Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Gifting Free Books to Florida Families in Response to Book Ban

St. Augustine, Florida. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! has a novel way to deal with its books being banned in Escambia County, Florida: Ripley’s has decided to gift their annual book to Florida residents… for free. Now through May 15, 2024, Florida residents can request a book by mail or  – even better –in person at a Florida Ripley’s Believe It or Not! attraction in Panama City Beach, Orlando, and St. Augustine Florida with a Florida ID while supplies last. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Orlando, FL –Ripley’s Believe It or Not! has a novel way to deal with its books being banned in Escambia County, Florida: Ripley’s has decided to gift their annual book to Florida residents… for free. Now through May 15, 2024, Florida residents can request a book be mailed to them at ripleys.com/general/floridabooks, or – even better – get one right away, in person at a Florida Ripley’s Believe It or Not! attraction in Panama City Beach, Orlando, and St. Augustine Florida with a Florida ID while supplies last.

Recently, officials in Escambia County Florida have plunged into a literary adventure of their own: removing and flagging over 1,600 books for review and potential banning. In a weird plot twist, this includes eight encyclopedias, five dictionaries, and hundreds of reference books – including three of our very own Ripley’s Believe It or Not! titles.

Believe It or Not!, Ripley’s is in excellent company, accompanied on the list with no less than Stephanie Meyer, Maya Angelou, Ernest Hemmingway, and Charles Dickens!

“The very idea of banning these books is worthy of entry to Ripley’s Believe It or Not!. Ironically, Escambia County officials are practically authoring our next book for us!,” said Ryan DeSear, Vice President of Attraction Operations for Ripley Entertainment. “While Ripley’s response to this issue is a bit tongue-in-cheek, we very much encourage all Florida residents to claim their free copy and decide for themselves.”

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! books have entertained both adults and children alike for generations, as researchers, writers, and factcheckers scour the globe looking for stories of the weird and wonderful.

“Our focus for the last 105 years has always been a lighthearted look at the curiosities that make up society. We celebrate uniqueness, a responsibility that we take to heart and will continue to for years to come,” DeSear continued.

Visit ripleys.com/general/floridabooks to request your copy.

Built on the foundation of a daily newspaper cartoon in 1918 — still in print today — Ripley Entertainment has grown to be a world leader in family entertainment, expanding to include more than 100 attractions in 10 countries around the world. Along with Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditoriums, Guinness World Records Attractions, Aquariums, Wax Museums, traveling shows, and miniature golf, the world of Ripley’s continues to grow through exciting new experiences, content, and books for all ages. Learn more about Ripley’s Believe It or Not! by visiting Ripleys.com and following on Facebook, X, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

FACT SHEET: President Biden Cancels Student Debt for 150,000 Student Loan Borrowers; 3.9 Million Already Eligible for $138 Billion in Relief

From Day 1, the President vowed to fix the broken loan system and make sure education was a pathway to the middle class, not a barrier,” a White House spokesperson stated. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This fact sheet provided by the White House documents the latest efforts by the Biden Administration to relieve the burden of student debt. It is the latest in more than 25 actions that have resulted in $138 billion in student debt cancellation for almost 3.9 million borrowers.

“From Day 1, the President vowed to fix the broken loan system and make sure education was a pathway to the middle class, not a barrier,” a White House spokesperson stated. “ He has cancelled more student debt than any president – $138 billion for 3.9 million – fixing public service loan forgiveness, affecting 800,000 nurses, firefighters, teachers and others. Before, only 7,000 got relief. He has held colleges accountable for defrauding borrowers who paid over 20 years but never got the relief they were entitled to. The President’s actions have allowed over 4 million to afford homes, businesses, pursue the dreams they had to put on hold because of student loan, but are no longer weighed down by burden of student debt.” – Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Today, President Biden announced the approval of $1.2 billion in student debt cancellation for almost 153,000 borrowers currently enrolled in the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) repayment plan. The Biden-Harris Administration has now approved nearly $138 billion in student debt cancellation for almost 3.9 million borrowers through more than two dozen executive actions. The borrowers receiving relief are the first to benefit from a SAVE plan policy that provides debt forgiveness to borrowers who have been in repayment after as little as 10 years and took out $12,000 or less in student loans. Originally planned for July, the Biden-Harris Administration implemented this provision of SAVE and is providing relief to borrowers nearly six months ahead of schedule.

From Day One of his Administration, President Biden vowed to fix the student loan system and make sure higher education is a pathway to the middle class – not a barrier to opportunity. Already, the President has cancelled more student debt than any President in history – delivering life-changing relief to students and families – and has created the most affordable student loan repayment plan ever: the SAVE plan. While Republicans in Congress and their allies try to block President Biden every step of the way, the Biden-Harris Administration continues to cancel student debt for millions of borrowers, and is leaving no stone unturned in the fight to give more borrowers breathing room on their student loans.

Thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration’s SAVE plan, starting today, the Administration will be cancelling debt for borrowers who are enrolled in the SAVE plan, have been in repayment for at least 10 years and took out $12,000 or less in loans for college. For every additional $1,000 a borrower initially borrowed, they will receive relief after an additional year of payments. For example, a borrower enrolled in SAVE who took out $14,000 or less in federal loans to earn an associate’s degree in biotechnology would receive full debt relief starting this week if they have been in repayment for 12 years. The U.S. Department of Education (Department) identified nearly 153,000 borrowers who are enrolled in SAVE plan who will have their debt cancelled starting this week, and those borrowers will receive an email today from President Biden informing them of their imminent relief. Next week, the Department of Education will also be reaching out directly to borrowers who are eligible for early relief but not currently enrolled in the SAVE Plan to encourage them to enroll as soon as possible.
 
This shortened time to forgiveness will particularly help community college and other borrowers with smaller loans and put many on track to being free of student debt faster than ever before. Under the Biden-Harris Administration’s SAVE plan, 85 percent of future community college borrowers will be debt free within 10 years. The Department will continue to regularly identify and discharge other borrowers eligible for relief under this provision on SAVE.
 
Over four million borrowers have a $0 monthly payment under the SAVE Plan

Last year, President Biden launched the SAVE plan – the most affordable repayment plan ever. Under the SAVE plan, monthly payments are based on a borrower’s income and family size, not their loan balance. The SAVE plan ensures that if borrowers are making their monthly payments, their balances cannot grow because of unpaid interest. And, starting in July, undergraduate loan payments will be cut in half, capping a borrower’s loan payment at 5% of their discretionary income. Already, 7.5 million borrowers are enrolled in the SAVE Plan, and 4.3 million borrowers have a $0 monthly payment.  

Today, the White House Council of Economic Advisers released an issue brief highlighting how low and middle-income borrowers enrolled in SAVE could see significant saving in terms of interest saved over time and principal forgiven as a result of SAVE’s early forgiveness provisions.



President Biden’s Administration has approved student debt relief for nearly 3.9 million Americans through various actions

Today’s announcement builds on the Biden-Harris Administration’s track record of taking historic action to cancel student debt for millions of borrowers. Since taking office, the Biden-Harris Administration has approved debt cancellation for nearly 3.9 million Americans, totaling almost $138 billion in debt relief through various actions. This relief has given borrowers critical breathing room in their daily lives, allowing them to afford other expenses, buy homes, start businesses, or pursue dreams they had to put on hold because of the burden of student loan debt. President Biden remains committed to providing debt relief to as many borrowers as possible, and won’t stop fighting to deliver relief to more Americans.

The Biden-Harris Administration has also taken historic steps to improve the student loan program and make higher education more affordable for more Americans, including:

  • Achieving the largest increases in Pell Grants in over a decade to help families who earn less than $60,000 a year achieve their higher-education goals.
     
  • Fixing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program so that borrowers who go into public service get the debt relief they’re entitled to under the law. Before President Biden took office, only 7,000 people ever received debt relief through PSLF. After fixing the program, the Biden-Harris Administration has now cancelled student loan debt for nearly 800,000 public service workers.
     
  • Cancelling student loan debt for more than 930,000 borrowers who have been in repayment for over 20 years but never got the relief they earned because of administrative failures with Income-Driven Repayment Plans.
     
  • Pursuing an alternative path to deliver student debt relief to as many borrowers as possible in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Administration’s original debt relief plan. Last week, the Department of Education released proposed regulatory text to cancel student debt for borrowers who are experiencing hardship paying back their student loans, and late last year released proposals to cancel student debt for borrowers who: owe more than they borrowed, first entered repayment 20 or 25 years ago, attended low quality programs, and who would be eligible for loan forgiveness through income-driven repayment programs like SAVE but have not applied.
     
  • Holding colleges accountable for leaving students with unaffordable debts.

It’s easy to enroll in SAVE. Borrowers should go to studentaid.gov/save to start saving.

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Calls on Congress to Immediately Pass Bipartisan National Security Agreement with Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Most Americans can trace their roots back to Ellis Island, when America, desperate for workers to build roads, bridges, railroads, factories and skyscrapers, wanted workers. Now, despite still needing workers, and decrying the “border crisis” as an “invasion” endangering national security, House Republicans are calling a bipartisan immigration deal that gives them everything they have asked for (border security, changing asylum laws) “dead on arrival” in order to appease Trump, so desperate to refuse Biden a “victory” and keep the inflammatory issue alive for his campaign. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports the bipartisan agreement announced in the Senate that would address a number of pressing national security issues. President Biden has repeatedly said he is willing to work in a bipartisan way to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system. From his first day in office, he has called on Congress to act and over the course of several months, his administration has worked with a bipartisan group of Senators on important reforms and necessary funding.

This agreement, if passed into law, would be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve had in decades. It will make our country safer, make our border more secure, and treat people fairly and humanely while preserving legal immigration, consistent with our values as a nation. This bipartisan national security agreement would also advance our national security interests by continuing our support for the people of Ukraine and Israel as they defend themselves against tyranny and terrorism while also providing much-needed humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by conflicts around the world. The Biden-Harris Administration calls on Congress to not delay and immediately pass the bipartisan national security agreement.
 
Provides Temporary Emergency Authority for the President to Shut Down the Border When the System is Overwhelmed

  • Establishes a new temporary authority, the “Border Emergency Authority,” that allows the President and Secretary of Homeland Security to temporarily prohibit individuals from seeking asylum, with limited exceptions, when the Southwest Border is overwhelmed. The authority preserves access to other protections, consistent with our international obligations, and will sunset after three years.
    • Importantly, this authority is to be used when the number of migrants encountered at the border reaches very high levels – levels that strain the U.S. government’s ability to process migrants.  Additionally, the authority is limited to a set number of days each calendar year – in the third year of implementation the authority may only be exercised for half of a given calendar year.
    • The United States is a country of refuge for those fleeing persecution. For that reason, the legislation requires asylum access be preserved for a minimum number of individuals per day, limited to those using a safe and orderly process at ports of entry, when the authority is invoked.

