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April 7, 2021: Security officials demand 1/6 Commission

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Top former national security officials are calling on Congress to establish an independent commission to investigate the January 6th Capitol insurrection. The threat of a repeat performance, they say, is growing.

Meanwhile, Arkansas becomes the first state to ban many medical procedures for transgender youth. State lawmakers even overrode a governor’s veto in their campaign to take away rights from vulnerable people.

And lastly, both sides appear pleased with progress so far in talks to re-engage a US nuclear deal with Iran, after Trump trashed it. The original deal was one of the Obama administration’s greatest hits.


Impeachment wasn’t enough. CBS News reports that precisely three months after the January 6 assault on the Capitol, dozens of former senior national security, military and elected officials from both sides of the aisle urged lawmakers in Congress to establish an independent bipartisan commission to investigate the attack. The letter, signed by one hundred and forty officials, encourages Congress to not only investigate the direct causes of the insurrection, but to make recommendations to prevent future assaults. The long list of officials includes nearly two dozen ambassadors, six former senators, four former secretaries of homeland security and two members of the 9/11 Commission. The letter warned of an exigent and growing threat to the American public.

Last month, CBS reports, US intelligence agencies issued a joint assessment of the national security threat posed by domestic violent extremism. An unclassified summary of the report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said domestic terrorism poses an elevated threat in 2021. It predicted that social and political factors, including the coronavirus pandemic and the emboldening impact of the insurrection, will almost certainly spur domestic extremists to engage in further violence.

But according to CBS, congressional efforts to create an independent commission have stalled. They hit a snag in February as Democrats and Republicans disagreed over the scope and structure of the review. Unable to find common ground on an independent commission, seven House Committees launched an investigation into the federal government's handling of the attack in late March. The former officials who signed yesterday’s letter warned that failure to establish such a commission would "leave the Capitol, and the nation, vulnerable to future attacks." As if regular mass shootings didn’t make that obvious.

Bad news for trans youth, their families and friends: Arkansas state legislators voted yesterday to pass the nation’s first law banning gender-affirming medical treatments for transgender minors, overriding a veto from their governor and intense opposition from major medical organizations across the country, the Washington Post reports. Arkansas legislators voted twenty five to eight in the Senate and seventy one to twenty four in the House to override the veto from Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson. The new legislation would prohibit doctors from providing transgender minors with medical care such as puberty blockers, hormone therapies and transition-related surgeries, and from referring them for such treatments. The bill is part of a Republican-led wave of similar legislation in at least seventeen other states seeking to restrict access to medical treatments for transgender minors.

A day earlier, the Post reports, Hutchinson had stunned advocates by issuing a veto of the ban, calling it a vast government overreach. He said that if signed into law, the bill would interfere with physicians and parents "as they deal with some of the most complex and sensitive matters involving young people." He cited opposition from leading national medical associations that said denying access to such medical care could jeopardize the mental health of an already vulnerable community. But state legislators voted to pass the bill anyway, setting the stage for a potential legal battle.

Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union vowed to challenge the ban in court, according to the Post. Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, said state legislators are waging a discriminatory crusade against trans youth. She said "This is a sad day for Arkansas, but this fight is not over – and we’re in it for the long haul." And, hopefully, other states will hold the line.

Some promising diplomatic news: Iran said initial talks yesterday in Vienna on returning to the 2015 nuclear deal were constructive, according to the Washington Post. Iranian and American envoys are seeking a road map to lift US sanctions and bring Tehran back to its commitments under the accord. Iran's lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, characterized the talks as on the right track. However, reiterating the Iranian demand that US sanctions be lifted in one step, he added, "It's too soon to say it has been successful."

A US team led President Joe Biden's special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, was in the Austrian capital for the discussions – which are expected to continue on Friday, the Post reports. But Malley did not meet directly with Iran, setting up camp in a different hotel. For the US, the core issue is having Iran scale back its uranium enrichment to levels outlined in the nuclear deal. Iran wants an end to sanctions placed by the Trump administration after withdrawing from the accord in 2018. But the two sides have been at loggerheads over who takes the first step. European diplomats say they will negotiate a list of moves for each side in parallel, to overcome the arguments over which side acts first.

Enrique Mora, the European coordinator for the talks, tweeted that he would intensify separate contacts with all relevant parties, including the US, according to the Post. Backers of the pact see an urgency to get it back on track: the dwindling time before Iran is expected to be able to produce enough fissile material for a potential nuclear weapon, alongside approaching elections in Iran. Iran has said for decades it does not want nuclear weapons. Which should simplify this process, if only anyone believed it.


President Joe Biden announced yesterday that he’s bumping up his deadline by two weeks for states to make all adults in the US eligible for coronavirus vaccines, the Associated Press reports. Now every adult will be eligible by April 19 to get in a virtual line to be vaccinated. Biden also said no one should fear mutations of the coronavirus that are showing

up in the US. He acknowledged that the new strains are more virulent and dangerous, but said "the vaccines work on all of them." That’s a relief.

Ukraine’s president has called on Nato to hasten his country’s membership into the western military alliance in response to a growing buildup of Russian forces on his country’s borders, the Guardian reports. Russia has not denied the troop movements but insisted it was "not threatening anyone." Oh, so they’re just sightseeing.

Embattled National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre feared for his safety after mass shootings in recent years, forcing him to take refuge aboard a friend's luxury yacht, NBC News reports. LaPierre made the admission in a deposition connected to the NRA's bankruptcy case in Dallas. With any luck he’s prone to seasickness.

Politico reports that Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, mired in an ongoing federal sex trafficking investigation, is headed to Donald Trump’s resort in Doral this Friday, where he will be a featured speaker at a summit hosted by a pro-Trump women’s group. Women For America First says on its website that "We won’t be pushed around by bullies who tell us who we are supposed to like." Their freak flags are flying high, folks.


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