JUICE — Florida Politics’ Juicy Read — 2.19.2021 — Florida’s Moldy Republican Party — Book And Roach Team Up — Charlie Crist, Rubio, Murphy, The VA — More…

JUICE — Florida Politics’ Juicy Read — 2.19.2021 — Florida’s Moldy Republican Party — Book And Roach Team Up — Charlie Crist, Rubio, Murphy, The VA — More…

Javier Manjarres
Javier Manjarres
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February 19, 2021

Moldy Republicans Still At Odds With DeSantis

Going into redistricting, and after handing the Florida Democratic Party a bruising election night loss, the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) is looking to add to their 2020 statewide in the 2022 midterm election cycle.

The Florida GOP is looking to reelect Senator Marco Rubio, Gov. Ron DeSantis, CFO Jimmy Patronis, AG Ashley Moody, and all other state and federal seats they currently hold.

But before the RPOF can even entertain the idea of helping reelect anyone, the group must first clean up its act, or at the very least, clean up all the black mold that has infested their Tallahassee headquarters.

Disgusting.

Will someone buy these guys some Lysol with Bleach? I believe Publix sells it for $3.79 a bottle.

In addition, the Florida GOP needs to raise a whole lot of cash, and because Gov. Ron DeSantis still has a high level of distrust with party leadership on how the group spends its money, they better figure how they are going to be able to raise money in the event that DeSantis goes at it alone.

According to one Republican Party Executive Committee member, the party has even bigger personnel problems that are being fueled by politically expedient members of leadership that are focused on their own possible ascension within the GOP ranks

Regardless of the issues Florida Republicans may be struggling with, none of those issues compare to the 100-car train wreck that has occurred over at the Florida Democratic Party.

Do I even need to bring up the Democrats took PPP money?

Even with the new leadership of Manny Diaz, beating Republicans in 2022 is a very heavy lift.

If the GOP retains all their seats, and is able to pick up a congressional seat or two, its’ lights out for Florida Democrats.

Now, keep in mind that Florida is going to gain two more congressional seats, so the prospect of House Republicans winning back the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is very likely.

And then there’s the Democratic Party’s ‘Great White Jewish Hope,’ AG Commissioner Nikki Fried, who’s probable gubernatorial campaign is yet another freight train derailment waiting to happen. More on this in the weeks and months to come.

 

Speaking of Rubio…We told you so.

The Floridian first reported that Ivanka Trump and Pam Bondi would not be challenging Rubio in. a primary election, and now Ivanka confirmed that in a statement. READ MORE

 

Rick Scott @SenRickScott-I’ll say it again – Iran can’t be trusted. Reports that @POTUS is approaching Iran about the failed nuclear deal are deeply concerning. Nothing can be discussed until Iran cooperates and its ability to develop nuclear weapons & produce ballistic missiles is permanently removed.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schult@RepDWStweetsTo get ahead of the virus & curb community spread, we need to be able to identify & sequence new strains. The #AmericanRescuePlan commits $200 million to expand & improve sequencing, which is key to keeping our tests, vaccines & therapeutics effective.

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy @RepStephMurphyDid you know? The Mars Perseverance Rover took off 7 months ago from Cape Canaveral, Florida!

My kids and I watched it land on the surface of Mars today and can’t wait to see all the pictures to come!

Congressman Greg Steube @RepGregSteubeFlorida and the GOP have faced continuous hypocritical attacks from the left about COVID as liberal states like New York fail to protect their most vulnerable populations.

Congressman Charlie Crist @RepCharlieCrist-Vets – including many Vietnam veterans aged 65-74 – are being turned away for coronavirus vaccine at the VA. That’s not right! My new bill #VaccinesForVeterans would let ALL veterans get a vaccine at the VA. #ServingThoseWhoServed.

Ron DeSantis @GovRonDeSantis-Thank you again to Vern and Dottie Cummings for opening their home and allowing us to capture Vern receiving his COVID-19 vaccine. Vern and Dottie are great Americans and it’s because of Floridians like them that we are putting #SeniorsFirst.

