Pelosi, Democrats unveil bills to rein in alleged White House abuses of power

Leading House Democrats on Wednesday unveiled sweeping legislation empowering Congress with more muscular oversight and anti-corruption tools to rein in alleged presidential abuses — present and future.

Behind Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare House lawmakers reach deal to avert shutdown Centrist Democrats ‘strongly considering’ discharge petition on GOP PPP bill MORE (D-Calif.), the Democrats are hoping to bolster the congressional checks on the executive branch, as outlined by the Constitution, including efforts to curb abuses of presidential pardons; prevent presidents from profiting personally from the office; and secure administrative compliance with congressional subpoenas.

The legislation has no chance of becoming law while Republicans control the Senate and President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: ‘This is my country’ Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE remains in the White House. But it highlights the laundry list of abuse allegations Democrats have lodged against the president over the last four years — and provides Democrats with political ammunition as Congress prepares to leave Washington for the final sprint to the Nov. 3 elections.

“During this once-in-a-generation moment, the Congress has a sacred obligation for the people to defend the rule of law and restore accountability and basic ethics to the government. And that is exactly what we’re doing [with this package],” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol.

“It is sad that the president’s actions have made this legislation necessary,” she added. “As with other things, he gives us no choice.”

Crafted by some of the Democrats’ top committee heads, the legislative package takes aim at the some of the most controversial episodes of Trump’s tenure.

One proposal would codify the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bars presidents and other federal officials from accepting foreign gifts. Another would expedite the judicial process surrounding congressional subpoenas, which the administration has frequently disregarded leading to lengthy court proceedings.

“Congressional subpoenas are not requests that recipients can easily brush aside,” said Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealRep. Bill Pascrell named chair of House oversight panel Rep. Cedric Richmond set to join House Ways and Means Committee Coons beats back progressive Senate primary challenger in Delaware MORE (D-Mass.), head of the Ways and Means Committee. “They are indispensable as a tool that this body uses to investigate potential wrong-doing … and to prevent future abuses.”

The legislation would also lend new teeth to the Hatch Act — which bars federal officials from promoting political interests during their normal course of duties — by establishing fines of up to $50,000 for violations.

Another provision would strengthen Congress’s powers to dictate federal funding by applying penalties to executive officials who misappropriate taxpayer dollars for pet projects. Democrats have long-accused Trump of abusing that power, including an incident when he tapped Pentagon funding to help build his wall at the Mexican border, and another when he withheld federal

Read more

House Dems seek to curb presidential power with new bill targeting potential abuses

House Democrats unveiled a sweeping package of government reforms Monday aimed at curbing future abuses of power by a president and strengthening congressional oversight powers, in response to the conflicts they’ve had with the Trump administration in the last three years. 

The legislation, called the “Protecting Our Democracy Act,” wouldn’t pass the Republican-controlled Senate even if it were to pass the House before the end of the current Congress, but it is among the bills Democrats have prepared, should they recapture the Senate and White House this November. It would complement H.R.1, another reform package targeting voting rights, campaign finance and government ethics House Democrats passed in 2019. 

The committee chairs who authored the legislation say it will prevent future abuses and restore the balance of power between Congress and the White House, and they argue that the foundation of democracy is “deeply at risk” without changes.  

“Since taking office, President Trump has placed his own personal and political interests above the national interest by protecting and enriching himself, targeting his political opponents, seeking foreign interference in our elections, eroding transparency, seeking to end accountability, and otherwise abusing the power of his office,” the chairs said in a statement. “It is time for Congress to strengthen the bedrock of our democracy and ensure our laws are strong enough to withstand a lawless president.” 

The latest legislation tries to claw back more power for Congress and to curb the president’s power under the Constitution, an area where Democrats have struggled, despite hundreds of hours spent on investigations of the current administration and impeachment proceedings that ended with the president’s acquittal in the Senate. 

It would speed up the process by which Congress can turn to the courts to enforce a subpoena and empower the courts to fine government officials who fail to comply. Democrats have used the contempt process to try to compel Attorney General William Barr, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and former White House Counsel Don McGahn to comply with subpoenas, only to see those efforts stall in court or fail to produce documents they sought. 

There are also provisions aimed at limiting the administration’s ability to govern through emergency declarations or to divert federal funds away from the use intended by Congress. 

