May 2021 News

 

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Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative May 2021 news and views 

 

May 13

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

 

Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Economy, Security Threats

 

U.S. Crime, Courts

 

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘A Perpetual Motion Machine’: How Disinformation Drives Voting Laws, Maggie Astor, May 13, 2021. Former President Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud laid the foundation for numerous Republican-led bills pushing more restrictive voter rules.

Former President Donald J. Trump’s monthslong campaign to delegitimize the 2020 election didn’t overturn the results. But his unfounded claims gutted his supporters’ trust in the electoral system, laying the foundation for numerous Republican-led bills pushing more restrictive voter rules.

The bills demonstrate how disinformation can take on a life of its own, forming a feedback loop that shapes policy for years to come. When promoted with sufficient intensity, falsehoods — whether about election security or the coronavirus or other topics — can shape voters’ attitudes toward policies, and lawmakers can cite those attitudes as the basis for major changes.

The embrace of the falsehoods also showcases the continuing power of Mr. Trump inside the Republican Party, which has widely adopted and weaponized his election claims. Many Republicans, eager to gain his support, have raced to champion the new voting laws. Those who have stood up to his falsehoods have paid the price. Representative Liz Cheney was ousted from her House leadership post on Wednesday after repudiating what she called the “big lie.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon chief under Trump attributes Capitol breach to ‘organized conspiracy,’ Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). The assessment was a stark departure from Christopher Miller’s previous public statements about what led to the Jan. 6 assault on Congress.

Christopher C. Miller, right, the former senior Trump administration official who presided over the Pentagon’s Capitol-riot response, told lawmakers Wednesday that he believed “an organized conspiracy christopher miller official.jpgwith assault elements in place” orchestrated the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The assessment — a departure from Miller’s previous public statements about what led to the assault on Congress — set off a political mudfight, as Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee accused the former acting defense secretary of “incompetence,” and being “AWOL” and “disloyal to the country,” while Republicans accused their counterparts of harassing the hearing’s witnesses to further what they characterized as a partisan investigation.

Wednesday’s hearing marked the first time Miller has testified publicly before a congressional committee investigating the insurrection, which he described as “an act of terrorism.” His Department of Defense Sealhighly anticipated testimony was viewed as an opportunity for congressional investigators to fill in key gaps in their understanding of the security lapses that occurred Jan. 6, and to seek accountability for an hours-long delay before armed National Guard personnel responded to lawmakers’ frantic pleas for help. But instead, Miller offered defiance in the face of Democrats’ questions, refusing to share fault for the failures that transpired — and blaming officials on Capitol Hill for never sending the Pentagon a “valid request.”

“If you were the effing cavalry, you never showed up. You never got there on time, and we were exposed because of this,” Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) told Miller after nearly five hours of questioning Wednesday. “You lost, and you don’t have the intestinal fortitude to own up to your responsibility.”

Miller’s sparring with the committee overshadowed the testimony of the hearing’s two other witnesses, D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III and Jeffrey Rosen, Trump’s acting attorney general at the time of the attack.

But Rosen, also making his first public appearance before a congressional committee investigating the riot, did not escape scrutiny, as Democrats scoffed at his claims the Justice Department engaged in “very robust intelligence-sharing” with federal and local partners ahead of the violence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: McCarthy pushes out Liz Cheney, then pushes bipartisanship at the White House, Paul Kane, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday took a head-spinning tour through Washington.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday took a head-spinning tour through Washington.

republican elephant logoFirst, he oversaw the roughly 20-minute meeting of House Republicans in which, by a simple voice vote after virtually no debate, they ejected Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) from her position as GOP conference chair, the No. 3 post in McCarthy’s team.

liz cheney headshot resizedHer crime? Continually speaking the truth that Donald Trump lost to Joe Biden in the 2020 election and that the former president’s claims of a stolen election were unfounded.

On Jan. 6, almost two-thirds of House Republicans voted against certifying Biden’s victory, including McCarthy, effectively embracing Trump’s violent rhetoric and making Cheney’s comments uncomfortable, at the least.

About 90 minutes after Cheney’s ouster was complete, McCarthy sat down in the Oval Office with President Biden and three other congressional leaders. It was McCarthy’s first meeting with Biden after months of publicly complaining that he hadn’t been invited to an in-person huddle — even though he declined to vote to certify the new president’s election.

 

huffington post logoHuffPost, Israel Steps Up Gaza Offensive, Kills Senior Hamas Figures, Fares Akram and Josef Federman, May 13, 2021 Israel carried out an intense barrage of airstrikes just after sunrise, striking dozens of targets in several minutes that set off bone-rattling explosions across Gaza.

  

ny times logoIsrael FlagNew York Times, Live Updates: Jews and Arabs Clash in Israel’s Streets as Civil Unrest Spreads, Staff Reports, Hundreds of people have been arrested on rioting charges and the city of Lod was placed on lockdown amid fighting between mobs of Jews and Arabs. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed for calm as Palestinians blamed the unrest on police brutality. Here’s the latest on the crisis.

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: Amid the Shooting, Netanyahu’s Foes See an Opening, and Risks, Isabel Kershner, Updated May 13, 2021. Israeli politicians often close ranks in a crisis, but this time the prime minister’s enemies, trying to form a government and oust him, are blaming the violence on him

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Drive to Vaccinate Children Gathers Speed in U.S., Staff Reports, May 13, 2021. The C.D.C.’s authorization for 12- to 15-year-olds cleared the way for the world’s first mass inoculation effort in youngsters. Desperate for vaccines in India, regional leaders are struggling to stretch supplies. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

  • The C.D.C.’s authorization for 12- to 15-year-olds cleared the way for the world’s first mass inoculation effort in youngsters. It also underscored the widening gulf in global access to shots.
  • With shots at schools, parks and even the beach, the U.S. races to vaccinate children.
  • Desperate for vaccines in India, regional leaders struggle to stretch supplies.
  • Oregon and other states link reopening measures to vaccine targets.
  • A variant is suspected of fueling an alarming outbreak in Thai prisons.
  • Greece, preparing to welcome more foreign visitors, steps up vaccination efforts on islands.
  • WeWork’s C.E.O. says ‘least engaged’ employees enjoy working from home.

ny times logoNew York Times, President of Key Teachers’ Union Shares Plea: ‘Schools Must Be Open’ in Fall, Dana Goldstein, May 13, 2021.  About half the United States’ schools are not fully open despite rising vaccination levels. Randi Weingarten hopes to carve a path forward. covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2

washington post logoWashington Post, 154 million vaccinated, as of May 13, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 55 % of the eligible population,12 and older and 46.4 % of the total population. See about your state.hat a more transmissible variant was spreading in the nation of some 1.3 billion people, Reuters reported. Authorities, however, refrained from taking more drastic measures to prevent a surge.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 13, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 161,153,816, Deaths: 3,347,346
U.S. Cases:     33,586,136, Deaths:    597,785
India Cases:    23,703,665, Deaths:    258,351
Brazil Cases:   15,361,686, Deaths:    428,256

 

 Jan. 6 Capitol Riot, Insurrection

washington post logoWashington Post, Alleged Capitol rioter told FBI he was allowed to breach building because he pays his taxes, feds say, Kim Bellware, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). The 80-year-old allegedly told investigators he believed the Jan. 6 attack was “staged” and blamed antifa.

Gary Wickersham of West Chester, Pa., offered federal investigators a bizarre narrative of debunked conspiracy theories and contradictory statements surrounding the attack, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court this week.

The 80-year-old told investigators in January that the insurrection was a “staged” act and that many of the people he saw “cursing, screaming, knocking cops away, breaking windows and doors, and entering the Capitol” were “members of antifa.” According to the complaint, Wickersham also believed his 20 minutes inside the Capitol were authorized “because he pays his taxes.”

Wickersham was arrested Tuesday and faces a charge of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and one for unlawful entry into a restricted area. He is among more than 410 people who face an array of federal charges stemming from the attack. At least 40 of those are from Pennsylvania, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

Wickersham declined to comment through his lawyer on Wednesday. His attorney, Mike Noone, said Wickersham “takes these charges very seriously.”

According to the court documents, Wickersham texted an acquaintance that he was inside the Capitol. The acquaintance told a third person, who investigators indicate also knew Wickersham. Within three days of the riot, the tipster with secondhand knowledge of Wickersham’s actions contacted the FBI.

Investigators interviewed Wickersham at his West Chester home on Jan. 15, where he confirmed much of what the FBI suspected: He admitted to taking a bus to Washington with other supporters of President Donald Trump, attending Trump’s rally at the Ellipse and then marching to the Capitol.

Wickersham allegedly said he saw people “cursing, screaming, knocking cops away, breaking windows and doors, and entering the Capitol” — individuals he told the FBI he believed were “members of antifa.”

He further alleged the siege was “staged” in a ploy to make Trump supporters look bad, investigators said.

“The defendant stated that he believed … that law enforcement purposefully did not have enough resources there so that supporters of the former president could be labeled as ‘intruders,’” the complaint reads.

Despite Wickersham’s alleged belief that the riot was a setup, he confirmed his presence down to the clothing he wore that day. His descriptions were consistent with at least eight different video stills from footage that purported to show Wickersham entering through the Senate Wing door, walking through the Capitol crypt, past offices including that of House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and ultimately out through the Upper West Terrace.

In all, he spent 20 minutes inside the building, investigators said.

Wickersham was released Tuesday after his arrest and was ordered to surrender any firearms and remain in the area. Apart from trial appearances and legal consultations, he is prohibited from visiting Washington.

washington post logoWashington Post, For GOP, the situation with Rep. Liz Cheney was, in a word, unspeakable, Ben Terris, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). “I just don’t even want to talk about it,” said Ohio Rep. Steve Chabot, as he scurried to his congressional office. “Some topics I think are just too sensitive to get into.”

“It hurt me very much,” Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleishmann said, emerging from the Capitol Hill Club, a campus safe space for the members of the GOP community. “There’s a time to be quiet and to not engage in rhetoric, and I just think that she was a bit too . . . verbose.”

For months, Republicans eager to rally around the idea that former president Donald Trump is a great and blameless winner have felt impaired by Cheney, a member of GOP leadership, who has been saying quite the opposite:

liz cheney oThe congresswoman, right, has continued to point out that the former president lied about there being “widespread voter fraud” in the 2020 presidential election, that the presidency was not stolen from him and that his claims to the contrary led to January’s violent insurrection at the Capitol.

She wasn’t wrong, at least not about the lack of evident fraud; Trump’s own Justice Department said there was no indication of election fraud on a scale that would have changed the result.

Nonetheless, “Some of what she’s said has been problematic,” Matt Schlapp, a lobbyist who had spent the day chatting with upset lawmakers, said in a phone call. “Let’s just say that what she’s said was offensive to me, and many others.”

What made it all so “offensive,” so “problematic,”— or, dare we say triggering — was that Cheney was chair of the House Republican Conference. And so, on Wednesday morning Cheney marched into an auditorium in the bowels of the Capitol, where her Republican colleagues prepared to vote on her status as a member of their leadership team.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Normal tourist visit’: Republicans recast deadly Jan. 6 attack on Capitol by pro-Trump mob, Colby Itkowitz, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). Several House Republicans on Wednesday tried to recast and downplay the events of Jan. 6, comparing the mob that breached the Capitol to tourists, railing against law enforcement for seeking to arrest them and questioning how anyone could be sure the rioters were supporters of President Donald Trump.

The Republicans’ distortions about the most violent attack on the Capitol since the War of 1812 defy the well-documented reality of what occurred that day — 140 police officers were injured, some bludgeoned with flagpoles and baseball bats, with one officer’s eye gouged out; rioters chanted “Hang Mike Pence” and erected a gallows on the Capitol grounds; and members of the House and the Senate were rushed to safety in secure locations for several hours. The attack resulted in five dead.

The comments by a handful of House Republicans came during a congressional hearing with former acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, former acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller and D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III, focused understanding the security lapses that allowed the Jan. 6 attack to happen.

A handful of Republicans used their time to defend the actions of those who stormed past security barricades and broke into the Capitol with the intent of stopping the affirmation of Joe Biden’s election victory. Trump repeatedly and falsely has claimed widespread fraud resulted in a rigged election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rep. Greene accosts Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, prompting N.Y. lawmaker to raise security concerns, Marianna Sotomayor, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, right, aggressively confronted Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday and falsely accused her of supporting “terrorists,” leading the New York congresswoman’s office to call on marjorie taylor greene headshotleadership to ensure that Congress remains “a safe, civil place for all Members and staff.”

Two Washington Post reporters witnessed Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) exit the House chamber late Wednesday afternoon ahead of Greene (Ga.), who shouted “Hey Alexandria” twice in an effort to get her attention. When Ocasio-Cortez did not stop walking, Greene picked up her pace and began shouting at her and asking why she supports antifa, a loosely knit group of far-left activists, and Black Lives Matter, falsely labeling them “terrorist” groups. Greene also shouted that Ocasio-Cortez was failing to defend her “radical socialist” beliefs by declining to publicly debate the freshman from Georgia.

“You don’t care about the American people,” Greene shouted. “Why do you support terrorists and antifa?”

Ocasio-Cortez did not stop to answer Greene, only turning around once and throwing her hands in the air in an exasperated motion. The two reporters were not close enough to hear what the New York congresswoman said, and her office declined to discuss her specific response.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden meets with congressional leaders on a day of turmoil, Matt Viser and Seung Min Kim, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). It was as if House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy joe biden ohadn’t just ousted a top Republican for accepting President Biden’s win. As if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had not recently declared his “100 percent” focus on stopping Biden. As if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had never accused GOP lawmakers of a “reckless . . . assault on the Constitution.”

Kevin McCarthyOn Wednesday — shortly after McCarthy (R-Calif.), left, led the removal of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her leadership post, and shortly before he informed donors that “Corrupt Joe Biden” was “STILL planning to push his radical Socialist agenda” — Congress’s four top leaders held a businesslike meeting with Biden in the Oval Office on “issues of mutual agreement.”

It was Biden’s first White House get-together with the so-called Big Four. Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) sat politely on one couch; McConnell and McCarthy courteously occupied another. A bouquet of flowers sat on a coffee table between them. All four wore face coverings, in deference to White House requests that those who came to the Oval Office meeting wear N95 masks.

It was a test of sorts as to whether the government could function in somewhat normal ways amid unprecedented political dynamics. The participants emerged from the 90-minutes-plus session saying it was cordial, with general agreement on the need to invest in American infrastructure — making for a strange juxtaposition with the rest of the day’s maneuvering.

Privately, they exchanged testy words over topics like tax hikes and electric cars, and leaving questions over how committed the parties really are to working together.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump’s defense secretary suddenly backs off blaming him for Capitol riot, Aaron Blake, May 13, 2021 (print ed.).  Something happened in the past two months when it comes to former acting defense secretary Christopher C. Miller’s version of President Donald Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. That much is clear.

Miller’s testimony Wednesday about the riot was much anticipated, given how much he had attached the Jan. 6 attack to his former boss’s rhetoric in a speech that day. But a funny thing happened when Miller testified: He seemed to back away from his comments laying this at Trump’s feet.

Miller’s opening statement was previewed Tuesday evening. In it, he stated that although he couldn’t offer an official conclusion about Trump’s culpability, “I stand by my prior observation that I personally believe his comments encouraged the protestors that day.”

What resulted in the hearing was plenty of parsing about exactly what that meant. Did he truly believe Trump had incited the mob that stormed the Capitol that day?

Miller, notably, did not include that particular statement in his oral opening remarks. Such remarks are often distilled down because of time constraints, but this was arguably the most newsworthy section of his prepared statement, and Miller didn’t say it out loud.

As things progressed, that seemed less like a coincidence. When Miller was pressed on the subject by Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), he backed off the emphasis on Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden signs executive order designed to strengthen federal digital defenses, Ellen Nakashima, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday aimed at shoring up the federal government’s digital defenses as his administration grapples with cybersecurity crises, including a ransomware strike on a major fuel pipeline that has caused gas shortages.

Less than four months into his tenure, Biden has had to respond to a Russian cyber espionage operation that affected nine federal agencies and about 100 American companies, as well as a Chinese cyber hacking campaign that compromised tens of thousands of small and midsize firms that used Microsoft Exchange email servers.

On Saturday, Colonial Pipeline acknowledged that it had fallen victim to a ransomware attack that led it to shut down — the biggest known cyberattack on the U.S. energy sector. The attack has led to long lines at the pump in some parts of the southeastern United States.
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On Wednesday, the company announced it was restarting operations.

The executive order does not specifically address critical infrastructure such as oil and gas pipelines. But it directs the Commerce Department to craft cybersecurity standards for companies that sell software services to the federal government — a move that officials say they hope will ripple across the private sector nationally and globally and improve cybersecurity for critical systems, too.

 

U.S. Economy, Security Threats

washington post logoWashington Post, Panic buying hits Southeast as pipeline resumes operations, Will Englund and Ellen Nakashima, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). Although government and industry officials said the nation had plenty of fuel and the pipeline was set to resume operations in the evening, nervous drivers clogged gas stations and created shortages in part or all of 11 states. At least 12,000 gas stations reported being completely empty, and the squeeze pushed the price of a gallon past $3, its highest amount in eight years.

washington post logoWashington Post, Economic tremors hit White House at crucial moment for Biden policy agenda, Jeff Stein, Rachel Siegel and Andrew Van Dam, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). Lackluster hiring and a surge in prices have galvanized Republican complaints about the president’s economic stewardship as he tries to secure a legacy-defining set of domestic spending proposals.

washington post logoWashington Post, Urban heat waves, loss of Alaskan permafrost signal intensifying climate change, EPA finds in report delayed by Trump officials, Dino Grandoni and Brady Dennis, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). The Trump administration delayed the report, which cites urban heat waves and permafrost loss as signs of global warming, for three years.

For years, President Donald Trump and his deputies played down the impact of greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels and delayed the release of an Environmental Protection Agency report detailing climate-related damage. But on Wednesday, the EPA released a detailed and disturbing account of the startling changes that Earth’s warming had on parts of the United States during Trump’s presidency.

The destruction of year-round permafrost in Alaska, loss of winter ice on the Great Lakes and spike in summer heat waves in U.S. cities all signal that climate change is intensifying, the EPA said in its report. The assessment, which languished under the Trump administration for three years, marks the first time the agency has said such changes are being driven at least in part by human-caused global warming.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The GOP’s past election lies led to Trump’s big one, E.J. Dionne Jr., May 13, 2021 (print ed.). The political defenestration of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), right, is not just the act of a party that has given up truth for Donald Trump, though it is surely that. The journey toward Wednesday’s voice vote to remove her from the House Republican leadership began decades ago in the liz cheney headshot resizedGOP’s embrace of charges of rampant voter fraud to rationalize its efforts to impede Black and younger voters from casting ballots.

Like so much about what Trump has done, his big lie about having won the 2020 election builds on the only somewhat smaller lies Republicans routinely told in the normal course of business.

The voter-fraud lie goes back at least two decades. The attack on voting rights was codified in the 2013 Shelby v. Holder decision. Five conservative Supreme Court justices “knifed the heart of the Voting Rights Act,” as Wade Henderson, interim president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, noted in an interview.

washington post logoWashington Post, 154 million vaccinated The number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, liz cheney headshot resizedcovering 55.0% of the eligible population, 12 and older and 46.4% of the total population.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Derek Chauvin qualifies for a longer sentence in George Floyd’s murder, judge rules, Holly Bailey, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). A judge found prosecutors had proven beyond a reasonable doubt four of five aggravating factors in Floyd’s killing that they argued should result in a tougher prison sentence.

In a ruling made public Wednesday, Hennepin County District Judge Peter A. Cahill found state prosecutors had proved beyond a reasonable doubt four of five aggravating factors in Floyd’s killing that they argued should result in a tougher prison sentence for the former Minneapolis police officer.

Chauvin was convicted April 20 of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s May 25 killing. Floyd died when Chauvin placed his knees on Floyd’s neck and back for more than nine minutes while he was handcuffed, facedown, on a Minneapolis street. Chauvin, who is being held in solitary confinement at a Minnesota prison, is scheduled to be sentenced June 25.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn expected to answer House committee questions ‘as soon as possible,’ Ann E. Marimow, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). Former Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn is expected to answer questions “as soon as possible” in a closed session with House lawmakers about former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, according to an agreement outlined in court filings Wednesday.

McGahn will appear before the House Judiciary Committee, the court filing states, after House Democrats sued to enforce a subpoena for his testimony about whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice in Mueller’s Russia investigation.

A transcript of the interview, which will be closed to the public and the media, will be “promptly provided to all involved parties” for review before it is released publicly, according to the court filing.

The agreement was negotiated by President Biden’s Justice Department and House lawyers to end the long-running litigation over McGahn’s testimony that the Trump administration had blocked.

A key question in the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was whether a congressional committee can compel the testimony of a close presidential adviser. While the Biden administration may not have been inclined to block testimony from Trump’s former legal counsel, it is possible that the White House hoped to preserve an ability to shield its own close advisers from being forced to testify before Congress.

It is unclear what new information lawmakers will obtain from the interview. The scope of McGahn’s session will be limited to the public portions of the Mueller report related to McGahn, and he can decline to answer questions deemed outside those parameters. Justice Department lawyers attending the interview can also direct McGahn not to answer and assert executive privilege.

McGahn may be asked, for instance, whether Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election accurately reflected McGahn’s statements to the special counsel’s office.

Lawmakers have said they considered McGahn the “most important” witness in the investigation of whether Trump obstructed justice. Mueller’s 448-page report mentioned McGahn’s statements more than 160 times.

McGahn’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, and the court filing states that Trump is not a party to the agreement.

McGahn’s attorney previously said McGahn does not believe he witnessed any violation of law and that Trump instructed him to cooperate fully with Mueller but not to testify without an agreement between the White House and the committee.

The House Judiciary Committee initially subpoenaed McGahn in 2019. At the time, the Trump White House directed McGahn to disregard the subpoena and said that key presidential advisers are “absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony.” The House went to court to enforce the subpoena, saying it was essential to its oversight powers.

In August, the full appeals court sided 7 to 2 with House Democrats in finding that lawmakers have standing to sue. The case was slated to return to the D.C. Circuit Court next week on a separate legal question.

washington post logoWashington Post, You’re the monster that no one sees coming’: Former VA nursing aide sentenced to seven life terms for killing West Va. veterans with insulin, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). A former nursing aide was sentenced Tuesday to seven consecutive life terms and an additional 20 years in federal prison after confessing to injecting lethal doses of insulin into frail, elderly veterans in her care at a West Virginia Veterans Affairs hospital.

reta mays“You’re the monster that no one sees coming,” U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh told Reta Mays, right, before announcing the sentence in a courtroom in Clarksburg, W.Va., dismissing her lawyers’ arguments that she deserved leniency because of a long history of medical and mental health issues stemming from her childhood and military service.

Many defendants who appear in his courtroom, particularly veterans such as she, have led hard lives in West Virginia, the judge told Mays, 46, “but you’re not special. None of these folks are killers, let alone serial killers.”

As the sentencing took place, VA Inspector General Michael Missal released a blistering investigative report that concluded that cascading failures by the Louis A. Johnson Medical Center, the Clarksburg hospital that hired Mays in 2015, enabled the nursing aide to target patients for nearly a year.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, In Iraq, powerful militias assassinate protesters with impunity, Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). The killings take place in public, but no prosecutions follow. Activists blame groups linked to Iran.

The killings take place in public and are captured on surveillance footage. Those videos are then watched by millions. But even if the gunmen are identified, no one is prosecuted, and the cycle starts again.

Across Baghdad and southern Iraq, a rising tide of attacks on activists and journalists is alarming what remains of a protest movement that has demanded the ouster of Iraq’s U.S.-molded political system and the usually Iran-linked armed groups that prop it up.

Mass street demonstrations were crushed last year with deadly force, often by paramilitary groups that the protesters have denounced. Now as some activists prepare to run in elections, prominent figures in the protest movement are being picked off while they walk the streets or drive home at the end of the day.

The assassinations, officials and human rights monitors say, underscore the reach of Iraq’s militia network — to punish citizens who dare to criticize it and control a political system meant to hold it accountable.

 washington post logoindia flag mapWashington Post, Their parents were dying of covid in India. For 12 frantic days, two sisters tried to save them, Ruby Mellen, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). Sujata Hingorani, an urban designer and architect, often takes short videos to capture the emotions of a space. She found herself using those skills to record the struggle of her mother and father, who were partially vaccinated but died nine days apart as finding adequate care became nearly impossible.

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel-Hamas fighting tests Biden, exposes Democratic rifts, Anne Gearan and John Hudson, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). The worst violence in years between the Israeli military and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip risks drawing the United States into just the kind of Middle East morass that President Biden didn't want.

The days of deadly cross-border rocket attacks and airstrikes approached all-out war on Wednesday amid international calls for calm and a flurry of diplomatic efforts from Washington. The White House said U.S. officials have made more than 25 calls to Israeli, Palestinian and regional Arab leaders in the past few days, as well as other diplomatic outreach.

  • Washington Post, For first time in two decades, mass protests erupt among Israeli Arabs, May 13, 2021 (print ed.).

washington post logocanadian flagWashington Post, Mysterious, devastating brain disorder hits dozens in Canadian province, Amanda Coletta, May 13, 2021 (print ed.). Symptoms include hallucinations and Capgras delusion — a belief that impostors replaced family members

 

May 12

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P.’s Overthrow of Liz Cheney Creates Host of New Problems for Party, Jonathan Martin, May 12, 2021. As the party ties itself ever tighter to Trumpism, some Republicans worry about the implications for 2022 and far beyond. “The party is going to come back stronger, and I’m going to lead the effort to do it,” Representative Liz Cheney said.
As she arrived at the Capitol on Wednesday morning to meet her fate, the soon-to-be deposed No. 3 Republican in the House hinted that she was already eyeing her next role.

“The party is going to come back stronger, and I’m going to lead the effort to do it,” Representative Liz Cheney said as she stepped into an elevator and down to her demise.

djt maga hatLess than an hour later, accompanied by the acclaimed photographer David Hume Kennerly, a family friend, Ms. Cheney returned to her office for an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. A sit-down with Bret Baier of Fox News was to follow.

The message was unmistakable: Her colleagues may have stripped Ms. Cheney of her post as chair of the House Republican Conference, but they have effectively handed her a new platform and a new role as the leader of the small band of anti-Trump Republicans.

Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican minority leader, was trying to address a short-term challenge, and in a narrow sense he was successful. He will no longer have to contend with a member of his leadership team who, much to the consternation of him and his colleagues, continues to condemn former President Donald J. Trump’s attempt to overturn the election.

By excommunicating Ms. Cheney from her position, however, Republican lawmakers have created a host of new problems for their party.

They have underscored the grip that the increasingly unpopular Mr. Trump retains on their ranks; demoralized Republicans and independents who want to move on from his tenure; and, perhaps most significantly, emboldened a household-name conservative to take her case against Trumpism far beyond a Capitol conference room.

House Republicans knew what they had done as soon as they emerged from their meeting.

“That’s what it looks like when somebody is running for president,” Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama muttered to colleagues as they quickly walked past Ms. Cheney during her remarks in front of the cameras.

huffington post logoHuffPost, Michigan Lawmaker Who Promoted Election Lies Wants To Register, Fine ‘Fact Checkers,’ Hayley Miller, May 12, 2021.Matt Maddock, a Republican state representative, warned “fact checkers” not to be “sloppy” or risk being sued under his proposed legislation.A Michigan state representative who has repeatedly promoted former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election introduced a bill on Tuesday that would require “fact checkers” to register with the state.State Rep. Matt Maddock, a Republican, wrote in a Facebook post last week that his proposed legislation “will put Fact Checkers on notice.”

“Don’t be wrong, don’t be sloppy, and you better be right,” Maddock wrote.

The bill, called the Fact Checker Registration Act, would require “certain fact checkers” to register with Michigan’s secretary of state and insure themselves with $1 million fidelity bonds.If the bill were enacted into law, a person would be able to sue a “fact checker” for “any wrongful conduct that is a violation” of Michigan state laws. A person who violated the act would be subject to a $1,000 fine per day for each day the violation continued, according to the bill.

Under Maddock’s proposal, a “fact checker” is defined as someone who is paid by a national or international fact-checking organization, is a member of the “International Fact Check Network,” publishes content in Michigan and presents themselves to the public as a fact-checker. (Maddock confirmed Wednesday that “International Fact Check Network” is meant to refer to the International Fact-Checking Network, a Poynter Institute initiative that connects fact-checkers working at media organizations across the world.)

Maddock told HuffPost on Wednesday that he isn’t sure how many people will qualify as a “fact checker” under his proposal.

“I don’t think anyone knows how many fact checkers are doing business in Michigan but we will find out!” Maddock wrote in a text message to HuffPost.

He said he wrote the bill because he feels “people and businesses are being unfairly targeted and deplatformed and cancelled because fact checkers deem them ‘false.’”

 

May 10

Top Headlines  

 

GOP Internal Wars, Voting Lies  

 

U.S. Law, Courts

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On GOP Internal Wars, Voting Lies

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

  

U.S. Education, Media 

 

 World News

 

Top Stories 

chris doworth left matt gaetz joel greenberg resized facebook

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL, at center, former Florida State Rep. Chris Dorworth, left, then of the Ballard Partners lobbying firm, and former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, at right, posed for the photograph above outside the White House in June of 2019.

Tampa Bay Times, Matt Gaetz helped set off Florida’s marijuana ‘green rush.’ Some of his friends, allies scored big, Tribune News Service, May 10, 2021 (print ed.). A sprawling federal investigation has also now expanded to examine whether Gaetz took gifts in exchange for political favors tied to medical marijuana policy, according to recent reports by CNN and The Associated Press.

Less than 24 hours before the Florida Legislature passed the state’s first medical marijuana law in May 2014, Matt Gaetz and other members of the state House of Representatives rewrote the bill to limit who would be able to get in on the ground floor of what has since become a billion-dollar business.

A number of Gaetz’s friends and allies managed to squeeze through that narrow door. Among them:

— The brother of Gaetz’s friend and fellow state Rep. Halsey Beshears, who co-founded one of Florida’s first licensed marijuana companies and amassed a fortune currently valued at about $600 million — and became a major Republican Party donor.

— A Panhandle developer and client of Gaetz’s law firm who invested in another of the state’s first marijuana licensees and who, according to financial and court records, roughly tripled his money in two years.

— Ballard Partners, a prominent Tallahassee lobbying firm, which until recently employed former state Rep. Chris Dorworth, whom Gaetz once described as his legislative “mentor.” The firm was given investment interests in at least three companies that eventually won marijuana licenses, and is now earning $160,000 a year in lobbying fees from a fourth.

— Another of Gaetz’s friends, Orlando hand doctor Jason Pirozzolo, who helped craft that 2014 legislation and then started several marijuana businesses, including a consulting firm that worked with companies applying for marijuana licenses and a professional association that sells sponsorships to marijuana vendors.

Gaetz also worked with some of these same friends in other arenas. In 2019, for instance, Gaetz, Beshears, Dorworth and Pirozzolo were all involved in efforts to replace key leaders at the agency that runs Orlando International Airport, an obscure-but-important entity that spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on contractors and vendors.

All four have also recently been rocked by a federal investigation that emerged from a probe into disgraced former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg.

Gaetz, who is now a member of Congress, is under investigation for potential sex trafficking violations linked to a September 2018 trip to the Bahamas with several young women and with Beshears and Pirozzolo, according to reports by CBS News and Politico.

Investigators have also learned of a conversation between Dorworth and Gaetz about recruiting a third-party candidate to help their friend Jason Brodeur win a state Senate election last fall, according to The New York Times. A similar alleged scheme in a South Florida race has led to charges against a former state lawmaker.

The sprawling federal investigation that emerged from the Greenberg probe has also now expanded to examine whether Gaetz took gifts in exchange for political favors tied to medical marijuana policy, according to recent reports by CNN and The Associated Press.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bombing outside Kabul girls’ school kills at least 50, Susannah George and Sharif Hassan, May 10, 2021 (print ed.). The deadliest bombing to strike Kabul in months detonated Saturday outside a school for girls, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 100, a week after the United States and NATO began the complete withdrawal of their forces from the country.At the sound of the blast, the school’s principal, Aqila Tawakoli, rushed out to the front gates. It was the end of the school day, and she knew many of her students would still be in the street outside.

“It was like a doomsday that I saw with my own eyes,” she told The Washington Post by phone soon after the blast. “Schoolgirls were fleeing back into school, crying and screaming.”

Violence has risen across Afghanistan since the start of the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces on May 1. Much of the increased violence has been from Taliban attacks on vulnerable government-held towns and cities, but on the eve of the withdrawal, a similarly large bombing struck Logar province just south of Kabul.

 

GOP Internal Wars, Voting Lies

 washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: How an obscure Tex. firm helped convince many the election was stolen, Emma Brown, Aaron C. Davis, Jon Swaine and Josh Dawsey, May 10, 2021 (print ed.). Russell J. Ramsland Jr. has sold everything from Tex-Mex food to a light-therapy technology. Starting two years ago, he helped sell the notion that votes in U.S. elections were being manipulated.

Key elements of the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald Trump took shape in an airplane hangar here two years earlier, promoted by a Republican businessman who has sold everything from Tex-Mex food in London to a wellness technology that beams light into the human bloodstream.

At meetings beginning late in 2018, as Republicans were smarting from midterm losses in Texas and across the country, Russell J. Ramsland Jr. and his associates delivered alarming presentations on electronic voting to a procession of conservative lawmakers, activists and donors.

Briefings in the hangar had a clandestine air. Guests were asked to leave their cellphones outside before assembling in a windowless room. A member of Ramsland’s team purporting to be a “white-hat hacker” identified himself only by a code name.

washington post logoWashington Post, McCarthy backs ousting Cheney from GOP leadership post, Amy B Wang and Karoun Demirjian, May 10, 2021 (print ed.). The House minority leader threw his support behind Rep. Elise Stefanik for the party’s third-ranking post, signaling that allegiance to former President Donald Trump is a requirement for power in the Republican Party.

The top Republican in the House on Sunday publicly endorsed the ouster of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from the party’s leadership team, paving the way for Cheney’s removal as early as this week and sending a clear message that allegiance to former president Donald Trump is a requirement to hold power in the GOP.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) threw his support behind Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) to become the new Republican conference chair, the No. 3 job in GOP leadership, backing a onetime centrist who emerged over the past year as a staunch defender of Trump who helped spread his false claims of election fraud.

McCarthy avoided mentioning Cheney by name during his appearance on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” when asked about the campaign to oust Cheney over her dogged efforts to denounce Trump’s baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Cheney plans lengthy fight to turn GOP from Trump, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Dan Lamothe, May 9, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the party’s third-highest leader, has engaged in a raging months-long dispute with other House Republicans — a battle over the party’s principles that is likely to end in her dismissal from her leadership post.

liz cheney oRep. Liz Cheney, right, had been arguing for months that Republicans had to face the truth about former president Donald Trump — that he had lied about the 2020 election result and bore responsibility for the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — when the Wyoming Republican sat down at a party retreat in April to listen to a polling briefing.

The refusal to accept reality, she realized, went much deeper.

When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.

republican elephant logoTrump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.

Cheney was alarmed, she later told others, in part because Republican campaign officials had also left out bad Trump polling news at a March retreat for ranking committee chairs. Both instances, she concluded, demonstrated that party leadership was willing to hide information from their own members to avoid the truth about Trump and the possible damage he could do to Republican House members, even though the NRCC denied any such agenda.

Those behind-the-scenes episodes were part of a months-long dispute over Republican principles that has raged among House leaders and across the broader GOP landscape. That dispute is expected to culminate next week with a vote to remove Cheney from her position as the third-ranking House Republican

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Close this FEC loophole that killed the case over Trump’s payment to Stormy Daniels, Ellen L. Weintraub (a commissioner on the Federal Election Commission), May 10, 2021 (print ed.). Pretty much all the Stormy Daniels story needed was a murder. Last week it got one, when news broke that Republican members had killed the Federal Election Commission’s hush-money case against former president Donald Trump with barely any explanation.

This action reaches beyond the FEC. Under current law, no court can overturn this decision.

We all know the larger story. Trump’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen paid $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford (a.k.a. Stormy Daniels) to keep her quiet in the days before the 2016 election. Cohen admitted that he routed the payment to Daniels “for the principal purpose of influencing the election,” and that Trump not only knew about but orchestrated the payment.

This led to criminal charges and a complaint to the FEC, which is charged with enforcing campaign finance law. In the criminal case, Cohen was sentenced to prison and ordered to pay almost $2 million in restitution, forfeiture and fines.

But when the FEC’s professional legal staff recommended the commission investigate, two Republican commissioners instead tanked the case without a word about its merits. Since Cohen had already been prosecuted, they said, “pursuing these matters further was not the best use of agency resources.”

Now, we’re pretty busy at the FEC, digging out from all the matters that piled up for more than a year while we were short on commissioners — and therefore unable to decide cases.

But are we too busy to enforce the law against the former president of the United States for his brazen violation of federal campaign finance laws on the eve of a presidential election? No.

Would pursuing this matter have been an unwise use of resources? Of course not. Taxpayers entrust us with resources exactly so that we can pursue enforcement in important cases and ensure that no one is above the law. This dismissal of the allegations against Trump is arbitrary, capricious, outrageous and contrary to the law that Congress created the FEC to enforce.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans aren’t just making it harder to vote. They’re going after election officials, too, Joshua A. Douglas, May 10, 2021 (print ed.). Joshua A. Douglas is a law professor at the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law. He is the author of “Vote for US: How to Take Back Our Elections and Change the Future of Voting.”

The right to vote is under attack, as are the people who protect that right.

Multiple states have passed or are considering new restrictive voting rules in response to the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen. There is, of course, no evidence of massive voter fraud in 2020 — and President Biden legitimately won the election — but that has not stopped unscrupulous politicians in states such as Arizona, Georgia, Texas, Florida and Iowa from considering new strict rules on absentee balloting, the ability to use a drop box, and even providing food or water to voters waiting in line.

These attacks on our democracy have received much attention. Far less noticed, however, have been provisions in these laws that penalize local election officials who administer our elections.


elise stefanik cbs 2020 wwny

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion, The decline and fall of Elise Stefanik, Ruth Marcus, right, May 9, 2021 (print ed.). Ambition isn’t a demerit in politics — it’s a job requirement, along with its needier cousin, the instinct for ruth marcus twitter Customself-preservation. The politician’s version of the Hippocratic oath is equally simple: “First, get elected.”

Still, the past five years — of Donald Trump’s alarming rise and regrettable persistence — have witnessed Republican lawmakers sublimating principle and decency to survival and advancement. Too many who know better have fallen meekly in line.

