Brett Wilkins

'Indefensible': Video shows cop fatally shooting a man using a wheelchair in the back — sparking outrage

Noting that up to half of all fatal U.S. police use-of-force incidents involve people with disabilities, rights advocates on Thursday voiced serious concerns over what they called the "unacceptable" killing of a wheelchair-bound Arizona man by a Tucson police officer who shot the victim nine times in the back on Monday evening.

"The fact that Mr. Richards was a person with a disability is of particular concern because persons with disabilities are more likely to die in an encounter with law enforcement than the general population."

Video released by the Tucson Police Department shows TPD officer Ryan Remington walking behind 61-year-old Richard Lee Richards, who is moving at low speed through the parking lot of a Lowe's home improvement center in his motorized wheelchair after being accused of shoplifting a toolbox from the store and brandishing a knife at employees.

As Richards slowly heads back toward the store entrance, Remington and another officer, Stephanie Taylor, order him to stop. Richards refuses, and Remington fires eight shots from his handgun at the man's back. Remington briefly pauses as Richards slumps forward in his wheelchair; the officer then fires a ninth shot. Remington then roughly handcuffs Richards, who is lying unresponsive on the ground in the store's entrance.

"The fact that Mr. Richards was a person with a disability is of particular concern because persons with disabilities are more likely to die in an encounter with law enforcement than the general population," the Arizona Center for Disability Law and DIRECT Center for Independence wrote in a letter to Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and members of the City Council on Thursday.

"Persons with disabilities are often subject to excessive force and discrimination in their encounters with law enforcement because of bias and stigma regarding disability, whether explicit or implicit," the groups continued.

Romero called Remington's actions "unconscionable and indefensible."

"It is moments like this that test our resolve to ensure justice and accountability," she said in a statement Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, TPD Chief Chris Magnus said he is "deeply troubled" by Remington's actions, whose "use of deadly force in this incident is a clear violation of department policy."

"As a result, the department moved earlier today to terminate Officer Remington," the chief stated.

The advocacy groups' letter cites Remington's "lack of ability to de-escalate the situation" as a primary area of concern. The officer's lawyer, Mike Storie, told media outlets that his client was "trying to talk this guy down and de-escalate" the situation.

The attorney said that Remington "did have a Taser, but in his mind, he couldn't use it because he didn't feel he had the proper spread to deploy it, with the wheelchair between him and Richards."

"Police work is messy at times," Storie added.

However, the groups' letter argues that Remington "used excessive force against an individual with a disability who had his back turned to the officer."

"Situations like this one play out all over the country, in Arizona, and now Tucson," the letter says. "TPD touts on its website that it is a 'progressive police department, engaged in community policing,' as well as being one of just two police departments in the largest 100 cities in the United States to initiate all of the '8 Can't Wait' policies promoted by Campaign Zero's Use of Force Project."

The "8 Can't Wait" reforms include requiring law enforcement officers to de-escalate, warn, and "exhaust all alternatives" before shooting suspects.

"This particular incident met none of those measures," the letter states. "And, any training TPD officers have received put to question the fidelity of the department, especially since this is the second incident in a year in which a TPD officer did not de-escalate a situation concerning a person with a disability."

"These situations are unacceptable," the letter stresses, "especially for a police department that prides itself on being an integral part of the community."

New report urges Biden to stop arms sales fueling Saudi 'devastation' of Yemen

As the ongoing Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen's civil war continues to kill, maim, and displace civilians—over 300,000 of whom have died during more than seven years of fighting—a report published Thursday urges the Biden administration to end critical U.S. support for the atrocity-laden campaign by blocking pending arms sales and stopping future weapons transfers.

"During the Trump administration, the United States doubled down on its support of the regime in Saudi Arabia, regardless of how harshly the kingdom cracked down on human rights or how much devastation it caused through its war in Yemen," the Center for International Policy (CIP) report states.

Its author, CIP Arms and Security Program director William D. Hartung, writes he was initially hopeful that President Joe Biden would eschew the "cynical, transactional approach to U.S.-Saudi relations," but instead "the Biden administration's record so far has been mixed at best."

"The administration has halted two bomb sales to the Saudi regime, but it has offered $500 million in crucial maintenance and support for Saudi aircraft and continued the flow of U.S. arms offers already in the pipeline," he notes. "The administration has also made a $650 million offer of air-to-air missiles to the Saudi Royal Air Force."

