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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Biden Takes Action To Increase Renewable Energy Production

President Joe Biden announced on Monday that he is authorizing initiatives under the Defense Production Act to increase the domestic manufacture of clean energy technologies, especially of components used for solar panel construction.

"While President Biden continues pushing Congress to pass clean energy investments and tax cuts, he is taking bold action to rapidly build on this progress and create a bridge to this American-made clean energy future,” the White House said in a statement.

The Defense Production Act was passed by Congress in 1950 and can be invoked by the president to order private businesses to prioritize the production of materials that have been deemed necessary for the national defense.

The White House statement said:

Specifically, the President is authorizing the Department of Energy to use the DPA to rapidly expand American manufacturing of five critical clean energy technologies:

Solar panel parts like photovoltaic modules and module components;

Building insulation;

Heat pumps, which heat and cool buildings super efficiently;

Equipment for making and using clean electricity-generated fuels, including electrolyzers, fuel cells, and related platinum group metals; andCritical power grid infrastructure like transformers.

Also on Monday, Reuters reported that Biden will declare 24-month exemptions from tariffs on solar panels imported to the U.S. from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Commerce Department had halted the importation of panels from those countries, which comprise more than half the panel supply in the United States, as it investigates whether the products brought in from those countries are evading tariffs on goods imported from China.

The Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group of over 1,000 companies and organizations advocating for the increased use of solar power, praised Biden's actions.

"Today's actions protect existing solar jobs, will lead to increased employment in the solar industry and foster a robust solar manufacturing base here at home," Abigail Ross Hopper, the president and CEO of the group, said in a statement on Monday.

Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act three times before, to increase the availability of baby formula, to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines, and to manufacture firehoses to combat wildfires. By comparison, former President Donald Trump was criticized for delaying the use of the act to boost production of medical equipment needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The executive actions come after the Biden administration in May launched an initiative to connect more sources of clean energy to the national power grid. The Department of Energy said the Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange, or i2X, will bring together "grid operators, utilities, state and tribal governments, clean energy developers, energy justice organizations, and other stakeholders to connect more clean energy to America’s power grid."

The exchange is financed by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Biden signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021.

A Stanford University study published in December 2021 found that electricity blackouts such as the one that hit Texas in 2020, which killed over 200 people and caused $24 billion in damage, could be prevented with more widespread usage of clean energy. The study showed that shifting to renewable energy would decrease energy demand by 57 percent and household energy costs by 63 percewnt.

The Biden administration has promoted the use of clean energy in multiple ways. In February, the administration set revenue records with the auction of offshore wind lease rights in the region known as the New York Bight. In May, the Department of Interior announced that wind lease rights off the coast of California would be auctioned for the first time.

In his first State of the Union speech, in May, Biden called for clean energy tax credits that would spur clean energy production and lower the price of electric vehicles.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

Environmentalists Praise Biden For Reversing Trump's 'Handout To Polluters'

Environmental groups praised the Biden administration's announcement on Tuesday that it had finalized a federal rule that will restore key portions of the National Environmental Policy Act that were removed by the Trump administration.

NEPA will once again require that the climate impact of major construction projects be considered and that communities affected by those projects have input before federal agencies approve them.

A White House statement quoted the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Brenda Mallory, who said: "Restoring these basic community safeguards will provide regulatory certainty, reduce conflict, and help ensure that projects get built right the first time. Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help projects get built faster, be more resilient, and provide greater benefits to people who live nearby."

"We are encouraged to see the Biden administration take action to restore this bedrock environmental protection," Leslie Fields, the Sierra Club's national director of policy, advocacy, and legal, said in a statement. "NEPA plays a critical role in keeping our communities and our environment healthy and safe, and Donald Trump's attempts to weaken NEPA were clearly nothing more than a handout to corporate polluters."

Earthjustice also praised the Biden administration, noting in a statement, "The Biden administration is taking key steps to reverse the damage of the Trump administration and restore essential environmental protections under NEPA."

The Natural Resources Defense Council notes:

NEPA has empowered citizens and demanded government accountability for more than 40 years. In many cases, NEPA gives citizens their only opportunity to voice concerns about a project's impact on their community. When the government undertakes a major project such as constructing a dam, highway, or power plant, it must ensure that the project's impacts -- environmental and otherwise -- are considered and disclosed to the public.
[...]
Thanks to this law, hundreds of millions of Americans have participated in important federal decisions. We are able to know the risk a government project or practice could pose to our community or health because of NEPA -- and we are guaranteed a voice.

