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Here’s what we know about the 40-mile-long Russian convoy outside Ukraine’s capital

For days, residents of Kyiv had been bracing themselves for a 40-mile-long convoy of Russian tanks, armored vehicles, and towed artillery to arrive for an assault on the Ukrainian capital.

Days later, they’re still waiting.
On Thursday, US intelligence suggested that the convoy was still stalled some distance from Kyiv, backing claims made by both the Ukrainian government and UK’s defense ministry.
“We still assess that the convoy that everybody’s been red wing shoes focused on is stalled. We have no reason to doubt Ukrainian claims that they have, that they have contributed to it being stalled by attacking it,” a senior US official told reporters.
Earlier in the day, the UK’s defense ministry said the convoy appears to have stalled some 30 kilometers (19 miles) outside Kyiv and had made “little discernible progress” over the past three days, citing intelligence.
“The main body of the large Russian column advancing on Kyiv remains over 30 km from the center of the city, having been delayed by staunch Ukrainian resistance, mechanical breakdown and congestion. The column has made little discernible progress in over three days,” the UK statement said.
One million refugees flee Ukraine as Russia escalates bombardment of key cities
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday night that while the convoy and Russia’s broader push towards Kyiv “remains stalled,” there was a significant concern “that maybe the window is closing to be able to get aid into cities that may become under siege.”
A senior US defense official told reporters on that although the convoy is suffering shortages of fuel and food, the US has assessed that the Russians “will again learn thorogood boots from these missteps and these stumbles and will try to overcome them.”
The convoy’s stalled progress could create multiple strategic problems for Russia.
First, as the key Russian supply line for any major assault on Kyiv, it is a very large sitting target for Ukrainian forces fighting back against the invasion.
Second, sitting in a 40-mile-long traffic jam for days at a time could take its toll on the morale and discipline of Russian soldiers ahead of a major military operation.
Martti Kari, who previously served as Finland’s assistant chief of defense intelligence, told CNN that being stranded like this is bad for morale for two reasons. “First, the Ukrainians have drones and aircraft that could attack the convoy. Second, when you sit around in the same place rumors circulate that affect your mindset. So you become nervous and tired, which is not a good combination.”
Satellite images from Maxar Technologies show the convoy on February 28.
The convoy is believed to have entered Ukraine via Belarus, a key ally of Putin where Russia had moved huge numbers of troops in recent weeks to carry out what they called joint exercises. When the exercises ended, the troops didn’t leave and satellite images actually showed that Russia increased their military presence in the country.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed on Wednesday night that the fierce Ukrainian resistance had dented Russian morale.
“More and more occupiers are fleeing back to Russia, from us, from you … we are a nation that broke the enemy’s plans in a week — plans those have been built for years,” he said in a Facebook post.
Key city of Mariupol under siege as Russia tightens grip on Ukraine's south
The latest assessments on the convoy comes after the Russian military issued its first casualty figures from the war, saying 498 of its troops had died and another 1,597 had been injured. The UK statement on Thursday said “the actual number of those killed and wounded will almost certainly be considerably higher and continue to rise.”
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov expressed “great sorrow” over Russian military casualties on Thursday morning.
But Russia appeared to be meeting less resistance in southern Ukraine, where the mayor of the strategically important city of Kherson on the Black Sea indicated that Russian forces had seized control, though claims remain disputed.
And the crucial southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol came under siege from Russian forces Thursday, as Moscow seeks to tighten its grip on the south of the country.

Another testy Supreme Court battle is the last thing America needs — but it’s probably what lies ahead

The last thing an internally estranged America needs is an alienating Supreme Court confirmation battle. But that’s almost certainly what lies ahead following Justice Stephen Breyer’s decision to retire.

President Joe Biden’s first high court pick will create a moment of promise for a struggling administration, offers Senate Democrats a badly needed shot at unity and could shatter another glass ceiling since Biden plans to nominate a Black woman.
And despite the narrowness of their Senate majority, it should be reasonably simple for Democrats to confirm a new justice swiftly, without any Republican votes, before they risk losing the chamber in the midterm elections.
A drama-free Supreme Court process could enhance the tattered image of Congress, help a President whose approval ratings are tumbling and do some good to the tarnished reputation of a court increasingly tangled in politics. And since replacing Breyer, a liberal, will not shift the court’s 6-3 conservative balance, it might seem that the stakes are lower this time.
Inside Biden's calculated silence on Breyer's retirement
But such hopes ignore the corrosive impact of recent nomination fights — which ended with Democrats accusing the GOP of stealing seats and conservatives claiming nominees endured character assassination. Then there are legacy scars of Supreme Court battles deeper in the past, some involving the President himself, which may have some conservatives plotting revenge.
Political fury that has raged through the fight against Covid-19 has meanwhile brewed a fetid political mood hardly conducive to magnanimous hearings. And the midterm elections in November mean that senators have every incentive to play to the most fervent activist voters in each party before the television cameras.
An ideological docket breeds political discord
Another reason why a smooth confirmation process is unlikely is the growing prominence of the court itself in American political life. The idea that the Supreme Court is above politics has always been something of a myth. But hoka shoes dominating the high court has been a fundamental goal of the conservative movement for several decades.
So it’s not surprising that the successful campaign has hurt justices’ reputations for impartiality. And the new majority is being used in nakedly partisan ways, with Republican attorneys general seeking to fast-track cases to its marbled chamber on the most polarizing issues, including on abortion, the government’s powers to fight the pandemic and gun control. Former President Donald Trump tried to drag the court into his delusional claims of election fraud and the investigation into the January 6 insurrection — both subjects that have left it exposed to bitter winds of partisanship.
Here's how long it's taken to confirm past Supreme Court justices
All of this will inject an even more politicized tone into the next justice’s confirmation hearings. It could lead grandstanding senators from both sides to seek politically motivated assurances that could further the impression that the court is now populated by partisans.
Supreme Court nominees these days are highly prepared — and by their nature are adept at dodging leading questions. But still, Republicans are likely to seek answers on issues like firearms laws that the nominee will be wise to avoid. And progressive senators might ask a nominee in a hearing for their positions on abortion with Roe v. Wade, the landmark case affirming a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, under siege at the Supreme Court. While such exchanges are unlikely to thwart a nomination, they will inevitably drag Biden’s pick onto treacherous ground.
Democrats get a do-over
The coming weeks will test the competence of Democrats to get things done while in control in Washington.
Despite some early wins, a White House that ran on fixing problems and congressional Democrats have developed a propensity for shooting themselves in the foot. There is growing criticism of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s political tactics following the stalling of Biden’s Build Back Better climate and social spending plan and sweeping Democratic voting rights bills. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who were roadblocks on those bills, have never voted against a Biden judicial nominee so it would be a surprise if the Democratic coalition splits. But party leaders have learned the perilous nature of a 50-50 Senate majority. And an ill-timed death or serious illness among the Senate’s aged band of Democrats could seriously delay or even jeopardize the confirmation process.
Joe Biden's 2022 just got a lot better
Biden does have one highly effective weapon in his arsenal as he begins his selection process — his chief of staff Ron Klain, who masterminded Supreme Court nominations in the Clinton and Obama administrations. Klain has faced criticism during Biden’s administration, as the White House has stumbled, including on the pandemic and during the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. So the nomination is an opportunity for him to revive his standing in Washington and to deliver the President a much needed win that could reenergize Democrats as tough midterm elections loom in November.
Republicans can still cause headaches
No Supreme Court nomination struggle would be complete without the looming shadow of Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Since he’s in the minority, McConnell seems to lack the power to derail Biden’s first pick. But mangling Democratic Supreme Court hopes is his vocation and he used all kinds of procedural chicanery to seat a generational conservative majority on the top bench — indisputably the top achievement of Trump’s presidency.
The wily Kentuckian and the conservative legal establishment that built the current court do have the power to make seating a new justice a painful olukai shoes ordeal. In the first taste of the partisan combat to come, Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, had this first reaction to Wednesday’s Washington bombshell: “The Left bullied Justice Breyer into retirement and now it will demand a justice who rubber stamps its liberal political agenda.”
“And that’s what the Democrats will give them, because they’re beholden to the dark money supporters who helped elect them,” Severino added.
Biden’s past could come back to haunt him
The current Supreme Court nomination process is unusual in that the nominee will be chosen by a President who has been embroiled in controversial Supreme Court nomination battles.
Biden, as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was instrumental in the blocking of President Ronald Reagan’s nominee, Judge Robert Bork, to the court in 1987. Democrats faulted the ultra-conservative for what they saw as prejudiced views toward the rights of Black Americans and women. But conservatives have long reviled Biden for his defeat of the nomination and many of them date the hyper-politicized trend in nomination battles to that moment. Conservatives with long memories, therefore, have every motive to give Biden’s first nominee a hard time in confrontations that will draw right-wing media attention and claims of double standards if liberals complain.
Biden said he'd put a Black woman on the Supreme Court. Here's who he may pick to replace Breyer
That’s the case even if Biden was heavily criticized from the left a few years after the Bork showdown over his treatment of Anita Hill, a law professor who alleged sexual harassment by Clarence Thomas, who has since gone on to be a conservative hero on the court.
Some Republicans may also seek retribution on a Democratic Supreme Court nominee for the treatment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who endured the most searing confirmation fight in decades. Kavanaugh faced allegations of sexual misconduct dating from the 1980s, which he forcibly denied in emotional, angry hearings before the Trump administration and McConnell secured his confirmation.
The refusal of Trump to leave the political scene is also likely to raise political temperatures around the hearings, since the former President is a master at seizing on events that fuel his culture war narratives.
It is a sad commentary on the bitterness of the current era that the nomination of a Black woman, in what promises to be a moving historic moment, could also spark racist and sexist debate. It would not be surprising to hear accusations of tokenism against Biden from the more radical sectors of the conservative media ecosystem as he seeks to make history with his high court appointment. Former President Barack Obama’s first hey dude court pick, Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic woman to reach the top bench, attracted such prejudice despite her distinguished public and legal career. Any Supreme Court nominee in the modern era must expect extraordinary scrutiny of their personal, financial and professional lives. But the cross-examinations of the first Black woman Supreme Court nominee are likely to underscore some of America’s enduring prejudices.
The justice that the new nominee, whoever she is, will replace, is renowned for temperance, moderation, courtliness and a willingness to seek common ground with his ideological opposites.
Breyer is an anachronism in modern Washington, where such qualities are now all but extinct. That is why it’s questionable whether Biden, Congress, the court and America itself will emerge with reputations enhanced from a process that in the end may only worsen the national funk.

