In a rare move, four of six Republican U.S. House members from Alabama voted Wednesday to condemn President Donald Trump’s removal of U.S. forces from northern Syria, leaving the Kurds, our allies in the fight against ISIS, vulnerable to attacks from Turkey.
Republican U.S. House Reps. Bradley Byrne of Fairhope and Mo Brooks of Huntsville voted against the resolution, while the remaining four Republicans, Reps. Mike Rogers, Gary Palmer, Martha Roby and Robert Aderholt, voted alongside Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democrat, in the 354-60 vote to approve.
The bipartisan nature of the resolution comes as northern Syria has devolved into chaos following Trump’s decision to remove U.S. troops, who had provided security for the incarceration of Islamic State fighters held in the area and dissuaded Turkey from attacking the Kurds. U.S. politicians and experts on the area say there’s a real fear over the release of the ISIS prisoners without the presence of U.S. troops there.
Turkey began an offensive, which included Syrian rebels, in northern Syria last week to push back Kurdish forces. Russian forces moved in just behind fleeing U.S. troops Tuesday and overtook a former U.S. military outpost near Manbij. Video taken by one of the Russians showed the soldiers walking through the former American outpost, operating electronic vehicle barriers and inspecting the American equipment.
The Washington Post reported that Trump said from the Oval Office on Wednesday that the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds was “over land that has nothing to do with us” and that the Kurds were “no angels.”
“There’s a lot of sand that they can play with,” Trump said from the Oval Office.
In contrast to his words from the White House on Wednesday that seemed to indicate he had no concern for the chaos ensuing in northern Syria, Trump’s letter on Oct. 9 to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of financial repercussions if Turkey persisted in the attacks.
“History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way,” Trump wrote in a letter, first reported by Fox News. “It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” It concluded: “I will call you later.”
Erdogan’s actions since receiving that Oct. 9 letter do not show signs that he’s taken Trump’s warning seriously, however.
Erdogan said Wednesday that Kurdish fighters should “drop their weapons,” according to The Washington Post.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview Wednesday with Fox Business Network that Erdogan needs to stop the incursion into Syria and that “we need a cease-fire.”
“Nobody can stop us,” Erdogan said during a speech Wednesday, according to The Washington Post, adding that Turkey would “never declare a cease-fire.”
Jones calls for fixes to USPS delays and reduced costs for election mail
“Like voting itself, the U.S. Postal Service is vital to our democracy,” wrote Sen. Doug Jones and 46 other senators to the U.S. postmaster general.
Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones and 46 Senate colleagues in a letter to the U.S. postmaster general on Thursday expressed serious concerns over changes that will increase the cost of citizens to vote.
“Like voting itself, the U.S. Postal Service is vital to our democracy. Since you assumed the role of Postmaster General, there have been disturbing reports regarding changes at USPS that are causing significant delays in the delivery of mail. Under normal circumstances, delayed mail is a major problem – during a pandemic in the middle of a presidential election, it is catastrophic,” the senators wrote in the letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.
President Donald Trump on Thursday repeated statements he’s made that the U.S. Postal Service won’t be able to process mail-in ballots in the November election without the needed federal funding, which he is withholding.
“They want $3.5 billion for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion—billion—for the post office. Now they need that money in order to have post office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump told Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo Thursday morning. “Those are just two items. But if you don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting. Because they’re not equipped to have it.”
DeJoy in recent days has ordered major reshuffling in the Postal Service’s management ranks, ordered a hiring freeze and made other cuts. Secretaries of state nationwide were also notified that instead of the 20-cent bulk rate for election mail, as has been used for decades, now it would cost 55 cents to send such mail via first-class postage.
The Postal Service in previous elections treated all election mail, no matter how much was spent on postage, as first-class and as such expedited delivery. The recent announcement signals that election mail not sent first class will not receive the same expedited delivery times, worrying many that DeJoy, appointed by the Postal Service’s majority-Republican board in May, is attempting to exert political influence into mail delivery just before the presidential election.
Trump has repeatedly said, without factual cause, that mail-in ballots are ripe for fraud. Mail-in voting has surged across the country in recent elections and even more so amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Several states — including California, Colorado and Washington — conduct all elections almost entirely by mail.
Mail-in voting fraud is incredibly rare, according to The Brennan Center for Justice, which noted that in Oregon, a state that votes primarily by mail, only about a dozen cases of voter fraud were proven out of 100 million mail-in ballots since 2000.