The website Protect NEPA provides examples of the successful application of NEPA protections: For instance, during the planning of a project to widen Route 93 in Montana, NEPA allowed for the involvement of citizen groups and the government of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation in the design process. They were able to force the Montana Department of Transportation to conduct environmental reviews of the project's potential impacts, leading to a final design that addressed concerns about wetlands in the area as well as about the safety of the roads for the tribal communities nearby.

The act has been championed by activists advocating on behalf of Black and Latino communities that have historically been disproportionately affected by the effects of pollutants.

"Without NEPA's critical protections for clean air and water, communities, particularly Black and brown communities, will be increasingly vulnerable to serious health complications from pollution and more susceptible to illnesses," the Rev. Ezra Tillman of First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Flint, Michigan, wrote in a November 2020 opinion column.

Trump publicly announced his intention to gut NEPA at a White House event in January 2020: "We will not stop until our nation's gleaming new infrastructure has made America the envy of the world again. It used to be the envy of the world, and now we're like a third-world country. It's really sad."

The announcement followed secret meetings in 2017, Trump's first year in office, between officials he had appointed at the Department of the Interior and state, county, and local government officials on the best way to weaken environmental rules in order to speed the process of approval for such projects as the construction of mines, pipelines, and highways.

Throughout his presidency, Trump frequently promised that he would get an infrastructure bill through Congress and enacted, but it never happened.

Meanwhile, belying Trump's claims that environmental rules were an obstacle to infrastructure development, Congress under Joe Biden passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, which Biden signed into law in November. Simultaneously, Biden has advocated for a return to policies focused on reducing climate emissions, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and using the Environmental Protection Agency to take action focused on reducing pollution in minority communities.

On signing the infrastructure bill, Biden said, "Finally, infrastructure week," a jab at Trump, who had often promised one but never delivered.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Biden Orders Only US-Made Steel For Infrastructure Projects


The Biden administration announced on Monday that construction projects funded under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will be required to use American-made steel and iron.

A memo issued by Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda D. Young "for heads of executive departments and agencies" says that "none of the funds made available for a Federal financial assistance program for infrastructure, including each deficient program, may be obligated for a project unless all of the iron, steel, manufactured products, and construction materials used in the project are produced in the United States. ... This means all manufacturing processes, from the initial melting stage through the application of coatings, occurred in the United States."

The infrastructure bill was signed into law by President Joe Biden on November 15, 2021, after passing in Congress with all Democrats voting in favor of it and a majority of Republicans opposing its passage.

The American Iron and Steel Institute, an association of North American steel producers, has estimated that five million metric tons of steel will be needed for every $100 billion of direct infrastructure spending in the legislation. Based on the $550 billion allocated in the final bill, that amounts to an estimated 27.5 million metric tons of steel that would need to be manufactured in the United States.

"Passing this bill today provides a tremendous boost to our industry," Kevin Dempsey, president and CEO of the institute, said in a statement.

Infrastructure construction projects include bridge repairs across the country, as well as road construction and repair and the installation of broadband infrastructure.

Biden's direction to use steel produced in the United States could have a positive environmental impact.

Multiple studies, including one backed by the BlueGreen Alliance Foundation and ClimateWorks Foundation and another from the Climate Leadership Council, have determined that the production of steel in America is more carbon efficient than in other countries.

Both studies found that carbon output from China's production of steel notably exceeded that of American production.

American steel production companies Nucor and U.S. Steel recently announced initiatives they said were aimed at achieved "net zero carbon" goals.

In that same vein, the Biden administration has previously announced its intention to work with the European Union toward policies that limit the use of "dirty steel" from China.

"American-made steel and aluminum is produced with far fewer emissions than dirtier alternatives made in the PRC and elsewhere. To date, American steel companies and workers have received no benefit for their low-carbon production. Low-carbon steel across all production types —and the workers who make it—will be incentivized and rewarded going forward," the administration announced in an October 2021 statement. It also highlighted the value of "green steel production," which it said would ensure "a competitive U.S. steel industry for decades to come."

The United Steelworkers, the union that represents 1.2 million active and retired workers in multiple industries, praised the original passage of the infrastructure bill in November 2021, noting, "Robust investment, coupled with strong domestic procurement provisions, will help American workers, including hundreds of thousands of USW members, not only by making their communities safer but by promoting widespread job growth and economic opportunity.

"Our members stand ready to produce the essential building blocks of a modern infrastructure, as we begin making long-overdue upgrades to the nation's roads, bridges, broadband, public transit, ports, power grids, and more."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Biden Stomps DeSantis Bid To Cut Off Care For Migrant Children

On Wednesday, the Biden administration formally told Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, that his administration's attempts to shut down federally funded shelters that are offering support to unaccompanied migrant children would not work.

