Venezuela’s justice system is exceedingly unjust, with its courts being used as a tool of repression used to arbitrarily jail activists and political opponents to the Nicolás Maduro regime while turning a blind eye to a growing number of human rights violations, a United Nations report said Thursday. In a 200-page report presented in Geneva on Thursday, the U.N. Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela said that Maduro’s intelligence agencies routinely persecute activists and political adversaries, falsifying evidence to arrest them for political reasons and even using torture, force disappearances a...
As the Senate works to finalize a major annual defense measure, there is a bipartisan push to include a requirement that all young Americans — including women — for the first time register for the military draft.
The $777.9 billion measure, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022, also would allocate millions to cleaning up toxic chemicals at bases and extend a heath study of the chemicals’ effects on people.
Some lawmakers leading the effort to allow all Americans ages 18 to 25 to be included for registration with the Selective Service System are Reps. Chrissy Houlahan, (D-Pa.), and Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), as well as Sen. Joni Ernst, (R-Iowa), and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed (D-R.I.).
“Simply put, as the Selective Service System is currently written it is unconstitutional and discriminates based on sex,” Houlahan said in a statement.
Current law refers to registration of “male persons” and both documented and undocumented immigrants are included.
The military now is all-volunteer, and there hasn’t been a draft since the Vietnam War, but the registration system is maintained.
The White House also agreed with lawmakers on the update to the selective service.
“The Administration supports section 513 and the registration requirement for all citizens, which further ensures a military selective system that is fair and just,” according to the Biden administration, referring to the section of the bill dealing with the requirement.
However, the White House also said it opposes the removal of “incentives for registration” because they are needed “to achieve an equitable system that can be implemented effectively.” When men register for selective service, they remain eligible for federal benefits like state-based student aid, loans and job training programs.
Houlahan is a veteran herself and introduced the amendment on the House side. The House Armed Services Committee backed the amendment 35-24.
Houlahan also included a 12-week maternity and paternity leave for primary and secondary caregivers in the NDAA, the shorthand for the massive defense legislation.
The House passed its version of the NDAA in September, with a vote of 316-113. The Senate has not yet scheduled a vote and continues haggling over the details, but the draft provision is included in its version.
Ernst, the first female veteran senator, has spoken in favor of allowing women to be included in the selective service.
“We are now competing in the space of combat arms, and I think it’s important that we all serve to the best of our capacity,” she told Axios.
Congress tried to update the selective service requirement back in the fiscal 2017 NDAA, but instead directed an 11-member National Commission on Military, National and Public Service to conduct a study on whether women should be included in the selective service.
The report’s findings were published in 2020, with the recommendation that women be included.
The Selective Service System currently includes men who are between 18 and 25, which equated to about 17 million men in 2019, according to the agency.
But not all Republicans are on board with the concept.
Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri is leading at least a dozen senators pushing for a removal of the provision.
In a statement, Hawley argued it’s “wrong to force our daughters, mothers, wives, and sisters to fight our wars.”
“Our country is extremely grateful for the brave women who have volunteered to serve our country with and alongside our fighting forces,” he said. “But volunteering for military service is not the same as being forced into it, and no woman should be compelled to do so.”
Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Steve Daines of Montana made similar remarks and introduced a resolution with Hawley “expressing that the Senate should not pass legislation mandating the registration of women for the Selective Service System.”
Neither Rubio, Daines or Hawley have served in the military.
The NDAA also includes $549 million toward the testing and cleanup of toxic chemicals known as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, at military sites.
Of those cleanup funds, $100 million goes toward formerly used defense sites, $175 million for the Air Force, $174 million for the Navy and $100 million for the Army.
The chemicals are linked to several health problems such as thyroid issues, some cancers and liver damage.
Some lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee who worked to include PFAS amendments are Reps. Elissa Slotkin, (D-Mich.), Jackie Speier, (D-Calif.), John Garamendi, (D-Calif.), Michael Turner, (R-Ohio), Jack Bergman, (R-Mich.) and Bill Posey (R-Fla.).
Those provisions direct the Department of Defense to report the status of cleanup at 50 PFAS sites across the country.
They also require the agency to publicly announce the results of drinking and groundwater testing for the chemicals at nearby military sites, and prevent DOD from purchasing materials made out of the chemicals.
On the Senate side, Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut included in the NDAA language to establish deadlines for DOD to test for the chemicals at all military sites and require the agency to provide reports on PFAS remediation at those sites.
“This amendment will ensure better transparency and accountability to confront and clean up PFAS, which is what our communities have long called for,” Shaheen said in a statement.
Shaheen also pushed to include $15 million towards the continuation of a PFAS health impact report she first started in the fiscal 2018 NDAA.
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The United States Monday announced a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, a calibrated rebuke of China's human rights record that stops short of preventing US athletes from competing.
The decision comes after Washington spent months wrangling with what position to take on the Games, hosted in February next year by a country it accuses of perpetrating "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims in the northwestern Xinjiang region.
There was no immediate reaction from Beijing, but earlier Monday the Chinese foreign ministry had threatened "resolute countermeasures" if any such boycott were implemented.
The decision was swiftly welcomed by politicians in the US, where President Joe Biden has been under pressure to speak out against Chinese rights abuses.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration would not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing Games given China's "ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses."
"The athletes on Team USA have our full support. We will be behind them 100 percent as we cheer them on from home."
Campaigners say that at least one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps in Xinjiang, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilizing women and imposing forced labour.
Sending official representation to the Olympics would signal that, despite China's "egregious human rights abuses and atrocities in Xinjiang," the Games were "business as usual," Psaki said.
"And we simply can't do that," she continued.
Bob Menendez, the chair of the US Senate foreign relations committee, welcomed the decision he called "a powerful rebuke of the Chinese Communist Party's campaign of genocide in Xinjiang."
He called on "other allies and partners that share our values to join with the United States in this diplomatic boycott."
Human Rights Watch called the decision "crucial" but urged more accountability "for those responsible for these crimes and justice for the survivors."
Earlier Monday Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian warned the Games were "not a stage for political posturing and manipulation."
Speaking at a regular press briefing on Monday in response to weekend US media reports that a boycott could be imminent, he vowed that "If the US is bent on having its own way, China will take resolute countermeasures."
Coming just six months after the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Summer Games, the Winter Olympics will be held from February 4 to 20 in a "closed loop" bubble because of Covid-19 restrictions.
NEW YORK — Ghislaine Maxwell spoke in a baby voice and outsourced sex acts for her boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein because she couldn’t keep up with his all-consuming libido, an anonymous witness told a jury on Monday at the British socialite’s trial. “She said he needed to have sex about three times a day,” the witness, who testified under the pseudonym “Kate,” told jurors in Manhattan federal court. The witness remembered how Maxwell once asked “if I knew anybody who would come and give Jeffrey a blow job because it was a lot for her.” Now 44, Kate said she was 17 when she first met Maxwell in Par...