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Breonna Taylor’s Attorney: Grand Jury Decision Is Example of Systemic Racism

Demonstrators took the streets for another night Friday in Louisville, Kentucky, to protest the killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black emergency medical worker who was killed by white police officers last March as they carried out a drug raid.About 15 protesters were arrested Friday, police said, for breaking the 9 p.m. curfew.Earlier Friday, Taylor’s family and their lawyer, Benjamin Crump, called on Kentucky Attorney General David Cameron to release body camera footage, police files and the transcripts of the grand jury proceedings that did not bring homicide charges against the officers who killed Taylor.Crump said the grand jury’s decision is an example of systemic racism that persists in America. “It underscores what we’ve been saying all along,” he said.Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said, “The police and law were not made to protect us Black and brown women.” Palmer said the grand jury’s decision confirms the fact that she has “no faith in the legal system.”Palmer said she “knew” Cameron “would never do his job” and added, “The system as a whole has failed Breonna.”Cameron is Kentucky’s first Black attorney general.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who represents Kentucky, defended the investigation in a speech Thursday on the Senate floor, saying Cameron “conducted exactly the kind of thorough, impartial investigation that justice demands.” He called protests in Louisville in which two police officers were shot “more evidence of the lawlessness, riots, and violence that has plagued American cities too often this year.”Crump posted on Twitter he is hopeful a federal investigation into Taylor’s killing would produce charges against the officers. “We hope the FBI investigation finally gets justice for Bre and her family.”Taylor was killed when police on a drug raid entered her apartment on a “no-knock” warrant, authorized to allow police to enter a dwelling without warning to keep evidence from being destroyed. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.However, Cameron said Wednesday that a neighbor of Taylor’s heard police announce their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment and that their entry was not deemed a “no-knock” raid.Cameron said the officers “were justified in their use of force” after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who says he heard no announcement by the police, opened fire at them first when they entered the apartment, thinking they were intruders.Attention is being focused on Taylor’s shooting and other cases following the death earlier this year of George Floyd, a Black man, who died while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd’s death sparked protests around the world about social injustice.

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Trump Extends Drilling Ban Off North Carolina

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday extended a ban until 2032 on offshore oil drilling off the coast of North Carolina, weeks after a similar extension affecting drilling in the waters off Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.The Republican president ordered the extension in a memo to his interior secretary that did not exempt any of the Northeastern, Democratic-majority states that also have asked to be removed from the next five-year offshore oil and gas drilling leasing plan.The Trump administration, which has worked to expand U.S. oil and gas drilling and roll back Obama-era rules on pollution from fossil fuels, originally wanted to expand offshore drilling off many of America’s coasts, including Florida.But proposals for drilling off Florida prompted fierce opposition from tourism, real estate and environmental interests.  

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Justice Department Asks Judge to Allow US to Bar WeChat from US App Stores

The U.S. Justice Department asked a federal judge in San Francisco on Friday to allow the government to bar Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google from offering WeChat for download in U.S. app stores pending an appeal.The filing asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler to put on hold her preliminary injunction issued Saturday. That injunction blocked the U.S. Commerce Department order that was set to take effect late September 20 and that would also bar other U.S. transactions with Tencent Holding’s WeChat, potentially making the app unusable in the United States.Beeler responded late Friday by setting a hearing for October 15 on the motion but said she could potentially hold it on “a tighter time period.”The Justice Department filing said Beeler’s order was in error and “permits the continued, unfettered use of WeChat, a mobile application that the Executive Branch has determined constitutes a threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”Tencent had put forward a “mitigation proposal” that sought to create a new U.S. version of the app, deploy specific security measures to protect the new apps source code, partner with a U.S. cloud provider for user data storage, and manage the new app through a U.S.-based entity, the filing said.However, its proposal still allowed Tencent to retain ownership of WeChat and did not address U.S. concerns over the company, it added.Tencent declined to comment.Lawyers for U.S. WeChat Users Alliance, the group behind the legal challenge to the WeChat ban, questioned the urgency of the government’s request, noting the time it took for the government to seek a stay.”The government’s decision to sit tight for five days shows that there is no emergency,” they wrote.In support of its argument, the Justice Department made public portions of a September 17 Commerce Department memo outlining the WeChat transactions to be banned.”The WeChat mobile application collects and transmits sensitive personal information on U.S. persons, which is accessible to Tencent and stored in data centers in China and Canada,” the memo said. Beeler said WeChat users who filed a lawsuit “have shown serious questions going to the merits of the First Amendment claim.”The Justice Department filing said, “The First Amendment does not bar regulation of WeChat simply because it has achieved the popularity and dependency sought by (China), precisely so it can surveil users, promote its propaganda, and otherwise place U.S. national security at risk.”WeChat has had an average of 19 million daily active users in the United States, analytics firms Apptopia said in early August. It is popular among Chinese students, Americans living in China and some Americans who have personal or business relationships in China.Beeler wrote “certainly the government’s over-arching national-security interest is significant. But on this record — while the government has established that China’s activities raise significant national security concerns — it has put in scant little evidence that its effective ban of WeChat for all U.S. users addresses those concerns.”WeChat is an all-in-one mobile app that combines services similar to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Venmo. The app is an essential part of daily life for many in China and boasts more than 1 billion users.TikTok on Wednesday sought a similar preliminary injunction from a U.S. judge in Washington. A judge on Friday said he would hold a hearing Sunday morning about whether to halt the U.S. app store ban on new TikTok downloads set to take effect Sunday night.  

