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tiktok

America’s Still Moving To Ban TikTok 

Last week, a key house committee introduced and approved a bill that is targeting the social media platform TikTok. The full House is set to vote this week potentially, and the White House has stated that President Joe Biden is also prepared to sign it, according to reports from CNN.

The bill itself, if fully approved, would give TikTok about five months to separate from its Chinese parent company ByteDance. If they refuse, app stores in the US will be prohibited from hosting the app on their platforms. 

Besides TikTok, the bill will also restrict other apps that are allegedly controlled by foreign adversaries like China, Iran, Russia, or North Korea. The bill would also set up a process for Biden, and future presidents to identify apps that should be banned under the specific legislation. 

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Any app store that violates said legislation could be fined based on the number of users of the banned apps; specifically a fine of $5,000 per user of the banned app. For example, if the bill passes and Apple or Google decide to keep TikTok on its app stores, they could face fines up to $850 billion. 

One of the bill’s lead cosponsors, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher, says “the bill does not ban TikTok; it simply offers TikTok the choice to be divested.”

TikTok has responded to this recent bill’s momentum, stating that it’s an attack on the First Amendment rights of its users, according to CNN. It’s even launched a call-to-action campaign within the app itself, urging users to call their states representatives in Washington to oppose the bill. Multiple congressional offices have already stated that they’ve been “flooded” with calls. 

In a statement, TikTok said: 

“The government is attempting to strip 170 million Americans of their Constitutional right to free expression. This will damage millions of businesses, deny artists an audience, and destroy the livelihoods of countless creators across the country.”

Lawmakers have long been alleging that TikTok poses a national security threat because the government in China can use its intelligence laws against ByteDance to force them to hand over the data of US TikTok users. If done, that information can then be potentially used to identify intelligence targets or enable disinformation or propaganda campaigns. 

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The US government has not yet presented any evidence that China has accessed user data from TikTok, and according to reports, cybersecurity experts have stated that it still remains a hypothetical scenario. 

During the Trump administration, there was a major effort to ban TikTok, however, others debated whether or not the president had the power to ban a foreign-owned social media app. With this new congressional legislation, the president would have clear, new authorities to do that. 

With the speed in which House leaders are promising a floor vote, it can be assumed that they’re confident in the bill’s clearance. There is still not a lot of information regarding if the bill will have a chance in the Senate. 

Gallagher stated that the bill will likely fall to the Senate Commerce Committee. Senator Maria Cantwell, who chairs the Commerce Committee, told CNN that she will be talking to her “Senate and House colleagues to try to find a path forward that is constitutional and protects civil liberties.”

Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said that “passing a nationwide privacy law regulating how all companies, not just TikTok, handle Americans’ data would lead to the same result without raising First Amendment concerns.” 

“By that precedent, it would be unconstitutional for the government to ban TikTok even if it were blatantly a direct mouthpiece for the Chinese government,” Jaffer said.

“If you give the government the power to restrict Americans’ access to propaganda, then you’ve given the government the power to restrict Americans’ access to anything the government deems to be propaganda.”

ticketmaster

‘Fans First’ Live-Event Ticketing Reform Bill Introduced By US Senators 

Six US Senators have introduced a new “Fans First Act” to address the multiple discrepancies in ticketing sales across the country. The live event ticketing system in the US is saturated with fake or overpriced tickets from resellers, making it nearly impossible for fans to be able to afford to go see their favorite live events. 

The bipartisan bill was brought to Congress by three Republicans and three Democrats; John Cornyn of Texas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Peter Welch of Vermont, and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico. 

This is the newest move from Congress to battle “high and exploitative” ticket pricing for things like concerts and other live events, according to reports

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The issues with online ticketing sales have always been present, but issues reached a head in 2022 with tickets for Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen’s tour’s crashed Ticketmaster and subsequently crashed the website and made prices increase exponentially. 

At the time, several Taylor Swift fans sued Ticketmaster for “fraud, price-fixing, and antitrust violations” and alleged that “intentional deception” from the site allowing scalpers and resellers to buy a majority of the tickets to upsell them exponentially. 

