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How mercury sneaks into the most vulnerable communities in US and Canada

1 Dolton-Thornton, Nathaniel. “The Elem Tribe’s Last Stand.” Earth Island Journal, 2019.

2 “National Lake Fish Tissue Study – Results and Data.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 7 Nov. 2018.

3 Liu, Guangliang, et al. Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology of Mercury. Wiley, 2012.

4 Gibson, Shelby. “’My Ears Keep Ringing All the Time’: Mercury Poisoning Among Grassy Narrows First Nation.” Pulitzer Center, 29 July 2019.

5 Kirkup, Kristy. “Ottawa Pressed to Make Good on Promise to End All Long-Term Drinking-Water Advisories for First Nations.” The Globe and Mail, 1 Mar. 2021.

6 Mercury in the Environment : Pattern and Process, edited by Michael S. Bank, University of California Press, 2012. ProQuest Ebook Central.

7 E. C. Merem, J. Wesley, P. Isokpehi, E. Nwagboso, S. Fageir, S. Nichols, M. Crisler, M. Shenge, C. Romorno, G. Hirse, The Growing Issue of Mercury Exposure and the Threats in the African American Community, Frontiers in Science, Vol. 6 No. 1, 2016, pp. 1-16. doi: 10.5923/j.fs.20160601.01.

8 United States, Congress, National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP), and Peggy Shepard. Fish Consumption and Environmental Justice A Report Developed from the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Meeting of December 3-6, 2001, EPA, 2002, p. 185.

9 Janssen, Sarah E., et al. “Examining Historical Mercury Sources in the Saint Louis River Estuary: How Legacy Contamination Influences Biological Mercury Levels in Great Lakes Coastal Regions.” Science of The Total Environment, vol. 779, 2021, p. 146284., doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.146284.

10 Stefanovich, Olivia. “Indigenous Services Minister to Acknowledge Liberals Won’t Meet Promised Drinking Water Targets | CBC News.” CBCnews, CBC/Radio Canada, 2 Dec. 2020.

11 “Defining Waters of the United States / Clean Water Rule – Environmental & Energy Law Program.” Harvard Law School, 3 Mar. 2021.

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Key Oscars moments: from the historic to the hilarious – video

While the scaled-back Oscars in Los Angeles on Sunday made for a more subdued and intimate affair than usual, the evening was not without its moments. 

Picking up his award for best supporting actor, the British actor Daniel Kaluuya managed to embarrass his proud mother. ‘It’s incredible. My mum met my dad, they had sex. It’s amazing, you understand. I’m here, you know what I mean?’ 

Glenn Close twerked and Frances McDormand howled like a wolf. Making history as the first Korean actor to win an Oscar, Youn Yuh-jung took a moment to appreciate Brad Pitt, who handed her the award. ‘Oh, Mr Brad Pitt, finally, nice to meet you. Where were you while we were filming, in person?’ she joked, to laughter 

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Joe Biden to hold first cabinet meeting as he pitches $2tn infrastructure plan – live

Yesterday in Minneapolis, another prosecution witness, Charles MacMillian, told the court that he spoke directly to George Floyd as he lay in the street under Derek Chauvin’s knee.

“Get up and get in the (police) car. You can’t win man,” he said to Floyd.

Floyd responds that he cannot get up.

MacMillian, in highly emotional testimony, said he appealed to Floyd to cooperate with the police because he was worried about his condition as he was pleading that he could not breathe. “I was trying to help him,” he said.

MacMillian broke down and wept in court as he was shown video of his interaction with Floyd.

Chris McGreal reports:

The cashier who served George Floyd in a Minneapolis store immediately before his arrest and death last May told a court on Wednesday of the ‘disbelief and guilt’ he felt for allowing Floyd to pay with a suspected fake $20 bill when he later saw the police kneeling on him.

Testimony on the third day of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial continued in an atmosphere of tense emotions and harrowing evidence about Floyd’s death.

The cashier, Christopher Martin, 19, said Floyd appeared to be high on drugs but was not threatening and was ‘very approachable, talkative’.