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About 3,500 US Companies Sue Over Trump-Imposed Chinese Tariffs

About 3,500 U.S. companies, including Tesla Inc., Ford Motor Co., Target Corp., Walgreen Co. and Home Depot, have sued the Trump administration in the last two weeks over the imposition of tariffs on more than $300 billion in Chinese-made goods. The lawsuits, filed in the U.S. Court of International Trade, named U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and the Customs and Border Protection agency and challenge what they call the unlawful escalation of the U.S. trade war with China through the imposition of a third and fourth round of tariffs. The legal challenges from a wide variety of companies argue the Trump administration failed to impose tariffs within a required 12-month period and did not comply with administrative procedures. FILE – U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer speaks during a news conference in Washington, Aug. 16, 2017.The companies challenge the administration’s “unbounded and unlimited trade war impacting billions of dollars in goods imported from the People’s Republic of China by importers in the United States,” according to a lawsuit filed by auto parts manufacturer Dana Corp. Lighthizer’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The suits challenge tariffs in two separate groups known as List 3 and List 4A. List 3 includes 25% tariffs on about $200 billion in imports, while List 4A includes 7.5% tariffs on $120 billion in goods. One suit argues the administration cannot expand tariffs to other Chinese imports “for reasons untethered to the unfair intellectual property policies and practices it originally investigated.” The Trump administration said tariffs on Chinese goods were justified because China was stealing intellectual property and forcing U.S. companies to transfer technology for access to China’s markets.  Companies filing suit included heavy truck manufacturer Volvo Group North America, U.S. auto parts retailer Pep Boys, clothing company Ralph Lauren, Sysco Corp., guitar manufacturer Gibson Brands, Lenovo’s U.S. unit, Dole Packaged Foods, a unit of Itochu Corp. and golf equipment manufacturer Callaway Golf Co. Home Depot’s suit noted it faces tariffs on bamboo flooring, cordless drills and many other Chinese-made products. Walgreen, a unit of the Walgreen Boots Alliance, said it is paying higher tariffs on products like “seasonal novelties; party, first aid, and office supplies; and household essentials.” On September 15, the World Trade Organization found the United States breached global trading rules by imposing multibillion-dollar tariffs in Trump’s trade war with China.

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Attorney, Family Say US Justice System Failed Breonna Taylor