For example, within the first few hours of Swift’s tour tickets going on sale secondary sellers were able to purchase a majority of them and price them at up to $22,000.

The suit alleged that “because no other venue can hold half as many people as the stadiums and venues working through Ticketmaster, Taylor Swift and other popular musicians have no choice but to work through Ticketmaster.” 

The US justice department started an antitrust investigation into Live Nation, the parent company of Ticketmaster, after this incident to look into whether or not they abused their power in its multibillion-dollar entertainment industry. 

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The Fans First Act is seeking to improve transparency with ticket pricing by requiring all live event ticket sellers to advertise the total price of a given ticket, including all fees and additional charges, so that when a fan goes to purchase a ticket, they understand the total price immediately and aren’t caught off guard by large fees and additional charges when they checkout. 

Fans will also have a clear understanding as to whether the ticket they’re purchasing is from a reseller or the original retailer. 

The Fans First Act will also work to strengthen the requirements of the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act which was signed into law in 2016. The BOTS Act worked to prohibit the use of bots to purchase large quantities of tickets for resellers to later upcharge. It also imposes civil penalties on resellers practicing illegal sales.

“The current ticketing system is riddled with problems and doesn’t serve the needs of fans, teams, artists or venues. This legislation would rebuild trust in the ticketing system by cracking down on bots and others who take advantage of consumers through price gouging and other predatory practices and increase price transparency for ticket purchasers,” said Congressman Cornyn.

Live Nation, the owner of Ticketmaster, also released a statement supporting the new bill: “We support the Fans First Act and welcome legislation that brings positive reform to live event ticketing. We believe it’s critical Congress acts to protect fans and artists from predatory resale practices, and have long supported a federal all-in pricing mandate, banning speculative ticketing and deceptive websites, as well as other measures. We look forward to our continued work with policymakers to advocate for even stronger reforms and enforcement.”

congress

Sarah McBride Announces Run For US House Seat, Would Become First Trans Member Of Congress 

Delaware State Senator Sarah McBride announced her candidacy on Monday to become Delaware’s next sole congresswoman. Senator McBride is currently the nation’s highest-ranking transgender elected official, and if she’s elected for Congress, would make history becoming the first trans person elected into federal office. 

McBride would also make history as the youngest elected official Delaware has sent to Washington since US President Joe Biden’t US Senate win in 1972. 

“It’s clear that diversity in government is necessary for us to not just ensure we have a healthy democracy but also to truly deliver for people,” she said in an interview with Delaware Online.

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“I am certainly cognizant of the uniqueness of my candidacy, of the uniqueness that my voice would bring to the halls of Congress. But ultimately, I’m not running to be a trans member of Congress,” she stated

“I’m running to be Delaware’s member of Congress who’s focused on making progress on all of the issues that matter to Delawareans of every background.”

McBride’s candidacy announcement comes at a time in America where transgender rights are being threatened by a multitude of state legislation, including bans on gender-affirming care. In her state of Delaware, a Republican senator reintroduced a bill recently that would require students to only pay on sports teams that correspond with the sex they were given at birth. 

In the political sphere, McBride has been viewed as the frontrunner to replace US Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester. McBride is also expected to be competing for the position with Eugene Young, the current director of the Delaware State Housing Authority. 

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McBride has received a lot of support with her announcement, including support of labor organizers and national organizations, as well as dozens of Delaware politicians, including Attorney General Kathy Jennings. 

Before her time in the state senate, McBride worked as the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign; the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights advocacy group. 

One of her biggest achievements as state senator was aiding the passage of statewide family and medical leave. 

McBride describes her ideology as “a progressive who likes to get things done,” adding that her “role in paid family leave is a clear demonstration of the kind of leader” she will be in Congress. 