April 1, 2021

“The filibuster stands in the way of a lot of legislation and whether or not it can be either reformed and amended or eliminated is what we will find out in next weeks,” Clinton told Palmieri.

She added, “It certainly should be lifted for constitutional matters, and I would put election law matters at the top of that list.”

Many Democrats have called on Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer to eliminate the filibuster, thus allowing bills to pass the upper chamber with 51 votes, rather than the 60 required with the filibuster in place.

But currently, Schumer does not have the votes to eliminate the filibuster, as at least two of his caucus members — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have signaled opposition to the idea.

@SecretaryPete tells @SRuhle he’s not giving up on earning GOP support for @POTUS’s newly-unveiled $2 trillion infrastructure package.

“Bottom line is, we’ve got to get this done.”@MSNBC

April 1, 2021

The former Democratic presidential candidate said he has had many meetings with lawmakers of both parties, and he noted Joe Biden has encouraged Republicans to offer ideas on the proposal.

But Buttigieg was tight-lipped when pressed on which specific members of Congress he has been talking to about the infrastructure package.

“Bottom line is, we’ve got to get this done,” Buttigieg said. “The American people can’t wait for good infrastructure.”

The transportation secretary will be attending Biden’s cabinet meeting at the White House later today.

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US Navy: for first time in history four women of color command war ships

Four US Navy officers have made history this week – and breaking new ground in a traditionally white and male-dominated field.

For the first time in US Navy history, four women of color are now commanding war ships at the same time, NBC News has reported.

The four officers, Kimberly Jones, LaDonna Simpson, Kristel O’Cañas, and Kathryn Wijnaldum, recently said that there have been dramatic changes for women serving in the Navy over the years.

The Navy “looks different in the fact that as an ensign, I looked around and at that time, there were not many senior female officers that I could necessarily go to for gender-specific questions,” Jones, who joined the Navy more than two decades ago, remarked in an interview clip obtained by People magazine.

“I may not have felt comfortable asking my male boss,” Jones also said. “Now, to their credit, they were phenomenal leaders. However, when it came time [for] some of those more intimate conversations on how to plan your career with a family, as a mom, that did not exist.”

She added: “And I was overseas, so the population was slightly smaller. And now walking this waterfront, there are leaders, there are role models, at every rank…That is something that I hope ensigns, young sailors, gravitate towards and take advantage of.”

These four women are all based at Norfolk Naval Station, in Virginia. They are all “Nuclear Surface Warfare Officers” – a qualification which is “extremely competitive” to obtain, according to the US Navy.

All four women “have spent a considerable amount of their time serving aboard nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and in nuclear-related shore duty billets,” the Navy noted.

Simpson said that while she was never discouraged from going after her career goals, she did not have many female role models.

“The Navy has been very supportive of my journey and my professional training. There weren’t any voices in the Navy that said that I could not achieve this goal,” Simpson said. “The only limitation was the fact that women as a whole hadn’t been on board combatant vessels until, I believe, it was 1994.”

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California shooting: four killed, including child, in office building in Orange

Four people, including a child, have been killed and a fifth person injured in a shooting at a southern California office building, with the suspected shooter wounded by police.

It happened at around 5.30pm on Wednesday at a two-storey office building in Orange, south of Los Angeles.

Police Lt Jennifer Amat said shots were being fired when officers arrived and police shot the suspect, who was taken to the hospital in unknown condition.

Amat said the victims also included one person who was wounded. Other details were unclear, including a motive for the attack.

“Officers arrived as shots were being fired and located multiple victims at the scene including fatalities. An officer-involved shooting occurred,” said the Facebook post, which was filed shortly after 7 pm. “The situation has been stabilized and there is no threat to the public.”

The Fire Department handled six patients, with two taken to a hospital, dispatch supervisor Sam Ahumada told the Orange County Register.

