‘This is the worst kind of politics’: Biden criticizes Republicans resisting vaccine mandates – as it happened

a month ago

‘This is the worst kind of politics’: Biden criticizes Republicans resisting vaccine mandates – as it happened

The Guardian

Summary

  • Joe Biden criticized the Republican governors who are pushing back against his coronavirus vaccination policies. Some Republican governors have threatened to sue the Biden administration over its plan to order large employers to require vaccinations or regular coronavirus testing for their workers. “This is the worst kind of politics because it’s putting the lives of citizens of their states, especially children, at risk,” Biden said. “And I refuse to give in to it.”
  • The select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection has said it will examine the actions of Gen Mark Milley and other top Pentagon officials following the 6 January attack. The leaders of the select committee put out a statement today in response to a report that Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, took steps to prevent Donald Trump from launching a major military attack during his final days in office. According to the statement from committee chairman Bennie Thompson and vice chair Liz Cheney, Pentagon officials’ actions in the days after the insurrection will be a “crucial area of focus” for the panel’s investigation.
  • The fencing has been reinstalled around the US Capitol, ahead of the “Justice for J6” rally on Saturday. The rally is being held in support of the pro-Trump insurrectionists who carried out the Capitol attack on 6 January.
  • France has reportedly canceled a gala at its Washington embassy in protest of the new defense deal between the US, Australia and the UK. The gala was meant to celebrate US-French relations, but the New York Times has reported that the event was canceled over the outrage stemming from the newly announced nuclear submarine pact. French officials have said they were blindsided by news of the agreement, which contradicted Australia’s previous promise to buy a French-built fleet of submarines.
  • Questions remain over whether the Biden administration will be able to move forward with its plan to make coronavirus booster shots available starting next week. The White House had previously said Pfizer and Moderna boosters would be available starting the week of 20 September. But now, only Pfizer shots might be approved by next week, pending a recommendation from a Food and Drug Administration panel that is meeting tomorrow to discuss the proposal.
  • Biden’s approval rating has declined, with Americans divided over whether he mishandled the withdrawal from Afghanistan.The latest Monmouth University poll found that Biden’s job approval was at 45% (compared to 54% back in April). Only about 30% of Americans said the country was headed in the right direction and they’re divided 48% to 49% on whether Biden mishandled the withdrawal.
  • The prosecutor probing the origins of the investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia, John Durham, has charged lawyer Michael Sussmann with lying to the FBI. Sussmann, who worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign, has been charged with lying during a September 2016 meeting with the FBI. The investigation, championed by Trump and Republican allies, has only resulted in one conviction, of a low-level FBI lawyer.

The new warrant: how US police mine Google for your location and search history

Johana Bhuiyan reports:

It was a routine bike ride around the neighborhood that landed Zachary McCoy in the crosshairs of the Gainesville, Florida, police department.

In January 2020, an alarming email from Google landed in McCoy’s inbox. Police were requesting his user data, the company told him, and McCoy had seven days to go to court and block its release.

McCoy later found out the request was part of an investigation into the burglary of a nearby home the year before. The evidence that cast him as a suspect was his location during his bike ride – information the police obtained from Google through what is called a geofence warrant. For simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, McCoy was being investigated and, as a result, his Google data was at risk of being handed over to the police.

Geofence location warrants and reverse search warrants such as the ones McCoy dealt with are increasingly becoming the tool of choice for law enforcement. Google revealed for the first time in August that it received 11,554 geofence location warrants from law enforcement agencies in 2020, up from 8,396 in 2019 and 982 in 2018.

It’s a concerning trend, argue experts and advocates. They worry the increase signals the start of a new era, one in which law enforcement agencies find ever more creative ways to obtain user information from data-rich tech companies. And they fear agencies and jurisdictions will use this relatively unchecked mechanism in the context of new and controversial laws such as the criminalization of nearly all abortions in Texas.

“As long as the data exists, all it takes is a creative law enforcement officer to say, ‘Hey, we can get a warrant or we can send a subpoena for this particular subset of the data that’s already being harvested’,” said Caleb Kenyon, the defense attorney who represented McCoy, to the Guardian. “They’re coming up with everything they can to do their job. That’s all it takes for the next type of [reverse] search warrant to come about.”

