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Defense Production Act Will Be Used For First Time in Coronavirus Pandemic to Secure Thousands of Test Kits

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  • FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor said Tuesday that the Defense Production Act will be used today to secure 60,000 coronavirus testing kits.
  • This comes after days of backlash against President Trump who has been hesitant to use the act, which would compel private companies to manufacture highly-needed medical equipment.  
  • Still, cases of the virus are rapidly increasing, especially in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the lack of ventilators and other supplies will soon lead to deaths that could have otherwise been prevented.

The DPA and Trump’s Hesitation to Use It 

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor said Tuesday that the Trump administration will formally implement the Defense Production Act today to secure thousands of desperately needed coronavirus testing kids. 

Last week, President Donald Trump invoked the DPA, a Korean-War era provision that requires and provides incentives for private companies to prioritize federal government orders for products tied to national defense. So essentially, under this act, the government could order private manufactures to fulfill federal orders for critical medical equipment including ventilators, masks, and other supplies. 

But since signing the DPA, Trump has resisted actually using it, despite calls from politicians and medical associations for him to do so. The president has said he will only use the act in a “worst case scenario” and said that he’s concerned about nationalizing American businesses.

“We’re a country not based on nationalizing our business,” President Trump said at a press briefing on Sunday. “The concept of nationalizing our businesses is not a good concept.” 

He has also repeatedly said that invoking the act wasn’t needed because so many private companies have already been volunteering to manufacture supplies, though he did say Sunday that “we may have to use it someplace along the chain.”

On top of that, the president has insisted that state leaders should bear more responsibility for obtaining the live-saving equipment themselves. 

Calls For and Against DPA Use 

Cases of COVID-19 have continued to rise, leaving hospitals across the nation in distress. 

While several companies have actually been voluntarily redirecting their focus towards manufacturing or donating supplies, some have expressed concerns about doing so without clear guidance from the federal government that outlines what equipment is needed and where. 

Even with some companies like Tesla, Facebook, and Apple, stepping in to provide supplies, the need is still incredibly high and local officials have been pleading with the public for any and all help. 

In some cases, they’ve even had to pay hiked-up prices for personal protection equipment or had to compete against other states for supplies. 

But some of Trump’s advisors and business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have raised concerns about using the act. They argue that mandating production could hurt some companies, complicate supply chains of key products, and further hurt the economy. 

Others warned that the law isn’t a quick fix because it could take weeks or even months before facilities could reconfigure themselves to make these highly-needed goods. 

FEMA Admin Says DPA Will Be Used 

Still, Gaynor told CNN Monday, “We’re actually going to use the DPA for the first time today. There are some test kits we need to get our hands on.”

More specifically, he said triggering the act would help secure about 60,000 test kits. For reference, 1 kit alone serves roughly 300-400 patients. If what Gaynor told CNN is true, this would mark the first time the act has been used during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The FEMA Administrator also said the administration would insert “DPA language” into the mass contracts for the federal government’s order of 500 million personal protective masks.

“So we’re going to use it. We’re going to use it when we need it. And we’re going to use it today,” Gaynor reiterated. “We want to be thoughtful and meaningful on how we do it again for the best result,” he added.

However, Gaynor later went on Fox & Friends to say that the law would be used narrowly as “leverage,” and still asked for local officials to bear the brunt of the burden.  

“We ask every governor — if you can find it, buy it. We are ready to use the Defense Production Act,” he said. “If we need as it leverage, we have it as leverage now.”

NY Needs Help Now 

But securing more tests still doesn’t address those who are in desperate need of other life-saving equipment. New York, for instance, has been very public about their shortages. 

Cases around the state are already well over 25,000 and the spread doesn’t appear to be slowing. In fact, Governor Andrew Cuomo said during a Tuesday news conference that the rate of infections in the state is doubling about every three days.

He stressed that he believed New York is just 14-21 days away from its apex and will need 140,000 hospital beds on top of the 30,000 ventilators it already needs.

He said the state has “exhausted every option” to combat the spread of the virus and criticized FEMA, questioning why the DPA isn’t being used to produce ventilators. 

“FEMA says, ‘we’re sending 400 ventilators.’ Really? What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000?” Cuomo said. “You pick the 26,000 people who are going to die because you only sent 400 ventilators.”

Shortly afterward, Vice President Mike Pence admitted during a Fox News town hall that New York is “truly the epicenter of the coronavirus now in our country.”

He added, “We’re in the process of literally sending the entire national stockpile out.”

“Earlier today, FEMA from the national stockpile shipped 2,000 ventilators to the state of New York, and tomorrow there will be another 2,000 ventilators shipped from the national stockpile. We have a ways to go yet.”