Meantime, as Trump has warped the Republican Party from belief system into loyalty test, the ordinary metrics of political measurement have given way. The primary axis on which to understand — and judge — party officials is no longer the spectrum of conservatism but the intensity of professed Trump devotion.

These realities offer the best frame for understanding the remarkable and depressing trajectory of Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), above, who appears poised to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as GOP House conference chair. Stefanik is far from the only Republican to sell her soul to Trump, but she has to be counted among the most disappointing. Her transformation from Trump doubter to Trump champion is another sign of the end of ideology as a defining feature of the GOP.

 

U.S. Law, Courts 

 

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Immigration Courts Aren’t Real Courts. Time to Change That, Editorial Board, May 9, 2021. As long as these judges are subject to political pressures, there can be no true judicial process.

President Biden took office with a promise to “restore humanity and American values” to the immigration system. If he’s going to succeed, it will take more than shutting down construction on his predecessor’s border wall. The most formidable obstacle to making the U.S. immigration system more humane and functional is invisible to most Americans: the nation’s broken, overwhelmed immigration court system.

Every day, hundreds of immigration judges slog through thousands of cases, unable to keep up with a crushing backlog that has more than doubled since 2016. Many cases involve complex claims of asylum by those who fear for their safety in their home countries. Most end up in legal limbo, waiting years for even an initial hearing. Some people sit in detention centers for months or longer, despite posing no risk to the public. None have the right to a lawyer, which few could afford anyway.

us dhs big eagle logo4“The system is failing, there is no doubt about it,” one immigration judge said in 2018. As long as the system is failing, it will be impossible to achieve any broad-based immigration reform — whether proposed by Mr. Biden or anyone else.

The problem with these courts isn’t new, but it became significantly worse under the Trump administration. When he took office in 2017, President Donald Trump inherited a backlog of about 540,000 cases, already a major crisis. The administration could have used numerous means to bring that number down. Instead, Mr. Trump’s team drove it up. By the time he left office in January, the backlog had ballooned to nearly 1.3 million pending cases.

How did that number get so high? Some of the increase was the result of ramped up enforcement of immigration laws, leading to many more arrests and detentions that required court attention. The Trump administration also reopened hundreds of thousands of low-priority cases that had been shelved under President Barack Obama. Finally, Mr. Trump starved the courts of funding and restricted how much control judges had over their own dockets, making the job nearly impossible for those judges who care about providing fair and impartial justice to immigrants.

At the same time, Mr. Trump hired hundreds of new judges, prioritizing ideology over experience, such as by tapping former Immigration and Customs Enforcement prosecutors and others who would help convert the courts into a conveyor belt of deportation. In 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions imposed an annual quota of 700 cases per judge. One judge testified before a House committee last year that Mr. Trump’s system was “a widget factory management model of speed over substance.”

By some measures, the plan worked: In 2020, the immigration courts denied 72 percent of asylum claims, the highest portion ever, and far above the denial rates during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.

If the goal was to empty the United States of all those asylum seekers, Mr. Trump clearly failed, as evidenced by the huge backlog he left Mr. Biden. But the ease with which he imposed his will on the immigration courts revealed a central structural flaw in the system: They are not actual courts, at least not in the sense that Americans are used to thinking of courts — as neutral arbiters of law, honoring due process and meting out impartial justice. Nor are immigration judges real judges. They are attorneys employed by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which is housed in the Department of Justice. It’s hard to imagine a more glaring conflict of interest than the nation’s top law-enforcement agency running a court system in which it regularly appears as a party.

The result is that immigration courts and judges operate at the mercy of whoever is sitting in the Oval Office. How much money they get, what cases they focus on — it’s all politics. That didn’t used to be such a problem, because attorneys general rarely got involved in immigration issues. Then Mr. Trump came along and reminded everyone just how much power the head of the executive branch has when it comes to immigration.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cyberattack Forces Shutdown of Major U.S. Pipeline, Operator Says, David E. Sanger, May 9, 2021 (print ed.). The attack on the operator of the pipeline, which carries fuel to the East Coast, appeared to be an attempt to disrupt vulnerable energy infrastructure.

A cyberattack forced the shutdown of one of the largest pipelines in the United States, in what appeared to be a significant attempt to disrupt vulnerable energy infrastructure. The pipeline carries refined gasoline and jet fuel up the East Coast from Texas to New York.

The operator of the system, Colonial Pipeline, said in a statement late Friday that it had shut down its 5,500 miles of pipeline, which it says carries 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel supplies, in an effort to contain the breach on its computer networks. Earlier Friday, there were disruptions along the pipeline, but it was unclear whether that was a direct result of the attack, or the company’s moves to proactively halt it.

Colonial Pipeline has not indicated whether its systems were hit by ransomware, in which hackers hold a victim’s data hostage until it pays a ransom, or whether it was another form of cyberattack. But the shutdown of such a vital pipeline, one that has been serving the East Coast since the early 1960s, highlights the huge vulnerability of aging infrastructure that has been connected, directly or indirectly, to the internet.

In coming weeks, the administration is expected to issue a broad-ranging executive order to bolster security of federal and private systems, after two major attacks from Russia and China in recent months caught American intelligence agencies and companies by surprise.

Colonial’s pipeline transports 2.5 million barrels each day, taking refined gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel from the Gulf Coast up to New York Harbor and New York’s major airports. Most of that goes into major storage tanks, and with energy use depressed by the coronavirus pandemic, the attack was unlikely to cause any immediate disruptions.

In the statement, the company said that it learned on Friday that it “was the victim of a cybersecurity attack,” but it provided no details. Such an attack could involve malware that shut down its operations or ransomware demanding payment to unlock computer files or systems.

“In response, we proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our I.T. operations,” the company said, referring to information technology systems.

washington post logoWashington Post, Small size of most U.S. police departments complicates reform, experts say, Mark Berman, May 9, 2021. While big-city police tend to get the most attention, the agencies that have been in the spotlight recently for uses of force — fatal shootings of Black men in Brooklyn Center, Minn., and Elizabeth City, N.C., and pepper-spraying a Black and Latino man in Windsor, Va. — are more illustrative of what American law enforcement looks like: small departments in places that rarely make the news.

According to a federal survey in 2016, there are more than 12,200 local police departments nationwide, along with another 3,000 sheriff’s offices. And most of those don’t look like the New York Police Department, which employs more officers than Brooklyn Center, in suburban Minneapolis, has residents.

Nearly half of all local police departments have fewer than 10 officers. Three in 4 of the departments have no more than two dozen officers. And 9 in 10 employ fewer than 50 sworn officers. Brooklyn Center, which has 43 officers, and Windsor, which reported a seven-member force, fit comfortably in that majority.
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Experts say that while smaller departments have their benefits, including being able to adapt to their communities and hire officers with local ties, these agencies also are typically able to avoid the accountability being sought as part of the national movement to restructure and improve policing. These departments’ often limited resources and the decentralized structure of American law enforcement complicate efforts to mandate widespread training and policy changes, experts say.

Daily Beast, TV Documentary Preview: D.C. Sniper Boasts of Post-Shooting Sex With Accomplice in New Doc, Nick Schager, May 9, 2021. The new Vice docuseries ‘I, Sniper’ provides the definitive account of John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo’s 2002 reign of terror that left 10 people dead.

daily beast logoIn I, Sniper, Lee Boyd Malvo, right, speaks at length about the 2002 reign of terror he and partner John Allen Muhammad carried out in the Washington, D.C., area, resulting in ten deaths.

lee boyd malvo CustomYet despite using audio clips from his phone calls as narration, Vice’s eight-part docuseries (premiering May 10) is most notable for putting its prime emphasis on the pair’s innocent victims, and the countless friends, family members and loved ones left to cope with unthinkable tragedy. To its admirable credit, it’s a true-crime affair that seeks to understand its “monsters” while simultaneously recognizing—and highlighting—the fact that such comprehension doesn’t necessitate empathy, especially when the atrocities in question are as inexcusably heinous as these.

Spearheaded by director Ursula Macfarlane, I, Sniper’s calling card is those phone conversations with Malvo from Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison, where he’s currently serving multiple life sentences.

In them, the killer recounts, in exacting and chilling detail, both the sniper attacks he perpetrated as a 17-year-old, and the troubled upbringing in Jamaica that led him into the welcoming arms of Muhammad, a Gulf War veteran with a surplus of rage and a desire to unleash it on his homeland. Abandoned by his dad, abused by his mom, and eventually left to fend for himself, Malvo found in Muhammad a father figure who promised to love him as he did his own biological offspring. From the outset, though, theirs was a bond built on exploitation, with Muhammad becoming not only Malvo’s surrogate parent, but also his lover—as well as his mentor, pouring all of his long-simmering hate and resentment into the impressionable, desperate-for-acceptance teen.  

washington post logoWashington Post, Six dead in Colorado Springs shooting at birthday party, police say, Timothy Bella, May 10, 2021 (print ed.). Local police said the gunman “drove to the residence, walked inside and began shooting people at the party before taking his own life.”

Six people are dead after a gunman entered a birthday party and began shooting inside a mobile home in Colorado Springs before killing himself during the early-morning hours of Mother’s Day, police announced Sunday.

The mass shooting unfolded around midnight Sunday at the Canterbury Mobile Home Park, about eight miles outside downtown Colorado Springs, police said. The gunman, who authorities said was the boyfriend of one of the female victims, has not been publicly identified

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, Fauci says wearing masks could become seasonal after the pandemic, Paulina Villegas, May 10, 2021 (print ed.). The nation’s leading infectious-disease expert said it is “conceivable” that people might decide to wear masks seasonally to diminish the possibility of either spreading or catching respiratory-borne viruses.

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the chief medical adviser to the White House pointed out that the public has grown accustomed to wearing masks and added that quantifiable data shows that its use has helped stem the spread of other viruses.

“We’ve had practically a nonexistent flu season this year merely because people were doing the kinds of public health things that were directed predominantly against covid-19,” Fauci said.

Fauci added that it is “conceivable” that during seasonal periods where respiratory-borne viruses such as the flu are prevalent, people might decide in the next year or two to wear masks to diminish the possibility of either spreading or catching these diseases.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Europe turns away from AstraZeneca vaccine in favor of Pfizer-BioNTech, Rick Noack, Paul Schemm, and Jennifer Hassan, May 10, 2021. The European Union is effectively turning away from the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, after the Anglo-Swedish manufacturer fell behind on its delivery targets and amid concerns over the vaccine’s efficacy against some variants of the coronavirus.

“We did not renew the order after June. We’ll see what happens,” European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said on French radio over the weekend. The comments came shortly after the E.U. concluded a deal for up to 1.8 billion doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by U.S. company Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, to be delivered through 2023.

Breton did not rule out renewing the AstraZeneca contract in the future and defended the vaccine as “very good.” If the E.U. permanently phases out the use of the vaccine jointly produced by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, it would be the biggest bloc to have done so. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was initially a key pillar of the E.U.’s strategy to vaccinate its more than 400 million citizens.

  • Africa ramps up monitoring of coronavirus variants with fear of India’s situation in mind
  • In desperate bid for more oxygen tanks, Nepal asks Everest climbers to return empty cylinders
  • In one D.C. suburb, the libraries just won’t reopen, even though vaccinations are up and infections are down

washington post logoWashington Post, India shatters global record as cases surge again, Jennifer Hassan, May 9, 2021 (print ed.). Coronavirus not ‘going to go away,’ British health experts warn. India’s deadly struggle continues unabated, with the country on Friday reporting another record rise in coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours. To date, the country has recorded more than 21.4 million confirmed infections and at least 234,083 deaths.

india flag mapIndia on Friday reported 414,188 new cases of the virus in the past 24 hours, a global record. Over the same period, 3,915 deaths were reported.

The escalating figures come as nations send emergency aid to India, whose health-care system is struggling to cope. Some officials have expressed concern that the shipments of crucial supplies are being held up at airports and delayed in reaching hospitals that are in desperate need of oxygen equipment, medicines and vaccines.

Rahul Gandhi, India’s opposition leader, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday demanding that the government act swiftly to vaccinate the entire population and accusing him of “declaring premature victory as the virus was exponentially spreading.” 

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2

washington post logoWashington Post, 152.1 million vaccinated, as of May 10, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 56.9 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 45.8 % of the total population. See about your state.hat a more transmissible variant was spreading in the nation of some 1.3 billion people, Reuters reported. Authorities, however, refrained from taking more drastic measures to prevent a surge.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 10, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 159,030,388, Deaths: 3,308,345
U.S. Cases:     33,476,781, Deaths:     595,812
India Cases:    22,662,575, Deaths:     246,146
Brazil Cases:   15,184,790, Deaths:     422,418

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic divisions return as Biden tries to hold Senate, Sean Sullivan, May 10, 2021 (print ed.). In crucial Senate races in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and elsewhere in 2022, the Democratic coalition that came together to elect President Biden is fracturing again along racial, gender and generational lines.

In Pennsylvania, a Black, gay Senate candidate is already lashing out at his White Democratic primary rival, calling on him to apologize for once brandishing a shotgun to detain an unarmed Black jogger.

In North Carolina, a barrier-breaking Black woman is rallying support from activists angry that Democratic leaders last time anointed a White male candidate whose campaign ended up imploding. One of her top primary rivals, though, is again a White man, who is promising to “talk to everyone — rural, urban, red, blue.”

As Democrats survey the upcoming fight to keep their narrow Senate majority, they face similar challenges in an array of states: The factions that set aside their differences to deliver the Democrats control of Washington are redividing along racial, gender and generational lines.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP governors slash jobless aid to try to force more Americans to return to work, Tony Romm, May 10, 2021 (print ed.). The new Republican cuts target the extra $300 in weekly payments that millions of Americans have received in addition to their unemployment checks.

An unexpected slowdown in hiring nationwide has prompted some Republican governors to start slashing jobless benefits in their states, hoping that the loss of generous federal aid might force more people to try to return to work.

The new GOP cuts chiefly target the extra $300 in weekly payments that millions of Americans have received for months in addition to their usual unemployment checks. Arkansas on Friday became the latest to announce plans to cancel the extra benefits, joining Montana and South Carolina earlier in the week, in a move that signals a new effort on the part of Republicans to try to combat what they see as a national worker shortage.

Republican policymakers have long opposed these heightened rules.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: U.S. and Iran Want to Restore the Nuclear Deal. They Disagree Deeply on What That Means, Steven Erlanger and David E. Sanger, May 10, 2021 (print ed.). After five weeks of diplomatic shadow boxing, it is clear that the old agreement no longer works for Tehran or Washington, except as a steppingstone.

President Biden and Iran’s leaders say they share a common goal: They both want to re-enter the nuclear deal that President Donald J. Trump scrapped three years ago, restoring the bargain that Iran would keep sharp limits on its production of nuclear fuel in return for a lifting of sanctions that have choked its economy.

But after five weeks of shadow boxing in Vienna hotel rooms — where the two sides pass notes through European intermediaries — it has become clear that the old deal, strictly defined, does not work for either of them anymore, at least in the long run.

The Iranians are demanding that they be allowed to keep the advanced nuclear-fuel production equipment they installed after Mr. Trump abandoned the pact, and integration with the world financial system beyond what they achieved under the 2015 agreement.

The Biden administration, for its part, says that restoring the old deal is just a steppingstone. It must be followed immediately by an agreement on limiting missiles and support of terrorism — and making it impossible for Iran to produce enough fuel for a bomb for decades. The Iranians say no way.

Now, as negotiators engage again in Vienna, where a new round of talks began on Friday, the Biden administration finds itself at a crucial decision point. Restoring the 2015 accord, with all its flaws, seems doable, interviews with European, Iranian and American officials suggest. But getting what Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has called a “longer and stronger” accord — one that stops Iran from amassing nuclear material for generations, halts its missile tests and ends support of terrorist groups — looks as far away as ever.

That is potentially a major political vulnerability for Mr. Biden, who knows he cannot simply replicate what the Obama administration negotiated six years ago, after marathon sessions in Vienna and elsewhere, while offering vague promises that something far bigger and better might follow.

Iran and the United States “are really negotiating different deals,” said Vali R. Nasr, a former American official who is now at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. “It’s why the talks are so slow.”

washington post logoChina FlagWashington Post, Debris from Chinese space rocket booster lands in Indian Ocean near Maldives, China reports, Timothy Bella and Gerry Shih, May 9, 2021. Parts from a Chinese Long March rocket fell into the Indian Ocean near the Maldives, China’s Manned Space Engineering Office reported late Saturday night, ending days of international speculation over whether plummeting rocket debris might be scattered over a populated area.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Germany has agreed to return Nigeria’s looted treasure. Will other countries follow? Danielle Paquette, May 10, 2021. The German restitution pledge, the largest thus far, has injected momentum into the push for other governments to do the same as nations worldwide grapple with histories of racial injustice. Protest movements have placed a fresh spotlight on old atrocities, toppled statues and called for the recovery of items stolen — often violently — during colonial rule.

washington post logoWashington Post, Johnson calls UK crisis talks as Sturgeon says another Scottish independence vote is inevitable, Claire Parker, May 10, 2021 (print ed.). Scotland’s first minister told British Prime Minister Boris Johnson that a second referendum on Scottish independence was inevitable as Johnson called a crisis summit of the United Kingdom’s devolved nations.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon spoke with Johnson on Sunday for the first time since her pro-independence Scottish National Party won a plurality in Scottish parliamentary elections last week, the SNP said in a statement. Sturgeon reiterated her commitment to another vote on independence from the United Kingdom “when the [covid-19] crisis is over, and made clear that the question of a referendum is now a matter of when — not if,” a party representative said.

The SNP won 64 seats in the elections, one short of a majority in Scotland’s 129-member assembly. Combined with eight members of the Scottish Greens, the pro-independence camp will dominate the new parliament.

  

May 9

Free Press, Propaganda, Dictators

 

U.S. Law, Courts

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On GOP Internal Wars, Voting Lies

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

  

U.S. Education, Media 

 

 World News

 

Top Stories

Free Press, Propaganda, Dictators

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Dictators crush dissent. Then they hire these U.S. firms to clean up their images, Kathy Kiely, right, May 9, 2021 (print ed.). Representing countries with bad records on press kathy kiely resized missourifreedom is big business.

At marquee events during his first 100 days in office, President Biden cast the challenge of our times in stark terms. When the history of this era is written, Biden said at his first White House news conference, it will be about “who succeeded: autocracy or democracy?” The president reiterated that theme during his first address to a joint session of Congress. It’s apropos, because three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a moment celebrated as the triumph of democratic capitalism and even “the end of history,” freedom of expression is under attack around the world, including in established democracies such as our own.

But even if Biden’s ambition to reestablish the White House as a champion of human rights is a welcome break from the Trump administration’s dictator-coddling, his efforts to pressure countries on freedom of expression are being systematically undermined in Washington, where some nations that are the worst offenders have powerful advocates. Representing those countries is a lucrative business here in the home of the First Amendment.

Sadly, there are far too many examples in the Justice Department’s foreign-agent registration database to present a complete list here. So my research assistant, Missouri journalism student Elise Mulligan, and I decided to focus on a few countries with pressing image problems when it comes to press freedoms.

Saudi Arabia: The oil-rich kingdom deserves top rank here for the enormity of both the fees and the crime involved. A few big-name influencers dropped the Saudis as clients immediately after the brazen October 2018 murder of journalist and Washington Post contributing op-ed writer Jamal Khashoggi, left, in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. But others made a different choice. Since Khashoggi’s jamal kahshoggideath, some two dozen U.S. firms have picked up more than $73 million in fees for representing Saudi interests, according to reports they have filed with the Justice Department. Chief among them was the kingdom’s longtime main lobbying firm, Qorvis, which said in a statement at the time of Khashoggi’s disappearance that “we take the situation seriously” and would “wait for all the facts to become known.”

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-SaudHere are some facts that have since become known: Saudi officials have acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed by a team of government agents sent to force the journalist to return to the kingdom and that his body was afterward dismembered. Five of the 15 hit men were convicted but have since had their death sentences commuted. And U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, approved the operation that led to Khashoggi’s murder.

Qorvis has collected more than $28 million from the Saudis since Khashoggi’s murder, filings with the Justice Department show. Firm President Michael Petruzzello has said the $18.8 million Qorvis reported receiving from the Saudis six months after the journalist’s death was for work “billed over several years and recently paid all at once.” But since then, the firm has picked up another $9 million working for the Saudis. It also has a contract to do work for the kingdom’s oxymoronically named Human Rights Commission. A bit of context: While the Saudis recently released from prison several female activists (who had asked for, among other things, the right to drive), the women are not permitted to leave the country.

 

U.S. Law, Courts 

 

ICE logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: Immigration Courts Aren’t Real Courts. Time to Change That, Editorial Board, May 9, 2021. As long as these judges are subject to political pressures, there can be no true judicial process.

President Biden took office with a promise to “restore humanity and American values” to the immigration system. If he’s going to succeed, it will take more than shutting down construction on his predecessor’s border wall. The most formidable obstacle to making the U.S. immigration system more humane and functional is invisible to most Americans: the nation’s broken, overwhelmed immigration court system.

Every day, hundreds of immigration judges slog through thousands of cases, unable to keep up with a crushing backlog that has more than doubled since 2016. Many cases involve complex claims of asylum by those who fear for their safety in their home countries. Most end up in legal limbo, waiting years for even an initial hearing. Some people sit in detention centers for months or longer, despite posing no risk to the public. None have the right to a lawyer, which few could afford anyway.

us dhs big eagle logo4“The system is failing, there is no doubt about it,” one immigration judge said in 2018. As long as the system is failing, it will be impossible to achieve any broad-based immigration reform — whether proposed by Mr. Biden or anyone else.

The problem with these courts isn’t new, but it became significantly worse under the Trump administration. When he took office in 2017, President Donald Trump inherited a backlog of about 540,000 cases, already a major crisis. The administration could have used numerous means to bring that number down. Instead, Mr. Trump’s team drove it up. By the time he left office in January, the backlog had ballooned to nearly 1.3 million pending cases.

How did that number get so high? Some of the increase was the result of ramped up enforcement of immigration laws, leading to many more arrests and detentions that required court attention. The Trump administration also reopened hundreds of thousands of low-priority cases that had been shelved under President Barack Obama. Finally, Mr. Trump starved the courts of funding and restricted how much control judges had over their own dockets, making the job nearly impossible for those judges who care about providing fair and impartial justice to immigrants.

At the same time, Mr. Trump hired hundreds of new judges, prioritizing ideology over experience, such as by tapping former Immigration and Customs Enforcement prosecutors and others who would help convert the courts into a conveyor belt of deportation. In 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions imposed an annual quota of 700 cases per judge. One judge testified before a House committee last year that Mr. Trump’s system was “a widget factory management model of speed over substance.”

By some measures, the plan worked: In 2020, the immigration courts denied 72 percent of asylum claims, the highest portion ever, and far above the denial rates during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.

If the goal was to empty the United States of all those asylum seekers, Mr. Trump clearly failed, as evidenced by the huge backlog he left Mr. Biden. But the ease with which he imposed his will on the immigration courts revealed a central structural flaw in the system: They are not actual courts, at least not in the sense that Americans are used to thinking of courts — as neutral arbiters of law, honoring due process and meting out impartial justice. Nor are immigration judges real judges. They are attorneys employed by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which is housed in the Department of Justice. It’s hard to imagine a more glaring conflict of interest than the nation’s top law-enforcement agency running a court system in which it regularly appears as a party.

The result is that immigration courts and judges operate at the mercy of whoever is sitting in the Oval Office. How much money they get, what cases they focus on — it’s all politics. That didn’t used to be such a problem, because attorneys general rarely got involved in immigration issues. Then Mr. Trump came along and reminded everyone just how much power the head of the executive branch has when it comes to immigration.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cyberattack Forces Shutdown of Major U.S. Pipeline, Operator Says, David E. Sanger, May 9, 2021 (print ed.). The attack on the operator of the pipeline, which carries fuel to the East Coast, appeared to be an attempt to disrupt vulnerable energy infrastructure.

A cyberattack forced the shutdown of one of the largest pipelines in the United States, in what appeared to be a significant attempt to disrupt vulnerable energy infrastructure. The pipeline carries refined gasoline and jet fuel up the East Coast from Texas to New York.

The operator of the system, Colonial Pipeline, said in a statement late Friday that it had shut down its 5,500 miles of pipeline, which it says carries 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel supplies, in an effort to contain the breach on its computer networks. Earlier Friday, there were disruptions along the pipeline, but it was unclear whether that was a direct result of the attack, or the company’s moves to proactively halt it.

Colonial Pipeline has not indicated whether its systems were hit by ransomware, in which hackers hold a victim’s data hostage until it pays a ransom, or whether it was another form of cyberattack. But the shutdown of such a vital pipeline, one that has been serving the East Coast since the early 1960s, highlights the huge vulnerability of aging infrastructure that has been connected, directly or indirectly, to the internet.

In coming weeks, the administration is expected to issue a broad-ranging executive order to bolster security of federal and private systems, after two major attacks from Russia and China in recent months caught American intelligence agencies and companies by surprise.

Colonial’s pipeline transports 2.5 million barrels each day, taking refined gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel from the Gulf Coast up to New York Harbor and New York’s major airports. Most of that goes into major storage tanks, and with energy use depressed by the coronavirus pandemic, the attack was unlikely to cause any immediate disruptions.

In the statement, the company said that it learned on Friday that it “was the victim of a cybersecurity attack,” but it provided no details. Such an attack could involve malware that shut down its operations or ransomware demanding payment to unlock computer files or systems.

“In response, we proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our I.T. operations,” the company said, referring to information technology systems.

Daily Beast, Ransomware Attackers Stole Heaps of Data Before Gas Pipeline Shutdown, Allison Quinn, May 9, 2021.The brazen attack against Colonial Pipeline, which could cripple gas supplies on the East Coast, came after the Biden administration declared war on ransomware groups.

daily beast logoAfter repeated warnings about the vulnerability of critical infrastructure following a wave of ransomware attacks in recent weeks, a mysterious new criminal group took matters to an extreme this weekend and forced the shutdown of one of the largest gas pipelines in the U.S.

The hackers had started their blitz on Thursday, nabbing more than 100 gigabytes of data in just two hours and threatening to leak it before before Colonial Pipeline shut the system down on Friday, Bloomberg reported on Sunday, citing sources involved in the investigation.

The FBI, the Energy Department, and the White House are all on the case and assessing the damage after Colonial Pipeline announced Friday it had shut down 5,500 miles of pipeline along the East Coast, potentially disrupting supplies of gasoline and jet fuel in a huge swath of the country. The company, which is responsible for transporting 45 percent of fuel used on the East Coast, said its corporate computer networks had been breached, with ransomware attackers holding data hostage.

As of late Saturday, it was not clear if the company had paid the ransom, or if it had any plans to do so to secure the stolen data. Colonial has reportedly hired the private cybersecurity firm FireEye to investigate the attack, but it has offered no time frame for when normal operations will resume. Nor has it disclosed any details on what the attackers have access to, and whether they can control the pipelines.

washington post logoWashington Post, Small size of most U.S. police departments complicates reform, experts say, Mark Berman, May 9, 2021. While big-city police tend to get the most attention, the agencies that have been in the spotlight recently for uses of force — fatal shootings of Black men in Brooklyn Center, Minn., and Elizabeth City, N.C., and pepper-spraying a Black and Latino man in Windsor, Va. — are more illustrative of what American law enforcement looks like: small departments in places that rarely make the news.

According to a federal survey in 2016, there are more than 12,200 local police departments nationwide, along with another 3,000 sheriff’s offices. And most of those don’t look like the New York Police Department, which employs more officers than Brooklyn Center, in suburban Minneapolis, has residents.

Nearly half of all local police departments have fewer than 10 officers. Three in 4 of the departments have no more than two dozen officers. And 9 in 10 employ fewer than 50 sworn officers. Brooklyn Center, which has 43 officers, and Windsor, which reported a seven-member force, fit comfortably in that majority.
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Experts say that while smaller departments have their benefits, including being able to adapt to their communities and hire officers with local ties, these agencies also are typically able to avoid the accountability being sought as part of the national movement to restructure and improve policing. These departments’ often limited resources and the decentralized structure of American law enforcement complicate efforts to mandate widespread training and policy changes, experts say.

Daily Beast, A Twisted Church Attack Shows the High Bar for Hate Crimes in America, Andrew Boryga, May 9, 2021. After the Georgia spa shootings sparked outrage and demands for hate-crime charges, the feds homed in on another incident in Florida.

daily beast logoMembers of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, Florida, were busy prepping for an early morning Saturday Mass on July 11, 2020, when a white minivan sped through the parking lot, jumped the curb, and crashed through the doors.

The van backed up and, according to prosecutors, 25-year-old Steven Shields jumped out. He allegedly grabbed two five-gallon containers of gas and clumsily spread it around the foyer of the 35-year-old church, slipping and soaking his clothes and shoes.

As Father John O’Doherty and an elderly parishioner watched in shock, Shields allegedly removed one of his shoes, lit it with a lighter, and tossed it into the foyer, setting a blaze.
via United States District Court, Middle District of Florida

The van sped off, but Shields was soon arrested after a short chase. He was charged with attempted second-degree murder, arson, burglary, and a slew of driving-related offenses. Perhaps most disturbingly, an arrest affidavit revealed Shields had intentionally targeted the Catholic church because of a “mission.”

But even as the church was damaged, no one was injured, and its leaders made a show of forgiving the suspect for what could have been deadly crimes.

Federal prosecutors took a different approach. On March 18—eight months after the attack—they announced Shields would be charged with a federal hate crime, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, as well as a mandatory minimum of 10 years for using fire to commit a felony.

Daily Beast, TV Documentary Preview: D.C. Sniper Boasts of Post-Shooting Sex With Accomplice in New Doc, Nick Schager, May 9, 2021. The new Vice docuseries ‘I, Sniper’ provides the definitive account of John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo’s 2002 reign of terror that left 10 people dead.

daily beast logoIn I, Sniper, Lee Boyd Malvo, right, speaks at length about the 2002 reign of terror he and partner John Allen Muhammad carried out in the Washington, D.C., area, resulting in ten deaths.

lee boyd malvo CustomYet despite using audio clips from his phone calls as narration, Vice’s eight-part docuseries (premiering May 10) is most notable for putting its prime emphasis on the pair’s innocent victims, and the countless friends, family members and loved ones left to cope with unthinkable tragedy. To its admirable credit, it’s a true-crime affair that seeks to understand its “monsters” while simultaneously recognizing—and highlighting—the fact that such comprehension doesn’t necessitate empathy, especially when the atrocities in question are as inexcusably heinous as these.

Spearheaded by director Ursula Macfarlane, I, Sniper’s calling card is those phone conversations with Malvo from Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison, where he’s currently serving multiple life sentences.

In them, the killer recounts, in exacting and chilling detail, both the sniper attacks he perpetrated as a 17-year-old, and the troubled upbringing in Jamaica that led him into the welcoming arms of Muhammad, a Gulf War veteran with a surplus of rage and a desire to unleash it on his homeland. Abandoned by his dad, abused by his mom, and eventually left to fend for himself, Malvo found in Muhammad a father figure who promised to love him as he did his own biological offspring. From the outset, though, theirs was a bond built on exploitation, with Muhammad becoming not only Malvo’s surrogate parent, but also his lover—as well as his mentor, pouring all of his long-simmering hate and resentment into the impressionable, desperate-for-acceptance teen.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, India shatters global record as cases surge again, Jennifer Hassan, May 9, 2021 (print ed.). Coronavirus not ‘going to go away,’ British health experts warn. India’s deadly struggle continues unabated, with the country on Friday reporting another record rise in coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours. To date, the country has recorded more than 21.4 million confirmed infections and at least 234,083 deaths.

india flag mapIndia on Friday reported 414,188 new cases of the virus in the past 24 hours, a global record. Over the same period, 3,915 deaths were reported.

The escalating figures come as nations send emergency aid to India, whose health-care system is struggling to cope. Some officials have expressed concern that the shipments of crucial supplies are being held up at airports and delayed in reaching hospitals that are in desperate need of oxygen equipment, medicines and vaccines.

Rahul Gandhi, India’s opposition leader, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday demanding that the government act swiftly to vaccinate the entire population and accusing him of “declaring premature victory as the virus was exponentially spreading.” 

 ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates, States Turn Down Hundreds of Thousands of Vaccine Doses as Demand Dips, Staff Reports, May 8, 2021. The average number of daily shots in the U.S. fell below two million for the first time since early March. Wisconsin, Iowa, Washington and Connecticut are among the states scaling back their vaccine requests. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

ny times logoNew York Times, More Vaccines Near Approval, but Global Campaign Remains Stalled, Staff Reports, May 9, 2021 (print ed.). As the campaign to vaccinate the world flounders, experts warn it will take more to reverse the trend. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

The World Health Organization approved one Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccine and could soon approve another. The Biden administration has backed waiving intellectual property protections for world health organization logo Customvaccines, which could make it easier for more countries to make them.

But the campaign to vaccinate the world is floundering, and experts warn it will take more to reverse the trend.

The need is urgent: The virus is spreading more rapidly than ever, driven largely by surges in South America and India. The longer it can spread unchecked, the more time it has to mutate into more contagious variants that could evade the protections of vaccines.

Rich countries have been hoarding doses — the United States has given at least one shot to over 44 percent of its population, while the figure in Africa is 1 percent, according to a University of Oxford database. The global vaccination drive has been further slowed by the enormous need for vaccines within China and India, two major manufacturers that are keeping more doses for domestic use.

“The inequitable distribution of vaccines is not just a moral outrage, it is also economically and epidemiologically self-defeating,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the W.H.O., told African leaders in a meeting on Saturday. “I have said this many times and the gap is very tragic between the have and have-nots.”

The W.H.O.’s approval on Friday of China’s Sinopharm vaccine was celebrated by scientists because it allows the shot to be included in Covax, the sputtering global initiative to promote equitable vaccine distribution. As of Tuesday, Covax had shipped 54 million doses, less than a quarter of its earlier April target.

Vaccine access could improve even more next week when the W.H.O. considers another Chinese shot, made by Sinovac. But the fanfare may be short-lived. While China has claimed it can make up to 5 billion doses by the end of this year, Chinese officials say the country is struggling to manufacture enough doses for its own population and are cautioning a pandemic-weary world to keep expectations in check.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2

washington post logoWashington Post, 152.1 million vaccinated, as of May 9, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 56.9 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 45.8 % of the total population. See about your state.hat a more transmissible variant was spreading in the nation of some 1.3 billion people, Reuters reported. Authorities, however, refrained from taking more drastic measures to prevent a surge.

Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 9, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 158,403,733, Deaths: 3,298,916
U.S. Cases: 33,454,581, Deaths: 595,588
India Cases: 22,296,414 , Deaths: 242,398
Brazil Cases: 15,150,628, Deaths: 421,484

 

GOP Internal Wars, Voting Lies

ny times logodjt hands up mouth open CustomNew York Times, Marooned at Mar-a-Lago, Trump Still Has Iron Grip on Republicans, Lisa Lerer, May 9, 2021 (print ed.). Former President Trump loomed over the vilification of Liz Cheney, state efforts to restrict voting and a bizarre vote recount in Arizona. The dramas cast into sharp relief the extent to which the nation is still struggling with his assault on a bedrock of democracy: election integrity.


elise stefanik cbs 2020 wwny

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion, The decline and fall of Elise Stefanik, Ruth Marcus, right, May 9, 2021 (print ed.). Ambition isn’t a demerit in politics — it’s a job requirement, along with its needier cousin, the instinct for ruth marcus twitter Customself-preservation. The politician’s version of the Hippocratic oath is equally simple: “First, get elected.”

Still, the past five years — of Donald Trump’s alarming rise and regrettable persistence — have witnessed Republican lawmakers sublimating principle and decency to survival and advancement. Too many who know better have fallen meekly in line.

Meantime, as Trump has warped the Republican Party from belief system into loyalty test, the ordinary metrics of political measurement have given way. The primary axis on which to understand — and judge — party officials is no longer the spectrum of conservatism but the intensity of professed Trump devotion.

These realities offer the best frame for understanding the remarkable and depressing trajectory of Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), above, who appears poised to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as GOP House conference chair. Stefanik is far from the only Republican to sell her soul to Trump, but she has to be counted among the most disappointing. Her transformation from Trump doubter to Trump champion is another sign of the end of ideology as a defining feature of the GOP.

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic divisions return as Biden tries to hold Senate, Sean Sullivan, May 9, 2021. In crucial Senate races in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and elsewhere in 2022, the Democratic coalition that came together to elect President Biden is fracturing again along racial, gender and generational lines.

In Pennsylvania, a Black, gay Senate candidate is already lashing out at his White Democratic primary rival, calling on him to apologize for once brandishing a shotgun to detain an unarmed Black jogger.

In North Carolina, a barrier-breaking Black woman is rallying support from activists angry that Democratic leaders last time anointed a White male candidate whose campaign ended up imploding. One of her top primary rivals, though, is again a White man, who is promising to “talk to everyone — rural, urban, red, blue.”

As Democrats survey the upcoming fight to keep their narrow Senate majority, they face similar challenges in an array of states: The factions that set aside their differences to deliver the Democrats control of Washington are redividing along racial, gender and generational lines.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP governors slash jobless aid to try to force more Americans to return to work, Tony Romm, May 9, 2021. The new Republican cuts target the extra $300 in weekly payments that millions of Americans have received in addition to their unemployment checks.

An unexpected slowdown in hiring nationwide has prompted some Republican governors to start slashing jobless benefits in their states, hoping that the loss of generous federal aid might force more people to try to return to work.

The new GOP cuts chiefly target the extra $300 in weekly payments that millions of Americans have received for months in addition to their usual unemployment checks. Arkansas on Friday became the latest to announce plans to cancel the extra benefits, joining Montana and South Carolina earlier in the week, in a move that signals a new effort on the part of Republicans to try to combat what they see as a national worker shortage.

Republican policymakers have long opposed these heightened rules.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden wants to move energy offshore, but choppy seas are ahead, Joshua Partlow, May 9, 2021 (print ed.). To fight climate change, the administration has set an ambitious goal for offshore wind farms — a target that industry players call highly ambitious, if not unrealistic

 

World News

New York Times, Analysis: U.S. and Iran Want to Restore the Nuclear Deal. They Disagree Deeply on What That Means, Steven Erlanger and David E. Sanger, May 9, 2021. After five weeks of diplomatic shadow boxing, it is clear that the old agreement no longer works for Tehran or Washington, except as a steppingstone.

President Biden and Iran’s leaders say they share a common goal: They both want to re-enter the nuclear deal that President Donald J. Trump scrapped three years ago, restoring the bargain that Iran would keep sharp limits on its production of nuclear fuel in return for a lifting of sanctions that have choked its economy.

But after five weeks of shadow boxing in Vienna hotel rooms — where the two sides pass notes through European intermediaries — it has become clear that the old deal, strictly defined, does not work for either of them anymore, at least in the long run.

