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Biden in vaccine rollout push as states rush to reopen – live updates Biden in vaccine rollout push as states rush to reopen – live updates
(32 minutes later)
Promised increase in vaccine supply comes as Republican Governors drop Covid restrictionsPromised increase in vaccine supply comes as Republican Governors drop Covid restrictions
Moustafa Bayoumi writes for us this morning on what he says is a new low – using utility bills to hunt undocumented immigrants:
The startling truth is that signing up for even basic utilities in this country has turned into a gamble for many people, particularly undocumented immigrants. Last week, the Washington Post revealed that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) has paid tens of millions of dollars since 2017 for access to a private database that contains more than “400m names, addresses and service records from more than 80 utility companies covering all the staples of modern life, including water, gas and electricity, and phone, internet and cable TV”. The information has been mined by Ice, the Post reported, for immigration surveillance and enforcement operations.
Neither Ice nor any other federal agency should have unfettered access to this data. In fact, there are strict protocols and regulations that determine how the federal government can gather your information and when it can infringe on your privacy, much of this is codified in the Privacy Act of 1974, as the Post notes. So how are federal agencies like Ice getting around these legal safeguards, which would otherwise prevent them from scooping up such data on their own and without a court order? Simple. They just buy it. With taxpayer money.
Ice paid almost $21m for access to a database called Clear, which is owned by the multinational media conglomerate Thomson Reuters. Clear is reported to contain billions of your records, including employment and housing information, credit reports, criminal histories, vehicle registrations and data from utility companies in all 50 states, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands. It’s also updated daily.
This isn’t just surveillance capitalism. It’s worse. The main idea behind surveillance capitalism is that we, the world’s internet users and smartphone aficionados, have been persuaded to give up the wealth of our personal information in meager exchange for convenient access to big data’s apps and platforms. But what Ice has been doing is different. The marriage of government and surveillance capitalism reveals yet another depth to our contemporary, pixelated nightmare.
Because the power of the government is so immense, the union of government might with surveillance capitalism should worry every single one of us. Facebook may want to know everything about your shopping and surfing habits, but perhaps the worst it can do to you individually is put you in a metaphorical “Facebook jail”. Governments, needless to say, can send you to a real prison.
Read more here: Moustafa Bayoumi – Ice reached a new low: using utility bills to hunt undocumented immigrants
Overnight, Giovanni Russonello’s On Politics newsletter for the New York Times had a focus on voting rights restrictions that Republicans are attempting to impose across the US in the wake of their November election defeat.
There are over 250 bills pending in 43 states that would restrict access to voting. He spoke to Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU’s law school, and she had this to say about the efforts:
The Democratic party is fighting back with an attempt at federal legislation of its own – with the For the People Act. As Weiser explains it:
Sarah Marsh reports for Reuters that eighty House Democrats urged President Joe Biden on Tuesday to repeal Donald Trump’s “cruel” sanctions on Cuba and renew engagement, an early sign of support in Congress for easing a clamp-down on the country.
In a letter to Biden seen by Reuters they urged the Democratic president to sign an executive order “without delay” to end restrictions on travel and remittances, noting that well over half of Cubans depend on the latter.“With the stroke of a pen, you can assist struggling Cuban families and promote a more constructive approach,” they said.
The letter was led by lawmakers Bobby Rush, Gwen Moore, Barbara Lee and Steve Cohen, long-time supporters of engagement with Cuba. Signers also included the leaders of the influential House of Representatives Foreign Affairs, Financial Services and Appropriations committees.
Biden vowed during his campaign to reverse policy shifts by the Republican Trump that “have inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done nothing to advance democracy and human rights.”
Trump’s tightening of the decades-old US trade embargo on Cuba has inflicted further pain on its ailing state-run economy, contributing to worsening shortages of food and medicine. But Biden has not yet indicated whether he will fully revert to the historic detente initiated by Democratic former President Barack Obama when Biden was vice president.
