Vandana Rambaran


‘If you are out there committing violence or damaging property, you will be prosecuted,’ DA says

Hundreds of protesters in Portland who were arrested in the past 80 days of demonstrations will not face any charges, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced Tuesday.

“The protesters are angry … and deeply frustrated with what they perceive to be structural inequities in our basic social fabric, and this frustration can escalate to levels that violate the law,” Schmidt said. “This policy acknowledges that centuries of disparate treatment of our black and brown communities have left deep wounds and that the healing process will not be easy or quick.”

The policy drops charges against people who were arrested for interfering with a peace officer or parole and probation officer, disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, escape, harassment and riot — unless they were accompanied by some other charge of physical violence or property damage.

Portland has been rocked for months following the death of George Floyd, as demonstrators decry the use of force by police, especially against Black people. Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died in police custody in Minneapolis in May; a video showed an officer kneeling on his neck for over eight minutes.

Peaceful demonstrations in the Oregon city have descended into chaos as police and protesters clashed outside of precincts in the north and east of the city, the police union headquarters and a building that houses police offices in downtown.

Some agitators have attacked officers, throwing fireworks, eggs and other objects at police and shining lasers in their eyes. Officers, meanwhile, have used pepper spray and made sweeping arrests to disperse crowds.

President Trump sent federal officers to Portland in July to tamp down violence and protect federal property, a move that prompted further unrest.

Agents from U.S.Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Marshals Service were finally ordered to leave the city after accusations that unidentified officers were making unexplained arrests and without probable cause, claims that are now being investigated by the Justice Department.

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell, who was told of the policy change on Friday, pushed back against the new rules and said they don’t change Oregon law, insisting that people who commit violent acts or intentionally damage property should be held accountable.

“Committing a crime is different from demonstrating,” Lovell said in a statement. “The arrests we make often come after hours of damage to private property, disruption of public transit and traffic on public streets, thefts from small businesses, arson, burglary, attacks on members of the community, and attacks against police officers.”

Schmidt, the prosecutor, emphasized that the rules don’t apply to anyone who has committed an act of violence.

“If you are out there committing violence or damaging property, you will be prosecuted,” he said.

About 550 protest-related cases have been referred to Schmidt’s office since May 29, only 133 of which were felonies. More than 350 were misdemeanors or violations that included no claims of physical violence.

Schmidt acknowledged that the court system is already facing nearly two months of backlogs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Author: Vandana Rambaran

Source: Fox News: Arrested Portland protesters won’t face charges under revised policy

In eager anticipation of the Senate’s virtual hearings with four top doctors from President Trump’s coronavirus task force, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged Dr. Anthony Fauci to “let it rip.”

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is scheduled to testify for the first time before the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday about the way Trump has responded to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Until now, we’ve mostly heard from the members of the coronavirus task force through the distorted lens of the White House press conference where the president often prevents them from answering fully, interrupts their response, or even contradicts their fact-based evidence,” Schumer said on Monday.

“This will be one of the first opportunities for Dr. Fauci to tell the American people the unvarnished truth without the president lurking over his shoulder. Dr. Fauci, let it rip,” he added.

Fauci will be joined by Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; and Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the assistant secretary for health.

They will testify via teleconference due to social distancing restrictions put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The need for a virtual conference became even more paramount after two White House staffers tested positive for coronavirus, and several members of Trump’s task force — including Fauci, Redfield and Hahn — self-isolated or entered some form of quarantine themselves as a precautionary measure.

The New York Times reported late Monday that Fauci will warn that the country will risk “needless suffering and death” if it is opened up too quickly.

“The major message that I wish to convey to the Senate HLP committee tomorrow is the danger of trying to open the country prematurely,” he wrote to reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg. “If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to: ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”

The doctors’ testimonies come after Trump barred them from appearing before the House committee and required clearance from the chief of staff Mark Meadows before appearing remotely for Senate hearings on Capitol Hill.

Among the most anticipated lines of questioning as America moves to reopen the country state by state, will revolve around the availability of testing to make a return to normalcy feasible.

Trump officials said Monday that more than 9 million tests have been administered in the U.S., but state lawmakers have lamented the need for more if they will allow residents to go back to work and reopen businesses in the near future.

Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report

Author: Vandana Rambaran

Source: Fox News: Schumer tells Fauci before Senate coronavirus testimony: ‘Let it rip’

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., defended her “nay” vote during the House’s largely bipartisan passage of a $484 billion coronavirus relief package on Thursday, calling it “too small.”

The progressive lawmaker — whose state has been ravaged by the coronavirus, with the highest numbers of infections and deaths in the country — said the bill left out any real aid for Americans struggling to pay rent or purchase necessities including food after being left jobless or stranded due to the virus.

That, compounded with the lack of a timeline for another vote on additional aid, made her the single Democrat in the House to vote against the bill, she said.

“My concern is that we are giving away the farm,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters after the vote. “I cannot go back to my communities and tell them to just wait for CARES four because we have now passed three, four pieces of legislation that’s related to coronavirus. And every time it’s the next one, the next one, the next one, and my constituents are dying.”

New York is currently grappling with 269,756 cases of COVID-19 and the death toll climbed to 19,551 on Thursday.