The Iranians are demanding that they be allowed to keep the advanced nuclear-fuel production equipment they installed after Mr. Trump abandoned the pact, and integration with the world financial system beyond what they achieved under the 2015 agreement.

The Biden administration, for its part, says that restoring the old deal is just a steppingstone. It must be followed immediately by an agreement on limiting missiles and support of terrorism — and making it impossible for Iran to produce enough fuel for a bomb for decades. The Iranians say no way.

Now, as negotiators engage again in Vienna, where a new round of talks began on Friday, the Biden administration finds itself at a crucial decision point. Restoring the 2015 accord, with all its flaws, seems doable, interviews with European, Iranian and American officials suggest. But getting what Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has called a “longer and stronger” accord — one that stops Iran from amassing nuclear material for generations, halts its missile tests and ends support of terrorist groups — looks as far away as ever.

That is potentially a major political vulnerability for Mr. Biden, who knows he cannot simply replicate what the Obama administration negotiated six years ago, after marathon sessions in Vienna and elsewhere, while offering vague promises that something far bigger and better might follow.

Iran and the United States “are really negotiating different deals,” said Vali R. Nasr, a former American official who is now at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. “It’s why the talks are so slow.”

washington post logoChina FlagWashington Post, Debris from Chinese space rocket booster lands in Indian Ocean near Maldives, China reports, Timothy Bella and Gerry Shih, May 9, 2021. Parts from a Chinese Long March rocket fell into the Indian Ocean near the Maldives, China’s Manned Space Engineering Office reported late Saturday night, ending days of international speculation over whether plummeting rocket debris might be scattered over a populated area.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bombing outside Kabul girls’ school kills at least 50, Susannah George and Sharif Hassan, May 9, 2021. The deadliest bombing to strike Kabul in months detonated Saturday outside a school for girls, killing at least 50 people and wounding more than 100, a week after the United States and NATO began the complete withdrawal of their forces from the country.

At the sound of the blast, the school’s principal, Aqila Tawakoli, rushed out to the front gates. It was the end of the school day, and she knew many of her students would still be in the street outside.

“It was like a doomsday that I saw with my own eyes,” she told The Washington Post by phone soon after the blast. “Schoolgirls were fleeing back into school, crying and screaming.”

Violence has risen across Afghanistan since the start of the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces on May 1. Much of the increased violence has been from Taliban attacks on vulnerable government-held towns and cities, but on the eve of the withdrawal, a similarly large bombing struck Logar province just south of Kabul.

  

May 8

Top Headlines  

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

More On GOP Internal Wars, Voting Lies

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

 

More On U.S. Crime, Courts

 

World News

 

Top Storie

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s out-of-power agenda: Retribution and GOP domination, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, May 8, 2021 (print ed.). Six months after his Election Day loss, the defeated ex-president has emerged from his West Palm Beach hibernation — propelled primarily by a thirst for retribution, an insatiable quest for the spotlight and a desire to maintain control over the Republican base, several former senior White House advisers said.

djt march 2020 CustomFormer president Donald Trump is moving to handpick members of the House GOP leadership team — relentlessly attacking Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, and endorsing Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York to replace her.

He is plotting to take down Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach him for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, while continuing to stoke the false claims of a stolen election that has become a dangerous rallying cry for the party.

And he is playing host to a burbling stream of Republican well-wishers — including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif). and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) — who travel to his private Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida to pay their respects, seek his support and post a photo of their ring-kissing on social media.

Six months removed from his Election Day loss, Trump has emerged from his West Palm Beach hibernation — refashioning himself as the president of the Republican States of America and reshaping the party in ways both micro and macro.

He has also privately revived his claims that he plans to run for president again in 2024, decrying what he views as the “low ratings” of the Biden administration, said one person who has spoken with Trump recently. He rails that President Biden is “a disaster” and argues that “Joe isn’t in charge, everybody knows it’s Kamala” — a preview of his likely message portraying Biden as an unwitting sto

Trump’s reappearance is fueled by an ego-driven desire to remain at the center of national attention, said former advisers and allies who are in touch with Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cheney plans lengthy fight to turn GOP from Trump, Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Dan Lamothe, May 8, 2021. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the party’s third-highest leader, has engaged in a raging months-long dispute with other House Republicans — a battle over the party’s principles that is likely to end in her dismissal from her leadership post.

liz cheney oRep. Liz Cheney, right, had been arguing for months that Republicans had to face the truth about former president Donald Trump — that he had lied about the 2020 election result and bore responsibility for the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — when the Wyoming Republican sat down at a party retreat in April to listen to a polling briefing.

The refusal to accept reality, she realized, went much deeper.

When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.

republican elephant logoTrump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.

Cheney was alarmed, she later told others, in part because Republican campaign officials had also left out bad Trump polling news at a March retreat for ranking committee chairs. Both instances, she concluded, demonstrated that party leadership was willing to hide information from their own members to avoid the truth about Trump and the possible damage he could do to Republican House members, even though the NRCC denied any such agenda.

Those behind-the-scenes episodes were part of a months-long dispute over Republican principles that has raged among House leaders and across the broader GOP landscape. That dispute is expected to culminate next week with a vote to remove Cheney from her position as the third-ranking House Republican.

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside Democrats’ Scramble to Repel the G.O.P. Voting Push, Reid J. Epstein and Nick Corasaniti, May 8, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats are struggling to build a surefire legal strategy to block new Republican-backed restrictions on voting rights.

Democrats are struggling to build a surefire legal strategy to block new Republican-backed restrictions on voting rights, relying on broadly worded warnings and urgent pleas that are designed, in part, to build political pressure on the White House, Congress and the Justice Department to act, as well as to engage their supporters to mobilize in advance of the 2022 midterm elections.

democratic donkey logoThe approach is aimed at persuading recalcitrant Senate Democrats in Washington to pass a sweeping federal elections bill, painting the new Republican laws in the news media as suspect on arrival, and convincing the swing voters who last year helped elect President Biden that the G.O.P. is more interested in fixing elections for itself than in winning those voters back.

Locked out of power in the Republican-run states that are enacting laws making it harder to vote, Democrats are engaged in a partywide effort to push back against the legislation that has as much to do with winning hearts and minds outside courtrooms as it does legal victories inside them.

“We’re taking an all-of-the-above approach because we can’t allow these things to stand,” Jaime Harrison, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said in an interview on Friday. “As Democrats, we have to make this personal and we have to tell the story as to why this is important. This is fundamental. The most fundamental thing we have to do is protect the right of all folks to vote.”

Republican laws passed in Georgia and Florida, along with a bill advancing in Texas, have so many new provisions that Democrats find troublesome both politically and legally that it is proving overwhelming to confront the measures one by one in court. Instead, the liberal push has become more focused on political outreach to ensure that progressive voters are sufficiently outraged about the new laws to apply pressure on senators and get out the vote next year.

“No one is going to file a 2,000-page brief,” said Myrna Pérez, the director of the voting rights and elections program at the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan think tank. “The energy spent educating voters about what’s going on, and then energy spent trying to stop it, is consuming resources from the bread-and-butter work that groups like mine do.”

Many of the voting bills have been able to sail through Republican-controlled legislatures because the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, which hollowed out the “preclearance” provision that required certain states, mostly in the South, to gain federal approval before making changes to voting laws.

With the Voting Rights Act now far weaker, voting rights activists say that litigation is often the only way to fight new restrictions, and an imperfect one at that.

“Case-by-case litigation in the voting context is time-consuming, costly, and ultimately inadequate because even if you win a case, frequently these kinds of laws remain on the books for one or more election cycle before litigation can be complete, and there’s no way to compensate people after the fact,” said Dale Ho, the director of the Voting Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, which litigated several major cases last year.

Beyond lawsuits, Democrats are grappling with the long-term question of how to make crucial gains in G.O.P.-led legislatures where state demographics, years of gerrymandering and the prospect of Republicans mapping themselves into another decade of control when redistricting takes place later this year have given conservatives a nearly unbreakable grip on power.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cyberattack Forces Shutdown of Major U.S. Pipeline, Operator Says, David E. Sanger, May 8, 2021. The attack on the operator of the pipeline, which carries fuel to the East Coast, appeared to be an attempt to disrupt vulnerable energy infrastructure.

A cyberattack forced the shutdown of one of the largest pipelines in the United States, in what appeared to be a significant attempt to disrupt vulnerable energy infrastructure. The pipeline carries refined gasoline and jet fuel up the East Coast from Texas to New York.

The operator of the system, Colonial Pipeline, said in a statement late Friday that it had shut down its 5,500 miles of pipeline, which it says carries 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel supplies, in an effort to contain the breach on its computer networks. Earlier Friday, there were disruptions along the pipeline, but it was unclear whether that was a direct result of the attack, or the company’s moves to proactively halt it.

Colonial Pipeline has not indicated whether its systems were hit by ransomware, in which hackers hold a victim’s data hostage until it pays a ransom, or whether it was another form of cyberattack. But the shutdown of such a vital pipeline, one that has been serving the East Coast since the early 1960s, highlights the huge vulnerability of aging infrastructure that has been connected, directly or indirectly, to the internet.

In coming weeks, the administration is expected to issue a broad-ranging executive order to bolster security of federal and private systems, after two major attacks from Russia and China in recent months caught American intelligence agencies and companies by surprise.

Colonial’s pipeline transports 2.5 million barrels each day, taking refined gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel from the Gulf Coast up to New York Harbor and New York’s major airports. Most of that goes into major storage tanks, and with energy use depressed by the coronavirus pandemic, the attack was unlikely to cause any immediate disruptions.

In the statement, the company said that it learned on Friday that it “was the victim of a cybersecurity attack,” but it provided no details. Such an attack could involve malware that shut down its operations or ransomware demanding payment to unlock computer files or systems.

“In response, we proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our I.T. operations,” the company said, referring to information technology systems.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump Justice Dept. secretly obtained Washington Post reporters’ phone records, Devlin Barrett, May 8, 2021 (print ed.). The action grew out of a leak investigation surrounding reporting on Russia’s role in the 2016 election.

The Trump Justice Department secretly obtained Washington Post journalists’ phone records and tried to obtain their email records over reporting they did in the early months of the Trump administration on Russia’s role in the 2016 election, according to government letters and officials.

In three separate letters dated May 3 and addressed to Post reporters Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, and former Post reporter Adam Entous, the Justice Department wrote they were “hereby notified that pursuant to legal process the United States Department of Justice received toll records associated with the following telephone numbers for the period from April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017.” The letters listed work, home or cellphone numbers covering that three-and-a-half-month period.

Justice Department log circularCameron Barr, The Post’s acting executive editor, said: “We are deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists. The Department of Justice should immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment.”

News organizations and First Amendment advocates have long decried the government practice of seizing journalists’ records in an effort to identify the sources of leaks, saying it unjustly chills critical newsgathering. The last such high-profile seizure of reporters’ communications records came several years ago as part of an investigation into the source of stories by a reporter who worked at BuzzFeed, Politico and the New York Times. The stories at issue there also centered around 2017 reporting on the investigation into Russian election interference.

It is rare for the Justice Department to use subpoenas to get records of reporters in leak investigations, and such moves must be approved by the attorney general. The letters do not say when Justice Department leadership approved the decision to seek the reporters’ records, but a department spokesman said it happened in 2020, during the Trump administration. William P. Barr, who served as Trump’s attorney general for nearly all of that year, before departing Dec. 23, declined to comment.

jeff sessions ag oThe letter does not state the purpose of the phone records seizure, but toward the end of the time period mentioned in the letters, those reporters wrote a story about classified U.S. intelligence intercepts indicating that in 2016, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), right, had discussed the Trump campaign with Sergey Kislyak, who was Russia’s ambassador to the United States. Justice Department officials would not say if that reporting was the reason for the search of journalists’ phone records. Sessions subsequently became President Donald Trump’s first attorney general and was at the Justice Department when the article appeared.

Sessions discussed Trump campaign matters with Russian ambassador, according to intercepts

About a month before that story published, the same three journalists also wrote a detailed story about the Obama administration’s internal struggles to counter Russian interference in the 2016 election.

During the Obama administration, the department prosecuted nine leak cases, more than all previous administrations combined. In one case, prosecutors called a reporter a criminal “co-conspirator” and secretly went after journalists’ phone records in a bid to identify reporters’ sources. Prosecutors also sought to compel a reporter to testify and identify a source, though they ultimately backed down from that effort.

National Press Club, Press Leaders Want Answers on Subpoena for Reporters' Records, May 8, 2021. Leaders of the National Press Club and National Press Club Journalism Institute issued the following statement in response to a news report that the Justice Department subpoenaed phone records of three Washington Post reporters:

national  press club logoThe Post reporters in question had been reporting on Russian interference in the 2016 election, including classified intercepts showing contacts in 2016 between Jeff Sessions, then a Trump campaign official, and Russia’s ambassador to the United States.

NPC President Lisa Nicole Matthews and NPCJI President Angela Greiling Keane said:

"This is yet another deeply disturbing example in a series of violations by the Trump administration of America’s trust in government and an outright assault against the press and the First Amendment. While the government has a right to probe leaks of classified information, it must take great care to avoid a harm that could prove more serious: chilling the flow of information to the free press. The motives behind the Trump administration's subpoenas are not known, but their timing and circumstances raise the possibility that officials may have been more interested in punishing the source of embarrassing leaks than protecting national security.

We also ask that Attorney General Merrick Garland investigate whether anyone in the Trump White House was involved in the decision to subpoena or saw the reporters’ records."

Founded in 1908, the National Press Club is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists. The Club has 3,000 members representing nearly every major news organization and is a leading voice for press freedom in the United States and around the world. The National Press Club Journalism Institute, the Club’s non-profit affiliate, promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire civic engagement.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, India shatters global record as cases surge again, Jennifer Hassan, May 8, 2021. Coronavirus not ‘going to go away,’ British health experts warn. India’s deadly struggle continues unabated, with the country on Friday reporting another record rise in coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours. To date, the country has recorded more than 21.4 million confirmed infections and at least 234,083 deaths.

india flag mapIndia on Friday reported 414,188 new cases of the virus in the past 24 hours, a global record. Over the same period, 3,915 deaths were reported.

The escalating figures come as nations send emergency aid to India, whose health-care system is struggling to cope. Some officials have expressed concern that the shipments of crucial supplies are being held up at airports and delayed in reaching hospitals that are in desperate need of oxygen equipment, medicines and vaccines.

Rahul Gandhi, India’s opposition leader, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday demanding that the government act swiftly to vaccinate the entire population and accusing him of “declaring premature victory as the virus was exponentially spreading.” In other news:

  • Months after Oregon church sued over covid-19 restrictions, an outbreak has sickened 74
  • Pfizer and BioNTech ask FDA for full coronavirus vaccine approval
  • ‘Protect our lives’: Petition to cancel Tokyo Olympics gathers 200,000 signatures in 2 days
  • ‘Sense of crisis’ as Japan extends state of emergency, adding to doubts over Olympics

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: More Vaccines Near Approval, but Global Campaign Remains Stalled, Staff Reports, May 8, 2021. As the campaign to vaccinate the world flounders, experts warn it will take more to reverse the trend. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.

The World Health Organization approved one Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccine and could soon approve another. The Biden administration has backed waiving intellectual property protections for world health organization logo Customvaccines, which could make it easier for more countries to make them.

But the campaign to vaccinate the world is floundering, and experts warn it will take more to reverse the trend.

The need is urgent: The virus is spreading more rapidly than ever, driven largely by surges in South America and India. The longer it can spread unchecked, the more time it has to mutate into more contagious variants that could evade the protections of vaccines.

Rich countries have been hoarding doses — the United States has given at least one shot to over 44 percent of its population, while the figure in Africa is 1 percent, according to a University of Oxford database. The global vaccination drive has been further slowed by the enormous need for vaccines within China and India, two major manufacturers that are keeping more doses for domestic use.

“The inequitable distribution of vaccines is not just a moral outrage, it is also economically and epidemiologically self-defeating,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the W.H.O., told African leaders in a meeting on Saturday. “I have said this many times and the gap is very tragic between the have and have-nots.”

The W.H.O.’s approval on Friday of China’s Sinopharm vaccine was celebrated by scientists because it allows the shot to be included in Covax, the sputtering global initiative to promote equitable vaccine distribution. As of Tuesday, Covax had shipped 54 million doses, less than a quarter of its earlier April target.

Vaccine access could improve even more next week when the W.H.O. considers another Chinese shot, made by Sinovac. But the fanfare may be short-lived. While China has claimed it can make up to 5 billion doses by the end of this year, Chinese officials say the country is struggling to manufacture enough doses for its own population and are cautioning a pandemic-weary world to keep expectations in check.

washington post logoWashington Post, It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America, Heather Long, May 8, 2021 (print ed.). From Wall Street to the White House, expectations were high for a hiring surge in April with potentially a million Americans returning to work. Instead, the world learned Friday that just 266,000 jobs were added, a massive disappointment that raises questions about whether the recovery is on track or not.

President Biden’s team has vowed that its massive stimulus package will recover all the remaining jobs lost during the pandemic in about a year, but that promise won’t be kept unless there’s a big pickup in hiring soon. There are still 8.2 million jobs left to recover. At the same time, business leaders and Republicans are complaining that there is a “worker shortage" and they largely blame the more generous unemployment payments and stimulus checks for making people less likely to take low-paying fast food and retail jobs again. Democratic economists counter that companies could us labor department logoraise pay if they really wanted workers back quickly.

One way to make sense of this weak jobs report is to do what Wall Street did and shrug it off as an anomaly. Stocks still rose Friday as investors saw this as a blip. They think there is just a lag in hiring and more people will return to work as they get vaccinated. And they point out odd-ball months have occurred before, especially with some weird quirks in the Labor Department’s seasonal adjustments.

But another way to look at this is there is a great re-assessment going on in the U.S. economy. It’s happening on a lot of different levels. At the most basic level, people are still hesitant to return to work until they are fully vaccinated and their children are back in school and daycare full-time. For example, all the job gains in April went to men. The number of women employed or looking for work fell by 64,000, a reminder that childcare issues are still in play.

Economy picked up just 266,000 jobs in April, well below expectations as economy struggles to rebound

There is also growing evidence — both anecdotal and in surveys — that a lot of people want to do something different with their lives than they did before the pandemic.

U.S. added just 266,000 jobs in April, well below expectations.

washington post logoWashington Post, 151.3 million vaccinated, as of May 8, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 56.6 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 45.6 % of the total population. See about your state.hat a more transmissible variant was spreading in the nation of some 1.3 billion people, Reuters reported. Authorities, however, refrained from taking more drastic measures to prevent a surge.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 8, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 157,637,199, Deaths: 3,286,501
U.S. Cases:     33,419,113, Deaths:    594,912
India Cases:     21,892,676, Deaths:    238,270
Brazil Cases:   15,087,360, Deaths:     419,393

washington post logocdc logo CustomWashington Post, CDC acknowledges airborne transmission of coronavirus, Jennifer Hassan, Kim Bellware and Meryl Kornfield, May 8, 2021. Federal health officials revised guidance to acknowledge that people can get infected by inhaling very fine, aerosolized particles carrying the virus, following warnings from health experts since last year.

 

More On GOP Internal Wars, Voting Lies

washington post logoWashington Post, Ohio GOP censures Rep. Gonzalez over Trump vote, calls for his resignation, Colby Itkowitz, May 8, 2021 (print ed.). The Ohio Republican Party voted Friday to censure two-term Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, who voted with nine other House Republicans to impeach former president Donald Trump for inciting the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

The state party also agreed in a separate vote that Gonzalez should step down.

anthony gonzalez oOhio GOP Chairman Bob Paduchik said it is not the vote itself that led to Gonzalez’s public reprimand but that the congressman, right, backed what he called “an unconstitutional, politically motivated process that served no purpose.”

republican elephant logo“Republicans and Democratic members alike have the right to vote in any way they so choose,” Paduchik said in an emailed statement. “This committee also has a right to stand on principle and conviction.”

The state party censure was a long time coming, given the amount of backlash Gonzalez faced among Republicans back home for his Jan. 13 vote. At the end of February, Trump made his first 2022 primary endorsement against an incumbent Republican, throwing his support behind former Trump White House aide Max Miller, who is challenging Gonzalez for his seat in the Cleveland and Akron suburbs.

Gonzalez’s spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The Ohio congressman is not the first among the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump to face political repercussions. Almost all of the 10 House Republicans have been admonished by their state or local parties. And state Republican committees in North Carolina and Louisiana censured their Republican senators, Richard Burr and Bill Cassidy, respectively, for voting to convict Trump in the Senate trial.

washington post logoWashington Post, Arizona audit postpones plan to interview voters that raised Justice Department concerns, Hannah Knowles and Rosalind S. Helderman, May 8, 2021 (print ed.). The head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division had raised questions about a contractor’s stated plans to “identify voter registrations that did not make sense” and interview voters via phone and “physical canvassing.”

republican elephant logoThe Arizona Senate will hold off on a plan to contact voters as part of a Republican-commissioned election recount that raised concerns from the Justice Department about voter intimidation, state Senate President Karen Fann said Friday.

The head of the department’s civil rights division, Pamela S. Karlan, wrote to Fann (R) on Wednesday suggesting that the recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots in the state’s largest county by a private contractor may not comply with federal law, leaving ballots at “risk of damage or loss.” She also raised questions about the contractor’s stated plans to “identify voter registrations that did not make sense” and interview voters via phone and “physical canvassing.”

The ongoing audit run by Florida-based Cyber Ninjas has been widely criticized as fueling wild theories that fraud and other electoral problems led President Donald Trump to lose the presidential race. Officials in Maricopa County, which went for Joe Biden in November, say the results have been validated repeatedly.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Arizona recount clowns begin pulling the plug after Department of Justice cracks down, Bill Palmer, right, May 8, 2021. We saw this coming a mile away. Despite its sinister intentions bill palmerand illegal nature, the phony “recount” going on in Arizona is being run by inept idiots who have no idea what they’re even trying to pull off.

bill palmer report logo headerThis week the Department of Justice began cracking down on the nonsense, and like clockwork, these Arizona clowns are now beginning to pull the plug on their own operation.Arizona Republic reporter Jen Fifield, who helped blow the lid off the recount scam to begin with, is now revealing that large chunks of the recount are now being “indefinitely” postponed – which is a fancy way of saying canceled:

BREAKING: The Arizona election auditors have "indefinitely deferred" the voter canvassing (door to door/calls) portion of the audit.

Claim that auditors made the decision weeks ago, before DOJ letter worried about voter intimidation. pic.twitter.com/wUhxWau0Bs

— Jen Fifield (@JenAFifield) May 7, 2021

The recount clowns are claiming that they secretly made this decision weeks ago. But given that they’re only just now announcing it, shortly after the DOJ began breathing down their necks, it’s clear what’s going on here. This whole thing was always going to backfire on these clowns, and now it’s beginning to happen.

ny times logodjt hands up mouth open CustomNew York Times, Marooned at Mar-a-Lago, Trump Still Has Iron Grip on Republicans, Lisa Lerer, May 8, 2021. Former President Trump loomed over the vilification of Liz Cheney, state efforts to restrict voting and a bizarre vote recount in Arizona. The dramas cast into sharp relief the extent to which the nation is still struggling with his assault on a bedrock of democracy: election integrity.


elise stefanik cbs 2020 wwny

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion, The decline and fall of Elise Stefanik, Ruth Marcus, right, May 8, 2021. Ambition isn’t a demerit in politics — it’s a job requirement, along with its needier cousin, the instinct for ruth marcus twitter Customself-preservation. The politician’s version of the Hippocratic oath is equally simple: “First, get elected.”

Still, the past five years — of Donald Trump’s alarming rise and regrettable persistence — have witnessed Republican lawmakers sublimating principle and decency to survival and advancement. Too many who know better have fallen meekly in line.

Meantime, as Trump has warped the Republican Party from belief system into loyalty test, the ordinary metrics of political measurement have given way. The primary axis on which to understand — and judge — party officials is no longer the spectrum of conservatism but the intensity of professed Trump devotion.

These realities offer the best frame for understanding the remarkable and depressing trajectory of Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), above, who appears poised to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) as GOP House conference chair. Stefanik is far from the only Republican to sell her soul to Trump, but she has to be counted among the most disappointing. Her transformation from Trump doubter to Trump champion is another sign of the end of ideology as a defining feature of the GOP.

washington post logoWashington Post, Reps. Greene, Gaetz push Trump’s grievances, ‘America First’ message at Florida rally, Amy B Wang, May 8, 2021 (print ed.). Two Republican members of Congress who have been among the most outspoken supporters of former president Donald Trump sought to carry the torch for his “America First” movement, holding a rally in central Florida on Friday night where they mocked Democrats — and some fellow Republicans — and vowed that Trump’s influence on the GOP is here to stay.

“ ‘America First’ isn’t going away. We’re going on tour!” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) declared, promising the event would be the first of similar rallies across the country. He teased appearances by Trump at those future events, describing the former president as the “undisputed leader” of the Republican Party.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) co-headlined the rally at the Villages, a retirement community northwest of Orlando for adults 55 and older where Trump enjoyed strong support and where heated golf cart parades and protests have periodically broken out.  

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary and Opinion: Qanon and pedophilia -- Hold your cards, we have a Bingo! Wayne Madsen, left, May 7, 2021. U.S. Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMarjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA) are kicking off their "America First" national tour at the Brownwood Hotel and Spa in The Villages, a central Florida retirement community that is over 70 percent Republican.

The pairing of Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for being involved in an Orlando-based sex trafficking ring involving minors, and Taylor-Greene, a Qanon advocate who believes that leading Democrats are involved in child sex trafficking operations that use pizza restaurants as fronts, points to the dirty secret that it is the far-right and Qanon that are involved in pedophilia and child sexual exploitation.

It does not take the political marriage of Gaetz, who is suspected of committing other bizarre sexual crimes, and Taylor-Greene, who subscribes to the Qanon "Pizzagate" nonsense, to shine the light on the fact that it is Qanon and their far-right allies who are involved in international satanic pedophilia activities.

President Trump, his counsel and fixer Rudy Giuliani, center, and Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky in file photos from 2019.

President Trump, his counsel and fixer Rudy Giuliani, center, and Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky in file photos from 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What Trump has to fear from Rudy Giuliani, George T. Conway III, May 7, 2021 (print ed.). To borrow the infamous line of his ex-presidential ex-client, it looks like Rudolph george conway postW. Giuliani is “going to go through some things.” Like possibly being charged with a crime. Worse, some people who might have tried to save him from that fate might have actually guaranteed it.

In law and in life, things have a way of coming full circle. The quoted words come from the former president’s supposedly “perfect” phone call with Ukraine’s president, and described what could happen to the American ambassador there, Marie L. Yovanovitch. It was Giuliani’s relentless efforts that got her recalled.

rudy giuliani recentNow that’s what might land poor Giuliani in the dock. Last week, the FBI showed up at his apartment at dawn, armed with a search warrant that reportedly focused on Yovanovitch’s firing. Questions the seized materials might answer: On whose behalf was Giuliani acting? Just Donald J. Trump, legal client? Or was Giuliani also representing Ukrainian officials who wanted the corruption-fighting diplomat gone?

If the latter, Giuliani might have violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Giuliani denies any obligation to register — because, he says, he drafted his retainer agreements to disclaim lobbying or foreign representation.

 

World News

washington post logoChina FlagWashington Post, Debris from Chinese space rocket booster lands in Indian Ocean near Maldives, China reports, Timothy Bella and Gerry Shih, May 9, 2021. Parts from a Chinese Long March rocket fell into the Indian Ocean near the Maldives, China’s Manned Space Engineering Office reported late Saturday night, ending days of international speculation over whether plummeting rocket debris might be scattered over a populated area.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bombing outside Kabul girls school kills at least 25, Susannah George and Sharif Hassan, May 8, 2021.A bombing outside a school for girls in Kabul on Saturday killed at least 25 people and wounded more than 50, according to the Interior Ministry. The attack struck at the end of the school day and many of the casualties appear to be students.

Images from the scene aired on local media show young women in school uniforms lying in the normally busy street, surrounded by backpacks and notebooks mixed with debris.

The attack is the deadliest to strike the Afghan capital in months and comes a week after U.S. and NATO forces began their full withdrawal from the country. Violence has risen across Afghanistan since the start of the withdrawal.

Much of the increased violence is due to Taliban attacks on vulnerable government-held towns and cities.

On the eve of the drawdown, a truck bombing in Logar province south of Kabul killed at least 21 people and wounded at least 91. That attack also struck near an educational institution: The explosives detonated outside a dormitory for students preparing for university exams.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Election Win for Boris Johnson, but His Strategies Risk Breaking Up the U.K., Stephen Castle, May 8, 2021 (print ed.). His pillars of “getting Brexit done” and “leveling up” struggling areas in northern England and the Midlands have fueled separatist drives in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

boris johnson tiePrime Minister Boris Johnson, right, of Britain scored a striking political victory on Friday when his Conservative Party snatched a bellwether parliamentary seat from the opposition Labour Party, which had held it since the constituency’s creation in the 1970s.

United Kingdom flagIn a by-election in Hartlepool, in northeastern England, the Conservative candidate, Jill Mortimer, scored a convincing victory, capturing nearly twice as many votes as her Labour rival and consolidating Mr. Johnson’s earlier successes in winning over voters in working-class areas that had traditionally sided mainly with Labour.

Better still for the prime minister, the vote on Thursday came despite days of publicity over claims that he had broken electoral rules over the financing of an expensive refurbishment of his apartment. That appeared to have counted for little with voters in Hartlepool, an economically struggling coastal town, when the results were announced on Friday morning after an overnight count.

Mr. Johnson has built his considerable electoral success on the twin pillars of “getting Brexit done” and “leveling up” struggling areas in northern England and the Midlands with the prosperous south, bolstered by a successful Covid-19 vaccination program. But those very strategies could hold within them the seeds of future problems by creating centrifugal forces that have the potential to split up the United Kingdom.

 

More On U.S. Crime, Courts 

bureau of prisons logo horizontal

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge says ‘morons’ run New York’s federal jails, denounces ‘inhuman’ conditions, Shayna Jacobs, May 8, 2021 (print ed.). A senior judge who navigated her Manhattan-based court through the covid-19 crisis has denounced as "inhuman" the conditions inside New York's federal jails, complaining at the sentencing of a woman who spent months in solitary confinement after contracting the coronavirus that the facilities are "run by morons."

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon castigated the Federal Bureau of Prisons, saying the agency’s ineptitude and failure to “do anything meaningful” at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan and the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn amounted to the “single thing in the five years that I was chief judge of this court that made me the craziest,” according to a transcript of last month’s proceeding obtained by The Washington Post on Friday.

Days’s attorney Xavier Donaldson told McMahon that his client was kept in solitary confinement, usually reserved to punish people who misbehave in jail, for 75 days after she contracted the coronavirus. Days, however, had a spotless disciplinary record during her time there, her lawyer said.

Days, 40, had been housed in the Metropolitan Correctional Center — the same facility where, in 2019, sex offender Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide while awaiting trial, a scandal that brought scrutiny to the Bureau of Prisons’s oversight of New York’s federal detention facilities. In those problem-plagued jails, McMahon said, wardens “cycle repeatedly, never staying for longer than a few months or even a year.”

The judge told Days, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess MDMA and cocaine, that she would have released her — suggesting the torment she faced in pretrial custody was punishment enough — but had to issue a minimum five-year prison sentence under the law.

Days, according to the transcript, said she and other inmates were ordered to clean a “disgusting feces flood,” telling the court in horrifying detail how some vomited from the stench as sewage with floating bugs and mice reached their ankles.

McMahon stepped down from her judicial leadership role in the Southern District of New York weeks before Tiffany Days’s virtual sentencing April 29. But while in her capacity as chief judge, McMahon coordinated the district’s response to the pandemic, including modified trial procedures, safety protocols for jurors and remote court proceedings.

Former Minneapolis Police Officers, from left, Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.

Former Minneapolis police officers, from left, Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.

 ny times logoNew York Times, 4 Officers Indicted on Charges of Violating George Floyd’s Civil Rights, Staff Reports, May 8, 2021 (print ed.). A federal grand jury returned the indictment weeks after one of the officers, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Mr. Floyd. Here’s the latest in politics.

Four former Minneapolis police officers were indicted on charges of violating the civil rights of George Floyd, a Black man whose killing last year led to months of demonstrations against police violence, the Justice Department announced on Friday.

The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury weeks after one of the officers, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Mr. Floyd. The charges are another extraordinary censuring of law enforcement officials, who rarely face criminal charges for using deadly force.

The indictment charges Mr. Chauvin, 45, and other former Minneapolis Police Department officers Tou Thao, 35, J. Alexander Kueng, 27, and Thomas Lane, 38, with willfully depriving Mr. Floyd of his constitutional civil rights during his arrest.

The indictment alleges that by holding his left knee across Mr. Floyd’s neck and his right knee on his back and arm as he lay on the ground, handcuffed and unresisting, Mr. Chauvin used unconstitutional, unreasonable force that resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death.

Mr. Thao and Mr. Kueng were charged with willfully failing to stop Mr. Chauvin from using unreasonable force. All four defendants saw Mr. Floyd lying on the ground in need of medical care and willfully failed to aid him, depriving him of his constitutional right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law, which included Mr. Floyd’s right to be free from an officer’s deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, the indictment said.

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden wants to move energy offshore, but choppy seas are ahead, Joshua Partlow, May 8, 2021 To fight climate change, the administration has set an ambitious goal for offshore wind farms — a target that industry players call highly ambitious, if not unrealistic.

 

May 7

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Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

 

U.S. Political Offenders, Protesters 

 

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Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Florida Becomes the Latest State to Restrict Voting, Patricia Mazzei and Glenn Thrush, May 6, 2021. Gov. Ron DeSantis, below right, praised the legislation as giving the state the “strongest election integrity measures in the country,” though there was no evidence of voter fraud in the presidential election.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed new voting restrictions into law on Thursday that put him in line with other Republicans around the country — with a display of nose-thumbing contempt toward journalists that evoked former President Donald J. Trump.

ron desantis oMr. DeSantis’s brash style has made him stand out from other potential heirs to Mr. Trump’s populist legacy. But his actions are part of a national effort by Republicans. In Florida, the law limits the use of popular ballot drop boxes, adds identification requirements for voters requesting absentee ballots and requires them to request absentee ballots for each election, rather than sign up for them automatically.

The next big move could happen in Texas, although the situation at the State Capitol in Austin is in flux. There is movement in virtually every state with a Republican-controlled legislature — including in Arizona, where G.O.P. lawmakers are conducting an audit of the November results, an exercise that has been plagued by lapses in basic security and accounting procedures.

All of this comes in the wake of Mr. Trump’s loss, and his subsequent false claims that expansion of ballot access led to rampant voter fraud.

Official audits of election results around the country, conducted by officials from both parties, found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Mr. DeSantis enacted the legislation even after he had promoted Florida’s handling of the November elections. Mr. Trump won the state by three percentage points.

fox-news-logo Small.pngMr. DeSantis gave Fox News, his preferred major cable news outlet — and Mr. Trump’s — an exclusive to broadcast the bill-signing ceremony from West Palm Beach on Thursday morning, in an event that resembled a campaign rally as much as an official act of state government.

Supporters of Mr. DeSantis gathered inside a Hilton near the airport, donning DeSantis and Trump campaign gear. Before they entered, some people waved Trump-DeSantis and DeSantis 2024 banners, according to photos on social media shared by journalists locked outside the doors.

“Right now, I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country,” a seated Mr. DeSantis told Fox as a rowdy crowd cheered behind him.

Mr. DeSantis and his predecessors have been known to sign bills, especially controversial ones, in private. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a lower-key politician who has kept Mr. Trump at a relative arm’s length, signed his state’s bill in a conference room in his office, as a Democratic state legislator knocked on the door, demanding to be let in. She was instead arrested and later released.

Giving exclusive access to a cable news network was unusual, if not unprecedented. A reporter from a local CBS station said it was supposed to carry the broadcast feed for other stations, a practice known as pooling, but was also not allowed inside.

“We were happy to give them the exclusive on that, and I think it went really, really well,” Mr. DeSantis said when asked about the Fox News access later on Thursday in Panama City Beach. He trumpeted the network’s “millions” of viewers and estimated that a thousand people had filled the Hilton ballroom: “It’s the first bill signing I’ve ever done live on a national broadcast.”

Speaking aboard Air Force One en route to Louisiana on Thursday, Karine Jean-Pierre, the deputy White House press secretary, said that the Florida law is “built on a lie” and that the state is moving “in the wrong direction.”

“The 2020 election was one of the most secure elections in American history,” she said. “There’s no legitimate reason to change the rules right now to make it harder to vote.”

Florida is the latest state to pass voter restrictions as Republicans move to reverse gains made by Democrats in Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere.

In Texas, Republicans in the legislature are brushing aside objections from corporate titans like Dell Technologies, Microsoft and American Airlines and moving on a vast election bill that would be among the most severe in the nation.

It would impose new restrictions on early voting, ban drive-through voting, threaten election officials with harsher penalties and greatly empower partisan poll watchers. The main bill passed a key committee in a late-night session on Thursday and could head to a full floor vote in the House as early as next week.

Bills to restrict voting have also been moving through Republican-led legislatures in Arizona and Michigan.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Ron DeSantis wants to deny 800,000 Floridians representation for nine months, Editorial Board, May 7, 2021 (print ed.). Cedric L. Richmond (D) resigned from Congress on Jan. 15 to become senior adviser to President Biden. A special election to fill his Louisiana seat was held in March, and a runoff in April.

Deb Haaland (D) resigned from her New Mexico seat in March after her confirmation as interior secretary. A special election to replace her is set for June 1.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosTwo seats in Ohio — that of Marcia L. Fudge (D), who resigned in March to join the Biden administration, and Steve Stivers (R), set to resign in May to head the state’s Chamber of Commerce — will be filled by primaries in August and a Nov. 2 general election.

After Rep. Ron Wright (R) died in February of covid-19 complications, a special election was set for May 1 to fill his Texas seat.

alcee hastings oBut thanks to the cynical calculations of Florida’s Republican governor, voters in the state’s 20th Congressional District — primarily Black, primarily Democratic — will have to wait until next year to be represented in Congress. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D), right, died last month, but Gov. Ron DeSantis has set the general election for Jan. 11, with primaries in November.
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“I know there will be a lot of folks that want to run for it. So hopefully that gives them enough time to be able to get on the ballot and do whatever they need to do to be competitive,” he explained. Please. It would be less insulting if he just came out and said he believes in democracy, but only for Republicans. It is clear from the experience of other states that it doesn’t take months and months for candidates to emerge and qualify for the ballot.

Some local Florida election officials had urged a timely special election with primaries in September and the general election in November, but Florida law pretty much gives the governor a free hand.

