would be willing to support either Scalise or Jordan.

Others though, particularly more centrist conservative Republicans from districts that are narrowly split between the parties, are holding out for another choice.

“Personally, I’m still with McCarthy,” said Rep. David Valadao, a Republican who represents a California district not far from McCarthy’s.

“We’ll see how that plays out, but I do know a large percentage of the membership wants to be there with him as well.”

“I think it’s important whoever takes that job is willing to risk the job for doing what’s right for the American public,” McCarthy said.

For now, McHenry is effectively in charge. He has shown little interest in expanding his power beyond the role he was assigned — an interim leader tasked with ensuring the election of the next speaker.

The role was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to ensure the continuity of government. McHenry’s name was at the top of a list submitted by McCarthy when he became speaker in January.

While some Republicans, and Democrats are open to empowering McHenry the longer he holds the temporary position, that seems unlikely as the speaker’s fight drags on.

submitted 8 months ago by ptz to c/news

NEW YORK (AP) — Aggrieved and defiant, former President Donald Trump sat through hours of sometimes testy opening statements Monday in a fraud lawsuit that could cost him control of Trump Tower and other prized properties.

“Disgraceful trial,” he declared during a lunch break, after listening to lawyers for New York Attorney General Letitia James excoriate him as a habitual liar. The state’s lawsuit accuses the business-mogul-turned-politician and his company of deceiving banks, insurers and others by misstating his wealth for years in financial statements.

“They were lying year after year after year,” Kevin Wallace, a lawyer in James’ office, said as Trump sat at the defense table. He looked straight ahead, arms crossed, facing away from a screen that showed details of Wallace’s presentation.

Defense lawyers, in response, said the financial statements were legitimate. Trump’s holdings are “Mona Lisa properties” that can command top dollar, attorney Alina Habba said.

“That is not fraud. That is real estate,” she said, accusing the attorney general’s office of “setting a very dangerous precedent for all business owners in the state of New York.”

Trump voluntarily attended a trial that he called a “sham,” a “scam,” a waste of the state’s time and “a continuation of the single greatest witch hunt of all time.” Currently the Republican front-runner in the 2024 presidential race, he reiterated claims that James, a Democrat, is trying to thwart his bid to return to the White House.

“What we have here is an attempt to hurt me in an election,” he said outside court, adding: “I don’t think the people of this country are going to stand for it.”

Trump sneered at James as he passed her on his way out at lunchtime; she, by turn, left smiling. Meanwhile, his campaign immediately began fundraising off the appearance.

Judge Arthur Engoron ruled last week that Trump committed fraud in his business dealings. If upheld on appeal, the ruling could force Trump to give up New York properties including Trump Tower, a Wall Street office building, golf courses and a suburban estate. Trump has called it a “a corporate death penalty” and insisted the judge is unfair and out to get him.

The non-jury trial concerns six remaining claims in the lawsuit, including allegations of conspiracy, falsifying business records and insurance fraud. Engoron said that neither side sought a jury and that state law doesn’t allow for juries when suits seek not only money but a court order setting out something a defendant must do or not do.

James is seeking $250 million in penalties and a ban on Trump doing business in New York.

“No matter how powerful you are, and no matter how much money you think you have, no one is above the law,” she said on her way into the courthouse.

Trump denies wrongdoing. He says that James and the judge are undervaluing such assets as his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, and he emphasizes that his financial statements had a disclaimer that says they shouldn’t be trusted. The yearly snapshots of his holdings were given to banks to secure loans and to financial magazines to justify his place among the world’s billionaires.

The former president, his two eldest sons, Trump Organization executives and lawyer-turned-foe Michael Cohen are all listed among dozens of potential witnesses.

Trump isn’t expected to testify for several weeks. His trip to court Monday marked a remarkable departure from his past practice.

Trump didn’t go to court as either a witness or a spectator when his company and one of its top executives was convicted of tax fraud last year. He didn’t show, either, for a civil trial earlier this year in which a jury found him liable for sexually assaulting the writer E. Jean Carroll in a department store dressing room.

This time, “I wanted to watch this witch hunt myself,” he said outside court.

In a recent court filing, James’ office alleged Trump exaggerated his wealth by as much as $3.6 billion.

He claimed his three-story Trump Tower penthouse, replete with gold-plated fixtures, was nearly three times its actual size and worth $327 million, far more than any New York City apartment ever has fetched, James said. He valued Mar-a-Lago as high as $739 million — more than 10 times a more reasonable estimate of its worth, James maintained.

“Every estimate was determined by Mr. Trump,” Wallace said in his opening statement. He pointed to pretrial testimony by Trump Organization figures and ex-insiders including Cohen, who said the company estimated assets to get to a predetermined number “that Mr. Trump wanted.”

Wallace said the alleged scheme got the company better loan rates, saving it $100 million in interest.

“They hid their weaknesses and convinced these banks to take on hundreds of millions of dollars in risk,” he said, adding: “While the defendants can exaggerate to Forbes magazine or on television, they cannot do it while conducting business in the state of New York.”

Trump lawyer Christopher Kise said defense experts will testify that assigning values to properties is, by nature, a matter of opinion.

“There is no such thing as objective valuation,” Kise said in an opening statement.

Any discrepancies in values don’t amount to fraud, he said, and disclaimers on the financial statements made clear that these were estimates and that banks would have to perform their own analysis.

Trump and his lawyers have also argued that no one was harmed by anything in the financial statements. Banks that made loans to him were fully repaid. Business partners made money. And Trump’s own company flourished.

