Costco limits purchases of toilet paper, water as supply chain shortage and Delta push demand

To avoid a repeat run on toilet paper of the sort that left shelves barren last year during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, bulk retailer Costco will limit the number of rolls a customer can buy as the Delta variant surges.Last week, during the retail giant’s fourth-quarter earnings call, the company confirmed it would be “putting some limitations on key items,” including toilet paper, cleaning products and Kirkland Signature water.
It is unclear exactly what those limitations will look like, but Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti pointed toward the “uptick in Delta-related demand” as their cause.
Galanti added that supply chains have been disrupted by “port delays; container shortages; COVID disruptions; shortages on various components, raw materials and ingredients; labor cost pressures; and trucker and driver shortages.”
He said that while last year there was a product shortage, this year, this is plenty of product, but significantly delayed delivery times due to the above factors.
Galanti says Costco has been “ordering as much as we can and getting it in earlier,” an effort that has included chartering three ocean vessels to transport containers between the U.S., Canada, and Asia. 

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Tennessee to appeal federal rulings in two mask mandate lawsuits

Tennessee’s attorney general is appealing the recent decisions of two federal judges related to Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order allowing parents to opt out of school mask mandates.Judges in Shelby, Knox and Williamson counties recently granted injunctions in lawsuits filed by parents of students with disabilities in each county. Attorney General Herbert Slatery’s appeals will be in the Shelby County and Knox County cases.
“These orders have impeded the Governor’s executive authority during an emergency to direct the State’s public health response, which is why this Office will be appealing those decisions,” Slatery’s office said Monday in a news release.
The rulings in the Knox and Williamson county cases came Friday, with the Williamson ruling to run through Oct. 5. The Knox and Shelby county injunctions will be in place until each case comes to its completion.
Knox County schools were cancelled Monday to allow staff to prepare to enforce the new mask rules after a rally against the ruling was held over the weekend.
“Really concerning to me that an anti-mask group just met saying they need to bring Knox County Schools to a halt (to applause) and asked folks to block entrances to schools with their cars – including not letting school buses in,” state Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, said on social media. “This is not a group that cares about kids.”
The parents who sued claim Lee’s executive order violated their students’ rights to protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act because the order does not provide proper protection for their students, who have chronic lung disease, a rare brain disorder and a congenital heart defect, as was argued in the Knox County case.
“An appointed federal judge has come into our county, in which our duly elected body has already made a ruling twice related to any kind of mask mandate that we’re not doing it. We’re giving parents the ability to be parents and make the best decision for their children,” Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, said in a video message he tweeted on the topic. “… This foolishness only stops when we make it stop. Government derives its power from the consent of the governed.”
Zachary then encouraged parents to send kids to Knox County schools without a mask.
“We have to make our stand and this is where we make our stand,” Zachary said.
Zachary said in a video posted Monday that, after reflection, Tuesday would be a tense day in Knox County.
“We have to bring a level of humility and grace,” Zachary said. “But again, also a firmness and a resoluteness knowing what the consequences will be but knowing, for many of us, this is a stand that needs to be taken.”

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Top Republicans on House Judiciary ask AG why charges dropped against Chinese spies

Top Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee on Monday asked Attorney General Merrick Garland why the Justice Department has dismissed charges against six suspected Chinese spies. The GOP lawmakers – Rep. Jim Jordan, the committee’s top Republican, and committee member Rep. Andy Biggs – asked Garland in a letter in which they posed four questions to the country’s top law enforcement officer including one asking about “recent developments” that led to the charges being dropped.
In July, the federal government moved to dismiss cases against five Chinese researchers charged with lying about ties to the Chinese military on visa applications. The decision follows a mistrial in another case.
They were purportedly charged under a Trump administration initiative that aimed to investigate allegations of economic espionage and trade secret theft.
Jordan, of Ohio, and Biggs, of Arizona, in the four-page letter asks whether the Biden administration supports the previous administration’s China Initiative and whether it has any plans to “reform, prioritize, or reinforce its duties and responsibilities.”  
“The (Justice) Department said that dismissing the cases was ‘in the interest of justice.’ However, other reports suggest the Department dismissed the cases for other reasons, including the FBI supposedly failing to Mirandize and FBI questions about the value of bringing these cases. Others suggest that the timing of the dismissals – mere days before the Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman’s first trip to China – is dubious,” they also wrote.

