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A GOP congressman says TikTok should be banned in the US and is introducing legislation to do so, calling the app "digital fentanyl"

On Fox's Sunday Morning Futures, Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher renewed his calls for a nationwide TikTok ban, saying the app is "addicting our kids." Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., walks down the House steps on Friday, September 30, 2022.Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images In a Fox News appearance, Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher renewed calls for a national ban on TikTok. Gallagher called the social media app "digital fentanyl" that is "addicting our kids." Gallagher and Sen. Marco Rubio introduced legislation to ban the app nationwide earlier this month. Wisconsin Representative Mike Gallagher on Sunday renewed his calls for a nationwide ban on the TikTok social media app, calling the platform "digital fentanyl" that is "addicting our kids.""TikTok should be banned," Gallagher said during the interview on Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures, promoting legislation he introduced with Senator Marco Rubio earlier this month to do just that, citing security concerns over potential user surveillance by employees of the China-based app."TikTok is digital fentanyl, addicting our kids," Gallagher added. "And just like actual fentanyl, it ultimately goes back to the Chinese Communist Party."According to data released by the Drug Enforcement Agency, China is a primary source country for fentanyl trafficked into the United States, though no direct link between the government of China and fentanyl illegally entering the country has been reported. While TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, is an independent business based in Beijing, the social app has faced controversy over its ties to the Chinese Communist Party before, with reports the platform has been used in collaboration with government officials to spread propaganda.Last month, additional reports surfaced of an internal team planning to use location information gathered from US users of the TikTok app for surveillance of American citizens."Tiktok is owned by ByteDance, ByteDance is controlled by the CCP, that means the CCP can track your location, it can track your keystrokes, it can censor your news — why would we give our foremost adversary that amount of power?" Gallagher added.TikTok's security concerns have long been the subject of scrutiny from both sides of the aisle: The Trump administration proposing a total ban of the app in 2020, while in 2021 the Biden administration promised a security review of foreign-owned apps. It has yet to publish results. In an op-ed published in The Washington Post earlier this month, Gallagher and Rubio called TikTok "a major threat to US national security" and urged the Biden administration and Congress to take action against the popular app. TikTok has been the most downloaded app in the US since 2021, according to data by TechCrunch.Representatives for Sen. Rubio and Rep. Gallagher did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 27th, 2022

Universities Are Banning TikTok on Their Campuses. Here’s Why

Texas A&M and the University of Oklahoma are among the universities that have banned TikTok from staff devices and blocked it on WiFi networks Public universities across the U.S. are banning their students’ beloved TikTok app from their schools. In some cases, this means no students, faculty members, staff, or visitors are able to access the short-form video platform on school devices or on the campus WiFi networks. At least 20 public universities have made the decision to ban the app from their servers or have recommended their students to remove the app from their personal devices, according to NBC News. Most of the universities are acting under pressure from state lawmakers—some of whom have passed laws banning TikTok from state-owned devices. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Auburn University, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas-Austin, and Texas A&M—the biggest college campus in the U.S.—are among the growing list. Why universities are banning TikTok The bans stem from security concerns regarding the app’s China-based parent company ByteDance. U.S. security experts are worried ByteDance could share its extensive collection of data on American users with the Chinese government. “We do have national security concerns,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray at a Homeland Security Committee hearing in November. “They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users.” In the past, U.S.-based executives in charge of TikTok have denied that the app is being influenced by Beijing. “The Chinese Communist Party has neither direct nor indirect control of ByteDance or TikTok,” the company said in a statement. “ByteDance is a private, global company, nearly 60 percent of which is owned by global institutional investors, with the rest owned primarily by the company’s founders and its employees—including thousands of Americans.” (U.S. skeptics say that China’s broad security laws would require ByteDance to share data with the Chinese government if asked.) More than 30 states have ramped up their efforts to limit access to the app and many public universities, which fall under the purview of state laws, are following suit. In the case of Texas A&M, one of the largest public universities in the country with nearly 75,000 students, TikTok has been totally banned. Even the university’s popular TikTok accounts are no exception. Their TAMU Physics & Astronomy page with over 1.5 million followers updated its bio to read, “We no longer post to TikTok. Check our YouTube for the latest videos!” Their last video upload on the platform was on Dec. 6. This decision from the Texas university came after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered TikTok to be banned from all Texas state agency devices. Now other large public universities are feeling pressure to do the same. The University of Florida recently said there’s a “strong possibility” they’ll also establish a ban. Attempts to limit access to the app on the federal level have existed for years. In 2020, former President President Donald Trump threatened to ban the app nationwide due to national security concerns. The Trump Administration also pushed for Bytedance to sell its U.S. operations to a U.S.-based company. Oracle and Walmart were among reported suitors, but no deal came to fruition. How students are reacting Students aren’t happy. “I didn’t think Texas public universities banning TikTok would have that much of an effect on me, but I’ve tried to open TikTok 3 times in the past 2 hours and she’s just… gone,” wrote Sidney Golden on Twitter. i didnt think texas public universities banning tiktok would have that much of an effect on me, but ive tried to open tiktok 3 times in the past 2 hours and shes just….. gone — sid 🤟 (@sidneygolden_) January 19, 2023 But as much as these universities are attempting to limit their student’s access to TikTok, they won’t be able to fully eliminate it from their phones. Many of users are still accessing the app via their cellular data, personal WiFi networks, or VPNs. Eric Aaberg, a student at the University of Austin, is still making TikToks on his personal page, but will no longer be able to work on the university’s mascot page, which he’s been helping to develop for years. “People loved it and now it just rots away,” he told his followers following his university’s ban. “I don’t care if you don’t like TikTok. This is my job. This is what I do for a living.” TikTok is one of the most popular social media apps in America—especially for Gen Z, which makes up the largest portion of current college students. The app has about 80 million monthly active users in the United States, 60% of whom are 16 and 24, according to digital marketing agency Wallaroo Media. Will the U.S. ban TikTok? Some restriction on the app at the federal level have been successful. In December, Congress successfully banned the Chinese-owned app from all federal government devices. “We’re disappointed that Congress has moved to ban TikTok on government devices — a political gesture that will do nothing to advance national security interests — rather than encouraging the Administration to conclude its national security review,” said Brooke Oberwetter, a TikTok spokesperson, following the passing of Congress’ bill. Questions remain on whether a federal ban of the platform would run afoul of free speech rights. In the meantime, a bipartisan bill in the U.S. House is calling for an outright ban of the app for all U.S. users due to concerns of China’s Communist Party having access to the app’s data. “It is time to ban Beijing-controlled TikTok for good,” said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in a press release on the legislation......»»

