COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia attorney Deborah Barbier has been tapped for former President Donald Trump's impeachment trial defense team, according to sources. Trump's defense team will be led by another Columbia attorney, Butch Bowers, 55, who has numerous ties to people and officials in the South Carolina Republican Party and other official circles. Former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon was also mentioned Monday night on CNN as a possible member of Trump's defense team. A former federal prosecutor, Barbier, 51, works in a small law firm near downtown Columbia and often works wit...
US President Joe Biden on Monday urged the imposition of a new ban on evictions to prevent a wave of homelessness as the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus takes hold.
But just a day after a nationwide eviction moratorium expired, Biden acknowledged the administration does not have the legal authority to help renters stay in their homes.
That leaves the White House with few tools to deal with the issue that could impact millions of families after the 11-month old moratorium ordered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lapsed early Sunday.
"Given the rising urgency of containing the spread of the Delta variant," Biden asked the CDC to consider "a new, 30-day eviction moratorium -- focused on counties with High or Substantial case rates -- to protect renters," the White House said in a statement.
However, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has been "unable to find legal authority for a new, targeted eviction moratorium," the statement said.
The president also called on state and local authorities "to extend or put in place evictions moratoria for at least the next two months," joining a handful that have already put protections in place.
The nationwide ban was intended to extend until September, but a recent Supreme Court ruling meant it had to end early unless renewed by Congress.
However, a last ditch effort by Democratic lawmakers failed.
The White House has instructed government agencies to do what they can to prevent evictions in properties in federal programs or with federal loan guarantees.
"Our team is redoubling efforts to identify all available legal authorities to provide necessary protections," the statement said. "In the meantime, the President will continue to do everything in his power to help renters from eviction."
Biden also urged state and local governments to quickly send out the billions in emergency aid provided to help renters stay in their homes.
The Treasury Department said that as of June, only $3 billion in aid had reached households out of the $25 billion sent to states and localities in early February.
Another $21.5 billion is available in a second round of funding, but it will not go out until the first tranche is spent.
Unlike other pandemic-related aid that was distributed from Washington, such as stimulus checks, it was states, counties and cities that were responsible for building programs from the ground up to dole out assistance earmarked for renters.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday called on Congress to take steps to address the federal government's borrowing limit which was hit on Sunday.
Congress suspended the debt limit in 2019, but the two-year suspension lapsed July 31, forcing Treasury to begun taking "extraordinary measures" to remain under the ceiling and continue funding government operations.
But private economists estimate those steps will only buy the government a few weeks after which debt repayments would be at risk unless the debt limit is increased or suspended.
"I respectfully urge Congress to protect the full faith and credit of the United States by acting as soon as possible," Yellen said in a letter to congressional leaders.
The debt limit was reset to the total as of Friday, just over $28 trillion, according to Treasury figures.
The US national debt and deficit have soared during the Covid-19 pandemic after Washington approved three massive spending bills aimed at lessening the damage from its economic impacts.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said this year's budget deficit will be $3 trillion, second only to the record deficit in 2020.
In a letter earlier in July, Yellen reminded lawmakers that raising the debt limit does not increase spending but simply allows Treasury to finance actions already approved by the legislature.
CBO estimates Treasury should be able to keep paying the government's bills until October or November, after which point it would have to either delay making payments or default, which could cause economic chaos.
Raising the debt ceiling has been a contentious issue in Congress for the past several years, and a 2011 standoff caused the United States to lose the coveted AAA debt rating.
However, the Democratic majority in Congress might be more sympathetic to resolving the issue.
Like Treasury secretaries before her, faced with a debt limit debate, Yellen said that through September 30, Treasury would stop selling State and Local Government securities, and suspend investments in various government retirement funds.
Months after Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker began making a documentary about the largest-ever wildfire in California, the blaze lost its crown to an even bigger inferno.
The 2017 Thomas Fire is now only the seventh worst by area destroyed -- and is likely to be overtaken soon by the Dixie Fire raging through the state's northern forests, as climate change makes wildfire season longer, hotter and more devastating.
"One of the things that I learned in the course of making this film, is these fires happen all the time -- they happen over and over and over again," said Walker.
"It's just terrible proof of the thesis of the film. I didn't mean to be proven right, or to make such a topical film, but that's where we find ourselves."
"Bring Your Own Brigade," in theaters Friday, takes a wide-ranging look at the causes, conflicts and possible solutions that swirl around the increasingly deadly wildfires in the western United States.
It begins with harrowing footage of two fires in November 2018 that devastated Malibu and Paradise -- two Californian cities at different ends of the socio-economic scale -- in which a total of 88 people perished.
Filmmakers were embedded with firefighters during the carnage, and the movie focuses on the characters and personal stories of emergency responders and the stubborn residents who have since returned to live in communities that were reduced to ashes.
Along with tales of heroism, the film quickly finds that many of those most affected by the wildfires -- and the climate change that scientists say heightens the risk of blazes -- are often the most reluctant to change their behavior.
Malibu residents vote down a proposal to pay more taxes to fund more firefighters, instead turning their ire on the emergency officials who they say failed to save their homes.
And the city of Paradise rejects a series of cheap and effective proposals to help prevent further tragedies, shunning solutions as simple as a law requiring five feet (1.5 meters) of "defensible space" that must be cleared of vegetation around homes.
"For a town like Paradise not to be able to adopt different building standards means that they're just going to be in the same position again," said Walker.
"We haven't managed to convince them even that these small compromises or small costs are worthwhile. I think that was really illuminating," she told AFP.
While addressing climate change directly, the film also explores other causes of wildfires that should in theory be easier to fix.
It makes the seemingly paradoxical case that large-scale logging -- a solution proposed by former president Donald Trump -- actually makes wildfires worse.
The deadly Camp Fire in Paradise ripped through a nearby timber plantation, able to spread rapidly through thickly planted trees, logging debris, and invasive species such as highly flammable grasses.
Walker also talks with members of indigenous groups such as the Plains Miwok, who protected themselves from massive wildfires for centuries before Europeans arrived by lighting small, carefully managed "prescribed burns."
The practice -- designed to remove hazardous vegetation -- is becoming increasingly common again in California, although residents often oppose it over safety fears and air quality concerns.
"When we're not in this emergency state, it's hard to want to make compromises and sacrifices," said Walker, who has received two Oscar nominations including for 2010 documentary "Waste Land."
"I think that's not uniquely a American thing, although I think that it is perhaps epitomized by the gun-toting American individualist."
This year's fire season suggests that attitude will need to change fast.
By late July, the number of acres burned in California was up more than 250 percent from 2020 -- itself the worst year in the state's modern history.
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