Archive for Jake Epstein

Joe Biden promised more family and medical leave for US workers during his presidential campaign. Now Democrats are stripping the benefits from his signature social spending package.

President Joe Biden stands outside behind a podium with the presidential seal, grabbing his chin and slightly covering his mouth in a pensive look.
President Joe Biden.
  • Democrats are removing paid family and medical leave from the social spending package, according to Politico.
  • It's yet another big cut to the bill, which is getting whittled down as negotiations with moderates continue.
  • However, lawmakers and advocates say the fight to implement paid leave isn't over.

Senate Democrats have decided to strip paid family and medical leave benefits from Biden's social spending package, Politico reporter Eleanor Mueller said on Wednesday.

Sources told Mueller that attempts to water down the bill didn't work out. In recent weeks, Democrats have scrambled for new revenue sources to pay for the "Build Back Better" bill, which was initially targeted at $4 trillion and may end up at $1.5 trillion or smaller. Key centrist Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have variously opposed most of the new tax proposals that Democrats have suggested.

"It is still a little inconceivable to me that after the last 18 months - and everything we saw during the course of the pandemic - that we are hearing that Congress is going to leave paid leave for another day," Laura Narefsky, counsel on education and workplace justice at the National Women's Law Center, told Insider.

"If the news reports are true, this is a devastating and incomprehensible blow to American families," Vicki Shabo, a paid leave expert at think tank New America, told Insider.

She added: "This was a once in a generation opportunity to build on the Family and Medical Leave Act to finally bring the promise of paid leave to the US, to end its outlier status, and to make good on promises that the president ran on."

The family and medical leave benefits were a central focus of President Joe Biden during his 2020 campaign and, even if enacted, would leave Americans with some of the stingiest leave benefits in all the developed world, The New York Times' Upshot reported. The US is already an outlier when it comes to benefits. A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that, out of 41 countries, the US was the only one not to mandate paid leave. The US also has no federal sick leave mandates.

Advocates for paid leave argue that it bolsters the economy, with an analysis from the University of Massachusetts Amherst finding that paid leave would increase Americans' incomes by $28.5 billion every year.

Paid leave is among the latest of many cuts Democrats have reportedly made to appease Manchin, including tuition-free community college and an expanded five-year child tax credit. But some lawmakers have been clear that they will keep fighting for all of their priorities until they see the final version of the bill.

"Until the bill is printed, I will continue working to include paid leave in the Build Back Better plan," New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been a leading advocate for paid leave, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Other lawmakers have been making similar statements with regards to wanting to see the final bill text. Michigan Rep. Andy Levin, for example, told Insider during a Tuesday interview that he will keep fighting to get free community college in the bill "right up to the closing whistle."

Democrats were hoping to pass the "Build Back Better" bill - along with a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill - this week.

"We cannot recover holistically unless you provide the full range of supports that working families need," Narefsky said. "It is so short-sighted to think that because we are trimming down some abstract top-line number, that that is the end goal. Paid family and medical leave is a benefit that touches everyone."

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Fascinated tourists are coming to Savannah see the backlog of cargo ships, tourism boss says

In this June, 19, 2018 photo, several ship to shore cranes stack shipping containers on-board the container ship Maersk Semarang at the Port of Savannah in Savannah, Ga.
In this June, 19, 2018 photo, several ship to shore cranes stack shipping containers on-board the container ship Maersk Semarang at the Port of Savannah in Savannah, Ga.
  • A Savannah tourism executive believes the backlog of cargo ships has increased tourism.
  • Joseph Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah, said people are fascinated as the ships pass by.
  • Savannah is the country's fourth-largest port and is dealing with packed shipping lanes due to supply-chain issues.

A Savannah tourism executive believes the backlog of cargo ships off the shore is drawing in fascinated tourists to the coastal city in Georgia.

Joseph Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah, told Insider that he's noticed visitors coming to Savannah specifically to see the backlog of cargo ships passing by the city on their way to the port.

"We're seeing visitation numbers grow with people that are interested in seeing, sort of, the parade of ships that are coming in and out of town," he said.

