Jessica Corbett

'Beyond shameful': Manchin blasted for joining Senate GOP — again — to block abortion rights

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia joined with Senate Republicans Wednesday to block a bill that would affirm abortion rights at the federal level as the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority is poised to reverse Roe v. Wade in the weeks ahead.

Though the 51-49 vote on advancing the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA) was anticipated, with Manchin confirming his position in advance and the outcome mirroring a February vote, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's draft of a forthcoming opinion has heightened pressure on congressional Democrats to protect and expand reproductive rights nationwide.

Noting the leaked draft and how "Senate Republicans remain firmly entrenched against their constituents' human rights," Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, declared that "it is beyond shameful that even though 70% of the American public support Roe, there are not 50 votes in the Senate to defend it."

Jayapal—who has publicly shared her own abortion experience—highlighted that "the end of Roe will be disastrous for the health of millions of people, but the impact will be hardest on Black and Brown people, young people, people in abusive relationships, people who live in rural areas, and those with lower incomes who won't be able to cross state lines for care."

The congresswoman asserted that "our ongoing fight for access to abortion must include reforming the filibuster," urging Democrats to stop letting the Jim Crow-era rule impede various progressive priorities. While not mentioning Manchin by name, Jayapal added that "it is also clear that we urgently need not just a Democratic majority in the Senate, but a true pro-reproductive rights majority, as we have in the House."

NARAL Pro-Choice America president Mini Timmaraju also forcefully called out the GOP with a subtler jab at Manchin.

"Today, Republicans in the Senate once again failed the American people," Timmaraju said. "Instead of safeguarding our fundamental rights, Republican senators have once again abdicated their responsibility."

"We have a message for the lawmakers who blocked this bill and refused to fight for our freedoms and our families: Voters will remember who showed up for them at this moment of crisis and who chose to walk away," she added. "We'll see you at the ballot box."

Timmaraju and Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, expressed gratitude for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the other 48 senators who supported holding a final vote on the WHPA Wednesday, with the latter saying that "they understand the stakes and what we stand to lose."

"Overturning Roe is not the endgame of the anti-abortion movement," Northup warned. "Their goal is a nationwide ban on abortion, and they will do everything they can to make that happen. Any politician who is not speaking up and voting to protect our rights in this moment is complicit in what comes next—the suffering and panic that will ensue if Roe falls."

Given the stakes at this "unprecedented moment" for bodily autonomy, "we're well past the moment of show votes or more Washington double-talk," charged Sonja Spoo, director of reproductive rights campaigns at UltraViolet. "This vote was important for showing the American people where their leaders stand on our constitutional rights and freedoms but it can not be the final say."

"We need our elected leaders to act with the urgency this moment demands. No Senate rule or procedure is more important than our elected leaders doing their jobs and fighting for our rights," she said. "We're taking to the streets this weekend and we will be marching, protesting, and holding our elected leaders accountable straight until election day."

Though 74-year-old Manchin is not yet up for reelection in November, Democrats and defenders of reproductive freedom have ramped up warnings about what could happen in Republicans—who are plotting for a federal six-week abortion ban—regain control of Congress or the White House in the next two cycles.

"Once again, Republicans and an obstructionist Democrat in the Senate have blocked crucial legislation supported by the American people," said Nelini Stamp, the Working Families Party director of strategy and partnerships. "A Democratic majority that won't defend abortion rights is not the majority we need."

"We must oust Democrats who are anti-choice or weak on choice," she argued, pointing to figures like Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas)—who was the only party member in the House to vote against the WHPA last year and now faces a runoff with a progressive, pro-choice challenger: Jessica Cisneros.

"Things seem dark, but there is a path forward to securing our rights if we work alongside reproductive justice groups to organize in the streets and in elections across the country," Stamp said. "Together, we can build a majority in Congress that will actually deliver for women and everyone who needs access to abortion. We can reform the filibuster, pass the Women's Health Protection Act, and begin to rebalance a Supreme Court that has been captured by right-wing reactionaries."

'No negotiating with arsonists': Green groups slam Manchin-led  climate compromise with GOP

Advocacy groups on Tuesday blasted new efforts by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin to strike a deal with the GOP on climate legislation after months of the West Virginia Democrat preventing the House-approved Build Back Better Act from reaching President Joe Biden's desk.

Manchin and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) organized a Monday night meeting to "gauge bipartisan interest in a path forward that addresses our nation's climate and energy security needs head-on," a Manchin spokesperson, Sam Runyon, told Bloomberg.

Food & Water Watch managing director of policy Mitch Jones said in a statement Tuesday that "the Build Back Better bill was effectively stymied by Sen. Manchin, who is now apparently part of an effort to craft a bipartisan bill that would be even weaker than the compromise efforts he soundly rejected last year."

While congressional Democrats attempted to use the budget reconciliation process to pass the $1.75 trillion package, it was blocked by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Manchin, who said Monday that "if I can find something bipartisan, we don't need reconciliation."

According to Bloomberg, "Manchin told reporters after the meeting that one area of common ground could be reform of the federal oil and gas leasing process."

The outlet reported:

In addition to reform on permitting, a potential package could include revisions to federal land policy, aid for domestic pipelines, efforts to bolster production of both liquefied natural gas at home and abroad and critical minerals, a person familiar with the matter said. It’s possible the changes could be paired with hundreds of billions of dollars in new and expanded tax credits for wind and solar power, nuclear plants, biofuels and advanced energy manufacturing sought by Democrats and the White House and included in earlier iterations of the Build Back Better spending bill, the person said.

Runyon didn't respond to a request for comment about the possible elements of a deal.

In his response to reports about Manchin's negotiations, Jones said that "this approach could only be considered 'climate legislation' if we warp the meaning of that term to include bills that will make climate change worse."

"Instead of letting Manchin and fossil fuel interests define the terms," he added, "the White House and Democratic leadership must push for the solutions we need, not merely what pleases Joe Manchin."

Sierra Club also released a statement Tuesday opposing attempts to compromise with the GOP, declaring that "just as there's no negotiating with arsonists on how much of a building they can burn, there's no negotiating with a party of climate deniers on climate action."

"For decades, the overwhelming majority of Republicans in Washington, D.C. have made their views on climate change abundantly clear: It's much ado about nothing, if it even exists," the group noted, citing some prominent examples—including recent comments from Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who attended Manchin's meeting.

During an NPR interview in January, Cramer said:

The vast majority of people that we work for, that would be our constituents, believe that there is climate change, that it is going the wrong direction in terms of the temperature of the Earth and that they want us to do something about it. My starting point is that it's not near the crisis that the alarmists have made it out to be. But at the same time, nobody is going to solve the problem except humans. Other than God himself, we're the only ones in a position to contribute or to lower our contribution, whatever that might be. And our constituents expect us to do that.

Asked what he says to young people concerned about the future, Cramer said that "what I would tell them is that the Earth has gone through cycles for as long as there's been creation. What I would also tell them is what we can't do is we can't destroy ourselves in the process of trying to save the Earth."

Discussing the Monday meeting with Axios, Cramer said that Manchin, "not surprisingly, likes to be proactive and he wants to see what's possible."

"What's acceptable to them has got to be something that can get 10 of us," he added. "And that's going to be pretty tough."

Sierra Club said that "even when Republicans are capable of recognizing the facts about the climate crisis, they're unwilling to take any action to address it," highlighting that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "wasted decades denying the existence of climate change—collecting a small fortune in donations from corporate polluters along the way—only to now have no plan to address the crisis."

"It's past time for President Biden and Democratic leadership to reject this nonsense and deliver on their promises of action on climate, care, jobs, and justice," the group asserted. "Our communities and our planet urgently need investments in transitioning to clean energy, reducing pollution, cutting costs for working families, creating good jobs, and promoting environmental justice."

Sierra Club was among the groups that held "Fight for Our Future" rallies across the country this past weekend.

'Breakfast for industry': Green groups torch climate 'arsonist' Joe Manchin for effort to expand fossil fuels

Advocacy groups on Tuesday blasted new efforts by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin to strike a deal with the GOP on climate legislation after months of the West Virginia Democrat preventing the House-approved Build Back Better Act from reaching President Joe Biden's desk.

Manchin and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) organized a Monday night meeting to "gauge bipartisan interest in a path forward that addresses our nation's climate and energy security needs head-on," a Manchin spokesperson, Sam Runyon, told Bloomberg.

Food & Water Watch managing director of policy Mitch Jones said in a statement Tuesday that "the Build Back Better bill was effectively stymied by Sen. Manchin, who is now apparently part of an effort to craft a bipartisan bill that would be even weaker than the compromise efforts he soundly rejected last year."

While congressional Democrats attempted to use the budget reconciliation process to pass the $1.75 trillion package, it was blocked by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Manchin, who said Monday that "if I can find something bipartisan, we don't need reconciliation."

According to Bloomberg, "Manchin told reporters after the meeting that one area of common ground could be reform of the federal oil and gas leasing process."

The outlet reported:

In addition to reform on permitting, a potential package could include revisions to federal land policy, aid for domestic pipelines, efforts to bolster production of both liquefied natural gas at home and abroad and critical minerals, a person familiar with the matter said. It’s possible the changes could be paired with hundreds of billions of dollars in new and expanded tax credits for wind and solar power, nuclear plants, biofuels and advanced energy manufacturing sought by Democrats and the White House and included in earlier iterations of the Build Back Better spending bill, the person said.
Runyon didn't respond to a request for comment about the possible elements of a deal.

In his response to reports about Manchin's negotiations, Jones said that "this approach could only be considered 'climate legislation' if we warp the meaning of that term to include bills that will make climate change worse."

"Instead of letting Manchin and fossil fuel interests define the terms," he added, "the White House and Democratic leadership must push for the solutions we need, not merely what pleases Joe Manchin."

Sierra Club also released a statement Tuesday opposing attempts to compromise with the GOP, declaring that "just as there's no negotiating with arsonists on how much of a building they can burn, there's no negotiating with a party of climate deniers on climate action."

"For decades, the overwhelming majority of Republicans in Washington, D.C. have made their views on climate change abundantly clear: It's much ado about nothing, if it even exists," the group noted, citing some prominent examples—including recent comments from Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), who attended Manchin's meeting.

During an NPR interview in January, Cramer said:

The vast majority of people that we work for, that would be our constituents, believe that there is climate change, that it is going the wrong direction in terms of the temperature of the Earth and that they want us to do something about it. My starting point is that it's not near the crisis that the alarmists have made it out to be. But at the same time, nobody is going to solve the problem except humans. Other than God himself, we're the only ones in a position to contribute or to lower our contribution, whatever that might be. And our constituents expect us to do that.

Asked what he says to young people concerned about the future, Cramer said that "what I would tell them is that the Earth has gone through cycles for as long as there's been creation. What I would also tell them is what we can't do is we can't destroy ourselves in the process of trying to save the Earth."

Discussing the Monday meeting with Axios, Cramer said that Manchin, "not surprisingly, likes to be proactive and he wants to see what's possible."

"What's acceptable to them has got to be something that can get 10 of us," he added. "And that's going to be pretty tough."

Sierra Club said that "even when Republicans are capable of recognizing the facts about the climate crisis, they're unwilling to take any action to address it," highlighting that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) "wasted decades denying the existence of climate change—collecting a small fortune in donations from corporate polluters along the way—only to now have no plan to address the crisis."

"It's past time for President Biden and Democratic leadership to reject this nonsense and deliver on their promises of action on climate, care, jobs, and justice," the group asserted. "Our communities and our planet urgently need investments in transitioning to clean energy, reducing pollution, cutting costs for working families, creating good jobs, and promoting environmental justice."

Sierra Club was among the groups that held "Fight for Our Future" rallies across the country this past weekend.

"Building on this momentum, the Green New Deal Network will place ads in D.C. specifically targeting the Senate and President Biden to deliver on their promises to protect communities from climate, economic, and racial injustices as they return from recess," announced the group, which joined the rallies.

"Fighting for our future is more than just a slogan. It's about demanding that those who we elected actually show up to represent our best interests," said Angelica Zamora, the network's political manager for Arizona. "It is vital that we invest in our planet and people so that we can ensure justice for our communities."

"There is a small window of opportunity to reverse the damage of the climate crisis and provide vital resources that families in Arizona, and across the country, need to thrive," Zamora added. "We need public officials to not waste this moment, but join us in rallying for the security of our future."

'Let these trees grow': climate groups press POTUS to protect old-growth forests on Earth Day

U.S. President Joe Biden's reported plan to protect old-growth forests—which help combat global temperature rise by storing planet-heating carbon—is "grossly inadequate," one climate advocacy group said Thursday.

Biden will mark Earth Day in Seattle on Friday with an executive order on the issue, according to The Washington Post, which cited five unnamed sources briefed on the plan.

Responding in a statement, Food & Water Watch national organizing manager Thomas Meyer declared that "President Biden seems to think we're celebrating the first Earth Day in 1970, rather than in [the] depths of the climate crisis in 2022."

"Protecting forests without addressing the root cause of the climate crisis, namely the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels, will do very little to slow global warming," he warned.

"The president has many effective tools at his disposal to address the climate and public health impacts of fossil fuels in a serious way," Meyer added. "He should start by following through on his pledge to end fracking on public lands and stop offshore drilling, and directing his agencies to reject all new fossil fuel infrastructure."