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Liz Cheney: Can 'absolutely' beat Trump-backed challenger, her bid 'most important' 2022 House race

Wyoming GOP Rep. Liz Cheney is confident she can win 2022 reelection despite begin targeted for defeat by former President Trump and calls her effort to win a fourth term “the most important House race” among all 435  next year”Absolutely,” Cheney said Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes” TV news program to the question of whether she can win next year. “I think it’s going to be the most important House race in the country in 2022.”
Cheney and Trump appeared to be at odds from essentially the start of their political relations as Republican, with the former president critical of what he considered her hawking stances on U.S. military and foreign policy, calling her a “warmongering fool.”
Their relationship came irreparable after Cheney voted to impeach Trump for his actions during the Jan. 6 riot, asserted Sunday that, “Instead of stopping the attack while it was underway, he was busy calling up senators trying to get them to delay the count” of the 2020 presidential results. 
Trump has endorsed Harriet Hageman, a long-time Cheney supporter and former Wyoming national Republican committeewoman, to run against Cheney, who’s approval rating is down to about 30%, according to CBS. 
Still, according to the most recent fundraising records, Cheney from April to June out-raised all of her challengers combined by more than $1.2 million.

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Judge: Arizona’s mask mandate ban unconstitutional

An Arizona judge has invalidated a measure keeping schools and other institutions from requiring masks to combat the spread of COVID-19.Maricopa County Superior Circuit Court Judge Katherine Cooper ruled Monday legislation containing a ban on mask mandates and several other high-profile initiatives broke the state constitution’s “single subject rule” that says legislation must pertain to one topic.
Cooper said in her ruling it is not a condemnation of the initiatives, rather a denial of the method in which they were enacted.
“The Court is not asked to decide (nor will it) whether the Legislature should enact policy or what that policy should be,” she said. “The issue here is not what the Legislature decided but how it decided what it did.”
Referred to as “logrolling,” Arizona Republicans added various measures with tenuous connections to the state budget into Budget Reconciliation Bills (BRBs). While common, the practice is a perennial gripe of Democrats who said it allows legislation to pass that wouldn’t on its own.
“As BRBs, their function was to enact laws to effectuate the budget,” Cooper said in her ruling. “It was not to enact laws prohibiting mask mandates, regulating school curriculum, or authorizing special interest projects unrelated to the budget or budget reconciliation.”
The ruling also invalidates a ban on COVID-19 vaccination requirements for businesses and public universities, a ban on “controversial school curriculum,” such as critical race theory, as well as many other provisions in Senate Bill 1819.
The provisions were to take effect Wednesday.
Opponents of the mask ban said the ruling will allow schools and other institutions to protect children from COVID-19.
“Today, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled GOP lawmakers violated Arizona’s constitution when it passed significant new policies, like a ban on mask mandates, in the state budget this past June,” said Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, a Democrat. “Passing overwhelmingly complex laws in the eleventh hour without public comment is an assault on the democratic process. With this ruling, Arizona school leaders, educators and community members can come together to make the best decisions on public health, safety and education.”
A spokesperson for Gov. Doug Ducey said the governor’s office is reviewing the ruling but called the decision an example of judicial overreach.
“Arizona’s state government operates with three branches, and it’s the duty and authority of only the legislative branch to organize itself and to make laws,” spokesperson CJ Karamargin. “Unfortunately, today’s decision is the result of a rogue judge interfering with the authority and processes of another branch of government.”
The governor’s office said additional action will be taken to challenge this ruling and “ensure separation of powers is maintained.”

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Middle school in Washington state bans pro-police flag, but permits BLM and LGBT messages to remain

In Washington state, a teacher was ordered to remove a pro-police “thin blue line” flag from her classroom over claims that it is a “political symbol,” despite materials supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and various LGBT pride flags being allowed to remain up at the school.The brother of the teacher who told to take down the flag, Chris Sutherland, told “The Jason Rantz Show” that the school said “it’s controversial to have  that flag up … it makes kids and staff feel unsafe.”
Sutherland is a former police officer with the Marysville Police Department in Washington. The flag was originally hung in a classroom at the Marysville Middle School. 
Initially, an assistant principal at the school told the teacher there were “concerns about how students, families, and community members might interpret what the image is intending to communicate and that this interpretation may cause a disruption to the learning environment,” reported Rantz. Though, those objections were dropped.
Later, however, a second assistant principal ordered that the flag be removed. An HR representative for the school district clarified that to the teacher that the district was “highly concerned about the impact of this political symbol on students, staff, and families of Marysville Middle School.”
The teacher was told that if she did not refrain from using the “thin blue line flag” in school, she could face “further disciplinary action.”
Signs and symbols of support for BLM and LGBTQ causes are, however, permitted to remain on display inside the school, said Sutherland.
“There’s also, she (his sister) was telling me, BLM stuff hanging on the walls, which she was told is okay. Just for whatever reason, just the Thin Blue Line flag cannot be hung up there,” he said.

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Newsom signs universal mail-in ballots into law in California

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday signed into law a bill that makes vote-by-mail permanent in the nation’s largest state, just a few weeks after winning a recall election in which pre-paid mailed ballots played an important role.California “took unprecedented steps to ensure all voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot during the pandemic, and today we are making those measures permanent after record-breaking participation in the 2020 presidential election,” Newsom said in signing the measure.
The law mandates state election officials send ballots with prepaid return envelopes to all voters in statewide elections and local contests, whether they requested them or not.

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DC police officer charge with murder in connection with pursuit of moped driver who fatally crashed

A Washington, D.C., police officer has been charged with murder in connection with the pursuit last year of a man illegally riding a moped that led to the driver being fatally struck by a motorist. Metropolitan Police Department Officer Terence Sutton was charged Friday with second-degree murder in the October 2020 death of Karon Hylton-Brown. Sutton also faces federal charges of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. A second officer, Lt. Andrew Zabavsky faces federal conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges in connection with the incident, the Justice Department.
Attorneys for each of the officers entered a not guilty plea on behalf of their respective clients. 
Police turned on their emergency lights and attempted to stop Hylton-Brown. In an unmarked car with three other officers, directly pursued Hylton-Brown for roughly three minutes, at time twice the post speed limit in the residential area. 
Zabavsky had been pursuing Hylton-Brown in a marked vehicle but was not behind him when the fatal accident occurred. Hylton-Brown was fatally struck by a motorist coming out of alley alley into a street. 
The indictment alleges that Sutton and Zabavsky also  attempted to “hide from MPD officials the circumstances of the traffic collision leading to Hylton-Brown’s death, to prevent an internal investigation of the incident and referral of the matter to federal authorities for a criminal civil rights investigation,” according to CNN.
Sutton had been with the MPD for over 10 years,  Zabavsky had been on the force 18 years and was a supervisor. 

