US Mexico Border

Texas Governor Orders National Guard To Assist With Arrests At US-Mexico Border

Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the state’s national guard members to help assist the Department of Public Safety in arresting undocumented immigrants at the US-Mexico border. 

Abbott’s order was a part of a letter sent to Major General Tracy R. Norris of the Texas Military Department. The order itself expands upon Abbott’s June declaration which directed the DPS to enforce all federal and state criminal laws. These laws include anything involving criminal trespassing, smuggling, and human trafficking. 

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“That declaration had allowed the use of all available state resources to assist state and local law enforcement in protecting Texans from criminal activity and property damage,” according to news reports. 

“To respond to this disaster and secure the rule of law at our Southern border, more manpower is needed,” Abbott wrote in the letter

“DPS needs help in arresting those who are violating state law. … I hereby order that the Texas National Guard assist DPS in enforcing Texas law by arresting lawbreakers at the border.”

The order comes after the Biden Administration announced its plans to tackle the surge of migration and illegal contraband coming into the country through the border. 

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“President Biden’s open-border policies have paved the way for dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour into our communities,” Abbott said in a statement.

In June, border authorities stopped around 188,800 crossings, which was the highest for the entire year. The previous high of about 180,000 was set in May of this year. 

“People think that this is a border-related issue and it is, but this is also an issue that affects counties across the entire state of Texas.”

Abbott held a security briefing at the Texas state house in Austin this month, where sheriffs from local communities have expressed concern over a lack of manpower, jail space, and judges on the local level. So while the governor is focusing on combating illegal activity at the border, local authorities are struggling to protect their own communities.

Facebook Remains Under Fire For Continuously Spreading Covid-19 Vaccine Misinformation 

President Joe Biden called out tech giants and social media platforms like Facebook for failing to tackle the problem of misinformation being spread regarding the Covid-19 vaccine. The White House released a statement in which they claimed to have zeroed in on the “disinformation dozen,” which is in reference to 12 major social media accounts that have shown to be responsible for spreading a majority of the anti-vaccine misinformation online. 

“Facebook has repeatedly said it is going to take action, but in reality we have seen a piecemeal enforcement of its own community standards where some accounts are taken off Instagram but not Facebook and vice versa. There has been a systemic failure to address this,” said Imran Ahmed, the CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), the organization behind the “disinformation dozen” study.

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The report identified 12 “superspreader accounts,” and a Facebook spokesperson claims the company has permanently banned all pages groups and accounts that “repeatedly break the rules on Covid misinformation including more than a dozen pages groups and accounts from these individuals.”

The CCDH confirmed that they have removed 35 accounts across multiple social media platforms so far. There are currently about 8.4 million followers spread across 62 active accounts that are still spreading anti-vaccine misinformation.

The main issue with these accounts is the amount of followers who believe that the information is real. Many of these accounts post false facts about the vaccine that claim its unsafe, ineffective, and not worth getting despite the overwhelming amount of evidence from a multitude of studies on these vaccines before they were distributed to the public. 

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Jessica Gonzalez is the co-CEO at Free Pass, a media equity group, who recently spoke out about how a lot of these posts are prevalent on Spanish-language Facebook.

“Facebook needs a much better mechanism to stop the spread of false information about the vaccine, and they need to make sure they’re doing that across languages. It’s difficult to gauge the scope of the issue when Facebook doesn’t share figures.”

According to the social media watchdog Accountable Tech, “11 out of the top 15 vaccine related-posts on Facebook last week contained disinformation or were anti-vaccine.”

Vaccination rates in the US are currently plateauing as new cases continue to rise among unvaccinated individuals almost exclusively. 67% of Americans have received at least one vaccination and 58% are fully vaccinated. 

“Action needs to be taken regarding vaccine misinformation. Social media has greatly contributed to this misinformation – there’s no doubt. When we have a public health crisis and people are dying every day, enough is enough,” said Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar.

New Book Reveals Top Military Officials Thought Trump Was Planning A Coup, Planned A Mass Resignation 

“I Alone Can Fix It” is a new book by Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker which details reports of top military officials who knew former president Donald Trump was planning a coup after his defeat in the 2020 election. 

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley is one of the many military officials who discussed resigning if they were to be given illegal or dangerous orders from the former president should he attempt a coup. 

