U.S News

Latest Spat for Miami’s Top Cop: Comparing City Leaders to Cuban Dictators

Chief Art Acevedo was a flashy hire when he arrived in Miami six months ago. Now his job is in peril after a series of clashes with city commissioners.,

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Supported by

Continue reading the main story

MIAMI — The hiring of Art Acevedo as Miami’s police chief seemed like an ideal match. Chief Acevedo, fresh off a high-profile stint in Houston, brought stature and swagger to a city infatuated with both. And as a Cuban immigrant maintaining law and order in the country’s largest concentration of Cuban Americans, his arrival had an air of celebratory inevitability.

That was six months ago. Now Chief Acevedo is at the center of an archetypal Miami political drama, replete with references to Cuban Communism and corruption, that has roiled City Hall and threatened his job.

Even before he moved to Miami, Chief Acevedo was something of a celebrity police chief, known as an outspoken critic of former President Donald J. Trump — despite being a Republican himself — and as a prominent proponent of police reform, especially toward communities of color and immigrants.

But the Miami imbroglio is not over policy. It is a clash of personalities between an ambitious new outsider and powerful city commissioners miffed over both Chief Acevedo’s surprise appointment and his tendency to say exactly what he thinks.

“He was someone who could come in from the outside and really effect change,” Art Noriega, the city manager, told the City Commission in a wild meeting on Monday. “Where we’re at today in particular is a function of the style and the manner in which that change is effectuated.”

Chief Acevedo has accused several commissioners of thwarting his attempts to “change the culture” of the department, as he said he had been hired to do, by improperly meddling in personnel decisions.

“These events are deeply troubling and sad,” he wrote in an eight-page letter on Friday in which he denounced how commissioners tried to influence an internal affairs investigation and then retaliated by defunding top positions in the Police Department’s budget. “If I or M.P.D. give in to the improper actions described herein,” he added, “as a Cuban immigrant, I and my family might as well have remained in Communist Cuba, because Miami and M.P.D. would be no better than the repressive regime and the police state we left behind.”

Image

“He was someone who could come in from the outside and really effect change,” Art Noriega, the city manager, said of Chief Acevedo at the meeting.Credit…Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

The political fight played out on Monday in a long airing of grievances by commissioners who demanded an investigation into Chief Acevedo’s past, his hiring and his recent actions — effectively putting pressure on the city manager to fire him. Commissioners cannot fire him because he does not directly work for them.

It was an unexpected turn both for the chief and for Miami, which has tried to prove it is a mature city ready to draw serious tech investors, only to find itself entangled in an ugly battle over its sixth police chief in 11 years. It was only this year that the Justice Department ended five years of oversight of the Police Department, which began after an investigation into the police killings of seven Black men.

Chief Acevedo was supposed to bring that era to a conclusion by enacting reforms and promoting an equitable, merit-based chain of command in the police force.

But he wasted no time in generating controversy of his own. He terminated two high-ranking officers and demoted the department’s second-highest-ranking female Black officer. He said his own department — rather than the Florida Department of Law Enforcement — should investigate police shootings. And he angered the police union by telling a local radio station that officers should get vaccinated against the coronavirus or risk losing their jobs.

Last week, a majority of members polled by the Fraternal Order of Police said that they had no confidence in the chief and that he should be fired or forced to resign.

Meantime, Chief Acevedo was making new enemies outside the Police Department as well.

At a demonstration in support of freedom activists in Cuba outside Miami’s iconic Versailles restaurant, the chief was caught posing for a photo with a prominent member of the Proud Boys. (He did not know who it was, the chief said.) Someone that day also recorded him swearing at a man who asked why he hung out with Marxists and Communists and supported the Black Lives Matter movement.

What especially incensed commissioners, in addition to the housecleaning at Police Headquarters, was when Chief Acevedo told a group of officers this summer that the department was run by a “Cuban mafia.” The chief later apologized, saying he intended it as a joke and had not realized that Fidel Castro had used the same phrase to refer to Cuban exiles in Miami who opposed his Communist regime.

The commissioners’ meeting to confront the chief on Monday quickly devolved into Miami-style political theatrics.

At one point, Commissioner Joe Carollo frame-grabbed a video clip of Chief Acevedo, taken before he worked in Miami, performing a raunchy dance at a fund-raiser. (In another clip, he was dressed like Elvis, prompting Mr. Carollo to tut-tut the tightness of the chief’s pants.)

A supporter of the chief at one point yelled at the dais and, as he stomped out of the chambers, extended a finger to the commissioners.

Mr. Carollo spent several hours reading news clippings and other documents about Chief Acevedo’s record in law enforcement agencies in California and Texas, including at least one allegation of sexual harassment that the chief has denied. Mr. Carollo repeatedly asked Mr. Noriega if he had been aware of those controversies before hiring Chief Acevedo.

“No, sir,” Mr. Noriega responded.

“He’s not accountable to anyone,” Mr. Carollo said of Chief Acevedo. “He’s not accountable to the city manager, not accountable to the residents of Miami — not accountable, period.”

Mayor Francis Suarez, who recruited the high-profile police chief from Houston in what was widely seen as a way to bolster the mayor’s national prominence ahead of his November re-election, did not attend the meeting. Commissioner Ken Russell, the acting chairman, was absent.

Mr. Noriega said he hired the chief in March after Mayor Suarez heard he might be available for the job and Houston’s mayor recommended him. But that circumvented a search committee that Miami had created to review police chief applications. Chief Acevedo never applied for the position. Now he makes $315,000 a year, though his total compensation package, with benefits, is worth more than $437,000.