The attorney for Breonna Taylor, a Black emergency medical worker who was killed by white police officers last March in Kentucky as they carried out a botched drug raid, said Friday that a grand jury’s decision not to bring homicide charges against the officers was an example of systemic racism that persists in America.“There seems to be two justice systems in America, one for Black America and one for white America,” said Benjamin Crump at a news conference in Louisville. “It underscores what we’ve been saying all along.”Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, also denounced the grand jury’s decision, saying in a statement the decision underscored “why I have no faith in the legal system. The police and law were not made to protect us Black and brown women.”Palmer said she “knew” Kentucky Attorney General David Cameron “would never do his job” and added, “The system as a whole has failed Breonna.”Taylor’s family and Crump repeated a call for Cameron to release a transcript of the grand jury proceedings.A billboard sponsored by O, The Oprah Magazine, is on display with a photo of Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, Kentucky, Aug. 7, 2020.McConnell defends probeU.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky defended the investigation in a speech Thursday on the Senate floor, saying Cameron “conducted exactly the kind of thorough, impartial investigation that justice demands.” He called protests in Louisville in which two police officers were shot “more evidence of the lawlessness, riots and violence that has plagued American cities too often this year.”Crump tweeted earlier Friday that he was hopeful a federal investigation into Taylor’s killing would produce charges against the officers. “We hope the FBI investigation finally gets justice for Bre and her family,” he said in reference to Breonna.The news conference was held hours after protests erupted for a second night Thursday in Louisville in response to the grand jury’s decision. Some protesters smashed windows, and police said at least 24 people were arrested.More than a hundred protesters took refuge in the First Unitarian Church after the start of a nighttime curfew.Earlier Thursday, there were some tense moments when a group of armed white people confronted the protesters, but no shots were fired.Breonna Taylor family attorney Ben Crump speaks during a news conference, Sept. 25, 2020, in Louisville, Kentucky.’No easy answer’Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said at a news conference Thursday, “What do we do with this pain?”  The mayor added that there is “no easy answer to that question.”Taylor was killed when police entered her apartment on a “no-knock” drug raid, authorized to allow police to burst into a dwelling without warning to keep evidence from being destroyed. No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.However, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Wednesday that a neighbor of Taylor’s heard police announce their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment and that their entry was not deemed a “no-knock” raid.Cameron said the officers “were justified in their use of force” after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who said he heard no announcement by the police, opened fire at them first when they entered the apartment, thinking they were intruders.Attention is being focused on Taylor’s shooting and other cases following the death earlier this year of George Floyd, a Black man, after a white police officer in Minneapolis pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck. Floyd’s death sparked protests around the world about social injustice.
 

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NASA Says It Added $64 Billion to US Economy in 2019

The U.S. space agency NASA released the results of its first-ever agency-wide economic impact study Friday, indicating its work generated more than $64 billion for the U.S. economy last year. In a release on its official website, NASA said through all its activities during fiscal year 2019, the agency supported more than 312,000 jobs nationwide, and generated an estimated $7 billion in federal, state and local taxes throughout the country. NASA said it commissioned the study to better understand how the U.S. economy benefited from its work and paid back the investment by the federal government. FILE – NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., May 23, 2020.In the release, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the study provides numbers and data to illustrate how taxpayer investment of one-half of one percent of the total federal budget in America’s space program pays off, in both a stronger economy and through advances in science and technology. The study showed that every state in the country saw some benefit from NASA activities, with 43 states seeing an economic impact of $10 million or more, and eight showing an impact of $1 billion or more. The analysis also showed that NASA’s “Moon to Mars” program alone generated $14 billion in economic output, brought in $1.5 billion in tax revenue and supported more than 69,000 jobs. The study said the program is expected to double those figures next year. The program aims to return people to the moon by 2024, and use it as a base for operations to Mars and elsewhere. The economic impact study also showed NASA has generated more than 2,000 technologies since 1976. The study was conducted by the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 
 

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Virginia Governor Northam, Wife Test Positive for COVID-19

The governor of the eastern U.S. state of Virginia announced Friday that he and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19.
 
Governor Ralph Northam said they were notified Wednesday that a staff member who works in the living quarters of their official residence developed symptoms and subsequently tested positive, after which the couple had their own tests done.
 
He said his wife, Pamela, is experiencing mild symptoms, while he remains asymptomatic.
 
The couple is isolating for 10 days, during which the governor is continuing his work.
 
Crews are also cleaning the governor’s mansion, and the Northams are working with state health officials on contact-tracing efforts to make sure anyone they may have been in contact with is aware of their positive tests.
 
Northam said the best thing people can do is “take this seriously.” 

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Ginsburg is First Woman, Jewish Person to Lie in State at US Capitol