The shelters, contracted by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement, assist undocumented children seeking asylum before they are reunited with a sponsor, usually a relative.

Mark Greenberg, general counsel for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, sent a letter on Tuesday to Ryan Newman, DeSantis' general counsel. Greenberg wrote that, despite DeSantis' rhetoric and his actions against shelters and other organizations providing care, "Florida cannot take action against federal contractors for activities that are expressly authorized by federal law."

Greenberg said federal contractors "are exempt from any enforcement activity, including injunctive actions, civil administrative penalties, or criminal prosecution or penalties" related to their assistance for children, and he noted that DeSantis' counsel previously conceded the U.S. Constitution limits the ability of Florida to act against them.

Greenberg also noted a Jan. 26 letter from Newman in which the Florida counsel conceded that the Constitution limits Florida's ability "to prohibit through enforcement action activities of federal officers or agents, including federal contractors," which he said means the state can't punish the shelters beyond withholding their state licenses, which aren't required for federal funding, rendering the action essentially meaningless.

But while DeSantis' threats don't have teeth, he can use them to stir up his GOP base. As governor, DeSantis, now considered a likely presidential candidate in 2024, has routinely echoed former President Donald Trump's harsh rhetoric against immigrants and has targeted shelters helping migrants, even those operated by religious organizations.

And DeSantis frequently appears on conservative outlets, like Fox News, to tout his aggressive anti-immigration stances. Such appearances in the past have played a vital role in promoting conservative politicians seeking the Republican nomination for president. Trump's campaign to secure the nomination in 2016 was greatly assisted by appearing on Fox to tout the idea of a border wall, for example. DeSantis also likes to hold press conferences to promote his anti-immigration policies.

DeSantis' attacks on migrant care centers began in September 2021, when he directed the Florida Department of Children and Families to determine if the state should continue providing licenses to them.

One shelter, the Dream Center in Sarasota, Florida, in November had to relocate nearly 60 children in their care after the state failed to renew its license to house them. According to the center, half of the children affected were under 13.

Same Sipes, CEO of Lutheran Services who operates the center, told a local TV station at the time, "It's very sad and these 50+ children were traumatized again because they had to move in a hurry because we couldn’t get clarity about our license status."

That same month, members of the American Academy of Pediatrics called on DeSantis to rescind the order, arguing that it harms the wellbeing of children.

In December, DeSantis ordered that regulators stop renewing or issuing licenses to centers that have been taking care of unaccompanied minors.

Arguing in favor of his stance in a February news conference, DeSantis alleged that the process used by the Biden administration "smuggles in illegal immigrants from many different countries with no vetting, no transparency, and no consideration for child and public safety."

This claim was rated "mostly false" by PolitiFact, who noted that the Customs and Border Protection agency does gather biometric information from immigrant children, along with fingerprints and birth certificates, which are used to uncover possible criminal histories.

Faith leaders have also spoken out against DeSantis' policy, including the Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski.

In an op-ed published on Tuesday written by Rev. Jose Rodriguez and a coalition of Latino community leaders, DeSantis was asked to keep the centers open.

"We have a duty of care to protect children. The child at the border misses and yearns for their mother and father, cries, hurts, is afraid, and needs rescue and protection in the same way that the children that came here from Cuba in the 1960s," the letter read.

The reference was to a Cold War program called Operation Peter Pan that involved the airlift of 14,000 unaccompanied children from Cuba's communist regime to Florida, where they were cared for by charitable organizations.

The Florida government has still scheduled a public hearing on Thursday to consider DeSantis' rule.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

CPAC Features Former Leader Of Anti-Muslim Hate Group

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Conservative activist Scott Presler, who has a background as an organizer for an anti-Muslim hate group, is set to speak at this week's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

"Hey, mom & dad. Your baby boy was invited to speak at @CPAC," Presler tweeted on Feb. 14.

Many of the CPAC panels are slated to discuss the topic of "voter fraud," the code language du jour used by the right to promote voter suppression. Presler has been touting his activism on the issue of "election integrity reform."

Presler also spoke at CPAC in 2020.

From 2017 to 2018, Presler worked as a lead organizer for Act for America, which the Associated Press described as a "hate group."

Act for America is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "the largest anti-Muslim group in America." The Anti-Defamation League describes Act for America similarly and notes that the group "stokes irrational fear of Muslims via a number of false claims" and "propagates the hateful conspiracy theory that Muslims are infiltrating US institutions in order to impose Sharia law."

Brigitte Gabriel, the founder of Act for America, has previously claimed that a Muslim "cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America."

During his time with Act for America, Presler was deeply involved in organizing the group's anti-Muslim "March Against Sharia" events, serving as the national coordinator for them.