Image

Mayor Francis Suarez introduced Chief Acevedo as the Police Department’s new leader in March.Credit…Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For his part, Chief Acevedo, who did not address the Commission, said in his letter that he believed he had angered some of the commissioners by refusing to arrest unspecified “agitators” and “Communists” at a public gathering in June — there were no agitators, his officers later concluded — and by declining to get caught up in commissioners’ unsubstantiated claims of code enforcement violations in one another’s districts.

The department had “wasted untold hours” doing investigations because of the “improper political influence” of these commissioners, he said.

Monday’s meeting began an hour late. Commissioners then took a two-hour lunch break. When they finally allowed public comment, five hours in, people lined up at the microphones, many of them angry at their elected officials for the day’s spectacle. Others raised commissioners’ own notorious records. Quite a few supported the chief.

The meeting ended in the evening, with commissioners scheduling a follow-up discussion for Friday. The mystery of Chief Acevedo’s fate lingered.

Read More
U.S News

Republicans Block Government Funding, Refusing to Lift Debt Limit

Senate Republicans opposed legislation to avert a government shutdown and prevent a debt default at a critical moment for Democrats’ domestic agenda.,

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Supported by

Continue reading the main story

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Monday blocked a spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown this week and a federal debt default next month, moving the nation closer to the brink of fiscal crisis as they refused to allow Democrats to lift the limit on federal borrowing.

With a Thursday deadline looming to fund the government — and the country moving closer to a catastrophic debt-limit breach — the stalemate in the Senate reflected a bid by Republicans to undercut President Biden and top Democrats at a critical moment, as they labor to keep the government running and enact an ambitious domestic agenda.

Republicans who had voted to raise the debt cap by trillions when their party controlled Washington argued on Monday that Democrats must shoulder the entire political burden for doing so now, given that they control the White House and both houses of Congress. Their position was calculated to portray Democrats as ineffectual and overreaching at a time when they are already toiling to iron out deep party divisions over a $3.5 trillion social safety net and climate change bill, and to pave the way for a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure measure whose fate is linked to it.

The package that was blocked on Monday, which also included emergency aid to support the resettlement of Afghan refugees and disaster recovery, would keep all government agencies funded through Dec. 3 and increase the debt ceiling through the end of 2022. But after the bill cleared the House a week earlier with just Democratic votes, it fell far short of the 60 votes needed to move forward in the Senate on Monday.

The vote was 48 to 50 to advance the measure.

The resulting cloud of fiscal uncertainty marked yet another challenge for Mr. Biden and Democratic leaders, who are facing a daunting set of tasks as they press to keep the government funded, scrounge together the votes for the infrastructure bill — also slated for a vote on Thursday — and resolve their disputes over the broader budget plan. They must also hatch a new plan for raising the statutory limit on federal borrowing, which officials have said is on track to be reached as early as mid- to late October.

“It may not be by the end of the week — I hope it’s by the end of the week,” Mr. Biden said on Monday at the White House, referring to accomplishing all of the imperatives Congress now faces. Ticking off the four pieces of legislation, he added, “We do that, the country’s going to be in great shape.”

Without any one of them, Mr. Biden’s agenda and his party’s fortunes would be in peril, a prospect that Republicans appeared to relish.

Although both parties willingly racked up trillions of dollars in debt in recent years, Senate Republicans presented their refusal to vote for the debt cap increase on Monday as deserved comeuppance for Democrats who are pushing past G.O.P. opposition to muscle their multitrillion-dollar domestic spending and tax increase plan through Congress.

“We will not provide Republican votes for raising the debt limit,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, repeating a warning he has issued for months. He added, “Bipartisanship is not a light switch — a light switch that Democrats get to flip on when they need to borrow money and switch off when they want to spend money.”

The debt ceiling increase is needed to finance borrowing that occurred in the past under administrations of both parties — not to pay for plans that Mr. Biden has yet to sign into law. And so far, there is little outreach or negotiation to resolve the impasse.

Still, Mr. McConnell sought to frame the vote as a test of Democrats’ competence, as he and other Republicans vowed to support a nearly identical temporary spending package without an increase in the debt ceiling.

“We’ll see if Washington Democrats actually want to govern,” Mr. McConnell said.

Image

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, refused to give Republican support to raising the debt limit even though Democrats did so during the Trump administration.Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Democrats rejected that alternative, accusing Republicans of recklessly jeopardizing the country’s full faith and credit. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, said the vote would put Republicans “on record deliberately sabotaging our country’s ability to pay the bills.”

“After today, there will be no doubt which party in this chamber is working to solve the problems that face our country — and which party is accelerating us toward an unnecessary, avoidable disaster,” Mr. Schumer said.

Even as the spending measure fell short, Democratic leaders worked to unite their caucus behind the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Moderate Democrats have agitated for a vote this week on that legislation, while liberal Democrats have warned they will oppose it without action first on the $3.5 trillion social policy and economic package.

As the spending measure stalled in the Senate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California was huddling privately with Democrats to try to break through the impasse. She, Mr. Schumer and Mr. Biden were also scheduled to speak on Monday, according to an official briefed on the plan.

Yet as of Monday evening, it was still unclear how congressional leaders would handle the urgent legislation to keep the government running. White House officials and Democratic congressional leaders have ramped up a drumbeat of warnings in recent weeks about the economic toll of delaying a vote on the debt ceiling.

It is perhaps the most serious round of brinkmanship over America’s debt, with economists and analysts concerned that neither side will relent before the stock market crashes and the government is unable to prioritize sending out Social Security payments, food assistance or aid to veterans and military spouses. The most recent projection from the Bipartisan Policy Center, an independent think tank, estimates that the Treasury Department will run out of cash to meet all its obligations between Oct. 15 and Nov. 4.