 
Expedites Access to Work Authorization for Hundreds of Thousands of Migrants

  • Ensures that those who are here and qualify are able to get to work faster. It provides work authorization to asylum seekers once they receive a positive protection screening determination. This will allow asylum seekers to begin to support themselves and their families in the United States much earlier than the current 180-day statutorily required waiting period, which only begins after an individual submits an asylum application.  This will also reduce the resource strain on our cities and states who have been supporting asylum seekers during this existing waiting period.
    • This bill provides work authorization to approximately 25,000 K-1, K-2, and K-3 nonimmigrant visa holders (fiancé or spouse and children of U.S. citizens) per year, and about 100,000 H-4 spouses and children of certain H-1B nonimmigrant visa holders who have completed immigrant petitions (temporary skilled workers) per year, so they no longer have to apply and wait for approval before they can begin working in the United States.

 
Establishes an Efficient and Fair Process for Consideration of Asylum and other Protection Claims by those arriving at our Southwest Border

  • Today, the process to get to a final decision on a migrant’s asylum claim can take 5-7 years.  That is far too long.  Once fully implemented, this bipartisan agreement would – for the first time – give the Administration the authority and resources to reduce that process to 6 months.  This gets people quick decisions on their asylum claims rather than leaving them and their families in limbo for years.
    • The agreement also for the first time gives Asylum Officers the authority to grant a claim at the protection screening stage if the case is clear and convincing, thereby reducing the strain on the asylum system.

 
Recalibrates the Asylum Screening Process

  • Moves consideration of statutory bars to asylum eligibility, such as criminal convictions, into the screening stage. This will ensure that those who pose a public safety or national security risk are removed as quickly in the process as possible rather than remaining in prolonged, costly detention prior to removal.
    • Modifies the screening threshold for asylum from “significant possibility” to “reasonable possibility,” with the goal of making it more likely that those who are screened in to pursue protection claims are ultimately found to have a valid asylum claim.  Currently, of all migrants screened in and allowed to go to the next phase, only roughly 20 percent are ultimately granted asylum. 

 
Provides Critical Funding for Combatting Smuggling and Drug Trafficking, Border Security, and Asylum Processing 

  • Funds the installation of 100 cutting-edge inspection machines to help detect fentanyl at our Southwest Border ports of entry. 
    • Over 1,500 new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel including Border Patrol Agents and CBP Officers. 
    • Over 4,300 new Asylum Officers and additional U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services staff to facilitate timely and fair decisions. 
    • 100 new immigration judge teams to help reduce the asylum caseload backlog and adjudicate cases more quickly. 
    • Shelter and critical services for newcomers in our cities and states.  
    • 1,200 new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel for functions including enforcement and deportations. 
    • More resources to fund transportation needs to enable increased removals. 
    • Support to partner nations hosting large numbers of migrants and refugees, and funding to partner nations to ensure cooperation in accepting returns associated with the implementation of the Border Emergency Authority. 

 
Strengthens Federal Law Against Fentanyl Trafficking

  • Declares that international trafficking of fentanyl is a national emergency and gives the President authority to impose sanctions on any foreign person knowingly involved in significant trafficking of fentanyl by a transnational criminal organization.
    • Allows for transfer of sanctioned persons’ forfeited property to forfeiture funds and authorizes Treasury to impose additional restrictions against sanctioned persons upon a determination that their transactions are of primary money laundering concern.
    • Directs Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to issue guidance on filing suspicious transactions reports related to fentanyl trafficking by transnational criminal organizations.

 
Increases Lawful Pathways to Come to the United States

  • For the first time in over 30 years, raises the cap on the number of immigrant visas available annually by adding an additional 250,000 immigrant visas over 5 years (50,000/year).  160,000 of these visas will be family-based, and the other 90,000 will be employment-based.
    • These additional immigrant visas expand lawful pathways to the United States, prioritizing family reunification and reducing the time families have to spend apart, and get U.S. businesses access to additional workers.
    • Establishes a faster pathway to permanent status for the approximately 76,000 Afghan allies who entered the United States under Operation Allies Welcome and their families.

 
Promotes Family Unity and Stability for Noncitizens

  • Provides relief to over 250,000 individuals who came to the United States as children on their parents’ work visa.  These individuals have resided lawfully in the United States since they were children and have established lives here in the U.S but have since “aged out” of continuing to receive lawful status through their parents and have no other means of lawfully remaining in the United States with their families. Noncitizens who lived lawfully in the United States as a dependent child of an employment-based nonimmigrant for at least 8 years before turning 21 will be eligible to remain temporarily in the United States with work authorization.
    • In support of family unity, the bill makes clear that certain noncitizens can travel to the United States on a temporary visitor (B) visa to visit their family members.

 
Ensure the Humane and Fair Treatment of Those Seeking Asylum, Especially the Most Vulnerable 

  • Children should not be expected to represent themselves in a court – and this agreement will provide, for the first time, government-mandated and funded legal counsel for unaccompanied children age 13 or younger as they go through the process to seek asylum.  The bill would also provide counsel to particularly vulnerable, mentally incompetent adults.
    • Strengthens legal requirements that migrants always be provided with clear and accessible information about their rights, including their right to counsel.
    • Mandates that only trained Asylum Officers are permitted to conduct protection screenings.

 
Ukraine:

  • Provides critically-needed military aid to help the people of Ukraine defend themselves against Russian aggression.  Russia continues to launch aerial assaults on Ukrainian cities and is actively attacking Ukrainian forces. 
    • Invests in our defense industrial base, supporting American jobs across our country, and produce weapons and equipment that the United States can send Ukraine to help Ukraine’s military protect its people, defend against Russian attacks, and succeed on the battlefield. 
    • Enables the United States to continue to send economic assistance to Ukraine. Putin has made destroying Ukraine’s economy central to his war strategy and boosting Ukraine’s economy is essential to its survival. If Ukraine’s economy collapses, they will not be able to keep fighting. This aid will help Ukraine pay its first responders, import basic goods, and provide essential services to its population. 
       

Israel:

  • Authorizes the United States to provide additional military aid to help Israel defend itself from Hamas, which committed horrific acts of terror on October 7th, and whose leaders have pledged to repeat the attacks of October 7th over and over again until Israel is annihilated.  
    • The aid in this agreement will also help Israel replenish its air defenses and ensure it is prepared for any future contingencies. 
    • This includes its defense against Iran and groups backed by Iran, including Hezbollah. The funding in this agreement is essential to supporting Israel’s short- and long-term defense needs against a broad array of immediate and future threats.  

 
Humanitarian Aid:

  • Includes important humanitarian aid funding to help civilians in need around the world, whether it’s to address the spillover effects of Putin’s war and help Ukrainians who have been displaced by Russia’s invasion, or to help Palestinians in Gaza, where we are actively working to increase the flow of aid for Palestinian civilians who have nothing to do with Hamas.

 
Indo-Pacific:

  • Provides resources to help our allies and partners in the region build the capabilities necessary to address threats from an increasingly assertive PRC and to meet emerging challenges. It is critically important that we maintain our focus on the Indo-Pacific and preserve peace and stability. 

White House Announces New Actions to Promote Safe Storage of Firearms


Teachers, parents, students are pleading for their lives: stop mass shootings © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Parents of mass-shooter Ethan Crumbley, the teenager who in 2021 opened fire at his high school in Oxford, Michigan, murdering four classmates and wounding others, are on trial themselves for negligent homicide. They not only bought their 15 year old the gun and ammunition, but left it around for him and ignored clear signs of his desire to commit the heinous crime (he drew a picture of the gun and scrawled “Help Me”).  Then, when he brought the gun to school, even though they were sitting with the guidance counselor and administrators that very morning, they never bothered to mention he had access to a gun. In fact, he had the gun with him, and proceeded to massacre his classmates. Because he could. He has since been sentenced to life in prison.

Too many are massacred – especially in schools – because of such cavalier attitude to guns, in fact, complete irresponsibility of parents and guardians

A six-year old nearly killed his teacher.

A 3-year-old boy found a gun in his mother’s purse and accidentally shot his 2-year-old brother, fatally wounding him.

Children have grown up without their mother, murdered in her home by two boys who were suspended from school and spent their time robbing homes; in one, they took the gun they used to murder her so she wouldn’t be able to identify them.

It’s time people were held accountable for storing their firearms safely, so can’t be taken by a child or a burglar.

Isn’t that the argument that gun-holders claim in rejecting sensible gun violence prevention laws? That they are “responsible”?

The White House has recently issued new actions to promote safe-storage of firearms. – Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Biden-Harris Administration is announcing new executive actions to help promote safe storage of firearms that implement President Biden’s Executive Order on promoting safe gun storage in order to reduce gun violence and make our communities safer.

Gun violence is the leading cause of death of children in America. That is why the Biden-Harris Administration is taking comprehensive action to prevent gun violence affecting children. Approximately 4.6 million children live in homes with unsecured firearms. Studies show that safe storage can dramatically reduce children’s risk of self-inflicted harm and unintentional shootings.
 
Safe storage of firearms can physically prevent youth from accessing firearms, helping to keep youth, schools, and communities safe from gun violence. Unsecured guns are also closely associated with school shootings, youth suicide, unintentional shootings, and theft of firearms.

  • 76 percent of school shootings are committed with guns from the home. The Department of Homeland Security’s National Threat Assessment Center reviewed targeted school violence over the past 40 years and found that three-quarters of school shooters acquired their firearm from the home of a parent or close relative.
  • 80 percent of firearm suicides by children (age 18 or younger) involved a gun belonging to a family member. The firearm suicide rate among children and teens has increased by 66 percent over the past decade.
  • 76 percent of unintentional shootings of children were committed with unsecured guns from the home, most often stored in nightstands or other sleeping areas. From 2003 to 2021, 1,262 children (0-17 years) were killed by fatal unintentional firearm injury, with approximately half caused by another person.
  • Over 1 million stolen firearms. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) reported that from 2017 to 2021, local law enforcement reported 770,642 private theft incidents involving 1,026,538 firearms. A rising trend has been firearms stolen from unattended motor vehicles.

 
New Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Save Lives
 
Local leaders, like school officials, community and faith leaders, and law enforcement can be trusted, credible messengers when it comes to providing guidance on gun violence prevention and safe firearm storage options. Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing three actions to help further promote safe storage and protect children:

  • The U.S. Department of Education will take new action on safe firearm storage by sending a letter to school principals across the country explaining the importance of safe storage and encouraging them to communicate with parents, families, caregivers, and the broader community about how safe storage can protect students in school and in their communities.
  • The U.S. Department of Education will also issue a new communication template that principals and school leaders can use to engage with parents and families about the importance of safe firearm storage, and encourage more people to take preventive action by safely storing firearms.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will release a guide to safe storage of firearms in order to provide subject matter expertise on different types of storage devices and best practices for safely storing firearms. This is the most comprehensive guide on safe storage ever released by the federal government.