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first woman to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol when her body was moved there Friday morning. After her casket arrived on the plaza outside the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, a private ceremony for her family and invited guests began at the hall, where her casket will rest on the same wooden platform built for the casket of President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination in 1865. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, his wife, Jill, and Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, are attending the tribute.  Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, center, and his wife Jill Biden stand as the flag-draped casket of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in state in Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol, Sept. 25, 2020.The coronavirus outbreak restricted the number of people who were invited to the ceremony. Lawmakers who were not invited to the private ceremony are able to pay their respects before her body is removed later Friday.A statement by the U.S. Supreme Court said Ginsburg, who is also the first Jewish person to lie in state at the Capitol, will be buried next week in a private ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony. Ginsburg has lain in repose for two days at the Supreme Court.President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump pay respects as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg lies in repose at the Supreme Court building, Sept. 24, 2020, in Washington.U.S. President Donald Trump was met with boos and chants of “vote him out” as he and his wife, Melania, appeared Thursday at the Supreme Court to pay their respects to Ginsburg. The president, wearing a face mask, made no remarks as he stood briefly a short distance from Ginsburg’s casket at the top of the court building’s steps. Vice President Mike Pence paid his respects to Ginsburg as she lay in state at the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Ginsburg was honored Wednesday with a private ceremony in the Supreme Court’s Great Hall attended by her family and fellow justices. Her casket was then moved to the front steps for the public to file past and pay their respects until Thursday night. Rosa Parks
Civil rights icon Rosa Parks lay in honor in the Capitol’s historic Rotunda after her death in 2005, a distinction given to eminent private citizens. Ginsburg died last Friday at age 87 of metastatic pancreatic cancer, ending a 27-year tenure on the nation’s highest court. Her status as leader of the court’s liberal minority, along with her pre-jurist work seeking legal equality for women and girls in all spheres of American life, made her a cultural icon, earning her the nickname “The Notorious R.B.G.” Her death has sparked a political battle over her replacement. Trump and Senate Republicans vowed to name and confirm a new justice before the November 3 presidential election, which would give the court a solid 6-3 conservative majority. Trump announced Tuesday that he will name his nominee for the lifetime appointment on Saturday. 

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Louisville Protests for Second Night After Grand Jury Decision in Breonna Taylor Case

Protests erupted for a second night Thursday in Louisville, Kentucky, in the aftermath of a grand jury’s decision not to bring homicide charges against any of the three white police officers who carried out a drug raid that led to the shooting death last March of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was an emergency medical worker.Demonstrators took to Louisville’s downtown streets Thursday night to express their anger and frustration with the grand jury’s decision. Some protesters smashed windows. Police said at least 24 people were arrested.More than 100 protesters took refuge in the First Unitarian Church after the start of a night-time curfew.Earlier Thursday, there were some tense moments when a group of armed white people confronted the protesters, but no shots were fired.Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said at a news conference Thursday, “What do we do with this pain?” The mayor added that there is “no easy answer to that question.”Taylor was killed when police entered her apartment on a “no-knock” drug raid, authorized to allow police to burst into a dwelling without warning to keep evidence from being destroyed.However, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Wednesday that a neighbor of Taylor’s heard police announce their presence before entering Taylor’s apartment and that their entry was not deemed a “no-knock” raid.Cameron said the officers “were justified in their use of force” after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who says he heard no announcement by the police, opened fire at them first when they entered the apartment, thinking they were intruders.No drugs were found in Taylor’s apartment.Attention is being focused on Taylor’s shooting and other cases following the death earlier this year of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Floyd’s death sparked protests around the world about social injustice. 

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US House Democrats Crafting New $2.2 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Package

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are working on a $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package that could be voted on next week, a key lawmaker said Thursday, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reiterated that she is ready to negotiate with the White House.With formal COVID-19 relief talks stalled for nearly seven weeks, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal said new legislative efforts got under way this week after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in congressional testimony that lawmakers needed to provide further support for an economy reeling from the pandemic.”The contours are already there. I think now it’s about time frame and things like that,” Neal told reporters when asked about the potential for new legislation.He predicted a vote could come within days.”I assume, since the House is scheduled to break for the election cycle, then I think next week’s … appropriate,” said Neal, adding that Pelosi would determine when a legislative package might be introduced.House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy dismissed the new initiative as partisan. Pelosi also faces pressure from moderate House Democrats who say they want to see bipartisan aid proposals that have a chance of becoming law.”If it’s a messaging exercise, it’s worthless,” Rep. Dean Phillips, a freshman Democrat from Minnesota, told CNN. He said the effort risked looking like Senate Republicans who had unsuccessfully pushed their own partisan coronavirus aid bill.”Many of us are getting sick of that,” Phillips said.Stocks reacting positively to the announcements from Congress, with the S&P reaching a session high shortly after, before paring some gains.Formal talks between Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows broke down without a deal on August 7, with the two sides far apart. Pelosi and Mnuchin have since spoken by phone.”We’re ready for negotiation,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday, saying she had last spoken to Mnuchin on Wednesday.Pelosi and Schumer, who initially sought a $3.4 trillion relief package, have since scaled back their demands to $2.2 trillion. Neal said a new legislative package would be somewhere near $2.2 trillion. Some media reports said it could be $2.4 trillion.But it was not clear whether the White House would agree to such a sum. Meadows has said that Trump would be willing to sign a $1.3 trillion relief package.Meanwhile, Senate Republicans, who have not been involved directly in the negotiations, initially proposed a $1 trillion bill, which was rejected by many Republicans who thought it too large and by Senate Democrats who said it was too small.Senate Republicans later tried and failed to bring a smaller $300 billion bill to the floor.

