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A Brazilian-owned meatpacking firm that buys pork from an Arkansas farm suspected of fouling our nation’s first national river would receive about $5 million from Trump’s bailout program for American farmers hurt by his trade war.

JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, will sell 1.8 million pounds of pork products through a Trump bailout program that buys surplus commodities from farmers and ranchers.

“We at the Buffalo River Watershed Alliance find it ironic, and saddening, that bailout money intended to help American farmers is instead going to JBS, a multinational meatpacker based in Brazil,” said Gordon Watkins, president of the alliance. “…The pork gets shipped away, Brazil gets the money and the Buffalo gets degraded. It’s too bad this bailout money couldn’t be used to close or relocate this facility to a less sensitive location.”

The Buffalo River was befouled last summer by algae that sickened people, but the U.S. Geological Survey under Trump can’t decide if the nearby pig farm and more than 3 million gallons of pig waste those pigs produce each year are to blame.

A spokesperson for the USDA said the agency buys American commodities produced on American farms by American farmers.

“…regardless of who the vendor is, the products purchased are grown in the U.S. and benefit U.S. farmers,” the agency spokesperson said. “JBS qualifies as a bidder under this criteria.”

In 2017, a conservation group, American Rivers, included the Buffalo on its annual list of the 10 most endangered rivers in our country because of pollution from the hog farm.

The red dot marks the approximate location of the C&H hog farm.

C&H Hog Farms, about 6.6 miles upstream of the Buffalo River in Newton County, supplies the U.S. operations of JBS. Cousins Jason Henson, Phillip Campbell and Richard Campbell own the business. Arkansas recently denied the farm a new permit, but the farm is continuing to operate while it fights that decision.

As part of Trump’s bailout, the administration is buying $1.2 billion in surplus products from farmers, including more than $500 million from pork producers, for distribution to food banks across the country. The U.S. trade deficit, which Trump claims can be combatted with tariffs, has hit $892 billion in merchandise trade, the largest in our nation’s history.

The Buffalo River runs for 153 miles from its start in the Boston Mountains through limestone bluffs and forests before joining the White River.  Former President Richard Nixon signed legislation in 1972 putting the Buffalo River in the stewardship of the National Park Service.

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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