Category: topSource: timeJan 24th, 2023

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma"s Political Reach

The Anatomy Of Big Pharma's Political Reach Authored by Rebecca Strong via Medium.com, They keep telling us to “trust the science.” But who paid for it? After graduating from Columbia University with a chemical engineering degree, my grandfather went on to work for Pfizer for almost two decades, culminating his career as the company’s Global Director of New Products. I was rather proud of this fact growing up — it felt as if this father figure, who raised me for several years during my childhood, had somehow played a role in saving lives. But in recent years, my perspective on Pfizer — and other companies in its class — has shifted. Blame it on the insidious big pharma corruption laid bare by whistleblowers in recent years. Blame it on the endless string of big pharma lawsuits revealing fraud, deception, and cover-ups. Blame it on the fact that I witnessed some of their most profitable drugs ruin the lives of those I love most. All I know is, that pride I once felt has been overshadowed by a sticky skepticism I just can’t seem to shake. In 1973, my grandpa and his colleagues celebrated as Pfizer crossed a milestone: the one-billion-dollar sales mark. These days, Pfizer rakes in $81 billion a year, making it the 28th most valuable company in the world. Johnson & Johnson ranks 15th, with $93.77 billion. To put things into perspective, that makes said companies wealthier than most countries in the world. And thanks to those astronomical profit margins, the Pharmaceuticals and Health Products industry is able to spend more on lobbying than any other industry in America. While big pharma lobbying can take several different forms, these companies tend to target their contributions to senior legislators in Congress — you know, the ones they need to keep in their corner, because they have the power to draft healthcare laws. Pfizer has outspent its peers in six of the last eight election cycles, coughing up almost $9.7 million. During the 2016 election, pharmaceutical companies gave more than $7 million to 97 senators at an average of $75,000 per member. They also contributed $6.3 million to president Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign. The question is: what did big pharma get in return? When you've got 1,500 Big Pharma lobbyists on Capitol Hill for 535 members of Congress, it's not too hard to figure out why prescription drug prices in this country are, on average, 256% HIGHER than in other major countries. — Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 3, 2022 ALEC’s Off-the-Record Sway To truly grasp big pharma’s power, you need to understand how The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) works. ALEC, which was founded in 1973 by conservative activists working on Ronald Reagan’s campaign, is a super secretive pay-to-play operation where corporate lobbyists — including in the pharma sector — hold confidential meetings about “model” bills. A large portion of these bills is eventually approved and become law. A rundown of ALEC’s greatest hits will tell you everything you need to know about the council’s motives and priorities. In 1995, ALEC promoted a bill that restricts consumers’ rights to sue for damages resulting from taking a particular medication. They also endorsed the Statute of Limitation Reduction Act, which put a time limit on when someone could sue after a medication-induced injury or death. Over the years, ALEC has promoted many other pharma-friendly bills that would: weaken FDA oversight of new drugs and therapies, limit FDA authority over drug advertising, and oppose regulations on financial incentives for doctors to prescribe specific drugs. But what makes these ALEC collaborations feel particularly problematic is that there’s little transparency — all of this happens behind closed doors. Congressional leaders and other committee members involved in ALEC aren’t required to publish any records of their meetings and other communications with pharma lobbyists, and the roster of ALEC members is completely confidential. All we know is that in 2020, more than two-thirds of Congress — 72 senators and 302 House of Representatives members — cashed a campaign check from a pharma company. Big Pharma Funding Research The public typically relies on an endorsement from government agencies to help them decide whether or not a new drug, vaccine, or medical device is safe and effective. And those agencies, like the FDA, count on clinical research. As already established, big pharma is notorious for getting its hooks into influential government officials. Here’s another sobering truth: The majority of scientific research is paid for by — wait for it — the pharmaceutical companies. When the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published 73 studies of new drugs over the course of a single year, they found that a staggering 82% of them had been funded by the pharmaceutical company selling the product, 68% had authors who were employees of that company, and 50% had lead researchers who accepted money from a drug company. According to 2013 research conducted at the University of Arizona College of Law, even when pharma companies aren’t directly funding the research, company stockholders, consultants, directors, and officers are almost always involved in conducting them. A 2017 report by the peer-reviewed journal The BMJ also showed that about half of medical journal editors receive payments from drug companies, with the average payment per editor hovering around $28,000. But these statistics are only accurate if researchers and editors are transparent about payments from pharma. And a 2022 investigative analysis of two of the most influential medical journals found that 81% of study authors failed to disclose millions in payments from drug companies, as they’re required to do. Unfortunately, this trend shows no sign of slowing down. The number of clinical trials funded by the pharmaceutical industry has been climbing every year since 2006, according to a John Hopkins University report, while independent studies have been harder to find. And there are some serious consequences to these conflicts of interest. Take Avandia, for instance, a diabetes drug produced by GlaxoSmithCline (GSK). Avandia was eventually linked to a dramatically increased risk of heart attacks and heart failure. And a BMJ report revealed that almost 90% of scientists who initially wrote glowing articles about Avandia had financial ties to GSK. But here’s the unnerving part: if the pharmaceutical industry is successfully biasing the science, then that means the physicians who rely on the science are biased in their prescribing decisions. Photo credit: UN Women Europe & Central Asia Where the lines get really blurry is with “ghostwriting.” Big pharma execs know citizens are way more likely to trust a report written by a board-certified doctor than one of their representatives. That’s why they pay physicians to list their names as authors — even though the MDs had little to no involvement in the research, and the report was actually written by the drug company. This practice started in the ’50s and ’60s when tobacco execs were clamoring to prove that cigarettes didn’t cause cancer (spoiler alert: they do!), so they commissioned doctors to slap their name on papers undermining the risks of smoking. It’s still a pretty common tactic today: more than one in 10 articles published in the NEJM was co-written by a ghostwriter. While a very small percentage of medical journals have clear policies against ghostwriting, it’s still technically legal —despite the fact that the consequences can be deadly. Case in point: in the late ’90s and early 2000s, Merck paid for 73 ghostwritten articles to play up the benefits of its arthritis drug Vioxx. It was later revealed that Merck failed to report all of the heart attacks experienced by trial participants. In fact, a study published in the NEJM revealed that an estimated 160,000 Americans experienced heart attacks or strokes from taking Vioxx. That research was conducted by Dr. David Graham, Associate Director of the FDA’s Office of Drug Safety, who understandably concluded the drug was not safe. But the FDA’s Office of New Drugs, which not only was responsible for initially approving Vioxx but also regulating it, tried to sweep his findings under the rug. "I was pressured to change my conclusions and recommendations, and basically threatened that if I did not change them, I would not be permitted to present the paper at the conference," he wrote in his 2004 U.S. Senate testimony on Vioxx. "One Drug Safety manager recommended that I should be barred from presenting the poster at the meeting." Eventually, the FDA issued a public health advisory about Vioxx and Merck withdrew this product. But it was a little late for repercussions — 38,000 of those Vioxx-takers who suffered heart attacks had already died. Graham called this a “profound regulatory failure,” adding that scientific standards the FDA apply to drug safety “guarantee that unsafe and deadly drugs will remain on the U.S. market.” This should come as no surprise, but research has also repeatedly shown that a paper written by a pharmaceutical company is more likely to emphasize the benefits of a drug, vaccine, or device while downplaying the dangers. (If you want to understand more about this practice, a former ghostwriter outlines all the ethical reasons why she quit this job in a PLOS Medicine report.) While adverse drug effects appear in 95% of clinical research, only 46% of published reports disclose them. Of course, all of this often ends up misleading doctors into thinking a drug is safer than it actually is. Big Pharma Influence On Doctors Pharmaceutical companies aren’t just paying medical journal editors and authors to make their products look good, either. There’s a long, sordid history of pharmaceutical companies incentivizing doctors to prescribe their products through financial rewards. For instance, Pfizer and AstraZeneca doled out a combined $100 million to doctors in 2018, with some earning anywhere from $6 million to $29 million in a year. And research has shown this strategy works: when doctors accept these gifts and payments, they’re significantly more likely to prescribe those companies’ drugs. Novartis comes to mind — the company famously spent over $100 million paying for doctors’ extravagant meals, golf outings, and more, all while also providing a generous kickback program that made them richer every time they prescribed certain blood pressure and diabetes meds. Side note: the Open Payments portal contains a nifty little database where you can find out if any of your own doctors received money from drug companies. Knowing that my mother was put on a laundry list of meds after a near-fatal car accident, I was curious — so I did a quick search for her providers. While her PCP only banked a modest amount from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, her previous psychiatrist — who prescribed a cocktail of contraindicated medications without treating her in person — collected quadruple-digit payments from pharmaceutical companies. And her pain care specialist, who prescribed her jaw-dropping doses of opioid pain medication for more than 20 years (far longer than the 5-day safety guideline), was raking in thousands from Purdue Pharma, AKA the opioid crisis’ kingpin. Purdue is now infamous for its wildly aggressive OxyContin campaign in the ’90s. At the time, the company billed it as a non-addictive wonder drug for pain sufferers. Internal emails show Pursue sales representatives were instructed to “sell, sell, sell” OxyContin, and the more they were able to push, the more they were rewarded with promotions and bonuses. With the stakes so high, these reps stopped at nothing to get doctors on board — even going so far as to send boxes of doughnuts spelling out “OxyContin” to unconvinced physicians. Purdue had stumbled upon the perfect system for generating tons of profit — off of other people’s pain. Documentation later proved that not only was Purdue aware it was highly addictive and that many people were abusing it, but that they also encouraged doctors to continue prescribing increasingly higher doses of it (and sent them on lavish luxury vacations for some motivation). In testimony to Congress, Purdue exec Paul Goldenheim played dumb about OxyContin addiction and overdose rates, but emails that were later exposed showed that he requested his colleagues remove all mentions of addiction from their correspondence about the drug. Even after it was proven in court that Purdue fraudulently marketed OxyContin while concealing its addictive nature, no one from the company spent a single day behind bars. Instead, the company got a slap on the wrist and a $600 million fine for a misdemeanor, the equivalent of a speeding ticket compared to the $9 billion they made off OxyContin up until 2006. Meanwhile, thanks to Purdue’s recklessness, more than 247,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2009. And that’s not even factoring in all the people who died of heroin overdoses once OxyContin was no longer attainable to them. The NIH reports that 80% of people who use heroin started by misusing prescription opioids. Former sales rep Carol Panara told me in an interview that when she looks back on her time at Purdue, it all feels like a “bad dream.” Panara started working for Purdue in 2008, one year after the company pled guilty to “misbranding” charges for OxyContin. At this point, Purdue was “regrouping and expanding,” says Panara, and to that end, had developed a clever new approach for making money off OxyContin: sales reps were now targeting general practitioners and family doctors, rather than just pain management specialists. On top of that, Purdue soon introduced three new strengths for OxyContin: 15, 30, and 60 milligrams, creating smaller increments Panara believes were aimed at making doctors feel more comfortable increasing their patients’ dosages. According to Panara, there were internal company rankings for sales reps based on the number of prescriptions for each OxyContin dosing strength in their territory. “They were sneaky about it,” she said. “Their plan was to go in and sell these doctors on the idea of starting with 10 milligrams, which is very low, knowing full well that once they get started down that path — that’s all they need. Because eventually, they’re going to build a tolerance and need a higher dose.” Occasionally, doctors expressed concerns about a patient becoming addicted, but Purdue had already developed a way around that. Sales reps like Panara were taught to reassure those doctors that someone in pain might experience addiction-like symptoms called “pseudoaddiction,” but that didn’t mean they were truly addicted. There is no scientific evidence whatsoever to support that this concept is legit, of course. But the most disturbing part? Reps were trained to tell doctors that “pseudoaddiction” signaled the patient’s pain wasn’t being managed well enough, and the solution was simply to prescribe a higher dose of OxyContin. Panara finally quit Purdue in 2013. One of the breaking points was when two pharmacies in her territory were robbed at gunpoint specifically for OxyContin. In 2020, Purdue pled guilty to three criminal charges in an $8.3 billion deal, but the company is now under court protection after filing for bankruptcy. Despite all the damage that’s been done, the FDA’s policies for approving opioids remain essentially unchanged. Photo credit: Jennifer Durban Purdue probably wouldn’t have been able to pull this off if it weren’t for an FDA examiner named Curtis Wright, and his assistant Douglas Kramer. While Purdue was pursuing Wright’s stamp of approval on OxyContin, Wright took an outright sketchy approach to their application, instructing the company to mail documents to his home office rather than the FDA, and enlisting Purdue employees to help him review trials about the safety of the drug. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that the FDA have access to at least two randomized controlled trials before deeming a drug as safe and effective, but in the case of OxyContin, it got approved with data from just one measly two-week study — in osteoarthritis patients, no less. When both Wright and Kramer left the FDA, they went on to work for none other than (drumroll, please) Purdue, with Wright earning three times his FDA salary. By the way — this is just one example of the FDA’s notoriously incestuous relationship with big pharma, often referred to as “the revolving door”. In fact, a 2018 Science report revealed that 11 out of 16 FDA reviewers ended up at the same companies they had been regulating products for. While doing an independent investigation, “Empire of Pain” author and New Yorker columnist Patrick Radden Keefe tried to gain access to documentation of Wright’s communications with Purdue during the OxyContin approval process. “The FDA came back and said, ‘Oh, it’s the weirdest thing, but we don’t have anything. It’s all either been lost or destroyed,’” Keefe told Fortune in an interview. “But it’s not just the FDA. It’s Congress, it’s the Department of Justice, it’s big parts of the medical establishment … the sheer amount of money involved, I think, has meant that a lot of the checks that should be in place in society to not just achieve justice, but also to protect us as consumers, were not there because they had been co-opted.” Big pharma may be to blame for creating the opioids that caused this public health catastrophe, but the FDA deserves just as much scrutiny — because its countless failures also played a part in enabling it. And many of those more recent fails happened under the supervision of Dr. Janet Woodcock. Woodcock was named FDA’s acting commissioner mere hours after Joe Biden was inaugurated as president. She would have been a logical choice, being an FDA vet of 35 years, but then again it’s impossible to forget that she played a starring role in the FDA’s perpetuating the opioid epidemic. She’s also known for overruling her own scientific advisors when they vote against approving a drug. Not only did Woodcock approve OxyContin for children as young as 11 years old, but she also gave the green light to several other highly controversial extended-release opioid pain drugs without sufficient evidence of safety or efficacy. One of those was Zohydro: in 2011, the FDA’s advisory committee voted 11:2 against approving it due to safety concerns about inappropriate use, but Woodcock went ahead and pushed it through, anyway. Under Woodcock’s supervision, the FDA also approved Opana, which is twice as powerful as OxyContin — only to then beg the drug maker to take it off the market 10 years later due to “abuse and manipulation.” And then there was Dsuvia, a potent painkiller 1,000 times stronger than morphine and 10 times more powerful than fentanyl. According to a head of one of the FDA’s advisory committees, the U.S. military had helped to develop this particular drug, and Woodcock said there was “pressure from the Pentagon” to push it through approvals. The FBI, members of congress, public health advocates, and patient safety experts alike called this decision into question, pointing out that with hundreds of opioids already on the market there’s no need for another — particularly one that comes with such high risks. Most recently, Woodcock served as the therapeutics lead for Operation Warp Speed, overseeing COVID-19 vaccine development. Big Pharma Lawsuits, Scandals, and Cover-Ups While the OxyContin craze is undoubtedly one of the highest-profile examples of big pharma’s deception, there are dozens of other stories like this. Here are a few standouts: In the 1980s, Bayer continued selling blood clotting products to third-world countries even though they were fully aware those products had been contaminated with HIV. The reason? The “financial investment in the product was considered too high to destroy the inventory.” Predictably, about 20,000 of the hemophiliacs who were infused with these tainted products then tested positive for HIV and eventually developed AIDS, and many later died of it. In 2004, Johnson & Johnson was slapped with a series of lawsuits for illegally promoting off-label use of their heartburn drug Propulsid for children despite internal company emails confirming major safety concerns (as in, deaths during the drug trials). Documentation from the lawsuits showed that dozens of studies sponsored by Johnson & Johnson highlighting the risks of this drug were never published. The FDA estimates that GSK’s Avandia caused 83,000 heart attacks between 1999 and 2007. Internal documents from GSK prove that when they began studying the effects of the drug as early as 1999, they discovered it caused a higher risk of heart attacks than a similar drug it was meant to replace. Rather than publish these findings, they spent a decade illegally concealing them (and meanwhile, banking $3.2 billion annually for this drug by 2006). Finally, a 2007 New England Journal of Medicine study linked Avandia to a 43% increased risk of heart attacks, and a 64% increased risk of death from heart disease. Avandia is still FDA approved and available in the U.S. In 2009, Pfizer was forced to pay $2.3 billion, the largest healthcare fraud settlement in history at that time, for paying illegal kickbacks to doctors and promoting off-label uses of its drugs. Specifically, a former employee revealed that Pfizer reps were encouraged and incentivized to sell Bextra and 12 other drugs for conditions they were never FDA approved for, and at doses up to eight times what’s recommended. “I was expected to increase profits at all costs, even when sales meant endangering lives,” the whistleblower said. When it was discovered that AstraZeneca was promoting the antipsychotic medication Seroquel for uses that were not approved by the FDA as safe and effective, the company was hit with a $520 million fine in 2010. For years, AstraZeneca had been encouraging psychiatrists and other physicians to prescribe Seroquel for a vast range of seemingly unrelated off-label conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, anger management, ADHD, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and sleeplessness. AstraZeneca also violated the federal Anti-Kickback Statute by paying doctors to spread the word about these unapproved uses of Seroquel via promotional lectures and while traveling to resort locations. In 2012, GSK paid a $3 billion fine for bribing doctors by flying them and their spouses to five-star resorts, and for illegally promoting drugs for off-label uses. What’s worse — GSK withheld clinical trial results that showed its antidepressant Paxil not only doesn’t work for adolescents and children but more alarmingly, that it can increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts in this group. A 1998 GSK internal memo revealed that the company intentionally concealed this data to minimize any “potential negative commercial impact.” In 2021, an ex-AstraZeneca sales rep sued her former employer, claiming they fired her for refusing to promote drugs for uses that weren’t FDA-approved. The employee alleges that on multiple occasions, she expressed concerns to her boss about “misleading” information that didn’t have enough support from medical research, and off-label promotions of certain drugs. Her supervisor reportedly not only ignored these concerns but pressured her to approve statements she didn’t agree with and threatened to remove her from regional and national positions if she didn’t comply. According to the plaintiff, she missed out on a raise and a bonus because she refused to break the law. At the top of 2022, a panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit against Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, and GE Healthcare, which claims they helped finance terrorist attacks against U.S. service members and other Americans in Iraq. The suit alleges that from 2005–2011, these companies regularly offered bribes (including free drugs and medical devices) totaling millions of dollars annually to Iraq’s Ministry of Health in order to secure drug contracts. These corrupt payments then allegedly funded weapons and training for the Mahdi Army, which until 2008, was largely considered one of the most dangerous groups in Iraq. Another especially worrisome factor is that pharmaceutical companies are conducting an ever-increasing number of clinical trials in third-world countries, where people may be less educated, and there are also far fewer safety regulations. Pfizer’s 1996 experimental trials with Trovan on Nigerian children with meningitis — without informed consent — is just one nauseating example. When a former medical director in Pfizer’s central research division warned the company both before and after the study that their methods in this trial were “improper and unsafe,” he was promptly fired. Families of the Nigerian children who died or were left blind, brain damaged, or paralyzed after the study sued Pfizer, and the company ultimately settled out of court. In 1998, the FDA approved Trovan only for adults. The drug was later banned from European markets due to reports of fatal liver disease and restricted to strictly emergency care in the U.S. Pfizer still denies any wrongdoing. “Nurse prepares to vaccinate children” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 But all that is just the tip of the iceberg. If you’d like to dive a little further down the rabbit hole — and I’ll warn you, it’s a deep one — a quick Google search for “big pharma lawsuits” will reveal the industry’s dark track record of bribery, dishonesty, and fraud. In fact, big pharma happens to be the biggest defrauder of the federal government when it comes to the False Claims Act, otherwise known as the “Lincoln Law.” During our interview, Panara told me she has friends still working for big pharma who would be willing to speak out about crooked activity they’ve observed, but are too afraid of being blacklisted by the industry. A newly proposed update to the False Claims Act would help to protect and support whistleblowers in their efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies liable, by helping to prevent that kind of retaliation and making it harder for the companies charged to dismiss these cases. It should come as no surprise that Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Merck, and a flock of other big pharma firms are currently lobbying to block the update. Naturally, they wouldn’t want to make it any easier for ex-employees to expose their wrongdoings, potentially costing them billions more in fines. Something to keep in mind: these are the same people who produced, marketed, and are profiting from the COVID-19 vaccines. The same people who manipulate research, pay off decision-makers to push their drugs, cover up negative research results to avoid financial losses, and knowingly put innocent citizens in harm’s way. The same people who told America: “Take as much OxyContin as you want around the clock! It’s very safe and not addictive!” (while laughing all the way to the bank). So, ask yourself this: if a partner, friend, or family member repeatedly lied to you — and not just little white lies, but big ones that put your health and safety at risk — would you continue to trust them? Backing the Big Four: Big Pharma and the FDA, WHO, NIH, CDC I know what you’re thinking. Big pharma is amoral and the FDA’s devastating slips are a dime a dozen — old news. But what about agencies and organizations like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), World Health Organization (WHO), and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)? Don’t they have an obligation to provide unbiased guidance to protect citizens? Don’t worry, I’m getting there. The WHO’s guidance is undeniably influential across the globe. For most of this organization’s history, dating back to 1948, it could not receive donations from pharmaceutical companies — only member states. But that changed in 2005 when the WHO updated its financial policy to permit private money into its system. Since then, the WHO has accepted many financial contributions from big pharma. In fact, it’s only 20% financed by member states today, with a whopping 80% of financing coming from private donors. For instance, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is now one of its main contributors, providing up to 13% of its funds — about $250–300 million a year. Nowadays, the BMGF provides more donations to the WHO than the entire United States. Dr. Arata Kochi, former head of WHO’s malaria program, expressed concerns to director-general Dr. Margaret Chan in 2007 that taking the BMGF’s money could have “far-reaching, largely unintended consequences” including “stifling a diversity of views among scientists.” “The big concerns are that the Gates Foundation isn’t fully transparent and accountable,” Lawrence Gostin, director of WHO’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, told Devex in an interview. “By wielding such influence, it could steer WHO priorities … It would enable a single rich philanthropist to set the global health agenda.” Photo credit: National Institutes of Health Take a peek at the WHO’s list of donors and you’ll find a few other familiar names like AstraZeneca, Bayer, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck. The NIH has the same problem, it seems. Science journalist Paul Thacker, who previously examined financial links between physicians and pharma companies as a lead investigator of the United States Senate Committee, wrote in The Washington Post that this agency “often ignored” very “obvious” conflicts of interest. He also claimed that “its industry ties go back decades.” In 2018, it was discovered that a $100 million alcohol consumption study run by NIH scientists was funded mostly by beer and liquor companies. Emails proved that NIH researchers were in frequent contact with those companies while designing the study — which, here’s a shocker — were aimed at highlighting the benefits and not the risks of moderate drinking. So, the NIH ultimately had to squash the trial. And then there’s the CDC. It used to be that this agency couldn’t take contributions from pharmaceutical companies, but in 1992 they found a loophole: new legislation passed by Congress allowed them to accept private funding through a nonprofit called the CDC Foundation. From 2014 through 2018 alone, the CDC Foundation received $79.6 million from corporations like Pfizer, Biogen, and Merck. Of course, if a pharmaceutical company wants to get a drug, vaccine, or other product approved, they really need to cozy up to the FDA. That explains why in 2017, pharma companies paid for a whopping 75% of the FDA’s scientific review budgets, up from 27% in 1993. It wasn’t always like this. But in 1992, an act of Congress changed the FDA’s funding stream, enlisting pharma companies to pay “user fees,” which help the FDA speed up the approval process for their drugs. A 2018 Science investigation found that 40 out of 107 physician advisors on the FDA’s committees received more than $10,000 from big pharma companies trying to get their drugs approved, with some banking up to $1 million or more. The FDA claims it has a well-functioning system to identify and prevent these possible conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, their system only works for spotting payments before advisory panels meet, and the Science investigation showed many FDA panel members get their payments after the fact. It’s a little like “you scratch my back now, and I’ll scratch your back once I get what I want” — drug companies promise FDA employees a future bonus contingent on whether things go their way. Here’s why this dynamic proves problematic: a 2000 investigation revealed that when the FDA approved the rotavirus vaccine in 1998, it didn’t exactly do its due diligence. That probably had something to do with the fact that committee members had financial ties to the manufacturer, Merck — many owned tens of thousands of dollars of stock in the company, or even held patents on the vaccine itself. Later, the Adverse Event Reporting System revealed that the vaccine was causing serious bowel obstructions in some children, and it was finally pulled from the U.S. market in October 1999. Then, in June of 2021, the FDA overruled concerns raised by its very own scientific advisory committee to approve Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm — a move widely criticized by physicians. The drug not only showed very little efficacy but also potentially serious side effects like brain bleeding and swelling, in clinical trials. Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a Harvard Medical School professor who was on the FDA’s scientific advisory committee, called it the “worst drug approval” in recent history, and noted that meetings between the FDA and Biogen had a “strange dynamic” suggesting an unusually close relationship. Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, told CNN that he believes the FDA started working in “inappropriately close collaboration with Biogen” back in 2019. “They were not objective, unbiased regulators,” he added in the CNN interview. “It seems as if the decision was preordained.” That brings me to perhaps the biggest conflict of interest yet: Dr. Anthony Fauci’s NIAID is just one of many institutes that comprises the NIH — and the NIH owns half the patent for the Moderna vaccine — as well as thousands more pharma patents to boot. The NIAID is poised to earn millions of dollars from Moderna’s vaccine revenue, with individual officials also receiving up to $150,000 annually. Operation Warp Speed In December of 2020, Pfizer became the first company to receive an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA for a COVID-19 vaccine. EUAs — which allow the distribution of an unapproved drug or other product during a declared public health emergency — are actually a pretty new thing: the first one was issued in 2005 so military personnel could get an anthrax vaccine. To get a full FDA approval, there needs to be substantial evidence that the product is safe and effective. But for an EUA, the FDA just needs to determine that it may be effective. Since EUAs are granted so quickly, the FDA doesn’t have enough time to gather all the information they’d usually need to approve a drug or vaccine. “Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Event” by The White House is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 Pfizer CEO and chairman Albert Bourla has said his company was “operating at the speed of science” to bring a vaccine to market. However, a 2021 report in The BMJ revealed that this speed might have come at the expense of “data integrity and patient safety.” Brook Jackson, regional director for the Ventavia Research Group, which carried out these trials, told The BMJ that her former company “falsified data, unblinded patients, and employed inadequately trained vaccinators” in Pfizer’s pivotal phase 3 trial. Just some of the other concerning events witnessed included: adverse events not being reported correctly or at all, lack of reporting on protocol deviations, informed consent errors, and mislabeling of lab specimens. An audio recording of Ventavia employees from September 2020 revealed that they were so overwhelmed by issues arising during the study that they became unable to “quantify the types and number of errors” when assessing quality control. One Ventavia employee told The BMJ she’d never once seen a research environment as disorderly as Ventavia’s Pfizer vaccine trial, while another called it a “crazy mess.” Over the course of her two-decades-long career, Jackson has worked on hundreds of clinical trials, and two of her areas of expertise happen to be immunology and infectious diseases. She told me that from her first day on the Pfizer trial in September of 2020, she discovered “such egregious misconduct” that she recommended they stop enrolling participants into the study to do an internal audit. “To my complete shock and horror, Ventavia agreed to pause enrollment but then devised a plan to conceal what I found and to keep ICON and Pfizer in the dark,” Jackson said during our interview. “The site was in full clean-up mode. When missing data points were discovered the information was fabricated, including forged signatures on the informed consent forms.” A screenshot Jackson shared with me shows she was invited to a meeting titled “COVID 1001 Clean up Call” on Sept. 21, 2020. She refused to participate in the call. Jackson repeatedly warned her superiors about patient safety concerns and data integrity issues. “I knew that the entire world was counting on clinical researchers to develop a safe and effective vaccine and I did not want to be a part of that failure by not reporting what I saw,” she told me. When her employer failed to act, Jackson filed a complaint with the FDA on Sept. 25, and Ventavia fired her hours later that same day under the pretense that she was “not a good fit.” After reviewing her concerns over the phone, she claims the FDA never followed up or inspected the Ventavia site. Ten weeks later, the FDA authorized the EUA for the vaccine. Meanwhile, Pfizer hired Ventavia to handle the research for four more vaccine clinical trials, including one involving children and young adults, one for pregnant women, and another for the booster. Not only that, but Ventavia handled the clinical trials for Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax. Jackson is currently pursuing a False Claims Act lawsuit against Pfizer and Ventavia Research Group. Last year, Pfizer banked nearly $37 billion from its COVID vaccine, making it one of the most lucrative products in global history. Its overall revenues doubled in 2021 to reach $81.3 billion, and it’s slated to reach a record-breaking $98-$102 billion this year. “Corporations like Pfizer should never have been put in charge of a global vaccination rollout, because it was inevitable they would make life-and-death decisions based on what’s in the short-term interest of their shareholders,” writes Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now. As previously mentioned, it’s super common for pharmaceutical companies to fund the research on their own products. Here’s why that’s scary. One 1999 meta-analysis showed that industry-funded research is eight times less likely to achieve unfavorable results compared to independent trials. In other words, if a pharmaceutical company wants to prove that a medication, supplement, vaccine, or device is safe and effective, they’ll find a way. With that in mind, I recently examined the 2020 study on Pfizer’s COVID vaccine to see if there were any conflicts of interest. Lo and behold, the lengthy attached disclosure form shows that of the 29 authors, 18 are employees of Pfizer and hold stock in the company, one received a research grant from Pfizer during the study, and two reported being paid “personal fees” by Pfizer. In another 2021 study on the Pfizer vaccine, seven of the 15 authors are employees of and hold stock in Pfizer. The other eight authors received financial support from Pfizer during the study. Photo credit: Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash) via Unsplash As of the day I’m writing this, about 64% of Americans are fully vaccinated, and 76% have gotten at least one dose. The FDA has repeatedly promised “full transparency” when it comes to these vaccines. Yet in December of 2021, the FDA asked for permission to wait 75 years before releasing information pertaining to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, including safety data, effectiveness data, and adverse reaction reports. That means no one would see this information until the year 2096 — conveniently, after many of us have departed this crazy world. To recap: the FDA only needed 10 weeks to review the 329,000 pages worth of data before approving the EUA for the vaccine — but apparently, they need three-quarters of a century to publicize it. In response to the FDA’s ludicrous request, PHMPT — a group of over 200 medical and public health experts from Harvard, Yale, Brown, UCLA, and other institutions — filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act demanding that the FDA produce this data sooner. And their efforts paid off: U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman issued an order for the FDA to produce 12,000 pages by Jan. 31, and then at least 55,000 pages per month thereafter. In his statement to the FDA, Pittman quoted the late John F. Kennedy: “A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.” As for why the FDA wanted to keep this data hidden, the first batch of documentation revealed that there were more than 1,200 vaccine-related deaths in just the first 90 days after the Pfizer vaccine was introduced. Of 32 pregnancies with a known outcome, 28 resulted in fetal death. The CDC also recently unveiled data showing a total of 1,088,560 reports of adverse events from COVID vaccines were submitted between Dec. 14, 2020, and Jan. 28, 2022. That data included 23,149 reports of deaths and 183,311 reports of serious injuries. There were 4,993 reported adverse events in pregnant women after getting vaccinated, including 1,597 reports of miscarriage or premature birth. A 2022 study published in JAMA, meanwhile, revealed that there have been more than 1,900 reported cases of myocarditis — or inflammation of the heart muscle — mostly in people 30 and under, within 7 days of getting the vaccine. In those cases, 96% of people were hospitalized. “It is understandable that the FDA does not want independent scientists to review the documents it relied upon to license Pfizer’s vaccine given that it is not as effective as the FDA originally claimed, does not prevent transmission, does not prevent against certain emerging variants, can cause serious heart inflammation in younger individuals, and has numerous other undisputed safety issues,” writes Aaron Siri, the attorney representing PHMPT in its lawsuit against the FDA. Siri told me in an email that his office phone has been ringing off the hook in recent months. “We are overwhelmed by inquiries from individuals calling about an injury from a COVID-19 vaccine,” he said. By the way — it’s worth noting that adverse effects caused by COVID-19 vaccinations are still not covered by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Companies like Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are protected under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act, which grants them total immunity from liability with their vaccines. And no matter what happens to you, you can’t sue the FDA for authorizing the EUA, or your employer for requiring you to get it, either. Billions of taxpayer dollars went to fund the research and development of these vaccines, and in Moderna’s case, licensing its vaccine was made possible entirely by public funds. But apparently, that still warrants citizens no insurance. Should something go wrong, you’re basically on your own. Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine business model: government gives them billions, gives them immunity for any injuries or if doesn't work, promotes their products for free, and mandates their products. Sounds crazy? Yes, but it is our current reality. — Aaron Siri (@AaronSiriSG) February 2, 2022 The Hypocrisy of “Misinformation” I find it interesting that “misinformation” has become such a pervasive term lately, but more alarmingly, that it’s become an excuse for blatant censorship on social media and in journalism. It’s impossible not to wonder what’s driving this movement to control the narrative. In a world where we still very clearly don’t have all the answers, why shouldn’t we be open to exploring all the possibilities? And while we’re on the subject, what about all of the COVID-related untruths that have been spread by our leaders and officials? Why should they get a free pass? Photo credit: @upgradeur_life, www.instagram.com/upgradeur_life Fauci, President Biden, and the CDC’s Rochelle Walensky all promised us with total confidence the vaccine would prevent us from getting or spreading COVID, something we now know is a myth. (In fact, the CDC recently had to change its very definition of “vaccine ” to promise “protection” from a disease rather than “immunity”— an important distinction). At one point, the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) and former Governor Andrew Cuomo prepared a social media campaign with misleading messaging that the vaccine was “approved by the FDA” and “went through the same rigorous approval process that all vaccines go through,” when in reality the FDA only authorized the vaccines under an EUA, and the vaccines were still undergoing clinical trials. While the NYS DOH eventually responded to pressures to remove these false claims, a few weeks later the Department posted on Facebook that “no serious side effects related to the vaccines have been reported,” when in actuality, roughly 16,000 reports of adverse events and over 3,000 reports of serious adverse events related to a COVID-19 vaccination had been reported in the first two months of use. One would think we’d hold the people in power to the same level of accountability — if not more — than an average citizen. So, in the interest of avoiding hypocrisy, should we “cancel” all these experts and leaders for their “misinformation,” too? Vaccine-hesitant people have been fired from their jobs, refused from restaurants, denied the right to travel and see their families, banned from social media channels, and blatantly shamed and villainized in the media. Some have even lost custody of their children. These people are frequently labeled “anti-vax,” which is misleading given that many (like the NBA’s Jonathan Isaac) have made it repeatedly clear they are not against all vaccines, but simply making a personal choice not to get this one. (As such, I’ll suggest switching to a more accurate label: “pro-choice.”) Fauci has repeatedly said federally mandating the vaccine would not be “appropriate” or “enforceable” and doing so would be “encroaching upon a person’s freedom to make their own choice.” So it’s remarkable that still, some individual employers and U.S. states, like my beloved Massachusetts, have taken it upon themselves to enforce some of these mandates, anyway. Meanwhile, a Feb. 7 bulletin posted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security indicates that if you spread information that undermines public trust in a government institution (like the CDC or FDA), you could be considered a terrorist. In case you were wondering about the current state of free speech. The definition of institutional oppression is “the systematic mistreatment of people within a social identity group, supported and enforced by the society and its institutions, solely based on the person’s membership in the social identity group.” It is defined as occurring when established laws and practices “systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups.” Sound familiar? As you continue to watch the persecution of the unvaccinated unfold, remember this. Historically, when society has oppressed a particular group of people whether due to their gender, race, social class, religious beliefs, or sexuality, it’s always been because they pose some kind of threat to the status quo. The same is true for today’s unvaccinated. Since we know the vaccine doesn’t prevent the spread of COVID, however, this much is clear: the unvaccinated don’t pose a threat to the health and safety of their fellow citizens — but rather, to the bottom line of powerful pharmaceutical giants and the many global organizations they finance. And with more than $100 billion on the line in 2021 alone, I can understand the motivation to silence them. The unvaccinated have been called selfish. Stupid. Fauci has said it’s “almost inexplicable” that they are still resisting. But is it? What if these people aren’t crazy or uncaring, but rather have — unsurprisingly so — lost their faith in the agencies that are supposed to protect them? Can you blame them? Citizens are being bullied into getting a vaccine that was created, evaluated, and authorized in under a year, with no access to the bulk of the safety data for said vaccine, and no rights whatsoever to pursue legal action if they experience adverse effects from it. What these people need right now is to know they can depend on their fellow citizens to respect their choices, not fuel the segregation by launching a full-fledged witch hunt. Instead, for some inexplicable reason I imagine stems from fear, many continue rallying around big pharma rather than each other. A 2022 Heartland Institute and Rasmussen Reports survey of Democratic voters found that 59% of respondents support a government policy requiring unvaccinated individuals to remain confined in their home at all times, 55% support handing a fine to anyone who won’t get the vaccine, and 48% think the government should flat out imprison people who publicly question the efficacy of the vaccines on social media, TV, or online in digital publications. Even Orwell couldn’t make this stuff up. Photo credit: DJ Paine on Unsplash Let me be very clear. While there are a lot of bad actors out there — there are also a lot of well-meaning people in the science and medical industries, too. I’m lucky enough to know some of them. There are doctors who fend off pharma reps’ influence and take an extremely cautious approach to prescribing. Medical journal authors who fiercely pursue transparency and truth — as is evident in “The Influence of Money on Medical Science,” a report by the first female editor of JAMA. Pharmacists, like Dan Schneider, who refuse to fill prescriptions they deem risky or irresponsible. Whistleblowers, like Graham and Jackson, who tenaciously call attention to safety issues for pharma products in the approval pipeline. And I’m certain there are many people in the pharmaceutical industry, like Panara and my grandfather, who pursued this field with the goal of helping others, not just earning a six- or seven-figure salary. We need more of these people. Sadly, it seems they are outliers who exist in a corrupt, deep-rooted system of quid-pro-quo relationships. They can only do so much. I’m not here to tell you whether or not you should get the vaccine or booster doses. What you put in your body is not for me — or anyone else — to decide. It’s not a simple choice, but rather one that may depend on your physical condition, medical history, age, religious beliefs, and level of risk tolerance. My grandfather passed away in 2008, and lately, I find myself missing him more than ever, wishing I could talk to him about the pandemic and hear what he makes of all this madness. I don’t really know how he’d feel about the COVID vaccine, or whether he would have gotten it or encouraged me to. What I do know is that he’d listen to my concerns, and he’d carefully consider them. He would remind me my feelings are valid. His eyes would light up and he’d grin with amusement as I fervidly expressed my frustration. He’d tell me to keep pushing forward, digging deeper, asking questions. In his endearing Bronx accent, he used to always say: “go get ‘em, kid.” If I stop typing for a moment and listen hard enough, I can almost hear him saying it now. People keep saying “trust the science.” But when trust is broken, it must be earned back. And as long as our legislative system, public health agencies, physicians, and research journals keep accepting pharmaceutical money (with strings attached) — and our justice system keeps letting these companies off the hook when their negligence causes harm, there’s no reason for big pharma to change. They’re holding the bag, and money is power. I have a dream that one day, we’ll live in a world where we are armed with all the thorough, unbiased data necessary to make informed decisions about our health. Alas, we’re not even close. What that means is that it’s up to you to educate yourself as much as possible, and remain ever-vigilant in evaluating information before forming an opinion. You can start by reading clinical trials yourself, rather than relying on the media to translate them for you. Scroll to the bottom of every single study to the “conflicts of interest” section and find out who funded it. Look at how many subjects were involved. Confirm whether or not blinding was used to eliminate bias. You may also choose to follow Public Citizen’s Health Research Group’s rule whenever possible: that means avoiding a new drug until five years after an FDA approval (not an EUA, an actual approval) — when there’s enough data on the long-term safety and effectiveness to establish that the benefits outweigh the risks. When it comes to the news, you can seek out independent, nonprofit outlets, which are less likely to be biased due to pharma funding. And most importantly, when it appears an organization is making concerted efforts to conceal information from you — like the FDA recently did with the COVID vaccine — it’s time to ask yourself: why? What are they trying to hide? In the 2019 film “Dark Waters” — which is based on the true story of one of the greatest corporate cover-ups in American history — Mark Ruffalo as attorney Rob Bilott says: “The system is rigged. They want us to think it’ll protect us, but that’s a lie. We protect us. We do. Nobody else. Not the companies. Not the scientists. Not the government. Us.” Words to live by. Tyler Durden Sat, 04/09/2022 - 22:30.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytApr 9th, 2022

