Wednesday, February 8, 2023

U.S. Aims For Full Ukraine Embassy Staff By Summer

The Biden Administration intends to Fully Staff the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine by this summer, according to a State Department Cable.

It’s a small part of a wide-ranging Document, and the Ground conditions will ultimately determine if the Goal can be achieved.

The Embassy was closed for roughly Three months before resuming Operations in May, 2022. According to the Jan. 25th “sensitive but unclassified” Cable, the Embassy now has a “drastically reduced staff that now includes up to 106 U.S. personnel and 250 local staff working in Kyiv.”

But more than Half the U.S. “Direct Hires”, a term that typically doesn’t cover Contractors, are dedicated to Security, leaving a small core group to advance Diplomacy, manage Foreign Assistance programs, and oversee Operations.

Additional Embassy Staffers are in Poland or working remotely elsewhere beyond Kyiv.

“One of our top priorities is to ensure we maintain the flexibility to increase our footprint in Kyiv or downgrade our posture as conditions dictate,” the Cable says. The Internal Document was signed by the U.S. Ambassador in Kyiv, Bridget Brink, and sent to the Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s Office, among others. It did Not List the Pre-War Embassy Staffing numbers. The State Department generally does Not Release such figures.

A Spokesperson for the Department said in a Statement, that Blinken “has championed the effort to have our team safely return to Kyiv at the earliest possible date. We do not comment on our internal staffing posture, but we continue to work toward strengthening our diplomatic presence in Kyiv to reinforce our strong partnership with Ukraine in its time of need.”

William Taylor, a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, said that the Plan indicates the Administration has “concluded that the need for more staff justifies the risks of operating in a war zone.”

After all, he noted: “More assistance, military and civilian, is coming in and must be coordinated. More senior officials visit. And more. This all requires embassy staff.” He pointed out, however, “more staff requires more security.”

The Cable describes Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as prioritizing Anti-Corruption efforts, but it Stresses that Oversight of U.S. Aid remains a Top Embassy priority. “We are transparent with the [government of Ukraine] that a scandal or misstep with U.S. assistance could jeopardize future aid,” the Cable states.

On Security Assistance, the Cable states that “air defense equipment remains Ukraine’s top current need, followed by additional artillery, infantry fighting vehicles and tanks.” As of the Date of the Cable, “we have no evidence of a purposeful or illicit diversion of military equipment.”

Of course, the U.S. has said it will provide M1 Abrams Tanks in Coordination with Germany's Authorizing the Transfer of Leopard II tanks to Ukraine.

And the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Partners, have helped launch Two Civil Society Coalitions, composed of Dozens of Organizations, that already have Documented more than 20,000 alleged War Crimes and Human Rights Abuses by Russia.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

NV Lithium Mine Wins Ruling

A U.S. Judge, has Ordered the Government, to Revisit part of its Environmental Review of a Lithium Mine planned in Nevada, but Denied Opponents’ efforts to Block it, in a Ruling the Developer says, clears the way for construction at the Nation’s Largest known Deposit of the rare metal, widely used in Rechargeable Batteries.

The Ruling marks a significant Victory for Canada-based Lithium Americas Corp., at its Subsidiary’s Project near Nevada’s Border with Oregon, and a Setback, at least for now, for Conservationists, Tribes, and a Nevada Rancher, who have all been fighting it for Two years. The Opponents said they are considering an Appeal, based in part on growing Questions raised about the Reach of an 150-year-old Mining Law.

It’s the latest development in a series of High-Stakes Legal Battles, that pit Environmentalists and others against so-called “Green Energy” Projects, President Biden’s Administration is pushing to help speed the Nation’s Transition from Fossil Fuels to Renewable Energy. The White House says the Mine on the Nevada-Oregon Line, is Critical to ramped up efforts to producing Raw Materials for Electric Vehicle Batteries.

Critics argue digging for Lithium poses the same Ecological Threats as Mining, for any other Mineral or Metal, in the biggest Gold-Mining state in the U.S. They say efforts to downplay potential Environmental and Cultural Impacts amount to “Greenwashing,” “We need truly just and sustainable solutions for the climate crisis, and not be digging ourselves deeper into the biodiversity crisis,” said Greta Anderson, Deputy Director of the Western Watersheds Project, One of the Plaintiffs considering an Appeal.

