Andrea Germanos

Biden orders the 'most significant anti-hunger actions in modern times'

Social justice organizations and Democratic lawmakers on Friday welcomed President Joe Biden's expected executive actions boosting federal food aid as part of a broader and immediate coronavirus relief effort.

"As someone who has relied on food stamps and works in Congress to make sure we continue to fund SNAP benefits, I'm grateful the president is taking steps to make sure struggling families and workers can put food on the table during this pandemic," tweeted Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Biden's pick to lead the Interior Department.

SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, has faced surging demand in the economic fallout triggered by the pandemic.

The White House, in a statement, framed the actions as components of "equitable emergency economic relief" that would "help Americans persevere through the pandemic."

More specifically, as CNN reported:

The first of Friday's executive orders calls for the Department of Agriculture to consider enhancing Pandemic-EBT benefits by 15%, which would give a family with three children more than $100 in additional support every two months. The program, part of the relief packages Congress passed last March, provides funds to low-income families whose children's schools have closed to replace the free or reduced-price meals they would have received.
Also, the order directs the department to consider allowing states to boost food stamp benefits for about 12 million Americans who did not benefit from an earlier increase in emergency allotments included in the congressional relief packages. The order would bump up benefits for a family of four by 15% to 20% per month.

"While we await the details of this order," said the Massachusetts-based organization Project Bread, "we applaud the Biden administration for placing food insecurity among their top priorities. Federal nutrition programs like SNAP and Pandemic EBT are critical in the fight against skyrocketing rates of food insecurity during this crisis."

Democratic Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine also welcomed the news.

"Finally, a president who cares about alleviating people's suffering," tweeted Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

According to Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, Biden's action represented "a bold, common-sense move to address the nation's joint hunger and public health crises."

"These actions represent the most significant administrative actions by the federal government to fight domestic hunger in modern times," said Berg, calling the boosts in food aid "both smart and compassionate."

The benefits of the actions go beyond helping to combat food insecurity and its related adverse health impacts, he said. "Because hunger makes it harder for people to get back to work, and because food aid programs boost U.S. food companies and workers, these actions to increase the federal domestic food safety net will help the nation build back the economy better.", a project of the Center for American Progress, noted that as "many as 50 million Americans are food insecure right now. We need to keep pushing to make sure they're all fed."

The White House's ahistorical 1776 Report denounced as 'racist garbage'

The Trump administration was accused Monday of "reaffirming its commitment to racism above all else" with the release the so-called "1776 Report" that whitewashes slavery and asserts universities are pushing anti-Americanism by exploring the nation's roots of oppression, cruelty, exploitation, and greed.

"The most on-brand thing possible is Trump releasing a report trying to justify slavery on MLK Day," tweeted progressive journalist Jonathan Cohn.

The document is the product of President Donald Trump's 1776 Commission, established in the fall. The 18-member panel includes rightwing activists like Charlie Kirk but "no professional historians," as the New York Times noted.

The commission, according to CNN, represents "an apparent counter to The New York Times' 1619 Project, a Pulitzer Prize-winning project aimed at teaching American students about slavery. Trump, speaking last fall, called the project 'toxic propaganda.'"

In a statement Monday, the White House described the new report as "a definitive chronicle of the American founding" and "a dispositive rebuttal of reckless 're-education' attempts that seek to reframe American history around the idea that the United States is not an exceptional country but an evil one."

Progressives and historians, meanwhile, denounced the report as not only a scholarly failure but a reflection of the racism espoused by the outgoing administration—from xenophobic travel bans to a refusal to denounce white supremacists to inciting violence by an extremist mob at the Capitol this month.

"The Trump administration is marking Martin Luther King Day by putting out a report that defends the Founding Fathers for owning slaves and attacks the Civil Rights Movement," said government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). "This is an administration racist to the core."

For MLK Day, the Trump administration wants us to stop saying it was bad that people owned slaves
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) January 18, 2021

"Our nation will never move forward if we allow our leaders to ignore and rewrite its history," tweeted the ACLU. "America has existed longer with slavery than without," the group added, "and reports like this make it clear that its legacy continues to manifest through systemic racism."

