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Democrats block Republican policing bill, setting up partisan gridlock

The rush to overhaul America’s police forces ran into partisan gridlock Wednesday on Capitol Hill, where Democrats mounted a filibuster to prevent the Senate from taking up a bill, wagering they can use the issue against Republicans in November’s elections. GOP lawmakers urged the Senate to at least begin debating the matter, saying even if…

Democrats block Republican policing bill, setting up partisan gridlock

The rush to overhaul America’s police forces ran into partisan gridlock Wednesday on Capitol Hill, where Democrats mounted a filibuster to prevent the Senate from taking up a bill, wagering they can use the issue against Republicans in November’s elections.

GOP lawmakers urged the Senate to at least begin debating the matter, saying even if Democrats didn’t like the bill written by Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the chamber, there would be time for amendments.

Democrats said Mr. Scott’s bill, heavy on incentives but light on mandates for state and local police, didn’t go far enough to be worth starting the debate. They led a filibuster, leaving Republicans four votes shy of the 60 needed to begin action.

Mr. Scott denounced the blockade, saying it is squandering a pivotal moment to make progress on the race conversation that has engulfed the nation for the past month.

“It’s one of the reasons why communities of color, young Americans of all colors, are losing faith in the institutions of authority and power in this nation — because we’re playing small ball,” the South Carolina senator said. “The actual problem is not what is being offered. It’s who is offering it.”

He said Democrats are counting on defeating President Trump and gaining seats in Congress in November, meaning they’ll have more control over what a bill looks like if it’s written next year, rather than now.

Indeed, Democrats are confident that Republicans would take the blame.

“The political risk falls on Senate Republicans, not the Democrats. The failure of the Senate GOP majority to embrace major reform is just the latest in the long line of Republicans being on the wrong side of public opinion,” Brad Bannon, a strategist, told The Washington Times.

Yet Democrats also insisted their filibuster wasn’t the end of the process. Instead, they characterized it as a negotiating tactic, seeking to win concessions from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, on the provisions in the bill and guarantees about how it will be debated on the Senate floor.

“Mitch McConnell has a way of trying to bully us around, and he thinks he can get his way,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat.

Democrats are also confident that they’ll have their own ante in the conversation later this week, when the House, which they control, is expected to approve a more aggressive police overhaul.

The Republican package stayed away from implementing national mandates on police departments, saying the Constitution limits the federal government’s ability to dictate changes to local agencies.

It instead pushed for better data on use of force and offers incentives to departments to ban chokeholds. The GOP bill also provides grants for training resources and body cameras, with penalties for improper use of the recording devices, filing false police reports, or serious bodily injuries that lead to prosecution.

Democrats said that was a “watered-down” approach.

Their bill would create a national standard for use of force and would remove limited qualified immunity from officers carrying out their duties, opening the door for them to face civil lawsuits over their actions.

Mr. Scott said Republicans were ready to debate those issues, but they needed to take up the bill first. He estimated there is about a 70% overlap with the Democrats’ bill, a statistic Democrats reject.

Mr. Schumer said the bill is too fundamentally flawed to be saved by amendments.

“Why don’t we put a good bill on the floor that can pass?” he said.

He said Democrats used the same tactics on previous legislation having to do with the coronavirus outbreak, forcing Mr. McConnell to come to the table.

“I believe that the Republican Party sees the handwriting on the wall,” he said.

President Trump said Senate Democrats blocked the bill “because they want to weaken our police.”

“They want to take away immunity,” Mr. Trump said at a White House press conference. “They want to take away a lot of the strength from our police and from law enforcement generally, and we can’t live with it.

“This [Republican proposal] is a great bill,” he said. “Mitch wants it to happen. I would like to see it happen, but we won’t do anything that’s going to hurt our police.”

He said if the parties can’t agree, “it’s one of those things — different philosophies.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, last week had signaled she would be open to matching her bill up against the Senate GOP proposal in a conference committee, where the two sides would hammer out a final agreement.

But on the eve of the Senate vote, she backed Mr. Schumer’s blockade. She went as far as to accuse Republicans of “trying to get away with murder — the murder of George Floyd.”

Floyd is the Black man whose death last month under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer sparked the current debate on policing and race.

Mrs. Pelosi refused to apologize for her remark and Mr. Schumer backed her.

“What she said was fine with me,” he said.

Mr. Scott said Mrs. Pelosi’s comments were “one of the most heinous things I can imagine.” He said it’s an indication of the way Democrats take for granted the support of Black communities.

He touted several priorities Republicans have passed to benefit those same communities — including funding for historically Black colleges, opportunity zones, and research on sickle cell anemia.