Democrats hoped to include funding for states badly in need of a surge to pay frontline workers and boost their failing economies due to the crisis.

Lawmakers are planning to reconvene on May 4 to revisit another infusion of funds specifically helpful to the states, even as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he’d rather allow states declare bankruptcy than send additional federal relief to support them.

Republicans staved off concessions for state funds during Thursday’s vote, passing a bill that will, in part, revive the coffers of the dried up Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small businesses, while also providing funding to help hospitals and expand testing for the virus.

The initial PPP funds ran out last week, leaving out thousands of small businesses while astonishingly funding larger companies such as Shake Shack, who eventually returned the money to the federal government.

“It is weighed very heavily to continue funding programs that are overwhelmingly favorite to the rich, that don’t have the fixes in PPP to make sure that this doesn’t go to Shake Shack again,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

She also added that the lack of a timeline for another bill in the near future prompted her to say no to the funding already on the table.

“My vote will be different today if we were planning on voting on CARES, tomorrow, or the week after that, in the next two weeks,” she said. “But the problem is that this is not an interim bill. This is the only bill we are voting on for the entire month of April. This is the April coronavirus response, it is not an interim bill. It’s not interim for people whose rent was due in April, it’s not interim for the people whose rent is due next week.”

Ocasio-Cortez represents the 14th Congressional District in New York — where the hardest-hit parts of Queens are located — and said it was “not an easy vote.”

“I’m having constituents knock on my door asking for food. And I’m having my constituents asked [sic] me what’s going to happen for May rent. And I can’t tell them, they can’t tell their landlords, that Congress is working on it. You know their landlords aren’t going to accept that,” she said. “I don’t feel good about this […] is weighing very heavily on my heart.”

Author: Vandana Rambaran

Source: Fox News: AOC, only Dem voting ‘nay’ on stimulus bill, says it’s ‘too small’

Joe Biden suggests he will repeal Trump’s tax cuts if elected

Joe Biden speaks at the South Carolina Democratic Convention.

Former Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden promised Saturday that on “Day One” of a Biden presidency he would repeal President Trump’s 2017 tax cuts and close $500 billion on tax loopholes.

Speaking at the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention, Biden said that “Income inequities are at an all-time high and made worse by Trump’s tax cuts and enormous giveaways to the top one-tenth of the 1 percent … and it’s time we start to reward work over wealth.”

Outlining his policy proposals in this visit to the early primary state, Biden said the GOP-backed tax cuts, which have been heavily criticized in some quarters as beneficial only to the rich, have no socially redeeming value. He vowed to “put that money to good use.”

Biden promised that, among other things, residual funds from the tax break would be put toward initiatives such as green energy research and development, two-year college tuition grants and a public-option health insurance plan.

The 2020 hopeful also proposed an $8,000-per-child credit for child care. In addition, he promised to increase Title I funding for schools with high numbers of low-income students, and to allocate between $15 billion and $45 billion to expand universal pre-K, raise teachers’ pay, fully fund special education and double the number of school psychologists, guidance counselors and nurses to support public school systems.

Biden also reiterated his plan to implement a public health care option like Medicare, which would guarantee that low-income individuals have health coverage.

Biden continues to lead the polls in a field of some two-dozen Democratic contenders.

Author: Vandana Rambaran

Source: Fox News: Biden vows to repeal Trump tax cuts on ‘Day One’ if he captures White House

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, broke from his party’s ideology Thursday and signed a bill that would prohibit women from having an abortion once a baby’s heartbeat is detected, in almost all cases.

Edwards urged his party colleagues to do so as well, tweeting a statement on Wednesday saying “I call on the overwhelming bipartisan majority of legislators who voted for it to join me in continuing to build a better Louisiana that cares for the least among us and provides more opportunity for everyone.”

The fetal heartbeat abortion ban applies to pregnancies as early as six weeks, before some woman even know they are pregnant and include exceptions only for “medically futile” instances where the mother’s health is at risk or the baby is stillborn. The bill necessitates an ultrasound to confirm pregnancy and does not include exceptions for women who were victims of rape and incest.

Many fellow Democrats lashed out at Edwards, with 2020 presidential candidate Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., accusing the governor of “turning his back on Louisiana women by signing this shameful bill.”

The bill’s passage makes Louisiana the fifth state, after Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio, to pass a fetal heartbeat act in its state, which challenges the constitutional right to an abortion guaranteed by the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed an Alabama abortion bill into law earlier in May that makes performing abortions at any stage of pregnancy, with no exceptions except health risks to the mother, a felony crime punishable by up to life imprisonment.

In Lousiana, doctors and medical providers who perform an abortion could face up to two years in prison and lose their medical license.

Although many of the states legislations have been challenged in court because of its constitutional conflict, state lawmakers hope that the controversy will facilitate Supreme Court justices in overturning Roe v. Wade.

The Louisiana law will not go into effect until Mississippi’s similar legislation is upheld by a federal court, but so far, it faces legal challenges as a federal judge blocked the Mississippi law by injunction on Friday.

Author: Vandana Rambaran

Source: Fox News: Louisiana’s governor, a Democrat, signs ‘heartbeat’ abortion bill into law

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