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Charlie Crist
Charlie Crist

VA continues turning away veterans who want COVID vaccine by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres

Book, Roach File Legislation to Further Protect Vulnerable Plaintiffs by The Floridian’s Javier Manjarres

“Rubio Warns of U.S. Funding the Discredited WHO” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – During President Donald Trump’s (R) presidency, he had a tumultuous relationship with the World Health Organization that resulted in defunding the WHO. Republican lawmakers championed the move as they questioned the WHO’s mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Secretary Blinken has announced that the Biden Administration would resume funding to the WHO, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) has released a statement warning of what this means for the United States moving forward. In a statement, Rubio expressed that “the WHO misled the world at the direction of the Chinese Communist Party, and President Biden is making a serious mistake by resuming funding to this organization without meaningful commitments for reform and transparency.” He added that “the Chinese Communist Party’s corruption of the WHO occurred despite U.S. engagement and funding,” so he warned that “reengaging in the WHO and other international organizations should follow after careful consideration of a new approach, because simply showing up is not enough if malign influences are able to control these institutions.” When it was announced that the United States would be pulling funding from the WHO, Senator Rubio praised the move.

“Murphy: Taking Care of National Guard is a Priority” by The Floridian’s Daniel Molina – Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D), leader of the Blue Dog Coalition in the House of Representatives who may also be challenging Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) for his seat in the upcoming 2022 midterm election, shared a video on Twitter regarding the use of Florida’s National Guard. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the storming of the Capitol on January 6th, 2021, Florida’s National Guard has been deployed to assist with anything needed, and Rep. Murphy commented that the state has to do everything in its power to make sure that they are properly looked after. “Members of FL’s national guard are being asked to perform diverse missions like combat, homeland defense, COVID relief & hurricane response,” she wrote, adding that she has “asked senior military leaders to ensure the force is properly sized, resourced & trained to continue to excel.” “For Florida, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted us because we have one of the highest percentages of more mature Americans, as a part of our state population,” she detailed, and the state has also experienced a skyrocketing number of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. The state has responded by partnering with major chains like Publix and Wal-Mart in order to distribute the vaccine to said mature Americans. As Murphy explained, “those are the Americans who are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of COVID and most in need of vaccinations, along with our frontline and essential workers.”

“Former Florida Prepaid contractor sentenced to 33 months in prison for mail fraud, aggravated identity theft” by WCTV’s Staff – According to the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, Lawrence Keefe, a former Florida Prepaid program contractor has been sentenced to 33 months in federal prison. Keefe announced the sentenced Thursday. Jamilla Ciar Hall of Tallahassee, Florida was found to be guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft arising out of her work with the Florida Prepaid College Program. Hall pleaded guilty in September of 2020. In the release, Keefe said, “This woman abused her position of trust to rob money from the Florida Prepaid program – but worse, she robbed from unsuspecting parents who invested in a future college education for their loved ones. She thought she had discovered a path to easy money, but instead, choosing that path has led her to prison.” The Florida Prepaid College Board, which administers the Florida Prepaid College Program, contracted with Intuition College Savings Solutions to provide customer service and records administration services for Florida Prepaid. While working for Intuition, between July and December 2018, Hall accessed the personal identification information of Florida Prepaid account owners and beneficiaries, then fraudulently changed mailing addresses, phone numbers and email addresses associated with the plans.

“Florida deputy killed while setting up stop sticks during pursuit” by Click Orlando’s Jon Jankowski – A deputy with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office was killed in the line of duty on Wednesday afternoon, according to investigators. The sheriff’s office said Deputy Michael Magli was killed setting up stop sticks during a pursuit on East Lake Road in Tarpon Springs. He is survived by his wife and his two kids, according to the sheriff’s office. “We would like to extend our sincerest condolences to Deputy Magli’s family during this difficult time. Please keep them along with our PCSO family in your thoughts and prayers,” the sheriff’s office posted on Facebook. The sheriff’s office said around 4:25 p.m. investigators responded to the intersection of Forelock Road and East Lake Road. The investigators found 33-year-old found Robert Allen Holzaepfel passed out behind the wheel at a red light, according to the sheriff’s office. Deputies said crews broke out a window to assess Holzaepfel. Hozaepfel left the scene and was spotted traveling northbound on East Lake Road, according to deputies. Deputy Magli stopped in a median to deploy stop sticks during the pursuit. Investigators said Deputy Magli was standing outside of his vehicle when Holzaepfel entered the median and lost control of his truck. The vehicle struck Deputy Magli and pinned him under his patrol car, according to deputies.