“I will be someone who recognizes that you can be both bold and build bridges at the same time. Indeed, that’s the only way you’re able to achieve lasting permanent change,” she stated

McBride has also spoken up about her desire to combat disinformation, expand reproductive rights, and implement green technologies.

congress

House Passes Election Bill in Response to Jan. 6 Insurrection

The House of Representatives voted to reform the 135-year-old Electoral Count Act Wednesday. The legislative overhaul is to prevent events like the Jan. 6 insurrection from happening again.

The bill is the first legislative step taken by congress to address the assault on the Capitol in January 2020, with the House voting 229 to 203 in its favor. However, it is unlikely that the bill will pass in the Senate. House members mostly voted along party lines, with only nine Republicans supporting the bill.

The original Electoral Count Act was implemented to set deadlines for states to certify presidential election results, standardize the procedure to send electors to the Capitol, name the vice president as the overseer of the vote count, and create a process for lawmakers to challenge election results.

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Former President Donald Trump tried to use the Electoral Count Act to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election.

The Senate drafted its own bipartisan bill in July, sponsored by 10 GOP senators—the number needed to overcome any potential Senate filibuster. However, it is unclear if all Democrats will vote in favor of the legislation.

Both bills are similar in changing the number of lawmakers needed to object to electoral results procedurally. In the House’s bill, one-third of each chamber needs to object. In the Senate’s bill, only one-fifth need to object. Both restrictions are significantly more stringent than the original act’s, which only required one objector in each chamber.

The House bill also states that the president of the Senate, traditionally held by the vice president of the United States, will be “ministerial.”

“Except with respect to the procedures described in this section, the presiding officer shall not have any power to determine or otherwise resolve disputes concerning the proper list of electors for a State, the validity of electors for a State, or the votes of electors of a State.”

The bill also states that the vice president “shall not order any delay in counting or preside over any period of delay in counting electoral votes.” The Senate bill similarly states that the vice president “shall have no power to solely determine, accept, reject or otherwise adjudicate or resolve disputes over the proper list of electors, the validity of electors, or the votes of electors.”

The Senate bill included provisions related to presidential transition, while the House bill did not. The House bill also addresses “when states could declare a ‘failed election’ and substitute electors approved by voters.”

Democrats believe several issues will be on the ballot for voters in November. Protecting the transition of presidential power and abortion rights may rally more voters to support their party. It is becoming easier for Democrats to associate the GOP with the violent events of Jan. 6 in public spaces, given their dissatisfaction with the bill and continued support for the last administration. The GOP is focusing more on inflation and economic policy as driving motivators to bring voters to the poll.

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By and large, Republicans still do not support election reform legislation because many party members still follow Trump’s election narrative. After the insurrection, Republicans backed his election lies and opposed the creation of the Jan. 6 select committee and bipartisan commission proposal.

Prominent Republicans, like Representative Liz Cheney, rejected their party’s support of Trump. Cheney eventually became vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee. Republicans were especially reluctant to support the bill because she co-sponsored it.

When asked about Republican lack of support for the bill, Representative Liz Cheney told reporters about the importance of this legislation.

“Protecting future elections is something that we ought to all be able to agree upon, regardless of party.”

 

loan

President Biden Announces New Student-Loan Forgiveness Plan To Help Millions

President Biden’s new student-loan plan will help relieve millions of Americans from debt. 

According to an article from The Wall Street Journal, the President’s new plan will eliminate up to $10,000 in federal-loan debt from those whose annual incomes are under $125,000 or for couples who earn less than $250,000 combined. 

“In keeping with my campaign promise, my Administration is announcing a plan to give working and middle class families breathing room as they prepare to resume federal student loan payments in January 2023,” President Biden tweeted.

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Some of the borrowers are also going to be eligible for total forgiveness up to $20,000 if they additionally received Pell Grants. These are a form of federal financial aid that would be awarded to students who live in low-income households.

The plan is expected to benefit the majority of the more than 43 million people in the U.S. who hold a total of $1.6 trillion in student-loan debt” 

President Biden also announced that he will be extending the pandemic-era student-loan pause payments and interests throughout the end of the year. The Trump administration first gave Americans the option to suspend their loans and soon after, Congress made it automatic. 

