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Texas Was “Seconds and Minutes” Away From a Monthslong Blackout, Grid Company Says

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  • The company that manages Texas’ main power grid, ERCOT, said Thursday that the state was only “seconds and minutes” away from being in the dark for months.
  • ERCOT is largely being blamed for not having precautionary measures in place to account for weather that resulted in a days-long loss of electricity for millions of Texans this week.
  • Meanwhile, a Dallas County judge is pinning much of the blame on Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and former Gov. Rick Perry (R).
  • “If they don’t take responsibility and fix this by putting winterization guidelines [in place]… this will happen again,” the judge said. “The fault lies with those two individuals alone.”

Blackouts Could Have Lasted Months, ERCOT Says

Millions in Texas went without power for three days as snow, ice, and extreme cold wreaked havoc on their communities. Now, officials with Texas’ main power grid have said the state was only “seconds and minutes” away from being in the dark for months.

Since the blackout, which at one point left over 4 million Texas homes and businesses without electricity, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has shouldered much of the blame. 

Two federal agencies have since launched an investigation into the blackout. Notably, they will examine ERCOT’s preparation and the precautions it had in place ahead of the snowstorm. They also plan to investigate how ERCOT responded once the storm hit. 

In an interview with the Texas Tribune, ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said the company acted quickly to reduce a surging power load by implementing rolling blackouts, saying that if it had waited, “then what happens in that next minute might be that three more [power generation] units come offline, and then you’re sunk.”

“ERCOT is getting a lot of heat, but the fact that it wasn’t worse is because of those grid operators,” Bernadette Johnson, senior vice president of power and renewables at a Texas oil and gas software information company, told the Tribune. 

Johnson noted that if the grid had fully overloaded, fires and exploding power lines could have potentially caused infrastructure damage that might have taken months to fix. 

That said, ERCOT’s rolling blackouts were far from successful. While ERCOT may have prevented a monthslong blackout, many utility companies were unable to restore power in the standard 15 to 45 minutes that usually comes with rolling blackouts.

Without power for days on end, other problems began to emerge. For example, there have been multiple reports this week of deaths and hospitalizations from carbon monoxide poisoning as people try to keep themselves and their children warm.

Friday morning, Texas reported just under 200,000 outages. 

Dallas Judge Pins Blame on Gov. Abbott

In addition to ERCOT, Texas lawmakers have faced national scrutiny over the blackouts.

In a CNN appearance on Thursday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins pinned that blame directly on Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

“[Abott and former Gov. Rick Perry] and their team passed the regulations to tell people whether or not they need to winterize,” Jenkins said. “They chose not to tell companies to winterize — that need to winterize — which in a regulatory environment for a commodity is telling people not to winterize.”

“They consciously chose to do rock-bottom prices for large commercial enterprises. I’m not saying that’s necessarily saying that’s a bad choice. But the bad choice was to do that, so much that it was at the expense of reliability for residential customers and all of us in extreme weather.”

Following a separate 2011 snowstorm, federal regulators found that similar blackouts could have likely been avoided if grid equipment had been winterized. It then recommended taking such measures to prevent future outages. 

El Paso’s grid, which is operated by a different company than ERCOT, complied by implementing such measures. Of the millions of blackouts in the state this week, El Paso only contributed to about a dozen cases because of the precautions it took.

In 2011, the Texas-legislature — backed by a signature from then-Gov. Perry (R) — passed a law that required the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas to analyze “the ability of electric generators to respond to abnormal weather conditions.” 

Now, Jenkins is accusing PUC of failing to implement the requirements stipulated by the law. As Jenkins noted, all three of PUC’s current members were directly appointed by Abbott.

“[Abbott and Perry] are now trying to blame it on… ERCOT,” Jenkins told CNN. “They could easily fire that company and hire another one.”

“But if they don’t take responsibility and fix this by putting winterization guidelines for gas lines that are frozen underground, and for energy generators that haven’t worked because they’re not winterized, this will happen again. The fault lies with those two individuals alone.”

