US FDA moves forward with proposal to ban menthol cigarettes
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday issued a long-awaited proposal to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.
The move is a major victory for anti-smoking advocates but one that could dent sales at tobacco companies.
The proposal, which comes a year after the agency announced the plan, still needs to be finalized and can take years to implement as it is likely to face stiff opposition from the tobacco industry. “The proposed rules would help prevent children from becoming the next generation of smokers and help adult smokers quit,” said the health and human services secretary, Xavier Becerra, Reuters reported.
For decades, menthol cigarettes have been in the crosshairs of anti-smoking groups who have argued that they contribute to disproportionate health burdens on Black communities and play a role in luring young people into smoking.
‘I hope we’ll get through this’: the Ukrainian refugees arriving in Tijuana
In recent weeks Mexico has been the second-to-last stop on a journey to a semblance of normal life for some Ukrainian families hoping to get to safety in the United States. The Guardian has published a dispatch from Tijuana by Jo Napolitano who writes:
Just over the zigzag pathway of the Tijuana border crossing, a mile or so from the taco and churros stands that feed locals and tourists alike, rests a pop-up encampment for Ukrainian and Russian refugees fleeing an invasion they could neither endure nor support.
Tijuana has been a two- or three-day respite on their journey before trying to enter the US. There, these displaced families – a flight away from Washington state or Illinois or South Carolina – are fanning out across the country, staying with friends and relatives, applying for food stamps and social security cards and enrolling their children in school. While they are far further in their relocation than the Mexican, Central American and Haitian asylum seekers waiting years for that same opportunity, these newcomers still face many hurdles.
“Everything is so different here in the US,” said Anastasiia Puzhalina, a Ukrainian refugee who arrived in the States in early April with her family. “We must learn so much. I hope we’ll get through this.”
The piece is published in partnership with the the 74, a non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America.
NAACP calls on Biden to cancel all student debt
“President Biden, we agree that we shouldn’t cancel $50,000 in student loan debt. We should cancel all of it,” the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said in a statement on Thursday.
The statement came after the president told reporters he was open to cancelling some debt but poured cold water on the $50,000 number. “$50,000 was just the bottom line. For the Black community, who’ve accumulated debt over generations of oppression, anything less is unacceptable,” the NAACP said.
The NAACP has a petition calling on Biden to take action to cancel student debt, which it says would :
- Provide Black borrowers with opportunities to pursue homeownership
- Develop economy-boosting discretionary income
- Fuel upward mobility in the Black community and equitable efforts to close the racial wealth gap
Here’s where the day stands so far:
- Joe Biden asked Congress to provide Ukraine with another $33bn in funding to assist its fight against Russian aggression. The request includes another $20bn in military aid, as well as $8.5bn in economic aid to Kyiv and $3bn in humanitarian relief. “The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen,” Biden said at the White House today.
- Biden emphasized America’s ongoing assistance to Ukraine should not be taken as an attack on Russia. “We’re not attacking Russia. We’re helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression,” Biden said. “Russia is the aggressor — no ifs, ands or buts about it.” Russia has warned the US against providing Ukraine with more weaponry, but the White House has insisted it will continue to aid its ally.
- The US economy shrank in the first three months of the year, contracting by -0.4% in the first quarter, marking its weakest performance since the early days of the pandemic. Biden blamed the contraction on “technical factors” caused by the ongoing pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.
Unrelated to the war in Ukraine, Joe Biden was asked whether he plans to cancel more student loan debt via executive order in the coming weeks.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said yesterday that the White House is “more open to it now than ever before” when it comes to canceling student loan debt.
“There’s nothing done yet, but I am really hopeful that the goal that we have had, $50,000 of student loans canceled, is getting more and more likely,” Schumer said, per NBC News.
Biden threw cold water on that idea today, telling reporters that he is not comfortable with the $50,000 number but is open to some debt cancelation.