NPR reported in June 2017 that the marches were "attracting many far-right sympathizers, including several who decorate their posts with Confederate flags."

White supremacist Billy Roper discussed the rallies on his podcast, saying, "We want to send a message to Muslims that they are not welcome in our communities." He also said, "We want to send a message to Muslims that they're not welcome in our nation and, of course, endgame, on our planet."

At the same time he made those comments, emails between Presler and Roper regarding the protests showed Presler writing, "You are approved and ready to go."

Presler was also involved in the "Stop the Steal" protest at the U.S. Capitol on January 6. In a Twitter post about the event, Presler described the pro-Trump assembly as a "civil rights protest." Many of the people who attacked the Capitol were a part of the protest.

Other scheduled CPAC speakers, most notably Donald Trump, have spoken favorably of the January 6 insurrection and promote extremist conspiracy theories.

Since leaving Act for America, Presler has worked for the Republican Party of Virginia and independently to promote Donald Trump.

In January 2019, Presler was temporarily suspended from Twitter after writing "Black lives murdered by criminal illegal aliens don't matter."

In March of 2020, as part of a campaign that sought to downplay fears of COVID-19, Presler posted video from outside a hospital in Virginia, noting, "I didn't see a lot of cars, a lot of people, or hardly any activity." At the time, some conservatives were claiming that images of "empty" hospitals purportedly proved that the virus was a hoax.

Over 7,300 people in Virginia have died from COVID-19.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Texas Republican Urges Election Audit — In Counties Biden Won

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Texas state Rep. Steve Toth (R) on Monday announced that he had filed legislation calling for a "forensic audit" of the state's 2020 election results.

Former President Donald Trump won Texas in 2020 by nearly six percentage points despite ultimately losing the national electoral college and popular vote to President Joe Biden.

Toth's bill, the "Texas Voter Confidence Act," would not audit all of the 11 million-plus votes that were cast in the state. Instead, the legislation calls for an audit in "every precinct in each county with a population of 415,000 or more."

This would disproportionately target counties that voted for Biden.

According to a list of Texas counties by population, only three that voted for Trump — Collin, Denton, and Montgomery — would be audited under the bill if it became law. The remaining 10 counties voted for Biden, including Texas' two most populous counties, Harris County (where Houston is located) and Dallas County.

"We need a forensic audit to uncover all the voter fraud," Toth said in a statement accompanying his announcement.

He added, "Texans want to know more about the claims of voter fraud and deserve to have confidence in their elections."

Toth did not offer any proof to back his claims of widespread fraud. However, he echoed other Republicans in Texas, including Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Sen. Ted Cruz, who have made baseless accusations of voter fraud in the 2020 election, allegations that have no basis in reality.

Toth's bill may be on hold for the time being. Currently, the Texas Legislature is unable to form a quorum, and thus cannot consider legislation, after Democratic lawmakers left the state in protest of a GOP proposal empowering several voter suppression efforts.

The audit request follows a similar controversial "audit" of the 2020 vote in Arizona, undertaken by conservative activists. That process has been criticizedfor using unscientific protocols, promoting conspiracy theories, and allegedly damaging state-owned election equipment.

Republicans across the country have also considered replicating that process, including in places Trump won.

Utah state Rep. Steve Christiansen, for instance, visited the Arizona "audit" earlier in June, telling the Daily Beast he wanted to hold the same sort of process in his home state, where Trump won by more than 20 percentage points.

In North Carolina, Republican members of the state legislature are also pushing for an audit. Trump won the state by 1.3 points in 2020.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Fox News Host Calls Out Trump's Election Lies: 'Nobody Cares About 2020'

Fox News host Brian Kilmeade is concerned that former President Donald Trump's fixation on false election conspiracy theories will make it difficult for Republicans to win elections in 2022.

On his talk radio show "The Brian Kilmeade Show," which is nationally syndicated by Fox News Radio, he said that, in a recent conversation with some of Trump's friends, he discussed a recent Trump rally speech: "After the Arizona rally they called him up and said that's the worst speech you ever gave."

"Nobody cares about your topics," Kilmeade continued, referring to Trump. "Right now nobody cares about 2020. Nobody."

Trump had falsely claimed to rallygoers in Arizona in January that in the so-called "audit" of that state's election results, 57,000 "highly suspicious" ballots were "flagged" for further investigation.

Throughout his presidency, Kilmeade frequently welcomed Trump on-air as a co-host for the morning program "Fox & Friends," and Trump was known to use the show as a source of inspiration for presidential policy.

But on Monday, Kilmeade's comments weren't so supportive.