Among the historians sharply criticzing the report was David W. Blight, who called it "a puerile, politically reactionary document" that marks "the product of allowing an array of viciously right wing, willfully ignorant people to have way too much power." He also suggested it could "end up anthologized some day in a collection of fascist and authoritarian propaganda."

The Washington Post also featured criticism of the report from a number of historians including Kali Nicole Gross, an author and professor of African American Studies at Emory University and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of History at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Gross said the report was "the usual dodge on the long-lasting, harmful impacts of settler-colonialism, enslavement, Jim Crow, the oppression of women, the plight of queer people... as the true threat to democracy."

'We have receipts': Analysis details $170 million in corporate gifts to GOP lawmakers who voted to overturn Biden win

A new analysis entitled "Bankrolling the Disenfranchisers" calls out the corporate and trade association political action committees that—despite any condemnation of last week's attack on the U.S. Capitol—poured millions in campaign contributions to the 147 Republicans who voted to object to President-elect Joe Biden's win over President Donald Trump.

Released Wednesday by Public Citizen, the analysis finds that these groups have given roughly $170 million to the slate of anti-democratic lawmakers since the 2016 election cycle.

Nineteen of the 100 PACs gave more than a million dollars over the past four years. Topping the list is the National Association of Realtors, which gave $2,061,307. The $1 million+ givers also include weapons behemoths like Lockheed Martin at $1,410,500 and communications giants like AT&T at $1,617,000.

The analysis further notes that 46 of the PACs funded at least 50% of the election certification objectors. The National Association of Home Builders, for example, contributed to 123 out of the 147 lawmakers, and the American Bankers Association funded 120 of them.

Top ten contributors and their contributions to GOP lawmakers that voted to overturn Biden winThe contributions fly in the face of remarks many of the associations issued in response to the Capitol attack. The analysis cites as one example American Bankers Association president and CEO Rob Nichols' statement saying that January 6 marked "a dark day for our democracy" and asserting the violence "should shock and sadden all of us."

Beyond words of condemnation, some trade groups responded by announcing they'd withhold campaign contributions. But Public Citizen says the groups aren't taking sufficient action.

In fact, "they deserve criticism for waiting so long."

"Moreover," the group continued, "temporary actions, if that's all these turn out to be, constitute nothing more than a PR sham. Deferring contributions for a few months at the beginning of an election cycle is no penalty whatsoever." The analysis adds:

Donald Trump has trampled on the norms that bind our society and political system since long before he announced his candidacy for president and continued to do so throughout his presidency. Business leaders stood silently while Trump hacked away at the foundation of our country because they welcomed his gifts to them. [...]
Many of the disenfranchisers have been enabling Trump's assault on democratic norms and the rule of law throughout his presidency. The corporate benefactors listed in this analysis have likewise helped these lawmakers offer aid and comfort to Trump.

To truly chart a different course, Public Citizen urged the corporate groups to shut down their "campaign finance operations for good and return our democracy to the voters."

That means ending their PACs and "forswearing any contributions to unregulated super PACs and to outside groups that spend money to influence elections but keep their donors' names secret."

According to Lisa Gilbert, executive vice president at Public Citizen, "The harrowing events of last week's insurrection show us how precious and vulnerable our democracy is."

"We must rededicate America's grand experiment to its foundational principle," she said, "which is rule by the people—not wealthy corporations and special interests."

Trump administration approves Tennessee's 'reckless' plan to slash Medicaid as pandemic rages

Healthcare advocates are criticizing the Trump administration's approval—amid overwhelming opposition, a global pandemic, and as the number of uninsured Americans grows—of Tennessee's plan to overhaul funding of its Medicaid program, calling the decision "reckless" and "irresponsible."

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, called it "a radical waiver that puts Tennessee's Medicaid beneficiaries at risk."

The state's Medicaid program, TennCare, covers 1.5 million people, or about one in five of the state's residents. The proposal would "fundamentally" transform how TennCare is managed and funded, The Tennessean reported. When Republican Gov. Bill Lee rolled out the plan in fall, the outlet added, the state received 1,800 written comments, of which just 11 were in support.