The current pause was set to end on Aug. 31, but with the President’s recent plan, it was the closest the administration has come to hitting the end of the freeze extension.

This pause has been instated since March 2020 and has been continuously extended since. 

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York believes that this continuous pause helped Americans save nearly $200 billion in payments. 

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People who are eligible for this new plan don’t need to take action right away in order to receive the debt relief. 

“It’s a very complicated process and it’s going to take months to effectuate,” said Scott Buchanan, director of Student Loan Servicing Alliance. “Don’t do anything until you see something happen to your account.” 

The new plan was in fact narrower than what he initially proposed when he was campaigning during the 2020 election. 

“He’ll get a lot of credit for following through on something that he was committed to,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster.

Many people who work in the public service were also welcomed to some relief when there were temporary changes made to the U.S. Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Due to the changes, it helped more than 113,000 people receive student debt relief and have a total of $6.8 billion in forgiveness. 

Zelenskyy Pleads To Congress For More Aid In Address As Biden Issues $800 Million Package

For Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, attire is no longer a concern. His people are, and he’s doing everything he can to gain additional support from the West. Sitting in his frequent simple army green T-shirt, Zelenskyy pleaded with the U.S. Congress on Wednesday for more measures to help stop Russia’s invasion.

Among the requests communicated over livestream include the urging of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, an action that the U.S. and NATO have strongly opposed due to its potential to escalate the conflict onto a greater, worldwide scale.

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“This is a terror that Europe has not seen for 80 years and we are looking for a reply, for an answer, to this terror, from the whole world. Is this a lot to ask for? To create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people, is that too much to ask?” Zelenskyy posed.

Zelenskyy proposed an alternative action that would see fighter jets defending Ukrainian air from Russian attacks, but the Biden administration has also previously ruled out military intervention or the transferring of MiG fighters from Poland for the same reasons as a no-fly zone.

“Aircraft, powerful, strong aviation to protect our people, our freedom, our land. Aircraft that can help Ukraine. You know that they exist, that you have them, but they are on the Earth, not in the Ukrainian sky. They do not defend our people.”

An installation would push boundaries never broken before. As The Conversation notes, it would be the first time the U.S. has ever imposed a no-fly zone during an international conflict, and the first time a world power like Russia has ever been subjected to one.

While governments may feel no-fly zones wouldn’t be worth the risk, citizens disagree. According to a Reuters poll conducted with 831 respondents, 74% of Americans — including majorities of Democrats and Republicans — said the U.S. and NATO should install no-fly zones. Meanwhile, 80% said the U.S. should stop buying Russian oil, and 81% said the U.S. should impose additional sanctions.

Following Zelenskyy’s address, President Biden announced an additional $800 million in military assistance, which includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 1,000 Javelin anti-tank missiles, a combined 6,900 arms including 100 grenade launchers, 20 million rounds of small arms ammunition, grenade launchers, and mortar rounds, and 25,000 in gear along with an unspecified amount of drones.

This brings the total amount of aid sent to Kyiv since Biden took office to $2 billion, and $1 billion in the past week. Despite this, U.S. lawmakers have become more and more frustrated with the country’s inability to properly assist Ukraine.

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Last week, Biden signed into law a massive spending bill that would see $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine. That amount includes $6.5 billion for the costs of sending troops and equipment to Eastern Europe, and $6.8 billion to care for refugees — which is now over three million — and to aid allies economically.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and its allies’ sanctions on Russia have proven to be effective. The ruble’s value is now down to 0.010 USD (though up from the past couple weeks), while the Institute of International Finance expects Russia’s economic output to fall by a third in 2022. Russia’s stock market hasn’t seen action in three weeks.

Zelenskyy thanked the U.S. for its care package. In order to relay the devastation Ukraine’s neighbor has caused, a slideshow of pictures showing exploding buildings, civilian casualties, and mass graves was presented. “Russia has attacked not just us, not just our land, not just our cities — it went on a brutal offensive against our values, basic human values,” Zelenskyy said.