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Lawmakers Criticize Changes at US International Broadcasting Networks

U.S. Agency for Global Media CEO Michael Pack is the first presidential appointee to serve in a new position created by Congress to modernize U.S.-funded broadcasting efforts worldwide. Since taking charge in June, the U.S. international broadcasting CEO has drawn bi-partisan criticism for removing agency broadcasting chiefs and initiating a security review that resulted in some foreign Voice of America journalists losing their visas. VOA’s Congressional Correspondent Katherine Gypson reports.
Camera: Adam Greenbaum, Independent support group @VOAJournalists 
Produced by: Katherine Gypson, Victoria Sneden and Tressie Rhodes

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Lawmakers Criticize Trump Administration Changes at US-funded Media Networks

U.S. lawmakers from both parties said Thursday that they feared the Voice of America and other U.S.-funded broadcasters were at risk of losing credibility with foreign audiences because of actions by new CEO Michael Pack.Pack, the first presidential appointee to serve in a new position that Congress created to streamline and modernize U.S.-funded broadcasting efforts, has faced bipartisan criticism for his actions since taking charge in June.Thursday’s hearing was the first time that lawmakers have had the opportunity to publicly examine Pack’s changes at the U.S. Agency for Global Media, the parent agency of VOA, Radio Free Asia, and other U.S.-funded broadcasters.Pack said he had a scheduling conflict and could not attend, despite a subpoena from House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York.”He has shown tremendous disrespect for the committee, our committee, and its role overseeing USAGM. He’s the wrong person for the job. He should resign. And if he doesn’t, the president should fire him,” Engel said.Audience of 350 millionUSAGM’s annual budget of around $800 million funds news programming that each week reaches an estimated 350 million people in 62 languages.Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the committee, said Pack’s decision to not attend “ignored the will of Congress.”McCaul singled out USAGM’s decision to freeze $18 million in funding to the Open Technology Fund (OTF) as a particularly dangerous decision.“I believe his actions damaged support during the height of unrest in Hong Kong. And they are continuing to do so today in Belarus. Their tragic lack of support to freedom and democracy movements is also regrettable,” McCaul said Thursday.FILE – Michael Pack is seen at his confirmation hearing, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 19, 2019. Pack’s nomination to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media was confirmed June 4, 2020.Since arriving at the agency, Pack has fired the heads of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Network; attempted to replace the board of the Open Technology Fund, a group that uses federal grants to promote internet freedom technologies; and has not renewed J-1 visas for international journalists.Review of renewalsUSAGM announced a review of the J-1 renewal process in early July, resulting in work permits expiring for several foreign journalists working in VOA’s language divisions. At least five have left the United States.Witnesses at Thursday’s hearing included Grant Turner, the USAGM chief financial officer placed on administrative leave last month; Amanda Bennett, former VOA director, who resigned two days before Pack joined; Jamie Fly, former Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty president, who was dismissed by the incoming CEO; Karen Kornbluh, chair of the OTF’s board of directors; and Ryan Crocker, a former U.S. ambassador and board member of the OTF.They testified on how changes implemented since June affected the ability of the broadcasting networks to function and risked endangering the editorial firewall that shields the agency’s journalists from political interference in their reporting.FILE – Then-U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Dec. 10, 2011.“I am very worried that the cracks in the firewall are going to just destroy the whole image of USAGM,” said Crocker, who has served as the top U.S. diplomat in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon. “Our reputation for telling the truth has been a core element of our strength as a nation. Now, it is in danger, putting at risk not only our national values, but also our national security.”Witnesses said apparent firewall violations include the request to place editorials on the entities’ homepages; attempts by USAGM to attend editorial meetings on U.S. election coverage; the removal of Steven Springer, VOA’s standards editor; mass firings of agency heads; the nonrenewal of J-1 visas; and Pack’s statements in radio interviews that the agency would be “a great place to put a spy.”Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and witnesses said those comments could endanger agency journalists.’Incredibly dangerous’“It’s incredibly dangerous for the USAGM head to start basically writing a press release that the Kremlin can then turn around and use the next week about USAGM journalists,” Fly said.Turner also raised concerns about damage to the credibility of the network, telling the committee, “Nothing in my 17 years comes even close to the gross mismanagement, the abuse of authority, the violations of law that have occurred since Michael Pack assumed the role of CEO at USAGM.”Pack, a former independent film and television producer and head of a conservative foundation, has defended his actions in interviews and in communications with USAGM staff, saying he wants to protect the agency’s editorial independence and make it more effective in achieving its mission.Pack has also said that government audits revealed serious, yearslong security problems that were left unaddressed by the agency’s previous leaders.In his confirmation hearing last September, Pack pledged to uphold U.S. law mandating VOA’s editorial independence.“The whole agency rests on the belief reporters are independent, that no political influence is telling them how to report the news,” Pack told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.Pack’s two-year confirmation process in the Senate ended up in a partisan battle after Senate Democrats alleged he misused funds for his documentary production company. However, Senate Republicans praised his experience as a filmmaker and former media executive.FILE – Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa, speaks during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing Sept. 16, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.’Poor vetting procedures’On Thursday, Republican Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania defended Pack’s actions, pointing to a recently released Office of Personnel Management (OPM) report that found 40% of the agency’s staff had been improperly vetted over the past 10 years.“The reforms undertaken by Mr. Pack have undergone a significant amount of public scrutiny, as they should,” Perry said. “But USAGM’s poor vetting procedures over those last decades continue to threaten U.S. national security, and it’s entirely the fault of those who mismanaged the process.”Perry also criticized practices by OTF, which he said presented security risks and a misuse of government funds.Kornbluh disputed Perry’s comments.“I believe that the congressman has been misinformed,” she said. “The security claims are just not true.”Kornbluh said the funding freeze had caused OTF to halt 49 of its 60 ongoing internet freedom programs.Several committee members questioned the witnesses about the impact of Pack’s comments about spies within the agency.“Mr. Pack, without evidence, has made libelous claims, really, that were these journalists to go get a job somewhere else in another country, could threaten not only their livelihoods, but their safety,” Democratic Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas said.Who will trust them?“When somebody from the United States government has labeled a journalist a spy, who is going to go trust them in another country? Who is going to go hire them somewhere else? This man has acted incredibly recklessly, and even for that alone, he should be dismissed from his job,” Castro said.Fly made recommendations for ways to rein in the CEO’s powers, suggesting Congress pass new international broadcasting legislation to clarify the roles of the networks and how best to explain U.S. foreign policy to audiences.Lawmakers pledged to continue oversight of U.S. international broadcasting even as Congress deals with a myriad of issues related to the upcoming election and the pandemic.VOA’s Jessica Jerreat contributed to this report.