“This letter, signed by a number of key powerbrokers in the House of Representatives, will help empower US foreign policy officials in the Biden administration who seek to rebuild what Trump destroyed - a constructive, productive and civil approach toward Cuba and its people,” said Peter Kornbluh, co-author of “Back Channel to Cuba” and senior analyst at the National Security Archive.
The Trump administration took more than 200 initiatives to tighten the decades-old US trade embargo on Cuba over four years, citing concerns about a lack of democracy and Havana’s support for Venezuela’s socialist government.
In the last year, Facebook adjusted some of the most fundamental rules about what gets posted on its platform, halting algorithmic recommendations of political groups, banning lies about vaccines and removing a number of high-profile figures for spreading misinformation and hate – including Donald Trump.
But researchers say the social media platform is not enforcing those policies as effectively when it comes to misinformation in Spanish – a blind spot that may prove deadly as health lies spread through the most vulnerable populations during the global vaccine effort.
“Prior to the election, Facebook was rolling out new enforcement actions and policy updates week after week,” said Carmen Scurato, a senior policy counsel at the civil rights group Free Press who studies Spanish-language misinformation. “But what we are observing is that those enforcement actions don’t seem to be replicated in Spanish.”
“Although before the election we saw Facebook make an effort to take down some disinformation, we did not see that same effort on Spanish content,” echoed Jacobo Licona, the disinformation research lead for Equis Labs, a polling firm focused on Latino voters. “It’s disappointing, and could have a negative impact on Spanish-speaking communities.”
There are more than 59 million Spanish speakers in the US, and the demographic is growing on Facebook. According to Facebook’s own market research data, more than 70% of Latinos who use social media prefer Facebook over other online platforms.
But Spanish-language content is less often and less quickly moderated for misinformation and violence than English content, research shows. While 70% of misinformation in English on Facebook ends up flagged with warning labels, just 30% of comparable misinformation in Spanish is flagged, according to a study from the human rights non-profit Avaaz.
“Facebook is leaving out the millions of people who speak Spanish at home by failing to apply its community standards equally,” Scurato said. “If you say you are making efforts on your platform for the safety and health of all of us, that has to also include the Latinx community.”
Read more of Kari Paul’s report from San Francisco here: ‘Facebook has a blind spot’: why Spanish-language misinformation is flourishing
Kyle Cheney reports for Politico that the battle to get access to Donald Trump’s tax records is set to run and run…Kyle Cheney reports for Politico that the battle to get access to Donald Trump’s tax records is set to run and run…
Read more here: Politico – House fight for Trump’s financial records poised to stretch into the summerRead more here: Politico – House fight for Trump’s financial records poised to stretch into the summer
In not unsurprising news, this morning the Kremlin has played down the impact of sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union over Moscow’s treatment of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, but said it would retaliate with reciprocal measures.In not unsurprising news, this morning the Kremlin has played down the impact of sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union over Moscow’s treatment of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, but said it would retaliate with reciprocal measures.
In President Joe Biden’s most direct challenge yet to the Kremlin, the US imposed sanctions to punish Russia for what it described as Moscow’s attempt to poison Navalny with a nerve agent last year.In President Joe Biden’s most direct challenge yet to the Kremlin, the US imposed sanctions to punish Russia for what it described as Moscow’s attempt to poison Navalny with a nerve agent last year.
Navalny, 44, fell ill on a flight in Siberia in August and was airlifted to Germany, where doctors concluded he had been poisoned with a nerve agent. The Kremlin has denied any role in his illness and said it has seen no proof he was poisoned.Navalny, 44, fell ill on a flight in Siberia in August and was airlifted to Germany, where doctors concluded he had been poisoned with a nerve agent. The Kremlin has denied any role in his illness and said it has seen no proof he was poisoned.
Washington on Tuesday imposed sanctions against seven senior Russian officials and on 14 entities. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would hit back in a way that best served its interests.Washington on Tuesday imposed sanctions against seven senior Russian officials and on 14 entities. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would hit back in a way that best served its interests.
