Haiti Caucus Co-Chairs Demings, Clarke, Levin, and Pressley Observe the 12th Anniversary of the Haiti Earthquake
ORLANDO, FL – Today, House Haiti Caucus Co-Chairs Representatives Val Demings (FL-10), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Andy Levin (MI-09), and Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) observed the 12-year anniversary of the catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010.
“Today, we join the Haitian people and supporters from around the world in remembering over 230,000 lives lost, 300,000 injured, 1.5 million left homeless, and countless lives forever changed on January 12, 2010. Our prayers remain with the victims and the survivors who continue to persevere in the aftermath.
“On this somber anniversary, we also recognize the immense challenges that Haiti has experienced over the last year. Even as the impacts of the 2010 earthquake continue to be felt, the Haitian people have endured political instability and gang violence, the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, and an additional 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck last August. Yet the Haitian people remain resilient, and we have seen Haitian civil society organizations continue to rise to face these challenges and work together to pursue a Haitian-led transition to democracy, security, stability, peace, and prosperity.
“As Co-Chairs of the House Haiti Caucus, we mourn with the Haitian people and recommit ourselves to lifting up their voices and leadership in the reformation of a stronger and more resilient democracy. Today and every day, we stand with the people of Haiti.”
NASA Welcomes Czech Foreign Minister for Artemis Accords Signing
During a ceremony at NASA Headquarters in Washington Wednesday, the Czech Republic became the 24th country to sign the Artemis Accords. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson participated in the signing ceremony for the agency and Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský signed the Artemis Accords on behalf of the Czech Republic.
The Artemis Accords establish a practical set of principles to guide space exploration cooperation among nations, including those participating in NASA’s Artemis program.
“We are living through a golden age of exploration. Gone are the days of one nation exploring the cosmos alone,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Along with our fellow Artemis Accords signatories, the United States and Czech Republic are setting a standard for 21st century exploration and use of space. As we explore together, we will explore peacefully, safely, and transparently.”
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Jennifer R. Littlejohn and Czech Ambassador to the United States Miloslav Stašek also took part in the ceremony.
“I see it as a historic signature. We are joining our likeminded partners in advancing peaceful, cooperative, and sustainable exploration of space,” said Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský. “Czechia’s space ecosystem has a lot to offer. We believe that this signature will kick-start the development of an institutional and industrial cooperation within the Artemis community, as well as directly between Czechia and the U.S., in the field of space activities.”
NASA, in coordination with the U.S. Department of State, established the Artemis Accords in 2020 along with the other eight original signatories. The Artemis Accords reinforce and implement the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. They also reinforce the commitment by the United States and partner nations to the Registration Convention, the Rescue and Return Agreement, as well as best practices and norms of responsible behavior that NASA and its partners have supported, including the public release of scientific data.
“The Artemis Accords guide us towards a future of optimism and promise,” stated Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Jennifer R. Littlejohn. “They encourage cooperation and responsible behavior in space. This is a vital foundation for space exploration. Congratulations to the Czech Republic!”
Additional countries will sign the Artemis Accords in the months and years ahead, as NASA continues to work with its international partners to establish a safe, peaceful, and prosperous future in space. Working with both new and existing partners will add new energy and capabilities to ensure the entire world can benefit from our journey of exploration and discovery.
FedNow won’t give agency power to seize bank accounts for political beliefs
CLAIM: The Federal Reserve is launching a new program that will give it the power to monitor, freeze and even seize private bank accounts based on a person’s behavior or political beliefs.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Fed officials and banking experts say the new FedNow service does not give the agency additional surveillance and enforcement authorities. They say the service simply replaces the agency’s outdated system for banks to process checks and electronic payments.
THE FACTS: A post circulating widely on social media claims a new government program will give the Federal Reserve broad powers to monitor and seize people’s personal bank funds.
“The U.S. banking nightmare is about to get a lot worse,” reads the post, which has been liked or shared more than 4,500 times as of Tuesday. “A new Federal program with the power to control your money goes into effect in as little as 30 days.”
The post and other similarly worded ones link to a lengthy blog piece with the headline “U.S. Government Docket No. OP-1670 Exposes New Fed Power to Seize Control of U.S. Bank Accounts.”
The blog item claims a secretive government initiative “gives unelected officials the power to closely monitor or even freeze your account based on your behavior, and potentially even based on your political views.”
It also claims the system would give government officials the power to monitor a person’s investments, restricting how much they can invest or contribute to certain companies, causes and political parties.
The effort would even give government officials the power to pressure people to get vaccinated, “or worse,” the post claims.
But the government document referenced by the post — Docket No. OP-1670 — suggests nothing of the sort, Fed officials and banking experts say.
Instead, they say, it details the creation of FedNow, a new service set to launch this summer that will allow banks and credit unions to speed up the dayslong process of clearing checks and electronic payments.
“FedNow is an instant payments service that the Federal Reserve will offer to banks and credit unions to transfer funds for their customers,” the agency said in an emailed statement. “The Fed and FedNow cannot access individuals’ bank accounts or control how they choose to spend their money.”
Aaron Klein, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, D.C., concurred, saying the claims are part of a “nonsense campaign” that has “no basis in reality.”
The Fed is simply revamping its outdated Automated Clearinghouse system, which is the network financial institutions use to send each other electronic credit and debit transfers such as payroll direct deposits, social security benefits and tax refunds, he said.
“They are upgrading their current system that runs on 1950s tech to one that’s modern,” Klein explained in an email. “It’s like changing from Blockbuster to Netflix.”