Kise blasted last week’s fraud ruling, telling the judge he shouldn’t have made a decision before hearing expert trial testimony on property valuations. Engoron, tiring of the defense’s criticism, shot back: “Respectfully, what’s that expression? You’re stalking the dead horse here.”

Testimony began Wednesday afternoon with Donald Bender, a longtime partner at accounting firm Mazars LLP, describing how he spent 50 to 60 hours a year preparing Trump’s financial statements. Mazars cut ties with Trump last year after James’ office raised questions about the statements’ reliability.

James’ lawsuit is one of several legal headaches for Trump as he campaigns to return to the White House. He has been indicted four times since March, accused of plotting to overturn his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, hoarding classified documents and falsifying business records related to hush money paid on his behalf. He has pleaded not guilty to all the allegations.

The New York fraud trial is expected to last into December, Engoron said.

submitted 9 months ago by ptz to c/news

There are two central arguments in the Republican effort to impeach President Biden, neither validated.

The first is that Joe Biden benefited financially from his son Hunter’s business efforts — that Hunter Biden’s leveraging of his last name to generate consulting contracts trickled up to his father. Investigations by House Republicans, particularly the Oversight Committee led by Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) have failed to show any such connection, despite months of looking. Instead, this assertion relies on insinuations about Joe Biden making phone calls to his son — and depends on ignoring exculpatory evidence from Hunter Biden’s former business partner.

The other central attack on the president involves Hunter Biden’s work for the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. This relationship was adjudicated robustly during the first impeachment of President Donald Trump, a probe that centered on Trump’s desire to have the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, announce an investigation into the Bidens before the 2020 election.

Trumpworld’s belief that Joe Biden had sought the ouster of Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, to benefit Burisma and Hunter Biden was debunked in 2019. Perhaps in part because Fox News did its best to ignore the evidence in that impeachment inquiry, claims about the now-president trying to get Shokin fired back in 2015 and 2016 have been elevated again as though they retain validity.

They don’t — as Fox News unintentionally made clear over the weekend.

Last month, the network interviewed Shokin, during which he once again claimed that his firing was solely a function of then-Vice President Biden pressuring then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in defense of Burisma. Given what’s known about the situation — that Shokin failed to target corruption in the country, that there was a resulting multinational push for his ouster, that there was no active probe into Burisma (and, in fact, that he’d shielded the company) — these were noncredible claims coming from a noncredible actor.

Fox News host Brian Kilmeade’s interview with Poroshenko on Sunday, shared on social media by journalist Aaron Rupar, highlighted that challenge.

Kilmeade began by speaking with the former Ukrainian president — defeated by Zelensky in the country’s 2019 election — about the war in Russia. He then transitioned to the interview with Shokin, who’d referred to Poroshenko as his friend.

He played a clip from the Shokin interview in which the former prosecutor claimed that “Poroshenko fired me at the insistence of the then-vice-president Biden because I was investigating Burisma. … There were no complaints whatsoever, no problems with how I was performing at my job. But because pressure was repeatedly put on President Poroshenko, that is what ended up in him firing me.”

This is patently untrue, as has been established repeatedly. But Kilmeade presented it to Poroshenko as possible, asking if that is, in fact, why Shokin was fired.

“First of all, this is the completely crazy person,” Poroshenko began. “This is something wrong with him.”

“Second,” the nonnative English speaker continued, “there is no one single word of truth. And third, I hate the idea to make any comments and to make any intervention in the American election.” He asked that Kilmeade “not use such person like Shokin to undermine the trust between bipartisan support and Ukraine.”

“He’s not your friend?” Kilmeade asked.

“I don’t see him — maybe four years or something,” Poroshenko replied. “At all. And I hate the idea to have him because he play very dirty game, unfortunately.”

“Okay, so that is not true,” Kilmeade continued. “He didn’t get fired because of Joe Biden.” Poroshenko confirmed that he did not, saying that Shokin was fired “for his own statement.”

This isn’t news, as such. It’s been known for some time that there was no Burisma probe, that Shokin was seen as too lenient on corruption and that it wasn’t simply Biden who was pressuring Poroshenko to remove him. There were protests in the streets and resignations from within Shokin’s office that contributed to the pressure at stake. Once Trump was president, though, Shokin found sympathetic ears in the Republican’s orbit and convinced both right-wing writers and Trump himself that his ouster was a function of Democratic maneuvering.

The news here is that Fox, which has been an essential platform for every unfounded allegation from Comer and his allies, accidentally stepped on its own messaging. Sure, Poroshenko is not the most reliable narrator himself. But his disparagement of the credibility of Shokin joins a hefty amount of other evidence on the lower side of a lopsided scale.

One should not assume that Fox News and its guests will now transition into skepticism about Shokin’s claims. They are too heavily invested in the idea that Biden’s withholding of a loan guarantee as an American manifestation of the international effort was, instead, proof-positive of Biden’s corruption. The channel ran countless segments on a baseless bribery allegation — that itself centers on Biden’s relationship to Burisma. Fox News and House Republicans will either ignore Poroshenko (as they ignored Hunter Biden’s business partner’s testimony that Joe Biden wasn’t involved in their business) or they will treat Poroshenko as less reliable than Shokin.

This is the problem with the narrative constructed by right-wing elites and media: it’s too far down the path for all of them to admit that they were wrong. They just now have to figure out how they were right in some other way.