Never mind that when Republican Bill Young died in October 2013 and Republican Trey Radel resigned in January 2014, those vacancies each lasted only five months, with special elections held in March and June 2014.

Palmer Report, Commentary: Department of Justice targets phony Arizona “recount,” Sheree McSpadden, May 6, 2021.The Department of Justice has let it be known that Cyber Ninjas so-called ‘audit’ of voting ballots and machines in Maricopa County, Arizona, may be in violation of federal law. Cyber Ninjas is the contractor being used for the audit. It has been reported that Cyber Ninjas has no such audit Justice Department log circularexperience, and has Q’Anon connections, along with other strange and shady things about it.

In a letter to GOP Senate President Karen Fann, the head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Pamela S. Karlan, said that the Arizona Senate’s farming out of 2.1 million ballots to a contractor may run afoul of a federal law requiring ballots to remain in control of election officials for 22 months.

bill palmer report logo headerShe was further informed that if the contractor started visiting voters to confirm ballots, as it had indicated were in its plans, that could also very well be illegal voter intimidation.

Karlan asked Fann to lay out how the Senate and its contractors will ensure that federal laws are being followed, pointing to news reports showing lax security. Fann said Senate attorneys were working on a response. Hopefully, they will tell Karlan they need some help or direction on how to safely confiscate the ballots and machines back to Maricopa County. According to Arizona’s SOS, they have shown they are not following the required good npractices.

Karlan’s letter came six days after voting rights advocates asked the DOJ to intervene, claiming, “We are concerned that the auditors are engaging in ongoing and imminent violations of federal voting and election laws.”

Also in the news Wednesday was that these contractors were requiring observers to sign non-disclosure agreements. This has certainly appeared to be something more akin to a crazy reality show than an audit all along, but maybe they are planning to actually make a show or documentary of it? Who knows?

They were also reportedly searching for bamboo in the ballots, trying to prove that some were flown in from Asia? You cannot make this stuff up.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Turning the Corner’: U.S. Covid Outlook Reaches Most Hopeful Point Yet, Julie Bosman and Sarah Mervosh, May 7, 2021 (print ed.). Cases and deaths have dipped, and vaccinations have made scientists hopeful, even as more transmissible variants are spreading.

Public health experts remain cautious, but said that they do not think future surges will be as widespread or reach past peaks.

After weeks of coronavirus patients flooding emergency rooms in Michigan, the worst Covid-19 hot spot in the nation, hospitalizations are finally falling.

On some recent days, entire states, including Wisconsin and West Virginia, have reported zero new coronavirus deaths — a brief but promising respite from the onslaught of the past year.

And in New York and Chicago, officials encouraged by the recent progress have confidently vowed to fully reopen in the coming weeks, conjuring images of a vibrant summer of concerts, sporting events and packed restaurants revving cities back to life.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: India shatters global record as cases surge again, Jennifer Hassan, May 7, 2021. Coronavirus not ‘going to go away,’ British health experts warn.

India’s deadly struggle continues unabated, with the country on Friday reporting another record rise in coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours. To date, the country has recorded more than 21.4 million confirmed infections and at least 234,083 deaths.

India on Friday reported 414,188 new cases of the virus in the past 24 hours, a global record. Over the same period, 3,915 deaths were reported.

The escalating figures come as nations send emergency aid to India, whose health-care system is struggling to cope. Some officials have expressed concern that the shipments of crucial supplies are being held up at airports and delayed in reaching hospitals that are in desperate need of oxygen equipment, medicines and vaccines.

Rahul Gandhi, India’s opposition leader, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday demanding that the government act swiftly to vaccinate the entire population and accusing him of “declaring premature victory as the virus was exponentially spreading.” In other news:

  • Months after Oregon church sued over covid-19 restrictions, an outbreak has sickened 74
  • Pfizer and BioNTech ask FDA for full coronavirus vaccine approval
  • ‘Protect our lives’: Petition to cancel Tokyo Olympics gathers 200,000 signatures in 2 days
  • ‘Sense of crisis’ as Japan extends state of emergency, adding to doubts over Olympics

ny times logoNew York Times, Jobless Claims Fell Sharply Last Week, Staff Reports, May 7, 2021 (print ed.). About 505,000 people filed new state unemployment claims as the public health situation continued to improve; The Bank of England predicted a faster recovery and slowed down its bond-buying program. Here’s the latest economic news.

us labor department logoUnemployment filings fell again last week as the improving public health situation and the easing of pandemic-related restrictions allowed the labor market to continue its gradual return to normal.

About 505,000 people filed first-time applications for state jobless benefits, the Labor Department said Thursday, down more than 100,000 from a week earlier. In addition, 101,000 people filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program covering freelancers, self-employed workers and others who don’t qualify for regular benefits. Neither figure is seasonally adjusted.

Applications for unemployment benefits remain high by historical standards, but they have fallen significantly in recent weeks after progress stalled in the fall and winter. Weekly filings for state benefits, which peaked at more than six million last spring, fell below 700,000 for the first time in late March and has now been below that level for four straight weeks.

washington post logoWashington Post, It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America, Heather Long, May 7, 2021. From Wall Street to the White House, expectations were high for a hiring surge in April with potentially a million Americans returning to work. Instead, the world learned Friday that just 266,000 jobs were added, a massive disappointment that raises questions about whether the recovery is on track or not.

President Biden’s team has vowed that its massive stimulus package will recover all the remaining jobs lost during the pandemic in about a year, but that promise won’t be kept unless there’s a big pickup in hiring soon. There are still 8.2 million jobs left to recover. At the same time, business leaders and Republicans are complaining that there is a “worker shortage" and they largely blame the more generous unemployment payments and stimulus checks for making people less likely to take low-paying fast food and retail jobs again. Democratic economists counter that companies could us labor department logoraise pay if they really wanted workers back quickly.

One way to make sense of this weak jobs report is to do what Wall Street did and shrug it off as an anomaly. Stocks still rose Friday as investors saw this as a blip. They think there is just a lag in hiring and more people will return to work as they get vaccinated. And they point out odd-ball months have occurred before, especially with some weird quirks in the Labor Department’s seasonal adjustments.

But another way to look at this is there is a great re-assessment going on in the U.S. economy. It’s happening on a lot of different levels. At the most basic level, people are still hesitant to return to work until they are fully vaccinated and their children are back in school and daycare full-time. For example, all the job gains in April went to men. The number of women employed or looking for work fell by 64,000, a reminder that childcare issues are still in play.

Economy picked up just 266,000 jobs in April, well below expectations as economy struggles to rebound

There is also growing evidence — both anecdotal and in surveys — that a lot of people want to do something different with their lives than they did before the pandemic.

U.S. added just 266,000 jobs in April, well below expectations.

washington post logoWashington Post, 150.4 million vaccinated, as of May 7, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 56.3 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 45.3 % of the total population. See about your state.hat a more transmissible variant was spreading in the nation of some 1.3 billion people, Reuters reported. Authorities, however, refrained from taking more drastic measures to prevent a surge.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 7, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 156,803,270, Deaths: 3,272,259
U.S. Cases:     33,369,192, Deaths:    594,006
India Cases:     21,491,598, Deaths:    234,083
Brazil Cases:    15,009,023, Deaths:    417,176

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Congress is finally investigating the lab accident covid-19 origin theory, Josh Rogin, May 6, 2021. More than one year after the outbreak of covid-19 in Wuhan, China, the virus’s origin remains a mystery, imperiling chances of preventing the next pandemic. Now, several members of Congress are responding to Chinese government obfuscation, World Health Organization incompetence and Biden administration neglect by moving to launch their own investigations. And these lawmakers insist on exploring the theory that the outbreak might be connected to an accident at a Wuhan lab.

For a variety of reasons, no credible investigation into the origins of the coronavirus that continues to plague the world has taken place. Beijing has spent more than a year covering up the origin and punishing any country that dares call for an independent investigation. Chinese authorities undermined the WHO investigation so thoroughly that even WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus admitted that its team did not properly investigate the possibility of a lab accident origin and that more work needed to be done.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month that “we need to get to the bottom of this,” and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has testified that the U.S. government is investigating both the natural spillover and lab accident theories. But the Biden administration reportedly isn’t really pushing for a genuine investigation into the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which was conducting risky experiments through what is known as “gain of function” research on bat coronaviruses that infect humans.

  

U.S. Governance, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Despite Democrats’ late-night efforts, Texas House passes GOP bill aimed at tighter election restrictions, Katie Shepherd and Hannah Knowles, May 6, 2021.After a lengthy debate, the Republican-controlled state house advanced the new voting rules.

texas mapAfter a contentious debate that stretched into early Friday, Republicans in the Texas House advanced a bill to tighten voting restrictions, joining a number of GOP-controlled states that have moved to impose new obstacles to voting since the 2020 presidential election.

republican elephant logoThe state Senate had already passed a similar bill and the two chambers now need to agree on a final version before the legislation can go to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. The House bill takes aim at the sending out of unsolicited vote-by-mail applications and gives new access to partisan poll watchers, among other measures.

Democrats stalled the bill for hours by peppering its sponsors with questions about the need to address election security in a state that has found very few instances of fraud. But by early Friday, the two parties reached an agreement on 20 amendments that watered down pieces of the bill that had drawn the most ire from voting rights advocates, the Associated Press reported. Changes included softening criminal penalties and allowing for the removal of disorderly poll watchers, according to the AP.elise stefanik cbs 2020 wwny

washington post logoWashington Post, Stefanik emphasizes support for false election claims, Trump movement ahead of leadership vote, Colby Itkowitz, May 7, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Elise Stefanik, shown above in a CBS photo) on Thursday emphasized her support for former president Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen through voter fraud as she seeks to lock down support to replace Rep. Liz Cheney as the third-ranking House Republican.

Stefanik (N.Y.) appeared Thursday morning on the podcast of former Trump campaign and White House aide Stephen K. Bannon, where she sought to make the case that she is a reliable supporter of Trump and devoted to his brand of nationist populism, distancing herself from her ties to the old establishment wing of the party and her moderate voting record in Congress.

republican elephant logoTrump and many of his allies have rallied around Stefanik to succeed Cheney as chair of the House GOP Conference after the Wyoming Republican made clear she would continue to publicly challenge Trump’s false claims about the election and place blame on him for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.

From Paul Ryan acolyte to Trump disciple: Elise Stefanik sets out to replace Liz Cheney in GOP leadership

Appearing on Bannon’s show less than a week before Republicans are expected to vote Cheney out, Stefanik sought to cement her place in leadership by giving credence to unfounded theories about election fraud, including in Arizona.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Stefanik defends election falsehoods told on Jan. 6, Glenn Kessler, May 6, 2021. 

“In Georgia, there was unconstitutional overreach when the Secretary of State unilaterally gutted signature matching for absentee ballots and in essence eliminated voter verification required by state election law. In addition, more than 140,000 votes came from underage, deceased, and otherwise unauthorized voters — in Fulton County alone. And many individuals testified to not being able to meaningfully observe the counting of ballots.”

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), in a statement to the Albany Times-Union, Jan. 6, 2021

The whole statement is riddled with false claims, many of which we debunked previously, but we’re going to keep our focus on Georgia, as that state — which President Biden narrowly won — is run top-to-bottom by Republicans. So it leaves out any question of partisanship.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ariz. GOP pushes back on Justice Dept. concerns, setting up possible clash over recount of 2020 votes, Rosalind S. Helderman, May 7, 2021 (print ed.). Arizona officials involved with a Republican-commissioned recount of the November presidential election in the state’s largest county on Thursday brushed off concerns raised by the Justice Department this week, raising the possibility of a clash between state and federal authorities over the audit.

Pamela S. Karlan, who heads the Justice Department’s civil rights division, wrote a letter to the president of the Arizona state Senate on Wednesday suggesting that the recount of nearly 2.1 million ballots in Maricopa County by a private contractor may not comply with federal law, which requires that ballots be securely maintained for 22 months following a federal election.

“We have a concern that Maricopa County election records, which are required by federal law to be retained and preserved, are no longer under the ultimate control of elections officials, are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors, and are at risk of damage or loss,” she wrote.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Don’t be fooled. GOP ‘moderates’ will back McConnell’s scheme to stop Biden, Paul Waldman, right, May 7, 2021. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is not a subtle paul waldmanman. He’s happy to explain to you exactly what his sinister schemes are and how they work. So it was no surprise that when asked about the current ferment among House Republicans, McConnell did not give the standard I’m just working hard for the American people reply.

Mitchell_McConnellInstead, McConnell said: “One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration.”

McConnell, left, does not waste time on the pretense that bipartisanship can be had if Democrats and Republicans come together in good faith, or that at heart everyone wants the same things. His job as he sees it is to hamstring, thwart and defeat President Biden at every turn.

But McConnell’s ability to accomplish this goal depends on a group of people whose actions, both past and future, are widely misunderstood: the moderates in his caucus.

We’ve been through this routine so many times it’s remarkable that there are still people who don’t understand how it works. The moderates string Democrats along for as long as possible, assuring everyone that they really, really want to be bipartisan. They express deep concern about the extremists in their own party. They pine, visibly and painfully, for the days when members of both parties routinely crossed the aisle. Then they vote with McConnell

washington post logojoe biden aviator glasses pointingWashington Post, Biden frames infrastructure debate as choice between tax cuts or investment in working families, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., May 7, 2021 (print ed.). Even in a Republican stronghold, President Biden contrasted his plan with the GOP tax cuts of the Trump era.

  • Washington Post, Biden’s infrastructure moonshot raises questions about U.S. ambitions
  • Washington Post, Q&A: Pete Buttigieg has Eisenhower, Lincoln and buses on his mind

 ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Aides Quietly Say His Tax Increases Would Help Charities, Jim Tankersley, May 7, 2021 (print ed.). The comments were an acknowledgment that President Biden’s proposals would encourage the wealthy to find new tax workarounds.

ny times logoNew York Times, Keisha Lance Bottoms Won’t Seek Second Term as Atlanta Mayor, Richard Fausset, Updated May 7, 2021. The news shocked the city’s political world. It is unclear why Ms. Bottoms is moving on, but 2020 took a toll on mayors nationwide.

Keisha Lance Bottoms, right, the first-term Atlanta mayor who rose to national prominence this past year with her stern yet empathetic televised message to protesters but has struggled to rein in her city’s keisha lance bottoms w Customspike in violent crime, will not seek a second term in office, Ms. Bottoms announced on Twitter on Thursday night.“As Derek and I have given thoughtful prayer and consideration to the season now before us,” Ms. Bottoms wrote in an online letter, referring to her husband, Derek Bottoms, “it is with deep emotions that I now hold my head high, and choose not to seek another term as mayor.”

The news shocked the political world in Atlanta, the most important city in the Southeast and one where the mayoral seat has been filled by African-American leaders since 1974, burnishing its reputation as a mecca for Black culture and political power.

Though Ms. Bottoms did not say why she was leaving office, she did rattle off a list of challenges she had faced, along with her accomplishments. And 2020 unquestionably took a toll on mayors nationwide. It was one of the most tumultuous years for American cities since the 1960s, with the social and economic disruptions of the coronavirus pandemic as well as racial justice protests that sometimes turned destructive.

In November, St. Louis’s mayor at the time, Lyda Krewson, announced she would not pursue a second term. A month later, Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle announced she would not run for re-election. Several mayors in smaller cities have also declined to run again, exhausted or demoralized by the ravages of 2020.

 

U.S. Political Offenders, Protesters 

 

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary and Opinion: Qanon and pedophilia -- Hold your cards, we have a Bingo! Wayne Madsen, left, May 7, 2021. U.S. Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMarjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA) are kicking off their "America First" national tour at the Brownwood Hotel and Spa in The Villages, a central Florida retirement community that is over 70 percent Republican.

The pairing of Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for being involved in an Orlando-based sex trafficking ring involving minors, and Taylor-Greene, a Qanon advocate who believes that leading Democrats are involved in child sex trafficking operations that use pizza restaurants as fronts, points to the dirty secret that it is the far-right and Qanon that are involved in pedophilia and child sexual exploitation.

It does not take the political marriage of Gaetz, who is suspected of committing other bizarre sexual crimes, and Taylor-Greene, who subscribes to the Qanon "Pizzagate" nonsense, to shine the light on the fact that it is Qanon and their far-right allies who are involved in international satanic pedophilia activities.

President Trump, his counsel and fixer Rudy Giuliani, center, and Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky in file photos from 2019.

President Trump, his counsel and fixer Rudy Giuliani, center, and Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky in file photos from 2019.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What Trump has to fear from Rudy Giuliani, George T. Conway III, May 7, 2021 (print ed.). To borrow the infamous line of his ex-presidential ex-client, it looks like Rudolph george conway postW. Giuliani is “going to go through some things.” Like possibly being charged with a crime. Worse, some people who might have tried to save him from that fate might have actually guaranteed it.

In law and in life, things have a way of coming full circle. The quoted words come from the former president’s supposedly “perfect” phone call with Ukraine’s president, and described what could happen to the American ambassador there, Marie L. Yovanovitch. It was Giuliani’s relentless efforts that got her recalled.

rudy giuliani recentNow that’s what might land poor Giuliani in the dock. Last week, the FBI showed up at his apartment at dawn, armed with a search warrant that reportedly focused on Yovanovitch’s firing. Questions the seized materials might answer: On whose behalf was Giuliani acting? Just Donald J. Trump, legal client? Or was Giuliani also representing Ukrainian officials who wanted the corruption-fighting diplomat gone?

If the latter, Giuliani might have violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Giuliani denies any obligation to register — because, he says, he drafted his retainer agreements to disclaim lobbying or foreign representation.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani goes broke, Bill Palmer, May 7, 2021. This week Rudy Giuliani publicly demanded that Donald Trump pay his legal bills, in a tacit threat to flip on him if it doesn’t happen. Rudy has had his hand out seeking money from the scummiest criminals across the world for years, so this isn’t particularly surprising. But is Rudy doing this because he greedily wants the money, or because he needs the money?

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out Rudy apparently really has gone broke. Even though he has no legitimate income source, he’s been living a lavish lifestyle for years, ostensibly living off the dirty money he’s been getting from the world’s villains. But they’re presumably afraid to keep funding him now that he’s no longer of any use to them.

To that end, Rudy has now laid off a large chunk of his staffers and contractors. Given how addicted he is to his lavish lifestyle, this can only mean one thing – he’s indeed gone broke. This helps explain why Rudy suddenly began demanding $20,000 per hour from Trump last November, after having “worked” for him for free for years. And it explains why Rudy is now trying to blackmail Trump into paying his legal bills. Rudy simply doesn’t have the money.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rod Rosenstein is about to go through some things, Bill Palmer, May 6, 2021. Arguably the biggest heel turn during the entire Trump debacle was when Rod Rosenstein – who had rod rosenstein head croppedappointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the first place – was revealed to have been sabotaging Mueller’s investigation from the start, and then helped Bill Barr bury Mueller’s findings.

We’ve long been wondering when Rosenstein, right, would finally get called to the carpet for his role in one of the most egregious instances of felony obstruction of justice in American history. It turns out that when a federal judge slam dunked Bill Barr this week, the judge also made things rather ugly for Rosenstein.

bill palmer report logo headerAttorney Dirk Schwenk dug through the judge’s ruling and came to this conclusion on Twitter: “I have just begun to dig into Judge Jackson’s ruling re: the March 24, 2019 Memo on prosecuting Trump for obstruction. It looks very bad for Rod Rosenstein. I have always been ready to change opinions in light of evidence. This is evidence.”

Schwenk then posted a lengthy thread detailing how Rod Rosenstein appears to have played a particularly ugly role in the conspiracy to obstruct justice in the name of protecting Donald Trump. The thread is well worth reading. If the DOJ ends up indicting Trump and Barr for obstruction, Rosenstein could end up indicted with them.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Court Overturns Fraud Conviction of Corrine Brown, Ex-U.S. Representative, Neil Vigdor, May 7, 2021 (print ed.). Corrine Brown, a Florida Democrat who served more than two years in prison after being found guilty of running a sham charity, was granted a new trial by a federal appeals court.

corrine brown oA federal appeals court has overturned the conviction of a former U.S. representative from Florida, right, who had been accused of running a sham charity and had served time in prison, with the judges finding that a juror had been wrongfully dismissed for saying that the Holy Spirit had told him that the former congresswoman was innocent.

In a 7-to-4 decision on Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta granted the ex-congresswoman, Corrine Brown, a Democrat who served in Congress for more than two decades, a new trial in the fraud case that brought about her political downfall.

Ms. Brown, 74, of Jacksonville, was convicted in May 2017 on 18 criminal counts in connection with what prosecutors said was her personal use of more than $300,000 in donations from a charity that she had operated. They said that she had spent the money to pay for a lavish lifestyle that included N.F.L. tickets and a luxury stadium box for a Beyoncé concert.

She was sentenced to five years in prison and served more than two years before being granted her release on bond last year while awaiting a decision on her appeal. She had previously been under supervised release, her lawyer said, because of her age, an unspecified medical condition and the risk of Covid-19.

But the court’s majority found on Thursday that the judge who had presided over Ms. Brown’s case in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville had violated her constitutional right to a unanimous jury verdict when he removed a juror and replaced him with an alternate during the panel’s deliberations.

Shortly after deliberations had begun, the juror told the other members of the jury he had received divine guidance, prompting another juror to bring his comments to the attention of Judge Timothy Corrigan.

In a majority opinion, the appeals court wrote that Judge Corrigan had not had cause to dismiss the unidentified juror, known as Juror No. 13, whom he had questioned about the role of his faith in deliberations.

“We ask whether Juror No. 13’s religious statements amounted to proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he could not render a verdict based solely on the evidence and the law, thereby disqualifying him, despite substantial evidence that he was fulfilling the duty he had sworn to render,” the court’s majority wrote. “They did not.”

It was not immediately clear if federal prosecutors would seek to retry Ms. Brown, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 1992 and served until 2017 and was one of the first African-Americans elected to Congress from Florida. The prosecutors did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday night.

William Mallory Kent, a lawyer for Ms. Brown, said in an email on Thursday night that if there was to be a retrial in the case, it was unlikely to take place anytime soon.

“Congresswoman Brown is very pleased with the court’s decision,” Mr. Kent said.

Weeks after her indictment in 2016, Ms. Brown lost her seat in a primary election. She was convicted of mail and wire fraud and filing false tax returns.

According to prosecutors, Ms. Brown told donors that the money raised for the charity, One Door for Education, would help students pay for college and allow schools to receive computers

ny times logoNew York Times, Sheldon Silver, Disgraced Assembly Speaker, Is Sent Back to Prison, Ed Shanahan and William K. Rashbaum, May 7, 2021 (print ed.). Just two days after being furloughed, the once-powerful Democrat was headed back to prison to continue serving his sentence on corruption charges.

sheldon silver wSheldon Silver, right, who dominated New York State politics for years as the Democratic Assembly speaker before being convicted on federal corruption charges, was ordered back to prison on Thursday, according to two law enforcement officials with knowledge of the matter.

Mr. Silver, 77, was in federal custody at a Lower Manhattan hospital on Thursday afternoon and was expected to be returned to the prison in Otisville, N.Y., later in the day, one of the officials said.

The move came just two days after prison officials let Mr. Silver return home on a furlough while he awaited a decision on his request that he be allowed to serve the balance of his prison term under home confinement. At that point, he had served less than a year of his six-and-a-half-year sentence.

That Mr. Silver was going back to prison so quickly suggested that his request had been denied, but a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons declined to comment on any aspect of his status.

“For privacy, safety and security reasons, we do not discuss an inmate’s condition of confinement or release plans,” the spokeswoman said. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, prison officials have leeway in determining which prisoners are allowed to be placed on home confinement.

But one of the law enforcement officials with knowledge of the matter said that the decision on whether Mr. Silver could complete his sentence under home confinement or some other form of so-called supervised release had indeed gone against him. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former Infantryman Is Convicted of Threatening Right-Wing Protest, Michael Levenson, May 7, 2021 (print ed.).  Prosecutors said that Daniel Alan Baker had issued a “call to arms” asking people to violently confront demonstrators at the Florida State Capitol.

A former U.S. Army Airborne infantryman was convicted by a federal jury on Thursday of threatening to organize a violent confrontation with right-wing protesters at the Florida State Capitol in January, days after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol in Washington, prosecutors said.

The former infantryman, Daniel Alan Baker, 33, who once described himself as a “hard-core leftist,” was arrested by F.B.I. agents on Jan. 15 after he had issued a “call to arms” asking like-minded people to violently confront demonstrators in Tallahassee, Fla., the Justice Department said.

According to an F.B.I. affidavit, Mr. Baker was arrested the day after he uploaded a poster-style image as a comment on a Florida television station’s news article asking residents to protect the Capitol from “armed racist mobs with every caliber available” on Jan. 20, the day of President Biden’s inauguration. The poster added, “This is an armed coup and can only be stopped by an armed community!”

Mr. Baker also created a Facebook event called “Defend Tallahassee” on Jan. 12 in which he warned that “armed racist mobs” were planning to storm state capitols on Inauguration Day and vowed to “drive them out of Tallahassee with every caliber available,” the affidavit states.

No major protests or violence occurred at the Florida Capitol on Jan. 20.

Mr. Baker was convicted after a two-day trial on two counts of transmitting a communication in interstate commerce containing a threat to kidnap or injure another person, according to the Justice Department. He will face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on each count when he is sentenced on Aug. 16.

“The free exercise of speech is central to our democracy,” Jason R. Coody, the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida, said in a statement. “However, the defendant’s threats of armed violence to inhibit expression of political views different than his own are both unlawful and dangerous.”

Mr. Baker’s lawyer, Randolph P. Murrell, declined to comment on Thursday night. In a court document, Mr. Baker had argued that the threats he was accused of making were “the product of the heated political dialogue of the day” and were “equivocal, conditional, and fail to show an intent to immediately inflict injury.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Capitol attacker has complete meltdown during his court hearing, Sheree McSpadden, May 7, 2021. Landon Copeland (insurrectionist) was very disruptive and yelling at his Court hearing on several charges, including disorderly conduct and assaulting law enforcement officers. Copeland, a 33 year-old man from Utah, screamed obscenities at the judge, and called a court clerk evil.

The criminal complaint cites at least 3 instances of him assaulting an officer, as well as taking away one’s shield to use as a weapon. It also includes video of Copeland tearing down a barricade and using it to assault officers. After being pepper sprayed, he threw the barricade at several officers in retaliation.

Copeland invited several MAGAts to go with him to his court appearance, then immediately started wreaking havoc.

A Capitol Hill reporter at the hearing was messaging his office and wrote, “This is out of control. Defendant is now yelling at the judge, ‘Is any of this negotiable? I used to be a free man … until you locked me up.'”

With several minutes before his hearing, “He’s still disrupting the Court … and appears rattled by pretrial detention.” But later, things got really crazy. “Copeland is screaming at the Judge, “How long can I postpone this? I’m a vet. You owe this to me. You’ve all f*cked this up. You’re a robot to me. You can’t come and get me if I don’t want you to.” Copeland was soon placed in an “outbreak room” for about an hour.

Copeland’s attorney claimed he didn’t think his client did this on purpose, “I don’t think he’s competent to proceed right now.” The court ordered Copeland to have a competency screening, and postponed this hearing.

 The Hill, Possible DeSantis opponent: Florida is 'no longer a free state,' Max Greenwood, May 7, 2021.  Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried tore into Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Thursday over a slew of recently signed legislation targeting protests and election procedures, declaring that Florida is “no longer a free state.”

Speaking at a press conference hours after DeSantis signed a sweeping election bill into law, Fried cast the governor as an authoritarian figure bent on curbing basic rights and controlling the flow of information out of his administration. In particular, she noted how he had barred media outlets, except for Fox News, from covering the signing of the elections bill on Thursday.

“He did this in a closed location with only political supporters, using our taxpayer dollars, with the only camera watching was Fox News,” Fried said. “He is using Fox News as a state news source. We see this in other locations across the world — China, Venezuela. Authoritarian regimes have state-run presses. Not here in America.”

“We are no longer a free state,” she added. “This governor has infringed upon our rights once again.”

Fried, the lone Democrat in statewide elected office in Florida, is believed to be nearing a run for governor, and has amped up her public criticism of DeSantis in recent months. She hammered the governor on Thursday for pushing the election reforms even after he touted the accuracy and efficacy of Florida’s 2020 election.

“Show me the fraud. Let’s talk about that. The fraud that we did not see in this election,” Fried said. “We had no issues at the polls. We had no issues at the ballot boxes. We had no issue counting ballots.”

 

More On U.S. Crime, Court 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Judge says ‘morons’ run New York’s federal jails, denounces ‘inhuman’ conditions, Shayna Jacobs, May 7, 2021. A senior judge who navigated her Manhattan-based court through the covid-19 crisis has denounced as "inhuman" the conditions inside New York's federal jails, complaining at the sentencing of a woman who spent months in solitary confinement after contracting the coronavirus that the facilities are "run by morons."

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon castigated the Federal Bureau of Prisons, saying the agency’s ineptitude and failure to “do anything meaningful” at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan and the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn amounted to the “single thing in the five years that I was chief judge of this court that made me the craziest,” according to a transcript of last month’s proceeding obtained by The Washington Post on Friday.

Days’s attorney Xavier Donaldson told McMahon that his client was kept in solitary confinement, usually reserved to punish people who misbehave in jail, for 75 days after she contracted the coronavirus. Days, however, had a spotless disciplinary record during her time there, her lawyer said.

Days, 40, had been housed in the Metropolitan Correctional Center — the same facility where, in 2019, sex offender Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide while awaiting trial, a scandal that brought scrutiny to the Bureau of Prisons’s oversight of New York’s federal detention facilities. In those problem-plagued jails, McMahon said, wardens “cycle repeatedly, never staying for longer than a few months or even a year.”

The judge told Days, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute and possess MDMA and cocaine, that she would have released her — suggesting the torment she faced in pretrial custody was punishment enough — but had to issue a minimum five-year prison sentence under the law.

Days, according to the transcript, said she and other inmates were ordered to clean a “disgusting feces flood,” telling the court in horrifying detail how some vomited from the stench as sewage with floating bugs and mice reached their ankles.

McMahon stepped down from her judicial leadership role in the Southern District of New York weeks before Tiffany Days’s virtual sentencing April 29. But while in her capacity as chief judge, McMahon coordinated the district’s response to the pandemic, including modified trial procedures, safety protocols for jurors and remote court proceedings

ny times logoNew York Times, 4 Years After an Execution, a Different Man’s DNA Is Found on the Murder Weapon, Heather Murphy, May 7, 2021. For 22 years, Ledell Lee maintained that he had been wrongly convicted of murder.

“My dying words will always be, as it has been, ‘I am an innocent man,’” he told the BBC in an interview published on April 19, 2017 — the day before officials in Arkansas administered the lethal injection.

Four years later, lawyers affiliated with the Innocence Project and the American Civil Liberties Union say DNA testing has revealed that genetic material on the murder weapon — which was never previously tested — in fact belongs to another man. In a highly unusual development for a case in which a person has already been convicted and executed, the new genetic profile has been uploaded to a national criminal database in an attempt to identify the mystery man.

Patricia Young, Mr. Lee’s sister, has been fighting for years to prove that it was not her brother who strangled and fatally bludgeoned the 26-year-old Debra Reese in Jacksonville, Ark., a suburb of Little Rock, in 1993.

“We are glad there is new evidence in the national DNA database and remain hopeful that there will be further information uncovered in the future,” Ms. Young said in a statement last week. In response to a lawsuit filed by Ms. Young in January, Jacksonville city officials released the bloody wooden club recovered from the victim’s bedroom, a bloody white shirt wrapped around the club and several other pieces of evidence for testing.

The Innocence Project and the A.C.L.U. have pushed for additional DNA testing at previous times, including the eve of Mr. Lee’s execution. The request was denied. A federal judge rejected Mr. Lee’s request for a stay of the execution, saying that he had “simply delayed too long,” according to a complaint filed by Ms. Young.

Mr. Lee’s execution, on April 20, 2017, was the first in Arkansas in more than a decade. Some accused the state of rushing Mr. Lee and several other prisoners to their deaths that month before the expiration of its supply of a lethal injection drug.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson defended Mr. Lee’s execution. “It’s my duty to carry out the law,” he said, adding that “the fact is that the jury found him guilty based upon the information that they had.” He called the new DNA evidence that has emerged “inconclusive.”

In a statement, lawyers from the A.C.L.U. and the Innocence Project were cautious about stating what, exactly, could be extrapolated from the newly tested DNA from the shirt and the murder weapon — beyond the facts that both samples appeared to belong to the same man and that that man was not Mr. Lee.

According to the Innocence Project, no physical evidence was ever produced that connected Mr. Lee to Ms. Reese’s murder. In a summary of the case, the group also outlined obstacles that Mr. Lee had faced over the years, including a lawyer who was drunk and unprepared at court hearings, unreliable neighborhood eyewitnesses and conflicts of interest for key players.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Live Political Updates: 4 Officers Indicted on Charges of Violating George Floyd’s Civil Rights, Staff Reports, May 7, 2021. A federal grand jury returned the indictment weeks after one of the officers, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Mr. Floyd. Here’s the latest in politics.

Four former Minneapolis police officers were indicted on charges of violating the civil rights of George Floyd, a Black man whose killing last year led to months of demonstrations against police violence, the Justice Department announced on Friday.

The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury weeks after one of the officers, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Mr. Floyd. The charges are another extraordinary censuring of law enforcement officials, who rarely face criminal charges for using deadly force.

The indictment charges Mr. Chauvin, 45, and other former Minneapolis Police Department officers Tou Thao, 35, J. Alexander Kueng, 27, and Thomas Lane, 38, with willfully depriving Mr. Floyd of his constitutional civil rights during his arrest.

The indictment alleges that by holding his left knee across Mr. Floyd’s neck and his right knee on his back and arm as he lay on the ground, handcuffed and unresisting, Mr. Chauvin used unconstitutional, unreasonable force that resulted in Mr. Floyd’s death.

Mr. Thao and Mr. Kueng were charged with willfully failing to stop Mr. Chauvin from using unreasonable force. All four defendants saw Mr. Floyd lying on the ground in need of medical care and willfully failed to aid him, depriving him of his constitutional right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law, which included Mr. Floyd’s right to be free from an officer’s deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, the indictment said.

  • Texas lawmakers advanced a bill that would make it one of the most difficult states in the nation in which to vote.
  • In a bid to regain power, Republicans focus on polarizing cultural issues ahead of the 2022 midterms.
  • Texas lawmakers press ahead with bill restricting voting rights hours after Florida measure becomes law.
  • Stefanik digs in on false election claims as she seeks to replace Cheney.
  • U.S. added 266,000 jobs in April as hiring slowed despite signs the economy is starting to recover.
  • Virginia G.O.P.’s choices for governor: ‘Trumpy, Trumpier, Trumpiest.’
  • South Carolina is set to become the 4th state to allow firing squads to carry out capital punishment.

  

U.S. Political Media 

Palmer Report, The real reason Jen Psaki is stepping down at the end of the year, Bill Palmer, May 7, 2021. It was reported very early on that Jen Psaki was only willing to take the White House Press Secretary job on a short term basis. So it’s no surprise to see this new reporting that she may depart by the end of the year – but it’s still notable what she’s been able to accomplish.

President Biden presumably asked Jen Psaki to take a job she didn’t want, so that he could come out of the gate with a Press Secretary who had prior experience in the job and could thus put out fires instead of creating them. Which is exactly what she said.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s a credit to Psaki that she took the job on a short term basis out of pure duty to country. It’s also remarkable how quickly she’s managed to restore respect and dignity to a position that the former regime destroyed. It’s also a credit to Biden that he managed to talk her into it.

Presumably, the top candidates for her replacement will be Karine Jean Pierre and Symone Sanders, who were both reportedly in the running originally. They’ve both been working high level PR jobs in the Biden administration since January.

Right wingers and dummies will try to spin Jen Psaki’s fairly quick exit as a scandal, or evidence of an imaginary Biden administration collapse. But everyone outside of that bubble knows better. We’ve witnessed an amazing resurrection of the White House Press Secretary position.

Media Matters, Opinion: Newsmax’s sordid history of scams, grifts, and cons, Matt Gertz & Eric Hananoki, May 7, 2021. The conservative media outlet Newsmax has used hyperpartisan content to build an audience of right-wing seniors and bilked them through an array of scams and dubious products for more than a decade.

Christopher Ruddy, a right-wing journalist who cut his teeth generating conspiracy theories about the Clintons during the 1990s and a friend of former President Donald Trump, founded Newsmax in 1998. The company recently gained notoriety for its cable news channel, Newsmax TV, which relentlessly lied to viewers about Democrats supposedly stealing the 2020 presidential election in order to position itself as an even more pro-Trump alternative to Fox News.
From left to right: Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. (AP)

Newsmax TV reportedly loses money, in part because it is required to pay hefty fees to cable companies to get them to carry the station. But the attention its programming generates helps build Newsmax’s brand among conservatives who might support the company’s other endeavors.

The Newsmax umbrella also includes Newsmax.com, a website with health and finance subsections; a magazine; a series of health and finance newsletters; online sales of products including nutritional supplements; and more than 70 email lists. These different products cater to what the company’s media kit describes as its “core audience” of “Boomer Power+” -- conservatives over the age of 45 who are more likely to have brokerage accounts and buy vitamins.

Newsmax products also share what New York Times columnist Ben Smith calls “the tone of conservative direct mail,” using fearmongering over the threat posed by Democrats to separate conservative readers from their money. And, per Smith, “it’s working: The company projected its 2018 revenues at more than $59 million, divided among advertising, subscriptions and e-commerce.”

Since its earliest days, Newsmax relied on its newsletter business to turn a profit. “I realized this was where we would make money,” Ruddy told Bloomberg Businessweek in 2014. “We had to do newsletters in order to keep doing the website.” According to a 2021 Washington Post profile of Ruddy, the newsletters constitute Newsmax's “core business model.”

The company currently offers five health and nine finance newsletters, penned by a host of dubious characters and priced between $39.95 and $109.95. If you want to learn how to use “nutrition and natural treatments to beat cancer and other killers,” a subscription for “The Blaylock Wellness Report,” medical huckster Russell Blaylock’s monthly newsletter, is just $54.95. Or for only $49.95, you can subscribe to “The Franklin Prosperity Report,” a monthly newsletter operated by Newsmax that is supposedly based on the “investment methods” of Benjamin Franklin.

Newsmax’s sizable, segmented email lists help the company amass both revenue and political power. In 2017, The Atlantic reported that the lists were “significant money-makers” and cited Ruddy’s claim that they contained 6 million individual email subscriptions. Newsmax regularly rents out the lists to Republican politicians and groups for their fundraising endeavors, which helps explain why would-be GOP candidates eagerly court Ruddy’s favor.