The forthcoming order will direct the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to "define and inventory mature and old-growth forests nationwide within a year," as well as "identify threats to these trees, such as wildfire and climate change, and to use that information to craft policies that protect them," the Post reported.

As the newspaper detailed:

The president's order, however, will not ban logging of mature and old-growth trees, they added, and the administration is not considering a nationwide prohibition.
It will include initiatives aimed at restoring U.S. forests ravaged by wildfire, drought and insects, requiring federal agencies to come up with a reforestation goal by 2030. It will also address major problems facing tree planting efforts in the West—insufficient seeds and seedlings—by directing agencies to develop plans to increase cone and seed collection and nursery capacity.
Other pieces of the order are aimed at curbing deforestation overseas, promoting economic development in regions with major timber industries, and calculating the economic value of other natural resources such as wetlands.

WildEarth Guardians, in a tweet Thursday, highlighted that the order reportedly does not ban logging and urged Americans to pressure the administration on that front.

In February, more than 70 groups including Environment America launched the Climate Forests Campaign to push Biden to take executive action on protections for mature trees and forests on federal lands.

"We need to protect more of our forests across the globe to fend off the impending biodiversity and climate crises," said Ellen Montgomery, Environment America's Public Lands Campaign director, at the time.

"This campaign calls for the Biden administration to take the first step toward meaningful safeguards for forests in the U.S.—by protecting the most important standing trees in those forests," she added. "We can no longer allow our forests to be logged to the detriment of biodiversity and the climate crisis. It's time to adopt a new policy: Let these trees grow."

Biden DOJ vows to fight for travel mask mandate if CDC says it’s still needed

The Biden administration on Tuesday signaled a willingness to challenge a U.S. judge's decision to strike down its mask mandate for public transportation if federal health officials determine the policy is still necessary at this stage of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a statement from spokesperson Anthony Coley after Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, appointed by former President Donald Trump to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, declared the mandate unlawful.

"The Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) disagree with the district court's decision and will appeal, subject to CDC's conclusion that the order remains necessary for public health," Coley said. "The department continues to believe that the order requiring masking in the transportation corridor is a valid exercise of the authority Congress has given CDC to protect the public health. That is an important authority the department will continue to work to preserve."

Coley noted that on April 13, "before the district court's decision, CDC explained that the order would remain in effect while it assessed current public health conditions, and that the Transportation Security Administration would extend its directive implementing the order until May 3 to facilitate CDC's assessment."

The DOJ's pledge to file an appeal if CDC concludes a mandate is still needed came shortly after President Joe Biden was asked whether Americans should wear masks on planes and responded, "That's up to them."

According to CNN's DJ Judd, asked whether he plans to appeal the ruling out of Florida, Biden told reporters that he hadn't yet spoken to the CDC.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was more directly critical of the new ruling and, like the DOJ, pointed out to reporters that the CDC has been reviewing current conditions.

"Public health decisions shouldn't be made by the courts, they should be made by public health experts," Psaki said. "We obviously feel confident in our authorities here given that we put the mask mandate in place and asked for 15 additional days to evaluate data based on public health information."

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House's newly appointed Covid-19 response coordinator, said on Twitter Tuesday that the right-wing judge's move "was deeply disappointing."

"CDC scientists had asked for 15 days to make a more data-driven durable decision. We should have given it to them," Jha added. "But I'll continue to follow CDC guidance and mask up on planes."

Polling released last month by Monmouth University found that though just over a third of Americans support instituting or reinstituting face mask and social distancing guidelines, down from 52% in January, "a majority of Democrats continue to back vaccine (69%) and mask (60%) mandates, while at the same time saying they support the CDC relaxing its Covid guidance (67%)."

'We demand a liveable future': extinction rebellion activists flood New York City streets

As part of a series of actions this spring, climate activists rallied and marched in New York City on Monday "to demand that our tax money stop being used to fund endless war and environmental destruction."

Members of Extinction Rebellion (XR) marked Tax Day with the "No Wars, No Warming" demonstration outside a federal building in NYC where various agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), have offices.

"We recognize that the people who are most often placed in harm's way from armed conflict are also the people who have and will continue to face the brunt of the climate crisis," says the XR event webpage. "In this moment, after two years of Covid-19, our tax money should be funding social services that benefit the communities most impacted by the climate crisis and most affected by decades of systemic underfunding."

"The U.S. has no problem dumping over half of its federal budget into policing the rest of the world through the Pentagon but refuses to cover the things people actually need," the page adds. "Join us to demand that our tax money stop fossil-fueling endless war, and start funding healthcare, green jobs and infrastructure, other climate adaptation measures, and housing. We demand a liveable future."

The action outside the IRS is part of XR's Spring Rebellion, which is a "massive, sustained civil disobedience campaign in NYC" from last Wednesday through Saturday.

"Our tax money should be funding a mass mobilization off fossil fuels, supporting the communities most impacted by the climate crisis, and addressing mitigation and adaptation measures," said XR activist Emma Jacobs in a statement Monday. "Fossil fuel use is a direct cause of the climate crisis, yet still the Biden administration continues to gaslight us and call himself the 'climate president' all while perpetuating environmental destruction."

"We cannot be reliant on the fossil fuel economy and have a military and defense industry which is one of the highest emitters in the world," the activist asserted. "Reliance on fossil fuels propagates wars and forces relationships with governments who control the fossil fuel supply. Plus, the U.S. military produces more carbon dioxide than countries including Denmark, Sweden, and Portugal."

Noting that "since 2001 alone, our military has emitted nearly 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases," Jacobs argued "this is unsustainable for our country and our planet. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, our hard-earned tax dollars should be spent avoiding catastrophic climate change, lifting up the least advantaged, and creating opportunities in a more peaceful, environmentally stable society."

The NYC campaign follows a recent global uprising of scientists affiliated with the group. The protests—including one that led to 13 arrests this past Saturday—also come after the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which was released in early April and underscored the necessity of bolder action to cut planet-heating emissions.

Recognizing that "no one societal branch is fully responsible for the failure of our leaders to act," the XR organizers in NYC have demands directed at the government, financial institutions, and media.

XR isn't alone in calling for taking tax dollars from the U.S. war machine and instead investing in initiatives that serve people. Other groups involved in Monday's action included 350 NYC, Brooklyn for Peace, CodePink, NYC War Resisters League, Peace Action NYS, Resistance in Brooklyn, Roses and Bread, Veterans for Peace, and the World Can't Wait.

Additionally, the National Priorities Project (NPP) at the Institute for Policy Studies on Friday released a breakdown of how much the average taxpayer paid toward various government expenses last year.

For example, NPP found that the average taxpayer paid $929 for Pentagon contractors compared with just $171 for K-12 education.

NPP also revealed that the average taxpayer paid $62 for nuclear weapons versus only $27 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The main message?" the group said Friday. "We are investing too much in the military and law enforcement, and not enough on prevention, people, and communities."

'Takes one to know one': Noam Chomsky chides 'hypocrisy' of POTUS calling Vladimir Putin a war criminal

World-renowned dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky highlighted the hypocrisy of U.S. government leaders denouncing and demanding accountability for war crimes allegedly committed by Russian forces waging war on Ukraine during an interview published Thursday.

For just over an hour, Chomsky spoke with The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill about Russian President Vladimir Putin's February invasion of Ukraine, media coverage of the war, how governments around the world have responded, and the need to move toward "a diplomatic settlement."

Their conversation follows U.S. President Joe Biden earlier this month reiterating his condemnation of Putin as a "war criminal" and urging a war crimes trial—which sparked global discussions about the United States' longtime opposition to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"We're a rogue state, the leading rogue state by a huge dimension—nobody's even close," Chomsky said of the United States. "And yet we can call for war crimes trials of others, without batting an eyelash."

"It's interesting to look at the reaction to all of this in the more civilized part of the world, the global self," he continued. "They look at it; they condemn the invasion, say it's a horrible crime. But the basic response is: What's new? What's the fuss about? We've been subjected to this from you from as far back as it goes. Biden calls Putin a war criminal; yeah, takes one to know one. It's the basic reaction."

As proof of this position, Chomsky pointed to which nations have and have not responded to Russia's invasion of Ukraine—which has caused thousands of civilian deaths and injuries and led millions of people to flee to neighboring countries—with sanctions.

"The United States doesn't understand why most of the world doesn't join in sanctions," Chomsky said. "Which countries join in sanctions? Take a look. The map is revealing. The English-speaking countries, Europe, and those who apartheid South Africa called honorary whites: Japan, with a couple of its former colonies. That's it. The rest of the world says: Yeah, terrible, but what's new? What's the fuss about? Why should we get involved in your hypocrisy?"

"The U.S. can't understand that," he claimed, going on to add that "there's a lot of work to do in the United States simply to raise the level of civilization to where we can see the world the way the traditional victims see it. If we can rise to that level, we can act in a much more constructive way with regard to Ukraine as well."

Scahill's interview with the University of Arizona professor comes as Biden pumps more weapons into Ukraine amid uncertainty about a potential diplomatic deal and after Chomsky warned last week that Russia and the United States are pushing the planet toward "the most dangerous point in human history," citing both the war on Ukraine and the climate emergency.

MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan asks official why Biden can call Putin a war  criminal — but not MBS

During a televised interview late Sunday, journalist Mehdi Hasan pressed a State Department official on U.S. President Joe Biden's willingness to call Russian President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" while sending weapons to Saudi Arabia as the kingdom wages war on Yemen.

"Ambassador, it is good to see the U.S. government calling out war crimes in Ukraine and assisting in the documenting of those war crimes, but I do wonder, and I'm sure many others wonder too, where is that same kind of commitment when it comes to other conflicts?" Hasan asked.

"For example, the war in Yemen, where multiple atrocities have been documented by both sides, but one of those sides is our ally, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," he added. "Wouldn't we have more credibility if we condemned war crimes by our friends and not just by our enemies?"

Beth Van Schaack, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, responded that "the United States has worked tirelessly to promote accountability and documentation of abuses all across the world."

"There's a number of situations" at the International Criminal Court (ICC)—which probes and prosecutes genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression—that the Biden administration has been "very supportive of," Van Schaack said. "The standards apply to all parties and we are looking at all conflicts around the world with an eye toward bringing the parties better into compliance with international law."

The exchange on Hasan's show—which airs on MSNBC and the streaming service Peacock—continued with the host pointing out that Van Schaack "didn't address the Yemen war example."

Citing 2016 reporting that the Obama administration—for which Biden served as vice president—allowed a massive arms sale to Yemen despite concerns that the United States could be implicated in war crimes for supporting the Saudi-led air assault on Yemen, Hasan again raised the issue of credibility.

"Wouldn't we have more credibility if we called out war crimes by our own allies instead of selling them weapons?" he asked.

Describing the president's failure to criticize Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, as "the most obvious example in the world" of the unequal treatment of leaders accused of atrocities, he added, "How come Joe Biden can call Vladimir Putin a war criminal but not others, for example, the crown prince?"

In response, Van Schaack noted that the Biden administration has diminished the amount of support it is providing to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen and is working to ensure that those involved in that conflict comply with international humanitarian law, reiterating that "the standards apply to all parties."

The exchange on Hasan's show came as Biden's recent declarations of Putin as a war criminal and his call for a war crimes trial focused on Russian forces' actions in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities since late February have fueled speculation about how his administration may reconsider U.S. policy with regard to the ICC, which is already investigating recent allegations in Ukraine.

The New York Times reported Monday that the administration "is vigorously debating" how much it can or should aid the probe of alleged Russian war crimes given federal law and longtime U.S. government objection to the ICC exercising jurisdiction over nations that aren't part of the treaty that created the court—including the United States.

After denouncing a Russian rocket attack on a train station in eastern Ukraine as yet another "war crime" on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed Monday that tens of thousands have been killed in the port city of Mariupol and "the Russians are not stopping their offensive."

Meanwhile, world leaders and campaigners continue to sound the alarm over how Putin's war is affecting not only Ukrainians who have been killed, wounded, and trapped by the war, or fled to neighboring countries, but also the global food supply—particularly in some Middle Eastern and North African nations including war-torn Yemen.

"The number of malnourished children is likely to drastically increase," the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) regional director said last week, echoing warnings from other U.N. leaders in mid-March that "we need to act now" to feed Yemeni youth because "lives are at stake."

'A blatant gift to the oil and gas industry': environmental advocates slam SCOTUS for 'shredding' Clean Water Act

Environmental advocates and other critics of the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court were outraged Wednesday by a 5-4 decision reviving a Trump administration policy that undermines the power of states and tribes to protect water quality from energy infrastructure projects.

The Supreme Court "just further poisoned your water," journalist Jordan Chariton tweeted in response to the unsigned decision, opposed by Chief Justice John Roberts and the three liberals.

The contested rule about the Clean Water Act Section 401 certification process was proposed in August 2019 and finalized in June 2020, under former coal lobbyist and then-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

The policy—which imposes a one-year deadline for permitting decisions and limits the scope of what state and tribal officials can consider for projects like fossil fuel pipelines—was part of a wave of anti-environmental actions pursued under former President Donald Trump.

Earthjustice senior attorney Moneen Nasmith—whose group challenged the rule in federal court—blasted the high court's move in a statement.