U.S. District Judge Miranda Du in Reno concluded late Monday, that the Opponents had Failed to Prove the Project the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Approved in January 2021, would harm Wildlife Habitat, Degrade Groundwater, or Pollute the Air. She also Denied, for the Third tim, Relief sought by Native American Tribes who argued it could Destroy a nearby Sacred site where their Ancestors were Massacred in 1865.

In her 49-page Ruling, Du emphasized Deference to a Federal Agency’s Approval of such Projects. But she also acknowledged the Complexity of Laws regulating Energy Exploration under a recent U.S. Appellate Court Ruling, she adopted that could pose New Challenges for those staking Claims under the Mining Law of 1872. “While this case encapsulates the tensions among competing interests and policy goals, this order does not somehow pick a winner based on policy considerations,” Du warned in the introduction of her Verdict.

Other Projects that face Legal Challenges in U.S. Court in Nevada include: a proposed Lithium Mine where a Desert Wildflower has been declared Endangered, and a proposed Geothermal Power Plant on Federal Land near Habitat for an Endangered toad.

Last week, General Motors Co. announced it had conditionally Agreed to Invest $650 million in Lithium Americas, in a Deal that will give GM exclusive Access to the First Phase of the Thacker Pass Mine, 200 miles (321 kilometers) Northeast of Reno. The Equity Investment is Contingent on the Project clearing the Final Environmental and Legal Challenges it faces in Federal Court. “The favorable ruling leaves in place the final regulatory approval needed in moving Thacker Pass into construction,” Jonathan Evans, Lithium Americas’ President and CEO, said in a Statement Tuesday. The company expects Production to begin in the Second half of 2026.

Du handed a Partial Victory to Environmentalists, in agreeing that the BLM had Failed to determine whether the company had Valid Mining Rights on 1,300 acres (526 hectares) Adjacent to the Mine site, where Lithium Nevada intends to bury Waste Rock. But she Denied the Opponents’ Request to Vacate the Agency’s Approval of the Overall Project’s Record of Decision, which would have Prohibited any Construction from beginning until a New Record of Decision was issued.

Environmentalists clung to the lone part of her Decision favorable to them. That part Incorporates a recent Ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a fight over the Mining Law of 1872, in a Case in Arizona, that could prove more onerous to Mining companies that want to Dispose of their Waste on neighboring Federal Lands.

The San Francisco-based Appellate Court, Upheld an Arizona Ruling that the Forest Service Lacked Authority to Approve Rosemont Copper’s Plans, to Dispose of Waste Rock, on land adjacent to the Mine it wanted to dig on a National Forest Southeast of Tucson. The Service and the Bureau of Land Management long have interpreted the mining law to convey the same mineral rights to such lands.

“It’s disappointing that the BLM and the Biden Administration, can’t see through the Greenwashing,” Wildland Defense’s Katie Fite said Tuesday.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

WH Chief-of-Staff Picks Natalie Quillian As Deputy

FNewly minted White House Chief-of-Staff Jeff Zients, has tapped Natalie Quillian, his former Deputy on the Covid Response Team, to serve as Deputy White House Chief-of-staff, White House officials said.

Quillian was widely expected to join Zients, once again at the White House, and now becomes One of Three Deputy Chiefs-of-Staff, alongside Jen O’Malley Dillon and Bruce Reed.

Quillian will focus on Managing the Implementation of Biden’s Major pieces of Legislation, working closely with Senior Advisers Mitch Landrieu and John Podesta, to Coordinate implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Climate Provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act.

“I have asked Natalie for her advice and service many times to help me tackle the most difficult issues we face as a nation,” President Joe Biden said in a Statement. “From figuring out how to campaign safely in an unprecedented pandemic to helping steer our government-wide response to tackle Covid and implementing a nationwide mass vaccination program, Natalie has approached each challenge with great skill.”

Zients praised Quillian as “a sharp strategist, an expert at executing, and an unflappable manager under any circumstance.In fact, I’ve found that Natalie is one of the rare leaders that when the challenges get more challenging and the tasks get bigger, she somehow performs even better. She is someone who leads by example. I am extremely grateful Natalie will be a part of our White House team once more as we tackle the critical task ahead with implementation.”

A White House Official said Quillian’s “early focus will be on standing up a general implementation unit in the White House” that will bring together: Policy, Regulatory, Legislative, Communications, and Intra-Governmental Staff, to Implement the Major pieces of Legislation and other Policy Actions.