But Newsmax also sells access to its audience of conservative seniors to seemingly any scammer or fraudster who is willing to pay its fee, at times drawing scrutiny from government regulators. And the company peppers its own emails to the lists with calls to sign up for access to its various in-house con men.

During President Barack Obama’s administration, Newsmax hosted a series of particularly exhorbitant grifts. Several Newsmax webcasts featured high-profile validators who stoked the audience’s fears of potential hyperinflation, then offered the opportunity to avoid economic ruin by paying fees in excess of $1,000 for dubious Newsmax-backed financial products. Such shady investment schemes may resume now that a Democrat once again occupies the White House.

It’s sadly typical for conservatives to sell out their supporters for cash. But even by those low standards, Newsmax’s business model is grotesque.

washington post logoWashington Post, Washingtonian staff goes on publishing strike after CEO’s op-ed about remote work, May 7, 2021. Washingtonian magazine staffers launched a day-long protest on Friday in response to an op-ed written by their boss, who warned that continuing to work from home as the pandemic subsides could make employees less valuable and easier to “let go.”

Cathy Merrill, chief executive of the D.C.-centered magazine, shared her concerns about the popularity of remote work in a Washington Post op-ed published Thursday, originally titled: “As a CEO, I want my employees to understand the risks of not returning to work in the office.”

While some employees may want to “work from home and pop in only when necessary” after the pandemic, Merrill argued, the dynamic may create a “strong incentive” for bosses to convert full-time workers into contractors, who get paid by the hour or output and lack benefits such as health-care coverage and retirement accounts.

By Friday morning, many of Washingtonian’s editorial staff of about 25 pledged that they wouldn’t publish anything on the magazine’s website or social media channels for the day. More than a dozen tweeted identical messages: “We want our CEO to understand the risks of not valuing our labor” and “we are dismayed by Cathy Merrill’s public threat to our livelihoods.”

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, An Election Win for Boris Johnson, but His Strategies Risk Breaking Up the U.K., Stephen Castle, His pillars of “getting Brexit done” and “leveling up” struggling areas in northern England and the Midlands have fueled separatist drives in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

boris johnson tiePrime Minister Boris Johnson, right, of Britain scored a striking political victory on Friday when his Conservative Party snatched a bellwether parliamentary seat from the opposition Labour Party, which had held it since the constituency’s creation in the 1970s.

United Kingdom flagIn a by-election in Hartlepool, in northeastern England, the Conservative candidate, Jill Mortimer, scored a convincing victory, capturing nearly twice as many votes as her Labour rival and consolidating Mr. Johnson’s earlier successes in winning over voters in working-class areas that had traditionally sided mainly with Labour.

Better still for the prime minister, the vote on Thursday came despite days of publicity over claims that he had broken electoral rules over the financing of an expensive refurbishment of his apartment. That appeared to have counted for little with voters in Hartlepool, an economically struggling coastal town, when the results were announced on Friday morning after an overnight count.

Mr. Johnson has built his considerable electoral success on the twin pillars of “getting Brexit done” and “leveling up” struggling areas in northern England and the Midlands with the prosperous south, bolstered by a successful Covid-19 vaccination program. But those very strategies could hold within them the seeds of future problems by creating centrifugal forces that have the potential to split up the United Kingdom.

May 6

Top Headlines  

  

Trump's Election Lies, U.S. Voter Suppression

 

Media News

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Crime, Courts

  

World News

 

Top Stories

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Oversight Board Upholds Social Network’s Ban of Trump, Mike Isaac, May 6, 2021 (print ed.). A company-appointed panel ruled that the ban was justified at the time but added that the company should reassess its action and make a final decision in six months.

A Facebook-appointed panel of journalists, activists and lawyers on Wednesday upheld the social network’s ban of former President Donald J. Trump, ending any immediate return by Mr. Trump to mainstream social media and renewing a debate about tech power over online speech.

Facebook’s Oversight Board, which acts as a quasi-court over the company’s content decisions, said the social network was right to bar Mr. Trump after he used the site to foment an insurrection in Washington in January. The panel said the ongoing risk of violence “justified” the move.

facebook logoBut the board also said that an indefinite suspension was “not appropriate,” and that the company should apply a “defined penalty.” The board gave Facebook six months to make its final decision on Mr. Trump’s account status.

“Our sole job is to hold this extremely powerful organization, Facebook, to be held accountable,” Michael McConnell, co-chair of the Oversight Board, said on a call with reporters. The ban on Mr. Trump “did not meet these standards,” he said.

The decision adds difficulties to Mr. Trump rejoining mainstream social media, which he had used during his White House years to cajole, set policy, criticize opponents and rile up his tens of millions of followers. Twitter and YouTube had also cut off Mr. Trump in January after the insurrection at the Capitol building, saying the risk of harm and the potential for violence that he created were too great.

But while Mr. Trump’s Facebook account remains suspended for now, he may be able to return to the social network once the company reviews its action. Mr. Trump still holds tremendous sway over Republicans, with his false claims of a stolen election continuing to reverberate. On Wednesday, House Republican leaders moved to expel Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming from her leadership post for criticizing Mr. Trump and his election lies.

In a statement, Mr. Trump did not directly address the Oversight Board’s ruling. But he slammed Facebook, Google and Twitter and called them corrupt. “Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s continued Facebook suspension gave Republicans, who have long accused social media companies of suppressing conservative voices, new fuel against the platforms. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has testified in Congress several times in recent years about whether the social network has shown bias against conservative political views. He has denied it.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, said the Facebook board’s decision was “extremely disappointing” and that it was “clear that Mark Zuckerberg views himself as the arbiter of free speech.” And Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, said Facebook, which faces antitrust scrutiny, should be broken up.

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge vacates CDC eviction moratorium, which kept millions of Americans in homes during pandemic, Kyle Swenson, May 6, 2021 (print ed.). In a ruling that could have a tremendous impact on millions of Americans, a federal judge in Washington D.C. on Wednesday ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its legal authority when it issued a nationwide eviction moratorium.

cdc logo CustomU.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich’s 20-page order says that the protection, first put in place during the coronavirus pandemic under the Trump administration and now set to run out on June 30, goes too far.

“It is the role of the political branches, and not the courts, to assess the merits of policy measures designed to combat the spread of disease, even during a global pandemic,” the order stated. “The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not.”

Landlords and property owners have consistently challenged the CDC order, arguing the policy sets an undue financial burden on business owners.

“We’ve argued from the beginning that the CDC lacked statutory authority to impose this, and we’ve had multiple courts agree with us on that,” said Luke Wake, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation who has represented landlords in similar cases. “Today’s decision again vindicates our argument.”

washington post logoWashington Post, India breaks its own records again with 412,000 new cases and nearly 4,000 deaths in 24 hours, Jennifer Hassan and Joanna Slater, May 6, 2021 (print ed.). India’s devastating india flag mapcoronavirus crisis deepened on Thursday, as the country reported 412,000 infections and nearly 4,000 deaths in the previous 24 hours.

  • Epidemiologists believe that India’s surge could hit 500,000 cases a day in the coming weeks before retreating. That would represent a ruinous burden for a health-care system reeling from too many patients and a shortage of crucial supplies such as oxygen.
  • Last month, the United States advised its citizens to leave India, and the State Department on Thursday authorized the voluntary departure of non-emergency personnel.
  • The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it will support waiving intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines, arguing that the global health crisis calls for extraordinary measures — a move sought by developing nations.
  • Coronavirus infections could be driven to low levels and the pandemic at least temporarily throttled in the United States by July if the vast majority of people get vaccinated and continue with precautions, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine provides strong protection against two concerning variants of the virus, including the one that has most worried scientists because it can evade parts of the immune response, according to new data from Qatar.
  • A barbecue enthusiast who went on a Sydney-wide search for grilling supplies while infected with the coronavirus has triggered new restrictions in Australia’s largest city, which is now battling new cases after a month without local transmission.
  • Canada became the first country in the world to authorize use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children between 12 and 15 on Wednesday. The United States is expected to follow shortly.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Turning the Corner’: U.S. Covid Outlook Reaches Most Hopeful Point Yet, Julie Bosman and Sarah Mervosh, May 6, 2021. Cases and deaths have dipped, and vaccinations have made scientists hopeful, even as more transmissible variants are spreading.

Public health experts remain cautious, but said that they do not think future surges will be as widespread or reach past peaks.

After weeks of coronavirus patients flooding emergency rooms in Michigan, the worst Covid-19 hot spot in the nation, hospitalizations are finally falling.

On some recent days, entire states, including Wisconsin and West Virginia, have reported zero new coronavirus deaths — a brief but promising respite from the onslaught of the past year.

And in New York and Chicago, officials encouraged by the recent progress have confidently vowed to fully reopen in the coming weeks, conjuring images of a vibrant summer of concerts, sporting events and packed restaurants revving cities back to life

 

Trump's Election Lies, U.S. Voter Suppression  

capitol mob

Pro-Trump rioters and insurrectionists ar shown after storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and threatening lawmakers unless they overturned November elections and reinstalled Trump for four more years following his repeated claims via social media that he had won re-election and was being deprived of the right to rule because of fraud that was never prove in more than 60 lawsuits by Trump and his allies.  

ny times logoNew York Times, Florida Becomes the Latest State to Restrict Voting, Patricia Mazzei and Glenn Thrush, May 6, 2021. Gov. Ron DeSantis, below right, praised the legislation as giving the state the “strongest election integrity measures in the country,” though there was no evidence of voter fraud in the presidential election.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida signed new voting restrictions into law on Thursday that put him in line with other Republicans around the country — with a display of nose-thumbing contempt toward journalists that evoked former President Donald J. Trump.

ron desantis oMr. DeSantis’s brash style has made him stand out from other potential heirs to Mr. Trump’s populist legacy. But his actions are part of a national effort by Republicans. In Florida, the law limits the use of popular ballot drop boxes, adds identification requirements for voters requesting absentee ballots and requires them to request absentee ballots for each election, rather than sign up for them automatically.

The next big move could happen in Texas, although the situation at the State Capitol in Austin is in flux. There is movement in virtually every state with a Republican-controlled legislature — including in Arizona, where G.O.P. lawmakers are conducting an audit of the November results, an exercise that has been plagued by lapses in basic security and accounting procedures.

All of this comes in the wake of Mr. Trump’s loss, and his subsequent false claims that expansion of ballot access led to rampant voter fraud.

Official audits of election results around the country, conducted by officials from both parties, found no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Mr. DeSantis enacted the legislation even after he had promoted Florida’s handling of the November elections. Mr. Trump won the state by three percentage points.

fox-news-logo Small.pngMr. DeSantis gave Fox News, his preferred major cable news outlet — and Mr. Trump’s — an exclusive to broadcast the bill-signing ceremony from West Palm Beach on Thursday morning, in an event that resembled a campaign rally as much as an official act of state government.

Supporters of Mr. DeSantis gathered inside a Hilton near the airport, donning DeSantis and Trump campaign gear. Before they entered, some people waved Trump-DeSantis and DeSantis 2024 banners, according to photos on social media shared by journalists locked outside the doors.

“Right now, I have what we think is the strongest election integrity measures in the country,” a seated Mr. DeSantis told Fox as a rowdy crowd cheered behind him.

Mr. DeSantis and his predecessors have been known to sign bills, especially controversial ones, in private. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a lower-key politician who has kept Mr. Trump at a relative arm’s length, signed his state’s bill in a conference room in his office, as a Democratic state legislator knocked on the door, demanding to be let in. She was instead arrested and later released.

Giving exclusive access to a cable news network was unusual, if not unprecedented. A reporter from a local CBS station said it was supposed to carry the broadcast feed for other stations, a practice known as pooling, but was also not allowed inside.

“We were happy to give them the exclusive on that, and I think it went really, really well,” Mr. DeSantis said when asked about the Fox News access later on Thursday in Panama City Beach. He trumpeted the network’s “millions” of viewers and estimated that a thousand people had filled the Hilton ballroom: “It’s the first bill signing I’ve ever done live on a national broadcast.”

Speaking aboard Air Force One en route to Louisiana on Thursday, Karine Jean-Pierre, the deputy White House press secretary, said that the Florida law is “built on a lie” and that the state is moving “in the wrong direction.”

“The 2020 election was one of the most secure elections in American history,” she said. “There’s no legitimate reason to change the rules right now to make it harder to vote.”

Florida is the latest state to pass voter restrictions as Republicans move to reverse gains made by Democrats in Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere.

In Texas, Republicans in the legislature are brushing aside objections from corporate titans like Dell Technologies, Microsoft and American Airlines and moving on a vast election bill that would be among the most severe in the nation.

It would impose new restrictions on early voting, ban drive-through voting, threaten election officials with harsher penalties and greatly empower partisan poll watchers. The main bill passed a key committee in a late-night session on Thursday and could head to a full floor vote in the House as early as next week.

Bills to restrict voting have also been moving through Republican-led legislatures in Arizona and Michigan.

Palmer Report, Commentary: Department of Justice targets phony Arizona “recount,” Sheree McSpadden, May 6, 2021.The Department of Justice has let it be known that Cyber Ninjas so-called ‘audit’ of voting ballots and machines in Maricopa County, Arizona, may be in violation of federal law. Cyber Ninjas is the contractor being used for the audit. It has been reported that Cyber Ninjas has no such audit Justice Department log circularexperience, and has Q’Anon connections, along with other strange and shady things about it.

In a letter to GOP Senate President Karen Fann, the head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, Pamela S. Karlan, said that the Arizona Senate’s farming out of 2.1 million ballots to a contractor may run afoul of a federal law requiring ballots to remain in control of election officials for 22 months.

bill palmer report logo headerShe was further informed that if the contractor started visiting voters to confirm ballots, as it had indicated were in its plans, that could also very well be illegal voter intimidation.

Karlan asked Fann to lay out how the Senate and its contractors will ensure that federal laws are being followed, pointing to news reports showing lax security. Fann said Senate attorneys were working on a response. Hopefully, they will tell Karlan they need some help or direction on how to safely confiscate the ballots and machines back to Maricopa County. According to Arizona’s SOS, they have shown they are not following the required good npractices.

Karlan’s letter came six days after voting rights advocates asked the DOJ to intervene, claiming, “We are concerned that the auditors are engaging in ongoing and imminent violations of federal voting and election laws.”

Also in the news Wednesday was that these contractors were requiring observers to sign non-disclosure agreements. This has certainly appeared to be something more akin to a crazy reality show than an audit all along, but maybe they are planning to actually make a show or documentary of it? Who knows?

They were also reportedly searching for bamboo in the ballots, trying to prove that some were flown in from Asia? You cannot make this stuff up.

washington post logoWashington Post, The effort to dump Liz Cheney is the consequence of a party that lost its way, Dan Balz, May 6, 2021 (print ed.). For now, Trump has won the battle for the soul of the GOP. Dissenters to his big lie are not welcome.

liz cheney headshot resizedThe growing effort to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), right, from the third-ranking Republican leadership position in the House further accelerates her party’s full capitulation to Donald Trump’s big lie about the 2020 election. The move against Cheney is a sign of political cowardice. While shocking, it is not surprising for a party that has lost its way.

The majority of Republican lawmakers appear to have stopped believing in truth — or lack the courage to speak the truth. Cheney is not among them. She has been fearless in calling out Trump’s lies about a stolen election, and she has been forceful in rebutting the former president whenever he repeats the falsehoods that led to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Her words have been as stinging as they are succinct. In the aftermath of the attack, when she announced that she would vote to impeach the president, she said: “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president.”

Could she have been any clearer? Cheney knew then and knows now how wrong Trump was and, just as important, the terrible consequence of the continued spreading of lies to a Republican base dominated by his loyalists.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: The Dawn of the American Era of the Long Knives, Wayne Madsen, left, May 6, 2021. With Trump Nazis, it's them or us. There's no middle ground. America has wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallentered the era of the "Long Knives." In 1934, the "Night of the Long Knives" in Germany saw Adolf Hitler order the elimination of the SA -- the Sturmabteilung or Brown Shirt storm troopers -- by the black-shirted officers of Heinrich Himmler's SS -- the Schutzstaffel.

Currently, the far-right fascists allied with Trump are conducting their own "Long Knives" operation, with Liz Cheney, the House Republican Conference chair, targeted for ouster from her wayne madesen report logoposition by the fanatical followers of Donald Trump.

So far, the neo-Nazi Republicans have not, as yet, carried out a wholesale slaughter of their anti-Trump adversaries in the Republican Party. On January 6 of this year, they came pretty damned close to murdering Vice President Pence, and the Democratic and Republican leadership of the Senate and U.S. House. The scaffold erected on the U.S. Capitol ground bears testament to the goals of the American Nazis.

The ultimate intent of the Trump movement to murder their opponents should not be underestimated.Patriotic Americans must recognize the threat posed by the neo-Nazi, white supremacist, and fascist hordes who have seized control of the Republican Party and in which they swear total allegiance to their "American Hitler," Trump.

"Trumpers," far from being comical clown acts, are dangerous threats to the very democratic fabric of the United States. Their ideology runs counter to the principles advocated by the founders of the United States: Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Mason, and every American president, with the exception of Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cheney Opinion: The GOP is at a turning point. History is watching us, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (Liz Cheney, right, a Republican, represents Wyoming’s at-large congressional district in the U.S. House), May 6, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution

liz cheney oIn public statements again this week, former president Donald Trump has repeated his claims that the 2020 election was a fraud and was stolen. His message: I am still the rightful president, and President Biden is illegitimate. Trump repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6. And, as the Justice Department and multiple federal judges have suggested, there is good reason to believe that Trump’s language can provoke violence again. Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this.

The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution. In the immediate wake of the violence of Jan. 6, almost all of us knew the gravity and the cause of what had just happened — we had witnessed it firsthand.
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House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) left no doubt in his public remarks. On the floor of the House on Jan. 13, McCarthy, left, said: “The president bears responsibility for Kevin McCarthyWednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” Now, McCarthy has changed his story.

I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative values is reverence for the rule of law. Each of us swears an oath before God to uphold our Constitution. The electoral college has spoken. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, have rejected the former president’s arguments, and refused to overturn election results. That is the rule of law; that is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud.

The question before us now is whether we will join Trump’s crusade to delegitimize and undo the legal outcome of the 2020 election, with all the consequences that might have. I have worked overseas in nations where changes in leadership come only with violence, where democracy takes hold only until the next violent upheaval. America is exceptional because our constitutional system guards against that. At the heart of our republic is a commitment to the peaceful transfer of power among political rivals in accordance with law. President Ronald Reagan described this as our American “miracle.”

republican elephant logoWhile embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country. Trump has never expressed remorse or regret for the attack of Jan. 6 and now suggests that our elections, and our legal and constitutional system, cannot be trusted to do the will of the people. This is immensely harmful, especially as we now compete on the world stage against Communist China and its claims that democracy is a failed system.

For Republicans, the path forward is clear.

First, support the ongoing Justice Department criminal investigations of the Jan. 6 attack. Those investigations must be comprehensive and objective; neither the White House nor any member of Congress should interfere.

Second, we must support a parallel bipartisan review by a commission with subpoena power to seek and find facts; it will describe for all Americans what happened. This is critical to defeat the misinformation and nonsense circulating in the press and on social media. No currently serving member of Congress — with an eye to the upcoming election cycle — should participate. We should appoint former officials, members of the judiciary and other prominent Americans who can be objective, just as we did after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The commission should be focused on the Jan. 6 attacks. The Black Lives Matter and antifa violence of last summer was illegal and reprehensible, but it is a different problem with a different solution.


elise stefanik hearing

washington post logoWashington Post, From Paul Ryan acolyte to Trump disciple: Elise Stefanik sets out to replace Cheney in GOP leadership, Paul Kane, May 6, 2021 (print ed.). Elise Stefanik, shown above defending Trump during his second impeachment trial earlier this year, entered the political arena eight years ago out of admiration for Paul D. Ryan, the conservative darling who had just returned to the House after his stint as Republican vice-presidential nominee.

Stefanik had been a top campaign adviser to Ryan (R-Wis.), but after the GOP ticket lost, she moved back to her parents’ home in northern New York. She overcame that despair by following the path set by Ryan, who, at the age of 28, moved home from Washington to run for Congress on an inspirational vision for Republican ideas.

“I was 29 at the time, and instead of complaining about the state of American politics from the sidelines, I started the process of running for Congress,” Stefanik (R-N.Y.) told a crowd of young GOP staff in March 2016. She introduced the man who had just become House speaker as “a happy warrior who understands the power of an idea, the power of the American idea.”
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Stefanik directs a question to former National Security Council official Fiona Hill during a House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry in November 2019.
Stefanik directs a question to former National Security Council official Fiona Hill during a House Intelligence Committee impeachment inquiry in November 2019. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

That version of Stefanik no longer exists.

Instead, over the past 18 months, the congresswoman has morphed into a disciple of former president Donald Trump’s vision for the Republican Party.

She has studiously made allies out of the firebrands in the House Freedom Caucus, who spent three years opposing Ryan’s work as speaker, and she now revels in engaging in “cancel culture” wars on cable news and social media.

She first caught Trump’s attention during the 2019 impeachment, winning his full support Wednesday when the former president announced his support of Stefanik’s effort to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from the No. 3 post in House GOP leadership. “Elise Stefanik is a far superior choice, and she has my COMPLETE and TOTAL endorsement for GOP Conference Chair,” Trump said in a statement.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This GOP vs Liz Cheney battle isn’t what you think it is, Bill Palmer, right, May 6, 2021. The battle between Liz Cheney and the rest of the Republican House is certainly juicy and good bill palmerfor generating headlines. But truth be told, I’m not sure the stakes are particularly high for anyone on any side, at least when it comes to the question of whether Cheney gets to keep her job. Let me explain.

bill palmer report logo headerLiz Cheney is clearly laying the groundwork for a presidential run in 2024. It’s far too early to predict whether she’ll get anywhere with this, because it’ll depend largely on whether the Republican voting base has finally moved beyond an imprisoned Donald Trump by that time. But it’s clear that Cheney is looking to become President of the United States, and that her decision to call out her own party leadership is part of that strategy.

 

Media News
tucker carlson

 washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Tucker Carlson’s worst vaccine segment yet, Aaron Blake, May 6, 2021. Tucker Carlson’s sloppy efforts to call into question the safety and efficacy of the coronavirus vaccines hit a new low point Wednesday night.

In a commentary, the Fox News host, who has unleashed a steady stream of innuendo-laden vaccine skepticism in recent months, raised the idea that the vaccines may be linked to an inordinate number of deaths.

He suggested (as he is wont) that he’s simply asking questions that nobody else will. As usual, though, the questions he raised have indeed been addressed in ways he didn’t relay. And as usual, there was a simpler explanation that he ignored in what seems, for all intents and purposes, to be his long-running quest to plant seeds of doubt in people’s minds on a very dangerous topic.

“Between late December of 2020 and last month, a total of 3,362 people apparently died after getting the covid vaccine in the United States — 3,362,” Carlson said, citing data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). “That’s an average of roughly 30 people every day.”

fox news logo SmallHe added: “It’s clear that what is happening now, for whatever reason, is not even close to normal. It is not even close to what we see in previous years with previous vaccines. Most vaccines are not accused of killing large numbers of people. … Again, more people, according to VAERS, have died after getting the shot in four months during a single vaccination campaign than from all other vaccines combined over more than a decade and a half. Chart that out. It’s a stunning picture.”

It may be a stunning picture, but it’s also a highly misleading and cherry-picked one.

The most crucial thing to note at the outset is that just because someone died after getting the vaccine doesn’t mean they died because of it. This is a point we’ll return to.

Another is that data in the VAERS system is unverified. Anyone can submit claims about what happened to them or someone they know. The idea is to give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tons of data to use and then evaluate potential links between vaccines and side effects. As The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss noted last month:
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Anti-vaccination activists routinely exaggerate the dangers of vaccines by misinterpreting and misusing data from EudraVigilance and from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a U.S. government database that allows anyone to self-report “possible side effects or health problems” experienced after a vaccine, even minor ones such as soreness at the injection site.

In other words, it’s not the final word. It’s a bunch of open-access data that anyone can submit and that lots of amateur sleuths can then comb through.

The CDC, for its part, says it has analyzed the reports of deaths after coronavirus vaccines through May 3 and found no connection between the vaccine and deaths. “A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records has not established a causal link to COVID-19 vaccines,” it says. Carlson did not cite this. Even if he might not believe it — which seems quite likely — it would seem worth a mention.

But even if the data was completely accurate, would it truly be surprising?

The fact is that lots of people have received the vaccine — so many that plenty were going to die of something in the months that followed. By April 23, the end point of the data Carlson cited, more than 135 million people had received at least one dose, more than 40 percent of all Americans.
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According to CDC data, an estimated 8,000 Americans die every day of all causes. That’s 1 in every 41,000 people, every day. If you apply that number to 135 million people who are vaccinated, you’d expect that more than 3,000 people who were vaccinated would be dying every day right now — again, of something. That’s significantly more than the 30 per day Carlson suggests is alarming. Even if you account for the gradual increase in vaccinations, the idea that we’d be seeing hundreds and then thousands of vaccinated people dying per day is completely expected.

It’s also very likely that many people whose vaccinated loved ones die would submit that information — either because they think the vaccine may have played a role, or because they simply want to help the government make that determination. As many as 1 in 5 Americans have reported hesitation to get the vaccines because of safety concerns, which is a lot of people who may be tempted to report such things when loved ones die.

And the vaccinated population isn’t just a random sample of 135 million Americans; the earliest vaccine efforts focused on elderly people who were more susceptible to the worst of the virus — and were also more susceptible to dying of other causes. In other words, we’d expect more deaths from all causes of vaccinated people.
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The Pfizer clinical trial also showed that, of more than 18,000 people who received a placebo — i.e. not the vaccine — two later died. If you apply that rate to the more than 100 million people getting a vaccine, you get more than 10,000 deaths, and in a shorter time period than the one Carlson describes.

Carlson’s call for alarm didn’t rest only on the raw numbers, though. It also relied on comparing deaths after the coronavirus vaccine to deaths after other vaccines.

“Every flu season, for example, we give influenza shots to more than 116 million Americans,” Carlson said. “Every year, a relatively small number of people seem to die after getting those shots. To be precise, in 2019, that number was 203 people. The year before that, 2018, it was 119 people. In 2017, it was a total of just 85 people who died after getting the flu shot.”
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It’s not at all clear where Carlson got his data, but it’s abundantly clear that he’s comparing apples and oranges. Although his data on the coronavirus vaccine are deaths after vaccination — and not necessarily because of it — it rather surely relies on a more established, causal link. (Flu vaccines have been connected to anaphylaxis and other side effects that can be life-threatening. As with the coronavirus vaccines, those side effects are exceedingly rare.) There is no question that exponentially more than 203 out of 100 million people who got the flu vaccine in 2019 went on to die of something in the months that followed.

As for Carlson’s broader case that deaths after coronavirus vaccinations far exceed deaths after other vaccines — he specifically mentioned the vaccine for bacterial meningitis — again, this is apples to oranges. Even if the data from VAERS was ironclad, vaccines are generally given to children, who are significantly less likely to die of something else in impending months and years, because they are young.

The final point is the rhetorical inconsistency. Carlson’s show last year was among those suggesting that the official death toll from the coronavirus might be inflated. The claim was often that people who died after contracting the virus might have in fact died of something else — this despite their deaths coming very shortly after infection and us knowing that the coronavirus exacerbates other preexisting conditions. Carlson is now effectively making the opposite implication: that we should all be very suspicious that people who get the vaccine and then die actually died because of the vaccine and not because of something else — even as the numbers he cited are deeply within the expected range.

ny times logoNew York Times, British Political Veteran Steers Facebook’s Trump Decision, Adam Satariano and Cecilia Kang, May 6, 2021 (print ed.). Nick Clegg, a former deputy prime minister, has shaped the company’s handling of Donald Trump at every turn.

When Facebook barred President Donald J. Trump from its service in January, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, defended the decision in a Facebook post the morning after the siege of the Capitol. But the first draft was written the night before by Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister who leads the company’s public affairs.

More than a week later, Mr. Clegg urged Mr. Zuckerberg to let a new outside panel decide whether to let Mr. Trump back on Facebook, employees involved in the deliberations said. Handing over control of one of the most consequential free-speech decisions of the internet age was risky advice, and some in the company wondered if Mr. Zuckerberg would agree.

“I defer to you, Nick,” Mr. Zuckerberg said, according to Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Facebook who was at the meeting.

On Wednesday the panel, the Facebook Oversight Board, upheld the decision to suspend Mr. Trump’s account, preventing him from posting to Facebook or Instagram. But the board said Facebook had made a mistake imposing an “indefinite” ban, and it called on the company to revisit the ban within six months, to either make it permanent or set a timeline for reinstatement.

Mr. Clegg played perhaps the biggest behind-the-scenes role in decisions around Mr. Trump’s account, colleagues said, an unlikely position for a British political veteran in such an important moment for American free speech. He developed the main justification used by Mr. Zuckerberg for barring Mr. Trump, and he oversaw the creation of the board, including the selection of its members.

The board’s ruling on Mr. Trump tests the argument that Mr. Clegg championed inside Facebook: Instead of taking all the responsibility for moderation, the company should enlist a quasi-judicial board of outside experts to make the final decision. Many have questioned Facebook’s effort to create a global arbiter of speech, including some company employees, arguing in part that it lacks legitimacy because the board is Facebook-funded and stacked with hand-selected representatives.

But Mr. Clegg has said that absent rules from governments, Facebook had few good options other than creating a statelike institution of its own.

Mr. Clegg, 54, declined to comment for this article. But Facebook made executives available to discuss his role at the company, many on the condition that their names not be published. Mr. Clegg also connected The New York Times with several people outside Facebook to speak favorably of him. The Times also spoke with members of the oversight board, academics, political figures, civil society groups and others familiar with Mr. Clegg’s work.

Mr. Clegg joined Facebook in 2018 to oversee its policy and public relations team after his political star had faded. The leader of the left-leaning Liberal Democrats, he was voted out of office in 2017 after alienating supporters by joining Britain’s Conservative Party in forming a coalition government. After Britain increased college tuition, cutouts of Mr. Clegg were hanged in effigy by protesters in London.

Facebook wanted Mr. Clegg to help repair its relationships with regulators, political leaders and the media after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when data improperly pulled from Facebook was used to create voter profiles. Mr. Clegg’s international experience and comfort in five languages — English, Spanish, French, German and Dutch — appealed to the American-centric company.

Friends said Mr. Clegg had initially been reluctant to join Facebook, one of the world’s most polarizing corporations. But he wanted to be back at the center of important political and policy debates. In a memo outlining how he envisioned the role, he argued that it was unsustainable for a private company like Facebook, rather than democratically elected governments, to have so much power, especially on speech-related issue

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Observers report ballots and laptop computers have been left unattended in Ariz. recount, says secretary of state, Rosalind S. Helderman, May 6, 2021 (print ed.). Ballots have been left unattended on counting tables.

Laptop computers sit abandoned, at times — open, unlocked and unmonitored.

Procedures are constantly shifting, with untrained workers using different rules to count ballots.

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) on Wednesday sent a letter outlining a string of problems that she said observers from her office have witnessed at a Republican-led recount of the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona’s largest county.

In the six-page letter, Hobbs wrote that elections are “governed by a complex framework of laws and procedures designed to ensure accuracy, security, and transparency” but that the procedures governing the ongoing recount in Phoenix “ensure none of those things.”

Former Arizona secretary of state Ken Bennett (R), who is acting as a spokesman for the audit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the audit’s Twitter account, @ArizonaAudit, tweeted that Hobbs’s allegations were “baseless claimes [sic].”

“The audit continues!” read the tweet.

On Wednesday, a top official in the Justice Department’s civil rights division wrote in a letter to the state Senate president that information reviewed by the department “raises concerns,” asking that the Arizona Senate provide information to ensure federal laws were not being violated. She wrote that reports suggested that ballots were “not being adequately safeguarded by contractors at an insecure facility, and are at risk of being lost, stolen, altered, compromised or destroyed.”

The recount of Maricopa County’s nearly 2.1 million ballots was ordered by the GOP-led state Senate, despite the fact that county officials, as well as state and federal judges, found no merit to claims that the vote was tainted by fraud or other problems.

Republicans hired a Florida-based private contractor called Cyber Ninjas, whose chief executive has echoed former president Donald Trump’s false allegations of fraud, to handle the recount

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden dismisses McConnell’s pledge that he’s ‘100 percent’ focused on stopping the administration, Eugene Scott, May 6, 2021 (print ed.). The Senate minority leader’s comment echoed his statement during the Obama administration when he said his goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president.

joe biden oPresident Biden on Wednesday dismissed the pledge by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that his top priority is to stop the administration’s ambitious spending plans, insisting that he will push for compromise and achieve his goals.

“He said that about the last administration — about Barack, that he was going to stop everything — and I was able to get a lot done with him,” the president said in response to questions at the White House.

Earlier in the day, McConnell (R-Ky.), left, had told reporters that Biden is supporting policies that would turn the United States into a socialist country, a frequent line of attack from the right that the president and other Democrats reject as false.

Mitchell_McConnell“One hundred percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration,” McConnell said during an appearance in Georgetown, Ky. “I think the best way to look at what this new administration is: The president may have won the nomination, but Bernie Sanders won the argument.”

McConnell’s comments about the Biden administration were reminiscent of those he made just before the 2010 midterm elections stating that the main priority for Republicans was to ensure President Barack Obama did not get reelected.

republican elephant logo“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” McConnell told the National Journal.

Long-standing ties between Biden and McConnell could shape early agenda

Throughout the presidential campaign, Biden focused on his record of working with Republicans on bipartisan legislation during his decades in the Senate and later in negotiations with McConnell during his tenure as vice president.

But his talk of bipartisanship has run headlong into political acrimony and party divisions. No Republican in the House or Senate voted for Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, and the GOP is resisting Biden’s multitrillion-dollar spending plans. At the same time, Republicans have complained that Biden is unwilling to stick to his campaign pledge to reach out to the GOP.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Will Democrats break the GOP’s deficit doom loop? E.J. Dionne Jr., right, May 6, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans understand it. The rest of the country should, too. The real game-ej dionne w open neckchanger in President Biden’s raft of policy proposals is the revenue he would raise from the wealthy.

Biden’s plans are routinely described as big, bold and progressive. This is true but incomplete. Yes, Biden is making ambitious efforts to grapple with long-standing shortfalls in public investment.

But Biden has not cooked up some radical, untested concoction. He’s advancing programs that have been successful in U.S. states and in other well-off democratic nations. Many of his plans were proposed and vetted in Congress over the past decade. Team Biden knows that familiarity breeds comfort and long-term coalition-building.

Nonetheless, what’s really bold is Biden’s effort to create a stream of revenue through higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations that would support his efforts on education, child care, democratic donkey logoinfrastructure and more help for low-income families.

irs logoBiden’s tax program, including an enforcement effort to make it harder for corporations and the well-to-do to evade what they owe, is designed to break a vicious cycle.

Since the early 1990s, Democrats coming into office after a GOP era have had to raise taxes just to ease deficits Republican tax cuts created in previous administrations. Then, when Republicans came back into power, they enacted more tax cuts (often accompanied by higher levels of military spending). “One of the problems the Democrats have in fixing the budget,” Scott said, “is if we fix it and a Republican administration comes in, they’ll wreck it.”

This process has contributed to a revenue shortfall over time. Federal revenue as a share of gross domestic product has dropped from 20 percent in 2000 to 16.3 percent in 2019. A calculation the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) made at my request found that if federal revenue returned to 20 percent of GDP — a long way from socialism, you might notice — the government would collect some $680 billion more in 2022 than it would under current law.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Biden’s claim his plans don’t ‘add a single penny to our deficit,’ Glenn Kessler, May 6, 2021.  

“Here’s what the American Families Plan doesn’t do: It doesn’t add a single penny to our deficit.”

President Biden, remarks at Tidewater Community College, May 3

irs logoThe federal budget deficit used to be an all-consuming problem for the denizens of Washington. Biden, after a half-century in politics, would well remember those battles, having been in the middle of many of them.

The budget deficit is less of an issue these days, in part because Republicans passed debt-financed tax cuts that sent the deficit soaring. But Biden appears to believe it is still somewhat important to voters. He has regularly assured Americans that his plans to boost federal spending by more than $4 trillion won’t increase the deficit at all — not even by a “single penny.”

That’s a high bar. So let’s check the president’s math.

The Facts

Biden mostly plans to pay for his spending proposals with higher taxes on the wealthy — people making more than $400,000 a year — and on corporations. He also plans to bolster tax enforcement and tax audits to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion by companies and the rich.

The Families Plan in theory is also an investment — in better education, for instance — but it’s a more traditional spending plan of transfer payments. These keep going, year after year. In any case, the tax increases would be permanent, at least until another president seeks to rewrite the tax code.

If you accept a 15-year budget window, Biden has identified how he plans to pay for his programs so that, over that cicada-like time period, any borrowed money will be paid back, including interest on the debt borrowed earlier in the cycle. But it’s a close call. The true test will come when the CBO looks under the hood and tests the administration’s numbers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Kevin McCarthy says he rented a ‘room’ — in a 7,000-square-foot penthouse, Glenn Kessler, May 6, 2021 (print ed.).

“Frank [Luntz] has been a friend of mine for more than 30 years. … I’ve rented a room from Frank for a couple of months, but don’t worry, I’m back to — going back to where I normally am, on my couch in my office. But, yes, we pay fair market rate.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), in an interview on Fox & Friends, May 4

Kevin McCarthy, below left, was criticized the other night by Tucker Carlson of Fox News Channel for renting an apartment in the District from pollster Frank Luntz, a longtime Republican pollster who also does a lot of corporate work (and has been critical of former president Donald Trump).

Kevin McCarthy“Kevin McCarthy promises Republicans he shares their values,” Carlson said. “He tells them he’s on their side. He says he will fight for them against permanent Washington, the forces that would like to destroy their lives … and at the end of the day, Kevin McCarthy goes home to Frank Luntz’s apartment in Penn Quarter and laughs about it.”
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In his response, McCarthy shrugged off the comment and described Luntz as a friend he first met in 1994, when he was a staff member for then-Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.). “Frank’s not a lobbyist. Frank’s a friend I knew for 15 years before I ever got in,” McCarthy said, apparently referring roughly to when he became a member of Congress in 2007.

Actually, that friendship had already included some business. Luntz conducted a poll in 2000 for yrock.com, which McCarthy started when he was national chairman of the Young Republicans. Yrock was an abbreviation for Young Republican Online Community Network.

So what kind of apartment is this?

It’s a 7,000-square-foot space — a combination of four penthouse apartments — with what appear to be homeowner’s association (HOA) fees of nearly $5,000 per month.