“She knows that she can say that because the Democrats have a monopoly on the Black vote,” he said. “And no matter the loyalty of the people, the return they get will always continue to go down because in monopolies you start devaluing your costumers.”

“I’m willing to compete for their vote. Are you?”

⦁ Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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US moves to block all Chinese claims in South China Sea |NationalTribune.com

The Trump administration escalated its actions against China on Monday by stepping squarely into one of the most sensitive regional issues dividing them and rejecting outright nearly all of Beijing’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea. The administration presented the decision as an attempt to curb China’s increasing assertiveness in the region with…

US moves to block all Chinese claims in South China Sea |NationalTribune.com

The Trump administration escalated its actions against China on Monday by stepping squarely into one of the most sensitive regional issues dividing them and rejecting outright nearly all of Beijing’s significant maritime claims in the South China Sea.
The administration presented the decision as an attempt to curb China’s increasing assertiveness in the region with a commitment to recognising international law. But it will almost certainly have the more immediate effect of further infuriating the Chinese, who are already retaliating against numerous US sanctions and other penalties on other matters.
It also comes as President Donald Trump has come under growing fire for his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, stepped up criticism of China in the run-up to the 2020 election and sought to paint his expected Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, as weak on China.
Previously, US policy had been to insist that maritime disputes between China and its smaller neighbours be resolved peacefully through UN-backed arbitration. But in a statement released on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognised waters to be illegitimate. The shift does not involve disputes over land features that are above sea level, which are considered to be “territorial” in nature.
“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Pompeo said. “America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region.”

— Indo-Pacific News (@IndoPac_Info) July 13, 2020

Although the US will continue to remain neutral in territorial disputes, the announcement means the administration is in effect siding with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, all of which oppose Chinese assertions of sovereignty over maritime areas surrounding contested islands, reefs and shoals.
“There are clear cases where [China] is claiming sovereignty over areas that no country can lawfully claim,” the State Department said in a fact sheet that accompanied the statement.
The announcement was released a day after the fourth anniversary of a binding decision by an arbitration panel in favour of the Philippines that rejected China’s maritime claims around the Spratly Islands and neighbouring reefs and shoals.

And yet, there they are. Two @USNavy aircraft carriers operating in the international waters of the South China Sea. #USSNimitz & #USSRonaldReagan are not intimidated #AtOurDiscretion https://t.co/QGTggRjOul
— Navy Chief of Information (@chinfo) July 5, 2020

China has refused to recognise that decision, dismissed it as a “sham”, and refused to participate in the arbitration proceedings. It has continued to defy the decision with aggressive actions that have brought it into territorial spats with Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia in recent years.
However, as a result, the administration said China has no valid maritime claims to the fish- and potentially energy-rich Scarborough Reef, Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal. The US has repeatedly said areas regarded to be part of the Philippines are covered by a US-Philippines mutual defence treaty in the event of an attack on them.
In addition to reiterating support for that decision, Pompeo said China cannot legally claim the James Shoal near Malaysia, waters surrounding the Vanguard Bank off Vietnam, the Luconia Shoals near Brunei and Natuna Besar off Indonesia. As such, the US said it would regard any Chinese harassment of fishing vessels or oil exploration in those areas as unlawful.

China has sought to shore up its claim to the sea by building military bases on coral atolls, leading the US to sail its warships through the region in what it calls “freedom of operation missions”. The US has no claims itself to the waters but has deployed warships and aircraft for decades to patrol and promote freedom of navigation and overflight in the busy waterway.
Last week, China angrily complained about the US flexing its military muscle in the South China Sea by conducting joint exercises with two US aircraft carrier groups in the strategic waterway. The US Navy said the USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan, along with their accompanying vessels and aircraft, conducted exercises “designed to maximize air defence capabilities, and extend the reach of long-range precision maritime strikes from carrier-based aircraft in a rapidly evolving area of operations”.
China claims almost all of the South China Sea and routinely objects to any action by the US military in the region. Five other governments claim all or part of the sea, through which approximately five trillion dollars in goods are shipped every year.
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Protesters block road to Mt. Rushmore ahead of Trump’s fireworks display

Protesters blocked a road leading up to Mt. Rushmore Friday evening, ahead of President Trump’s Fourth of July fireworks event. According to local news outlets, about 150 demonstrators began gathering several hours ago and removed wheels from their vehicles to make it harder to remove them. Local authorities and National Guard were called on to…

Protesters block road to Mt. Rushmore ahead of Trump’s fireworks display

Protesters blocked a road leading up to Mt. Rushmore Friday evening, ahead of President Trump’s Fourth of July fireworks event.

According to local news outlets, about 150 demonstrators began gathering several hours ago and removed wheels from their vehicles to make it harder to remove them. Local authorities and National Guard were called on to clear the vehicles and start to disperse the protesters.