Tuesday, Abbott said, “The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has been anything but reliable over the past 48 hours.” 

He has since called ERCOT’s reform a top priority for the Texas legislature.

Part of that reform will likely include ensuring that ERCOT’s board is comprised only of Texas residents. Earlier this week, it was discovered that five of the company’s 15 board members lived out of state.

“They do shoulder the responsibility for not modernizing the gas pipeline system,” Jenkins said. “There’s plenty of blame to go around, but at the top of the food chain it is the governors…”

See what others are saying: (Texas Tribune) (Newsweek) (KLTV)

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Buckingham Palace Asked That a Photoshopped Image of the Queen Be Removed From a Pro-Trump Bus

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  • Buckingham Palace told BuzzFeed News it had requested that an unofficial “Trump Train” bus remove a photoshopped image it features of Queen Elizabeth II wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and QAnon broach.
  • The owner of the bus, Buddy Hall, told BuzzFeed that he had not heard from the palace but had recently removed the Queen’s image as part of a pre-existing redesign plan. 
  • While the Queen’s image had appeared on the bus for a year, the Palace only became aware of it after the vehicle recently attended a Florida rally with Representatives Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who are staunch Trump allies.

Buckingham Palace Asks for Removal of Queens Image on Trump Bus

Buckingham Palace has requested that a photoshopped image of Queen Elizabeth II wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat and QAnon broach be removed from an unofficial “Trump Train” bus, according to Buzzfeed News.

The bus was created to support the 2020 re-election of Donald Trump, according to its GoFundMe page, which amassed 16 donors. It has over 6,000 followers on Facebook. The bus now travels the country supporting a 2024 Trump presidential campaign. 

BuzzFeed reported that the Queen’s image had been on the bus for over a year, but the Palace only became aware after it recently attended a rally in Florida held by Representatives Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who are staunch Trump allies.

A Palace spokesperson told the outlet that “representations asking for [the photo’s] removal have been made.”

The Palace gave no further comment, but one of the staple duties of the Royal Family is to remain politically neutral. 

The photo being used of the Royal Family’s matriarch was taken in 2011. In it, she is wearing a red outfit and one of her signature boater hats, which had the “MAGA” slogan doctored over it. She appears next to a “Women for Trump” sign and above a slogan that reads “Keep on Trumpin.”

The Queen is one of many photoshopped faces that appear on the bus, including an image of Trump’s head attached to the body of “Rocky” protagonist Rocky Balboa and an image of former president Ronald Reagan in a “MAGA” baseball cap. The Mississippi license plate for the bus reads “TRUMP 45.”

Image Taken Down as Part of Pre-Existing Redesign Plans. 

The owner of the bus, Buddy Hall, announced on May 1 that he would be taking the wrap off the Trump Train in order to remove the likeness of “TRAITOR PENCE.” He said he plans to replace him with Florida Governor Ron Desantis, conservative commentator Candace Owens, the former president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and his wife Laura, as well as former security advisor Michael Flynn, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

Hall told BuzzFeed News that while he had not heard from the Palace, the Queen’s image was already removed in the redesign process, which was always part of his plan. In a video posted Tuesday to the Trump Train’s Facebook page, her image still appeared on the bus, but the person recording the video claimed the wrap featuring her would be taken down on Thursday. A new photo of the bus has not yet been shared. 

The person recording the video also said that this year alone, $30,000 has been spent on upkeep of the bus. 

Buckingham Palace is reportedly not the only entity concerned with its image appearing on the bus. The website hosting service GoDaddy.com told HuffPost that it also asked to no longer appear on the Trump Train. 

“GoDaddy doesn’t sponsor the bus and we don’t have any advertising relationships with the bus/owner whatsoever,” a spokesperson told HuffPost. “They don’t have permission to use our brand on the bus and we’ve asked them to remove.”