Luckily for them, they’re very practiced at such transitions.

submitted 9 months ago by ptz to c/news

Former president Donald Trump has never been particularly adept at masking his true feelings. He feels confident in his ability to close the deal, however robustly he’s previously undermined his position. So if he says something disadvantageous, he seems to believe that saying more things can get him back on track. So he just says stuff.

Sometimes, though, the stuff he says is more revealing than he intends. As were the comments he made on social media early Monday.

The post on Truth Social offered a lot of the standard excoriations and complaints: His opponents for the 2024 Republican nomination were bad for various reasons, the left is dangerous, the right is ineffectual, etc. What’s important about the post was the predicate for this standard sales patter: the announcement of Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) that recipients of a driver’s license in the state would be automatically registered to vote.

“The Radical Left Governor, Josh Shapiro, has just announced a switch to Automatic Voter Registration, a disaster for the Election of Republicans, including your favorite President, ME!” Trump wrote. “This is a totally Unconstitutional Act, and must be met harshly by Republican Leadership in Washington and Pennsylvania.”

He’s said things like this before. In early 2020, Trump declared that legislation aiming to expand voting access in light of the pandemic would lead to “levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” A week later, this time responding to a Fox News broadcast, he asserted that easier voting thanks to mail-in ballots had “[t]remendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”

But that was before his breathless effort to retain power despite losing that year’s presidential election. His baseless claims about the threat of fraud from mail-in ballots did not manifest, though he insisted they did. In the absence of any credible evidence of widespread fraud, though, he and his allies shifted their rhetoric: The problem was perhaps less that fraud occurred than that the system had been rigged against him. This was a useful claim because it was vague; things like accurate reporting on his presidency could be presented as an Elite Plot™ to ensure that he lost.

Most often, though, the “rigging” allegation centered on the expansion of voting mechanisms prompted by the pandemic. Trump and allies such as attorney John Eastman railed against Pennsylvania’s effort to make it easier to cast a ballot by mail as an unconstitutional disadvantaging of the incumbent president; that the change was made by the Republican legislature before the pandemic and validated by the state Supreme Court has seemingly offered little cause for adjustment of this position.

When Wisconsin’s conservative-majority Supreme Court determined in 2022 that the state couldn’t allow ballot drop-boxes (which had been used in 2020), Trump and his allies hyped the decision as validating their allegations about the security of the election. In reality, there’s no evidence that any significant fraud was committed in 2020 through mail ballots or drop-boxes, but — as with that social media post about the “tremendous potential” for fraud — it was useful to imply that these systems were dangerous because Trump felt that they gave an advantage to Democrats. Just as he thinks Pennsylvania’s new voter-registration process does — though, in this case, he doesn’t allege that it will foster fraud.

It’s worth ruminating on that for a second. Trump is simply stating that increasing the number of registered voters will be bad for his party. He and his allies will unquestionably interlace some post-hoc claims about the threat of fraud, claims that Trump has done more than anyone to both amplify and expose as unfounded. But he didn’t make that claim on Monday morning. He just complained that having more voters would mean more Democratic victories.

This isn’t necessarily true, of course. But it is often the case that voting groups that vote more heavily Democratic are less likely to be registered to vote. Young people and less wealthy Americans, for example, are more likely to rent homes. When they move, they often need to re-register to vote — and then find their new voting place. Elections systems are often built to make it easier for frequent voters to cast ballots, and infrequent voters often skew Democratic. In April, I looked at the number of polling places stationed at senior centers and senior living communities; there were one-and-a-half times as many as there were at colleges and universities nationally.

Trump’s argument is very much in keeping with his approach to elections in general. Theoretically, federal elections are intended to capture the sentiments of as much of the adult citizen population as possible. In practice, both parties are often happy to have their opponents’ voters stay home. (In the wake of his 2016 victory, for example, Trump celebrated low turnout from Black voters.) It’s not common, though, for a presidential candidate to simply deride an effort to get more people to vote as politically disadvantageous.

The argument is fundamentally anti-democratic: Having more people weigh in on candidates reduces our party’s power and therefore should not be allowed. Republicans have spent decades hyping the idea that voter fraud is common (which it isn’t) because raising the idea of stealing votes is a more palatable way of opposing expansions to voting than simply saying they want to disadvantage Democrats. (Sometimes, even before Trump, the mask slipped.)

There’s another way to look at Trump’s disparagement of the effort in Pennsylvania. The system, as it stands, is rigged in a way that allowed Trump to win in 2016. It’s likely that Trump’s 2020 loss was a function of his unpopularity more than it was the changes in voting systems, but Trump would obviously rather blame those systems. So he claims that allowing more people to vote was rigging the election when it is probably more fair to describe it as unrigging a system that made it harder for many Americans to vote. Trump is very eager that it not be unrigged further.

What 2020 proved is how rare voter fraud or illegal voting is, even in an election in which it was made easier than ever to cast a ballot by mail. No election has been more scrutinized; no exceptional, significant or systemic illegality was found.

But Trump likes having it be hard for new voters to vote. He thinks, as he said on social media, that this helps him and his party. And given that the other lesson from 2020 was his lack of interest in respecting the democratic choices of the electorate, it comes as no surprise that he takes this position on the effort in Pennsylvania.

His allies in the state, putting on the familiar mask, argued that the move undermines confidence in the results. Trump didn’t bother.

submitted 9 months ago by ptz to c/news

LOS ANGELES, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Video game voice actors and motion capture performers have voted to authorize a strike if negotiations on a new labor contract fail, setting the stage for another possible work stoppage in Hollywood.