Kaiser Health News reported:

With just a dozen days left in power, the Trump administration on Friday approved a radically different Medicaid financing system in Tennessee that for the first time would give the state broader authority in running the health insurance program for the poor in exchange for capping its annual federal funding.

The approval is a 10-year "experiment." Instead of the open-ended federal funding that rises with higher enrollment and health costs, Tennessee will instead get an annual block grant. The approach has been pushed for decades by conservatives who say states too often chafe under strict federal guidelines about enrollment and coverage and can find ways to provide care more efficiently.

But under the agreement, Tennessee's annual funding cap will increase if enrollment grows. What's different is that unlike other states, federal Medicaid funding in Tennessee won't automatically keep up with rising per-person Medicaid expenses.

The approval, however, faces an uncertain future because the incoming Biden administration is likely to oppose such a move. But to unravel it, officials would need to set up a review that includes a public hearing.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the approval Friday. "It's no exaggeration to say that this carefully crafted demonstration could be a national model moving forward," said CMS Administrator Seema Verma—a Trump appointed official who's pushed attacks on Medicaid and has been described as "the architect of Indiana's punitive restrictions on Medicaid patients."

Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, said in response to the approval that "no other state has sought a block grant, and for good reason," and warned of its impacts to those "in nursing homes, those struggling with mental illness, diabetes, cancer, and countless other complex conditions."

"Tennessee is one of a handful of states still denying Medicaid to its working uninsured, and the block grant is just another example of putting politics ahead of healthcare during this pandemic," said Johnson. "It's a political gimmick that jeopardizes access to healthcare for hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans by creating a state budget booby trap."

"State officials have an abysmal record of mismanaging programs that help those in need. The block grant will allow these same state officials to inflict further damage on Tennessee's healthcare system," she said.

The approval also drew outrage from a coalition of 21 patient and consumer groups including the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, and National Alliance on Mental Illness. They called the plan's approval "a reckless move that would reduce Tennesseans' ability to get needed healthcare" and urged the incoming Biden administration to halt its implementation.

"Our organizations have clearly and repeatedly voiced our deep concerns with Tennessee's proposal, as well as our strong opposition to block grants in Medicaid in general," the groups said Friday in a joint statement. "Per capita caps and block grants are designed to cap or limit the amount of federal funding provided to states, forcing them to either make up the difference with their own funds or make cuts to their programs reducing access to care for the patients we represent."

Such cuts, they warned, "will likely result in enrollment limits, benefit reductions, reductions in provider payments, or increased out-of-pocket cost-sharing for Medicaid enrollees. The approval specifically includes authority to limit prescription drug coverage, a dangerous proposal for patients."

Referencing the coronavirus pandemic, the groups added, "It is irresponsible to approve this waiver during this public health crisis, and especially to do so for an unprecedented 10-year period." Implementation of the plan stands to "limit Tennessee's flexibility in responding to recessions, pandemics, new treatments, and natural disasters," and thus "moves in the opposite direction of the lessons learned from 2020."

The Tennessean further noted:

The block grant approval, negotiated over about a year with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, still must get final approval from state lawmakers before it can be implemented. Lee now intends to present a joint resolution on the plan for the General Assembly's "immediate consideration," according to a news release.

The Tennessee Justice Center is urging its supporters to pressure lawmakers to block the plan.

"We are not surprised but are unsettled by this eleventh-hour action by the federal government during the height of the pandemic," said Jane Perkins, legal director for the National Health Law Program. "The approval raises so many issues," she said, "from the process the government used to approve this project to the specifics of how the government has cut into the healthcare safety net. Our legal team is investigating the enforcement and litigation options at this time."

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, also sounded alarm.

"This is an illegal move that could threaten access to healthcare for vulnerable people in the middle of a pandemic," Pallone tweeted Friday. He also expressed hope the incoming Biden administration would "move quickly to roll back this harmful policy as soon as possible."

Trump readies the 'biggest threat yet' to Arctic refuge

"The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge faces its biggest threat yet."

That's the warning issued by the National Audubon Society on Tuesday—a day before the Trump administration is set to sell oil and gas leasing rights in the refuge's coastal plain, a biodiversity hotspot of critical importance to the Gwich'in people and dubbed America's Serengeti.