There is no word as to whether or not the GoDaddy.com logo will be on the new redesign of the bus. 

BuzzFeed News reached out to representatives for Gaetz and Greene regarding the bus using the Queen’s image. Both thought there was nothing wrong with the situation. 

A spokesperson for Gaetz said, “We’re sure Her Majesty has greater concerns.” 

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Gaetz told the outlet, “You do know what a meme is right? Isn’t that what Buzzfeed is all about?”

See what others are saying: (BuzzFeed News) (HuffPost) (The Independent)

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Liz Cheney Ousted From GOP Leadership Role for Calling Out Trump’s Election Lies

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  • Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.) was ousted from her leadership post by Republicans on Wednesday due to her repeated criticism of former President Trump and his continued efforts to spread false information about the 2020 election.
  • The congresswoman remained defiant in remarks Tuesday night, where she argued Trump was “a threat America has never seen before” who “risks inciting further violence.” 
  • While many Republicans cheered Cheney’s removal as a key step to unify the party, others condemned the decision and accused GOP leadership of “canceling” her for speaking the truth.
  • The move represents perhaps the strongest indication since the Jan. 6 insurrection that the Republican Party will continue to embrace Trump and punish dissenters.

House GOP Removes Cheney From Top Spot

The House GOP voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wy.), the number 3 Republican, from her leadership position Wednesday over her refusal to stay silent about former President Donald Trump’s false election claims.

The remarkable removal comes just four months after the former president incited an insurrection, causing major splits in the GOP.

The latest move is arguably the strongest signal that Republicans have decided their party line is unwavering loyalty to Trump, and that they believe his support is needed to win back the House in 2022.

This is not the first time that Republicans tried to oust Cheney from leadership. Earlier this year, Trump loyalists in the chamber held a vote to remove her after she voted to impeach the president for his role in the insurrection.

That attempt failed, largely because Cheney received backing from Republican leadership. This time, however, she did not have the support of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.), who began mobilizing to remove the congresswoman last week after she tweeted that the 2020 election “was not stolen.”

“Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system,” she added. 

While Cheney has reiterated this stance many times since January, her latest comment seemed to be the final straw, and on Monday, McCarthy officially announced he was holding a vote on her position in a letter to his conference.

In the letter, which was full of contradictions, McCarthy claimed that the GOP was a “big tent party” of “free thought and debate,” while simultaneously calling for the removal of a leader who broke with Trump, and painting the vote as a necessary step to unify the party.

A majority of the party backed that decision Wednesday morning when McCarthy held a voice vote, making it so that the public will never know exactly how many people voted to remove the congresswoman.

Cheney’s Speech

Cheney, for her part, held firm to her beliefs in a defiant speech Tuesday ahead of the anticipated vote, where she continued to condemn Trump’s lies and accused her fellow Republicans of being complicit in undermining Democracy.

“Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former president, who provoked a violent attack on this capital in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him,” she said. 

“He risks inciting further violence. Millions of Americans have been misled by the former president, they have heard only his words, but not the truth, as he continues to undermine our democratic process, sowing seeds of doubt about whether democracy really works at all.” 

“This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans,” she continued later.  “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”

Response

Cheney’s parting speech drew boos from some of her colleagues, many of whom cheered her ouster Wednesday.

“Liz Cheney is the GOP of the past,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Co.) tweeted. “We are not going back.”

Trump himself also issued a series of statements calling Cheney a “bitter, horrible human being,” and claiming that Republicans “have a great opportunity today to rid themselves of a poor leader, a major Democrat talking point, a warmonger, and a person with absolutely no personality or heart!”

However, many House Republicans condemned the move.

“i predict that the history books of the future will not celebrate,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Il.) wrote in a thread “They will say this was the low point of the Republican Party.” 

“Liz Cheney was canceled for speaking her mind,” Rep. Ken Buck (R-N.Y.) told reporters.

Next Steps

There has been a similarly mixed reception to Cheney’s anticipated replacement, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who McCarthy has tapped to fill the position.