"Most importantly," the report adds, "the Biden administration has refused to use U.S. leverage—in the form of a threat to cut off crucial U.S. spare parts and sustainment for the Saudi military—to force Riyadh to end its devastating blockade on Yemen and move towards an inclusive peace agreement to end the war."

Hartung notes that "the bulk of the weapons transferred to Saudi Arabia since 2009" are the result of deals made during the administration of Barack Obama, one of a long line of U.S. presidents who have courted the repressive Saudi monarchy since the discovery of oil in the desert kingdom in the 1930s.

"Arms sales offers to the kingdom totaled over $118 billion during the eight years of the Obama administration," he writes, "compared with $25 billion during the four years of the Trump administration and $1.1 billion so far in the first year of the Biden term."

While the losers of the war are clear—the United Nations Development Program says that 377,000 Yemeni civilians will have died by the end of this year—the report argues that the winners are "major contractors like Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics."

"All of the largest sales since 2009, including a $29 billion deal for Boeing F-15 aircraft, a $25 billion deal for Boeing Apache helicopters, a $15 billion deal for a Lockheed Martin THAAD missile defense system, [a] $10 billion deal for Lockheed Martin Multi-Mission Surface Combatant ships, a $5.4 billion deal for Raytheon PAC-3 missile defense interceptors, and a $1.57 billion deal for Raytheon Paveway bombs involved one of the four firms mentioned above as the primary supplier," notes Hartung.

The report calls on the Biden administration to "suspend all U.S. arms sales and military support to the Saudi regime—both new offers and systems still in the pipeline and yet to be delivered—as leverage to get Riyadh to end its blockade on humanitarian aid and commercial goods into Yemen, open Sana'a airport, and engage in good faith efforts to end the war."

Hartung says Congress should:

  • Force an end to all U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia by passing a War Powers Resolution in both houses;
  • Pass legislation to end all U.S. arms, maintenance, and spare parts [transfers] to the Saudi regime; and
  • Make it easier to block future sales to Saudi Arabia and other human rights abusers by requiring affirmative congressional approval of key arms sales, as opposed to the current approach which calls for veto-proof, joint resolutions of disapproval in both houses.

The new report comes after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced resolutions to block the Saudi arms sale. A vote on the Senate measure is expected within days.

"Without U.S. arms, maintenance, and spare parts, the Saudi military would not be able to prosecute its brutal war in Yemen. It's hard to overstate the degree to which the Saudi military relies on U.S. support," Hartung said in a statement. "It's time for the Biden administration to cut off this support as a way to change Saudi conduct and relieve the suffering of the Yemeni people caused by Saudi actions."

Noam Chomsky warns of 'very dangerous' US antagonism toward China

Linguist and dissident Noam Chomsky this week condemned the Biden administration's aggressive anti-China foreign policy, while dismissing the imperialist notion that Beijing poses a threat to the United States and urging a departure from the "provocation" that for decades has characterized the U.S. stance toward the rising giant.

Appearing on Democracy Now! earlier this week, Chomsky—a renowned critic of American militarism—accused President Joe Biden of continuing a perilous policy of confrontation with China.

While acknowledging that Biden "has eliminated some of the more gratuitously savage elements" of former President Donald Trump's policies—including suspending U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)—Chomsky contended that "the trajectory is not optimistic."

"Biden has pretty much picked up Trump's foreign policy," he asserted. "The worst case is the increasing provocative actions towards China. That is very dangerous."

Chomsky continued:

By now there is constant talk about what is called the China threat. You can read it in sober, reasonable, usually reasonable journals, about the terrible China threat, and that we have to move expeditiously to contain and limit the China threat.
What exactly is the China threat? Actually that question is rarely raised here. It is discussed in Australia, the country that is right in the claws of the dragon. Recently the distinguished statesman, former Prime Minister Paul Keating, did have an essay in the Australian press about the China threat. He finally concluded realistically that the China threat is China's existence.

Speaking at the National Press Club of Australia earlier this month, Keating—who served as prime minister representing the center-left Labour Party from 1991 to 1996—accused his country's right-wing government of acting against its own interests by supporting the United States as it engages in what anti-imperialists have called "saber-rattling" over Taiwan.

"Taiwan is not a vital Australian interest," Keating insisted in his controversial speech. "We have no alliance with Taipei."

"We are committed to ANZUS for an attack on U.S. forces, but... not an attack by U.S. forces, which means Australia should not be drawn, in my view, into a military engagement over Taiwan," he added, referring to the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty.

That Cold War-era pact is now 60 years old. More recently, the U.S. and some of its close allies have antagonized Beijing by signing the anti-China Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) military agreement. The U.S., Australia, India, and Japan have also launched the Quadrilateral Security Dialog to address concerns about China.