Nicholas Anthony, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, another Washington-based research group, noted that banking institutions are already required to report suspicious financial behavior and other potential threats under the federal Bank Secrecy Act, which was enacted in 1970 to crack down on money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
“While there are many sound concerns around FedNow being an unnecessary expansion of the Federal Reserve’s footprint,” he wrote in an email. “I do not share the same concerns that FedNow will expand surveillance.”
There isn’t anything secretive about the planned system, either, as the blog post claims, Anthony noted.
The Fed has provided regular updates on the process, launched a frequently asked questions page and even published a notice in the Federal Registerearly in the process in order to solicit public feedback.
The blog post appears to wrongly conflate the forthcoming FedNow system with digital currency, commonly referred to as a “central bank digital currency,” or CBDC, which the Fed has also said it is exploring, Anthony and other experts say.
Fed officials have stressed FedNow is unrelated to the notion of a government-run digital currency, which social media users also falsely claim would lead to the elimination of cash.
“The Federal Reserve has made no decision on issuing a central bank digital currency (CBDC) & would not do so without clear support from Congress and executive branch, ideally in the form of a specific authorizing law,” the agency wrote in a series of tweets last month. “A CBDC would not replace cash or other payment options.”
Trump arrest prompts Jesus comparisons: ‘Spiritual warfare’
WASHINGTON (AP) — For the most devoted Trump conspiracy theorists, there are no coincidences and timing is everything.
So when ex-President Donald Trump was arraigned Tuesday on charges that he falsified business records to obscure hush money payments in an effort to influence the 2016 election, some of his most ardent followers quickly noted the court appearance came during Christianity’s most sacred week, Holy Week, when many Christians commemorate Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
“Seems there was someone else who was tortured and crucified this week,” read one post on Gab, a platform popular with Trump supporters. A similar post on Telegram put Trump’s case in apocalyptic terms: “Good vs Evil. Biblical times. Divine timing.”
Comparisons likening Trump to Christ were among the top online narratives about the Republican former president and his criminal charges circulating in the last several days, according to an analysis of online and social media content conducted by Zignal Labs, a media intelligence firm, on behalf of The Associated Press.
Zignal’s analysis found tens of thousands of mentions calling Trump a martyr. The number more than doubled immediately after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., linked the prosecution of Trump to the persecution of Christ during an interview.
Trump pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to 34 felony counts alleging he hid payments made during his 2016 presidential campaign to two women — an adult-film actor and a former Playboy model — who claimed they had sexual encounters with him, as well as to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child Trump fathered out of wedlock.
Greene, who traveled to New York City to protest Trump’s arraignment, noted the timing of the arraignment during a broadcast interview before bringing up the Christ comparison.
“Jesus was arrested and murdered by the Roman government,” she said. “There have been many people throughout history that have been arrested and persecuted by radical corrupt governments, and it’s beginning today in New York City.”
The comparison was denounced by Episcopal Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees more than 500 churches in Greene’s home state and called her comments blasphemous and disgusting.
“While Marjorie Taylor Greene may put her political loyalty ahead of God, Christians do not,” Jackson said. “Those of faith believe Christ always has, and always will, stand alone.”
Trump’s personal, political and professional history make him an odd choice to stand in for Christ, Christianity’s savior and central figure. Yet it’s an outgrowth from Christian nationalism, a movement that fuses traditional Christian themes and imagery with conservative candidates like Trump, according to John Fea, a historian at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, who has researched evangelical Christianity’s role in American history.
“They see this as spiritual warfare, and Trump is on the side of the angels,” Fea said. “In this view, Trump is politically a savior, he is going to restore America, and he will rise from the ashes in November despite the persecution and the suffering.”
Trump has encouraged such beliefs by claiming he is uniquely qualified to lead the country, by calling his 2024 campaign to retake the White House a “Final Battle” against his enemies and by praising QAnon, a movement that views him as a crusader against what it says is a secret, child-sacrificing cabal that controls world events.
He embraced the role of martyr again on Tuesday, when his campaign created a fake mug shot and included it in a fundraising email, even though no mug shot of the former president was taken that day.
In the Christian nationalist view, Trump’s return to New York could be seen as an echo of Christ’s triumphant entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, Fea said, with the exception that Christ rode a donkey and Trump arrived in a motorcade.
Behind the religious metaphors, the online reaction of Trump supporters to Tuesday’s arraignment was mixed, fragmented by competing conspiracy theories and Trump’s own complicated role in the movement he helped build.
While many far-right commenters decried the charges, others said Trump deserved no sympathy after he didn’t pardon defendants charged in the failed Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Some pointed to the charges as one reason why they now support Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ expected bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Some Trump supporters promoted peaceful protests as a way to send a signal to the nation, yet others cited debunked claims about Jan. 6, arguing that any protests could be traps staged by federal agents.
“Watch out for infiltrators, the minute they want to start trouble call it off and everyone go home,” a poster wrote on Gab in response to a post announcing Greene’s protest in Manhattan.
Still other commenters dismissed the very real legal jeopardy facing Trump, saying he is orchestrating the entire prosecution as a way to ferret out his enemies.
The last was a sentiment especially popular on QAnon message boards, where Christian imagery regularly mixes with fantasies about one-world governments, child sacrifices and blood rituals.
“All a MOVIE!!” one Trump supporter wrote on Telegram. “Trump is writer, producer and director!!! Get your popcorn!”
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