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First Thing: Joe Biden’s bold domestic agenda hangs in the balance – The Guardian

The US president faces a crucial 24 hours over his social policy plans; plus, leak reveals top Republicans in group with extremists
Last modified on Thu 30 Sep 2021 13.10 BST
Good morning.
Joe Biden faces a make-or-break 24 hours over his proposed $1tn public works plan, considered crucial by progressive Democrats, amid some resistance towards his broader social policy agenda among centrists.

It comes as the White House also scrambles to push through an expansion of the social safety net, which requires almost total Democratic party unity across both houses for the votes to pass. At least two senators are sceptical, with Joe Manchin of West Virginia criticising “an all-or-nothing approach that ignores the brutal fiscal reality our nation faces”.
The proposed laws would extend child tax credits, establish universal pre-kindergarten education, and create a federal family and medical leave system; as well as moving the US toward far greater use of renewable energies.
Who pays? The wealthiest Americans and corporations would face tax increases; while the poor and middle class would face tax cuts, and those earning less than $400,000 annually would not be taxed more.
“Precarious”. The White House press secretary, Jen Psaki,said: “We’re obviously at a precarious and important time in these discussions … It’s like an episode of a TV show. Maybe the West Wing if something good happens.”
Figures considered pillars of the Republican political establishment have been named on the list of the secretive Council for National Policy (CNP) alongside wealthy entrepreneurs and media moguls, with anti-abortion and anti-Islamic extremists also within their ranks.
The leaked document reveals that leaders of organizations that have been categorized as hate groups were members last year, and could remain so. The CNP was described as “a critical nexus for mainstreaming extremism from the far right into conservative circles”.
In videos obtained by the Washington Post in 2020, the CNP executive committee chairman, Bill Walton, told attendees of the upcoming election: “This is a spiritual battle we are in. This is good versus evil.”
How influential is the CNP? Its meetings have played host to presidential aspirants such as George W Bush and 1999 and Mitt Romney in 2007, and sitting presidents, including Donald Trump in 2020.
Corporations onboard. Members also include a Boeing vice-president, a key figure in the Coors brewing family, the founder of Forbes’s business media empire, a senior vice-president at Morgan Stanley, and the founder of Cinemark.
Gen Frank McKenzie, the head of central command, said the unraveling of the US-backed Afghan government accelerated once the US troop presence was pushed below 2,500 as part of the president’s decision in April to complete a total withdrawal by this month.
He claimed the ordered troop reduction was a “nail in the coffin” for the 20-year war effort because it blinded the US military to conditions inside the Afghan army, “because our advisers were no longer down there with those units”.
Gen Mark Milley, chair of the joint chiefs of staff, meanwhile, said that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a “strategic failure”. It follows the Trump administration’s February 2020 deal with the Taliban committing the US to withdrawing all troops by May this year, though diplomatic efforts did not gain traction until Biden took office.
“The Taliban got stronger”. The defense secretary Lloyd Austin said the deal committed the US to ending airstrikes against the Taliban, in effect enabling it to increase offensives against Afghan security forces.
Defying US intelligence assessments. The Afghan government and its US-trained army collapsed in mid-August, against expectations, in the face of a couple of hundred men on motorcycles, without a shot being fired.
Jamie Spears has been suspended from a position that had allowed him to control the life of his pop star daughter Britney for 13 years. The Los Angeles judge’s decision comes three months the singer first publicly pleaded for her father to be removed, alleging he had been abusive.
Outrage over the case grew has been growing amid huge #FreeBritney rallies after a recent New York Times documentary claimed Jamie Spears hired a security firm that was secretly surveilling his daughter’s phone and monitoring protesting fans.
State and federal lawmakers are considering major reforms to the archaic conservatorship system, which allegedly prevented Britney Spears’ from using birth control and forced her to work against her will.
What is a conservatorship? It is a type of court-appointed guardianship intended for people who can no longer make decisions for themselves, typically older and infirm people.
End of a ‘nightmare’. Britney Spears’ lawyer said the removal was the first step toward curtailing a “Kafkaesque nightmare” for a woman who had “been abused by this man … since her childhood”.
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, faces fresh embarrassment after challenges to a large-scale compensation scheme for First Nations children who were discriminated against by the welfare system were dismissed.
A former gold medal-winning US Olympic swimmer, Klete Keller, pleaded guilty to a felony charge over his participation in the January Capitol riot by supporters of Donald Trump, where he wore a Team USA jacket.
The North Korean leader, Kim Jung-un condemned US offers of dialogue as “nothing more than a facade to mask their deception and hostile acts”, but ordered officials to restore comms with South Korea to “promote peace”.
Facebook will undergo serious scrutiny today in Congress after leaks revealed its own research showing the harmful effects of Instagram on childhood mental health, in particular self-esteem among girls.
The remains of a dinosaur, which had a 9 metre-long body and has been nicknamed “the horned crocodile-faced hell heron”, have been discovered on the Isle of Wight, England. The find of the 125m-year-old fossil, along with the skeleton of a second species at the same site, cements the reputation of the former floodplain, which had a Mediterranean-like climate, as the best place in Europe to find dinosaurs. Jeremy Lockwood, a retired GP and amateur paleontologist who was part of the duo that found the bones, said: “We realised after the two snouts were found that this would be something rare and unusual.”
A new docu-series on a Tennessee cult that pushed a theological diet programme to become skinny outlines the trail of toxicity behind the Weigh Down Workshop’s teachings of fat as a manifestation of sin. Testimonies from former members and those threatened with the loss of family to the insular group, which believes it is the only path to heaven, demonstrate how Remnant Fellowship was actually “about power and controlling people’s lives, controlling their weight, controlling their marriages, controlling their finances”, according to Marina Zenovich, co-creator of The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin.
Amid a growing extinction crisis, US authorities have proposed taking 23 plants and animals off the endangered species list because they have not been spotted in the wild and are believed to be completely gone. It includes 10 types of bats and birds found only on islands in the Pacific, such as the ivory-billed woodpecker, as well as eight types of freshwater mussels. Until now, only 11 species have been removed because of extinction in the almost half-century since the Endangered Species Act was signed into law.
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A new book by Stephanie Grisham, Donald Trump’s third White House press secretary, says the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, was something of a soulmate figure to the former president. He was “one of the few European leaders Trump seemed to tolerate”, Grisham writes. “Conversations between those two, both pudgy white guys with crazy hair, redefined the word ‘random’.” Topics traversed included gallbladder removals and kangaroo power.
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