Bids were submitted by the end of 2020. It's not clear, however, which oil or gas companies, if any, sought leases.

The Bureau of Land Management has "received interest" in leases, the Anchorage Daily News reported. That interest may have come solely from the state-owned Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, which voted unanimously last month to spend as much as $20 million on the leases. "It's a way for the state to make sure the land is set aside for oil development in case no one else bids on the leases," as Alaska Public put it.

Wednesday's virtual lease sale, accroding to NPR, represents

a major moment in a 40-year fight over whether to develop the northernmost slice of the refuge's coastal plain, home to migrating caribou, birds, and polar bears.
[President-elect Joe] Biden, as well as his pick for Interior Secretary—Rep. Deb Haaland—oppose drilling in the refuge. The hand-off of drilling rights to the highest bidders could make it more difficult to reverse course.

That makes a pending decision from a federal judge in Alaska, which could come Tuesday, even more crucial to foil the lease sales and seismic activity related to fossil fuel plans.

U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason in Anchorage on Monday heard oral arguments in the case (pdf), brought forth by Audubon and other conservation groups, as ADN reported. According to the outlet, "Gleason said she'd try to issue a decision by 'close of business' on Tuesday, on the eve of the live-streamed lease sale, set for 10 a.m. Wednesday."

Andy McGlashen, associate editor of Audubon Magazine, put this week's events in the broader context of the climate crisis. In a Monday post, he wrote:

While the Arctic Refuge has faced development pressure throughout its 40-year existence, it hasn't confronted a more intensely perilous week than this one. "It's like the second-to-last episode of a miniseries, where all the action has built up and there are multiple things happening, and yet there's no resolution at this point," says Natalie Dawson, executive director of Audubon Alaska. "We're waiting on a court decision. We're watching to see if anyone bids on the leases. We're waiting to see what the new administration will do. And all three of those things are kind of rotating around each other at this point." [...]
The coastal plain between the Brooks Range and the Beaufort Sea is a wild expanse of tundra that each year hosts millions of migratory birds from six continents. It's where the Porcupine caribou herd, one of the continent's largest, migrates each spring to birth calves. Polar bears den in the snow and ice along the coast and river edges, while muskoxen, wolves, and other wildlife roam the rolling plain.
It's also, like the rest of the Arctic, a region changing fast as the planet warms due to fossil-fuel combustion. "We shouldn't be exploring drilling anywhere," says Martha Raynolds, an arctic plant ecologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). "And the last place on Earth that the U.S. should be exploring drilling is the coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge."

In a statement last when when the groups asked the court to put the lease sales on hold, Erik Grafe, an attorney with Earthjustice which is representing the conservation groups in the case, sounded similar alarm.

"Climate change is the greatest threat of our time," he said, "and the consequences will be severe and irreversible if we allow oil drilling to proceed in the cherished Arctic Refuge."

House Oversight chair has 'grave concerns' the Trump team is trashing White House records

House Oversight Committee chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney expressed "grave concerns" Monday that the outgoing Trump administration "may be disposing" of presidential records in violation of federal law.

Maloney (D-N.Y.) voiced her concerns in a letter to Archivist of the United States David Ferriero. She referenced the Presidential Records Act and the requirements the post-Watergate statute imposes on President Donald Trump and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which Ferriero heads.

The law says that the president can't get rid of presidential records, including memos, emails, and notes, without first getting "the views, in writing, of the Archivist concerning the proposed disposal." The archivist must "request the advice" of several congressional committees—including the House Oversight Committee—regarding such proposals to see if the records in question "may be of special interest to the Congress" or if congressional consultation may be "in the public interest."

And yet, wrote Maloney, her committee "has no visibility into what is happening at the White House in terms of archiving and transferring records to NARA." What's more, in light of Covid-19, "NARA has not detailed any employees to the White House to assist or oversee this process, as it has in past transitions."

The Democratic congresswoman also pointed to reporting indicating that Trump has not been compliant with record-keeping obligations, citing a 2018 report from Politico indicating that White House staffers were forced—in the face of Trump's habit of ripping papers and throwing them in garbage or on the floor—to reassemble pieces with Scotch tape.