The bill would also try to curb potential political interference by the Justice Department, and even allow fines against White House officials who violate the Hatch Act by engaging in partisan political activity while acting in an official capacity. An ethics watchdog for the White House recommended that one of President Trump’s key advisers, Kellyanne Conway, be fired for violating the act, but she faced no consequences from the White House. 

Other measures would strengthen protections for whistleblowers in the federal government and try to give further support to the inspectors general who independently investigate federal agencies.  

The president himself would face increased scrutiny and limits on his ability to issue pardons or commutations to relatives or officials who were found to have obstructed Congress. Self-pardons would

Read more

Range Rover Velar updated with upgraded interior and plug-in hybrid power

Land Rover has revealed its revised Range Rover Velar, which sees a plug-in hybrid being introduced for the first time along with a revised engine range and updated interior.

The Range Rover Velar arrived in 2017 as a new model to the Land Rover line-up – slotting between the Evoque and Sport in the firm’s SUV range.

A series of new engines have been included in the updated Velar

Key to this update is a new plug-in hybrid model – the P400e. It’s a powertrain already available on other Range Rover models, and mates together a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor and 17.1kWh battery. It produces 399bhp and 640Nm of torque, and can travel for a claimed 33 miles on electricity alone, along with returning 130.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 49g/km. Its battery can also be charged from flat to 80 per cent in half an hour using a fast charger.

A pair of mild-hybrid engines have also been introduced, which feature a 48-volt battery to improve efficiency and refinement – this technology being included as standard on the 296bhp 3.0-litre diesel (D300) and 395bhp 3.0-litre petrol (P400). Elsewhere a four-cylinder 201bhp D200 mild-hybrid diesel replaces the previous D180 and D240 models.

The car’s battery can be charged to 80 per cent in half an hour using a fast charger

The other main changes are on the interior, which sees Land Rover’s latest Pivi Pro infotainment system being installed. Available on all but the entry-level version, the system offers a simpler interface, and comes with more shortcut buttons to make it easier to use on the move. Spotify is directly integrated to the cabin for the first time, too.

Other cabin changes include a new steering wheel design with touch-sensitive buttons, along with a more traditional gear selector – replacing the rotary one seen previously. A feature known as Active Road Noise Cancellation has also been introduced to help reduce vibrations and allow for improved interior refinement.

Elsewhere a new ‘Edition’ trim level joins the range, which sits above the R-Dynamic SE specification. It brings extras like black 20-inch alloy wheels and a black roof, and is also available in new Hakabu Silver and Lantau Bronze paint colours.

The Velar gains JLR’s new Pivi Pro system

Nick Rogers, executive director of product engineering at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “It has been fifty years since the introduction of the pioneering Range Rover in 1970, and now every family member is electrified with our awesome plug-in hybrid technology.

Electrified powertrains and cleaner mild hybrid diesel engines mean the Velar is an even more efficient and sustainable option for our customers.”

The updated Range Rover Velar is available to order now, with prices starting from £46,110, a small increase of £400 on the outgoing version.

Source Article

Read more

The Secret Garden and the healing power of nature

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden has been described as “the most significant children’s book of the 20th century.”

First published in 1911, after being serialised in The American Magazine, it was dismissed by one critic at the time as simple and lacking “plenty of excitement”. The novel is, in fact, a sensitive and complex story, which explores how a relationship with nature can foster our emotional and physical well-being. It also reveals anxieties about national identity at a time of the British Empire, drawing on ideas of Christian Science.

The Secret Garden has been read by generations, remains a fixture on children’s publishing lists today and has inspired several film versions. A new film, starring Colin Firth, Dixie Egerickx and Amir Wilson, updates the story in some ways for modern audiences.

2020 movie still, a tree covered in pink flowers
A scene from the new movie version of the book.

The book opens as nine-year-old Mary Lennox is discovered abandoned in an Indian bungalow following her parents’ deaths during a cholera outbreak. Burnett depicts India as a site of permissive behaviour, illness and lassitude:

[Mary’s] hair was yellow, and her face was yellow because she had been born in India and had always been ill in one way or another.

Mary is “disagreeable”, “contrary”, “selfish” and “cross”. She makes futile attempts at gardening, planting hibiscus blossoms into mounds of earth. The Ayah tasked with caring for Mary and the other “native servants … always obeyed Mary and gave her her own way in everything.”

