in Brief: June 9, 2021

Biden ends GOP infrastructure talks, starts new negotiations

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden ended talks with a group of Republican senators on a big infrastructure package on Tuesday and started reaching out to senators from both parties in a new effort toward bipartisan compromise, setting a summer deadline for Congress to pass his top legislative priority.

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The president is walking away from talks with lead Republican negotiator Sen. Shelley Moore Capito after the two spoke Tuesday, but would welcome her in the new bipartisan group, according to an administrative official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private negotiations.

At the same time, with anxiety running high as time slips by, Democrats are laying the groundwork to pass some or all of the ambitious package on their own. Biden conferred Tuesday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about launching the budget resolution process for Senate votes in July, the White House said.

“The President is committed to moving his economic legislation through Congress this summer, and is pursuing multiple paths to get this done,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

US increasingly unlikely to meet Biden’s July 4 vaccines goal

WASHINGTON — For months, President Joe Biden has laid out goal after goal for taming the coronavirus pandemic and then exceeded his own benchmarks. Now, though, the U.S. is unlikely to meet his target to have 70% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4.

The White House has launched a month-long blitz to combat vaccine hesitancy and a lack of urgency to get shots, particularly in the South and Midwest, but it is increasingly resigned to missing the president’s vaccination target. The administration insists that even if the goal isn’t reached, it will have little effect on the overall U.S. recovery, which is already ahead of where Biden said it would be months ago.

About 15.5 million unvaccinated adults need to receive at least one dose in the next four weeks for Biden to meet his goal. But the pace of new vaccinations in the U.S. has dropped below 400,000 people per day — down from a high of nearly 2 million per day two months ago.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday that he still hopes the goal will be met “and if we don’t, we’re going to continue to keep pushing.”

So far 14 states have reached 70% coverage among adults, with about a dozen more on pace to reach the milestone by July 4. But the state-to-state variation is stark.

McAuliffe wins Democratic nomination for Virginia governor

RICHMOND, Va. — Terry McAuliffe, the energetic former Virginia governor and longtime fixture of Democratic politics, won the party’s nomination Tuesday in his quest for a second term in office.

McAuliffe will go on to face GOP nominee and political newcomer Glenn Youngkin in the November general election, when Republicans will be looking to break their more than decade-long losing streak in statewide races.

“Folks, we launched this campaign about six months ago on the simple idea that Virginia has some very big challenges ahead,” McAuliffe said in a speech Tuesday night. “And I’ve said, we’ve got to go big, we’ve got to be bold, and we need seasoned leadership to move us forward and to lift up all Virginians.”

Virginia is the only state in the nation with an open race for governor this year, and the contest is expected to be closely watched as a barometer of voter sentiment in each party heading into the midterm elections.

The race has also taken on heightened importance as Democrats aim to hold onto power after assuming full control of state government in 2020. Since then they have pushed through sweeping changes, from gun control and police reform to marijuana legalization and a higher minimum wage, transforming what was once a reliably red state into an outlier in the South.

Senate report details broad failures around Jan. 6 attack

WASHINGTON — A Senate investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol found a broad intelligence breakdown across multiple agencies, along with widespread law enforcement and military failures that led to the violent attack.

There were clear warnings and tips that supporters of former President Donald Trump, including right-wing extremist groups, were planning to “storm the Capitol” with weapons and possibly infiltrate the tunnel system underneath the building. But that intelligence never made it up to top leadership.

The result was chaos. A Senate report released Tuesday details how officers on the front lines suffered chemical burns, brain injuries and broken bones, among other injuries, after fighting the attackers, who quickly overwhelmed them and broke into the building. Officers told the Senate investigators they were left with no leadership or direction when command systems broke down.

From wire sources

The Senate report is the first — and could be the last — bipartisan review of how hundreds of Trump supporters were able to push violently past security lines and break into the Capitol that day, interrupting the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. The failures detailed in the report highlighted how, almost 20 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. intelligence agencies are still beset by a fundamental issue: a failure of imagination.

The report recommends immediate changes to give the Capitol Police chief more authority, to provide better planning and equipment for law enforcement and to streamline intelligence gathering among federal agencies.

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Deputies who killed man had body cams, couldn’t use them

WASHINGTON — The two sheriff’s deputies who shot and killed a Black man while assigned to a U.S. Marshals Service fugitive task force had been told they could not use their body-worn cameras, despite a change in Justice Department policy to allow cameras months before the shooting.

The shooting of Winston Boogie Smith Jr. last week has sparked nights of protests in Minneapolis — a city still reeling from the death of George Floyd at the hands of police — and is raising questions about the implementation of a Justice Department policy change that shifted away from its longstanding rule prohibiting the tool.

Last October, the Justice Department formalized a new policy to allow local officers to wear body cameras during joint operations, reversing a policy that had strained its relationship with some law enforcement agencies. They sent guidance out to all U.S. Marshals across the country and opened an office dedicated to supporting the effort. The issue had previously hit such a boiling point that Atlanta’s police chief had withdrawn city police officers from federal task forces over the issue.