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Trump Pays Respects to Late Justice Ginsburg

U.S. President Donald Trump was met with boos and chants of “vote him out” as he and his wife, Melania, appeared Thursday at the Supreme Court to pay respects to late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.The president, wearing a face mask, made no remarks as he stood briefly a short distance from Ginsburg’s casket as she lay in repose at the top of the court building’s steps.Ginsburg was honored Wednesday with a private ceremony in the Supreme Court’s Great Hall attended by her family and fellow justices. Her casket was then moved to the front steps for the public to file past and pay their respects until Thursday night.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline.Download File360p | 5 MB480p | 7 MB540p | 9 MB720p | 16 MB1080p | 34 MBOriginal | 44 MB Embed” />Copy Download AudioFriday, there will be another tribute to Ginsburg, as her casket will be taken across the street to the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, where it will rest on the same wooden platform built for the casket of President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination in 1865. Ginsburg will be the first woman to lie in state at the Capitol.Civil rights icon Rosa Parks lay in honor in the Capitol’s historic Rotunda after her death in 2005, a distinction given to eminent private citizens.   A statement by the U.S. Supreme Court said Ginsburg will be buried next week in a private ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony.Chief Justice John Roberts offered the court’s “heartfelt condolences” on the loss of Ginsburg, which he said “is widely shared, but we know that it falls most heavily on the family. Justice Ginsburg’s life was one of the many versions of the American dream.”Ginsburg died last Friday at age 87 of metastatic pancreatic cancer, ending a 27-year tenure on the nation’s highest court. Her status as leader of the court’s liberal minority, along with her pre-jurist work seeking legal equality for women and girls in all spheres of American, made her a cultural icon, earning her the nickname “The Notorious R.B.G.”Her death has sparked a political battle over her replacement. Trump and Senate Republicans vowed to name and confirm a new justice before the Nov. 3 presidential election, which would give the court a solid 6-3 conservative majority. Trump announced Tuesday that he will name his nominee for the lifetime appointment on Saturday.

