Congressional Republicans knock Democrats over influx of asylum seekers in New York City

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Tuesday released a digital ad targeting House Democrats over a wave of new migrants arriving at the southern border and in New York City.

“An unmitigated crisis,” a narrator says against a backdrop of clips depicting migrants traveling together en masse. “Not just at the border, but in the Big Apple.”

The video focuses on New York, showing migrants sleeping on sidewalks and residents protesting their arrival. The ad included images of several well-known politicians, including President Biden and other politicians and public figures of color. 

“Extreme Democrats’ response?” the narrator continued, before the words “Defund the police” appeared in capital letters. “It’s dangerous. It’s extreme, and Democrats run the other way when asked to step up.”

The NRCC found success in New York in the midterm elections targeting Democrats on crime and tying them to the “defund the police” movement, though the effort seemed less successful in the country at large — at least when it came to the House elections.

Republicans did not gain as many seats as had been anticipated in the 2022 midterms, though it was enough for them to win back the House majority. Many of their gains were in New York, which will be a key battleground for control of the House in 2024.

“Ignoring the border crisis won’t solve New York’s migrant crisis, despite Hakeem Jeffries’ desperate wishes. Extreme House Democrats scurry away when asked about the issue – allowing the state’s GOP Congressional delegation to be the only face of reason in the Empire State,” NRCC press secretary Will Reinert said in a statement .

The video comes as New Yorkers have been struggling to find housing for migrants, and migrant encounters at the border are climbing once again, after dipping in June after the rollback of Title 42, the controversial pandemic-era policy that gave border agents the authority to turn away migrants.

Biden has introduced several policy solutions but many are now caught up in court as they face legal challenges from both sides of the political aisle. 

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Lahaina residents returning to burn zone for first time

More than a month after devastating fires burned most of the historic town of Lahaina on the Hawaiian Island of Maui, some residents were able to go visit their properties on Monday.

Residents who lived in what has been designated Zone 1C were able to go to their properties for the first time since fires scorched the area in early August.

“They’re very appreciative to get in here, something they’ve all been waiting anxiously for,” Darryl Oliveira, interim administration of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, told reporters gathered near the burn zone. “People who haven’t been here since the fire are taken aback by the amount and the extent of the destruction.” 

The disaster area has been split into zones , gradually being reopened to residents as they are considered safe to enter, Maui County officials said.

They warned, however, that there are still many dangers at the burn site. Hazardous materials like ash, debris, heavy metals and other chemicals may be in the area following the deadly wildfires. 

Maui officials are urging visitors to wear personal protective equipment, such as face masks. 

While some residents in Lahainer were able to return to their properties in the days after the fires, the burn site has been off-limits. Zone 1C was opened Monday for residents who wish to return to the area and will remain open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday.

Those returning to the burn site were given water, shade, washing stations, toilets, transportation assistance and mental and physical health care, the county said.  

Officials previously noted they believed at least 115 people died from the fire. After further DNA testing , authorities lowered the number of deaths to at least 97 people.

On Monday, the County confirmed the death of Matsuyuki Osato, 83, bringing the current death toll to 98 people. 

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Trump team bashes proposed gag order in Jan. 6 case 

Former President Trump on Monday vigorously urged a judge to deny a Department of Justice (DOJ) request for a “narrow” gag order limiting how he can talk about witnesses and others involved in his prosecution stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol.

The 25-page brief from Trump’s legal team sounded much like the president himself, boasting of his recent poll numbers and casting the DOJ request as a way to hamper his electoral prospects.

“The prosecution would silence President Trump, amid a political campaign where his right to criticize the government is at its zenith, all to avoid a public rebuke of this prosecution. However, ‘above all else, the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content,’” Trump’s attorneys wrote in the brief, quoting from another decision.

“The prosecution may not like President’s Trump’s entirely valid criticisms, but neither it nor this Court are the filter for what the public may hear.”

The request from special counsel Jack Smith’s team seeks to bar him from making any disparaging, inflammatory, or intimidating remarks about witnesses, jurors, court personnel, and even prosecutors, all comments it says risk damaging potential jurors’ perception of the case and could deter testimony.

The government said the gag order was needed because Trump “has an established practice of issuing inflammatory public statements targeted at individuals or institutions that present an obstacle or challenge to him.”

“The defendant knows that when he publicly attacks individuals and institutions, he inspires others to perpetrate threats and harassment against his targets,” prosecutors wrote in the filing.

Prosecutors listed a string of examples, some including in the months after the election, where those attacked by Trump on social media then received numerous threats.

They go on to note the same has happened to some of Smith’s team after Trump complained about the indictment.

But Trump’s team pushed back on those arguments, writing that Trump has not intimidated anyone through his social media commentary.

“This claim is meritless. First, it is absurd to suggest the prosecution and the Court are ‘intimidated’ by critical social media posts, let alone to such an extent that it ‘constitute[s] a clear and present danger to the administration of justice,’” Trump’s attorneys wrote in the filing.

“The prosecution does not point to a single prosecutorial or judicial function that has been impaired due to the cited social media posts, or otherwise suggest that it would be unable to fulfill its duties absent the Proposed Gag Order,” they added.

“Similarly, no witness has suggested that he or she will not testify because of anything President Trump has said. To the contrary, witnesses appear eager to share their expected testimony with the media and will undoubtedly testify at a potential trial, if called to do so.”

Prosecutors made the request asserting that Trump’s comments risk jeopardizing the case, intimidating witnesses and court personnel, while the attacks on the judge and prosecutors could limit the public’s acceptance of the ultimate verdict.

“Since the indictment in this case, the defendant has spread disparaging and inflammatory public posts on Truth Social on a near-daily basis regarding the citizens of the District of Columbia, the Court, prosecutors, and prospective witnesses,” prosecutors wrote.

“Like his previous public disinformation campaign regarding the 2020 presidential election, the defendant’s recent extrajudicial statements are intended to undermine public confidence in an institution—the judicial system—and to undermine confidence in and intimidate individuals—the Court, the jury pool, witnesses, and prosecutors.” 


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Interactive map depicts extent of worldwide wildlife exposure to ‘forever chemicals’

Scientists have documented the widespread exposure of more than 600 animal species to toxic “forever chemicals,” in a new interactive map released on Tuesday.

As contaminated wildlife crop up in every corner of the planet, humans may be playing a sentinel role in transmitting the adverse effects of these compounds — known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — to other organisms, the researchers argued. 

“PFAS pollution is not just a problem for humans,” David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, said in a statement. “It’s a problem for species across the globe.

Andrews is the first author of a new peer-reviewed paper , published in Science of the Total Environment and released alongside the interactive map .

The map provides a significant update from a previous version released by the Environmental Working Group in February — and includes nearly double the number of polluted species. 

To put together the current map, the researchers combed through more than 200 studies that detected more than 120 unique PFAS compounds in more than 600 species, on every continent. 

There are thousands of types of PFAS, synthetic compounds notorious for their ability to persist in the body and in the environment. 

These so-called forever chemicals are linked to a variety of cancers and illnesses and are found in numerous household products, such as nonstick pans, cosmetics and waterproof apparel. 

While the researchers identified PFAS compounds in 625 species — a jump from February’s estimate of 330 species — they stressed that this may be an underestimation. 

The absence of PFAS among species in certain countries, they explained, is not due to a lack of contamination, but to a lack of recent test results. 

“There is seemingly no place on the planet untouched by PFAS contamination,” the researchers noted in the accompanying paper. 

Drawing their conclusions from a variety of other peer-reviewed epidemiological studies, the paper argues that investigations of the effects of PFAS on human health could offer critical insights into possible harms to wildlife health. 

Among the studies cited is a look at the immune response of North Carolina alligators  that associated elevated PFAS levels with heightened occurrence of skin lesions.

Another study found that hawksbill sea turtles  — critically endangered animals that live in the North Pacific — were vulnerable to the impacts of PFAS exposure even prior to hatching from their eggs. 

“There are still countless locations and species across the globe that are likely contaminated but have not yet been tested,” Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said in a statement.  

The interactive map provides a clickable visual into the locations and prevalence of many of these wildlife — including fish, birds, reptiles, frogs and other amphibians, as well as large mammals such as horses and polar bears, and small mammals like cats. 

Some of these animals are already considered to be endangered or threatened, the researchers noted. 

“The wildlife map is not an exhaustive catalog of all animal studies but mostly those published in the past few years,” Andrews said. 

“PFAS are ubiquitous,” he added.

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