The country's fourth-largest port in Savannah has already seen record number of cargo ships move through its waters in recent months as shipping lanes are snarled across the world, including huge delays in California.

Marinelli said two or three months ago, he wouldn't have noticed any sort of impact that shipping had on the tourism industry.

Now, he said tools like smartphone apps that help fanatics keep an eye on ships' routes are luring in ship-watchers.

"It's almost like having a live IMAX theater right in front of you," Marinelli said. "Because these container ships, some of which are 1,000 feet long, are literally so close that you can almost feel like you can reach out and touch them."

He said that unlike other ports that may be closer or adjacent to the ocean, the Port of Savannah requires cargo ships to traverse the Savannah River, bringing the action closer to shore for passersby.

River traffic hasn't been an issue either lately, Marinelli said, due to close coordination between local river cruises and authorities, including the Georgia Ports Authority, to keep things running smoothly.

Marinelli said it's hard to put a dollar value on the increase in tourism because it's such a new phenomenon, but he's spoken with restaurant, hotel, and store owners who have all noticed an increase in patrons and revenue over the last few months.

Meanwhile, the port is going to go through a $600 million expansion to ease congestion, according to a New York Times report earlier this month.

The expansion will see the port have better accessibility for bigger cargo ships, more storage space for containers, and over a dozen new rail tracks for trains, the report said.

Grace Kay contributed to this report.

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A judge is postponing Matt Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg’s sentencing since he’s helping with a federal investigation

Joel Greenberg sits in a chair.
Former Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg talks to the Orlando Sentinel in September 2019, during an interview at his office in Lake Mary, Florida.
  • A federal judge agreed to postpone the sentencing of Matt Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg.
  • Greenberg's attorney and federal prosecutors asked for it to be pushed back to March 2022.
  • He has been cooperating with the feds in a criminal sex-trafficking investigation.

A federal judge on Monday agreed to postpone Joel Greenberg's sentencing, according to a new court filing.

The former Florida tax collector and longtime associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz pleaded guilty to six felonies in May, including knowingly paying for sex with a minor.

He's been helping prosecutors with a sweeping federal investigation as part of a plea deal he struck last spring to avoid several of the additional 33 federal charges he faced, including fraud and identity theft.

Greenberg's initial sentencing date was scheduled for August but got pushed back to November at the request of his defense attorney and federal prosecutors. This is the second time his sentencing was postponed.

In the filing requesting the second postponement, Greenberg's lawyer Fritz Scheller wrote that his client's "cooperation, which could impact his ultimate sentence, cannot be completed prior to the time of his sentencing."

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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More people with firearms were stopped by TSA in the first 9 months of 2021 than in any of the last 20 years

TSA
A TSA agent waits for passengers to use the TSA PreCheck lane at Miami International Airport on October 4, 2011 in Miami, Florida.
  • The TSA stopped more people with firearms at airports in 2021 than in any of the last 20 years.
  • By early October, the TSA stopped 4,495 passengers with firearms at security checkpoints.
  • For every 1 million people who went through a checkpoint, 11 firearms were found in carry-on bags.

The Transportation Security Administration has stopped more people with firearms at airports in 2021 so far than they have in any of the last 20 years, the agency said on Wednesday.

By early October, the TSA stopped 4,495 passengers who were trying to bring firearms onto an airplane, breaking the previous record of 4,432 passengers during all of 2019.

For every 1 million passengers who went through a TSA checkpoint, 11 firearms were found in carry-on bags, the agency said, compared to five in every 1 million two years prior.

"The number of firearms that our TSA officers are stopping at airport checkpoints is alarming," said TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a statement.

"Firearms, particularly loaded firearms, introduce an unnecessary risk at checkpoints, have no place in the passenger cabin of an airplane, and represent a very costly mistake for the passengers who attempt to board a flight with them," he added.

According to the agency's website, passengers are allowed to transport firearms in checked baggage if they are declared to the airlines ahead of time and packaged in a locked casing.