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Bipartisan Backlash Confronts Trump’s Hedge on Committing to Peaceful Transfer of Power

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany sought Thursday to quell a bipartisan backlash after President Donald Trump hedged on committing to a peaceful transfer of power after the November 3 election.  “The president will accept the results of a free and fair election,” she told reporters when asked about the president’s comment the previous evening in the same briefing room. “He will accept the will of the American people.”  McEnany then stated that Democrats should be asked the same question and she reiterated Trump “wants to get rid of mass mail-out voting.”   White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a news conference at the White House, Sept. 24, 2020.”We’re going to have to see what happens,” said the president in response to a reporter’s question during a White House news conference late Wednesday. ”I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster.”   Trump, without evidence, has repeatedly predicted massive fraud with tens of millions of mail-in ballots, which Democrats have encouraged amid the coronavirus pandemic.    “We want to have — get rid of the ballots,” continued the president, explaining if that happens “there won’t be a transfer, frankly; there’ll be a continuation.”   Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill, Sept. 24, 2020.Senator Bernie Sanders, in a speech, said Trump “is prepared to undermine American democracy in order to stay in power.”  Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 and 2020, said, “the American people, no matter what their political persuasion, must make it clear that American democracy will not be destroyed.”   Biden also responded to Trump’s remarks late Wednesday. “What country are we in? I’m being facetious,” said the former vice president. “I said what country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don’t know what to say.”  FILE – Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden departs after voting early in Delaware’s state primary election at the New Castle County Board of Elections office, in Wilmington, Delaware, Sept. 14, 2020.One of the country’s oldest constitutional rights groups also weighed in.   “The peaceful transfer of power is essential to a functioning democracy. This statement from the president of the United States should trouble every American,” said David Cole, the national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.   Supreme CourtEarlier Wednesday, Trump said he thinks the November election “will end up in the Supreme Court and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.”  The president plans to announce on Saturday his Supreme Court nominee to fill the seat of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who died this past Friday.   If the Senate confirms the president’s nominee before the election, that would give the conservative wing a 6-3 majority on the court.  “This scam that the Democrats are pulling, it’s a scam, the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court, and I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation,” Trump said.  Mail-in ballotsThe president has repeatedly expressed concern about plans by a number of states, including California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington, to automatically dispatch mail-in ballots to all state residents for the election.  Benjamin Ginsberg, a top election lawyer who has represented four Republican presidential candidates, has been quoted this month saying Trump’s prediction of fraud with such ballots lacks evidence.   “The president’s words make his and the Republican Party’s rhetoric look less like sincere concern — and more like transactional hypocrisy designed to provide an electoral advantage,” Ginsberg wrote in a Washington Post opinion article. “And they come as Republicans trying to make their cases in courts must deal with the basic truth that four decades of dedicated investigation have produced only isolated incidents of election fraud.”   VOA’s Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report from Wilmington, Delaware. 

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US Unemployment Benefit Claims Remain High

