NEW YORK NEWS
Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is under investigation by the House of Representatives’ ethics committee, the leaders of the panel said. The Democratic acting chair, Susan Wild of Pennsylvania, and acting ranking member, Michael Guest, a Mississippi Republican, released a statement. They said: “The matter regarding Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez … was transmitted to the committee by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) on 23 June.” The subject of the investigation was not revealed. The committee said: “The mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee.” A spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez said: “The congresswoman has always taken ethics incredibly seriously, refusing any donations from lobbyists, corporations, or other special interests. We are confident that this matter will be dismissed.” The House ethics committee said it would announce its “course of action” after the new Congress convenes in January.
Mayor Eric Adams announced a plan to combat New York City’s affordable housing crisis by streamlining some of the city’s many rules and requirements. Adams said that the regulations have slowed the construction of new homes at a moment when they are desperately needed. The plan calls for a number of changes focused mainly on reducing bureaucratic obstacles for builders, including eliminating environmental reviews for some residential buildings and simplifying the approval process for many new projects. Taken together, the mayor said, the proposals would speed project timelines by 50 percent, which would help reduce building costs. Mr. Adams put the city’s housing problems in stark terms in a speech at City Hall, calling out New Yorkers and suburban residents who have opposed new housing and describing his own experience with housing instability as a child. He noted that the creation of new housing has lagged far behind population growth. “There is nowhere for people to go,” he said. “It’s not complicated. We have more people than homes.”
The New York Times experienced a walkout after months of contract negotiations with the union went nowhere. Members of the New York Times Guild — the union that covers about 1,400 Times workers, including non-newsroom departments such as advertising and security — have said the walkout is the culmination of months of frustration over contract negotiations on a range of issues, particularly compensation. The previous employee contract expired in March 2021. In a letter to members this week, union organizers wrote that “we cannot get to a deal until the company makes wage and benefit proposals that truly share the company’s gains with its employees.” They accused the company Wednesday evening of failing to “bargain in good faith.” Meredith Kopit Levien, the chief executive of the Times, called the walkout plans “disappointing” and a “drastic action.” In a note to employees Wednesday night, she said the company has shown a “clear commitment” to negotiating a contract “that provides Times journalists with substantial pay increases, market-leading benefits and flexible working conditions.”
The cost of a Subway ride could rise to over $3 in the next few years. Transit leaders consider raising fares for the first time since before the pandemic began, presenting a potential hardship for those who rely most heavily on the depleted system. Ridership has yet to return to its pre-pandemic levels, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that runs the city’s subway and buses, has said it could face a budget gap of nearly $3 billion by 2025. As authority officials draft a financial plan for the next four years, they have presented fare increases as one option for helping to offset the loss of riders. If the authority board approves such a move, the current $2.75 base fare could rise to $2.90 by next year and to $3.02 in 2025. Any fare changes would be preceded by public hearings and a board vote. Kevin Willens, the authority’s chief financial officer, emphasized in an interview that no decision had been made about raising fares. “Clearly,” he said, “there can be discussion on what’s the right mix between fares and other new government support and so forth.”
A Manhattan jury has found two Trump Organization companies guilty on multiple charges of criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. The jury found that the company failed to report and pay taxes on compensation for top executives, including company-funded apartments, car leases, and personal expenses. “This was a case about greed and cheating,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said. “The Trump Corporation and the Trump Payroll Corporation got away with a scheme that awarded high-level executives with lavish perks and compensation while intentionally concealing the benefits from the taxing authorities to avoid paying taxes. Today’s verdict holds these Trump companies accountable for their long-running criminal scheme.” The Trump Organization could face a maximum of $1.61 million in fines when sentenced in mid-January. Donald Trump and his family were not charged in this case.
Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona announced that she would leave the Democratic Party and become an independent, unsettling the party divide anew just days after Democrats secured an expanded majority in the Senate. “I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington,” she wrote in an opinion column published in The Arizona Republic. This decision comes after the win by Raphael Warnock in Georgia, securing 51 votes in the Democratic caucus. The caucus, which already includes 2 Independents (Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine) unanimously voted Chuck Schumer as Majority Leader. As Sinema said in her column, “becoming an independent won’t change my work in the Senate; my service to Arizona remains the same.”