Democrats, who helped raise the borrowing limit when President Donald J. Trump was in office, had hoped to pressure at least 10 Republicans into abandoning the hard-line stance by merging the debt ceiling provision with badly needed money for their states and the stopgap government funding bill. Now they must regroup or face a shutdown by midnight Thursday, an outcome they have vowed to avoid.

Some Democrats pointed to the breakdown as further evidence for their argument that it was time to change Senate rules to deprive the minority party of a crucial tool for blocking legislative action.

“This is playing with fire for us to risk the full faith and credit of the United States to another damn filibuster,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat. “As far as I’m concerned, this is proof positive that the filibuster does not engender bipartisanship, it creates hopeless partisan divisions.”

The legislation that failed to advance on Monday would have kept the government funded past the beginning of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1, giving lawmakers additional time to negotiate the dozen annual spending bills, and raised the borrowing limit through Dec. 16, 2022. It also would have provided $6.3 billion to help Afghan refugees resettle in the United States and $28.6 billion to help communities rebuild from hurricanes, wildfires and other recent natural disasters.

Democrats decided earlier this year against including a debt ceiling increase in their budget blueprint, which could have allowed them to include it in the expansive domestic policy legislation, which they are pushing through Congress using a budget process known as reconciliation that shields it from a filibuster.

But doing so would prompt a politically fraught vote for their moderate colleagues, already besieged by ads accusing them of fueling inflation by supporting the massive plan to expand health care, public education and climate provisions.

And it would be procedurally complex and time-consuming, given the strict rules governing reconciliation.

Read More
U.S News

Biden Administration Plans to Publish Proposed Rule to Preserve DACA

A proposed rule could save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which a federal judge in Texas found unlawful in July.,

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program

Judge Rules DACA UnlawfulWhat is DACA?Precarious Lives of ‘Dreamers’

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Supported by

Continue reading the main story

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration plans to publish a proposed rule on Tuesday in hopes of preserving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program that has protected hundreds of thousands of undocumented young adults from deportation and allowed them to legally work in the United States.

The proposal is especially important given a recent decision by the Senate parliamentarian to not allow immigration provisions to be included in a sprawling budget bill, which Democrats had hoped would put DACA recipients on a path to citizenship.

The new rule, to be published in The Federal Register, would go into effect after the administration considers public input during a 60-day comment period. It would protect some 700,000 undocumented people brought to the United States as children from being deported or losing their work permits, even if Congress does not pass comprehensive immigration reform.

For years, DACA beneficiaries, often called Dreamers, have been uncertain about their future as the program has been canceled, reinstated and partly rolled back by court rulings and administrative actions. The Trump administration tried to end it, and several states, led by Texas, have also challenged its legality.

The 205-page rule “basically is an effort to bulletproof the DACA program from litigation challenges,” said Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell Law School.

“While Democrats will try to find other ways to provide a path to a green card for Dreamers,” he added, “the proposed rule could be a temporary safety net for Dreamers if legislation fails.”

In July, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the program was unlawful and said that President Barack Obama had exceeded his authority when he created it by executive action in 2012. The judge’s decision said that the Obama administration had not taken the proper steps in establishing the program, running afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The judge, Andrew S. Hanen of the United States District Court in Houston, wrote that current DACA recipients would not be immediately affected by his ruling, and that the federal government should not “take any immigration, deportation or criminal action” against them that it “would not otherwise take.” That gave the government time to address the issues with the program that he had raised.

Since the ruling, the Department of Homeland Security has continued to accept renewals but has not approved any new applications for the program.

Democrats had hoped to include a path to citizenship for the Dreamers and about 7 million other undocumented immigrants living in the United States in a $3.5-trillion budget bill. But after the Senate parliamentarian ruled last week that those measures did not belong in the bill, Democrats are preparing backup plans. One would update the immigration registry, a process for extending legal permanent residence to immigrants on the basis of their longstanding presence in the country. The measure would benefit many in the DACA program.

“The Biden-Harris administration continues to take action to protect Dreamers and recognize their contributions to this country,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said in a statement.

“This notice of proposed rule-making is an important step to achieve that goal,” he added. “However, only Congress can provide permanent protection.”

The DACA program has enabled many recipients to attend college, build careers and buy homes. Polls have shown that Americans overwhelmingly support offering legal status to Dreamers.

“We know that DACA is not permanent — and it’s not enough,” said Bruna B. Sollod, a communications director for United We Dream, a national advocacy group. “Millions of immigrants continue to live in fear and in threat of detention and deportation, which is why we need Democrats to deliver citizenship through reconciliation this year.”

Read More
U.S News

Why Texas Republicans Are Proposing a New Congressional Map

Rather than trying to make significant gains in the state, where Democrats have been increasingly ascendant in recent years, Republicans appear to be trying to bolster their existing congressional delegation.,

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Texas Republicans propose a new congressional map that aims to protect the party’s incumbents.

The Texas State Capitol in Austin.Credit…Matthew Busch for The New York Times

Sept. 27, 2021, 4:59 p.m. ET

Republicans in the Texas Legislature proposed a new congressional map on Monday that would preserve the party’s advantage in the state’s delegation to Washington amid booming population growth spurred by communities of color.

The new map was designed with an eye toward incumbency and protecting Republicans’ current edge; the party now holds 23 of the state’s 36 congressional seats. Rather than trying to make significant gains, the party appears to be bolstering incumbents who have faced increasingly tough contests against an ascendant Democratic Party in Texas.