Reuters report that Peskov told reporters “Of course it’s impossible not to apply the principle of reciprocity. We consider such decisions to be absurd, unjustified and most importantly, they have no effect or meaning,” he said. “We can only regret this and express our bewilderment.”Reuters report that Peskov told reporters “Of course it’s impossible not to apply the principle of reciprocity. We consider such decisions to be absurd, unjustified and most importantly, they have no effect or meaning,” he said. “We can only regret this and express our bewilderment.”
However, Peskov said the US sanctions would have no effect on the senior officials targeted because they are not allowed to travel outside Russia, own property abroad or hold foreign bank accounts anyway because of the sensitivity of their positions.However, Peskov said the US sanctions would have no effect on the senior officials targeted because they are not allowed to travel outside Russia, own property abroad or hold foreign bank accounts anyway because of the sensitivity of their positions.
A Guardian investigation of a website leak from the American Patriots Three Percent shows the anti-government militia group have recruited a network across the United States that includes current and former military members, police and border patrol agents.A Guardian investigation of a website leak from the American Patriots Three Percent shows the anti-government militia group have recruited a network across the United States that includes current and former military members, police and border patrol agents.
But the leak also demonstrates how the radical group has recruited from a broad swath of Americans, not just military and law enforcement. Members include both men and women, of ages ranging from their 20s to their 70s, doing jobs from medical physics to dental hygiene and living in all parts of the country.But the leak also demonstrates how the radical group has recruited from a broad swath of Americans, not just military and law enforcement. Members include both men and women, of ages ranging from their 20s to their 70s, doing jobs from medical physics to dental hygiene and living in all parts of the country.
Experts say the revelations of the broad scope of the movement’s membership shows the mainstreaming of the radical politics of militia and so-called “Patriot Movement” groups during the Trump era and beyond.Experts say the revelations of the broad scope of the movement’s membership shows the mainstreaming of the radical politics of militia and so-called “Patriot Movement” groups during the Trump era and beyond.
There has been a particular focus on the militia movement after the 6 January attack on the Capitol in Washington DC, in which a rampaging pro-Trump mob included militia members and others from far-right organizations.There has been a particular focus on the militia movement after the 6 January attack on the Capitol in Washington DC, in which a rampaging pro-Trump mob included militia members and others from far-right organizations.
According to members who spoke to the Guardian, the website from which the list was leaked was set up by national leaders of Patriot Movement group, which is affiliated with the broader Three Percenter movement.According to members who spoke to the Guardian, the website from which the list was leaked was set up by national leaders of Patriot Movement group, which is affiliated with the broader Three Percenter movement.
Names, phone numbers and even photographs of members were obtained by activists who then posted the data to an internet archiving site, and the Guardian cross-referenced these with public records and other published materials.Names, phone numbers and even photographs of members were obtained by activists who then posted the data to an internet archiving site, and the Guardian cross-referenced these with public records and other published materials.
One of the activists who discovered the leak, whose name has been withheld due to safety concerns, said that the Wordpress site’s poorly configured membership plugin left those details exposed to public view. Additional materials seen by the Guardian confirm that claim, and show that the materials were obtained by a simple search technique.One of the activists who discovered the leak, whose name has been withheld due to safety concerns, said that the Wordpress site’s poorly configured membership plugin left those details exposed to public view. Additional materials seen by the Guardian confirm that claim, and show that the materials were obtained by a simple search technique.
Many of the members revealed by the leak have extensive armed forces experience, including some who are still serving in branches of the US military.Many of the members revealed by the leak have extensive armed forces experience, including some who are still serving in branches of the US military.
Read more of Jason Wilson’s analysis here: US militia group draws members from military and police, website leak showsRead more of Jason Wilson’s analysis here: US militia group draws members from military and police, website leak shows
Also in the Senate today, the nomination of Xavier Becerra faces a key vote in the Finance committee. It’s a test, too, for national groups opposed to abortion, trying to deny a president who favors abortion rights his choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services.Also in the Senate today, the nomination of Xavier Becerra faces a key vote in the Finance committee. It’s a test, too, for national groups opposed to abortion, trying to deny a president who favors abortion rights his choice to run the Department of Health and Human Services.