What is SWIFT and why it might be the weapon Russia fears most

As Western governments threaten Russia with a package of unprecedented sanctions aimed at deterring President Vladimir Putin from ordering an invasion of Ukraine, there’s one measure in particular that appears to strike fear at the heart of the Kremlin: cutting the country off from the global banking system.
US lawmakers have suggested in recent weeks that hoka shoes for women Russia could be removed from SWIFT, a high security network that connect thousands of financial institutions around the world.
Senior Russian lawmakers have responded by saying that shipments of oil, gas and metals to Europe would stop if that happened.
“If Russia is disconnected from SWIFT, then we will not receive [foreign] currency, but buyers, European countries in the first place, will not receive our goods — oil, gas, metals and other important components,” Nikolai Zhuravlev, vice speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said Tuesday, according to state media outlet TASS.
What is SWIFT?
The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication was founded in 1973 to replace the telex and is now used by over 11,000 financial institutions to send secure messages and payment orders. With no globally accepted alternative, it is essential plumbing for global finance.
US working with allies to shore up energy supplies if Russia invades Ukraine
Removing Russia from SWIFT would make it nearly impossible for financial institutions to send money in or out of the country, delivering a sudden shock to Russian companies and their foreign customers -— especially buyers of oil and gas exports denominated in US dollars.
“The cutoff would terminate all international transactions, trigger currency volatility, and cause massive capital outflows,” Maria Shagina, a visiting fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, wrote in a paper last year for Carnegie Moscow Center. Excluding Russia from SWIFT would cause its economy to shrink by 5%, former finance minister Alexei Kudrin estimated in 2014.
SWIFT is based in Belgium and governed by a board consisting of 25 people, including Eddie Astanin, chairman of the management board at Russia’s Central Counterparty Clearing Centre. SWIFT, which describes itself as a “neutral utility,” is incorporated under Belgian law and must comply with EU regulations.
What happens if Russia is removed?
There is precedent for removing a country from SWIFT.
SWIFT unplugged Iranian banks in 2012 after they were sanctioned by the European Union over the country’s nuclear program. Iran lost almost half of its oil export revenue and 30% of foreign trade following the hoka shoes disconnection, according to Shagina.
“SWIFT is a neutral global cooperative set up and operated for the collective benefit of its community,” the organization said in a statement Wednesday. “Any decision to impose sanctions on countries or individual entities rests solely with the competent government bodies and applicable legislators,” it added.
It’s not clear how much support there is among US allies for taking similar action against Russia. The United States and Germany have the most to lose if Russia is disconnected, because their banks are the most frequent SWIFT users to communicate with Russian banks, according to Shagina.
The European Union is ready to respond to a Russian invasion of Ukraine with “comprehensive sanctions never seen before,” Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod said on Monday. EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell said Tuesday that sanctions would be “the most consequential leverage that the West, or at least the European Union, has.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told lawmakers on Tuesday that his government was discussing the possibility of banning Russia from SWIFT with the United States.
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“There is no doubt that that would be a very potent weapon [against Russia]. I’m afraid it can only really be deployed with the assistance of the United States though. We are in discussions about that,” Johnson said.
Russia’s countermeasures
Russia has taken steps in recent years to blunt the trauma should it be removed from SWIFT.
Moscow established its own payment system, SPFS, after it was hit by Western sanctions in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea early that year. SPFS now has around 400 users, according to Russia’s central bank. Twenty percent of domestic transfers are currently done through SPFS, olukai shoes according to Shagina, but the size of messages are limited and operations are limited to weekday hours.
China’s fledgling Cross-Border Interbank Payment System, or CIPS, may provide another alternative to SWIFT. Moscow could also be forced to resort to using cryptocurrencies.
But these are not appealing alternatives.
“SWIFT is an European company, an association of many participating countries. To make a decision on disconnection, a united decision of all participating countries is needed. The decisions of the United States and Great Britain are definitely not enough,” Zhuravlev said, according to TASS.
“I’m not sure that other countries, especially those whose share of trade with Russia is large in balance, will support the shutdown,” he added.

It won’t be a pandemic forever. Here’s what could be next

Even after Covid-19 cases fall from their current record-high levels, it’s unlikely the United States — let alone the world — will be able to completely eliminate the coronavirus that causes them.