Indeed, in the proposed map, there is only one congressional district in the state where the margin of the 2020 presidential election would have been less than five percentage points, an indication that the vast majority of the state’s 38 districts will not be particularly competitive.

Texas was the only state in the country to be awarded two new congressional districts during this year’s reapportionment, which is taking place after the 2020 census. The state’s Hispanic population grew by two million people over the past 10 years, and is now just 0.4 percentage points behind that of the Anglo population.

But the map proposed by the Republican-controlled State Senate redistricting committee, led by State Senator Joan Huffman, would decrease the number of predominantly Hispanic districts in the state from eight to seven, and would increase the number of majority-white districts from 22 to 23.

Though the map proposed on Monday was just a first draft and could undergo some changes, civil rights groups expressed alarm at the lack of new districts with a majority of voters of color.

“With Latinos accounting for nearly half of the total growth of the Texas population in the last decade, we would expect legally compliant redistricting maps to protect existing Latino-majority districts and potentially to expand the number of such districts,” said Thomas Saenz, the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Texas has a long history of running afoul of the redistricting parameters set by the Voting Rights Act, having faced a legal challenge to every map it has put forward since the law was passed in 1965. But in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the act that forced some states to obtain approval from the Justice Department before making changes to voting laws or to congressional districts.

This year is the first time that Texas legislators have been free to redraw the state’s congressional map without following that requirement.

Across the country, each party is poised to press its advantage to create as many favorable congressional and state legislative seats as possible in states where its lawmakers control how maps are drawn.

On Friday, the National Redistricting Action Fund, a Democratic organization run by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., sued Ohio over Republican-drawn state legislative maps that it argued had violated a 2015 state constitutional amendment.

In Nebraska this month, Democrats protested a proposed map from Republicans that split Douglas County, which includes Omaha, the state’s largest city, into two congressional districts. The Democrats eventually forced a compromise that maintained a district in which President Biden won a majority of votes. On Friday, Nebraska legislators agreed to pass a congressional map that preserves Douglas County as a single district.

Fast-growing Oregon is one of the few states where Democrats have the potential to press a redistricting advantage. The state is adding a sixth congressional district to its delegation, which now has four Democrats and one Republican. But the new map, set to pass on Monday, will most likely create a Democratic district, adding to Democrats’ advantage in the state.

Read More
U.S News

Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

A big test of vaccine mandates.,

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Supported by

Continue reading the main story

This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

Image

Daily reported coronavirus cases in the U.S., seven-day average.Credit…The New York Times

President Biden received a booster shot on Monday.

The U.S. experienced its biggest one-year increase on record in murders in 2020, which roughly coincided with the pandemic.

Costco will limit sales of toilet paper and water because of “Delta-related demand.”

Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and a vaccine tracker.

Stress testing vaccine mandates

In an early test of employer mandates in the U.S., tens of thousands of health care workers in New York are at risk of losing their jobs today if they don’t get vaccinated.

Roughly 90 percent of the state’s 600,000 health care workers have already received at least one shot. The remaining workers have until 11:59 p.m. to get a dose.

“It’s almost like a game of chicken,” said our colleague Sharon Otterman, who covers the pandemic in New York. “Health systems, in the middle of a nurse shortage, in the middle of a pandemic, are risking further staff shortages. And on the health care workers side, some are asking, ‘How strongly held are my fears about the vaccine, and am I willing to give up my job for it?'”

In some states, like California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Illinois, workers have the option to be tested regularly if they choose not to get inoculated. But in New York, Rhode Island, Maine, Oregon and the District of Columbia, health care workers must get vaccinated to remain employed, unless they have approved exemptions.

Experts have called vaccine mandates a straightforward way for health care workers to prevent new waves of infection, and to persuade doubters to get vaccinated. But a vocal minority of New York’s health care workers have resisted the order because they are worried about potential side effects, or because they say it violates their personal freedom.

Covid-19 vaccines have proven to be highly effective at preventing symptomatic infections, severe illness and death. Side effects of the vaccine, if any, tend to be minor and short-lived.

New York officials are now bracing for possible staffing disruptions at health care facilities. Gov. Kathy Hochul said last week that she might declare a state of emergency and deploy the National Guard. She also floated the idea of recruiting temporary workers from the Philippines or Ireland.

There are at least eight lawsuits against the state’s mandate, and another mandate — for adults working at New York City’s public schools — was delayed by a federal court last week.

Health care employers, however, are forging ahead, telling unvaccinated workers without approved exemptions not to report for duty tomorrow, or giving their employees unpaid leave to think about it.

“The question is, Are they going to bend?” Sharon said. “So far, it looks like a lot of people are coming in at the last minute. Health care systems all saw big upticks in their vaccination percentages over the last weekend, with thousands of people getting vaccinated.”

For some workers, it’s still 2020

In many workplaces, the conversation about Covid has begun to move away from alarm and toward a safe future.

But at fast food restaurants, grocery stores, warehouses, nursing homes and anywhere else frontline workers show up every day, it remains late 2020 in many ways. A deep schism has taken hold. Workers nervous about the virus find themselves at the mercy of customers who aren’t.

Conditions are especially tense in states with low vaccination rates, like Louisiana.

“Every day is frightening,” said Peter Naughton, a Walmart cashier and self-checkout host, who lives in Baton Rouge, La.

“If I ask people to wear a mask or socially distance at work, they get mad and tell the manager,” Naughton said, adding, “Then I have to get coached. If you get coached too many times, you lose your job,” he said, referring to the company’s system for managing worker infractions.

