Tuesday, July 5, 2022
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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

White House Faces Questions on Biden’s Mental Fitness, 2024 Reelection Plans

Biden’s approval ratings also show Democrats’ wavering support of the President. 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dismissed concerns regarding President Joe Biden’s possible reelection bid.

In an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon late Monday, Jean-Pierre responded to a question concerning Biden’s potential inability to run again in 2024.

“Does the President have the stamina, physically and mentally, do you think to continue on even after 2024?” Lemon asked.

“Don, you’re asking me this question? Oh my gosh, he’s the president of the United States,” Jean-Pierre replied. “That is not a question that we should be even asking.”

These comments come after a New York Times article reporting Democrats’ hesitancy to endorse Biden, who is 79, for a 2024 run.

“That article that we’re talking about is hearsay,” Jean-Pierre said. “That’s not what we care about; we care about how are we going to deliver for the American people, how are we going to make their lives better.”

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., declined to endorse Biden’s potential running in 2024 during a different CNN interview.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “We’ll take a look at it.”

Biden’s approval ratings also show Democrats’ wavering support of the President. His approval rating sits at 41%, according to Reuters.

Specifically, voters claim that inflation is the most pressing issue, according to a poll by Quinnipiac University, with 64% disapproving of his handling of the economy.

When asked by a reporter on Monday about the issue of inflation, Jean-Pierre responded, “we know families are concerned about inflation and the stock market. That is something that the president is – is really aware of. And so, look, we face global challenges. We’ve talked about this. This is – we’re not the only country dealing with what we’re seeing at the moment as it relates to inflation.”

Defending her previous statements on the matter, Jean-Pierre has come out saying that Biden does indeed plan to run in 2024 on her Twitter account.

“To be clear, as the president has said repeatedly, he plans to run in 2024,” she said.

By Richie Malouf
Go to Source
Reposted with permission

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Carson v. Makin

U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Ban Preventing Religious Schools From Receiving State Funding

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned Maine’s ban on state tuition assistance to students attending religious schools in an education case that could have big implications for schools around the country.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Carson v. Makin.

The dispute began when the state of Maine created a tuition assistance program for rural areas without public schools. The program, though, explicitly said that state funds could not be used at religious private schools, only secular schools.

A family sued the state of Maine saying they should be able to use the state funding at a religious school if they desired. They argued the program discriminates against religious schools and violates the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court sided with the challengers to Maine’s law Tuesday.

“Maine’s program cannot survive strict scrutiny,” the court’s ruling says. “A neutral benefit program in which public funds flow to religious organizations through the independent choices of private benefit recipients does not offend the Establishment Clause. Maine’s decision to continue excluding religious schools from its tuition assistance program after Zelman thus promotes stricter separation of church and state than the Federal Constitution requires. But a State’s antiestablishment interest does not justify enactments that exclude some members of the community from an otherwise generally available public benefit because of their religious exercise.”

The high court pointed to Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, a 2016 ruling where the court sided with a religious school that was denied state grant funding assistance for a playground improvement because it was religious.

“The Department’s policy violated the rights of Trinity Lutheran under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by denying the Church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status,” the court ruled in that case. “This Court has repeatedly confirmed that denying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion.”

As The Center Square previously reported, critics of Maine’s anti-religious school provision also pointed to Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue, a Supreme Court case in 2020 in which the high court ruled in favor of a similar Montana program, saying students could receive state funds for education at a religious school.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, and Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissent. In the dissent, Breyer said the majority gave too little credence to the establishment clause and too much to the free exercise clause.

“The Court today pays almost no attention to the words in the first Clause while giving almost exclusive attention to the words in the second. The majority also fails to recognize the ‘play in the joints’ between the two Clauses," Breyer wrote.

Religious liberty advocates celebrated the ruling.

“We are thrilled that the Court affirmed once again that religious discrimination will not be tolerated in this country,” said Kelly Shackelford, Liberty Counsel’s president and chief Counsel. “Parents in Maine, and all over the country, can now choose the best education for their kids without fearing retribution from the government. This is a great day for religious liberty in America.”