"The court's decision to reinstate the Trump administration rule shows disregard for the integrity of the Clean Water Act and undermines the rights of tribes and states to review and reject dirty fossil fuel projects that threaten their water," she said.

Nasmith added that "the EPA must ensure that its revised rule recognizes the authority of states and tribes to protect their vital water resources in its ongoing rulemaking under Section 401."

Earthjustice noted that the EPA—now under the control of Michael Regan, an appointee of President Joe Biden—is "expected to issue a new draft rule in spring 2022 and a final rule in spring 2023."

When announcing the revision plans last year, Regan said that "we have serious water challenges to address as a nation and as EPA administrator, I will not hesitate to correct decisions that weakened the authority of states and tribes to protect their waters."

Despite Regan's declaration that "we need all state, tribal, local, and federal partners working in collaboration to protect clean water, which underpins sustainable economic development and vibrant communities," the EPA did not ask three federal judges presiding over challenges to the Trump-era rule to vacate it, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Two of the judges followed the EPA's request to send the rule back to the agency for further action without blocking the Trump policy. However, as the Times noted:

Judge William H. Alsup, of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, vacated the regulation. The move was justified by "the lack of reasoned decision-making and apparent errors in the rule's scope of certification, the indications that the rule contravenes the structure and purpose of the Clean Water Act," he said, and the fact that the "EPA itself has signaled it could not or will not adopt the same rule."
After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, refused to block Judge Alsup's ruling while an appeal moved forward, Louisiana and other states led by Republicans, along with industry groups, filed an emergency application asking the Supreme Court to revive the regulation. They said that Judge Alsup had acted without considering administrative procedures or finding that the regulation was unlawful.

Justice Elena Kagan, in a dissent joined by the other two liberals and Roberts, wrote that "the applicants have given us no good reason to think that in the remaining time needed to decide the appeal, they will suffer irreparable harm."

"By nonetheless granting relief, the court goes astray," she continued. "It provides a stay pending appeal, and thus signals its view of the merits, even though the applicants have failed to make the irreparable harm showing we have traditionally required."

"That renders the court's emergency docket not for emergencies at all," she added, referring to a process also known as the shadow docket. "The docket becomes only another place for merits determinations—except made without full briefing and argument."

CNN Supreme Court analyst and University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck pointed out that "although Chief Justice Roberts has joined the Democratic appointees in prior shadow docket dissents… this is the first time he's joined an opinion criticizing the majority for abusing what Kagan here calls 'the emergency docket.'"

The recent rise in shadow docket decisions from the high court has earned criticism from legal experts, members of Congress, and others.

"SCOTUS strikes again with a shadow docket," Earthjustice president Abbie Dillen tweeted Wednesday. "A blatant gift to the oil and gas industry. No evidence that emergency relief was needed… It's bad folks."

Ocasio-Cortez gets official to admit USPS leaders don't care about sending truck work to anti-union state

While much of the criticism of a U.S. Postal Service deal with Oshkosh Defense for a new fleet has focused on the fact that most vehicles will be gas-guzzling versus electric, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday got a USPS official to admit the agency isn't concerned the Wisconsin-based firm plans to build the trucks in notoriously anti-union South Carolina.

Near the end of a U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing, the New York Democrat questioned Victoria Stephen, executive director of the Postal Service's Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) Program, about whether the USPS considered Oshkosh's unionized workforce in Wisconsin and when the agency knew about the company's location decision.

After noting that the nearly $3 billion contract, first announced in early 2021, will include an initial order of 50,000 NGDVs—only 10,000 of which will be electric vehicles (EVs)—Ocasio-Cortez asked about whether Oshkosh's unionized workforce in Wisconsin "was an important consideration" or regarded as a "favorable element" in the decision-making process—particularly given President Joe Biden's support for union labor.

"The solicitation from the Postal Service requires domestic production only. It does not require particular locations or workforce," Stephen explained. A unionized workforce "is not a contract requirement... It was not considered in the decision."

After entering some reports into the record, Ocasio-Cortez asked Stephen about Oshkosh's decision to complete production in South Carolina rather than Wisconsin, a revelation that came after the company won the contract.

"The Postal Service was made aware of that decision shortly before the public announcement and it is a decision that's at the discretion of the supplier," Stephen said.

Ocasio-Cortez then asked, "Are you aware that Oshkosh Defense might be trying to circumvent its long-standing contract with the United Auto Workers workforce in Wisconsin by essentially building a brand-new facility after the contract was awarded in a vacant warehouse in South Carolina?"

The USPS official said that "I have no awareness of that but I would encourage you to have that conversation with Oshkosh."

Highlighting that "after the ink was dry, it looks like they're opening up a scab facility in South Carolina with no prior history of producing vehicles in that facility," Oscaio-Cortez asked Stephen if the Postal Service "is troubled by this timeline at all."

Stephen appeared to challenge the facts as the congresswoman laid them out—but offered no details or clarifications—then confirmed that the USPS is not concerned with the timeline of the company's South Carolina decision.

In a tweet about the exchange Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez took aim at embattled Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, declaring that "he needs to go."

When the USPS announced the contract last year, it said that "Oshkosh Defense is evaluating which of their several U.S. manufacturing locations is best suited to potentially increase the production rate of the NGDV."

Oshkosh Corporation executive vice president and Oshkosh Defense president John Bryant then revealed in June that the company planned to create about 1,000 new jobs in South Carolina, saying that "we're proud to bring this historic undertaking to Spartanburg County."

"South Carolina has a skilled workforce and a proven history in advanced automotive manufacturing—it's the perfect place to produce the NGDV," he said. "More importantly, we know the people of the Upstate take pride in their work and their community. What we build together here will reach every home in the country."

The Guardian reported in February that Oshkosh "chose to use a large, empty, former Rite Aid warehouse in Spartanburg. The company said it was eager to have a 'turnkey' plant where it could quickly begin production to help meet its goal of delivering the first vehicles in 2023."

The newspaper detailed outrage over the decision among Wisconsinites:

"We are extremely disappointed in Oshkosh Defense's decision to accept the money from the U.S. Postal Service and then turn around and send their production to a different state," said Stephanie Bloomingdale, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO union federation. "This is just another slap in the face to Wisconsin workers. People are very outraged about it. It doesn't fit into President Biden's vision to have high-road manufacturing."

Many Oshkosh Defense workers are wearing buttons to work, saying, "We Can Build This." These workers, members of the United Auto Workers (UAW), say they're dismayed that the company—unionized since 1938—plans to do postal vehicle production in one of the nation's most anti-union states. UAW Local 578 in Oshkosh has collected over 1,500 signatures urging the company to rescind its South Carolina decision, and Wisconsin's unions are planning a big rally in February to further pressure Oshkosh Defense.

"When we were notified the company won the contract, we were all excited—that's another contract under our belt, more work for us to do," said Thomas Bowman, a welder at Oshkosh Defense. "But when we were told it wasn't being built here, we were all asking, why not? We know we can build it. We got the workers. We got the tooling. It can be done here."

During that February rally, UAW Local 578 president Bob Lynk told a local television station that "it's a fight for our life right now. I do believe contracts are meant to be amended."

In a lengthy statement responding to the rally, Oshkosh signaled it won't reconsider the move, saying that "we evaluated sites in multiple states, including Wisconsin, for production of the NGDV. The Spartanburg, South Carolina facility ranked highest in meeting the requirements of the NGDV program and gives us the best ability to meet the needs of the USPS."

Meanwhile, in Congress, some Democrats are pushing for even broader changes. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) last month introduced the Green Postal Service Fleet Act, which would block the Oshkosh contract by requiring that at least 75% of new USPS vehicles are electric or otherwise emissions-free.

Sanders to hold hearing on 'how corporate greed and profiteering are fueling inflation'

U.S. Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders announced Friday that next week he will hold a hearing to expose how corporate profiteering in the midst of multiple global crises is driving inflation.

The event—entitled "Corporate Profits Are Soaring as Prices Rise: Are Corporate Greed and Profiteering Fueling Inflation?"—is scheduled for April 5 at 11:00 am ET and will follow his introduction last week of the Ending Corporate Greed Act.

"Let me be clear," Sanders (I-Vt.) said in a statement. "The American people are sick and tired of corporate greed. They are sick and tired of being ripped off by corporations making record-breaking profits. They are sick and tired of being forced to pay outrageously high prices for gas, rent, and food while large corporations make out like bandits.

"We cannot continue to allow large, profitable corporations to use the war in Ukraine, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the specter of inflation to make outrageous profits by price gouging Americans in every sector of our economy," he added. "It's time we discuss how corporate greed and profiteering are fueling inflation."

Sanders' statement highlighted how key sectors are behaving:

Across every major industry, prices continue to rise—this includes a 38% increase in the price of gasoline, a 44% increase in the price of heating oil, a 41% increase in the price of a used car, a 24% in the price of rental cars, and a 17% increase in the price of furniture. Further, Tyson Foods recently increased beef prices by 32%, the price of chicken by 20%, and the price of pork by 13%. As prices increase, corporate profits hit a record high of nearly $3 trillion in 2021, up 25% in a single year.

As Common Dreams reported Thursday, domestic corporate profits adjusted for inventory valuation and capital consumption hit $2.8 trillion last year, up from $2.2 trillion in 2020, according to the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

"CEOs can't stop bragging on corporate earnings calls about jacking up prices on consumers to keep their profits soaring," Lindsay Owens, executive director at the Groundwork Collaborative, said in a statement about the analysis. "These megacorporations are cashing in and getting richer—and consumers are paying the price."

Owens is one of three experts set to testify at the Senate Budget Committee's Tuesday hearing. She will be joined by Robert Reich, a public policy professor at the University of California, Berkley who served as U.S. labor secretary during the Clinton administration, and Michael Faulkender, a finance professor at the University of Maryland who served as assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department under former President Donald Trump.

Both Reich and leaders from the Groundwork Collaborative, a progressive nonprofit, have praised recent proposals by Congress to curb corporate profiteering—which 82% of U.S. voters believe is fueling inflation, according to polling from last month.

Praising the Ending Corporate Greed Act—which Sanders unveiled with Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.)—Rakeen Mabud, Groundwork Collaborative's chief economist and managing director of policy and research, said that "families, workers, and consumers expect their government to stand up against the kind of corporate abuses we're seeing today and Sen. Sanders' bill does exactly that."

If made into law, as Common Dreams reported, the proposal would impose a 95% tax on a company's profits that top its average profit level for 2015-19, adjusted for inflation. It would only impact companies with $500 million or more in annual revenue and be limited to 75% of income per year.

"A windfall corporate profits tax is badly needed to put the brakes on corporate profiteering that has run rampant over the course of the pandemic," said Mabud. "And now, the war in Ukraine is providing yet another opportunity for multinational energy giants and oil executives to drive up profit margins—while forcing families to pay more at the pump and on their energy bills."

Sanders' office estimates that the legislation, which is inspired by previous wartime measures, "would raise $31.9 billion from three of the top oil companies alone" in a single year, referring to Chevron, ExxonMobil, and ConocoPhillips.

The senator said last week that "the time has come for Congress to work for working families and demand that large, profitable corporations make a little bit less money and pay their fair share of taxes."

'More drilling and fracking is a climate calamity': scientists draft letter to POTUS urging renewables

"In this moment of climate emergency," five scientists began a new open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden, "we write with utmost urgency to advise you and your administration to halt recent moves towards increasing fossil fuel production and instead take bold action to rapidly reduce fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure."

Biologist Sandra Steingraber—who is leading the effort with Peter Kalmus, Robert Howarth, Michael Mann, and Mark Jacobson in conjunction with Food & Water Watch—shared a link to the letter on Twitter Wednesday and urged fellow scientists to add their signatures.

"We say the White House call for more drilling and fracking is a climate calamity," Steingraber said. "Sign with us!"

The letter—which its initiators plan to present to the president next month after collecting "a critical mass" of signatures—follows a similar message from October and comes as Biden works to ramp up U.S. gas shipments to Europe in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine.

Kalmus, who also shared the document Wednesday, tweeted that "the president's fossil fuel expansion takes us deeper into climate catastrophe."

The scientists' effort aligns with recent remarks from climate campaigners and other experts, who have argued since the war began last month that European nations' attempts to reduce their reliance on Russian fossil fuels—a key source of revenue for Putin's government—show the importance of a swift global shift to clean energy.

"Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm recently said 'we are on war footing' in calling for increased oil and gas production," the scientists' letter states, referencing the U.S. official's speech at a Houston conference earlier this month. "This is backwards thinking. Instead of fossil fuels, we must apply that level of urgency to building a renewable energy economy."

"Rather than working to increase oil and gas production," the letter adds, "we urge you to use your executive authority to redirect these massive investments, mobilize the country, and rally the global community around a program of energy security through a rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy."

Recalling that when Biden ran for president, he pledged to listen to science, the five experts wrote that "as scientists who look at data every day, we implore you to keep this promise and listen to what the scientific community is saying about fossil fuels and the climate crisis."

They specifically pointed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released last month, which features "a series of dire warnings about the unfolding climate catastrophe," including that "the scientific evidence is overwhelming that we must act now—we simply do not have time to waste."

"Already millions of Americans and even more across the world are being impacted by extreme weather, drought, flooding, sea level rise, and wildfires," the letter notes. "The IPCC report highlights millions being impacted by climate change-induced food insecurity and water scarcity."

