Tennessee Farmer Wins Injunction Against USDA in Loan Forgiveness Dispute

Tractor in the middle of a field during golden hour

A federal judge in Tennessee has ruled in favor of a Tennessee farmer, granting an injunction against the U.S. Department of Agriculture in its effort to grant federal loan forgiveness to only “non-whites.”

The Southeastern Legal Foundation and the Mountain States Legal Foundation joined to represent Union City farmer Robert Holman as he challenges a provision in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that allows for automatic loan forgiveness up to 120% of the federal loan for farmers or ranchers who are “socially disadvantaged,” which is defined as “Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Hispanic, or Asian, or Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.”

The legal ruling estimated while there was not a cap on the amount of loans that could be granted, $3.8 billion had been allocated to the program and, without an injunction, those funds might be gone before the case is resolved.

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Commentary: The Founding Elite vs. The Current Elite

Close-up of Mt. Rushmore

In an insightful Independence Day Twitter thread, Emily Zanotti expressed her partiality for this provision of the Declaration of Independence:

[T]his is my favorite part: ‘And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.’ Can you imagine writing that? Signing your name to that? Acknowledging that this document means you will come out of this broke, dead, and remembered as a traitor if you do not win. Signing your own death warrant. Man, that took balls . . . 

In recognizing and celebrating the signatories’ fortitude, Zanotti illuminated the stark contrast between the visions of America’s founding elite and its current elite.

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15 States Reach Agreement, Pave Way for $4.5 Billion Settlement over Opioid Crisis

Spilled pill bottle with lid beside bottle

A coalition of 15 states agreed to a deal with drug maker Purdue Pharma, which could soon lead to a $4.5 billion settlement over the company’s role in the U.S. opioid epidemic.

The states agreed to no longer oppose Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy plan while the pharmaceutical company agreed to publicly release a trove of millions of documents, according to a court filing late Wednesday night. The Sackler family, which owns the company, would pay an additional $50 million under the settlement.

The agreement will be tacked onto a broader proposal that is set to be voted on by more than 3,000 plaintiffs, The New York Times reported. In addition to the states, plaintiffs include cities, counties and tribes that sued the company over its role in boosting its painkiller OxyContin, the cause of thousands of opioid deaths.

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Amount of Americans Strictly Social Distancing Hits New Pandemic Low

Two people wearing masks, on different benches, social distancing

Less than one-fifth of Americans say that they are still “completely or mostly” practicing social distancing, a new Gallup poll shows.

Approximately 18% of Americans are still strictly following social distancing guidelines, the lowest amount since the pandemic began last March, the Gallup survey shows. Social distancing participation peaked at 75% last April but has steadily declined since December, when coronavirus vaccines began to be distributed and administered nationwide.

Almost half of all Americans, 47%, said they have made “no attempt whatsoever” to isolate themselves, which is a pandemic high. But while 62% said that their lives were “somewhat back to normal,” only 15% said that their lives were “completely back to normal.”

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Republicans Push Back Against ‘Politicization’ of IRS

President Joe Biden has pushed for beefing up IRS audits of corporations to raise revenue for his new spending proposals, but Republicans are raising the alarm about the potential consequences of the plan.

Biden unveiled his “Made in America Tax Plan” earlier this year as a strategy to help fund his trillions of dollars in proposed new federal spending that includes several tax hikes. Despite this, a bipartisan coalition in the U.S. House and Senate have agreed to a basic framework for Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan, but one element has been the theme of the negotiations among Republicans: no new taxes.

The GOP pushback against raising taxes, though, puts more pressure on the Biden administration to find ways to fund his agenda. Aside from Biden’s controversial tax hike proposals, the president also has proposed adding $80 billion in funding to the IRS so it can increase audits of corporations.

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Commentary: Don’t Force My Church to Pay for Abortions

Baby hand in adult hand

Imagine, 75 years ago, some British officer lining up a group of young Indian children against a wall in Bombay, handing some bullets to Mahatma Gandhi, and ordering him to load soldiers’ rifles so that they could execute the youngsters.

Would you expect Gandhi to go along with that? Why would an officer even give such an order – except to humiliate Gandhi and mock what he stood for?

Perhaps that gives you some idea of how it feels for the people of my congregation, Cedar Park Church, to be ordered by Washington state officials to provide an insurance plan that covers abortions. Directly paying for abortion coverage is as unimaginable to us as putting bullets in a gun we know would be used to end a child’s life. It is antithetical to everything we preach, teach, and believe. That’s why we had to file a lawsuit through our Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys that is now on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which will hear arguments today.

