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Trump and Macron Spar at NATO Summit

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  • At the NATO summit in London, President Donald Trump criticized French President Emmanuel Macron for previously saying NATO was experiencing “brain death” due to the lack of U.S. commitment under Trump.
  • While condemning Macron, Trump defended NATO, a sharp reversal from previous stances taken by the president.
  • Later, Macron and Trump sparred over the Turkish incursion in Syria and Turkey’s relationship with NATO.
  • U.S.-French relations have experienced recent strains. The meeting between the two leaders follows an announcement made by the U.S. the day before saying it was considering levying tariffs on $2.4 billion worth of French goods. 

Trump Condemns Macron Remarks

President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron publicly sparred during a meeting on the first day of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit Tuesday.

Speaking during a press event with the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg earlier in the day, Trump condemned a remark made by the French leader in an interview last month.

In that interview, Macron said that NATO was experiencing “brain death” because America’s commitment to the organization has been called into question under Trump.

“NATO serves a great purpose,” Trump said, responding to a question about Macron’s statement. “And I hear that President Macron said NATO is ‘brain dead.’ I think that’s very insulting to a lot of different forces.” 

“When you make a statement like that, that is a very, very nasty statement to 28 — including them — 28 countries,” the president continued, referring to the NATO member-states, which number 29.  

“They’ve had a very rough year and you just can’t go around making statements like that about NATO. It’s very disrespectful,” he added.

Trump’s defense of NATO came was a surprising reversal from his previous stance on the intergovernmental military alliance, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary.  

Trump has a long history of being critical of NATO. He has argued that the U.S. is being treated unfairly by other NATO members because they do not spend as much money on their militaries as the U.S. does.

NATO members are required to spend at least 2% of their GDP on their own national defense. Trump has claimed that many members are not meeting that goal.

Trump also repeatedly called NATO “obsolete” while on the campaign trail, though he later backtracked on those comments once he was elected. And there have been multiple reports that Trump has threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO altogether.

Trump-Macron Meeting

Even before Trump’s comments, experts and leaders were anticipating tensions and possibly even conflict between Trump and Macron at the summit.

The two leaders, who in the past have had a strong relationship, have recently seen strained ties.

On Monday, just one day before the summit began, the U.S. threatened to put new tariffs on $2.4 billion in French products including wine, cheese, and yogurt.

Trump’s chief trade negotiator said the tariffs would be in response to a French digital services tax that the U.S. believes discriminates against American internet companies.

During the press conference with Stoltenberg, Trump indicated that the U.S. was moving forward with the tariffs.

“They’re starting to tax other people’s products so therefore we’re going to tax them,” the president said. “That’s just taking place right now on technology and we’re doing their wines and everything else.” 

However, shortly after, Trump sat down for his meeting Macron, where he emphasized the positive trade relations between France and the U.S. in his opening remarks.

“We do a lot of trade with France,” Trump said. “We have a minor dispute I think we’ll probably be able to work it out. But we have a big trade relationship and I’m sure that in a very short period of time, things will be looking very rosy.” 

Trump also went on to say that some NATO members were not paying enough in defense spending, but that the organization has gotten a lot more flexible since he assumed office.

Macron for his part defended his earlier statements about NATO being “brain dead,” and said he stood by it.

The Turkey Situation

The conversation started to escalate when the two leaders began to discuss ISIS and the situation with Syria and Turkey.

Trump and his administration have frequently claimed that ISIS has been defeated in Syria.

This claim, which has largely been debunked, was a big part of the justification for Trump’s decision to remove troops from Northern Syria and step aside to let Turkey launch a military operation to clear Syrian Kurdish groups at the border.

Turkey considers those groups to be terrorists, but the U.S. and many other NATO members consider them key allies who have fought alongside the U.S. to combat ISIS in the region.

The Turkey question also appeared to be a point of conflict between Trump and Macron.

Trump claimed that most of the captured ISIS fighters in Syria were from Europe. Macron responded by contradicting Trump, and pointing out that only a small amount of captured fighters were European.

The French leader also condemned Turkey for fighting against the Kurds and said the situation today has lead to more ISIS fighters in the region and that getting rid of ISIS was the number one priority.

Trump responded by saying that Macron’s response “was one of the greatest non-answers I’ve ever heard.” 

Macron hit back by saying that it is not Europe’s responsibility, and added that “any ambiguity with Turkey vis a vis these groups is detrimental to the situation on the ground.” 

Still, Trump emphasized his strong relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a move many experts argue will cause even more divisions within NATO. 

Erdogan is already in hot water with the alliance over the Turkish incursion in Syria, as well as the fact that Turkey recently purchased an antiaircraft missile system from Russia, which goes against NATO commitments not to buy Russian systems.

Despite the tension between NATO and Turkey, Erdogan has already asked NATO members at the summit to recognize the Syrian Kurdish Forces as a terrorist group.

The Turkish leader also threatened to oppose NATO’s plans to update the defense of member states like Poland and other Baltic countries if the organization does not agree to his demands.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Axios) (Reuters)

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Judges Uphold North Carolina’s Congressional Map in Major GOP Win

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The judges agreed that the congressional map was “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting” but said they did not have the power to intervene in legislative matters.


New Maps Upheld

A three-judge panel in North Carolina upheld the state’s new congressional and legislative maps on Tuesday, deciding it did not have the power to respond to arguments that Republicans had illegally gerrymandered it to benefit them.

Voting rights groups and Democrats sued over the new maps, which were drawn by the state’s Republican legislature following the 2020 census.

The maps left Democrats with just three of North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats in a battleground state that is more evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Previously, Democrats held five of the 13 districts the state had before the last census, during which North Carolina was allocated an additional seat.

