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House passes bill banning Russian oil imports, authorizing sanctions

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The House passed legislation on Wednesday to ban imports of Russian oil and authorize further sanctions, following a similar executive order from President BidenJoe BidenBiden phones family of American detained in Russia Susan Collins praises Biden’s Supreme Court pick after meeting Former Bernie Sanders press secretary: proposed defense budget includes excessive amount for private contractors MORE

Lawmakers passed the bill on a bipartisan basis, 414-17. Only 15 Republicans and two Democrats voted against the bill.

The vote now puts members of both parties on record backing an action that is likely to further increase gas prices, which are already reaching record levels in the U.S. due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

As of Wednesday, the average price of regular gas was $4.25 a gallon, up about 60 cents from just a week ago. Just a month ago, the average price was $3.47.

The vote to ban imports of Russian energy products is effectively symbolic, since it follows President Biden’s move on Tuesday to target one of Russia’s main sources of wealth. But it highlighted a rare area of bipartisan unity between Democrats and Republicans.

Aside from banning the import of Russian oil, the legislation also sought to limit Russia’s access to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and reauthorized legislation that enabled sanctions on human rights abusers. 

But it stopped short of an original bipartisan agreement earlier this week crafted by the leaders of congressional committees with jurisdiction over trade policy. That proposal would have suspended normal trade relations between Russia and Belarus.

Members of both parties have been pushing for such punitive measures for several days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A bipartisan measure, led by Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinOvernight Energy & Environment — Biden takes aim at Russian oil, gas and coal Manchin delays vote on Interior nominee, citing energy crisis Politics of Russian oil ban fuels Democratic angst   MORE (D-W.Va.) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSusan Collins praises Biden’s Supreme Court pick after meeting EU prepares new sanctions against Russia, Belarus: report Politics of Russian oil ban fuels Democratic angst   MORE (R-Alaska) is one of several bills aiming for a ban that have been introduced in the Senate on the issue. 

“The more economic pain we inflict on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, the more pressure he will feel to finally end this brutal campaign of terror on the Ukrainian people,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealHouse to move forward with bill to ban Russian oil On The Money — Biden faces pressure to ban Russian oil Overnight Energy & Environment — Biden pushes to curb truck pollution MORE (D-Mass.).

The Biden administration had initially been wary of taking any actions that could further raise gas prices. 

“We don’t have a strategic interest in reducing the global supply of energy,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-PierreKarine Jean-PierreOvernight Energy & Environment — White House says no to Russia oil ban Manchin, Murkowski lead bipartisan bill to ban Russian energy imports Pelosi backs ban on Russian oil imports MORE told reporters last week. “That would raise prices at the gas pump for Americans and pad Putin’s profits.” 

But the widespread support for banning Russian oil gained momentum in recent days with top Democratic leaders including Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse to vote Tuesday on Russian fuel ban, other trade sanctions House to move forward with bill to ban Russian oil Live coverage – House tees up vote on Russian fuel ban, sanctions MORE (D-Calif.), as well as Republicans, calling for the move.

The Biden administration has approved permits to drill on public land at a comparable rate as the Trump administration, according to an analysis by Public Citizen. 

But Republicans used the opportunity to blame Biden for the rising gas prices and called for increasing domestic production. 

“This week our president, our American president, asked Venezuela and Saudi Arabia to increase oil production, asked them to boost their outputs so that American consumers wouldn’t see a spike in gas prices,” said Rep. Dan CrenshawDaniel CrenshawCan SpaceX save NASA’s International Space Station? McConnell calls out ‘maskless’ Super Bowl celebs as school mandates remain This issue will secure a Democratic wipeout in 2022 MORE (R-Texas). 

“I couldn’t help to think to myself, what a strange thing to ask. Because surely he knows we can also boost domestic production right here at home,” Crenshaw added. 

The oil market is global, meaning that presidential policies have relatively little influence over it. But critics have historically sought to pin the blame on the president, especially in the face of energy policies they disagree with. 