The letter warns that "these problems will only accelerate as we continue our reliance on fossil fuels. And, this is on top of the significant health and environmental justice impacts that power plants, export facilities, and other fossil fuel infrastructure have on neighboring communities."

"The United States, Europe, and the rest of the world desperately need energy independence," the document declares, "but allowing more drilling and fracking, approving more pipelines, and expanding export facilities not only fail to address short-term energy needs, they lock us into decades of reliance on fossil fuels and ensure runaway climate chaos for the long run."

CBS blasted for 'normalizing the villains' after hiring 'discredited liar and crackpot' Mick Mulvaney

CBS News faced a firestorm of criticism Tuesday for making Mick Mulvaney a contributor, with one opponent calling the network's decision to hire the ex-aide of former President Donald Trump "a new low."

Introducing Mulvaney to discuss President Joe Biden's proposal to tax rich Americans, anchor Anne-Marie Green said: "He's a former Office of Management and Budget director and today I am pleased to welcome him as a CBS News contributor. So happy to have you here. Thank you so much. You're the guy to ask about this."

Some journalists, media critics, progressives, and others familiar with the former Republican congressman's track record in the Trump administration—during which he also served as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, acting White House chief of staff, and U.S. special envoy for Northern Ireland—disagreed.

"Normalizing the villains," tweeted podcast host and writer Bob Cesca. "You mean there's no one else who's capable of talking about this crap, CBS?"

Seth Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, also responded on Twitter.

"There are plenty of conservative budget experts who (1) chose not to serve as an apologist and lackey for the racist-in-chief, (2) have integrity, and (3) aren't clueless hacks who once wrote a budget with a $2 trillion math error," he said. "Shame on [CBS News]."

Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, wrote Tuesday that CBS "rehabilitating" one of Trump's "cronies" is not only an "embarrassment" but also a risk to "its credibility."

Pod Save America co-host Dan Pfeiffer similarly said that "this is embarrassing for every journalist that works at CBS. Mulvaney is a discredited liar and crackpot, but the yahoos that run the network think this hire will make the right stop attacking them as 'liberally biased.' (It won't.)"

The network "has plenty of actual business journalists and if I were one of them right now I'd be livid," said writer Christopher Ingraham, adding that he was "frankly dumbfounded" by the hire.

"Neither Mulvaney's extensive roles in the Trump administration, nor his time as a GOP member of Congress and co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, are ever mentioned," Ingraham highlighted. "He's introduced simply as "former OMB director and CBS News contributor."

While CBS failed to detail Mulvaney's past roles and related controversies, those outraged by his new job wasted no time filling in the blanks, including when he—while serving as chief of staff—admitted to reporters in October 2019 that the Trump White House withheld military aid to pressure the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to launch a probe targeting Democrats, which critics at the time called "a quid pro quo."

"Mick Mulvaney is Donald Trump's former chief of staff who openly bragged about freezing $400 million in assistance to Ukraine and then defied a congressional subpoena. He was THE key figure in Trump's first impeachment," tweeted Jeremy Slevin, a staffer for Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). "His punishment? A plush contributor gig with CBS News!"

Gertz pointed out that Mulvaney's comment on the quid pro quo was: "Get over it."

Also highlighting Mulvaney's admission about the attempt to force a "bogus investigation" and Trump's first impeachment, investigative reporter Jordan Fischer said that it is "absolutely disturbed to try to rehabilitate Mulvaney right now," amid Russia's war on Ukraine.

"Why not have him comment on Ukraine?" Fischer asked. "He can identify which of the armaments they're using to fight for their lives his boss withheld in an attempt to corrupt our democracy."

Esquire senior staff writer Jack Holmes had a similar question for CBS: "Are you going to ask him about his role in withholding aid to Ukraine until Zelenskyy agreed to smear Biden?"

Referencing the January 6, 2021 attack that led to Trump's historic second impeachment, Holmes added: "We now invite Mick Mulvaney on to discuss these revelations. Mick—what do you think your old boss was up to while the Capitol was getting sacked by his fanboys?"

Warren Gunnels, majority staff director for Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), noted other parts of Mulvaney's past on Capitol Hill, including that "in 2009, Mulvaney supported an amendment declaring that Social Security and Medicaid 'are directly in violation of the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.'"

"As Trump's budget director, he wanted to repeal the estate tax which would only benefit the top 0.2%," Gunnels said, concluding with a sarcastic quip: "Brilliant move, CBS."

In a series of tweets featuring clips of Mulvaney from the Trump era, journalist Aaron Rupar said that "the point of journalism is to inform people. Outlets that are trying to be reputable shouldn't pay liars to lie and spread bad-faith right-wing propaganda. Shame on [CBS]."

"Mick Mulvaney lied to us for four years to advance the cause of authoritarianism, and now we're supposed to take seriously his analysis of Biden's economic policies?" he added. "Hardest of hard passes."

POTUS declares Vladimir Putin a 'war criminal'

U.S. President Joe Biden called Russian President Vladimir Putin "a war criminal" on Wednesday afternoon as the deadly and ongoing assault on Ukraine continued.

Asked whether he was ready to apply the title to Putin, Biden told a reporter, "I think he is a war criminal," before walking away.

Biden's comment follows similar remarks by human rights advocates and United Nations officials—and it comes as the U.S. president prepares to discuss the war with NATO and other European leaders in Brussels next week.

Since Putin announced the invasion on February 24, the International Criminal Court has launched a probe into Russia's alleged war crimes, including targeting civilians and infrastructure such as hospitals.

While Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have reportedly made progress on a peace deal, at least hundreds of civilians have been killed, millions of people have fled Ukraine, and a U.N. report estimated Wednesday that the war has caused at least $100 billion in damage to infrastructure.

'He's ignorant or he's gaslighting': experts shatter Joe Manchin's 'incoherent' opposition to electric cars

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin came under fire Monday after his recent remarks about government support for electric vehicles made the rounds on social media and suggested that the West Virginia Democrat—known for sabotaging his own party's agenda—either doesn't understand how EVs work or believes he can get away with misleading comments about them.

Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell noted in a tweet that Manchin told an energy conference in Texas on Friday that "I'm very reluctant to go down the path of electric vehicles... I'm old enough to remember standing in line in 1974 trying to buy gas—I remember those days. I don't want to have to be standing in line waiting for a battery for my vehicle, because we're now dependent on a foreign supply chain—mostly China."

While the final version of the infrastructure bill that Manchin championed and President Joe Biden signed last year included $7.5 billion to boost EV ownership and charging capacity nationwide, the senator also criticized Democrats' efforts to increase that investment to $85 billion, saying that he has "a hard time understanding" the use of public money for such efforts.

Some critics suggested Manchin truly doesn't get how electric vehicles work. While there is a variety of EVs, from conventional and plug-in hybrids to fuel cell cars to battery electric vehicles, BEVs are powered by batteries that are built into the cars and recharged with grid electricity.

"This is Manchin telling us he's ignorant without telling us he's ignorant OR he's gaslighting," tweeted Paul Cicchini, the public information officer for the Illinois Department of Labor.

Tech reporter Sam Biddle said that "this is clearly disingenuous on his part but it seems possible that Manchin thinks electric cars take like, a bunch of disposable D batteries," similar to a handheld gaming console.

University of Denver political scientist Seth Masket compared Manchin's remarks to former President Donald Trump's 2019 rant against wind power. As Masket put it: "The difference between this argument and Trump's claims that windmills kill birds is that windmills have likely killed a few birds."

Others took the statements as Manchin—who's faced criticism for having contact with an ExxonMobil lobbyist and profiting from the coal industry—standing up for fossil fuels.

"Did he get these talking points directly from the oil lobby?" asked Tim Fullerton, a WeWork vice president who served as a digital strategist in the Obama administration.

Sawyer Hackett, co-host of the Our America podcast with former presidential candidate and Obama administration official Julián Castro, put the senator's comments in the context of Big Oil cashing in on current global conditions.

"Gas prices are at a record high RIGHT NOW because we're dependent on oil companies that gouge us at the first sign of inflation or a minor loss in supply," he said. "Manchin sounds like a spokesperson for Big Oil."

Ryan Cooper, managing editor of The American Prospect, highlighted Manchin's track record of killing the Biden administration's legislative goals—most notably, the House-approved Build Back Better Act that was designed to deliver on some of the president's climate pledges.

"Manchin has more power than all but like 10 people on Earth," Cooper said, "and he's using it to kill the Biden agenda with incoherent, constantly changing excuses."

'Halt this nightmare immediately': EPA approves release of genetically-engineered mosquitoes

Environmental and public health advocates responded with alarm after the Biden administration on Monday gave a British biotechnology company a green light to unleash billions of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the United States.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted Oxitec an experimental use permit that could lead to the release of genetically engineered (GE) mosquitoes in four California counties and extend a widely criticized program in Florida's Monroe County.

While the release is intended to investigate whether the GE mosquito can reduce the population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes—which carry various viruses—the species is not common in California and there are no reported cases of the targeted diseases.

"This experiment is unnecessary and even dangerous, as there are no locally acquired cases of dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, or Zika in California," declared Jaydee Hanson, policy director for the International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Food Safety.

Oxitec's altered male mosquitoes are supposed to pass on a gene that causes their offspring to die before reaching maturity. However, a peer-reviewed study published in September 2019 by Yale University researchers showed that releasing the GE mosquitoes in Brazil not only failed to reduce populations of Aedes aegypti but also resulted in hybrid mosquitoes.

"Releasing billions of GE mosquitoes makes it likely that female GE mosquitoes will get out and create hybrid mosquitoes that are more virulent and aggressive," Hanson said. "Other public health strategies, including the use of Wolbachia infected mosquitoes, could better control the Aedes aegypti in California and Florida."

Dana Perls, food and technology program manager at Friends of the Earth, also noted the findings and warned that "GE mosquitoes could result in far more health and environmental problems than they would solve."

"EPA needs to do a real review of potential risks and stop ignoring widespread opposition in the communities where releases will happen," asserted Perls, a California resident.

Fellow California resident Dr. Robert Gould, president of San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility, emphasized that "once released into the environment, genetically engineered mosquitoes cannot be recalled."

"Rather than forge ahead with an unregulated open-air genetic experiment, we need precautionary action, transparent data, and appropriate risk assessments," he said.

As a joint statement from Gould, Perls, and Hanson's groups highlighted:

The EPA did not publicly release any data from Oxitec field trials in Florida or Brazil and key information about health effects, including allergenicity and toxicity, was redacted from the company's application for a permit. EPA did not require key scientific assessments, including an endangered species assessment, public health impact analysis, or caged trials ahead of any environmental release. The EPA declined to convene a scientific advisory panel as it does for other new pesticides.

The groups and other local organizations were outraged last spring when Oxitec introduced GE mosquitoes in Florida, the first release of its kind in the United States. Shortly before the launch, Friends of the Earth had called on the EPA to "halt this nightmare immediately."

If approved by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and local decision-makers, GE mosquitoes could be released in Fresno, San Bernadino, Stanislaus, and Tulare counties this summer.

Thousands arrested as Russians join global anti-war protests

Thousands of people were arrested in Russia on Sunday for joining a global day of action against Russian President Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine, which has killed at least hundreds of civilians and created a refugee crisis.

Although Russian authorities have cracked down on protests and critical reporting since the February 24 invasion, 4,849 people were detained in 69 cities across Russia as of 2:09 am in Moscow, according to the independent monitor OVD-Info.

"The screws are being fully tightened—essentially we are witnessing military censorship," OVD-Info spokesperson Maria Kuznetsova told Reuters by telephone from Tbilisi. "We are seeing rather big protests today, even in Siberian cities where we only rarely saw such numbers of arrests."


The arrests in Russia occurred amid a global wave of protests calling for an end to not only Putin's war but also the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) that has fueled regional tensions.

Leading up to the invasion, Putin pointed to Ukraine possibly joining NATO as a threat. International affairs experts have suggested that the bloodshed in Ukraine might have been avoided if Western officials negotiated more seriously to address Moscow's security concerns.

The day of action was organized by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, CodePink, No to NATO network, and Stop the War Coalition. Their demands were: "Stop the war in Ukraine. Russian troops out. No to NATO expansion."



"In this day of action, we are uplifting the global outcry against Russia's horrific war and rising up in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and the anti-war protestors in Russia to demand an end to the bloodshed and destruction," CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin said earlier this week.

CodePink tweeted Sunday that "our hearts are filled with hope as we see people across the globe taking to the streets to demand #NoWarInUkraine."

Demonstrators and observers used the hashtag to share updates from actions around the world:



"There can be never be anything but condemnation of President Putin for launching a war on the people of Ukraine," former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told a crowd in London. "If you can agree a cease-fire to allow for humanitarian corridors, you can agree a cease-fire to stop the war.

Ukrainian officials accused Russian forces of breaching the cease-fire and impeding weekend evacuations. Still, as of Sunday, more than 1.5 million people had fled Ukraine in what one United Nations official called "the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II."

Meanwhile, Putin—whose comments in recent weeks have raised fears of nuclear weapons use—said Saturday that if Ukraine's leadership keeps resisting the invasion, "they are calling into question the future of Ukrainian statehood," and that Western sanctions "are akin to declaring war."

