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Biden to Propose Free Preschool

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President Joe Biden will call for free preschool for all three- and four-year-old children, a $200 billion investment to be rolled out as part of his sweeping American Families Plan being unveiled Wednesday in a joint address to Congress.

The administration said the historic investment would benefit 5 million children and save the average family $13,000. It calls for providing federal funds to help the states offer preschool, with teachers and other employees earning $15 an hour.

“These investments will give American children a head start and pave the way for the best-educated generation in U.S. history,” the administration said.

The new details are part of Biden’s $1 trillion-plus package focused on so-called human infrastructure — child care, health care, education and other core aspects of the household architecture that undergird everyday life for countless Americans. It would be paid for by hiking taxes on very high-income households, in keeping with the president’s vow not to raise taxes on those making less than $400,000 a year.

Before Wednesday night’s address, with details of the plan still in flux, lawmakers have been pushing to make sure key priorities are included in this next phase of Biden’s massive infrastructure reinvestment program.

A group of leading centrist and progressive Democrats is meeting late Tuesday with the White House to discuss its priority of making permanent the Child Tax Credit, which was increased to as much as $300 a month as part of a COVID-19 relief package. Right now, that benefit expires in 2022 and Biden has suggested extending it to 2025.

“We continue to push,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, the chairman of the Banking Committee and advocate for a permanent child tax credit, said late Monday evening. “We’re hopeful. We want it to be permanent because it’s so important for so many people’s lives.”

The president’s speech and the rollout of the American Families Plan come as Biden is marking his first 100 days in the White House, a rare moment for congressional action. Democrats narrowly control the House and Senate, giving the president’s party the full sweep of power for the first time in a decade.

While Biden is determined to reach out for bipartisanship, Republicans in Congress have largely panned his proposals as big government spending and vowed to oppose them. Biden’s Democratic allies in Congress are just as determined to ensure they seize this rare alignment of political power to deliver on long-sought priorities.

Administration officials said Monday that details of the proposal were yet to be finalized. But the package builds on Biden’s proposed $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, a massive investment in infrastructure that goes beyond roads and bridges to include veterans hospitals, child care centers and other developments.

The White House has portrayed its plan as a Robin Hood-style effort to tax the rich in order to spend on benefits for the middle class and poor.

It’s an argument that the hundreds of billions of dollars controlled by the wealthiest sliver of the country would lead to better results for the country if they were distributed instead to families.

In addition to extending an expanded child tax credit through 2025, giving parents monthly payments of at least $250 per child, it would provide free community college and paid family leave, among other benefits.

Funding the initiative would be a tax increase on the extremely rich, most notably a near doubling of the capital gains tax rate on incomes above $1 million to 39.6%.

Similarly, the top income tax bracket for those households earning beyond $400,000 is expected to revert to 39.6%, according to a Democratic aide granted anonymity to discuss the planning. That had been the top rate before the 2017 GOP tax overhaul approved by Donald Trump.

Initial reports of an increase in capital gains taxes triggered a stock market sell-off last week. But Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, tried to assuage voters Monday by saying just a fraction of the country would be paying more.

At a White House briefing, Deese said that only the top 0.3% of taxpayers would owe more. Out of 1,000 taxpayers, that means three would be subject to the higher tax on capital gains — which reflect the profits from a sale of an asset such as a stock or house.

Because capital gains are taxed at a peak rate of 20% now, wealthier individuals who earn most of their income through the financial markets can often pay a lower tax rate than people who think of themselves as middle class and live off their salary.

“We believe that it’s not only fair, but it would also help to reduce the kinds of tax avoidance that significantly undermines trust and fairness in the tax code itself,” Deese said. “The revenue from this provision would help invest directly in our kids and our families and our future economic competitiveness.”

Republican leaders have said they are unwilling to undo the 2017 tax law, their signature achievement of the Trump presidency, to pay for what they view as big spending by Democrats.

No Republicans voted for Biden’s coronavirus rescue plan, which was signed into law last month. Last week, Republican senators proposed an alternative infrastructure plan focused on more traditional highway and bridge investments that would be one-fourth the cost, paid for by tolls and other user fees.

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Trump: No ’24 Run Yet ‘for Campaign Finance Reasons’

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Former President Donald Trump teased a run in 2024 to return to the Oval Office, telling Candace Owens on Tuesday he is merely holding off an official announcement “for campaign finance reasons.”

“The answer is I’m absolutely enthused,” Trump told “Candace” in an exclusive phone interview. “I look forward to doing an announcement at the right time. As you know, it’s very early, but I think people are going to be very, very happy when I make a certain announcement.

“You know, for campaign finance reasons, you really can’t do it too early because it becomes a whole different thing. Otherwise, I’d give you an answer that I think you’d be very happy with.”

Owens also joked about being Trump’s vice presidential nominee.

“Are you going to run in 2024, and if so, can I be your vice president?” Owens asked.

“That’s very interesting,” Trump responded. “What a good choice that would be. That would be fantastic.

“You would be fantastic, and I really appreciate the job you do and everybody does.”

Owens is an outspoken and well-liked Black conservative woman who recently turned 32 years of age, meaning she would be the constitutionally requisite age of 35 to be on the presidential ticket in 2024.

Trump has already been recognized as a clear favorite to win the Republican primary, as a straw poll conducted at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year showed Trump as the favorite with 55% support, followed by Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis with 21%, and South Dakota GOP Gov. Kristi Noem with 4%.

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Corrupt Dem Politician Sheldon Silver Released From Prison on Furlough

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Sheldon Silver, a former Democratic New York Assembly speaker whose political career ended on corruption charges, was released from prison Tuesday after serving less than a year of a six-and-a-half-year sentence while awaiting a final decision on whether he can serve the rest of his sentence there in home confinement. 

The Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on Silver’s status.

“For privacy, safety, and security reasons, we do not discuss release plans for an inmate to include furlough status where applicable,” the bureau said, according to The New York Times.

The federal Bureau of Prisons didn’t provide details or a reason for the transfer, but Congress gave the Justice Department expanded powers during the coronavirus pandemic to release inmates on furlough and home confinement to prevent them from catching the virus behind bars.

At the time of Silver’s sentencing last summer, his lawyers asked that he be allowed to avoid prison and serve a term of home confinement because of his history of cancer and chronic kidney disease. They argued that imprisonment would increase his chances of becoming ill or even dying from the coronavirus.

Nearly 25,000 prisoners have been placed on home confinement by the since last March amid the pandemic. More than 7,000 were under home confinement as of Tuesday, according to the agency’s statistics, reports The Times. 

Yuh-Line Niou, a Democratic assemblywoman who represents the area Silver once did, told the New York Post: “no New Yorker should die from the pandemic while in jail.”

“We should be taking steps for all incarcerated New Yorkers in at-risk populations to be safe from Covid-19,” Niou said. “Our prisons have been and are still hot spots for the virus, and we need to remain vigilant about combating coronavirus in our prison system.

Silver was seen by media going into his Manhattan apartment building later Tuesday. Wearing a gray cap and blue face covering, he sat in a wheelchair as he was taken into the residence.

A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, which prosecuted Silver, said it sent an email to the Bureau of Prisons on Monday opposing his furlough.

Lawyers who have represented Silver at trial and at the appeals court either said they no longer represent him or did not respond to email and voice messages.

Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, was once one of the three most powerful state officials in New York. He was the Assembly’s leader for more than two decades before his abrupt ouster in 2015 after the corruption allegations emerged.

He was ultimately convicted in a scheme that involved a type of illegal back-scratching that has long plagued Albany. He supported legislation that benefited real estate developers he knew. In return, they referred tax business to a law firm that employed Silver, which then paid him fees.

Appeals kept Silver out of prison for years. His initial 2015 conviction was overturned on appeal before he was convicted again in 2018. Part of that conviction was then tossed out on another appeal, leading to yet another sentencing in July.

Under the bureau’s guidelines, priority for home confinement is supposed to be given to those inmates who have served half of their sentence or inmates with 18 months or less left and who served at least 25% of their time. But the bureau has discretion about who can be released.

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Bill Gates and Melinda Gates are splitting up after 27 years

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Bill Gates, co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, and his wife, Melinda French Gates, said on Twitter on Monday that they will split up after 27 years. The two will keep working together on philanthropic efforts, which have addressed education, gender equality, and health care.

“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” Bill and Melinda Gates wrote in a statement that Bill Gates tweeted out.

“Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives. We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.”

The decision reflects a personal change at the top of American business.

Bill Gates led Microsoft as CEO from its founding with Paul Allen in 1975 until 2000, leaving Steve Ballmer to run the company, while Bill Gates became chairman and chief software architect. In 2008 Gates gave up his day-to-day role at the company to spend more time on the nonprofit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Last year Bill Gates stepped down from Microsoft’s board as the coronavirus became a force around the world. He began spending more time on the foundation alongside Melinda Gates. The two are co-chairs and trustees of the foundation, which launched in 2000.

Bill and Melinda Gates both worked at Microsoft. She had been a general manager at the software company, where she worked on products such as the Encarta encyclopedia, according to her LinkedIn profile. The two met at a dinner for Microsoft employees in 1987. “It took him quite a few months before he asked me out,” Melinda Gates later said. Bill Gates had weighed the pros and cons on a blackboard, and in 1994 the couple were married in Hawaii.

Financial details of the Gateses parting ways are not yet clear. Bill Gates owns 1.37% of Microsoft’s outstanding shares, which are worth more than $26 billion, according to FactSet. The couple was creators, along with Warren Buffett, of the Giving Pledge, a program that requires participants to give away more than half of their wealth.

At one point the couple decided to move $20 billion worth of Microsoft stock to the foundation as they sought to increase their commitment to philanthropy, Bill Gates wrote in a 2019 blog post. Today the foundation has more than $51 billion in assets, according to a tax filing, making it one of the world’s wealthiest foundations.

“In the case of Melinda, it is a truly equal partner,” Bill Gates said in the 2019 Netflix documentary “Inside Bill’s Brain.” “She’s a lot like me in that she is optimistic and she is interested in science. She is better with people than I am. She’s a tiny bit less hardcore about knowing, you know, immunology, than I am.”

In 2015 the two began pursuing areas they were interested in. Bill Gates established Breakthrough Energy, an initiative to slow climate change that includes a venture arm, and Melinda Gates created Pivotal Ventures, a company that makes investments to foster equality.

For Valentine’s Day in 2020, Bill Gates posted a photo on Instagram showing him standing with his arm around Melinda Gates. “I couldn’t ask for a better partner on this journey,” the caption said.

Each year for more than a decade the Gateses have published a letter about their foundation work. In the latest one, published in January, they reflected on the impact of the pandemic, beyond supporting the development of vaccines. “For us, the days became a blur of video meetings, troubling news alerts, and microwaved meals,” they wrote.

Bill Gates is the world’s fourth-richest person, behind Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, LVMH’s Bernard Arnault, and Tesla’s Elon Musk, according to Forbes.

The announcement comes two years after Bezos said he and his wife, MacKenzie, were getting divorced. Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos are among the world’s richest people, and Amazon and Microsoft compete in the cloud computing business. Amazon said earlier this year that Bezos would be stepping down from his post as CEO and that cloud chief Andy Jassy would succeed him.

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