Rep. Ro Khanna says balancing regulation and ethics online is key to ensuring technology remains a force for good: "We need technology to democratize voice in America"

The Silicon Valley congressman, who proposed an Internet Bill of Rights in 2018, said the nation is grappling with how to regulate Big Tech. Rep. Ro Khanna of California.AP Photo/Andrew Harnik Rep. Ro Khanna of California has long proposed regulations on Big Tech to preserve user rights. As controversies continue at Twitter, he argues for a balance of internal ethics and legal regulation. "I think the trajectory of technology is still a force for good," he told Politico. A self-described "technology optimist," Rep. Ro Khanna of California is again advocating for balancing Big Tech ethics with consumer-protecting regulation as controversies continue following Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter.The Silicon Valley representative has long supported moderate regulation of online platforms, centering consumer data privacy and antitrust protections. In 2018, he proposed the Internet Bill of Rights, a list of principles designed to inform future legislation on tech issues, though he noted to Politico "there hasn't been a lot of action" toward creating new laws since his proposal and no new antitrust legislation has been passed.As Twitter has become central to the conversation around Big Tech in recent months — with potential international sanctions looming for Musk's banning of journalists from the platform and some legislators calling for investigations into government requests to remove content prior to the change in leadership — Khanna recently made headlines as a rare Democratic voice criticizing the platform's handling of the Hunter Biden laptop story in 2020."I say this as a total Biden partisan and convinced he didn't do anything wrong," Matt Taibbi reported Rep. Ro Khanna wrote in an email to the head of Twitter's legal department, Vijaya Gadde, at the time. "But the story now has become more about censorship than relatively innocuous emails and it's become a bigger deal than it would have been. It is also now leading to serious efforts to curtail section 230 — many of which would have been a mistake."Despite his concerns about Twitter, Khanna remains optimistic about the potential for technology companies to benefit society."I think most people are glad that they have the ability to search for information online in a way that's probably greater than President Reagan had," Khanna told Politico, maintaining his confident stance on the positive potential of technology that he has been known for since he was first elected in 2016. "They're glad for the massive advancements in medical science that technology in Silicon Valley has afforded. They're glad for the extraordinary achievements and climate, from batteries to electric vehicles to solar panels. I think the trajectory of technology is still a force for good."Khanna added that such technology has to be regulated "in the service of higher purpose," with a realistic framework in mind to allow tech companies to create solutions to social problems."I think we need technology to solve climate," Khanna told Politico. "We need technology to bring manufacturing back. We need technology to democratize voice in America. I don't mind that we don't have a Walter Cronkite telling us what the truth is; I think it's a good thing that we have a proliferation of voices in this country."The current dominance of online platforms like Twitter over our political and economic lives, Khanna told Politico, leads him to believe more people need access to technology to address issues of data privacy and inequity and more technology companies are needed to prevent a digital monopoly."If technology companies are the architects of so much of modern life, then we need more people participating in it, more companies having an opportunity to shape that," Khanna told Politico. "Otherwise, you have too few companies, too few individuals with power over American culture."The office of Rep. Khanna did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 18th, 2022

Twitter"s clumsy handling of the Hunter Biden laptop story spurred enough bipartisan criticism to risk the existence of the internet as we know it

Twitter's decision to throttle news about the president's son prompted lawmakers to call for the repeal of "the Internet's most important law." Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, California.Tayfun Coskun/Getty Images Twitter's decision to throttle stories about Hunter Biden's laptop prompted bipartisan criticism. Though the laptop was authenticated, some reports about its content have not been confirmed. Some lawmakers have since called to repeal Section 230, a law "that created the internet." Newly published internal communications regarding Twitter's decision to throttle a New York Post story about Hunter Biden's laptop in late 2020 revealed the social platform fielded widespread bipartisan criticism over its decision. The criticism has since intensified a movement to repeal Section 230, which could change the Internet forever. Matt Taibbi, who writes the Substack newsletter "TK News," on Friday posted a thread of tweets he titled "The Twitter Files" that included screenshots of internal correspondence about the social platform's content moderation system. In a note to his readers on Substack, Taibbi wrote he had to "agree to certain conditions" in order to publish the files, though he did not reveal what those conditions were. When reached via phone, Taibbi declined to comment to Insider.Much of Taibbi's thread focused on Twitter's handling of the New York Post's October 2020 story about Hunter Biden's laptop, which the Post reported was left in a Delaware repair shop. Early reports about the laptop were met with skepticism by social media platforms — which faced heavy criticism about content moderation following the 2016 controversy regarding then-candidate Hillary Clinton's emails — and warnings from law enforcement about disinformation campaigns spread through social apps.Elon Musk and representatives for Twitter did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself confirmed in an August interview with Joe Rogan that his platforms suppressed reporting on Hunter Biden's laptop prior to the 2020 election, saying it "fit the pattern" of misinformation Facebook had been advised by the FBI to look out for. Though the laptop and some of its contents have since been authenticated as belonging to Biden, some reports about its content have not been confirmed. The documents published by Taibbi focused on internal discussions among Twitter staff regarding the laptop story and the ultimate decision to slow its reach across the platform and label it using the platform's "hacked materials" policy. At the time, the veracity of the reporting was under question and it was unclear whether the material reported to be on the laptop had been legally obtained, though critics were quick to question why Twitter had chosen to throttle the material."I say this as a total Biden partisan and convinced he didn't do anything wrong," Taibbi reported Rep. Ro Khanna wrote in an email to the head of Twitter's legal department, Vijaya Gadde, at the time. "But the story now has become more about censorship than relatively innocuous emails and it's become a bigger deal than it would have been. It is also now leading to serious efforts to curtail section 230 — many of which would have been a mistake."Section 230 is a clause in the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which its advocates have called "the most important law protecting internet speech." The 26-word phrase "that created the internet" limits legal liability for tech platforms hosting user-generated content — that is, in other words, a social media platform like Twitter cannot be held legally responsible for any illegal content posted by its users.The section says: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." Tech companies view a potential reversal as a threat to free speech that would force small web hosts to close their sites or risk legal liability for what their users posts.Representatives for Khanna did not answer questions about the congressman's current position on whether or not to repeal Section 230."I believe our Constitution and First Amendment are sacred," Rep. Khanna of California said in a statement emailed to Insider. "As the congressman who represents Silicon Valley, I felt Twitter's actions were a violation of First Amendment principles so I raised those concerns. Our democracy can only thrive if we are open to a marketplace of ideas and engaging with people with whom we disagree."Khanna was not alone in his criticism of Twitter's move – which the site's former trust and safety chief has since said was a mistake. Taibbi reported 9 Republicans and 3 Democrats surveyed by a research firm in 2020 also disapproved of the decision — and bipartisan calls for the reform or reversal of Section 230 have increased since the Hunter Biden laptop story."I'm more determined than ever to strip Section 230 protections from Big Tech (Twitter) that let them be immune from lawsuits," Sen. Lindsay Graham tweeted in January 2021, just months after the Hunter Biden story surfaced and shortly after he introduced legislation to repeal section 230. "Big Tech are the only companies in America that virtually have absolute immunity from being sued for their actions, and it's only because Congress gave them that protection."Donald Trump made Section 230 a staple issue of his presidency, singling out Twitter for what he called "selective censorship" after the platform added warning labels to several of his tweets regarding voting by mail. In the final weeks of his presidency, Trump vetoed a $740 billion defense bill, in part because it did not repeal Section 230. Republican criticism of Section 230 often centers around claims of tech platforms censoring conservative viewpoints, while Democratic critics say the law allows social companies to avoid doing more to combat hate speech and disinformation."I'm calling on Congress to get rid of special immunity for social media companies and impose much stronger transparency requirements on all of them," Al Jazeera reported Biden said earlier this year, calling to repeal Section 230.Should Section 230 be repealed, free speech advocates worry the digital landscape would radically change — by forcing website hosts to be held liable for the content posted to their sites, moderators would likely eliminate potential legal risk by drastically limiting what they allow users to post or by shutting down entirely. "Repealing Section 230 is a drastic step that would upend the internet, punishing successful firms and internet users for the behavior of an antisocial minority," read an essay by Will Duffield, a policy analyst for the think tank Cato Institute. "Heaping legal liability on platforms will not render them more thoughtful or judicious. It will cause some to close, and others to exclude all but the most inoffensive sentiments."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytDec 3rd, 2022