Maloney added that "our existing laws may need review and revision to strengthen oversight and compliance."

She demanded answers by January 5, 2021 to a number questions including whether any Trump administration official has disposed of records since Inauguration Day and "What efforts, if any, have you made to determine whether President Trump and White House officials are disposing of presidential records without" adhering to PRA requirements.

The congresswoman's demands to Ferriero follow a letter sent last week by a coalition of state attorneys general to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone reminding the administration of its "record preservation obligations."

Led by New York's Letitia James and dated December 16, the 15 AGs wrote that they "have serious concerns about compliance by White House personnel with their Presidential Records Act obligations, including preservation of records and proper use of non-official electronic message accounts."

Beyond the reported ripping of papers, fueling concerns about record-keeping are Trump son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner's communications via WhatsApp and first daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump's use of personal email for White House business.

"The Trump administration shouldn't have to be told that they need to comply with the law and keep all records of official business, but the last four years have shown that the president needs to be constantly reminded what the law is and how he must comply with it," James said in a statement Wednesday.

"Even the president's tweets, the private conversations he had with Russian President Putin, and Ivanka's private email server must be archived," added James. "Every bit of this information belongs to the American people and the White House cannot deprive the public of this information."

Bernie Sanders demands COVID relief include $1,200 checks for the working class

Sen. Bernie Sanders urged his supporters on Thursday to tell congressional leaders that the proposed bipartisan coronavirus relief bill must address the "extraordinary suffering happening all across the country" by rejecting austerity and embracing the need for a comprehensive economic stimulus.

In an email from his congressional campaign, the senator said adequate relief would include at least $1,200 in cash payments as well as extended supplemental unemployment benefits and sufficient aid for cities and states.

Sanders wrote that "in Washington, there's endless amounts of money for war. Congress is about to pass a $740 billion defense spending bill and no one seems to care about the price tag there."

"Tax breaks for billionaires? Endless amounts of money. Corporate welfare? Endless amounts of money," he wrote.

"Now when children are going hungry in America and so many families are struggling, suddenly we don't have enough money?" he continued. "Wrong. "

Beyond the direct payments and employment benefit boost that have been a rallying cry for progressives, Sanders said the bill could "set the agenda for the first two years of the Biden administration"—either one of austerity policies or "a progressive agenda that meets the needs of the working people of this country."

The senator also rejected Republicans' newly-resurged debt concerns.

"If we are concerned about the debt," said Sanders, "we need progressive taxation, we need to end corporate welfare, we need to end the bloated military budget, but we do not need, in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, to punish working families who are hurting so badly today."

The email also directed supporters to a petition he said would "send a message to the Republican and Democratic leadership that we must stand tall and fight for the working people of this country, because they need us more than ever."

The demands came the same day Sanders gave a speech on the Senate floor urging the body not to adjourn without sufficiently acting to remedy the "economic desperation facing tens of millions of working families."

He pointed to the CARES Act passed in spring, saying the measure "went a long way toward preventing absolute misery and destitution for so many of our people." But given that the "crisis is worse today than it was in March," Sanders asked "why we are not responding accordingly."

With new unemployment claims remaining at over 1 million a week for months and roughly 19 million Americans facing possible eviction at the end of the month, Sanders said lawmakers could not simply adjourn for the holidays.

"To get out of Washington, to turn our backs on the suffering of so many of our people would be immoral, would be unconscionable, and cannot be allowed to happen," he said.

Sanders also drew attention to the nation's massive wealth inequality.

The "middle class is collapsing and poverty is growing." And yet, he continued, "over the past 9 months, 650 billionaires have seen their wealth go up by over $1 trillion and now own over twice as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of Americans."

"That is the state of the economy in America today," said Sanders. "The very rich get much, much richer, while tens of millions of Americans get poorer and poorer and face an unprecedented level of economic desperation."

"Congress cannot leave unless we get at least $1,200 in direct payments for every working class adult and at least $500 for their children. Not $300. Not $600. $1,200 at a minimum. More than that," the senator continues, "we must extend supplemental unemployment benefits and get adequate aid for cities and states."