Mississippi Free Press, The ‘End Times’ Are Here, Mississippi Elections Chief Says, Calling For Christian Leaders to Heed the Signs, Ashton Pittman, May 6, 2021. Mississippi needs Christian leadership to steward the state through the coming tribulations as Armageddon draws near, Secretary of State Michael Watson, the top elections official, announced at a prayer event alongside other state leaders today.

“I believe we need Christian men and women in office today more than ever before. And if you’re a believer, if you’re a member of the church, you understand the signs of the times right now,” Watson, the son of a pentecostal preacher from the Assembly of God denomination, said today. “In the last few years, no more than ever before in the history of the church, we see the end times.”

Watson made the comments during the Mississippi National Day of Prayer event at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson. The organizers behind the event are part of a national evangelical organization, the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

‘Seven Spheres of Influence’

Today’s event in Jackson included leaders from each of what the national task force describes as “the seven centers of power” it wants to influence: government, military, media and arts, business and commerce, education, church and family. In its press release announcing today’s event, National Day of Prayer Mississippi called them “the seven spheres of influence in our culture.”

The organization borrows the idea from the New Apostolic Reformation movement’s “seven mountains mandate” theology, which teaches that God has begun “raising up” Christian apostles and prophets in the United States to take dominion over the “seven mountains” (or “spheres”) of political and cultural influence.

Seen on the stage at the prayer event are leaders in government, military, media and arts, business and commerce, education, church and family

The May 6, 2021, Mississippi National Day of Prayer event in Jackson included leaders from each of what the National Day of Prayer Task Force describes as “the seven centers of power” it wants to influence: government, military, media and arts, business and commerce, education, church and family. Photo courtesy Mississippi National Guard

Critics of the movement, which dates back to the 1970s, accuse it of promoting theocracy. NAR leaders and other proponents of the seven mountains mandate, also known as dominion theology, gained heightened mainstream prominence during the Trump administration. Trump’s former White House spiritual advisor, Tupelo-native Paula White, is a practitioner of seven mountains dominion theology.

Jennifer Biard, the pastor of Jackson Revival Center Church, told attendees that she was there to “pray for the cultural mountain of education.”

“Father, use our prayer today that our schools, our colleges and universities may become centers for revival. Father, we pray that instead of faith being torn down, faith would be built up. … We pray that the Holy Spirit would use Christian administrators and faculty members as mighty forces for good,” she prayed.

Selika Corley-Funchess, who is on the board of Jubilee Havens, an anti-sex-trafficking organization, prayed for child-trafficking victims and also against abortion—a top issue for evangelicals.

‘A Nation That Is In Peril’

Gov. Tate Reeves was the first speaker at today’s event. Both as lieutenant governor and governor, he has prioritized evangelical causes, such as anti-abortion legislation, “religious liberty” laws that enshrined religion-based discrimination against LGBTQ people into state law and a recent ban on transgender high school and college sports participation.

Debra Brown, one of the Mississippi National Day of Prayer group’s organizers, praised the governor for doing an “amazing job” leading the state.

“He is a conservative who believes in the power of prayer and remains committed to working toward the people of Mississippi,” Brown said as she introduced Reeves, who promoted the event on his official social media pages.

Colonel Terry Partin, in uniform, speaks at the Mississippi National Day of Prayer with Secretary of State Michael Watson behind him with his daughter in his lap.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

National Public Radio, New Study Estimates More Than 900,000 People Have Died Of COVID-19 In U.S., Becky Sullivan, May 6, 2021. A new study estimates that the number of people who have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. is more than 900,000, a number 57% higher than official figures.

Worldwide, the study's authors say, the COVID-19 death count is nearing 7 million, more than double the reported number of 3.24 million.The analysis comes from researchers at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, who looked at excess mortality from March 2020 through May 3, 2021, compared it with what would be expected in a typical nonpandemic year, then adjusted those figures to account for a handful of other pandemic-related factors.

The final count only estimates deaths "caused directly by the SARS-CoV-2 virus," according to the study's authors. SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19.

Researchers estimated dramatic undercounts in countries such as India, Mexico and Russia, where they said the official death counts are some 400,000 too low in each country. In some countries — including Japan, Egypt and several Central Asian nations — the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation's death toll estimate is more than 10 times higher than reported totals.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jobless Claims Fell Sharply Last Week, Staff Reports, May 6, 2021. About 505,000 people filed new state unemployment claims as the public health situation continued to improve; The Bank of England predicted a faster recovery and slowed down its bond-buying program. Here’s the latest economic news.

us labor department logoUnemployment filings fell again last week as the improving public health situation and the easing of pandemic-related restrictions allowed the labor market to continue its gradual return to normal.

About 505,000 people filed first-time applications for state jobless benefits, the Labor Department said Thursday, down more than 100,000 from a week earlier. In addition, 101,000 people filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program covering freelancers, self-employed workers and others who don’t qualify for regular benefits. Neither figure is seasonally adjusted.

Applications for unemployment benefits remain high by historical standards, but they have fallen significantly in recent weeks after progress stalled in the fall and winter. Weekly filings for state benefits, which peaked at more than six million last spring, fell below 700,000 for the first time in late March and has now been below that level for four straight weeks.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Administration Backs Lifting Covid Vaccine Patent Protections, Staff Reports, May 6, 2021. The move is a breakthrough for efforts to produce more doses globally as the pandemic rages in India and South America. President Biden had come under pressure to throw support behind loosening rules that protect pharmaceutical trade secrets. Here’s the latest.

Experts say a new federal stockpile of doses in the U.S. and outreach efforts could help immunize underserved communities and ensure vaccines go where they’re most needed.
Here’s what you need to know:

The Biden administration says it will support lifting patent protections to help produce more vaccines globally. In other news:

  • N.Y.’s governor outlines new seating rules for vaccinated baseball fans, and says Broadway will start to reopen Sept. 14.
  • Hunger, maternal deaths and stillbirths have soared during the pandemic.
  • This new vaccine could bring hope to much of the world.
  • Canada authorizes Pfizer’s vaccine for adolescents, but shots won’t begin immediately.

washington post logoWashington Post, 148.6 million vaccinated, as of May 6, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 55.6 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 44.7 % of the total population. See about your state.hat a more transmissible variant was spreading in the nation of some 1.3 billion people, Reuters reported. Authorities, however, refrained from taking more drastic measures to prevent a surge.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 6, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 155,922,363, Deaths: 3,258,295
U.S. Cases:     33,321,244, Deaths:     593,148
India Cases:    21,077,410, Deaths:     230,168
Brazil Cases:   14,936,464, Deaths:     414,645

 

U.S. Crime, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will the Supreme Court Write Guantánamo’s Final Chapter? Linda Greenhouse (shown at right on the cover of her memoir), May 6, 2021. The Guantánamo story may finally linda greenhouse cover just a journalistbe coming to an end, and as the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches, the question is who will write the last chapter, the White House or the Supreme Court?

President Biden has vowed to close the island detention center, through which nearly 800 detainees have passed since it opened in early 2002 to house some of the “worst of the worst,” in the words of the Pentagon at the time. Many of the detainees turned out to be junior jihadists, if that; bounty hunters in Afghanistan had turned over to the eager Americans pretty much anyone they could find, including a hapless group of 17 Uyghurs who were fleeing the Chinese and meant the United States no harm. The inmate count is now down to 40.

President Barack Obama also wanted to close Guantánamo but couldn’t manage to do it. Circumstances are different now: Not only is the “forever war” in Afghanistan about to end, but politicians won’t find it easy to scare voters with images of the older, wobbly detainees who now make up much of the Guantánamo population. Still, Mr. Biden is likely to need cooperation from Congress to transfer any of the facility’s detainees to the U.S. mainland.

President Biden may get lucky. But in the meantime, a case is on a path to the Supreme Court that will give the justices a chance to redeem the court’s own failed Guantánamo promises.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rod Rosenstein is about to go through some things, Bill Palmer, May 6, 2021. Arguably the biggest heel turn during the entire Trump debacle was when Rod Rosenstein – who had rod rosenstein head croppedappointed Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the first place – was revealed to have been sabotaging Mueller’s investigation from the start, and then helped Bill Barr bury Mueller’s findings.

We’ve long been wondering when Rosenstein, right, would finally get called to the carpet for his role in one of the most egregious instances of felony obstruction of justice in American history. It turns out that when a federal judge slam dunked Bill Barr this week, the judge also made things rather ugly for Rosenstein.

bill palmer report logo headerAttorney Dirk Schwenk dug through the judge’s ruling and came to this conclusion on Twitter: “I have just begun to dig into Judge Jackson’s ruling re: the March 24, 2019 Memo on prosecuting Trump for obstruction. It looks very bad for Rod Rosenstein. I have always been ready to change opinions in light of evidence. This is evidence.”

Schwenk then posted a lengthy thread detailing how Rod Rosenstein appears to have played a particularly ugly role in the conspiracy to obstruct justice in the name of protecting Donald Trump. The thread is well worth reading. If the DOJ ends up indicting Trump and Barr for obstruction, Rosenstein could end up indicted with them.

christopher bauer mug

This photo provided by the Montgomery County, Ala. Detention Center shows Christopher Bauer after his Tuesday, April 27, 2021 arrest. The Alabama state trooper who was arrested on charges he raped an 11-year-old girl had been kicked out of the FBI amid a string of sexual misconduct allegations but was hired by the state agency anyway with the apparent help of a fake bureau letter that scrubbed his record clean. (Montgomery County Detention Center via AP.)

ap logoAssociated Press, Investigation: Trooper charged in child rape hid checkered FBI past, Jim Mustian and Kim Chandler, May 5, 2021. An Alabama state trooper arrested last week on charges he raped an 11-year-old girl had been kicked out of the FBI amid a string of sexual misconduct allegations but was hired by the state agency with the apparent help of a fake bureau letter that scrubbed his record clean.

An Associated Press investigation found Christopher Bauer was suspended without pay and stripped of his security clearance in the FBI’s New Orleans office in late 2018 — effectively fired — amid allegations that included a co-worker’s claim that he raped her at knifepoint.

But Alabama authorities either overlooked or were unaware of that history. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, the state police, told AP that it conducted a “full and thorough” investigation into Bauer’s background when he applied to be a trooper in 2019 and that “no derogatory comments were uncovered by former employers.”
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Bauer indicated on his application that he was still employed by the FBI and had never been dismissed or forced to resign because of disciplinary action. And the state’s law enforcement credentialing commission provided AP a copy of a letter — purportedly from FBI headquarters — that makes no mention of Bauer’s ouster, confirms his decade of “creditable service” and deems him “eligible for rehire.”

“The letter is not legitimate,” the FBI said in a statement to the AP on Wednesday. Bureau officials would not say who they believe forged the letter.

Bauer, 41, was arrested last week in Montgomery on charges including sodomy and sexual abuse of a child under 12. The AP is withholding some details of the allegations to protect the girl’s identity.

Bauer remained jailed Wednesday on $105,000 bail, and court records do not list an attorney who could comment on his behalf. An attorney who represented Bauer in challenging his ouster from the FBI did not respond to requests for comment.

The FBI declined to say whether it was asked for any information about Bauer’s suitability to be hired by the state police.

“You have to ask yourself why an agent from the FBI would want to leave after 10 years,” said Lou Reiter, a policing consultant and former deputy chief with the Los Angeles Police Department. “They obviously didn’t do any kind of due diligence with their background check.”

“There have to be phone calls,” added Michael Avery, a retired professor at Suffolk University’s Law School and an expert on police misconduct.

Bauer resigned from the state police following his arrest, citing “personal reasons.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas Lawyer Gets 15 Years for Scheme to Defraud Cocaine Traffickers, Azi Paybarah, May 6, 2021 (print ed.). A Texas lawyer known as the D.W.I. Dude for specializing in defending clients charged with driving while intoxicated and drug possession was sentenced this week to more than 15 years in prison for a scheme to pocket money that Colombian cocaine traffickers had been told would go to bribe officials, federal prosecutors said.

According to prosecutors, the lawyer, James Morris Balagia, 65, of Manor, Texas, and two associates solicited payments from drug traffickers he was representing and told them that the money would be paid as bribes in return for favorable treatment of their cases.

The federal authorities were alerted to the scheme by the drug dealers whom Mr. Balagia and his associates were targeting, according to Joe Brown, a former U.S. attorney. “Fortunately for him, these drug dealers chose to turn him in to the F.B.I. rather than handle it any other way,” Mr. Brown said at an earlier stage of the case, The Dallas Morning News reported.

In addition to the prison sentence, Mr. Balagia, a former police officer, was ordered to surrender his law office building in Manor, a suburb of Austin.

The clients Mr. Balagia is accused of targeting had been tagged as “specially designated narcotics traffickers” by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, a financial intelligence and enforcement agency of the U.S. Treasury Department, according to federal prosecutors in Texas. “These individuals were considered some of the biggest drug traffickers in the world,” the prosecutors said.

Justice Integrity Project, Medical Expert, Oswald's Friend, Debunks Accused JFK Killer’s Portrayal, Andrew Kreig, May 6, 2021. A new book disputes false portrayals of Lee Harvey Oswald, whom officials promptly named in 1963 as the sole assassin of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas.

"Oswald: Russian Episode" reveals Oswald’s true character and rebuts claims that his personality made him a likely assassin of JFK.

“The real Oswald,” concludes the author, Professor Ernst Titovets, M.D., Ph.D., based on his close friendship with the American six decades ago, “had no reason whatsoever – either political or personal – to murder John F. Kennedy.”

This book culminates the scientist’s painstaking research conducted over many years to reveal the character of Oswald, which is still largely unknown to the general public.

ernst titovets new coverThe book, initially privately published, has been updated and is now widely available in Western nations for the first time. This follows publication on May 6 by Eagle View Books, based in Washington, DC. The book launch was timed for continuing interest in both the JFK assassination, as indicated by a continued publication of new books in recent months, as well as ramped up interest in so-called "conspiracy theories."

At a major annual research conference from Nov. 20-22 about the JFK assassination organized by Citizens Against Political Assassination (CAPA), investigative reporter Andrew Kreig, Eagle View’s book editor on this project and also editor of the Justice Integrity Project, moderated a CAPA panel of experts reviewing media coverage of JFK’s death.

Kreig has written and spoken extensively on the topic, documenting how criticism of the Warren Commission report on the JFK can be solidly researched and thus is far different from wild and otherwise unsupported claims commonly derided as "conspiracy theory."

The Justice Integrity Project also has published a 55-part "Readers Guide to the JFK Assassination: Books, Videos, Archives, Commentary," which is excerpted below with links.

Professor Titovets, who is still active as an accomplished researcher on brain functions, provides a gripping and historically important challenge to conventional wisdom regarding the 1963 assassination.

His account describes first-hand appraisals of what he regards as the shockingly misguided research of such Oswald biographers whom he met as Norman Mailer.

To recap JFK’s history-changing death: Oswald, an ex-Marine was arrested soon after Kennedy’s murder by gunfire in downtown Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Oswald denied killing the president. ernst titovets book back cover portrait newTwo days after Oswald’s arrest, nightclub owner Jack Ruby murdered him in a Dallas police station. That enabled authorities for the most part to condemn Oswald as JFK’s sole assassin without trial, despite vast and still-lingering public skepticism about the official story.

Professor Titovets, shown at right, expertly refutes the standard portrayals of Oswald as a loner and mentally deranged man prone to violence. He draws on their friendship during the years Oswald spent in the former Soviet Union, beginning in 1959 at the height of the Cold War.

Oswald, who previously had worked as a U.S. Marine technician in Japan with clearance for high secrets on the then-highly classified U-2 spy plane missions, undertook a supposed “defection” to the Soviet Union that in some ways previewed the plot of the future James Bond thriller “From Russia With Love.”

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, French journalist kidnapped by radical Islamists in Mali appears in video pleading for his life, Erin Cunningham, May 6, 2021 (print ed.). A French journalist abducted by militants in Mali last month appeared in a video Wednesday pleading for his release.

Olivier Dubois was kidnapped in the northeastern city of Gao on April 8 by an al-Qaeda-linked affiliate known by the acronym JNIM, according to the video and press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

“I’m Olivier Dubois. I’m French. I’m a journalist. I was kidnapped in Gao on April 8 by the JNIM,” he said in a 21-second video shared on social media. “I’m speaking to my family, my friends and the French authorities for them to do everything in their power to free me,” he said.

Al-Qaeda and Islamic State groups are working together in West Africa to grab large swaths of territory. The head of Reporters Without Borders, Christophe Deloire, said on Twitter on Wednesday that he had been notified of Dubois’s disappearance two days after he failed to return to his hotel in Gao. Dubois was working for France’s Liberation newspaper and Le Point magazine, said Deloire, who called him a “seasoned journalist” who knew the country well.

washington post logoWashington Post, Italian jury convicts two Americans of murder, with sentence of life in prison, for killing police officer in Rome, Chico Harlan, May 6, 2021 (print ed.). The verdict, almost certain to be appealed, concludes a lengthy initial trial that examined how a night that started with two Americans trying to buy drugs ended with an officer bleeding to death on a Roman street, stabbed 11 times.

An Italian jury on Wednesday convicted two Americans of murder, with a punishment of life in prison, a decision that comes nearly two years after the men had been charged with killing an Italian police officer while on vacation in Rome.

Finnegan Lee Elder, now 21, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 20, received Italy’s harshest possible sentences after a full day of jury deliberation.

The verdict is almost certain to be appealed. But it marks the conclusion of a lengthy initial trial that examined how a night that started with two Americans trying to buy drugs ended with an officer bleeding to death on the street, stabbed 11 times.

The case has attracted plenty of attention in Italy, in part because it is exceedingly rare for tourists to be charged with violent crimes. The carabinieri officer, Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, had been a newlywed and was hailed as a hero after his death, honored with a state funeral. Then-Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called his “broken life” a deep national wound.

The trial examined whether the two Americans, high school friends from California, knew whether Cerciello Rega and his partner were police officers during their late-night encounter. Elder, who admitted to the stabbing, said he thought he was being jumped by a drug dealer who’d tackled him and pinned him down. But Cerciello Rega’s partner described the encounter differently and said the officers had shown the Americans their badges.

Like his acquaintance, Natale-Hjorth had been charged with homicide, based on his involvement in the events that led to the slaying.

As the defendants were ushered out of the courtroom, Elder’s father called out, “Finnegan, I love you,” according to the Associated Press. Cerciello Rega’s widow sobbed and hugged the slain officer’s brother.

Elder and Natale-Hjorth had started the evening of July 25, 2019, trying to score drugs in the lively Roman neighborhood of Trastevere. The two had given 80 euros to a middleman for cocaine. But they’d been swindled and received an over-the-counter pain medicine.

The Americans, as retribution, ran off with the middleman’s backpack, returning to the area of their hotel. The backpack contained the middleman’s phone, and when he called from another number, the Americans answered. They agreed to meet again.

That’s how, well after midnight, Elder and Natale-Hjorth were on the streets of Rome, trying to get their money back. They expected the middleman.

But instead, it was Cerciello Rega and his partner, Andrea Varriale, responding to the reported theft. The officers arrived in plainclothes, without their weapons. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Teen accused of rigging vote to become homecoming queen will be tried as an adult, Marisa Iati, May 6, 2021 (print ed.). Emily Grover and her mother, Laura Carroll, face felony charges over allegations that they cast hundreds of illegal ballots so Grover would become her Florida high school’s homecoming queen.

On the day she was crowned homecoming queen, Emily Grover wore a sparkly silver dress. A bouquet of roses rested in the crook of her arm, and a crown adorned her curled blond hair.

Then the achievement crashed down around her: Prosecutors accused her and her mother, an assistant principal in the same school district, of casting hundreds of illicit votes to rig the election. Grover was expelled from her high school, and her mother, Laura Carroll, was suspended from her job.

Prosecutors have moved to try Grover as an adult, the Florida State Attorney’s Office for Escambia County confirmed. Grover was 17 when she was charged with felonies in March but turned 18 last month.

The case’s transfer to adult court, first reported by NorthEscambia.com, enables a judge to choose whether to impose adult or juvenile sanctions if Grover is found guilty. Juvenile courts lose jurisdiction over defendants when they turn 18.

Carroll and Grover, of Cantonment, Fla., about 18 miles north of Pensacola, are charged with offenses against computer users, criminal use of personally identifiable information, unlawful use of a two-way communications device and conspiracy to commit those offenses.

Days after Grover was elected Tate High School’s homecoming queen on Oct. 30, the Escambia County School District contacted law enforcement to report unauthorized access to student accounts, according to an arrest warrant. Hundreds of votes had been flagged as suspicious, including 117 that came from the same IP address within a short period.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Colorado man pleaded for the safe return of his missing wife. A year later, he’s charged with her murder, Jaclyn Peiser, May 6, 2021. His voice raspy and his eyes on the verge of spilling tears, Barry Morphew made a desperate plea last May for the safe return of his wife, Suzanne, who had been missing for a week after not returning from a Mother’s Day bike ride.

“Oh Suzanne, if anyone is out there that can hear this, that has you, please, we’ll do whatever it takes to bring you back. ... No questions asked. However much they want. I will do whatever it takes to get you back,” he said in the video posted on Facebook. “Honey, I love you. I want you back so bad.”

On Wednesday, just shy of a year since Suzanne’s disappearance, the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office announced an arrest in the case: Her husband, Barry. 

 

May 5

Top Headlines  

  

Trump's Election Lies, U.S. Voter Suppression

 

Media News

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Crime, Courts

 

World News

 

Top Stories

May 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Oversight Board Upholds Social Network’s Ban of Trump, Mike Isaac, May 5, 2021. A company-appointed panel ruled that the ban was justified at the time but added that the company should reassess its action and make a final decision in six months.

A Facebook-appointed panel of journalists, activists and lawyers on Wednesday upheld the social network’s ban of former President Donald J. Trump, ending any immediate return by Mr. Trump to mainstream social media and renewing a debate about tech power over online speech.

Facebook’s Oversight Board, which acts as a quasi-court over the company’s content decisions, said the social network was right to bar Mr. Trump after he used the site to foment an insurrection in Washington in January. The panel said the ongoing risk of violence “justified” the move.

facebook logoBut the board also said that an indefinite suspension was “not appropriate,” and that the company should apply a “defined penalty.” The board gave Facebook six months to make its final decision on Mr. Trump’s account status.

“Our sole job is to hold this extremely powerful organization, Facebook, to be held accountable,” Michael McConnell, co-chair of the Oversight Board, said on a call with reporters. The ban on Mr. Trump “did not meet these standards,” he said.

The decision adds difficulties to Mr. Trump rejoining mainstream social media, which he had used during his White House years to cajole, set policy, criticize opponents and rile up his tens of millions of followers. Twitter and YouTube had also cut off Mr. Trump in January after the insurrection at the Capitol building, saying the risk of harm and the potential for violence that he created were too great.

But while Mr. Trump’s Facebook account remains suspended for now, he may be able to return to the social network once the company reviews its action. Mr. Trump still holds tremendous sway over Republicans, with his false claims of a stolen election continuing to reverberate. On Wednesday, House Republican leaders moved to expel Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming from her leadership post for criticizing Mr. Trump and his election lies.

In a statement, Mr. Trump did not directly address the Oversight Board’s ruling. But he slammed Facebook, Google and Twitter and called them corrupt. “Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left Lunatics are afraid of the truth,” he said.

Mr. Trump’s continued Facebook suspension gave Republicans, who have long accused social media companies of suppressing conservative voices, new fuel against the platforms. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has testified in Congress several times in recent years about whether the social network has shown bias against conservative political views. He has denied it.

Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, said the Facebook board’s decision was “extremely disappointing” and that it was “clear that Mark Zuckerberg views himself as the arbiter of free speech.” And Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, said Facebook, which faces antitrust scrutiny, should be broken up.

  

Attorney Gen. William Barr, center, announces his version of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, flanked by aides Rod Rosenstein and Edward O'Callaghan (C-SPAN photo).

 Attorney Gen. William Barr, center, announces his version of the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in 2019, flanked by aides Rod Rosenstein and Edward O'Callaghan, while keeping the text of the Mueller Report largely secret for weeks while news coverage focused on the Barr verbal version, supplemented by his written excerpts (C-SPAN photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Says Barr Misled on How His Justice Dept. Viewed Trump’s Actions, Michael S. Schmidt, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in a ruling that the misleading statements were similar to others that William P. Barr, the former attorney general, had made about the Mueller investigation.

A federal judge in Washington accused the Justice Department under Attorney General William P. Barr of misleading her and Congress about advice he had received from top department officials on whether President Donald J. Trump should have been charged with obstructing the Russia investigation and ordered that a related memo be released.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson, shown in a file photo, of the United States District Court in Washington said in a ruling late Monday that the Justice Department’s obfuscation appeared to be part of a pattern in which top amy berman jacksonofficials like Mr. Barr were untruthful to Congress and the public about the investigation.

The department had argued that the memo was exempt from public records laws because it consisted of private advice from lawyers whom Mr. Barr had relied on to make the call on prosecuting Mr. Trump. But Judge Jackson ruled that it contained strategic advice, and that Mr. Barr and his aides already understood what his decision would be.

Justice Department log circular“The fact that he would not be prosecuted was a given,” Judge Jackson wrote of Mr. Trump.

She also singled out Mr. Barr for how he had spun the investigation’s findings in a letter summarizing the 448-page report before it was released, which allowed Mr. Trump to claim he had been exonerated.

“The attorney general’s characterization of what he’d hardly had time to skim, much less study closely, prompted an immediate reaction, as politicians and pundits took to their microphones and Twitter feeds to decry what they feared was an attempt to hide the ball,” Judge Jackson wrote.

Her rebuke shed new light on Mr. Barr’s decision not to prosecute Mr. Trump. She also wrote that although the department portrayed the advice memo as a legal document protected by attorney-client privilege, it was done in concert with Mr. Barr’s publicly released summary, “written by the very same people at the very same time.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Barr did not return an email seeking comment. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

Judge Jackson said that the government had until May 17 to decide whether it planned to appeal her ruling, a decision that will be made by a Justice Department run by Biden appointees.

The ruling came in a lawsuit by a government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, asking that the Justice Department be ordered to turn over a range of documents related to how top law enforcement officials cleared Mr. Trump of wrongdoing.

At issue is how Mr. Barr handled the end of the Mueller investigation and the release of its findings to the public. In March 2019, the office of the special counsel overseeing the inquiry, Robert S. Mueller III, delivered its report to the Justice Department. In a highly unusual decision, Mr. Mueller declined to make a determination about whether Mr. Trump had illegally obstructed justice.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This court ruling just set Donald Trump’s whole life on fire, Bill Palmer, right, May 5, 2021. The minute Donald Trump was declared the loser of the 2020 election, there was never a bill palmerscenario where he and his corrupt allies were going to just “get away with it all.” The legal system, once freed from Trump’s clutches, was always going to do its thing. 

Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s ruling yesterday means that we’re about to see the DOJ memo that proves Bill Barr was lying about how he came to the decision that the DOJ wasn’t allowed to prosecute Donald Trump for obstruction of justice. This may sound a bit legally obtuse in its own right. But it’s the first step in what will be a particularly ugly chain reaction.

bill palmer report logo headerThis ruling and memo will push Trump’s long forgotten obstruction crimes from 2017 and 2018 back into the headlines. At a time when Trump’s adversaries are trying to cement his reputation as a traitor who incited a domestic terrorist attack against the United States government, here comes the reminder that he already committed a felony obstruction of justice attack against the United States government – and then he had his criminal Attorney General try to cover it up.

This memo is going to generate such public demand for Trump to be criminally tried for obstruction of justice, it’ll be difficult for the DOJ to avoid doing so.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon treads carefully as it eyes limiting far-right ties for service members, Missy Ryan, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). Experts say the Pentagon could face legal challenges if it tightens rules that now permit ‘passive’ membership in extremist groups.

Pentagon officials are considering new restrictions on service members’ interactions with far-right groups, part of the military’s reckoning with extremism, but the measures could trigger legal challenges from critics who say they would violate First Amendment rights.

lloyd austin oUnder a review launched by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, Defense Department officials are reexamining rules governing troops’ affiliations with anti-government and white supremacist movements, ties that currently are permissible in limited circumstances.

Austin, who has pledged zero tolerance for extremism, ordered the review after the events of Jan. 6, when rioters including a few dozen veterans — and a handful of current Department of Defense Sealservice members — stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overturn the presidential election results.

A newly formed extremism task force, which includes officials from across the Defense Department, has until July to make recommendations on potential changes to military justice, rules on extremism and related issues that apply to uniformed military personnel, the Coast Guard and Defense Department civilians.

One step the task force is examining would alter a regulation that prohibits troops’ “active” participation in extremist organizations — activities such as fundraising, attending rallies and distributing propaganda — but permits what officials have called “passive” membership, which could include being admitted to groups or possessing their literature.

Officials said Austin, a retired general whom President Biden appointed as the country’s first African American head of the Pentagon, intends to ensure that the basic rights of military personnel are preserved.

“But keep in mind that we have also taken oaths, and we also have a set of values that we as a military and we as a department espouse,” a senior defense official said. “And if that speech isn’t in line with our values, then it makes it arguably impossible for that individual to be a good teammate and to be in line with the good order and discipline of units.” 

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge vacates CDC eviction moratorium, which kept millions of Americans in homes during pandemic, Kyle Swenson, May 5, 2021. In a ruling that could have a tremendous impact on millions of Americans, a federal judge in Washington D.C. on Wednesday ruled that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention overstepped its legal authority when it issued a nationwide eviction moratorium.

cdc logo CustomU.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich’s 20-page order says that the protection, first put in place during the coronavirus pandemic under the Trump administration and now set to run out on June 30, goes too far.

“It is the role of the political branches, and not the courts, to assess the merits of policy measures designed to combat the spread of disease, even during a global pandemic,” the order stated. “The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not.”

Landlords and property owners have consistently challenged the CDC order, arguing the policy sets an undue financial burden on business owners.

“We’ve argued from the beginning that the CDC lacked statutory authority to impose this, and we’ve had multiple courts agree with us on that,” said Luke Wake, an attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation who has represented landlords in similar cases. “Today’s decision again vindicates our argument.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to address nation on implementation of $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, John Wagner, May 5, 2021. Strongmen who got cozy with Trump get the cold shoulder from Biden; Pro-Biden group isn’t wasting time as it tries to win back Hispanic voters for Democrats.

President Biden plans to address the nation Wednesday on the implementation of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in March that included $1,400-per-person stimulus payments, aid to state and local governments and an array of other measures.

Biden’s speech comes as drama continues to unfold over whether Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) will keep her No. 3 leadership post among House Republicans in the wake of her continued criticism of former president Donald Trump. Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) has announced his support for replacing Cheney with Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). In other U.S. political news:

The Biden administration has zinged Russia and China over human rights and alleged thuggery against their neighbors, cut off some arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and stiff-armed Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian leader.

Biden has also snubbed altogether some of former president Donald Trump’s favorite global leaders. Trump invited Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to Mar-a-Lago, bantered with Polish President Andrzej Duda about building a “Fort Trump” to house American forces yanked from ally Germany, and showered North Korean President Kim Jong Un with flowery flattery, a summit invite and a public handshake.

Biden hasn’t so much as spoken to them on the phone.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biden’s proposal would benefit everyone who pays their taxes, Five former IRS commissioners: Lawrence B. Gibbs, Fred T. Goldberg, Margaret M. Richardson, Charles O. Rossotti and John Koskinen, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). As former IRS commissioners, we know the challenges of administering the tax system, which has grown in size and complexity, particularly in recent years.

Yet, during the past decade, budget cuts have substantially diminished the IRS workforce. In real terms, the IRS budget is smaller than it was in 2010, and it has 21,000 fewer employees. The IRS has fewer auditors today than at any time since World War II. Moreover, the agency has struggled to keep pace as complicated tax structures, such as partnerships and pass-throughs, have grown in popularity. Workforce attrition has been most pronounced among agents who examine these complicated tax filings: Thirty-five percent fewer revenue agents handle these returns today than a decade ago.

The writers are former commissioners of the Internal Revenue Service: Lawrence B. Gibbs, 1986 to 1989; Fred T. Goldberg, 1989 to 1992; Margaret M. Richardson, 1993 to 1997; Charles O. Rossotti, 1997 to 2002; John Koskinen, 2013 to 2017.

 

Trump's Election Lies, U.S. Voter Suppression  

capitol mob

Pro-Trump rioters and insurrectionists ar shown after storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and threatening lawmakers unless they overturned November elections and reinstalled Trump for four more years following his repeated claims via social media that he had won re-election and was being deprived of the right to rule because of fraud that was never prove in more than 60 lawsuits by Trump and his allies.

washington post logoWashington Post, The effort to dump Liz Cheney is the consequence of a party that lost its way, Dan Balz, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). For now, Trump has won the battle for the soul of the GOP. Dissenters to his big lie are not welcome.

liz cheney headshot resizedThe growing effort to remove Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), right, from the third-ranking Republican leadership position in the House further accelerates her party’s full capitulation to Donald Trump’s big lie about the 2020 election. The move against Cheney is a sign of political cowardice. While shocking, it is not surprising for a party that has lost its way.

The majority of Republican lawmakers appear to have stopped believing in truth — or lack the courage to speak the truth. Cheney is not among them. She has been fearless in calling out Trump’s lies about a stolen election, and she has been forceful in rebutting the former president whenever he repeats the falsehoods that led to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Her words have been as stinging as they are succinct. In the aftermath of the attack, when she announced that she would vote to impeach the president, she said: “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing. None of this would have happened without the president.”

Could she have been any clearer? Cheney knew then and knows now how wrong Trump was and, just as important, the terrible consequence of the continued spreading of lies to a Republican base dominated by his loyalists.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cheney Opinion: The GOP is at a turning point. History is watching us, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (Liz Cheney, right, a Republican, represents Wyoming’s at-large congressional district in the U.S. House), May 5, 2021. Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution

liz cheney oIn public statements again this week, former president Donald Trump has repeated his claims that the 2020 election was a fraud and was stolen. His message: I am still the rightful president, and President Biden is illegitimate. Trump repeats these words now with full knowledge that exactly this type of language provoked violence on Jan. 6. And, as the Justice Department and multiple federal judges have suggested, there is good reason to believe that Trump’s language can provoke violence again. Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this.

The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution. In the immediate wake of the violence of Jan. 6, almost all of us knew the gravity and the cause of what had just happened — we had witnessed it firsthand.
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House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) left no doubt in his public remarks. On the floor of the House on Jan. 13, McCarthy, left, said: “The president bears responsibility for Kevin McCarthyWednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” Now, McCarthy has changed his story.

I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative values is reverence for the rule of law. Each of us swears an oath before God to uphold our Constitution. The electoral college has spoken. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, have rejected the former president’s arguments, and refused to overturn election results. That is the rule of law; that is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud.

The question before us now is whether we will join Trump’s crusade to delegitimize and undo the legal outcome of the 2020 election, with all the consequences that might have. I have worked overseas in nations where changes in leadership come only with violence, where democracy takes hold only until the next violent upheaval. America is exceptional because our constitutional system guards against that. At the heart of our republic is a commitment to the peaceful transfer of power among political rivals in accordance with law. President Ronald Reagan described this as our American “miracle.”

republican elephant logoWhile embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country. Trump has never expressed remorse or regret for the attack of Jan. 6 and now suggests that our elections, and our legal and constitutional system, cannot be trusted to do the will of the people. This is immensely harmful, especially as we now compete on the world stage against Communist China and its claims that democracy is a failed system.

For Republicans, the path forward is clear.

First, support the ongoing Justice Department criminal investigations of the Jan. 6 attack. Those investigations must be comprehensive and objective; neither the White House nor any member of Congress should interfere.

Second, we must support a parallel bipartisan review by a commission with subpoena power to seek and find facts; it will describe for all Americans what happened. This is critical to defeat the misinformation and nonsense circulating in the press and on social media. No currently serving member of Congress — with an eye to the upcoming election cycle — should participate. We should appoint former officials, members of the judiciary and other prominent Americans who can be objective, just as we did after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The commission should be focused on the Jan. 6 attacks. The Black Lives Matter and antifa violence of last summer was illegal and reprehensible, but it is a different problem with a different solution.

washington post logoWashington Post, How two Black CEOs got corporate America to pay attention to voting rights, Todd C. Frankel, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). Ken Chenault, former head of American Express, and Ken Frazier, head of Merck, have helped lead the campaign to get companies involved.

In the early ‘70s, in the shadow of the civil rights era, Kenneth Chenault often stayed up late talking with other Black students at Bowdoin College in Maine about how to fight for racial equality. Most argued you needed to push from the outside. They wanted to become activists and educators. Chenault was different. He thought it was best to work from inside the corridors of power, recalled former classmate Geoffrey Canada.

“We didn’t think you could knock those doors down,” Canada said.

Chenault did. He went on to run American Express for 17 years, one of just 19 Black chief executives ever at a Fortune 500 company.

Chenault recently used that same formula of fighting for change when he and another Black chief executive, Kenneth Frazier of the pharmaceutical giant Merck, helped push much of corporate America to publicly oppose the restrictive voting rights bills being considered in dozens of states.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Big Lie Devoured the G.O.P. and Now Eyes Our Democracy, Thomas L. Friedman, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). Respect for election integrity is now a disqualifier for membership in the Republican Party.

President Biden’s early success in getting Americans vaccinated, pushing out stimulus checks and generally calming the surface of American life has been a blessing for the country. But it’s also lulled many into thinking that Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen, which propelled the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, would surely fade away and everything would return to normal. It hasn’t.

We are not OK. America’s democracy is still in real danger. In fact, we are closer to a political civil war — more than at any other time in our modern history. Today’s seeming political calm is actually resting on a false bottom that we’re at risk of crashing through at any moment.

Because, instead of Trump’s Big Lie fading away, just the opposite is happening — first slowly and now quickly.

Under Trump’s command and control from Mar-a-Largo, and with the complicity of most of his party’s leaders, that Big Lie — that the greatest election in our history, when more Republicans and Democrats voted than ever before, in the midst of a pandemic, must have been rigged because Trump lost — has metastasized. It’s being embraced by a solid majority of elected Republicans and ordinary party members — local, state and national.

“Denying the legitimacy of our last election is becoming a prerequisite for being elected as a Republican in 2022,” observed Gautam Mukunda, host of Nasdaq’s “World Reimagined” podcast and author of the book Indispensable: When Leaders Really Mattered.

“This is creating a filter that over time will block out anyone willing to tell the truth about the election.” It will leave us with “a Republican Party where you cannot rise without declaring that the sun sets in the East, a Republican Party where being willing to help steal an election is literally a job requirement.”

This is not an exaggeration. Here is what Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the few Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, told The Hill about the campaign within the party to oust Representative Liz Cheney from her House G.O.P. leadership position, because of her refusal to go along with the Big Lie:

“If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit. Liz isn’t going to lie to people. … She’s going to stand on principle.”

