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Yesterday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to renew three expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, after the Senate abandoned the PATRIOT reform effort and approved the extension by a voice vote on Wednesday night.
Disappointingly, the government's dangerously broad authority to conduct roving wiretaps of unspecified or "John Doe" targets, to secretly wiretap of persons without any connection to terrorists or spies under the so-called "lone wolf" provision, and to secretly access a wide range of private business records without warrants under PATRIOT Section 215 were all renewed without any new checks and balances to prevent abuse. Despite months of vigorous debate, when PATRIOT renewal bills providing for greater oversight and accountability were approved by the Judiciary Committees of both the House and the Senate, Democratic leaders' push for reform fizzled in the face of staunch Republican opposition buoyed by recent hot-button events such as the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day and the shooting at Fort Hood.
The renewed PATRIOT provisions were originally set to expire on December 31, 2009, but Congress ran out of time last year and temporarily extended them until February 28th, this coming Sunday. The new extension is expected to be signed by the President before then.
The one silver lining? Despite a push by Republican leaders for a four-year extension, the renewed provisions are now set to expire in one year. So, although this battle's been lost, the effort to roll back PATRIOT's worst excesses is far from over. Thank you to everyone who took action to support PATRIOT reform this past year; we hope that you'll continue the fight with us in the next year.
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"PGA Tour leaders should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and greed."
In an agreement that will end years of acrimony and litigation, PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF)—which owns LIV Golf—surprised the world of golf and beyond by announcing Tuesday that they are merging into "a new, collectively owned, for-profit entity."
"Our entire 9/11 community has been betrayed by Commissioner Monahan and the PGA."
Human rights advocates excoriated Monahan and the deal. Terry Strada, who chairs the 9/11 Families United coalition and whose husband Tom died in the attack on the World Trade Center, said in a statement that "Monahan co-opted the 9/11 community last year in the PGA's unequivocal agreement that the Saudi LIV project was nothing more than sportswashing of Saudi Arabia's reputation."
\u201cJay Monahan changed his tune considerably after telling the media and players his concerns with the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour. \n\nPart 1 \ud83d\udc47\u201d— Awful Announcing (@Awful Announcing) 1686093488
"But now the PGA and Monahan appear to have become just more paid Saudi shills, taking billions of dollars to cleanse the Saudi reputation so that Americans and the world will forget how the kingdom spent their billions of dollars before 9/11 to fund terrorism, spread their vitriolic hatred of Americans, and finance al-Qaeda and the murder of our loved ones," Strada continued. "Make no mistake—we will never forget."
"Mr. Monahan talked last summer about knowing people who lost loved ones on 9/11, then wondered aloud on national television whether LIV golfers ever had to apologize for being a member of the PGA Tour," Strada added. "They do now—as does he. PGA Tour leaders should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and greed. Our entire 9/11 community has been betrayed by Commissioner Monahan and the PGA as it appears their concern for our loved ones was merely window-dressing in their quest for money—it was never to honor the great game of golf."
\u201cNothing is more American than the PGA vilifying golfers who took hundreds of millions of dollars to play for an immoral, murderous undemocratic, anti-American regime...\n\nThen partnering with that immoral, undemocratic, anti-American murderous regime.\n\nhttps://t.co/NBIrZbCKxb\u201d— Michael Harriot (@Michael Harriot) 1686065123
Some members of U.S. Congress—a body that responded to 9/11 by voting overwhelmingly to authorize an open-ended war that experts say has claimed millions of lives—welcomed the PGA-LIV Golf merger, among them Reps. Jim Clyburn (D) and Nancy Mace (R), both of South Carolina.
"Obviously Saudi money being involved... you know, I'd have some concerns over that," Mace, who chairs the Congressional Golf Caucus, toldHuffPost. "But look at my district—we've got over 30 golf courses."
Former President Donald Trump—whose golf courses have hosted LIV Golf events—called the deal "big, beautiful, and glamorous" for the sport.
Other lawmakers—mostly Democrats—condemned the merger.
\u201cA merger of this size & weight deserved a vote from the PGA Tour Players -- another reason why player unions matter. \u00a0Golf is one of the only major professional sports leagues in the US without one.\u201d— Ro Khanna (@Ro Khanna) 1686070295
"Hypocrisy doesn't begin to describe this brazen, shameless cash grab," Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) tweeted. "I'm going to dive into every piece of Saudi Arabia's deal with the PGA. U.S. officials need to consider whether a deal will give the Saudi regime inappropriate control or access to U.S. real estate."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) accused the PGA Tour of paying "lip service" to uplifting the game of golf, which will be used "unabashedly by [Saudi Arabia] to distract from its many crimes."
\u201cSo weird. PGA officials were in my office just months ago talking about how the Saudis' human rights record should disqualify them from having a stake in a major American sport.\n\nI guess maybe their concerns weren't really about human rights?\u201d— Chris Murphy \ud83d\udfe7 (@Chris Murphy \ud83d\udfe7) 1686066929
Ruled for generations by the House of Saud under Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Sunni Islam, Saudi Arabia perennially scores near the bottom of most international human rights indices. Women, religious and sexual minorities, and political dissidents are especially repressed. "Crimes" including apostasy—renouncing Islam—blasphemy, witchcraft, prostitution, and even adultery are punishable by death, often by public beheading.
Abroad, Saudi Arabia leads a U.S.-backed coalition intervening in Yemen's civil war, in which nearly 400,000 people have been killed. Despite pledging to make Saudi Arabia a "pariah" during his 2020 presidential campaign, U.S. President Joe Biden has, like his predecessors going back to the first half of the 20th century, continued friendly and highly lucrative relations with the monarchy.
\u201c\u201c[Saudis] are scary motherf-ckers to get involved with. We know they killed [Jamal] Khashoggi and have a horrible record on human rights. They execute people over there for being gay.\u201d - Phil Mickelson. Within a day, he apologized to the Saudi Royal Family for these comments.\u201d— Dave Zirin (@Dave Zirin) 1686081241
According to U.S. intelligence agencies, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the 2018 kidnapping and brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist with permanent U.S. residency. Biden angered many human rights advocates by moving to protect the crown prince from accountability.
"An incredible embarrassment for the House Republican leadership," said one observer. "The morning McCarthy tries to turn the page, conservatives slap him and his leadership team in the face."
Progressive pundits on Tuesday derided what one commentator called a "complete shitshow" as a group of hard-right House Republicans voted with their Democratic colleagues in tanking GOP-backed bills to block regulation of gas stoves.
Members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus joined Democrats in voting against a rule to advance four bills, two of them related to shielding gas stoves from federal regulation. Industry groups including the American Gas Association—which has known and tried to hide for decades that gas stoves can harm human health—support the legislation.
"Today, we took down the rule because we're frustrated at the way this place is operating," Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told reporters, according to The Hill. "We took a stand in January to end the era of the imperial speakership. We're concerned that the fundamental commitments that allowed Kevin McCarthy to assume the speakership have been violated as a consequence of the debt limit deal."
\u201cWow. Kevin McCarthy\u2019s vote to protect gas stoves just FAILED on the House floor after some MAGA Republicans revolted to \u201cpunish\u201d McCarthy for not letting the US economy crash from the debt ceiling.\n\nComplete shitshow.\u201d— No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen (@No Lie with Brian Tyler Cohen) 1686077994
While many progressives were infuriated by the deal struck between President Joe Biden and McCarthy (R-Calif.) to raise the nation's debt limit and avoid a first-ever default because the agreement helps protect wealth tax dodgers while slashing social safety net and climate spending, far-right Republicans also loathe the deal because they believe its belt-tightening measures are largely cosmetic.
"We warned them not to cut that deal without coming down and sit down and talk to us. So this is all about restoring a process that will fundamentally change things back to what was working," said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who also voted against advancing the gas stove bills.
In addition to Gaetz and Roy, the following Republicans voted to block the bills' advancement: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.) and Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Ken Buck (Colo.), Tim Burchett (Tenn.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Bob Good (Va.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), and Matt Rosendale (Mont.).
\u201cAn incredible embarrassment for the House Republican leadership. The morning McCarthy tries to turn the page, conservatives slap him and his leadership team in the face.\u201d— Jake Sherman (@Jake Sherman) 1686078829
"Haha. Republicans don't even have the votes to advance their own bill creating fake hysteria around banning gas stoves—which no one is trying to do," tweeted Democratic strategist Sawyer Hackett. "The House GOP majority hard at work on the issues that matter most!"