Read more:

Facebook steps up fight against climate misinformation – but critics say effort falls short

Facebook has announced new efforts to combat climate crisis misinformation on its platform, including by expanding its climate science center to provide more reliable information, investing in organizations that fight misinformation, and launching a video series to highlight young climate advocates on Facebook and Instagram.

But critics say the new push, announced on Thursday, falls short and will allow vast amounts of climate misinformation to slip through the cracks.

Facebook has long been criticized for allowing misinformation about the climate crisis to proliferate on its platform. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO, admitted in a 2021 April congressional hearing that climate misinformation is “a big issue”. In the past, the company has said such misinformation accounts for “a very low percentage of total misinformation on the service” but declined to share figures.

Climate change and misinformation experts have said lies on the platform can spread quickly. The climate denial watchdog groupInfluenceMap in October 2020 found dozens of climate denial ads had been viewed more than 8m times after slipping through the social network’s filters.

In March 2021, 13 environmental groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists and Greenpeace, sent Zuckerberg a letter calling on him to commit to monitoring climate disinformation and provide more transparency about the scale of the problem.

“Climate change disinformation is spreading rapidly across Facebook’s social media platform, threatening the ability of citizens and policymakers to fight the climate crisis,” the groups wrote.

Read more:

Republican attorneys general have warned the White House that they will take legal action against proposed vaccine mandates.

Twenty-four attorneys general sent a letter to Joe Biden, warning, “If your Administration does not alter its course, the undersigned state Attorneys General will seek every available legal option to hold you accountable and uphold the rule of law.”

The new federal vaccine requirement, which will come as rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), mandates that all employers with more than 100 workers must require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly. This would affect about 80m Americans. Another 17m workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding would also be required to get fully vaccinated.

Updated

Exxon and BP called to testify on climate after ‘troubling’ new documents

US congressional investigators say they have uncovered “very concerning” new documents about ExxonMobil’s disinformation campaign to discredit climate science.

Representative Ro Khanna, a leading critic of the petroleum industry on the House oversight committee, said the documents came to light ahead of a hearing next month to question the heads of large oil companies about their industry’s long history of undermining the evidence that burning fossil fuels drove global heating.

Khanna declined to discuss the information beyond describing it as “very troubling facts and some very concerning documents”.

On Thursday, the House oversight committee sent out letters summoning the heads of four firms – Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP – to testify on 28 October.

The letter to Darren Woods, Exxon’s chief executive, said the “fossil fuel industry has reaped massive profits” while devastating communities, ravaging the natural world and costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

“We are also concerned that to protect those profits, the industry has reportedly led a coordinated effort to spread disinformation to mislead the public and prevent crucial action to address climate change,” the letter said.

The hearings follow a secret recording of an Exxon lobbyist earlier this year describing the oil giant’s backing for a carbon tax as a public relations ploy intended to stall more serious measures to combat the climate crisis.

Read more:

Biden’s approval rating has declined, with Americans divided over whether he mishandled the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The latest Monmouth University poll found that Biden’s job approval was at 45% (compared to 54% back in April). Only about 30% of Americans said the country was headed in the right direction and they’re divided 48% to 49% on whether Biden mishandled the withdrawal.

From Monmouth:

“Most Americans approve of ending the war in Afghanistan, but the images of a disorderly withdrawal did not help Biden at a time when the rise in Covid cases is already unsettling the public,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

Two-thirds of Americans (66%) approve of the decision to withdraw the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Just 27% disapprove. Approval for this policy decision, regardless of how the actual pullout was handled, comes from about 3 in 4 Democrats (76%) and independents (72%) but just under half of Republicans (47%).

Updated

The prosecutor probing the origins of the investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia, John Durham, has charged lawyer Michael Sussmann with lying to the FBI.

Sussmann worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign, has been charged with lying during a September 2016 meeting with the FBI. The investigation, championed by Donald Trump and Republican allies, has only resulted in one conviction, of a low-level FBI lawyer.

The charge is an odd one, as Durham was tasked with investigating the FBI, but in this case, has charged Sussmann with crimes committed against the FBI.

“Michael Sussmann is a highly respected national security and cyber security lawyer, who served the US Department of Justice during Democratic and Republican administrations alike,” Sussman’s lawyers said in statement. “Any prosecution here would be baseless, unprecedented, and an unwarranted deviation from the apolitical and principled way in which the Department of Justice is supposed to do its work. We are confident that if Mr Sussmann is charged, he will prevail at trial and vindicate his good name.”