"One U.S. submarine can destroy almost 200 cities anywhere in the world with its nuclear weapons."

Chomsky said U.S. antagonism toward China is motivated by the fact that the burgeoning superpower cannot be controlled by Washington.

"The U.S. will not tolerate the existence of a state that cannot be intimidated the way Europe can be, that does not follow U.S. orders the way Europe does but pursues its own course," he said. "That is the threat."

While acknowledging the "terrible things" the Chinese government does within its own borders, Chomsky insisted that "they are not a threat."

Turning the rhetorical tables, he asked: "Is the U.S. support for Israel's terrorist war against two million people in Gaza where children are being poisoned—a million children are facing poisoning because there's no drinkable water, is that a threat to China?"

"It is a horrible crime," he said, "but it is not a threat to China."

Critics of U.S. foreign policy have noted that while China has not started a war in over a generation, the United States has invaded, bombed, or occupied over a dozen nations since the 1980s.

Chomsky called the imbalance in military power between the United States—which has thousands of nuclear weapons and spends more money on its war machine than the next 10 nations combined—and China "laughable."

"One U.S. submarine can destroy almost 200 cities anywhere in the world with its nuclear weapons," he noted. "China in the South China Sea has four old noisy submarines which can't even get out because they're contained by superior U.S. and allied force."

'Let's get it done': House moves to vote on Build Back Better Act after CBO score is released

Progressive U.S. lawmakers on Thursday evening looked forward to an imminent vote on President Joe Biden's flagship Build Back Better reconciliation bill after the Congressional Budget Office released its estimates for the sweeping package—an analysis that a few conservative Democrats demanded before they would support the legislation.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Thursday that it "estimates that enacting this legislation would result in a net increase in the deficit totaling $367 billion over the 2022-2031 period, not counting any additional revenue that may be generated by additional funding for tax enforcement."

The $367 billion figure does not account for the $207 billion that the CBO projects in Internal Revenue Service savings, "meaning CBO's effective estimate is $160 billion in new deficits," noted NBC News' Sahil Kapur. "Treasury estimates IRS enforcement saves $400 billion, which could satisfy Dems on pay-fors—if they trust it."

Responding to the CBO publication, President Joe Biden tweeted that the $1.75 trillion social and climate package "is going to lower costs, create jobs, and rebuild our economy."

"Let's get this done," the president said.

Progressives relished the prospect of passing the reconciliation package following the publication of the CBO estimate and confirmation by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) that a vote would take place Thursday evening.

"Let's get it done," tweeted Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.).

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramilia Jayapal (D-Wash.) tweeted, "Now, let's vote this bill through the House and move one step closer towards making this transformational package law!"

Jayapal added: "It's time to invest in paid leave, child care, universal pre-k, home care, climate action, affordable housing, healthcare, immigration reform, and so much more. It's time to Build Back Better."

When a handful of right-wing Democrats earlier this month sabotaged plans to simultaneously pass the Build Back Better Act and a Senate-approved bipartisan infrastructure bill—fearing that decoupling the two would kill the bolder legislation's chances in the evenly split upper chamber—Jayapal struck a deal with the House holdouts to vote after the CBO finished its review.

Right-wing Democrat Stephanie Murphy of Florida said Thursday she would vote to approve the package after seeing the CBO figures.

"The bill is fiscally disciplined," she said in a statement. "There is a lot of good in this bill, and as a pragmatic Democrat who wants to deliver for my constituents, I am never one to let the perfect become the enemy of the good."

Obstructionist holdout Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) told CNN Thursday that he did not know whether he would vote for the measure when it reached the upper chamber.

"I'm still looking at everything," he said. "I just haven't seen the final bill. So when the final bill comes out, CBO score comes out, then we'll go from there."

CBS News reports:

Some of the CBO figures have come in lower than what the Biden administration estimated. The cost of universal pre-k and affordable child care would cost roughly $382 billion, the agency found. Both estimates put affordable housing-related costs at roughly $150 billion.
Other measures like the cost estimate for expanding Medicare to include hearing was nearly identical, with the CBO saying $36 billion and the White House saying $35 billion. The CBO also estimated that a four-week paid leave included in the House version of the bill would cost $205 billion. That provision was not included in the revised White House framework.

Popular drug pricing provisions of the package would save nearly $300 billion over the next decade, according to the CBO.