But there will come a day when it’s no longer a pandemic, when cases are no longer out of control and hospitals aren’t at great risk of overflowing with patients.
Many experts predict that the spread of coronavirus will eventually look and feel more like that of seasonal influenza.
The United States may be past the peak of Omicron cases around the end of January, some experts say; 2022 may be when the coronavirus becomes “part of our background and it comes goes,” Dr. Ofer Levy told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota this week.
Covid-19 could eventually be seasonal, scientists say
“I think it’s likely that we’ll see this wave come and go and that the spring and summer will look a lot better than right now looks to us,” said Levy, director of the Precision Vaccines Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “There will be fewer cases, and then again, next fall and winter we’ll see a spike of viral illnesses, coronaviruses, hey dude influenza and others, but that it’ll be more like an endemic cycle.
“It will be a better winter, just like this winter, with all of the challenges, is still better than the winter before.”
But this coronavirus shifts and surprises frequently — and there’s no official benchmark for when the pandemic has ended and a new normal has begun.
“There’s not even a measurement to say that something is an epidemic or pandemic. All of this is in the eye of the beholder — and that’s part of the issue,” Dr. Arnold Monto, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan and acting chair of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, told CNN in November.
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“So, all of this is not based on rules. It’s based typically on what you have to do to control the outbreak,” Monto said. “What is so different here is that our vaccines are much more effective than what we usually see.”
That’s the good news, according to Monto. The bad news comes with the power of the virus to change and evolve.
No one can predict what the future of Covid-19 could look like — and the emergence of coronavirus variants, like Delta and Omicron, has shifted the trajectory.
“With the change in transmission patterns, as the variants have emerged — I call it a parade of variants — we now see much more extensive transmission and much more uniform spread globally. This makes declaring the end of the pandemic more difficult,” Monto said. “Because the whole pattern of spread has changed, and there may still be pockets that really haven’t gone through the kind of waves that the rest of the world has gone through.”

‘Wait and see and hold our breath’

Monto and other public health leaders anticipate that in the future, the world could track the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, in ways similar to how the seasonal flu is monitored.
Life after the 1918 flu has lessons for our post-pandemic world
“We have no idea whether we’re going to see that kind of seasonal pattern with SARS-CoV-2, but it does remind us that most of our respiratory viruses start behaving as seasonal events,” Monto said.
“There is the precedent for a very seasonal pattern for some of the coronaviruses that have been infecting people,” he added. “Whether SARS-CoV-2 starts to behave like that, we don’t know, but at least it gives us one scenario that it might start to behave like that.”
As Monto put it, we have to “wait and see and hold our breath” to unlock what an endemic phase of the coronavirus might look like.
As the government talks about vaccine boosters, it's time to cover the endemic reality of Covid
Endemic means a disease has a constant presence in a population but is not affecting an alarmingly large number of people, as typically seen in a pandemic.
Even in early 2020, as the pandemic was just ramping up, officials at the World Health Organization predicted that the novel coronavirus “may become another endemic virus in our communities” and never go away.
“When you think about pandemics, you’re in the pandemic phase, and then you have a deceleration phase, then you have a control phase, then hopefully you’ll have elimination and maybe eradication,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the US Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor & Pensions at a hearing in November.
“What we hope to get it at is such a low level that even though it isn’t completely eliminated, it doesn’t have a major impact on public health or on the way we run our lives,” Fauci said. “So if we get more people vaccinated globally and more people red wing boots vaccinated now, hopefully within a reasonable period of time, we will get to that point where it might occasionally be up and down in the background, but it won’t dominate us the way it’s doing right now.”
Even as Covid-19 cases surge to new highs, federal health officials have been thinking about how to measure the end of the pandemic and how to continue to track the coronavirus once it becomes endemic.

‘There is still much to be done’

To transition from pandemic to endemic, the nation has to build up immunity to the coronavirus — which means many more people need to get vaccinated, Dr. Philip Landrigan, a pediatrician and epidemiologist at Boston College, told CNN in November.
With some Americans still refusing to get their Covid-19 shots and some refusing to wear masks, the transition could take more time.
Covid-19 vaccinations began a year ago. These numbers show how it's going
About 62% of the total US population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Even fewer have received a booster dose.
“We have to get somewhere well north of 80%, possibly even well north of 90% of the population with immunity, either through having had infection or through having had vaccinations,” said Landrigan, who worked at the CDC for 15 years.
To control the spread of the measles virus in the US population, for instance, “we had to get the immunity rate up above 95%, and even then, we’ve had sporadic outbreaks. These outbreaks typically occur when you have a cluster of people in a particular place who are not immunized and all of a sudden the virus gets introduced because a traveler has come in with the virus — and bang, you’ve got 20 cases of measles in some town,” Landrigan said. “But that’s not an epidemic. It’s an outbreak against a background of almost no cases or scattered endemic cases.”
Flu and Covid-19 cases rising in much of the US
Health officials are familiar with the work needed to improve vaccination rates.
The CDC recommends that almost everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. But during the 2019-20 flu season, only about half of those people — 51.8% — did, according to the CDC. The agency estimates that flu has caused about 12,000 to 52,000 deaths each year between 2010 and 2020.
The coronavirus has killed more than 800,000 people in the United States so far. In the future, the battle to corral the virus every year may look very much like the annual fight against the flu.
“We’ve been thinking a lot about what an endemic phase looks like and hoka shoes for women the data that we’re needing to collect during that phase. Certainly right now, we are collecting data on cases, hospitalizations, deaths,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in the Senate committee hearing in November. “The question is: What are going to be our best metrics moving forward? And probably modeling it on flu.”

A more likely picture of the future

The CDC collaborates with health departments, laboratories, hospitals and health care providers to track diagnosed flu cases, determine what influenza viruses are circulating and measure the impact those viruses are having on hospitalizations and deaths.
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One idea is that when the coronavirus becomes endemic, a similar tracking system could be used to monitor the pathogen.
“We could handle the cases just like we do with seasonal flu, where we’re able to say we know we’re going to see a number of cases in the winter season, and we can have the right staffing, we can have the right supplies ready, and we’re ready to handle it, as opposed to the surges that we’ve been dealing with here,” Dr. Stephen Parodi, national infectious disease leader for Kaiser Permanente, told CNN in November.
“I’m still on phone calls talking about, ‘what’s our ICU bed capacity? What’s our supplies chains that we need to provide care to patients? Do we have enough medication?’ ” Parodi said. “We have a lot more work to still do to get to where we want to be, and I think we’re going to see this transition over year 2022. But for some locales, where there’s less immunity, it’s going to be a longer run.”
Even the flu is unpredictable, and doctors have seen a lot of it over the years.
“We know there are going to be cases,” Monto said. “With the flu, we’ve had experience with flu pandemics before. So we know typically the way they behave. This has been an evolving situation with a totally novel pathogen.”

4 women testified at Ghislaine Maxwell’s trial that they were sexually abused. Here’s what they said

The case against Ghislaine Maxwell primarily relies on the testimony of four women who say they were sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein when they were under 18 — and that Maxwell facilitated and sometimes participated in that abuse, too.

Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to six federal charges: sex trafficking of minors, enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, transporting a skechers outlet minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and three counts of conspiracy.
Prosecutors said in opening statements Maxwell and Epstein created a system of sexual abuse in which they lured underage girls into sexual relationships with Epstein using the ruse of a massage and cash payments. Her defense, though, has argued she is being scapegoated for Epstein’s actions and has attacked the memories and motivations of the women who say they were abused.
Epstein, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to state prostitution charges, was indicted on federal sex trafficking charges in July 2019 but died by suicide in prison a month later. Maxwell was arrested a year afterward.
Woman testifies Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein started sexually abusing her when she was 14
CNN legal analyst and former prosecutor Paul Callan says Epstein’s death and the passage of so much time pose a huge challenge for prosecutors in this case. The government alleges the abuse occurred between 1994 and 2004.
“Proving sex abuse and rape cases from decades ago is generally an extraordinarily difficult task,” Callan says. “Proof in cases where children are involved are even more difficult. Memories of children are often unreliable and malleable.”
Maxwell said he expects the defense to call an expert witness to convince the jury that such testimony is inherently unreliable. The defense is expected to start its case on Thursday.
The government on Friday rested its case after prosecutors called 24 witnesses across 10 days of testimony.
“Despite substantial obstacles, prosecutors finished strongly” with Annie Farmer, the fourth and final accuser to take the stand, providing “vivid testimony,” Callan says.
“In the end a prosecution case which started weakly built to a strong conclusion,” Callan says.
Testimony from the victims began on November 30 with “Jane,” who said that Maxwell sometimes joined in on the sexualized massages. “Kate” testified December 6 that Maxwell set up those sexual meetings. Carolyn testified the next day that Maxwell once touched her breasts, hips and butt and told her she “had a great body for Epstein and his friends.” She was 14 at the time, she said.
Finally, Farmer testified Friday that she was 16 years old when Maxwell massaged her naked chest at Epstein’s New Mexico ranch in 1996.
Here’s a closer look at what these women said under oath.

What Jane said

In this sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell, seated left, speaks to her defense attorney on Monday, December 6.

A woman identified in court by the pseudonym “Jane” testified last week she met Maxwell and Epstein in 1994 when she was 14 at a camp where he was a benefactor.
She and her mother met Epstein for tea in Florida and he said he could mentor her. She then started going to Epstein’s home by herself. At first, Maxwell and Epstein made her feel special — spending time with her, asking about her family and interests and taking her to do fun things, she said. For the first few months, Maxwell felt like an older sister, she said.
“It changed when the abuse started happening,” she said.
Jane described in graphic detail incidents of sexual abuse with Epstein that Maxwell would at times join in on, both in Palm Beach, Florida, and Manhattan when she was 14, 15 and 16 years old.
At times, Epstein would masturbate on bluetooth headphones her and molest her, she said. Maxwell would sometimes be involved, touching her and Epstein, she testified. At least once, Maxwell “instructed” her how Epstein liked to be massaged while the three were in Epstein’s massage room, she testified.
“It seemed very casual, like it was very normal, like it was not big deal,” she said. “It made me feel confused because that did not feel normal to me.”
She said it took her years before she was able to tell anyone about what happened, saying she felt “shame and disgust and confusion.”
On cross-examination, defense attorneys combed through her statements to law enforcement since 2019 to try to show inconsistencies with her testimony in court.
In the statements, Jane told law enforcement agents that she wasn’t sure if Maxwell ever touched her and she didn’t remember Maxwell ever being present for any sexual activity between her and Epstein. Jane repeatedly testified she didn’t recall if she’d said that to investigators.
At other times Jane testified that the law enforcement notes from those interviews were inaccurate, inconsistent with her timeline and not an accurate transcript of her statements, which were not recorded.

What Kate said

Prosecutors introduced into evidence this photo of Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein.

“Kate” testified on Monday she first met Maxwell through an older boyfriend when she was 17.
Maxwell invited her for tea at her London townhome and told Kate about Epstein and later invited her again to meet him, she testified.
There, Maxwell told her to give Epstein’s foot a little “squeeze” to show him how strong she was despite her small frame, Kate testified. Epstein approved of the foot massage and also had her massage his shoulders.
A couple of weeks later, Maxwell called Kate to ask whether she would do her “a favor” and come give Epstein a massage, sperry shoes even though she had no massage therapy experience. Maxwell led Kate upstairs in her townhome to a bedroom where Epstein stood in a robe, gave Kate massage oil, and closed the door behind her. Epstein disrobed and initiated a sex act with her, she said.
Maxwell called her back a second for another meeting with Epstein. “She said, ‘I’m so glad you’re here. You did such a good job last time (that) he wanted you to come back,'” Kate said.
This time, Epstein was standing naked when Maxwell brought Kate to the same room and closed the door behind her. “Have a good time,” Maxwell said as she left the room, according to the testimony.
In her testimony, Kate testified she traveled at Epstein’s expense several times to New York; Palm Beach, Florida; and Little St. James in the US Virgin Islands, where Epstein had property. Maxwell invited her to Epstein’s private island to give him massages and would inform Kate of the travel arrangements, she said.
During a visit to the Palm Beach residence when she was about 18, a “school girl” outfit — a pleated skirt, white panties, white socks and a shirt — was left on her bed, according to her testimony. When she asked Maxwell what it was for, Maxwell said, “I thought it would be fun for you to take Jeffrey his tea in this outfit,” Kate testified.
Maxwell spoke of sexual topics often with Kate, asking her if she knew any other girls that could give Epstein oral sex. “She said that he needed to have sex about three times a day,” Kate said.
“You know what he likes — cute, young (and) pretty like you,” Maxwell said, according to the testimony.
Kate said she kept in contact with Epstein until around 2012. She was about 24 when she last traveled with Maxwell and Epstein, but she continued contact with Epstein through her early 30s, she testified.
She described staying in contact with him as a mix of denial and fear.
“I did not want to admit what had happened to me and I felt that by ceasing communication I would have to acknowledge the events that had taken place and I would have to say something,” she said. “I was also fearful of disengaging because I had witnessed how connected they both were and I was fearful.”
Kate is not considered a minor victim in the charges because she was over the age of consent at the time of the alleged abuse, but jurors were still allowed to consider her testimony, Judge Alison Nathan ruled.

What Carolyn said

Prosecutors say Ghislaine Maxwell conspired with Jeffrey Epstein to create a system of sexual abuse of underage girls.

Carolyn, who testified Tuesday using only her first name, said she was 14 years old when she began to go to Epstein’s home in Palm Beach, two or three times per week in the early 2000s.
On one visit, Carolyn was setting up a massage room for him when Maxwell came into the room. Maxwell touched Carolyn’s breasts, hips and butt, and commented that she “had a great body for Epstein and his friends,” according to her testimony.
Carolyn said she went to Epstein’s over a hundred times in all. Each time she visited, $300 in cash was left for her on the bathroom sink, she said.
“Something sexual happened every single time,” Carolyn said.
She said that she remembered bringing three different friends around her age with her over the years. On those occasions she’d receive $600 in cash as an incentive for bringing them, and her friends would receive $300.
Carolyn described a number of sexual encounters with Epstein. She also said Maxwell saw her naked in the massage room “probably three times” over the years.
Maxwell and Epstein separately invited her to go to an island, but she told them she was too young and her mom wouldn’t let her travel out of the country, she testified. She also didn’t have a passport.
Sometimes, Maxwell or another Epstein associate would call her to set up an “appointment” time, Carolyn testified. Other times she would call to ask if she could come over because she wanted the money, she said. She testified that Maxwell and the associate would call her on her mom or her boyfriend’s phone numbers if they couldn’t reach her.
She said she used the money to buy drugs.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca cross-examined Carolyn for more than two hours Tuesday and spent considerable time suggesting Carolyn made inconsistent statements about her timeline, including a 2007 FBI meeting and in a 2009 deposition for lawsuits she pursued against Epstein.
Carolyn sobbed when prosecutor Maurene Comey asked if she was trying to get money for her testimony.
“No, money will not ever fix what that woman has done to me,” Carolyn said. “Because what she did was wrong and she takes vulnerable young girls and traffics them and I’m so petrified that my daughters are going to be trafficked.”