Updated

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague, Maanvi Singh, will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden criticized the Republican governors who are pushing back against his coronavirus vaccination policies. Some Republican governors have threatened to sue the Biden administration over its plan to order large employers to require vaccinations or regular coronavirus testing for their workers. “This is the worst kind of politics because it’s putting the lives of citizens of their states, especially children, at risk,” Biden said. “And I refuse to give in to it.”
  • The select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection has said it will examine the actions of Gen Mark Milley and other top Pentagon officials following the 6 January attack. The leaders of the select committee put out a statement today in response to a report that Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, took steps to prevent Donald Trump from launching a major military attack during his final days in office. According to the statement from committee chairman Bennie Thompson and vice chair Liz Cheney, Pentagon officials’ actions in the days after the insurrection will be a “crucial area of focus” for the panel’s investigation.
  • The fencing has been reinstalled around the US Capitol, ahead of the “Justice for J6” rally on Saturday. The rally is being held in support of the pro-Trump insurrectionists who carried out the Capitol attack on 6 January.
  • France has reportedly canceled a gala at its Washington embassy in protest of the new defense deal between the US, Australia and the UK. The gala was meant to celebrate US-French relations, but the New York Times has reported that the event was canceled over the outrage stemming from the newly announced nuclear submarine pact. French officials have said they were blindsided by news of the agreement, which contradicted Australia’s previous promise to buy a French-built fleet of submarines.
  • Questions remain over whether the Biden administration will be able to move forward with its plan to make coronavirus booster shots available starting next week. The White House had previously said Pfizer and Moderna boosters would be available starting the week of 20 September. But now, only Pfizer shots might be approved by next week, pending a recommendation from a Food and Drug Administration panel that is meeting tomorrow to discuss the proposal.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated

The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh, Julian Borger, Helen Davidson and Angelique Chrisafis report:

Britain and the US were battling to contain an international backlash over a nuclear submarine pact struck with Australia amid concerns the alliance could provoke China and prompt conflict in the Pacific.

Boris Johnson told MPs that the Aukus defence agreement was “not intended to be adversarial” to China. But Beijing accused the three countries of adopting a “cold war mentality” and warned they would harm their own interests unless it was dropped.

Johnson’s predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May, questioned whether the pact meant Britain could be dragged into a war with an increasingly assertive China over Taiwan as Washington demands a greater British presence in the Pacific.

In Washington, the US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, made clear that the administration had chosen to close ranks with Australia in the face of belligerent Chinese behaviour.

Austin said he had discussed with Australian ministers “China’s destabilising activities and Beijing’s efforts to coerce and intimidate other countries, contrary to established rules and norms”, adding: “While we seek a constructive results-oriented relationship with [China], we will remain clear eyed in our view of Beijing’s efforts to undermine the established international order.”

Echoing Joe Biden’s comments yesterday, defense secretary Lloyd Austin said he also has continued confidence in Gen Mark Milley serving as the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

Addressing reporters today, Austin noted that the events described in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book occurred before he was confirmed as defense secretary.

“So I can’t comment on that as well, and certainly I won’t comment on what’s in the book,” Austin said. “I have confidence in General Milley.”

Joe Biden similarly said yesterday that he still has “great confidence” in Milley, despite Republican criticism of the general’s reported efforts to prevent Donald Trump from launching a nuclear attack or approving a strike against China during his final days in office.

The White House has sought to draw a clear distinction between Milley’s working relationship with Biden and the general’s prior working relationship with Trump.

“This current president, who follows the constitution, who’s not fomenting an insurrection, who follows the rule of law, has complete confidence in Chairman Milley and him continuing to serve in his role,” press secretary Jen Psaki said yesterday.

Milley's actions after Capitol attack are a 'crucial area of focus' for select committee investigation

The select committee investigating the 6 January attack on the Capitol has said that the actions of Gen Mark Milley and other senior Pentagon officials after the insurrection are a “crucial area of focus” for the panel’s work.

Committee chairman Bennie Thompson and vice chairwoman Liz Cheney released a statement today in response to a report that Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, attempted to put guardrails on Donald Trump’s behavior during the final days of his presidency.