After voting closed on Monday, the SAG-AFTRA union said 98.32% of those who cast ballots had voted in favor of authorizing a strike.

The union is scheduled to begin contract talks with gaming companies on Tuesday.

SAG-AFTRA is the same union representing film and television actors who went on strike in July, putting Hollywood in the midst of two simultaneous work stoppages for the first time in 63 years.

In May, roughly 11,500 Writers Guild of America members walked off the job. The writers union reached a preliminary labor agreement with major studios on Sunday.

The SAG-AFTRA agreement covering video game performers expired last November and has been extended on a monthly basis as the union negotiated with major video game companies.

The most pressing issues for SAG-AFTRA are higher pay, medical treatment and breaks for motion capture performers, and protection against artificial intelligence (AI).

These worries echo those brought by Hollywood writers and SAG-AFTRA members under a different contract.

“This is at an inflection point for our industry. In particular with AI, because right now there aren’t any protections,” Ashly Burch, “Horizon Zero Dawn” video game voice actor, told Reuters.

“So, there’s every possibility that someone could sign a contract and be signing away the right to their voice or their movement," Burch added.

SAG-AFTRA is seeking wage increases for video game performers, saying their pay has not kept pace with inflation, and more protections for the motion-capture performers who wear markers or sensors on the skin or a body suit to help game makers create characters' movements.

The union is asking for "on-camera performers to have the same five minutes per hour rest period that off-camera performers are entitles to," SAG-AFTRA said in a statement on its website.

The union will be negotiating with large video game companies, including Activision Blizzard (ATVI.O), Electronic Arts (EA.O), Epic Games, Formosa Interactive and others.

“We will continue to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement that reflects the important contributions of SAG-AFTRA-represented performers in video games," Audrey Cooling said Monday on behalf of the video game companies, following the strike authorization vote results.

"We have reached tentative agreements on over half of the proposals and are optimistic we can find a resolution at the bargaining."

submitted 9 months ago by ptz to c/news

WASHINGTON, Sept 26 (Reuters) - As Republican U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy struggles to negotiate a deal to keep the government open, he faces a challenge from his right flank, with hardline members of his caucus threatening to oust him as their leader.

To do so, they would need to invoke what's called the "motion to vacate."


The motion to vacate is the House's procedure to remove its speaker. The chamber's current rules allow any one member, Democrat or Republican, to introduce the motion. If it is introduced as a "privileged" resolution, the House must consider it at some point, although it could be delayed with procedural votes.

If the motion to vacate comes to the House floor for a vote, it would only need a simple majority to pass. Republicans currently control the House with 221 seats to 212 Democrats, meaning if McCarthy wants to keep his speaker's gavel he cannot afford to lose more than four votes.


McCarthy endured a brutal 15 rounds of voting in January before being elected as speaker, during which he agreed to multiple concessions increasing the power of Republican hardliners.

One was the decision to allow just one member to put forward a motion to vacate, which meant that hardliners could threaten McCarthy's speakership at any time.

This was a change from the rules in place under his Democratic predecessor, Nancy Pelosi, when a majority of one party needed to support a motion to vacate to bring it to the floor.


Republican Representative Matt Gaetz, a hardline conservative from Florida and perpetual thorn in McCarthy's side, has repeatedly threatened to file a motion to vacate. The speaker has been unfazed.

In a Sept. 14 closed-door meeting of House Republicans, McCarthy dared Gaetz to bring a motion to the floor.

Others including Representatives Dan Bishop and Eli Crane have also suggested they would support a motion to vacate.


The motion was first used in 1910, when then-Republican Speaker Joseph Cannon put forward the motion himself to force detractors in his own party to make a decision on whether they supported him or not, according to the House Archives. The motion failed.

Then-Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich was threatened with a motion to vacate in 1997. Although he managed to tamp down resistance and avoid an actual resolution being filed, he resigned in 1998 after disappointing results in the midterm elections that year.

Republican then-Representative Mark Meadows in 2015 filed a motion to vacate against Republican Speaker John Boehner. It did not come to a vote but Boehner resigned anyway a few months later, citing the challenges of managing a burgeoning hardline conservative faction of his party.

submitted 9 months ago by ptz to c/news

WASHINGTON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Donald Trump pushed back at U.S. prosecutors' request to curb some of his public statements about people involved in the federal court case accusing him of attempting to subvert the results of the 2020 presidential election.

The former U.S. president's lawyers sharply opposed the request from Special Counsel Jack Smith for a court order limiting Trump’s out-of-court statements about potential witnesses in the case and barring disparaging or intimidating remarks about the judge, prosecutors and potential jurors.

Trump’s defense team said in a court filing late on Monday that such restrictions would violate his free speech rights as he runs for president as the clear front-runner for the Republican nomination in 2024.

Trump had already publicly attacked Smith’s request, arguing it was an attempt to limit his criticism of the President Joe Biden, his likely opponent in the 2024 election.

"At bottom, the Proposed Gag Order is nothing more than an obvious attempt by the Biden Administration to unlawfully silence its most prominent political opponent," Trump's lawyers wrote in the filing.

Trump was indicted in August on four felony counts for allegedly attempting to intervene in the counting of votes and block the certification of the 2020 election, one of four criminal cases he faces. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Smith’s office said in a court filing this month that Trump threatened to undermine public confidence in the case and influence potential jurors with “near daily” social media attacks on prosecutors, U.S. Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the case, and residents of Washington, D.C. who will serve as jurors.

Prosecutors said Trump has a history of inspiring his supporters to harass and threaten people he singles out for public criticism.

Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, fighting with police and sending lawmakers fleeing for their lives, in a failed bid to overturn Trump's election defeat. Trump continues to make the false claim that his loss was the result of fraud.

submitted 9 months ago by ptz to c/news

WASHINGTON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - U.S. Federal Communications Commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel plans to begin an effort to reinstate landmark net neutrality rules rescinded under then-President Donald Trump, sources briefed on the matter said Monday.

The move comes after Democrats took majority control of the five-member FCC on Monday for the first time since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021 when new FCC Commissioner Anna Gomez was sworn in.

The FCC is set to take an initial vote on the net neutrality proposal in October, the sources added.

In July 2021, Biden signed an executive order encouraging the FCC to reinstate net neutrality rules adopted under Democratic then-President Barack Obama in 2015.

The FCC voted in 2017 to reverse the rules that barred internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic, or offering paid fast lanes, also known as paid prioritization. Days before the 2020 presidential election, the FCC voted to maintain the reversal.

Rosenworcel denounced the repeal in 2017 saying it put the FCC "on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American public."

She plans a speech to outline her plans on Tuesday, the sources added. A spokesperson for Rosenworcel declined to comment.

In 2022, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 that the 2017 decision by the FCC to reverse federal net neutrality protections could not bar state action, rejecting a challenge from telecom and broad industry groups to block California's net neutrality law. Industry groups abandoned further legal challenges in May 2022.

The appeals court said that since the FCC reclassified internet services in 2017 as more lightly regulated information services, the commission "no longer has the authority to regulate in the same manner that it had when these services were classified as telecommunications services."

Days after Biden took office, the U.S. Justice Department withdrew its Trump-era legal challenge to California's state net neutrality law.

submitted 9 months ago by ptz to c/news

Bob Smith, chief executive of Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, announced to staff in an email Monday that he was resigning, six years after he was hired to lead the space company.

He will be replaced by Dave Limp, a senior executive at Amazon, the company said.

In the email, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, Smith said that during his tenure, “our team, facilities, sales orders have grown dramatically, and we’ve made significant contributions to the history of spaceflight.”

The company, which has been largely personally funded by Bezos since he founded it in a Seattle warehouse in 2000, recently won a major NASA contract to develop a spacecraft to land astronauts on the moon.

But the company also has lagged behind Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Its much-delayed New Glenn rocket has not yet flown to orbit. And while the company has flown a number of private citizens, including Bezos and his brother Mark, on short suborbital trips to the edge of space, the company’s space tourism program has been grounded for more than a year after a mishap during a mission without people on board.

Smith came to Blue Origin from Honeywell Aerospace with the mandate to transform the company from what had largely been a research and development venture into a revenue-generating, operational firm that would compete for and win government contracts.

Under his leadership, the company grew enormously, and quickly — expanding its headquarters in Kent, just south of Seattle, and opening an engine manufacturing plant in Huntsville, Ala., as well as an enormous manufacturing facility in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

In an email to staff that was obtained by The Post, Bezos noted “the significant growth and transformation we’ve experienced during his tenure.” Bezos wrote that Blue “has grown to several billion dollars in sales orders,” as well as from 850 people when Smith joined to more than 10,000 today. (Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. Interim CEO Patty Stonesifer sits on Amazon’s board.)

Elon Musk is dominating the space race. Jeff Bezos is trying to fight back.

But Smith’s tenure was also marked by tension and tumult. In 2021, The Post chronicled the problems at Blue Origin in an investigation that found that in 2019 it fired its head of recruiting after employees complained of sexism.

A consultant retained by the company also found that Smith had an ineffective and micromanaging leadership style. Employees complained of a toxic work environment. And one said in a letter to Bezos, Smith and other top leaders that, “Our current culture is toxic to our success and many can see it spreading throughout the company.”

The problems at the spaceflight company were “systemic,” according to the letter, which was obtained by The Post and verified by two former employees familiar with the matter. “The loss of trust in Blue’s leadership is common,” the letter said.

“It’s bad,” one former top executive told The Post at the time. “I think it’s a complete lack of trust. Leadership has not engendered any trust in the employee base.”

Another said: “The C-suite is out of touch with the rank-and-file pretty severely. It’s very dysfunctional. It’s condescending. It’s demoralizing, and what happens is we can’t make progress and end up with huge delays.”

The report followed an essay posted publicly by Alexandra Abrams, the former head of Blue Origin employee communications, who wrote that the company’s “culture sits on a foundation that ignores the plight of our planet, turns a blind eye to sexism, is not sufficiently attuned to safety concerns, and silences those who seek to correct wrongs.” The essay was posted to the whistleblowing site Lioness, which publishes stories of workplace misconduct and places them with media outlets.

Bezos has said that Blue Origin “is the most important work I’m doing,” and that he was investing $1 billion a year into the venture. Amazon, he has said, was the “winning lottery ticket” that gave him the resources to start a space company and keep funding it. Space is his lifelong passion. But despite the enormous capital Bezos has invested in Blue Origin, the company has continually lagged behind SpaceX, which holds contracts to fly cargo and crew to the International Space Station and hoist satellites for the Pentagon.

SpaceX also beat out Blue Origin to win the first contract to develop the spacecraft that would return NASA astronauts to the surface of the moon. At the time, Musk told The Post that Bezos “needs to run BO full-time for it to be successful. Frankly, I hope he does.”

In his email, Smith said that he would “step aside” on Dec. 4, but remain with the company until Jan. 2.