New report details 'Unraveling' of Trump probe that led prosecutors to resign

The New York Times on Saturday published a detailed account of what led two prosecutors involved with the Manhattan district attorney's investigation into former President Donald Trump's business practices to abruptly resign last month—a "seismic development" that some experts had called "troubling."

The probe was launched under the former district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., who did not seek reelection. When prosecutors Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz resigned, the newspaper reported that it was because the new DA, Alvin Bragg, had concerns about moving forward with the case.

Following up on their initial reporting, a trio at the Times provided an "account of the investigation's unraveling, drawn from interviews with more than a dozen people knowledgeable about the events," which "pulls back a curtain on one of the most consequential prosecutorial decisions in U.S. history," given that Trump would be the first president to be criminally charged.

Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, and Jonah E. Bromwich laid out major developments in the probe and at the office from Vance's final days to the resignations—including a December 9 meeting of the former DA's "brain trust," the public relations "firestorm" Bragg faced over criminal justice reforms and high-profile shootings, and intense discussions between the new district attorney and the two prosecutors in January and February.

As Protess, Rashbaum, and Bromwich reported:

Mr. Bragg was not the only one to question the strength of the case, the interviews show. Late last year, three career prosecutors in the district attorney's office opted to leave the investigation, uncomfortable with the speed at which it was proceeding and with what they maintained were gaps in the evidence. The tension spilled into the new administration, with some career prosecutors raising concerns directly to the new district attorney’s team.
Mr. Bragg, whose office is conducting the investigation along with lawyers working for New York's attorney general, Letitia James, had not taken issue with Mr. Dunne and Mr. Pomerantz presenting evidence to the grand jury in his first days as district attorney. But as the weeks passed, he developed concerns about the challenge of showing Mr. Trump's intent—a requirement for proving that he criminally falsified his business records—and about the risks of relying on the former president's onetime fixer, Michael D. Cohen, as a key witness.

The prosecutors quit the day after the new district attorney told them that "he did not want to continue the grand jury presentation" and was not prepared to authorize charges against Trump, according to the report, which noted that "Mr. Dunne and Mr. Pomerantz also bristled at how Mr. Bragg had handled the investigation at times."

While Pomerantz and Dunne declined to comment, Danielle Filson, a spokesperson for Bragg, said that "this is an active investigation and there is a strong team in place working on it." She added that the probe is being led by Susan Hoffinger, the executive assistant district attorney in charge of the office's Investigation Division.

Responding to the new report, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti tweeted that "this is a remarkable article that gives us an inside look into the Manhattan DA's deliberations regarding whether to charge Trump. If you believe prosecutors should indict Trump, it's worth reading. We rarely get a window into prosecution decisions."

According to Mariotti, it is not possible to tell from the Times' reporting "whether the current Manhattan DA is making the right call. We don't know the evidence his team has, and ultimately they could develop evidence that convinces them to file charges."

"I wouldn't be surprised if other prosecutors agonize over charging Trump. Not because they believe he's above the law, but because of issues with the evidence they have," he added. "If you're convinced that other prosecutors are doing nothing, they might be doing what this one did."

Media networks suspend reporting in Russia over censorship law

International media companies and journalists around the world on Friday sharply condemned a new Russian law that effectively criminalizes critical reporting of the war on Ukraine, with some outlets even suspending broadcasts or reporters' work across Russia.

Amid global outrage over Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin also blocked access to Facebook on Friday, which was met with intense criticism. The moves come ahead of anti-war protests planned on multiple continents this weekend.

"Russian authorities have moved quickly to establish total censorship and control over the free flow of information since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24," noted Gulnoza Said, Europe and Central Asia program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"The Russian public cannot be deprived of information and news and be forced to rely on the Kremlin-approved interpretation of events at this very important time in Russian history," Said added. "The censorship must stop, and bans must be lifted."

After Putin signed a law targeting reports about the invasion that Moscow deems "fake news," ABC News, BBC, Bloomberg News, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, CBS News, and CNN all responded with moves to protect their journalists.

"Because of the new censorship law passed in Russia today, some Western networks including ABC News are not broadcasting from the country tonight," a spokesperson said. "We will continue to assess the situation and determine what this means for the safety of our teams on the ground."

BBC director-general Tim Davie announced:

It leaves us no other option than to temporarily suspend the work of all BBC News journalists and their support staff within the Russian Federation while we assess the full implications of this unwelcome development.
Our BBC News service in Russian will continue to operate from outside Russia.
The safety of our staff is paramount and we are not prepared to expose them to the risk of criminal prosecution simply for doing their jobs. I'd like to pay tribute to all of them, for their bravery, determination, and professionalism.
We remain committed to making accurate, independent information available to audiences around the world, including the millions of Russians who use our news services. Our journalists in Ukraine and around the world will continue to report on the invasion of Ukraine.

"We have with great regret decided to temporarily suspend our news gathering inside Russia," said Bloomberg editor-in-chief John Micklethwait. "The change to the criminal code, which seems designed to turn any independent reporter into a criminal purely by association, makes it impossible to continue any semblance of normal journalism inside the country."

The Canadian public broadcaster said in a statement that "CBC/Radio-Canada is very concerned about new legislation passed in Russia, which appears to criminalize independent reporting on the current situation in Ukraine and Russia."

"In light of this situation and out of concern for the risk to our journalists and staff in Russia, we have temporarily suspended our reporting from the ground in Russia while we get clarity on this legislation," the statement continued. "We join other media in standing up for a free press and unimpeded access to accurate, independent journalism in Ukraine and Russia."

"Our journalists have been doing vital work to bring all elements of this story to Canadians and people around the world," the statement concluded. "We are proud of their professionalism and determination and we will continue to support their work."

Network spokespeople also confirmed that "CBS News is not currently broadcasting from Russia as we monitor the circumstances for our team on the ground given the new media laws passed today" and "CNN will stop broadcasting in Russia while we continue to evaluate the situation and our next steps moving forward."

The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta—which is known for critical reporting that earned editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021—announced in a tweet that it would remove some online content because of the law's threat to journalists.

Meanwhile, Reporters Sans Frontières, also known as RSF or Reporters Without Borders, tweeted Friday that it "has confirmed reports that Facebook has been banned in #Russia by the national regulator—the Kremlin's latest move to isolate the population from uncontrolled sources of information."

RSF declared that "all banned media and social media should be immediately reinstated!"

According to the Associated Press:

The state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said it cut access to Twitter and Facebook in line with a decision by the prosecutor general's office. The watchdog has previously accused Twitter of failing to delete the content banned by Russian authorities and slowed down access to it.
Twitter said in a statement Friday afternoon that while the company is "aware of reports" that its platform is blocked in Russia, it has not been able to confirm whether this is the case.

Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Facebook's parent company, Meta, said in a statement that "soon millions of ordinary Russians will find themselves cut off from reliable information, deprived of their everyday ways of connecting with family and friends and silenced from speaking out."

"We will continue to do everything we can to restore our services so they can remain available to people to safely and securely express themselves and organize for action," Clegg vowed.

The AP noted that "the moves against the social media giants follow blocks imposed on the BBC, the U.S. government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, and Latvia-based website Meduza."

The crackdown on information about Putin's deadly assault of Ukraine—which has included mounting allegations of war crimes—also follows mass arrests of Russians who took to the streets last week to protest the invasion. Some reporters were also arrested while covering the demonstrations.

Russian nuclear submarines conduct drills as tensions mount

Russia further elevated concerns about global catastrophe on Tuesday as its "nuclear submarines sailed off for drills in the Barents Sea and mobile missile launchers roamed snow forests" in Siberia just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and put his nation's nuclear forces on "special alert."

Anti-nuclear campaigners who have condemned the Russian leader's actions over the past week also blasted the military exercises that Russia's Northern Fleet said were designed to "train maneuvering in stormy conditions," according to the Associated Press.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) tweeted the report and said that "drills with nuclear weapons are never acceptable and are particularly dangerous in tense times."

The AP reported that the Russian military "didn't say whether the drills were linked to Putin's order on Sunday to put the country's nuclear forces on high alert amid Russia's war in Ukraine. It also was unclear whether the exercises represented a change in the country's normal nuclear training activities or posture."

Along with demanding an end to the "illegal" invasion, ICAN said Sunday that Putin's alert order "is incredibly dangerous and irresponsible, especially during a time of war and high tension."

The group urged all nuclear-armed states to stand down their forces and "refrain from threatening to use weapons of mass destruction," warning that any use of them "would cause catastrophic humanitarian suffering and the fallout—radioactive, economic, political."

ICAN continued:

Right now, the dangerous policy of so-called nuclear deterrence is used to enable the continued invasion of Ukraine by Russia. It does not keep the peace, it allows for war to be carried out against Ukrainian people.
Any theory which is based on the willingness to mass murder civilians and is kept in check by little more than sheer luck will eventually lead to a horrific humanitarian catastrophe. That's what is being risked right now, and it must stop.

Russia and the United States collectively account for about 90% of all nuclear warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists. Both countries have subs, land-based systems, and bombers capable of launching the weapons.

During Putin's speech last week announcing the invasion of Ukraine — an air and land assault that has included alleged war crimes — the Russian leader made what was widely seen as a thinly veiled threat to retaliate with nuclear weapons if any other nation intervenes.

Anti-war campaigners have also responded with alarm to a Monday referendum that paves the path for Belarus to host Russian nuclear weapons.

Despite the recent developments, the Biden administration so far has not changed U.S. nuclear alert levels.

While denouncing Putin's war in Ukraine and imposing economic sanctions, U.S. President Joe Biden has indicated he does not plan to engage in a military conflict with Russia.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki made clear Monday that the Biden administration will not impose a no-fly zone, emphasizing that implementation could require the U.S. military to shoot down Russian planes, which could lead to a full-blown war with Russia.

Writing Tuesday for Responsible Statecraft, Emma Claire Foley of Global Zero outlined various scenarios that could result in nuclear action over Ukraine, from Putin making good on his threats to "an accidental first strike in response to misinterpreted or incorrect intelligence or uncontrolled escalation of a relatively small-scale, conventional military incident."

"Very little seems certain about the tragic situation in Ukraine or the future of U.S.-Russia relations," she wrote. "But as long as the status quo around nuclear weapons persists, the real risk of escalation from a regional conflict to a global conflagration will be with us. The difficult question that must be answered is how we build a path out of the darkness of the present moment to a world free from their threat."

ICAN continues to call on all countries, especially the nine nuclear-armed nations, to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which entered into force last year.

‘An unprecedented atrocity’: Russians arrested for protesting Putin’s assault of Ukraine

Critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin's long-awaited invasion of Ukraine on Thursday joined open letters and took to Russia's streets to protest the ongoing air and ground assault—resulting in more than 1,000 arrests.

The protests within and beyond Russia came as Moscow claimed Russian strikes took out at least "74 ground facilities of Ukraine's military infrastructure."

"Nothing good will come out of this," a 36-year-old computer programmer, Dmitry, told The Moscow Times in the Russian capital. "We don't need war, we need to be able to come to agreements."

Ilya Matveev and Ilya Budraitskis noted Russians' lack of support for war in Jacobin:

One reassuring sign is that no clear support for war is discernible in Russian society. According to the Levada Center, the last independent polling agency (itself branded a "foreign agent” by the Russian government), 40% of Russians do not support the official recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk "people's republics" by the Russian authorities, while 45% of Russians do.

"While some signs of 'rallying around the flag' are inevitable," the pair added, "it is remarkable that despite complete control over major media sources and a dramatic outpouring of propagandistic demagoguery on TV, the Kremlin is unable to foment enthusiasm for war."

The Times reported that "solo pickets—essentially the only legal form of public protest in Russia—in protest of the war have taken place from the southern city of Tolyatti to the Far East city of Khabarovsk."

The independent monitoring group OVD-Info tweeted Thursday that "more than 1,234 people have already been detained in 49 Russian cities."

Footage of protests and resulting arrests in Russia circulated on social media:

Sharing a video of police in the Russian capital, Emma Burrows of the U.K.'s ITV News tweeted that "there is such a sense of horror and heartbreak in Moscow tonight."

Andrew Roth, Moscow correspondent for The Guardian, posted photos of one person who wrote "No to war" on his jacket and another who held up a sign that said "Fuck war"—as well as video of the second man being arrested for the display.

The Telegraph's Moscow correspondent, Nataliya Vasilyeva, similarly said that police there were snatching people on the streets who chanted "No to war."

Vasilyeva reported on some arrests and protests Wednesday, not long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. At least six people were detained for a demonstration in Moscow's Pushkinskaya Square Wednesday afternoon—including Grigory Sheyanov, a 45-year-old pediatrician.

"I'm against Russia's militarist stance. I came out for peace," Sheyanov told The Telegraph. "What's happening now is a preparation for a big war."

Putin announced the military assault of Ukraine early Thursday, after recognizing the self-declared People's Republics of Donetsk (DPR) and Luhansk (LPR) following years of conflict between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in those territories.

The Russian arm of the youth-led climate movement Fridays for Future made clear in a series of tweets Thursday that "we, FFF Russia activists, oppose any military conflicts."

"We don't want to be associated with blood and death because we never wanted that for us and our friends. The actions of our government are not our actions," said the group. "Fridays for Future Russia has always opposed, is, and will continue to oppose any military action, no matter how 'fair' they are portrayed by state propaganda. War is not fair."