The import ban passed by the House on Wednesday would take effect in 45 days. It would also allow the president to make exceptions for energy that was already purchased before the legislation passed, or in cases where the importation would be in the national interest. 

The trade provisions would push the U.S. Trade Representative to use U.S. influence at the WTO to condemn the invasion of Ukraine and encourage other member countries to both suspend trade with Russia and consider suspending Russia’s participation. 

White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden phones family of American detained in Russia Overnight Defense & National Security — More help headed Ukraine’s way How Biden came around to banning Russian gas and oil MORE said Tuesday that U.S. Trade Representative Katherine TaiKatherine TaiIt’s official: The Biden administration has outsourced China policy to Congress US accuses China of failing to meet commitments to WTO US, EU agree to resume oyster and mussel trade, ending 10-year dispute MORE “has been obviously engaging with other WTO countries.”  

“It’s not a unilateral step the United States could take or the president could take, but we will continue those conversations as well,” Psaki said.

While the U.S. imports Russian oil, it makes up a relatively small share of the country’s oil supply. The U.S. is the world’s top oil producer, and most of its oil imports come from Canada.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, meanwhile, has pushed oil prices higher. U.S. oil was hovering around $118 per barrel on Wednesday, which is lower than earlier in the week, but up from about $90 per barrel a month ago.

The Biden administration, as well as European allies, have also imposed a range of sanctions against Russia in recent weeks ranging from cutting off some Russian banks’ access to an international banking communication system to personally targeting Putin and other oligarchs.

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Hailey Bieber Details Terrifying ‘Life-Altering’ Mini-Stroke She Suffered And Procedure To Close Hole In Her Heart

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Hailey Bieber has spoken out in her “own words” about the “life-altering,” “scariest moment” of her life she had after suffering what she called a mini-stroke, and later underwent a procedure to close a hole in her heart.

The 25-year-old supermodel and wife of superstar singer Justin Bieber took to her YouTube channel Wednesday and opened up about the terrifying experience of being hospitalized last month after she suffered a blood clot to her brain that traveled through a hole in her heart between 12 and 13 millimeters, reported People magazine.

“I had, like, a very scary incident on March 10, basically,” Bieber shared. “I was sitting at breakfast with my husband, having a normal day … and all of the sudden, I felt this really weird sensation that kind of like traveled down my arm from my shoulder all the way down to my fingertips. And it made my fingertips feel really numb and weird.”

“Justin [her husband] was like, ‘Are you okay?’” she added, as she explained that she tried to respond to him, but she “couldn’t speak.” “The right side of my face started drooping; I couldn’t get a sentence out.”

“Obviously, immediately, I thought I was having a stroke,” the supermodel continued. “He thought I was having a stroke. Right away, he asked for somebody to please call 911 and get a doctor.”

Hailey said that where they were, there happened to be a medic who started asking her lots of questions and testing her arms, calling it definitely the “scariest moment” of her life. The model talked about how the “facial drooping lasted for probably like thirty seconds.” Her speech did came back, but her “anxiety” about what was happening just made “everything worse.”

“By the time I got to the emergency room, I was pretty much back to normal – [I] could talk, [I] wasn’t having any issues with my face or my arm,” Bieber explained.

She said scans revealed she had, in fact, suffered a “small blood clot” to her brain which was labeled a “TIA” [Transient Ischemic Attack]. Hailey told her followers it was basically like having a “mini-stroke.”

Doctors still weren’t sure what caused it, but she said it was widely believed it was a combination of birth-control issues, recently having COVID-19, and having just traveled “to Paris and back in a very short amount of time,” calling it a “perfect storm.”

Further testing at the University of California, Los Angeles, revealed Bieber had a Grade 5 PFO [a small opening in the heart that usually closes after birth]. The outlet said the hold measured between 12 and 13 millimeters. She later underwent a procedure to close the hole, and said it went “very smoothly” and she’s recovering.

“The biggest thing I feel is I just feel really relieved that we were able to figure everything out, that we were able to get it closed, that I will be able to just move on from this really scary situation and just live my life,” Hailey shared.

