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Rail Workers Tried to Warn Us the Ohio Train Derailment Would Happen

An inter-union alliance of rail workers says the train wreck happened due to antiquated regulation and corporate malpractice.

Cargo train lays off the tracks, as smoke rises
Smoke rises from a derailed cargo train in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 4.

The fiery train derailment that led to thousands being forced to evacuate their homes in East Palestine, Ohio, didn’t have to happen. This is what the workers of Railroad Workers United, or RWU, inter-union caucus argue. And, they warn, if action is not taken against corrosive industry trends, the Ohio disaster will be one of more to come.

On February 3, a 150-car Norfolk Southern train derailed near the Ohio town. About 20 of the cars were considered to contain hazardous materials; 10 of those cars were involved in a pileup of 50 cars, five of which contained vinyl chloride—a carcinogenic and flammable chemical.

Environmental engineer Kurt Rhoads told a Cleveland news affiliate that the impact could be felt for years as the hazardous chemicals seep into the groundwater. Fish in a nearby waterway had already been found dead on Monday.

The RWU argues that antiquated regulation and corporate malpractice led to the potentially generationally damaging incident, a primary culprit being Precision Scheduled Railroading, or PSR. The practice, dubbed by some workers as “positive shareholder reaction,” manages freight movement by the individual car level, as opposed to the whole train—ensuring train cars are constantly on the move. In practice, this has cut jobs, consolidated dispatch centers, and made trains less safe, as fewer workers have less time to conduct checks on more train cars.

Based on its analysis, the RWU says “the immediate cause of the wreck appears to have been a nineteenth-century style mechanical failure of the axle on one of the cars—an overheated bearing—leading to derailment and then jackknifing tumbling cars.”

Moreover, the train appeared to have had its collective weight unbalanced; prior to PSR, the caucus said, trains would be built with the heavier cars on the head, and the lighter ones bringing up the rear. Such a practice would prevent what happened in Ohio: heavier cars slamming into lighter ones in front of them, causing the exact jackknifing that had occurred last week. The train allegedly had 40 percent of its weight on the rear one-third of the train.

Fortunately, despite these failures, the train’s three-person crew was able to quickly mobilize together and minimize damage. As railroads have brazenly proposed cutting crews to just one member, thank goodness that was not the case here.

“The short-term profit imperative, the so-called “cult of the Operating Ratio”—of NS and the other Class 1 railroads—has made cutting costs, employees, procedures, and resources the top priority,” the RWU said. Norfolk Southern recently reported record fourth quarter and annual revenues; just last year, the company announced $10 billion in stock buybacks. Meanwhile, its workers still don’t even have guaranteed paid sick leave.

The workers’ warnings here follow a continual campaign for better working conditions and safer rail outcomes. After the government in December imposed a contract on workers that did not include much-needed paid sick leave, workers continued rallying for such benefits as well as the guarantee of at least two-person crews and the elimination of PSR.

Nevertheless, during his State of the Union address, President Biden did not mention the plight of rail workers, nor did he even discuss the disastrous rail derailment. Workers’ efforts are not falling on completely closed ears, however; Senators Bernie Sanders and Mike Braun are holding a Thursday press conference to demand paid sick leave for rail workers.

“The wreck of Train 32N has been years in the making. What other such train wrecks await us remains to be seen,” the RWU said. “But given the modus operandi of the Class One rail carriers, we can no doubt expect future disasters of this nature.”

11 Good and Normal Things Republicans Refused to Clap for During Biden’s State of the Union

Not even giving teachers a raise?

Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union. Behind him, Kamala Harris stands to clap. Kevin McCarthy remains seated and looks on.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Bloomberg/Getty Images

President Biden delivered arguably the most pro-worker, populist, and shrewd State of the Union in modern history. Though the bar on those standards is low, Biden found a way to expose Republicans as reactionary in both demeanor and policy, while still coming off as generally pleasant and focused on offering the American people an affirmative vision for the future.

Meanwhile, as Biden delivered his remarks, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy and his Republican colleagues refused to clap for several rather ordinary things millions of Americans support.

From rallying to give teachers a raise, to demanding that insulin be affordable for all, many of Biden’s remarks were met with crickets, or even jeers, from Republicans.