See what others are saying: (Politico) (The WallStreet Journal) (CNBC) 

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Former Capitol Security Officials Blame Intelligence Failures for Insurrection

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  • During the Senate’s first hearing into security failures that lead to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, top officials provided new insights but shirked responsibility.
  • Many blamed the FBI for not gathering more information or properly communicating what they did know, arguing that the breakdown was a result of the intelligence community not taking domestic extremism seriously.
  • Police leaders noted that a bulletin from an FBI field office warning of a “war” at the Capitol, issued a day before the insurrection, was not properly flagged or delivered.
  • However, others noted that the Capitol Police had in fact issued an internal alert three days before warning of similar threats.

Security Officials Shirk Responsibility

Former top officials responsible for security at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection testified before the Senate for the first time Tuesday.

While the testimonies represented the most detailed accounts of the security failures leading up to and during attacks, they also raised questions about how those failures came out.

The top officials did acknowledge some of their own mistakes and admitted they were unprepared for such an event. Still, they largely deflected responsibility for the breakdown in communication and instead blamed intelligence officials, their subordinates, and even each other at times.

All of the officials testified that the FBI and the intelligence community had failed to detect information about the intentions of the pro-Trump insurrectionists and properly relay what they did know before the attack.

Former Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund and acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee depicted the collapse in communication as a broader failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to take domestic extremism as seriously as foreign threats.

Specifically, both officials mentioned this in the context of a bulletin issued a day before the insurrection by the FBI’s office in Norfolk, Virginia. That bulletin warned of a “war” at the Capitol on Jan.  6.

In his testimony, Sund — who resigned the day after the insurrection — disclosed for the first time that the alter had in fact been sent to the Capitol Police through the Joint Terrorism Task Force but said it was never forwarded to him or either of the House and Senate sergeants-at-arms.

Contee also said the D.C. police department received the warning, but it was a nondescript email and not labeled as a priority alert that would demand immediate attention.

“I would certainly think that something as violent as an insurrection at the Capitol would warrant a phone call or something,” he told the Senators.

Contradictory Information

However, lawmakers pointed out that the Capitol Police did have warnings about the attack in the form of their own internal intelligence report issued three days before the planned pro-Trump rally that preceded the storming of the Capitol.

In that 12-page memo, some of which was obtained by The Washington Post, the Capitol Police intelligence unit warned that “Congress itself” could be targeted by Trump supporters who believed the electoral college certification was “the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election.”

The memo also noted the large expected crowds, the fact that organizers had urged Trump supporters to bring guns and combat gear, and that “President Trump himself” had been promoting the chaos.

Two people familiar with the memo told The Post that the report had been relayed to all Capitol Police command staff, though in their testimonies Tuesday, the former security officials said the intel they had did not have enough specifics about the potential for an attack.

Some, however, appear to doubt the series of events detailed by Sund. On Tuesday, Buzzfeed filed a lawsuit against the Capitol Police for records related to the insurrection. The agency has been criticized for not providing enough information to the media, and contradictory testimonies delivered to Senators likely raised more red flags.

Lawmakers Emphasize Need for Better Precautions 

The argument that there was so much vague, threatening online chatter making it hard to distinguish what was legitimate is something that many law enforcement officials have used to explain their failure to prepare for the attacks.

In fact, that was the exact same response the FBI gave reporters Tuesday after Sund and Contee blamed them for not giving an explicit or strong enough warning. Lawmakers hope that the many hearings and ongoing investigations into the matter will result in tangible policy changes to prevent similar attacks from happening again.

While it is currently unclear what that will look like, many leaders have emphasized the need for a broad rethinking of how the U.S. addresses domestic extremist threats at every level.

“There’s no question in my mind that there was a failure to take this threat more seriously, despite widespread social media content and public reporting that indicated violence was extremely likely,” Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mi.) told reporters Tuesday. 

“The federal government must start taking these online threats seriously to ensure they don’t cross into the real-world violence.” 

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

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Illinois Rep. Files Bill To Ban Video Games Like “Grand Theft Auto” Amid Carjacking Spikes

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  • Illinois State Rep. Marcus Evans (D) has proposed a bill that would crack down on certain video games in hopes of reducing a dramatic uptick in Chicago carjackings.
  • Illinois law currently bans people from selling “violent video games” to minors; however, Evans’ bill seeks to ban the sale of “violent video games” to anyone in the state. 
  • Among other language, Evans is seeking to expand the state definition of “serious physical harm” related to video games so that it includes “motor vehicle theft with a driver or passenger present inside the vehicle when the theft begins.”
  • A number of gamers have criticized the bill, calling it a misguided approach for reducing violence in the state. 