“The facts surrounding steps taken at the Pentagon to protect our security both before and after January 6th are a crucial area of focus for the select committee. Indeed, the select committee has sought records specifically related to these matters and we expect the Department of Defense to cooperate fully with our probe,” Thompson, a Democrat, and Cheney, a Republican, said.

“The select committee is dedicated to telling the complete story of the unprecedented and extraordinary events of January 6th, including all steps that led to what happened that day, and the specific actions and activities that followed between January 6th and January 20th, 2021.”

Some Republicans have called for Milley’s resignation in response to the report, contained in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book, that the general took steps to prevent Trump from launching a nuclear attack or approving a strike against China in the final days before he left office.

Joe Biden has so far dismissed the criticism, saying yesterday that he continues to have “great confidence” in Milley’s abilities.

Updated

One reporter asked Jen Psaki whether Joe Biden has yet met with any of the Afghan refugees who are resettling in the US following the Taliban takeover of their country.

“Not yet, but he is certainly eager to and looks forward to,” Psaki replied.

Noting that many of the refugees have only very recently arrived in the country, the press secretary added, “It’s not quite scheduled yet, but it’s something he’s certainly eager to do.”

According to Axios, an initial group of 37,000 Afghan refugees will soon be heading to 46 US states for resettlement.

Press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about whether administration officials had invited Nicki Minaj to the White House in response to her tweets spreading misinformation about the coronavirus vaccines.

“We offered a call with Nicki Minaj and one of our doctors to answer her questions she had about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine,” Psaki said, noting it was “a very early-stage call” with the artist’s team.

“It was simply an offer to have a conversation,” Psaki said. Asked whether she thought the call would happen, the press secretary said, “We’ll see. I don’t have anything to predict for you.”

Minaj had claimed that the White House invited her for a visit after she erroneously claimed that the coronavirus vaccine had caused her cousin’s friend’s impotence.

A reporter asked Psaki if she believed that a celebrity like Minaj, who has a large online following, has a responsibility to share accurate information about the vaccines.

“Our hope is that anyone who has a big platform is going to project accurate information about the effectiveness of the vaccine, the safety of the vaccine and the availability of the vaccine,” Psaki said. “We also recognize that people have questions out there.”

Fury in Paris at Australia’s decision to tear up plans to buy a French-built fleet of submarines is not only a row about a defence contract, cost overruns and technical specifications. It throws into question the transatlantic alliance to confront China.

The Aukus deal has left the French political class seething at Joe Biden’s Trumpian unilateralism, Australian two-facedness and the usual British perfidy.

“Nothing was done by sneaking behind anyone’s back,” assured the British defence minister, Ben Wallace, in an attempt to soothe the row. But that is not the view in Paris.

“This is an enormous disappointment,” said Florence Parly, the French defence minister.

As recently as August, Parly had held a summit with her Australian counterpart, Peter Dutton, in Paris, and issued a lengthy joint communique highlighting the importance of their joint work on the submarines as part of a broader strategy to contain China in the Indo-Pacific region.

Given Dutton’s failure to tell his French counterparts of the months of secret negotiations with the US, the only conclusion can be he was kept out of the loop, was deeply forgetful, or chose not to reveal what he knew.

There was no forewarning. France only heard through rumours in the Australian media that its contract was about to be torn up live on TV in a video link-up between the White House, Canberra and London.

Asked about the report that France has canceled a Washington gala celebrating US-French relations in protest of the new defense deal, the White House redirected questions to their Australian counterparts.

“We value our relationship and our partnership with France on a variety of issues facing the global community,” press secretary Jen Psaki said during her daily briefing.

“I would leave it, of course, to our Australian partners to describe why they sought this new technology and why they pursued this technology from the United States.”

Noting that Australia had previously agreed to purchase a French-built fleet of submarines, Psaki said, “We’ll let Australia speak to that and why they purchased this technology.”

One reporter asked if France was given any heads up on the announcement, given that French officials have said they were blindsided by the news.

“They were aware in advance of the announcement,” Psaki said.

Updated

France cancels US gala over fury from defense deal with Australia and UK - report

France has reportedly canceled a planned gala at its Washington embassy celebrating relations with the US in response to a newly announced defense deal between America, the UK and Australia.