“Education fund sought for descendants of Florida massacre” by Associated Press – A Florida lawmaker wants his state to establish an education fund to benefit the descendants of African Americans killed, beaten or driven from their homes by white mobs angered by a Black man who had the audacity to demand his right to vote a century ago in the tiny citrus town of Ocoee. Sen. Randolph Bracy, whose district includes the community, is proposing that Ocoee descendants be included in a scholarship program that already benefits the youth of Rosewood, another predominantly African American community in Florida that was destroyed by white mobs. The racial violence in Rosewood, which was dramatized by Hollywood in an acclaimed 1997 movie, occurred three years after the 1920 Election Day massacre in Ocoee. Ocoee had been mostly forgotten until recently. Last year, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law legislation meant to raise awareness about the Ocoee massacre by requiring schools to teach students about the racial violence that occurred in the town west of Orlando. The Election Day massacre in Ocoee was one of the bloodiest periods in American political history, with the number of deaths remaining in question – although some historians estimate the number could be as high as 60. The violence began when a white mob swept through the town after Mose Norman, a Black man, showed up at the polls to vote. Over two days of terror, the mob set fire to the community of about 850 people – more than a fourth of them Black.

“Florida county commissioner limited vaccine drive to the two richest zip codes and then created a ‘VIP list’” by CNN’s Paul P. Murphy, Rosa Flores, Konstantin Toropin and Sara Weisfeldt – A Manatee County, Florida, commissioner broke protocol for equitable vaccine distribution, which she had previously voted in favor of, when planning a vaccine drive initiated by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Vanessa Baugh admitted on Thursday that she “wanted to make sure certain people were on the list” for vaccination after emails revealed that she directed county officials to create a list to let her and others jump the line. In response to criticism that county officials had only permitted residents from the two richest zip codes in the county to get vaccinated at the event, Baugh further admitted that she picked the zip codes herself.

In a public county commissioner meeting on Thursday, Baugh apologized for the criticism regarding the “pop-up” vaccination site, but said that if presented with the opportunity again, “I will do exactly what I did this time.” Baugh further explained that she “did exactly what (DeSantis) wanted” in organizing the vaccine drive. On Tuesday, in another public county commissioner meeting, Baugh said that the vaccine drive was initiated by DeSantis, a Republican, and involved real estate developer Rex Jensen. A news release on the Manatee County website says it aimed to vaccinate 3,000 people over three days. One of the emails obtained by CNN through a public records request states that Baugh asked county workers to pull a list of potential vaccine recipients from only two zip codes, who would then participate in the state-sponsored vaccine drive.

“Men posed as U.S. marshals to avoid wearing masks at Florida resort, authorities say” by AP – Two men are accused of pretending to be federal marshals and flashing phony credentials to get out of wearing facial coverings at a South Florida resort hotel. When the staff at the Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort asked Walter Wayne Brown Jr., 53, and Gary Brummett, 81, to cover their faces, the men refused, and threatened to arrest employees and saddle the hotel with a fine, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. The scheme collapsed when one employee thought they were acting suspicious and called police on Feb. 11. Officers and a real U.S. marshal arrived and arrested the men on charges of impersonating a federal officer. A hotel manager told investigators Brummett went to the front desk earlier this month to ask for a coffee and then pretended to be a marshal when he was asked to don a mask, a federal complaint said. He then flashed a laminated card that said he was medically exempt from wearing a mask. According to the complaint, when the manager asked again for him to put on a mask, Brummett pointed to a badge he wore on his belt. “Do you know what this means,” he said. “I’m a U.S. marshal and can have you arrested if you force me to wear a mask.” Two days earlier, employees had a similar confrontation with Brown Jr. when he first checked into the hotel, the newspaper reported.

“Challenge to Florida mask mandate heads to state Supreme Court” by Fox 13’s Jim Saunders – After months of legal wrangling across Florida about mask requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, a challenge to a Palm Beach County mask mandate has gone to the state Supreme Court. Opponents of the mandate have filed a notice that is a first step in asking the Supreme Court to consider arguments that the Palm Beach County mandate is unconstitutional, according to documents posted Thursday on the Supreme Court website. The move came after a panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal on Jan. 27 upheld a circuit judge’s refusal to block the mask requirement. As is common, the notice does not detail the arguments that the plaintiffs will make at the Supreme Court, other than to say that justices have jurisdiction to hear the case because the 4th District Court of Appeal ruling “expressly construed a provision of the Florida Constitution.” While justices do not have to take up the case, it could become a test for challenges to mask requirements in the state. For example, the 1st District Court of Appeal heard arguments in November in a challenge to an Alachua County mask requirement, though it has not issued a ruling. Palm Beach County issued an emergency order in June that required face coverings to be worn at businesses and government facilities, on public transportation and in other public places where social distancing is not possible. The order, which has been extended several times, includes exceptions to the mask requirement for such things as eating, according to the appeals court.

