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US and allies set to revoke normal trade relations with Russia over Ukraine war, says Biden – follow live – The Guardian

Joe Biden traveled to Philadelphia today to speak with House Democrats, who are wrapping up a two-day retreat in the city.

Punchbowl News has details on what Biden told lawmakers behind closed doors:

Biden said Covid has interrupted politicians’ ability to communicate. He said constituents want to look you in the eye. Biden called himself a ‘rope line guy’ and told lawmakers that people want to get a feel for you.

Biden also said that, when he travels, he sees signs that say ‘Fuck you Biden’ and kids give him the finger. He said ‘you guys probably don’t get that kind of response.’ Speaker Nancy Pelosi said ‘I do’ to laughter.

Biden also told House Democrats that he has spoken to the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, almost every day since the start of the Russian invasion.

Biden spoke to Zelenskiy today to update him on “the actions the United States is taking today in coordination with the G7 and the EU to further raise the costs on Russia,” according to the White House’s readout of the conversation.

Joe Biden met with students at Honorable Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary School in Philadelphia as he promoted the benefits of the American Rescue Plan.

The elementary school students constructed a sign saying “Welcome Mr President!” to greet Biden upon his arrival this afternoon:

Jeff Mason (@jeffmason1)

.⁦@POTUS⁩ meets with students in Philadelphia pic.twitter.com/xtj7IwUXHX

March 11, 2022

According to the press pool, the president is hearing from school officials about the afterschool arts programs that have been launched using funds from the coronavirus relief package.

Biden is joined at the school by Miguel Cardona, the secretary of education, and Tom Wolf, the governor of Pennsylvania, among others.

Bien at Luis Muñoz Marin elementary school in Philadelphia on Friday.
Bien at Luis Muñoz Marin elementary school in Philadelphia on Friday. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

Joe Biden has now arrived at Honorable Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the president marks one year since he signed the coronavirus relief bill into law.

In a memo shared with the press pool, the White House noted that the elementary school is a Title I, dual-language (English and Spanish) school with about 600 students enrolled from prekindergarten through eighth grade.

“The Hon. Luis Muñoz-Marín Elementary School has deployed American Rescue Plan funding for a number of purposes aligned with the President’s call to action in his State of the Union address and Unity Agenda to hire more school staff, provide tutoring, and address student mental health,” the White House said.

“As a result of additional funds provided through the American Rescue Plan, the school has been able to launch afterschool enrichment programs that it says have improved the school’s culture and supported student mental health, paid teachers to provide reading interventions after school for students that have experienced the most learning loss as a result of the pandemic, and hired coaches for their teachers, which the school has said resulted in teachers improving their instruction more quickly.”

News is coming through that the Walt Disney Co is pausing all political donations in Florida.

And, starting immediately, Reuters notes, the company said it is increasing support for advocacy groups to combat legislation in other states that is discriminatory to LGBTQ+ people.

Walt Disney Co logo at the New York stock exchange - file pic.
Walt Disney Co logo at the New York stock exchange – file pic. Photograph: Richard Drew/AP

The Republican-dominated Florida legislature passed a bill on Tuesday which would forbid instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, rejecting a wave of criticism from Democrats that it marginalizes LGBTQ+ people.

The proposal, which opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, now moves to the desk of the Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it into law.

Anasofia Pelaez and Kimberly Blandon (L-R) protest in front of Florida State Senator Ileana Garcia’s (R-FL) office the passage of the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by LGBTQ activists on March 09, 2022 in Miami, Florida. The bill passed by the Florida Senate and House would limit what classrooms can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Anasofia Pelaez and Kimberly Blandon (L-R) protest in front of Florida State Senator Ileana Garcia’s (R-FL) office the passage of the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by LGBTQ activists on March 09, 2022 in Miami, Florida. The bill passed by the Florida Senate and House would limit what classrooms can teach about sexual orientation and gender identity. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Since its inception, the measure has drawn intense opposition from LGBTQ+ advocates, students, Democrats, the White House and the entertainment industry, amid increased attention on Florida as Republicans push culture war legislation and DeSantis ascends in the GOP as a potential presidential candidate.

Of course, Disney has its humungous business Disney World in Orlando, Florida, a destination for millions of tourists – including a gazillion gay ones – from the US and the whole world.

Toxic. Ron de Santis is expected to sign a bill banning education on sexual orientation in Florida schools, prompting protests.
Toxic. Ron de Santis is expected to sign a bill banning education on sexual orientation in Florida schools, prompting protests. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Georgia lawmakers are trying to pass a similar bill that would ban discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation in private schools, introducing the measure. As are some other states.

Texas abortion providers conceded a final blow to their best hope of stopping the nation’s most restrictive abortion law after a new ruling ended what little path forward the US Supreme Court had left for clinics.

The decision by the Texas Supreme Court, which is entirely controlled by Republicans, spelled the coming end to a federal lawsuit that abortion clinics filed even before the restrictions took effect in September, but were then rejected at nearly every turn afterward.

“There is nothing left, this case is effectively over with respect to our challenge to the abortion ban,” said Marc Hearron, attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, which led the challenge against the Texas law known as Senate Bill 8 (SB8), the Associated Press reports.

Cindy Gomez, of Austin, attends the Women’s March ATX rally, at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, last fall.
Cindy Gomez, of Austin, attends the Women’s March ATX rally, at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, last fall. Photograph: Stephen Spillman/AP

The AP continues:

Although Texas abortion clinics are not dropping the lawsuit, they now expect it will be dismissed in the coming weeks or months.

The Texas law bans abortion after roughly six weeks of pregnancy and makes no exceptions in cases of rape or incest. Abortions in Texas have plummeted by more than 50% since the law took effect.

It is likely to further embolden other Republican-controlled states that are now pressing forward with similar laws, including neighboring Oklahoma, where many Texas women have crossed state lines to get an abortion for the past six months.

The Republican-controlled Oklahoma Senate on Thursday approved a half-dozen anti-abortion measures, including a Texas-style ban.

The decision by the Texas Supreme Court turned on whether medical licensing officials had an enforcement role under the law known as Senate Bill 8, and therefore, could be sued by clinics that are reaching for any possible way to halt the restrictions.
But writing for the court, Justice Jeffrey Boyd said those state officials have no enforcement authority, “either directly or indirectly.”
Texas abortion providers did not immediately comment on the ruling but had already acknowledged they were running out of options and that the law would stay in place for the foreseeable future.
The U.S. Supreme Court has signaled in a separate case out of Mississippi that it would roll back abortion rights, and possibly overturn its landmark Roe v. Wade decision, in a ruling that is expected later this year.

Texas’s highly restrictive abortion law has forced thousands of women to cross state lines to seek the procedure, according to new research by the University of Texas, the Guardian reported earlier this week.

The US ambassador to Nato, Julianne Smith, has been talking at a Washington Post Live event about Russia’s allegations of Ukrainian biological weapons.

She made counter-claims about Russia’s biological weapons, but in mentioning Alexei Navalny and Syria, she appears to be referring to chemical weapons rather than biological agents.

This is what she said: “What we’ve seen over the years is that Russia is actually the country that is the one that relies on biological weapons. We’ve seen them rely on biological weapons as it relates to attempted assassinations. You could think of Navalny, in particular, but others. You could look at what they did and how they operated in Syria, which was horrifying- their reliance on these types of weapons are in direct violation of international law. So yes, we are worried when we hear them making these accusations. Sometimes what they do is they accuse us of something that they’re about to do themselves- and to use that as a pretext for some sort of other attack on their part.”

Here’s the latest on Pamela Moses, from the Guardian’s own Sam Levine, whose incredible and dogged reporting that uncovered new information in a case that helped draw attention to the racial disparity between white and Black defendants when it comes to election crimes.

Attorneys for Pamela Moses, the Memphis woman who was granted a retrial after being sentenced to six years in prison for trying to register to vote, demanded that a local prosecutor drop the case against her.

“Ms Moses should not have to sit for another trial at all. You have the evidence that was there to show you there was no fraud done,” Rodney Diggs, one of her attorneys, said at a press conference in Memphis on Friday. If the local district attorney, Amy Weirich, decides to move forward with the case, Moses’ lawyers said she should recuse herself and appoint a special prosecutor.

Moses was sentenced to six years in prison in January after she tried to register to vote in 2019 while on probation for a felony. Even though Moses said she believed she had completed probation, prosecutors said she knew she had not and convinced a probation officer to sign off on a form saying she was eligible to vote.

A new document, obtained by the Guardian last month, significantly undermined that argument. It showed an internal investigation from the probation office concluded that the probation officer made a good-faith mistake in signing off on Moses’ voting eligibility and was negligent. The judge overseeing the case said the document should have been turned over to Moses’ legal team during the trial, which was part of why he ordered a retrial.

Read more:

The Russian ambassador to UN, Vasily Nebenzya, has been presenting the Kremlin’s allegations that Ukraine and the US had a plot to spread biological weapons with migratory birds, bats and insects. Nebenzya issued a chilling warning to Eastern Europe that biological agents could spread across Ukraine’s borders.

“We call upon you to think about a very real biological danger to the people in European countries, which can result from an uncontrolled spread of bio agents from Ukraine,” the Russian ambassador said. “And if there is a such a scenario then all Europe will be covered.”

“The risk of this is very real given the interests of the radical nationalist groups in Ukraine are showing towards the work with dangerous pathogens conducted together with the ministry of defence of the United States”.

After Nebenzya spoke, Albania, the US and France have voiced alarm that the allegations may be an advance cover story for Russian plans to unleash chemical or biological weapons.

US ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “The intent behind these lies seem clear and it is deeply troubling. We believe Russia could use chemical or biological agents for assassinations as part of a false flag incident or to support tactical military operations.”

The UN security council hearing is underway. We have this dispatch from our world affairs editor, Julian Borger.

The UN security council is holding a hearing called for by Russia to make its allegations about a Ukrainian biological weapons lab.

The UN high commissioner for disarmament, Izumi Nakamitsu, has been speaking before the Russians: “The United Nations is not aware of any biological weapons programs. That is largely thanks to the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling, and use of biological and toxin weapons.”

Nakamitsu said that unlike chemical weapons, there is no independent verification regime for biological weapons, and monitoring is left to state parties, but she said there was a mechanism for those state parties to raise their concerns.

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