Here are 11 of those moments:

1. Democracy

“Two years ago, democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War, and today, though bruised, our democracy remains unbowed and unbroken.”

2. Making Billionaires Pay Taxes

“No billionaire should be paying a lower tax rate than a schoolteacher or a firefighter.”

3. Capping Insulin Prices

“Let’s finish the job this time: Let’s cap the cost of insulin for everybody at $35.”

4. Assault Weapons Ban

“[Brandon Tsay] saved lives. It’s time we do the same. Ban assault weapons now! Ban them now, once and for all!”

5. Preschool for Kids and Giving Teachers a Raise

“Let’s finish the job by providing access to preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. Studies show that children who go to preschool are nearly 15 percent more likely to finish high school and go on to earn a two- or four-year degree—no matter their background they came from. Let’s give public school teachers a raise.”

6. A Living Wage

“I’m so sick and tired of companies breaking the law by preventing workers from organizing. Pass the PRO Act, because workers have a right to form a union. Let’s guarantee all workers have a living wage. Let’s make sure working parents can afford to raise a family with sick days, paid family medical leave, affordable childcare. That’s going to enable millions of more people to go and stay at work, and let’s restore the full child tax credit, which gave tens of millions of parents some breathing room and cut child poverty in half to the lowest level in history.”

7. Jobs

“Two years ago, the economy was reeling. I stand here tonight, after we created—with the help of many people in this room—12 million new jobs. More jobs created in two years than any president has created in four years, because of you all, because of the American people.”

8. LGBTQ Rights

“Let’s also pass the Bipartisan Equality Act, to ensure LGBTQ Americans—especially transgender young people—can live with safety and dignity.”

9. Immigration Reform

“Let’s also come together on immigration, make it a bipartisan issue once again.”

10. Clean Energy

“Look, the Inflation Reduction Act is also the most significant investment ever in climate change, ever. Lowering utility bills, creating American jobs, leading the world to a clean energy future.”

11. Junk fees

“Junk fees may not matter to the very wealthy, but they matter to most folks in homes like the one I grew up in, like many of you did. They add up to hundreds of dollars a month. They make it harder for you to pay your bills and afford that family trip. I know how unfair it feels when a company overcharges and gets away with it. Not anymore. We’ve written a bill to stop it all; it’s called the Junk Fee Prevention Act … the idea that cable, internet, and cell phone companies can charge you $200 or more if you decide to switch to another provider—give me a break. We can stop service fees on tickets to concerts and sporting events, and make companies disclose all the fees up front. And we’ll prohibit airlines from charging $50 roundtrip for families just to be able to sit together. Baggage fees are bad enough; airlines can’t treat your child like a piece of baggage. Americans are tired of being played for suckers.”

Biden Says “Abortion” Exactly Once in First State of the Union Since Downfall of Roe v. Wade

Abortion is still under attack. It deserved a little bit more attention from the president.

Joe Biden speaks at the State of the Union
Jacquelyn Martin/Pool/Getty Images

President Joe Biden said the word “abortion” exactly once during the State of the Union Tuesday, the first since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

Democrats have made abortion rights a key issue since the nationwide right to the procedure was rolled back last summer. Abortion rights helped deliver the party historic wins during the 2022 midterm elections.

But during his speech, Biden took almost an hour to mention the fight for abortion rights. And when he did, he spent four sentences on the topic, using the actual word “abortion” only once.

Reproductive rights activists and writers were outraged, slamming the president for glossing over the issue and failing to call out the attacks on abortion rights and access.

This is it? Half of the country has been stripped of their right [to] be seen as a full human being and we get four sentences?” writer Jessica Valenti demanded on Twitter.

Making things even worse, one of first lady Jill Biden’s guests was a woman who nearly died after being denied an abortion under Texas law. Biden did not highlight her story, as he did with some of the other guests at the State of the Union.

Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, abortion rights and access have been under all-out attack from Republicans. States have cracked down on the procedure, even trying to circumvent the will of the people, and are trying to get medication abortion banned as well. Meanwhile, lawmakers at the federal level have tried to pass laws banning abortion.

The least Biden could have done is explicitly acknowledge any of that.

