Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022 |
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Biden announces huge infrastructure plan to ‘win the future’
PITTSBURGH — President Joe Biden outlined a huge $2.3 trillion plan Wednesday to re-engineer the nation’s infrastructure in what he billed as “a once-in-a-generation investment in America” that would undo his predecessor’s signature legislative achievement — giant tax cuts for corporations — in the process.
Speaking at a carpenters union training center in Pittsburgh, Biden drew comparisons between his hard-hatted proposed transformation of the U.S. economy and the space race — and promised results as grand in scale as the New Deal or Great Society programs that shaped the 20th century.
“It’s not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” Biden said. “It’s a once-in-a-generation investment in America unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago. In fact, it’s the largest American jobs investment since World War II. It will create millions of jobs, good-paying jobs.”
White House officials say the spending would generate those jobs as the country shifts away from fossil fuels and combats the perils of climate change. It is also an effort to compete with the technology and public investments made by China, which has the world’s second-largest economy and is fast gaining on the United States’ dominant position.
“I’m convinced that if we act now, in 50 years people are going to look back and say this is the moment when America won the future,” Biden said.
Reversing Trump, Pentagon releases new transgender policies
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Wednesday swept away Trump-era policies that largely banned transgender people from serving in the military, issuing new rules that offer them wider access to medical care and assistance with gender transition.
The new department regulations allow transgender people who meet military standards to enlist and serve openly in their self-identified gender, and they will be able to get medically necessary transition-related care authorized by law, chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters during a briefing.
The changes come after a two-month Pentagon review aimed at developing guidelines for the new policy, which was announced by President Joe Biden just days after he took office in January.
Biden’s executive order overturned the Trump policy and immediately prohibited any service member from being forced out of the military on the basis of gender identity. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin then gave the Pentagon two months to finalize the more detailed regulations that the military services will follow.
The new rules also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Their release Wednesday coincides with International Transgender Day of Visibility, and they will take effect in 30 days. Kirby said that will give the military services the time they need to update their policies and provide guidance to commanders.
Gaetz staying on Judiciary panel, despite investigation
WASHINGTON — Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a prominent, outspoken conservative and a close ally of former President Donald Trump who has been under federal investigation for a former relationship, would lose his House seat if convicted of a felony. But there are no rules addressing lawmakers under investigation.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday that Gaetz would be removed from his committees if the charges were proven, but sidestepped the issue of what to do while the case is ongoing. Democrats called for him to step aside from the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Justice Department.
“Those are serious implications,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said on Fox News. “If it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that was the case. But right now Matt Gaetz says it is not true, and we don’t have any information. So let’s get all the information.”
Gaetz, who represents parts of western Florida, has known for months that he was under federal investigation over accusations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid her to travel with him, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
From wire sources
During that time, he has remained on both the House Armed Services Committee and on the Judiciary Committee, which has congressional oversight of the Justice Department. He has been one of Trump’s most vocal defenders on the Judiciary panel, fiercely defending the former president through two impeachments and other investigations.
Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine protects younger teens
Pfizer announced Wednesday that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and strongly protective in kids as young as 12, a step toward possibly beginning shots in this age group before they head back to school in the fall.
Most COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out worldwide are for adults, who are at higher risk from the coronavirus. Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for ages 16 and older. But vaccinating children of all ages will be critical to stopping the pandemic — and helping schools, at least the upper grades, start to look a little more normal after months of disruption.
In the vaccine study of 2,260 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15, preliminary data showed there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared to 18 among those given dummy shots, Pfizer reported.
It’s a small study, that hasn’t yet been published, so another important piece of evidence is how well the shots revved up the kids’ immune systems. Researchers reported high levels of virus-fighting antibodies, somewhat higher than were seen in studies of young adults.
Kids had side effects similar to young adults, the company said. The main side effects are pain, fever, chills and fatigue, particularly after the second dose. The study will continue to track participants for two years for more information about long-term protection and safety.
Ex-cop told onlooker Floyd was big, ‘probably on something’
MINNEAPOLIS — After the ambulance took George Floyd away, the Minneapolis officer who had pinned his knee on the Black man’s neck defended himself to a bystander by saying Floyd was “a sizable guy” and “probably on something,” according to police video played in court Wednesday.
The video was part of a mountain of footage — both official and amateur — and witness testimony at Officer Derek Chauvin ‘s murder trial that all together showed how Floyd’s alleged attempt to pass a phony $20 bill at a neighborhood market last May escalated into tragedy one video-documented step at a time.
A security-camera scene of people joking around inside the store soon gave way to the sight of officers pulling Floyd from his SUV at gunpoint, struggling to push him into a squad car as he writhed and screamed that he was claustrophobic, and then putting him on the pavement.
When Floyd was finally taken away by paramedics, Charles McMillian, a 61-year-old bystander who recognized Chauvin from the neighborhood, told the officer he didn’t respect what Chauvin had done.
“That’s one person’s opinion,” Chauvin could be heard responding. “We gotta control this guy ‘cause he’s a sizable guy … and it looks like he’s probably on something.”
Under pressure, some Ga. corporate leaders slam voting bill
ATLANTA — Some of Georgia’s most prominent corporate leaders on Wednesday began to more forcefully criticize the state’s sweeping new election law, acknowledging concerns of civil rights activists and Black business executives who say the measure targets non-white voters and threatens the democratic process.
The chief executives of Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola pivoted from earlier, more equivocal statements and called the law “unacceptable,” opening an unusual rift with Republican leaders who championed the legislation and typically enjoy a cozy relationship with the state’s business community.
The business lobby in Georgia, home to 18 Fortune 500 companies, wields significant clout in state politics. Civil rights activists blamed influential executives for not helping spike the new law that’s become a focal point in the nationwide, partisan fight over voting rights, and there is rising pressure nationally on corporate titans to defend voting rights more explicitly and oppose Republican efforts in states that could follow Georgia’s lead. Delta’s and Coca-Cola’s latest declarations could push Georgia’s other marquee brands, including UPS and Home Depot, to take a stronger stand.
“Delta’s statement finally tells the truth — even if it’s late,” said Nsé Ufot of the New Georgia Project, which has launched an ad campaign targeting major corporations.
After Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the new law last week, Delta issued a statement promoting parts of the law such as expanded weekend voting, but said “we understand concerns remain over other provisions … and there continues to be work ahead in this important effort.”
Imprisoned Palestinian leader’s entry shakes up planned vote
RAMALLAH, West Bank — A popular Palestinian leader imprisoned by Israel has registered his own parliamentary list in May elections, his supporters said Wednesday, in a last-minute shakeup that could severely weaken President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party and help its militant Hamas rivals.
Marwan Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, registered the list hours before the deadline set by the election commission. Polls indicate it would split the vote for Fatah, potentially paving the way for another major victory by Hamas. That increases the likelihood that Abbas will find a way to call off the first Palestinian elections in 15 years.
Barghouti, 61, a former Fatah militant commander, is serving five life sentences in Israel following a 2004 terrorism conviction. But he remains a popular and charismatic leader, and by breaking with Abbas he could reshape Palestinian politics and potentially replace him as president.
His entry reflects growing frustration with Abbas, who has presided over an increasingly authoritarian and unpopular Palestinian Authority that has failed to achieve national unity or advance Palestinian hopes for an independent state.
It’s unclear how Barghouti’s rise would affect relations with Israel. Both he and Abbas want a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, but there have been no substantive peace talks in over a decade. Israel is unlikely to release Barghouti regardless of his political fortunes, and may refuse to engage with a leader it views as a terrorist.
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