Covid appears to have been good for Walmart’s bottom line: During the 2020 fiscal year, the company generated $559 billion in revenue, up $35 billion from the previous year. But labor activists say too little of that money has gone toward work force protections, which in turn has prolonged the pandemic.

In a May 2020 survey of nontemporary employees at Walmart conducted by United for Respect, a nonprofit labor advocacy group, nearly half said they had come into work sick or would do so, out of fear of retaliation. In an April 2021 report, the group found that if Walmart had a more robust paid sick-time policy, the company could have prevented at least 7,618 Covid cases and saved 133 lives.

What else we’re following

The global economy looks solid for now, but big challenges lie ahead.

Schools across the U.S. are struggling to feed students amid labor shortages.

Sydney, Australia may begin to lift restrictions in early October, three months after it locked down.

Norway lifted its pandemic restrictions after 561 days.

South Korea will soon start administering booster shots to medical workers and people in their 60s and older.

Morgues in Idaho are running out of room for bodies, The Washington Post reports.

The Crown Prince of Jordan has tested positive, Reuters reports.

Travel news

Nepal has reopened to tourists in a bid to revive its battered industry.

Like many small island nations, the Maldives are struggling to manage climate change and tourism shortages, The Associated Press reports.

U.S. travel rules appear to shut out recipients of Russia‘s Sputnik V vaccine, The Washington Post reports.

The Caribbean island of Montserrat is engaged in an audacious experiment to keep cash coming in and Covid away: long stays for high earners.

What you’re doing

Every day as I enter my school building, I give myself a pep talk. It will be OK, you are here for the students, the mask doesn’t matter, take things as they come, etc. It helps.

— Muriel Ventura, Long Island, N.Y.

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

Sign up here to get the briefing by email.

Email your thoughts to briefing@nytimes.com.

Read More
U.S News

A top F.D.A. official moved on Monday to take over the agency’s vaccines office.

Two leaders of the office had publicly questioned whether the general population needed coronavirus booster shots and recently announced plans to retire.,

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

A top F.D.A. official moved on Monday to take over the agency’s vaccines office.

Dr. Peter Marks, one of the Food and Drug Administration’s highest-ranking regulators, on Capitol Hill earlier this year.Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Sept. 27, 2021Updated 4:45 p.m. ET

Dr. Peter Marks, one of the Food and Drug Administration’s highest-ranking regulators, on Monday took over the agency’s vaccines office, whose two leaders had publicly questioned whether the general population needed coronavirus booster shots.

Dr. Marks said in an email to staff that the move, which makes him acting director of the office, would allow the two — Dr. Marion Gruber, the director of the vaccines office, and Dr. Philip Krause, her deputy — to “take care of close-out activities prior to departing and help to assure a smooth transition.”

Dr. Gruber recently announced plans to retire at the end of October, and Dr. Krause in November.

Both have evaluated vaccines for decades at the agency’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review, and were said to have been upset at the Biden administration’s announcement last month that booster shots would be available to most adults by the week of Sept. 20, contingent on F.D.A. clearance.

The two regulators wrote in The Lancet earlier this month that there was no credible evidence yet in support of booster shots for the general population, and that more data and public discussion were needed. Their position was shared by many independent scientists, who have said that coronavirus vaccines continue to be powerfully protective against severe illness and hospitalization.

After a tense meeting of the F.D.A.’s vaccine advisory panel, Dr. Gruber last week signed the agency’s decision memo behind its authorization of Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for people 65 and older, people at high risk of severe Covid-19 and others at risk of serious complications from Covid-19 whose jobs frequently expose them to the virus.

The C.D.C.’s vaccine advisory panel delivered a similar vote, but not did endorse offering boosters based on one’s job. Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the agency’s director, overruled the advisers and recommended shots for people based on “occupational or institutional setting.”

President Biden said last week that 60 million people would be eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech booster over the coming months.

The F.D.A.’s vaccines office has more important decisions ahead, including whether to authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 and booster shots for recipients of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

As director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Dr. Marks, a hematologist and oncologist, has supervised the vaccine office’s reviews for the entirety of the pandemic. He is credited as the architect of the Trump administration’s vaccine program, Operation Warp Speed, that developed and funded coronavirus vaccines.

But Jesse Goodman, a former chief scientist at the agency, said that Dr. Marks’s decision to take over the office was “extremely unusual and concerning.” He said that the F.D.A. needed to offer a clear explanation, or else it could “erode trust” in the agency. “This just doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

Understand Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the U.S.

Vaccine rules. On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, paving the way for an increase in mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies have been increasingly mandating vaccines for employees. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within areas experiencing outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. See where the C.D.C. guidance would apply, and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle over masks has become contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.Schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for education staff. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-age children are opposed to mandated vaccines for students, but were more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff members who do not have their shots. Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their work force.New York City. Proof of vaccination is required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, although enforcement does not begin until Sept. 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system will need to have at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 27, without the option of weekly testing. City hospital workers must also get a vaccine or be subjected to weekly testing. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would seek to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.

“These are the two people who know the most about vaccines at the F.D.A., and they should be doing everything they can to keep them involved in all the critical activities,” he said, referring to Dr. Gruber and Dr. Krause.

Some administration officials said Dr. Marks’s action made sense because the upcoming departures of Dr. Gruber and Dr. Krause could delay critical decisions on vaccines if someone else were not in charge. Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in La Jolla, Calif., praised Dr. Marks’s experience, and said that “new leadership was vital” after Dr. Gruber and Dr. Krause so strongly expressed that booster shots were not justified for everyone.