South Dakota"s Kristi Noem bans the use of TikTok on government devices, says China uses the platform to "manipulate" Americans

US officials have been raising security concerns about TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese company, for years. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem during the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas, on July 11, 2021.Brandon Bell/Getty Images US officials have raised security concerns about TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese company. On Tuesday, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signed an executive order restricting the app for officials. The ban will prohibit state officials from using TikTok on government devices, Noem said. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem banned the use of TikTok on government devices on Tuesday, saying China uses the social media platform to manipulate Americans."South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of nations who hate us," Noem said in a press release."The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people, and they gather data off the devices that access the platform," she added.The order, which Noem signed on Tuesday, takes effect immediately. It is unclear how many South Dakota state employees were actively using TikTok on government-owned devices.US officials have, for years, raised security concerns about TikTok, which is owned by Chinese company ByteDance.Earlier this year Buzzfeed reported that ByteDance had repeatedly accessed non-public data about US TikTok users.After the Buzzfeed report was published, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew told Republican Senators in a letter that the company was working with Oracle to protect the data of its US users "with robust, independent oversight."But last month a report by Forbes found that an internal team at the company was planning to use location information gathered from US users for surveillance purposes.A representative for TikTok did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. Noem is not the only US politician making moves to ban the app in some form.Wisconsin GOP Representative Mike Gallagher on Sunday renewed his calls for a nationwide ban on TikTok, calling the platform "digital fentanyl" that is "addicting our kids.""Tiktok is owned by ByteDance, ByteDance is controlled by the CCP [Chinese Communist Party], that means the CCP can track your location, it can track your keystrokes, it can censor your news — why would we give our foremost adversary that amount of power?" Gallagher said.The Trump administration proposed a total ban of the app in 2020, while the Biden administration promised a security review of foreign-owned apps last year, although it has yet to publish its results. US's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) views China as a top cyber threat.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: worldSource: nytNov 30th, 2022

Incoming GOP Congressman Fears Democrats Will Downplay FTX Scandal, Calls for "Thorough" Investigation

Incoming GOP Congressman Fears Democrats Will Downplay FTX Scandal, Calls for 'Thorough' Investigation Authored by John Ransom via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours), A newly-elected GOP representative from New York said that he worries that Democrats will try to downplay potential campaign finance and securities law violations by former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried using a lame-duck session of Congress before the new Congress is sworn in. Republican candidate for New York's 3rd Congressional District George Santos campaigns outside a Stop and Shop store, Saturday, in Glen Cove, N.Y., on Nov. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) Republican George Santos, 34, who won New York’s 3rd Congressional District flipping the seat red, joined his congressional colleagues by calling for a “thorough investigation” when the new GOP Congress takes over next year. The spectacular collapse of FTX, a crypto-currency exchange that is headquartered in the Bahamas, which filed for bankruptcy on Nov. 11 has left around million customers and other investors facing total losses of billions of dollars. Since then, reports have emerged that Alameda Research, a crypto hedge fund established by Bankman-Fried, was trading billions of dollars from FTX accounts without clients’ knowledge. Samuel Bankman-Fried, founder and former CEO of FTX, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Feb. 9, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images) The House Financial Services Committee said last week it plans to hold a hearing in December to investigate the FTX collapse. It said it expects to hear from companies and individuals involved, including Bankman-Fried, FTX, and Alameda Research. Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said in a statement that the United States needs “legislative action to ensure that digital assets entities cannot operate in the shadows outside of robust federal oversight.” But Santos is not convinced the Democrat-led committee will take robust action. “Waters has signaled that she’s not going to investigate Bankman-Fried and FTX as a class. So I’m a little concerned that the Democrats right now as lame-ducks in Congress, will deflect the issue between now and the start of the new Congress,” Santos, who is attending leadership meetings for the GOP this week, told The Epoch Times. “That’s something I’m very interested in investigating,” he added. Santos, who worked as a financial advisor and has asked for a Financial Services Committee assignment, said that “accountability is mandatory and absolutely necessary.” “Nobody should get away with this with impunity,” he added. Santos made news last week when he called some planned investigations by the House GOP, such probes of the COVID-19 origins, Dr. Anthony Fauci’s handling of the pandemic, and Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings, “hyperpartisan” issues. When speaking with the Epoch Times, Santos clarified his remarks, saying he was fine with any investigations, but that as a freshman legislator from New York with a background in financial services, he thought he could leave those decisions in the hands of party leadership. “I’m not opposed to investigating. I don’t think you’ll find someone more interested in investigating Hunter Biden and Anthony Fauci, than I am” said Santos. “But I’ll leave that to the senior members of Congress who know how to do those things better than I do,” he added. Santos said that for him these weren’t his main issues, because he felt better versed in financial and economic matters. The incoming congressman confirmed that he has asked for assignments in both the financial services committee and foreign affairs committee. “We don’t have the power to just pass legislation, but we also have the power to hold people accountable,” Santos said of the FTX scandal. Donations to Democrats The FTX matter has taken on added urgency given that Bankman-Fried was the second-largest Democratic donor for the 2021–22 election cycle, donating over $38 million to various Democrat-aligned PACs with another $990,000 going to individual members of Congress. Many of the donations came from foreign addresses in Nassau, capital of the Bahamas, and Hong Kong, according to an analysis by the Epoch Times. According to data by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), of the 182 donations made by Bankman-Fried this election cycle, two donations came with no address, 16 donations came from a Hong Kong address, 68 came from U.S. addresses and 96 came from two addresses in Nassau, Bahamas. It’s legal for American citizens to donate to campaigns from foreign accounts, said attorney John Zakhem, whose practice areas includes federal election law. “If he tells you that he’s a U.S. citizen living in the Bahamas, there’s no prohibition against him making a contribution,” Zakem told The Epoch Times, adding that once a campaign checks that box they only worry about the funds clearing the bank. There is also no prohibition against Bankman-Fried having donated money to those in Congress who regulate the financial services arena. The Washington Free Beacon reported this week, citing FEC records, that Bankman-Fried and his colleagues at FTX donated $300,351 to nine members of the House Financial Services Committee, with “[s]ome of the largest contributions [made] to Democrats on the committee’s Digital Assets Working Group, which worked on regulation of the crypto industry.” An Ethics Issue  It’s this nexus between Bankman-Fried and the committee members that makes Santos concerned that the Democrats might try to downplay the scandal in the upcoming investigation. Read more here... Tyler Durden Thu, 11/24/2022 - 13:20.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytNov 24th, 2022

A congressman from Texas defended crypto exchanges as the "Babe Ruth" of financial services and said regulation would undo progress in the industry

Republican Rep. Roger Williams said a heavy-handed approach to the crypto industry could stifle innovation. The US Capitol.Stock photo via Getty Images Texas Republican Rep. Roger Williams compared crypto industry leaders to Babe Ruth. He said crypto experts like FTX's Sam Bankman-Fried were paving a new path in the financial sector. Bitfury Group's Brian Brooks said the "way to win" at crypto is to safely bring people into the sector. Leaders in the crypto industry are like baseball hall-of-famer Babe Ruth, according to Texas representative Roger Williams.During a House Financial Services Committee hearing, Williams told the six crypto leaders who were testifying that they are paving a new path through the financial services sector, much like the so-called Great Bambino did with baseball in the early 1900s."Many of you are becoming the Babe Ruth in the financial space services space," he told the panel, which included FTX Chief Executive Officer Sam Bankman-Fried and Coinbase CEO Alesia Jeanne Haas. Williams, a Republican, wondered whether heavy regulation would stifle innovation in the digital asset space and what negative consequences could result, saying "it would only take a few misguided curveballs from Washington to undo some of the progress you've all put into motion."In response, Brian Brooks, the CEO of Bitfury Group, said there are two ways to regulate the industry. The first is to prevent as many people as possible from facing volatility and risk in cryptocurrencies by making sure the only people with access can afford to lose money. In other words, "make sure that only the richest can access it," he said. Or, according to Brooks, regulators could make cryptocurrencies safer, just as they did with equities by introducing products like mutual funds to allow individuals to invest without having to be experts. "The way to win," he said in reference to the Babe Ruth metaphor, "is to bring more people into the system more safely, not to keep them out at their own peril."Congress and regulatory bodies like the US Securities and Exchange Commission have long been mulling how to create a policy framework for the crypto industry. Ahead of the hearing, which aimed to address the benefits and challenges of digital assets, the chief legal officer of Robinhood, Daniel Gallagher, said new crypto legislation wasn't likely on the horizon because of the current "dynamic" in Congress, though the hearing would likely be useful for SEC chief Gary Gensler. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 8th, 2021

Crypto CEOs Head to Congress to Push Back on Looming Regulations. Here’s What to Expect

As debates about cryptocurrency regulation continue to be waged around the world, six key executives will attempt to defend the rapidly growing field before Congress on Wednesday.  While cryptocurrencies have exploded over the last couple years, U.S. regulators have been slow to keep up, leaving crypto investors at risk of being swindled out of thousands of dollars or more. On Wednesday, the first major in-person faceoff will occur between crypto companies and regulators, when six key crypto executives will arrive in Washington for a Congressional hearing. Led by Maxine Waters—an advocate of cryptocurrency regulation—members of Congress will likely call upon CEOs to be more accountable to their consumers and investors; the CEOs, conversely, hope to educate lawmakers about their rapidly evolving field and stress the potentially transformative impacts cryptocurrencies could have on the U.S economy. Overly stringent regulations, they fear, could dampen that growth. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] The hearings come during a tense time for crypto. Last week, SEC Chairman Gary Gensler once again called for regulation of crypto, calling it an asset class “rife with fraud, scams, and abuse.” Over the weekend, major cryptocurrencies took a nosedive, with bitcoin prices dropping more than 17 percent, while the trading platform Bitmart suffered a hack in which $196 million was swiped, according to a security firm. Even so, when viewed from a wider lens, cryptocurrencies are still in an enormous boom period: they now make up a $2 trillion market and are being gradually accepted by major institutions. Here’s what to know about the hearing before it begins. Who will participate in the hearing? The hearing will be led by Waters (D-CA), the Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services. (The hearing’s full title is “Digital Assets and the Future of Finance: Understanding the Challenges and Benefits of Financial Innovation in the United States.”) Over the last few years, Waters has held several panels on crypto and digital currencies. In June, she pledged a “thorough examination of this marketplace” and warned of the “systemic risks presented by hedge funds rushing to invest in highly volatile cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency derivatives.” Waters’ committee has called six witnesses to the hearing, who are executives for major cryptocurrency companies and exchanges including Coinbase, Circle and FTX. Some of them have expressed support for increased regulation: Charles Cascarilla, president and CEO of Paxos, told CNBC last month that “you need regulation, you need clarity in order for everyone to understand how you can operate in the industry.” Sam Bankman-Fried, the CEO of FTX, told Coindesk in September that he would be “excited” to work with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on “common-sense regulations.” On Friday, FTX published on their blog a list of ten general proposals that Congress should consider, including the implementation of a single market regulator with a single rulebook, and the requirement that cryptocurrency exchanges “conduct regular anti-money laundering surveillance.” Read More: Inside the World of Black Bitcoin, Where Crypto Is About Making More Than Just Money Other members of the panel have used slightly more contentious language with regards to regulators. Brian Brooks, the CEO of Bitfury group who served as the Comptroller of the Currency under President Trump, told CNBC this week that he hoped the hearings would include discussions about “Kafka-esque contradictions” surrounding cryptocurrency regulations, including the relationship between banks and stablecoins. And in September, Brian Armstrong, the CEO of Coinbase, accused the SEC of “engaging in intimidation tactics behind closed doors” after the SEC threatened to sue the company over a new product called Lend. Perhaps uncoincidentally, Coinbase is the only company not sending their CEO to the hearing: Alesia Jeanne Haas, the CFO of Coinbase Global Inc., will appear instead. What does cryptocurrency regulation look like at the moment? Decentralization is baked into the very conceit of cryptocurrency. Major figures in that world have long been extremely resistant to the idea of regulation. Its freewheeling nature has allowed many investors to make enormous amounts of money, including from extremely volatile meme currencies like Dogecoin and Shiba Inu. DeFi, or decentralized finance, has also risen dramatically in usage over the last year, creating an unregulated infrastructure for lending and trading on the blockchain. But while crypto’s lack of connection to formal institutions is a key part of its appeal, its lack of a central authority has also made it susceptible to theft, fraud and hacks. In June, a cyberattack on the oil company Colonial Pipeline led to a massive shutdown that caused a spike in gas prices and panic buying; the company paid out a $2.3 million ransom that was later recovered by authorities. More recently, a hack of the decentralized finance platform BadgerDAO led to the loss of $120 million. Because transactions on the blockchain are largely irreversible, victims of crypto scams usually have little recourse to recover their money. These sorts of activities have put cryptocurrencies in the crosshairs of the SEC. Last December, the agency filed a lawsuit against Ripple Labs, arguing that the company violated securities laws when it sold over $1 billion of a digital coin without registering with the commission or providing adequate disclosures to investors. The lawsuit has become highly contentious, with Ripple arguing that the SEC is overstepping its bounds. Gensler, who was tapped by President Biden to become the new SEC Chairman this year, has expressed plenty of skepticism about cryptocurrencies and called for the need of “guardrails” to protect individual investors from bad deals. Some crypto advocates fear that this animosity could culminate in much larger crackdowns akin to those seen in China–which banned all transactions involving cryptocurrencies–and India, where the government proposed a bill that seeks to ban all private cryptocurrencies in the country. What do key U.S. officials think about cryptocurrencies? The first roadblock for the government to set regulations is to determine who has jurisdiction. The SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have argued over who should oversee the space, creating confusion and redundancy. The acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu has argued for consolidated oversight of cryptocurrencies, and has pled for “less regulatory competition and more cooperation.” He says that his office’s position should not be “interpreted a green light or a solid red light, but rather as reflective of a disciplined, deliberative, and diligent approach to a novel and risky area.” In Congress, there are unsurprisingly both allies and skeptics of crypto fiercely advocating their positions. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has also been extremely vocal in calling for the regulation of cryptocurrencies. On the other side are Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.)–whose home state of Wyoming has become a cryptocurrency haven–and Sen. Patrick Toomey (R-PA), who says that “cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies be as revolutionary as the internet.” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen falls somewhere in the middle: she has been wary about cryptocurrencies being used for illegal purposes, but has also said that stablecoins can be useful if they’re carefully regulated. What legislation might emerge from this hearing? The session likely won’t immediately produce landmark crypto legislation, but it does signal a desire of members of Congress to learn more about the technology. (There is still plenty of miseducation and misunderstanding around the topic whizzing from all sides, and the learning curves remain very steep.) One proposed bill that could be elevated by the hearings is the Token Taxonomy Act, which aims to specify that digital tokens are not securities......»»