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Thomas Beaumont write for Associated Press that Becerra is paying a price for defending, as California attorney general, some of the nation’s most liberal laws and policies on abortion rights.Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Thomas Beaumont write for Associated Press that Becerra is paying a price for defending, as California attorney general, some of the nation’s most liberal laws and policies on abortion rights.
During the 2020 election, about 6 in 10 voters said abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to VoteCast, an in-depth survey of the US electorate conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for the Associated Press. Roughly the same percentage of Republicans said abortion should usually be legal, the survey showed.During the 2020 election, about 6 in 10 voters said abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to VoteCast, an in-depth survey of the US electorate conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for the Associated Press. Roughly the same percentage of Republicans said abortion should usually be legal, the survey showed.
Nevertheless lawmakers in 19 state legislatures have introduced almost 50 bills this year to ban most or all abortions, according to the nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute. In South Carolina, Republican Gov Henry McMaster signed a measure banning most abortions, though it was almost immediately suspended by a federal judge.Nevertheless lawmakers in 19 state legislatures have introduced almost 50 bills this year to ban most or all abortions, according to the nonpartisan Guttmacher Institute. In South Carolina, Republican Gov Henry McMaster signed a measure banning most abortions, though it was almost immediately suspended by a federal judge.
Becerra was appointed California attorney general in 2017. He sued the Trump administration over its restrictions on abortion, although his office says that only four of the 124 lawsuits Becerra filed against the previous administration dealt with abortion, birth control or conscience rights — key issues for religious conservatives. Becerra went all the way to the US Supreme Court to defend a California law that required crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion — and lost.Becerra was appointed California attorney general in 2017. He sued the Trump administration over its restrictions on abortion, although his office says that only four of the 124 lawsuits Becerra filed against the previous administration dealt with abortion, birth control or conscience rights — key issues for religious conservatives. Becerra went all the way to the US Supreme Court to defend a California law that required crisis pregnancy centers to provide information about abortion — and lost.
His legal advocacy grated on abortion opponents. “What I just see is his getting involved in way too many abortion cases,” said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America. “He just made it part of his foundation. Yes, the laws were bad in California, but he has an abortion agenda.”His legal advocacy grated on abortion opponents. “What I just see is his getting involved in way too many abortion cases,” said Kristen Day, executive director of Democrats for Life of America. “He just made it part of his foundation. Yes, the laws were bad in California, but he has an abortion agenda.”
Republican John Thune, echoed those views. “It does seem like as attorney general you spent an inordinate amount of time and effort suing pro-life organizations,” he said, questioning Becerra recently. “If confirmed, how do you assure us?”Republican John Thune, echoed those views. “It does seem like as attorney general you spent an inordinate amount of time and effort suing pro-life organizations,” he said, questioning Becerra recently. “If confirmed, how do you assure us?”
Sen Steve Daines, told Becerra that “I’ve got serious concerns with the radical views that you’ve taken in the past on the issue of abortion.” And Sen Ben Sasse accused Becerra of “targeting religious liberty” when he sued the Trump administration over its rules giving employers with religious or moral objections more leeway to opt out of covering birth control.Sen Steve Daines, told Becerra that “I’ve got serious concerns with the radical views that you’ve taken in the past on the issue of abortion.” And Sen Ben Sasse accused Becerra of “targeting religious liberty” when he sued the Trump administration over its rules giving employers with religious or moral objections more leeway to opt out of covering birth control.
The Senate is expected to take up President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package today, with fellow Democrats seeking to advance key priorities and jettison aspects that have drawn unflattering scrutiny.The Senate is expected to take up President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package today, with fellow Democrats seeking to advance key priorities and jettison aspects that have drawn unflattering scrutiny.
The bill would pay for vaccines and medical supplies, boost jobless assistance and send a new round of emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments. Democrats aim to get it to Biden to sign into law before 14 March, when some current benefits expire.The bill would pay for vaccines and medical supplies, boost jobless assistance and send a new round of emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments. Democrats aim to get it to Biden to sign into law before 14 March, when some current benefits expire.