What Annie Farmer said

Frustration grows over heavily redacted Epstein pilot's flight logs
Frustration grows over heavily redacted Epstein pilot’s flight logs 02:40
Annie Farmer, who testified under her full name, has spoken out publicly about Epstein and Maxwell for years. She spoke in open court during both Epstein’s 2019 bail hearing and Maxwell’s bail hearing a year later.
She testified for three hours Friday, the fourth and final accuser to do so. Her older sister worked for Epstein, and Farmer met him during the 1995 holiday season. Epstein paid for her commercial flight to New York and at a movie held hands with her and caressed her foot, she said in court.
She described going to the billionaire’s ranch in New Mexico in 1996 at age 16, salomon boots where she thought she would be joining other peers but she was the only teen there.
There, Maxwell told her to get undressed and gave her a rubdown, telling her she wanted Farmer to experience a professional massage, Farmer testified.
At some point as she lay on her back, Maxwell pulled the sheet down, exposing her naked breasts, and rubbed her chest and upper breast, Farmer testified.
“Once she pulled down the sheet I felt like kind of frozen,” she testified. “It didn’t make sense to me that that would happen. I just wanted so badly to get off the table and have this massage be done.”
On her last day at the ranch Epstein bounded into her guestroom where she still lay in bed telling her he wanted to “cuddle.”
“He climbed into bed with me and kind of laid behind me and reached his arms around me and like pressed his body into me,” she said.
Feeling uncomfortable, she made an excuse to get out of bed and went to the bathroom, closing the door behind her.
Farmer said that while in New Mexico they went to see the movie “Primal Fear,” where Epstein again caressed her in a more “blatant” way, seemingly making no effort to hide it from Maxwell, she recalled. Later that day, Maxwell insisted she teach Farmer how to massage Epstein’s bare feet, Farmer testified.
Under cross-examination, Farmer acknowledged Maxwell was not in the room when Epstein got into her bed. In addition, defense attorney Laura Menninger repeatedly pointed out that Maxwell was not present on Farmer’s trip to New York.
Menninger suggested that Farmer overstated what she alleges happened to her in her public statements and on her Epstein Victim Compensation Program application for personal gain.

What These Stars From My 600-Lb Life Look Like Today

My 600-lb Life star Nikki Webster, Close-up

Plenty of reality shows feature dramatic transformations, but few chronicle the intense metamorphoses that are documented on the popular TLC program My 600-lb Life. Since its inception in 2012, dozens of men and women have had their lives changed, thanks to the intervention of Dr. Younan Nowzaradan. Based in Houston, Texas, Nowzaraden performs weight loss surgery on patients who oftentimes are desperate to improve their quality of life bluetooth headphones before it’s too late. And while the journey is never easy for these people, it’s worth it to be able to reclaim their lives and accomplish goals they had previously given up on.

Some of these brave souls have gone on to become social media stars, thanks to their reality television fame. That gives us additional access into their lives, allowing us to keep up on what happens — even after their follow-up segments have aired. So without further ado, here’s the skinny on some of the most popular stars from My 600-lb Life. You won’t believe how amazing they look today!

Melissa Morris achieved her lifelong dream after My 600-lb Life

My 600-lb Life star Melissa Morris, before and after

The OG of My 600-lb Life, Melissa Morris was the very first person featured in the show. These days she’s in a much different place. While an episode of My 600-lb Life: Where Are They Now? revealed that Melissa’s weight has fluctuated over the years, you can see on her Instagram page that that she’s living her best life every day.

If you’re familiar with Melissa’s journey, you know that having children was something she desperately wanted. Despite her unlikely odds (a doctor once told her she only had a 2 percent chance of getting pregnant, according to her TLC interview), Melissa sperry shoes became a mom to Allona on May 1, 2010. Today, she’s a mom three times over, according to a post on her Instagram page.

On top of her motherhood duties, which definitely keep her busy, Melissa also speaks publicly about her journey. She’s also been active in Weight Watchers for several years now. Additionally, she’s been going to concerts, enjoying time at the beach, catching baseball games, and reading books. There’s no slowing her down!

My 600-lb Life star Zsalynn Whitworth found a man worthy of her love

My 600-lb Life star Zsalynn Whitworth, before and after

Season 2 of My 600-lb Life opened with Zsalynn Whitworth’s story, which famously included her manipulative and unsupportive husband, who prioritized his fetish over Zsalynn’s literal life. Fortunately for her, the couple finally got a divorce, which she confirmed in a follow-up segment. They still share joint custody of their daughter, but the romance is long since over.

In the segment, Zsalynn also got candid about her emotional state. She admitted that she struggled with loneliness and depression, as well as her cravings for sweets following the divorce. In spite of those challenges, however, she decided that she wants to press forward and finally get skin removal surgery. She also expressed a desire to be more active and start dating — certainly worthy ambitions.

And it paid off! From the looks of it, Zsalynn found someone special. Check out this adorable photo she posted on Facebook of her making goo goo eyes at a new man — good for you, girl! Additionally, you can see just how much her daughter Hannah has grown up to be her mama’s mini-me in this photo. Looks like everything’s going swimmingly for Zsalynn now!

My 600-lb Life’s Paula Jones is now a confident selfie queen and outspoken advocate

My 600-lb Life star Paula Jones, before and after

Paula Jones, who had an especially emotional episode in Season 2 of My 600-lb Life, is living the dream of long-term weight loss success these days. For one, you can tell just by looking at pictures of Paula on her Instagram and Facebook pages that she’s in great shape, especially when you consider where she started.

She’s not afraid to pose in a swimsuit, or post selfies with salomon boots her arms bared, which shows that she knows she’s cute! But Paula also keeps herself accountable, admitting when she has to stick to her diet and work out on the reg. And while she’s faced health issues like kidney stones, that hasn’t stopped her from staying the course of her weight loss journey.

These days, Paula speaks publicly at weight loss events. She’s also outspoken about the obesity epidemic, which has claimed the lives of some of her friends and loves ones. “It is so senseless since it is preventable,” she shared in a post. “It just isn’t easy.” Indeed it isn’t, but Paula sure is a role model.

Pfizer says its COVID-19 antiviral pill reduces risk of serious illness: What we know about US approval

The oral drug, called Paxlovid, reduces the risk of hospitalization or death by almost 90% in early tests, according to Pfizer.

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Pfizer has asked for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 antiviral pill could be up consideration.

A day after Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics received approval in the UK for their COVID-19 antiviral pill, Pfizer said Friday it has an antiviral drug that can cut the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID by 89%, according to data from clinical trials.

Called Paxlovid, Pfizer’s pill would be taken orally to skechers outlet fight the severe symptoms. Currently, the only antiviral medication authorized in the US requires a health care professional to administer the medication intravenously, through a needle, over five to 10 days. An easy-to-take pill could become part of a growing toolkit that doctors could use to fight COVID, which already includes the three COVID vaccines authorized for use in the US.

