US comedian and broadcaster Jon Stewart has attacked a “near-empty” congress after members failed to show up to a hearing on renewing funding for the healthcare of 9/11 first responders.
The former Daily Show host was testifying before the judiciary committee’s subcommittee about securing more money to help care for members of the emergency services who became ill after responding to the attacks.
But most of the panel’s 14 members failed to show up.
“Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak and no one,” Stewart said.
“Shameful, it’s an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution. You should be ashamed of yourselves for those who aren’t here but you won’t be because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.”
Becoming tearful, he continued: “Where are they? It would be one thing if their callous indifference and rank hypocrisy was benign, but it’s not.
“Their indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity, time, the one thing they’re running out of.”
Retired NYPD bomb squad detective, Luis Alvarez, was part of the attack response team.
He told the hearing: “Less than 24 hours from now, I will be serving my 69th round of chemotherapy… I should not be here with you. But you made me come. You made me come because I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11 like me are valued less than anyone else.”
Other emergency service members sat behind Mr Alvarez wiping away tears.
He continued: “We were there with one mission and we left after completing that mission. I have been to many places in this world and done many things. But I can tell you that I did not want to be anywhere else than Ground Zero when I was there.
“I have been lucky enough to have had 68 rounds of chemo. You heard me right. 68 rounds. Many others haven’t had the opportunity to have five. Some have had none.
“It is my goal and it is my legacy to see that you do the right thing for all 9/11 responders.
“You all said you would never forget – well I’m here to make sure that you don’t.”
The fund, originally approved for five years in 2010, provides medical treatment for those who require ongoing care due to inhaling toxic dust in the days following the attack.
Republicans were unhappy with the cost of the original legislation and as a compromise at the time, Democrats agreed to authorise the fund for five years and cover the cost with an excise tax, with a re-evaluation every five years.
Stewart criticised congress for continuing to require the fund be renewed every five years – pointing to the panel’s top Republican, Mike Johnson, for saying that congress has to balance other emergencies as well.
“I’m pretty sure what’s going to happen five years from now, more of these men and women are going to get sick and they are going to die and I am awfully tired of hearing that it’s a 9/11 New York issue,” Stewart said, adding: “Al Qaeda didn’t shout death to Tribeca.”
More than 40,000 people have applied to the Victim Compensation Fund, which covers illnesses potentially related to being at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the attacks.
More than $5bn in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.4bn fund, with about 21,000 claims pending.
Stewart criticised the fact that nearly 18 years after the attacks, first responders and their families still have no assurance the fund will not run out of money.
World’s oldest asteroid strike in Western Australia ‘could have ended Ice Age’ | World News
The world’s oldest asteroid crater has been discovered in Western Australia, which could have ended an Ice Age, according to scientists.
A team from Curtin University, in WA, said the Yarrabubba strike, in the Outback, happened 2.2 billion years ago and is around half as old as the Earth.
Experts from Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences say they analysed the minerals – zircon and monazite at the base of the eroded hole that were “shock recrystallised” by the impact, to calculate exactly when it happened, in a similar way tree rings can provide clues about their past.
They believe the strike released huge volumes of water vapour into the atmosphere, which may have lifted the planet out of a deep freeze.
Professor Chris Kirkland said Yarrabubba – which sits between Sandstone and Meekatharra – was known to be an impact structure for many years, but it was unclear exactly how old it was.
He continued: “Now we know the Yarrabubba crater was made right at the end of what’s commonly referred to as the early Snowball Earth – a time when the atmosphere and oceans were evolving and becoming more oxygenated, and when rocks deposited on many continents recorded glacial conditions.
Another scientist involved in the research, Associate Professor Nicholas Timms, added: “The age of the Yarrabubba impact matches the demise of a series of ancient glaciations.
“After the impact, glacial deposits are absent in the rock record for 400 million years.
“This twist of fate suggests the large meteorite impact may have influenced global climate. And this finding raises the question whether this impact may have tipped the scales enough to end glacial conditions”.
The team say their study could have major implications for future crater discoveries.
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Senior research fellow Dr Aaron Cavosie, said: “This one sat in plain sight for nearly two decades before its significance was realised.”
He added that the discovery “raises the question of whether all older impact craters have been eroded or if they are still out there waiting to be found”.
The study has been published in the leading journal Nature Communications.
Trump impeachment: Republicans block Democrat bids for new evidence and witnesses | US News
Republican senators have blocked a move by Democrats to compel Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton to appear as a witness in the impeachment trial.
In an early sign of partisanship, the Republican-controlled Senate rejected several Democrat bids for more witnesses to expose the US president’s alleged abuse of power and the covering-up of his actions.
Republicans also turned back Democratic amendments to subpoena documents from the White House, State Department, Defence Department and budget office, as the first day of proceedings continued into the early hours of Wednesday.
They voted against compelling Mr Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney – both with front-row seats to the president’s actions – to give evidence at the historic trial.
By the same 53-47 party-line, the Republicans banded together to adopt their rules governing the proceedings, including delaying a debate over whether to call witnesses until the middle of the trial.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer accused Republican senators of “enabling a cover-up”.
The president, who is 4,000 miles away from Washington in Davos, Switzerland, is charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after investigations by the lower House of Representatives, which the Democrats control.
Mr Trump is accused of freezing Congress-approved aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden, a political rival, and impeding the inquiry into the matter.
Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, leading the prosecution, said America’s founders had added the remedy of impeachment in the US constitution with “precisely this type of conduct in mind – conduct that abuses the power of office for a personal benefit, that undermines our national security, and that invites foreign interference in the democratic process of an election”.
But White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, the president’s lead lawyer, said the charges against Mr Trump were “ridiculous”, insisting the president had done “absolutely nothing wrong”.
Mr Bolton, a foreign policy hawk, was sacked by Mr Trump in September with the pair having significant disagreements on Iran, Afghanistan and other global challenges.
Earlier this year, he issued a statement on Mr Trump’s impeachment, saying that if he was compelled to, he would give evidence at the trial.
“If the Senate issues a subpoena for my testimony, I am prepared to testify,” he wrote.
The final impeachment vote in the Senate, which will decide whether Mr Trump is guilty, is expected to be along party lines and it is therefore unlikely the president will be removed from office.
Flamur Beqiri murder: Man arrested in Denmark over shooting of suspected London gangster | UK News
A man has been arrested in Denmark over the Christmas Eve murder of a suspected gangster in front of his wife and child in south London.
The 22-year-old was arrested on suspicion of murder on Monday night under a European Arrest Warrant at Copenhagen Airport at the request of Scotland Yard after arriving on a flight from Thailand.
The suspect remains in custody in Denmark pending extradition proceedings back to the UK.
He is accused of shooting Swedish national Flamur Beqiri, who police believe may have had criminal links in Sweden and was killed in a targeted attack.
The 36-year-old was shot multiple times by a lone suspect on his doorstep as he returned to his Battersea home with his family at around 9pm on 24 December.
The killer fled the scene on foot.
A neighbour heard the gun shots and the screams of Mr Beqiri’s wife and came out and saw the Swede lying in front of his doorway in a pool of blood.
According to reports, Mr Beqiri is the brother of former Real Housewives Of Cheshire star Misse Beqiri.
He met his wife at his sister’s wedding, and reportedly ran a record company in London.
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