“Grand Theft Auto” Bill

Illinois State Representative Marcus Evans (D) has filed a bill that, if passed, would ban the sale of violent video games to anyone in the state.

While the bill does address the frequent debate around whether gun violence in video games inspires real-world violence, Evans is actually filing the bill primarily in response to a series of carjackings in Chicago. In fact, the bill was largely conceived with the game “Grand Theft Auto” in mind.

“‘Grand Theft Auto’ and other violent video games are getting in the minds of our young people and perpetuating the normalcy of carjacking,” Evans said. “Carjacking is not normal and carjacking must stop.” 

According to the Chicago-Sun Times, Chicago saw 1,400 carjackings in 2020 — double that of what it saw in 2019. That’s now continued into this year, with 241 carjackings already reported in the city as of Monday. Earlier this week, police charged two boys, ages 13 and 14, with stealing a man’s car after holding him at gunpoint.

The latest addition to the “Grand Theft Auto” franchise was released in 2013. Notably, Chicago carjacking rates in 2013, 2014, and 2015 were the lowest of the previous decade.

Source: David Struett/Sun-Times

The bill Evans has filed would amend a current Illinois law that restricts the sale of “violent video games” to minors. 

As part of his amendment to include all age groups, Evans wants to update the definition of “violent video game” under state law to include games that “perpetuate human-on-human violence in which the player kills or otherwise causes serious physical or psychological harm to another human or an animal.”

Evans also wants to update the definition of “serious physical harm” related to video games so that it would include “psychological harm and child abuse, sexual abuse, animal abuse, domestic violence, violence against women, or motor vehicle theft with a driver or passenger present inside the vehicle when the theft begins.”

Gamers Say Evans’ Argument Is Misplaced

Among gamers, Evans’ bill has reignited conversations around video games and violence.

“Carjackings have happened before games and Marcus Evans thinks today that it’s the fault of video games like GTA?” one person tweeted. “I never had any need for committing crimes playing games my whole life.”

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Fox 32 Chicago) (NME)

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California Lawmakers Pass $7.6 Billion Stimulus Package With $600 Checks

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  • The California State Legislature approved a $7.6 billion stimulus package Monday that will send out around 5.7 million stimulus checks to qualifying state residents.
  • Most of the direct payments will be given to people who make under $30,000 a year.
  • Over half a million will go to people who have an individual tax identification number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security number and an annual income of under $75,000. Most people with ITINs are immigrants, and none were eligible for the federal stimulus checks.
  • Additional provisions of the bill include over $2 billion in grants and fee waivers for small businesses as well as $35 million for food and diaper banks, among other things.

California Stimulus Bill

California legislators passed a $7.6 billion stimulus package Monday that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has said he will sign on Tuesday.

Among other measures, the bill would send out stimulus checks worth $600 to qualifying people. According to reports, $2.3 trillion — nearly a third of the whole package — will be used to send out roughly 5.7 million direct payments.

Around 3.8 million of those checks will go to Californians that make less than $30,000 annually and thus qualify for the state earned income tax credit. Officials have said that Californians who claim the credit on their 2020 taxes can expect to receive their money within four to seven weeks of filing.

Another 1.2 million residents who receive either federal or state supplemental income will get the checks, and 405,000 additional payments will be placed directly on the EBT cards of CalWORKS participants, the state’s welfare-to-work program.

Notably, about 565,000 stimulus payments will go out to people who have what’s known as an individual tax identification number (ITIN) rather than a Social Security number. Most of those people are immigrants, and no one with an ITIN received either of the last two federal stimulus payments.

As a result, the California stimulus bill will give out $600 payments to people with ITIN’s who make below $75,000 a year, and a total of $1,200 to those who make $30,000 and qualify for the earned income tax credit.

In addition to the direct payments, the legislation also includes more than $2 billion in grants and fee waivers for small businesses, $30 million for food banks, and $5 million for diaper banks. The legislature is also expected to approve an additional $2 billion in tax breaks for businesses later this week, which would effectively bring the total package to $9.6 billion.

U.S. House To Pass Federal Stimulus Package This Week

The California package comes as Democrats in Congress are hashing out the details of the next federal coronavirus relief bill.

On Monday, President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package advanced through the House Budget Committee, and according to reports, barring any major objections, it is expected to be passed by the chamber as soon as Friday or Saturday.

The hard part, however, will be getting it passed through the Senate, where all 50 Democrats and Vice President Kamala Harris will need to approve the legislation. In order to ensure that some of the more moderate members are on board, leadership will likely have to have to hold negotiations and possibly scrap certain parts of the House’s version of the package.

One provision on the chopping block is a measure that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, which has already drawn opposition from at least two Democratic Senators. 

See what others are saying: (The Los Angeles Times) (CBS News) (CNBC)

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