"They did a recount in Arizona, and the recount showed no difference, almost, and he came out and said it showed that they won Arizona. That's an outright lie, and please stop wasting our time with that because he's capable of doing so much more," he said.

In fact, the scandal-ridden, and Republican-led, "audit" found an additional 360 votes for President Joe Biden in Maricopa County rather than finding more votes for Trump. (Arizona's official election results showed President Joe Biden defeating Trump by over 10,000 votes.)

Republicans at multiple levels have embraced Trump's election conspiracy theories and related rhetoric, and multiple GOP candidates currently running for office have continued to promote the false claim that Trump won the election. Candidates for gubernatorial, House, and Senate races are denying that Biden won, despite the certification of his win by Congress, his inauguration, and innumerable audits and court cases across the country.

Echoing the pro-Trump mob that attacked the Capitol in an attempt to prevent Biden's certification, the Republican National Committee on Friday issued a censure of Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger that described the Capitol attack as "legitimate political discourse."

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Records Trump Tried To Hide Reveal Call To Jim Jordan Before Capitol Attack

Records that former President Donald Trump attempted to hide from public scrutiny have now revealed that he spoke on the phone with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) on Jan. 6, 2021.

The phone call between Trump and Jordan occurred hours before Trump joined other Republicans in an attempt to deny certifying President Joe Biden's election win. The call also occurred before the U.S. Capitol was attacked by a pro-Trump mob attempting to prevent Biden from officially winning the race.

CNN reported on Friday that Congress's Jan. 6 committee investigating the attack received Trump's phone records that documented the call.

The Jan 6. committee requested that Trump's records stored at the National Archives be turned over as part of the investigation into the attack. In December, Trump had asked the Supreme Court to block the release of his records, claiming that their disclosure was a violation of executive privilege.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against Trump later in the month. Noting that President Joe Biden had decided against invoking executive privilege with regard to Trump's records, Judge Patricia A. Millett noted in the decision, "Former President Trump has provided no basis for this court to override President Biden’s judgment."

Jordan has been evasive on whether he spoke to Trump or not on Jan. 6. After telling a Fox News interviewer in July that he had spoken to Trump, Jordan later told another reporter he wasn't sure he had done so, then told another reporter he couldn't remember if he had spoken to Trump.

During a House hearing in October, Jordan would still not confirm the exact time of his Trump call. Since then, Jordan has refused a request to be interviewed by the Jan. 6 committee.

A spokesperson for the committee said Jordan's admission that he spoke to Trump on Jan. 6 made him a "material witness."

After his phone call with Trump, Jordan made a speech on the floor of the House arguing against congressional certification of the election results. In his speech, Jordan invoked debunked conspiracies about the integrity of the election, echoing other comments he had been making at the time.

The false arguments offered by Jordan, Trump, and many other Republicans were later echoed by the mob that attacked the Capitol. Several called for hanging then-Vice President Mike Pence, who had refused to entertain Trump's demand that he not certify the election.

More than 768 people have been charged with federal crimes in connection to the Capitol attack.

Ultimately, 147 Republican members of Congress voted against certification, which would have invalidated the votes of millions of voters including the more than 81 million in the majority who voted for Biden.

The effort was unsuccessful, and Biden's election win was certified.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

White House Kills Mining Leases For Firm Linked To Ivanka And Kushner

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced this week that it is canceling two leases for copper mining in the Minnesota wilderness that President Donald Trump authorized during his presidency.

Twin Metals Minnesota, a subsidiary of Antofagasta plc, a multinational mining conglomerate, was slated to mine for copper in the Boundary Waters region. The area — which spans over 1.1 million acres from Minnesota to Ontario, Canada — has "pristine" water quality and is home to more than 50 animal species and more than 200 bird species.

Environmental activists had warned that the Twin Metals mining operation could put the Boundary Waters' status as a haven for natural life in jeopardy, with runoff flooding the area with contaminants.

"After a careful legal review, we found the leases were improperly renewed in violation of applicable statutes and regulations, and we are taking action to cancel them," U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a statement.

In October, the Biden administration announced it would consider withdrawing the Boundary Waters from consideration for any mining leases for the next 20 years — the maximum amount of time under the Secretary of the Interior's authority.

In the final months of President Barack Obama's administration, the department declined to renew Twin Metals' leases to mine in the Boundary Waters region. Former President Donald Trump reinstated the company's leases. In 2018, Trump's Department of Agriculture canceled a study assessing the environmental impact of mining operations in the area.

After Trump took office, Antofagasta plc heavily increased its lobbying in Washington, spending upwards of $900,000 to advocate for the leases to be reopened, the New York Times reported.