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Mayorkas

Lawmakers Say Documents Show DHS Secretary Mayorkas Misled Congress About Disinformation Board, Demand Hearing

Several Republican senators are demanding a hearing saying they received documents from a Department of Homeland Security whistleblower about the agency’s new disinformation governance board that allegedly show DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas misled a Senate committee when he testified about the board last month.

The lawmakers sent a letter this week to Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee asking for a hearing on the issue where Mayorkas could come back for questioning.

“We write to request you convene a hearing with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas as soon as possible to answer critical questions about apparently misleading testimony before the Committee on May 4 on the Department of Homeland Security Disinformation Governance Board (the Board),” the letter said. “We are deeply concerned that documents recently obtained by Senators Josh Hawley and Chuck Grassley contradict the Secretary’s testimony and public statements about the Board.”

This kerfuffle is the latest in a string of disputes around the board, not the least of which included Nina Jankowicz’ resignation from leading the board after controversial social media videos surfaced.

The Republican senators published the DHS documents online purporting to show documented evidence that Mayorkas misrepresented the purpose of the board.

“Responding to a question from a reporter ‘Will American citizens be monitored?’ Secretary Mayorkas responded unequivocally ‘No,’ adding that ‘We at the Department of Homeland Security don’t monitor American citizens,’” the letter said. “He went on to suggest the Board would be concentrating on foreign threats – ’addressing the threat of disinformation from foreign state adversaries [and] from the cartels.’ Yet talking points prepared by Ms. Jankowicz, the Board’s then–Executive Director appear to show that the Department does in fact monitor American citizens and that the Board’s work is concentrated on domestic threats.”

The documents also give evidence that the federal agency has been working on the disinformation board longer than Mayorkas let on in his testimony.

“At the May 4 hearing, Secretary Mayorkas testified that the Board ‘has not yet begun its work,’” the letter said. “Yet the documents indicate the Secretary had stood up the Board on February 24, 2022 – more than two months earlier. The Board’s charter, signed by the Secretary, required the Board meet ‘regularly’ and ‘no less than once per quarter.’ Another document dated only six days before Secretary Mayorkas appeared before the Committee provides preparatory materials for a meeting between Under Secretary for Policy Robert Silvers and Twitter. The document was prepared by Ms. Nina Jankowicz in her capacity as ‘Executive Director DHS Disinformation Governance Board,’ clearly evidencing that the Board had already begun its work.”

After the board was announced, critics quickly raised concerns about its implications for free speech and the Constitution.

“Any regime with an organized disinformation effort directed at its own people is one that is moving away from self-government and toward state control of the most basic aspects of liberty,” said Matthew Spalding, Constitutional expert and Dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Government for Hillsdale College.

Now, the lawmakers are calling for a hearing, but whether that hearing will actually happen remains to be seen.

“The American public deserves transparency and honest answers to important questions about the true nature and purpose of the Disinformation Governance Board and it is clear that Secretary Mayorkas has not provided them – to the public or this Committee,” the letter said. “Therefore, we request you hold a hearing with Secretary Mayorkas and join us in insisting that all records related to the Board be provided to the Committee prior to the hearing.”

Sen. Peter’s office and the DHS did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

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Border Patrol Records Another Record High of Apprehensions, Encounters at Southern Border in May

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol published official data Thursday for apprehensions and encounters May: the highest monthly total in recorded U.S. history of 239,416.

CBP published the data after The Center Square published preliminary numbers received from a Border Patrol agent.

Official numbers include both Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations data of people entering the U.S. illegally at all ports of entry.

Despite President Joe Biden, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and CBP Chief Chris Magnus arguing that the border is closed, that Title 42 is being enforced, and that it is complying with the Remain in Mexico policy, more people entered the U.S. illegally in May 2022 than an any month recorded in U.S. history.

And the numbers are only going up.

In April, CBP reported 235,478 total encounters/apprehensions; in March, 222,239; in February, 165,902; in January, 154,816.

The last two months alone equals roughly the size of the population of Montana.

The southern border sectors that saw the most traffic last month, as in nearly all months, were in Texas in the Rio Grande Valley and Del Rio sectors.

The numbers are broken down by BP sector and categories, including apprehensions, turn backs, non-violations, outstanding, no-arrests, got aways (known/recorded), and deceased. Here are the numbers based on the preliminary data obtained by The Center Square.