Biden Gets Republicans to Promise They Won’t Cut Medicare or Social Security During State of the Union

Okay, Dark Brandon, you go.

Joe Biden smiles at the podium during his State of the Union speech
Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Bloomberg/Getty Images

President Joe Biden appeared to get Republicans to agree not to cut funding for Medicare or Social Security during the State of the Union Tuesday night.

Republicans are threatening to hold the debt ceiling hostage until the federal budget is reduced. One of their plans includes slashing funds for social welfare programs including Medicare and Social Security.

Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset. I’m not saying it’s the majority,” Biden said during his speech.

Republicans quickly cut him off with groans and shouts of, “No!” Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene shouted out, “Liar!”

Biden went off-script in response: “Anybody who doubts it, contact my office. I’ll give you a copy of the proposal.”

When he was greeted with more dissent, he said, “So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right?”

Republicans began applauding, to which he replied, “Alright, we got unanimity!”

“So tonight, let’s all agree—and apparently we are—let’s stand up for seniors,” Biden continued. “And if anyone tries to cut social security, which apparently no one’s gonna do … I’ll stop them. I’ll veto it.”

“I’m not going to allow them to be taken away, not today, not tomorrow, not ever, but apparently it’s not gonna be a problem.”

The Republican Party has already indicated it wants to cut Medicare and Social Security. Senator Rick Scott has previously proposed sunsetting the programs every five years. In August, Senator Ron Johnson proposed removing Social Security and Medicare as federal entitlement programs and instead making them discretionary spending programs that Congress approves on a yearly basis.

What’s more, Donald Trump tried to cut Social Security and Medicare every year he was in office. For the 2021 federal budget alone, Trump proposed slashing about half a trillion dollars from the programs.

Marjorie Taylor Greene Wanted to Bring a Big White Balloon to the State of the Union

Greene wants to troll Biden for the Chinese spy balloon. She announced her plan just hours after Kevin McCarthy said there would be no “childish games.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene outside the Capitol
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene wants to bring a white balloon to the State of the Union Tuesday night, a move she unveiled just hours after her new best friend Kevin McCarthy said there would be no “childish games” from Republicans during the speech.

She didn’t end up bringing the balloon, which referred to the Chinese spy balloon that has caused plenty of political debate and political theater over the past week.

It’s a decent troll (and a broken clock is also right twice a day). But it’s not to everyone’s taste. Lauren Boebert, who made headlines with Greene for heckling Joe Biden throughout the entire previous State of the Union, was dismissive of her former ally when asked if she would be making a “symbolic protest” during the address.

Greene’s announcement of her helium-filled guest also came just a few hours after House Speaker McCarthy told reporters that “we have a code of ethics of how we should portray ourselves … We’re not going to be doing childish games, tearing up a speech,” referring to Nancy Pelosi’s iconic shredding of Donald Trump’s last State of the Union.

Greene allied herself closely to McCarthy during his grueling run for speakership, and she was rewarded with positions on several key House committees.

Greene’s balloon was not seen in the chamber later Tuesday night, as she heckled the president throughout his speech.

This post was updated.

“Expel Him”: George Santos’s Constituents Protest Outside Capitol to Call for His Removal

The constituents traveled to Washington, D.C., to say Santos should resign, or Republican leadership should kick him out.

George Santos walks outside as several reporters follow him
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Dozens of George Santos’s constituents traveled by bus from Long Island, New York, to the Capitol on Tuesday to call for Republican leadership to expel their not-necessarily duly elected congressman. The protesters, joined by New York Representatives Dan Goldman and Ritchie Torres, hoisted signs that read, “No taxation w/out honest representation!” and “NY-3 says: It’s time to FIRE the LIAR!”

The protestors, alongside advocacy organization Courage for America and local group Concerned Citizens of NY-03, took the approximately five hour journey to the Capitol to directly deliver a petition to Santos’s office that reportedly has over 1,000 signing constituents calling for Santos’s expulsion.”

“You have to be really psychologically impaired to throw that around like it’s nickels,” said Republican constituent Ben Marzouk, in reference to Santos’s lie about his mother dying during 9/11. “It’s not difficult to see and to do what’s right and wrong. [Speaker Kevin] McCarthy, do the right thing. Expel him. Have some respect, have some dignity, and do the right thing.”