NFL

Congress Seeks Documents, Reports From NFL’s Investigation Into Washington Football Team

In a five-page letter sent to National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell, two Democrats have demanded documents and information from the investigation into Washington Football Team’s (WFT) “hostile work environment” be turned over to Congress.

The letter, which asks for the information to be given by Nov. 4, was sent by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL.). The two Democrats expressed their concerns about how the league handled the investigation, along with the usage of non-disclosure agreements in the matter.

“We have serious concerns about what appears to be widespread abusive workplace conduct at the WFT and about the NFL’s handling of this matter. In addition, we are deeply troubled by the reported use of non-disclosure agreements to potentially conceal inappropriate behavior.”

Maloney and Krishnamoorthi also worry that how the NFL preceded in dealing with such serious wrongdoings involving bigotry, racism, and sexism could set “troubling precedents” for other workplaces.

As the letter notes, there has been no written report about the NFL’s year-long investigation on the WFT workplace and management – despite other high-profile NFL probes having been written in the past. Additionally, not all of the findings have been released.

The corporate giant of the sports world looks ready to stand its ground, however. ESPN reported that an NFL spokesman stated the league does not plan to re-open the investigation, nor will it release any of the 650,000 emails it collected.

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In addition to the 650,000 emails collected, the NFL also interviewed more than 150 people. In September 2020, the NFL reached an agreement with WFT to release employees or former employees from non-disclosure agreements in order to talk with investigators.

According to ESPN, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email that the league shares Maloney’s concerns about keeping workplaces free of harassment, and is looking forward to speaking with her office.

The initial investigation stemmed from allegations of the WFT’s conduct, made by the team cheerleaders, that The Washington Post reported on in 2020. Among the harassing acts include emails passed around that showed footage of cheerleaders’ breasts and pubic areas from behind the scenes of a swimsuit photo shoot.

The video was passed around from Jon Gruden — who was an analyst for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” at the time — to then-general manager Bruce Allen, and then allegedly to WFT owner Dan Snyder – who denies not just receiving the offensive footage, but leaking it in order to put the blame on Allen.

In what was suppose to be a WFT-focused investigation, Gruden walked away the biggest loser – albeit rightfully so. The collected emails showed Gruden used homophobic and racial language. Gruden claimed the NFL pressured then-Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher into drafting “q***rs” by taking Michael Sam in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Gruden also called Goodell a “clueless anti-football p***y,” while joking NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith has “lips the size of michellin tires” – which many argue is a racial trope. After the leaks released, Gruden resigned from his position as Raiders head coach, which he held since 2018.

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Following the NFL’s investigation, WFT was fined $10 million — with the money planned to be used for organizations that build “character education, anti-bullying, and healthy relationships – while Snyder’s wife, Tanya, was named co-CEO and took over day-to-day duties. The Synders, along with other executives, were required to take part in workplace conduct training.

In recent days, WFT has made more and more curious actions that seem to suggest the team is doing everything it can to keep the scandal out of discussion. Three days before their game on Oct. 17, the team announced it would be retiring the number of Sean Taylor, who prematurely passed away in 2007.

Many heavily criticized WFT’s hastily-announced retirement of a fan-favorite, along with the questionable celebrations that were done. WFT team president Jason Wright issued an apology on the retirement execution afterwards.

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.

Congress Questions Tech CEOs Over Role In Capitol Riot

Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, and Jack Dorsey of Twitter all testified before two committees of the House of Representatives on “social media’s role in promoting extremism and the rampant spreading of misinformation” regarding the pandemic, Covid-19 vaccine, and election process.

Democrats Introduce Bill To Shift $1 Billion From Missile Funding To Vaccine Development

Democrats have introduced legislation that would transfer $1 billion in funding from a “controversial” new intercontinental ballistic missile to instead be used to develop a universal Covid-19 vaccine.