The Moscow Times pointed out that public figures such as Russian celebrities and reporters also voiced opposition to the war—including over 150 Russian scientists and scientific journalists who signed an open letter against Putin's "unfair and frankly meaningless" military action.

"By unleashing the war, Russia has condemned itself to international isolation and the position of a rogue state," the letter says, warning that "Russia's isolation from the world means the further cultural and technological degradation of our country."

Nearly 200 officials from Russian cities signed on to another open letter that states, "We, the deputies elected by the people, unreservedly condemn the attack of the Russian army on Ukraine."

"This is an unprecedented atrocity, for which there is no and cannot be any justification," the municipal deputies' letter adds. "Hopes for a good life in Russia are crumbling before our eyes."

Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief and 2021 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov highlighted what many viewed as Putin's thinly veiled nuclear threat directed at members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) or any other nations that may try to intervene.

"The commander-in-chief spins the 'nuclear button' in his hands like a keychain from an expensive car," said Muratov. "Is the next step a nuclear salvo?"

"I cannot interpret Vladimir Putin's words about a retaliatory weapon in any other way," he said. "Only the anti-war movement of Russians can save life on this planet."

Rick Scott panned for new plan pushing tax hikes on the poor

GOP Sen. Rick Scott of Florida came under fire Tuesday in response to his new 11-point "Rescue America" plan for if Republicans reclaim a majority of Senate seats—particularly its call to raise taxes on low-income Americans.

The proposal is in the "Economy/Growth" section of Scott's plan, which comes as Senate Republican leadership has declined to put out a formal platform. Scott's manifesto states that "all Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax."

HuffPost's Igor Bobic and Arthur Delaney noted that "everyone who works a payroll job pays federal taxes, but Scott is right that only higher earners pay income taxes."

"Demonizing lower earners for not paying taxes, however, did not help Mitt Romney become president in 2012," the reporters pointed out, referencing Scott's GOP colleague who represents Utah, "and most voters favor higher taxes only on higher earners."

The Washington Post's Aaron Burke called the tax proposal "one of the most striking and evocative parts" of the plan and also referenced the Utah Republican, writing that Scott is "rekindling the same issue that led Mitt Romney to stumble into his '47%' gaffe."

Burke continued:

While Romney overly simplistically referred to 47% of people who both paid no income tax and voted for Democrats because of it, the number who paid no income tax was indeed around half. In 2020, though, that number climbed as high as 61%, according to the Tax Foundation.

You begin to see the potential political problem here. Scott's document doesn't discuss the issue in as ham-handed a way as Romney did in that infamous video—though suggesting those who don't pay income taxes don't have "skin in the game" is certainly dicey. But it does advocate for raising taxes on, in the Tax Foundation's estimate, as many as 75 million people who paid no such taxes after deductions and credits in 2020. If you include the 32 million who didn't file returns, such as retirees, the number climbs well over 100 million Americans. (Scott's plan isn't explicit on whether his idea would include such people, but it does say "all Americans.")

As Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) put it in a Tuesday tweet that linked to the Post's reporting: "Scott… wants working families and seniors to pay more."

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) declared that "Scott's agenda for the GOP is a predictable return to political distortions that blame the poor for being poor, and it fails to recognize the real challenges in our economy."

In an email to supporters Tuesday, the Patriotic Millionaires blasted various aspects of Scott's agenda, explaining that "it's a truly horrifying document, indicating Republicans would crush civil rights protections for groups like women and members of the LGBTQ community, punish single parents for living outside of the traditional 'nuclear family,' fire teachers who don't comply with conservative orthodoxy, question the legitimacy of any election they don't win, and treat their political opposition as enemies of the state."

"It also says that Republicans are going to raise taxes on middle and working-class families while slashing essential government services," the group highlighted, offering lengthy rebuttals to "some of Scott's most jarring statements in this regard."

In response to Scott's two-liner on tax hikes, the Patriotic Millionaires said:

There are a small number of uber-wealthy Americans who avoid federal income tax thanks to a series of loopholes that allow them to claim little to no income. If that was who Sen. Scott was talking about, we'd be cheering him on.

Unfortunately, Sen. Scott seems more focused on a different group. It's true that, in 2020, over half of households didn't pay federal income tax, a pretty significant spike from prior years thanks to massive job losses and federal aid due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Outside of those extraordinary circumstances, most people who don't pay any federal income taxes are exempt because they don't make enough money. These are people who are making just enough, or often not enough, to keep their families afloat. While in 2017 the GOP seemed happy to write a tax bill that gave 83% of the benefits to the top 1%, they now want to raise taxes on everyone else, even those who may live well below the poverty line.

"In the end, Sen. Scott's plan is a wink and a nod to his wealthy donors to keep stealing," the Patriotic Millionaires added, urging Democrats to urgently "deliver on the popular promises they ran on and give tens of millions of working Americans a financial boost" going into this year's elections.

"If Democrats control the House, Senate, and White House for two years with nothing to show for it, they're poised to pay the price in the 2022 midterms," the group warned. "And Sen. Scott has laid out exactly how horrible a future with total Republican control on Capitol Hill would be."

The Biden administration also swiftly slammed Scott's tax proposal, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki calling it out in a pair of tweets:

Scott's overall plan was regarded as a signal of his political goals, especially given that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), when asked last month what the GOP agenda would be if Republicans regained control of the chamber, said that "I'll let you know when we take it back."

Politico's Burgess Everett wrote that unveiling the agenda is "the type of move that ambitious politicians might make as they mull a presidential run," but Scott "was emphatic" that such a campaign was not his motivation.

"I'm not," said the former Florida governor, whose Senate term ends in 2024. "I'm doing it because I'm a business guy and I believe in plans."

Facebook misled investors about battling climate and COVID lies: SEC filings

In complaints to the U.S. government, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen accused the tech giant of misleading investors about combating climate and Covid-19 misinformation, The Washington Post revealed Friday.

Haugen has gained international attention for speaking out in the press and testifying to Congress. The former Facebook employee is represented by Whistleblower Aid, which filed the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) complaints earlier this month.

The newspaper's reporting on redacted copies of the documents sparked demands for reforms at the social media network and its parent company, which rebranded as Meta last year in the face of widespread criticism.

"Frances Haugen's SEC filing shows yet again that Facebook cannot be trusted and needs Congress to step in to stop the spread of disinformation," said Michael Khoo, co-chair of the Climate Disinformation Coalition at Friends of the Earth.

As the Post's Cat Zakrzewski reported:

One complaint alleges that climate change misinformation was prominently available on Facebook and that the company lacked a clear policy on the issue as recently as last year, despite Facebook executives' committing to fight the "global crisis" during earnings calls. A second, companion complaint argues that while Facebook executives were publicly touting their efforts to remove harmful Covid misinformation, internal documents "paint a different story." The complaint cites internal company communications about the spread of vaccine hesitancy in comments and internal surveys that showed the proliferation of Covid misinformation on the service.

"Facebook appears now to be spreading disinformation about its disinformation," declared Khoo, noting that in an October 2021 letter, Nick Clegg, then-vice president of global affairs and communications at Facebook, "told the Climate Disinformation Coalition that there is only a 'small amount' of climate change disinformation on the platform."

Clegg, who was previously the U.K.'s deputy prime minister and led the Liberal Democrats party, was promoted this week to head of global affairs at Meta—a role that will put him "at the level" of CEO Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Similar to Clegg's letter, Meta spokesperson Drew Pusateri "said that misinformation makes up a small amount of climate change content in the company's apps, and that it spikes periodically, such as during extreme weather events," the Post reported Friday. "He said the company has taken steps to make it easier for fact-checkers to find climate content."

Pusateri also highlighted the company's efforts to remove vaccine misinformation and elevate "authoritative information" on public health and climate, adding that "there are no one-size-fits-all solutions to stopping the spread of misinformation, but we're committed to building new tools and policies to combat it."

However, activists and experts are not impressed. The Post explained that "the company adds information labels to some posts about climate change, and it reduces distribution of posts that its fact-checking partners rate as false. But it generally does not remove those posts, as it does with certain false claims about vaccines and the coronavirus."

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, told the newspaper that the company's approach is "disturbing."

"Unmitigated climate change is projected to lead to far greater numbers of human fatalities than Covid-19," said Mann, known for debunking climate lies, including in recent testimony to Congress. "The fact that they're treating greater threat with so much less urgency and care is problematic."

Fossil Free Media director Jamie Henn tweeted Friday that "Facebook hasn't even taken the most obvious step to combatting climate disinformation: banning fossil fuel advertising. They don't allow tobacco or firearms ads—so why allow fossil fuels?"

According to Khoo at Friends of the Earth:

Whether it's fueling the insurrection, trans-youth bullying, teen body image issues, or climate denial, Facebook's algorithm enables the small fringe to tear apart our communities and our values. When last year's winter storm decimated Texas residents, a few fossil fuel-backed voices falsely blamed frozen windmills, and we documented how that narrative exploded on Facebook.

Congress must now step in and require the type of safety reporting that is found in industries from car manufacturers to agriculture. It must force Facebook to disclose its data on platform safety and extremism, with ecosystem-wide reports on disinformation harms.

"Facebook amplifies fringe views like climate denial," the campaigner added, "and we must stop it from letting a radical minority overpower the majority."

At least some federal lawmakers are already paying attention to the company's conduct, as three Democratic senators made clear in a December letter to Zuckerberg.

"Disinformation that downplays the crisis or rejects climate change threatens the potential for humankind to act collectively to pull itself back from the brink," they wrote. "Your content moderation decisions can either galvanize an effort to save our plant or quash it."

Study exposes climate claims by Big Oil as blatant corporate propaganda

While continuing to fuel the climate emergency over the past decade, oil and gas majors relied on misleading messages rather than actually taking action to transition to clean energy, according to research released Wednesday.

The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal PLOS One, focused on two American companies, Chevron and ExxonMobil, as well as two European ones, BP and Shell—the four majors also at the center of an ongoing investigation by a U.S. House panel.

Three researchers at a pair of Japanese universities reviewed data from 2009 to 2020, examining the firms' keyword use in annual reports; business strategies; and production, expenditures, and earnings for fossil fuels along with investments in clean energy.

"We found a strong increase in discourse related to 'climate,' 'low-carbon,' and 'transition,' especially by BP and Shell," the paper states. "Similarly, we observed increasing tendencies toward strategies related to decarbonization and clean energy. But these are dominated by pledges rather than concrete actions."

"Moreover, the financial analysis reveals a continuing business model dependence on fossil fuels along with insignificant and opaque spending on clean energy," the study adds. "We thus conclude that the transition to clean energy business models is not occurring, since the magnitude of investments and actions does not match discourse."

The document emphasizes that "until actions and investment behavior are brought into alignment with discourse, accusations of greenwashing appear well-founded."

Asked about the findings by NPR, spokespeople for the four firms tried to highlight efforts to lower "the carbon intensity in our operations" and invest in "lower-emissions projects."

Meanwhile, Robert Brulle, a visiting professor at Brown University's Institute for Environment who was not involved in the research, told Carbon Brief that the "original" study "goes well beyond the existing scholarship in this area by utilizing a long-time series analysis and robust empirical measures."

"While activists have long asserted these claims, this empirical work by independent scholars empirically demonstrates that these claims are true," he said. "This is a major contribution to public knowledge of the actions of major oil companies and shows that they are indeed not walking the talk when it comes to addressing climate change."

Richard Wiles, president of the Center for Climate Integrity, also welcomed the new analysis—which aligns with what experts told the House Committee on Oversight and Reform about Big Oil's climate pledges earlier this month.

"This study confirms what observers have always known about Big Oil's climate pledges: They're all hot air," Wiles noted. "Oil and gas companies talk like they care about the climate, but they keep drilling and polluting with complete disregard for the damage they cause."

"The oil and gas industry's deception has now landed these companies in front of Congress and in courtrooms across the country," he said. "Polluters cannot and should not be trusted to help solve the very climate crisis they knowingly caused."

The recent House hearing—organized by the panel's chair, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a subcommittee leader—featured multiple expert witnesses after board members at BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell refused to testify.

Maloney and Khanna are planning another hearing for March 8. The chair, who already subpoenaed the companies after an October hearing, said the oil majors should consider next month's event "their last chance to cooperate" and "if their board members refuse to appear, they should expect further action" from the committee.

October's hearing featured hours of testimony from the firms' CEOs—who, as Wiles put it, "not only refused to accept responsibility for lying about the catastrophic effects of their fossil fuels—they refused to stop efforts to spread disinformation and oppose climate action."

Tax-dodging billionaire dynasties could cost US $8.4 trillion: report

Over the next few decades, the richest American families could avoid paying about $8.4 trillion in taxes, or more than four times the cost of the stalled Build Back Better package, according to a report released Wednesday.

The Americans for Tax Fairness report—entitled Dynasty Trusts: Giant Tax Loopholes that Supercharge Wealth Accumulation—urges Congress to fix the federal tax code to address dynastic wealth.

The new analysis details how loopholes have made the payment of estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes—collectively called wealth-transfer taxes—effectively optional for the "ultrawealthy" and thereby accelerate the "accumulation of dynastic wealth."

"Ultrarich families use dynasty trusts—the term for a variety of wealth-accumulating structures that remain in place for multiple generations—to ensure their fortunes cascade down to children, grandchildren, and beyond undiminished by wealth-transfer taxes," the report explains.