In September, data from Johns Hopkins University showed that around 1 in 500 Americans have died from the coronavirus. While the available COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, millions of Americans have not been vaccinated. According to a September report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unvaccinated people are over 10 times more likely to get hospitalized and die from the disease than fully vaccinated people.

Here’s what we know about Pfizer’s antiviral pill. We’ll update this story as more details emerge. For more on COVID-19, here’s the latest on vaccine mandates, keeping your vaccine card hanovembndy and this year’s flu season.

What is Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral drug?

In the US, the three approved COVID vaccines from ModernaPfizer and Johnson & Johnson can protect you from infection. But for those already infected, antiviral drugs could reduce the chance of serious illness and reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.

If approved, Pfizer’s drug won’t replace the need for vaccines. Health officials see the vaccines and antiviral drugs working in tandem to nike outlet tame the pandemic: Vaccines can prevent infection and lessen the severity of illness if you get infected. Antiviral drugs can lessen the effects of the illness, including for those unvaccinated.

In clinical trials, Paxlovid reduced  the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% when taken three days of symptoms for those who are at a higher risk of serious infection, Pfizer said.

The pharmaceutical giant said it intends to request emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration “as soon as possible.” During its clinical trials, Pfizer said, reported side effects between those taking the antiviral drug and those taking the placebo were about the same.

How does it compare with molnupiravir, Merck’s COVID pill?

Merck applied for an emergency use authorization of its antiviral pill with the FDA in mid-October.

If given the go-ahead, the Merck antiviral drug molnupiravir would be the first approved in the US to be taken orally at home. Merck has said its pill can reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by 50% if taken within five days of the onset of symptoms for people who have tested positive and are at higher risk of serious illness.

An FDA advisory committee plans to meet at the end of November to consider Merck’s emergency use application for molnupiravir.

When could Pfizer antiviral pill be available in the US?

The New York Times reported that Pfizer’s pill could be available in the next few months, if approved by the FDA.

What would be Pfizer treatment course for its antiviral pill?

During Pfizer’s tests on the drug, patients took the pill orally every 12 hours for five days.

Will Pfizer’s drug be free?

Pfizer expects to produce enough pills for more than 180,000 people by the end of 2021 and for more than 21 million people by the middle of 2022, The New York Times reported. The US government is negotiating with Pfizer to buy enough pills for 1.7 million courses of treatment.

Pfizer hasn’t said whether that deal keen shoes means that the pill will be free to patients in the US. A Pfizer spokesperson told CNET: “Pfizer’s goal is to deliver safe and effective oral anti-viral therapeutic(s) as soon as possible and at an affordable price, subject to regulatory authorization.”

Separately, the US government is purchasing 1.7 million courses of Merck’s antiviral drug to provide if and when it is approved by the FDA.

For more on COVID-19, here’s the latest on COVID-19 vaccines for kids, what to know about mixing and matching vaccines and what is happening with booster shots.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

What my 8-year-old son taught me about Star Wars

starwars.png

Wait a minute, what?

At one point, halfway through Empire Strikes Back, my 8-year-old son started frowning.

“I don’t like that guy.”

Which guy, I asked. He pointed at the person on screen.

That guy.”

He wasn’t pointing at Darth Vader or The Emperor. Or even the double-crossing Lando Calrissian.

No. He was pointing at Han Solo.

Han Solo, the hero. One of the most adored characters in the Star Wars canon. What could my son, my own flesh and blood, possibly have against Han Solo?

But let’s rewind.

star-wars-the-empire-strikes-back
Had to correct a lot of “Dark Vaders” with my kids.

For the last week, I’ve been introducing my son to Star Wars, a series I’ve loved since long before he was born. As a kid I enjoyed watching Star Wars. As a teenager I was obsessed, delving into the endless novels and comics that made up the Star Wars expanded universe. I collected toys and all manner of Star Wars junk. More importantly I watched the movies over and over and over again.

But with the most recent trilogy, my love of Star Wars has soured. I loved The Last Jedi nike outlet but loathed The Rise of Skywalker and have been indifferent to almost everything else produced since Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012. Partly because of that, I was in no rush to introduce my oldest kid to Star Wars. But it was Saturday night — movie night in my household — and there was nothing better to watch.

That’s how the discussion started. The Han Solo discussion.

What the hell’s wrong with Han Solo, I asked, almost defensively, as my son shook his head in disgust.

“He’s just… so rude.”

That’s his thing, I protested. He’s a rogue! A rapscallion. That’s his whole thing…

Then my son said something that stopped me in my tracks.

“She said stop, and he didn’t stop.”

Frozen in carbonite

Princess Leia and Han Solo
“She said stop, and he didn’t stop.”

My 8-year-old was referring to Princess Leia and, specifically, the scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Han Solo kisses her for the first time.

Never mind the fact Han Solo is, canonically, 32 years old when he meets the teenaged Leia for the first time, my son was actually correct. Leia does tell Han Solo to stop, when he starts massaging her hands on board the Millennium Falcon, and Han Solo in fact does not stop.

It’s a bit weird.

It didn’t feel weird when I keen shoes was a kid, or a teenager in the ’90s when I watched the movies on repeat every weekend. But it did feel weird in the context of what I, alongside my wife, have been teaching my kids about consent since they were sentient. Just simple things like, if someone says “stop,” you stop.

It occurred to me that my son was feeling the same level of discomfort I felt when watching James Bond slap women on the butt in Goldfinger. It never occurred to me that a series like Star Wars could reflect cultural shifts, but here we were and here I was, being taught a simple and valuable lesson about a movie I’d watched literally 50-plus times.

Return of the Jedi
Return of the Jedi was his favorite. I think.

It’s impossible and, in a sense, almost unfair to ask a movie released in 1980 to accurately reflect progress made on social issues over the last decade. (And some women have argued that, actually, Han Solo is OK?). But we live in the post #MeToo era, when brave women have forced men to reevaluate dangerous and common attitudes toward women. Attitudes that were reinforced, at least in part, by characters like Han Solo in movies as frivolous as The Empire Strikes Back.

But my 8-year-old son wasn’t thinking about that when he said Han Solo was an asshole. He was just reflecting the environment he’s growing up in.

As a friend of mine said, after I relayed this story to her, that the original Star Wars trilogy is definitely getting close to that “unwatchable for new audiences” threshold. The action scenes are sluggish. Special effects that once seemed timeless are showing their age. It’s understandable: The Empire Strikes Back is over 40 years old at this point. But culturally? That’s where Star Wars has aged the worst.

We can kick and scream and complain, but, ironically, it’s a transition that will ultimately take place without asics shoes our consent. A transition that should force us — and by us I mean men — to ask questions of ourselves. Why did Han Solo’s behavior feel normal? Why didn’t it feel weird? Why did we take these strange social norms for granted and potentially replicate them in our own interactions with women? It’s an opportunity to examine the cues around us with a fresh set of eyes. When our kids tell us something is weird, we should probably listen — and potentially learn something in the process.

At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo is captured by Darth Vader. Ultimately he becomes frozen in carbonite, frozen in time. He becomes, essentially, a frozen facsimile of himself.

Han Solo can’t be anything other than a product of his time, so maybe we shouldn’t judge him for that. But our attitudes shouldn’t suffer the same fate. I was surprised — shocked even  — that my 8-year-old son hated Han Solo. But ultimately, like Solo, he’s a product of his own time. In the best possible way. And in our current context, given what we now know, he’s absolutely right to hate him.

Here’s What’s In And Out Of Biden’s Build Back Better Compromise Deal

President Joe Biden says he has struck a deal with the most conservative members of the Senate to move forward with a $1.75 trillion spending and tax bill — a legislative package meant to reflect the biggest pillars of his agenda.

When Biden says he wants to Build Back Better, this is the bill he’s talking about.

But what the White House is now proposing isn’t what Biden wanted. Over the course of the last month, the White House whittled down its dreams of a $3.5 trillion spending bill over 10 years to appease two key Democratic votes: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).

What they’ve come up with is about half the size of what the majority of congressional Democratic lawmakers had hoped for. That meant leaving out a lot of key ― and extremely popular — proposals, like instituting the nation’s first paid family and medical leave program, or lowering pharmaceutical drug prices.

That said, there’s still a lot of policy packed into this proposal. The proposal’s biggest investments are in climate policies ($555 billion), child care and universal pre-kindergarten ($400 billion) and a temporary extension of the expanded child tax credit ($200 billion), which has already hey dude shoes gone a long way toward cutting down child poverty in the United States. It increases taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

Biden spent Thursday morning on Capitol Hill trying to convince Democrats to support this compromise. But nothing is for certain; a lot of lawmakers saw their policy priorities cut down, or even cut out all together, because of Manchin and Sinema.

“I need you to help me,” Biden told House Democrats Thursday. “I need your votes.”

Here’s what the White House negotiated.

Democrats appear to be following through on their pledge to make pre-kindergarten universally available across the country. The policy is proposed to remain in place for six years, which is a long time compared to some other stuff in the bill.

It’s set up as a federal-state partnership; states submit plans to set up free pre-K systems and, for the first three years, the federal government foots the bill. After three years, the states have to cover 40% of the costs.

The White House summary of the Build Back Better framework says it would expand access to “free high-quality preschool for more than 6 million children.”

Child Care Assistance

The deal includes the largest-ever investment in child care, through a program that would limit expenses for most families to 7% of household income and offer free access to many lower-income Americans.

In some ways, this plan is set up similarly to the pre-K proposal, but it is financed differently and has more restrictions. Most parents would have to prove eligibility through either employment, education status or health, among other categories, in order to get these child care subsidies. How much parents pay into child care is also on a sliding scale depending on income, and capped to those that make up to 250% of their state’s median income.

For a family of four in Alabama, that hoka shoes works out to about $210,000 a year. For a family of four in Massachusetts, it would be about $340,000. In other words, it would cover the vast majority of families, leaving out only those in the highest income brackets.

The program also includes mechanisms to improve the quality of child care, primarily by raising the wages of care workers. The program requires states to opt in to the program, and some might not. But even with only partial participation, millions of working parents would get significant, much-needed help with child care.

President Joe Biden talks to students during a visit to a pre-K classroom at East End Elementary School in North Plainfield, New Jersey, to promote his Build Back Better agenda on Oct. 25, 2021. (Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS via Getty Images)
President Joe Biden talks to students during a visit to a pre-K classroom at East End Elementary School in North Plainfield, New Jersey, to promote his Build Back Better agenda on Oct. 25, 2021. 

Extension Of The Child Tax Credit

Democrats would continue the monthly child allowance payments of up to $300 per child for one year, with no new restrictions on access for people with low incomes.

But it’s not clear if the new proposal would exclude households with higher incomes. Democrats had originally wanted to extend the benefits through 2025, but recent opposition to the program from Manchin forced Biden to agree to just a one-year extension.

Clean Energy And Climate Investments

Biden initially proposed $500 billion in climate spending in March. But the White House’s deal has actually proposed $555 billion for clean energy and climate investments.

That includes about $320 billion for tax credits for companies that hey dude buy and build solar, wind and nuclear power, and for drivers who purchase electric vehicles. The program would last 10 years ― twice as long as previous clean energy tax credits. Another $105 billion would go to investments to fortify the country against extreme weather, clean up disease-causing chemicals in historically polluted communities, and set up a Civilian Climate Corps modeled on the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps, which planted billions of trees and provided jobs during the Great Depression.

The administration said it won $110 billion in targeted incentives to boost domestic manufacturing of clean energy products and baseline industrial goods such as cement and steel, which have struggled to compete with cheaper and often more polluting rivals overseas. The budget includes $20 billion for the government itself to buy more green technologies, including small-modular nuclear reactors, which could have a knock-on effect of spurring on technologies that have had trouble finding private buyers.

The 6 megawatt Stanton Solar Farm outside of Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) (Photo: SOPA Images via Getty Images)
The 6 megawatt Stanton Solar Farm outside of Orlando, Florida.

Taxes On The Wealthy

Democrats are still raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations to pay for the legislation ― just not in the ways they originally anticipated, and not as much as they originally anticipated. A planned hike in the corporate tax rate, which Republicans slashed from 35% to just 21% during the administration of Donald Trump, isn’t happening because of opposition from Sinema. Instead, Democrats are backing a corporate minimum tax, designed to limit the use of tax deductions and credits by large corporations.

The outline also omits a new proposal to tax the unrealized capital gains on stocks and other assets owned by billionaires, after many Democrats complained about a tricky implementation.

Instead, Democrats would go for a “surcharge” on the richest 0.02% of households, plus a 1% tax on corporate stock buybacks, which surged as a result of the 2017 Republican tax cut and often do little but enrich executives.

A huge chunk of tax revenue would come not from new taxes, but instead from giving the IRS tens of billions in new funding to enforce existing law and close the “tax gap,” the difference between what people owe and what they voluntarily pay. Most of the gap results from business income earned by wealthy households.

The White House says this collection of tax hikes means the bill would be fully paid for and won’t add to the deficit, but the Congressional Budget Office may disagree.

Affordable Housing

At one point, Democrats feared housing provisions could get cut from the legislation entirely. And while funding for housing did decline from the $327 billion Biden originally requested, more than $150 billion would still go to helping the poorest families afford homes and rent.

The White House says this would pay for the construction or rehabilitation of more than 1 million homes, expand the Section 8 voucher program and would provide financial incentives for state and local governments to change zoning laws to encourage new housing construction.

Care Services For The Elderly And People With Disabilities

The bill would include an unprecedented investment in what’s known as home- and community-based services, or HCBS. These are programs for elderly and disabled Americans that allow them to live outside of large institutions, frequently in their own homes, by offering them help with some of the functions of everyday life.

The services can include everything from home care aides to help with cooking and hygiene, to employment programs that help people with disabilities find and keep jobs. Advocates for the initiative had initially proposed an investment of $400 billion over 10 years. The provision in the bill is just $150 billion. That would still represent the single-biggest increase in these sorts of programs, according to experts.

As with the child care proposal, a major goal of the initiative is to raise the wages of caregivers, whose notoriously low pay leaves many in poverty ― and, especially following the pandemic, has created shortages. And as with the child care proposal, a major caveat is that it requires states to participate. Some may not.

An activist is seen during the Care Cant Wait rally with the Service Employees International Union at the Lehigh County Courthouse in Allentown, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Tom Williams via Getty Images)
An activist is seen during the Care Cant Wait rally with the Service Employees International Union at the Lehigh County Courthouse in Allentown, Pennsylvania. 

Health Care Coverage Expansions

The bill takes two significant, if time-limited, steps toward universal coverage ― in both cases by building on the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare.”

First, it takes some temporary increases in private insurance subsidies through the Affordable Care Act and extends them through 2025. This increases, in place because of the pandemic relief act in the spring, reduce premiums (and allow access to more generous coverage) for millions, including some who were not eligible for assistance before.

