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President Joe Biden pivoted away from domestic and foreign crises today to tackle a more personal issue: expanding health care for veterans who were exposed to toxicants while serving abroad.
Biden visited a Veterans Affairs clinic Tuesday in Fort Worth, Texas, where he met with health care providers and veterans. He spoke about the enduring health effects from exposure to burn pits, or massive, open-air ditches used to dispose of wartime waste that the president has linked to the death of his son Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015.
“We knew we finally had a president who really has a direct connection and understands the issue and wanted to get something done,” said Jeremy Butler, CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “That’s what frustrated us because we were hoping that he would be pushing for things to happen more quickly.”
A shoutout during SOTU: The president devoted several minutes of his hourlong State of the Union speech last week to highlight the long-term health effects of burn pit smoke. He called on Congress to pass legislation that would ensure veterans exposed to toxicants in Iraq and Afghanistan have access to comprehensive health care – a move that advocates say is a result of political momentum in Congress.
US bans all Russian energy imports
President Biden announced a ban on the US import of all Russian energy products to target “the main artery of Russia’s economy” in the latest effort to ratchet up sanctions over President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Russian oil will no longer be accepted at US ports,” the president said Tuesday at the White House. “We will not be part of subsidizing Putin’s war.”
Though Biden said the move would deal a “powerful blow to Putin’s war machine,” he warned the decision would be felt at home, where Americans see prices rising at the gas pump.
The president said he made the decision in consultation with European allies, but they may not be in a position to join the ban because of their heavy reliance on Russian oil. He said the United States is working closely with them to develop a “long-term strategy” to reduce their dependence on Russian energy.
What can Biden do to lower gas prices? Not much in the short term, according to experts. Samantha Gross, a fellow and director of the Energy Security and Climate Initiative at the Brookings Institution, said presidents are limited when it comes to controlling gas prices.
“There’s actually not a lot that American presidents can do about gasoline prices,” Gross said. “The president has precious few levers.”
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Former Proud Boys leader charged with conspiracy in Jan. 6 attack
Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, former national chairman of extremist group the Proud Boys, was arrested in a Tuesday FBI raid in Florida on conspiracy charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.
Tarrio was added as a defendant in an existing conspiracy case against five previously charged Proud Boys. His indictment is unusual because he was not present at the Capitol on Jan. 6. A judge barred Tarrio from protesting in the city after Metropolitan DC police arrested him on unrelated charges two days before the riot.
The indictment states that “Tarrio nonetheless continued to direct and encourage the Proud Boys prior to and during the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and that he claimed credit for what had happened on social media and in an encrypted chat room during and after the attack,” according to a Justice Department press release.
Tarrio faces one count each of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and obstruction of an official proceeding, as well as two counts each of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers and destruction of government property.
More on Jan. 6 charges: In the first jury trial in the government’s investigation into the insurrection at the Capitol, a federal court jury Tuesday found a Texas man guilty of all five criminal charges.
#BreaktheBias is the theme for International Women’s Day. The day has been celebrated annually on March 8 since 1914. — Amy and Chelsea
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism