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Yellen is preparing big changes for the Treasury

WASHINGTON – Two years ago, Janet L. Yellen co-signed a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urging her not to go ahead with plans to ease oversight of large financial firms, warning that this could threaten the stability of the US financial system.

Ms. Yellen’s plea, who was joined by Ben Bernanke, another former Fed chairman, and former Treasury secretaries Jacob J. Lew and Timothy F. Geithner, has gone unheeded. Under Mr. Mnuchin’s leadership, the Financial Stability Supervisory Board continued its plans to stop labeling large non-bank financial institutions like insurers and asset managers as a threat to the financial system, destroying a key pillar of the post-financial crisis regulatory era. .

Now Ms Yellen, who was appointed by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. as Secretary of the Treasury, is set to roll back some of the Trump administration’s regulatory cuts if she gets Senate confirmation. .

Her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday is expected to focus largely on Ms. Yellen’s plans to revive an economy plagued by a pandemic. But she will also be under pressure to show Democrats and progressive groups that she is ready to end what they see as Mr Mnuchin’s darling on Wall Street.

In recent weeks, Ms Yellen and Wally Adeyemo, Mr Biden’s candidate for Deputy Treasury Secretary, have taken a virtual listening tour of industry groups in Washington. According to people who attended these sessions, both emphasized the need to create “equitable growth”, using the tools of the Treasury Department to tackle climate change and rebuild regulatory institutions like the FSOC.

“The focus is on workers, racial justice and inequality, and that’s a good place to start,” said Lisa Donner, executive director of Americans for Financial Reform, an advocacy group that met Ms. Yellen this month. “But reversing the things the current Treasury Department has done is not enough.”

Americans for Financial Reform, a left-wing organization that has spent the past four years largely shut out of the Treasury Department, wants Ms Yellen to give new direction to the FSOC, which has the power to subject large financial firms to greater scrutiny. strict. . It was created by the Dodd Frank Act of 2010 to prevent a repeat of what happened on the eve of the financial crisis, when companies like insurance giant AIG made risky bets out of reach. regulators and then had to be bailed out by taxpayers. .

Its power was defeated under the Trump administration, which freed AIG and three other financial firms from tighter scrutiny.

Americans for Financial Reform urged Ms Yellen and transition officials to harness the power of the FSOC to designate climate change as a “systemic risk” and create tools to limit the leverage of hedge funds, which are only lightly regulated.

Ms. Yellen probably has a new regulatory approach in mind. She called last year for a “new Dodd-Frank,” arguing at a Brookings Institution event that existing laws were insufficient to deal with the “shadow” banking problems that emerged when the pandemic hit. caused serious market unrest.

The former Fed chairman has also shown that she is prepared to punish banks for wrongdoing when warranted. In 2018, on Ms Yellen’s last day of work, the Fed asked Wells Fargo to replace four members of its 16-person board for failing to properly oversee the bank amid a fraud scandal.

But Ms Yellen’s experience at the Federal Reserve and her understanding of the banking system have allayed the concerns of some in the financial industry who might otherwise be wary that a new Democratic administration will quickly roll out onerous new rules. In meetings with financial services groups, Yellen said helping to shape and oversee the Biden administration’s economic relief efforts would initially be her top priority.

“She knows the banking system very well; she knows the strength and role of big banks, including the positive role they played over the past year, ”said Kevin Fromer, Managing Director of the Financial Services Forum, a lobby group that also met with Ms. Yellen. month.

Ms Yellen will have to recuse herself from treasury cases involving certain financial institutions following an ethics deal she signed during the disclosure of paid speeches she gave to large corporations and Wall Street banks Since leaving the Federal Reserve in a 2018 disclosure, which was released on New Years Eve, Ms. Yellen has earned more than $ 7 million in speech fees from companies such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Citadel.

Jeff Hauser, the revolving door project manager, called on Ms Yellen to publish the content of her speeches. But he said they were less troubling than some of the advisory work Mr. Biden’s other candidates have done in recent years for companies like Blackstone, a giant asset manager led by Stephen Schwarzman, and the company. Palantir data mining.

Biden’s transition team declined to release videos or transcripts of the speeches, noting they typically participate in unscripted discussions about the economy.

“Yellen did not make any prepared remarks during his speeches; most were casual conversations where she answered questions from a moderator and some were reporters, ”said Sean Savett, a spokesperson for Biden’s transition. “She has already signed ethics agreements governing her relationship with these entities and will of course comply with all appropriate challenges.”

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee might ask Ms Yellen about speaking fees, but Democrats are unlikely to press her on the issue.

“This is the worst economic crisis in 100 years, and no one is better qualified than Secretary-designate Yellen to lead an economic recovery,” said Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who will become chairman of the committee. finances when Democrats take control of the Senate. “She deserves a lot of the credit for the longest economic expansion in our history, which lasted until the pandemic struck.”

The confirmation process should be relatively smooth. Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, currently the Republican Chairman of the Finance Committee, has spoken positively about Ms Yellen since Mr Biden selected her for the job.

Mr. Grassley said Friday that he had spoken to Ms Yellen and told her he had stressed the importance of cooperation with congressional oversight, and also expressed concern that tax increases and tighter regulations would slow the recovery economic.

In 2014, the Senate confirmed Ms. Yellen as President of the Fed by 56 votes to 26.

While Ms. Yellen, an economist by training, has an in-depth knowledge of monetary policy, the Treasury Department’s portfolio is vast. She will likely be faced with questions about America’s economic relationship with China, her stance on sanctions policy with respect to Iran, and her thoughts on fiscal policy. She might even be faced with questions about the thorny topics the Treasury deals with, like whether Harriet Tubman should be the face of the $ 20 bill, an Obama administration initiative that Mr. Mnuchin ditched.

Prior to Ms. Yellen’s hearing, several groups indicated that they were excited about a change in tone and staffing at the Treasury. Mr. Mnuchin managed the department with a small staff and was very receptive to executives from large banks and corporations.

Luz Urrutia, managing director of the Accion Opportunity Fund and the Opportunity Fund, said she left hopeful after meeting with Ms. Yellen last month about community development finance institutions. The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to cut funding for grant programs from the CDFI Fund, which the Treasury oversees. Ms. Yellen told the group that she wanted to expand the lending capacity of CDFIs so that they can better serve minority communities.

“They didn’t think CDFIs provided the level of impact and the capacity to serve these communities,” Ms. Urrutia said of the Trump administration. “This is a glaring difference between Yellen and the current administration.”

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Kamala Harris will make history. It will be the same for his big blended family.

“It’s striking,” said Ralph Richard Banks, a Stanford law professor who has written on race, gender, and family patterns. “In a way, they are on the border with different aspects of American families and their evolution.”

Some might say they reflect the current situation of Americans. Today, the number of couples who are in an interracial marriage is about one in six, a figure that, along with the number of interfaith marriages, has been increasing since 1967, according to Pew.

Ms Harris, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, was brought up with Christian and Hindu practices, while her husband, who is white, grew up attending a Jewish summer camp. (At their wedding, Ms. Harris took part in the Jewish ritual of breaking a glass.)

She was in her forties when they got married; older than the median age of first marriage for women in this country, although the number continues to rise.

Mr Emhoff divorced, with two children from his previous marriage, making his children one in four who do not live with both biological parents, according to the Census Bureau. Mrs. Harris had no children. Many Americans don’t because fertility rates have hit an all-time high. She often said that being “Momala” to her stepchildren was the role “that mattered most” to her.

“People have more choices,” said Professor Banks. “It’s a societal change, but it’s often not as visible in positions of power.”

In her acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention in August, Ms Harris spoke about her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, an immigrant who came to California as a teenager with dreams of becoming a cancer researcher, and raised Kamala and her sister, Maya, after divorce from her and their father. For most of Ms. Harris’ life, it was the three of them. When Maya got pregnant at 17 with her daughter, Meena, she became four.

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Big promises made by Biden

Biden asks Americans to “imagine a future” beyond the virus, pushing a $ 1.9 trillion plan to promote jobs and prosperity. It’s Friday, and here is your political advice sheet. register here to get On Politics delivered to your inbox every day of the week.

Amid heavy safety precautions, workers have placed banners for next week’s inauguration in front of the White House.

Jaime Harrison raised more money than any Senate candidate in history when he challenged Senator Lindsey Graham in South Carolina last fall.

Now, after losing this race by more than 10 percentage points, he is going to be responsible for telling his whole party how to spend his political money.

Like my colleague Jonathan martin and I reported yesterday, Harrison is Joe Biden’s choice to lead the Democratic National Committee. Typically, when Democrats hold the White House, the committee relies on the president on party leadership. So it’s likely that Harrison won’t face any competition for the job. The Biden team has also announced high-profile alternates as vice presidents, including Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Representative Filemon Vela of Texas and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms of Atlanta.

Former state party president Harrison was defended by dozens of leaders on the committee who would like to see the organization continue to invest in local political infrastructure. And after building a national profile during his run, the former Senate candidate comes to work with a built-in foundation for fundraising and media attention.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Harrison will be tasked with helping navigate deeply uncertain political terrain and deciding the party’s message ahead of what is generally expected to be a tough midterm election. Already, fighting is brewing within the party between those who would like Biden to get his message of unifying the country across and a more liberal wing that wants the new administration to hold President Trump and his allies accountable for any misdeeds in power.

Additionally, Harrison will face a simmering battle over the party’s main nominating calendar. Some Democrats would like to see Iowa and New Hampshire – states with predominantly white and older voters – lose their touted status at the start of the primary calendar. Others would like to eliminate caucuses, the complicated nomination processes used in Iowa and Nevada.

This fight will likely strike close to home for Harrison: his home state – South Carolina – votes fourth.

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Millions of people flock to telegrams and signals as fears grow over big tech

Neeraj Agrawal, spokesperson for a cryptocurrency think tank, typically used the Signal crypto messaging app to chat with privacy-conscious colleagues and peers. He was therefore surprised on Monday when the application alerted him to two new users: mom and dad.

“Signal still had a subversive luster,” said Mr. Agrawal, 32. “Now my parents are on it.”

On Telegram, another encrypted messaging app, Gavin McInnes, founder of far-right group Proud Boys, had just announced his return. “Dude, I haven’t posted here in a while,” he wrote on Sunday. “I will post regularly.”

And on Twitter, Elon Musk, the billionaire entrepreneur, also weighed in last week with a two-word endorsement: “Use Signal.”

Over the past week, tens of millions of people have downloaded Signal and Telegram, making them the two most popular apps in the world. Signal allows messages to be sent with “end-to-end encryption,” which means that no one other than the sender and recipient can read its content. Telegram offers some encrypted messaging options, but is widely popular for its group chat rooms where people can discuss a variety of topics.

Their sudden surge in popularity was spurred by a series of events last week that stoked growing anxiety over some of the big tech companies and their communications apps, like WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook. Tech companies including Facebook and Twitter deleted thousands of far-right accounts – including President Trump’s – after the Capitol storm was stormed. Amazon, Apple and Google have also discontinued support for Parler, a social network popular with Trump fans. In response, the Conservatives searched for new applications where they could communicate.

At the same time, privacy concerns have grown over WhatsApp, which last week reminded users in a pop-up notification that it shares some of their data with its parent company. The notification sparked a wave of anxiety, fueled by viral channel messages falsely claiming that Facebook could read WhatsApp messages.

The result has been a massive migration which, if it lasts, could weaken the power of Facebook and other big tech companies. Telegram said on Tuesday it had added more than 25 million users in the previous three days, bringing it to over 500 million users. Signal added nearly 1.3 million users on Monday alone, after averaging just 50,000 downloads a day last year, according to estimates from Apptopia, an app data company.

“We’ve had peak downloads before,” Pavel Durov, Telegram chief executive, said in a post on the app on Tuesday. “But this time it’s different.”

Carl Woog, a spokesperson for WhatsApp, said users’ privacy settings had not changed and the rumors about the data being shared were largely unfounded.

“What does not change is that private messages to friends and family, including group chats, will be protected with end-to-end encryption so that we cannot see them,” he said. -he declares.

The rise of Telegram and Signal could ignite the debate over encryption, which helps protect the privacy of people’s digital communications, but can cripple authorities in criminal investigations because conversations are hidden.

Any move to apps by far-right groups in particular has worried US officials, some of whom are trying to follow the planning of what could turn out to be violent rallies on or before the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

“The proliferation of crypto platforms, where law enforcement cannot even monitor rhetoric, allows groups with bad intentions to plan behind the curtain,” said Louis Grever, head of the Association of national criminal investigation agencies.

Telegram has been particularly popular with those on the far right as it mimics social media. So after Facebook and Twitter limited Mr. Trump to their services last week and other companies began withdrawing support for Parler, far-right groups on Parler and other fringe social networks posted. links to new Telegram channels and urged people to join them.

Within four hours of Talking Monday going offline, a group of Proud Boys on Telegram gained over 4,000 new subscribers.

“Don’t trust the Big Tech,” read a post on a Proud Boys group on Speak. “We will have to find safer spaces.”

On Signal, a Florida-based militia said Monday it was holding its city-by-city small-group talks limited to a few dozen people each, according to messages seen by The New York Times. They warned not to let in anyone they did not know personally, to prevent the police from spying on their conversations.

The flow of users from Dubai-based Telegram and Silicon Valley-based Signal goes well beyond the American far right. Mr Durov said that 94% of the 25 million new Telegram users are from Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa. Apptopia data showed that while the United States was the # 1 source for new Signal users, downloads of both apps have increased in India, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere.

Fears over WhatsApp’s privacy policies have boosted the popularity of Telegram and Signal. While there hasn’t been a significant change in the way WhatsApp treats user data, people immediately interpreted the app’s privacy notice last week to mean that it was infiltrating all kinds of things. personal information – like personal chat logs and voice calls – and shared that data with businesses.

WhatsApp was quick to say people got it wrong and couldn’t see anything inside the encrypted conversations and calls. But it was too late.

“The whole world now seems to understand that Facebook doesn’t create apps for them, Facebook builds apps for their data,” said Moxie Marlinspike, Founder and CEO of Signal. “It took that little catalyst to push everyone past the change.”

The fervor was such that on Tuesday Moses Tsali, a rapper from Los Angeles, released a music video for his song, “Hit Me On Signal”. And Mr. Musk’s endorsement of Signal last week sent publicly traded shares of Signal Advance Inc., a small medical device maker, from a market value of around $ 50 million to over $ 3 million. billions of dollars. (The company has no connection with the messaging app.)

Some world leaders have also urged people to join them on the apps. On Sunday, the Twitter account of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico spoke about his new group on Telegram. As of Wednesday, it numbered nearly 100,000 members.

Eli Sapir, chief executive of Apptopia, said that while people’s concerns about Facebook’s data collection are correct, WhatsApp actually uses more secure encryption than Telegram. “It’s like going from something high in sugar to corn syrup,” he said, adding that Signal was the safest of the three.

Meyi Alabi, 18, a student in Ibadan, Nigeria, said she was surprised this week when her mother invited her to join Signal. Her mother had downloaded the app at the request of a friend worried about WhatsApp.

“I was in shock because she had it before me,” she says. “We usually talk to our parents about new apps. Now, all of a sudden, we’re the ones informed.

Mr. Agrawal, the cryptocurrency worker, said his parents have long been active in several WhatsApp group chats with college friends and relatives in India. He said they told him they joined Signal to follow many of these threads moving there as some of the attendees were concerned about WhatsApp’s new policy.

He said he knew the dangers of WhatsApp politics were exaggerated, but a large part of the public does not understand how their data is handled.

“They hear these key things – data sharing, Facebook, privacy,” Mr. Agrawal said, “and that’s enough for them to say, I have to get rid of it.”

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David Cicilline: the head of impeachment has already embarked on big technology

WASHINGTON – Having previously worked as a member of the House Judiciary Committee to investigate President Trump during the first House Democrats impeachment effort in 2019, Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island is set to play a role most importantly as the person responsible for the impeachment in the second of Mr. Trump. trial.

Mr. Cicilline has been a member of the Judicial Committee since 2014 and, in this context, headed the subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. In his work on antitrust law, in particular, he oversaw what experts have described as one of the most ambitious campaigns against some of the country’s most powerful tech companies, including Amazon, Google and Facebook – companies that have since been criticized by top lawmakers. of both parties.

Prior to joining Congress, Mr. Cicilline worked as a public defender in Washington and served two terms as mayor of Providence, RI

Stepping into a position of leadership, Mr Cicillin was an author of the impeachment article which the House picked up on Wednesday in conjunction with Representatives Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Ted Lieu of California, who are also responsible for the impeachment.

“As lawmakers who have impeached this president once before, we do not take this responsibility lightly,” Cicillin wrote in a New York Times article on Monday.

Like others who have been called upon to serve as managers in the impeachment process this week, Mr. Cicillin has helped oversee investigations by the president and his advisers in the past, including inquiries into possible violations of the campaign funding arising from payments made by the Trump campaign. to two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

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Finally at the top of the powerful budget committee, Bernie Sanders wants to go big

Shortly before the 2016 election, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, Republican running mate and Speaker of the House, explained to a group of college Republicans why he believed Democrats would gain control of the Senate. would be a political nightmare.

“Do you know who becomes chairman of the Senate Budget Committee?” Asked Mr. Ryan. “A guy named Bernie Sanders. Have you ever heard of him?

Republicans have long feared that Mr. Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic socialist from Vermont, will take the head of the powerful committee given his support for larger government and more federal spending with borrowed money. With the Democrats winning back the Senate, this fear is about to become a reality. Mr Sanders, the most progressive member of the chamber, will have a central role in shaping and directing the tax and spending plans of Democrats through a Congress they control with the smallest margin.

Mr Sanders, an independent who is Caucasian with Democrats and twice ran unsuccessfully for the party’s presidential nomination, said he would act quickly in his new role to push through a robust and funded economic stimulus package by the deficit soon after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office.

“I think the crisis is enormously serious and that we need to act as quickly as possible,” Sanders said in an interview.

“Underline the word aggressive,” he says. “Start there.”

Despite Democrats’ tight control over the Senate, Mr Sanders is expected to wield strong influence over taxes, health care, climate change and several other national issues. That’s because his role as budget chairman will give him control over a little-known but incredibly powerful tool of Congress that allows certain types of legislation to gain Senate approval with a simple simple majority.

This tool – a budget mechanism called reconciliation – allows Congress to propose legislation without getting 60 votes. It has become the vehicle for several major legislative efforts during this century, including tax cuts under President Trump and President George W. Bush, and the final version of President Barack Obama’s signature bill on Health care.

The reconciliation process begins with lawmakers passing a budget resolution, from House and Senate budget committees, which may include instructions to congressional committees on how much to increase federal spending or taxes.

The nature of the process does give Mr Sanders a leading role in deciding the scale – and cost – of Mr Biden’s ambitions for new taxes and spending.

Mr Sanders said in the interview that he wanted an emergency first stimulus package to be “big”. He believes this must include an additional $ 1,400 in direct payments for adults and children, on top of the $ 600 that Congress just passed, as well as money for states and cities to fund distribution, testing and contact tracing of coronavirus vaccines. He also wants to create a universal emergency health care program, so that everyone can benefit from medical treatment during the pandemic, whether they are currently insured or not.

Mr Sanders said he had spoken with Mr Biden about the extent and timing of the stimulus legislation. He said he had no intention of trying to force his long-held priorities, such as “Medicare for all,” into a relief bill. However, he intends to test the legal limits of how reconciliation can be used so that Democrats can adopt policies that go beyond traditional budget lines and tackle “structural problems in American society.” “.

Neither Mr. Sanders nor Mr. Biden have specified the exact size of the next stimulus bill, although the president-elect is expected to outline his economic plan on Thursday. Mr Sanders said the legislation, which could cost more than $ 1 trillion, should seek to increase incomes in “a gradual fashion,” suggesting he would push to include tax increases on the rich and on the poor. companies. According to Senate procedure, details of any tax increase would come from the Finance Committee and would be led by a liberal Democrat, Ron Wyden of Oregon, who also vowed to act aggressively on the stimulus and the increased taxes for businesses and the wealthy.

“You have to start with the proposition that everyone should pay their fair share.” Mr Wyden said in an interview.

Mr Biden’s aides say they will work closely with Mr Sanders and the other committee heads who will draft the bill to incorporate Mr Biden’s political dreams into the law. But it will require negotiations and compromises. Mr. Sanders’ presidential campaign proposals eclipsed those of Mr. Biden in terms of cost and scope. Mr Biden clearly does not support Medicare for All and, in setting his priorities for the next stimulus, he failed to highlight the temporary expansion in health care coverage that Mr Sanders is promoting.

As a sign of how far their alliance has come, however, Mr Biden said last week that he almost called on Mr Sanders to be his Secretary of Labor, although he decided not to. because it would have risked losing Mr Sanders’ seat – and control of the Senate – in a special election.

The more moderate Senate Democrats could also pose a challenge given the party’s slim majority. Some Democrats oppose several of the spending programs Mr. Biden has proposed, as well as several that Mr. Sanders supports. Even what appeared to be unifying policies could face obstacles. Last week, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III, the most conservative Democrat in the chamber, signaled that an additional $ 1,400 per person in direct payments would not be a priority for him in a stimulus bill, although that he did not rule out voting for extended payments.

Mr Sanders said he plans to work cooperatively with Mr Biden and Democratic Senate leaders, leaving his fight for Medicare for All to his job on the health committee. He said he was convinced that his reconciliation legislation “will have strong support among Democrats”.

Harry Reid, former Democratic majority leader in the Senate, said Mr Sanders was not as ideological in his committee work as he might appear during his presidential campaigns. Mr Reid picked Mr Sanders as a prominent member of the Budget Committee in 2014 and fended off some criticism from fellow Democrats who feared Mr Sanders was a problematic choice because he was a democratic socialist.

“Even though he is someone known as a true progressive socialist, he has never been a problem for my caucus,” Mr. Reid said in an interview. “He didn’t try to be a rebel.”

Mr Sanders will have tricky issues to deal with, such as confirmation of Neera Tanden, the selection of Mr Biden to be director of the Bureau of Management and Budget. Ms Tanden was one of the main aides of Hillary Clinton, who beat Mr Sanders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, a victory that still occupies many progressive supporters of Mr Sanders. Ms Tanden and Mr Sanders have clashed since that election, with Mr Sanders accusing Ms Tanden in 2019 of ‘slandering my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas’ after ThinkProgress, an independent editorial arm of Ms Tanden’s think tank, criticized Mr Sanders for the size of his book-writing income.

“I’m not worried about Neera right now,” Sanders said, adding that his top priority would be the stimulus.

To guard against the possibility of Democratic defections, Mr Sanders may also need to woo some Republicans, even after their party made his potential presidency a point of attack in the recent election.

The leading Republican on the committee will likely be Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who promised on Twitter in October that if his party won the Senate, then he, and not “Socialist Bernie Sanders”, would head the Budget Committee.

Grover Norquist, the Conservative activist and President of the Americans for Tax Reform, said having Sanders as the head of the committee would only exacerbate the rapidly growing federal deficit.

“He doesn’t have a sense of discipline in terms of total budget numbers, so the limit is heavenly as far as he is concerned,” Mr. Norquist said. “Gravity will be towards more, more, more, with no resting place.”

When asked about the Conservatives’ fears, Mr. Sanders was singled out. He said polls showed the tax and spending hikes he planned to propose were popular among large swathes of voters, including Republicans, although party lawmakers tended to dislike them. .

“They should be worried,” he said, referring to his fellow Republicans. But their constituents, he said, shouldn’t be.

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Big Tech Firms Join List of Top Biden Donors

Big tech companies like Google and Microsoft, as well as telecom giants like Comcast and Verizon, are among the nearly 1,000 people and groups who have donated at least $ 200 to the committee organizing President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. groundbreaking celebration this month.

The donor list, released Saturday night by the committee, was mostly filled with individual donors, including major Democrats donors such as Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons; Richard C. Blum, the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein of California; and Donald Sussman, a hedge fund mogul.

The inaugural committee did not list any amounts these 959 donors had given as of December 31, the end of the period covered by the voluntary disclosure.

Actual donor amounts may not be known until 90 days after the inauguration, when the committee will be required by law to disclose the names and amounts of all donations over $ 200. There is no legal limit on how much a donor can give to an inaugural committee, but Mr. Biden’s committee has voluntarily limited contributions from individuals to $ 500,000 and businesses to $ 1 million.

Many of the big companies that traditionally make big contributions to groundbreaking events are missing. Some have explained that they are not going to donate given that the event will be largely virtual due to the pandemic. Others said they were focusing their donations on helping those affected by the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus.

But the tech and telecommunications industries, a major source of cash for Mr. Biden’s campaign and the groups that support it, are well represented on the list, with donations also coming from Qualcomm, a semiconductor company. and California-based software, and Charter Communications, a cable company.

Google was included on the list because it provided free online security protections to the inaugural committee, said José Castañeda, a spokesperson for Google.

Other corporate donations came from Enterprise Holdings’ political action committee, which is associated with the company that owns the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands.

Healthcare companies are also high on the list, including Anthem Inc., the health insurance giant, MedPoint Management, which provides management services to physician groups, and Masimo Corporation, a maker of electronic patient monitoring devices.

Boeing Company, the aerospace and military subcontracting giant, is also among the donors.

The Biden team has banned donations from the oil, gas and coal industries and registered lobbyists.

Unions including the American Federation of Teachers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union have made contributions.

There was also a sprinkle of celebrities on the list – as was the case with Mr. Biden’s presidential campaign – including Barbra Streisand.

A spokesperson for the inauguration declined to comment when asked on Saturday how much Mr. Biden’s committee had raised in total.

The fundraising effort is likely to pale from the record $ 107 million Mr. Trump raised four years ago for his inauguration, with donations of up to $ 5 million from big supporters like Sheldon G. Adelson, a casino executive and major Republican Donor.

Mr Biden urged his supporters not to travel to Washington for the inauguration on January 20, as outside of the swearing-in ceremony there will be few large-scale in-person events.

Details on the inauguration schedule have still not been released, and planning for the event was also affected by the storming of Capitol Hill Wednesday by Trump supporters in an outbreak of violence that sparked concerns about security around the swearing-in ceremony.

Organizers said the inaugural festivities would include a ‘virtual concert’ with renowned artists, a ceremony to remember those killed by the coronavirus and a virtual event similar to the elaborate roll call held at the National Committee. Democrat last year, which included short videos from all 57 states and territories.

But the groundbreaking committee always tried to attract big donations by offering a range of unusual perks. Companies contributing $ 1 million and individuals contributing $ 500,000 will receive an invitation to a virtual event with Mr. Biden and Jill Biden, the future first lady, along with a photo, as well as a similar event with the vice -President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff.

The fundraising effort continues, with the committee sending out a canvass to donors on Saturday night shortly after releasing the preliminary list of donors.

“Our team is creating a new style of opening that incorporates traditional elements into creative programming and local events across the country – that’s why we’re contacting today,” the email read. fundraising event, which was aimed at recipients in different parts. from the country.

The committee, according to the email, wants to “ensure that we have strong representation across the country as part of our local donor inauguration program.”

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A big night for the Democrats

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The Democratic Party’s victory in 2020 has become much bigger.

And Joe Biden’s chances of signing ambitious legislation – to tackle climate change, reduce economic inequality and slow the coronavirus pandemic – have also increased significantly.

Democrats appear to have won both Senate rounds in Georgia last night, giving them control of the Senate. Reverend Raphael Warnock beat Sen. Kelly Loeffler by about 2 percentage points, the Times estimated. Most news organizations have yet to call the race between Jon Ossoff and Senator David Perdue, but Ossoff leads by around 16,000 votes and the outstanding votes come from Democratic-leaning regions.

Nate Cohn of The Times, who analyzes election results, said he believed Osoff would likely end up with a lead of more than 0.5 percentage point – large enough to avoid a recount. David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report wrote that he considered both races to be over.

The apparent victories will give Democrats control of the White House and both houses of Congress for the first time in 10 years.

Certainly their control of the Senate will be by the narrowest of margins – a 50-50 tie, broken by incoming Vice President Kamala Harris. This narrowness will mean Democrats will rarely be able to get over a filibuster and will often depend on their more moderate senators, like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

But a majority in the Senate will always make a profound difference to the Biden administration. He will be able to pass money bills and confirm judges (none of whom tend to be vulnerable to filibusters) as long as Democrats stay united.

Mitch McConnell will no longer be the Senate Majority Leader, with the power to decide which bills will be voted on. Chuck Schumer will be in charge, for the first time.

Much of the economic agenda proposed by Biden during the campaign is now in play. And it was a boldly progressive agenda, including plans to cut medical costs, expand medicare, create manufacturing jobs and promote clean energy, as well as to raise taxes for the rich. Many of these policies – along with measures to speed up a mass vaccination program and increase economic recovery – can be included in a budget bill this year.

The day before last night, the 2020 election looked like a decidedly mixed picture: victory over an incumbent president for Democrats, combined with a surprisingly good performance for low-voting Republicans. Last night didn’t erase all the good news for Republicans, but it stole their biggest prize – Senate control.

Biden will now have a much better chance of being a president who gets things done.

Further analysis of the results:

  • Senate control will allow Biden to use a coronavirus stimulus package “as a vehicle for spending hundreds of billions of dollars to boost the renewable energy economy,” said Coral Davenport, a Times reporter on the weather.

  • “Senator Mitch McConnell has a lot of experience in preparing for work as the leader of the minority. Prepare to hear a lot about Senate moderates in both sides, and a process called “reconciliation,” which allows certain laws to bypass a filibuster, ”said Carl Hulse, the Times chief correspondent in Washington.

  • Brad Raffensperger, Secretary of State of Georgia, told CNN that the final results would likely be available at lunchtime today.

  • Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal noted that Perdue was well ahead of Ossoff in the first round of elections two months ago – suggesting the last two months of events had hurt Republicans.

  • Maggie Haberman of Time pointed out that the Republican losses came despite Trump’s campaign in the state: “This is the first indication of the damage he has done to his own level of influence in the party in the past two months.”

  • National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru wrote on Twitter that Perdue and Loeffler suffered from three problems: “being unimpressive candidates, the GA turns purple and Trump is a maniac”.

  • Nate cohn wrote that, compared to the November election, voter turnout fell most in rural and strongly pro-Trump areas of Georgia and least in heavily black areas.

  • Until 2020, no Democrat had won a statewide race in Georgia since 2006. And one person – Stacey Abrams – is primarily responsible for Georgia’s new status as a Democratic state, write the Times’ Reid Epstein and Astead Herndon.

You can follow the latest news from The Times all day.

For most of human history, people didn’t have to worry about burning too few calories. They must have feared burning too much and dying of exhaustion or starvation.

In fact, exercise – as we define it now – was sometimes a punishment. “For more than a century, English convicts (including Oscar Wilde) have been condemned to hang around for hours a day on huge stepped conveyor belts,” writes Daniel Lieberman, evolutionary biologist at Harvard, in his new book , “Exercised”, which is well chosen for New Year’s resolutions.

As Lieberman explains, exercising to do so isn’t natural, from an evolutionary standpoint. But the sedentary nature of modern life forces many people to choose between unhealthy habits and unnatural ones.

As Lieberman takes readers through the history and anthropology of physical exertion, he also encourages people not to be too hard on themselves. You don’t need a standing desk, for example. You just need to avoid sitting for long periods of time. “Take a break. Get up. Or at least ‘squirm shamelessly,'” wrote John Hawks, an anthropologist at the University of Wisconsin, in his Wall Street Journal review on “Exercised.”

“What works?” Jen Miller, current Times columnist, writes in her review. “It’s not particularly complicated, and Lieberman describes the science behind his prescription for a mix of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, strength training and high-intensity interval training.

Related: Tara Parker-Pope of The Times advocates short periods of physical activity which she describes as “exercise snacks.”

Yesterday’s Spelling Bee pangram was cornily. Today’s puzzle is above – or you can play it online if you have a Games membership.

Here are today’s mini-crosswords and a hint: Thought out loud (five letters).

Thank you for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. – David

PS Ad Age named The Times’ jazz-inspired ad campaign “Life Needs Truth” as “No. 1 idea of ​​the year. “

You can see the first printed page of the day here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” focuses on the results of the second round of elections in Georgia. In the book review podcast, Fareed Zakaria talks about life after the pandemic.

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Plan designed to protect big tobacco from facts is now EPA policy

WASHINGTON – Almost a quarter of a century ago, a team of tobacco industry consultants laid out a plan to create “explicit procedural barriers” that the Environmental Protection Agency must remove before be able to use science to address the health effects of smoking.

President Trump’s EPA on Monday incorporated parts of that strategy into federal environmental policy when it completed new regulations that favor certain types of scientific research over others in drafting public health rules.

A copy of the final measure, known as Enhancing Transparency in the Pivotal Sciences Underlying Important Regulatory Actions and the Influential Scientific Information Rule, indicates that the “pivot” science studies that make their findings public. underlying data and models should carry more weight than confidential data studies. The agency concluded that the EPA or anyone else should be able to independently validate research that has an impact on regulation.

Andrew Wheeler, the administrator of the EPA, is expected to officially announce the rule on Tuesday in an online forum with the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market think tank that opposes most environmental regulations.

The new rule, public health experts and medical organizations have said, essentially blocks the use of population studies in which subjects offer medical history, lifestyle information, and other personal data only under reservation of the protection of private life. These studies have served as the scientific basis for some of the most important air and water quality regulations of the past half century.

Critics say agency executives ignored the EPA’s scientific review system to create an extra layer of control designed to impede or block access to the best available science, weakening capacity government to create new protections against pollution, pesticides and possibly even the coronavirus.

“Right now, we are in a serious public health crisis from a deadly respiratory virus, and there is evidence showing that exposure to air pollution increases the risk of worse outcomes,” said Dr. Mary Rice, pulmonary and critical care physician. who is chair of the American Thoracic Society Environmental Health Policy Committee.

“We would like the EPA to move forward to make decisions on air quality using all available evidence, and not just placing arbitrary limits on what it will consider,” he said. she declared.

A spokesperson for President-elect Joseph R. Biden last week declined to comment on the expected rule, but activists said they expected him to work quickly to suspend and then repeal it.

Until then, it’s unclear how tightly the new rule will tie the hands of Mr. Biden’s intended EPA administrator, Michael S. Regan. The measure includes a provision that allows the administrator to exempt studies, on a case-by-case basis, from the rule. The final measure recognizes that there might be cases in which compliance with the rule might be “unachievable”, such as in the use of older studies in which data is not readily available.

The coming into force rule also sets only public data requirements for “dose-response” studies, that is, studies that measure the extent to which an increase in exposure to a chemical occurs. or to a pollutant increases the risk of harm to human health. Previous versions of the regulation applied to a wider range of studies.

At the same time, the final rule now requires the EPA to apply the new standards not only to the rules, but to “influential science” – a standard that could even influence what the agency puts on its website.

If the transparency rule had already been in place, several people said, the EPA could not have argued for the regulation of mercury releases from power plants because it could not have shown that the heavy metal hinders brain development. The agency also failed to link cloudy drinking water to higher rates of gastrointestinal illness and then to impose more stringent drinking water standards.

Already, the Trump administration has used politics to dismiss an agency finding that the pesticide chlorpyrifos causes serious health problems.

Trump administration officials have not offered examples of policies they believe have been poorly adopted based on studies that did not make the underlying data available. But academic and industry opponents of regulation have argued that the change will make the EPA more rigorous in its decision-making.

Environmental groups assailed the rule as the culmination of a decades-long strategy to undermine the science that took off in the tobacco wars of the 1990s and continued as a means to raise doubts about research respecting the rules. pollution.

“We are going to endanger the health of a lot of people and possibly even lead to their death,” Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the senior Democrat of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said about of the rule last year, adding, “We’re better than this.”

Mr Carper’s staff pointed to a handful of specific studies that could be downgraded in importance or made ineligible. One was a March 2020 research survey that describes how various coronaviruses react on surfaces with chemical agents. The EPA is responsible for recommending disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus responsible for Covid-19. This survey does not include raw data from the various studies.

Another 2003 article notes a statistical correlation between SARS deaths in China and higher air pollution. Mr Carper’s staff said the information might be relevant to regulators considering new pollution standards, but could be excluded from the review without the original Chinese health data.

The best-known study linking long-term exposure to air pollution to higher coronavirus death rates is preliminary and draws on general county-level information. It already meets the criteria for public data under the new rule.

But to truly understand whether greater vulnerability to Covid-19 can be explained by disparities in pollution exposure, more detailed studies would be needed to account for the precise location of individual subjects, levels of poverty, smoking habits and other granular and private data, Dr. Says Rice.

“The problem is, in the future, the EPA might not consider some of the most compelling evidence on how air pollution affects the risks of negative consequences with infection,” he said. she declared.

Another point of contention is whether the new rule would be retroactive to public health regulations already in place. The EPA says the regulations only deal with future rules. Public health experts have warned, however, that studies used for decades to show, for example, that lead in paint dust is linked to behavioral disorders in children may be inadmissible when existing regulations are renewed.

More importantly, they warned, a groundbreaking 1993 Harvard University project that permanently linked polluted air to premature deaths, currently the basis of national air quality laws, could become unacceptable because the agency plans to strengthen protections. In this study, scientists signed confidentiality agreements to track the private medical and work histories of more than 22,000 people in six cities. His findings have long been attacked by the fossil fuel industry and some Republican lawmakers.

Some of the first efforts to restrict the types of studies used in regulation surfaced in 1996 when Chris Horner, a prominent climate denier who at the time was a lawyer for the Bracewell & Patterson firm, suggested in a note to RJ Reynolds Tobacco that secondhand smoke regulations could be thwarted by undermining science.

One “control mechanism of the EPA and other regulators,” he suggested, was to insist on full transparency of scientific studies and to ensure that they could be replicated.

In 1998, the lobbying firm Powell Tate developed a public relations strategy for the tobacco industry around this tactic called the “Secret Science” action plan.

“Call the public’s attention to the importance of requiring the disclosure of the taxpayer-funded analytical data upon which federal and state rules and regulations are based,” another note suggested, “as well as the analytical data under- underlying government funded health and safety studies. “

The documents were compiled by the University of California, San Francisco as part of its tobacco litigation records.