Meanwhile, Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took aim at a provision of the reconciliation package that would extend a $285 billion tax cut in the form of a higher cap on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, saying, "It's bad policy, bad politics."

The SALT deduction provision—now the second-costliest piece of the Build Back Better Act—is supported by several conservative Democrats in high-tax states like New York and New Jersey and would disproportionately benefit wealthier households.

Progressive lawmakers' calls for a vote came as new polling from Data for Progress and Invest in America found that 64% of voters—including 87% of Democrats and 63% of Independents—support the Build Back Better Act.

'Lighting the fuse on a massive carbon bomb': Biden rebuked on eve of drilling lease sale

Climate and environmental campaigners on Tuesday took President Joe Biden to task on the eve of his administration's scheduled oil and gas drilling auction of 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico—a move that comes just days after the U.S. leader pleaded for "every nation to do its part" to combat the climate emergency at the U.N.-backed climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Biden administration's first offshore fossil fuel extraction auction— Lease Sale 257—is scheduled for Wednesday morning, and would break the president's campaign promise of "no more drilling, including offshore."

The sale would also mark the end of a pause in federal fossil fuel leases implemented by executive order during Biden's first week in office.

In resuming U.S. lease sale auctions, the Resist Line 3 coalition accused the Biden of "actively selling away our futures."

Kristen Monsell, oceans legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), said in a statement that "the Biden administration is lighting the fuse on a massive carbon bomb in the Gulf of Mexico."

"It's hard to imagine a more dangerous, hypocritical action in the aftermath of the climate summit," Monsell added.

Diane Hoskins, campaign director at the marine advocacy group Oceana, said Tuesday that "continued leasing for dirty and dangerous offshore drilling is a disaster for our environment, our economy, and our climate."

"The industry has already stockpiled eight million acres of unused offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico—more than six times the size of Delaware—and that's before any new leases are sold," she continued. "Getting serious about reducing emissions from fossil fuels must start with ending leasing for more offshore oil and gas development."

According to an Oceana analysis:

Permanent offshore drilling protections for all unleased federal waters could prevent over 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. That's the equivalent to taking every car in the U.S. off the road for the next 15 years... Permanent protections in all unleased federal waters could prevent more than $720 billion in damages to people, property, and the environment.

"Leases sold today will not produce oil and gas for at least five years and will continue to pollute for another 30 years," Hoskins added. "We cannot afford reckless decades of carbon pollution in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change."

Last week, more than 260 organizations, including three dozen groups representing Gulf of Mexico communities, sent an open letter to Biden following the president's promise in Glasgow that the United States would be "leading by the power of our example" in combating the climate emergency.

"You promised to address the climate crisis with the urgency it deserves, and in Glasgow, you assured the world that your plans to cut emissions are a fait accompli, not mere rhetoric," the letter stated. "Selling more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas development just days after the international climate talks makes a mockery of those commitments."

Although supporters of the president note that a federal judge blocked Biden's pause on new drilling on public lands, he had already come under fire for approving more fossil fuel drilling projects on public lands than either the Barack Obama or Donald Trump administrations.

CBD's Monsell said that the new auction "will inevitably lead to more catastrophic oil spills, more toxic climate pollution, and more suffering for communities and wildlife along the Gulf Coast."

"Biden has the authority to stop this," she added, "but instead he's casting his lot in with the fossil fuel industry and worsening the climate emergency."

Hoskins said that "instead of repeating mistakes from the past, President Biden must uphold his commitment to end new offshore oil and gas leasing. We urge the administration to immediately reverse course and explore every opportunity to uphold the president's commitment to protecting our communities, our climate, and our economy from the threat of drilling."

"Our oceans can and must be a major part of our clean energy future through renewable offshore wind power," she added, "but we are counting on President Biden to keep his promise to end further offshore oil and gas leasing."

'Inappropriate giveaway of galactic proportions': Outrage over $10 billion taxpayer gift to Bezos space obsession

Progressives on Wednesday slammed what they called a proposed $10 billion handout to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos—the world's first multi-centibillionaire—in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act as a "giveaway of galactic proportions" in the face of growing wealth inequality and the inability of U.S. lawmakers to pass a sweeping social and climate spending package.

According to Defense News, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to merge the $250 billion U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA)—aimed largely at countering the rise of China—with next year's NDAA, which would authorize up to $778 billion in military spending. That's $37 billion more than former President Donald Trump's final defense budget and $25 billion more than requested by President Joe Biden. The NDAA includes a $10 billion subsidy to Bezos' Blue Origin space exploration company.