Around the same time, Andrónico Luksic, whose family controls Antofagasta, entered into a private financial arrangement with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner.

In December 2016, Luksic purchased a $5.5 million home in the high-end neighborhood of Kalorama in Washington, D.C. One month later, when Trump took office, Ivanka Trump and Kushner rented and moved into Luksic's house.

Richard W. Painter, who served as ethics chief under former President George W. Bush, told Newsweek magazine in 2019 the arrangement gave the appearance that Luksic was "trying to influence" the administration on its mining decision by aligning himself with Trump's daughter and son-in-law.

Throughout Trump's presidency, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner each faced numerous accusations of self-dealing and corruption.

Antofagasta has previously faced allegations of being involved in corrupt actions like bribery as well as concerns that the company's mining operations have caused damage to culturally significant heritage sites.

The Biden administration's reversal of the decision by the Trump team was hailed by Save The Boundary Waters, an activist group opposing the project on environmental grounds.

"It is heartening to have an administration making decisions with integrity," Becky Rom, the group's national campaign chair, said in a statement. "Twin Metals leases should never have been reinstated in the first place, and this announcement should stop the Twin Metals mine threat."

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), who represents the Boundary Waters region in Congress, praised the Department of the Interior's decision.

"The Biden administration's cancellation of two Twin Metals leases that threatened this watershed is a rejection of the deeply flawed and politically motivated process under the Trump administration and a victory for sound science and protecting a precious and irreplaceable natural resource," McCollum said in a statement.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Biden White House Ramps Up Delivery Of Free COVID Tests And KN-95 Masks

The Biden administration is taking several steps to address the latest wave of COVID-19, including the creation of a response team designed to head off possible future variants of the coronavirus.

Experts say the month of February will likely be "tough" in terms of omicron, though there are signs that the wave may be peaking as reported infections and hospitalizations slow. Health officials are simultaneously concerned about future variants developing and groups like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control continue to monitor the ever-changing situation.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, meanwhile, has made moves to address the crisis, recently launching the Pandemic Innovation Task Force, which is focused on developing treatments, vaccines, testing, and other tools to respond to variants that may appear within six months to two years.

Eric Lander, who serves as President Joe Biden's science adviser, leads the group along with Dawn O'Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services. Bloomberg reported that the task force builds on the $65.3 billion, 10-year pandemic preparedness plan released by the White House in September to coordinate efforts across the government in the event of future outbreaks.

That plan is a reversal from former President Donald Trump, whose team, upon taking over, discarded the pandemic preparedness plan left in place by President Barack Obama's team and left the Office of Science and Technology Policy director seat vacant for two years.

The Biden administration on Tuesday also launched an official website to offer COVID-19 tests to every American household, a day ahead of the scheduled launch.

The site, COVIDtests.gov — which allows each household to order 4 free at home COVID-19 test kits, to be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service — immediately attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors and was the most visited federal government page. According to the official federal government analytics site, it received over 47 million visits in its first 48 hours of operation.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration also announced that it would make 400 million N95 masks available to Americans for free. The masks are being sourced from the Strategic National Stockpile and will be sent to local pharmacies and community health centers for anyone to pick up.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance on Jan. 14 to reflect the fact that N95 caliber masks, in comparison to cloth masks, "offer the highest level of protection" against COVID-19 infection.

Biden has publicly voiced support for masks since the height of the pandemic in 2020 and has continued to publicly mask himself while promoting vaccination efforts.

Republished with permission from American Independent

New York Fed Survey Finds Broad Optimism About Jobs And Income Under Biden

A survey released on Monday by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that American households say they expect increased personal earnings and better employment prospects in President Joe Biden's second year in office.

The Survey of Consumer Expectations is a monthly survey of approximately 1,300 households giving their views on earnings growth, job prospects, inflation, and credit.

In the December 2021 survey, respondents said they expected their earnings growth for the year ahead to be 3.0 percent, which was an increase of 0.2 percent over the previous month's survey. The New York Fed said that the most optimistic expectations came from respondents "with an annual household income below $50,000."

People responding to the survey also expressed the view that unemployment will continue to decrease. Only 35.2 percent said they believe unemployment will be higher in a year, and even that was a 0.9-point drop from the November survey.

The number of respondents who said they perceived the possibility of losing their job in the next 12 months was also down 1.3 percent to 11.6 percent.

The national unemployment rate is currently 3.9 percent, down from the 6.3 percent that Biden inherited from former President Donald Trump in January 2021.

The survey also showed optimism about consumer costs in the coming year, in spite of Republican efforts to attack the Biden administration over the issue of inflation.