Second, the bill offers an insurance option to low-income people in states dr martens boots where Republican officials have declined to expand Medicaid eligibility, as the Affordable Care Act originally envisioned. It would do so by allowing these people to get effectively free coverage through HealthCare.gov.

If these steps take effect, nearly all American citizens would have access to insurance, experts have said.

The bill also adds a hearing benefit to Medicare, but not vision and dental. The latter, in particular, had been a major goal for progressives, citing the large number of seniors who can’t afford and don’t get dental care now.

Prescription Drug Pricing Reform

The most conspicuously missing piece on the White House framework is a proposal to make prescription drugs more affordable. There’s no proposal at all, despite months of trying to reach an agreement on a plan that would give the federal government some regulatory power over drug prices, just like the governments of other economically advanced countries have.

The hope was to reduce drug prices mainly in two ways: by giving the government power to negotiate prices directly with manufacturers, and by limiting how much the companies could raise prices every year. The proposal also envisioned new investments in basic scientific research, to promote the development of breakthrough cures, and to redesign the drug benefit in Medicare so that it offered seniors more coverage.

It would be a big deal as politics. Democrats have been promising action on drugs since the early 2000s. And it would be a big deal as policy. Because of America’s high drug prices, drug costs are an extra burden for employers and taxpayers, as well as a real hardship for millions, especially elderly Americans whose health problems require multiple medications.

The idea of regulating drug prices is extremely popular, even among conservative voters. And it has support of nearly the entire Democratic caucus, including relatively conservative members in swing districts. But a small handful of Democrats with ties to ― and campaign support from ― the drug industry have objected to more aggressive schemes, citing concerns that limiting drug company revenue would hurt innovation.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) was a major opponent of Democrats' proposed prescription drug price reforms. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) (Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images)
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) was a major opponent of Democrats’ proposed prescription drug price reforms.

Biden and Democratic leaders hoped to broker some kind of compromise, by, for example, limiting the number of drugs subject to negotiation. The Democratic holdouts, including Rep. Scott Peters of California and Sinema of Arizona, wanted a version so limited that supporters felt it would do little good.

Champions of aggressive regulation, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), on Thursday vowed to keep fighting to get a drug package into the final legislation.

So there’s still a chance this could come back in some form. Maybe.

Paid Leave

Biden originally proposed giving workers 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. The mandate would ensure that people could take time off for a new child, recovery from an illness, caring for a seriously ill family member or issues arising from a loved one’s military deployment.

But thanks to Manchin, the United States will continue to be the only industrialized nation with no universal paid leave mandate. Manchin was concerned about the cost, as well as the potential for fraud. Democrats tried to come up with a compromise ― shortening the length to four weeks, and eliminating sick leave, but they failed to convince the senator.

Just 23% of private sector workers currently have access to paid family leave provided by their employer and 42% have access to medical leave.

Big Action On Climate Change

The regulatory program meant to serve as the centerpiece of Biden’s climate strategy was eliminated. The proposed Clean Electricity Performance Program would have given the Department of Energy $150 billion to pay utilities who increase their output of zero-carbon power by 4% each year ― and fine those that failed to hit that target. It was projected by independent modelers to get the U.S. one-third of the way to its goal of cutting emissions in half by the end of this decade.

Democrats managed to redistribute that funding to other programs, delivering a much bigger tax credit suite than previously planned. And the administration has vowed to compensate for the loss of the program by enacting new regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency, restoring the federal government’s stick.

A new analysis by the Rhodium Group, a consultancy, found that the mix of funding and executive branch actions could, technically, deliver the 50% emissions cuts Biden promised.

But the implementation of the climate plan comes with big ifs. Regulations will take years to come into force, and will likely face hefty legal challenges. And if Biden, already the oldest person to assume the presidency, is defeated in 2024, the next administration could reverse the regulatory and executive actions almost as easily as the current White House enacted them.

GOP Corporate Tax Cuts Stay Put

Democrats have campaigned since 2018 on reversing Republican tax cuts, especially their reductions to the corporate and top individual rates. But Democrats are offsetting their spending with revenue from novel tax policies while they leave the Republican tax cuts untouched.

The framework is also silent on whether Democrats will restore a property tax deduction used mostly by high income households in populous blue states, though lawmakers said Thursday morning it would be included in the end.

Free Community College

Offering free community college was an issue close to the White House, since First Lady Jill Biden has taught at community colleges for the past 30 years. It would give everyone access to higher education, regardless of ability to pay.

But this proposal was quickly cut as it became clear that the overall price tag would have to shrink. Lobbyists for four-year colleges also opposed the proposal because they were worried it would hurt their bottom line. They argued that states would redirect money away from them, or students would opt to attend community college instead of a four-year institution.

What you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:

Russian COVID cases hit record high as eastern Europe imposes new curbs

Russia reported a record high number of daily COVID-19 cases and some central European countries imposed fresh restrictions on Monday, as a new wave of the pandemic gathered pace.

Authorities around the world have been sounding the alarm as infections surge, with governments in regions where vaccine uptake has been low forced to toughen up restrictions in a bid to stop the virus raging out of control.

Russia on Monday reported 37,930 new COVID-19 infections in the last 24 hours, its highest single-day case tally since the start of the pandemic.

U.S. to outline Nov. 8 international travel reopening

The Biden administration plans to asics shoes unveil detailed rules on Monday requiring nearly all foreign air visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting Nov. 8, sources told Reuters.

The White House first disclosed on Sept. 20 it would remove restrictions in early November for fully vaccinated air travellers from 33 countries.

South Korea plots course to scrapping COVID curbs

South Korea unveiled a three-phase strategy to get back to normal from the coronavirus with all limits on gatherings and distancing gone by February, after it achieved a goal of vaccinating 70% of its people at the weekend.

The scheme begins next Monday and is due to run until Feb. 20, by when all distancing curbs will be scrapped except for mask-wearing mandates, a government health panel said.

Beijing delays marathon, raises COVID curbs as Olympics near

China’s latest COVID-19 outbreak has forced the capital Beijing to delay its annual marathon and step up other curbs, as the sprawling city and neighbouring Hebei province go into high gear in their preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics Games.

China reported 35 new domestically transmitted cases on Sunday, official data showed on Monday. Beijing accounted for 14 of the 168 cases reported between Oct. 17-24.

The infection numbers are tiny compared to many outbreaks elsewhere in the world, but authorities have adopted a zero tolerance strategy, aggressively tracking potential infections.

EU regulator starts real-time review of Merck pill

U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co Inc said the European Union’s drug regulator has initiated a real-time review of its experimental COVID-19 antiviral drug for adults.

Under the procedure, also known as a “rolling review”, the European Medicines Agency would assess data as soon as it becomes available, instead of waiting for a formal application when all required information has been gathered.

While vaccines are the main weapons against COVID-19, Merck’s experimental pill molnupiravir keen shoes could be a game-changer after studies showed it could halve the chances of dying or being hospitalised for those most at risk of contracting severe illness.

Pandemic overwhelms Papua New Guinea

Concerted international action is needed to support Papua New Guinea as a surge in COVID-19 cases overwhelms the Pacific country’s health system, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Monday.

Coronavirus cases in the island nation of 9 million have been surging in recent weeks, with 385 new cases recorded on Thursday, according to latest available government data.

Fewer than 1% of the population have been fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data figures.