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Experts of the book showed Milley and others discussing the possibility of a coup with lawmakers, friends, and other White House top officials. 

“They may try, but they’re not going to succeed. You can’t do this [a coup] without the military. You can’t do this without the CIA and the FBI, we’re the guys with the guns.” 

Other officials also discussed resigning one by one rather than carrying out any illegal orders they may receive. According to the book, one of the main focuses of their concern was Trump’s decision to replace top officials at the Departments of Defense and Justice.

On November 9th Trump announced that former Defense Secretary Mark Esper had been “terminated,” just one week after Esper warned if Trump replaced him, the new Secretary would be “a real yes man, and then God help us.” 

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According to the book, “Milley grew increasingly concerned by Trump’s behavior ahead of January 6, believing that Trump was deliberately seeking to stir unrest with his bogus election-fraud claims to invoke the Insurrection Act and summon the military.” One excerpt quoted an unnamed friend who warned Milley of Trump’s potential coup.

“What they are trying to do here is overturn the government. This is all real man. You are one of the few guys who are standing between us and some really bad stuff.” 

The book claimed that Milley was so concerned over Trump that he compared the former president’s behavior to Adolf Hitler’s after he used the 1933 Reichstag fire to declare a state of emergency and seize full authoritarian power. 

Milley has been the target of multiple attacks from the former president and his allies this week after he also defended the US’s military policy of teaching members about racism in the US before Congress. 

At the congressional hearing, Milley claimed that he was committed to understanding his own “white rage and the motives of the far-right Capitol insurrectionists.”

50 Million Americans Under Flash Flood Warnings As Tropical Storm Elsa Moves Up East Coast

Tropical Storm Elsa is currently heading north along the East Coast of the US, and is expected to impact all major cities along the way. More than 50 million Americans woke up to flash flood warnings as severe weather conditions have already begun to impact a majority of the coast. 

The center of the storm is projected to go over Dover, Delaware early Friday morning and will make its way towards Boston by the afternoon, according to meteorologist Robert Shackelford. The storm has already caused tornados, multiple injuries, and at least one death in Florida and Georgia this week. 

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In New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was pre-positioning crews and equipment yesterday all throughout Long Island, where the storm is forecast to be the most intense. 

The MTA will also be banning all empty tractor-trailers and tandem trucks from its seven bridges and two tunnels until at least noon on Friday. This ban is due to heavy wind gusts and rain which could cause larger vehicles to be more susceptible to tipping over. 

The National Hurricane Center announced that the storm is currently moving at a rate of 25 mph and has hit a maximum sustained wind speed of 50 mph. Much of the Northeast is expected to see 2 to 4 inches of rainfall by the weekend. 

Once Elsa’s center passes by a given area, residents can still expect to see heavy rainfall and high wind speeds on the outskirts. 

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Some tornadoes were also reported across northern Florida and southeastern Georgia on Wednesday. An EF-2 tornado caused multiple injuries and damage at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Kings Bay, Georgia. 

“Thankfully, there was no loss of life here last night. This tornado that came through could have been a lot worse,” base commanding officer Capt. Chester Parks told local media outlets. 

Parks said that a tornado impacted by the southside of the navy base ended up moving north, hitting the base of an RV park on the way. Twelve recreational vehicles were damaged and nine people were transported to the navy base for medical treatment. 

Elsa initially hit Florida earlier this week, and caused the most damage in both the sunshine state and Georgia. The entire storm system touched down this Wednesday along the Gulf Coast in Taylor County, Florida. 

“Winds starting howling in the middle of the night, and rain starting pounding the windows. Never seen anything like this before in my life,” said Johnathan Riches who was staying at a motel in Cedar Key, Florida when the storm hit.

Miami Condo

Area Expert Explains Possible Causes Of Miami Condominium Collapse 

A major condominium complex collapsed in Surfside, Florida this Thursday, leaving one dead and over 100 individuals missing. Miami-Dade County authorities are currently investigating the Champlain Towers South Condo specifically to try to figure out what exactly caused the collapse. 

While the official cause has yet to be determined, an area expert has compiled a list of possible reasons that this building collapsed and shared it with the media. Gary Slossberg is the founder of the South Florida construction company, National Home Building And Remodeling Corp. 