RGV Sector

Apps - 46,527TBs - 4,284Got Aways (known/recorded) - 4,378Unresolved Detection - 133No Arrest - 2,887Deceased - 15Non-violation - 261Outstanding - 18

Del Rio Sector

Apps - 45,662TBs - 193Got Aways (known/recorded) - 15,006Unresolved Detection - 168No Arrest - 3,736Deceased -26Non-violation -176Outstanding -58

Yuma Sector

Apps - 36,568TBs - 204Got Aways (known/recorded) - 3,007Unresolved Detection - 20No Arrest - 62Deceased - 9Non-violation -54Outstanding - 63

El Paso Sector

Apps - 35,650TBs - 3,104Got Aways (known/recorded) - 9,856Unresolved Detection - 31No Arrest - 225Deceased -0Non-violation -104Outstanding -25

Tucson Sector

Apps - 27,554TBs - 995Got Aways (known/recorded) - 18,612Unresolved Detection - 1,655No Arrest - 3,344Deceased - 12Non-violation - 202Outstanding - 399

San Diego Sector

Apps - 17,797TBs - 756Got Aways (known/recorded) -5,437Unresolved Detection - 4No Arrest - 5,301Deceased - 1Non-violation - 7Outstanding - 150

Laredo Sector

Apps - 12,297TBs - 2,601Got Aways (known/recorded) - 3,113Unresolved Detection - 45No Arrest - 1,134Deceased - 11Non-violation - 246Outstanding - 0

El Centro Sector

Apps - 7,264TBs - 407Got Aways (known/recorded) - 679Unresolved Detection - 4No Arrest - 5Deceased - 0Non-violation - 2Outstanding - 5

Big Bend Sector

Apps - 3,309TBs - 54Got Aways (known/recorded) - 1,521Unresolved Detection - 41No Arrest - 184Deceased - 5Non-violation - 22Outstanding - 69

Apprehensions include those in the U.S. illegally who surrender or are caught by BP officers. Turn backs include those who entered illegally but returned to Mexico.

The categories of "no arrests" and "unresolved detection" aren’t part of 6 U.S. Code, which classifies how encounters are to be reported. These categories are used as a way to lower the number of got-aways being reported, the BP officer says.

No arrests mean someone “was detected in a non-border zone and their presence didn’t affect Got-Away statistics,” according to the official internal tracking system definition used by agents to record data. "Unresolved detection" means the same thing, but the officers, for a range of reasons, couldn’t determine citizenship.

Non-violations are “deemed to have committed no infraction and don’t affect Got-Away statistics,” according to the tracking system definition.

The categories of non-violations, no arrests and unresolved detection should actually be categorized as got-aways, the BP officer says, assuming all non-arrests were of non-citizens.

Preliminary data in other sectors show more than 1,600 people were apprehended in May, with Miami apprehending the most.

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(The Center Square) – There are new questions about who is running public schools in Wisconsin following the release of emails between Gov. Tony Evers and the state’s largest teachers’ union.

Empower Wisconsin on Wednesday broke a story showing the Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC, was in regular contact with Gov. Evers’ office about the plan to reopen schools back in the summer of 2020.

“We at WEAC are getting pressure from the Senate Democrats to take a position on these bills from the School Administrators Alliance. We have been told the Senate Dems are working with the Governor’s office on a strategy relating to opening of schools,” wrote WEAC lobbyist Jack O’Meara in an August 21, 2020 email to Evers’ office.

The report doesn’t include Evers’ response, but the governor eventually told local schools to make their own decisions about reopening. WEAC encouraged local schools to stay closed in the fall of 2020.

Republican candidate for governor Rebecca Kleefisch on Wednesday ripped what she characterized as collusion between Evers and WEAC.

“Wisconsin needs a governor who spends time prioritizing kids and listening to parents, unlike Tony Evers who lets union bosses decide when to lock kids out of classrooms,” Kleefisch said in a statement.

Kleefisch, like the other two Republicans running for governor, have made it clear they support parental involvement in public school policies, and strongly support school choice for families across the state.

“Wisconsin parents deserve choices for their kids’ educations. We will no longer accept the backward one-size-fits-all educational monopoly that Evers and his union boss allies support,” Kleefisch added. “As governor, I will enact universal school choice and continue to support parents taking back control of their school boards.”