Former Representative Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas, adopted the transparency plan and defended the legislation, variously known as the “Secret Science Reform Act” and “Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act”. He has been to houses twice held by Republicans to die in the Senate.

When President Trump took office, according to emails, his first EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, worked closely with Mr Smith’s office to bring the failing legislation into regulation. Mr Smith, now a lobbyist at law firm Akin Gump, has since declined to comment on the settlement.

In an email, Horner denied creating the strategy, saying it was based on principles long enshrined in federal procedures.

Asked by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, at a hearing in May, Wheeler said: “I was not aware of the connection to tobacco lobbying in the 90s.

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Once a marginal idea, the minimum wage of $ 15 makes big gains

It started in 2012 with a group of protesters outside a McDonald’s demanding a minimum wage of $ 15 – an idea that even many liberal lawmakers saw as extravagant. In the years that followed, their struggle gained traction across the country, including in conservative states with low unionization rates and generally weak labor laws.

On Friday, 20 states and 32 cities and counties will raise their minimum wages. In 27 of those places, the wage floor will reach or exceed $ 15 an hour, according to a report released Thursday by the National Employment Law Project, which supports minimum wage increases.

The force of the movement – a voting measure to raise Florida’s minimum wage to $ 15 by 2026 was passed in November – could put further pressure on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage by 7.25 $ an hour, where he’s been since 2009. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has approved $ 15 an hour federally and other changes sought by labor groups, such as ending the practice of a lower minimum wage for workers such as restaurateurs who receive tips.

But even without congressional action, union activists said they would continue to push their campaign forward at the national and local levels. By 2026, 42% of Americans work in a place where the minimum wage is at least $ 15 an hour, according to an estimate by the Economic Policy Institute cited in the NELP report.

“These wages which are rising in a record number of states are the result of years of advocacy by workers and years of walking in the streets and organizing their colleagues and their communities,” said Yannet Lathrop, researcher and political analyst for the group.

Pay rates rise as workers grapple with a recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic that has left millions unemployed.

“The Covid crisis has really exacerbated inequalities in society,” said Greg Daco, chief US economist for Oxford Economics. “It has given more strength to these movements which are trying to ensure that everyone benefits from a strong labor market in the form of a sustainable salary.”

During the pandemic, workers were subjected to time off, pay cuts and reduced hours. Low-paid service workers have not had the opportunity to work from home, and the customer-contact nature of their work puts them at increased risk of contracting the virus. Many retailers gave workers raises – or “hero pay” – at the start of the pandemic, to quietly end the practice in the summer, even as the virus continued to soar in many states.

“The coronavirus pandemic has plunged many working families into extreme poverty,” said Anthony Advincula, director of communications for Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a nonprofit focused on improving wages and working conditions . “This increase in the minimum wage will therefore be a welcome huge boost for low-wage workers, especially in the restaurant industry.”

Mary Kay Henry, international president of the International Union of Services Employees, said the labor movement will make getting even more workers to $ 15 an hour or more a priority in 2021.

“There are millions of additional workers who need to have more money in their pockets,” she said, adding that the election of Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would strengthen the ‘effort. “We have an incredible opportunity.”

Since many hourly workers are black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian, people of color stand to gain from increases in the minimum wage. A 2018 study by the Economic Policy Institute found that workers of color are much more likely to earn poverty wages than white workers.

“This is the most spectacular action to create racial equality,” Ms. Henry said.

Some economists say lifting the minimum wage will benefit the economy and could be an important part of the recovery from the pandemic recession. Part of the reason for this is that working poor people typically spend most of the money they earn, and that spending mostly takes place where they live and work.

Kate Bahn, director of labor market policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, said that after the 2007-2009 recession, growth was anemic for years as wages stagnated and the labor market slowly recovered. his path.

“There has been a broader recognition that the lackluster wage growth we’ve seen over the past 30 years and since the Great Recession reflects structural imbalances in the economy and structural inequalities,” Ms. Bahn said.

Many business groups retort that raising the minimum wage will hurt small businesses, already in the grip of the pandemic. More than 110,000 restaurants have closed permanently or for the long term during the pandemic, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Raising the minimum wage could lead employers to lay off some workers in order to pay more for others, said David Neumark, professor of economics at the University of California, Irvine.

“There is a ton of research that indicates that increasing the minimum wage can lead to job losses,” he said. “A lot of workers are helped, but some are injured.”

A 2019 Congressional Budget Office study found that a federal minimum wage of $ 15 would raise the wages of 17 million workers earning less than that and potentially an additional 10 million workers earning slightly more. According to the study’s median estimate, this would result in the loss of an additional 1.3 million workers.

In New York, Republicans in the state Senate had urged Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, to stop the increases that went into effect Thursday, arguing they could be “the last straw” for some. small enterprises.

While increases in the minimum wage beyond a certain point could lead to job losses, Ms. Bahn of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth argued that “we are a long way from that point.”

Economic research has shown that recent minimum wage increases did not cause huge job losses. In a 2019 study, researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that wages had risen sharply for leisure and hospitality workers in New York counties bordering Pennsylvania, which had a lower minimum, while employment growth continued. In many cases, higher minimum wages are applied over several years to give companies time to adjust.

Regardless of whether there is federal action, more state voting initiatives will seek to raise the minimum wage, said Arindrajit Dube, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

“At a fundamental level, people think it’s about fairness,” Dube said. “There is broad support for the idea that people who work should be paid a living wage.”

Jeanna Smialekcontribution to reports.