Category: topSource: timeDec 7th, 2021

Record-High 250,000 Migrant Encounters Across US-Mexico Border In December 2022: CBP

Record-High 250,000 Migrant Encounters Across US-Mexico Border In December 2022: CBP Authored by Mimi Nguyen Ly via The Epoch Times, The number of migrant encounters across the U.S. southern border for December 2022 reached a record high, with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) reporting a figure of more than a quarter of a million. That’s a total of 251,487 border enforcement encounters. The figure via CBP data surpasses the previous monthly record of 241,136, which was set in May 2022. It marks a seven percent increase from the November 2022 number of encounters, which was 234,896. The latest figure also far surpasses the number of enforcement encounters of the month of December in the prior two years: 179,253 in December 2021, and 73,994 in December 2020. Of the 251,487 border enforcement encounters in December 2022, 14 percent of involved individuals who have been stopped by a U.S. border agent in the previous 12 months. There were a total of 216,162 unique encounters in December 2022, which is an 11 percent increase in the number of unique enforcement encounters from November 2022. The CBP says the increase is “driven largely by an increased number of individuals fleeing authoritarian regimes in Cuba and Nicaragua.” New Border Enforcement Measures Despite the record-breaking figure, CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said that it shows the Biden administration’s efforts at the border have been effective. “The December update shows our new border enforcement measures are working. Even as overall encounters rose … we continued to see a sharp decline in the number of Venezuelans unlawfully crossing our southwest border, down 82 percent from September 2022,” Miller said in a statement. “Early data suggests the expanded measures for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans are having a similar impact, and we look forward to sharing the additional data in the next update.” Miller’s remarks refer to the Biden administration’s recent border changes, which include a parole program that was launched in October 2022 targeting Venezuelans. The program allows up to 24,000 Venezuelans to enter the United States under parole authority, which grants them entry and work authorization for a year, but is not a legal status. A Venezuelan national must meet certain criteria to be eligible, including having a sponsor in the United States to provide “financial and other support.” Under the parole program, Venezuelans who walk or swim across the border after Oct. 12, 2022, will be returned to Mexico under the Trump-era policy Title 42, which allows for blocking asylum claims and swift expulsion of most unauthorized border crossers under the grounds of keeping contagious diseases out of the United States. Until Oct. 12, 2022, Venezuelans weren’t subject to expulsion under Title 42 because neither their home country nor another country was willing to take them. Prior to the new measures, migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico were subject to expulsion from the United States under Title 42. Biden Expands Parole Authority President Joe Biden in early January then expanded the parole program to nationals of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti, which means they can apply for parole, and if they meet eligibility criteria, they can receive a two-year permit to work in the United States. Now, the nationals from these three countries and Venezuela who unlawfully cross the U.S. southern border are now also subject to expulsion under Title 42, with Mexico agreeing to receive up to 30,000 expelled people a month. Miller attributed the rising number of overall enforcement encounters in December 2022 to “smugglers spreading misinformation around the court-ordered lifting of the Title 42 public health order.” The Epoch Times cannot independently verify the assertion. Currently, Title 42 remains in effect for the time being due to a U.S. Supreme Court order in late December 2022. Republican lawmakers have accused Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of breaking immigration law in the way the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has implemented the parole authority. Prior to it being used for Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans, the parole authority was implemented under Biden on a mass scale to alleviate swamped Border Patrol stations amid soaring illegal crossings, and to allow in tens of thousands of Ukrainians. ‘Catastrophic Crisis’ Mark Morgan, former acting CBP commissioner and Heritage visiting fellow, called the situation at the border a “catastrophic crisis” and said the Biden administration has misrepresented the situation there. “What’s been happening at the border the last two years continues to be a catastrophic crisis, and the White House, Secretary Mayorkas, and the open-borders advocates on the left continue to lie about it,” he told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “Under the last Democratic president, 25,000 encounters was a borderline crisis—for the Biden administration, 10 times that number is simply business as usual.” Morgan said the Biden administration’s open-border policies have all “abjectly failed, yet [Mayorkas] continues to absurdly claim the opposite.” “No sane person could look at the border and claim we’re on the right course. Any other secretary would have long ago resigned in shame and disgrace, but it’s clear Secretary Mayorkas simply has no shame to begin with. So, Congress must immediately move to impeach him, begin meaningful oversight, and pass legislation to end the crisis and reduce illegal immigration.” The House Oversight Committee on Jan. 19 launched a probe into the border crisis by issuing a request for multiple documents from Mayorkas and calling on multiple border chiefs to testify at a hearing to be held in the week of Feb. 6. Since Biden took office in 2021 and scaled back or terminated key Trump-era policies, illegal immigration has soared to record levels. More than 2.3 million apprehensions were recorded at the U.S.–Mexico border in fiscal year 2022, which ended on Sept. 30, 2022—up about 37 percent from the previous year. “Joe Biden is the first president in my lifetime to intentionally un-secure the border. By way of more than 90 executive orders, he undid the successful Trump-era policies that brought illegal immigration to a 40-year low and gave us the most secure border of our lifetimes,” Tom Homan, former acting ICE director and Heritage visiting fellow, told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “This president and his team were warned what would happen if they got rid of those policies. They did it anyway, and you’re looking at the consequences. “More Americans than ever dying from fentanyl flooding across the southwest border. More women and children abused and sexually assaulted on the dangerous journey through Central America and Mexico. More migrants found dead on U.S. soil than ever. Record profits for the cartels as they traffic and smuggle historic numbers of drugs and people across the border. “It’s inhumane. It’s a slap in the face to the men and women of the Border Patrol, who are absolutely overwhelmed, as well as to ICE agents who’ve been told they can’t detain or deport most of those who break our laws.” Tyler Durden Sat, 01/21/2023 - 22:30.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 22nd, 2023

Astronaut Scott Kelly mocks George Santos for his committee assignments, calling the embattled congressman a "former NASA astronaut and moon walker"

On Tuesday, George Santos was tapped for seats on the House committees overseeing small businesses and science and technology. George Santos (left) and Scott Kelly.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call; Robert Markowitz/NASA via AFP Getty Images Astronaut Scott Kelly mocked congressman George Santos on Tuesday. In a tweet, Kelly called Santos a "former NASA astronaut and moon walker."  Santos on Tuesday was tapped for positions on committees overseeing science and small businesses. Astronaut Scott Kelly took to Twitter on Tuesday to mock Rep. George Santos over his new committee assignments. "Awesome to have former NASA astronaut and moon walker, Representative George Santos @Santos4Congress on the House Science Space and Technology Committee," Kelly tweeted. "To infinity and beyond!" Kelly is a retired astronaut who went to the International Space Station on three expeditions and spent a year in space. The tweet was a jab at Santos, who on Tuesday was tapped by House Republican leaders for seats on two House committees: one overseeing science, space, and technology, and another overseeing small businesses.The tweet appeared to reference the embattled Santos' many scandals. Santos has admitted to lying about going to university, being Jewish, and working at Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. Questions about the congressman's real name have also been raised after he was seen introducing himself as "Anthony Devolder" in a video clip from 2019.Santos last week did express some interest in serving on the House panel on science, space, and technology. On a January 11 episode of the podcast, "War Room: Pandemic," Rep. Matt Gaetz asked Santos which committees he'd like to be on."I came to DC without really any preconceived notions of what committees to serve, but rather what I can give to the American people," Santos said. "Whatever committee I'm given, whether it's I don't know, science and technology, or education and labor, or whatever committee is thrown my way, I will deliver 110%, because that's what I know how to do," Santos said. The congressman also called himself a "workhorse" during the podcast."I'm going to outwork any of the pundits and talking heads that are out there saying that I should resign, that I'm unfit for office," Santos said.Prosecutors in Long Island said on December 28 that they have opened an investigation into Santos. Long Island Republicans and the New York State GOP in January also called on Santos to resign, but Santos has refused to do so.CNN's Manu Raju on Tuesday spoke to the chairman of the House Small Business Committee, Rep. Roger Williams, who said it was not his "role" to condone Santos' behavior."He was elected. He represents a million people," Williams told Raju. Representatives for Kelly and Santos did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 17th, 2023

CBDCs Not Worth The Cost And Risks, Says Former BoE Adviser

CBDCs Not Worth The Cost And Risks, Says Former BoE Adviser Authored by Joseph Hall via CoinTelegraph.com, Tony Yates, the former senior adviser of the Bank of England, argues that CBDCs are not worth the headache... Central banks worldwide are pushing forward with digital asset projects despite the various crypto industry implosions of the past 12 months. China has rolled out its central bank digital currency (CBDC) to several cities and made it available for use at the Winter Olympics. Many other central banks, including the Bank of England, are considering how to roll out a CDBC, while Nigeria’s CBDC has had poor uptake so far. India has already launched a pilot scheme, while Mexico has confirmed the launch of a digital peso. However, Tony Yates, former senior adviser to the Bank of England, advises against CBDCs in a recently published opinion piece for the Financial Times. According to Yates, “The huge undertaking of digital currencies is not worth the costs and risks.” CBDCs are already in place in most countries as most countries already have digital versions of cash, coins and notes. Yates, therefore, questions the motivations behind global rollouts of CBDCs, calling them “suspect.” CBDCs could be a way of quashing crypto, including decentralized currencies such as Bitcoin. However, “Cryptocurrencies are such bad candidates for money,” he explains, adding: “They don’t have money supplies managed by humans to generate steady paths for inflation and are hugely expensive and time consuming to use in transactions.” Yates’ take on Bitcoin is unsurprising. He has tweeted several times about Bitcoin, claiming that most of Bitcoin’s use is “illicit” and “speculative.” I would guess that most of the use is 1) illicit, and not discouraged by central bank provision and 2) speculative; if CBDC were to cause a large price drop, this could wipe out and discourage a lot of users. — Tony Yates (@t0nyyates) April 17, 2021 Since Bitcoin use a public ledger available for everyone, its use for illicit purposes has decreased steadily over the years to less than 1% of total transactions, reports show.  On top of that, the layer-2 Lightning Network allows instant remittance payments, while other cryptocurrencies and even stablecoins continue to grow in use cases and development. For Yates, introducing CBDCs is akin to “making central bank reserves more widely available than just to counterparties.” But in a world where the reserve currency is the U.S. dollar, the competition for a new global CBDC is counterproductive. The Financial Times opinion piece summarizes that the most compelling arguments for CBDCs are around payments and settlement efficiency, but the debate is “mysterious.” Yates explains that it would be a colossal undertaking for the central bank to employ the staff to build and manage the hardware and software of a new payment system.  Tyler Durden Tue, 01/17/2023 - 13:05.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 17th, 2023

We asked House lawmakers about scandal-plagued Rep. George Santos. Most Republicans want nothing to do with him.

Several GOP colleagues want him out, and dozens more are avoiding him. But George Santos is staffing up, and even starting to make some friends. George Santos officially became a member of Congress in the early hours of January 7, 2023.AP Photo/Alex Brandon George Santos has now been a member of Congress for one week. Several of his GOP colleagues want him to resign, and his future remains uncertain. In interviews with Insider, lawmakers offered a range of views on the scandal-plagued congressman. In the early hours of January 7, George Santos officially became a member of Congress.C-SPAN cameras perched above the floor zoomed in on the freshman Republican as he and 432 of his colleagues took the oath of office after a historic 15 votes for House speaker that lasted four days.—CSPAN (@cspan) January 7, 2023For weeks, Santos had been the subject of countless media reports about his long list of resume fabrications and high probability of ethics issues. By the time he'd arrived in Washington, Santos was facing investigations from federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities, as well as the Rio De Janeiro prosecutor's office. But the drama around Kevin McCarthy's speaker election, lasting days longer than anticipated, had seemingly delayed a reckoning that Santos, his new colleagues, and the institution as a whole were due.This week, that reckoning arrived.Seeking to gain an understanding of how Santos is being received by his new colleagues, Insider spoke with over 20 lawmakers in the halls of the Capitol over the course of this week. While a number of Republicans expressed grave concern about what they see as a serial fraudster and a liability for the conference, some offered a non-judgmental, even welcoming attitude. Stuck in the House chamber for days on end last week, the congressman initially sat by himself before eventually finding a receptive crowd among the chamber's more right-wing lawmakers. But it's plainly evident that most Republicans simply want to avoid Santos and his baggage.Santos has admitted to lying about his employment, his education history, and his purported Jewish heritage, but hasn't yet addressed a slew of concerns about his campaign's finances. "Obviously, there were concerns about what we had heard, and so we're going to have to sit down and talk to him about it," said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise at a Tuesday briefing with reporters, saying the matter would be "handled internally."But Santos is clearly a problem for House Republicans. He's also presented a prime opportunity for Democrats eager to highlight malfeasance in the opposing party. And for journalists — whether they're investigating a long paper trail left by two congressional campaigns or camping outside his Capitol Hill office, ready to chase him down the halls — he's become the latest obsession. The House's two Jewish Republicans, Reps. David Kustoff of Tennessee and Max Miller of Ohio, previously shared a stage with Santos at an November event hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition, which has since disinvited him from future events after his claim of being the Jewish descent of Holocaust survivors was exposed as a lie. Kustoff embraces Santos and Miller at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas on November 19, 2022.David Becker / Washington Post via Getty ImagesKustoff said it would be "up to his constituents to make a decision" about Santos's future, but made clear he doesn't "think it's likely" he'll speak with him again.Miller, a one-time Trump White House aide with his own unsavory history, was seen walking and talking with Santos through a tunnel beneath the Capitol Complex on Monday evening."Do you mind? We're having a conversation," said Santos when Insider first attempted to ask him about a new rules package that will severely hobble the Office of Congressional Ethics, which is likely to investigate some of the congressman's behavior."Off the record — we're having a private conversation," said Miller. But when Santos was heading back towards the chamber about 20 minutes later, he went out of his way to chide this reporter for initially mis-identifying Miller as an aide."Make sure you report accurately, because you called Max Miller a staffer, an aide. He's a congressman from the 9th district of Ohio," said Santos. "Get your facts straight!"But three days later, Miller — who actually represents Ohio's 7th district — became the eighth House Republican to publicly call for Santos to resign.'I don't intend to speak with him'By the end of this week, Republican leadership had made clear that they won't push Santos out of Congress just yet, despite resignation calls from several of his House Republican colleagues (mostly fellow freshmen from New York) a high-profile disavowal by the Nassau County GOP, and a week of headlines that seemed to distract from a raft of mostly-symbolic legislation that Republicans had teed up to kick off their new majority."He seems to propel a lot of headlines for quite some time," said Republican Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee, who's told Santos that he's "praying for him" and has adopted a non-judgemental attitude towards the new congressman. "I try to befriend everybody that's in a little bit of a bind."Santos has in turn made clear that he will not resign and has begun hiring new staff for his office, some of whom come from the furthest-right corners of American politics.Many Republicans' public pronouncements about Santos largely mirror the approach taken by McCarthy: the congressman has been duly elected, and some respect should be afforded to that, even as authorities continue to investigate him. "I can see the uneasiness up here with him," said Burchett. "That's just human nature."Rep. Pat Fallon of Texas, among the first of Santos's GOP colleagues to approach him on the House floor last week, sought to downplay the interaction when asked about it, saying it was just "hey, how are you." "He seems to be, you know, a nice guy. I read the stuff. Obviously I'm very disappointed that there were things that he said that weren't true," said Fallon. "I did mention that to him, and he said he's more disappointed than anyone."Fallon, seen beside Santos on the House floor on Thursday, January 5, says the New York congressman told him that he's "more disappointed than anyone."Win McNamee/Getty ImagesOthers have been forceful, such as Reps. Nancy Mace of South Carolina or Nick LaLota of New York, both of whom are among the Republicans demanding Santos' resignation."I'm not gonna have anything to do with somebody that can't be trusted, and clearly defrauded the voters of New York," said Mace, one of several House members who met Santos at an orientation for new members of Congress in 2020, the first time he ran for Congress. Santos had traveled to Washington to learn the ropes of lawmaking even as it was clear that the election would eventually be called for Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi. "I've met him, I've spoken to him, and he literally pulled the wool over everybody's eyes," said Mace."I don't intend to speak with him. His conduct is far below what his office requires," said Lalota. "The more we engage in the Santos drama, the less we're able to focus on what we need to focus on."Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, set to be the chair of a new select committee on China, said he doesn't want Santos on his own committee and doubts that he'll be seated on any other committees that pertain to national security."I get annoyed every time you guys ask me a question about this guy," said Gallagher. "I don't even know this guy. It's odd that he occupies any space in my brain."But Santos has become friendly with some of his Republican colleagues, a number of whom approached him during last week's speakership drama."He's under fire," observed Republican Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana. "So I made it a point to shake his hand, and welcome him to Congress. I gave him my cell and told him my staff would be at his avail as he tries to stand up his office.""I don't know what's true and what's not true," Higgins added of Santos's fabrications. "The media lies.""That's the one that's got the ethics?" said Republican Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, who said that Santos "seems nice" even as he appeared unaware of the extent of his controversies. "I didn't know he was under investigation in Brazil… that's sad, I'll tell you that."Santos sat between Greene and Ogles on Thursday, January 5.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images"As far as the questions surrounding him, you know, I don't have the particulars, and it's not my place or business to judge," said Republican Rep. Andy Ogles of Tennessee, who sat besides Santos and Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia during speaker votes. "He is, however, a human being, and he sat next to me, and we have great conversations."Greene, for her part, has been perhaps the most forceful defender of Santos, who she appears to have been friendly with for at least a couple of years. While she acknowledged that Santos lied about his resume, she later chastised former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for giving the congressman "zero grace" during a tougher-than-expected interview on Fox News in December.—George Santos (@Santos4Congress) November 30, 2020But Greene declined to speak about Santos to Insider, calling this reporter a "jerk" for revealing that she was vacationing in Costa Rica during the House passage of the omnibus bill in December. "No, you can — you can leave me alone," said Greene.Rep. Andy Biggs was also among the lawmakers that Santos has apparently met; the two were photographed speaking with one another on the House floor on January 4. But the Arizona Republican denied ever meeting Santos when asked about their interaction."Never talked to him once," said Biggs. "I've never met the guy."Santos and Biggs on the House floor on Wednesday, January 4.Win McNamee/Getty Images'I have zero respect for him'Democrats have wasted little time calling attention to Santos. At a press conference on Thursday, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries pointedly declared that Santos was "an issue that Republicans need to handle."But New York's third congressional district, which Santos now represents, is viewed as a Democratic-leaning seat, and a special election triggered by his early departure — coupled with the likely victory of Democrat Jennifer McClellan in a February special election in Virginia — could shave Republicans' current four-vote margin down to two in a matter of weeks."Kevin McCarthy is afraid of losing his majority," said Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, saying the GOP leader had found a "bullshit excuse" to keep Santos around despite resignation calls from his own rank-and-file. Gallego, whose office sits just feet from Santos's office, acknowledged having "lots of media" in the hallways but said he had yet to meet his new office neighbor.Among the Democrats that Santos has met is Rep. Ritchie Torres of New York — also at new member orientation in 2020."He did introduce himself, and made a point of mentioning that he was gay," said Torres, who is also gay. "I just found it to be an odd exchange." (Former Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones of New York, also gay, recently recounted a similar interaction with Santos at that year's orientation.)Torres is now one of Santos's most vocal critics, championing a bill with fellow Democratic Rep. Dan Goldman of New York called the Stopping Another Non-Truthful Office Seeker (SANTOS) Act to require candidates to disclose their educational, military, and employment background to the Federal Election Commission, hitting them with a $100,000 penalty if they're found to have lied. Torres credited his legislative director for devising the bill's name. "It's a brilliant acronym," he said.The duo also filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee over Santos's financial disclosure and hand-delivered it to his office on Tuesday in a made-for-TV moment.—Mychael Schnell (@mychaelschnell) January 10, 2023 "I told him I had a complaint to give him, and he asked me to give it to his staff member," Goldman said, recounting the brief interaction with Santos."This is very near and dear to my heart," Goldman added. "To allow someone like George Santos to be sworn in as a member here is a desecration of this great institution."And four other Democrats with military backgrounds, including Rep. Pat Ryan of New York, sent a letter to McCarthy this week urging him to block Santos from receiving classified information."I don't say this lightly: I have zero respect for him as a member," said Ryan. "He's the only one of the entire body I would say that about."At one point during the days of Speaker votes, Santos was photographed speaking with Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York on the edge of a larger group of Republicans. Asked about the exchange, Ocasio-Cortez said that "chatting is a generous term" to describe the interaction. Santos and Ocasio-Cortez briefly spoke on the sidelines of a gaggle of GOP lawmakers on the House floor on Wednesday, January 4.Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images"He said, 'you know, we may have some things in common,'" said Ocasio-Cortez, recounting the interaction. "And I laughed at him and I said, 'oh, really?' and that was all."'A long way to go to earn trust'Rejected by his fellow New York Republicans and under watch from party leadership, Santos may find himself throwing in his lot with the more combative right flank of the House GOP.He's hired a handful of new staffers to build out his office, including a former communications staffer for ultra-conservative Republican Reps. Madison Cawthorn and Paul Gosar. He's also brought on Vish Burra, a Republican operative who's worked as a producer for Steve Bannon's "War Room" podcast."George Santos is a National Treasure," wrote Burra in a since-deleted tweet over a video of Santos from the day before the January 6 riot in which he claimed his own congressional election was stolen in 2020. "This is why the corporate press is trying to silence him."By Wednesday, Santos had begun to assume a combative attitude towards his detractors, tweeting at former Rep. Adam Kinzinger to "go on @CNN and cry about it" after the Illinois Republican called on him to resign.Santos walking with operations manager Vish Burra in the Cannon Tunnel at the Capitol on Thursday, January 12.Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty ImagesAnd on Thursday morning, he sat for his first interview in weeks on "War Room," where he fielded softball questions from Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who has his own history of federal investigations. "I could ask you what it's like to be an embattled congressman, but I kinda know a little bit about that scene," Gaetz said to Santos, who went on to sidestep repeated questions from Gaetz about where he got the $700,000 he reported lending to his campaign.But Santos' future as an effective public servant looks bleak. It's unclear who would co-sponsor legislation with him, given most congressional Republicans' desire to avoid associating with him. It's unlikely that he'll be able to provide many services for his constituents, given local officials' pledge not to work with him. And it's difficult to imagine Santos winning re-election in two years — let alone making it out of a Republican primary, given the local party's disavowal of him.McCarthy told reporters this week that Santos has "a long way to go to earn trust," comments that mirrored his pronouncement that Cawthorn, who made wild claims about Republicans snorting cocaine and having orgies, had "lost my trust" amid his own web of controversies last year. Republicans in Washington later worked to sideline and defeat the young congressman.What does seem likely is that an aura of controversy — and its attendant media scrutiny — will surround Santos until either Republicans decide to remove the distraction or officials at the federal, local, or state level file charges against him.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytJan 14th, 2023

