Posts tagged with "NBC News"

Voting legislation blocked—again—in Senate as Republicans unite for filibuster

October 22, 2021

Senate Republicans unanimously filibustered a major bill known as the Freedom to Vote Act (S. 2747) on Wednesday, October 2—legislation that would allow automatic and same-day voter registration, and also would make Election Day a holiday, NBC News reports.

The 49-51 vote on the procedural motion was short of the 60 needed to advance the legislation to the next stagemarking the second time this year that Republicans have prevented a Democratic-backed voting bill from moving forward.

The measure had full Democratic support Wednesday after the party scaled back an earlier, more expansive bill to win the backing of centrist Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).

All 50 Democratic-voting senators backed the bill, but Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) changed his vote to “no” to allow him to request another vote in the future, a common procedural maneuver.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) had vowed on Tuesday that Republicans would oppose the measure, saying, “It is my hope and anticipation that none of us will vote for this latest iteration of Democratic efforts to take over how every American votes all over the country.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the Republican who has been most willing to engage with Democrats over voting rights, explained her vote to block the bill earlier, saying she was more interested in the House-passed John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4).

According to NBC, The Freedom to Vote Act would allow automatic and same-day voter registration and no-excuse mail voting. It would give states flexibility in implementing some provisions, like early voting, and make Election Day a holiday. It also would seek to protect federal election records and insulate nonpartisan state and local election officials from undue interference.

Schumer had said the bill was a “balanced” and “common sense” proposal to protect the right to vote from restrictive state laws, including those inspired by former President Donald Trump’s false claims about a stolen election.

“Across the country, the big lie—the big li —has spread like a cancer,” Schumer said Wednesday before the vote. “The Freedom to Vote Act would provide long overdue remedies for all these concerns.”

President Joe Biden said in a statement after the vote that the Senate “needs to act to protect the sacred constitutional right to vote, which is under unrelenting assault by proponents of the Big Lie, and Republican Governors, Secretaries of State, Attorneys-General, and state legislatures across the nation.”

“It is urgent,” he added. “Democracy — the very soul of America — is at stake.”

Biden’s statement did not mention making any changes to the long-standing filibuster rule that requires 60 votes for most legislation to proceed in the Senate. Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) have indicated that they are unwilling to alter the rule.

Schumer had framed Wednesday’s vote as merely a step to begin debate, and he had promised that Republicans would “be able to offer amendments” to change the bill as they see fit.

A Senate vote in June to advance the For the People Act, a broader voting rights bill, was split 50-50 along party lines—falling short of the 60 votes it needed to advance.

Research contact: @NBCNews

What is ‘Squid Game’ and why is everyone watching it?

October 13, 2021

Released on September 17, a nine-episode Korean thriller named “Squid Game” has become more than just a runaway hit for Netflix. It’s also social media’s favorite show,: The hashtag #SquidGame on TikTok has been viewed more than 22.8 billion times, NBC News reports.

Released Sept. 17, the nine-episode Korean thriller is poised to become Netflix’s biggest “non-English-language show in the world,” said Sarandos.

“It’s only been out for nine days, and it’s a very good chance it’s going to be our biggest show ever,” Netflix’s co-CEO Ted Sarandos told NBC last month.

And it’s not just popular in the USA: Flix Patrol, a website that tracks streaming statistics for the top platforms in the world, reports that “Squid Game” is the No. 1 show in dozens of countries, among them, the USA, the UK,  and South Korea.

Streaming numbers for Netflix aren’t independently verified, making a show’s popularity difficult to quantify. Netflix executives didn’t respond to requests for comment from NBC.

Julia Alexander, a senior strategy analyst at Parrot Analytics in Brooklyn, New York, said it’s clear that “Squid Game” has been a massive success, adding that she would use one word to describe how big a win it has been for Netflix.

“‘Unprecedented,'” Alexander said. “I’m assuming that the executives knew because of the talent they used, because of the region they released it in, that this was going to be a hit in South Korea. I would put good money that the executives had no idea this was going to be a global hit.”

The show follows Seong Gi-Hun, played by Lee Jung-jae, as he and hundreds of other desperate and deeply indebted contestants compete in a violent and often grotesque competition for about $38 million. Only one person can win the prize, and those who lose the series of children’s games pay with their lives.

On social media, users can’t stop talking about “Squid Game. “People hear about it, people talk about it, people love it, and there’s a very social aspect to that, which does help grow the show outside of what we do,” Netflix’s global TV head, Bela Bajaria, told Vulture.