“Central Florida couple fighting for refund from cruise line after pandemic cancellations” by WESH’s Gail Paschall-Brown – While many people are hopeful the vaccine will allow them to plan for the future an Orlando couple that had hoped to take a cruise last year is searching for a refund they’ve been unable to get. “At this point, we would like a refund of our money,” Deona Flowers said. Flowers says they’ve spent $1,856 with Norwegian Cruise Line. She and her husband had initially hoped to take the trip early last year. That cruise was canceled because of the pandemic so the couple re-booked. When that didn’t happen, they tried a third time. “So we booked three cruises in total,” Flowers said. Norwegian Cruise Line announced Tuesday it will continue its suspension of cruises through May 31, 2021. “We were like ‘Hey, can we just get our money back? You know these cancellations weren’t us. We didn’t cancel. It was not our fault.’ My husband spoke with someone at Norwegian and they pretty much told him, this is what they said: ‘You’re not getting your money back so get that out of your head,’” Flowers said. Flowers said their Norwegian Travel Assistant never explained about the FCC or future cruise credits. She reached out online and got the following email: “This is the policy for cruise credits. If your most current reservation was paid via a previously issued Future Cruise Credit (FCC), 100% of the FCC used will be re-applied to your …account.” “Future cash credits have no cash value. I said ‘How is that possible when it’s my cash that entitled me to a Future Cruise Credit in the first place?’” Flowers said.

“Ivanka Trump won’t challenge Marco Rubio for Florida Senate seat” by The Floridian’s Mona Salama. Ivanka Trump will not be challenging Florida GOP Senator Marco Rubio for his U.S. Senate seat in 2022, a source close to President Trump’s daughter confirmed to CBS News. It was during a conversation between Ivanka Trump and Rubio a few weeks ago — not long after the rioting at the Capitol in January 6 — when she informed him of her decision not to run. In a statement provided to CBS News, Mr. Trump’s daughter, who was one of his top White House advisers, called the Florida senator a “good personal friend.” “I know he will continue to drive meaningful progress on issues we both care deeply about,” she said. Speculation among Florida politicos had ramped up after Ms. Trump, her husband, Jared Kushner, and their children, had moved to the Sunshine state from New York after her father’s reelection loss to President Biden. The New York Times first reported that she would not run. Another former senior White House official, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is so far the top contender in her race for Arkansas governor. There has also been some speculation that Lara Trump, the wife of Mr. Trump’s son, Eric Trump, could mount a political run in North Carolina for retiring GOP Senator Richard Burr’s seat.

“Moderna vaccines delayed by snowstorm may not arrive until next week, Florida governor says” by Click Orlando’s Brianna Volz and Thomas Metevia – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Thursday morning to announce a new vaccination site in Pinellas Park, while also discussing hundreds of thousands of vaccines delayed due to deadly winter storms hitting other parts of the U.S. The site will be open for three days and will provide 3000 COVID-19 vaccines to senior citizens. “We are getting more vaccines. We’re at 325,000 last week and we’re gonna have a net increase of 41,000 for the next week,” DeSantis said. The governor is expecting a shipment of 5,000 additional doses to be delivered to Pinellas County next week. On Wednesday, the governor announced Florida was still waiting to receive more than 200,000 Moderna doses of the COVID-19 vaccine after a massive snowstorm that hit other parts of the U.S. forced their delivery to be delayed. The delayed deliveries have forced some vaccine distributors to temporarily call off some vaccination appointments this week but DeSantis did say the doses were expected to arrive before the weekend. During the news conference on Thursday, DeSantis said he did not believe that the doses had shipped yet and it could be after the weekend before they arrive in the Sunshine State.

