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Manchin wavers on Biden's plan, Democrats vow to push ahead
Sen. Joe Manchin is wavering over supporting President Joe Biden's $1.75 trillion policy package
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WASHINGTON — Pivotal Sen. Joe Manchin wavered Monday on his support for President Joe Biden’s sweeping $1.75 trillion domestic policy proposal, but Democratic leaders vowed to push ahead, with initial voting possible on the bill and a related $1 trillion infrastructure package in the House this week.

The West Virginia Democrat’s announcement came as Democrats wanted assurances from Manchin that he will support Biden’s big package. He’s one of two key holdout senators whose votes are needed to secure the deal and push it toward passage.

Instead, the conservative Manchin rebuffed progressive Democrats, urging them to quit holding “hostage” the smaller public works bill as negotiations continue on the broader package.

“Enough is enough,” Manchin said at a hastily called press conference at the Capitol.

Manchin said he’s open to voting for a final bill reflecting Biden’s big package “that moves our country forward.” But he said he’s “equally open to voting against” the final product as he assesses the sweeping social services and climate change bill.

Democrats have been working frantically to finish up months of negotiations, and it’s unclear whether Manchin’s resistance will deliver a debilitating blow to those efforts or have the opposite effect of propelling Democrats to start taking votes on Biden’s signature domestic proposal. His comments infuriated some Democrats but energized others, particularly progressives eager to force his hand.

The White House swiftly responded that it remains confident Manchin will support Biden’s plan, and the congressional leaders said it all remained on track.

“Senator Manchin says he is prepared to support a Build Back Better plan that combats inflation, is fiscally responsible, and will create jobs,” said press secretary Jen Psaki in a statement. “As a result, we remain confident that the plan will gain Senator Manchin’s support.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer both echoed the White House. And progressives insisted it’s time to vote.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., the leader of the progressive caucus said, “I don’t know what Sen. Manchin is thinking, but we are going to pass both bills through the House and we are going to deliver transformative change to the people.”

The stakes are high with Biden overseas at a global climate change summit and his party fighting in two key governors’ races this week — in Virginia and New Jersey — that are seen as bellwethers in the political mood of the electorate.

With Republicans staunchly opposed and no votes to spare, Democrats have been trying to unite progressive and centrist lawmakers around Biden’s big vision.

Biden unveiled a framework for the package last week, a sizable investment in social service programs and climate change strategies, but Democrats are trying to negotiate a provision to lower prescription drug prices for seniors with Medicare, among other final changes.

At a leadership meeting late Monday, Pelosi said the House Rules Committee could meet as soon as Tuesday evening or Wednesday, which would allow for votes midweek, according to a person who requested anonymity to discuss the private talks. The Senate would still have to vote, likely later in the month.

Progressives had been refusing to vote on the smaller public works bill, using it as leverage as they try to win commitments from Manchin and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, the other key holdout, for Biden’s broader bill.

Manchin, though, in a direct response to the progressives’ tactic, said “holding this bill hostage won’t work to get my support” for the broader one. The public works bill of roads, highways and broadband projects has already been approved by the Senate but is being stalled by House progressives as the broader negotiations are underway.

About Biden’s big package, Manchin said he will “not support a bill that is this consequential without thoroughly understanding the impact” it has on the economy and federal debt.

“This is not how the United States Congress should operate,” Manchin said. “It’s time our elected leaders in Washington stop playing games.”

Many Democrats were livid at Manchin for hitting the brakes yet again, particularly because they argued that Biden’s plan is expected to be fully paid for with new taxes on companies and the wealthy, and not add to the debt.

“I think he just betrayed his lack of seriousness,” said Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., the chairman of the Budget Committee.

Biden’s top domestic priorities have been a battlefield between progressive and moderate Democrats for months, and it was unclear if this week’s timetable for initial House votes could be met.

The $1.75 trillion package is sweeping in its reach, and would provide large numbers of Americans with assistance to pay for health care, education, raising children and caring for elderly people in their homes. It also would provide some $555 billion in tax breaks encouraging cleaner energy and electrified vehicles, the nation’s largest commitment to tackling climate change.

Much of its costs would be covered with higher taxes on people earning over $10 million annually and large corporations, which would now face a 15% minimum tax in efforts to stop big business from claiming so many deductions they end up paying zero in taxes.