“As Postmaster General, you have a duty to our democracy to ensure the timely delivery of election mail. Millions of Americans’ right to vote depends on your ability to get the job done. We urge you not to increase costs for election officials, and to direct all Postal Service employees to continue to prioritize delivery of election mail,” the senators’ letter continues.
Voter Protection Corps recruiting local organizers in Alabama
The national nonprofit March On is recruiting regional leaders for its Voter Protection Corps, a grassroots network of organizers who will be trained to spot and counteract voter suppression ahead of the 2020 election in 14 key states, of which Alabama is one.
“With closed polling places, broken machines, long lines and the assault on mail-in ballots, voter suppression efforts have reached dangerous new heights in 2020,” said Andi Pringle, March On’s director of strategic and political campaigns. “Coupled with a global pandemic, these efforts threaten our ability to hold a free, fair and safe election in November. March On is looking for young leaders who are fired up to turn out the vote and protect democracy.”
Selected recruits will function as captains who then recruit at least five volunteers to form a squad. There will be about 20 squads in each state, Pringle said.
Captains will be trained by lawyers to know the ins and outs of their local election laws. They will train their squads to help voters exercise their rights to mail-in voting and early voting and will establish relationships with local election protection initiatives, election officials and community leaders.
Voter suppression can take many forms, Pringle said, including misinformation about polling locations, voter ID laws and various legal and administrative obstacles that can prevent average people “who don’t live and breathe this stuff” from casting their vote. Fighting such tactics is generally talked about in terms of attorneys and happens on or after Election Day, but that doesn’t prevent bureaucratic disenfranchisement that occurs in the days and weeks before the election, Pringle said.
“So the vote is already suppressed before they even get to the polls,” she said.
March On is recruiting captains from the Divine 9 Black fraternities and sororities, as well as women, veterans, young professionals, college students and recent graduates. It plans to have more than 7,000 corps members nationally.
Barry Moore “pleased” Trump is taking action to support America’s reopening
Republican congressional candidate Barry Moore, a former state representative from Enterprise, released a statement expressing confidence in President Donald Trump’s leadership after recent remarks by the president.
“President Trump continues to show strong leadership during this crisis, and the most recent round of economic numbers shows this,” Moore said. “I’m pleased that he’s taking action to continue providing the relief Americans so desperately need with his executive orders while the Democrats in both the House and Senate are blocking this relief for their own political gain.”
“I was especially pleased to hear the President speak out so strongly in favor of school choice and ‘paying the student’, so that parents and students could be free to find the best education opportunities, whether that’s a public, private or a charter school,” Moore said. “President Trump and I both agree that the child should come first, and school choice is a strong part of that. The President wants us to reopen our schools safely, as I do, because sitting at home playing on the computer is not the same as being in school.”
At a press conference on Monday, Trump cited the recent upward trend in the stock market, economic numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics July report and a rise in homebuilder’s confidence. The president asserted that “the stock market rebound signals a V-shaped recovery” and that the U.S. has “the strongest performing economy in the world.”
Trump also noted that the U.S. economy was also performing significantly better than in Europe.
“We had to turn the economy off and now we’re turning it back on,” the president said.
The president went on to criticize Democrats including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Californi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, for wanting “radical left agenda items” and “ridiculous things that have nothing at all to do with the China virus” in the most recent relief bill, which is currently stalled in Congress.
Trump used Democratic demands for $3.5 billion dollars for universal mail-in voting, which the president described as setting up “the greatest rigged election in history,” as just one example of Democratic obstruction.
Trump accused Democrats of holding up money for schools, state and local governments, and extending unemployment benefits and the moratorium on evictions. Trump said that this is what prompted him to sign a series of executive orders on Saturday addressing these issues.
“My hope is that, with the President’s continued leadership, we can continue to reopen our country and our economy, and I look forward to working on our complete recovery when I’m elected to Congress to represent District 2,” Moore concluded.
Moore is the Republican nominee for Congress in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District. Moore is an Auburn University graduate, a small businessman, veteran, husband and father of four. Moore served two terms in the Alabama House of Representatives for 2010 to 2018. He ran for Congress unsuccessfully in 2018. Moore credits that failed run for setting up the groundwork for his winning the Republican nomination in a crowded GOP field in 2020.
Moore faces Democratic nominee Phyllis Harvey-Hall in the Nov. 3 general election. Incumbent Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-Alabama, is retiring from Congress at the end of this term.
USDA announces more eligible commodities for CFAP
The U.S. secretary of agriculture, Sonny Perdue, announced that additional commodities are covered by the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. This decision was made in response to public comments and data, and the USDA is extending the deadline to apply for the program to Sept. 11, and producers with approved applications will receive their final payment.
After reviewing over 1,700 responses, even more farmers and ranchers will have the opportunity for assistance to help keep operations afloat during these tough times.
“President Trump is standing with America’s farmers and ranchers to ensure they get through this pandemic and continue to produce enough food and fiber to feed America and the world,” Perdue said. “That is why he authorized this $16 billion of direct support in the CFAP program and today we are pleased to add additional commodities eligible to receive much-needed assistance. CFAP is just one of the many ways USDA is helping producers weather the impacts of the pandemic. From deferring payments on loans to adding flexibilities to crop insurance and reporting deadlines, USDA has been leveraging many tools to help producers.”
Economic developer Nicole Jones said, “A stable food supply at all times is critical to any nation’s survival. The United States Department of Agriculture and the Trump Administration listened to producers and acted based on results of feedback. Adding specific commodities to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, loan payment deference, and flexibilities on reporting deadlines are some of the many ways USDA and the Trump Administration have demonstrated support for America’s farmers. Agriculture and food production is a dominant industry in Alabama, and farmers across our state have been beneficiaries of this assistance.”
USDA collected comments and supporting data for consideration of additional commodities through June 22, 2020.
The following additional commodities are now eligible for CFAP:
- Specialty Crops including aloe leaves, bananas, batatas, bok choy, carambola (star fruit), cherimoya, chervil (french parsley), citron, curry leaves, daikon, dates, dill, donqua (winter melon), dragon fruit (red pitaya), endive, escarole, filberts, frisee, horseradish, kohlrabi, kumquats, leeks, mamey sapote, maple sap (for maple syrup), mesculin mix, microgreens, nectarines, parsley, persimmons, plantains, pomegranates, pummelos, pumpkins, rutabagas, shallots, tangelos, turnips/celeriac, turmeric, upland/winter cress, water cress, yautia/malanga, and yuca/cassava.
- The program has also been expanded to include liquid eggs, frozen eggs and all sheep. Only lambs and yearlings (sheep less than two years old) were previously eligible.
- Also now eligible are aquaculture including catfish, crawfish, largemouth bass and carp sold live as foodfish, hybrid striped bass, red drum, salmon, sturgeon, tilapia, trout, ornamental/tropical fish, and recreational sportfish.
- Farmers with nursery crops and cut flowers are also eligible.
Seven commodities — green onions, pistachios, peppermint, spearmint, walnuts and watermelons — are now eligible for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Stability Act funding for sales losses. Originally, these commodities were only eligible for payments on marketing adjustments.
More details can be found in the Federal Register in the Notice of Funding Availability and Final Rule Correction.
To ensure the availability of funding, producers with approved applications initially received 80 percent of their payments. The Farm Service Agency will automatically issue the remaining 20 percent of the calculated payment to eligible producers. Going forward, producers who apply for CFAP will receive 100 percent of their total payment, not to exceed the payment limit, when their applications are approved.
Farmers and ranchers, especially those who have not worked with FSA previously, are recommended to call 877-508-8364 to begin the application process. An FSA staff member can help producers start their application during the phone call.
On farmers.gov/cfap, producers can download the AD-3114 application form and manually complete the form to submit to their local USDA Service Center by mail, electronically or by hand delivery to their local office or office dropbox.
Complete the application form using the CFAP Application Generator and Payment Calculator. This Excel workbook allows customers to input information specific to their operation to determine estimated payments and populate the application form, which can be printed, then signed and submitted to their local USDA Service Center.
If producers have login credentials known as eAuthentication, they can use the online CFAP Application Portal to certify eligible commodities online, digitally sign applications and submit directly to the local USDA Service Center.
All other eligibility forms, such as those related to adjusted gross income and payment information, can be downloaded from the site. For existing FSA customers, these documents are likely already on file.
All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are open to visitors to conduct business in person by appointment only. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment.
Service Centers that are open for appointments will pre-screen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social-distancing guidelines. Visitors are also required to wear a face-covering during their appointment. The program delivery staff will be in the office, and they will be working with producers in the office, by phone and using online tools.