“Publix not scheduling shots in Florida amid vaccine delivery delays” by News Service of Florida – Publix Super Markets on Thursday announced that it is not scheduling appointments for first dose COVID-19 vaccinations because of a delivery delay of more than 200,000 doses. Publix did not say in a news release when it would reopen its online appointment portal. Customers with already-scheduled appointments for second doses of the Moderna vaccine should arrive at the pharmacies as scheduled, Publix said. State Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz told The News Service of Florida on Tuesday that 208,000 first and second doses of Moderna vaccine had been delayed because of a storm that has battered parts of the country. Moskowitz said the storm had not affected the delivery of 132,000 first doses of Pfizer vaccine this week. Through Tuesday, 2,487,055 people had been vaccinated, with more than 47 percent receiving the two-dose series, according to Florida Department of Health numbers.

“Liquor to go making gains in Florida legislature” by WCJB Staff – Floridians have enjoyed alcohol to go and delivery from restaurants for the past year. It’s a result of executive action taken by the Governor at the start of the pandemic, and lawmakers are now looking to make the change permanent. The Governor first allowed restaurants to deliver and sell alcohol to go on March 20th, 2020. It appears the policy will likely stay around for good. “Due to government-mandated closures they have had to adapt to serve the needs of their customers. The Governor’s executive order has helped restaurants accomplish this goal, while also providing a convenience to customers,” said Rep. Josie Tomkow, who is sponsoring a bill that would make the change permanent. The legislation came up in it’s first House committee Thursday. The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association told lawmakers extra sales have been a life line for many eateries. “Some restaurants have closed and will never come back and for those that are hanging on and hanging in there, this is one of the things that’s helping them do that,” said Samantha Padgett, General Counsel for the association. Rep. Scott Plakon expressed some hesitancy, questioning whether liquor should be included. “I’ve always kind of put those in separate piles, the hard liquor versus beer and wine so I’m voting yes today, but that could change,” said Plakon.

National:

“NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars” by Fox News’ Lucas Manfredi – NASA has unveiled the first pictures from its fifth Mars rover, Perseverance, after a successful landing on the red planet’s Jezero crater at approximately 3:55 p.m. Thursday. “This landing is one of those pivotal moments for NASA, the United States, and space exploration globally – when we know we are on the cusp of discovery and sharpening our pencils, so to speak, to rewrite the textbooks,” acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said in a press release. “The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission embodies our nation’s spirit of persevering even in the most challenging of situations, inspiring, and advancing science and exploration.” Perseverance, the most technologically advanced robot NASA has sent to date, traveled 293 million miles to reach Mars over the course of more than six months after launching on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Station on July 30. It will remain on Mars for nearly two years, searching for signs of ancient life and exploring the planet’s surface. The mission will help prepare the agency for future human exploration on Mars in the 2030s. The $2.7 billion rover, built in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is about 10 feet long, 9 feet wide, seven feet tall and about 2,260 pounds, roughly 278 pounds heavier than its predecessor, Curiosity. Perserverance is designed to drive an average of 650 feet per Martian day and features seven scientific instruments, a robotic arm that reaches about seven feet long, a rock drill. It is nuclear powered, using a plutonium generator provided by the U.S. Department of Energy.

“ICE officers will need preapproval before arresting some illegal immigrants under new rules” by Fox News’ Adam Shaw – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers will need preapproval from managers to arrest some illegal immigrants if they do not fall into narrow categories, due to new guidance released Thursday. Under the new guidance from the Biden administration, ICE would focus on three categories of immigrants: those who pose a threat to national security; those who have crossed the border since Nov. 1, and those who committed “aggravated felonies.” The guidance is temporary, lasting three months, until the Department of Homeland Security can issue further guidance. Officials said the guidance does not explicitly prevent anyone from being arrested or deported. Instead, it directs resources at certain targets. However, field officers seeking to arrest someone outside of those three categories would need approval from their chain of command. “By focusing our limited resources on cases that present threats to national security, border security, and public safety, our agency will more ably and effectively execute its law enforcement mission,” ICE acting Director Tae Johnson said in a statement. “Like every law enforcement agency at the local, state, and federal level, we must prioritize our efforts to achieve the greatest security and safety impact.” The new guidance also requires ICE to submit weekly arrest reports to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“Scholarship in honor of Rush Limbaugh established to benefit families of fallen police, military” by Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn – A scholarship named after the late conservative talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh has been established to benefit families of fallen members of the police and U.S. military. TMZ reported Thursday that the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation (MC-LEF) is launching the Rush Limbaugh Memorial “Giant of Philanthropy” Scholarship, which will award $35,000 to between 12 and 20 families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. According to TMZ, Limbaugh had donated roughly $3.5 million to the organization over the years. MC-LEF President Ed Boran and Executive Director Sue Boulhosa told TMZ the scholarship will be launched “right away” and will “last for years.” Recipients of the scholarship will be notified in a condolence letter that Limbaugh was the donor. “MC-LEF was founded in 1995 and Rush was critical in its first 32 scholarships following the Oklahoma City bombing. Last year the org doled out 169 scholarships to more than 100 families,” TMZ reported. Limbaugh passed away on Wednesday at the age of 70 following a battle with lung cancer. His wife, Kathryn, made the announcement of his death on his radio show. The conservative icon learned he had Stage IV lung cancer in January 2020 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump at the State of the Union address days later. First lady Melania Trump presented America’s highest civilian honor to Limbaugh in the House viewing gallery.