Before serving as Zients’ Deputy on the White House’s Covid-19 Response team during the First 15 months of Biden’s Term, Quillian served as a Deputy Campaign Manager on Biden’s 2020 Campaign.

She previously served during all Eight years of President Obama’s Administration, working at the Pentagon and the National Security Council, before serving as Senior Adviser, to then-White House Chief-of-Ssaff Denis McDonough, who now serves as Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Santos’ Campaign Reported Expenses Put Scrutiny On Longtime Treasurer

In the fall of 2020, then-U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY, 1st District)’s Campaign submitted a Report to Federal Regulators, with a series of unusual Expenses: 21 Payments on a single day, of exactly $199.99 each.

The Exspences, each just One Penny below the dollar figure, above which Campaigns are required to keep Receipts, all went to Anonymous Recipients.

It’s a pattern that has emerged recently in the Filings of another New York Republican Politician: Embattled Freshman U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY, 3rd District).

The Zeldin and Santos Congressional Campaigns had one more thing in common: They shared a Treasurer, Nancy Marks.

The Long Island-based Consultant is now in the Spotlight, as Santos faces Multiple Investigations over his Finances, and repeated Lies about his Resume and Biography.

On January 31st, 2023, Marks informed the Federal Election Commission (FEC), that she had Left her Post after a little more than Three years and Two Campaigns working with Santos.

But her Resignation, is not likely to Shield her from Scrutiny, Legal Experts say.

The FEC Reports Marks filed on behalf of Santos’ Campaign, are the subject of Complaints centered on Allegations that Records were Falsified in Violation of Federal Law.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

PA Special Elections Gives Democrats Control Of House

Democrats swept Three Special Elections, in Western Pennsylvania House Districts on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press (AP), putting the Party in the Majority by a Single Seat, and breaking a Republican Legislative Monopoly, that has recently focused on Election Restrictions and Anti-Abortion Bills. All Three Races were in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh and is the State’s No. 2 County by Population, after Philadelphia.

Control of the Pennsylvania House had been shrouded by uncertainty since the Midterms in November, 2022, grinding Legislative Business to a halt, while the Parties clashed over Ground Rules and the timing of the Special Elections. Democrats had appeared to Flip the Chamber, in the Fall for the First time in 12 years, but One Lawmaker’s death and the Election of Two others, to Higher Offices delayed the Final outcome.

The Party’s Majority, 102 Seats to 101 Seats, brings clarity to the last Unresolved Legislative Races in a fiercely Contested State.

In the 32nd District, Joe McAndrew, (D) a former Executive Director of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, defeated Clayton Walker (R), a Pastor. The Seat had been held by Tony DeLuca (D), who was the longest-serving Member of the Pennsylvania House before his death in October, 2022, from lymphoma. Still, Mr. DeLuca was overwhelmingly Re-Elected in the heavily Democratic District.

In the 34th District, Abigail Salisbury (D) a Lawyer, prevailed against Robert Pagane (R), a Security Guard and former Police Officer. Ms. Salisbury will fill the Seat of Summer Lee (D), who in November, 2022, became the first Black Woman Elected to Congress from Pennsylvania. Last year, Ms. Salisbury had previously Lost to Ms. Lee (D) in a Primary for the Legislature.

In the 35th District, Matt Gergely (D), who is the Chief Revenue Officer of McKeesport, PA, defeated Don Nevills (R), who operates a tattoo shop and ran Unsuccessfully for the Seat in November, 2022. Austin Davis (D), who previously represented the District, was Elected as Lieutenant Governor in the Fall.

The Power Shift dealt another Blow to Republicans coming off the Midterms, when the Party failed to meet heightened expectations in Pennsylvania and Nationally, that were generated by Economic Turmoil and President Biden’s lackluster job In November, 2022, Pennsylvania Voters consistently Rejected Republicans in Marquee Races featuring Candidates endorsed by Trump, who espoused False Claims about Fraud in the 2020 Election.

Democrats flipped a U.S. Senate Seat and held onto the Governor’s Office when Josh Shapiro (D), who was previously Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, defeated Doug Mastriano (R), a State Senator and an Election Denier, in an Open-Seat Race.

After Losing Control of the House, Republicans will be Unable to Override a Veto by the Governor.

In a potential End-Run around the Governor, Republican Lawmakers have resorted to, Amending the State Constitution in order to Pass a Voter ID Bill. The Complex Amendment process, which ultimately requires putting the question to Voters, is the subject of Pending Litigation. But both Chambers of the General Assembly, need to pass the Bill this Session, in order to place it on the Ballot.