To highlight these new actions, First Lady Jill Biden, White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention Director Stefanie Feldman and U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona will join a town hall with school principals at the White House. The town hall will elevate the importance of safe firearms storage and emphasize the role that principals and education leaders can play in helping prevent gun violence. A livestream of the town hall is available here: School Principals Town Hall with the Office of Gun Violence Prevention & the Department of Education – YouTube
 
Building on a Record of Action to Promote Safe Storage of Firearms
 
These new actions build on the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to promoting safe storage of firearms, including:

  • The Administration’s launch of an unprecedented focus on lethal means safety in the White House strategy to reduce military and veteran suicide, with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also launching the first of its kind paid media campaign, KeepItSecure.net, to highlight the importance of firearm safe storage in preventing veteran suicide. The Department of Defense (DoD) also released new evidence-informed communication tools, including a public service announcement, to encourage safe storage among military service members and their families.
  • The issuing of a new ATF final rule clarifying firearms dealers’ statutory obligations to make available for purchase gun storage or safety devices compatible with the dealer’s firearm inventory.
  • The publishing by ATF of an open letter to all federal firearms licensees on their legal obligations if they choose to provide temporary storage options on their premise.
  • The DOJ announcement of new grant funds available through its STOP School Violence Program for schools to promote awareness of safe storage.  The DOJ’s Byrne State Crisis Intervention Program made grant funds available for law enforcement to acquire gun locks and storage devices that can be distributed to individuals and businesses.
  • The release of a statement by the Assistant Secretary of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration bringing attention to lethal means safety, and particularly safe storage of firearms, as a critical component of comprehensive suicide prevention efforts.
  • The publishing of a Vital Signs Report on Firearm Safety by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) highlighting the growing disparities in firearm violence, including firearm-related suicide and emphasized the importance of lethal mean safety. CDC also published a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report examining unintentional injury among children and teens that emphasized the role of unsecured firearms and how safe storage can prevent harm.

The Biden-Harris Administration will continue to take action to promote safe storage and calls on Congress to assist these efforts by passing a national safe storage law to create accountability for those who leave firearms unsecured. In addition, the Administration is working with state and local leaders on safe storage efforts.
 
In December, Vice President Harris, the Office of Gun Violence Prevention and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs convened 100 state legislators to announce the Biden-Harris Administration’s Safer States Initiative to reduce gun violence and save lives. The Administration urged states to enact and implement strong laws requiring firearms owners to safely store their firearms in their homes and vehicles. The laws should impose a clear standard to penalize those who do not safely store their weapons and whose weapons end up being used for violence.

  • States were also encouraged to invest in efforts that raise awareness of the range of safe storage options available to keep guns out of the hands of children and unauthorized individuals, and fund individuals’ access to effective storage options through tax incentives and other programs.
  • In addition, the Department of Justice published model safe storage legislation to help states craft appropriate requirements for securing firearms kept in residences and vehicles and to ensure that those firearms do not fall into the hands of children, teens, and prohibited persons.

While safe gun storage is an important factor in curtailing death and injuries among children, the Biden-Harris Administration, through the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, and other grant programs, has also provided unprecedented funding to establish safe, healthy, and supportive learning opportunities and environments; to increase access to school-based mental health services; and to strengthen the pipeline of mental health professionals in high-need communities. These historic investments provide greater access to the services and supports that help keep students safe and healthy. These investments help advance the President’s Mental Health Strategy, which directly implements his Unity Agenda for the nation by helping to tackle the mental health crisis.

FACT SHEET: Marking 51st Anniversary of Roe v. Wade, White House Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access Announces New Actions; Biden, Harris Vow to Restore Rights

Women’s March on Washington, Jan. 21, 2017. The contrast couldn’t be more stark: Women march in record numbers in Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration; Trump now boasts how he is responsible for the Supreme Court overturning women’s reproductive rights. The majority of Americans want reproductive freedom. Today, on what would have been the 51st anniversary of Roe, President Biden and Vice President Harris affirmed their commitment to restore women’s rights, bodily autonomy and self-determination. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Actions to Help Strengthen Access to Contraception, Protect Access to Medication Abortion, and Ensure Patients Receive Emergency Medical Care

Today, on what would have been the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, women’s health and lives hang in the balance due to extreme state abortion bans. These dangerous state laws have caused chaos and confusion, as women are being turned away from emergency rooms, forced to travel hundreds of miles, or required to go to court to seek permission for the health care they need.  

In the face of the continued threats to reproductive freedom, President Biden convened the fourth meeting of the Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access, where agencies announced new actions to protect access to reproductive health care. The Task Force also heard directly from physicians who are on the frontlines of the fallout from the overturning of Roe v. Wade.  

Opening the meeting, President Biden declared:  

Fifty-one years ago today, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court recognized a woman’s constitutional right to choose — constitutional right to choose — the right to make a deeply personal decision with her doctor, free from the interference of politicians. I believe Roe v. Wade was right.  But then, a year and a half ago, this Supreme Court made an extreme decision, overturning Roe with their Dobbs decision, to rip away a constitutional right from the American people, which had never been done before — a fundamental right ripped away — important to so many Americans, a right that is vital to a country founded on the idea of freedom.  
 
I said on that day that Roe was overturned, the health and lives of women in this nation would now be at risk.  And that has unfortunately proven to be true…Today, in 2024 in America, women are turned away from emergency rooms, forced to travel hundreds of miles to get basic healthcare in another state that may have a different rule, forced to go to court to plead for help… 
 
The cruelty is astounding — an affront to a woman’s dignity, being told by extreme politicians to wait, to get sicker and sicker to the point where her life may be in danger before you can get the care you need. That cruel reality is the result of extreme Republicans who, for years, have made it their mission to end the Roe v. Wade decision. 
 
Since Roe was overturned, in 21 states, abortion bans are now in effect, many with no exception for rape or incest. We have doctors with us today who are on the frontlines of this crisis.  And they can attest to the consequences that these extreme laws are having on doctors and on their ability to care for their patients. Some doctors are fleeing their home states because of laws that would send them to prison for providing evidence-based healthcare. In states like Texas, doctors can get a life sentence — a life sentence for providing the care they were trained to provide.  It’s outrageous.  It’s simply outrageous.
 
And, frankly, this is just the beginning. My congressional Republican friends are going to even further extremes to undermine a woman’s rights and threatening the lives of women. Three different Republican members in the United States Congress have proposed three different additional national bans to criminalize healthcare in every state.  Let me tell you what they are.
 
One is a zero-week ban with absolutely no exceptions — a zero-week with absolutely no exceptions.  The second is a six-week ban.  The penalty for violating it is jail.  The third is a 15-week ban.  The penalty is a five-year prison sentence.
 
That means even if you live in a state where the extremist Republicans are not running the show, your right to choose, your right to privacy would still be at risk if this law was passed — any of these were passed nationally.
 
And the extreme right is trying to limit all women in America from getting a safe and effective medication, approved by the Federal Drug Administration over 20 years ago based on the FDA’s independent expert judgment.  They’re trying to block women from getting this medication even in states where abortion is legal. 
 
And on top of all of that, if you live in a state where you cannot get this care you need and you make a plan to travel to a state where you can get the[medical care],[Republican officials] are trying to stop that as well. In Alabama the Attorney General is threatening to prosecute people who help family members travel to another state.
 
Folks, this is what it looks like when the right to privacy is under attack.  These extreme laws have no place in the United States of America. 
 
You know, the American people know these laws are wrong.  The vast majority of Americans believe the right to choose is fundamental. 
 
Also today, the Vice President launch her nationwide Fight for Reproductive Freedoms tour to continue fighting back against extreme attacks throughout America. “These extremists want to roll back the clock to a time before women were treated as full citizens,” she declared at the kick-off event in Waukesha County, Wisconsin, 51 years to the day that Roe v. Wade was decided.

“As we face this crisis, as we are clear eyed about the harm, let us also understand who is responsible, shall we? The former president hand picked three Supreme Court justices because they intended for them to overturn Roe. .. Proud? Proud? Proud that women across our nation are suffering? Proud that women have been robbed of a fundamental freedom? Proud that doctors could be thrown in prison for caring for their patients, that young people today have fewer rights than their mothers and their grandmothers? How dare he?” the Vice President declared.

Biden-Harris Administration Actions to Protect Reproductive Health Care
 
During the Task Force meeting, members reported on ongoing implementation of the President’s three Executive Orders and a Presidential Memorandum on access to reproductive health care and announce new steps to: 

  • Strengthen Contraception Access and Affordability for Women with Private Health Insurance. The Administration is committed to ensuring that women have access to contraception—an essential component of reproductive health care that has only become more important in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade—and reducing barriers that women face in accessing contraception prescribed by their provider. The Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services (HHS) are issuing new guidance to clarify standards and support expanded coverage of a broader range of FDA-approved contraceptives at no cost under the Affordable Care Act. This action builds on the progress already made by the Affordable Care Act to expand access to affordable contraception for millions of women nationwide.

    In addition, the Office of Personnel Management will strengthen access to contraception for federal workers, retirees, and family members by issuing guidance to insurers participating in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program that incorporates the Departments’ guidance. OPM will also newly require insurers that participate in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program to take additional steps to educate enrollees about their contraception benefits.
    • Reinforce Obligations to Cover Affordable Contraception. The Secretary of HHS is issuing a letter to private health insurers, state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs, and Medicare plans about their obligations to cover contraception for those they serve. The letter targets a wide range of payers to advance compliance with existing standards and underscore the Administration’s commitment to ensuring that women across the country can access affordable contraception. The letter also highlights recent HHS action to expand coverage and improve payment for contraceptives for Medicare beneficiaries, improving access for women with disabilities.
       Educate Patients and Health Care Providers on Their Rights and Obligations for Emergency Medical Care. The Administration is committed to helping ensure all patients, including women who are experiencing pregnancy loss and other pregnancy-related emergencies, have access to emergency medical care required under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). The Administration has long taken the position that the required emergency care can, in some circumstances, include abortion care. The Department of Justice (DOJ) is defending that interpretation of the law before the Supreme Court, which is expected to rule by June. 

      To increase awareness of EMTALA and improve the procedures for ensuring that patients facing all types of medical emergencies receive the care to which they are entitled, HHS is announcing today a comprehensive plan to educate all patients about their rights and to help ensure hospitals meet their obligations under federal law. This effort will include the launch of new accessible and understandable resources about rights and protections for patients under EMTALA and the process for submitting a complaint. HHS will also disseminate training materials for health care providers and establish a dedicated team of experts who will increase the Department’s capacity to support hospitals and providers across the country in complying with federal requirements—to help ensure that every patient receives the emergency medical care required under federal law.
       
  • Protect Access to Safe and Legal Medication Abortion. One year ago today, President Biden issued a Presidential Memorandum directing further efforts to support patients, providers, and pharmacies who wish to legally access, prescribe, or provide medication abortion—including by taking steps to safeguard their safety and security. Today, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security will report on their implementation of this Presidential Memorandum, including the resources they have disseminated to health care providers, including pharmacies, to support safe access to legal medication abortion.

 Today’s announcements build on the Administration’s strong record of taking action since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. These ongoing efforts to defend reproductive rights include:
 
Protecting Access to Abortion, including Medication Abortion

  • Defend FDA Approval of Medication Abortion in Court.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and DOJ are defending access to mifepristone—a safe and effective drug used in medication abortion that FDA first approved more than twenty years ago—and FDA’s independent, expert judgment in court, including in a lawsuit before the Supreme Court that attempts to curtail access nationwide. The Administration will continue to stand by FDA’s decades-old approval and regulation of the medication and by FDA’s ability to review, approve, and regulate a wide range of prescription medications. Efforts to impose outdated restrictions on mifepristone would limit access to reproductive health care in every state in the country.
    • Protect Access to Safe and Legal Medication Abortion.  On what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Biden issued a Presidential Memorandum directing agencies to consider further efforts to protect access to medication abortion. This Presidential Memorandum was issued in the face of attacks by state officials to prevent women from accessing mifepristone and discourage pharmacies from becoming certified to dispense the medication. These attacks followed independent, evidence-based action taken by FDA to allow mifepristone to continue to be prescribed by telehealth and sent by mail as well as to enable interested pharmacies to become certified.
       