Another reason “Squid Game” has become such a worldwide phenomenon is its accessibility. The show is filmed in Korean, but Netflix offers subtitles in 37 languages and dubs in 34 languages, allowing those who would rather not read subtitles to enjoy it, too.

Even the way the show is subtitled and dubbed has opened conversations online, where some say the translations miss crucial context.

“Not to sound snobby but i’m fluent in korean and i watched squid game with english subtitles and if you don’t understand korean you didn’t really watch the same show. translation was so bad. the dialogue was written so well and zero of it was preserved,” Twitter user Youngmi Mayer tweeted in a thread that has gone viral.

Research contact: @NBCNews

White House to reset messaging on spending bills

October 5, 2021

The White House is looking to reset the messaging this week around its multitrillion-dollar spending bills deadlocked in Congress, as President Joe Biden hits the road to pitch popular elements of the package. NBC News reports.

Officials are hoping to get the focus back on the content of the bills, like programs that would cut prescription drug prices and lower child care costs, and away from the process and debate over the price tag, which has been at the center of infighting among Democrats in Washington, said a White House official.

Biden will travel to the working-class town of Howell, Michigan, on Tuesday to “continue rallying public support” for the bills, the White House said on Sunday, October 3, in a statement. Biden said Saturday that he may make other stops this week, although the official said nothing has been finalized.

Biden said over the weekend that he believed the messaging around the bills had gotten muddled and that he hoped to improve the sales pitch. The bills—one for $550 billion on infrastructure and another for a proposed $3.5 trillion to fund a range of social programs—are part of a major campaign promise Biden made to rebuild the country’s physical and “human” infrastructure and have been the focus of his domestic policy agenda as president.

There’s an awful lot that’s in …  these bills that everybody thinks they know, but they don’t know what’s in them,” Biden told reporters on Saturday, October 2, adding, “When you go out and you test each of the individual elements in the bill, everyone is for them, not everyone, over 70% of the American people are for them.”

According to NBC News, both the infrastructure bill and the social spending measure have the support of Democrats—but moderates have pushed to reduce the size of the social safety net bill, while progressives insist the spending is needed especially following the economic upheaval caused by the pandemic.

Progressive House Democrats refused on Friday to vote for the smaller infrastructure bill until they had more assurances that the larger social spending bill also would pass the Senate. Both bills only need Democratic support because they are being put forward through a legislative process known as reconciliation.

In Washington, much of the focus by the White House this week will be on trying to reach an agreement among Democratic senators on the larger social safety net bill.

Biden had numerous phone calls over the weekend from his Delaware home with members of Congress, said the official, who declined to say which members.

Research contact: @NBCNews

How many steps a day should you take? Study finds 7,000 can go a long way

October 4, 2021

The fitness goal of 10,000 steps a day is widely promoted, but a new study suggests that logging even 7,000 daily steps may go a long way toward better health and fitness, NBC News reports.

Indeed, the researchers founds, middle-aged people who walked at least 7,000 steps a day on average are 50% to 70% less likely to die of any cause over the next decade, compared with those who took fewer steps.

Lower risk of premature death was observed for both women and men, Black and white, who took 7,000 steps or more, according to results published this month in JAMA Network Open.

“We saw that you can get a lot of benefit from 7,000 steps,” said study author Amanda Paluch, an assistant professor of Kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

The study involved 2,110 adults, ages 38 to 50, who in 2005 and 2006 wore a device called an accelerometer for about a week to track their steps. During the follow-up period, which averaged almost 11 years, 72 of the participants died, most commonly from cancer or heart disease. In analyzing the data, the researchers controlled for body mass index, smoking, and other factors that could have affected the findings.

Results showed that people appeared to gain more health benefits the more steps they took, with the greatest statistically significant reduction in mortality risk between 7,000 and 10,000 steps, Paluch said. After that, the benefits leveled off. There was no relationship between step intensity, or speed, and mortality.

“So really, what we’re seeing is there’s an incremental risk reduction in mortality up to a certain point,” Paluch told NBC News. “So for those who are getting, say, 4,000 steps, getting to 5,000 steps could have a benefit and then working your way up.”

Paluch said the new findings are in line with other research that suggests significant health benefits below the often-cited 10,000-step mark—which was never an evidence-based magical number but rather a marketing tool for a Japanese pedometer that came out in the 1960s.

Dr. William Kraus, a professor of Medicine at Duke University, was a member of the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee; which developed the current exercise guidelines for Americans, which are based on minutes of activity per week. He said he would like to see guidelines that include recommended daily steps.

“I’m all about steps, because it’s easy to measure, and people understand it,” he said.

When the 2018 guidelines were developed, the advisory committee didn’t have enough data to endorse an actual step-count range, Kraus said; but as more studies like the new one come out, they may allow public health officials to make specific recommendations.

For now, Kraus recommends that patients aim for 7,000 to 13,000 steps a day to get the full benefits that exercise can offer, including protecting against diseases like cancer and diabetes and helping with weight loss.

“I would like to emphasize that this is a range. It is not how little can I do,” he said. “People really should be striving for more rather than less.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Truth will out: Trump’s lawsuit against niece could be huge mistake that makes all his NDAs ‘worthless’

September 24, 2021

Former President Donald Trump’s latest lawsuit may blow up in his face, Trump biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston explained on MSNBC on Wednesday, September 22, Raw Story reports.

NBC News confirms Donald Trump sued The New York Times, as well as his own niece, Mary Trump, over a 2018 report that shattered him as a self-made billionaire,” anchor Joy Reid stated.

“Legal experts also say Trump should be careful what he’s wishing for — he’s staking the claim on a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that may not hold up under scrutiny,” Reid noted. “And that scrutiny is sure to entail multiple depositions under oath, which he might want to avoid.”

For analysis, Reid interviewed Johnston, who is the author of the 2016 book,  The Making of Donald Trump;  and the 2018 book,  It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America.

“I feel like this is a giant tell by Trump that he’s really, really angry that he was exposed for the brokeness that really engulfs him,” Reid said. “Your thoughts?”

“Well, this is another gambit by Donald to stay in front of his dwindling supporters,” Johnston replied. “They haven’t dwindled much, but they are starting to dwindle.”

“He needs to raise money, he’s become America’s beggar-in-chief,” he continued. “And there is no case here against The Times—and my law school students are going to examine this case, I assure you, in the spring semester.”

Johnston described the two problems Trump created with his lawsuit.

“One is discovery and being questioned under oath, but the second one is the courts have held basically that Mary Trump can’t be stopped by the non-disclosure agreement,” he explained.

“She may suffer civil penalties if Donald Trump wants to sue her over it, but we could end up with a court decision that says all your NDAs are worthless.”

“That would be interesting,” Reid replied.

Research contact: @RawStory

Gavin Newsom wins in a walk; Elder tanks in recall

September 16, 2021

With about 70% of the projected vote counted, 63.9% of Californians voted against recalling Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom (D), while 36.1% voted for it—almost identical to Joe Biden’s 63%-34% win in the state in 2020, NBC News reports.

So how did Newsom do it, especially compared with the successful gubernatorial recall from 2003?

One, California is much more Democratic—and less Republican—than it was 18 years ago, when voters ousted Democratic Governor Gray Davis (D) and replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

In 2003, California had 15 million registered voters. Of those, 6.7 million of them were registered Democrats (43.7%) and 5.4 million were registered Republicans (35.3%), with the rest Independent or other.

Now, California has 22 million registered voters, with 10.3 million of them Democrats (46.5%) and 5.3 million of them Republican (24.0%).

That’s right: Today there are 7 million more registered voters in California than there were back in 2003, but the number of Republicans has declined since then.

The second big reason that Newsom won has been the change inside the Republican Party over the last 18 years, in which Donald Trump is certainly no Ronald Reagan and in which Larry Elder is no Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Per the NBC News exit poll of last night’s race, 34% of all voters said they had a favorable view of Elder, versus 50% who said they had a negative view. (That’s compared with 55% in the exit poll who said they approved of Newsom’s job, versus 43% who disapproved.)

Over the last 30 years, successful and competitive GOP candidates (think Schwarzenegger, Pete Wilson, even Meg Whitman) supported abortion rights and came (more or less) from the moderate wing of the GOP.

That doesn’t describe Elder, who opposes abortion rights and comes from the conservative wing of the party.

Outside of those two macro-trends in California, there’s a tactical reason why Newsom won so easily.He and his allies leaned heavily into masks and vaccines—especially as a way to motivate Democratic voters.

Per the exit poll, 63% of voters in the recall said getting the COVID vaccine is a public health responsibility, versus 34%, who said it’s a personal choice—which almost exactly matches the No-Yes margin on Tuesday night, September 14.

And on masks, 70% of voters said they supported California requiring children to wear masks in school, and they voted against the recall by an 80%-to-20% margin, according to the exit poll.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Polls find that Americans agree: War in Afghanistan wasn’t worth it

August 24, 2021

As corporate media amplify pro-war voices to cover developing events in Afghanistan, two polls out Sunday, as well as one from the week before, found that the U.S. public has little appetite for continuing the 20-year war, reports Raw Story.

CBS News/YouGov survey, conducted August 18-20, found that 63% of respondents nationwide approve of President Joe Biden’s decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan, and just 37% disapprove. Just 47%, however, approve of the way Biden is handling the troop withdrawal.

Separate polling from NBC News, conducted August 14-17asked if the war in Afghanistan was worth it. Sixty-one percent said it was not, compared to 29% who said it was. The last time the poll asked the question was in June of 2014 when similar percentages were found. At that time, 65% said the war wasn’t worth it, compared to 27% who said it was.

Those findings mirror a poll out last week from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Conducted leading up to and after the Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday, August 15, the survey found 62% of U.S. adults believed the war in Afghanistan wasn’t worth fighting.

The surveys were released amid still emerging and chaotic scenes of Afghan civilians trying to flee Taliban takeover of the country, Raw Story reported. The British military said Sunday that seven people were killed as a result of a crowd crush at the Kabul airport.

Rightwing media have responded to the scenes of those trying to flee with fear-mongering about the possible influx of Afghan refugees into the U.S. Human rights advocates, meanwhile, are calling on the Biden administration to “urgently do more” to help evacuate those most at risk of harm, including those who worked with U.S. and NATO forces, journalists, and women’s rights activists.

Specific actions that should be taken, the groups, including Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch, said in Friday, August 20,  letter  to Biden, are working with allies to ensure those fleeing get to the Kabul airport safely and increasing the administration’s stated goal of evacuating 5,000-9,000 people per day.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday, August 22, that in the last 24 hours, the United States helped secure the evacuation of nearly 8,000 civilians, with 3,900 people on U.S. military aircraft and another 3,900 on partners’ aircraft.

Research contact: @RawStory

Robin comes out as bisexual and lets comic book fans know they are seen

August 12, 2021

Marvel Studios made headlines this summer for a single scene in the new Disney+ series, “Loki,” in which the eponymous character confirms he is bisexual.

But this week, DC Comics has published its own, even more impactful glass-closet-shattering story, in which Robin, long considered by readers to be the not-so-straight sidekick to Batman, has a moment of self-acceptance—and then agrees to go on a date with a very nice boy he just fought the bad guys with.

With this move, Robin joins the limited ranks of a handful of DC comic book characters, including Batwoman and Midnighter, and a slighter longer list of Marvel heroes (Loki, Iceman, Wiccan and Northstar) as part of a small but growing LGBTQ+ pantheon, NBC News notes.

As the character finally catches up to the Robin that the audience has seen for decades, the genre shows it finally has recognized that it needs to be responsive to the demands of diverse readers rather than stay closed off to them.

In the new comic, the current Robin’s alter ego is Tim Drake. (Batman may eternally be Bruce Wayne, but his sidekick position has been held by multiple people since the Robin character was introduced in 1940.) This particular anthology run is a Robin-centric story featuring his circle of acquaintances, including Bernard, a longtime friend who nonetheless has no idea of Drake’s secret identity. That follows the same trope as most traditional love interests in the comics, like Batman’s Vicki Vale or Superman’s Lois Lane.

When Bernard is kidnapped by the comic’s current baddie, Chaos Monster (just go with it), it necessitates a rescue by our titular hero, now in Robin costume. As they take on the Monster together, Bernard confesses his feelings for the suddenly absent Drake and his wish, should he survive, to get another chance at love. The comic then ends, post-rescue, with Drake back in his street clothes going out with Bernard.

Despite the hoopla of Loki’s coming out this summer, Robin’s story is far more boundary-breaking, NBC News opines. Unlike the TV screen, where Loki’s identity was revealed, the comic books are where the stories first develop, meaning the impact going forward can be far larger. Just as significantly, Loki wasn’t allowed to act out his bisexuality in the Marvel TV production. The single gesture it included was of Loki saying he likes both men and women — the rest of the series stayed staunchly traditional, even handing the character a female version of himself to rescue and fall in love with so the heterosexual status quo could be maintained.

The DC Comics issue of Robin, on the other hand, hands this gay couple the full trappings of a traditional romance, allowing them to have a developed superhero story just like any other. Allowing Robin to rescue a male love interest instead of a female one and otherwise have all the same romantic tropes play out shows people that these stories are universal and apply to everyone. A character’s making a passing reference to being bisexual before ending up with an opposite-sex partner doesn’t do that.

Photo source: NBC News

Senate introduces text of bipartisan infrastructure package

August 4, 2021

The U.S. Senate introduced the long-awaited text of its bipartisan infrastructure bill on Sunday, August 1—aiming to pass the massive measure this week, NBC News reports.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said he would push forward with amendments to the legislation, which senators were finalizing through the weekend.

“Given how bipartisan the bill is, and how much work has already been put in to get the details right, I believe the Senate can quickly process relevant amendments and pass this bill in a matter of days,” Schumer said on the Senate floor.

The measure—H.R. 3684, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—includes roughly $555 billion in new spending to build roads, public transit and other priorities of President Joe Biden, which would inject a windfall of money into a series of transportation projects that have long enjoyed support from both parties.

The bill, which is 2,702 pages, includes $110 billion for roads, $39 billion for public transit and $66 billion for rail. It has measures aimed at reforming Amtrak, “revolutionizing” a transportation grant program and enhancing the electrical grid. Other provisions target drinking water infrastructure, broadband affordability and reducing ferry emissions.

Speaking on the Senate floor, members of a bipartisan group of lawmakers who worked on the bill said that they had overcome their differences to craft legislation that would modernize the country’s outdated infrastructure.

“So many people have given up on the Senate,” said Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) “They have given up on Congress. They have given up on our ability to be able to do the big things. This is big. This is a big deal.”

Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) added that the group had followed a commitment to focus on “core” infrastructure—instead of a far more expansive set of proposals initially advanced by the White House—and to not raise taxes.

“We kept to those two principles,” he said.

The Senate voted 67-32 on Wednesday to defeat a filibuster and begin debate on the agreement, a sign that it has broad support in the chamber. Among the 17 Republican supporters in that vote was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

According to NBC News, Schumer said that once the bill was passed, he would move to a budget blueprint for an even more massive $3.5 trillion measure to fund Democratic priorities on climate, health care and the economy as senators work to finish up legislative work before their summer break begins next week.

The Senate’s infrastructure legislation faces trouble in the House amid pushback from Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), and progressives who say it doesn’t do enough to invest in public transportation, water and tackle climate change.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) has insisted that the larger measure must be passed before the House, which already has left for its recess, will even consider the bipartisan infrastructure deal. The larger bill will give Democrats skeptical of the Senate agreement a chance to address their priorities.

Biden voiced his support for the infrastructure measure Sunday, tweeting that the deal “is the most important investment in public transit in American history and the most important investment in rail since the creation of Amtrak 50 years ago.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Democrats blast FBI as new details of ‘sham’ Kavanaugh inquiry emerge

July 26, 2021

A group of Democratic senators is demanding more answers from the FBI after the agency revealed new details about the limited scope of its supplemental investigation into Brett Kavanaugh‘s background when he was a nominee for the Supreme Court in 2018, NBC News reports.

In a letter sent on Wednesday, June 30 to Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware)—but only made public on Thursday, July 22Jill Tyson, assistant director of the FBI’s Congressional Affairs Office acknowledged that the department conducted only 10 additional interviews in its supplemental investigation, even though it had received over 4,500 tips.

Tyson said “relevant tips” from phone calls and messages were forwarded to the White House counsel’s office. It’s unclear what became of the tips after that.

Whitehouse, who had written then-FBI Director Christopher Wray asking for details about the inquiry, said, “This long-delayed answer confirms how badly we were spun by Director Wray and the FBI in the Kavanaugh background investigation and hearing.”

While Wray has said the FBI followed tip line procedures, “he meant the ‘procedure’ of doing whatever Trump White House counsel told them to do,” Whitehouse tweeted, adding, “That’s misleading as hell.”

A spokesperson for the FBI declined to comment. Former White House Counsel Don McGahn did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Then-President Donald Trump tasked the FBI with conducting a supplemental background investigation into Kavanaugh at the urging of some Republican senators after his nomination to the high court in 2018 was endangered by sexual misconduct allegations dating to his high school and college years. Kavanaugh repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

“As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week,” Trump said at the time.

Republicans said the subsequent FBI report vindicated Kavanaugh, while Democrats maintained that it was incomplete. NBC News reported at the time that the FBI hadn’t contacted over 40 people with potential information about the sexual misconduct allegations.

The Senate confirmed the nomination in a narrow 50-48 vote.

Attorneys for the accuser who testified at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, Christine Blasey Ford, said in a statement that the FBI letter confirmed that the agency’s investigation was “a sham and a major institutional failure.”

“Because the FBI and Trump’s White House Counsel hid the ball on this, we do not know how many of those 4,500 tips were consequential, how many of those tips supported Dr. Ford’s testimony, or how many showed that Kavanaugh perjured himself during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said the lawyers, Debra S. Katz and Lisa J. Banks. “Our nation deserved better.”

Research contact: @NBCNews