Goldman suggested that House leadership has hesitated to push Santos to resign because “they are concerned that George Santos has information that may be damaging to them about their role in the fraud scheme.” Torres added to the idea, saying the only reason for Santos not to resign is  “to maintain leverage for a plea bargain in the event of criminal prosecution.”

Goldman and Torres’s suggestions aside, Santos resigning would shrink the GOP’s already slim majority in the House, one that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has worked desperately to obtain control over. So it is perhaps unsurprising that, after suggesting the House Ethics Committee was investigating Santos on Tuesday, McCarthy then assured us that it is not in fact doing so.

Santos’s actions have transcended simply being a buffoonish and pathological liar; already under local, federal, and even international investigations for his financial dealings, potential campaign finance violations, lying about his résumé, his fraudulent use of a checkbook owned by an older man in Brazil, and a scam in which Santos raised money off a homeless veteran’s dying service dog, Santos has now been accused of sexual harassment by a prospective staffer.

So, as McCarthy and the Republicans continue to avoid even subjecting Santos to a proper ethics inquiry, know that this is what they’re supporting.

Lauren Boebert Says She Prays That Joe Biden’s “Days Be Few” in Texas Sermon

The Colorado congresswoman referenced a biblical verse calling for the death of an enemy. Then she laughed.

Lauren Boebert speaks at a podium with several mics
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Over the weekend, Representative Lauren Boebert visited the Storehouse Dallas Church in Texas, where the congregation opened up the stage for the Colorado congresswoman to preach to them. During her “sermon,” she professed her deepest hopes, the fundamental beliefs and wishes she imbues her faith into. In particular, she appeared to pray for the death of President Joe Biden.

“Joe Biden’s president. We don’t know what to do, Lord!” Boebert said. “It’s all right, we pray for our presidents. You know, it says, ‘Let his days be few and another take his office.’”

The audience laughed.

“That’s why I filed articles of impeachment for Joe Biden,” Boebert added. “Unfortunately, he does have a really great insurance policy named Kamala Harris,” she finished with a chuckle.

The implication was not just about Biden’s days in office being few.

Boebert said a similar line last June, and specified the noted Bible verse she was referencing, Psalm 109:8, which reads, “Let his days be few; and let another take his office.” The following line of the verse reads, “Let his children be fatherless, And his wife a widow.” The surrounding lines call for “evil to oppose” the enemy, for the enemy’s descendants to “be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation.”

Boebert appears to have now unapologetically, and repeatedly, prayed for Biden’s death.

Meanwhile, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene—who, along with Boebert, helped incite a riot on the Capitol, was a special event guest alongside self-proclaimed Nazi and Hitler-lover Nick Fuentes, and has spread conspiracies about Parkland and Sandy Hook—presided over the House on Monday.

The pair’s prominence in the party and freedom to continue behaving so egregiously without any consequence from their own ranks lies in stark contrast to Republicans’ shameless removal of Representative Ilhan Omar from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs last week.

Report: Chinese Balloon Flew Directly Over Florida During the Trump Administration

Even Fox News is admitting that there have been Chinese balloons before.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images

A new report confirms even more details about the Chinese spy balloons that floated in U.S. airspace during the Trump administration, despite Republicans’ vehement protestations to the contrary.

An Air Force intelligence report from April found that a Chinese spy balloon had circled the globe in 2019, passing by Hawaii and flying directly over Florida during its journey, CNN reported Monday.

The report directly contradicts multiple Republican claims that there had been no such incidents during Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump himself and several of his former security and intelligence advisers also insisted there had been no balloon incidents, which is apparently now an actual national security phrase and not a mishap at a traveling circus.

The Department of Defense said in a statement Saturday that at least three suspected Chinese spy balloons had crossed the United States during Trump’s time in office, citing an anonymous senior official.

The Air Force report, which confirms there had been a spy balloon, did not specify when the 2019 balloon passed over Florida. But Trump was at one of his Florida properties 39 days that year, according to a Washington Post analysis, so there is a small chance it could have passed right over his head.

The latest balloon has unleashed one of the weirdest timelines of late, which is no small feat. It has sparked a wave of political fighting, as well as a social media trend of conservative politicians performatively aiming guns at the sky.