The Invasion Equation

The Invasion Equation Authored by Clarence Henderson via RealClear Wire, Rape trees, river floaters, skeletal remains, and fentanyl candy. The new vernacular of illegal immigration is an indictment of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) loss of operational control along the U.S.-Southern border. A consequence of this is the transformation of cartel insurgencies into well-formed armies that recruit and employ uniformed soldiers, have supporting intelligence operations, and control terrain. The challenge now confronting state and federal law enforcement is no longer how to deter an insurgency; it’s how to defeat an army. Modern armies are resourced by nation-states who provide moral leadership in times of war. But the accountable governments of nation-states can falter and fail. Mexico in particular has a compromised central government that is not protecting its own homeland from subversive actors. When this happens, a conglomerate of paid professionals, mercenaries, conscripts, and criminals fills the void to either protect or exploit the resources of a community. It was true within the first communities of Mesopotamia, and it is happening now in communities across Mexico. This is how armies begin. A state is incapable of securing its communities, accountable governments lose legitimacy, and subversive actors start vying for control of terrain to exploit resources.   The hallmark of any effective army is its ability to control terrain. The cartel armies have done that by co-opting the gangs of the U.S. and operate the world’s largest crime syndicate complete with narco distribution hubs throughout the U.S.. In Mexico they cordon cities and run roadblocks to collect information and extort residents. To date, as much as 20 percent of Mexico has come under control of the cartels as previously reported by CIA analysts. Their center of gravity is the illicit drug and human trafficking revenues from which they derive their strength. The illegal aliens that they infiltrate, the drugs that they smuggle, and the terrorist that they give safe passage each infiltrate the Southern border under their control and further empower their control of terrain. The Invasion Word Armies deter aggression and win the nation’s wars by dominating the land. So, the maxim goes… But this is a description that prescribes to a classical definition of state-on-state aggression initiated by an invasion of one state’s sponsored military against another’s. Article 4, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution even guarantees that the U.S. shall protect its states against invasion. And if not, Article 1, Section 10 permits states the right to protect themselves from an invasion. These “invasion clauses” are the genesis of the debate that is occurring between the federal government and border states. The federal government clings to the classic definition of an invasion and does not believe the humanitarian disaster occurring under the control of cartel armies constitutes an invasion. Whereas border state Governors believe in a 21st century asymmetric style of invasion pointing to the infiltration of bad actors causing economic and criminal harm to their states. Regardless, the federal dogma continues along the line that an invasion is an “armed hostility from another political entity.” To date, America’s next great leader has yet to emerge and articulate a coherent unified response to the 21st century cartel invasion. Instead, a range of state-based strategies and stunts have been developed. Governor Gregg Abbott of Texas has passed an executive order empowering his state to apprehend illegal immigrants in certain circumstances as well as designating Mexican cartels as terrorist organizations, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey was seeking court affirmation for his state’s right to defend itself, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is focusing on trafficking operations. And each of the aforementioned Governors has since adopted the political stunt of giving illegal aliens safe passage to sanctuary cities in northern states via bussing. As a result, cartel armies continue to consolidate power and gain control of territories while states bear the brunt of economic and criminal impacts. Deploying the National Guard The loss of operational control along the U.S.-Southern border by DHS has forced border state Governors into a constitutional dilemma. To date, no Governor has challenged the federal government to enforce federal immigration law and turn back persons seeking illegal entry. Instead, states such as Texas are relying on their own state constitutional authority to use the National Guard to arrest illegal aliens committing crimes. In fact, the National Guard has had a continuous presence on the Southern border since 2014 when former Texas Governor Perry deployed 1,000 troops to interdict Cartel del Golfo (Gulf Cartel). Deploying the National Guard to interdict cartel armies remains a desirable option due to the federal government’s abandonment of the border. But when opting for this option the Governor’s and their military commanders must maintain strategic symmetry throughout all facets of the operation. On-going challenges the National Guard is confronting on the border has generated the following principles that should be addressed when conducting border operations. A Task Force is not a Strategy Don’t Surge Your Troops to Failure You Can’t Go to War with a Border Build Consensus Between the Diplomats, the Bureaucrats, and the Generals A Task Force is Not a Strategy Governors love a good Task Force. And they exist for virtually every political, economic, and social purpose. As far as the border is concerned, Current task forces include Arizona’s Task Force Badge to support local law enforcement in border towns; New Mexico’s Human Trafficking Task Force; and Texas’ Task Force on Border and Homeland Security. These task forces sometimes strain due to the broad scope of concerns they attempt to address. Governor’s fall into a ‘my task force is bigger than yours” mentality and end up creating over representative committees. For instance, Texas’ Task Force on Border and Homeland Security has representatives from eight state agencies, the Border Sheriffs’ Coalition, county judges, mayors, property rights organizations, concerned citizens, and border community prosecutors. Good luck with that task force developing a specific focus. A bloated think-tank style “task force” creates ambiguity at the operational level that lacks strategic context. What often results are large task forces that try to cover all conceivable scenarios due to the absence of a unified strategy. Inevitably, the Governor responds to think-tank style task forces and their recommendations and begins to implement what is confused as a strategy. Whereas the General tries to facilitate force structure and build a strategy within their joint staff. Thus, the two begin to react to separate problem sets. Don’t Surge Your Troops to Failure The National Guard is an operational force that provides strategic depth to our nation’s Army and Air Force. Over the past two decades the National Guard became quite adept as a resource provider to the Middle Eastern wars. In this federal role the National Guard followed a deliberate mobilization process lasting up to a year that culminated with properly trained, equipped, and missioned Soldiers. State led missions on the other hand are led by the Governor and TAG who controls the state’s National Guard. These National Guard soldiers and airmen are activated on state active duty and remain under the command and control of the Governor while costs are incurred by the taxpayers of the state. In this capacity the state’s TAG is responsible for training, readiness, and oversight of soldiers and airmen. Governors don’t understand this concept and instead believe that the military exists within a perpetual state of readiness. And because of this belief they are quick to surge troops to the border when political pressure builds. Doing this wrong had disastrous results in Texas. Just this past summer a “no notice surge” of up to 10,000 troops to the Texas-Mexico border was attempted by the Governor. What resulted was a logistical nightmare of delayed pay, substandard living conditions, and equipment shortages. Most egregious were a number of suicides attributed to forced mobilizations because of no warning, and a tragic drowning due to limited training. In the wake of this disaster the TAG, Major General Tracy Norris, was replaced due to her inability to plan an operation, other senior officers were reassigned, and the number of troops on the border was reduced.   You Can’t Go to War with a Border The Prussian Soldier and writer Carl von Clausewitz wrote over two hundred years ago that war is not exerted on inanimate or passive human material. The U.S.-Mexico border is an inanimate terrain feature. It does not think or fight. The thinkers and fighters are “Cartel Americana” that have saturated the Americas in depth throughout the northern and Southern hemispheres. Defeating the illicit activities of the cartel armies requires a defense in depth strategy extending to within the cities and towns of the U.S. away from the border. What is required is a higher order of operational strategy consisting of what military theorist Liddell Hart refers to as the “concentration of strengths against weaknesses”. The strength of the National Guard is its array of specialized units and human capital that do not exist within the active component of the U.S. military. Units such as homeland response forces, counter drug programs, cyber defense teams, and information operations; amongst other specialized capabilities could be the focus beyond the border. The primary intent should be to reclaim the physical and digital terrain that the cartel armies have seized. Augmenting the special agents within the Criminal Investigation Divisions of each state’s County Sheriff’s Offices, Attorney General’s Office, and Departments of Public Safety would provide a real threat to the cartel army’s self-preservation. Physical interdictions do not cease but instead become enhanced on the border.   Build Consensus Between the Diplomats, the Bureaucrats, and the Generals A Governor that decides to deploy the National Guard takes on the role of a diplomat to convince both the citizenry and state legislature for the need of civil self-protection. The messaging that the Governor delivers must be persuasive enough to receive popular support, pass legislation, and forge a budget. In Arizona Governor Doug Ducey influenced state legislators to create a border security fund consisting of $55 million; Florida Governor Ron DeSantis created a consortium of state law enforcement agencies expending $1.6 million to provide border security support to Texas; and Texas Governor Greg Abbott influenced his state legislature to provide $3 billion to finance the Operation Lone Star mission. Building consensus for a budget proposal is a core competency of Governorship. However, building funding consensus is not synonymous with strategic consensus.  Governors, as the Commander in Chief of state military forces, are responsible for providing a strategic context to their National Guard troops. They should be able to rely on their existing agencies to craft that strategic context. The strategic aptitudes of a state exist within the Department of Emergency Management, Department of Public Safety, and Military Department (National Guard) who possess competent strategic planners. It is within these departments and agencies that a strategic framework is developed to visualize the operation in time, space, and purpose. From that, operations at the tactical level are developed, and resources applied through existing state bureaucracies. Doing this right requires strategic patience which is antithetical to a Governor who may have just negotiated a “border package” and needs a surge to commence. Thus consensus on a strategy often is strained from the very first press conference. Conclusion Current border state Governors have been forced into a situation non dissimilar to Reagan’s dilemma of 1984 when he responded to the Soviet Union’s influence in our hemisphere. During that time Reagan stated, “the United States has a legal right and a moral duty to help resist the subversive activities of the Soviet Union.” The dilemma of our hemisphere today is how to defend the United States from cartel armies. It’s not good practice to commit large military formations to long term criminal enforcement. It’s simply not within the DNA of America’s founding principles. However, the U.S. is being invaded by cartel armies as they continue to infiltrate the U.S.. How our Governors decide to leverage Constitutional authorities will determine if this war can be won.   Colonel Clarence Henderson (U.S. Army, ret.) is a former Infantry Brigade Combat Team Commander and U.S. Army War College graduate with over 20 years of active service and multiple worldwide deployments. He was the former commander of all troops on the border under Governors Rick Perry and Greg Abbott of Texas. Tyler Durden Mon, 01/09/2023 - 23:40.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeJan 10th, 2023

Steve Bannon calls Bolsonaro protesters who stormed Brazil"s Congress "freedom fighters"

Steve Bannon has long promoted claims of voter fraud on his show, and is now lauding the crowd that stormed Brazil's Congress. Steve Bannon, talk show host and former White House advisor to former President Donald Trump, November 15, 2021.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque Steve Bannon hyped the protesters who stormed Brazil's Congress, calling them "freedom fighters." The former Trump advisor has long stoked unsubstantiated rumors of election fraud in Brazil.  Bannon has seized on the issue in the same way he did with Trump's own election fraud claims.  Steve Bannon cheered on Brazilian demonstrators who stormed the country's Congress on Sunday, after he continued to stoke election fraud claims there.Bannon shared a video that showed protesters pouring into the congressional building in Brasilia on alt-right social media platform Gettr, labeling them "Brazilian freedom fighters."The attack, which lasted three hours, spilled through the country's national congress, its Supreme Court, and its presidential palace, Reuters reported, in scenes that bore distinct echoes of the riot at the US Capitol two years ago.  —Renato Souza (@reporterenato) January 8, 2023 The attack was the latest incident since former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro lost his election in a tightly-fought race to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, also known simply as Lula, in October last year.Months before the election, Bolsonaro sowed rumors of voter fraud, in moves starkly similar to those made by former President Donald Trump and allies such as Steve Bannon. Lately Bannon, a former Trump advisor, has also amped unevidenced claims of election fraud in Brazil.In November, Bannon spoke with Brazilian congressman and Bolsonaro's son Eduardo during the latter's visit to Mar-a-Lago, The Washington Post reported.Bannon told the paper that they discussed potential challenges to the election results and the impact of pro-Bolsonaro protests. He also said, per the paper: "The [Brazilian] people are saying they've been grossly disenfranchised."Around the same time, the younger Bolsonaro also shared a video on Twitter in which Bannon suggested that Brazil's digital elections system had been set up to enable fraud.A review by Brazil's military late last year found no credible evidence of widespread election fraud, according to The New York Times. However, a proviso in the review — that Brazil's electronic system meant that a specific fraud scenario could not be definitively ruled out — has been seized on by Bolsonaro supporters, the Times reported.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 9th, 2023

The ambitious career of Kevin McCarthy, GOP hopeful for Speaker of the House

The frontrunner for Speaker of the House has held political office since 2002, when he began serving in the California State Assembly. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, is the GOP nominee for Speaker of the House. But the GOP House leader's bid for Speaker hangs in the balance as he scrambled for support to lock down the role. Here's a look at his more than two decades in office and how his influence has grown among the GOP. Kevin McCarthy, a California congressman, is the House Republican nominee angling to replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House in the next congressional session.But his bid to hold the Speaker's gavel still hangs in the balance after several Republicans publicly opposed him, including Reps. Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz, despite his concessions to demands from far-right lawmakers.The GOP leader will still need to win 218 votes to win the Speaker's gavel if every member of the House were to attend and cast a vote, a number that isn't guaranteed despite Republicans controlling 222 seats. A second ballot is expected after no nominees for Speaker is projected to secure enough votes Tuesday afternoon, and successive votes will take place until McCarthy or another nominee garners enough support.The last time a speaker election has gone to multiple votes was in 1923 when a Speaker of the House was elected after nine ballots.Just hours before the vote, McCarthy delivered an impassioned speech to his party in a last-minute attempt to secure support to cement the role."I earned this job. We earned this majority, and God dammit we are going to win it today," McCarthy said to a standing ovation, Politico reported.Throughout his more than 20-year political career, the Bakersfield Republican has developed a reputation for his ambition. Here's a look at McCarthy's career, starting with his time in the California State Assembly to his recent years as a political influencer poised to become second in the line of presidential succession.  Representatives for McCarthy did not respond to Insider's requests for comment.Kevin McCarthy's political career began before he was elected to the California State Assembly. He worked in Rep. Bill Thomas's district office from 1987 to 2002, when he first won state office. The son of a Bakersfield assistant fire chief, McCarthy briefly ran a deli counter out of his aunt and uncle's frozen yogurt shop as a young adult but has worked in state or federal politics for his entire career.In this March 26, 2004 file photo, then-California State Assembly Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, left, talks to reporters after a meeting with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Sacramento, Calif.AP Photo/Steve Yeater, FileMcCarthy served as California State Assemblyman until 2007 and was Assembly Minority Leader from 2004-2006. In 2006, he raised $1.15 million in campaign finances, according to OpenSecrets, slightly below the $1.36 million average raised by House members. In comparison, during the 2022 election, McCarthy raised $25.5 million — far above the $2.85 million average.In this Feb. 17, 2005 file photo, then-California State Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy, right, walks with then-California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, center, and Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., on Capitol Hill in Washington.AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, FileAfter winning his election as representative for California's 22nd Congressional District in 2007, after his former boss Bill Thomas retired from the seat, McCarthy's political influence began to grow. He served as Majority Whip, the third-ranking House Republican from 2011 to 2014.Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Thursday, June 21, 2007.Chuck Kennedy/MCT/Tribune News Service via Getty ImagesIn his early years as a US Representative, McCarthy was one of three founding members of the GOP Young Guns Program — an initiative intended to promote young Republicans among the National Republican Congressional Committee.U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks on day one of the Republican National Convention (RNC) at the Xcel Energy Center September 1, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota.Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesMcCarthy ran for his House seat unopposed in 2008 and 2010. Reflecting on his one-time student, Dr. Mohsen Attaran, professor of management at California State University, Bakersfield, who taught McCarthy in his BA and MA programs, told Insider, "He's at the same time an ambitious and compassionate individual."Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), shown here in the U.S. Capitol, December 9, 2009, was chosen in a poll of congressional insiders as the GOP member of Congress with the "brightest political future."Robert Giroux/MCT/Tribune News Service via Getty ImagesIn 2012, McCarthy's congressional office was revealed to be one of the top spenders in Washington, spending the equivalent of two salaries — or $95,000 —on pastries and lunches, with an additional $4,000 being spent on bottled water, ABC reported. The next highest spender that year, Republican House Speaker John Boehner, spent a comparative $64,000.House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., leaves the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July, 11, 2012, after the Republican-controlled House voted 244-185 to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law.AP Photo/J. Scott ApplewhiteIn his fifth term, McCarthy was part of a group of mostly GOP leaders who sued the Obama administration over the president's use of executive action related to the Affordable Care Act's employer health insurance mandate.McCarthy (R-CA), leaves a meeting of the House Republican conference June 18, 2014 at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.Win McNamee/Getty ImagesBecoming more of a figurehead within the GOP, then-House Majority Leader McCarthy took a lead role in challenging the Obama administration's policy goals. He urged President Obama to sign legislation approving the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline and called for a firmer response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. He ran an unsuccessful bid for Speaker of the House in 2015.House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., center, with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., right, sponsor of the Senate's Keystone XL pipeline bill version, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., chair of the Republican Conference, urge President Barack Obama to sign the legislation passed in the House and Senate approving expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015.AP Photo/J. Scott ApplewhiteMcCarthy was among the first Republicans to express support for Donald Trump and endorsed him for the Republican primary in the 2016 presidential election, signaling an alliance that would persist through two impeachments. McCarthy, now a GOP figurehead, also vastly out-fundraised other House Republicans in 2016— raising $7.74 million in campaign finance contributions compared to the average $1.73 million, according to OpenSecrets.Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks during the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Tuesday, July 19, 2016.AP Photo/J. Scott ApplewhiteIn 2017, CalMatters reported "no politician has more clout with the Trump White House than [McCarthy] does," calling him "Trump's closest ally in Congress," though The Washington Post reported McCarthy had been recorded saying "I think Putin pays" Trump the year before.President-elect Donald Trump, followed by President Barack Obama, greets Congressional leadership as they arrive for Trump's inauguration ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2017.AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, PoolAs House Majority Leader, McCarthy unified House Republicans in voting against Trump's first impeachment, related to allegations the former president threatened to withhold aid from Ukraine in order to enlist the government in discrediting his political rival, Joe Biden.House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., listen to President Donald J. Trump during a signing ceremony for S. 756, First Step Act and H.R. 6964, Juvenile Justice Reform Act in the Oval Office at the White House on Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 in Washington, DC.Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty ImagesMcCarthy has maintained his defense of the former president on numerous occasions, with CNN reporting he said "there's nothing that the president did wrong" on his phone call with Zelenskyy. Politico reported he defended military expenditures at Trump's Scottish resort, saying, "It's just like any other hotel."House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019.AP Photo/Susan WalshFollowing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, McCarthy privately lambasted the then-president, even saying he would call for Trump's resignation while maintaining public support for him. Though their relationship was briefly questioned after recordings of McCarthy's criticism surfaced, Trump reaffirmed his belief in McCarthy's loyalty last year.President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One, followed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., as he returns Saturday, May 30, 2020, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Trump is returning from Kennedy Space Center for the SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch.AP Photo/Alex Brandon"Kevin McCarthy will sell his mother's soul in order to protect his own political career and to do whatever the former president tells him to do. And that's not okay," McCarthy's 2022 political challenger, Marisa Wood, told Insider, echoing concerns from within his party that McCarthy's ambition had outweighed his morals. "He's willing to sacrifice everything for his own political gain," Liz Cheney said of McCarthy in October 2022.House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., speaks during a news conference as Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind., right, looks on at Capitol Hill, in Washington, Wednesday, July 21, 2021. Pelosi is rejecting two Republicans tapped by House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy to sit on a committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. She cited the "integrity" of the investigation.AP Photo/Jose Luis MaganaMcCarthy announced his bid for Speaker of the House last year just as Trump announced his third presidential campaign. McCarthy needs to win 218 votes to win the Speaker seat, though at least five Republicans have publicly opposed him.House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., heads to his office surrounded by reporters after House investigators issued a subpoena to McCarthy and four other Republican lawmakers as part of their probe into the violent Jan. 6 insurrection, at the Capitol in Washington, May 12, 2022.AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, FileEditor's note: This story was first published in November 2022 and has been updated to reflect recent developments.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 3rd, 2023