'Dead-end for climate': Environmental coalition denounces Senate bill to fund nuclear industry bailout

A coalition of over 100 groups on Tuesday told U.S. senators that nuclear power is a false solution to the climate crisis as they urged lawmakers to reject proposed legislation that would "put short-sighted economic interests ahead of human lives, racial justice, the health of our environment, and safe drinking water."

"This bill misdirects our investment away from technologies that will speed the deployment of renewables and into an industry that is already being propped up by rate-payer subsidies."
—Mitch Jones, Food & Water WatchThe measure in question is the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020. Introduced in November by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) along with Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the legislation seeks to "eestablish United States global leadership in nuclear energy, revitalize domestic nuclear energy supply chain infrastructure, support the licensing of advanced nuclear technologies, and improve the regulation of nuclear energy, and for other purposes."

The proposed legislation, S. 4897, advanced at a Senate Environment and Public Works hearing Wednesday.

According to Mitch Jones, policy director at Food & Water Watch, "This bill misdirects our investment away from technologies that will speed the deployment of renewables and into an industry that is already being propped up by rate-payer subsidies"

"Instead of propping up the nuclear energy industry," Jones continued, "Congress should be driving the transition to truly renewable energy."

Food & Water Watch is among the signatories to the new letter that outlines the groups' opposition to S. 4897, including that it fails to address multiple long-standing problems with nuclear technology and stands to worsen already existing crises.

The letter cites as one example the mandate for the establishment of a national uranium reserve, which means more uranium mining. But the groups say the legislation would not require mitigation of the environmental harms of uranium mining, and, while "the bill does restrict procurement of uranium for the reserve from mines that are not located on Indigenous peoples' lands, it does not prohibit mining on those lands entirely."

"Neither does the bill prohibit procurement of uranium for the reserve quota from mines and mills that impact other environmental justice communities," the letter says.

The letter further notes that there are already 15,000 abandoned uranium mines—a situation the groups declare a "national crisis"—and while legislation includes $1 billion for cleanup on Indigenous land, that amount doesn't adequately match the scale of the problem.

"We need to invest in a transition to efficient, renewable, clean energy technologies that can scale up as rapidly as possible, as affordably as possible, to reduce emissions as aggressively as possible. Nuclear energy does not meet any of these criteria," the letter adds, pointing to the fact that there have been dozens of canceled or shelved new nuclear reactors over the past several decades.

The groups also said the legislation's "provisions to curtail environmental and licensing reviews are short-sighted, reducing up-front costs while short-circuiting democratic protections against nuclear safety and environmental impacts. "

The directive for the Treasury to give an economic lifeline to reactors also came in for criticism, as taxpayers could be "fleeced to pay uneconomical subsidies when cheaper alternatives and more strategic investments are available."

Additional problems are that S. 4897 would contribute to nuclear weapons proliferation "by commercializing technologies for higher-grade enrichment and plutonium processing" and amplify nuclear disaster risks.

The "Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has adopted regulations making it optional—not required—to address verified vulnerabilities to flooding and earthquakes," the groups wrote, and accused the commission of having "canceled hundreds of required, scheduled safety inspections, security drills, and emergency preparedness exercises, for up to two years."

"We cannot perpetuate false solutions to the climate crisis that perpetuate our reliance on dirty energy industries, and have any hope of ending the climate and environmental justice crises those industries bring about," the groups said.

Tim Judson, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service—an original signatory to the letter with Friends of the Earth (FOE)—said reasons for senators to reject the proposed measure are clear.

"Nuclear power is a dead-end for climate and environmental justice," Judson said in a statement.

"The last thing we need is for Congress to waste time and money to make those problems worse, as this bill would do," he added. "Clean, safe, affordable renewable energy solutions are here, now."

At Wednesday's committee hearing, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said S. 4897 would be "a bad deal for the country, the climate, and our environmental injustice communities," ignores the fact that renewable sources are "supercharging our electric grid," and would enable "selling off a clean energy future."

The Democratic senator's remarks were welcomed by FOE program manager Lukas Ross, who said in a statement to Common Dreams, "We are immensely grateful to Senator Markey for standing firm against the nuclear industry's bailout demands."

