The United States once again wants to be a world leader in the fight against climate change. But activists say the Biden administration’s new targets don’t go far enough.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon thinks that mysterious symptoms afflicting some troops and diplomats might have been caused by directed-energy weapons. But if so, who made them?
And lastly, the White House is considering a substantial increase to the capital gains tax to fund social programs. And Wall Street is not happy.
THESE ARE THE STORIES YOU NEED TO KNOW:
This is how you’d hope a president would talk. Joe Biden has called upon the world to overcome the existential crisis of our time, as he unveiled an ambitious new pledge to slash US planet-heating emissions in half by the end of the decade, the Guardian reports. Addressing a virtual gathering of more than forty world leaders in an Earth Day climate summit yesterday, Biden warned that time is short to address dangerous global heating. Shortly before the start of the summit, the White House said the US will aim to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least fifty percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels.
Biden said a shift to clean energy will create millions of good paying union jobs and that countries may reap the economic benefits of the clean energy boom that’s coming, the Guardian reports. The Biden administration also outlined a plan to double the amount of funding the US gives to developing countries to adapt to the ravages of drought, flooding and other climate impacts. Biden said, "This moment demands urgency – good ideas and good intentions aren’t good enough."
Some activists have said Biden needs to do even more, however, according to the Guardian. Evan Weber, the political director of the Sunrise Movement, said, "While many will applaud the president’s commitment to cut US emissions by at least half by 2030, we have a responsibility to tell the truth – it is nowhere near enough." Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, acknowledged that more needs to be done, claiming that the new US emissions target was a way of building back American credibility that was destroyed under Donald
Trump. Of course, the real test will be whether the whole of society can change to meet Biden’s targets. Count us as hopeful.
Military Briefs Congress On Mystery Weapons
Here’s a strange piece of intrigue. The Pentagon warned lawmakers this week about the growing threat of directed-energy attacks on US troops, four people briefed on the matter told Politico. Two Defense Department officials briefed members of the House Armed Service Committee about the phenomenon in a classified setting on Wednesday, the people said, and told lawmakers they are increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of US troops in places such as Syria, Afghanistan and various countries in South America. Briefers pointed to Russia as a likely culprit, the people told Politico, but didn’t have a smoking gun, citing difficulties in attributing the attacks. The Pentagon opened an investigation last year after suspected directed-energy attacks occurred on an unknown number of troops.
Officials told lawmakers that the phenomenon of suspected directed-energy attacks on US personnel is growing across the world, Politico reports. The attacks may cause a mysterious illness similar to the Havana syndrome reported by American spies and diplomats starting in late 2016. The briefers also told lawmakers that the origin of the technology required in such attacks is "more likely than not in Russia." One person familiar with the briefing said the briefers also pointed to China as a possible culprit, and didn’t know for sure who was behind the attacks.
Politico reports that people affected by attacks report symptoms including acute ringing and pressure in the ears, as well as loss of hearing and balance, fatigue and residual headaches. Some victims have suffered long-term brain damage. Close to fifty officials have reported such symptoms, known as Havana syndrome, among US diplomats posted in Cuba since late 2016. The CIA set up its own task force this year to look into the problem. It sounds like they’re still quite a ways away from solving this mystery.
White House Weighs Taxing Investors More
Soak the rich! President Biden will propose almost doubling the capital gains tax rate for wealthy individuals to help pay for a raft of social spending that addresses long-standing
inequality, Bloomberg News reports. For those earning $1 million or more, the new top rate, coupled with an existing surtax on investment income, means that federal tax rates for wealthy investors could be as high as forty three point four percent. The new marginal thirty nine point six percent rate would be an increase from the current base rate of twenty percent, people familiar with the proposal said. A three point eight percent tax on investment income that funds Obamacare would be kept in place, pushing the tax rate on returns on financial assets higher than rates on some wage and salary income.
The proposal could reverse a long-standing provision of the tax code that taxes returns on investment lower than on labor, Bloomberg reports. Biden campaigned on equalizing the capital gains and income tax rates for wealthy individuals, saying it’s unfair that many of them pay lower rates than middle-class workers. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, asked about the capital-gains plan yesterday, said, "we’re still finalizing what the pay-fors look like." Biden is expected to release the proposal next week in the forthcoming American Families Plan.
Other measures that the administration has discussed in recent weeks include enhancing the estate tax for the wealthy, Bloomberg reports. Biden has warned that those earning over $400,000 can expect to pay more in taxes. The White House has already rolled out plans for corporate tax hikes, which go to fund the $2.25 trillion infrastructure-focused American Jobs Plan. Corporate America is going to scream about all this, but just remember, it’s working people who’ve given the wealthy the lifestyle they enjoy.
AND NOW FOR SOME QUICKER QUICKIES:
The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that judges need not determine that juvenile offenders are beyond hope of rehabilitation before sentencing them to die in prison, the New York Times reports. The six-to-three decision, concerning a teenager who killed his grandfather, drew a caustic dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who noted that seventy percent of youths sentenced to die in prison are children of color. More everyday American barbarism.
For the second time in history, the House passed legislation yesterday to make the District of Columbia the nation’s fifty first state, the Washington Post reports. Democrats unanimously approved Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Washington, DC Admission Act. The bill, symbolically titled HR 51, now heads to the Senate. It will be amazing if this becomes law.
The University of California and California State University announced yesterday that they intend to require Covid-19 vaccinations for all students, faculty and staff on campus properties this fall, according to the Los Angeles Times. The directive is the largest of its kind in US higher education, affecting more than one million members of the two public university systems. And it seems entirely reasonable, as there are already mandatory shots for measles, mumps, rubella and chicken pox.
The Senate yesterday passed an anti-hate crimes bill aimed at addressing a surge in attacks on Asian Americans amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Politico reports. The measure would create a Justice Department position focusing on the issue and beef up state and local hate crime reporting. Missouri Republican Josh Hawley was the only vote against the bill. What a way to make your mark, being the anti-anti-hate crimes guy – but that’s Josh Hawley!
APRIL 23, 2021 - AM QUICKIE
HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner
WRITER - Corey Pein
PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Brendan Finn