I"m a 25-year-old Congress reporter for Insider. Here"s what it"s like getting lawmakers on the record while navigating the halls of the Capitol

As a Hill reporter I've covered legislation, major political events, and congressional hearings while roaming the halls asking lawmakers questions. Me outside the House of Representatives.Bryan Metzger/Insider I've been working as a reporter for Insider on Capitol Hill since July 2021. That includes covering daily happenings and major political events, like the overturning of Roe v. Wade. I've also posed questions to some of the country's most powerful lawmakers — and even made news. I first began reporting on Congress from Capitol Hill in August 2021, shortly after I was hired as a fellow for Insider. It's been the most exciting chapter of my career as a journalist so far.As a Hill reporter, I've had the opportunity to cover several major events through the lens of Congress, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the January 6 committee's hearings, the effort to institute new protections for same-sex marriage, and several other big pieces of legislation.Capitol Hill is also just a fun place to be — I've made lots of friends among my fellow journalists, and I've learned a ton from watching how others do their work.Every day is different from the next, and for a politics junkie like myself, I can think of no place more invigorating to work.Here are some of the things I get to do during a typical week on the Hill:Press conferences are some of the best places to get lawmakers on the recordSenate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer calling on a reporter at a press conference in December.Bryan Metzger/InsiderPress conferences, held on a weekly basis by Democratic and Republican leaders in both chambers of Congress, allow reporters to hear what lawmakers might be thinking about pending bills and current political events.It's also one of the best places to land a question that makes news.For instance, late last year I asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi whether members of Congress should be banned from trading stocks just days after Insider published its "Conflicted Congress" investigation.She said they should not, sparking intense backlash and media coverage and jump-starting legislative efforts to prohibit congressional trading. Reporters can track down senators in the Senate basement on their way to voteSenators and staff exiting a subway in the Capitol basement. Democratic Sens. Alex Padilla of California, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut can all be seen in this photo.Bryan Metzger/InsiderI cover both the House and the Senate, and I must say, the Senate is a much easier place to cover.If you're looking to chat with one of the 100 members of the Senate, the best place to plant yourself is in the basement, where a pair of underground railways connect the Capitol to Senate office buildings.When they're in session, senators typically vote on legislation anywhere from one to 10 times a day, moving back and forth from their offices to the Senate chamber, where they cast their votes.That's the best time to find the senator you need for that one particular story, or to poll a large number of senators on a piece of major news.Most are happy to talk with reporters, provided you identify yourself and tell them who you work for at the outset.Some, however, regularly decline hallway questions from reporters. Among these senators are Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who says she doesn't do "walk and talks," and Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona independent.     You can find dozens of House members on the steps after votesHouse members walking down the steps outside the chamber in September 2021.Bryan Metzger/InsiderTalking to the more than 400 members of the House is a lot harder — there are dozens, possibly hundreds, that I still can't identify by face.Plus, unlike in the Senate, they tend to come to the chamber to vote from several different directions. And since the House uses proxy voting, sometimes the lawmaker you're looking for isn't even in town, even if they're technically casting votes on legislation!Sometimes, a reporter's best bet for talking with people is by staking out the tunnel that leads to the building where a particular lawmaker has their office.But if the weather is nice, you might find reporters on the steps outside the chamber, where scores of lawmakers leave after a particular series of votes have concluded.Sometimes, I get to cover high-profile congressional hearingsCassidy Hutchinson departs after testifying before the January 6 committee on June 28, 2022.Shawn Thew/AFP via Getty ImagesCapitol Hill is also a place where hearings regularly take place, whether it's a congressional committee seeking to examine a topic under its jurisdiction or an opportunity for members of Congress to question officials in the executive branch.These hearings are often high-profile and politically contentious; Republicans famously questioned former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for 11 hours in 2015, and Democrats held hearings during former President Donald Trump's first impeachment in 2019.This past year, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol held a series of public hearings.I attended two of them, including the hearing in June that saw explosive testimony from Cassidy Hutchinson, a former Trump White House official.Covering the hearing from inside the room — versus watching it on TV — was fascinating. There were several points at which attendees, including reporters, could be heard audibly gasping as Hutchinson revealed details of former president Donald Trump's conduct on the day of the attack.Once I have the quotes I need, I head to the gallery to writeThe Senate Daily Press Gallery on a typical weekday afternoon.Bryan Metzger/InsiderThere are several different galleries where reporters can work at the Capitol, including some in the upper floors of the building and others down in the basement.I typically work out of the Senate Daily Press Gallery — it's large, spacious, and I've become friendly with the people I work around. In this gallery, there's a set of doors that lead to a balcony overlooking the Senate chamber, allowing reporters to watch the floor, especially during votes. The same thing is true on the House side.But due to Senate rules, you can't bring electronics — especially phones and laptops — into the chamber. You can do so on the House side, but photography is prohibited. "Cups" is the best place to get coffee in the Capitol complexCups, located in the basement of the Russell Senate Office Building.Bryan Metzger/InsiderMy favorite place to stop for coffee in the Capitol is Cups, a coffee shop located in the basement of the Russell Senate Office building.People say the food is good too, but I have yet to try it — I usually go to the cafeteria in the Dirksen Senate Office building, or just bring my own lunch.Whether you're grabbing coffee with a reporter or a source (Hill staffers also love Cups), this is the go-to spot for just about everyone, at least on the Senate side of the Capitol complex.Sometimes, you even end up in professional photos!Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York speaking with reporters in the Cannon Tunnel.Bryan Metzger/InsiderAside from reporters, professional photographers employed by news outlets and wire services are all over the place, especially at press conferences and outside the House and Senate chambers during votes.Sometimes, you even end up in one of their photos.That's me in the black turtleneck and blue blazer on the right, asking Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York a question about caucus rules on the day he was elected to replace Nancy Pelosi as House Democratic leader.Sometimes, celebrities make their way to the Hill...Paris Hilton and Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California speak at a press conference in October 2021.Bryan Metzger/InsiderIt's not uncommon for celebrities and other high-profile people to get involved in trying to get bills passed — it's a great way to bring the public's attention to a bill, which is more important for getting something up to a vote than you might think.Heiress Paris Hilton came to Congress a few times in the last year to advocate for a bill to crack down on abuse in facilities for troubled teens, something she's had personal experience with.Actress Angelina Jolie has also come to the Hill a number of times to urge lawmakers to pass the Violence Against Women Act.And comedian Jon Stewart was on Capitol Hill several times this year with a veterans group to urge the passage of the Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 (Honoring Our PACT Act), which is aimed at improving healthcare access for veterans exposed to toxic substances, such as burn pits, during wars. The bill passed both chambers and was signed into law in August of this year....or even the president of the United States...President Joe Biden at the Russell Senate Office Building during an effort to pass voting rights legislation in January 2022.Bryan Metzger/InsiderPresidents often come to Capitol Hill for a variety of reasons, whether it's to attend ceremonies (particularly state funerals), to give their State of the Union address, or to advocate for particular bills.President Joe Biden made one such visit in January of this year, when Democrats were trying to pass voting rights legislation. He attended a lunch with Democratic senators in an effort to persuade them — particularly Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — to support weakening the filibuster in order to pass the legislation with just 50 votes....or the President of France!French President Emmanuel Macron and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Capitol on December 1, 2022.Bryan Metzger/InsiderForeign heads of state also come to Congress from time to time to give addresses or meet with top lawmakers.Just this month, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Congress to have dinner with congressional leaders during a visit to the US.He did a photo-op with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, where both of them spoke about the relationship between France and the US before heading into the closed-door dinner.Sometimes, it's nice to just sit in the RotundaA panoramic view of the empty Capitol rotunda on a typical weekday evening.Bryan Metzger/InsiderSometimes you end up with large gaps of time between things you have to cover. The House is often quiet during the mornings, and the Senate will often finish votes by early afternoon.In between, you're free to roam the Capitol largely unimpeded — walking through areas that regular tourists aren't allowed to enter — because of the reporter badge.And when tours are over for the day, areas like the Rotunda are largely empty, giving you the opportunity to have one of the most striking rooms in Washington to yourself.Or catch a stunning sunsetSunset from the Senate side of the Capitol in December 2021.Bryan Metzger/InsiderThe Capitol is a great place to catch the sunset, especially during the winter, when the sun sets around 4:30 pm and you're still in the building.My favorite spot is on the Senate side, through a window that looks onto the balcony next to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office. It offers a view down the National Mall, including the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 31st, 2022

The War On Christmas Is A War On America

The War On Christmas Is A War On America Authored by Don Feeder via WashingtonTimes.com, Whatever unites us, the left is against... The left hates Christmas because it hates all expressions of faith in our society. On a deeper level, however, the War on Christmas is a war on America. In many ways, Christmas is as much an American holiday as a Christian holiday. (No trees or tinsel in Bethlehem.) Today, only 63% of Americans call themselves Christians, while 93% celebrate Christmas. In other words, almost a third of those who celebrate Christmas are non-Christians. More than Thanksgiving, Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, Christmas unites us as a people. Anything that brings Americans together, the left fears — like the flag, the national anthem and statues of our heroes.  This is reflected in the push to get Christmas trees out of public parks and libraries (which have no problem celebrating Pride Month and having “drag queen story hour”) and the holy war against holiday decorations in schools and other public places. Sales staff risk life and limb by wishing customers a “merry Christmas.” The mainstream media tries to gaslight us by telling us the War on Christmas was invented by conservative groups to raise money and mobilize the base.  You really can’t make this stuff up. The King County, Washington, Human Rights Commission has banned Christmas and Hanukkah decorations from the workplaces of county employees — including virtual workplaces. Even holiday-themed clothing is verboten. “Some employees may not share your religion, practice any religion, or share your enthusiasm for holiday decorations,” a memo from the commission explains. This exquisite sensitivity applies only to religious holidays. Everyone must take part in Pride Month and do homage to Black Lives Matter. On the other side of the continent, the War on Christmas has taken a nasty turn. The Needham, Massachusetts, Public Library decided it would break 28 years of tradition by not displaying a Christmas tree this year, because unnamed people said that last year, the evergreen made them “feel uncomfortable.” What, they thought the Tannenbaum would assault them, or try to convert them to Christianity? After a public outcry, the library relented. The reversal, in turn, set off a member of the town’s Human Rights Commission (HRCs are general headquarters for secularist witch hunts), who went full Grinch, calling the lady who championed the tree’s return a “selfish f—-ing b——” and “disgusting trash” who had somehow endangered the lives of municipal workers because “that’s what your magic sky daddy wants.” The billet-doux closed with the author wishing “great suffering” on the tree’s proponents. She has since resigned from her position. If the right invented the War on Christmas, why are there so many enemies of Yuletide cheer, who range from the mildly obnoxious to the downright hysterical? In part, it’s a sense of entitlement. Liberals believe they have a right not to be confronted with signs of a holiday they don’t celebrate. But it goes far beyond that to a matter of national identity.  The left is for everything that divides us — multiculturalism, critical race theory, sexual indoctrination in the schools and unisex bathrooms — and against everything that unites us. Nothing brings Americans together like Christmas — and I say that as a non-Christian. For most Americans, Christmas brings back happy childhood memories — fluffy snowflakes, colored lights, tinsel, mounds of presents, festively decorated trees and stories about flying sleighs and a jolly old gent who resembles your favorite uncle. Christmas seems to be a uniquely American holiday — Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus,” and memories of a time before homeless encampments, illegal aliens streaming across the border, fentanyl and men in ballgowns demanding their inalienable right to invade ladies’ shower and changing rooms. Christmas reminds us of a time when America was sane — the normalcy for which many long. “Merry Christmas” is an expression of goodwill and hope for the future. Optimism is another American virtue. The War on Christmas isn’t just another dimension of the culture war, but psych warfare against Americanism. The left isn’t just gunning for Christmas trees, glad tidings and a Jolly Old Elf with a sack full of presents, but the American ideal, which we must fight to preserve. Like Natalie Wood’s character in “Miracle on 34th Street,” we must believe and keep right on believing — that there’s a mystical connection between Christmas and America. Tyler Durden Sat, 12/24/2022 - 23:20.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 25th, 2022

DeSantis is often described as "Trump without the baggage," but there are plenty of differences between the two Republicans. How they play up their contrasts will decide who wins in 2024, GOP insiders say