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“In a general way, there are many things that could happen. Construction defects or engineering defects. I’m not suggesting there were any construction or engineering defects, but simply pointing out the possibility. I think there is some value, and it makes some sense to do periodic inspections,” he explained.

Engineering inspections happen every five to ten years normally, and these inspections typically involve removing drywall or other external materials so that experts can inspect the steel beams or structural aspects of a building to make sure they’re not eroding away. 

Slossberg also explained that the “salt in Miami’s coastal air could potentially facilitate the erosion of steel, and evidence of that could appear in the form of rust stains or exposed rebar, which is like a cancer for a building, by the time you see it, it could be too late.” 

“While salt can have a severe impact on coastal buildings, I’m not sure how long it would actually take for salt to completely erode a building’s materials to the point of collapse.” 

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Solssberg also suggested “if the building were constructed with a post-tension slab, or a concrete slab that has cables running through it, and one of those cables came loose, that could have led to its destruction. It could take down a whole building.” 

The condominium was built in 1981, back when Florida and Miami-Dade County specifically had completely different construction codes. 

“With every hurricane, new construction codes come out. New engineering codes…This is 40 years later [since the building was constructed]. The codes have changed at least a dozen times. I know they have. So, some of these older buildings are not really built to withstand the type of same weather conditions as when they were built originally.”

Another possibility, he said, is that the “building’s balconies may have had some constructional issues. Many Miami-area buildings are built with concrete balconies that are back-pitched, meaning they don’t allow water to escape properly after it rains.” 

“There’s a lot of concrete restoration going on, and this is where you see a lot of that rust and rebar coming through the slab between the water sitting there and the salt air — it’s just not a good combination,” he said.

“But again, I don’t know if that would take down the whole building. We just still don’t know what happened.”

Democrats Coping With Major Discrepancies Over Key Voting Bill 

Democrats are currently facing somewhat of a stress test over the filibuster which has been triggered by a high-priority bill that has been in the works to remake US election laws.  While Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have been some of the most vocal in their opposition of the rewriting of these voting laws, they’re definitely not alone. 

Several other Democrats have indicated in separate interviews that they would be reluctant to kill the filibuster or that they would prefer to make reforms to current laws instead of a total rewrite. 

Liberal Democrats have made it clear that they’re anti-filibuster, however, due to the 60-vote rule on the Senate floor, not much progress has been made. Senator Mark Kelly has claimed to be noncommittal on changing the rules and spoke with the press about these tensions.  

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“What I’m open to is considering and looking at any proposed changes in the rules. And I will ultimately make a decision based on: Do I feel — is this in the best interest of the state of Arizona and the country? And I’m not looking for something that is in the best interest of just Democrats.”

“I have talked about the importance of reforming it. I think it’s critically important that it not be abused and I think that we are having these discussions right now,” Senator Maggie Hassan said in support of reform. 

If the voting bill is passed it would undo restrictive voting laws that are in Republican-led states and instead establish universal requirements for all.

When Senator John Hickenlooper was asked if he’s supportive of preserving the filibuster he claimed: “I am still in that place. But I think, like a lot of people, I’m having frequent conversations. I get my advice from other governors, like former Governor Phil Bredesen, who was talking about how it hasn’t been a thing to help the minority get their voice heard, it’s become a tool just for obstruction.”

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“There are clearly a number of senators who are reluctant to change the rules but who have also made it clear in recent months that they are frustrated with the status quo and won’t accept inaction forever.”

“So we are very hopeful that once the caucus makes a decision and has Sen. Manchin and Sen. Sinema on board, that the rest of the caucus will be on board and make the changes necessary to make the Senate work,” said former Democratic leadership aide Eli Zupnick.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that “all Republicans will oppose the voting bill in its current form, even with changes Manchin has proposed seeking compromise. This would federalize elections and shift control of the process away from the states.

Democrats are continuing to fight to change these laws to allow for a more universal understanding of how elections should run. 

“What we are talking about isn’t just Senate procedure, it’s a complete takeover of our elections, which will ultimately destroy the American people’s confidence in fair elections,” said Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America.

White House Officially Labels January 6th Capitol Riot As ‘Domestic Terrorist Attack’

The White House released an official report this week that labelled the January 6th Capitol riot as a “domestic terrorist attack” in a document that went on to endorse the removal of all “extremist content” from the internet. 