The New York Times reports:

Furious over President Biden’s announcement of a deal to help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines, French officials in Washington on Thursday angrily canceled a gala at their Washington embassy to protest what they called a rash and sudden policy decision that resembled those of former President Donald J. Trump.

The event commemorating the ‘240th Anniversary of the Battle of the Capes,’ which was to have taken place Friday evening at the French embassy and aboard a French frigate in Baltimore, will not happen, according to the official. France’s top naval officer, who had traveled to Washington for the event celebrating their navy’s help with America’s battle for independence in 1781, will return to Paris early instead.

The gala’s cancellation was an immediate reflection of the rage felt among French officials and diplomats in the wake of the submarine deal, which Mr. Biden announced at the White House on Wednesday with the leaders of Australia and Britain joining virtually.

Joe Biden argued that his economic agenda, if enacted, would also allow the country to confront “the crisis of extreme weather events”.

The president noted he has recently toured parts of the US that have been severely impacted by devastating weather events, include Hurricane Ida and the wildfires along the west coast.

“We can’t wait to act,” Biden said. “I hope we’re past debating climate change in this country. Now we have to act, and we have to act fast. And my plan does that.”

After concluding his prepared remarks, the president walked away from the podium without taking any questions from reporters.

But Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, will be taking reporters’ questions soon, so stay tuned.

Joe Biden justified his proposals to raise taxes on wealthy Americans and large corporations to help pay for his other economic policies, including expanding Medicare coverage and investing in affordable childcare options.

The president noted that dozens of the most profitable companies in the US did not pay anything in federal corporate income taxes last year.

“I’m not out to punish anyone. I’m a capitalist,” Biden said. “All I’m asking is you pay your fair share.”

'This is the worst kind of politics,' Biden says of Republicans resisting vaccine mandates

During his speech on the economy, Joe Biden took a moment to criticize Republican governors who have pushed back against his coronavirus vaccination policies.

Biden announced last week that he was asking the labor department to require large employers to require workers to get vaccinated or receive regular coronavirus tests.

In response, a number of Republican governors and the Republican National Committee threatened to sue the Biden administration over the policy.

“This is the worst kind of politics because it’s putting the lives of citizens of their states, especially children, at risk,” Biden said. “And I refuse to give in to it.”

Biden delivers pitch on his economic agenda to middle-class Americans

Joe Biden is now speaking at the White House, delivering a pitch on how his economic agenda will benefit middle-class American families.

The president argued that his economic proposals represented an opportunity to “set this country on a new path,” one in which working Americans are more able to build a strong financial foundation for their families.

Biden warned that major corporations have “lost their sense of responsibility” to their workers and their communities, resulting in them not paying their fair share in taxes.

“We still have a long way to go to get the economy where it needs to be,” Biden said.

Mere days ahead of the Biden administration’s self-imposed deadline to begin Covid-19 booster shots, experts remain deeply divided over the benefits of a third jab, while health officials are scrambling to prepare for the rollout despite a void of critical details.

The vast majority of vaccinated adults in the United States want a booster, some so urgently that they’re already fudging their vaccination records to get one.

So – despite a towering sense of controversy and confusion about whether the additional shots are even necessary amid a global shortage – the White House is under immense political pressure to follow through with starting boosters next week.

Last month, the US’s top health officials announced a plan to officially greenlight boosters starting the week of 20 September, pending endorsement by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Back then, they said Americans would qualify for a third dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine eight months after their second – a timeline that could make millions eligible next week.

But Moderna didn’t provide adequate data on boosters, leaving only the Pfizer vaccine as a possibility in time for this month’s deadline. On Friday, an FDA advisory committee will consider Pfizer’s application concerning third doses for patients 16 and older.

An advisory committee for the CDC – which usually dictates vaccination policy – is teed up for a meeting next week.

Barack Obama wished good luck to Justin Trudeau as the Canadian prime minister faces the threat of a snap election – that he himself called.

“Wishing my friend JustinTrudeau the best in Canada’s upcoming election,” the former US president said on Twitter. “Justin has been an effective leader and strong voice for democratic values, and I’m proud of the work we did together.”

The snap election is now just days away, and polls show Trudeau slightly trailing his conservative opponent, Erin O’Toole, intensifying concerns that he may be ousted.

Leyland Cecco reported for the Guardian earlier this week:

Trudeau called the snap election in late August, prompting grumbling that the country would be casting ballots during the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic. He defended the move, saying that after weathering a deadly pandemic, Canadians should have a say in the country’s future. ...

The initial response was a collapse in the polls for the incumbent prime minister, who is seeking his third term after six years in office.

Days before the country votes, numerous polls suggest that most Canadians don’t believe the election is necessary. And Trudeau now trails the Conservative leader, Erin O’Toole, a former air force navigator, by an average of nearly two points in national polls.

O’Toole, who has run a middle-road campaign with an emphasis on workers’ rights, has argued that Trudeau’s political ambitions in parliament – not the health of the country – are the reason Canadians are facing their second federal election in two years.

Updated

Former police officer who murdered George Floyd is back in court

Ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pleaded not guilty today to violating the civil rights of a teenager in a separate case that involved a restraint similar to the one he used on George Floyd.

Protesters march during a rally in June after the sentencing of Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Protesters march during a rally in June after the sentencing of Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd in Minneapolis. Photograph: Eric Miller/Reuters

Chauvin slowly murdered Floyd in 2020 in a very public killing that sparked a national and international uprising against racism and violence by law enforcement, re-galvanized the Black Lives Matter movement and boosted fresh pushes for police reform (that have only had modest results so far, with many efforts stalled).

Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of murdering Floyd, who was Black, and was sentenced earlier this year to 22.5 years in prison.

The former officer, who was fired and arrested not long after he killed Floyd, is also charged in federal court with violating Floyd’s civil rights, in an ongoing case.

Meanwhile, The Associated Press adds:

Another indictment against Chauvin alleges he carried out a similar act [to the one that killed Floyd] against a then-14-year-old boy in 2017. This indictment alleges Chauvin deprived the teenager, who is Black, of his right to be free of unreasonable force when he held the teen by the throat, hit him in the head with a flashlight and held his knee on the boy’s neck and upper back while he was prone, handcuffed and not resisting.

When U.S. Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer asked how he would plead to the charge, Chauvin replied, “Not guilty, your honor.”
Thursday’s hearing was held via videoconference, and Chauvin appeared from the state’s maximum security prison, where he’s being held following his murder conviction.

According to a police report from the 2017 encounter, Chauvin wrote that the teen resisted arrest and after the teen, whom he described as 6-foot-2 and about 240 pounds, was handcuffed, Chauvin “used body weight to pin” him to the floor. The boy was bleeding from the ear and needed two stitches.

That encounter was one of several mentioned in state court filings that prosecutors said showed Chauvin had used neck or head and upper body restraints seven times prior to Floyd’s death dating back to 2014, including four times state prosecutors said he went too far and held the restraints “beyond the point when such force was needed under the circumstances.”

Chauvin and three other former officers Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao were arraigned on civil rights violations in Floyd’s death on Tuesday. All four pleaded not guilty to those charges.

There is much debate online about how well or poorly attended the right-wing rally at the US Capitol will be on Saturday and whether counter-protesters will or even should show up.

File: Rioters climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol in Washington during the insurrection by extremist supporters of Donald Trump on January 6, 2021.
File: Rioters climb the west wall of the the U.S. Capitol in Washington during the insurrection by extremist supporters of Donald Trump on January 6, 2021. Photograph: José Luis Magaña/AP

Clearly the authorities are trying to implement lessons learned from the deadly insurrection by extremist supporters of Donald Trump on January 6 this year, with calls out to regional police departments ahead of time, high fencing and such.

Some reports suggest the so-called Justice for J6 rally may be thinly-peopled.

In addition to temporary fencing, new cameras have apparently been installed ahead of time.

There is uncertainty about whether a counter protest will substantially happen and attendees will outnumber the white supremacists, or whether it even should happen, potentially paying too much attention to the far right and potentially being unsafe for all sorts of reasons.

There’s an argument to be made that those who participated in the January 6 insurrection are already getting justice because more than 500 of them have been charged with crimes, or should be getting a bigger dose of justice by being charged as domestic terrorists.

Reports suggest there is a lot less chatter in gloomy parts of the internet from potential attendees from the far right than there were in January itself. Often such rallies are announced and few turn up, with Charlottesville 2017 and Jan 6, 2021, being huge and shocking exceptions.