“Colorado GOP Rep. Boebert accused by California Democrat of harboring a ‘gun fetish’” by Fox News’ Michael Ruiz – California Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman accused Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican, of having a “gun fetish” Thursday, prompting her to remind Democrats on the House Natural Resources committee that they had taken an oath to uphold the Constitution. “If somebody wants to have a shrine to their gun fetish as a Zoom backdrop in their private life they can do that,” Huffman said during the meeting. “But this is our ‘hearing room,’ and at some point we will get past the COVID epidemic, and we’ll all start showing up in person, and our safety and our ability to conduct business civilly without feeling threatened is a relevant consideration, unfortunately.” His “shrine” reference knocked the four-gun display seen behind Boebert in the course of a discussion on firearms in the Capitol complex during the virtually held meeting. In a tweet later in the day, he again accused Boebert of “fetisihizing weapons.” The display appeared on a bookcase in Boebert’s private home in Rifle, Colo., according to a spokesman for her office. “We all took an oath to uphold and secure the Constitution, every single one of us,” Boebert, an outspoken Second Amendment supporter, said when it was her turn to speak. “Our first act as members of Congress was to take our oath of office, and please allow me to remind you a portion of that oath, the chair and every other member here solemnly swore that we would support and defend the Constitution of the United States…The Second Amendment is very much a part of the Constitution of the United States.”

“US signals it is open to sending more troops to Iraq” by CNN’s Barbara Starr and Oren Liebermann – The Pentagon opened the door to the possibility of sending more American troops to Iraq as part of a newly expanded NATO training mission to support Iraqi forces and ensure that ISIS does not rise again. “The US is participating in the force generation process for NATO Mission Iraq and will contribute its fair share to this important expanded mission,” Pentagon spokesperson Cmdr. Jessica L. McNulty told CNN. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke about the mission with his NATO counterparts during a meeting with defense ministers on Thursday. Such a move would be a reversal of the previous administration’s policy which reduced the number of troops in the country to 2,500 following former President Donald Trump’s election defeat. The Biden administration is also weighing whether to stick to a May deadline to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan. At a press conference Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the NATO mission would increase in size from 500 personnel to about 4,000. “The US and its partners in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS remain committed to ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS, and the Department looks forward to continued consultations with Iraq, NATO, and the Global Coalition going forward,” McNulty added. Austin “welcomed the expanded role” of the NATO mission in Iraq, according to a readout of the discussions provided by the Pentagon. He “expressed confidence that all of the work done to date with the Iraqi government and security forces will lead to a self-sustainable mission.”

“GOP senators facing reelection in 2022 keep mum on McConnell amid divisive fight with Trump” by CNN’s Manu Raju, Ali Zaslav and Ted Barrett – Republican senators are trying to stay out of the fray between former President Donald Trump and their leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell. With Trump warning he will push primary candidates who fit his mold in 2022 Senate races, many Republican senators facing voters next year are not eager to pick sides following the former President’s blistering attack on the GOP leader after his impeachment trial. CNN contacted the 16 Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2022 on Thursday about whether they still back McConnell — and just three responded. Their lack of response doesn’t mean that McConnell is at risk of losing his spot atop the Senate GOP Conference, a position he’s enjoyed longer than any other Republican senator in history. But it’s a clear sign that Republicans are eager to avoid being caught in the middle of a divisive fight over Trump’s role in the party — after McConnell accused Trump of a “disgraceful dereliction of duty” and being responsible for the deadly January 6 riot, despite the GOP leader’s vote to acquit Trump on the contention that trying a former president is unconstitutional. While many Republican senators share McConnell’s view, others do not and are frustrated with the GOP leader for condemning the former President in harsh terms, arguing his comments have put them in a complicated position.