Limp is taking over at a critical time for Blue Origin. The company’s large New Glenn rocket, which is to be used to launch satellites and eventually people to orbit, has long been delayed. But in his email, Bezos said it “is nearing launch next year.” The company also holds a NASA contract, with partner Sierra Space, to build a commercial space station in low Earth orbit.

Much of the company’s efforts are focused on Bezos’s passion: the moon. After losing to SpaceX in 2021, Blue Origin won a $3.4 billion contract from NASA earlier this year to build a lander that could put humans on the moon later in the decade. It also won a $34.7 million NASA contract to build solar cells and transmission wire out of the moon’s regolith — rocks and dirt.

At Amazon, Limp serves as senior vice president for devices and services, where he has led programs such as Kindle and Alexa Fire TV. He also has run its Kuiper internet satellite business, which intends to compete with SpaceX’s Starlink service. The company is hoping to launch its first satellites later this year.

That is another area where SpaceX has dominated. While Kuiper is waiting for its first batch of satellites to go up, and for the New Glenn rocket to begin flying, SpaceX has launched nearly 5,000 Starlink satellites. The company recently said the service is available on “all 7 continents, in over 60 countries” and has more than 2 million customers.

submitted 9 months ago by ptz to c/news

Russia is seeking to rejoin the United Nations human rights council in an election that will be seen as a key test of its international standing.

It was expelled from the UN's pre-eminent human rights body last April after its forces invaded Ukraine.

But now Russian diplomats are seeking to get their country re-elected to the council for a fresh three-year term.

The BBC has obtained a copy of the position paper Russia is circulating to UN members asking for their support.

The vote will take place next month.

In the document seen by the BBC, Russia promises to find "adequate solutions for human rights issues" and seeks to stop the council becoming an "instrument which serves political wills of one group of countries", understood to be a reference to the West.

Diplomats said Russia was hoping to regain some international credibility after being accused of human rights abuses in Ukraine and within its own borders.

The latest evidence of those abuses was presented to the human rights council on Monday in a report from its Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine.

Erik Mose, chair of the commission, said there was continuing evidence of war crimes including torture, rape and attacks on civilians.

A separate report two weeks ago by the UN's special rapporteur for Russia, Mariana Katzarova said the human rights situation in Russia had also "significantly deteriorated", with critics of the invasion subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture and ill treatment.

The UN human rights council is based in Geneva and has 47 members, each elected for a three-year term.

In the next elections, due on 10 October, Russia will compete with Albania and Bulgaria for the two seats on the council reserved for central and eastern European countries.

The vote will involve all 193 members of the UN general assembly in New York. Diplomats there said Russia was campaigning aggressively, offering small countries grain and arms in return for their votes.

As such, they said it was entirely possible Russia could get back onto the council.

The Russian position paper - circulated at the UN - says it wants to "promote principles of cooperation and strengthening of constructive mutually respectful dialogue in the council in order to find adequate solutions for human rights issues".

Its core pitch is that Russia would use its membership "to prevent the increasing trend of turning the HRC into an instrument which serves the political will of one group of countries". It said it does not want that group "punishing non-loyal governments for their independent and external policy".

Russia was suspended from the Human Rights Council in April 2022 with 93 members of the UN general assembly voting in favour, 24 against and 58 abstaining. In its position paper, Russia blames "the United States and its allies" for it losing membership.

A report this month by three campaign groups - UN Watch, the Human Rights Foundation and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights - concluded Russia was "unqualified" for membership of the HRC.

"Re-electing Russia to the council now, while its war on Ukraine is still ongoing, would be counterproductive for human rights and would send a message that the UN is not serious about holding Russia accountable for its crimes in Ukraine," the report said.

The UK said it "strongly opposes" Russia's bid to rejoin the Human Rights Council.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "Widespread evidence of Russia's human rights abuses and violations in Ukraine and against its own citizens, including those highlighted by the UN's special rapporteur on Russia just last week, demonstrates Russia's complete contempt for the work of the council."

The shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, said Russia had committed atrocities in Ukraine, its leader had been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court and had shown utter contempt for the UN Charter.

"The idea that Russia could return to the Human Rights Council is an affront to the very concept of human rights and a dangerous backwards step that would damage its credibility," he said. "The government should work intensively with countries who have abstained in the past to make the case that the essential values of the UN must be upheld."

The BBC approached the Russian mission at the UN for comment.

submitted 9 months ago by ptz to c/news

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. said Monday that it's pausing construction of a $3.5 billion electric vehicle battery plant in Michigan until it is confident it can run the factory competitively.

The move comes as the company is in the midst of national contract talks with the United Auto Workers union, which wants to represent workers at battery factories and win them top wages.

The UAW went on strike against Ford and the other two Detroit automakers, General Motors and Stellantis, on Sept. 15. The union at first targeted one vehicle assembly plant from each automaker, and last week expanded it to parts warehouses. But Ford was spared from the expansion because the union said progress was being made in negotiations.

In February, Ford announced plans to build the plant in Marshall, Michigan, employing about 2,500 workers to make lower-cost batteries for a variety of new and existing vehicles. Marshall is about 100 miles (160 kilometers) west of Detroit and is near two major interstate highways.

But Ford spokesman TR Reid confirmed Monday that plant construction has been paused and spending has been limited on it.

"There are a number of considerations," he said in an email. "We haven't made any final decision about the planned investment there."

There also has been local opposition to the factory location, and criticism of a Chinese company's involvement in the plant, which would be run by a wholly owned subsidiary of Ford.