The balloon appeared over the U.S. just days before Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to touch down for his first visit to Beijing. China says the balloon was for weather research and had simply been blown off course—a claim the U.S. rejected.

Blinken’s trip was supposed to ease tensions between the U.S. and China. But now they seem to be inflating.

Florida School District Bans Entire Court of Thorns and Roses Series in New Book Ban

The school district banned 23 books, including other bestsellers. Here’s the full list.

Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

A Florida school district that covers 48 schools serving over 50,000 students on Tuesday released a fresh list of books to be banned from all school and classroom libraries.

St. John’s County Superintendent Tim Forson reviewed books that were objected to by parents and community members, determining unilaterally that some of the titles must be removed from the school libraries.

“I own this,” Forson said in a school board meeting Tuesday.

Here are the 23 books being banned:

  • A Court of Mist and Fury—Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses—Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Wings and Ruin—Sarah J. Maas
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue—George Matthew Johnson
  • Blanket—Craig Thompson
  • Boy Toy—Barry Lyga
  • Call Me by Your Name—Andre Aciman
  • Damsel—Elana K. Arnold
  • Forever—Judy Blume
  • Fun Home—Alison Bechdel
  • Handmaid’s Tale (graphic novel)—Margaret Atwood, adapted Renee Nault
  • House of Earth and Blood—Sarah J. Maas
  • I Am Jazz—Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jenning
  • I Never—Laura Hooper
  • Infandous—Elana K. Arnold
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl—Jesse Andrews
  • PUSHSapphire
  • The Haters—Jesse Andrews
  • The Kite Runner—Khaled Hosseini
  • The Nowhere Girls—Amy Reed
  • Trans+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You—Kathryn Gonzales and Karen Rayne
  • Water for Elephants—Sarah Gruen
  • When Aidan Became a Brother—Kyle Lukoff

Forson noted that some other titles are to be “quarantined” away from libraries and media centers as well, until a final decision is made. Meanwhile, titles like Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey are still subject to review, per the district’s list of books with objections.

Forson’s decision comes in the face of a recently passed Florida law that mandates that books in public schools be subject to review by a “specialist.” The bans more broadly follow an ongoing slew of Florida politicians attacking educators’ and students’ liberties—an assault spearheaded by Florida governor and aspiring fascist Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis has pushed through the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prevents classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity through third grade; lobbied for the Stop Woke Act, which restricts teaching on race in colleges; announced plans to mandate Western civilization courses and defund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs on state college campuses; and barred the inclusion of an Advanced Placement African American history course in Florida schools.

The Florida High School Athletics Association, under DeSantis’s reign, is also recommending requiring student athletes to give their schools detailed information about their periods.

The Most Interesting Guests at Biden’s State of the Union Address

Members of Congress use guests at the State of the Union to send a message. This year, here’s where their priorities are.

Kris Connor/Getty Images

Joe Biden will deliver his second State of the Union address Tuesday night, reflecting on a mixed bag of a year.

His Democrats delivered historic wins in the 2022 midterms, and the economy is improving, but Biden’s approval ratings are still low.

Here is a list of notable guests who will attend the president’s speech.

Tyre Nichols’s parents

The parents of Tyre Nichols, a young Black man who was brutally beaten to death by police officers in Tennessee, will attend the speech. RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells were invited by Steven Horsford, the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Five officers have been arrested and charged with multiple crimes, including second-degree murder. Two other officers were fired in connection with the incident.

Nichols’s death has reinvigorated calls for police reform, but it’s unclear if that is possible given how divided Congress is.

Brandon Tsay

Brandon Tsay, 26, disarmed the Monterey Park shooter before he could open fire on a second ballroom dance hall. He was invited to attend the State of the Union by California Representative Judy Chu. According to Chu, Biden also invited Tsay just an hour after she did.

Huu Can Tran had just attacked a ballroom in Monterey Park, California, on January 21—killing 10 people and wounding several more, one of whom would later die from gunshot wounds—when he arrived at Lai Lai Ballroom & Studio. Tsay’s family owns the ballroom, and he helps run the ticket office. Tsay struggled with Tran and was able to wrest the older man’s gun away from him.

