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Thursday, Dec 01st

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Senate votes to avert costly rail strike

Senate votes to avert rail strikeThe Senate voted Thursday to avert a costly nationwide rail strike next week that lawmakers in both parties worried would shut down much of the economy and further add to inflation.

Senators voted 80 to 15 for a House-passed bill to implement the labor agreement between freight rail carriers and unionized workers brokered by the Biden administration.

But senators rejected a proposal to add seven days of paid sick leave to the agreement, which four rail unions demanded.

By intervening, Congress will avert the threat of a national rail shutdown that would have ravaged supply chains and brought significant portions of the economy to a halt in the middle of the holidays.

Roughly one-third of U.S. cargo is transported by rail and truckers would not be able to take on more capacity.

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Appeals court halts Trump special master appointment in Mar-a-Lago case

special master removed in Trump Mar-a-lago case

An appeals court on Thursday ruled that the appointment of a special master after the search of former President Trump’s Florida home was improper, determining that a lower court could not limit the Justice Department investigation into the mishandling of White House records at Mar-a-Lago.

“The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so,” a three-judge panel wrote for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The ruling paves the way for the release of some 22,000 pages of government documents stored at Trump’s Florida home to Justice Department investigators, potentially speeding any eventual prosecutions.

It’s also a major loss for Trump, who sought to challenge the approval of a warrant to search his home.

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Coterra Energy to pay $16.29 mln for Pennsylvania water contamination plea

Coterra Energy to pay $16.29million U.S. shale producer Coterra Energy (CTRA.N) pleaded no contest for contaminating well water in Dimock, Pennsylvania, and will pay $16.29 million to construct a new means of water supply to its residents, the state attorney general said on Tuesday.

The Houston-based company, formerly known as Cabot Oil and Gas, will also make 75 years of water bills payments for the impacted residents, who were exposed to drinking water polluted with metals and high levels of methane.

"Under this historic settlement, Coterra will now pay to build a new public water line that will provide clean, reliable drinking water for generations to come," said Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

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Matt Gaetz associate Joel Greenberg gets 11 years as probe into congressman stalls

Joel Greenberg

Joel Greenberg, the former Florida tax collector who sources say agreed to cooperate in the federal probe into his one-time close associate, Rep. Matt Gaetz, was sentenced Thursday to 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to crimes ranging from wire fraud to sex trafficking a minor.

Greenberg pleaded guilty last May to six of the 33 federal charges he was facing, including charges of stalking, identity theft, wire fraud, and conspiracy to bribe a public official, as well as one charge of sex trafficking.

The case grabbed national attention in the spring of 2021 after news broke that the investigation into Greenberg, a Seminole County tax collector, had, according to multiple sources, erupted into a sprawling federal probe that included whether Gaetz, his close friend, had had sex with a minor who he met through Greenberg.

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Racism Backlash Erupts As William And Kate Visit Boston

Prince William in BostonPrince William's office said “racism has no place in our society” as he sought to prevent the backlash over his godmother’s treatment of a Black advocate for survivors of domestic abuse from overshadowing his trip to the United States.

Lady Susan Hussey, 83, resigned Wednesday as an honorary member of the royal household after the chief executive of an east London women’s refuge said Hussey repeatedly asked her where she “really came from” after she told the older woman that she was British. The exchange took place at a Buckingham Palace reception for those working to end domestic violence.

“Racism has no place in our society," his Kensington Palace office said. “These comments were unacceptable, and it’s right that the individual has stepped aside with immediate effect.”

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Clyburn elected assistant Dem leader after challenger drops out

James Clyburn voted Dem leader

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) was elected assistant minority leader on Thursday, the No. 4 position in House Democratic leadership, after Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) dropped his unexpected challenge.

Why it matters: Cicilline's surprise announcement on Wednesday that he was taking on Clyburn came amid grumbling from some younger members about the 82-year-old Democratic whip's decision to stay in leadership.

  • Cicilline, the chair of the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, argued for LGBTQ+ representation in leadership, citing a recent shooting at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs.

What we're hearing: Cicilline, in a speech to the caucus on Thursday, laid out what he would have run on before endorsing Clyburn to applause from his colleagues, according to members in the room.

  • Cicilline also said he got to sit down with Democratic leadership and was assured there will be LGBTQ+ representation in leadership – though it's not yet clear what form that will take.

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Trump Org. defense lawyer scolded for using struck testimony

Attorney Susan NechelesClosing arguments at the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud trial got off to a rocky start Thursday as a lawyer for the company was caught showing jurors portions of witness testimony that had previously been stricken from the official court record.

Prosecutors objected to the display about an hour into lawyer Susan Necheles’ presentation. The judge, Juan Manuel Merchan, admonished Necheles and halted arguments so she could remove any other precluded testimony from a slideshow she was showing to jurors.

Necheles said she didn’t intend to show any testimony that had been stricken as a result of a sustained objection. Merchan noted that the objections themselves had been removed from the excerpts Necheles showed, but not the objectionable testimony.

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Pandemic relief fraud report says online financial company CEOs, family got rich

Paycheck protection program

A congressional subcommittee issued its final report Thursday about financial fraud supercharged by online lending during the pandemic, which alleged executives and their families enriched themselves through government relief programs.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, focused much of the 130-page report on Womply and Blueacorn, both of which emerged as major players that fused tech and financing to speed up lending through the government’s Paycheck Protection Program.

Womply had no lending experience before COVID-19 and Blueacorn did not exist, yet together the companies captured more than $3 billion in fees – eclipsing their direct competitors.

The startups are not banks but worked as middlemen, marketing to struggling businesses and quickly approving loans with partner banks, backed by the Small Business Administration. The companies make their money through a government-paid fee for facilitating the loans.

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Biden urged to threaten Israel weapons halt over far-right concerns

Ben Gvir, leader of Pwer Party in Israel

Two former senior US diplomats have made a highly unusual call for the Biden administration to cut weapons supplies to Israel if the incoming far-right government uses them to annex Palestinian land, expel Arabs or finally kill off the diminishing possibility of a Palestinian state.

Daniel Kurtzer, a former US ambassador to Israel under George W Bush, and Aaron David Miller, a US Middle East peace negotiator during several administrations, have called for what they described as an “unprecedented and controversial” break from America’s largely unconditional military and diplomatic support for Israel if “the most extreme government in the history of the state” pursues the stated aims of some of its members.

The pair warn that these could include “efforts to change the status of the West Bank”, in effect a warning against partial or wholesale annexation of Palestinian land to Israel. They also warned against increased use of force against Arabs in the occupied territories and Israel by incoming ministers who have espoused openly racist views, escalating settlement construction, and moves “to build infrastructure for settlers that is designed to foreclose the possibility of a two-state solution”.

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