Some U.S. states, such as South Dakota, have even changed their laws on dynasty trusts to attract wealthy residents, as Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy highlighted last year.

The new report notes that U.S. lawmakers aren't planning to address the issue, even if the Senate passes a version of a House-approved package:

The Build Back Better (BBB) legislation now before Congress—otherwise a vehicle for significant progressive tax reform—does nothing to directly reverse this toxic accumulation of dynastic wealth. Moreover, some dynasty trust reforms that were included in the bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee in September 2021 were stripped out before the House voted on the measure in November.

The BBB bill needs full support from Senate Democrats to pass. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—one of the primary reasons the legislation hasn't reached President Joe Biden's desk—said Tuesday that it is "dead."

However, Americans for Tax Fairness still uses the whittled-down BBB package to illustrate just how much money wealthy Americans can hoard for their families in the years ahead thanks to the U.S. tax system.

"The tax savings for the richest families could be about $8.4 trillion over the next 24 years or so if the current 40% estate tax rate remains in place," the report states. "That's the equivalent of more than four Build Back Better plans costing $1.75 trillion each over 10 years."

The report adds that "about half of the $8.4 trillion is equivalent to the cost of the expanded child tax credit, which was included in the House-passed BBB bill and is estimated to reduce childhood poverty by 40%, for 24 years at $160 billion a year."

"This hoarding of wealth is inexcusable," declared the report's principal author, Bob Lord, who practiced estate law for 30 years before joining Americans for Tax Fairness as tax counsel.

"The BBB legislation now before the U.S. Senate should be amended to close loopholes in the three components of America's wealth transfer tax system: the estate, gift, and generation-skipping tax," he asserted. "Effective reforms have already been developed—all that's needed is for Congress to recognize the urgency to act now."

The group's new analysis and call for action come after Americans for Tax Fairness estimated last month that the 10 wealthiest billionaires in the United States have become approximately $1 billion richer collectively every day of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Wednesday's report contains a warning about that group of ultra-billionaires, mentioning by name Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk of Telsa and SpaceX.

"As much as familiar fortunes have blossomed in the low-regulation, low-tax, wealth-worshiping environment of the previous 40 years," the report says, "the next 40 and beyond could see the rise of economic dynasties that will make the old money look small."

Along with closing dynasty-trust tax loopholes, Americans for Tax Fairness urges reforms that would "curb the year-to-year accumulation of wealth in existing trusts." Specifically, it calls for a new income-tax bracket "on undistributed trust income in excess of $250,000 that is five percentage points higher than the maximum income-tax bracket for individuals."

Noting a proposal from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the group also encourages U.S. lawmakers to "impose an annual 2% wealth tax on the portion of a dynasty trust's holdings that exceed $50 million, and an additional 1% on dynasty trust accumulations in excess of $1 billion."

"The choice is clear," according to the report. "We can fix our broken estate and gift tax system and stop the concentration of an ever-larger share of America's wealth inside enormous dynasty trusts, or we can trust our democracy to a handful of trillionaire trust fund babies."

"Fortunately, we know what needs to be done," the report concludes. "The sole remaining challenge is to summon the courage to stand up to the holders of dynastic wealth and their enablers."

Right-wing Supreme Court takes up challenge to affirmative action

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a pair of affirmative action cases related to college admissions, giving its right-wing supermajority an opportunity to strike down race-conscious selection policies in higher education.

Both cases, taking aim at the policies of Harvard and the University of North Carolina, were brought by Students for Fair Admissions, a group founded by the conservative legal strategist Edward Blum. The high court has consolidated the cases.

Though the Supreme Court has previously allowed affirmative action policies to stand—most recently in 2016—the current makeup of the court is fueling concerns about a new course, whether the case is heard during this or the next term.

As writer and podcaster Touré tweeted in response to the decision: "RIP affirmative action."

Slate staff writer Mark Joseph Stern, who covers the U.S. legal system, pointed out that "like so many other grants this term, the affirmative action cases illustrate how Republicans have outsourced large chunks of their agenda to the federal judiciary and the Supreme Court, which now serves as the nation's most powerful policymaking body."

"Rather than expend time and energy prohibiting affirmative action through the democratic process," he added, "Republicans captured a sufficient portion of the federal judiciary—including the Supreme Court—to ensure that their judges will do it for them."

Democrats now control both chambers of Congress and the White House, but during former President Donald Trump's tenure, he and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) worked to reshape the federal judiciary with more than 200 appointees, including Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

NPR's Nina Totenberg noted that "starting in 1978, the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action programs three times. In each of these cases, the court's controlling opinion was authored by a traditionally conservative justice."

However, she explained, "three of the justices who voted against affirmative action in 2016—Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito—are still on the court, and they now have been joined by three Trump-appointed conservatives."

Both Harvard and UNC won in federal trial courts, and the former's case was affirmed by an appeals court. The New York Times' Adam Liptak highlighted the potential significance of the nation's highest court deciding to take up both challenges:

The Supreme Court's decision to hear both cases may have been influenced by the differing legal regimes that apply to the two schools. Harvard, a private entity, must comply with a federal statute that bans race discrimination as a condition of receiving federal money; the University of North Carolina, which is public, must also satisfy the Constitution's equal protection clause.

Warning that the court's upcoming decision "could have a wide-ranging effect," HuffPost editor-in-chief Danielle Belton shared in a series of tweets Monday how affirmative action made a difference for her father's aerospace career and their family.

"There is this mistake people make when talking about affirmative action, that it 'rewards' unqualified people based on their race," Belton wrote. "This couldn't be further from the truth. It merely opens a historically closed door to level an uneven playing field."

"How could my father compete with a system that rewarded nepotism and protected only those who'd always had access to power? The reality is, even with a college degree, he couldn't. Affirmative action had to happen," she continued.

"Because my father was able to have his career in aerospace, he could afford a home and raise a family alongside my mother. He could get us into good public schools and put all his daughters through college, leading to our future successes," Belton added. "Without programs like affirmative action, my whole life could have gone in an entirely different direction."

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law represents Harvard and UNC students and alumni who helped defend their policies. The group's president and executive director, Damon Hewitt, vowed to keep up the fight in a statement Monday.

"Selective universities like Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill have long struggled to admit students of color, who have over time been excluded for access to elite institutions and are historically marginalized," Hewitt said. "Race-conscious admissions policies are a critical tool that ensures students of color are not overlooked in a process that does not typically value their determination, accomplishments, and immense talents."

"We will vigorously defend access and opportunity in higher education," he added, "alongside a diverse coalition of students of color, including our incredible clients whose testimony about their experiences on campus served as the cornerstone for the lower courts' favorable decisions in both of these cases."

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) president and director-counsel Sherrilyn Ifill similarly asserted Monday that "holistic, race-conscious admissions programs" not only enable universities to "bring together people of different backgrounds to learn from one other" but also "help mitigate systemic barriers to educational opportunities faced by many Black students and other students of color, ensuring that all hard-working and qualified applicants receive due consideration."

"Further, the court's decision today comes amidst the backdrop of widespread efforts to erase and deny the experiences of people of color," Ifill said. "As our country experiences a resurgence of white supremacy, it is as important now as ever before that our future leaders be educated in a learning environment that exposes them to the rich diversity that our country has to offer, so they may be fully prepared for the many challenges ahead."

'Terrifying' hot streak continues as NOAA says 2021 was the 6th warmest year on record

Amid rising public alarm about human-caused global heating, U.S. government scientists announced Thursday that 2021 was the sixth hottest year since records began in 1880.

"Failure to act together with the global community will all but ensure more devastating impacts and even irreversible climate tipping points."

Separate but similar analyses from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reached the same conclusion, mostly aligning with the European Union's Copernicus, which recently ranked 2021 fifth warmest.

Both NASA and NOAA noted that the average global temperature last year was about 1.5°C above the 20th-century figures used by each agency.

"Science leaves no room for doubt: Climate change is the existential threat of our time," said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in a statement.

"Eight of the top 10 warmest years on our planet occurred in the last decade, an indisputable fact that underscores the need for bold action to safeguard the future of our country—and all of humanity," Nelson added.

While NOAA's findings indicate that "the years 2013-2021 all rank among the 10-warmest years on record," Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, highlighted the similarities found by the government scientists over the past decade.

"The complexity of the various analyses doesn't matter because the signals are so strong," Schmidt said. "The trends are all the same because the trends are so large."

Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, noted those trends in a statement about the "terrifying" findings.

"What terrifies me about the latest data showing 2021 ranks as the sixth hottest year on record is that these facts and figures are no longer surprising or shocking," she said. "Rising temperatures are already triggering dire impacts worldwide and will only worsen as the planet warms."

Pointing out that "scientific research shows the deadly 2021 Pacific Northwest heatwave, for example, would've been virtually impossible without climate change," Dahl declared that "it's time for policymakers to take decisive actions and pass policies that sharply rein in heat-trapping emissions, such as the Build Back Better Act."

The Build Back Better Act includes climate policies promised by President Joe Biden, who aims to halve U.S. emissions from 2005 levels this decade. House Democrats approved the sweeping package in November, but it has been held up by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

"Failure to act together with the global community will all but ensure more devastating impacts and even irreversible climate tipping points," Dahl warned. "In 2022, we need bold leaders who prioritize the well-being of people and the planet, not incrementalism or regression from those beholden to the fossil fuel industry."

The government analyses and resulting calls for action come as a record number of U.S. adults are worried about the climate emergency, according to polling results released Thursday by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.

Surveys conducted from October 2008 to September 2021 grouped respondents into six categories. As the researchers explained in a statement:

The Alarmed are the most engaged, are very worried about global warming, and strongly support climate action. The Concerned think global warming is a significant threat but prioritize it less and are less likely to be taking action. The Cautious are aware of climate change but are uncertain about its causes and are not very worried about it. The Disengaged are largely unaware of global warming, while the Doubtful doubt it is happening or human-caused and perceive it as a low risk. The Dismissive firmly reject the reality of human-caused global warming and oppose most climate change policies.

In the most recent poll, the researchers noted, "the Alarmed (33%) outnumber the Dismissive (9%) by more than 3 to 1" and "about six in 10 Americans (59%) are either Alarmed or Concerned, while only about 2 in 10 (19%) are Doubtful or Dismissive."

six categories

Over the past five years, the Alarmed segment has nearly doubled, jumping from 18% to 33%, including a rise of nine percentage points between March and September of last year.

"Americans' understanding of global warming's reality and risks, and support for climate action is growing," the researchers said. "The growth of the Alarmed segment, in particular, is encouraging because progress on climate change requires strong, coordinated, and sustained action, and the Alarmed are the most likely to demand and support these actions by leaders."

five year trend

However, the researchers also warned that climate-minded people nationwide still need to be "organized and mobilized to demand action at all levels of American society."

"The Concerned and Cautious (42% of U.S. adults) do not yet fully understand the threat of climate impacts or the urgency of climate action," they pointed out, "despite the fact that global warming is already harming communities across America—including increasingly extreme weather, impacts on human health, and human and economic disasters."

Manchin called out for 'operating in bad faith' after reportedly no longer supporting his own BBB counteroffer

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin came under fire Saturday after The Washington Post reported that the West Virginia Democrat "does not currently support" passing even his own recent $1.8 trillion counteroffer to President Joe Biden's Build Back Better agenda.

"Sen. Manchin is operating in bad faith," tweeted Nida Allam, a progressive congressional candidate in North Carolina. "We need to be electing Democrats who are accountable to the American people and working families—not Dems who are reneging on deals which would support millions."

Journalist Judd Legum, who runs the newsletter Popular Information, said that "if you were a fossil fuel lobbyist and had to construct an ideal strategy not only to kill BBB but to gum up the works for as long as possible it would look a lot like what Manchin has been doing."

In a secretly recorded conversation published last summer by Unearthed, Greenpeace U.K.'s investigative journalism arm, a lobbyist for fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil said of Manchin, "I talk to his office every week."

Since then, House Democrats have passed a watered-down version of the Build Back Better package. However, progressives within and beyond Congress have grown increasingly alarmed about the bill's future, especially after the lower chamber caved to a few members of their own party and decoupled it from bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), one of the six progressives to oppose the decoupling, warned at the time that "passing the infrastructure bill without passing the Build Back Better Act first risks leaving behind child care, paid leave, healthcare, climate action, housing, education, and a roadmap to citizenship."

Noting the new reporting, former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner said Saturday that "the Squad was right to not trust Joe Manchin."

Manchin—who, along with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), has long held up a vote on the Build Back Better Act in the upper chamber—confirmed Tuesday that he is not currently talking with the White House about the package, telling reporters that "there is no negotiation going on at this time."

Citing three unnamed sources, the Post's Jeff Stein revealed that "privately, he has also made clear that he is not interested in approving legislation resembling Biden's Build Back Better package and that Democrats should fundamentally rethink their approach."

"Senior Democrats say they do not believe Manchin would support his offer even if the White House tried adopting it in full—at least not at the moment—following the fallout in mid-December," Stein continued, referencing a pair of White House statements that called out the senator by name and a Fox News appearance in which Manchin blasted the bill.

In response to Stein's revelation that Manchin's offer "may no longer be on the table," Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News tweeted that "it's definitely not."