With Republican cooperation unlikely, Democrats who narrowly control the chamber need to stick together to pass Biden’s top legislative priority. That will require them to sort out a welter of competing ideas as they seek to advance the bill, which passed the House last Saturday. We already know that the proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour has to be excised.With Republican cooperation unlikely, Democrats who narrowly control the chamber need to stick together to pass Biden’s top legislative priority. That will require them to sort out a welter of competing ideas as they seek to advance the bill, which passed the House last Saturday. We already know that the proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour has to be excised.
Also on the chopping block, reports Andy Sullivan for Reuters, is $1.5 million for a bridge connecting Canada and New York state, which Republicans have derided, though Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer says it was requested by the Trump administration.Also on the chopping block, reports Andy Sullivan for Reuters, is $1.5 million for a bridge connecting Canada and New York state, which Republicans have derided, though Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer says it was requested by the Trump administration.
It is not clear whether Democrats will keep another project that has drawn Republican ire - funding for a subway expansion in California’s Silicon Valley.It is not clear whether Democrats will keep another project that has drawn Republican ire - funding for a subway expansion in California’s Silicon Valley.
Democrats have shown no interest in dropping another partisan sticking point - $350 billion in aid for state and local governments, which face rising costs and uncertain tax revenues because of the pandemic.Democrats have shown no interest in dropping another partisan sticking point - $350 billion in aid for state and local governments, which face rising costs and uncertain tax revenues because of the pandemic.
Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is pushing to scale back enhanced unemployment benefits to $300 per week from $400. Lawmakers may also opt to discontinue those benefits if unemployment in a given state drops below a certain level, according to a Democratic aide.Democratic Senator Joe Manchin is pushing to scale back enhanced unemployment benefits to $300 per week from $400. Lawmakers may also opt to discontinue those benefits if unemployment in a given state drops below a certain level, according to a Democratic aide.
Democrats also may tighten income qualifications for $1,400 direct payments, so they are more targeted toward lower-income households, an aide said.Democrats also may tighten income qualifications for $1,400 direct payments, so they are more targeted toward lower-income households, an aide said.
The Senate could vote on the bill by the end of the week. The House would then have to sign off on the changes before Congress could send it on to Biden to sign into law.The Senate could vote on the bill by the end of the week. The House would then have to sign off on the changes before Congress could send it on to Biden to sign into law.
With Covid case numbers continuing to fall, and the promise of the vaccine roll-out, states are beginning to list some of the restrictions that have been imposed during the pandemic. Greg Abbott has announced that Texas is flinging open businesses to full capacity while simultaneously ending its highly politicized mask mandate. Julie Bosman and Lucy Tompkins for the New York Times report on other openings around the US:With Covid case numbers continuing to fall, and the promise of the vaccine roll-out, states are beginning to list some of the restrictions that have been imposed during the pandemic. Greg Abbott has announced that Texas is flinging open businesses to full capacity while simultaneously ending its highly politicized mask mandate. Julie Bosman and Lucy Tompkins for the New York Times report on other openings around the US:
That’s despite the warnings from Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said on Monday “I know people are tired; they want to get back to life, to normal. But we’re not there yet.”That’s despite the warnings from Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said on Monday “I know people are tired; they want to get back to life, to normal. But we’re not there yet.”
As Tompkins and Bosman write:As Tompkins and Bosman write:
Read more here: New York Times – Texas drops its virus restrictions as a wave of reopenings takes holdRead more here: New York Times – Texas drops its virus restrictions as a wave of reopenings takes hold
Yesterday Joe Biden said the country was on track to have enough vaccines for every adult in the country by the end of May. In a sideswipe at former president Donald Trump’s Covid efforts, the president said “When we came into office, the prior administration had contracted for not nearly enough vaccine to cover adults in America. We rectified that.”Yesterday Joe Biden said the country was on track to have enough vaccines for every adult in the country by the end of May. In a sideswipe at former president Donald Trump’s Covid efforts, the president said “When we came into office, the prior administration had contracted for not nearly enough vaccine to cover adults in America. We rectified that.”
