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Biden appoints John Kerry for new climate envoy role

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On Monday, President-elect Joe Biden announced a slate of national security and foreign policy officials, including former Secretary of State John Kerry for the newly created role of “special presidential envoy for climate.” This new position will be part of the National Security Council, Biden’s transition team says, and it will not require Senate confirmation.

Kerry served as the nation’s chief diplomat during part of President Barack Obama’s second term in the White House after having been a decades-long U.S. senator from Massachusetts and the Democratic Party’s nominee for president in 2004. Under Kerry’s tenure as secretary of state, the United States joined the 2015 Paris Climate Accord. The U.S. has since withdrawn from the accord under President Donald Trump’s administration.

The creation of this new post is a sign that Biden plans to make climate change a significant focus of his administration.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Economy

TX farmers fight to block USDA from using race in distributing farm aid

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“When natural disasters strike, they don’t discriminate based on race and sex. Neither should the Department of Agriculture.” That’s the message from a group of farmers written in a court filing made public Monday.

Just The News reports on a group of white farmers in Texas who are asking a federal judge to block the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from using race, gender or other “socially disadvantaged” traits to determine who gets disaster and pandemic farm aid and how much, arguing the agency’s current administration of eight emergency funding programs is unconstitutionally discriminatory.

According to Just the News, the USDA’s program appears to be rooted in an executive order that President Joe Biden signed. The lawsuit names the USDA and Biden Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The farmers bringing the action include Rusty Strickland, Alan and Amy West and Bryan Baker, all of Texas.

The farmers, represented by the nonprofit legal firm called the Southeastern Legal Foundation, asked a judge to issue an emergency injunction from the U.S. District Court in Amarillo, Texas, to stop any additional awards from being made on the basis of race and gender or other liberal standards.

“Enjoining USDA from using race, sex, or progressive factoring when administering the programs is warranted because Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their claims that: (1) the programs, as currently administered, are unconstitutional; (2) USDA lacks statutory authority to run the programs in their current form; and (3) USDA failed to adequately explain changes in calculating payments when implementing progressive factoring,” the motion stated.

The farmers said the Biden administration has taken roughly $25 billion in disaster and pandemic aid approved by Congress for farmers in eight programs and devised a system to make awards based on race, gender or other “socially disadvantaged” traits. Such decision-making violates the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment and the Administrative Procedures Act.

“The Constitution promises equal treatment to all Americans regardless of their race or sex,” the court filing also reads. “It also promises the separation of powers. USDA broke both promises through the disaster and pandemic relief programs challenged here.”

The farmers said they can prove that “USDA gives more money to some farmers based on” race, gender or other factors never approved by Congress.

“USDA does this by first defining farmers who are black/African-American, American Indian, Alaskan native, Hispanic, Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, or a woman as ‘socially disadvantaged,’” the court filing said. “Then, it provides farmers who qualify as socially disadvantaged more money for the same loss than those it deems non-underserved, along with other preferential treatment”

Just the News explains the request for an injunction relies in part of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision last year banning racial preferences in college admissions. It even quoted from the high court’s declaration that “eliminating racial discrimination means eliminating all of it.”.

“Disasters don’t discriminate and neither should USDA. In fact, the Constitution prohibits it,” the lawyers said in a statement. “That is why our brave clients – a group of Texas farmers that includes three white men who received significantly less money in disaster relief funds from USDA than if they had been of a different race or sex – filed this case and are asking the court to stop USDA’s blatant discrimination.”

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