“I am not considering $50,000 debt reduction, but I am in the process of taking a hard look at whether or not there will be additional debt forgiveness,” Biden said. “And I’ll have an answer on that in the next couple weeks.”
Biden has previously expressed openness to the idea of canceling up to $10,000 in student debt per borrower, but many progressives have criticized that proposal as insufficient.
After finishing his prepared remarks, Joe Biden took several questions from reporters about his request to Congress for more Ukraine aid and other legislative matters.
Asked for his message to Ukrainian refugees who are waiting at the southern border to enter the US, Biden said they are being allowed to come directly into the country.
“We’ve said there’s no need to go to the southern border,” Biden said. “Fly directly to United States. We set up a mechanism whereby they can come directly with a visa.”
Another reporter asked Biden about how the US will respond if Russia starts escalating its aggression toward Ukraine’s allies in response to their ongoing assistance to the country.
“We are prepared for whatever they do,” Biden said.
As he asked for more funding to assist Ukraine, Joe Biden also emphasized the importance of Congress appropriating more money for America’s pandemic response efforts.
“That’s why I’m again urging Congress to act on our request for $22.5bn in emergency resources so the American people can continue to protect themselves from Covid-19,” Biden said.
The president said the federal government would only be able to prepare more vaccine doses to help protect against future variants if Congress approves more money to preorder treatments.
Noting that the US has also donated vaccine doses to other countries, Biden said, “Without additional funding, the United States won’t be able to help stop the spread around the world.”
After concluding his prepared remarks, a reporter asked Biden whether he believed the Ukraine assistance and pandemic funding should be tied together in one bill, which lawmakers are currently at odds over.
“I don’t care how they do it. I’m sending them both up,” Biden said. “They can do it separately or together, but we need them both.”
Joe Biden is also taking steps to ensure the money raised from assets seized from sanctioned allies of Vladimir Putin directly aids Ukraine.
According to a White House fact sheet about Biden’s new aid request, the administration is “proposing legislation to streamline the process to recoup proceeds from seized and forfeited assets and use them to remediate the harm caused in Ukraine”.
A number of Russian oligarchs have been sanctioned since the invasion of Ukraine, and some lawmakers have been working to ensure that the funds accumulated from those measures benefit the Ukrainian people.
“We’re going to seize their yachts, their luxury homes and other ill-begotten gains,” Biden said.
Joe Biden emphasized that his new request for $33bn in assistance to Ukraine should not be taken as an attack on Russia.
“We’re not attacking Russia. We’re helping Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression,” Biden said at the White House. “Russia is the aggressor — no ifs, ands or buts about it.”
Russia has warned the US against providing Ukraine with more weaponry, but Biden administration officials have made it clear that they will not be intimidated out of helping Ukraine.
Joe Biden is now delivering remarks at the White House, confirming that he has asked Congress to approve $33bn in funding to aid Ukraine’s fight against Russia.
The US president argued that more funding for arms and humanitarian assistance was “critical” for helping Ukraine combat Russian attacks.
“The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen,” Biden said.
“We either back the Ukrainian people as they defend their country, or we stand by as the Russians continue their atrocities and aggression in Ukraine.”
The Guardian’s Julian Borger and Jon Henley report:
Joe Biden has asked Congress to approve another $20bn in military aid to Ukraine, significantly ramping up the US contribution to the battle against Russian occupation.
Biden will also ask for $8.5bn in economic aid to Kyiv and $3bn in humanitarian relief, as well as funds to help increase US production of food crops and strategic minerals to offset the impact of the war in Ukraine on global supplies.
The total request for supplemental spending comes to $33bn. The last supplemental request approved by Congress in March was $13.6bn. Russia has warned that increased western weapons supplies to Ukraine would endanger European security.
In a letter to the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Biden said: “What I want to make clear to the Congress and the American people is this: the cost of failing to stand up to violent aggression in Europe has always been higher than the cost of standing firm against such attacks.”