Here’s a clip from his address on coronavirus yesterday.Here’s a clip from his address on coronavirus yesterday.
The White House Covid response team also emphasised the way that they have pulled forward the ambition to vaccinate every adult in the US – in gif form.The White House Covid response team also emphasised the way that they have pulled forward the ambition to vaccinate every adult in the US – in gif form.
According to CDC data, at least 50 million adults in the US have now received at least their first shot of a Covid vaccine – including Dolly Parton, who got a job of the Moderna vaccine that she helped fund.According to CDC data, at least 50 million adults in the US have now received at least their first shot of a Covid vaccine – including Dolly Parton, who got a job of the Moderna vaccine that she helped fund.
Welcome to today’s live coverage of US politics. Here’s a catch-up on where we are, and a little of what we can expect to see today:Welcome to today’s live coverage of US politics. Here’s a catch-up on where we are, and a little of what we can expect to see today:
Joe Biden said that the US expects to have enough coronavirus vaccines for all adults by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated.Joe Biden said that the US expects to have enough coronavirus vaccines for all adults by the end of May, two months earlier than anticipated.
Biden also announced he would be using the powers of the federal government to direct all states to prioritize vaccinating teachers and said the federal government would provide the doses directly through its pharmacy program.Biden also announced he would be using the powers of the federal government to direct all states to prioritize vaccinating teachers and said the federal government would provide the doses directly through its pharmacy program.
His administration said that the drugmaker Merck would help produce Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot.His administration said that the drugmaker Merck would help produce Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved shot.
There were 53,544 new Covid cases, and 1,819 further deaths in the US. Hospitalization levels are now down to 46,388 across the country.There were 53,544 new Covid cases, and 1,819 further deaths in the US. Hospitalization levels are now down to 46,388 across the country.
Republican governors have seized on the declining numbers to start re-opening the economy. Despite experts warning a premature lifting of restrictions could spark another surge in infection, Texas’ Greg Abbot announced he was rescinding the state’s mask mandate and business would be able to operate at 100% from next week.Republican governors have seized on the declining numbers to start re-opening the economy. Despite experts warning a premature lifting of restrictions could spark another surge in infection, Texas’ Greg Abbot announced he was rescinding the state’s mask mandate and business would be able to operate at 100% from next week.
Neera Tanden withdrew as a Cabinet nominee after facing opposition. In an ironic demonstration of “cancel culture” in action, Republican senators cited Tanden’s tweets in opposing her nomination for director of the budget office.Neera Tanden withdrew as a Cabinet nominee after facing opposition. In an ironic demonstration of “cancel culture” in action, Republican senators cited Tanden’s tweets in opposing her nomination for director of the budget office.
The Senate Finance committee will vote today on the nomination of Xavier Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services.The Senate Finance committee will vote today on the nomination of Xavier Becerra to run the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Senate homeland security committee and the Senate rules and administration committee will hold their second joint hearing on the Capitol insurrection at 10am ET (1500 GMT), with testimony from senior DHS and FBI officials.The Senate homeland security committee and the Senate rules and administration committee will hold their second joint hearing on the Capitol insurrection at 10am ET (1500 GMT), with testimony from senior DHS and FBI officials.
The White House Covid response team will give their latest press briefing at 11am, and Jen Psaki gives a briefing at 12.30pm.The White House Covid response team will give their latest press briefing at 11am, and Jen Psaki gives a briefing at 12.30pm.
At 1.45pm President Biden holds a bipartisan meeting on cancer in the Oval Office which Vice President Kamala Harris will also attend. At 5pm Biden takes part in a virtual event with the House Democratic Caucus.At 1.45pm President Biden holds a bipartisan meeting on cancer in the Oval Office which Vice President Kamala Harris will also attend. At 5pm Biden takes part in a virtual event with the House Democratic Caucus.