Respondents said that while they expected inflation to remain steady, they expect prices for gas and food to fall in the coming year.

In December, Biden said he believed supply chain problems have contributed to increased costs and expressed optimism for lowered prices in the near future.

"We are making progress on pandemic-related challenges to our supply chain which make it more expensive to get goods on shelves, and I expect more progress on that in the weeks ahead," Biden said in a December 10 statement.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Economy Near Full Employment With Seven Million Jobs Added Under Biden

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly jobs report for December 2021, which showed the U.S. economy regained 18.8 million jobs of the 20 million jobs that were lost at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020.

More than 7 million of the jobs that have been regained since the start of the pandemic were added in the last year alone, according to the bureau's report. The U.S. economy has been steadily adding jobs over the past year as the country continues to dig out from the devastating toll taken by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bureau found that the country added 199,000 jobs in December, which was below estimates, while revising its previous jobs report numbers to add 39,000 jobs to its November 2021 report and 102,000 jobs to its October 2021 report.

The report, which was recorded before U.S. case numbers surged due to the virus's highly contagious Omicron variant, also showed a decrease in the unemployment rate from 4.2 percent to 3.9 percent between November 2021 and December 2021. Unemployment, which stood at 6.3 percent when Biden took office, declined more in 2021 than in any previously recorded year.

The latest jobs report comes after the U.S. Department of Labor revealed on Tuesday that 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November, setting a new record. The passage of legislation like the American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law in March by President Biden with only Democratic votes in the House and Senate, provided benefits to millions of workers and families affected by the pandemic.

Experts have said that financial support has allowed workers to negotiate for better pay and working conditions as the economy has improved. Much of the turnover has been concentrated in low-paying jobs, as the tight labor market has given workers more leverage to seek better job opportunities.

"This Great Resignation story is really more about lower-wage workers finding new opportunities in a reopening labor market and seizing them," Nick Bunker, director of economic research at the Indeed Hiring Lab, told The New York Times.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Fauci Says ‘Kill Shot’ Fox Host Watters Should Be Fired

Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday said Fox News host Jesse Watters should be "fired on the spot" after Watters encouraged attendees at a conservative conference to "ambush" Fauci with a rhetorical "kill shot."

Speaking to Turning Point USA's "AmericaFest" conference on Monday, Watters told attendees to go for the rhetorical "kill shot with an ambush" when confronting Fauci, which would be "deadly" because "he doesn't see it coming."

At the conference, Watters encouraged attendees to confront Fauci with the allegation that he purportedly funded "gain-of-function" research at laboratories in Wuhan, China — a claim that Fauci has repeatedly denied. The allegation is central to conservative attempts to blame Fauci and the Chinese government for former President Donald Trump's poor response to the outbreak of the virus.

"Boom, he is dead," Watters told the conference attendees.

Asked about Watters' incendiary rhetoric on CNN's New Day on Tuesday, Fauci said the Fox News host should be fired.

"That's such a reflection of the craziness that goes on in society," Fauci said. "That's awful that he said that and he's going to go very likely unaccountable, I mean, whatever network he's on is not going to do anything, basically."

Fauci has been the target of death threats after months of attacks from conservatives as he has served as the public face of the U.S. government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fox News host Lara Logan recently compared Fauci to the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. The network did not take any disciplinary action against Logan for her remarks.

Watters, who is co-host of Fox News' The Five and hosts the weekend show Watters World, has been criticized for aggressive behavior in the past. In 2009, while working for Fox's now-defunct program The O'Reilly Factor, Watters followed HuffPost reporter Amanda Terkel while she was on vacation and hounded her on camera.

Watters' boss at the time, former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, once led a campaign against abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in which O'Reilly referred to the doctor as "Tiller, the baby killer." In May of 2009, Tiller was killed by an anti-abortion activist in his church.

O'Reilly was ousted from Fox News after it was revealed that the network had covered up multiple instances of the host sexually harassing women in the workplace.

Article reprinted with permission from The American Independent

Sen. Johnson Spreads Lie That Vaccines Caused 'Over 19,000 Deaths'

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) on Wednesday falsely claimed that the COVID-19 vaccine had caused "over 19,000 deaths worldwide," citing the U.S. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a database of raw, unverified information.

Johnson made the claim during an appearance on Fox News Radio's Brian Kilmeade Show.

"I've talked to the vaccine-injured. Vaccine injuries are real," said Johnson. "The VAERS system, today, the latest report, over 19,000 deaths worldwide associated with these three vaccines, over 900,000 adverse events, and the CDC, the FDA is just looking the other way, they're going, What, me worry? What's there to look at here?"