"As of now, I have no reporting that Manchin will get back up to [$1.8 trillion]. I talk to him nearly every day and he continues to be exceedingly skeptical of anything," Sherman said. "Now, could something happen? Sure. Could it happen at [$1.8 trillion]? Maybe. Is that likely today? It doesn't seem so."

Along with cutting the expanded child tax credit, "Manchin's offer included no funding for housing and no funding for racial equity initiatives," according to the Post. His proposal also retained tax increases opposed by Sinema, and though it featured "substantial new climate funds, the underlying policy details of his proposed climate provisions remain unclear and could have proved difficult for the White House to ultimately accept."

Getting the Build Back Better Act through the Senate requires support from every single member of the Democratic caucus. Though they can use the budget reconciliation process for that package, other bills are being blocked by the legislative filibuster—which Democrats could abolish with majority support, but Manchin and Sinema oppose doing so.

With the Build Back Better agenda stalled, Senate Democrats have shifted their focus to voting rights legislation. While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) recently vowed to change the chamber's rules to advance such bills by January 17, progressives argue picking between the sweeping package and protecting U.S. democracy is a "false choice."

Progressive campaigners plan to keep pushing for Congress to get the Build Back Better Act to Biden's desk, Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, told the Post.

"The policies we're fighting for—like letting Medicare negotiate prices—are incredibly popular in West Virginia, and Manchin is clearly not listening to people in his state," he said. "Biden has to bring the full weight of the presidency to bear on Joe Manchin to get his vote to get Build Back Better across the finish line."

"I know the grassroots are not in any way giving up on Joe Manchin," Lawson added, "and we'll make it harder and harder for him to not listen to what the people in West Virginia are demanding he do."

Our Revolution agreed that the president "must use his power to deliver his full agenda," declaring that "it's the bare minimum to address the crises we face and begin to restore the trust of voters."

This post has been updated with comment from Our Revolution.

These major corporations have 'broken promises and funded seditionists' since Jan. 6: reports

A pair of watchdog groups on Monday called out companies and trade groups that continued to financially support the 147 congressional Republicans who voted last year to overturn the 2020 presidential election results even after the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The government watchdog group Accountable.US released an interactive report entitled In Bad Company, which focuses on 20 Fortune 500 companies and 10 industry groups that have contributed over $3.3 million to the eight senators and 139 representatives collectively dubbed the "Sedition Caucus" since a right-wing mob stormed the Capitol last year.

Companies profiled by Accountable.US range from fossil fuel and pharmaceutical giants such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, Merck, and Pfizer, to the shipping companies FedEx and UPS, to six major military contractors: Boeing, General Dynamics, L3Harris Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon Technologies.

"Major corporations were quick to condemn the insurrection and tout their support for democracy—and almost as quickly, many ditched those purported values by cutting big checks to the very politicians that helped instigate the failed coup attempt," said Accountable.US president Kyle Herrig.

Herrig argued that corporations continuing to donate to lawmakers "who tried to overthrow the will of the people makes clear that these companies were never committed to standing up for democracy in the first place."

Some members of the Sedition Caucus still cling to former President Donald Trump's "Big Lie" that the 2020 election involved widespread voter fraud and was stolen from him—a baseless claim that led to the Capitol attack and, ultimately, Trump's historic second impeachment.

Meanwhile, American voters, progressive lawmakers, and experts within and beyond the United States continue to sound the alarm about the state of the "backsliding" U.S. democracy.

"Even as democracy continues to be in the crosshairs of powerful purveyors of the Big Lie," Herrig said Monday, "these CEOs would rather amass political influence than stand up for their customers, shareholders, and employees."

The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) also released a new report—authored by Angela Li and Areeba Shah—detailing how corporate donors have "broken promises and funded seditionists" in the aftermath of the Capitol attack.

"Since the insurrection, 717 corporations and industry groups have donated over $18 million to 143 of the 147 members of Congress who objected to the results of the 2020 presidential election, as well as the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee," according to CREW.

Li and Shah found that despite pledging to stop or halt donations to the Sedition Caucus, reviewed companies "have contributed a total of $4,785,000 to insurrectionist political groups, including $2,381,250 directly" to lawmakers' campaigns and political action committees (PACs).

"Boeing ($346,500), Koch Industries ($308,000), American Crystal Sugar ($285,000), General Dynamics ($233,500), and Valero Energy ($207,500) are the top corporate donors to those who objected to the election and their party committees," the report says.

The report also blasts trade associations, noting that "PACs affiliated with these groups have contributed $7,678,598 to insurrectionist political groups, including $5,251,098 to campaigns and leadership PACs directly."

While slamming the companies that "have failed to stick to their commitments to democracy," CREW's report also stresses that "it isn't all bad news," explaining that "more than half of the nearly 250 companies that said they would evaluate their political giving in the wake of the attack have not made a donation to seditionists since."

"Toyota stopped giving to seditionist members as a result of public pressure and after receiving pushback from CREW. Hewlett Packard and Charles Schwab shut down their PACs entirely," the report notes, adding that Hallmark Cards even requested that Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) return its PAC's donations.

"These examples show accountability is possible," the report says, "and highlight the failures of companies who have continued to support the Sedition Caucus."

Leading up to the first anniversary of the Capitol attack, demands for accountability and scrutiny of political contributions to Big Lie supporters have increased. However, as Judd Legum pointed out Monday in his newsletter Popular Information, a false narrative about the overall state of corporate giving post-insurrection has emerged.

In response to recent reporting that "relies on anecdotal evidence," Popular Information revealed that based on Federal Election Commission filings in 2021 and 2019, "since January 6, corporate PAC contributions to Republican objectors have plummeted by nearly two-thirds."

Legum focused on House members who ran as incumbents in 2019 and were seeking reelection in 2021, and found that "these 94 Republican objectors raised $11,052,925 from corporate PACs through November 30, 2021, the most recent data available."

"The same 94 Republican objectors raised $27,205,290 from corporate PACs through November 30, 2019," he explained. "So while the media narrative is that corporate PAC contributions to Republican objectors have returned to normal, the reality is that they've dropped by 60%."

While exposing that "most corporate PACs have not 'moved beyond' January 6 and, as a result, many Republican incumbents face fundraising deficits," Legum also emphasized that if they "shift their normal donations to Republican objectors from 2021 to 2022, the freeze will not be meaningful."

'A platform to spread lies': Media watchdogs warn networks against uncritical airing of Trump’s Jan. 6 event

In the lead-up to the first anniversary of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol later this week, media watchdogs are warning news networks and journalists against uncritical live coverage of Donald Trump's planned press conference and the lies the disgraced former president is expected to spew.

"Donald Trump's January 6 press event should be recognized for what it is: an opportunity for Trump to lie to downplay the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and set up his 2024 presidential campaign," said Angelo Carusone, president of watchdog Media Matters for America, in a Monday statement.

He stressed that "it is critical that news networks do the right thing—refuse to carry it live, so they do not uncritically promote the lies and disinformation that is generated from Trump's speech in real time."

"Trump has a well-established pattern of lying every time he opens his mouth," Carusone noted. "He has also had ample opportunities to weigh in on the insurrection—including when Fox hosts begged Trump to take action in real time to stop the riot. To give Trump a platform to spread lies and misinformation on this tragic anniversary would be to repeat the very mistakes that helped foment the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in the first place."

Carusone echoed the recommendations of New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen, who writes and edits the blog PressThink.

In a Sunday tweet, Rosen urged against carrying Trump's speech live or amplifying the former president's go-to lies that have been debunked.

Asked by a Twitter user why journalists and news outlets struggle with practices that seem "so simple and so obvious," Rosen responded: "Because the practice on view here—newsworthiness—is an incoherent grab bag of factors that doesn't take into account the damage a demagogue can do to the public sphere, or the truth value of an event. And because this particular speaker can be 'good' at lurid spectacle."

Some networks and journalists called out Trump's lies while he served as president. CNN reporter Daniel Dale used to be at the Toronto Star, "where he was the first journalist to fact-check every false statement" from Trump—who tends to push back against any critical coverage with the term "fake news."

Two days after the 2020 presidential election, before the race was widely called for President Joe Biden, multiple major U.S. networks cut away from a live speech in which Trump made several false claims, including that he had won reelection—lies that were repeated by his allies in Congress and beyond.

Trump also circulated his lies about the security and outcome of the election during a speech at a January 6 rally that occurred as Congress was in the process of certifying Biden's win—and dozens of Republicans were baselessly contesting the results.

"Now, it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy. And after this, we're going to walk down, and I'll be there with you," Trump told the crowd nearly a year ago. "We're going to walk down to the Capitol, and we're going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women, and we're probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them."

Trump did not join his supporters in storming the Capitol, but lawmakers accused him of inciting the violence and his speech ultimately led to his historic second impeachment.

Despite his loss and two impeachments—along with facing civil and criminal investigations—75-year-old Trump is widely expected to run for president again in 2024, and political observers have long warned that his Big Lie about 2020 was just the beginning.

In a December 21 statement, Trump not only continued to lie about the election results but also blasted the House panel investigating the deadly Capitol attack, slammed so-called "Republicans in name only" (RINOs), and promoted his upcoming event. He said in part:

Why isn't the Unselect Committee of highly partisan political hacks investigating the CAUSE of the January 6th protest, which was the rigged Presidential Election of 2020? ...I will be having a news conference on January 6th at Mar-a-Lago to discuss all of these points, and more. Until then, remember, the insurrection took place on November 3rd, it was the completely unarmed protest of the rigged election that took place on January 6th.

As Newsweek reports, Trump's plan to host a press conference on Thursday has even been criticized by Republicans, including a former White House aide from his administration.

Trump's event is scheduled for 5:00 pm—a half-hour before a congressional prayer vigil at the U.S. Capitol is set to start, meaning the ex-president is expected to provide, in the words of Politico's David Siders, "a vivid split-screen moment."

The January 6 anniversary comes amid rising concern about the state of U.S. democracy as well as outrage over failures by congressional Democrats and the Biden administration to take real action to protect it.

The results of an NPR/Ipsos poll released Monday show that a majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans believe that U.S. democracy—and the nation—are "in crisis and at risk of failing."

While voters across the political spectrum are worried, the new survey found that unlike Democrats and Independents, less than half of Republicans accept the results of the 2020 presidential election, even though Trump's own officials attested to its security.

Chuck Schumer sends out a shot across the bow to Republicans over the filibuster

Just days before the first anniversary of a right-wing attack on the U.S. Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday announced a new deadline for Democrats to change the upper chamber's rules to end Republican obstruction of pro-democracy legislation.

"We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a letter to Democratic senators. "But if they do not, the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections."

Along with outlining the "next steps on urgently needed voting rights legislation," Schumer called out the GOP for not only blocking multiple bills but also engaging in other attacks on U.S. democracy—including claiming that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, the "Big Lie" that encouraged a mob to invade the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

"As we all are witnessing, the attacks on our democracy have not ceased. In fact, they have only accelerated," Schumer wrote. "Much like the violent insurrectionists who stormed the U.S. Capitol nearly one year ago, Republican officials in states across the country have seized on the former president's Big Lie about widespread voter fraud to enact anti-democratic legislation and seize control of typically nonpartisan election administration functions."

"Let me be clear: January 6th was a symptom of a broader illness—an effort to delegitimize our election process," he continued, "and the Senate must advance systemic democracy reforms to repair our republic or else the events of that day will not be an aberration—they will be the new norm."

Schumer is far from alone in issuing such a warning. According to a Brennan Center for Justice analysis published last month, the GOP's "tidal wave of restrictive voting legislation" is expected to continue this year after at least 19 states enacted 34 voter suppression laws in 2021.

GOP anti-voter laws and gerrymandering have fueled demands—including in a letter from 60 progressive groups on Monday—for Senate Democrats to reform or abolish the filibuster so they can pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the House-approved John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, both of which were blocked by the chamber's Republicans last year.

Though Schumer's letter did not specifically mention the filibuster—which enables the GOP to block most legislation—he wrote:

The Senate was designed to protect the political rights of the minority in the chamber, through the promise of debate and the opportunity to amend. But over the years, those rights have been warped and contorted to obstruct and embarrass the will of [the] majority—something our founders explicitly opposed. The Constitution specified what measures demanded a supermajority—including impeachment or the ratification of treaties. But they explicitly rejected supermajority requirements for legislation, having learned firsthand of such a requirement's defects under the Articles of Confederation. The weaponization of rules once meant to short-circuit obstruction have been hijacked to guarantee obstruction.
We must ask ourselves: if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the State level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States Senate to do the same?

"We must adapt," the Democratic leader declared. "The Senate must evolve."

The primary barriers to filibuster reform have been Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

Politico reports that Democratic lawmakers have "met quietly with Manchin to gauge his openness to changing Senate rules," and "while an outright elimination is off the table, Democrats are trying to see whether Manchin and Sinema are open to other proposals, like bringing back the talking filibuster."

Responding to Schumer's announcement in a statement Monday, Martin Luther King III, chairman of the Drum Major Institute, said that "there is no better way to honor my father's legacy than protecting the right to vote for all Americans."

"The King holiday is historically a day of service, and we hope the United States Senate will serve our democracy by passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act," he added. "We applaud Sen. Schumer for his commitment to expanding voting rights, but we won't halt our plans for action until legislation has been signed."

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