“6 Capitol Police officers suspended, 29 others being investigated for alleged roles in riot” by CNN’s Whitney Wild and Paul LeBlanc – Six US Capitol Police officers have been suspended with pay, and 29 others have been placed under investigation, for their actions in the January 6 riot, a department spokesman said Thursday. “Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman has directed that any member of her department whose behavior is not in keeping with the Department’s Rules of Conduct will face appropriate discipline,” department spokesman John Stolnis told CNN.

CNN reported in January that the USCP had placed at least 10 officers under investigation, and two others had been suspended. One of the suspended officers took a selfie with someone who was part of the mob that overtook the Capitol, according to Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Ohio. Another wore a “Make America Great Again” hat and started directing people around the building, Ryan said. Last month, Pittman said the department “has been actively reviewing video and other open source materials of some USCP officers and officials that appear to be in violation of Department regulations and policies.” The suspensions and investigations come at a time of internal turmoil at the department as officers continue to grapple with the insurrection that led to the death of Officer Brian Sicknick. Members of the Capitol Police issued a vote of no confidence in the force’s top leaders earlier this month.

“Big Tech lobbying groups sue Maryland to stop country’s first digital advertising tax” by CNN’s Sara O’Brien – Just days after Maryland became the first state in the country to impose a tax on digital advertising targeting Big Tech, lobbying groups representing companies including Amazon, Facebook, Google are trying to stop it. In a lawsuit filed Thursday, the groups allege that the state law is “deeply flawed” as well as “unlawful” and “unconstitutional.” They also allege that it serves to discriminate against interstate commerce and interferes with foreign affairs, citing the federal government’s prior opposition to countries imposing taxes on US digital platforms. The lawsuit, filed in a Maryland federal district court, is being brought by several lobbying groups including the US Chamber of Commerce and the Internet Association, the latter of which was founded by Google, Amazon, eBay, and Facebook. The Washington Post was first to report the lawsuit. “The digital ad tax is illegal and should be struck down,” said an attorney for the plaintiffs, Stephen Kranz of McDermott Will & Emery LLP, in a statement to CNN Business. “If Maryland wants to tax advertising there is a legal way to do so — they did not even attempt to go down that road.” The bill, which was enacted Friday after the state’s senate voted to override the governor’s veto, was believed to mark the beginning of a wave of similar legislation across the country. The new tax comes as policymakers increasingly target the economic dominance of large tech platforms, some of which have built massive digital advertising businesses.

“Walmart Promises Raises for 425,000 Workers After Strong Holiday Sales” by WSJ’s Sarah Nassauer – Walmart Inc. WMT -6.48% said it would raise wages for about 425,000 of its employees after a year in which the Covid-19 pandemic boosted its business and demand for workers who handle online orders. The company reported strong holiday sales but predicted slower growth and higher spending this year. After surging last year, the company’s stock fell 6% in trading Thursday. Congress is debating whether to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour. The Biden administration’s proposal, part of a Covid-19 stimulus relief package, seeks to increase it to $15 over four years. Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon said the company supports raising the federal minimum but there are parts of the country that should be lower than others, and increases should be paced out. The company is keeping its starting wage at $11 an hour. “You want that beginning rung of that ladder to be in the right place for the market to ensure that you can, and small businesses as well, can get people into the workforce,” Walmart’s Chief Financial Officer Brett Biggs said in an interview. The country’s largest private employer said its more-targeted raises would increase pay for its hourly U.S. workers to an average above $15 an hour, up from an average above $14 in January 2020. Walmart employs about 1.5 million hourly U.S. workers and 2.2 million people world-wide.