“If there’s anybody that watches this that has gone through the same thing or something similar, I definitely really empathize with you,” she concluded. “And I understand how life-altering and scary it is.”

Bieber, who’s the daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin and Kennya Baldwin, married her husband Justin in 2018.

Related: Hailey Baldwin Credits Christian Faith For Marriage To Justin Bieber

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Wikipedia’s Left-Wing Bias

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I love Wikipedia. I donated thousands of dollars to the Wikimedia Foundation.

Before Wikipedia, all we had were printed encyclopedias—out of date by the time we bought them.

Then libertarian Jimmy Wales came up with a web-based, crowd-sourced encyclopedia.

Crowd-sourced? A Britannica editor called Wikipedia “a public restroom.” But Wales won the battle. Britannica’s encyclopedias are no longer printed.

Congratulations to Wales.

But recently, I learned that Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger now says Wikipedia’s political pages have turned into leftist “propaganda.”

That’s upsetting. Leftists took over the editing?

Sadly, yes. I checked it out.

All editing is done by volunteers. Wales hoped there would be enough diverse political persuasions that biases would be countered by others.

But that’s not what’s happening.

Leftists just like to write. Conservatives build things: companies, homes, farms.

You see the pattern comparing political donations from different professions: Surgeons, oil workers, truck drivers, loggers, and pilots lean right; artists, bartenders, librarians, reporters, and teachers lean left.

Conservatives don’t have as much time to tweet or argue on the web. Leftists do. And they love doing it. This helps them take over the media, universities, and now, Wikipedia.

Jonathan Weiss is what Wikipedia calls a “Top 100” Wikipedian because he’s made almost half a million edits. He says he’s noticed new bias: “Wikipedia does a great job on things like science and sports, but you see a lot of political bias come into play when you’re talking current events.”

Weiss is no conservative. In presidential races, he voted for Al Gore, Ralph Nader, and Barack Obama. Never for a Republican. “I’ve really never identified strongly with either political party,” he says.

Maybe that’s why he notices the new Wikipedia bias.

“People on the left far outweigh people on the center and the right … a lot [are] openly socialist and Marxist.” Some even post pictures of Che Guevara and Lenin on their own profiles.

These are the people who decide which news sources Wikipedia writers may cite. Wikipedia’s approved “Reliable sources” page rejects political reporting from Fox but calls CNN and MSNBC “reliable.”

Good conservative outlets like The Federalist, the Daily Caller, and The Daily Wire are all deemed “unreliable.” Same with the New York Post (That’s probably why Wikipedia called Hunter Biden’s emails a conspiracy theory even after other liberal media finally acknowledged that they were real).

While it excludes Fox, Wikipedia approves even hard left media like Vox, Slate, The Nation, Mother Jones, and Jacobin, a socialist publication.

Until recently, Wikipedia’s “socialism” and “communism” pages made no mention of the millions of people killed by socialism and communism. Even now, deaths are “deep in the article,” says Weiss, “treated as an arcane academic debate. But we’re talking about mass murder!”

The communism page even adds that we cannot ignore the “lives saved by communist modernization”! This is nuts.

Look up “concentration and internment camps” and you’ll find, along with the Holocaust, “Mexico-United States border,” and under that, “Trump administration family separation policy.”

What? Former President Donald Trump’s border controls, no matter how harsh, are very different from the Nazi’s mass murder.

Wikipedia does say “anyone can edit.” So, I made a small addition for political balance, mentioning that President Barack Obama built those cages.

My edit was taken down.

I wrote Wikipedia founder Wales to say that if his creation now uses only progressive sources, I would no longer donate.

He replied, “I totally respect the decision not to give us more money. I’m such a fan and have great respect for you and your work.” But then he said it is “just 100% false … that ‘only globalist, progressive mainstream sources’ are permitted.”

He gave examples of left-wing media that Wikipedia rejects, like Raw Story and Occupy Democrats.

I’m glad he rejects them. Those sites are childishly far left.

I then wrote again to ask why “there’s not a single right-leaning media outlet Wiki labels ‘reliable’ about politics, [but] Vox, Slate, The Nation, Mother Jones, CNN, MSNBC” get approval.

Wales then stopped responding to my emails.

Unless Wikipedia’s bias is fixed, I’ll be skeptical reading anything on the site.

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Public Health England to blame for sending patients to care homes without Covid tests

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Speaking on condition of anonymity, Whitehall officials alleged that Prof Duncan Selbie, the former PHE chief executive, was ultimately responsible for informing Mr Hancock of the risks.

Prof Selbie is working as a senior adviser to the DHSC. Neither he nor the department responded to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Mr Hancock, who was replaced by Sajid Javid last year, claimed the High Court ruling had exonerated him and the had been cleared “of any wrongdoing” because PHE “failed to tell ministers what they knew about asymptomatic transmission”.

The High Court judges concluded that care home policies in March and April 2020 were “irrational” because they failed to advise that those discharged from hospitals “should, so far as practicable, be kept apart from other residents for up to 14 days”.

“Since there is no evidence that this question was considered by the secretary of state, or that he was asked to consider it, it is not an example of a political judgment on a finely balanced issue,” they said. “Nor is it a point on which any of the expert committees had advised that no guidance was required.”

After the ruling, Boris Johnson said he wanted to “renew my apologies and sympathies” to relatives who lost loved ones, adding: “The thing we didn’t know in particular was that Covid could be transmitted asymptomatically in the way that it was.”

However, the risks of asymptomatic transmission had been highlighted by Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser for England, who said it was “quite likely” as early as March 13 2020. Varying levels of risk had been outlined in papers from late January, the ruling said.

The judicial review was brought by Dr Cathy Gardner and Fay Harris, whose fathers, Michael Gibson and Donald Harris, died after testing positive for Covid.

‘Opens the floodgates for potential claims’

Paul Conrathe, a solicitor at Sinclairslaw who was instructed by both women, said: “It’s possible that care home providers and relatives who lost loved ones in the first wave could bring compensation claims. The Government was found to have acted ‘irrationally’ – that’s a very high legal hurdle.”

Nadra Ahmed, who chairs the National Care Association, said the ruling “opens the floodgates for potential claims to be brought against government policy”.

“This will be especially pertinent where the individual was not given a choice,” she said. “There will be a lot of people assimilating to the information as they consider if the loss of their loved one was premature, and holding the Government to account is the only way forward for them.”

Helen Wildbore, the director of the Relatives and Residents Association, said that the ruling proved “the protective ring around care homes was non-existent” and that older people were “abandoned at the outset of the pandemic”.

A government spokesman said it had been a “very difficult decision” to discharge hospital patients into care homes, taken when evidence on asymptomatic transmission was “extremely uncertain”.

The spokesman added: “We acknowledge the judge’s comments on assessing the risks of asymptomatic transmission and our guidance on isolation, and will respond in more detail in due course.”


‘He was in a home and should have been safe’

They stood outside the Royal Courts of Justice, two women unknown to each other before the Covid pandemic but brought together by tragedy, writes Tom Ough.

Cathy Gardner spoke first, delivering a steely reading of a statement. Matt Hancock’s boast of a “protective ring” encircling care homes, Dr Gardner said, was “a despicable lie of which he ought to be ashamed and for which he ought to apologise”.

Fay Harris, more downcast in demeanour but no less forthright, told journalists: “I have lost precious years with my wonderful Dad.”

Both women lost their fathers in early 2020, arguing that they might still be alive were it not for hospital patients having been discharged into care homes without having been tested for Covid.

Michael Gibson, born in 1931, had been a superintendent registrar of births and deaths. “He was in a home and should have been safe,” Dr Gardner told The Independent after his death.

Mr Gibson, who had advanced dementia, had fallen ill a couple of weeks before the first lockdown. Staff at his care home were unable to procure tests for Covid, but the virus is believed to have struck him down.

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