Roya Rahmani

Also in attendance Tuesday night will be Roya Rahmani, who served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2018 to 2021. The first female Afghan ambassador to the U.S., Rahmani served until July 2021, one month before the Taliban swept back to power in her home country.

Since taking control of Afghanistan, the Taliban continues to tighten its grip on the country’s society, including in a huge crackdown on women’s right to education and work.

Rahmani was invited by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul, who said he hoped her presence would “send a signal to the women of Afghanistan that they have not been forgotten.”

Michael Brown Sr.

Missouri Representative Cori Bush invited Michael Brown Sr., whose son was killed by police in 2014, to the State of the Union.

Michael Brown Jr. was 18 years old when he was stopped outside a 7-Eleven in his hometown of Ferguson, Missouri. Officer Darren Wilson said Brown attacked him, while Brown’s friend, who was there, said Wilson initiated the scuffle. Wilson ended up shooting Brown dead.

Brown’s death, and later a grand jury’s refusal to indict Wilson, sparked widespread unrest in Ferguson. The killing helped spur the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The police killing of Michael Brown in 2014 is what propelled me and many others into lives dedicated to building a world where Mike would still be here with us,” Bush told Politico. “A world where Tyre Nichols and the thousands of other Black people killed by police could live long, healthy lives full of joy.”

Amanda Zurawski

First Lady Jill Biden has invited Amanda Zurawski, a woman from Austin, Texas, who nearly died when her state’s abortion ban forced her to wait for treatment for pregnancy complications.

Zurawski and her husband Josh Zurawksi first told their story in one of Beto O’Rourke’s final campaign ads for Texas governor. The pair had been trying to get pregnant for more than a year before they finally succeeded. But when she was 18 weeks pregnant, Amanda was diagnosed with an “incompetent cervix,” a condition that causes almost a quarter of second-trimester miscarriages. Her cervix was opening too early and putting the pregnancy at risk.

Texas, however, has banned abortions in all cases except when the pregnant person’s life is at risk. Her doctors were not allowed to terminate Zurawski’s pregnancy and instead had to tell her to come back when she developed a life-threatening infection. Over the next three days, Zurawski developed a bacterial infection that sent her body into sepsis. Doctors were finally able to induce the miscarriage, but she still has mental and physical health complications as a result.

The couple is clear that they blame Texas politicians for the law, not the doctors who feared the repercussions of breaking it.

Mary Kay Henry

Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, will attend the State of the Union as a guest of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Jeffries’s invitation comes after Biden, who promised to be “the most pro-union president” in history, dealt a major blow to unions by calling on Congress in December to block a rail workers’ strike.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is also hoping to make a statement about labor Tuesday night: he invited Pedro Gamboa Bermudez, a baggage handler at New York’s JFK Airport. Bermudez co-founded the SEIU chapter at JFK and helped negotiate the first collective bargaining agreement for the airport workers.

Michael Weinstock

A former firefighter who did rescue work at ground zero during 9/11 will attend the State of the Union—as the guest of George Santos, whose mother famously did not die in the terrorist attack.

Santos, who represents New York, has come under fire and investigation for apparently fabricating the bulk of his background and credentials. In addition to saying his mother survived 9/11 (she was not even in the country), he also seems to have lied about his grandparents fleeing the Holocaust and four of his employees being killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting.

But Michael Weinstock explained he accepted the invitation because he wants to raise awareness about the health of 9/11 responders. He suffers from a neurological condition as a result of his time as an emergency worker.

“I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll be able to stay focused enough on the issue of 9/11 responders receiving the health care that they need without being sullied by George Santos,” he said.

Sheriff Jeff Smith

New York Representative Elise Stefanik will bring Jeff Smith, a sheriff for one of the counties she represents, to the State of the Union.

Stefanik, who has remained one of Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters in Congress, said she had decided to bring Smith to make a point about rising crime in the United States, which she blames on “Joe Biden’s failed policies.”

The nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice has said that the rise in crime during 2020 and 2021 was due in part to the proliferation of guns—which Republicans such as Stefanik routinely refuse to restrict—and the extreme socioeconomic instability brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Data for 2022 is limited but indicated that violent crime did go down that year.

This post has been updated.