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Amazon Calls for Higher Taxes on All Corporations Except Itself

Amazon logo on Samsung smartphone screen

While the tech giant Amazon has publicly endorsed proposals to raise the corporate tax rate in the United States, the company has been secretly lobbying to keep its own tax rates low, Politico reports.

Last year, during the 2020 presidential election, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos openly supported then-candidate Joe Biden’s proposals to raise taxes on American corporations. Those proposals have re-emerged in recent weeks as a possible means of funding a possible infrastructure bill, and Biden has been advocating for other countries around the world to adopt higher corporate tax rates as well.

But recently, Amazon has been stepping up its lobbying efforts to try to convince Congress and the White House to allow the company to keep using certain tax breaks in order to keep its own rates low. The retail giant hired a tax lobbyist named Joshua Odintz, who formerly worked as a Democratic aide on Capitol Hill and then as an official in the Obama Administration. In addition to Amazon’s own efforts, similar lobbying has been undertaken by a group known as the “R&D Coalition,” which consists of several companies and organizations including Amazon, Intel, and the National Association of Manufacturers.

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Commentary: The Intelligence of Canines

Dog lying on magazine with glasses on

Albert Einstein. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Marie Curie. Gaia. The first person came up with the general theory of relativity. The second is regarded as perhaps the greatest classical composer of all time. The third is the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two scientific fields. The fourth isn’t a person at all; it’s a dog.

All might be considered geniuses.

Some individuals are supremely gifted, with abilities that the vast majority of people cannot hope to replicate even after years of dedicated practice – the adolescents who are chess grandmasters, the musicians with perfect pitch, the professional athletes who make their colleagues look like amateurs. Scientists have been studying these people for decades, hoping to uncover genetic, environmental, or social underpinnings for their talents. Researchers have yet to find satisfactory answers.

Which brings us to dogs.

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Charlottesville Removes Lee and Jackson Statues

Charlottesville, Virginia – The City of Charlottesville removed two famous Confederate statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on Saturday. Workers began removing Lee shortly after 7 a.m. to a moderately sized crowd, but more people arrived later in the morning to see Jackson lifted off his pedestal and driven to storage. In a special meeting afterwards, the city council also approved removing Charlottesville’s Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea statue; workers removed that statue after the meeting.

“Taking down this statue is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America, grapple with the sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gain,” Charlottesville Mayor Nikuyah Walker said in a speech before the monuments came down, according to The Associated Press.

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Val Demings Announces $4.6 Million Raised in First Quarter of Her Campaign

U.S. Representative Val Demings of Florida’s 10th Congressional District has raised $4.6 million in the first quarter of her campaign to unseat Marco Rubio as Senator in 2022.

Neither Demings or Rubio have officially submitted their campaign finances to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for quarter two, but both parties have released information regarding what those numbers should look like when they do.

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Petition Urges North Dakota County to Ban Sanctuary Cities, Illegal Immigrants, and Refugees

A petition urging officials in a North Dakota county to ban sanctuary cities, illegal immigrants, and refugees gained around 5,000 signatures as of Tuesday, the Minot Daily News reported.

The Ward County Commission said they would uphold laws prohibiting illegal immigration and those supporting Second Amendment rights, though they asked petitioners to provide more specific language to be considered, according to the Minot Daily News. The petition asked the commission to ban illegal immigration and refugees from the county and to establish the region as a “gun sanctuary.”

Residents in Ward County started the petition “to ban sanctuary cities, illegal immigrants, aliens, refugees in Ward County, North Dakota, and add Ward County, North Dakota, as a Second Amendment gun sanctuary county,” the Minot Daily News reported.

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The Florida Bar Creates Task Force in Response to Surfside Building Collapse

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue

The Florida Bar announced the creation of the Condominium Law and Policy on Life Safety Task Force, in response to the recent events in Surfside.

The Task Force will aid the Florida Legislature and Governor DeSantis by reviewing “all aspects of Florida condominium law, development, association operations, and maintenance,” to determine if changes are needed to “minimize the likelihood of a similar tragedy,” the news release stated.

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Gov. Whitmer to Spend $15.6 Million on Economic Recovery

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) announced grants totaling more than $15.6 million to help get Michigan back to work. 

The government awarded Michigan Learning and Education Advancement Program (MiLEAP) grants to 10 groups who will help support individuals who are dislocated, underemployed, essential workers, living in distressed rural and urban communities, or economically disadvantaged.

“My administration is committed to uplifting Michiganders whose economic security has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Whitmer said in a statement. “By providing grants to help people make the move from education or training programs to good-paying, high-skill jobs, we can ensure all Michiganders thrive as we continue our economic jumpstart. The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and their Regional Consortia partners will help people get back on their feet and take the next step on their path to financial security.”