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Georgia overhauls ‘citizen’s arrest’ law after Ahmaud Arbery killing

Georgia lawmakers have approved a bill that would overhaul the state’s citizen’s arrest law, rolling back a Civil War-era statute one year after the killing of Ahmaud Arbery.

The state’s governor, Brian Kemp, is expected to sign the bill into law, which would make Georgia the first state to move toward repealing a citizen’s arrest statute. Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law, which was enacted in 1863 to allow white citizens to capture slaves fleeing north, and was later used to justify hundreds of lynchings, was cited by a prosecutor last year who initially declined to arrest Arbery’s assailants.

Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was jogging when he was chased and then gunned to death by three white men. His pursuers said they suspected him of robberies.

The bill approved on Wednesday would strike citizen’s arrest from state law, but would still allow security officers, private investigators, and off-duty officers to detain someone they believe has committed a crime. Kemp called the latter provisions a “critical balance”.

“I look forward to signing it into law as we continue to send a clear message that the Peach state will not tolerate sinister acts of vigilantism in our communities,” Kemp said in a statement.

Civil rights advocates have celebrated the bill’s passage, and are pushing for similar reforms in other states. All 50 states have some form of citizen’s arrest statute.

Republicans have sided with Democrats in support of the bill, but critics say state Republicans’ support for it serves to mask lawmakers’ recent moves to heavily restrict voting access and limit Black citizens’ ability to vote.

Carl Gilliard, a Democrat who had long lobbied for the 1863 law’s repeal, called it “outdated and antiquated”, saying it was steeped in racism.

The Rev James Woodall, state president of the Georgia NAACP, called the repeal of the law “a monumental moment in Georgia history.”

The father and son who pursued Arbery – Greg and Travis McMichael – were not arrested or charged until more than two months after Arbery’s death. The McMichaels have since been charged with murder. They remain jailed without bail.

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Biden announces ‘once-in-a generation’ $2tn infrastructure investment plan – video

Joe Biden unveiled what he called a ‘once-in-a-generation’ investment in American infrastructure, promising the nation his $2tn plan would create the ‘strongest, most resilient, innovative economy in the world’. Biden’s proposal to the nation still struggling to overcome the coronavirus pandemic would rebuild 20,000 miles of roads and highways and repair the 10 most economically significant bridges in the country. Biden added other projects would confront the climate crisis, curb wealth inequality and strengthen US competitiveness

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Biden to propose infrastructure plan to create jobs and combat climate change – live

The infrastructure plan that Joe Biden will announce on Wednesday is set to crystalize the US president’s vision of how to combat the climate crisis – hefty government intervention to retool America’s creaking systems, festooned with plenty of green, preferably union, jobs.

Biden opened his White House term with a cavalcade of executive actions to begin the gargantuan task of shifting the US to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and the new $2tn package, known as the American jobs plan, is the first indication of the scale of spending that will be required to reshape day-to-day life in order to avert disastrous climate change.

As well as huge investments in crumbling roads and bridges, the Biden plan takes aim at the emissions created by transport, currently the country’s largest source of planet-heating gases. There’s $80bn for Amtrak and freight rail, $85bn for public transit, $174bn to promote electric vehicles through various incentives, the electrification of school buses and 500,000 new plug-in recharging stations within the next decade. The federal government’s vehicle fleet will also be electrified.

“There’s a lot to like in this plan, it’s excellent in almost every way,” said Julio Friedmann, who was a climate and energy adviser in Barack Obama’s administration and is now an energy researcher at Columbia University.

“This is a generational commitment and it can only be applauded. The $2tn is half the price tag of World War Two, it exceeds the scale of the New Deal, it’s wildly larger than the Marshall Plan – and appropriately so. This is the hardest thing we’ve ever done. People generally don’t understand how much construction and reduction is required.”

But even the administration’s allies concede further, longer-term spurs to remodel the economy and alter behavior will be required on top of this plan.

March 31, 2021

The president boarded Air Force One in the pouring rain moments ago, and he offered a salute at the top of the steps to the plane.