But Dr. Luciana Borio, a former acting chief scientist at the F.D.A. under President Barack Obama, said Dr. Marks could have tapped someone else. “There are several well-qualified individuals in the office,” she said, “and I was surprised that one of them wasn’t being elevated to acting director.”

An F.D.A. spokeswoman said in a statement Monday that “a smooth transition is particularly important given the critical regulatory submissions that the Office of Vaccines Research and Review will need to work through as a team over the coming months that will affect the health of nearly every American.”

Read More
U.S News

Charles W. Mills, Philosopher of Race and Liberalism, Dies at 70

He argued that white supremacy was a feature of the Western political tradition, and that racism represented a political system as intentional as liberal democracy.,

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Supported by

Continue reading the main story

Charles W. Mills, a London-born, Jamaican-raised philosopher whose incisive criticism of liberalism and race both foreshadowed and framed contemporary debates about white supremacy and structural racism, died on Sept. 20 in Evanston, Ill. He was 70.

The cause was cancer, The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he once taught, said in announcing his death.

Dr. Mills argued that racism played a central role in shaping the liberal political tradition, a system that, he said, supposedly valued individual rights and yet for too long excluded women, the working class and people of color. He swung for the fences, writing critiques of Plato, John Rawls and everyone in between.

“He was one of the most important philosophers ever to treat race and racism as their primary subject,” Chike Jeffers, a professor of philosophy at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Canada, and a former student of Dr. Mills, said in an interview. “He did so much to move the field forward, and to get people excited about thinking about race and racism.”

Dr. Mills established himself as a leading critic of Western political theory with his first book, “The Racial Contract” (1997). In it he argued that white supremacy, far from being a bug in the Western political tradition, was one of its features, and that racism represented a political system every bit as coherent and intentional as liberal democracy.

“White supremacy is the unnamed political system that has made the modern world what it is today,” he wrote in the book’s first sentence.

He posited that one of liberalism’s core tenets, the “social contract,” a theoretical agreement in which individuals ceded some rights in exchange for protection by the government, was designed explicitly to exclude people of color. (He readily noted the debt he owed to feminist political theory, especially the philosopher Carole Pateman and her 1988 book “The Sexual Contract.”)

“What Mills does is to deconstruct the domain of white political theory by showing that Black people and people of color were never meant to be included,” George Yancy, a philosopher at Emory University, said in an interview. “He is the singular figure to put his finger on the pulse of these contradictions, and to show how they are experienced in the lives of Black people and people of color.”

If racism is so central to modern political theory, Dr. Mills asked, why do so few in the field talk about it? In part, he said, it’s because of what he called “the epistemology of ignorance,” or the learned aversion of white people to the racism inherent in their own privilege.

But, he added, it was also because political philosophy as a profession was almost entirely white.

“If you go to a meeting of the American Philosophical Association,” he said in a lecture last year at the University of Michigan, “you have to put on dark glasses, or else you’ll get snow blindedness from the expanse of white faces.”

Rigorous and persuasive, his work was also free of the jargon and obscurantism that bedevils so much of modern philosophy. He could also be disarmingly funny, often poking fun at himself or his profession.

“If you are a member of the American Philosophical Association and you don’t use the word ontology in a talk, there’s someone from the A.P.A. sitting in the back of the room and your membership card will be yanked,” he quipped during his lecture.

Yet for all his knife-sharp insight into the shortcomings of the liberal tradition, he was not willing to dismiss it entirely, in part because he believed the alternatives were so much worse — including, he pointed out, the chauvinistic nationalism on the rise across Europe and North America over the last decade.

It was, he conceded, a position that sometimes got him in trouble with philosophers even further to his left.

“One can readily appreciate why, given this history, some radical thinkers have given up on liberalism altogether and have also given up on people like Charles Mills, who still insist that liberalism can be freed,” he said in his lecture. “So now there’s a bunch of folks who cross the street when they see me coming.”

Charles Ward Mills was born on Jan. 3, 1951, in London, where his Jamaican parents, Gladstone and Winnifred Mills, were graduate students. The family returned to Jamaica before Charles turned 1, and he spent the rest of his childhood in Kingston.

His father, who had been a leading Jamaican cricket player, later became the head of the government department at the University of the West Indies, Mona, the school’s Jamaican campus, and the dean of its faculty of social sciences. In the 1970s he served as chairman of a government commission tasked with reforming the country’s electoral process.

Winnifred Mills was equally prominent. A nurse by training, she rose to become the head of the Jamaican Y.W.C.A.

A bookish child, Dr. Mills said he regretted spending more time reading the works of J.R.R. Tolkien than Frantz Fanon, the revolutionary Franco-Caribbean philosopher. But he also joked that his love of science fiction prepared him for a life in philosophy.

“It could just be that I’m a nerdy alienated weirdo, and nerdy alienated weirdos are disproportionately attracted to both fields,” he wrote in a biographical essay in 2002. “Have you been to an A.P.A. meeting recently? I rest my case.”

Image

Dr. Mills established himself as a leading critic of Western political theory with his first book, “The Racial Contract” (1997).

He entered the University of the West Indies in 1971, where he studied physics. He also became politically active, as did many of his classmates — Jamaica in the 1970s went through a period of radical politics, similar to the one that swept across the United States and Europe in the 1960s.

After graduating, he briefly taught high school physics before moving to Canada to attend graduate school at the University of Toronto, which had one of North America’s best programs in Marxist philosophy. He received his doctorate in 1985.

Dr. Mills taught at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Illinois, Chicago, and Northwestern University before joining the CUNY Graduate Center in 2016.

His marriage to Elle Mills ended in divorce. He is survived by his brother, Raymond Mills.