Though the legislation moved forward Wednesday, Ross said that "the fight isn't over and we fully intend to keep this proposal from finding its way into future energy and infrastructure bills."

"If President-elect Biden wants to build back better," Ross added, "he needs to take a bailout for the decrepit nuclear industry off the table."

The Big 6 banks in the US have now all ruled out funding for drilling in the Arctic

Climate campaigners and Indigenous rights supporters are welcoming news that Bank of America has ruled out financing fossil fuel extraction in the Arctic, including in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Bank of America on Monday became the last holdout of the major U.S. banks to make such a pledge after facing sustained pressure from activists to renounce drilling in the region.

"It has long been clear that drilling in the Arctic Refuge would trample Indigenous rights, threaten vulnerable wildlife, and worsen the climate crisis," said Sierra Club senior campaign representative Ben Cushing.

"Now that every major American bank has stated unequivocally that they will not finance this destructive activity," Cushing continued, "it should be clearer than ever that any oil company considering participating in Trump's ill-advised lease sale should stay away."

Bloomberg first reported the announcement Monday.

The news follows similar announcements over the past year from the five other U.S. banking giants—JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo—and comes as the pro-fossil fuel Trump administration continues its fervent push for oil and gas extraction in the Arctic, "irreversible harm" to the local ecoystem and communities be damned.

Just last month the Trump administration was accused of trying to bully financial institutions into backing oil and gas projects, including in the Arctic, with a proposal from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency preventing banks from categorically excluding certain customers. Also last month, the administration asked fossil fuel companies to bid on leases in ANWR's Coastal Plain—an area the Gwich'in call "the sacred place where life begins."

"The Trump administration has never even pretended to care about the Indigenous communities whose human rights would be threatened by the destruction of the coastal plain, but major financial institutions are listening to us," said Gwich'in Steering Committee executive director Bernadette Demientieff in a statement Monday. She pointed to long-standing Indigenous resistance to extraction in the area that is crucial to the Porcupine Caribou Herd.

"Although it took over two years it was well worth it. We will never stop fighting to protect the sacred calving grounds from destructive drilling, and we will prevail," added Demientieff.

While the Trump administration is still plowing ahead with its plan for extraction in the Arctic, Emily Atkin, writing in her latest HEATED newsletter Tuesday, said that it's "unclear... to what degree oil companies are actually going to show up to Trump's sale," given the financial risk of such drilling and the harm to public image banks would face given the massive public opposition to such plans.

"Still," Atkin wrote, "it's unlikely the Trump administration would go through all the last-minute work of selling off the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge if there weren't some interest from oil companies. When bids are unsealed on lease sale day, we'll know which companies those are—and they'll have to a lot to answer for."

With an eye on that possibility, Gwich'in Youth Council member Isaiah Horace, a Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich'in from Fort Yukon Alaska, said much more work remains.

"This is not the end of the fight," Horace said, "and we must continue to stand united for our lands, our caribou, our ways of life, and for our future generations. No one has the right to destroy sacred lands with or without permission. We still have a lot of work to do."

Trump retweets utterly unhinged Randy Quaid video

President Donald Trump fired off a series of tweets Tuesday morning that included continued baseless assertions of "ballot fraud" and several retweets of strange rants from American actor Randy Quaid.

Perhaps the most bizarre example was Trump's retweet of a Nov. 12 video in which Quaid's face is very close to the camera and lit up by a red flashing light. With a growling voice, Quaid dramatically reads a tweet from the president sent that same day in which the president says Fox News "forgot what made them successful, what got them there. They forgot the Golden Goose. The biggest difference between the 2016 Election, and 2020, was Fox News."

Another Quaid video Trump retweeted Tuesday was from more than a year ago:

Three other Quaid tweets just elevated by Trump are marked with Twitter's warning: "This claim about election fraud is disputed."

Trump also wrote on his timeline Tuesday "RIGGED ELECTION!" and retweeted a right-wing outlet's tweet of a picture of the president and the words "I concede NOTHING!!!!!"

The president's approval for Quaid's unhinged tweets came the same day the New York Times reported that Trump has put out 550 tweets since Election Day that have included some 400 unfounded attacks on the legitimacy of the election results.