Biden is traveling to Pittsburgh with several senior advisers, including national climate adviser Gina McCarthy and principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The Wisconsin state supreme court has struck down governor Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate designed to curb the spread of coronavirus.

More than a year into the pandemic, the US has not once managed to get the virus officially under control and, with variants and vaccines in a perilous “race”, Joe Biden is urging the public to remain vigilant and his public health experts are warning of the “impending doom” of another surge of infections if restrictions are relaxed.

Nevertheless, Republican leaders at state level are rushing to lift restrictions, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee among them and now Wisconsin, over the efforts of the Democratic governor.

The Associated Press reports:

The Wisconsin supreme court on has struck down governor Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate, ruling that the Democrat exceeded his authority by unilaterally extending the mandate for months through multiple emergency orders.

The 4-3 ruling from the conservative-controlled court is the latest legal blow to attempts by Evers to control the coronavirus. It comes after Republicans in the Legislature voted to repeal the mask mandate in February, only to see Evers quickly re-issue it.

The court last May struck down Evers’ “safer at home” order, saying that his health secretary did not have the authority for such an order.

Evers’ attempts to limit capacity in bars, restaurants and other indoor places were also blocked by a state appeals court in October.

In the latest case, the court ruled that any public health emergency issued by Evers is valid for just 60 days and can’t be extended without legislative approval.

“The question in this case is not whether the governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully. We conclude he did not,” Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote for the majority.

Evers spokeswoman Britt Cudaback didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, a member of the court’s three-justice minority, lamented in a dissent that the ruling hampers the ability of governors in Wisconsin to protect lives.

“This is no run-of-the-mill case,” she wrote. “We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that so far has claimed the lives of over a half million people in this country. And with the stakes so high, the majority not only arrives at erroneous conclusions, but it also obscures the consequence of its decision.

“Unfortunately, the ultimate consequence of the majority’s decision is that it places yet another roadblock to an effective governmental response to Covid-19.”

Here is a map from yesterday, that NBC created:

NBC News Graphics (@NBCNewsGraphics)

Several states, including Arizona, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Texas, Wyoming, and now Arkansas have dropped their mask mandates.

We’re keeping track of statewide orders:

March 31, 2021

Donald Trump just put out a statement criticizing Joe Biden’s forthcoming bold legislative plan for infrastructure redevelopment.

Not known for his subtlety or accuracy, 45’s statement continues (from previous post):

This legislation would be among the largest self-inflicted economic wounds in history.

If this monstrosity is allowed to pass, the result will be more Americans out of work, more families shattered, more factories abandoned, more industries wrecked, and more Main Streets boarded up and closed down—just like it was before I took over the presidency 4 years ago.

I then set record low unemployment, with 160 million people working.

This tax hike is a classic globalist betrayal by Joe Biden and his friends: the lobbyists will win, the special interests will win, China will win, the Washington politicians and government bureaucrats will win—but hardworking American families will lose.

Joe Biden’s cruel and heartless attack on the American Dream must never be allowed to become Federal law. Just like our southern border went from best to worst, and is now in shambles, our economy will be destroyed!

Yes, the former president finished with an exclamation point!

In yet another break with presidential tradition, and before Joe Biden has even formally presented his infrastructure plan this afternoon, the immediate past president has weighed in.

Donald Trump has put out a statement. Here is the first section of it:

Joe Biden’s radical plan to implement the largest tax hike in American history is a massive giveaway to China, and many other countries, that will send thousands of factories, millions of jobs, and trillions of dollars to these competitive Nations.

The Biden plan will crush American workers and decimate U.S. manufacturing, while giving special tax privileges to outsourcers, foreign and giant multinational corporations.

Biden promised to “build back better”—but the country he is building up, in particular, is China and other large segments of the world. Under the Biden Administration, America is once again losing the economic war with China—and Biden’s ludicrous multi-trillion dollar tax hike is a strategy for total economic surrender.

Sacrificing good paying American jobs is the last thing our citizens need as our country recovers from the effects of the Global Pandemic.