"Today's ruling is a powerful affirmation of the humanity of transgender people, the efficacy of well-established, science-based medical care, and of the rights of parents to make informed healthcare decisions for their children."
In a rebuke to Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature and its far-right governor and 2024 presidential candidate, Ron DeSantis, a federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked the enforcement of certain anti-trans rules recently adopted by state medical boards as well as specific provisions in Senate Bill 254, a new state law that criminalizes gender-affirming healthcare.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle's 44-page ruling prevents Florida from applying its ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth to three children whose parents are plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit against the state.
Hinkle argued that Florida's moves to prohibit doctors from providing and minors from receiving so-called "puberty blockers" and other hormonal treatments constitute "purposeful discrimination" against transgender people and are likely to be found unconstitutional.
"Nothing could have motivated this remarkable intrusion into parental prerogatives other than opposition to transgender status itself," wrote Hinkle, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton. "The statute and the rules were an exercise in politics, not good medicine. This is a politically fraught area. There has long been, and still is, substantial bigotry directed at transgender individuals."
"Common experience confirms this, as does a Florida legislator's remarkable reference to transgender witnesses at a committee hearing as 'mutants' and 'demons,'" Hinkle continued, referring to disparaging comments made in April by state Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-29).
Hinkle added that the families who joined the emergency motion for a restraining order and preliminary injunction would suffer "irreparable harm" if their adolescents were denied access to "medically necessary" care consistent with the guidance of every major medical organization in the United States.
"My husband and I have been heartbroken and worried sick about not being able to care for our daughter in the way we know she needs," one of the plaintiffs, who is identified as Jane Doe and has a daughter named Susan, said in response to the ruling. "Today my entire family is breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we can now access the treatment that we know will keep Susan healthy and allow her to continue being the happy, confident child she has been."
The civil rights groups representing the plaintiffs said that "today's ruling is a powerful affirmation of the humanity of transgender people, the efficacy of well-established, science-based medical care, and of the rights of parents to make informed healthcare decisions for their children."
"The court recognized the profound harm the state of Florida is causing by forcing parents to watch their kids suffer rather than provide them with safe and effective care that will allow them to thrive," the groups continued. "We are incredibly relieved that these Florida parents can continue to get healthcare for their children while we proceed to challenge these bans and eventually see them fully overturned."
As Politicoreported, "The preliminary injunction does not apply to other minors who may wish to obtain treatment, but the ruling suggests that a key part of the law itself could get knocked down as the legal challenge proceeds."
Florida's boards of Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine adopted rules prohibiting doctors from offering gender-affirming care to trans youth in March. That ban was codified into state law when DeSantis signed S.B. 254 on May 17, one week before announcing his bid for the GOP's presidential nomination.
But S.B. 254 goes much further than formalizing the state medical boards' discriminatory rules. Among other things, it empowers Florida officials to take trans children away from their parents if they receive gender-affirming care. In addition to authorizing kidnapping, the law limits the ability of trans adults to start or continue receiving gender-affirming care and threatens to put doctors who violate the new restrictions behind bars.
S.B. 254 is one of several anti-trans laws that Florida Republicans and DeSantis have approved this year. Progressive advocacy groups issued a travel advisory for the state in April.
It is also one of 70 anti-trans laws enacted nationwide during the current legislative session. More than 525 bills attacking LGBTQ+ individuals, including over 220 that target trans people, have been introduced across the U.S. in recent months.
Before Hinkle issued his ruling on Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), one of the groups representing Florida parents, took the unprecedented step of declaring a "state of emergency" for LGBTQ+ people in the U.S.
Regarding the narrowly focused ruling, HRC and the other groups said it indicates that "the plaintiff parents are likely to succeed in their claims that S.B. 254 and the boards of medicine rules unconstitutionally strip them of the right to make informed decisions about their children's medical treatment and violate the equal protection rights of transgender youth by denying them medically necessary, doctor-recommended healthcare."
The groups added that "the challenge to the boards of medicine and S.B. 254 healthcare bans is likely to proceed quickly to trial."