On the death of her parents, Mary is sent to live with her reclusive uncle Archibald Craven at Misselthwaite Manor in Yorkshire.

Mary’s arrival in England proves a shock. The “blunt frankness” of the Yorkshire servants – in contrast to those in India – checks her behaviour. Martha Sowerby, an outspoken young housemaid, presents Mary with a skipping rope: Yorkshire good sense triumphing over Mary’s imperial malaise.

Also in the manor is Colin, her 10-year-old cousin. Hidden from Mary, she discovers him after hearing his cries at night.

Colin is unable to walk and believes he will not live to reach adulthood. Sequestered in his bedroom, Colin terrorises his servants with his tantrums: he performs “hysterics” in the model of Gothic femininity.

Read more:
The Yellow Wallpaper: a 19th-century short story of nervous exhaustion and the perils of women’s ‘rest cures’


Perhaps the most famous image associated with Burnett’s text is the locked door leading to the eponymous garden.

The first edition of The Secret Garden, published in 1911.
Houghton Library, Harvard University

This walled garden had formerly belonged to Colin’s mother, Lilias Craven. When she died after an accident in the garden, her husband, Archibald, locked the door and buried the key.

After Mary unearths the key, she begins to work in this mysterious, overgrown garden along with Martha’s brother, Dickon. Eventually, she manages to draw Colin out of his room with the help of Dickon, and the garden helps him to recover his strength.

Burnett draws upon the cultural connection

Read more

On Teaching: The Healing Power of Garden Class

Broady works to fill what he calls “the nature deficit.” For eight years at Ashe Charter, he worked as a garden teacher introducing students to the worlds outside their door. In July, he started as an agriculture and careers teacher at Living School, a high school in its second year that follows a “learning by doing” philosophy; students focus on multidisciplinary projects, and the goal is to graduate with both a college acceptance letter and a trade certification. But even in a slightly different role, Broady has the same mission as always: bringing health, healing, and connection to students, particularly children of color.

Broady’s own childhood, in Florissant, Missouri, had nature in droves. His father, a former science teacher, kept a huge garden. Broady took himself on adventures in the woods across the street. “It was a dream,” he said. “I was able to just explore in nature, and I knew that nature was my own.” He majored in biology and began teaching high school in New York City in 1999. That was the first and last time he held a traditional classroom job. From 2000 to 2009, he taught in community-education programs and alternative schools, designed curricula, worked as a chef, and made electronic music. Eventually, he settled in San Francisco.

Over that same period, programs that introduced public-school kids to gardening were putting down roots in New Orleans. In 1998, volunteers started an after-school gardening program at the city’s first charter school, New Orleans Charter Middle. NOCM’s organizers, now a charter-management group called FirstLine Schools, had just taken over Samuel J. Green Middle School in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina destroyed the NOCM campus and temporarily closed Green. In 2006, the famed Berkeley chef Alice Waters invited Green to become the first spot to replicate her original Edible Schoolyard, a public-school garden program that introduced children to sustainable agriculture and nutritious eating through hands-on activities. An edible schoolyard is different from a regular school garden because of its “seed to table” philosophy: Community members grow food, then cook and eat it, together.

When Broady heard about Edible Schoolyard NOLA in 2010, he got so excited that he applied for the only open job—a policy-administration position, not his forte. Then he had one conversation with the director, bought a Volvo, and drove from San Francisco sight unseen. Fortunately, Green had just lost a garden worker, so Broady got a job. And, as it turned out, he was instrumental in expanding the program; during his time, FirstLine took on four additional elementary-middle schools. He started teaching in the largest garden, at Ashe.

Today, Ashe has a cornucopia of annual Edible rituals. In October, they hold Sweet Potato Fest, with a parade and a community spud harvest. November is fifth-grade “Iron Chef.” For the annual report-card night, when parents come to the school to see their children’s progress, Broady displays objects like bird skulls found in the garden, and an array of student-concocted herbal tinctures, teas, and salves. Every September brings Watermelon

Read more

Inner Power: First Look Your Garden Before Looking Your Neighbor's

If you often catch yourself suffering angst attacks because of things that you perceive as looking better in your neighbor's garden. Then, this message can have a thing or two for you.

This short but meaningful message … is a reflexion on something quite common in our lives. It's about the thousand times that we start looking outside for things that are just in front of our eyes.

But, hidden under the veil of familiarity, complacency, or simply spiritual blindness. Hope this last thing about "spiritual blindness" does not sound SPOOKY.