VAERS is a government website for collecting information on possible adverse effects related to vaccines. It is a database of raw information that allows anyone to contribute a report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes on its website:

Healthcare providers, vaccine manufacturers, and the public can submit reports to VAERS. While very important in monitoring vaccine safety, VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. Most reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases.

The CDC also notes:

Reports of death after COVID-19 vaccinations are rare. More than 459 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through November 29, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 10,128 reports of death (0.0022%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine. FDA requires healthcare providers to report any death after COVID-19 vaccination to VAERS, even if it’s unclear whether the vaccine was the cause. Reports of adverse events to VAERS following vaccination, including deaths, do not necessarily mean that a vaccine caused a health problem.

Fox News Ignores Its Own Poll Showing Strong Support For Government Action

Fox News claimed as the House of Representatives was voting to pass President Joe Biden's $1.75 trillion jobs bill, that voters "don't like" what Biden is "selling," criticizing the investment package and suggesting it was unpopular.

"The Democratic answer seems to be 'spend more,'" Bill Hemmer, co-anchor of America's Newsroom, said in a segment Friday morning. "...We did our polling, we released it last night, and you look at Virginia results, in New Jersey, other places, it just doesn't seem like the American people are buying what this administration is selling."

The Fox News poll to which Hemmer was presumably referring, released last Thursday, in fact showed nearly half of respondents in support of more government action.

The poll, which surveyed 1,003 registered voters across the country from November14-17, asked respondents to weigh in on whether the federal government is "doing too much and is too involved in things better left to individuals and businesses" or whether it should "do more to solve the problems facing the country today."

A plurality of those surveyed, 49 percent, said the government should do more to help while 11 percent said the current level of government action is "about right."

That figure is the highest it's ever been, in the 11 years Fox News has asked the question on comparable surveys.

Additionally, the number of respondents who say the government is doing "too much" is at a low in Fox's polling. In 2010, 50 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative. In the current poll, only 34 percent answered that the government was doing "too much."

The poll results stand in contrast with the conservative mantra frequently embedded in Fox News programming, which argues against government intervention and opposes most measures intended to assist Americans, most recently those included in the Build Back Better plan.

For months, the Fox News has hosted guests like former Trump aide Stephen Miller, who appeared on the network to describe the purported impact of legislation like the investment package as "the complete destruction of the American economy."

The conservative network has also mocked provisions in the bill meant to address climate change and environmental injustice, describing it as a "socialist wish list."

At the same time, polling has repeatedly shown that the bill is popular with many Americans. A Morning Consult/Politico released on November 2 showed broad support across the board for the package's investments in clean energy, child care, health care, and affordable housing.

The Fox News poll this week also showed voters rejected the network's position and disinformation other issues. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said that the COVID-19 vaccines are "safe and effective," including for children, a contrast to the network's frequent segments criticizing vaccines and related mandates.

On the same night the poll was released, the network's lead primetime show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, hosted vaccine conspiracy theorist Alex Berenson, who falsely claimed that there is "no evidence" the vaccine halts infection or transmission of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and prevention, in its guidance has repeatedly cited multiple studies from around the world showing that the vaccine is effective at preventing COVID-19.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

Fox News Pushes To Defund PBS After 'Sesame Street' Adds Asian American Puppet

Fox News is promoting a conservative campaign to defund the Public Broadcasting Service for "bringing race into" its programming and encouraging viewers to get vaccinated. At the center of conservatives' latest culture war is Sesame Street, the iconic children's television show.

In a Thursday Fox & Friends First appearance, American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp called to defund PBS over the network's attempts to make its programming more inclusive of race and gender identity. Schlapp specifically attacked the producers of Sesame Street for recently adding an Asian American puppet to its regular cast of characters.

"They're trying to bring race into Ernie and Bert," Schlapp said, referring to two male puppets who live together on the fictional Sesame Street.

On Monday, Sesame Workshop announced that it would introduce the character Ji-Young — the first Asian American puppet in Sesame Street history — as part of an upcoming special titled See Us Coming Together. The show's producers told the Associated Press that the new character is part of an effort to teach children how to be a good "upstander."

"Being an upstander means you point out things that are wrong or something that someone does or says that is based on their negative attitude towards the person because of the color of their skin or the language they speak or where they're from," Wilson Stallings, executive vice-president of Creative and Production for Sesame Workshop, told the news outlet.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has seen a wave of hate crimes against Asian Americans. Bystanders have often played witness to such attacks without stepping in to stop them, leading some advocacy groups to organize bystander intervention training sessions. Former President Donald Trump, for his part, has fanned the flames of racist violence by repeatedly using the term "China flu" to refer to the virus.