    • Partner with State Leaders on the Frontlines of Abortion Access.  The White House continues to partner with leaders on the frontlines of protecting access to abortion—both those fighting extreme state legislation and those advancing proactive policies to protect access to reproductive health care, including for patients who are forced to travel out of state for care. The Vice President has led these efforts, traveling to 20 states and meeting with more than 250 state legislators, health care providers, and advocates in the past year. Today, she is kicking off her nationwide Fight for Reproductive Freedoms tour in Wisconsin.
       
    • Ensure Access to Emergency Medical Care.  Republican elected officials in states across the country have put women’s lives at risk by banning abortion even when her doctor determines that an abortion is necessary to prevent serious health consequences. The Administration is committed to ensuring all patients, including women who are experiencing pregnancy loss and other pregnancy-related emergencies, have access to the full rights and protections for emergency medical care afforded under federal law—including abortion care when that is the stabilizing treatment required. HHS issued guidance and Secretary Becerra sent letters to providers affirming the Administration’s view that EMTALA preempts conflicting state law restricting access to abortion in emergency situations. The Department of Justice has taken action defend and enforce these protections in court, including in a case currently before the Supreme Court.
       
    • Provide Access to Reproductive Health Care for Veterans.  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued an interim final rule to allow VA to provide abortion counseling and, in certain circumstances, abortion care to veterans and VA beneficiaries. VA provides abortion services when the health or life of the patient would be endangered if the pregnancy were carried to term or when the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. When working within the scope of their federal employment, VA employees may provide abortion services as authorized by federal law regardless of state restrictions. DOJ will support and provide representation to any VA providers whom states attempt to prosecute for violations of state abortion laws where those providers were appropriately carrying out their duties under VA’s interim final rule. 
       
    • Support Access to Care for Service Members.  The Department of Defense (DoD) has taken action to ensure that Service members and their families can access reproductive health care and that DoD health care providers can operate effectively. DoD has released policies to support Service members and their families’ ability to travel for lawful non-covered reproductive health care and to bolster Service members’ privacy and afford them the time and space needed to make personal health care decisions.
       
    • Defend Reproductive Rights in Court. DOJ created a Reproductive Rights Task Force, which monitors and evaluates state and local actions that threaten to infringe on federal protections relating to the provision or pursuit of reproductive health care, impair women’s ability to seek abortion care where it is legal, impair individuals’ ability to inform and counsel each other about the care that is available in other states, ban mifepristone based on disagreement with FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy, or impose criminal or civil liability on federal employees who provide legal reproductive health services in a manner authorized by federal law.

 Supporting Women’s Ability to Travel for Medical Care

  • Defend the Right to Travel.  On the day of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, President Biden reaffirmed the Attorney General’s statement that women must remain free to travel safely to another state to seek the care they need. In November 2023, DOJ filed a statement of interest in two lawsuits challenging the Alabama Attorney General’s threat to prosecute people who provide assistance to women seeking lawful out-of-state abortions. DOJ explained that the threatened Alabama prosecutions infringe the constitutional right to travel and made clear that states may not punish third parties for assisting women in exercising that right. DOJ continues to monitor states’ efforts to restrict the constitutional right to travel across state lines to receive lawful health care.  
    • Support Patients Traveling Out of State for Medical Care.  HHS issued a letter to U.S. governors inviting them to apply for Section 1115 waivers to expand access to care under the Medicaid program for women traveling from a state where reproductive rights are under attack and women may be denied medical care. HHS continues to encourage state leaders to consider and develop new waiver proposals that would support access to reproductive health care services.

 
Safeguarding Access to Contraception

  • Strengthen Access to Affordable, High-Quality Contraception.  Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the President issued an Executive Order directing agencies to consider actions to improve access and affordability for women with private health insurance; promote increased access to over-the-counter contraception; support access to affordable contraception through Medicaid and Medicare; ensure Service members, veterans, and Federal employees are able to access contraception; bolster contraception access across Federal health programs; and support access for college students and employees. These are just some of the recent actions taken by the Biden-Harris Administration to implement this Executive Order:
    • Following FDA’s approval of the first daily oral contraceptive in the United States without a prescription, the Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and HHS issued a Request for Information to solicit public input on how to best ensure coverage and access to over-the-counter preventive services, including contraception, at no cost and without a prescription from a health care provider.
    • Vice President Harris and the Department of Education convened representatives from 68 college and university leaders in 32 states to hear promising strategies from leaders of postsecondary institutions for protecting and expanding access to contraception for their students and on campus.
    • The Gender Policy Council, Domestic Policy Council, and leaders from the Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and HHS convened private sector leaders to stress the need to continue to build on the significant progress already made under the Affordable Care Act in expanding access to contraception and call on participants to take robust additional actions to improve access.
    • The Health Resources and Services Administration proposed new data measures for federally funded health centers that, once finalized, will help ensure that patients are screened for contraception needs. Screening and data measures will help enhance the overall delivery of voluntary family planning and related services, which is a required primary health care service under federal law.
    • The Office of Personnel Management launched a public education campaign to highlight contraception benefits available to federal employees and their family members.
    • HHS is continuing its public-private partnership to expand access to contraception with Upstream, a national nonprofit organization that provides health centers with free patient-centered, evidence-based training and technical assistance to eliminate provider-level barriers to offering the full range of contraceptive options. To date, HHS has connected Upstream to nearly 100 health care clinics, resulting in partnerships that will help Upstream accelerate their national expansion to reach 5 million women of reproductive age every year. 
    • Clarify Protections for Women with Private Health Insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, most private health plans must provide coverage for contraception and family planning counseling with no out-of-pocket costs. The Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and HHS convened a meeting with health insurers and employee benefit plans. These agencies called on the industry to meet their obligations to cover contraception as required under the law. Following this conversation, these agencies issued guidance to clarify protections for contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
       
    • Expand Access Under the Affordable Care Act.  The Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and HHS proposed a rule to strengthen access to contraception under the Affordable Care Act so all women with private health coverage who need and want contraception can obtain it without cost sharing. Millions of women have already benefited from this coverage, which has helped them save billions of dollars on contraception.
       
    • Support Title X Clinics.  Last year, HHS provided $263 million to over 4,000 Title X clinics across the country to provide a wide range of voluntary, client-centered family planning and related preventive services. The Title X Family Planning Program remains a critical part of the nation’s safety net, providing free or low-cost services for 2.6 million clients in 2022.
       
    • Promote Access to Contraception for Service Members and Their Families and Certain Dependents of Veterans.  To improve access to contraception at military hospitals and clinics, DoD expanded walk-in contraceptive care services for active-duty Service members and other Military Health System beneficiaries, and eliminated TRICARE copays for certain contraceptive services. And VA proposed a rule to eliminate out-of-pocket costs for certain types of contraception through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

 
Promoting Safety and Security of Patients, Providers, and Clinics

  • Promote Safety and Security of Patients, Providers and Clinics. DOJ continues to robustly enforce the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which protects the right to access and provide reproductive health services.

 
Safeguarding Privacy and Sensitive Health Information

  • Strengthen Reproductive Health Privacy under HIPAA.  HHS issued a proposed rule to strengthen privacy protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). As proposed, this rule would prevent an individual’s information from being disclosed to investigate, sue, or prosecute an individual, a health care provider, or a loved one simply because that person sought, obtained, provided, or facilitated legal reproductive health care, including abortion. By safeguarding sensitive information related to reproductive health care, the rule will strengthen patient-provider confidentiality and help health care providers give complete and accurate information to patients. Prior to the proposed ruleHHS issued guidance reaffirming HIPAA’s existing protections for the privacy of individuals’ protected health information.
    • Take Action Against Illegal Use and Sharing of Sensitive Health Information.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has committed to enforcing the law against illegal use and sharing of highly sensitive data, including information related to reproductive health care. Consistent with this commitment, the FTC has taken several enforcement actions against companies for disclosing consumers’ personal health information, including highly sensitive reproductive health data, without permission.
       
    • Help Consumers Protect Their Personal Data.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) launched a new guide for consumers on best practices for protecting their personal data, including geolocation data, on mobile phones. The guide follows a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued by FCC that would strengthen data breach rules to provide greater protections to personal data. Separately, HHS issued a how-to guide for consumers on steps they can take to better protect their data on personal cell phones or tablets and when using mobile health apps, like period trackers, which are generally not protected by HIPAA.
       
    • Protect Students’ Health Information.  ED issued guidance to over 20,000 school officials to remind them of their obligations to protect student privacy under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The guidance helps ensure that school officials—at federally funded school districts, colleges, and universities—know that, with certain exceptions, they must obtain written consent from eligible students or parents before disclosing personally identifiable information from students’ educational records, which may include student health information. The guidance encourages school officials to consider the importance of student privacy, including health privacy, with respect to disclosing student records. ED also issued a know-your-rights resource to help students understand their privacy rights for health records at school. 
       
    • Safeguard Patients’ Electronic Health Information.  HHS issued guidance affirming that doctors and other medical providers can take steps to protect patients’ electronic health information, including their information related to reproductive health care. HHS makes clear that patients have the right to ask that their electronic health information generally not be disclosed by a physician, hospital, or other health care provider. The guidance also reminds health care providers that HIPAA’s privacy protections apply to patients’ electronic health information.

 
Reinforcing Nondiscrimination Protections under Federal Law

  • Protect Students from Discrimination Based on Pregnancy.  The Department of Education (ED) released a resource for universities reiterating their responsibilities not to discriminate on the basis of pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions, including termination of pregnancy. This guidance reminds schools of their existing and long-standing obligations under Title IX.
    • Strengthen Nondiscrimination in Healthcare.  HHS issued a proposed rule to strengthen nondiscrimination in health care. The proposed rule would implement Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act and affirms protections consistent with President Biden’s Executive Orders on nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

 
Providing Access to Accurate Information and Legal Resources

  • Ensure Easy Access to Reliable Information.  HHS launched and maintains ReproductiveRights.gov, which provides timely and accurate information on people’s right to access reproductive health care, including contraception, abortion services, and health insurance coverage, as well as how to file a patient privacy or nondiscrimination complaint. DOJ also launched justice.gov/reproductive-rights, a webpage that provides a centralized online resource on the Department’s ongoing work to protect access to reproductive health care services under federal law.
    • Hosted a Convening of Lawyers in Defense of Reproductive Rights.  DOJ and the Office of White House Counsel convened more than 200 lawyers and advocates from private firms, bar associations, legal aid organizations, reproductive rights groups, and law schools across the country for a convening of pro-bono attorneys, as directed in the first Executive Order. Following this convening, reproductive rights organizations launched the Abortion Defense Network to offer abortion-related legal defense services, including legal advice and representation.

 
Promote Research and Data Collection

Use Data to Track Impacts on Access to Care.  HHS convened leading experts to discuss the state of existing reproductive health research and what the data tells us about the impact of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, as well as the future of research on reproductive health care access. These convenings helped identify research gaps, opportunities for collaboration, and ways to bolster research efforts for both Federal agencies and external partners.

Environmentalists Endorse Tom Suozzi in Feb. 13 Special Election for Congress NY-03 Citing Record, Policies

Tom Suozzi, seeking to return to Congress representing NY-03, receives endorsements from leading environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, and New York League of Conservation Voters © Karen Rubin/news-photo-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, [email protected]

Glen Cove, NY – Former US Congressman Tom Suozzi today held a press conference to highlight his lifelong commitment to preserving and protecting our environment and lay out his plan to continue to do so when he returns to Congress after the February 13th special election.

At the press conference, held at a very cold and windy Sea Cliff Municipal Beach, Suozzi received enthusiastic and wholehearted endorsements from the New York League of Conservation Voters, the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) Action Fund, and the Sierra Club Long Island Group.

“I am grateful to the New York League of Conservation Voters Federal Fund, the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, the NRDC Action Fund, and the Sierra Club Long Island Group for recognizing my three-decades-long commitment to preserve, protect, and clean our air, land, and water,” Suozzi said. “Just a few days ago, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, and on that day, I saw an eagle fly across the sky in my hometown of Glen Cove. The hard work of a lot of dedicated people can produce results!”

Tom Suozzi, running to return to Congress representing NY-03 in the Feb. 13 special election, reminds voters of his 30-year record on the environment, and his policies going forward © Karen Rubin/news-photo-features.com

When asked about the environment as a campaign issue, Suozzi emphasized his 30-year public service record of cleaning up pollution, dramatically reducing nitrogen, modernizing sewage treatment plants, remediating groundwater, and restoring shell fishing in our local waters.

“I’ve been a champion of the environment for my entire career. My opponent, on the other hand, parrots the talking points of the Conservative Party, which rejects the Paris Climate Change Agreement, denying that climate change is even real,” Suozzi stated. “Well, I know the people that live in this district very well, and they care about the environment. They want to make sure that we clean up pollution and that we protect our air, protect our land, and protect our water.”

“My whole adult life I have worked for these issues. I know how politics works, how government works….I know how to make government work for people, so they see real impact in their lives,” Suozzi said, flanked by a battalion of enthusiastic supporters despite the frigid wind.

“Our environment is a big part of my 10-point plan,” Suozzi said, citing his 10-point plan released in mid-December. “My opponent just put out a 10-point plan, which looks very similar to my 10-point plan, and there is nothing on it about the environment whatsoever.”

Tom Suozzi, seeking to return to Congress representing NY-03, receives endorsements from leading environmental organizations including the Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, and New York League of Conservation Voters © Karen Rubin/news-photo-features.com

Joining Suozzi and speaking at the press conference were Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters; Al Fredericks, Chair of the Political Committee of the Sierra Club’s Long Island Group; Kevin Curtis, Executive Director of the NRDC Action Fund; Danielle Fugazy Scagliola, member Glen Cove City Council; and Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, Nassau County Legislator and Minority Leader.

“It’s not partisan to want clean air, clean water,” said Julie Tighe, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “We are feeling the effect of climate change – the hottest year on the planet since records were kept. Leadership matters. …We’ve had a 30-year relationship with Suozzi…He fights tooth and nail for policies that all have real impact on the environment.”

Al Fredericks, Chair of the Political Committee of the Sierra Club’s Long Island Group , noted that Suozzi was one of the chief negotiators of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act that dramatically increased funding for Long Island Sound and remediating Grumman. He cast a critical vote to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, the largest federal investment in the environment and climate action.

“His Republican opponent cannot match his knowledge or experience in issues that most concern District 3. She is a newcomer with a single two-year term as Nassau County Legislator. We cannot afford to gamble once again on an inexperienced candidate.”

Kevin Curtis, Executive Director of the NRDC Action Fund said that his committee unanimously voted to endorse Suozzi. “The Congressman is the real deal – he does the hard work on the environment.”

Minority Leader in Nassau County Legislature Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, who has served with Suozzi’s Republican opponent the past two years, noted that this coastal peninsula was one of the largest superfund sites in the nation, but Suozzi fought for and won funding to clean it up. “There are places all over the nation needing funding –the only way to bring money home is if you have someone fighting for it. His opponent has said she is ‘not a talker’. We need someone who understands the process, how the system works and is not just a talker, but can argue, fight for his local area.”

While Suozzi has regularly held press conferences and is out meeting people and taking questions, his Republican opponent has kept away and is refusing to debate.  

“The voters need to know where she stands on the environment and every other issue. She refuses to tell us anything in detail, and she refuses to debate,” Suozzi asserted. “I give detailed policy descriptions and have a record of getting things done.”

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© 2024 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email [email protected]. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Long Islanders Mark January 6th Insurrection with Rally for Democracy

Rachel Klein of Engage Long Island, organized the Rally to Defend Democracy on the steps of the Nassau County Supreme Court in Mineola, to mark the 3rd anniversary of the January 6 insurrection, “January 6 was a wake up call how fragile democracy is.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

news-photos-features.com, [email protected]

Long Island activists marked the third anniversary of the January 6 Insurrection – the first time in US history where a sitting president attempted to overturn an election by sending a violent mob to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power – with declarations to stand up to preserve democracy against those who would install an autocrat, to be engaged in the political process and most of all, vote.

“January 6 was a wake up call how fragile democracy is. We didn’t want the day to go by without showing up in nonviolent support of democracy,” said Rachel Klein of Engage Long Island that organized a Rally to Defend Democracy on the steps of the Nassau County Supreme Court in Mineola.

The headliner was Tom Suozzi, who is running in NY-03’s special election on February 13 to return to Congress where he served for 6 years, filling the vacancy left by the disgraced, expelled fraudster George Santos, and take back the seat from Republicans.

Suozzi, who was in Congress during the January 6th insurrection, described in vivid detail what it was like for him during the attack, the terror of hearing the mob attempting to smash through the doors, hearing shots fired, how he was one of the last to leave the gallery where fellow Congressmembers were instructed to duck under seats and take out gas masks secured there.

Tom Suozzi, who is running in NY-03’s special election on February 13 to return to Congress, told the Rally for Democracy, “Keep fighting for what we know is right, so the greatest country in the world, the best hope for the world, is saved.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Suozzi quoted former California Congressman Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, from a speech he wrote for the United Nations on World Holocaust Day, in 2008, “We must remember that the veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest.”

“As President Biden said, you can’t be pro-political violence and pro-democracy – those things don’t go together,” Suozzi said. “You don’t understand how powerful you are, how important being here today is. Keep fighting for what we know is right, so the greatest country in the world, the best hope for the world, is saved.”

State Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-AD 13) recalled how where the Supreme Court stands was once the Plains of Hempstead, and the site where British troops gathered to attack Washington and the rebels for the Battle of Brooklyn.

New York State Assemblyman Charles Lavine: “Remember January 6th this November – in orderly fashion, go to polls, stand in line and vote.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“History was made here. History is being made – standing up to tyranny. We saw the primitive brutality on January 6 – don’t want to see that again…In democracy, we accept election result, win, lose or draw. We don’t put together armed troops to contest an orderly transfer of power,” Lavine said.

“We  have come out in cold weather but our blood is boiling – the idea this could happen again, that an American president would be dictator, tyrant, despot,” Lavine said. “Will we let that happen? Not on our watch. There are days that live in infamy –Sept 11th, Dec 7th. Jan 6 is one. Remember January 6th this November – in orderly fashion, go to polls, stand in line and vote.”

January 6th has inspired political activism, including people running for office.

Community leader Kim Keiserman, president of Port Washington’s Democratic Club, a member of the steering committee of Concerned Citizens of NY-03 that played a key role in getting George Santos expelled from Congress, is now running for State Senate’s 7th district, taking on Republican Jack Martins.

Community activist Kim Keiserman, president of Port Washington’s Democratic Club, a member of the steering committee of Concerned Citizens of NY-03 that played a key role in getting George Santos expelled from Congress, is now running for State Senate’s 7th district  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

She recalled Election night 2016 when Trump was declared the winner, how she tossed all night, replaying his lies, his attacks on women, immigrants, people of color, Muslims, disabled, press, NATO, allies. “I worried he would escalate attacks, pursue Muslim Ban, appoint Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe, cozying up to Putin, undermine democracy and our standing in world and worried what four years of Trump would do to democracy.” All of which came to pass.

“We are still in tremendous trouble –the stakes in the next election higher than ever. The biggest mistake we can make is falling into despair or believing that nobody else cares as much as we do. We need to organize and get out the vote.”

Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief also was motivated to run for the Suffolk County Legislature. She recalled joining the Women’s March on Washington seven years ago, less than 24 hours after Trump took the oath of office and gave his “American carnage” speech.

Dr. Eve Meltzer-Krief: “Our democracy can’t survive another 4 years – Trump is existential threat to country. At this moment, we must stand up, dig deep, defend democracy….None of these issues will matter if we don’t have democracy with which to raise our voices. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I understood the danger Trump posed to our democracy. We marched against his fascist tendencies, his attacks of fake news, the seeds of hate he planted – the two most powerful weapons a Fascist has in his arsenal. We know where hate, when politicized, can lead, especially when it comes from the mouth of the most powerful, loudest voice in the world: ‘Mexicans are rapists, Muslim ban, Jews will not replace us, he dehumanized immigrants, made it okay to rip young children from their parent’s arms, fomented hate against Asians, targeted public health officials – Dr. Fauci still needs body guards,” Dr. Krief said.

“During his presidency, every day, we had to think about what construct he shattered, what lie told, who he attacked, how democracy was weakened each day. Our democracy can’t survive another 4 years – Trump is existential threat to country. At this moment, we must stand up, dig deep, defend democracy. The world is an overwhelming place – divided in conflict – in the Mideast. Gun violence epidemic – yet another school shooting. A 12 year old rape victim forced to deliver. The hottest temperature the planet has ever experienced.

“It’s overwhelming – but none of these issues will matter if we don’t have democracy with which to raise our voices. We have to focus, dig deep. It can feel like the weight of world is on our shoulders. But if our democracy fails, democracies around the world will crumble. We are doing this for ourselves, our children’s futures and the world. We have to defend democracy. We can’t let democracy die on our watch,” Dr. Krief said.

Long Island activists marked the third anniversary of the January 6 Insurrection at a Rally for Democracy with declarations to stand up to preserve democracy against those who would install an autocrat, to be engaged in the political process and most of all, vote. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2024 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email [email protected]. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

President Biden on Anniversary of Jan. 6 Insurrrection: Is Democracy Still America’s Sacred Cause?

In this, President Joe Biden’s first major speech of 2024, on January 5 marking the third anniversary of the January 6 insurrection which he delivered at Valley Forge, he highlights what is at stake in the upcoming 2024 election: nothing short of whether the United States will be ruled by democracy or a despot. “Is democracy still America’s sacred cause” he asked in what may well be considered Biden’s “Gettysburg Address.” 

In this, President Joe Biden’s first major speech of 2024, which he delivered at Valley Forge on January 5, marking the third anniversary of the January 6th Insurrection, he highlights what is at stake in the upcoming 2024 election: nothing short of whether the United States will be ruled by democracy or a despot. “Is democracy still America’s sacred cause” he asked in what may well be considered Biden’s “Gettysburg Address.” 