In February, the Marshals Service, which has a network of fugitive task forces nationwide with local law enforcement, sent guidance to state and local officials about how they could equip their officers with cameras and the necessary paperwork allowing the footage, according to a Justice Department official who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. The process, though, can take months to train officers on federal policy and because of the variety of cameras used by police departments in the U.S. and the complexity of data collection.

In Minnesota, federal officials began in February contacting agencies that had already dropped out of the task force over the issue to try to bring them back aboard, the Justice Department official said. Some agencies said they were still told cameras weren’t allowed, or they weren’t made aware of the complex legal process required to actually allow task force officers to wear the cameras. Under the new rule, local law enforcement agencies could equip their officers with body cameras, though they need to sign an amendment to the legal paperwork between the agency and the Marshals Service.

Senate passes bill to boost US tech industry, counter rivals

WASHINGTON — The Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Tuesday that aims to boost U.S. semiconductor production and the development of artificial intelligence and other technology in the face of growing international competition, most notably from China.

The 68-32 vote for the bill demonstrates how confronting China economically is an issue that unites both parties in Congress. That’s a rarity in an era of division as pressure grows on Democrats to change Senate rules to push past Republican opposition and gridlock.

The centerpiece of the bill is a $50 billion emergency allotment to the Commerce Department to stand up semiconductor development and manufacturing through research and incentive programs previously authorized by Congress. The bill’s overall cost would increase spending by about $250 billion with most of the spending occurring in the first five years.

Supporters described it as the biggest investment in scientific research that the country has seen in decades. It comes as the nation’s share of semiconductor manufacturing globally has steadily eroded from 37% in 1990 to about 12% now, and as a chip shortage has exposed vulnerabilities in the U.S. supply chain.

“The premise is simple, if we want American workers and American companies to keep leading the world, the federal government must invest in science, basic research and innovation, just as we did decades after the Second World War,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “Whoever wins the race to the technologies of the future is going to be the global economic leader with profound consequences for foreign policy and national security as well.”

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Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic loses genocide appeal

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Ratko Mladic, the military chief known as the “Butcher of Bosnia” for orchestrating genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Balkan nation’s 1992-95 war, lost his final legal battle Tuesday when U.N. judges rejected his appeals and affirmed his life sentence.

The ruling involving his 2017 convictions and sentence closed a grim chapter in European history that included the continent’s first genocide since World War II — the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

The now-frail Mladic, often belligerent at his court appearances in The Hague, showed no reaction other than a scowl as Presiding Judge Prisca Matimba Nyambe of Zambia said the panel had dismissed, by a vote of 4-1, his appeals of convictions for crimes including genocide, murder, extermination and terror for atrocities throughout the war that killed more than 100,000 and left millions homeless.

The 79-year-old former general is the last major figure to face justice from the conflict that ended more than a quarter century ago.

His former political chief, ex-Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, already is serving a life sentence after being convicted for the same crimes. Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who was accused of fomenting the ethnic conflicts that tore apart the Balkans in the 1990s, died in a U.N. cell in 2006 before judges at his trial could reach verdicts.

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ProPublica: Many of the uber-rich pay next to no income tax

WASHINGTON — The rich really are different from you and me: They’re better at dodging the tax collector.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos paid no income tax in 2007 and 2011. Tesla founder Elon Musk’s income tax bill was zero in 2018. And financier George Soros went three straight years without paying federal income tax, according to a report Tuesday from the nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica.

Overall, the richest 25 Americans pay less in tax — an average of 15.8% of adjusted gross income — than many ordinary workers do, once you include taxes for Social Security and Medicare, ProPublica found. Its findings are likely to heighten a national debate over the vast and widening inequality between the very wealthiest Americans and everyone else.

An anonymous source delivered to ProPublica reams of Internal Revenue Service data on the country’s wealthiest people, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. ProPublica compared the tax data it received with information available from other sources. It reported that “in every instance we were able to check — involving tax filings by more than 50 separate people — the details provided to ProPublica matched the information from other sources.”

Using perfectly legal tax strategies, many of the uber-rich are able to shrink their federal tax bills to nothing or close to it.

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French leader Macron slapped in face on visit to small town

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron denounced “violence” and “stupidity” after he was slapped in the face Tuesday by a man during a visit to a small town in southeastern France.

The incident prompted a wide show of support for the head of state from politicians across the ideological spectrum.

Macron was greeting the public waiting for him behind barriers in the town of Tain-l’Hermitage after he visited a high school.

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Two videos show a man slapping Macron in the face and his bodyguards pushing the assaulter away as the French leader is quickly rushed from the scene.

“I’m always going to meet people,” Macron told reporters on Tuesday evening, as he was greeting a crowd in the nearby city of Valence, accompanied this time by his wife, Brigitte Macron.

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