If a passenger brings a firearm to an airport checkpoint, the TSA said penalties vary based on if the gun is loaded and the number of past offenses.

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A deteriorating oil tanker in the Red Sea could cause ‘environmental catastrophe,’ new study says

In this Sept. 29, 2018 file photo, a cargo ship is docked at the port, in Hodeida, Yemen.
In this Sept. 29, 2018 file photo, a cargo ship is docked at the port, in Hodeida, Yemen.
  • There's potential for an oil spill in the Red Sea that could cause an "environmental catastrophe," a new study warns.
  • A "dead" oil tanker with 1.1 million barrels on board is stationed off Yemen's coast.
  • A new study warns that a leak from the deteriorating oil tanker could be a disaster.

A deteriorating oil tanker with 1.1 million barrels on board could cause an oil spill that'd lead to an "environmental catastrophe," according to a new study.

The study, published on Monday in Nature Sustainability, warns that the F.S.O. Safer, an ultra-large crude oil tanker stationed near Yemen's Hodeidah port, poses a huge threat to the region.

The tanker has been been "dead" since 2017 after its steam boilers gave out. In other words, the tanker has been just sitting there off the coast of Yemen, an area UNICEF has labeled as "the largest humanitarian crisis in the world" due to the ongoing civil war.

The tanker is "single-hulled, meaning a breach will cause the onboard oil to spill directly into the sea," according to the study, and a spill "could occur due to a leak or combustion."

Researchers modeled the potential public health implications and found that a spill could disrupt the clean water and food supplies of millions of people. Cardiovascular hospitalizations due to pollution could also increase by up to 42% throughout the duration of a potential spill.

From an economic standpoint, the study said all of Yemen's imported fuel that comes through key ports along the Red Sea could be severed, along with over 90% of the country's Red Sea fisheries.

And as tens of thousands of Yemenis struggle with famine and millions lack access to basic goods, a spill could block the port of Hodeidah, which is where two-thirds of the country's food arrives, the New Yorker reported last week.

As it is, over half the country's population is dependent on the aid that comes through its ports, the study said.

Still, the disastrous potential of an oil spill is completely preventable through offloading the oil, the study said. But it's a tall order for a country already strangled by conflict.

A skeleton crew aboard the ship has been fighting desperately to prevent the ship from sinking, exploding, or causing a massive oil spill. And the Yemeni Safer Exploration & Production Operations Company, which owns the Safer, reportedly only has enough money to make minor repairs on the ship annually.

To complicate things, Houthi rebels who control the Marib oil fields near where the ship is stationed have obstructed any efforts by the United Nations or NGOS to dislodge or drain the boat.

The study says no long-term solutions to improve the situation have been publicly proposed.

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Dozens of Massachusetts state police officers are quitting over the state’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement

A Massachusetts State Police trooper gets into a Troop F SUV in front of Terminal A at Logan Airport in Boston on March 23, 2018.
A Massachusetts State Police trooper gets into a Troop F SUV in front of Terminal A at Logan Airport in Boston on March 23, 2018.
  • Dozens of Massachusetts State Troopers resigned as a result of the state's vaccination requirement.
  • The State Police Association of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit earlier to try and delay the mandate.
  • The union represents 1,800 state troopers, according to the Associated Press.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Dozens of Massachusetts State Troopers have resigned as a result of the state's COVID-19 vaccination requirement, the State Police Association of Massachusetts (SPAM) said in a statement on Friday.

SPAM President Michael Cherven said in the statement that some of the troopers who are resigning plan to go to other policing departments that are offering alternatives to vaccine mandates like mask-wearing and testing.

He said in the statement that the union is asking for "the same basic accommodations that countless other departments have provided to their first responders, and to treat a COVID related illness as a line of duty injury."

The union, which represents 1,800 state troopers, filed a lawsuit earlier in September asking for more time before Gov. Charlie Baker's state employee vaccination requirement goes into effect on October 17, the Associated Press reported last week.

A Superior Court judge however denied the request from the union to delay the mandate, saying it was in the public's best interest to stop the spread of the deadly virus, the report said.

Around 20% of the state's police force is currently unvaccinated, CBS Boston reported on Monday.

The state's executive department employees who don't show proof of vaccination by the October 17 deadline risk losing their jobs, the report said.

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Video shows Border Patrol agent on horseback scattering Haitian migrants, shouting ‘this is why your country’s shit’

A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021.
A United States Border Patrol agent on horseback tries to stop Haitian migrants from entering an encampment on the banks of the Rio Grande near the Acuna Del Rio International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas on September 19, 2021.
  • A US Border Patrol agent on horseback yelled "this is why your country's shit" at Haitian migrants.
  • Haitian migrants were seen in a video crossing the Rio Grande on the way to a camp in Texas.
  • The Border Patrol agent used the horse to try to drive the migrants back across the river.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A US Border Patrol agent on horseback yelled "this is why your country's shit" at Haitian migrants attempting to get back to a migrant camp in Texas, according to a video reported by Al Jazeera on Monday.

In the video, a group of Haitian migrants - identified by reporter John Holman as a family - huddles together as the unidentified Border Patrol agent points back across the Rio Grande river.

The agent then points at a man carrying bags in the back of the group standing behind a woman and shouts "Hey, you use your women? This is why your country's shit. Because you use your women for this."

As the group moves onto a nearby road, the video shows the agent using the horse to try and scatter the migrants, nearly hitting a small child.

A different Border Patrol agent on horseback agent swings the horse's reins at another migrant as the man in the group is forced away into the river.

US Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.

As of last weekend, thousands of migrants in a makeshift camp were sheltering under the Del Rio International Bridge, which crosses the Rio Grande from Mexico to the US.

The Haitians have fled as their country was rocked by crisis after crisis, including the assassination of its president and a devastating earthquake.

The Al Jazeera report showed many of them carrying their belongings and wading through ankle- or waist-deep water across the Rio Grande to reach the US after fetching food in Mexico.

Shocking images of border agents driving away migrants has sparked outrage, with Rep. Ilhan Omar saying it amounted to "human rights abuses."

At a briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that while she hasn't seen the full context of the video, she "can't imagine what context would make [the agents' actions] appropriate."

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The first wave of Afghan refugees is expected to land in every state but Hawaii, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming

Refugees are led through the departure terminal to a bus that will take them from the Dulles International Airport to a refugee processing center after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on August 31, 2021 in Dulles, Virginia. The Department of Defense announced yesterday that the U.S. military had completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, ending 20 years of war.
Refugees are led through the departure terminal to a bus that will take them from the Dulles International Airport to a refugee processing center after being evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan on August 31, 2021 in Dulles, Virginia. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
  • Around 37,000 Afghan refugees will arrive in every US state except four in the coming weeks.
  • Hawaii, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming won't host refugees in the first wave or arrivals.
  • California and Texas will accept the biggest numbers of refugees, the Associated Press reported.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The first wave of around 37,000 Afghan refugees, many of whom endured a perilous journey to leave their homes, are set to arrive in every US state except Hawaii, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming in the coming weeks, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

The Biden administration began notifying governors and state refugee coordinators on Wednesday how many refugees their state could expect to see in this first group, the report said.

All but four states - Hawaii, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming - will welcome refugees, the report said. The District of Columbia will also not take on any resettled people in this first group.

California is expected to host the largest number of incoming refugees at over 5,200, Axios reported Thursday, followed by Texas at over 4,400. Alabama and Mississippi will see the fewest number of refugees among participating states, at 10 each.

Included in this first wave are Afghans who helped the US in Afghanistan and applied for a Special Immigrant Visa, Axios said.

Montana, which is set to host 75 refugees, saw Republican Congressman Matt Rosendale tweet his opposition to the move, saying he "strongly" opposes the resettlement and blamed a lack of a "traditional vetting process."

"Following the Biden Administration's disastrously mismanaged withdrawal from Afghanistan, I warned that we could not use this Administration's incompetence to justify flooding our communities with unvetted refugees," he wrote in a thread.