In contrast, Donald Trump’s first campaign speech committed himself to “retribution, revenge,” weaponizing the Department of Justice to persecute anyone who looks like they are doing well against him, literally tearing up the Constitution, enacting the Insurrection Act, pardoning the January 6 insurrectionists (he calls “hostages”) and being dictator (for the first day). And by suggesting that his own top military general be executed (for showing loyalty to the Constitution instead of him), he has laid down the gauntlet of weaponizing  and routinizing political intimidation to insure his power.

As President Biden has said so many times, “this is not hyperbole” but a real call out to the existential crisis Americans must confront.

“Whether democracy is still America’s sacred cause is the most urgent question of our time, and it’s what the 2024 election is all about.” “Democracy is on the ballot.  Your freedom is on the ballot.”  

“Without democracy, no progress is possible.  Think about it.  The alternative to democracy is dictatorship — the rule of one, not the rule of ‘We the People.’” 
  
“Democracy means having the freedom to speak your mind, to be who you are, to be who you want to be.  Democracy is about being able to bring about peaceful change.  Democracy — democracy is how we’ve opened the doors of opportunity wider and wider with each successive generation, notwithstanding our mistakes.”
 
“But if democracy falls, we’ll lose that freedom.  We’ll lose the power of “We the People” to shape our destiny.  If you doubt me, look around the world.  Travel with me as I meet with other heads of state throughout the world.”

Here is a slightly edited, highlighted transcript of President Biden’s remarks at Valley Forge, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, on January 5 –Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com   

In this, President Joe Biden’s first major speech of 2024, on January 5 marking the third anniversary of the January 6 insurrection which he delivered at Valley Forge, he highlights what is at stake in the upcoming 2024 election: nothing short of whether the United States will be ruled by democracy or a despot. “Is democracy still America’s sacred cause” he asked in what may well be considered Biden’s “Gettysburg Address.” 

3:23 P.M. EST
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)
 
AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Four more years! (Applause.)
 
THE PRESIDENT:  (Laughs.)  Well, thank you. 
 
AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Please.  Thank you.  Please.  Thank you very, very much.
 
Today — the topic of my speech today is deadly serious, and I think it needs to be made at the outset of this campaign.
 
In the winter of 1777, it was harsh and cold as the Continental Army marched to Valley Forge.  General George Washington knew he faced the most daunting of tasks: to fight and win a war against the most powerful empire that existed in the world at the time. 
 
His mission was clear.  Liberty, not conquest.  Freedom, not domination.  National independence, not individual glory. 
 
America made a vow.  Never again would we bow down to a king. 
 
The months ahead would be incredibly difficult.  But General Washington knew something in his bones, something about the spirit of the troops he was leading, something — something about the soul of the nation he [that] was struggling to be born.
 
In his general order, he predicted, and I quote, “with one heart and one mind,” “with fortitude and with patience,” they would overcome every difficulty — the troops he was leading. 
 
And they did.  They did.
 
This army that lacked blankets and food, clothes and shoes.  This army whose march left bloody, bare footprints in the snow.  This ragtag army made up of ordinary people.  Their mission, George Washington declared, was nothing less than “a sacred cause.”  That was the phrase used: “a sacred cause.” 
 
Freedom, liberty, democracy.  American democracy. 
 
I just visited the grounds of Valley Forge.  I’ve been there a number of times from the time I was a Boy Scout years ago.  You know, it’s the very site that I think every American should visit because it tells the story of the pain and the suffering and the true patriotism it took to make America.
 
Today, we gather in a new year, some 246 years later, just one day before January 6th, a day forever shared in our memory because it was on that day that we nearly lost America — lost it all. 
 
Today, we’re here to answer the most important of questions.  Is democracy still America’s sacred cause?  I mean it.  (Applause.)
 
This is not rhetorical, academic, or hypothetical.  Whether democracy is still America’s sacred cause is the most urgent question of our time, and it’s what the 2024 election is all about.  
 
The choice is clear.  Donald Trump’s campaign is about him, not America, not you.  Donald Trump’s campaign is obsessed with the past, not the future.  He’s willing to sacrifice our democracy, put himself in power. 
 
Our campaign is different.  For me and Kamala, our campaign is about America.  It’s about you.  It’s about every age and background that occupy this country.  It’s about the future we’re going to continue to build together.
 
And our campaign is about preserving and strengthening our American democracy.
  Three years ago tomorrow, we saw with our own eyes the violent mob storm the United States Capitol.  It was almost in disbelief as you first turned on the television. 
 
For the first time on our history, insurrectionists had come to stop the peaceful transfer — transfer of power in America — first time — smashing windows, shattering doors, attacking the police. 
 
Outside, gallows were erected as the MAGA crowd chanted, “Hang Mike Pence.” 
 
Inside, they hunted for Speaker Pelosi [of] the House, was chanting, as they marched through and smashed windows, “Where’s Nancy?”
 
Over 140 police officers were injured.  Jill and I attended the funeral of police officers who died as a result of the events of that day. 
 
And because Donald — because of Donald Trump’s lies, they died because these lies brought a mob to Washington. 
 
He promised it would be “wild,” and it was.  He told the crowd to “fight like hell,” and all hell was unleashed. 
 
He promised he would right them — right them.  Everything they did, he would be side by side with them.  Then, as usual, he left the dirty work to others.  He retreated to the White House.
 
As America was attacked from within, Donald Trump watched on TV in the private small dining room off my Oval — off the Oval Office. 
 
The entire nation watched in horror.  The whole world watched in disbelief.  And Trump did nothing. 
 
Members of his staff, members of his family, Republican leaders who were under attack for the — at that very moment pled with him: “Act.  Call off the mob.” 
 
Imagine had he gone out and said, “Stop.” 
 
And still, Trump did nothing.  It was among the worst derelictions of duty by a president in American history: an attempt to overturn a free and fair election by force and violence.
 
A record 81 million people voted for my candidacy and to end his presidency.  Trump lost the popular vote by 7 million. 
 
Trump’s claims about the 2020 election never could stand up in court.  Trump lost 60 court cases — 60.  Trump lost the Republican-controlled states.  Trump lost before a Trump-appointed judge — and then judges.  And Trump lost before the United States Supreme Court.  (Applause.)  All of it, he lost.
 
Trump lost recount after recount after recount in state after state.  But in desperation and weakness, Trump and his MAGA followers went after election officials who ensured your power as a citizen would be heard.  These public servants had their lives forever upended by attacks and death threats for simply doing their jobs.
 
In Atlanta, Georgia, a brave Black mother and her daughter, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, were doing their jobs as elected workers until Donald Trump and his MAGA followers targeted and threatened them, forcing them from their homes and unleashing racist vitriol on them.  Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was just hit with $148 million judgment for cruelty and defamation that he inflicted against them. 
 
Other state and local elected officials across the country faced similar personal attacks.  In addition, Fox News agreed to pay a record $787 million for the lies they told about voter fraud.
 
Let’s be clear about the 2020 election.  Trump exhausted every legal avenue available to him to overturn the election — every one.  But the legal path just took Trump back to the truth that I had won the election and he was a loser.  (Applause.)
 
Well, knowing how his mind works now, he had one — he had one act left — one desperate act available to him: the violence of January the 6th. 
 
And since that day, more than 1,200 people have been charged for their assault on the Capitol.  Nearly 900 of them have been convicted or pled guilty.  Collectively, to date, they have been sentenced to more than 840 years in prison.  (Applause.)
 
And what has Trump done?  Instead of calling them “criminals,” he’s called these insurrectionists “patriots.”  They’re “patriots.”  And he promised to pardon them if he returns to office. 
 
Trump said that there was “a lot of love” on January the 6th.  The rest of the nation, including law enforcement, saw a lot of hate and violence.    One Capitol police officer called it a “medieval battle.”  That same officer called vile — was called vile, racist names. He said he was more afraid in the Capitol of the United States of America, in the chambers, than when he was fighting as a soldier in the war in Iraq.  He said he was more afraid inside the halls of Congress than fighting in the war in Iraq.
 
In trying to rewrite the facts of January 6th, Trump is trying to steal history the same way he tried to steal the election.  But we knew the truth because we saw it with our own eyes.  It wasn’t like something — a story being told.  It was on television repeatedly.  We saw it with our own eyes. 
 
Trump’s mob wasn’t a peaceful protest.  It was a violent assault.  They were insurrectionists, not patriots.  They weren’t there to uphold the Constitution; they were there to destroy the Constitution.
 
Trump won’t do what an American president must do.  He refuses to denounce political violence. 
 
So, hear me clearly.  I’ll say what Donald Trump won’t.  Political violence is never, ever acceptable in the United States political system — never, never, never.  It has no place in a democracy.  None.  (Applause.)
 
You can’t be pro-insurrectionist and pro-American. 
 
You know, Trump and his MAGA supporters not only embrace political violence, but they laugh about it.  At his rally, he jokes about an intruder, whipped up by the Big Trump Lie, taking a hammer to Paul Pelosi’s skull and echoing the very same words used on January 6th: “Where’s Nancy?” 
 
And he thinks that’s funny.  He laughed about it.  What a sick — (laughter and applause).  My God.
 
I think it’s despicable, seriously — not just for a president, for any person to say that.  But to say it to the whole world listening. 

When I was overseas — anyway.  (Laughter.) 
 
Trump’s assault on democracy isn’t just part of his past.  It’s what he’s promising for the future.  He’s being straightforward.  He’s not hiding the ball. 
 
His first rally for the 2024 campaign opened with a choir of January 6th insurrectionists singing from prison on a cell phone while images of the January 6th riot played on a big screen behind him at his rally.

Can you believe that?  This is like something out of a fairy tale — a bad fairy tale.

Trump began his 2024 campaign by glorifying the failed violent insurrectionist — insurrection at our — on our Capitol.

The guy who claims law and order sows lawlessness and disorder.

Trump’s not concerned about your future, I promise you.  Trump is now promising a full-scale campaign of “revenge” and “retribution” — his words — for some years to come.  They were his words, not mine.  He went on to say he would be a dictator on day one.

I mean, if I were writing a book of fiction and I said an American president said that, and not in jest —

He called it, and I quote, the “termination of all the rules, regulation, and articles, even those found in the U.S. Constitution,” should be terminated, if it’s his will.

It’s really kind of hard to believe.  Even found in the Constitution, he could terminate?

He’s threatened the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the death penalty.  Says he should be put to death because the Chairman put his oath to the Constitution ahead of his personal loyalty to Trump.

This coming from a president who called — when he visited a cemetery, called dead soldiers “suckers” and “losers.”  Remember that?

Sometimes, I’m really happy the Irish in me can’t be seen.  (Laughter.)

It was right around the time I was at Beau’s grave, Tommy.

How dare he?  Who in God’s name does he think he is?

With former aides, Trump plans to invoke the Insurrectionist Act — the Insurrection Act, which would allow him to deploy — which he’s not allowed to do in ordinary circumstances — allow him to deploy U.S. military forces on the streets of America.
  He said it.

He calls those who oppose him “vermin.”  He talks about the blood of Americans being poisoned, echoing the same exact language used in Nazi Germany.

He proudly posts on social media the words that best describe his 2024 campaign, quote, “revenge”; quote, “power”; and, quote, “dictatorship.”

There’s no confusion about who Trump is and what he intends to do.