The Biden Administration released the report this Monday, which also called for improved cooperation between the federal government and private internet companies. The report also instructs the US Justice Department to review whether or not a new anti-domestic terrorism law needs to be requested or now. 

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“Domestic terrorist attacks in the United States also have been committed frequently by those opposing our government institutions. In 1995, in the largest single act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history, an anti–government violent extremist detonated a bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people – including 19 children – and injuring hundreds of others,” the report says.

“In 2016, an anti-authority violent extremist ambushed, shot, and killed five police officers in Dallas. In 2017, a lone gunman wounded four people at a congressional baseball practice. And just months ago, on January 6, 2021, Americans witnessed an unprecedented attack against a core institution of our democracy: the U.S. Congress.”

Biden initially requested this report be written up during his first week in office; which was just days after the riot that left around 440 individuals facing criminal charges. Four Trump supporters also died due to medical emergencies during the riot and one Capitol Police officer died due to a stroke while he was fighting off the violent crowd. 

The document states that the US supports the Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online, which works to block content available online, and was created after the 2019 massacre of 51 individuals at a mosque in New Zealand. 

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“[T]he United States endorses the Christchurch Call to Action to Eliminate Terrorist and Violent Extremist Content Online. We applaud language in the Christchurch Call emphasizing the importance of tackling the very real threat posed by online terrorist content while respecting human rights and freedom of expression,” the new document says.

The report also places great emphasis on the fact that private-internet companies need to be held accountable and be more strict when it comes to monitoring content on their platforms. 

“Recruiting and mobilizing individuals to domestic terrorism occurs in many settings, both in-person and online. These activities are increasingly happening on Internet-based communications platforms, including social media, online gaming platforms, file-upload sites, and end-to-end encrypted chat platforms, even as those products and services frequently offer other important benefits,” the White House document says.

“The widespread availability of domestic terrorist recruitment material online is a national security threat whose front lines are overwhelmingly private-sector online platforms, and we are committed to informing more effectively the escalating efforts by those platforms to secure those front lines.”

“[W]e must ask the question of whether legislative reforms could meaningfully and materially increase our ability to protect Americans from acts of domestic terrorism while simultaneously guarding against potential abuse of overreach. New criminal laws, in particular, should be sought only after careful consideration of whether and how they are needed to assist the government in tackling complex, multifaceted challenges like the one posed by domestic terrorism and only while ensuring the protection of civil rights and civil liberties,” the document said.

Ohio Set To Open One Of The Largest Solar Factory Complexes In The World 

The company known as First Solar revealed plans this week to double its manufacturing in the United States by building a new factory in Ohio. This construction would give Ohio the largest solar factory complex in the world outside of China. 

The investment is currently valued at $680 million and marks First Solar’s third factory in the Toledo area. First Solar is the only major manufacturer of solar panels headquartered in the United States. 

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First Solar said it believes “this will be the largest fully integrated solar manufacturing complex in the world — outside of China. It will be capable of making one solar module every 2.8 seconds, and it will primarily supply America’s booming market for clean energy.”

“This investment really helps us position the United States on solid footing to achieve its objectives of energy independence and security – and having US manufacturing enable it,” First Solar CEO Mark Widmar told the media.

This expansion will also work to fulfill the Biden Administration’s goal of cutting US greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. Ramping up renewable energy sources, like solar power, are key for accomplishing this goal. 

China currently makes most of the materials required for producing photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, and its supply chain has been completely tainted within the past year due to trading issues and allegations of forced labor. 

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“China largely dominates the PV supply chain. But unlike many other major solar manufacturers, we’re not dependent on China. That’s because our thin-film PV panels do not rely on the popular crystalline-silicon technology that is made mostly in China. Renewables created this great promise of liberation and energy independence. But the dominance of the Chinese has taken over this industry. It really undermines the opportunity we created when renewables became reliable,” Widmar explained. 

The new facility in Ohio is projected to be 1.8 million square feet, and would allow First Solar to produce around half of all their solar panels in America. The new facility couldn’t have come at a better time for the nation either, as the solar power capacity in America in 2020 was the highest it’s ever been, and that capacity is set to quadruple by 2030, meaning more of the nation will have the infrastructure required to make solar energy more accessible. 

The biggest concern, according to Widmar, will be finding workers who are experienced in the field and able to come work in Ohio full time. 