“Stocks Fall, Weighed Down by Tech Losses and Jobless Claims” by WSJ’s Joe Wallace and Akane Otani – Stocks dropped, weighed down by losses among communications and technology companies. Stocks have taken a breather in recent sessions after powering higher for much of 2021. Money managers see several reasons to stay cautious, ranging from lofty valuations across parts of the market to the pace of the economy’s recovery. Data Thursday showed 861,000 workers sought unemployment benefits last week, more than economists had expected. Still, many investors remain upbeat about the outlook for stocks. They say the possibility of more fiscal stimulus, progress on distributing Covid-19 vaccines and gradual reopening of the economy should help drive earnings higher throughout the year. “The vaccine rollout is well advanced in the U.S. and the evolution of the virus is rather positive,” said Bastien Drut, chief thematic macro strategist at CPR Asset Management. He added that he was encouraged by data showing declining case numbers and hospitalizations. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 119.68 points, or 0.4%, to 31493.34. The S&P 500 declined 17.36 points, or 0.4%, to 3913.97 and the Nasdaq Composite lost 100.13 points, or 0.7%, to 13865.36, adding to losses after a volatile day for tech stocks on Wednesday.

“South Carolina passes abortion ban, Planned Parenthood sues” by Reuters’ Rich McKay – South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster on Thursday signed into law a ban on almost all abortions in the state and the women’s health group Planned Parenthood followed with a lawsuit, arguing the measure was unconstitutional. As one of the most restrictive abortion bans, the so-called “fetal heartbeat” law bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected, often at six weeks and before a woman realizes she is pregnant. Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in the United States, with opponents citing religious belief to declare it immoral, and proponents declaring it a women’s health and privacy issue, among other arguments. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that the constitution protected a pregnant women’s right to an abortion. Various states have passed restrictions on abortions including those similar to South Carolina and most are still tied up in the courts. A law passed in Iowa in 2018 was overturned by a state judge in 2019. “It is undisputed that such cardiac activity is detectable well in advance of the fetus becoming viable,” District Court Judge Michael Huppert wrote in his decision. A fetus that is viable outside the womb, usually at 24 weeks, is widely considered the threshold in the United States to prohibit abortion. McMaster, a Republican, said at a signing ceremony that is has been his priority to sign an abortion ban into law. The South Carolina law does allow abortions under some circumstances including rape, incest or if the mother’s life is in danger.

“U.S. says ready for talks with Iran to revive nuclear deal” by Reuters’ John Irish, Humeryra Pamuk, and Arshad Mohammed – The United States on Thursday said it was ready to talk to Iran about both nations returning to a 2015 agreement that aimed to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, seeking to revive a deal that Washington itself abandoned nearly three years ago. The move reflects the change in U.S. administration, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressing President Joe Biden’s position that Washington would return to the accord formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if Tehran came into full compliance with the deal. Iran reacted coolly to the idea, put forward by Blinken during a video meeting with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany – a group known as the E3 – gathered in Paris. “If Iran comes back into strict compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, the United States will do the same and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end,” a joint statement from the four nations said. Iran began breaching the deal in 2019, about a year after former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew and reimposed U.S. economic sanctions, and has accelerated its breaches in recent months. A U.S. official told Reuters that Washington would respond positively to any European Union invitation to talks between Iran and the six major powers who negotiated the original agreement: Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.

“U.S. won’t share vaccine before all Americans receive shots, officials say” by Politico’s Carmen Paun – The Biden administration won’t donate to poor countries any of the coronavirus vaccine doses the U.S. has purchased before most Americans are vaccinated, a senior administration official told reporters Thursday. The comments come one day before Biden will join the G7 virtual meeting, where leaders of major industrialized nations are set to address anxiety over a global vaccine rollout that’s left behind poor countries. President Joe Biden at the meeting — his first multilateral engagement since taking office — will announce the U.S. is directing $4 billion Congress allocated to Gavi in December to help procure coronavirus vaccines for poor countries, the senior official said. Half of the funding will go toward subsidizing purchases of vaccine doses for 92 poor and developing countries through COVAX, the global effort for equitable vaccine access led by Gavi and two other organizations. The remaining $2 billion will be allocated over the next two years to expand vaccine manufacturing and delivery, with the first $500 million expected to be released quickly. The administration hopes that donation will encourage other countries to contribute more to the effort, which it estimates will cost $15 billion.

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Javier Manjarres

Javier Manjarres

Javier Manjarres is a nationally renowned award-winning political journalist. Diverse New Media, Corp. publishes Floridianpress.com, Hispolitica.com, shark-tank.com, and Texaspolitics.com He enjoys traveling, playing soccer, mixed martial arts, weight-lifting, swimming, and biking. Javier is also a political consultant and has also authored "BROWN PEOPLE," which is a book about Hispanic Politics. Learn more at www.brownpeople.org Email him at [email protected]