The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that 870,000 workers filed for unemployment compensation last week, a slight increase from the week before and another sign that the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to impede the American economic recovery.Millions of workers remain unemployed in the United States, with the jobless rate at 8.6% in mid-September, and economists saying the figure could remain elevated for months. Only about half of the 22 million U.S. jobs lost in the coronavirus pandemic has been recovered, with the world’s biggest economy adding 1.4 million jobs in August.Weekly initial claims for jobless benefits seemed to have stabilized somewhat below 900,000 in recent weeks. Last week’s 870,000 figure was up 4,000 from the revised level of the week before.The recent weekly claims figures are well below the 6.9 million record number of claims filed in late March as the coronavirus swept into the United States but remain above the highest level before this year in records going back to the 1960s.U.S. employers have called back millions of workers who were laid off during mandatory business shutdowns earlier this year, yet some hard-hit businesses have been slow to ramp up their operations again or closed permanently, leaving workers idled or searching for new employment.During the worst of the pandemic, the U.S. unemployment rate topped out at 14.7% in April.With six weeks to go before the November 3 presidential and congressional elections, President Donald Trump and Republican and Democratic lawmakers in politically fractious Washington have been unable to reach an agreement on extending federal unemployment benefits and how much should be paid.Until the end of July, the national government sent an extra $600 a week to unemployed workers on top of less generous state jobless benefits. The Republican-controlled Senate two weeks ago tried to win approval of $300-a-week payments through the end of the year, but Democrats blocked the proposal as too small and continued to call for resumption of the $600 weekly payments.The rejected Republican coronavirus relief package would have cost between $500 billion and $700 billion, on top of the $3 trillion approved months ago at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.Trump has urged his Republican colleagues in Congress to approve more spending in another coronavirus aid deal. A week ago, he said on Twitter, “Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!).”The top two congressional Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, praised Trump’s stance.“We look forward to hearing from the president’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway with a bill that is equal to the massive health and economic crises gripping our nation,” Pelosi and Schumer said.But no deal has been reached as the country’s world-leading coronavirus death toll topped 200,000 this week.Democrats have called for a $2.2 trillion relief package, but possibly could settle for less than that. Whatever figure, if any, is agreed on is likely to come soon. Lawmakers want to leave Washington to return to their home states for a month of campaigning for re-election ahead of the elections.As the first round of unemployment payments expired in July, Trump signed an executive order calling for $400 a week in extra payments for a few weeks. But not all states delivered the reduced payments to jobless workers, and now that money is running out.While the U.S. has been adding more jobs in recent months, the pace of the recovery has seemed to slow. The 1.4 million jobs added in August included the Census Bureau’s temporary hiring of about 240,000 workers to help conduct the once-a-decade count of the U.S. population. 

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US Unemployment Benefit Claims Remain High

The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that 870,000 workers filed for unemployment compensation last week, a slight increase from the week before and another sign that the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to impede the American economic recovery.Millions of workers remain unemployed in the United States, with the jobless rate at 8.6% in mid-September, and economists saying the figure could remain elevated for months. Only about half of the 22 million U.S. jobs lost in the coronavirus pandemic has been recovered, with the world’s biggest economy adding 1.4 million jobs in August.Weekly initial claims for jobless benefits seemed to have stabilized somewhat below 900,000 in recent weeks. Last week’s 870,000 figure was up 4,000 from the revised level of the week before.The recent weekly claims figures are well below the 6.9 million record number of claims filed in late March as the coronavirus swept into the United States but remain above the highest level before this year in records going back to the 1960s.U.S. employers have called back millions of workers who were laid off during mandatory business shutdowns earlier this year, yet some hard-hit businesses have been slow to ramp up their operations again or closed permanently, leaving workers idled or searching for new employment.During the worst of the pandemic, the U.S. unemployment rate topped out at 14.7% in April.With six weeks to go before the November 3 presidential and congressional elections, President Donald Trump and Republican and Democratic lawmakers in politically fractious Washington have been unable to reach an agreement on extending federal unemployment benefits and how much should be paid.Until the end of July, the national government sent an extra $600 a week to unemployed workers on top of less generous state jobless benefits. The Republican-controlled Senate two weeks ago tried to win approval of $300-a-week payments through the end of the year, but Democrats blocked the proposal as too small and continued to call for resumption of the $600 weekly payments.The rejected Republican coronavirus relief package would have cost between $500 billion and $700 billion, on top of the $3 trillion approved months ago at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.Trump has urged his Republican colleagues in Congress to approve more spending in another coronavirus aid deal. A week ago, he said on Twitter, “Go for the much higher numbers, Republicans, it all comes back to the USA anyway (one way or another!).”The top two congressional Democrats, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, praised Trump’s stance.“We look forward to hearing from the president’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway with a bill that is equal to the massive health and economic crises gripping our nation,” Pelosi and Schumer said.But no deal has been reached as the country’s world-leading coronavirus death toll topped 200,000 this week.Democrats have called for a $2.2 trillion relief package, but possibly could settle for less than that. Whatever figure, if any, is agreed on is likely to come soon. Lawmakers want to leave Washington to return to their home states for a month of campaigning for re-election ahead of the elections.As the first round of unemployment payments expired in July, Trump signed an executive order calling for $400 a week in extra payments for a few weeks. But not all states delivered the reduced payments to jobless workers, and now that money is running out.While the U.S. has been adding more jobs in recent months, the pace of the recovery has seemed to slow. The 1.4 million jobs added in August included the Census Bureau’s temporary hiring of about 240,000 workers to help conduct the once-a-decade count of the U.S. population. 

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