According to the Associated Press, the protest group was mostly Native Americans, who contest the monument itself, pointing out the mountains were taken from the Lakota people in violation of previous treaties.

Mt. Rushmore, showcasing Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, has come under fire as a national monument because of the former two presidents’ connection to slavery.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trump arrived in South Dakota around 6:40 pm local time.

“Mount Rushmore is in great shape and it’s going to be in great shape for centuries to come,” Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving Washington, D.C. “I’ll be making a speech there. I’ll be seeing a lot of people – a lot of different people – and I think it will be a fantastic evening.”

He also touted the recent unemployment rate, which fell to 11% from May’s 13%.

“So a lot of good things are happening, a lot of very powerful things are happening, and our country’s doing very well. I think we will have a V-shape if you look at what’s going on, if you look at the numbers all over. I think we’re going to have a very strong V-shape,” Mr. Trump said.

The president’s event has also faced backlash for bringing a massive crowd — which issues 7,500 tickets for the fireworks display — in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic as the country struggles to keep cases from spiking during the reopening phase.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said that social distancing and masks won’t be required during the event, but organizers will provide masks for anyone who wants them and screen attendees for COVID-19 symptoms.

Fireworks at Mr. Rushmore were canceled about a decade ago due to concerns about its large population of Ponderosa pine trees and an infestation of pine beetles, which make the forest more susceptible to wildfires.

According to local news outlets, about 150 demonstrators began gathering several hours ago and removed wheels from their vehicles to make it harder to remove them. Local authorities and National Guard were called on to clear the vehicles and start to disperse the protesters. About 15 people were arrested.

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Facebook to block state-controlled media outlets from advertising in U.S. ahead of 2020 election

Facebook said Thursday it will block state-owned media outlets from advertising on its platform in the U.S. to protect against possible efforts to interfere in November’s election. Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, made the announcement in a blog post highlighting the company’s new policies for media outlets wholly or partially under the editorial…

Facebook to block state-controlled media outlets from advertising in U.S. ahead of 2020 election

Facebook said Thursday it will block state-owned media outlets from advertising on its platform in the U.S. to protect against possible efforts to interfere in November’s election.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, made the announcement in a blog post highlighting the company’s new policies for media outlets wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government.

“State-controlled media outlets rarely advertise in the U.S.,” wrote Mr. Gleicher. “Nevertheless, later this summer we will begin blocking ads from these outlets in the U.S. out of an abundance of caution to provide an extra layer of protection against various types of foreign influence in the public debate ahead of the November 2020 election in the U.S.”

Facebook has also begun labeling the pages of state-controlled media outlets as such and will start similarly flagging posts made by those accounts as well, explained Mr. Gleicher.

“We’re providing greater transparency into these publishers because they combine the influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state, and we believe people should know if the news they read is coming from a publication that may be under the influence of a government,” he wrote.

Facebook consulted with dozens of experts from around the world prior to creating a policy to determine whether a media outlet is wholly or partially state-controlled, he added.

Among the factors Facebook will consider when deciding if a publisher should be categorized as state-controlled are their mission statements, ownership structure, editorial guidelines and sources of funding, among others, wrote Mr. Gleicher. Publishers who have their content labeled under the new policy will be able to appeal to Facebook, his post said.

Facebook’s latest steps come roughly four years since its flagship social network and sister service Instagram were exploited by Russian users during the 2016 U.S. presidential race. The company previously said millions of users viewed ads and other posts created by the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based “troll farm” with alleged ties to the Kremlin.

The Department of Justice later announced criminal charges against more than a dozen Russians implicated in that effort – one of several operations conducted by Moscow to interfere in the 2016 election “in sweeping and systematic fashion,” according to Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who led the government’s probe of race.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, applauded Facebook in a statement later Thursday for its decision to label state outlets.

“Facebook’s debut of labels for state-controlled media pages is a long-awaited and crucial step to keeping users fully informed about the sources of information they may encounter on the platform — especially when such sources are no more than mouthpieces or propagandists doing the bidding of their central governments,” said Mr. Schiff, a California Democrat whose congressional committee was among several that probe Russian interference in the 2016 race in addition to the Justice Department.

“This is the right course of action, and an important step to helping users stay vigilant against potential attempts by foreign adversaries to shape strategic narratives or spread disinformation under the guise of ‘independent’ journalism,” he said in a statement.

Major online platforms practically across the board subsequently took steps after several social media services faced criticism for allowing foreign misinformation to spread during the 2016 race, including a decision by YouTube in early 2018 to start labeling content posted by state-funded broadcasters, not unlike one of Facebook’s latest measures.

Russia has denied interfering in the U.S. electoral process.

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