Think about that for a second. To be a leader in today’s G.O.P. you either have to play dumb or be dumb on the central issue facing our Republic: the integrity of our election. You have to accept everything that Trump has said about the election — without a shred of evidence — and ignore everything his own attorney general, F.B.I. director and election security director said — based on the evidence — that there was no substantive fraud.

What kind of deformed party will such a dynamic produce? A party so willing to be marinated in such a baldfaced lie will lie about anything, including who wins the next election and every one after that.

 

U.S. Governance, Politics

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washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The FDA can save 8 million lives with this one big step, Editorial Board, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). It has been more than a decade since Congress passed the Tobacco Control Act, the landmark law that empowers the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products, but only now is the agency close to bringing the law’s full power to bear on a primary driver of preventable disease: combustible cigarettes.

The FDA announced last week that it would ban menthol in cigarettes, the only flavoring tobacco companies are still allowed to add. This is a positive step. But it should be only the prelude to what would be perhaps the biggest single move to discourage cigarette use the federal government has ever taken. The FDA can require tobacco companies to cut the amount of nicotine in cigarettes to minimally addictive or non-addictive levels, which the Biden administration is also considering.

In the 2009 Tobacco Control Act, Congress expressly banned flavored cigarettes, except in the case of menthols, because of racial sensitivities: Many African American smokers prefer menthols. But it would not have been discriminatory to ban menthol flavoring along with all the others; it is discriminatory, and specifically harmful to the Black community, to permit the sale of a product that is especially harmful to African Americans while acting to protect the public health of others

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Virus Updates: Biden Administration Backs Lifting Covid Vaccine Patent Protections, Staff Reports, May 5, 2021. The move is a breakthrough for efforts to produce more doses globally as the pandemic rages in India and South America. President Biden had come under pressure to throw support behind loosening rules that protect pharmaceutical trade secrets. Here’s the latest.

Experts say a new federal stockpile of doses in the U.S. and outreach efforts could help immunize underserved communities and ensure vaccines go where they’re most needed.
Here’s what you need to know:

The Biden administration says it will support lifting patent protections to help produce more vaccines globally. In other news:

  • N.Y.’s governor outlines new seating rules for vaccinated baseball fans, and says Broadway will start to reopen Sept. 14.
  • Hunger, maternal deaths and stillbirths have soared during the pandemic.
  • This new vaccine could bring hope to much of the world.
  • Canada authorizes Pfizer’s vaccine for adolescents, but shots won’t begin immediately.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden revises benchmarks for return to pre-pandemic life, Tyler Pager and Yasmeen Abutaleb, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden is setting a new goal of 70 percent of adults having one vaccine shot by July 4. The move comes as he faces pressure to better model the benefits of vaccination and expedite a return to normalcy.

President Biden declared a new goal Tuesday that 70 percent of adults will have at least one coronavirus vaccine shot by the Fourth of July, as the White House grappled with how to send Americans a complex message: A normal life is within reach if you get vaccinated, but the crisis is far from over so don’t fully relax your guard.

Biden himself has been criticized for sending mixed messages recently by continuing to wear a mask outside despite official guidance that he doesn’t need to, since he is fully vaccinated. The White House is reaching out to scientists and public health experts to understand how the science is evolving as more people get vaccinated, and which restrictions they can and cannot relax, according to people familiar with or engaged in the conversations.joe biden o

“The challenge for the president, and the federal government in general, is you’re having to set standards for the entire country and role-model for the entire country, and what might be appropriate in one place is not what’s appropriate everywhere,” said Celine Gounder, an epidemiologist at New York’s Bellevue Hospital and a member of Biden’s coronavirus transition task force. “The problem is we don’t know necessarily who around us is fully vaccinated.”
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Beyond aiming for 70 percent of adults to have at least one vaccine shot by Independence Day, Biden said Tuesday he wants 60 percent to be fully vaccinated by the same time, part of an effort to create a nascent sense of normalcy by the holiday.

To help accomplish that, Biden announced a shift in strategy to focus more sharply on hesitant and rural Americans — directing pharmacies to offer walk-in appointments, allocating funding for pop-up clinics and sending more doses to rural health clinics, among other moves.

To meet the new benchmarks, the country will need to dispense 100 million shots over the next 60 days, beyond the more than 200 million that have been administered so far. But this next phase will require reaching Americans who are far from traditional health care facilities or are skeptical that getting vaccinated will do them any good.

washington post logoWashington Post, 148.6 million vaccinated, as of May 5, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 55.6 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 44.7 % of the total population. See about your state.hat a more transmissible variant was spreading in the nation of some 1.3 billion people, Reuters reported. Authorities, however, refrained from taking more drastic measures to prevent a surge.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 5, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 155,245,902, Deaths: 3,245,326
U.S. Cases:     33,279,375, Deaths:    592,511
India Cases:    20,764,074, Deaths:    226,720
Brazil Cases:   14,860,812, Deaths:    411,854

washington post logoWashington Post, White House grapples with reports of labor shortage, inflation as recovery picks up steam, Jeff Stein and Tyler Pager, May 5, 2021. Senior Biden economic officials have in recent weeks been peppered by complaints from restaurant groups, the construction industry, and other businesses about their inability to find enough workers as the U.S. economy begins to janet yellen ocover from the pandemic.

Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, has highlighted the matter as a potential area for concern in internal conversations with the president’s economic brain-trust, two people aware of internal discussions said.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, right, has cautioned privately against overreacting to anecdotes of worker shortages, arguing more data and time is needed before assuming they reflect a genuine problem in the American economy, according to the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.

 

U.S. Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani evidence should be reviewed by an outside lawyer, Justice Dept. says, Devlin Barrett, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). FBI agents seized cellphones and other electronic devices from Rudolph W. Giuliani as part of a probe to determine whether he acted as an unregistered agent of foreign interests.

Justice Department log circularFederal prosecutors have asked a judge to appoint an outside lawyer to review the records seized from Rudolph W. Giuliani — echoing the Justice Department’s pursuit of a criminal case against a previous attorney for former president Donald Trump, Michael Cohen.

In a letter unsealed Tuesday, federal prosecutors in Manhattan asked U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken to appoint what’s known as a special master to examine evidence taken late last month from the former New York mayor’s home and office. They cited the Cohen case as a past example when such an appointment helped to show that Trump’s lawyer was treated fairly.

FBI agents seized cellphones and other electronic devices from Giuliani, as well as the cellphone of D.C.-area lawyer Victoria Toensing, as part of an investigation to determine whether Giuliani acted as an unregistered agent of foreign interests. Giuliani, who worked as a lawyer for Trump in 2019 and 2020, the time frame under investigation, has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing

washington post logoWashington Post, Man accused of assaulting officer in Capitol invasion freed pending trial, Spencer S. Hsu, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). A federal judge on Tuesday set free pending trial a Connecticut man accused of assaulting an officer who appeared to be crying out in pain while pinned against a door frame in a widely shared video of the pro-Trump riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Patrick Edward McCaughey III had been jailed since Jan. 19, when he was arrested in South Salem, N.Y., and charged with assaulting or resisting government officers.

U.S. District Judge Trevor N. McFadden of Washington, D.C. (a Trump appointee), earlier denied McCaughey bond after prosecutors showed video of McCaughey allegedly thrusting a looted police riot shield against D.C. police officer Daniel Hodges while the crowd behind chants “Heave-ho” and presses its weight against the shield. The video shows a phalanx of police behind Hodges trying to hold back the mob in the crush.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former leader of neo-Nazi Atomwaffen group sentenced for swatting, Rachel Weiner, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). A former leader in a violent neo-Nazi group was sentenced Tuesday to 41 months in prison for harassing journalists who reported on his activities and others.

john dentonJohn Cameron Denton, 27, right, was the Texas leader of the Atomwaffen Division when he took part in what Assistant U.S. Attorney Carina Cuellar called “the most widespread swatting conspiracy in the country” known to federal law enforcement. Swatting is the practice of making fake bomb and hostage threats to provoke an overwhelming law enforcement response.

“The fear and anxiety you created in all these victims . . . will remain in their memory for far too long,” U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady said in federal court in Alexandria. “All for you and this group to get your jollies off? It’s incomprehensible.”

Atomwaffen, which calls for acts of random violence in hopes of starting a race war, was founded in 2015 on the neo-Nazi website Iron March and has been linked to several killings. One founder is now facing trial in Florida where he is accused of murdering his two roommates; the other is in prison for possession of explosives. While much of its activity occurred online, members also met for “hate camps” and traveled abroad to meet like-minded extremists in Europe.
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After the murder charges, authorities said, Denton and four others in 2018 began using “swatting” to target journalists who had reported on Atomwaffen as well as politicians and Black and Muslim worshipers.

Federal investigators got involved after the group falsely claimed a member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, was being held hostage. They were exposed when one member, a college student, called in a fake bomb threat at his Virginia university. The former student is now serving a three-year sentence.

ny times logoNew York Times, Texas Lawyer Gets 15 Years for Scheme to Defraud Cocaine Traffickers, Azi Paybarah, May 5, 2021. A Texas lawyer known as the D.W.I. Dude for specializing in defending clients charged with driving while intoxicated and drug possession was sentenced this week to more than 15 years in prison for a scheme to pocket money that Colombian cocaine traffickers had been told would go to bribe officials, federal prosecutors said.

According to prosecutors, the lawyer, James Morris Balagia, 65, of Manor, Texas, and two associates solicited payments from drug traffickers he was representing and told them that the money would be paid as bribes in return for favorable treatment of their cases.

The federal authorities were alerted to the scheme by the drug dealers whom Mr. Balagia and his associates were targeting, according to Joe Brown, a former U.S. attorney. “Fortunately for him, these drug dealers chose to turn him in to the F.B.I. rather than handle it any other way,” Mr. Brown said at an earlier stage of the case, The Dallas Morning News reported.

In addition to the prison sentence, Mr. Balagia, a former police officer, was ordered to surrender his law office building in Manor, a suburb of Austin.

The clients Mr. Balagia is accused of targeting had been tagged as “specially designated narcotics traffickers” by the Office of Foreign Assets Control, a financial intelligence and enforcement agency of the U.S. Treasury Department, according to federal prosecutors in Texas. “These individuals were considered some of the biggest drug traffickers in the world,” the prosecutors said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Congress should rein in qualified immunity — and hold local governments liable for police abuse, Christy E. Lopez, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). One of the sticking points in the debate over police reform is the call to end qualified immunity, which makes it harder for victims of unlawful police conduct to obtain compensation from the officers responsible. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) has proposed leaving qualified immunity for individual officers as-is and instead holding local governments liable when their officers harm people.

The senator is partly wrong — and partly right. Qualified immunity, an invention of the courts, should be limited so that officers can be held to account, and victims of police misconduct can be compensated. But Scott is correct to put the focus as well on local governments, and to seek to undo another judge-created limit on police accountability — one that is even more pernicious than qualified immunity.

Known as the Monell doctrine, after a 1978 Supreme Court case, this rule shields local governments from liability for legal violations committed by police unless the officer was acting pursuant to an official “policy or custom.”
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The doctrine undermines police accountability and systemic reform. The law holds private companies “vicariously liable” for the acts of employees in order to encourage companies to do everything they reasonably can to prevent their employees from harming people and to ensure that when people are harmed by unlawful conduct, they can be fully compensated.

The Monell doctrine insulates local governments from this powerful incentive to ensure they are doing everything reasonable to prevent police officers from harming people. It also can leave victims of police abuse without adequate compensation for the infringement of rights, loss of employment or even the death of a loved one. Officers may be judgment-proof, or juries may award lower damages against an individual officer than against a municipal defendant, not realizing that officers are nearly always indemnified by the local government they work for.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, French journalist kidnapped by radical Islamists in Mali appears in video pleading for his life, Erin Cunningham, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). A French journalist abducted by militants in Mali last month appeared in a video Wednesday pleading for his release.

Olivier Dubois was kidnapped in the northeastern city of Gao on April 8 by an al-Qaeda-linked affiliate known by the acronym JNIM, according to the video and press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

“I’m Olivier Dubois. I’m French. I’m a journalist. I was kidnapped in Gao on April 8 by the JNIM,” he said in a 21-second video shared on social media. “I’m speaking to my family, my friends and the French authorities for them to do everything in their power to free me,” he said.

Al-Qaeda and Islamic State groups are working together in West Africa to grab large swaths of territory. The head of Reporters Without Borders, Christophe Deloire, said on Twitter on Wednesday that he had been notified of Dubois’s disappearance two days after he failed to return to his hotel in Gao. Dubois was working for France’s Liberation newspaper and Le Point magazine, said Deloire, who called him a “seasoned journalist” who knew the country well.

  Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem at the Israel Museum on May 23, 2017 (AP photo by Sebastian Scheiner).

Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem at the Israel Museum on May 23, 2017 (AP photo by Sebastian Scheiner).

washington post logoWashington Post, Netanyahu fails to form a governing coalition by deadline, putting his continued rule into question, Steve Hendrix, May 5, 2021 (print ed.). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed Benjamin Netanyahu smile Twitterto form a new governing coalition by a Tuesday deadline, prolonging Israel's political stalemate and raising the possibility that his record run as the country's longest-serving leader might come to an end.

Netanyahu’s 28-day window to build a government after not winning an outright majority in March elections expired at midnight.

President Reuven Rivlin probably will now award the mandate to form a new government to one of the prime minister’s rival lawmakers, who are already trying to negotiate the first coalition to exclude Netanyahu in 12 years. Former news anchor Yair Lapid has emerged as the front-runner among them.

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: Cabo Delgado -- the new Afghanistan, Wayne Madsen, left, May 5, 2021. Not content with providing financial, religious, and logistics support to Islamist guerrillas in wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallAfghanistan, from which the Biden administration has announced a military withdrawal, the terrorist state of Saudi Arabia has stepped up support for Islamist militants in Cabo Delgado, the northeastern province of Mozambique.

Iwayne madesen report logondeed, as U.S. and NATO military forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan, Cabo Delgado is beginning to resemble Afghanistan during the days of the initial Western military arrival immediately after the Saudi-bankrolled 9/11 attack on the United States.

Present in Cabo Delgado are U.S., British, and French Special Forces units; Russian and British private military contractors; the military-industrial mercenaries of Erik Prince's mercenary firms headquartered in Abu Dhabi, and South African, Ugandan, and Portuguese special military units

Washington Post, Italian jury convicts two Americans of murder, with sentence of life in prison, for killing police officer in Rome, Chico Harlan, May 5, 2021. The verdict, almost certain to be appealed, concludes a lengthy initial trial that examined how a night that started with two Americans trying to buy drugs ended with an officer bleeding to death on a Roman street, stabbed 11 times.

An Italian jury on Wednesday convicted two Americans of murder, with a punishment of life in prison, a decision that comes nearly two years after the men had been charged with killing an Italian police officer while on vacation in Rome.

Finnegan Lee Elder, now 21, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 20, received Italy’s harshest possible sentences after a full day of jury deliberation.

The verdict is almost certain to be appealed. But it marks the conclusion of a lengthy initial trial that examined how a night that started with two Americans trying to buy drugs ended with an officer bleeding to death on the street, stabbed 11 times.

The case has attracted plenty of attention in Italy, in part because it is exceedingly rare for tourists to be charged with violent crimes. The carabinieri officer, Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, had been a newlywed and was hailed as a hero after his death, honored with a state funeral. Then-Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called his “broken life” a deep national wound.

The trial examined whether the two Americans, high school friends from California, knew whether Cerciello Rega and his partner were police officers during their late-night encounter. Elder, who admitted to the stabbing, said he thought he was being jumped by a drug dealer who’d tackled him and pinned him down. But Cerciello Rega’s partner described the encounter differently and said the officers had shown the Americans their badges.

Like his acquaintance, Natale-Hjorth had been charged with homicide, based on his involvement in the events that led to the slaying.

As the defendants were ushered out of the courtroom, Elder’s father called out, “Finnegan, I love you,” according to the Associated Press. Cerciello Rega’s widow sobbed and hugged the slain officer’s brother.

Elder and Natale-Hjorth had started the evening of July 25, 2019, trying to score drugs in the lively Roman neighborhood of Trastevere. The two had given 80 euros to a middleman for cocaine. But they’d been swindled and received an over-the-counter pain medicine.

The Americans, as retribution, ran off with the middleman’s backpack, returning to the area of their hotel. The backpack contained the middleman’s phone, and when he called from another number, the Americans answered. They agreed to meet again.

That’s how, well after midnight, Elder and Natale-Hjorth were on the streets of Rome, trying to get their money back. They expected the middleman.

But instead, it was Cerciello Rega and his partner, Andrea Varriale, responding to the reported theft. The officers arrived in plainclothes, without their weapons. 

 

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook and Trump are at a turning point in their tortured relationship, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cat Zakrzewski, May 4, 2021. Facebook’s decision to outsource the fate of the former president’s account to an independent Oversight Board could set a precedent on how social media companies handle politicians and how they will balance free speech and harm.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook’s Oversight Board has decided the fate of Trump’s account. Here’s everything you need to know, Rachel Lerman and Heather Kelly, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). The board’s decision is expected within days. Trump was indefinitely banned from the social media site in January. It’s been four months since former president Donald Trump was last allowed to post on Facebook, after CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he was banned “indefinitely.”

Now the Facebook Oversight Board, an outside group funded and created by Facebook to review the social media giant’s thorniest policy choices, has made a decision on the case. It is expected to announce on Wednesday whether Facebook can uphold its suspension of Trump or if it has to allow him back on the site.

facebook logoThe board will announce its decision on this case — its most significant by far — at approximately 9 a.m. Wednesday. The ruling is being closely watched by politicians around the world, as well as social media researchers and other tech companies that similarly banned Trump in January.

Facebook was the first major social media platform to suspend Trump indefinitely in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and its decision was met with praise by many critics who believed the company had let him dodge its normal rules and policies. But others decried the decision as “censorship” and said it set a dangerous precedent for how world leaders communicate online.

Facebook, the Oversight Board and Trump have periodically outlined their thinking in blog posts, news releases and on social media. Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming ruling.

What is the Facebook Oversight Board?

The Facebook Oversight Board is a group created by Facebook to which users can appeal important company decisions. Though it is funded by a $130 million trust created by Facebook, the board says it is an independent and neutral third party. Its goal is to review moderation decisions made by the company and decide whether they were “made in accordance with its stated values.”

First proposed in a 2018 blog post by Zuckerberg, the Oversight Board is the company’s attempt to have an outside authority handle difficult decisions. It formally started deliberating in October 2020 and has also been called “Facebook’s Supreme Court,” though it has no government affiliation or legal standing. The board is currently made of 20 people from around the world who are experts in things like journalism, misinformation, freedom of speech and extremism, though only 19 are participating in this case. The original goal was to have 40 members total, and more will continue to be added.

The board was created to appease critics who thought power over the world’s largest social network and its 3.45 billion monthly users (including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) was too concentrated in a group of Facebook executives, specifically Zuckerberg. However, critics say it outsources individual decisions without creating meaningful internal change and shields Facebook from responsibility for difficult decisions.

So far the board has ruled on Facebook moderation decisions around blackface, threats of violence and covid-19 misinformation. It has overturned Facebook’s decisions six times, upheld them twice, and was unable to complete a ruling once.

How does the board’s decision work?

First a case has to be referred to the board, either by Facebook itself or through direct submissions from users who disagree with Facebook taking down their content or leaving someone else’s up. The board selects a panel of five of its members, including at least one person from the country where the case is based. They are not named publicly so they cannot be lobbied. Members have all gone through training for the job, which is not full time, and approach the decisions as precedent-setting legal cases, even though the process is not part of any legal system.
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The panel meets over Zoom and considers Facebook’s own lengthy Community Standards bylaws and consults with outside experts and organizations. The affected account holder can also submit a statement, and there is a public commenting period for any regular people to weigh in. The Trump case received more than 9,000 public comments, almost as many as all the board’s past cases combined.

The panel tries to reach an unanimous decision, but technically it needs only a simple majority. It then takes its decision and presents it to the full board, which can overrule the finding if a majority of board members disagree with it.

In the Trump ruling, the board’s decision will have two parts. First it will say yes, Facebook can continue to ban Trump, or no, it has to let him back on. Its decision on whether to uphold Facebook’s ban is binding, according to the board’s bylaws.

The board also goes further than that simple ruling and makes broader policy suggestions to Facebook. Those suggestions — which can include things like asking the company to add policies around issues like hate speech or bullying, or whether world leaders get different treatment — are not binding, and the company does not have to follow them or take them into consideration. However, Facebook has so far been open to the suggestions. In its first ruling, the Oversight Board made 17 recommendations and Facebook said it was “committed to action” on 11 of them.

The board will post a written version of the decision to its website that will include a detailed explanation of what it considered and how it reached its conclusion, as well as the public comments.

If Trump is allowed back on Facebook, he could still run afoul of its policies and be removed again over future posts, as the decision does not exempt him from Facebook’s rules. If Facebook adopts any guidance from the board on how to handle political figures, that could help guide future decisions about his posts and account.

The former president issued a press release Monday morning repeating his baseless claim that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. He referred to the election as “THE BIG LIE!”

How did we get to this point?

Tension had been building between Trump and Facebook for nearly six years before the company indefinitely suspended him after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. In 2015, then-candidate Trump posted a video calling for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. In a controversial decision, Facebook declined to remove it. Instead, that internal decision eventually led to the company’s “newsworthiness” policy, which created an exception for some posts that violated guidelines to nevertheless remain online because they carried public-interest value.
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Facebook’s policies were constantly tested throughout 2020, when Trump posted misleading information about the coronavirus and bombastic statements about protests taking place across the country. In a May post, Trump referred to protesters as “THUGS” and wrote, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Though Twitter was Trump’s go-to social media site, the former president also regularly used Facebook to spread messages and often cross-posted on both Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter labeled a similar tweet on its site with a public interest notice, but Facebook left it untouched. Employees and advocates called for Facebook to take harsher action and in June, Zuckerberg announced the company would label posts that violated hate speech and other policies, even from politicians. And it would also remove posts that attempted to incite violence or suppress voting, with no newsworthiness exception.

Facebook did begin labeling some of Trump’s tweets, but it faced mounting pressure from critics saying it wasn’t doing enough, as well as from some conservative politicians and pundits who called its actions “censorship.”

djt biden resized smilesThe breaking point came Jan. 6 when Trump posted a video on Facebook and Instagram, and other social media sites, telling rioters to go home. But in the video he also said, “We love you, you’re very special.” Facebook suspended the president for 24 hours. The next day, Zuckerberg announced the suspension would be indefinite, saying, “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”

Later that month, Facebook said it would refer the decision to the Oversight Board to make the final call. “Many argue private companies like Facebook shouldn’t be making these big decisions on their own,” the company wrote at the time. “We agree.”
What does this mean for other tech companies?

twitter bird CustomTwitter and YouTube took similar action on Trump’s account soon after Facebook. Trump’s account remains available on YouTube, but he’s blocked from uploading new videos. YouTube’s suspensions usually last only a week for a “first strike,” but the company will keep Trump’s in place until the “risk of violence has decreased,” CEO Susan Wojcicki said in March. YouTube’s analysts will determine when the risk is low enough by looking at government statements, whether there are police buildups and the level of violent rhetoric elsewhere on YouTube, Wojcicki said.

Trump had millions of views and followers on YouTube, but the platform wasn’t used as directly as Twitter was. Instead his campaign used the site to post official videos that were shared around the Web by supporters. The campaign also bought prime ad space on YouTube’s homepage the week of the election.

 

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    ny times logoNew York Times, British Political Veteran Steers Facebook’s Trump Decision, Adam Satariano and Cecilia Kang, May 5, 2021. Nick Clegg, a former deputy prime minister, has shaped the company’s handling of Donald Trump at every turn.

    When Facebook barred President Donald J. Trump from its service in January, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, defended the decision in a Facebook post the morning after the siege of the Capitol. But the first draft was written the night before by Nick Clegg, a former British deputy prime minister who leads the company’s public affairs.

    More than a week later, Mr. Clegg urged Mr. Zuckerberg to let a new outside panel decide whether to let Mr. Trump back on Facebook, employees involved in the deliberations said. Handing over control of one of the most consequential free-speech decisions of the internet age was risky advice, and some in the company wondered if Mr. Zuckerberg would agree.

    “I defer to you, Nick,” Mr. Zuckerberg said, according to Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Facebook who was at the meeting.

    On Wednesday the panel, the Facebook Oversight Board, upheld the decision to suspend Mr. Trump’s account, preventing him from posting to Facebook or Instagram. But the board said Facebook had made a mistake imposing an “indefinite” ban, and it called on the company to revisit the ban within six months, to either make it permanent or set a timeline for reinstatement.

    Mr. Clegg played perhaps the biggest behind-the-scenes role in decisions around Mr. Trump’s account, colleagues said, an unlikely position for a British political veteran in such an important moment for American free speech. He developed the main justification used by Mr. Zuckerberg for barring Mr. Trump, and he oversaw the creation of the board, including the selection of its members.

    The board’s ruling on Mr. Trump tests the argument that Mr. Clegg championed inside Facebook: Instead of taking all the responsibility for moderation, the company should enlist a quasi-judicial board of outside experts to make the final decision. Many have questioned Facebook’s effort to create a global arbiter of speech, including some company employees, arguing in part that it lacks legitimacy because the board is Facebook-funded and stacked with hand-selected representatives.

    But Mr. Clegg has said that absent rules from governments, Facebook had few good options other than creating a statelike institution of its own.

    Mr. Clegg, 54, declined to comment for this article. But Facebook made executives available to discuss his role at the company, many on the condition that their names not be published. Mr. Clegg also connected The New York Times with several people outside Facebook to speak favorably of him. The Times also spoke with members of the oversight board, academics, political figures, civil society groups and others familiar with Mr. Clegg’s work.

    Mr. Clegg joined Facebook in 2018 to oversee its policy and public relations team after his political star had faded. The leader of the left-leaning Liberal Democrats, he was voted out of office in 2017 after alienating supporters by joining Britain’s Conservative Party in forming a coalition government. After Britain increased college tuition, cutouts of Mr. Clegg were hanged in effigy by protesters in London.

    Facebook wanted Mr. Clegg to help repair its relationships with regulators, political leaders and the media after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when data improperly pulled from Facebook was used to create voter profiles. Mr. Clegg’s international experience and comfort in five languages — English, Spanish, French, German and Dutch — appealed to the American-centric company.

    Friends said Mr. Clegg had initially been reluctant to join Facebook, one of the world’s most polarizing corporations. But he wanted to be back at the center of important political and policy debates. In a memo outlining how he envisioned the role, he argued that it was unsustainable for a private company like Facebook, rather than democratically elected governments, to have so much power, especially on speech-related issues.

May 4

Top Headlines  

 

U.S. Election Rigging, Capitol Riot, Domestic Terror 

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

U.S. Politics, Governance   

 

Media, Philanthropy, Education News

 

World News

 

Top Stories

May 4

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Rising Diversity Might Not Help Democrats as Much as They Hope, Nate Cohn, May 4, 2021. Voters of color make up a growing percentage of the United States electorate, but that trend isn’t hurting Republicans as much as conservatives fear. Population growth in the South and the West means that some Republican-leaning states in those regions are gaining more Electoral College votes.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosThe Census Bureau released two important sets of data last week that have big implications for American politics — and that challenge some prevailing assumptions for both Democrats and Republicans.

The first set of data lays out long-term demographic trends widely thought to favor Democrats: Hispanics, Asian-Americans and multiracial voters grew as a share of the electorate over the last two presidential races, and white voters — who historically tend to back the G.O.P. — fell to 71 percent in 2020 from 73 percent in 2016.

The other data set tells a second story. Population growth continues to accelerate in the South and the West, so much so that some Republican-leaning states in those regions are gaining more Electoral College votes. The states won by President Biden will be worth 303 electoral votes, down from 306 electoral votes in 2020. The Democratic disadvantage in the Electoral College just got worse again.

These demographic and population shifts are powerfully clarifying about electoral politics in America: The increasing racial diversity among voters isn’t doing quite as much to help Democrats as liberals hope, or to hurt Republicans as much as conservatives fear.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Elected Republicans are lying with open eyes. Their excuses are disgraceful, Michael Gerson (right, former chief speechwriter for Republican President George W. Bush), May 4, michael gerson file photo2021. The GOP leaders who knowingly repeat falsehoods about the election have much to atone for.

For the activist base of the Republican Party, affirming that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential contest has become a qualification for membership in good standing. For the party’s elected leaders, accepting the clear result of a fair election is to be a rogue Republican like the indomitable Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) — a target for Trump’s anger, public censure and primary threats.

rnc logoNothing about this is normal. The GOP is increasingly defined not by its shared beliefs, but by its shared delusions. To be a loyal Republican, one must be either a sucker or a liar. And because this defining falsehood is so obviously and laughably false, we can safely assume that most Republican leaders who embrace it fall into the second category. Knowingly repeating a lie — an act of immorality — is now the evidence of Republican fidelity.

Moral clarity against lying is sometimes made harder by our loose application of the term. When public figures disagree with you in their analyses of tax policy, or welfare spending or Social Security reform, they’re generally not lying. They’re disagreeing. When it’s revealed that someone was previously wrong about an issue — even on a grave matter of national security — it doesn’t mean he or she was lying all along. It means that person was wrong.

It’s important to keep perspective about the stakes of any given lie. There is reason the English language has so many words to describe the shades of culpability in a deception. You can equivocate, or dissemble, or palter, or mislead, or prevaricate, or fib, or perjure. There are mortal lies and venial lies, cruel lies and merciful lies. Context matters.

The context for Trump’s lies has been particularly damning. When Trump falsely asserted that Barack Obama was born in Africa and thus illegitimate as president, it was permission for racism. When he claimed he saw Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on Sept. 11, 2001, it was a vicious lie to feed a prejudice.

But the lie of a stolen election is the foundational falsehood of a political worldview. Believing it requires Trump’s followers to affirm the existence of a nationwide plot against him and his supporters — a plot led by ruthless Democrats and traitorous Republicans, and ignored or endorsed by useless courts and a complicit media.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meet the Man Now at the Center of the Debate Over Student Debt, Anemona Hartocollis and Stacy Cowley, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). Richard Cordray, an advocate of revamping the student loan system, was appointed as the new head of federal student aid.

richard cordray o student aidRichard Cordray, right, a close ally of Senator Elizabeth Warren who served as the first director of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during the Obama years, has been selected as the new head of federal student aid in the Biden administration, a post that will put him at the center of the swirling debate over forgiving student debt.

The issue is a tricky one for President Biden. Though he has endorsed canceling up to $10,000 per borrower through legislation, Mr. Biden has been pressured by some Democrats to forgive much more, and to sign an executive order making it happen if Congress fails to act.

But with his new position within the federal Education Department, the primary lender for higher education, Mr. Cordray might be able to relieve the president of that burden by canceling student debt administratively. Democratic leaders are pushing for up to $50,000 in debt relief.

Mr. Cordray is a former Ohio attorney general who worked alongside Ms. Warren on financial issues before her election to the Senate. He headed the consumer protection bureau from 2012 to 2017, leaving in the first year of the Trump administration to make a failed bid for governor of Ohio.

Administration officials said that he and Ms. Warren maintain a close relationship, raising questions about how closely their views align on the question of canceling student debt. Ms. Warren has argued that it is a crushing burden for young people, and that relieving it would reduce economic inequality. Some critics say that forgiving student loans would disproportionately help the rich, who use them to pay for advanced degrees, rather than help the poor, who often are not college educated.

  

U.S. Election Rigging, Capitol Riot, Domestic Terror  

capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool was just one example of the racist and anti-Semitic imagery on display at the riot. The noose is a racist symbol of the lynching of Black Americans. (Photo by Shay Horse  via NurPhoto / Getty).


washington post logoWashington Post, Fla. Republicans rushed to curb mail voting. Now some fear it may hurt GOP, Amy Gardner, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). Republican lawmakers are reversing statutes that their own predecessors put in place, curtailing a practice that millions of GOP voters in the state use, despite former president Donald Trump’s relentless and baseless claims that it invites fraud.

republican elephant logoVirtually every narrow Republican victor of the past generation — and there have been many, including two of the state’s current top officeholders, Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, and Sen. Rick Scott — owes their victory, at least in part, to mail voting.

ron desantis oNow, some Florida Republicans are reacting with alarm after the GOP-dominated state legislature, with DeSantis’s support, passed a far-reaching bill Thursday night that puts new restrictions on the use of mail ballots.

Not only are GOP lawmakers reversing statutes that their own predecessors put in place, but they are also curtailing a practice that millions of state Republicans use, despite former president Donald Trump’s relentless and baseless claims that it invites fraud.

Even as Democrats and voting rights advocates accuse the proponents of Senate Bill 90 of attempting to suppress the votes of people of color, these Republicans say their own political fortunes are in peril, too.

 

capitol mob

Pro-Trump rioters and insurrectionists ar shown after storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and threatening lawmakers unless they overturned November elections and reinstalled Trump for four more years following his repeated claims via social media that he had won re-election and was being deprived of the right to rule because of fraud that was never prove in more than 60 lawsuits by Trump and his allies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Liz Cheney slams Trump’s attempt to brand 2020 election ‘the Big Lie,’ Colby Itkowitz and Marianna Sotomayor, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), right, pushed back Monday against former liz cheney opresident Donald Trump’s attempt to commandeer the term “Big Lie,” commonly used to refer to the false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, and accused him and those who perpetrate the falsehoods of “poisoning” democracy.

Trump released a statement Monday morning asserting: “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!” The statement came as an oversight board for Facebook is expected to rule this week on whether to allow Trump back on the social media platform after he was suspended in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Big Lie Devoured the G.O.P. and Now Eyes Our Democracy, Thomas L. Friedman, May 4, 2021. Respect for election integrity is now a disqualifier for membership in the Republican Party.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani is now demanding money from Donald Trump while deciding whether to flip on him, Bill Palmer, May 4, 2021. For the Feds to have obtained enough evidence to get a raid warrant for Rudy Giuliani’s home, it means they already had enough evidence to nail him before the raid. Rudy is completely screwed. The only question is whether he realizes it and decides to cut a plea deal, or if he’s delusional enough to think he can beat the rap at trial.

bill palmer report logo headerIt looks like Rudy is now trying to figure out how he wants to play this. The New York Times says that Rudy and his allies are calling for Donald Trump to start paying Rudy’s legal bills. This isn’t actually illegal, believe it or not, as you’re allowed to pay the legal bills of a potential witness against you. But it’s nonetheless pretty clear that Rudy is demanding money from Trump in exchange for not flipping on him.

So now Trump, who is facing his own worsening financial troubles, has to decide whether to pay Rudy’s legal bills in the hope of shutting him up, or to just roll the dice and hope that if Rudy flips on him it won’t be enough to get Trump convicted. It’s also possible that Trump could pay Rudy’s off legal bills, and then Rudy could still cut a plea deal.

We’ll see where this goes. But at the least it suggests that under the right circumstances, Rudy Giuliani will flip on Donald Trump without thinking twice. Meanwhile, with Trump facing the prospect of huge legal bills for his inevitable criminal trial in New York on state charges, can he afford to also pay Rudy’s legal bills just to try to avoid federal charges?

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook and Trump are at a turning point in their tortured relationship, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cat Zakrzewski, May 4, 2021. Facebook’s decision to outsource the fate of the former president’s account to an independent Oversight Board could set a precedent on how social media companies handle politicians and how they will balance free speech and harm.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook’s Oversight Board has decided the fate of Trump’s account. Here’s everything you need to know, Rachel Lerman and Heather Kelly, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). The board’s decision is expected within days. Trump was indefinitely banned from the social media site in January. It’s been four months since former president Donald Trump was last allowed to post on Facebook, after CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he was banned “indefinitely.”

Now the Facebook Oversight Board, an outside group funded and created by Facebook to review the social media giant’s thorniest policy choices, has made a decision on the case. It is expected to announce on Wednesday whether Facebook can uphold its suspension of Trump or if it has to allow him back on the site.

facebook logoThe board will announce its decision on this case — its most significant by far — at approximately 9 a.m. Wednesday. The ruling is being closely watched by politicians around the world, as well as social media researchers and other tech companies that similarly banned Trump in January.

Facebook was the first major social media platform to suspend Trump indefinitely in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and its decision was met with praise by many critics who believed the company had let him dodge its normal rules and policies. But others decried the decision as “censorship” and said it set a dangerous precedent for how world leaders communicate online.

Facebook, the Oversight Board and Trump have periodically outlined their thinking in blog posts, news releases and on social media. Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming ruling.

What is the Facebook Oversight Board?

The Facebook Oversight Board is a group created by Facebook to which users can appeal important company decisions. Though it is funded by a $130 million trust created by Facebook, the board says it is an independent and neutral third party. Its goal is to review moderation decisions made by the company and decide whether they were “made in accordance with its stated values.”

First proposed in a 2018 blog post by Zuckerberg, the Oversight Board is the company’s attempt to have an outside authority handle difficult decisions. It formally started deliberating in October 2020 and has also been called “Facebook’s Supreme Court,” though it has no government affiliation or legal standing. The board is currently made of 20 people from around the world who are experts in things like journalism, misinformation, freedom of speech and extremism, though only 19 are participating in this case. The original goal was to have 40 members total, and more will continue to be added.

The board was created to appease critics who thought power over the world’s largest social network and its 3.45 billion monthly users (including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) was too concentrated in a group of Facebook executives, specifically Zuckerberg. However, critics say it outsources individual decisions without creating meaningful internal change and shields Facebook from responsibility for difficult decisions.

So far the board has ruled on Facebook moderation decisions around blackface, threats of violence and covid-19 misinformation. It has overturned Facebook’s decisions six times, upheld them twice, and was unable to complete a ruling once.

How does the board’s decision work?

First a case has to be referred to the board, either by Facebook itself or through direct submissions from users who disagree with Facebook taking down their content or leaving someone else’s up. The board selects a panel of five of its members, including at least one person from the country where the case is based. They are not named publicly so they cannot be lobbied. Members have all gone through training for the job, which is not full time, and approach the decisions as precedent-setting legal cases, even though the process is not part of any legal system.
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The panel meets over Zoom and considers Facebook’s own lengthy Community Standards bylaws and consults with outside experts and organizations. The affected account holder can also submit a statement, and there is a public commenting period for any regular people to weigh in. The Trump case received more than 9,000 public comments, almost as many as all the board’s past cases combined.

The panel tries to reach an unanimous decision, but technically it needs only a simple majority. It then takes its decision and presents it to the full board, which can overrule the finding if a majority of board members disagree with it.

In the Trump ruling, the board’s decision will have two parts. First it will say yes, Facebook can continue to ban Trump, or no, it has to let him back on. Its decision on whether to uphold Facebook’s ban is binding, according to the board’s bylaws.