"Providing Jeff Bezos with $10 billion of taxpayer money would be an inappropriate giveaway of galactic proportions," Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (RWDSU), said in a statement Wednesday.

"Jeff Bezos shouldn't receive taxpayer subsidies for his personal projects—period," he continued. "In at least two recent years, one of the richest people on the planet paid no income tax; yet he then demands billions in taxpayer funds for a project that's already been awarded to another company. This is the height of hubris."

"Rather than waste $10 billion on a redundant space contract for Bezos, that money could be used to adequately fund Social Security Disability, Medicare and Medicaid, and the food stamps that many of his own employees at Amazon and elsewhere have to rely on to make ends meet," Appelbaum said.

"Jeff Bezos's business model includes feasting on public subsidies—and the U.S. Senate must not acquiesce to his demands," he added. "Furthermore, until Jeff Bezos changes the way his employees are mistreated and dehumanized at Amazon and elsewhere, no elected official should support the passage of subsidies for him or any of his projects."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has condemned the NDAA for containing $52 billion in "corporate welfare" for Big Tech. Explaining why he would vote against the NDAA, Sanders said Tuesday that "combining these two pieces of legislation would push the price tag of the defense bill to over $1 trillion—with very little scrutiny."

"Meanwhile," he added, "the Senate has spent month after month discussing the Build Back Better Act and whether we can afford to protect the children, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and the future of our planet. As a nation, we need to get our priorities right."

Trump's early COVID-19 response even more politicized than previously thought: new documents

Documents released Friday reveal how in early 2020 the Trump administration downplayed the deadly danger posed by the nascent Covid-19 pandemic, silencing and sidelining top health officials who tried to warn the public and destroying evidence of political interference while issuing rosy declarations that the outbreak was "totally under control" and would soon be over.

The emails and transcripts—released by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis—show that as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) became aware that the highly infectious virus that causes Covid-19 was spreading rapidly, agency officials requested to hold briefings about mask guidance and other issues. Their requests were denied.

Top Trump officials also moved to block the CDC from publishing information about the pandemic and tried to alter the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWRs) to reflect former President Donald Trump's unrealistically optimistic Covid-19 messaging—which infamously included such claims in January and February 2020 as "we have it totally under control," that the outbreak is "going to have a very good ending," and that infections would "be down close to zero" with days.

Al Sharpton fires back at the defense lawyer who didn't want 'any more Black pastors' at Ahmaud Arbery case

An attorney for one of the three men accused of murdering unarmed Black runner Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia last year raised eyebrows and ire Thursday after asking the presiding judge in the case to exclude Black faith leaders from the courtroom because he believes their presence is "political" and could sway the nearly all-white jury.

Kevin Gough, the defense attorney for William "Roddie" Bryan—who recorded cellphone video of the February 23, 2020 pickup truck chase and fatal shooting of the 25-year-old Black jogger—unsuccessfully argued that the presence of well-known Black clergy including Revs. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and William Barber II would be "intimidating" to jurors.

"If we're... going to bring high-profile members of the African-American community into the courtroom to sit with the family during the trial in the presence of the jury I believe intimidating, that's an attempt to pressure... or influence the jury," Gough argued.

"There's only so many pastors they can have," he continued. "If their pastor is Al Sharpton right now that's fine, but that's it."

"We don't want any more Black pastors in here," Gough added as members of the defendants' legal team visibly expressed shock and disdain.

Gough, referring to the founder and marketing mascot of the fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken, curiously added that "if a bunch of folks came in here dressed like Colonel Sanders with white masks sitting in the back," before trailing off.

Flatly denying Gough's request, Judge Timothy Walmsley said, "I'm not going to start blanketly excluding members of the public from this courtroom."

Sharpton, who was invited by Arbery's parents and who has called his killing a "lynching," issued a statement accusing Gough of "insulting the family of the victim" and "pouring salt into their wounds."

"The arrogant insensitivity of attorney Kevin Gough in asking a judge to bar me or any minister of the family's choice underscores the disregard for the value of the human life lost and the grieving of a family in need of spiritual and community support," he said.

Barbara Arnwine, founder of the Transformative Justice Coalition, said outside the Brunswick courthouse that Gough's request are part of a pattern of "race-baiting" and "fearmongering," and that the attorney "ought to be ashamed of himself."

'Our democracy faces an existential threat': Progressives warn of GOP attack on 2022 elections

Citing "unprecedented and coordinated" Republican efforts to undermine public trust in the U.S. electoral system, nearly 60 advocacy groups warned Monday of the need defend democracy ahead of the 2022 midterm elections—including by passing the Freedom to Vote Act.