Over the weekend, Democrats made significant progress toward adding provisions curbing prescription drug prices to the massive package, two congressional aides said Sunday. They requested anonymity to discuss the ongoing negotiations.

According to a senior Democratic aide, one proposal under discussion would let Medicare negotiate lower prices with pharmaceutical companies for many of their products. Excluded would be drugs for which the Food and Drug Administration has granted initial protection against competition, periods that vary but last several years.

There would be a cap on seniors’ out-of-pocket drug costs under Medicare Part D, the program’s outpatient prescription drug benefit, said the senior aide, who did not provide a figure. And pharmaceutical makers would have to pay a rebate if their prices rise above certain markers.

“You put these things together and you’re moving towards a financial reality where a prescription is no longer a financial ball and chain for American families,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the chairman of the Finance Committee.

Talks were continuing and no final agreement had been reached. But the movement raised hopes that the party’s 10-year, $1.75 trillion measure would address the longtime Democratic campaign promise to lower pharmaceutical costs, though more modestly than some wanted.

Some moderate Democrats in the House said they want to see see the final assessment from the Congressional Budget Office, which will offer a nonpartisan assessment of the overall bill’s entire budgetary costs, before taking the vote.


Associated Press writers Kevin Freking and Alan Fram contributed to this report.

Whoopers & Hoopers to become a 3-on-3 tournament
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Whoopers & Hoopers will become a 3-on-3 tournament with the Hastings Family YMCA taking the helm.

The Hastings Family YMCA and the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce announced Monday that Whoopers & Hoopers, the traditional five-on-five tourney, will become the Midwest Triple Threat.

“After several discussions with the chamber board and the Hastings Family YMCA, the chamber felt now was a good time to transition and hand this tournament over to the Hastings Family YMCA,” Hastings Chamber President Mikki Shafer said.

Whoopers & Hoopers has been a part of the Hastings community since 1981, when 12 teams entered what that year was called the Bob Magee Invitational. The event still is called the Gary Michael’s tournament by some old-timers since it was sponsored by the downtown clothing store until 1991 under the name Gary Michael’s Invitational.

In 1992, the tournament picked up the Whoopers & Hoopers name and was placed in the hands of an all-volunteer committee with nonprofit status under the auspices of the Hastings Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2006, chamber staff members were asked to take over the tournament in hopes the event would grow with paid personnel able to dedicate more time to running it.

What would have been the tournament’s 39th and 40th annual editions, respectively, were canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic.

Besides basketball games being played all over the Hastings area, the tournament — which in its heyday attracted upwards of 150 teams — has included features such as a player party at the City Auditorium and free-throw and slam-dunk contests on Saturday night.

Shafer said the YMCA could give the event new life at this point.

“The chamber recognizes the financial impact that a three-day tournament has for our community, and we are so pleased that the YMCA is going to continue that tradition,” Shafer said. “It’s been huge for our community, but over the years it’s slowly dwindled. With this transition, we are confident that the YMCA can breathe some new life into the tournament and that it can grow to be an even better event for our community.”

Midwest Triple Threat will be a 3-on-3 tournament format.

The tournament will be held during the same timeframe as Whoopers & Hoopers, which is always the third weekend in March. For 2022, the tournament dates are set for March 18-20.

The current plan is to have men’s and women’s divisions, including Elite, B, C, D and 40+. Games are planned half court and take place on gyms all over Hastings. Details still are being finalized, but initial details can be found at www.hastingsymca.net.

“We are really excited to take the reins of Whoopers, and create something new in our community around the game of basketball,” YMCA CEO Troy Stickels said. “The 3-on-3 format will be the major change. We feel like this will be very popular and entice a wider change of athletes to participate.”

The 3-on-3 basketball game was added to the Olympics recently.

“So hopefully that will create some more excitement,” Stickels said.

Subdivision for Juniata Dollar General gets recommendation

Parties affected by the construction of a proposed Dollar General store in Juniata agreed to work together as the Adams County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of a subdivision needed for the project.

Members of the Adams County Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6-0-2 at their regular meeting Monday to recommend to the Juniata Village Board approval of the Brandt Subdivision. Commissioners Henry Wilson and Ron Sidlo abstained, and Ken Lukasiewicz was absent.

Applicant Vaquero Ventures Management LLC of Fort Worth, Texas, would like to subdivide a tract along 12th Street (14th Street in Juniata), just east of the existing CPI Juniata Station.

Vaquero Ventures would like to build a Dollar General on the property after purchasing ground from Cooperative Producers Inc.

Quinn Boyd, commercial developer for Vaquero Ventures, was present at Monday’s meeting.

Gary Brandt, CEO of Cooperative Producers Inc., was present Monday. He said Juniata’s Economic Development group approached CPI, asking whether CPI would be willing to offer the land if the village of Juniata could convince Dollar General to put a store there.

“CPI, realizing that’s what the citizens of Juniata wanted and thinking that would be good for Juniata — how many towns can get a grocery store back after they lose one? — agreed to do that,” Brandt said.

CPI began working with Vaquero Ventures to come up with an agreement to sell the land.

“CPI would support this because we believe the citizens of Juniata want this to happen,” Brandt said.

Monday’s action comes one month after commission members voted to table action due to concerns from neighboring property owners about how the development would affect their property.

Vaquero Ventures received the survey for the property back in mid-September, at which point Vaquero learned gas and sewer lines belonging to the property to the east extend into the property Vaquero would purchase.

As a result, Vaquero would pay for the relocation of those lines. Dollar General has a policy not to build over utilities belonging to another property.

Roger and Kay Peters, who live just east of the proposed Dollar General property, had a verbal agreement with the former manager of the Juniata CPI site to use a portion of the CPI property in question for their utility lines. The Peterses expressed concerns during the October meeting about the store, including lighting as well as having their property torn up to move the utility lines.

Kay said the sewer line was installed in 2012; the gas line, before that.

Boyd said Black Hills Energy recommended establishing a public utility easement to relocate gas and sewer lines.

“That would prevent disruption of the Peters lawn or their connection points that are currently there,” he said. “It would just be moving the main lines that run through our property just to an easement zone and their connections would remain the same.”

He said the Dollar General store would use a landscaping buffer including trees, shrubs and fencing to separate the properties. Dollar General also would use gooseneck lighting to cut down on light pollution.

The Peterses questioned at Monday’s meeting whether property lines shown on a design Boyd presented were accurate. Boyd said he would work to begin pursuing a correct drawing after the meeting.

The Peterses said they aren’t opposed to the Dollar General.

“I’m not trying to stop anything,” Roger said. “I just want to live in peace.”

In other business, the commissioners unanimously recommended approval of Reiners Subdivision No. 2.

Applicant Judy Reiners would like to subdivide a tract at 70th Street and Osage Avenue that would contain 7.21 acres.

Monday’s meeting was also the commission’s annual election of officers. Commission members unanimously approved maintaining the same slate of officers: Dean Rolls, chairman; Henry Wilson, vice chairman; Judy Mignery, secretary; Bob Hansen, Board of Adjustments representative.

Rolls designated the Hastings Tribune to be the commission’s legal newspaper.

Leaders dial up doomsday warning to kick-start climate talks
World leaders are turning up the heat and resorting to end-of-the-world rhetoric in an attempt to bring new urgency to sputtering international climate negotiations
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GLASGOW, Scotland — World leaders turned up the heat and resorted to end-of-the-world rhetoric Monday in an attempt to bring new urgency to sputtering international climate negotiations.

The metaphors were dramatic and mixed at the start of the talks, known as COP26. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described global warming as “a doomsday device” strapped to humanity. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told his colleagues that humans are “digging our own graves.” And Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, speaking for vulnerable island nations, added moral thunder, warning leaders not to “allow the path of greed and selfishness to sow the seeds of our common destruction.”

Amid the speeches, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his coal-dependent country will aim to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by 2070 — two decades after the United States and at least 10 years later than China. Modi said the goal of reaching “net zero” by 2070 was one of five measures India planned to undertake to meet its commitments under the Paris climate accord.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel avoided soaring rhetoric and delved into policy.

“There’s no more time to sit back,” Biden said in a more measured warning that also apologized for his predecessor’s decision to temporarily pull the U.S. out of the historic 2015 Paris agreement, something he said put the country behind in its efforts. “Every day we delay, the cost of inaction increases.”

In a recorded welcome message, Queen Elizabeth II said she hoped the conference would be “one of those rare occasions where everyone will have the chance to rise above the politics of the moment.”

“History has shown that when nations come together in common cause, there is always room for hope,” she said in the video, which was recorded on Friday at Windsor Castle.

One of the United Nations’ biggest concerns is that some countries are more focused on amorphous long-term net-zero goals instead of seeking cuts this decade that could prevent temperature increases that would exceed the Paris goal.

Modi also outlined shorter-term goals for the world’s third-biggest carbon emitter: raising its goal for non-fossil energy production, meeting half of its energy needs with renewable sources, cutting carbon emissions by 1 billion tons compared with previous targets and reducing the carbon intensity of its economy by 45% — all by 2030.

While 2070 sounds far off for India’s pledge, four outside experts from think tanks and universities said India’s new short- and long-term goals are significant, while not huge, because of that nation’s development status. Ulka Kelkar, who directs India climate policy analysis for the World Resource Institute, said a lot depends on details, but the 2070 goal would be similar to the U.S. and Europe adopting net-zero goals 20 years ago.

Still, European officials privately expressed disappointment at India’s late target, but declined to comment publicly.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen touted already announced efforts to make Europe “the first net-zero continent” in the long-term and cut emissions 55% in this decade. She pushed for other rich countries to aid poorer nations as much as Europe does and put a price on carbon emissions because “nature cannot pay that price anymore.”

Bolivia President Luis Arce said the speeches from developed countries sought to portray them as climate change leaders “but this is far from the truth.” He said rich nations need to face their historic responsibilities for causing the warming problem and not fix it by forcing rules on poor countries. The real solution, he said, “is an alternative to capitalism” and “unfettered consumerism.”

Johnson pointed out that the 130-plus world leaders gathered for the leaders’ summit portion of the conference had an average age of over 60, while the generations most harmed by climate change aren’t yet born.

Outside the negotiations, youth climate activist Greta Thunberg accused world leaders of “pretending to take our future seriously.”

“Change is not going to come from inside there,” Thunberg said, “We say no more blah, blah, blah.”

The conference aims to get governments to commit to curbing carbon emissions fast enough to keep global warming to 2.7 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The world has already warmed 2 degrees. Current projections based on planned emissions cuts over the next decade are for it to hit 4.9 by the year 2100.

Increased warming over coming decades would melt much of the planet’s ice, raise global sea levels and greatly increase the likelihood and intensity of extreme weather, scientists say. With every tenth of a degree of warming, the dangers soar faster, they say.

The other goals for the meeting are for rich nations to give poor nations $100 billion a year in climate aid and to reach an agreement to spend half of the money to adapt to worsening climate impacts.

But Mottley, of Barbados, warned that negotiators are falling short.

“This is immoral and it is unjust,” Mottley said. “Are we so blinded and hardened that we can no longer appreciate the cries of humanity?”

“We are already gasping for survival,” chimed in President Wavel John Charles Ramkalawan of the Seychelles, another island nation. “Tomorrow is not an option for it will be too late.”

Guterres struck an equally gloomy note.

“We are digging our own graves,” said the U.N. secretary-general. “Our planet is changing before our eyes — from the ocean depths to mountaintops, from melting glaciers to relentless extreme weather events.”

The speeches will continue through Tuesday, then the leaders will leave.

The idea is that they will do the big political give-and-take, setting out broad outlines of agreement, and then have other government officials hammer out the details. That’s what worked to make the historic 2015 Paris climate deal a success, former U.N. Climate Secretary Christiana Figueres told The Associated Press.

“For heads of state, it is actually a much better use of their strategic thinking,” Figueres said.

Thousands lined up in a chilly wind in Glasgow on Monday to get through a bottleneck at the entrance to the venue. But what will be noticeable are a handful of major absences.

Xi Jinping, president of top carbon-polluting nation China, is not in Glasgow. Figueres said his absence is not that significant because he isn’t leaving the country during the pandemic and his climate envoy is a veteran negotiator.

Biden has chided China and Russia for their less-than-ambitious efforts to curb emissions and blamed them for a disappointing statement on climate change at the end of the meeting of leaders from the Group of 20 major economies in Rome this weekend.

Perhaps more troublesome for the U.N. summit is the absence of several small nations from the Pacific islands that couldn’t make it because of COVID-19 restrictions and logistics. That’s a big problem because their voices relay urgency, Figueres said.

In addition, the heads of several major emerging economies beyond China are also skipping Scotland, including those from Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa. That leaves Modi the only leader present from the so-called BRICS nations, which account for more than 40% of global emissions.