The challengers argued that the blatantly partisan maps had been drawn in a way that went against longstanding rules, violated the state’s Constitution, and intentionally disenfranchised Black voters.

In their unanimous ruling, the panel — composed of one Democrat and two Republicans — agreed that both the legislative and congressional maps were “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting.”

The judges added that they had “disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our state to ridicule.”

Despite their beliefs, the panel said they did not have a legal basis for intervening in political matters and constraining the legislature. They additionally ruled that the challengers did not prove their claims that the maps were discriminatory based on race.

Notably, the judges also stated that partisan gerrymandering does not actually violate the state’s Constitution. 

The Path Ahead

While the decision marks a setback to the plaintiffs, the groups have already said they will appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court.

The state’s highest court has a slim Democratic majority and has already signaled they may be open to tossing the map.

There are also past precedents for voting maps to be thrown out in North Carolina. The state has an extensive history of legal battles over gerrymandering, and Republican leaders have been forced to redraw maps twice in recent years.

A forthcoming decision is highly anticipated, as North Carolina’s congressional map could play a major role in the control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections if they are as close as expected. 

See what others are saying: (Politico) (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Biden Administration Says Private Insurers Will Have to Cover 8 At-Home Tests a Month

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The policy will apply to all the nearly 150 million Americans who have private insurance.


New At-Home Testing Policy

The Biden administration announced Monday that private health insurers will now be required to pay for up to eight at-home rapid tests per plan member each month.

Under the new policy, starting Saturday, private insurance holders will be able to purchase any at-home test approved by the FDA at a pharmacy or online. They will either not be asked to pay any upfront costs or be reimbursed for their purchase through their provider.

The move is expected to significantly expand access to rapid tests that other countries have been distributing to their citizens free of charge for months. 

According to reports, nearly 150 million Americans — about 45% of the population — have private insurance. 

Each dependent enrolled on the primary insurance holder’s account is counted as a member. That means a family of four enrolled on a single plan would be eligible for 32 free at-home rapid tests a month.

Potential Exemptions

All tests may not be fully covered depending on where they are purchased. 

In order to help offset costs, the Biden administration is incentivizing insurance providers to establish a network of “preferred” pharmacies and stores where people in the plan can get tests without paying out of pocket.

As a result, health plans that do create those networks will only be required to reimburse up to $12 per test if they are purchased out of that network, meaning people could be on the hook for the rest of the cost.

If an insurer does not set up a preferred network, they will have to cover all at-home tests in full regardless of the place of purchase.

During a briefing Monday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said tests should be “out the door in the coming weeks.”

“The contracts [for testing companies] are structured in a way to require that significant amounts are delivered on an aggressive timeline, the first of which should be arriving early next week,” she added.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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Biden Administration Unveils Plan To Replace All Lead Pipes

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The effort builds on the $15 billion allocated under the bipartisan infrastructure bill for lead pipe replacement, but industry leaders say $60 billion will be needed for nationwide revitalization.


White House Outlines Actions on Lead Pipes and Paint

The Biden administration rolled out a sweeping plan on Thursday to remove all the nation’s lead pipes over the next decade and take other steps to prevent lead paint contamination.

Lead, which was commonly used in piping for municipal water systems all over the country until it was banned in 1978, is a dangerous neurotoxin that can cause serious nervous system damage, especially in children.

Contamination from lead pipes seeping into water supplies has caused multiple high-profile public health and environmental catastrophes over the last decade, including the notorious crisis in Flint, Michigan.

According to a White House factsheet, an estimated 10 million households are connected to water through lead pipes. Children and teenagers in 400,000 schools and child care facilities also risk exposure to lead-contaminated water.

“Because of inequitable infrastructure development and disinvestment, low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately exposed to these risks,” the factsheet stated.

To address those disparities and revitalize water systems across the nation, the White House outlined 15 new action items the Biden administration is taking, including:

  • Launching “a new regulatory process to protect communities from lead in drinking water” through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • Clarifying that state, local, and Tribal governments can use the $350 billion aid allocated under the American Rescue Plan to replace lead service lines.
  • Establishing federally-operated regional technical assistance hubs “to fast track lead service line removal projects in partnership with labor unions and local water agencies.”
  • Awarding federal grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to remove lead paint in low-income communities.
  • Directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand childhood lead testing.
  • Establishing “a new Cabinet Level Partnership for Lead Remediation in Schools and Child Care Centers.”

The White House also said it will direct the EPA to allocate $3 billion for state, local, and Tribal governments to replace lead pipes through funding that was approved under the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by President Joe Biden last month.

A Matter of Funding

In total, Congress provided $15 billion to revitalize the nation’s lead-pipe systems under the infrastructure bill. 

However, industry experts have estimated that it will cost $60 billion to entirely overhaul all the remaining lead pipes in the U.S.

As a result, the Biden administration has proposed several additional funding mechanisms in the social safety net package, known as the Build Back Better Act, that is currently being negotiated by Congress.

Specifically, the legislation would set aside $9 billion for lead remediation grants to disadvantaged communities, $1 billion for rural water utilities to remove lead pipes, and $5 billion for mitigation efforts such as removing lead-based water fixtures in low-income households.

The Build Back Better Act would additionally provide $65 billion for public housing agencies and $5 billion for other federally-assisted housing organizations to improve housing quality, including by replacing lead pipes and service lines.

The status of that legislation, as well as what provisions will remain in the final version, remain in limbo. While Democratic leadership has pushed to pass the sweeping social bill before the new year, all 50 of the party’s members in the Senate will need to sign on, and moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) has continued to withhold his support.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Axios) (The Washington Post)

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