Updated

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden will deliver a speech this afternoon on how his economic agenda will benefit America’s middle class. The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said of the speech, “Later this afternoon, @POTUS will lay out his case on the economy--and the big choice facing America at this moment: Are we going to continue with an economy that benefits the wealthy and big corporations or are we going to set the country on a path that benefits working people?”
  • Questions remain over whether the Biden administration will be able to move forward with its plan to make coronavirus booster shots available starting next week. The White House had previously said Pfizer and Moderna boosters would be available starting the week of September 20. But now, only Pfizer shots might be approved by next week, pending a recommendation from a Food and Drug Administration panel that is meeting tomorrow to discuss the proposal.
  • The fencing has been reinstalled around the US Capitol, ahead of the “Justice for J6” rally on Saturday. The rally is being held in support of the pro-Trump insurrectionists who carried out the Capitol attack on January 6.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Fencing reinstalled around US Capitol ahead of 'Justice for J6' rally

The fencing around the US Capitol has officially been reinstalled, in anticipation of the “Justice for J6” rally on Saturday.

An NBC News reporter shared a photo of the fencing, which was previously taken down in July:

The US Capitol Police confirmed earlier this week that the fencing would be reinstalled as part of a broader set of increased security measures ahead of the far-right rally.

“We are here to protect everyone’s First Amendment right to peacefully protest,” USCP chief Tom Manger said on Monday. “I urge anyone who is thinking about causing trouble to stay home. We will enforce the law and not tolerate violence.”

Local police departments from the Washington area have been asked to assist law enforcement officers in their response to the “Justice for J6” rally on Capitol Hill this Saturday.

ARLnow reports:

The Arlington County Police Department has been asked to assist U.S. Capitol Police with security during a planned rally this weekend. ...

ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed to ARLnow Wednesday evening that the department has received a mutual aid request to provide additional security at the Capitol on Saturday.
‘The Arlington County Police Department has received a request from the United States Capitol Police Department to provide assistance for planned events September 18, 2021, in Washington D.C.,’ Savage said. ‘Arlington County Police will honor this request and provide officers to assist our regional law enforcement partners in maintaining peace and order in the event of a significant disturbance or unrest.’

The rally is being held in support of the pro-Trump insurrectionists who carried out the Capitol attack on January 6, hundreds of whom have been arrested since the riot took place.

A senior official at the department of homeland security has said that the agency expects around 700 people to come to Washington for the rally. In comparison, tens of thousands of people came to the nation’s capital for the pro-Trump rally that culminated in the insurrection.

When Joe Biden announced sweeping federal coronavirus vaccine requirements for 100 million Americans, the White House was braced for objections from Republican opponents.

But this being 2021, the rightwing backlash has gone way beyond mere political debate into the realm of incendiary language that, analysts fear, could translate into direct and violent action.

In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster vowed to fight “to the gates of hell to protect the liberty and livelihood of every South Carolinian”. Tate Reeves, the governor of Mississippi, tweeted: “The vaccine itself is life-saving, but this unconstitutional move is terrifying.” JD Vance, a conservative running for a Senate seat in Ohio, warned: “Only mass civil disobedience will save us from Joe Biden’s naked authoritarianism.”

And the rightwing media went further, casually tossing around terms such as “authoritarian”, “fascist”, “totalitarian” and “tyrannical” to characterize the US president’s mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require their employees to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly.

The rhetoric is seen as dangerous in a febrile political atmosphere that saw a deadly insurrection at the US Capitol in Washington on 6 January and plans for another extremist protest at the same location on Saturday.

In case you missed it yesterday: progressive congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is introducing a bill to extend the pandemic-related unemployment benefits that expired earlier this month.

If Ocasio-Cortez’s bill were enacted, the supplemental benefits would be retroactive to September 6 and extend through February 1, 2022.

“We can’t let pandemic unemployment assistance lapse when we’re still recovering from the cost effects of the pandemic,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter.

A number of US employers had blamed the increased benefits for their difficulties in finding workers as their businesses reopened once coronavirus vaccines became more widely available.

However, a Wall Street Journal analysis found that the states where the extra benefits were ended early did not see much of a boost in job growth compared to states that kept the supplemental aid in place.

The bill faces an uphill battle in the evenly divided Senate, given that many Republicans were against the idea of extending the benefits in March, when Democrats passed the $1.9tn coronavirus relief bill.

