News Headlines 1/15/21

BIDEN UNVEILS $1.9 TRILLION ‘AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN’ FOR TACKLING CORONAVIRUS, ECONOMIC FALLOUT: President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion legislative proposal last night (January 14th) for tackling the coronavirus and the economic fallout from the pandemic, which includes getting people vaccinated faster and providing financial assistance. What Biden is calling the “American Rescue Plan” would work to reach his goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, as well as send out a check for $1,400 to most Americans in the addition to the $600 they just recently got for a total of $2,000. It would also extend an increase in unemployment benefits and the suspension of evictions and foreclosures through September. Additionally, it would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, expand paid leave and increase tax credits for families with children. Speaking in a nationwide address, Biden said, “The crisis of deep human suffering is in plain sight, and there’s not time to waste. We have to act and we have to act now.” He also called the vaccine rollout, quote, “a dismal failure so far.” The proposal’s prospects remain unclear in the new Congress, where Democrats have the majority in both chambers, but by narrow margins.

[“We’ll have to move heaven and Earth to get more people vaccinated. To create more places for them to get vaccinated. To mobilize more medical teams to get shots in people’s arms. To increase vaccine supply and to get it out the door as fast as possible.”] SOUNDCUE (:16 OC . . . fast as possible.)

[“Direct cash payments, extended unemployment insurance, rent relief, food assistance, keeping essential frontline workers on the job, aid to small businesses. These are the key elements to the American Rescue Plan.”] SOUNDCUE (:14 OC . . . American Rescue Plan.)

WRAY: FBI TRACKING ‘EXTENSIVE AMOUNT OF CONCERNING ONLINE CHATTER’: FBI Director Chris Wray said yesterday (January 14th) that they are tracking a, quote, “extensive amount of concerning online chatter,” including calls for armed protests leading up to next Wednesday’s presidential inauguration, in his first public appearance since last week’s attack on the Capitol. Wray said that the FBI remains concerned about the potential for violence at protests in Washington, D.C., and in the nation’s state capitols. However, he said the FBI will have a 24-7 command post at their headquarters and at each of its 56 field offices, stating, “Our posture is aggressive, and it’s going to stay that way through the inauguration.” In addressing last week’s Capitol assault, Wray said the FBI has so far identified over 200 suspects, saying, “We know who you are. If you’re out there, an FBI agent is coming to find you.”

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported yesterday that dozens of people on a terrorist watch list were in Washington, D.C., last Wednesday for the pro-President Trump events that took place before the attack on the Capitol, citing sources familiar with evidence the FBI has gathered. Most of them are suspected white supremacists. People on the Terrorist Screening Database, who are flagged as potential security risks, aren’t automatically barred from flying or from any public or commercial places. However, the Post cited current and former law enforcement officials as saying that the presence of so many people on the Terrorist Screening Database in one place without stronger security measures in place is another example of intelligence failures before last week’s attack.

UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS SPIKE TO HIGHEST SINCE AUGUST: The number of people filing unemployment claims spiked last week to 965,000, according to data released yesterday (January 14th) by the Labor Department, the most weekly claims since late August. The economic effect of the surge of the coronavirus that has been going on for weeks now may have increased layoffs, according to AP, which also cited the possible effect of state employment offices having been closed over the holidays, meaning some people had to wait until last week to apply. After soaring to nearly seven million last spring as the result of the nationwide lockdowns at the start of the pandemic, weekly claims eventually came down, but have remained over 700,000 since September. Before the pandemic, weekly claims were usually around 225,000.

FEDERAL PRISONER WHO WAS DRUG TRAFFICKER IS EXECUTED: A 52-year-old federal prisoner who had been a drug trafficker was executed last night (January 14th), the 12th prisoner executed at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, since the Trump administration restarted federal executions last year after none were carried out for 17 years. Corey Johnson had been convicted of killing seven people in gang violence in Richmond, Virginia, in 1992. In a final statement released by his attorneys after his execution, Johnson said, “I want to say that I am sorry for my crimes. I wanted to say that to the families who were victimized by my actions.” Another federal execution is set for today.

N.Y. ATTORNEY GENERAL SUES NYPD OVER RESPONSE TO GEORGE FLOYD PROTEST: New York state’s attorney general sued the New York City police department yesterday (January 14th) over its response to the George Floyd protests last year. Attorney General Letitia James‘ lawsuit includes dozens of examples of alleged police misconduct, including the use of pepper spray and batons on protesters, arresting medics and legal observers, and using a technique called kettling to trap protesters. The suit calls the behavior part of a longstanding pattern of abuse resulting from inadequate training, supervision and discipline. James is seeking reforms, including the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the NYPD’s policing tactics at protests.