I placed my hand on our family Bible, and I swore an oath on the very same steps of the Capitol just 14 days after the attack on January the 6th.

As I looked out over the capital city, whose streets were lined with National Guard to prevent another attack, I saw an American that had been pushed to the brink — an America that had been pushed to the brink.

But I felt enormous pride — not in winning.  I felt enormous pride in America because American democracy had been tested and American democracy had held together.  And when Trump had seen weakness in our democracy and continues to talk about it, I saw strength — your strength.  It’s not hyperbole.  Your strength.  Your integrity.  American strength and integrity.

Ordinary citizens, state election officials, the American judicial system had put the Constitution first and sometimes at their peril — at their peril.

Because of them, because of you, the will of the people prevailed, not the anger of the mob or the appetites of one man.

When the attack on January 6th happened, there was no doubt about the truth.  At the time, even Republican members of Congress and Fox News commentators publicly and privately condemned the attack.

As one Republican senator said, “Trump’s behavior was embarrassing and humiliating for the country.”  But now, that same senator and those same people have changed their tune.

As time has gone on, politics, fear, money, all have intervened.  And now these MAGA voices who know the truth about Trump on January 6th have abandoned the truth and abandoned democracy.

They made their choice.  Now the rest of us — Democrats, independents, mainstream Republicans — we have to make our choice.

I know mine.  And I believe I know America’s.

We will defend the truth, not give in to the Big Lie.  We’ll embrace the Constitution and the Declaration, not abandon it.  We’ll honor the sacred cause of democracy, not walk away from it.

Today, I make this sacred pledge to you.  The defense, protection, and preservation of American democracy will remain, as it has been, the central cause of my presidency.
  (Applause.)
 
America, as we begin this election year, we must be clear: Democracy is on the ballot.  Your freedom is on the ballot.  (Applause.)
 
Yes, we’ll be voting on many issues: on the freedom to vote and have your vote counted, on the freedom of choice, the freedom to have a fair shot, the freedom from fear.  And we’ll debate and disagree. 
 
Without democracy, no progress is possible.  Think about it.  The alternative to democracy is dictatorship — the rule of one, not the rule of “We the People.” 
 
That’s what the soldiers of Valley Forge understood.  And so was me — was what we have to understand it as well.  We’ve been blessed so long with a strong, stable democracy.  It’s easy to forget why so many before us risked their lives and strengthened democracy, what our lives would be without it.
 
Democracy means having the freedom to speak your mind, to be who you are, to be who you want to be.  Democracy is about being able to bring about peaceful change.  Democracy — democracy is how we’ve opened the doors of opportunity wider and wider with each successive generation, notwithstanding our mistakes.
 
But if democracy falls, we’ll lose that freedom.  We’ll lose the power of “We the People” to shape our destiny.  If you doubt me, look around the world.  Travel with me as I meet with other heads of state throughout the world. 
 
Look at the authoritarian leaders and dictators Trump says he admires — he, out loud, says he admires.  I won’t go through them all.  It would take too long.
 
Look, remember when he refers to what he calls the “love letter” exchanges between he and the dictator of North Korea?  Those women and men out there in the audience who ever fought for the American military, would you ever believe you’d hear a president say something like that?
 
His admiration for Putin — I can go on. 
 
And look at what these autocrats are doing to limit freedom in their countries.  They’re limiting freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom to assemble, women’s rights, LGB[T]Q rights, people are going to jail, so much more. 

It’s true: The push and pull of American history is not a fairy tale.  Every stride forward in America is met with a ferocious backlash, many times from those who fear progress and those who exploit that fear for their own personal gain; from those who traffic in lies told for power and profit; from those who are driven by grievance and grift, consumed by conspiracy and victimhood; from those who seek to bury history and ban books.
 
Did you ever think you’d be at a political event talking about book banning for in a presidential election? 
 
The choice and contest between those forces — those competing forces, between solidarity and division — is perennial.  But this time, it’s so different. 
 
You can’t have a contest — you can’t have a contest if you see politics as an all-out war instead of a peaceful way to resolve our differences.  All-out war is what Trump wants. 
 
That’s why he doesn’t understand the most fundamental truth about this country.  Unlike other nations on Earth, America is not built on ethnicity, religion, geography.  We’re the only nation in the history of the world built on an idea — not hyperbole — built on an idea: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men and women are created equal.”
 
It’s an idea declared in the Declaration, created in a way that we viewed everybody as equal and be — should be treated equally throughout their lives.
 
We’ve never fully lived up to that.  We have a long way to go.  But we’ve never walked away from the idea.  We’ve never walked away from it before.  But I promise you, I will not let Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans — (applause) — force us to walk away now.
 
We’re living in an era where a determined minority is doing everything in its power to try to destroy our democracy for their own agenda.  The American people know it, and they’re standing bravely in the breach. 
 
Remember, after 2020, January 6th insurrection to undo the election in which more Americans had voted than any other in American history?  America saw the threat posed to the country, and they voted him out.  In 2022, historic midterm election, in state after state, election after election, the election deniers were defeated. 
 
Now, in 2024, Trump in running as the “denier-in-chief” — the election denier-in-chief.  Once again, he’s saying he won’t honor the results of the election if he loses.
 
Trump says he doesn’t understand.  Well, he still doesn’t understand the basic truth, and that is you can’t love your country only when you win.  (Applause.)  You can’t love your country only when you win.
 
So, I’ll keep my commitment to be president for all of America, whether you voted for me or not.  I’ve done it for the last three years, and I’ll continue to do it. 
 
Together, we can keep proving that America is still a country that believes in decency, dignity, honesty, honor, truth.  We still believe that no one, not even the President, is above the law.  We still believe — (applause) — the vast majority of us still believe that everyone deserves a fair shot at making it.  We’re still a nation that gives hate no safe harbor. 

I tell you from my experience working with leaders around the world — and I mean this sincerely, not a joke — that America is still viewed as the beacon of democracy for the world. 

I can’t tell you how many — how many world leaders — and I know all of them, virtually all of them — grab my arm in private and say, “He can’t win.  Tell me.  No, my country will be at risk.” 

Think of how many countries, Tommy, you know that are on the on the edge.  Imagine. 

We still believe in “We the People,” and that includes all of us, not some of us.

Let me close with this.  On that cold winter of 1777, George Washington and his American troops at Valley Forge waged a battle on behalf of a revolutionary idea that everyday people — like where I come from and the vast majority of you — not a king or a dictator — that everyday people can govern themselves without a king or a dictator. 

In fact, in the rotunda of the Capitol, there’s a giant painting of General George Washington — not President Washington — and he is resigning his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. 

A European king at this — at the time said, after he won the revolution, “Now is the time for him to declare his kingship.”

But instead, the mob that attacked the Capitol, waving Trump flags and Confederate flags, stormed right past that portrait.  That image of George Washington gave them no pause, but it should have.

The artist that painted that portrait memorialized that moment because he said it was, quote, “one of the highest moral lessons ever given to the world.”  End of quote.

George Washington was at the height of his power.  Having just defeated the most powerful empire on Earth, could have held onto the power as long as he wanted.  He could have made himself not a future president but a future monarch, in effect. 

And, by the way, when he got elected president, he could have stayed for two, three, four, five terms, until he died.  But that wasn’t the America he and the American troops at Valley Forge had fought for.

In America, genuine leaders — democratic leaders, with a small “d” — don’t hold on to power relentlessly.  Our leaders return power to the people.  And they do it willingly, because that’s the deal.  You do your duty.  You serve your country. 
 
And ours is a country worthy of service, as many Republican presidents and Democratic presidents have shown over the years. 

We’re not perfect.  But at our best, we face on — we face head on the good, the bad, the truth of who we are.  We look in the mirror and ultimately never pretend we’re something we’re not.  That’s what great nations do.  And we’re a great nation.  We’re the greatest nation on the face of the Earth.  We really are.  (Applause.)
 
That’s the America I see in our future.  We get up.  We carry on.  We never bow.  We never bend.  We speak of possibilities, not carnage.  We’re not weighed down by grievances.  We don’t foster fear.  We don’t walk around as victims. 
 
We take charge of our destiny.  We get our job done with the help of the people we find in America, who find their place in the changing world and dream and build a future that not only they but all people deserve a shot at. 
 
We don’t believe — none of you believe America is failing.  We know America is winning.  That’s American patriotism.
  (Applause.)
 
And it’s not winning because of Joe Biden.  It’s winning. 
 
This is the first national election since January 6th insurrection placed a dagger at the throat of American democracy — since that moment.  We all know who Donald Trump is.  The question we have to answer is: Who are we?  That’s what’s at stake.  (Applause.)  Who are we? 
 
In the year ahead, as you talk to your family and friends, cast your ballots, the power is in your hands.  After all we’ve been through in our history, from independence to Civil War to two world wars to a pandemic to insurrection, I refuse to believe that, in 2024, we Americans will choose to walk away from what’s made us the greatest nation in the history of the world: freedom, liberty.  (Applause.)
 
Democracy is still a sacred cause.  And there’s no country in the world better positioned to lead the world than America. 
 
That’s why — (applause) — I’ve said it many times.  That’s why I’ve never been more optimistic about our future.  And I’ve been doing this a hell of a long time.  (Laughter.)
 
Just have to remember who we are — with patience and fortitude, with one heart.  We are the United States of America, for God’s sake.  (Applause.)
 
I mean it.  There is nothing — I believe with every fiber that there is nothing beyond our capacity if we act together and decently with one another.  Nothing, nothing, nothing.  (Applause.)  I mean it.
 
We’re the only nation in the world that’s come out of every crisis stronger than we went into that crisis.  That was true yesterday and it’s true today, and I guarantee you will be true tomorrow. 
 
God bless you all.  And may God protect our troops.  (Applause.)
 
Thank you.  Thank you.
 
(The First Lady joins the President onstage.)  I understand power.  (Laughter.)
 
Thank you all so very much.  (Inaudible.)  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  (Applause.)
 
3:56 P.M. EST  

FACT SHEET: Dozens of Pharma Companies Raised Prices Faster than Inflation, Triggering Medicare Rebates, While Republicans Work to Insure Giveaways to Big Pharma, Higher Costs for Seniors, Families

President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act cracks down on Big Pharma price gouging, saving some seniors thousands of dollars per dose of medication. Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans push for giveaways to drug industry

President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act cracks down on Big Pharma price gouging, saving some seniors thousands of dollars per dose of medication. Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans push for giveaways to drug industry © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President Biden visited the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Washington, D.C. to announce that dozens of pharmaceutical companies will be required to pay rebates to Medicare for outrageous price hikes on prescription drugs that over 750,000 seniors take per year. For the last quarter of 2023, 48 Medicare Part B drugs raised their prices faster than inflation, and some drug companies raised prices of certain medications faster than inflation for every quarter over the last year. President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act cracks down on this exorbitant price gouging, requiring these companies to pay rebates back to Medicare, saving seniors who take these drugs between $1 and $2,786 per dose on their medication.