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Mexican National Pleads Guilty to Employing and Exploiting Illegal Aliens in Georgia

A Bartow County, Georgia businessman has pleaded guilty in federal court to harboring illegal aliens for financial gain. That man, Juan Antonio Perez, 48, of Rydal, illegally encouraged and induced aliens to reside in the United States where they worked for his own commercial advantage and private financial gain. This, according to a press release the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia published this week.

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Watchdog: Virginia Employment Commission Still Struggling

A spokesperson for the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) told legislators that the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) is still unable to answer most of its incoming calls and expressed concern about the backlog of certain types of claims requiring extra review. On Tuesday, JLARC Principal Legislative Analyst Lauren Axselle gave a brief update to legislators, noting that an interim report will be complete in September with a final report on the VEC scheduled for November.

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50,000 Arizona Cows to Power Vehicles, Heat Homes

Group of cows during the day

Two dairy farms in Arizona soon will be producing more than milk.

Renewable energy company Avolta has begun construction on a renewable gas project in Buckeye that will turn the tons of manure produced daily from the more than 25,000 Holstein dairy cows at Buttermilk farms into biogas.

The manure will be sealed underground and “digested” until methane can be created and extracted. The gas is processed and pumped into a nearby Southwest Gas pipeline, providing the farms with an additional revenue stream and keeping the methane gas out of the atmosphere. 

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Hennepin County Police Chiefs Alarmed by Increasing Violence

Minneapolis Police

Several Hennepin County police chiefs are speaking out after Minneapolis’ suburbs have seen an unprecedented uptick in violent crime. 

“I’ve never seen the gun violence like it is,” Brooklyn Park Police Chief Craig Enevoldsen told Fox 9. 

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Study: Ohio COVID-19 Vaccine Lottery Failed to Increase Rates

Giving away millions of federal tax dollars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in college scholarships did nothing to improve Ohio’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, a recent study concluded.

Those results have Democratic leaders saying the state needs to do more to address vaccine hesitancy and deal with what they call root causes of Ohio’s stagnant vaccination rate.

The study, conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine using information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, concluded reports that the state’s Vax-a-Million lottery program increased rates failed to factor in vaccinations expanded to ages 12-15.

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Line 3 Protesters Bailed Out of Jail with Thousands in Cash

protesters

According to Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes, many of the over 300 Line 3 protesters they have arrested have been bailed out by people bringing in bags of cash. Aukes said, “Time and time again, a protester makes a phone call and someone shows up with a duffel bag full of cash to bail them out. A bag full of $100 bills; in fact, $52,000 on one occasion. That is a lot of cash to be carrying around in a duffel bag.”

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Lumber Demand Drives Georgia Home Prices Higher

A beige house in a suburban community during the day

A spike in lumber prices has compounded the state’s housing crisis, Georgia housing advocates said.

The price of lumber increased by 300% this spring compared with the same time last year, reports show. The building material reached an all-time high of $1,515 per thousand board feet on May 28.

The price of oriented strand board, which is most often used for sheathing, has increased by 400% since last spring.

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Georgia Gov. Kemp Officially Launches Campaign, Rails Against Cancel Culture

Brian Kemp

  Georgia Governor Brian Kemp officially launched his re-election campaign on Saturday at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry. At his event, Kemp railed against the “cancel culture” of rival Democrats and urged Republicans to remain involved at the highest levels. “We need everyone engaged, because we know the Democrats…

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Governor DeSantis Trails Florida Cabinet Members in Net Worth

Recently filed financial disclosure forms filed by state-wide elected leaders show that the net worth of Florida Governor Ron Desantis is significantly less than Florida’s three cabinet members.

The financial disclosure forms, known as Form 6, are required to be filed annually by state elected officials and some state employees. The forms were due to the Florida Commission on Ethics by July 1, 2021.

Desantis reported a 2020 net worth of $348,832 on his Form 6 filed on June 20, 2021. This is up 16.5% from the $291,449 reported for 2019.

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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Vetoes Bill That Would Have Allowed Ohioans to Shoot Off Fireworks on Certain Holidays

Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed a bill Friday that would have permitted Ohioans to legally shoot off fireworks on several holidays.

When Senate Bill (SB) 113 was introduced by Ohio State Senators Michael Rulli (R-Salem) and Terry Johnson (R-McDermott), the bill wanted to allow Americans to celebrate certain holidays legally, according to the Rulli press release.

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Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks Trans Bathroom Law

A federal judge appointed by former President Bill Clinton issued a temporary injunction stopping the state of Tennessee from enforcing its new bathrooms signage law. 

HB 1182 requires businesses that allow both biological sexes to use the same bathroom, locker room, or other typically-single sex area, to post signage reading “this facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex regardless of the designation of the restroom.” 

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