“There clearly is a shortage of qualified workers. It is a concern of ours. Due to the constrained labor market, First Solar plans to lean more on automation than it normally does. In addition to robots, First Solar plans to use automated and guided vehicles to move materials. For example, the fork lifts at the new facility will all be automated,” Widmar said.

Texas State Capitol

Texas Lawmakers Present Permit-Free Gun Carrying Law To Governor 

Texas legislators approved the final version of a bill that will allow residents to openly carry a handgun without a permit. Now, the bill is making its way to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk for his review and signature. 

House Bill 1927 would allow any individual who is legally allowed to possess a firearm in the state to carry a handgun in public spaces without a permit. Texas isn’t the first conservative state to pass measures such as this this year either. Meanwhile President Joe Biden has been taking action to strengthen gun restrictions in wake of the multiple mass shootings that have occurred this year. 

Once signed, the bill will go into effect in September, making Texas the largest state to allow its gun owners to carry weapons in public without a license. Abbott already claimed that he would be signing the bill once it made it through the legislature. 

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“I’ll be signing it. I support it and I believe it should reach my desk and we should have ‘constitutional carry’ in Texas.”

The bill itself passed through Texas legislative chambers earlier this month but was later sent to a separate conference committee to negotiate changes from both parties. The committee reached a final agreement on the bill this past Friday, and the Texas Senate approved the bill on Monday after the Texas House passed it on Sunday. 

Texas already allows citizens to carry rifles openly without a license, but the current law states that residents must have a license in order to carry an open or concealed handgun. Part of the licensing process includes residents submitting a fingerprint, undergoing a background check, participating in a training course, and passing a shooting proficiency test. 

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The Texas Department of Public Safety will now be required to also post a free online course on firearm safety and handling on its website as a part of the new bill. 

Many republican supporters of the bill refer to it as a “constitutional carry,” and have always argued that the licensing requirement to carry a gun should be removed as it represents an “artificial barrier” to residents’ second amendment right to bear arms. 

Democrats and law enforcement officials, however, have been adamant about the fact that the bill also eliminates mandatory firearms training that works to help protect the public. Additionally, law enforcement are worried about how much more difficult it’s going to be to determine who’s unlawfully carrying a weapon. 

Iowa, Tennessee, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming have all passed legislation this year that allows residents to carry without a permit. Nineteen states currently allow permitless carry as well.

New York Times

New York Attorney General Investigating Trump Organization In A ‘Criminal Capacity’ 

Letitia James, New York’s Attorney General, has been conducting a civil probe into the Trump Organization for two years now. According to a spokesperson from James’s office, the attorney general is now looking into the company in a “criminal capacity.” 

“We have informed the Trump Organization that our investigation into the organization is no longer purely civil in nature. We are now actively investigating the Trump Organization in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan District Attorney. We have no additional comment at this time,” said spokesperson Fabien Levy.

The New York Attorney General’s office initially launched a civil probe into the organization in 2019 after Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, testified to Congress. The initial probe was meant to investigate whether or not the Trump Organization “inflated the valuations of assets to reduce tax liability.” 

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has also been pursuing a separate criminal investigation since 2018 into hush money payments made by Cohen during the 2016 presidential campaign. Cohen apparently made hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels, and Vance’s office began investigating the payments in 2018 to see if they would lead to other potential crimes such as fraud and tax evasion. 

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Both the district attorney and attorney general’s office’s have been crossing paths throughout the past two years due to their separate investigations into Trump, his lawyers, and organization. 

According to CBS News, “in February, Vance’s office issued subpoenas related to Mr. Trump’s Seven Springs Estate, in Bedford, N.Y. In an August 2020 court filing, the New York Attorney General’s office accused the Trump Organization of refusing to produce records sufficient to show how a $21.1 million apparent tax deduction in connection with the Seven Springs conservation easement was reflected on applicable tax returns.” 

James’ office was able to secure several depositions from many Trump Organization executives, including Eric Trump; Donald Trump’s son and executive vice president of the organization. Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer for the organization, was also recently called to give a deposition. 

Vance’s office has been in contact with Jennifer Weisselberg, who told the media that “investigators with the district attorney’s office have sought information about Allen Weisselberg, and documents related to the organization’s finances and benefits.”