The White House press secretary confirmed that Joe Biden’s speech this afternoon will focus on ensuring the wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes, in order to help middle-class Americans reach their full economic potential.

Jen Psaki said on Twitter, “Later this afternoon, @POTUS will lay out his case on the economy--and the big choice facing America at this moment: Are we going to continue with an economy that benefits the wealthy and big corporations or are we going to set the country on a path that benefits working people?”

The speech comes as Democrats in Congress squabble over the size and scope of their spending package, with moderates like Joe Manchin angling for a less expensive bill that would cover less of Biden’s economic agenda.

Biden to pitch economic agenda to middle-class America

Joe Biden will deliver a speech on his economic agenda today, as Democrats in Congress work to advance the $3.5tn spending package that includes many of the president’s economic proposals.

The president’s speech will focus on “leveling the playing field in our economy to bring down costs and ensure that the backbone of the country, the middle class, can finally get a break,” according to Biden’s official schedule.

“He’ll underscore that we’ve reached an inflection point where we have to choose whether or not we’re going to perpetuate an economy where the wealthiest taxpayers and biggest corporations get to play by a set of rules they’ve written for themselves while middle-class families aren’t given a fair shot,” a White House official told NBC News.

“He’ll also argue that we don’t need to reduce the cost of being rich in America; we need to lower the cost of raising a child, of prescription drugs, of taking care of an aging parent, of health care, of high-speed internet and of hearing aids.”

Biden is scheduled to deliver the speech at 1:45 pm ET. Stay tuned.

Melanie Schreiber reports for the Guardian:

Dr Michelle Fiscus worked in the health sector for almost 20 years, most recently as Tennessee’s top vaccine official. Until the day she was fired, she got excellent job performance reviews.

And then one day she sent out a reminder that in Tennessee, children over the age of 14 may choose to be vaccinated without asking their parents first.

And she lost her job.

Now Fiscus, whose fate was seized upon as an example of the costs of speaking up for vaccines in a deeply red state, is strongly backing Joe Biden’s recent defense of vaccine mandates – something that has prompted howls of outrage from many conservatives but which Fiscus believes will save lives.

Fiscus, who was fired in July, said the mandates make a lot of sense, and there’s a long precedent for creating rules to protect both our health and the health of those around us. In fact, vaccination mandates have been around since the US was founded.

“I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do,” Fiscus told the Guardian. It was “the right decision, and this will be on the right side of history”.

From mass furloughs, voluntary job losses and retirements, to understaffing problems and a surge in cases of harassment and assaults by unruly passengers, workers at airports and airlines continue to bear the brunt of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the air travel industry.

The sector was among the hardest hit by Covid-19, losing about 100,000 jobs in the first few months of the pandemic.

Through three rounds of funding, Congress provided the industry with $54bn in federal assistance to keep workers on payrolls, while surges in the Delta variant have stifled air travel recovery domestically and internationally.

US airlines have differed on whether to implement vaccine mandates for their employees, while passengers are not required to be vaccinated or have a negative Covid test to fly and some airlines did not support extending mask mandates on US domestic flights.

“In my entire career, I have never experienced what we are experiencing right now,” said an American Airlines flight attendant who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, as they are not authorized to speak with the media.

“I go to work now and I always worry what’s going to happen, what’s going to trip somebody up, trigger their anger. It’s a whole new ballgame out there right now and it’s a different type of passenger we’re seeing right now.”

White House insists Covid vaccine booster plan is going ahead despite hurdles

Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.

The Biden administration has said that coronavirus vaccine boosters will be available starting next week, but there are still many hurdles to overcome before that becomes possible.

Last month, the president and his pandemic response team said booster shots would be made available to those who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines starting the week of September 20. Health experts are recommending that Americans receive a booster shot eight months after their second vaccine dose.

However, now it seems that only Pfizer shots will be ready by the administration’s target date, and there has been international criticism of the proposal, given how many people in the world have not yet received their first dose.

A Food and Drug Administration panel will meet tomorrow to discuss Pfizer’s application to offer third doses to all Americans 16 and older. If the panel offers a negative view of the proposal, it could further delay the rollout of booster shots.

But the White House is keeping an optimistic view of things so far. “Nothing has changed, as it relates to the eight top doctors who put out that statement almost a month ago,” press secretary Jen Psaki said yesterday. “There was always going to be a process; that process is proceeding.”

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated

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