Claims that Afghan refugees are not being vetted, however, have been disputed by security screenings by intelligence, law enforcement, and counterterrorism professionals, CNN reported earlier in the month.

President Joe Biden in late August emphasized background checks for refugees coming to the US.

"Anyone arriving in the United States will have undergone a background check," he said during a briefing.

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The Taliban are cracking down on Afghan women protesting the new government by whipping, beating people

Afghan women shout slogans during an anti-Pakistan demonstration, near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. The framed sign in Persian reads, "Freedom."
Afghan women shout slogans during an anti-Pakistan demonstration, near the Pakistan embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. The framed sign in Persian reads, "Freedom." (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)
  • Taliban fighters whipped and beat a group Afghan women in Kabul protesting the new rule.
  • The protests are the latest in a show of defiance against Taliban leadership.
  • On Tuesday the Taliban announced an interim government consisting of only men.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Taliban fighters whipped and beat a group Afghan women in Kabul protesting the newly announced all-male interim government, CNN reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, some signs read "No government can deny the presence of women" and "I will sing freedom over and over."

A handful of journalists covering the demonstration were also arrested, according to TOLO News.

The protests are the latest in a show of defiance around Kabul as many have been chanting slogans against the Pakistani government and expressing support for rebels fighting the Taliban.

Wednesday's demonstrations also come as the Taliban plans to recreate the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, the BBC reported, which was known during the militant group's 1996-2001 rule for deploying religious police to the streets in an attempt to enforce strict Sharia law.

The Taliban on Tuesday announced an interim government to rule Afghanistan, made up entirely of men and includes an interior minister who has a $10 million US bounty on his head. Sirajuddin Haqqani is the head of the Haqqani Network - a US-designated terror group in Pakistan and Afghanistan with close ties to al-Qaida

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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Droughts have killed the most people in the world’s worst natural disasters over the last 50 years

Empty boat docks sit on dry land at the Browns Ravine Cove area of drought-stricken Folsom Lake, currently at 37% of its normal capacity, in Folsom, Calif., Saturday, May 22, 2021.
Empty boat docks sit on dry land at the Browns Ravine Cove area of drought-stricken Folsom Lake, currently at 37% of its normal capacity, in Folsom, Calif., Saturday, May 22, 2021.
  • Droughts killed the most people of the world's most deadly weather-related disasters, the UN said.
  • A new report released Tuesday highlights an increase in weather-related disasters but fewer deaths.
  • More than 90% of deaths occured in developing countries.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Droughts are the leading cause of death from the world's worst disasters in the last 50 years, according to a report the World Meteorological Organization released on Tuesday.

The UN agency's report, which considered more than 11,000 weather disasters over the past half-century, highlighted four specific droughts that occured in eastern Africa in the 1970s and 1980s as the leading killers. In all, droughts killed 650,000 people. The next biggest cause of death from disasters was storms, with more than 575,000 deaths.

Disasters related to weather, climate, or water hazards happen five times more often now than they did in the 1970s, but the deaths they cause have decreased significantly, the report said.

The 1970s and 1980s saw an average of 170 deaths per day, which fell to 90 in the 1990s. In the 2010s, there were 40 deaths per day related to weather disasters.

More than 90% of the deaths occurred in developing counties, the report said.

Meanwhile, economic damage stemming from these disasters has increased seven-fold over the last 50 years, according to the report. The six costliest disasters were all the result of hurricanes in the US, racking up more than $517 billion in economic losses combined.

"The number of weather, climate and water extremes are increasing and will become more frequent and severe in many parts of the world as a result of climate change," WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas said in a statement. "That means more heatwaves, drought and forest fires such as those we have observed recently in Europe and North America. We have more water vapor in the atmosphere, which is exacerbating extreme rainfall and deadly flooding. The warming of the oceans has affected the frequency and area of existence of the most intense tropical storms."

He said the global community has become better at saving lives due to improved multi-hazard early warning systems, despite only half of the 193-member countries of the WMO actually having these systems.

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