Wisconsin’s local-decision school reopening policy allowed some schools to open quickly in the 2020-2021 school year, and allowed others like Milwaukee and Madison schools to remain closed for the entire school year.

.75% Interest Rate Hike

Federal Reserve Announces .75% Interest Rate Hike

The Federal Reserve announced a 0.75 percentage point rate hike Wednesday to help combat soaring inflation, the largest rate increase since 1994.

The Fed said it raised the rates "to 1‑1/2 to 1-3/4 percent and anticipates that ongoing increases in the target range will be appropriate."

"The committee seeks to achieve maximum employment and inflation at the rate of 2% over the longer run," the Federal Reserve said in a statement. "In addition, the committee will continue reducing its holdings of Treasury securities and agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities, as described in the Plans for Reducing the Size of the Federal Reserve's Balance Sheet that were issued in May. The committee is strongly committed to returning inflation to its 2% objective."

The decision is expected to curb inflation, but that comes at a cost to the economy. Federal data shows consumer prices have risen at the fastest rate in decades and producer prices spiked 10.8% in the last year.

"Overall economic activity appears to have picked up after edging down in the first quarter," the Federal Reserve said in its announcement. "Job gains have been robust in recent months, and the unemployment rate has remained low. Inflation remains elevated, reflecting supply and demand imbalances related to the pandemic, higher energy prices, and broader price pressures."

The Federal Reserve pointed to COVID-19 and the ongoing war in Ukraine when referencing the nation's economic difficulties. Experts have acknowledged those issues but also point to a major spike in the U.S. money supply and federal debt spending.

"Since early 2020, the Federal Reserve has printed nearly $5 trillion — using much of this to purchase government debt in addition to mortgage backed securities and other assets," said Joel Griffith, an economic expert at the Heritage Foundation, as the Center Square previously reported. "As this cash was injected into the economy, total money supply swelled by more than $75,000 per family of four. The Federal Reserve's complicity in financing Congress' outrageous spending spree of the past two years is largely to blame for the sky-high inflation, the new housing bubble, and rampant speculation [in] the financial markets."

Sex-Based Discrimination

26 Republican Attorney Generals Challenge New Sex-Based Discrimination Federal Guidance

Half of the state attorneys general in the country want the Biden administration to walk back new federal guidance on sex-based discrimination for schools and other organizations that receive federal money for food programs.

The AGs, 26 of the 27 Republicans in those offices across the country, claim in a letter to President Biden the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s guidance means states, local agencies and programs that receive federal food dollars through the Food and Nutrition Act and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program could lose funding if they don’t comply, including in hiring practices.

"Using hungry children as a human shield in a policy dispute violates basic decency," Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. "Aren’t there any parents in the Biden administration that can see past the edges of their ideology?"

In May, the USDA announced it will interpret the prohibition on discrimination based on sex in Title IX to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“USDA is committed to administering all its programs with equity and fairness and serving those in need with the highest dignity. A key step in advancing these principles is rooting out discrimination in any form – including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. “At the same time, we must recognize the vulnerability of the LGBTQI+ communities and provide them with an avenue to grieve any discrimination they face. We hope that by standing firm against these inequities we will help bring about much-needed change.”

The AGs called the interpretation drastically broader than originally defined in Title IX.

The guidance applies to about 100,000 public and nonprofit-private schools and residential child care institutions that participate in the national school breakfast and lunch programs, which provide subsidized free or reduced-price meals daily for nearly 30 million children.

“We have long had a productive relationship with the federal government, managing various food and nutrition programs guided by the principles of cooperative federalism. We would like to continue this cooperative relationship. But the guidance flouts the rule of law, relies on patently incorrect legal analysis that is currently under scrutiny in the federal courts and was issued without giving the states the requisite opportunity to be heard,” the letter reads.

Attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming and Virginia each signed the letter. The letter originates from Tennessee AG Herbert Slatery III.

The only Republican AG to not sign was New Hampshire's John Formula.

producer price index

Producer Prices Spike 10.8% in Past Year as Inflation Soars

New federal data show that the price of producer goods and services has spiked by 10.8% in the past year driven in part by higher gas prices.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Tuesday released producer price index data which showed the PPI increased by 0.8% in May, up from a 0.4% increase in April, and preceded by 1.6% in March.