President Biden vowed to lower prescription drug costs for seniors and families – and he is delivering on that promise. His Inflation Reduction Act finally allows Medicare to directly negotiate lower prescription drug prices, capped the cost of insulin for Medicare beneficiaries at $35, made recommended adult vaccines free, requires drug companies to pay rebates if they raise prices faster than the rate of inflation, and locked in savings of $800 per year on health insurance for nearly 15 million Americans. While Republicans in Congress fight tooth and nail to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act and put money back in the pockets of Big Pharma, President Biden won’t back down from the fight to lower costs for hardworking Americans and make sure every family has access to affordable health care.

The Biden-Harris Administration announced:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new list of 48 Medicare Part B drugs that raised their prices faster than inflation, and may be subject to inflation rebates in the first quarter of 2024 as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act. President Biden’s prescription drug law cracks down on price gouging from Big Pharma, requiring companies to pay back Medicare if they raise prices on seniors at a higher rate than inflation. Starting in January, some Medicare beneficiaries who take these 48 prescription drugs – including drugs used to treat cancer and fight infections – will have lower coinsurance than what they would have paid otherwise, and their out-of-pocket costs may decrease by $1 to as much as $2,786 per average dose.

Over the last four quarters, 64 drugs in total had prices that increased faster than inflation and may be subject to inflation rebates because of the Inflation Reduction Act. Some drugs, such as Signifor, used to treat an endocrine disorder, raised prices faster than inflation every quarter since the Inflation Reduction Act’s inflation rebate provision went into effect. Some Medicare beneficiaries who take Signifor could save $311 per monthly dose starting January because of the law.
 
The Administration is focused on making sure medications developed with taxpayer funds are available to Americans at reasonable prices. On average, Americans pay 2 to 3 times more than consumers in other developed countries for prescription drugs. Last week, the Administration announced a proposal to put drug companies on notice if products developed using federal funds are not made available to the public on reasonable terms, including based on price. The proposal would promote the federal government’s ability to license a patent — such as those used to create life-saving drugs — to a competitor with the goal of increasing competition and bringing costs down for families.
 
Building off last week’s announcement, today HHS announced that the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) is making fair pricing a standard part of contract negotiations for medical products developed or purchased as part of its commitment to obtain best value for the US taxpayer. In September 2023, ASPR finalized a Project NextGen contract agreement for a potentially life-saving COVID-19 treatment being developed by Regeneron stating if the product is commercialized, its list price in the United States will be equal to or less than its retail price in comparable global markets. Since then, ASPR has also included similar language in recent agreements with CastleVax, Codagenix and Gritstone Bio, developers of the first three vaccines selected for development within Project NextGen. These clauses will be in effect if and when a company’s candidate vaccine is selected to move into ASPR-supported Phase 2b trials to evaluate clinical safety and efficacy.These actions are the result of a successful and collaborative approach by ASPR and its industry partners and show HHS’s commitment to keep Americans from paying unfair prices for the care they need.

  • HHS is releasing new data on the ten drugs selected for Medicare Drug Price Negotiation. For Medicare enrollees who take these drugs, their out-of-pocket spending on the 10 drugs selected for negotiation represents, on average, over half of their total Part D out-of-pocket spending. The report shows that total Medicare spending on the 10 drugs more than doubled from 2018 to 2022 – a rate that was 3 times faster than all Part D drugs over the same period. The report also shows that 7 of the 10 drugs selected received direct at least one form of federal support towards their drug development or utilized a federal-funded invention for their development.

After decades and hundreds of billions of dollars spent by Big Pharma to block Medicare from directly negotiating lower prescription drug prices for people with Medicare, President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act finally got it done. In total in 2022, Medicare Part D beneficiaries paid $3.4 billion in out of pocket costs for the 10 drugs selected for negotiation, and some paid over $6,000 per year for just one of the drugs on the list. Negotiated prices will go into effect for seniors in 2026.
Today’s announcements build off the actions the Administration has already taken to lower prescription drug costs for millions of seniors and families because of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. In 2023 alone:

  • The Inflation Reduction Act saved nearly 15 million Americans an average of $800 in 2023 because of health insurance savings the law locked in.
    • The Inflation Reduction Act capped the cost of insulin at $35 per covered insulin product for Medicare beneficiaries, saving an estimated 1.5 million seniors on Medicare $500 on average in 2023 on insulin costs. 
       
    • The Inflation Reduction Act made recommended vaccines – like the shingles vaccine – free for the 50.5 million seniors with Medicare Part D, and made recommended, approved adult vaccines free for all adults in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and nearly all full-benefit adults enrolled in traditional Medicaid. Seniors on Medicare who received a Part D vaccine saved an average of $70 on vaccines in 2023.
       
    • The Inflation Reduction Act saved many seniors on Medicare as much as $618 per average dose on 47 prescription drugs in 2023 because of the law’s provision requiring drug companies to pay rebates on certain drugs if they raise prices for those drugs faster than the rate of inflation. Starting in 2024, some seniors who take 48 prescription drugs could see savings of as much as $2,786 per average dose because those 48 drugs raised their prices faster than inflation in the last quarter of 2023.

In the coming months and years, the Inflation Reduction Act will continue to deliver cost-savings to millions of Americans, including:

  • In 2024, Part D enrollees will no longer pay 5% co-insurance when they reach the catastrophic phase of their benefit – meaning that some beneficiaries’ prescription drug costs will be capped at about $3,500 next year.
    • When the $2,000 out-of-pocket cap on prescription drugs applies in 2025, nearly 19 million seniors and other beneficiaries are projected to save $400 per year on prescription drugs. 1.9 million enrollees with the highest drug costs will save an average of $2,500 per year because of this provision of the Inflation Reduction Act.
       

Millions of seniors could save money when negotiated prices of the first group of drugs selected for the Inflation Reduction Act’s Medicare Price Negotiation program are scheduled to go into effect in 2026. In 2022, seniors spent $3.4 billion in out-of-pocket costs on the first ten drugs selected for negotiation – used to treat common conditions like diabetes, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, blood clots and more. A report released last week shows that had the Medicare price negotiation program been in effect in 2021, Part D out of pocket costs would have declined 23% for people taking the ten costliest drugs at the time.

The Congressional Republican Agenda on Prescription Drugs: Giveaways to Big Pharma and Higher Costs for Seniors and Families


While President Biden has taken historic action to reduce prescription drug costs for seniors and for working-age people who get health insurance through their jobs, Congressional Republicans are actively fighting to roll back the reforms the President signed into law and to keep Big Pharma’s taxes low.
 
Congressional Republicans’ agenda for Big Pharma giveaways includes:
 
Repealing prescription drug inflation rebates. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) cuts costs for Medicare and seniors by requiring pharmaceutical companies to pay a rebate to Medicare if they increase prices faster than inflation. Dozens of Republicans have signed onto legislation that would revoke the rebate requirement.
 
By 2031, repealing this provision would:

  • Cost seniors $5 billion per year.
  • Increase federal deficits by $7 billion per year.
  • Give away over $10 billion per year to pharmaceutical companies.

Taking away Medicare’s ability to negotiate prescription drug prices. The IRA finally gave Medicare the authority to directly negotiate with drug companies on the high prices they charge for prescription drugs. Republican Chairs and Ranking Members of the committees with jurisdiction over Medicare have publicly committed to repealing this authority, which would allow Big Pharma to go back to charging seniors exorbitant prices for life-saving drugs.
 
By 2031, repealing this provision would:

  • Cost seniors $7 billion per year.
  • Increase federal deficits by $14 billion per year.
  • Give away over $20 billion to pharmaceutical companies per year.

Opposing caps on insulin prices. Monthly insulin costs for Medicare beneficiaries are now capped at $35—providing certainty and critical cost savings for seniors who in some cases were paying as much as $400 for a month’s supply of insulin. The Republican Study Committee budget, as well as the House Budget Committee-passed budget plan, propose to repeal this and other IRA drug price reforms.  
 
Repealing this provision would mean the 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who use insulin could see their annual costs rise by an average of $500.
 
Protecting Big Pharma’s ability to avoid paying taxes. President Biden negotiated a historic agreement with over 130 countries that would enable the U.S. and its partners to ensure Big Pharma and other multinationals pay at least a minimum tax rate and has proposed that the U.S. implement that agreement with a 21% minimum tax rate on multinationals. Congressional Republicans are not only blocking the U.S. from implementing the global minimum tax agreement and vowing to never raise taxes on Big Pharma and other multinationals by implementing it, they also traveled to Europe this summer to try to persuade other countries to withdraw from the global agreement and keep taxes low for Big Pharma and other multinationals.
 
Blocking implementation of the President’s international tax reform proposals means:

  • Protecting a system in which Big Pharma can lower its taxes to under 12% by shifting profits offshore.

The U.S. would lose out on hundreds of billions in savings from adopting the President’s proposals to implement the international agreement. Based on a PhRMA-funded analysis, nearly $100 billion of the savings – or almost one-fifth of the total revenue – from implementing the President’s 21% minimum tax proposal would come from cracking down on pharmaceutical industry tax avoidance

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Launches Safer States Initiative, Highlights New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence

New Yorkers march, plead for regulations to stop the scourge of gun violence. In the absence of Congressional action, the Biden-Harris administration opened a White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, launched the Safer States Initiative and introduced new executive actions to reduce gun violence © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Biden Administration, in its effort to stem the gun violence epidemic, has launched the Safer States Initiative and introduced new executive actions to reduce Gun Violence. (You can bet a Republican administration would reverse any initiatives.) This fact sheet is from the White House: – Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In September 2023, President Biden established the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris. President Biden tasked the office with four key responsibilities, including enhancing the federal government’s partnerships with cities and states to help them advance their own efforts to reduce gun violence.
 
Vice President Harris has launched the Biden-Harris Administration’s Safer States Initiative to provide states with additional tools and the support they need to reduce gun violence and save lives. To kick off the initiative, the White House released the Biden-Harris Safer States Agenda, outlining key actions states should take, including:

  • Establishing a State Office of Gun Violence Prevention;
  • Investing in evidence-informed solutions to prevent and respond to gun violence, including community violence interventions, Crime Gun Intelligence Centers, and implementation of Extreme Risk Protection Orders;
  • Strengthening support for survivors and victims of gun violence;
  • Reinforcing responsible gun ownership, including by requiring safe storage of firearms and reporting of lost and stolen firearms;
  • Strengthening gun background checks, including by enacting universal background checks legislation and removing barriers to completing enhanced background checks; and
  • Holding the gun industry accountable, including by banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and enacting firearm-specific liability laws to ensure that victims of gun violence have their day in court.

To help states advance this agenda, the Justice Department announced two new executive actions to reduce gun violence.  

  • Safe Storage Model Legislation. Safe storage saves lives. It is one tool in the toolkit to reduce school shootings, because we know that most often those students who carry out K-12 school shootings are using firearms they obtain from the home of a friend or family member. It is also a critical strategy to reduce suicide by firearms, accidental shootings, and the theft of firearms. The Department of Justice’s model legislation details how states can require the safe storage of firearms, including in vehicles, and hold individuals liable for harm caused by unsecured firearms.
     
  • Lost and Stolen Firearms Reporting Model Legislation. Reporting of lost and stolen firearms allows law enforcement to investigate and prosecute firearms trafficking. The Department of Justice’s model legislation provides states with a framework for requiring that a person promptly report the loss or theft to law enforcement.   

In the months ahead, the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention will continue to proactively work with states to make sure they have additional resources and support needed to advance these agenda items.