The two Republicans differ in their upbringings, how approach to the media, and the way they present themselves to the public. Former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.Alon Skuy/AFP via Getty Images and Scott Olson/Getty Images DeSantis could end up running for president in 2024, and he's widely viewed as similar to Trump.  But the two men have a lot of differences, and they'll need to sharpen them in the months ahead, operatives said. They include upbringing, policy positions, and how they handle the press and opponents.  Plenty of pundits, donors, Democrats, and even other Republicans see similarities between former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. At first glance, the parallels are easy to spot: DeSantis and Trump are both combative, have a flair for showmanship, and eagerly stoke the culture wars.In lengthy news profiles, DeSantis often gets defined in relation to Trump. He's "Trump without the baggage," "Trump with a brain," Trump "without the drama," and "Trump's Mini Me." The Trumpy nicknames are popping up in focus groups, too. Gunner Ramer, political director for the anti-Trump Republican Accountability Project, told Insider that a participant recently described DeSantis as "Trump not on steroids." The Democratic National Committee is playing up DeSantis as a Trump twin, with a recent email to reporters slamming DeSantis' "Extreme MAGA Agenda." The pile on is a problem for both men should DeSantis join Trump in the ring for the 2024 nomination contest.After all, why vote for "Trump's Mini Me" when you can have the real thing? Why vote for Trump himself when you can have someone younger who could be in the White House for eight years instead of four? Why vote for either if you hated Trump's term in office? In a 2024 contest, it'll be crucial for both men to highlight their differences. One of the most well-known, important rules for winning in politics is that candidates have to define themselves early. They can't let anyone else — particularly opponents — do it for them. "If we go down this path, DeSantis is going to spend a whole primary showing how he's different," Sean Spicer, who was White House press secretary for Trump, told Insider. As it turns out, taking a closer look at both men shows there are plenty of ways they differ. They have radically different backgrounds, they diverge in how they handle criticism, and have distinct ways of working and making decisions. "DeSantis is his own man," Saul Anuzis, managing partner of Coast to Coast Strategies, LLC, a political consulting firm, told Insider. "It is an oversimplification to somehow imply that they're in the same lane."So how, exactly, are the Republican men not interchangeable? Insider asked GOP strategists and people close to both men for their insight. Here's what they had to say: Born to wealth v. working class familyOne of the most immediately recognizable differences between Trump and DeSantis is their backgrounds.There's Trump: The rich 76-year-old real estate tycoon who took over his father's business, rolled through several bankruptcies, and became a reality TV star. He used to donate to political campaigns. A few days after his 69th birthday, he announced his own. Trump won the presidency once before going on to lose the next one without conceding, and was impeached twice including over incitement of the violent riot on January 6, 2021.  Then there's DeSantis: A 44-year-old who grew up in the small town of Dunedin, Florida, raised by a mom who was a nurse and a dad who installed Nielsen TV rating boxes. Baseball and good grades got him into Yale and then Harvard Law.After serving in Navy, he went into politics where he was a US congressman that didn't gain much fanfare. Then the spotlight of the Florida governor's office turned him into a conservative darling. His 2021 financial disclosures showed he had almost $319,000 in the bank and more than $21,000 student loans. (A not-yet-disclosed book advance in 2022 is expected to have vastly increased his personal wealth.)—Insider News (@InsiderNews) November 9, 2022 "The contrast is clear — an athlete, veteran, conservative that knows how to govern versus a non-ideological, transactional former president that lost to Joe Biden," Scott Reed, a veteran Republican strategist and former advisor to the US Chamber of Commerce, told Insider. "The GOP is sick of losing and is searching for a forward looking-conservative."But Trump supporters see DeSantis' early entrée into politics as a potential area of vulnerability. Lately, right-wing media and major donors have been siding with DeSantis, which could help elevate Trump's "outsider" status and pin DeSantis as a member of the establishment.  "He's a career politician," Alex Bruesewitz, a Trump supporter and CEO of X Strategies political consulting firm, told Insider of DeSantis. "And the America First movement hates career politicians, and people don't know that about Ron." He predicted DeSantis, a favorite of megadonors such as Citadel investment firm CEO Ken Griffin, would be "beholden" to them. A poor legislative performance by congressional Republicans could also affect DeSantis' chances while being out of his control, Jennifer Carroll, who was lieutenant governor under DeSantis predecessor GOP Gov. Rick Scott, told Insider. "Folks are gonna wonder: 'Should we trust the establishment anymore? Because we gave them a chance and they did nothing,'" she said. Former President Donald Trump endorsed then-candidate Ron DeSantis when he ran for governor in 2018. The backing helped DeSantis seize the GOP nomination.Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesCompulsion v. control Trump is famous for being impulsive, saying what he thinks in the moment when asked, and firing off big decisions over Twitter that sent his aides scrambling.  Meanwhile, DeSantis is a careful planner who turns off the combativeness at times. For instance, he welcomed President Joe Biden's help after Hurricane Ian, and sat alongside first lady Jill Biden during the one-year anniversary of the Surfside building collapse. DeSantis has the "ability to understand moments that transcend politics," Brian Ballard, president and founder of the powerhouse lobbying firm Ballard Partners and a longtime fundraiser for DeSantis, told Insider. "There's plenty of time to have the typical political debates, arguments, and infighting," he said. "But in times of national emergency and crisis he has governed exceptionally and in a bipartisan fashion."DeSantis also reads studies and gets into the minutiae of legislation, whereas Trump tends to be focused more on the big picture. Still, DeSantis, like Trump, explains complicated policies in a simple way when he's in public. "He's measured where Trump is not," Carroll said. "And he does understand that you don't need to respond to everything, particularly at the time that people want you to respond. I believe he has a very good communications crew that he listens to, that affords him the luxury of doing that."Direct v. subliminal Trump began attacking DeSantis publicly just before Election Day. He nicknamed him "Ron DeSantimonious" then lashed out at the governor for being disloyal after DeSantis left open the question over whether he'd run for president.For Trump's base, his directness is a good thing. "What's so great about Trump is he's transparent," Bruesewitz said. "He's a real person. He doesn't have these people that say, 'Sir, you have to say this at this time.'"DeSantis hasn't directly hit back at Trump. He instead blamed the press for stirring up division. Yet he was also viewed as taunting Trump indirectly when he said Republicans should "check out the scoreboard" on Election Day — when he did well and Republicans flopped nationally. On December 13, DeSantis announced several anti-COVID vaccine measures, taking aim at one of Trump's top presidential accomplishments but one his base despises due to the Biden administration's shot mandates. While he never mentioned the ex-president, he made the announcement geographically close to Mar-a-Lago, the oceanfront private club and estate where Trump lives in Palm Beach. "He knows how to not only get things done, what the people want, but to shove it in his opponents faces specifically when its their weaknesses," said Sam Nunberg, who advised Trump's 2016 campaign. DeSantis often holds major announcements at locations that carry subliminal messages. On the January 6 anniversary, he held a press conference again in West Palm Beach on an unrelated matter, but when Insider asked him about the Capitol riot he was prepared to answer, saying the press was working to "milk the attack." His comments made national headlines. "So much of what we do in politics has to do with tone and image and how you present yourself, versus what you say," Anuzis said. Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at Sioux Gateway Airport on November 3, 2022 in Sioux City, Iowa. TStephen Maturen/Getty ImagesHumor v. policy Trump knows how to make his audience laugh, which made him relatable to the middle class, Carroll said. When he talked about his vision for the US, it was simple and easy to understand. "Trump's comms skills are some of the best comms skills you'll ever see a major politician ever have because he knows how to speak to America," Nunberg said. "He's not interested in being lawyerly or political." While there's a major swath of voters who despise Trump, he retains a loyal base that feels personally invested in him, in part because of who he is as a person. In contrast, DeSantis is more policy-oriented, Nunberg said. As DeSantis has gotten more attention, several news outlets have reported comments from sources who say he's a social misfit. That's something Trump supporters are quick to point out. "He's not likable," Bruesewitz said. "And it's going to be difficult when you go to these grassroots meetings and you're trying to get people to like you."Anuzis, however, said that humor can sometimes backfire because it may "belittle the office and the seriousness of the situation." Voters may be in a place in 2024 in which they're looking for "sanity, calmness, and strength of leadership," he said. DeSantis doesn't crack many jokes when he's at a podium. He starts on time, takes a victory lap over his accomplishments, and comes with prepared remarks. When hard questions come, he's ready for them. "They are very different candidates in terms of charisma," Nunberg said. "You're not going to have your socks knocked off with Ron DeSantis, you're just not. And you have to accept that." But DeSantis can still shape how voters see his personality. Spicer described DeSantis as a "fun guy," recounting a game of catch, darts, and a golf cart race with the governor after a Newsmax town hall. "We know what we get with President Trump," he said. "You have to have been living under a rock to not know what you're going to get. DeSantis is still new." On the media: Personal v. explainingTrump and DeSantis both know how to effectively use and criticize the media. But that's where the comparisons on their press strategies end."They might have the same 50,000-foot approach, but when you get down to 1,000 feet you realize there are big differences," Spicer said. Trump got significant free air time in 2016, when cable news outlets would air his rallies in full. He criticized major news outlets as "fake news," and when he got to the White House he insulted reporters viciously and personally. Despite all this, Trump sat down with mainstream outlets and even with authors who wrote books about him — no matter how scathing they turned out to be. And he keeps doing it. "He's very direct in saying whatever he wanted to say about the media, which at times really turned people off and then also made the media mad at him because they didn't feel like he was respectful," Carroll said. "But they had access." In contrast, DeSantis' sit-down interviews are more limited to conservative press, though after Hurricane Ian he interviewed with CNN and local outlets. He appears often on Fox News, which receives exclusives of major announcements.This year, his team barred numerous reporters from a fundraiser, and his team has explained on Twitter that they won't cooperate with press they view as biased. Yet there is one way DeSantis is accessible: When he holds press conferences he answers questions even if they are off topic. And his team also livestreams the exchanges and posts them to social media. That means even national outlets that don't have correspondents in Florida can tune in. During these events, DeSantis can sometimes have tense exchanges with reporters — but they're on the substance of their question rather than who they are as a person. One CBS "60 Minutes" response debunking a story about his COVID vaccine rollout went viral."When he takes on the media he's calling them out, but he does it in a way in which rather than personalize he says, 'That's not true. Here are the facts,' and puts them in their place," Anuzis said. Carroll said she noticed that DeSantis' communications team will also attack the media for him, including by posting screen shots of press inquiries on Twitter or mocking stories."His communications people tend to do it more so than he directly," Carroll said. "So it gives him more of a cushion in his pushback on the media, having an intermediary."According to Ramer, DeSantis' approach is working to get his name ID out. People in focus groups even in other states such as West Virginia bring up his name as favorite for the 2024 nomination. But Bruesewitz saw a weakness in DeSantis' strategy, which he called "calculated" and "theater." "It's all scripted," he said. "You can't be scripted in a debate against Donald Trump."Then-President Donald Trump campaigns with Ron DeSantis at a rally in Pensacola, Florida, on November 3, 2018.AP Photo/Butch Dill, FileVoting rigidity v. voting malleabilityThe way Trump and DeSantis encourage voters to cast their ballots could be crucial to how they perform in a primary. Trump has trashed mail-in, absentee, and early voting, even during the 2020 presidential election, when the COVID-19 pandemic made it harder for voters to leave their homes. Republican political arms, however, are beginning to concede that they're at a disadvantage if Democratic voters have more time and can more easily cast their votes. While DeSantis tightened Florida voting laws as governor, including setting up a police unit dedicated to investigating voter fraud, he has benefited from certain rules that make voting easier. For instance, at campaign stops during his 2022 reelection, DeSantis urged people to vote early in Florida, even to do so on their way home from that very rally. At the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual leadership meeting in November, DeSantis even pushed Republicans to engage in "ballot harvesting." The governor was referring to state voting laws that allow third parties to collect and deliver completed ballots on behalf of people who can't get to polling stations. In Florida, DeSantis pushed the legislature to limit ballot collection by non-family members. But he said at the Las Vegas-based RJC meeting that Republicans should try to benefit from election laws in other states. "Whatever the rules are, take advantage of it," he said. Tested v. untestedDeSantis won a historic, 19-point victory in Florida on Election Day, all without Trump's help. It was the one "red wave" Republicans got out of the 2022 midterms.But whether DeSantis can replicate that success nationally is still an open question, political insiders say. Carroll said that DeSantis' Democratic challenger, Charlie Crist, wasn't particularly standout during his time in Congress. He also had been "all over the map" and "was not well trusted" because he used to be a Republican governor, and then an Independent, before settling on the left, she said. "If DeSantis had run against a candidate that was likable, recognizable, or was more credible, it may have been a different turnout — it could have been the same, but we really have to put it in context in terms of who was running against whom," she said. Crist, the Florida Democratic Party, and national Democratic political arms also didn't put up much of a fight, Bruesewitz said.  "Ron has never been tested," he said. Should DeSantis enter the 2024 contest, other GOP candidates are more likely to pile onto him as the runner up so they can try to get head-to-head with first-place Trump. What will it look like when millions of opposition research and ads go into attacking the Florida governor? As for Trump, it's widely accepted that his MAGA base isn't going anywhere. Trump invokes a "deep-rooted personal connection," Nunberg said. "It's something you rarely see." They've followed him through numerous personal, legal, and political scandals, and perhaps even a pending indictment. "He has a base that's unquestioned, that has stuck with him through thick and thin for the past six years," Ballard said. While a few news outlets have described Trump as "diminished," Ramer from the Republican Accountability Project said it was still possible for the former president to get stronger ahead of the 2024 election. He noticed in focus groups that Republicans were souring a bit on Trump during the Select Committee's hearings about January 6, because it reminded them of all the baggage that came with his presidency. But after the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago, there was a "rally-around-Trump" effect. Whether it be DeSantis or anyone else, the ex-president is unmatched in getting away with scandals that would torpedo most people's political careers. "He was a one-of-a-kind politician in our generation," Anuzis said.  Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 24th, 2022

DeSantis" latest education plan targets teachers" unions by ending automatic dues in favor of monthly mailed-in checks

The Republican governor's new education agenda would make it more difficult for teachers to enroll and stay in a union. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaks to supporters Tuesday, August 23, 2022, in Hialeah, Florida.Gaston De Cardenas, File/AP Photo DeSantis proposed changes that would make it harder for teachers to join and remain in unions. He also proposed coupling that with higher teacher pay.  The proposal was part of his forthcoming "Freedom Blueprint" education plan.  Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida promised Monday to sign a bill into law that would increase teacher pay by a record amount — but he also wants to clamp down on teachers' unions.  The plan DeSantis outlined at a school board retreat in Orlando would have teachers send a check to their unions every month rather than automatically deduct the dues from their paychecks.DeSantis' latest so-called "Freedom Blueprint" proposal appears similar to a measure the Florida legislature considered in 2021 and 2022 that the state's largest teachers' union, the Florida Education Association, called "anti-freedom" and "anti-educator.""It puts big government between educators and their constitutionally guaranteed right to join in union to advocate for their students and profession," Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said in 2021. Teachers' unions have been one of the governor's top foes, particularly starting in the fall of 2020 after they resisted his push to reopen schools during the pandemic, and after DeSantis banned mask mandates in the classroom.Even Charlie Crist, a former congressman and DeSantis' failed 2022 challenger, picked Miami-Dade's teachers' union boss, Karla Hernández-Mats, as his running mate. DeSantis' plan would create a new hurdle for organized labor in Florida, whose "Right to Work" status is already enshrined in the state constitution. Under current law, Florida workers can opt out of joining a union, which in turn restricts unions from collecting dues from employees who benefit from negotiated worker protections. The anti-union bills the legislature considered in previous years would have extended not just to teachers but other public employees. Aside from gutting automatic deductions, they would have obligated workers to reaffirm their union membership annually, and obligated unions with fewer than half of workers in their ranks to recertify with the state. DeSantis is framing his plan on union dues as "paycheck protection" for teachers and said it would "be a more accurate reflection of who wants to be a part of this or not." In his remarks, he coupled the union changes with what he called "the biggest increase" in teacher pay the state has ever done. "It's more of a guarantee that the money is actually going to go to teachers," he said at the retreat, "and not be frittered away by interest groups who get involved in the school system."The Florida Education Association told Insider that coupling the two proposals together wouldn't be possible because the teacher pay would be in the state budget, whereas changes to unions would be a piece of legislation "though the governor may link them rhetorically."The governor's budget will be due 30 days before the legislative session begins in April 2023.  The governor's press secretary, Bryan Griffin, said the office would share more details when they become available. Florida comes in at No. 48 in the nation for average teacher salaries, according to the National Education Association. State lawmakers and the governor gave teachers bonuses this past year and increased pay — though largely among new teachers, according to the Florida Education Association. DeSantis acknowledged during his speech that changes to union dues might emaciate the labor groups, but said if teachers aren't paying dues then they should be decertified."You shouldn't be able to continue as a zombie organization that doesn't have the support of the people you're supposedly negotiating for," he said. The last two versions of the anti-union died in committee under opposition from Florida AFL-CIO and the Florida Education Association. GOP Sen. Kathleen Passidomo of Naples, who chaired the Rules Committee during the 2022 legislative session — and now holds even higher ranking as president of the Florida Senate — declined to take it up.Passidomo's office didn't immediately respond to a request for comment over whether she'd be receptive to the governor's proposal. Florida voters reelected DeSantis by a historic 20-point margin in November, and also gave him a GOP supermajority in the state House and Senate. The Florida legislature was largely deferential to DeSantis' priorities during his first term, and that trend is expected to continue after he is inaugurated a second time in Tallahassee on January 3, 2023. DeSantis is considered to be the most formidable challenger for the Republican nomination for president in 2024, should he choose to run. During the November elections DeSantis made reshaping school boards one of his top priorities, and said Monday that he would continue that fight into the election cycles ahead. Roughly 250 people were in the audience on Monday, including school board members DeSantis endorsed, as well as parent groups, the DeSantis campaign said. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 19th, 2022

"Digital Fentanyl": Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Ban TikTok

"Digital Fentanyl": Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Ban TikTok A group of bipartisan lawmakers led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced legislation that would completely ban the social media app TikTok from operating in the United States. "TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, is required by Chinese law to make the app’s data available to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)," reads a Tuesday statement from Rubio's office. "From the FBI Director to FCC Commissioners to cybersecurity experts, everyone has made clear the risk of TikTok being used to spy on Americans. " Rubio - who introduced the Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act (ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act) - is joined by Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), who introduced companion legislation in the US House of Representatives. "TikTok is digital fentanyl that’s addicting Americans, collecting troves of their data, and censoring their news," said Gallagher. "It’s also an increasingly powerful media company that’s owned by ByteDance, which ultimately reports to the Chinese Communist Party – America’s foremost adversary." Allowing the app to continue to operate in the U.S. would be like allowing the U.S.S.R. to buy up the New York Times, Washington Post, and major broadcast networks during the Cold War. No country with even a passing interest in its own security would allow this to happen, which is why it’s time to ban TikTok and any other CCP-controlled app before it’s too late. -Rep. Mike Gallagher. The app has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks, including a lawsuit from the state of Indiana, a ban in South Dakota, calls to ban TikTok 'everywhere,' and hitting a major snag in negotiations with the Biden administration over national security concerns. One of the primary issues with TikTok - owned by Chinese company ByteDance, is where user data is housed. Both ByteDance and US officials struck a preliminary agreement that TikTok data on US users would be hosted by Oracle Corp. TikTok, meanwhile, says it will delete the private data of US users from its own data centers in Virginia and Singapore as it transitions to fully store data with Oracle. The company has also said that access to US data by anyone outside of a newly established division to govern US data security would be limited by, and subject to, its protocols - which would be overseen by Oracle. Certain administration officials, however, still aren't comfortable with the arrangement, and have sought to make any TikTok security agreement stronger in some respects over concerns with the company's access to consumer data, and its potential use for influence operations. "The federal government has yet to take a single meaningful action to protect American users from the threat of TikTok. This isn’t about creative videos — this is about an app that is collecting data on tens of millions of American children and adults every day," said Rubio on Tuesday. "We know it’s used to manipulate feeds and influence elections. We know it answers to the People’s Republic of China. There is no more time to waste on meaningless negotiations with a CCP-puppet company. It is time to ban Beijing-controlled TikTok for good." Republicans have been pushing to ban the app altogether. TikTok claims it doesn't collect data on search and browsing history outside the app, though it does collect information within the app so that it 'functions correctly,' said the spokeswoman. For example, returning relevant search results and ensuring users don't see the same videos multiple times. Former US President Donald Trump sought to ban TikTok unless it was a US-owned entity - which President Biden rescinded shortly after taking office in light of legal challenges. Tyler Durden Tue, 12/13/2022 - 19:45.....»»

Category: dealsSource: nytDec 13th, 2022