The images in my mind that originated this message are just from the backyard garden. A true blossoming of God's beauty just there to be seen and create joy. Let me tell you that when I noticed them in the garden it was something revealing and somehow motivated the article I'm sharing with you.

The same happens with many experiences and life episodes you have had in your life, that are quite valuable however remain somewhere unnoticed. Waiting to be shared to help or inspire others to advance in their journey. But, somewhere all those experiences remain buried and struggling to get out and serve better purposes.

Escaping from the home bookshelves where many books are waiting their turn to be read. Ready to expand your knowledge boundaries and cause the change and transformation that one day motivated the book's writer heart.

A writer, that thinks he may improve and enrich your life and expand the limits of your poles tent. Contributing to his own vision and insights on the subjects dealt in the books. And it does not end there. As there are so many other rabbit holes to heed.

What about the thousands of documents that are collecting dust in your hard drives, flash memories and so on. Plus the myriads of documents available on the web just waiting to be researched and their value be shared with the rest of the world.

The few examples given above, show us how dis-empowering can be to lose focus and go astray feeling disoriented and looking at our neighbors garden when our garden has many trees waiting to be prized by our attention and love.

Hope I've touched some strings that could help you unleash the motivation to take action on the transformation that you need to move from where you're now to wherever you want to be.

The transformation that will take you and your loved ones to that dreamed place that until now has been elusive to you.

I'll not sugar coat the pill but to a certain extent is not the fault of a lot of persons that like you are experiencing the same roller coaster.

So many roads to pick in order to go after your business dreams. No surprise, that you end up frustrated when trying to choose the fastest one. Press by the daily life pressures you select the shiny way. In full detriment of the principles and strategies that rule good solid …

Read more

Passion, Purpose, Position: Pluto's First House Placement of Pivotal Power!

I enjoy the subject of astrology and most especially the MODE Cosmic Therapy humanistic, psycho-analytic delving into the intricacies involved. I enjoy it, not only because it entertains and educates, but because I thoroughly love dissecting interlocking various mathematical patterns and geometric relationships. Yes, angular patterns. Everything that exists occurs because of the various different patterns associated.

The pattern of water H2O (water) is different from NaCl (salt); yet both are necessary in their own sphere of influence and function; Most especially, in the electro-magnetic roles they play in the human body. So, too, are the spiraling patterns linked to bring about certain functions by their specific positions -in the galaxies-whose radiating subatomic-ionic measure influence us by their specified orbits.

Take the influence of Pluto (Scorpio) for instance. Everyone has Pluto located somewhere in his / her astrological natal chart. However, dominating Pluto people {those who have Pluto located in the first house} are considered to be too egotistical, skeptical, and harsh. There is seldom any pity felt for them when damning consequences result from their brusque actions. Confrontation proves to be training ground they welcome. Most people say they are nothing short of evil.

Others will say "Well, he (or she) deserves it, since he (or she) brought it on himself (or herself)". Unfortunately, Pluto ruled first house people are not necessarily aware of what they did or do to bring 'things' on themselves. They simply want things and people to be brought into the light! They abhor falsity. And, because they do so love to expose devious motivations, in themselves and others, they will stop at nothing to achieve the task of bringing phonies to light.

Today, as I am discussing Pluto's position and influence in the first house of the astrological natal chart, I am starkly reminded that it is solely due to the probing power of Pluto that any of us question our purpose for being alive on planet Earth. How could it be that this small (seemingly inconsequential remote planet) subject to the human race to such blatant unrest?

The subject of death, which immediately lays the groundwork in the realm of Pluto, astrologically, drives us to uncover what we possibly can to illuminate the matter. Superficiality will not suffice when brought before the master of death. Incidentally, regarding the natal chart, if Pluto is close to the Ascendant, the journey and delivery of the birth is involved in somewhat of a crucial life and death struggle.

The mother was undergoing an ongoing trans-formative phase-when the child was born-which entailed deception and marked dissatisfaction. Even though the birth may not have brought about a literal death, the mother is forever changed and linked irrevocably to the child in life changing struggles. {A turning point in her life; no doubt}

The relationship with mother and child is so intertwined and formidably joined, though somewhat elusively disguised, remains identical in make-up. The child will possess an irresolute fear of the impending doomed motivations in people, in as …

Read more