In a statement, UAW President Shawn Fain called Ford's move "a shameful, barely-veiled threat by Ford to cut jobs" at a plant that's not open yet.

"We are simply asking for a just transition to electric vehicles, and Ford is instead doubling down on their race to the bottom" with lower wages, he said.

The factory was to start making batteries in 2026, cranking out enough battery cells to supply 400,000 vehicles per year, Ford said.

It would produce batteries with a lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) chemistry, which is cheaper than the current nickel-cobalt-manganese chemistry now used in many EV batteries. Consumers could then choose between a battery with lower range and cost, or pay more for higher range and power.

Ford said the subsidiary would own the factory and employ the workers. But China's Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., or CATL, which is known for its lithium-iron-phosphate expertise, would supply technology, some equipment and workers.

Republican State Rep. Sarah Lightner, whose district includes Marshall, said Monday the news from Ford "came out of the blue."

"We're still gathering information because there's a lot of moving parts," Lightner said.

While the state had allocated nearly $1.7 billion in incentives for the project, not all of the money has been sent out and there are clawbacks in place, added Lightner, who is the minority vice chair of the House Appropriations committee.

"Obviously, the strikes could probably have something to do with it," Lightner said.

Sam Abuelsamid, an analyst with Guidehouse Insights, said Ford's decision might be related to the strike, but more likely reflects opposition to the plant among people in a conservative rural area of southern Michigan.

"They don't want the factory, they don't want the traffic, and they don't want anything associated with a Chinese company," he said.

Abuelsamid said he was surprised that Ford didn't select a site closer to Detroit, which he thinks would be less hostile to the idea of a battery plant using a Chinese company's intellectual property.

The plant was announced at a time when U.S.-China relations are strained, and the Biden administration is offering tax credits for businesses to create a U.S. supply chain for EV batteries. To get a full $7,500 per vehicle U.S. tax credit to customers, EV batteries won't be able to have metals or components from China in them.

The structure of the deal allows Ford to take advantage of U.S. factory tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Earlier this year Virginia dropped out of the race for the same Ford plant after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin characterized the project as a "front" for the Chinese Communist Party that would raise national security concerns. At the time Virginia had not offered an incentive package to Ford.

submitted 9 months ago by ptz to c/news

Attorneys for former president Donald Trump on Monday blasted U.S. prosecutors’ request for a narrow gag order that would bar him from attacking participants in the criminal case charging him with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election, claiming he must be free to campaign for the Republican nomination in 2024.

After the government request was made public Sept. 15, Trump called special counsel Jack Smith “a deranged person” who “wants to take away my rights under the First Amendment.” His attorneys struck a more restrained tone in a 25-page court filing in Washington, D.C., writing that the court “should reject this transparent gamesmanship and deny the motion entirely.”

“Given the significant First Amendment issues presented by the Motion, President Trump respectfully requests the Court schedule a hearing at the first opportunity,” the filing states.

The response joins a battle that promises to be a recurring feature of Trump’s multiple state and federal criminal cases and that highlights challenges facing prosecutors and judges in the historic attempts to prosecute a former American president and active candidate.

Prosecutors in Smith’s office on Sept. 5 asked U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to stop Trump from spreading prejudicial pretrial publicity. They warned that he was charged with sowing lies that prompted violence and undermined democracy after the 2020 election, and suggested that he appears to be doing so again, this time targeting the judicial system.

Trump argues that he is the victim of political persecution, claiming the Constitution should protect his political speech and candidacy.

submitted 9 months ago by ptz to c/news

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A liberal watchdog group on Monday sued a secret panel investigating the criteria for impeaching a liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, asking a judge to order the panel to stop meeting behind closed doors.

The panel is a government body and therefore required by state law to meet in public, attorneys for American Oversight argued in a complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos established the panel of three former state Supreme Court justices earlier this month as he considers taking the unprecedented step of impeaching Justice Janet Protasiewicz. He has refused to say who is on the panel.

“This complaint is without merit and shows how desperate the left is to change the subject away from the more important issue of the recusal of Justice Protasiewicz,” he said in a statement Monday.

Former Justice David Prosser, a former Republican speaker of the Assembly who backed Protasiewicz’s conservative opponents, confirmed he is on the panel. None of the eight other living former justices, six of whom are conservatives, have said they are a part of the review. Justices are officially nonpartisan in Wisconsin, but in recent years the political parties have backed certain candidates.

Two former liberal justices, Louis Butler and Janine Geske, wrote a joint column last week saying that impeachment is unjustified. Four former conservative justices — Jon Wilcox, Dan Kelly, 7th U.S. Circuit Court Chief Judge Diane Sykes and Louis Ceci — told The Associated Press they were not asked.

Vos has said another former conservative justice, Michael Gableman, is not on the panel. Vos hired, and then fired, Gableman to review the results of the 2020 election. Gableman has pushed conspiracy theories related to former President Donald Trump’s loss in Wisconsin.

The most recently retired justice, conservative Patience Roggensack, declined to comment to the AP when asked if she was on the panel. She did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Monday.

Prosser, when reached Monday, said “I’m not speaking to you” before hanging up.

“Threatening to remove an elected Supreme Court justice for partisan political gain is fundamentally anti-democratic, and to make matters worse, Speaker Vos is making his plans in secret,” Heather Sawyer, American Oversight’s executive director, said in a statement.

Protasiewicz’s installment in August flipped the high court to liberal control for the first time in 15 years. Comments she made on the campaign trail calling the state’s heavily gerrymandered, GOP-drawn electoral maps “unfair” and “rigged,” as well as the nearly $10 million she accepted from the Wisconsin Democratic Party, have angered Republicans and boosted hopes among Democrats for favorable rulings on redistricting and abortion.

Protasiewicz has yet to decide whether she will recuse herself from a redistricting case pending before the court, even as GOP lawmakers call for her recusal and threaten impeachment. It is up to each justice to decide whether to recuse from a case.

submitted 9 months ago by ptz to c/news

WASHINGTON (AP) — With a government shutdown five days away, Congress is moving into crisis mode as Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces an insurgency from hard-right Republicans eager to slash spending even if it means curtailing federal services for millions of Americans.

There’s no clear path ahead as lawmakers return with tensions high and options limited. The House is expected to vote Tuesday evening on a package of bills to fund parts of the government, but it’s not at all clear that McCarthy has the support needed to move ahead.

Meanwhile, the Senate, trying to stave off a federal closure, is preparing its own bipartisan plan for a stopgap measure to buy some time and keep offices funded past Saturday’s deadline as work in Congress continues. But plans to tack on additional Ukraine aid have run into trouble as a number of Republicans in both the House and Senate oppose spending more money on the war effort.

Against the mounting chaos, President Joe Biden warned the Republican conservatives off their hardline tactics, saying funding the federal government is “one of the most basic fundamental responsibilities of Congress.”

Biden implored the House Republicans not to renege on the debt deal he struck earlier this year with McCarthy, which set the federal government funding levels and was signed into law after approval by both the House and Senate.

“We made a deal, we shook hands, and said this is what we’re going to do. Now, they’re reneging on the deal,” Biden said late Monday.

“If Republicans in the House don’t start doing their jobs, we should stop electing them.”

A government shutdown would disrupt the U.S. economy and the lives of millions of Americans who work for the government or rely on federal services — from air traffic controllers who would be asked to work without pay to some 7 million people in the Women, Infants and Children program, including half the babies born in the U.S., who could lose access to nutritional benefits, according to the White House.

It comes against the backdrop of the 2024 elections as Donald Trump, the leading Republican to challenge Biden, is egging on the Republicans in Congress to “shut it down” and undo the deal McCarthy made with Biden.

Republicans are also being encouraged by former Trump officials, including those who are preparing to slash government and the federal workforce if the former president retakes the White House in the 2024 election. With five days to go before Saturday’s deadline, the turmoil is unfolding as House Republicans hold their first Biden impeachment inquiry hearing this week probing the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden.

“Unless you get everything, shut it down!” Trump wrote in all capital letters on social media. “It’s time Republicans learned how to fight!”

McCarthy arrived at the Capitol early Monday after a tumultuous week in which a handful of hard-right Republicans torpedoed his latest plans to advance a usually popular defense funding bill. They brought the chamber to a standstill and leaders sent lawmakers home for the weekend with no endgame in sight.

After the House Rules Committee met Saturday to prepare for this week’s voting, McCarthy was hopeful the latest plan on a package of four bills, to fund Defense, Homeland Security, Agriculture, and State and Foreign Operations, would kickstart the process.

“Let’s get this going,” McCarthy said. “Let’s make sure the government stays open while we finish our job passing all the individual bills.”

But at least one top Trump ally, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who is also close to McCarthy, said she would be a “hard no” on the vote to open debate, known as the Rule, because the package of bills continues to provide at least $300 million for the war in Ukraine.

Other hard-right conservatives and allies of Trump may follow her lead.

“Now you have a couple of new people thinking about voting against the Rule,” said Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., referring to the upcoming procedural vote.

Once a holdout himself, Buck told reporters at the Capitol he would be voting for the package, but he’s not sure McCarthy will have enough for passage. “I don’t know if he gets them back on board or not,” Buck said.

While their numbers are just a handful, the hard-right Republican faction holds oversized sway because the House majority is narrow and McCarthy needs almost every vote from his side for partisan bills without Democratic support.

The speaker has given the holdouts many of their demands, but it still has not been enough as they press for more — including gutting funding for Ukraine, which President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Washington last week is vital to winning the war against Russia.

The hardline Republicans want McCarthy to drop the deal he made with Biden and stick to earlier promises for spending cuts he made to them in January to win their votes for the speaker’s gavel, citing the nation’s rising debt load.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a key Trump ally leading the right flank, said on Fox that a shutdown is not optimal but “it’s better than continuing on the current path that we are to America’s financial ruin.”

Gatez, who has also threated to call a vote to oust McCarthy from his job, wants Congress to do what it rarely does anymore: debate and approve each of the 12 annual bills needed to fund the various departments of government — typically a process that takes weeks, if not months.

“I’m not pro-shutdown,” he said. But he said he wants to hold McCarthy “to his word.”

Even if the House is able to complete its work this week on some of those bills, which is highly uncertain, they would still need to be merged with similar legislation from the Senate, another lengthy process.

Meantime, senators have been drafting a temporary measure, called a continuing resolution or CR, to keep government funded past Saturday, but have run into trouble trying to tack on Biden’s request for supplemental funding for Ukraine. They face resistance from a handful of Republicans to the war effort.

A Senate aide said talks would continue through the night. And a spokesperson for the White House Office of Management and Budget said the administration would continue to work with members of both parties in Congress to secure supplemental funds and ensure efforts to support Ukraine continue alongside other key priorities like disaster relief.

With just days remaining before a shutdown, several of the holdouts say they will never vote for any stopgap measure to fund the government as they push for Congress to engage in the full-scale debate.

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