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Milley, Austin to be grilled on Capitol Hill about Afghanistan withdrawal

The Pentagon’s top two military chiefs are expected to face tough questioning this week when they appear before lawmakers to answer questions about the U.S. military’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley will attend hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday; first before the Senate, then in the House of Representatives.
The hearings will be the defense leaders’ first appearance before Congress to discuss Afghanistan following the Aug. 31 U.S. exit from Kabul.
Milley is expected to be asked about allegations contained in the new book, “Peril,” by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
Actions attributed in the book to the chairman include making secret calls to the top military officer in Beijing, and holding a clandestine gathering of military officers to demand that they only obey command orders that came through him. Milley took the unprecedented actions because he was afraid Trump might launch a nuclear strike, the authors wrote. 
Milley has taken a defiant tone regarding reports that he surreptitiously tried to circumvent the authority of his then-commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump. While critics demanded he resign or be fired — or even prosecuted — the White House offered him full support.
Milley in a statement confirmed that the anecdotes in the book are true, but couched them as normal procedure — and signaled that he plans to remain in office.
“General Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution,” the chairman’s spokesman, Col. Dave Butler, said in a statement.
Milley’s doubling-down further alarmed critics, who described his actions as dangerous. 
Milley, Austin, and U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday morning; and before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
General Scott Miller, the last commander to lead U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, testified earlier this month before a closed session in the Senate. 
During that appearance, Miller told lawmakers that he had informed Austin, Milley, and McKenzie that he was “opposed to the total withdrawal,” according to Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).
Miller is not listed as a witness at either of the hearings this week. Just the News was not immediately able to reach Gen. Miller for comment.

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Tennessee state senator acquitted of 15 of 20 federal charges

A federal judge acquitted Tennessee state Sen. Katrina Robinson on 15 of the 20 counts of theft and embezzlement she was facing involving government funds.Robinson, D-Memphis, still faces five charges, and the jury is expected to return Tuesday to hear more of the case. Federal Judge Sheryl Lipman was set to present the reasons for her acquittals in court Monday. Robinson was indicted on 48 counts in July 2020.
Robinson’s The Healthcare Institute received more than $2.2 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services between 2015 and 2019.
Robinson was accused of stealing $600,000 from The Healthcare Institute to pay for personal expenses, including clothing and beauty products, a vehicle for her daughter, wedding and honeymoon expenses, legal fees for her divorce and a campaign event.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and HHS investigated the case.
A Center Square investigation showed Robinson also spent more than 10 times the average for a state senator while traveling to conferences, resulting in bills for $17,934.56 to Tennessee taxpayers over a 20-month period in 2019 through 2020.
She collected $6,000 per day in per diem pay on conference days.
Only two other Senators had billed the state more than $5,000 during that same span, the investigation showed.
Robinson denied that her conference spending was out of line with other Senators when asked about the 2020 report.
“As a first-term legislator who began service with no prior legislative experience, I have welcomed a number of recommendations and invitations for educational and developmental opportunities from my colleagues and leader,” Robinson said about the spending.

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Homeland Security secretary moves to protect DACA after Texas court ruling halted the program

The Biden administration Monday announced a plan to create a rule to reestablish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, following the decision by a Texas court that found the Obama-era program unlawful and halted the ability of “Dreamers” to apply for immigration protections.The Homeland Security Department announced that the new rule aims to “preserve and fortify” DACA by addressing some of the court’s concerns over the way the policy was implemented. 
In July, a federal district judge in Texas ruled that DACA violated the Administrative Procedures Act. The decision prevents future applications to the program, but leaves standing the program’s benefits that have already been afforded to close to 600,000 people. 
“The Biden-Harris Administration continues to take action to protect Dreamers and recognize their contributions to this country. This notice of proposed rule-making is an important step to achieve that goal. However, only Congress can provide permanent protection,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.
Mayorkas added that he supports the inclusion of immigration reform in the reconciliation bill, in an effort to shuttle the Biden administration’s immigration policy goals through the legislative chambers without any Republican support. 
Recently, the Senate parliamentarian ruled against the Democrats’ plan to include 8 million green cards to illegal immigrants as part of the massive $3.5 trillion reconciliation plan, pumping the brakes on lawmakers’ plans to include legislative reforms in the budget. 

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