After “The Racial Contract,” Dr. Mills wrote five more books; a seventh, “The White Leviathan,” is in production.

In his recent work, Dr. Mills went beyond his initial critique to search for ways to salvage aspects of liberalism — human rights, dignity, the rule of law — in a truly egalitarian way.

It was, he believed, an urgent project, given the growing strength of white supremacy in parts of the world, and he urged his fellow radical philosophers not to reject liberalism entirely.

“This is no longer a time when self-styled post-Enlightenment critics — taking for granted Liberal-Democratic guarantees — can afford to be sneering at Enlightenment norms,” he wrote in Artforum in 2018. “The protections of those rights and freedoms can no longer be assumed.”

Read More
U.S News

Biden Administration Moves to Protect Undocumented Young Adults

A proposed rule could save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which a federal judge in Texas found unlawful in July.,

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program

Judge Rules DACA UnlawfulWhat is DACA?Precarious Lives of ‘Dreamers’

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Supported by

Continue reading the main story

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration plans to publish a proposed rule on Tuesday in hopes of preserving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program that has protected hundreds of thousands of undocumented young adults from deportation and allowed them to legally work in the United States.

The proposal is especially important given a recent decision by the Senate parliamentarian to not allow immigration provisions to be included in a sprawling budget bill, which Democrats had hoped would put DACA recipients on a path to citizenship.

The new rule, to be published in The Federal Register, would go into effect after the administration considers public input during a 60-day comment period. It would protect some 700,000 undocumented people brought to the United States as children from being deported or losing their work permits, even if Congress does not pass comprehensive immigration reform.

For years, DACA beneficiaries, often called Dreamers, have been uncertain about their future as the program has been canceled, reinstated and partly rolled back by court rulings and administrative actions. The Trump administration tried to end it, and several states, led by Texas, have also challenged its legality.

The 205-page rule “basically is an effort to bulletproof the DACA program from litigation challenges,” said Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell Law School.

“While Democrats will try to find other ways to provide a path to a green card for Dreamers,” he added, “the proposed rule could be a temporary safety net for Dreamers if legislation fails.”

In July, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the program was unlawful and said that President Barack Obama had exceeded his authority when he created it by executive action in 2012. The judge’s decision said that the Obama administration had not taken the proper steps in establishing the program, running afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The judge, Andrew S. Hanen of the United States District Court in Houston, wrote that current DACA recipients would not be immediately affected by his ruling, and that the federal government should not “take any immigration, deportation or criminal action” against them that it “would not otherwise take.” That gave the government time to address the issues with the program that he had raised.

Since the ruling, the Department of Homeland Security has continued to accept renewals but has not approved any new applications for the program.

Democrats had hoped to include a path to citizenship for the Dreamers and about 7 million other undocumented immigrants living in the United States in a $3.5-trillion budget bill. But after the Senate parliamentarian ruled last week that those measures did not belong in the bill, Democrats are preparing backup plans. One would update the immigration registry, a process for extending legal permanent residence to immigrants on the basis of their longstanding presence in the country. The measure would benefit many in the DACA program.

“The Biden-Harris administration continues to take action to protect Dreamers and recognize their contributions to this country,” Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, said in a statement.

“This notice of proposed rule-making is an important step to achieve that goal,” he added. “However, only Congress can provide permanent protection.”

The DACA program has enabled many recipients to attend college, build careers and buy homes. Polls have shown that Americans overwhelmingly support offering legal status to Dreamers.

“We know that DACA is not permanent — and it’s not enough,” said Bruna B. Sollod, a communications director for United We Dream, a national advocacy group. “Millions of immigrants continue to live in fear and in threat of detention and deportation, which is why we need Democrats to deliver citizenship through reconciliation this year.”

Read More
U.S News

John Hinckley Jr. to Be Unconditionally Released in June

Mr. Hinckley, 66, who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, will be “untethered to the court” next year after a judge’s ruling on Monday, his lawyer said.,

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Supported by

Continue reading the main story

A federal judge agreed on Monday to lift all remaining restrictions on John W. Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981, next year if he stays mentally stable and continues to follow the conditions that he has been living under, prosecutors said.

Judge Paul L. Friedman, during a hearing in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, said he would issue his written order on the plan this week, his office said.

“If he hadn’t tried to kill the president, he would have been unconditionally released a long, long, long time ago,” The Associated Press quoted the judge as saying during the hearing. “But everybody is comfortable now after all of the studies, all of the analysis and all of the interviews, and all of the experience with Mr. Hinckley.”

At the hearing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said it would agree to Mr. Hinckley’s unconditional release in June 2022 “if he continues to comply with the conditions of his current release order and maintains his mental stability between now and then,” Bill Miller, a spokesman for the office, said in a statement.

Barry Levine, a lawyer for Mr. Hinckley, 66, said in a telephone interview that he and prosecutors had agreed before the hearing on the unconditional release and that Judge Friedman granted their joint request. He said the reason to wait until June was related to two major events in Mr. Hinckley’s life: Mr. Hinckley’s mother died in July, and his therapist is retiring in January 2022.

“The court wants to just see how he does,” Mr. Levine said.

For the decision to be reviewed again would require prosecutors to file a new motion and show that previous terms of the release had been violated, such as traveling more than 75 miles from Williamsburg, Va., without telling the court, Mr. Levine said

“It is self-executing,” Mr. Levine said. “The judge will pick what day it will be.”

After seeing the 1976 film “Taxi Driver,” Mr. Hinckley began to identify with the main character, who plots to assassinate a presidential candidate. Mr. Hinckley became fixated on Jodie Foster, who played a child prostitute in the movie, and moved to New Haven, Conn., to be close to her when she started to attend Yale University.

