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Biden travels to Minn. to highlight rural investments

President Biden spoke at Dutch Creek Farms in Northfield, Minn., on Wednesday.ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON — The White House on Wednesday announced more than $5 billion in funding for agriculture, broadband, and clean energy needs in sparsely populated parts of the country as President Biden traveled to Minnesota to kick off an administration-wide tour of rural communities.

The president’s efforts to focus attention on the domestic economy before next year’s campaign come after three weeks in which his administration has been seized by events overseas following the terrorist attacks in Israel and the state’s subsequent military action in the Gaza Strip.

The trip took place as Biden is urging Congress to quickly pass a $105 billion funding package that includes emergency aid to Israel and Ukraine, two conflicts he has described as threats to democracy around the globe.


But the president and his aides are well aware that his hopes for a second term are likely to be determined closer to home. Rural voters like the ones he addressed at a corn, soybean, and hog farm south of Minneapolis are increasingly voting Republican.

A recent poll showed that most voters had heard little or nothing about a health care and clean energy law that is the cornerstone of Biden’s economic agenda. And the president even faces a challenge within his party, from Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota, who announced his long-shot presidential bid last week.

The White House has called the next two weeks of events the “Investing in Rural America Event Series.” It includes more than a dozen trips by Biden as well as Cabinet secretaries and other senior administration officials. The White House said in a statement that the tour would highlight federal investments that “are bringing new revenue to farms, increased economic development in rural towns and communities, and more opportunity throughout the country.”

Biden was joined Wednesday by Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary. Against the backdrop of a family farm that uses techniques to make crops more resilient to climate change, the president unveiled a commitment of $1.7 billion for farmers nationwide to adopt so-called climate-smart agriculture practices.


Other funding announcements include $1.1 billion in loans and grants to upgrade infrastructure in rural communities; $2 billion in investments as part of a program that helps rural governments work more closely with federal agencies on economic development projects; $274 million to expand high-speed internet infrastructure; and $145 million to expand access to wind, solar, and other renewable energy, according to a White House fact sheet.


Buck announces he won’t run for reelection

WASHINGTON — Representative Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican, a conservative who played a central role in ousting Kevin McCarthy from the speakership, said he will not seek reelection next year, citing his party’s election denialism and many members’ refusal to condemn the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol.

Buck, serving his fifth term from a sprawling district east of Denver after a career as a prosecutor, said he had decided to step aside because his differences with the contemporary Republican Party had grown too great to continue serving in its ranks. He condemned his party’s reluctance to take on big issues and said it had badly damaged itself with voters.

“We lost our way,” said Buck, 64, who announced his intentions in interviews and a video news release. “We have an identity crisis in the Republican Party. If we can’t address the election denier issue and we continue down that path, we won’t have credibility with the American people that we are going to solve problems.”


His announcement followed one earlier Wednesday by Representative Kay Granger, a Texas Republican and chair of the Appropriations Committee, who said she also would not run again next year. She, too, played a prominent role in the speaker showdown. Others are likely to follow suit given the chaos that has engulfed the Republican-led House.

Buck’s decision comes after several months in which his frustration and dissatisfaction with his party have been evident. He is the third House member to declare this week that he will not seek reelection next year after Representative Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat and a House member since 1996, said Monday he would not run again.


Harris calls for urgent action on AI

LONDON — Vice President Kamala Harris announced a slew of additional measures to curb future risks from artificial intelligence in a speech at the US Embassy in London on Wednesday, while arguing that lawmakers needed to address the harms already being done by the fast-evolving technology.

On the same day that 28 countries, including the United States and China, signed a declaration warning of the potential for “catastrophic” damage to humanity from the most advanced forms of AI, Harris used her address to highlight how the technology was already causing “existential” harm.

“When a senior is kicked off his health care plan because of a faulty AI algorithm, is that not existential for him?” she asked. “When a woman is threatened by an abusive partner with explicit deepfake photographs, is that not existential for her? When a young father is wrongfully imprisoned because of biased AI facial recognition is that not existential for his family?”


Harris, who is in Britain to attend Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s global summit on the future of the technology, outlined guardrails that the US government will seek to put in place to manage the risks of AI as the United States asserts itself as a global leader in the arena.

Taken together, the steps Harris announced both flesh out a sweeping executive order President Biden signed this week and make its ideals part of broader global standards for a technology that holds great promise and peril.

They include a new draft policy from the Office of Management and Budget that will guide how federal agencies use artificial intelligence, which will be overseen by new chief AI officers. She also said 30 other nations had joined a “political declaration” created by the United States that seeks to establish a “set of norms for responsible development, deployment, and use of military AI capabilities,” as well as $200 million in philanthropic funding to help support the administration’s goals.

“The urgency of this moment must compel us to create a collective vision of what this future must be,” Harris said Wednesday.

The United States has trailed places like the European Union, China, and Israel in regulating the technology, with Congress yet to pass major legislation on the subject and many of the provisions in Biden’s executive order largely unenforceable.



Trump’s classified documents trial may be delayed

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s indictment for allegedly mishandling national security secrets suggested Wednesday that she might push back the planned trial timeline, as courts wrestle with the growing complexity of juggling four separate criminal cases and an ongoing civil trial against the former president.

US District Judge Aileen M. Cannon listened to prosecutors argue at a hearing for keeping the schedule she set earlier this year, which includes a trial in May 2024. Lawyers for the former president insisted they needed more time to prepare.

‘’I’m having a hard time seeing how this work can be accomplished in this compressed time frame,’’ Cannon said at one point, focusing in particular on a federal trial scheduled to begin March 4 in Washington in which Trump is accused of conspiring to obstruct the results of the 2020 election.

Wednesday’s debate largely centered on looming deadlines for Trump’s lawyers to file pretrial motions in the Florida case. But pushing back that time frame could have a domino effect of delaying the entire trial schedule.

Prosecutor Jay Bratt argued that whatever the deadlines may be in other cases, those could all change, so it did not make sense to alter the trial date in the Florida case. Cannon sounded skeptical.

‘’I’m not quite seeing in your position an understanding of these realities,’’ Cannon told Bratt. The judge said she would rule on the schedule ‘’as soon as possible.’’