Wednesday morning news – June 23, 2021

Moderate Sen. Joe Manchin, who had been the only Democratic holdout, agreed to advance the bill. That gave Democrats 50 “yes” votes, but they would have needed 60 to overcome a GOP filibuster.

The legislation would have shifted a great deal of power over election law from states to Washington. Republicans like Ohio Sen. Rob Portman said that is clearly unconstitutional.

PORTMAN: I think it would amount to a federal takeover of the election system, which has always been in the domain of the states.

Democratic senators continued to charge that new voting laws in Republican-led states are unjust and make more federal control necessary. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar…

KLOBUCHAR: They are real efforts to disenfranchise regular Americans from voting.

Democrats have vowed to continue the fight to overhaul U.S. election law.

Judge clears Trump, Barr in Lafayette Park case » A federal judge has dismissed a series of lawsuits against former President Donald Trump and other officials. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The case alleged a conspiracy between Trump and then–Attorney General William Barr to clear protesters out of Lafayette Square near the White House last year.

Authorities cleared the protesters before the president walked through it on his way to St. John’s Episcopal Church on June 1st of 2020.

The ruling follows an inspector general report earlier this month that confirmed pre-existing plans to clear the park for a fence installation.

The report said police were already under orders to clear a section of Lafayette Square so contractors could install new fencing. The contractors had already started by the time Trump was on his way.

D.C. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich wrote in the opinion that the plaintiffs could not cite specific injuries committed by specific individuals.

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Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

Vaccinations falling short of White House goal as variant spreads » It appears the United States will miss President Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70 percent of adult Americans by July 4th.

But Jeff Zients says the vaccination effort is succeeding nonetheless. Zients leads the White House coronavirus response team. He spoke at a press briefing on Tuesday.

ZEINTS: More than 175 million Americans have rolled up their sleeves and gotten at least one shot. And over 150 million Americans are now fully vaccinated.

But health officials are concerned that the delta variant, which has ravaged India, may soon be the dominant strain in the United States. Vaccines are effective against the delta strain, but CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky cautions:

WALENSKY: This variant represents a set of mutations that could lead to future mutations that evade our vaccine.

For that reason, she’s urging all Americans to get vaccinated. The delta variant now accounts for 20 percent of new U.S. cases.

Report reveals tragic surge in nursing home deaths in 2020 » A new report reveals that deaths among Medicare patients in nursing homes soared last year amid the pandemic. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown reports.

ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN, REPORTER: The report from the Health and Human Services inspector general showed that about 4 in 10 of Medicare patients at nursing facilities had or likely had COVID-19 last year.

Deaths among such patients soared by 32 percent in 2020. And deaths overall jumped by nearly 170,000 from the previous year.

The report revealed two separate spikes in nursing home deaths. In April of last year, more than 80,000 Medicare patients in nursing homes died. Then eight months later in December, before vaccines became widely available, 74,000 patients died in nursing facilities.

Harvard health policy professor David Grabowski, who reviewed the report, said “We are talking about a really big number of excess deaths.” He added that in most cases, we’re not talking about people “who were going to die anyway” anytime soon.

He said many thousands of lives were cut tragically short.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.

North Korea shuns proposal of new nuclear talks with U.S. » The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shunned the idea of renewing nuclear talks with the United States anytime soon.

Kim Yo Jong said Tuesday U.S. expectations for talks would—quote—“plunge them into a greater disappointment.”

Last week, Kim Jong Un said that his country must be ready for both dialogue and confrontation, though more for confrontation.

The Biden administration focused on the potentially positive part of that statement.

U.S. special envoy to North Korea Sung Kim told reporters on Monday…

KIM: We took note of the recent statement out of Pyongyang regarding their preparation for dialogue. And we hope to receive a positive response to our proposal for a meeting soon.

Pyongyang has since suggested that Washington wrongly interpreted Kim Jong Un’s remarks as a positive signal. North Korean state TV said—quote—“It seems that the U.S. may interpret the situation in such a way as to seek a comfort for itself.”

Afghanistan accuses Taliban of worst violence in 2 decades » Afghanistan’s foreign minister accused the Taliban on Tuesday of carrying out its worst violence in the past two decades. He urged the international community to intervene and try to persuade the Taliban to honor a February 2020 agreement with the United States to curb the violence.

Mohammad Haneef Atmar told the U.N. Security Council that the Taliban is also failing to cut ties with terrorist groups. He said it is hosting “not only al-Qaida but also regional terrorist groups.”

Meantime in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said of the Taliban this week…

MCCONNELL: Reports from the ground indicated that their heavy handed medieval rule is already creating new nightmares, especially for Afghan women and girls.

Taliban fighters this week took control of a key district in the country’s northern Kunduz province and encircled the provincial capital.

The Taliban’s gains came as the Pentagon reaffirmed the U.S. troop withdrawal was still on pace to conclude by early September.

The Taliban has seized dozens of districts since May 1st, when U.S. and NATO troops began their final departure from Afghanistan.

I’m Kent Covington. For more news, features, and analysis, visit us at wng.org.

 

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