Stefanik took office as a moderate cheered for openly defying and condemning Trump. Her role in Congress changed drastically in the fall of 2019, when she became one of the most vocal opponents of his first impeachment, prompting him to tweet, “A new Republican Star is born.” 

After that, she booked more TV appearances, campaign donations, and general fame. Her support for the former president grew and she doubled down, spreading his false election claims in 2020.

If she is elected to leadership, as is expected, the top three House Republican leadership positions will all be held by people who voted to not certify President Joe Biden’s win.

Cheney, for her part, has made it clear she does not intend to go anywhere. After Wednesday’s vote, the congresswoman told reporters that she will do “everything” she can “to ensure that the former president never again gets anywhere near the Oval Office.”

“The nation needs a party that is based upon fundamental principles of conservatism, and I am committed and dedicated to ensuring that that’s how this party goes forward, and I plan to lead the fight to do that,” she added.

According to The Washington Post, sources have said that Cheney already spent the last week planning for increased travel and media appearances to promote her case and rally other Republicans behind her.

She likely will not be alone in her endeavors: on Tuesday, The New York Times reported that more than 100 current and former anti-Trump Republicans are preparing to release a letter this week threatening to split from the GOP and create a third party if changes are not made.

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

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Biden Says Americans Will Lose Unemployment Benefits if They Turn Down “Suitable” Jobs

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  • President Biden said Monday that out-of-work Americans will lose their enhanced federal unemployment benefits if they turn down a “suitable” job offer.
  • The announcement follows a stark jobs report from the Labor Department, which found that just over 260,000 jobs were added in April when nearly 1 million had been projected.
  • Republican lawmakers blamed the additional $300 a week in joblessness benefits provided by the federal government, and several Republican-led states have opted out of the programs, arguing that doing so will encourage people to go back to work.
  • Biden rejected those arguments, noting that numerous studies disprove that claim. Instead, he said American corporations should do more to entice people to work, such as providing pay raises and COVID safety precautions.

Biden Addresses Benefits as Job Creation Falters

President Joe Biden on Monday ordered the Labor Department to ensure that Americans will lose their enhanced federal unemployment benefits if they do not accept a “suitable” job when offered.

In remarks at the White House, Biden also said he would direct the agency to work jointly with states to reimpose the requirement that people collecting joblessness benefits must show they are actively looking for work.

The comments come just days after the latest jobs report showed far fewer positions created than expected. The Labor Department reported that just 266,000 jobs were added last month, even though economists had predicted it would be about 1 million.

While broad swaths of the U.S. economy are opening up as more Americans get vaccinated, some employers have reported that they are having a hard time finding workers.

Republicans have largely argued that this is because of the additional $300 a week in unemployment benefits Americans are collecting from the last stimulus package.

The Unemployment Debate

In his address, however, Biden hit back on that claim. He said the White House does not “see much evidence” that benefits have deterred people from taking jobs — a fact that is supported by numerous studies on pandemic unemployment benefits. He also argued that corporate America has to do more to encourage people to come back to work.

The president placed responsibility on employers, especially those who have accepted federal relief, to raise their pay, protect their workers from the virus, and help them gain access to vaccinations so out-of-work Americans feel safe going back.

“My expectation is that as the economy comes back, these companies will provide fair wages and safe work environments, and if they do, they’ll find plenty of workers,” he said. “And we’re all going to come out of this together and better than before.”

Some companies have already started to take similar steps, like Chipotle, which announced Monday that it was raising its average wage to $15 an hour to address the labor shortage. However, many big companies will simply wait it out.

Those businesses may not have to wait long because a growing number of Republican-led states have been rejecting the increased federal unemployment money. On Monday, the governors of Alabama and Mississippi joined Montana, South Carolina, and Arkansas and announced their states would be leaving the programs by mid-June. More states are likely to do the same. 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (CBS News) (CNBC)

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