"Our democracy faces an existential threat—the very real possibility that the outcome of an election could be ignored and the will of the people overturned by hyperpartisan actors," 58 groups including MoveOn.org, Protect Democracy, Public Citizen, SEIU, and the Sierra Club assert in an open letter.

"Since the 2020 election, we have seen unprecedented and coordinated efforts to cast doubt on the U.S. election system," the letter states.

"These efforts have taken many forms," the authors explain, including "widespread disinformation campaigns and baseless claims of election fraud,... intimidation of election officials and administrators just for doing their jobs, new state laws to make election administration more partisan and more susceptible to manipulation or sabotage, and outright violence."

Noting that "exaggerated and unsubstantiated fears about voter fraud have been a vote suppression tool for some time," the letter argues that "these efforts took on entirely new ferocity with the advent of former President [Donald] Trump's 'Big Lie' regarding the 2020 presidential election."

"The danger posed by the concerted effort to spread disinformation and undermine confidence in our elections is not hypothetical or speculative," the authors assert. "We have already seen tragic consequences in the form of a violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6."

"Despite the fact that experts across the political spectrum—including Trump's own Department of Homeland Security—have confirmed that the 2020 election was as free, fair, and secure as any in American history, Trump and his supporters have done all they can to cast doubt on the integrity of the process," the letter says.

While warning that the GOP could work to overturn future elections, the signatories assure that "there are steps we can take to prevent this dire outcome, but we must take swift action."

"We must push back on dangerous state initiatives that endanger democracy; Congress must enact critical provisions to protect federal elections and elections officials from partisan attacks and subversion, such as those included in the Freedom to Vote Act; and legal remedies must be brought to bear as needed," the coalition says.

"Further, elected officials and public servants at all levels must condemn attacks on the processes that allow for free and fair democratic election, free of partisanship," the signers add.

Many of the groups that signed the letter also support abolishing the Senate filibuster, a procedure historically used to block civil rights legislation—including the Freedom to Vote Act late last month.

One in four U.S. senators still hold fossil fuel investments — even as world burns

As President Joe Biden aims to assure the world that the United States will fulfill its promise to slash its greenhouse gas emissions in half from 2005 levels by the end of the decade, a new report published Friday reveals that the members of the U.S. Senate who would have to pass climate legislation are heavily invested in the fossil fuel industry.

Sludge reports the households of at least 28 U.S. senators—in both the Democratic and Republican caucuses—hold a combined minimum of $3.7 million and as much as $12.6 million in fossil fuel investments.

According to the report:

Of the 28 senators, at least 20 hold publicly traded stocks in companies like oil supermajor Chevron, pipeline giant Enterprise Products, or electric utility NextEra that belong to trade associations that are lobbying Congress against taking up strong legislation to curb polluting emissions.

Five senators are invested in energy funds built around oil and gas assets, and three own nonpublic stock in private fossil fuel companies. The investments, held by the senators, their spouse, jointly, or a dependent, are disclosed to the Senate Office of Public Records in very broad ranges and often buried in hundreds of pages of scanned paper forms, making a more precise count of their total value impossible.

At least half a dozen of the senators sit on environment- or climate-related committees. The household of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—who has worked incessantly to destroy or dilute climate action in the Build Back Better Act and beyond—has received over $1 million in income from Enersystems, a coal brokerage firm the senator founded in the 1980s.

According to Sludge, Manchin "has stripped the Democrats' budget reconciliation bill of major climate programs that would have transitioned coal-fired plants like the one where the company, now run by his son, holds a prime fuel services contract," while the committee he chairs "also added more than $11.3 billion in funding to the bipartisan infrastructure bill that could benefit his family company's niche waste coal industry."

Other Democratic senators whose households are heavily invested in fossil fuels include:

  • John Hickenlooper (Col.) holds up to $1 million in investments in Chevron and other polluters;
  • Tom Carper (Del.) owns as much as $274,000 in Chevron and Duke Energy shares;
  • Gary Peters (Mich.) has up to $355,000 in NextEra, DTE Energy, and Pacific Gas & Electric stock in his portfolio; and
  • The wife of Angus King—a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats—owns up to $50,000 worth of NextEra shares.

Earlier this year, Common Dreams reported that six Democratic senators—Manchin, Chris Coons (Del.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), and Jon Tester (Mont.)—have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in combined campaign contributions from fossil fuel corporations, some of which have touted their purported support for climate action, over the past decade.

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