WNBA player Brittney Griner is back in the United States. The 32-year-old two-time Olympian was convicted in Russia for drug possession and sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison. For the past nine months of her incarceration, she became a cause celeb, as she is also an outspoken critic of the United States, is a woman of color, and a member of the LGBT community. Griner was traded for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death.” Bout was 10 years into a 25-year sentence at the time of the trade. Another American in Russian prison, Paul Whelan, was rumored to be part of the deal, but the Russians would only allow one captive to be traded. The White House claims that it was Griner “or no one.” “This is a day we’ve worked toward for a long time. We never stopped pushing for her release,” President Joe Biden said. “It took painstaking and intense negotiations, and I want to thank all the hardworking public servants across my administration who worked tirelessly to secure her release.”
The Artemis I mission made a successful ocean splashdown on Sunday. The 25-day unmanned mission was a test flight around the moon which was meant to pave the way for future astronaut missions. The last mission to the moon was 50 years ago, in 1972. The Artemis program is designed to bring humans back to the moon in preparation for the next destination: Mars. “I’m overwhelmed,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Sunday. “This is an extraordinary day.”
The House of Representatives passed a $858 billion defense policy bill. Within the bill is the reversal of the Pentagon’s mandate that troops receive the coronavirus vaccine. This overrides the objections of the Biden administration as lawmakers in both parties united behind another huge increase in military spending. The legislation, negotiated by Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of Congress, would grant a 4.6 percent raise to military personnel and increase the Pentagon’s budget by $45 billion over President Biden’s request, providing $800 million in new security aid to Ukraine and billions to Taiwan. The vote was 350-80, in one of the largest bipartisan measures passed during the 117th Congress. John F. Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, called the repeal of the vaccine requirement for troops a “mistake” and blamed Republicans, who he said had politicized the bill. But he stopped short of saying Mr. Biden would veto it.
The Food and Drug Administration expanded eligibility for the updated coronavirus shots to children as young as 6 months old. This is the latest step in the rollout of updated boosters in September to adults and in October to children as young as 5. Despite the consistent requests and suggestions from the state and federal government to get the booster, few Americans are interested. Reports indicate that less than 4% of adults are getting the boosters that are available. “More children now have the opportunity to update their protection against Covid-19 with a bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, and we encourage parents and caregivers of those eligible to consider doing so — especially as we head into the holidays and winter months where more time will be spent indoors,” Dr. Robert M. Califf, the F.D.A. commissioner, said in a statement.
Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried (colloquially known as SPF) was arrested by authorities in the Bahamas. This action was taken upon notification that the U.S. Department of Justice has filed criminal charges against him and is expected to request extradition. “On 12 December, the Office of the Attorney General of The Bahamas is announcing the arrest by The Royal Bahamas Police Force of Sam Bankman-Fried, former CEO of FTX,” the government of the Bahamas said in a statement. “BF’s arrest followed receipt of formal notification from the United States that it has filed criminal charges against BF and is likely to request his extradition.” SBF was scheduled to testify in front of Congress about his role in the crash of FTX, which lost billions of dollars seemingly overnight.
Yariv Levin, a confidant of presumed incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was elected speaker of the Knesset on Tuesday, paving the way for a rapid legislative blitz demanded by Likud’s partners as a condition for forming their government. Despite incoming opposition attempts to delay the vote, Levin received 64 votes in the 120-seat body, allowing him to assume the role of Knesset speaker — a role he held in 2020-2021 — and take control of the Knesset’s legislative agenda. Protest candidate Merav Ben Ari of the Yesh Atid party received 45 votes and Hadash-Ta’al chief Ayman Odeh got 5.
Russian president Vladimir Putin will not hold his typical yearly press conference for the first time in at least ten years. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked about the event during a call with the press. When asked if there was a date for the “big news conference,” Peskov said, “No, there won’t be one before the new year.” Putin will not be hosting a New Year’s event either. This fuels speculation about the health of the Russian president, which has been a cause of rumors around the world as the notoriously tight-lipped government refuses to provide any details. Tatiana Stanovaya, the founder of the R.Politik political analysis group, wrote about the announcement on her Telegram channel. “I don’t think that Putin has nothing to say, especially as he’s said so much recently,” she said. “More likely he has a psychological unwillingness to ‘explain himself,’ to answer boring and routine questions, to waste time on preparations, play the role of the kind father and so forth.” “For the foreign audience, he can say everything he deems necessary, he’ll find an occasion,” she continued. “As to the domestic audience, he doesn’t see the point. Let his subordinates handle it.”
By QJL Staff