The PPI report shows that almost half of the increase in prices for final demand goods in May results from an 8.4% increase in the index for gasoline, with the national average sitting at a record high $5.02 per gallon of regular gas.

"In May, nearly two-thirds of the rise in the index for final demand was due to a 1.4-percent advance in prices for final demand goods. The index for final demand services increased 0.4 percent," BLS said. "Over 70 percent of the increase in May can be traced to a 5.0-percent advance in prices for final demand energy."

This data comes at the heels of the Consumer Price Index, which showed last week a 1% increase overall in May, part of the fastest rise in consumer prices in decades.

The food and energy index increased by 1.2% and 3.9%, respectively, in the month of May alone.

"While almost all major components increased over the month, the largest contributors were the indexes for shelter, airline fares, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles," BLS said. "The indexes for medical care, household furnishings and operations, recreation, and apparel also increased in May."

Republicans have criticized President Joe Biden for his handling of inflation and its effects on the economy.

"Joe Biden's self-made inflation crisis is destroying the nation," U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., said. "He is failing hardworking Americans every single day. The worst part is he has no real plan to fix inflation."

Midcontinent Independent System Operators Life-Threatening Blackouts

Regional Electric Grid Sends Alert About Looming Energy Crunch

(The Center Square) – It’s not quite time for rolling blackouts, but an alert issued Tuesday by the Midcontinent Independent System Operators, which serves much of Illinois, could be the first step in preparing for such actions.

MISO’s “maximum generation alert” was issued for Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m for the market footprint, which also includes Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and North Dakota, most of Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana and South Dakota, and parts of Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana and Texas. A similar alert was sent Monday for the south region of MISO. The nation is split among several regional energy grids.

“The reason for the Event is because of Forced Generation Outages, Above Normal Temps, High Congestion,” the alert notification said Tuesday.

The announcement is just an advisory and is not the elevated “warning” or “event” stage. But the next advisories could require electric utilities to request energy conservation or implement rolling blackouts and power outages.

Springfield’s municipally owned City Water Light and Power said if “MISO upgrades its emergency and requests additional action, up to and including load reduction, CWLP will then issue a ‘Conserve Alert’,” which would ask utility customers to voluntarily reduce energy consumption during certain peak times to avert service disruptions.

Last month, CWLP chief engineer Doug Brown said such announcements prompt the utility to inform customers of how to conserve energy, and prepare them for the next possible phases.

“The rolling blackout is definitely a last resort,” Brown told WMAY last month. “It’s something that we don’t want to do but in order to support the regional grid, we’re really required to do that.”

There are several things that are causing coal-fired power plants to close, Brown said, adding to the energy crunch.

“When you have to invest over $50 million into those units to make them compliant with environmental regulations, that’s what happened,” Brown said. “Regulation after regulation has basically shut down coal plants and we’re starting to see those effects rather rapidly."

Gov. J.B. Pritzker contended last week that the green energy law he signed in Illinois last year that requires coal fired power plants in the state to close by 2045 isn’t the culprit. He said the law is meant to bring about more energy through investing in alternatives.

“So what we’re talking about this summer is the challenge of making sure that we bring online as much energy as possible,” Pritzker said at a political event. “We also are talking about other states, surrounding states, that aren’t producing enough energy.”

Here are some conservation steps CWLP electric customers could implement for energy emergencies during peak hours and hot temperatures:

Set thermostats to 78 degrees or higher;Use floor or ceiling fans to cool off in occupied rooms;Turn off lights where not needed and postpone major appliance use, such as with washing machines, dryers and dishwashers;Turn off and disconnect electronics not in use such as computers, printers, copiers, coffee makers, televisions and charging devices;Shade west-facing windows in the afternoon to reduce solar heat gain.

Most of Illinois geographically is covered by MISO. The northern part of the state is covered by PJM, or the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland grid. PJM issued a “Hot Weather Alert” for its western region through Wednesday.

“A Hot Weather Alert helps to prepare transmission and generation personnel and facilities for extreme heat and/or humidity that may cause capacity problems on the grid,” the alert said.

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