After the 1980 election, Mr. Hinckley stalked President Reagan in an attempt to impress Ms. Foster. In 1981, he wrote a letter to Ms. Foster describing his plan to kill the president, and waited outside the Washington Hilton Hotel for Mr. Reagan, waving at him as he went inside to deliver a speech.

When Mr. Reagan left the hotel, Mr. Hinckley fired six shots, hitting the president; James S. Brady, the White House press secretary; Timothy J. McCarthy, a Secret Service agent; and Thomas K. Delahanty, a police officer. Mr. Brady died of his injuries in 2014.

In 1982, a jury found Mr. Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity. He was sent to St. Elizabeths, a psychiatric hospital in Washington, and confined.

Image

Mr. Hinckley arriving at the U.S. District Court in Washington in 2003.Credit…Evan Vucci/Associated Press

From 2014 to 2016, Judge Friedman allowed Mr. Hinckley temporary stays in Williamsburg, where his mother lived. Mr. Hinckley volunteered to do landscaping at a Unitarian church, and he worked in the library and cafeteria of a psychiatric hospital. He also took up bowling, attended lectures and concerts, and exercised at a community center.

But he was under restrictions in that period. He had to work and volunteer at least three days a week or be reported to the authorities if he failed to show up. He had to live with his mother for at least the first year and carry a cellphone that tracked his movements.

In 2016, Judge Friedman ruled that Mr. Hinckley could live permanently with his mother. But he was to have no contact with Ms. Foster or family members of Mr. Reagan, Mr. Brady or his other victims.

Mr. Hinckley was also forbidden to be in the same area as current presidents, vice presidents, members of Congress or other senior administration members, and he was not allowed to have social media accounts without the unanimous consent of his treatment team.

On May 6, Judge Friedman issued an order saying that a psychologist could examine Mr. Hinckley to determine his mental condition and “risk of dangerousness, if any, if unconditionally released from his commitment,” the filing said.

A violence risk assessment in 2020 concluded that Mr. Hinckley would not pose a danger if he were released unconditionally from the court-ordered restrictions.

In another decision last October that relaxed the terms of Mr. Hinckley’s release, Judge Friedman said Mr. Hinckley could publicly display his writings, painting, photographs and other artwork.

Mr. Levine said Mr. Hinckley was living under virtually “no condition that matters at all.”

“He lives in Williamsburg, he goes to therapy,” he said. Once the unconditional release takes effect, “he is untethered to the court.”

“There is nothing the court can do to bring him back,” Mr. Levine said.

Read More
U.S News

D.E.A. Warns of ‘Alarming’ Increase in Fentanyl-Laced Fake Pills

The Drug Enforcement Administration said it had seized more than 9.5 million counterfeit prescription pills so far this year, more than in the previous two years combined.,

Advertisement

Continue reading the main story

Supported by

Continue reading the main story

Pointing to an “alarming” increase in fatal overdoses, the Drug Enforcement Administration warned on Monday that a record number of the 9.5 million fake prescription pills it had seized in the United States this year contained lethal amounts of fentanyl.

For the first time in six years, the agency took the step of issuing a public safety alert, this one on the dangers of the fake pills. The agency said many of the pills have also been laced with methamphetamine.

According to the D.E.A., two of every five fake pills that have been seized this year have contained lethal amounts of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be 50 times more powerful than heroin, and is cheaper to produce and distribute.

The agency said it had seized more pills so far this year than in the previous two years combined.

“The United States is facing an unprecedented crisis of overdose deaths fueled by illegally manufactured fentanyl and methamphetamine,” Anne Milgram, the agency’s administrator, said in a statement on Monday. “Counterfeit pills that contain these dangerous and extremely addictive drugs are more lethal and more accessible than ever before.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in July that more than 93,000 people in the United States died from drug overdoses in 2020, as the nation was starting to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. That figure reflected an increase of more than 29 percent from the previous year, the C.D.C. said.

Drug enforcement officials attributed the uptick in overdose deaths to those involving fentanyl. All it takes, the D.E.A. said, is money and a smartphone to buy the fake pills, which are made to resemble common yet tightly controlled drugs like OxyContin, Xanax or Adderall. In some cases, the officials said, minors have been buying them.

“Today, we are alerting the public to this danger so that people have the information they need to protect themselves and their children,” Ms. Milgram said.

The D.E.A. said that 40 percent of the fake pills that have been seized have contained at least two milligrams of fentanyl, which is enough to cause a fatal overdose and is small enough to fit on the tip of a pencil.

A vast majority of the counterfeit pills, which are sold on social media and e-commerce platforms, were brought into the United States from Mexico, according to the D.E.A., which also announced on Monday that it was launching a public awareness campaign called One Pill Can Kill. The chemicals used to make them come from China, the agency said.

Ray Donovan, the chief executive officer of the New York division of the D.E.A., urged people to be leery of fake pills.

“As drug cartels continue to push fentanyl into users’ hands, they have developed a profitable and potent dose in the form of a pill,” Mr. Donovan said on Twitter on Monday. “Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, these pills are lethal.”

Federal drug enforcement officials said that anyone filling a prescription at a licensed pharmacy could remain confident that the drugs they were buying were safe.

Republicans seized on the D.E.A.’s warning on Monday and used it to draw attention to the situation along the U.S. border with Mexico.

“Pres. Biden must secure the border & Congress must permanently designate fentanyl as a schedule I drug,” Representative Scott Fitzgerald, Republican of Wisconsin, said on Twitter on Monday. “Lives depend on it.”

Read More