Joe Biden blamed the US economy’s contraction in the first quarter of 2022 on “technical factors” caused by the ongoing pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
“The American economy — powered by working families — continues to be resilient in the face of historic challenges,” Biden said in a statement.
“While last quarter’s growth estimate was affected by technical factors, the United States confronts the challenges of COVID-19 around the world, Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and global inflation from a position of strength.”
The president again called on Congress to pass a bill to help families deal with the high costs of healthcare and utilities, while condemning one Republican plan to expand income taxes.
“We need to keep making progress — cutting costs for working families, making more in America, and creating good-paying jobs you can raise a middle-class family on,” Biden said. “That’s how we grow our economy and strengthen the middle class.”
The US economy shrank in the first three months of the year, contracting by -0.4% in the first quarter, or -1.4% on an annualized basis, its weakest quarter since the early days of the pandemic.
Economic growth slowed markedly at the start of the year. In the last three months of 2021 US gross domestic product (GDP) – a broad measure of the economy – grew by 1.7% or 6.9% on an annualized basis.
The Commerce Department said the slowdown was caused by a drop in private inventory investment, exports, federal government spending, and state and local government spending.
Consumer spending, the largest component of the US economy, grew 0.7% in the first quarter despite the impact of the Omicron wave of the coronavirus.
The latest report was worse than economists had expected and was compiled before the war in Ukraine triggered oil price rises and China imposed new coronavirus lockdowns that may worsen supply chain issues.
Joe Biden will deliver his remarks about the need to provide more assistance to Ukraine at the White House in about 45 minutes.
After his speech, Biden will meet with small business owners to “discuss the small businesses boom under his leadership,” according to his official schedule.
Later today, the president and the first lady will also host their first official film screening at the White House. The Bidens will play “The Survivor,” a film about a Jewish boxer forced to fight his fellow inmates at a Nazi concentration camp, in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is today.
The UN secretary general has described the war in Ukraine as “an absurdity” in the 21st century on a visit to the scene of civilian killings outside Kyiv, as Russia warned the west that increasing arms supplies to Ukraine would endanger European security.
António Guterres was touring Borodianka on Thursday, where Russian forces are accused of massacring civilians before their withdrawal, on his first visit to Ukraine since the start of the invasion on 24 February, before talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
“I imagine my family in one of those houses that is now destroyed and black,” said the UN secretary general, who has been criticised for visiting Ukraine only after having first met Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow.
“I see my granddaughters running away in panic,” Guterres said. “The war is an absurdity in the 21st century. The war is evil. There is no way a war can be acceptable in the 21st century.”
At her daily briefing yesterday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that Joe Biden would submit his request for another Ukraine aid package this week.
Psaki would not provide any details on the topline cost of the aid package, but it is expected to be significant.
“There is plans for this to be a proposal to go through the fiscal year,” Psaki told reporters.
“And it will include, as our past packages have included, security or military assistance, humanitarian, economic assistance, given those, in our view, will help address a range of the needs the Ukrainians have.”
Biden will probably provide more details on the aid request when he delivers remarks on the situation in Ukraine at 10.45am ET.
Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.
Joe Biden will deliver remarks this morning on “support for Ukrainians defending their country and their freedom against Russia’s brutal war,” according to the president’s official schedule.
NBC News reports that Biden will use his speech to ask Congress to approve another aid package for Ukraine, as the war there has now stretched on for more than two months.
The extra funding is intended to last for the next five months, through the end of the fiscal year, [two] sources said.
Administration officials earlier described the amount of the request as ‘massive’ but would not provide a specific dollar amount. Some details were still not finalized, the officials said.
The amount, however, is intended to fund U.S. military, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine through Sept. 30, the officials said. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said earlier this week that he expected “swift, bipartisan cooperation” to ensure the passage of another aid package.
“We must continue helping the people of Ukraine in their fight against Russian aggression,” Schumer said.
The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.