First-Time Voters and those applying for Absentee Ballots, are currently required to present Identification in Pennsylvania, but Republicans want to Expand the Requirement to All Voters in Every Election and have proposed issuing Voter ID Cards. Critics say the Proposal would make it Harder to Vote and could be a Privacy Risk.

Mr. Shapiro has Not Ruled-Out compromising with Republicans on some Voting Rules, but has said that he would Not support any Proposal that hinders Voting.

Republicans, now likely to be thwarted Legislatively, have also sought to use the Constitutional Amendment process, to place New Restrictions on Abortion in Pennsylvania.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

TX Challenges HHS Guidance On Prescription For Drugs Ending Pregnancy

Texas filed a Federal Lawsuit Tuesday, challenging Guidance issued by the Biden Administration in July, 2022, asserting that Federal Law does Not allow Pharmacies, to turn away People who have a Prescription for Drugs that may End a Pregnancy.

The Lawsuit was filed in a Division of Texas’ Western District Court, which almost guarantees the Case will be before U.S. District Judge David Counts, a Trump-appointed Judge.

Texas argues that the Policy Violates the Constitution and Federal Law, by using Federal Health programs to force Pharmacies to carry Abortion Drugs in States where Abortion is Banned.

“By requiring pharmacies that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds – including retail pharmacies operated by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center – to dispense abortifacients when the life of the mother is not in danger, the Pharmacy Mandate flouts Dobbs’s holding that States may regulate abortion and directly infringes on Texas’s sovereign and quasisovereign authority,” the Lawsuit states.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which issued the Guidance and whose Leader, Secretary Xavier Becerra, is the Defendant in Texas’ Llawsuit.

Texas has Sued or threatened to Sue, over other attempts by the Biden Administration to mitigate the Fallout from the Supreme Court Ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that Overturned the precedent that Protected Abortion Rights Nationwide.

Medication Abortion, a Two-Pill regimen for Ending a Pregnancy, has become a particularly acute Flashpoint in the Post-Dobbs Abortion landscape.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

End Of Health Emergency Terminates Title 42 Policy

The Biden Administration said Tuesday, that the May 11th End of the Covid-19 Pandemic Public Health Emergency, would Terminate Title 42 Orders, used to Expel Migrants at the Southern Border, establishing its Legal stance on the fate of the Trump-era Policy.

“Absent other relevant developments, the end of the public health emergency will (among other consequences) terminate the Title 42 orders and moot this case,” Justice Department (DOJ) Lawyers wrote in a Brief to the Supreme Court. “The government has also recently announced its intent to adopt new Title 8 policies to address the situation at the border once the Title 42 orders end.”

The Pandemic-era Health Order, which was implemented in March 2020 to Control the spread of Covid, has been used to turn away Asylum Seekers, more than 2 million times, on Public Health grounds.

The Tuesday afternoon Submission comes just a week, after the Administration formally announced its plan to End the Public Health Emergency, raising questions about what the End Date meant for the Title 42 Orders, amid a combination of Judicial Challenges and Oolitical Pressure facing the White House. And it was sent just hours before President Biden was set to deliver his State of the Union Address before Congress.

In November, 2022, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled the use of Title 42 was “arbitrary and capricious,” arguing it hadn’t been Updated to align with the present State of the Pandemic. The Judge told the Biden Administration it must wind down the Policy by Dec. 21, 2022.

A group of 19 GOP-led States, many of the same States in the Fifth Circuit Challenge, made a last-ditch bid to Intervene in the Case. Their move was Rejected by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The States followed with an Emergency Appeal to the Supreme Court, and a Divided bench agreed to Temporarily keep the Title 42 Order in place, while it examined whether or Not, the States may Intervene to Challenge the District Court’s Order.

The DOJ on Tuesday, asked the Supreme Court to affirm the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Order, denying the GOP-led States’ Motion to Intervene.

In a separate Filing on Monday night, the DOJ also asked to Halt its 5th Circuit Appeal, of a separate Court Decision that left Title 42 in place. Again Affirming its stance, the DOJ said the End of the Public Health Emergency would Moot the Case.

It’s Not clear how the Supreme Court will respond, but it’s worth noting that May 11th, is more than Three months away and that the Date for Ending the Emergency could still change, if the Covid Situation Worsens.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker