News Headlines 5/20/21

HOUSE OKAYS CREATING CAPITOL ATTACK COMMISSION, 35 GOP JOIN WITH DEMS DESPITE LEADERSHIP OPPOSITION: The House voted yesterday (May 19th) to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. The measure passed on a 252-175 vote, with 35 Republicans joining all the Democrats in favor, despite opposition from House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy as well as former President Donald Trump. Prospects for approval in the 50-50 Senate are uncertain, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell coming out against it yesterday, and trying to prevent fellow Republican senators from breaking ranks to support it. Both McCarthy and McConnell claimed the legislation was partisan, even though the commission’s 10 members would be evenly split between both parties. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a February letter from McCarthy in which he asked for an even partisan split on the commission, equal subpoena power, and no predetermined findings, all of which she said the legislation includes.

NEW ISRAELI AIRSTRIKES IN GAZA AS NETANYAHU RESISTS U.S. PRESSURE TO END OFFENSIVE: Israel launched new airstrikes in the Gaza Strip early Thursday (May 20th), with the country’s military saying it hit at least four homes of Hamas commanders, military infrastructure and a weapons storage unit. The latest strikes came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resisted pressure from the U.S. to begin to bring the offensive to an end, saying yesterday that he was, quote, “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met” of returning “calm and security” to Israelis. Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel from Gaza.  The White House had said yesterday that President Biden told Netanyahu he expected, quote, “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire.”

COLONIAL PIPELINE CONFIRMS IT PAID HACKERS $4.4 MILLION AFTER BREACH: Colonial Pipeline confirmed yesterday (May 19th) that it paid $4.4 million to a hacker gang that breached its computer systems, disrupting fuel supplies for nearly a week and leading to panic-buying and shortages at gas stations from the mid-Atlantic to the southeastern U.S. Colonial Pipeline, which operates the nation’s largest fuel pipeline that delivers about 45 percent of the gas consumed on the East Coast, said it needed to do everything in its power to quickly and safely restart its pipeline system after shutting it down when it learned of the May 7th ransomware attack. A  spokesman said of paying the ransom, “This decision was not made lightly.” CEO Joseph Blount told The Wall Street Journal he approved the payment because they didn’t know the extent of the damage and weren’t sure how long it would take to bring the systems back. He said, “[I]t was the right thing to do for the country.”

TEXAS GOV. SIGNS LAW BANNING ABORTION AS EARLY AS SIX WEEKS, ALLOWING CITIZENS TO SUE DOCS, OTHERS: Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed legislation yesterday (May 19th) that bans abortions in the state after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is as early as six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant. Additionally, it puts enforcement of the law in the hands of private citizens, not state officials, allowing anyone, even someone who’s not a Texas resident, to sue doctors or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion and seek financial damages of up to $10,000 per defendant. The law is set to go into effect in September, however federal courts have blocked states from enforcing most similar measures.

INDIA SETS NEW GLOBAL DAILY RECORD FOR COVID-19 DEATHS, PASSING U.S.: India on Wednesday (May 19th) set a new global daily record for coronavirus deaths, reporting that 4,529 people  died of Covid-19 — a number that experts believe is still an  undercount. The U.S. had previously held the daily record, when 4,475 people died of Covid on January 12th of this year. India has been dealing with a horrific surge of the coronavirus for weeks, and while large cities have begun to see some signs of improvement in recent days, there is concern that it’s now spreading through the large rural areas of the country.