Biden’s policy would break the back of the American Worker with among the highest business tax rates in the developed world. Under Biden’s plan, if you create jobs in America, and hire American workers, you will pay MORE in taxes—but if you close down your factories in Ohio and Michigan, fire U.S. workers, and move all your production to Beijing and Shanghai, you will pay LESS. It is the exact OPPOSITE of putting America First—it is putting America LAST!

Companies that send American jobs to China should not be rewarded by Joe Biden’s Tax Bill, they should be punished so that they keep those jobs right here in America, where they belong.

The cashier who served George Floyd immediately before his arrest last May has described him as appearing to be “high” on drugs in testimony on the third day of Derek Chauvin’s murder trial.

Christopher Martin, 19, said he noticed Floyd because “he was a big man” and that they had a long conversation about sport. He said that the 46 year-old Black man’s speech was laboured.

“It would appear that he was high,” he said.

Martin worked at Cup Foods in south Minneapolis, where Floyd is alleged to have tried to buy cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, which led to his detention by Chauvin, a Minneapolis police officer at the time.

Floyd’s official autopsy showed that he had opioids and methamphetamine in his system when he died.

Chauvin’s defence contends that the officer’s use of force was reasonable because Floyd was under the influence of drugs at the time of his detention. Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s lawyer, has also told the trial that the drugs contributed to Floyd’s death.

The prosecution acknowledges the use of drugs but has said that it neither justified Chauvin continuing to press his knee into Floyd’s neck as the prone man repeatedly said he cannot breathe nor was a cause of his death.

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Matt Gaetz claims ‘extortion’ amid reported investigation into relationship with teenage girl

The prominent Republican congressman Matt Gaetz’s reported relationship with a 17-year-old girl remained under scrutiny on Wednesday, despite his insistence in an appearance on Fox News that the allegation was “verifiably false”.

The Florida politician, a close ally of Donald Trump, claimed during the Tuesday night interview that he was the victim of an extortion plot by a former justice department official, and questioned the motivation behind Tuesday’s original reporting by the New York Times.

Gaetz, 38, claimed his lawyers had been informed that he was the subject of an FBI inquiry “regarding sexual conduct with women” and that the official was attempting to extort $25m from his family “in exchange for a commitment that he could make this investigation go away”.

On Wednesday, David McGee, the former justice department employee named by Gaetz, now a lawyer in Pensacola, Florida, told the Washington Post that the politician’s claims of an extortion plot were “completely false”.

“This is a blatant attempt to distract from the fact he’s under investigation for sex trafficking of minors,” McGee, formerly an attorney in the department’s organized crime taskforce, said.

“I have no connection with that case at all, other than one of a thousand people who have heard the rumors.”

Meanwhile, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson said Gaetz’s appearance on his show “was one of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted.”

“I don’t think that clarified much,” Carlson told his viewers. “But it certainly showed this is a deeply interesting story, and we will be following it. Don’t quite understand it, but we will bring you more when we find out.”

According to the New York Times, Gaetz was under investigation by the justice department to determine whether he violated federal sex trafficking laws and had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 17-year-old, and whether he paid her to travel with him.

The investigation was launched in the final months of the Trump administration under attorney general William Barr, the newspaper said, and was part of a broader investigation into a Republican party official and political ally in Florida, Joel Greenberg, indicted last summer on charges of sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, including at least one underage girl.

After the Times published its story, Gaetz, who was photographed visiting the Trump White House with Greenberg in 2019, took to Twitter to maintain his innocence and accuse the justice department official of attempting to smear his name. Gaetz said his family was cooperating with federal authorities investigating his extortion claims.

Adding to the intrigue was a story reported by Axios earlier on Tuesday, just hours before the Times published its allegations, that Gaetz told associates he was considering resigning his seat in Congress to take a job with the rightwing media outlet Newsmax.

An FBI spokesperson in Jacksonville, Florida, told the Guardian in a statement Wednesday that the agency “declines to confirm nor deny the existence or status of an investigation” and referred inquiries to the justice department.

The justice department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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