The board also goes further than that simple ruling and makes broader policy suggestions to Facebook. Those suggestions — which can include things like asking the company to add policies around issues like hate speech or bullying, or whether world leaders get different treatment — are not binding, and the company does not have to follow them or take them into consideration. However, Facebook has so far been open to the suggestions. In its first ruling, the Oversight Board made 17 recommendations and Facebook said it was “committed to action” on 11 of them.

The board will post a written version of the decision to its website that will include a detailed explanation of what it considered and how it reached its conclusion, as well as the public comments.

If Trump is allowed back on Facebook, he could still run afoul of its policies and be removed again over future posts, as the decision does not exempt him from Facebook’s rules. If Facebook adopts any guidance from the board on how to handle political figures, that could help guide future decisions about his posts and account.

The former president issued a press release Monday morning repeating his baseless claim that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. He referred to the election as “THE BIG LIE!”

How did we get to this point?

Tension had been building between Trump and Facebook for nearly six years before the company indefinitely suspended him after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. In 2015, then-candidate Trump posted a video calling for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. In a controversial decision, Facebook declined to remove it. Instead, that internal decision eventually led to the company’s “newsworthiness” policy, which created an exception for some posts that violated guidelines to nevertheless remain online because they carried public-interest value.
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Facebook’s policies were constantly tested throughout 2020, when Trump posted misleading information about the coronavirus and bombastic statements about protests taking place across the country. In a May post, Trump referred to protesters as “THUGS” and wrote, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Though Twitter was Trump’s go-to social media site, the former president also regularly used Facebook to spread messages and often cross-posted on both Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter labeled a similar tweet on its site with a public interest notice, but Facebook left it untouched. Employees and advocates called for Facebook to take harsher action and in June, Zuckerberg announced the company would label posts that violated hate speech and other policies, even from politicians. And it would also remove posts that attempted to incite violence or suppress voting, with no newsworthiness exception.

Facebook did begin labeling some of Trump’s tweets, but it faced mounting pressure from critics saying it wasn’t doing enough, as well as from some conservative politicians and pundits who called its actions “censorship.”

djt biden resized smilesThe breaking point came Jan. 6 when Trump posted a video on Facebook and Instagram, and other social media sites, telling rioters to go home. But in the video he also said, “We love you, you’re very special.” Facebook suspended the president for 24 hours. The next day, Zuckerberg announced the suspension would be indefinite, saying, “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”

Later that month, Facebook said it would refer the decision to the Oversight Board to make the final call. “Many argue private companies like Facebook shouldn’t be making these big decisions on their own,” the company wrote at the time. “We agree.”
What does this mean for other tech companies?

twitter bird CustomTwitter and YouTube took similar action on Trump’s account soon after Facebook. Trump’s account remains available on YouTube, but he’s blocked from uploading new videos. YouTube’s suspensions usually last only a week for a “first strike,” but the company will keep Trump’s in place until the “risk of violence has decreased,” CEO Susan Wojcicki said in March. YouTube’s analysts will determine when the risk is low enough by looking at government statements, whether there are police buildups and the level of violent rhetoric elsewhere on YouTube, Wojcicki said.

Trump had millions of views and followers on YouTube, but the platform wasn’t used as directly as Twitter was. Instead his campaign used the site to post official videos that were shared around the Web by supporters. The campaign also bought prime ad space on YouTube’s homepage the week of the election.

 

Virus Victims, Responses

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: New York Times, India Becomes Second Country, After U.S., to Report 20 Million Cases, Staff Reports, May 4, 2021.  The nation’s popular cricket league has been india flag mapsuspended. In America, Pfizer’s vaccine is set to be approved for adolescents. Here’s the latest on Covid-19.

  • Allowing Pfizer’s vaccine for adolescents would be a leap forward, experts say.
  • Indian diaspora races to find oxygen for Covid patients and are ‘inundated with responses.’
  • Under a new leader, Tanzania announces steps to fight the virus.
  • Hong Kong backtracks on a plan to require vaccinations for domestic workers.
  • ‘We Cannot Wait Until June’: Greece Bets on Reopening to Tourists

ny times logopfizer logoNew York Times, Pfizer Reaps Hundreds of Millions in Profits From Covid-19 Vaccine, Rebecca Robbins and Peter S. Goodman, May 4, 2021. The company said its vaccine generated $3.5 billion in revenue in the first three months of this year.

ny times logoNew York Times, $100 as an Incentive to Get a Shot? Experiment Suggests It Can Work, Lynn Vavreck, May 4, 2021. A cash reward works best with Democrats, and relaxing safety guidelines seems to motivate Republicans, survey experiments show.

What’s the best way to persuade the millions of Americans who are still unvaccinated against Covid-19 to get their shots?

Reassuring public service announcements about the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness have proliferated. But increasingly, people are realizing that it will take more than just information to sway the hesitant.

In recent randomized survey experiments by the U.C.L.A. Covid-19 Health and Politics Project, two seemingly strong incentives have emerged.

washington post logoWashington Post, 147.9 million vaccinated, as of May 4, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 55.3 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 44.5 % of the total population. See about your state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Moderna agrees to supply U.N.’s Covax with 500 million vaccine doses, Erin Cunningham and Brittany Shammas, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). India’s vaccine shortage will probably last for months after the government failed to properly plan for a second wave of coronavirus infections, the head of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer said.

Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of India’s Serum Institute, made the remarks in an interview Sunday with the Financial Times. He said he has been “unfairly” victimized as India’s covid-19 outbreak surged and vaccinations sputtered, due in part to a domestic shortage of vaccines.

A group of scientific advisers to India’s government also said they warned officials in early March that a more transmissible variant was spreading in the nation of some 1.3 billion people, Reuters reported. Authorities, however, refrained from taking more drastic measures to prevent a surge.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 4, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 154,250,595, Deaths: 3,228,694
U.S. Cases:     33,230,992, Deaths:     591,514
India Cases:    20,282,833, Deaths:     222,408
Brazil Cases:   14,791,434, Deaths:     408,829

 

U.S. Crime, Police, Race, Courts

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr just got his butt handed to him by a federal judge over Mueller Report obstruction, Bill Palmer, right, May 4, 2021. If you followed the Mueller investigation and what publicly bill palmersurfaced from it, then you already know that when Bill Barr claimed that the Mueller report exonerated Donald Trump, Barr was flat out lying to the American people. Now it turns out Barr also lied about it to a federal judge, which is coming back to bite him.

Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson demanded awhile back that Bill Barr turn over the memo that the Office of Legal Counsel provided him on whether Trump could be criminally charge with obstruction of justice. In response, Barr claimed that it had to remain secret, because it was used in his decision making process about whether to charge Trump. But Judge Jackson concluded today that Barr was lying about this, and she ruled that the DOJ must immediately turn it over.

bill palmer report logo headerThis is a big deal for a few reasons. First, because Barr is no longer in control of the DOJ, it seems a given that the DOJ will swiftly comply with the judge’s ruling. Second, because this was a Freedom of Information Act case, the memo won’t just end up in the judge’s hands, it’ll quickly end up in the public’s hands.

So now the entire country is about to get a look at a memo which will essentially prove that Bill Barr broke the law in his decision to shield Donald Trump from prosecution. This is going to greatly increase the public’s appetite for federal criminal prosecution of both Trump and Barr for obstruction of justice, at a time when Merrick Garland’s DOJ is showing that it intends to be aggressive in its prosecution on all fronts.

william barr at dojThis should also bring new attention to Robert Mueller’s final report – which never did see the light of day because Barr dishonestly redacted it – and the Trump crimes that are heavily documented within it.

Justice Department log circularThere will be some defeatists who will yell “Look what all Trump got away with, we told you he was going to get away with it all!” But that’s not how anything works. This kind of dirty laundry becoming public is what causes these types of people to end up being prosecuted and imprisoned.

Donald Trump is already going to prison on state charges in New York for his financial crimes. This new Mueller revelation could increase the odds that the Feds also end up criminally indicting Trump – and it means that Bill Barr now has to worry about ending up indicted as well.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court declines to revisit precedent that restricts lawsuits from service members, Robert Barnes, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). Justice Clarence Thomas said the court should have granted a former West Point cadet’s suit over an alleged rape.

The Supreme Court on Monday turned down an attempt by a former West Point cadet to sue the military academy’s leadership over her alleged sexual assault.

It was the latest unsuccessful plea to justices to revisit a 70-year-old court precedent that restricts lawsuits against the government when the alleged injuries arise from military service.

As he has in the past, Justice Clarence Thomas said it was time for the court to take another look at the Feres Doctrine. It comes from a 1950 decision that Thomas said mistakenly expanded a limited exception in the Federal Tort Claims Act concerning combat-related injuries.

 United Nations

Newsweek, Independent Commission Calls U.S. Police Killing of Blacks 'Crimes Against Humanity,' But Lacks Enforcement Authority, Meghan Roos, May 3, 2021 weekly edition. An independent commission announced its findings on April 27 with the publication of a detailed report that alleges the existence of systemic racism inherent in police violence against Black Americans, which they argue constitutes crimes against humanity.

Although the commission has no enforcement authority, it made specific referrals to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government and the U.S. Congress, among others.

newsweek logoIn the U.S., the referrals included a call for reparations, action to review and retool existing law enforcement policies, and passage of legislation to hold law enforcement officers accountable when Black individuals die as a result of their encounters with police.

At the international level, the commission called upon the global community to support ICC investigations into systemic racist police violence in the U.S. under Article 7 of the court's Rome Statute, which covers crimes against humanity.

Though nations like Australia, Mexico, South Africa and the United Kingdom are among the Rome Statute's list of 123 signatory countries, the U.S. is not. America's lack of ICC membership means the ICC has significantly less jurisdiction over the U.S. than it does over its member states.

The killing of George Floyd (shown below at left along with his convicted murderer, then Police Officer Derek Chauvin) in May, an event captured on video that went viral, sparked protests across the nation, which inspired calls from relatives of Black Americans who have been victims of similar police conduct to request reviews of the institutions and workplace cultures that allow this violence to fester.

Floyd's death inspired debate at the U.N.'s HRC, which decided in June to create a report assessing how systemic racism and police conduct impacts Black individuals around the world.george floyd derek chauvinBut Floyd's family members and others who pushed for the inquiry had wanted the HRC to focus on those issues specifically in the U.S. In response to the U.N.'s global focus, three organizations—the U.S.-based National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Lawyers Guild, and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers—came together to launch an independent commission of their own, which was officially named the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States.

The commission's resulting 188-page report was funded by the National Lawyers Guild Foundation.

The commissioners wrote that they believed launching an independent inquiry was necessary because of the way the U.N. backed away from focusing on systemic racism and police conduct in the U.S. The report said the U.N. did so in response to pressure from the U.S. while the country was led by former President Donald Trump.

The commission's resulting 188-page report was funded by the National Lawyers Guild Foundation.

The commissioners wrote that they believed launching an independent inquiry was necessary because of the way the U.N. backed away from focusing on systemic racism and police conduct in the U.S. The report said the U.N. did so in response to pressure from the U.S. while the country was led by former President Donald Trump.

american flag upside down distress"After succumbing to enormous pressure by the U.S. and its allies, the HRC instead directed the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to prepare a report on systemic racism and violations of international human rights by police against Africans and people of African descent throughout the world," the report said.

Jamil Dakwar, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Human Rights Program, said the U.N.'s decision to pursue an international report "ultimately was watered down" from the initial request for an inquiry with a U.S. focus, which the ACLU supported.

The independent commission's report "really came as a way to further document and press for international accountability that we asked for last summer," Dakwar told Newsweek.

The recommendations serve as a reminder that the U.S. is not a member state of the ICC. The country's relationship with the ICC has fluctuated since the court's early days of existence in the late 1990s, with Democratic presidents tending to support the court's objectives more so than Republican presidents.

Former President Donald Trump struck an unfriendly tone with the ICC while he was in office, going so far as to place sanctions on some ICC officials. Biden rescinded those Trump-era sanctions after taking office in January.

While the U.S. has supported select ICC efforts over the years, the country would need Biden's signature and support from two-thirds of the Senate in order to become an ICC member state. That kind of supermajority is unlikely in a time of heightened political polarization, when the Senate is equally split between Democrats and Republicans.

Though there are some actions the ICC can take involving U.S. citizens, the commission's ICC recommendations carry less weight than they would if the U.S. was in full cooperation with the court.

us senate logoInstead of observing police violence in America from afar, Hinds said the commission decided to "mobilize the international community to hold the United States to account."

"We can provide an objective statement of the reality that experts have shown in terms of the United States government holding itself up to be the bastion of human rights, while the objective evidence states to the contrary," Hinds said.

Though the U.S. isn't a member of the international court, it does have U.N. membership, Hinds pointed out.

"The United States does not want to be condemned before the United Nations, or before the international community," he said.

"After succumbing to enormous pressure by the U.S. and its allies, the HRC instead directed the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to prepare a report on systemic racism and violations of international human rights by police against Africans and people of African descent throughout the world," the report said.

Jamil Dakwar, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Human Rights Program, said the U.N.'s decision to pursue an international report "ultimately was watered down" from the initial request for an inquiry with a U.S. focus, which the ACLU supported.

The independent commission's report "really came as a way to further document and press for international accountability that we asked for last summer," Dakwar told Newsweek.

He said it is important the public understands that the commission's report is entirely separate from the U.N. inquiry the ACLU joined in requesting, though Tuesday's report reiterates those earlier calls for the U.N. to focus its attention on allegations of racist police conduct in the U.S.

For their report, the 12 commissioners from countries around the world collected testimony from family members and attorneys of 43 Black individuals in the U.S. who were killed during encounters with police and one other Black individual who was paralyzed after he was shot by police.

The commission posits there are two law systems in the U.S., one for Black citizens, one for white citizens.

"Under color of law, Black people are targeted, surveilled, brutalized, maimed and killed by law enforcement officers with impunity, as being Black is itself criminalized and devalued," the report said. "After hearing the testimony and reviewing national data, the Commissioners conclude that both the relevant laws and police practices in the U.S. do not comply with the international human rights obligations of the U.S."

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. inquiries prompt hopes for police reform, fears of delays, David Nakamura, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). By launching federal investigations into police departments in Minneapolis and Louisville, Attorney General Merrick Garland has sent a clear message to local law enforcement agencies that their relative impunity during the Trump administration is over.

Standing in front of an American flag, Garland framed his actions as the start of an effort to rebuild trust among marginalized communities and police. “We undertake this task with determination and urgency,” he said, “knowing that change cannot wait.”

But Garland also has set up a potential expectations gap with civil rights activists and progressive politicians who have warned the Biden administration that a mere return to Obama-era strategies to combat abusive policing is a recipe for failure and disappointment.

The mass social justice protests that swept through American cities last summer — following the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis — coalesced around a demand for a wholesale reimagining of law enforcement, including calls to dramatically defund police departments and significantly scale back the use of prison sentences for low-level offenders.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Man shot by FBI outside CIA headquarters has died, Matt Zapotosky, May 4, 2021. The person shot by the FBI outside CIA headquarters Monday evening has died, the bureau announced Tuesday.

The FBI confirmed the death in a one-paragraph statement that offered no new details on what occurred.

Jennifer Smith, administrator for the Northern District of the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said an autopsy determined that the man, Roy Gordon Cole, died of gunshot wounds to the “torso and upper extremities,” and the manner of death was found to be homicide. She said she could not release how many times Cole had been shot.

Efforts to locate Cole’s family members were not immediately successful, though Smith said the man’s relatives had been told of the death.

An FBI spokeswoman also declined to provide information beyond the bureau’s statement, citing FBI policy and the bureau’s ongoing review.

The FBI did not detail what type of weapon Cole was alleged to have possessed, or precisely what he did to provoke the shooting. Officials familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing probe, said that the person had pulled up to the CIA security gate hours earlier and that the shooting occurred after lengthy negotiations.

Even in an era when police departments are under pressure to be transparent when their officers shoot people, the FBI has remained tight-lipped when its agents are involved in such incidents.

washington post logoWashington Post, Black man enslaved by White restaurant manager should be awarded more than $500,000, court says, Lateshia Beachum, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). Through violence, threats and intimidation, the manager coerced a Black man with intellectual disabilities into working more than 100 hours per week without pay.

A Black man with intellectual disabilities who was enslaved for five years at a restaurant in Conway, S.C., should be awarded double the amount of restitution from the White man now imprisoned for the crime, according to a recent court ruling.

As part of his 2019 guilty plea to a forced labor charge, Bobby Paul Edwards, 56, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered by a court to pay back John Christopher Smith $273,000 in unpaid wages and overtime compensation at J&J Cafeteria.

The Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled on April 21 that the previous amount decided by a district court “had erred” in not accounting for federal labor laws entitling him to $546,000, or double the amount he was owed from his imprisonment between 2009 and 2014. Through physical violence, threats and intimidation, Edwards coerced Smith, 43, into working more than 100 hours per week without pay, The Washington Post reported.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why the Right Loves Public School Culture Wars, Michelle Goldberg, right, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). There is a quote from Ralph Reed that I often return to when trying to michelle goldberg thumbunderstand how the right builds political power. “I would rather have a thousand school board members than one president and no school board members,” the former leader of the Christian Coalition said in 1996. School board elections are a great training ground for national activism. They can pull parents, particularly mothers, into politics around intensely emotional issues, building a thriving grass roots and keeping it mobilized.'

You could easily write a history of the modern right that’s about nothing but schools. The battles were initially about race, particularly segregation and busing. Out of those fights came the Christian right, born in reaction to the revocation of tax exemptions for segregated Christian schools. As the Christian right grew, political struggles over control of schools became more explicitly religious. There were campaigns against allowing gay people to work in schools and against teaching sex education and evolution.

Now the Christian right has more or less collapsed as anything but an identity category. There are still lots of religious fundamentalists, but not, post-Donald Trump, a movement confidently asserting itself as the repository of wholesome family values. Instead, with the drive to eradicate the teaching of “critical race theory,” race has moved back to the center of the public-school culture wars.

I put critical race theory in quotes because the right has transformed a term that originally referred to an academic school of thought into a catchall for resentments over diversity initiatives and changing history curriculums.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Politics Updates: Biden to deliver remarks on vaccinations as pace of shots slows nationwide, John Wagner, May 4, 2021.President Biden plans to deliver remarks Tuesday on his administration’s coronavirus response and its vaccination program at a time when the pace of vaccinations has slowed nationwide, even though every American adult is now eligible for the shots.

Biden’s planned speech from the State Dining Room of the White House comes during a week when he has otherwise been heavily focused on pushing major spending plans pending in Congress. During an appearance Monday, he defended his proposals to increase taxes on corporations and the wealthy to pay for his plans.

In other news:

  • McCarthy says fellow Republicans concerned about Cheney’s ability to carry out her leadership role
  • Rep. Charlie Crist announces bid for Florida governor, challenge to DeSantis

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Biden and the Future of the Family, Paul Krugman, right, May 4, 2021. Like many progressives, I like the Biden administration’s plan to invest in infrastructure, but really love its paul krugmanplans to invest more in people. There’s a good case for doing more to improve physical assets like roads, water supplies and broadband networks. There’s an overwhelming case for doing more to help families with children.

To Republican politicians, however, the opposite is true. G.O.P. opposition to President Biden’s infrastructure plans has felt low-energy, mainly involving word games about the meaning of “infrastructure” and tired repetition of old slogans about big government and job-killing tax hikes. Attacks on the family plan have, though, been truly venomous; Republicans seem really upset about proposals to spend more on child care and education.

Which is not to say that the arguments they’ve been making are honest.

How do we know that we should be spending more on families? There is, it turns out, a lot of evidence that there are big returns to helping children and their parents — stronger evidence, if truth be told, than there is for high returns to improved physical infrastructure.

ny times logoNew York Times, In a New Reversal, Biden Raises Limit on Refugees Allowed Into the U.S., Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). The action came two weeks after President Biden said he was keeping the Trump administration’s limit of 15,000 refugees, prompting a backlash.

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, The G.O.P. Won It All in Texas. Then It Turned on Itself, Elaina Plott, May 4, 2021. The Republican Party trounced the Democrats in November, only to see its politicians fight each other over the pandemic and conspiracy theories.

texas mapA majority of Texas voters cast their ballots for Donald Trump in an election that a few polls showed Joe Biden winning in Texas by as much as five points. John Cornyn, the Republican incumbent senator whom Democrats spent more than $29 million trying to defeat, won re-election by more than nine points. Republicans held each of the 10 House of Representatives seats in the state that some election forecasters had deemed “in play.” With control of redistricting at stake, they maintained their state House majority, making major inroads in heavily Hispanic counties along the border — historically Democratic territory — to a degree that shocked even Republicans.

Abbott, in his capacity as governor, helped shepherd his party to all this success. And yet several months later, on the morning of March 15, Abbott declared that he, like Hotze, considered voter fraud a matter of singular emergency in Texas, and he announced his endorsement of several measures designed to safeguard “election integrity.” He was in Houston to deliver this announcement, in the office of a Republican state senator who would help advance the cause in the Legislature

ny times logoNew York Times, Swiss Billionaire Quietly Becomes Influential Force Among Democrats, Kenneth P. Vogel, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). Hansjörg Wyss, who recently dropped his bid to buy Tribune Publishing, has been a leading source of difficult-to-trace money to left-leaning groups.

He is not as well known as wealthy liberal patrons like George Soros or Tom Steyer. His political activism is channeled through a daisy chain of opaque organizations that mask the ultimate recipients of his money. But the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss has quietly become one of the most important donors to left-leaning advocacy groups and an increasingly influential force among Democrats.

Newly obtained tax filings show that two of Mr. Wyss’s organizations, a foundation and a nonprofit fund, donated $208 million from 2016 through early last year to three other nonprofit funds that doled out money to a wide array of groups that backed progressive causes and helped Democrats in their efforts to win the White House and control of Congress last year.

Mr. Wyss’s representatives say his organizations’ money is not being spent on political campaigning. But documents and interviews show that the entities have come to play a prominent role in financing the political infrastructure that supports Democrats and their issues.

While most of his operation’s recent politically oriented giving was channeled through the three nonprofit funds, Mr. Wyss’s organizations also directly donated tens of millions of dollars since 2016 to groups that opposed former President Donald J. Trump and promoted Democrats and their causes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: May is a big month for Biden’s agenda on the Hill, Jacqueline Alemany, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). Policing reform, voting rights and infrastructure are the biggest agenda items. The 100-day sprint might be behind the administration but the laundry list of priorities outlined by President Biden during his joint address to Congress means lawmakers are going to have a busy month.

During his address last week, Biden set some new ambitious timelines and urged Congress to move faster on ongoing legislative pushes. The president called on lawmakers to expand Medicare coverage and allow Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug costs by the end of the year; reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act “now”; and pass legislation this year to create a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” farmworkers and those granted temporary protected status for humanitarian reasons.

But more imminently, the president urged passage of police reform by the first anniversary of George Floyd's death on May 25, send voting rights legislation that already passed the House through the Senate and to his desk, and administration officials had previously set Memorial Day as a deadline for “real progress” on its infrastructure proposal.

 

Media, Philanthropy, Education News

 ny times logoNew York Times, Social Media as ‘Godsend’: In India, Cries for Help Get Results, Suhasini Raj, May 4, 2021 (print ed.).  With a health care system past the breaking point, online grass-roots networks have sprung up to get aid to people who need it.

india flag mapRajni Gill woke up with a slight fever in mid-April, the first warning that she had Covid-19. Within a few days, she was breathless and nearly unconscious in a hospital.

Desperate to arrange plasma treatment for Ms. Gill, a gynecologist in the city of Noida, her family called doctors, friends, anyone they thought could help. Then her sister posted a plea on Facebook: “I am looking for a plasma donor for my sister who is hospitalized in Noida. She is B positive and is 43.”

The message, quickly amplified on Twitter, flashed across the phone of Srinivas B.V., an opposition politician in nearby Delhi, who was just then securing plasma for a college student. He deputized a volunteer donor to rush to the blood bank for Ms. Gill.

“The administration and systems have collapsed,” Mr. Srinivas said. “I have never seen so many people dying at the same time.”

Bill Gates and Melinda Gates (2019 photo by Elaine Thompson via the Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, Bill and Melinda Gates, who run one of the world’s largest philanthropies, are divorcing after 27 years, Jay Greene, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). The Gateses (shown above in Bill Gates and Melinda Gates (2019 photo by Elaine Thompson via the Associated Press) will continue to run their foundation, one of the world’s largest, even after their divorce. Bill and Melinda Gates, who run one of the world’s largest philanthropies, are divorcing after 27 years of marriage. They both announced the divorce on Twitter, in posts at the same time.

microsoft logo Custom“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage,” they wrote. Bill Gates, the co-founder of the software giant Microsoft, has an estimated net worth of $130.5 billion, ranking him fourth on Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest people.

They added that the couple would continue to run the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation together, whose mission is 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,” according to the statements.

The Gateses met at Microsoft, where Melinda worked developing multimedia products for the company.

washington post logoWashington Post, How three major news organizations all got a story about Rudy Giuliani wrong, Paul Farhi, May 4, 2021. Incorrect information from government sources apparently led three separate news organizations to publish the same erroneous claim about Rudolph W. Giuliani last week that all three later corrected.

rudy giuliani recentThe Washington Post, the New York Times and NBC News all reported Thursday that the FBI had briefed the lawyer to President Donald Trump that he was a target of a Russian disinformation campaign during his efforts to dig up unflattering information about then-candidate Joe Biden in 2019.

In fact, the news organizations later said in corrections appended to their stories Saturday that Giuliani, right, had not been briefed by the FBI.

The original stories were published after Wednesday’s FBI raid of Giuliani’s office and home, part of a criminal investigation of his activities in Ukraine. In the corrected versions of their stories, both The Post and NBC reported that the FBI was aware that Giuliani was a target of a Russian operation — and that it planned to warn him about this but ultimately did not.

The three news organizations were reluctant Monday to discuss their sources and reporting methods.

washington post logoWashington Post, Cuomo stuns Broadway, cultural world with lifting of capacity limits on May 19, Peter Marks, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). The arts community had been operating under the assumption that controls would remain in effect for several more months

Palmer Report, Opinion: Why the media is suddenly trying to scare us into believing the vaccine rollout was a failure, Bill Palmer, right, May 4, 2021. Back when the COVID vaccine was first being rolled out, bill palmerPalmer Report predicted that once the majority of Americans were vaccinated, the media would then try to milk us all for ratings and page views by suddenly insisting that herd immunity had become impossible.

We wanted to be wrong about this, but the reality is the media never passes up an opportunity to spin something into a doomsday narrative. For that matter, the media particularly relishes in taking a positive development that everyone is starting to feel good about, and spinning that into a doomsday narrative, because it has a particularly emotional resonance that causes the narrative to go viral.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, now that a little more than half of all American adults have been vaccinated – far earlier than would have been expected, no less – we’re seeing the media begin pushing the notion that the vaccine rollout has been a failure. Why do this? Again, the answer is always ratings and page views; as far as major media outlets are concerned, they only exist to rack up ratings and page views, because that’s how they make their revenue, and of course they’re all for-profit corporations.

On Monday the New York Times published an article which only quoted the experts who think herd immunity is unlikely or impossible, and then claimed that they were the consensus. It’s not at all difficult to poke around and find experts who think herd immunity is definitely possible, but that didn’t fit the doomsday narrative that the Times was going for, and so they were treated as if they don’t exist.

The Times article could end up doing real damage, because if people read it and conclude that herd immunity isn’t going to happen anyway, they may not bother pushing the mildly hesitant people within their personal circles to go ahead and get vaccinated. In other words, the article could end up being a self fulfilling prophecy, and a deadly one. But the Times article has gone viral because it’s scared and outraged so many people, meaning the Times has made thousands of dollars of ad revenue from it, which it surely sees as a win.

Then NBC News posted a headline on Monday accusing Walgreens and CVS of having wasted huge amounts of COVID vaccines. The article itself goes on to admit that less 200,000 doses have been wasted, total, nationwide, by all entities combined, since the rollout started. With more than 200 million doses administered, this means that less than 0.1% of all doses have gone to waste. That’s a huge success.

But this NBC article is so desperate to smear Walgreens and CVS, it’s left the impression that these two companies are throwing huge amounts of vaccines into the trash. This may cause people not to trust Walgreens and CVS as vaccine providers, and not take an appointment at those two stores even if one is provided, and then maybe not get around to getting vaccinated elsewhere. So again, this misleading NBC article could have deadly consequences. But the article went viral, to the point that the names of the two stores were trending on Twitter, so NBC got the page views and ad revenue it was hoping for.

If you’re new here, suffice it to say that major media outlets pull this kind of crap all the time. It’s never an attempt at helping one side or the other. It’s not partisan. It’s only ever about driving ratings and page views, because most major news outlets only see themselves as existing to drive ratings and page views.

Now that these two bogus articles have successfully gone viral on the same day, we’ll likely see even more major news outlets take a shot at getting ratings and page views out of claiming that the vaccine rollout is suddenly a failure. And if you think the major news outlets care about whether this might get people killed, keep in mind that these are the same major news outlets that spent the entire 2016 election flat out lying about an imaginary email scandal that resulted in a murderous psychopath becoming President of the United States. Compared to that, sabotaging the vaccine rollout for ratings and page views is mere child’s play.

david berkowitz

Daily Beast, The new Netflix docuseries “The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness” explores the theory that the serial killer who terrorized New York may not have acted alone, Nick Schager, May 4, 2021. David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam (shown above), killed six New Yorkers and wounded seven more—all with his trademark .44 caliber revolver—before being caught on Aug. 10, 1977. A loner who struck fear into the heart of the Big Apple with crimes that were all the more chilling for being so random, Berkowitz was, and remains, one of America’s most notorious serial killers, a fiend who targeted everyday citizens because, he claimed, a 6,000-year-old demon told him to via his neighbor’s dog. His crime spree was national news, and his capture calmed the metropolis he had paralyzed with terror.

Yet the question The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness poses is, what if he didn’t act alone?

daily beast logoPremiering on May 5, director Joshua Zeman’s four-part Netflix docuseries is, per its title, a descent into a bleak abyss, although the specific nature of that horror is perhaps its biggest surprise. Berkowitz’s crimes during the summer of 1977, and the New York Police Department’s desperate attempts to stop them, comprise the bulk of The Sons of Sam’s initial installment. Compiling a wealth of talking-head interviews and archival footage from the era, from TV news reports and on-the-street interviews to police press conferences and talk shows featuring experts, psychologists, and New York Daily News superstar reporter Jimmy Breslin—whose direct correspondences with Berkowitz became fodder for the front page—the series presents a harrowing account of those stressful few months, which were compounded by a July 13-14 blackout that further put New Yorkers on edge.

Berkowitz targeted young women with long brown hair as well as their male acquaintances, almost always when they were in cars late at night, and when he was nabbed in August, New York breathed a sigh of relief. Or, at least, most of the city did. From the moment Berkowitz was apprehended—and then smirked to the cameras during his perp walk, before confessing his guilt in court—IBM employee Maury Terry suspected that there was more to this story than simply a delusional sociopath who shot strangers on the orders of an evil spirit living in his elderly neighbor Sam Carr’s dog, and who wrote taunting letters to the police in which he ranted about Satanic forces, gave himself various nicknames, drew strange insignias, and declared, “I am the monster, Beelzebub, the chubby behemoth.” In light of various discrepancies in the case, including the fact that Berkowitz didn’t remotely resemble the many police sketches made from eyewitness statements, Terry surmised that more than one person might have committed these executions.

Thus, a private investigation was born, one that led Terry first to the Carr family. Though Berkowitz dubbed himself the “Son of Sam,” Sam Carr actually had two sons of his own—John and Michael Carr—and the former’s nickname, “Wheaties,” almost perfectly aligned with one of the nicknames (“John Wheaties”) the killer had mentioned in a letter to the cops. Berkowitz knew John and Michael Carr, and they all used to hang out in Yonkers’ Untermyer Park—in particular, at a decrepit pump house known as “the Devil’s Cave,” whose interior was decorated with blood and upside-down crosses, and where mutilated animal corpses that had apparently been used in ritual sacrifices were found. Since John Carr looked eerily similar to one of the police sketches of the killer, Terry became convinced that the three were in cahoots—and, moreover, that they were members of a Satanic cult known as “the Children,” which was an offshoot of a British cult known as “the Process Church of the Final Judgment.”

 

World News 

Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem at the Israel Museum on May 23, 2017 (AP photo by Sebastian Scheiner).

Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem at the Israel Museum on May 23, 2017 (AP photo by Sebastian Scheiner).

washington post logoWashington Post, Israel’s Netanyahu has hours to form a new government and no clear path to do it, Steve Hendrix, May 4, 2021. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, faces a TuesdayBenjamin Netanyahu smile Twitterdeadline to form a new government amid signs that he has no path to a parliamentary majority, which would prolong the country's unprecedented political stalemate and threaten to end the record run of Israel's longest-serving leader.

Netanyahu’s 28-day window to build a government after not winning an outright majority in March elections will expire at midnight. If the prime minister does not reach a deal with potential partners, President Reuven Rivlin will turn to one of his rival lawmakers, who are already trying to negotiate the first coalition to exclude Netanyahu in 12 years.

washington post logoWashington Post, As U.S. seeks help at the border, Mexico gains leverage, Nick Miroff and Mary Beth Sheridan, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). Mexico’s ability to limit migration has given its government significant sway over an issue that is a political vulnerability for President Biden. Three consecutive U.S. administrations have turned to Mexico for help with immigration enforcement at moments of crisis along the U.S. southern border, and when Vice President Harris meets virtually with Mexican leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday, the United States will once more arrive in need of a favor.

mexico flag1Since President Biden took office, the number of migrants taken into U.S. custody along the border has soared to the highest levels in nearly 20 years, surpassing 172,000 in March. His administration has opened more than a dozen emergency shelters to care for record numbers of teenagers and children arriving without parents. Biden’s handling of the migration influx at the border ranks among his worst-polling issues, and he has tasked Harris — his party’s heir apparent — with leading an international effort to address the root causes of migration and stem the flow.

Mexico is central to that plan, underscoring what has become a growing U.S. dependence on Mexico to carry out immigration enforcement functions at a time when such measures are subject to frequent legal challenges in U.S. courts or politically unpalatable to Democrats.

washington post logoWashington Post, Mexico City subway overpass collapses, killing at least 23, Mary Beth Sheridan and Erin Cunningham, May 4, 2021. Police, emergency workers and neighbors scrambled through the rubble, searching for survivors after the concrete structure suddenly gave way, crushing at least one vehicle that was below it.

Mexico City boasts the second-largest metro system in North America, after New York City’s subway. This was the second major accident for the system this year. In January, a fire broke out at a downtown substation, leaving one person dead and shutting down several major lines for weeks. Before the pandemic, around 4.6 million people traveled on the metro each day.

ny times logoNew York Times, Criminal or Martyr? Prisoner Poses a Political Dilemma for Spain, Nicholas Casey, May 4, 2021. A Catalan separatist leader sits in prison for supporting a failed independence bid. His supporters say he should not be in prison at all.

australian flag waving

washington post logoWashington Post, Australian prime minister backs down on jail threats as India travel ban backlash intensifies, Michael E. Miller, May 4, 2021. Perhaps the most strident criticism came from former cricket star Michael Slater, who accused Prime Minister Scott Morrison of having “blood” on his hands.

May 3

Top Headlines  

 

U.S. Election Rigging, Capitol Riot, Domestic Terror 

 

 Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

U.S. Politics, Governance   

 

Media, Philanthropy, Education News

 

World News

  

Top Stories.

 fda logo

ny times logoNew York Times,  Live Updates: F.D.A. Set to Expand Pfizer Vaccine to Adolescents by Early Next Week, Staff Reports, May 3, 2021. Here’s what you need to know:

  • N.Y., N.J. and Connecticut will let many businesses fully reopen in mid-May and N.Y.C.’s subway will resume 24-hour service.
  • Deaths mount during an oxygen shortage in India, and a high court intervenes.
  • Moderna will provide 500 million vaccine doses to Covax, and other news from other the world.
  • In Canada, residents face long waits for second vaccine doses as cases rise.
  • Here’s what it would take to vaccinate the whole world.

The Food and Drug Administration is preparing to authorize use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in adolescents 12 to 15 years old by early next week, according to federal officials familiar with the agency’s plans, opening up the U.S. vaccination campaign to millions more people.

Some parents have been counting down the weeks since Pfizer announced results from its trial in adolescents showing that the vaccine is at least as effective in that age group as it is in adults. Vaccinating children is key to raising the level of immunity in the population and bringing down the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.

The clearance, in the form of an amendment to the existing emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine, could come as early as late this week. If it is granted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory panel is likely to meet the following day to review the clinical trial data and make recommendations for the vaccine’s use in adolescents.

The expansion would be a major development in the country’s vaccination campaign and welcome news to some parents who are anxious to protect their children during summer activities and before the start of the next school year. It also poses another challenge to policymakers who are struggling to vaccinate a large percentage of adults hesitant to get the shot. Many more could refuse to inoculate their children.

ny times logoNew York Times, Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe, Apoorva Mandavilli, May 3, 2021. Widely circulating coronavirus variants and persistent hesitancy about vaccines will keep the goal out of reach, at least in the foreseeable future. Health experts are coming to the conclusion that the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will keep circulating for years to come.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Early in the pandemic, when vaccines for the coronavirus were still just a glimmer on the horizon, the term “herd immunity” came to signify the endgame: the point when enough Americans would be protected from the virus so we could be rid of the pathogen and reclaim our lives.

Now, more than half of adults in the United States have been inoculated with at least one dose of a vaccine. But daily vaccination rates are slipping, and there is widespread consensus among scientists and public health experts that the herd immunity threshold is not attainable — at least not in the foreseeable future, and perhaps not ever.

Instead, they are coming to the conclusion that rather than making a long-promised exit, the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers.

How much smaller is uncertain and depends in part on how much of the nation, and the world, becomes vaccinated and how the coronavirus evolves. It is already clear, however, that the virus is changing too quickly, new variants are spreading too easily and vaccination is proceeding too slowly for herd immunity to be within reach anytime soon

ny times logoNew York Times, How the A.T.F., Key to Biden’s Gun Plan, Became an N.R.A. ‘Whipping Boy,’ Glenn Thrush, Danny Hakim and Mike McIntire, Updated May 3, 2021. The agency tasked with enforcing gun laws has been hamstrung by the firearms lobby. Now, President Biden’s plan to slow gun violence hinges on its success.

nra logo CustomThe gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association, has for years systematically blocked plans to modernize the agency’s paper-based weapons-tracing system with a searchable database. As a result, records of gun sales going back decades are stored in boxes stacked seven high, waiting to be processed, against every wall.

“We had a lady pushing a cart, and the floor just gave way,” recalled Tyson J. Arnold, who runs the tracing center, tapping the new, steel-braced deck with his shoe.

Now the long-suffering A.T.F. (somehow the “explosives” never made it into the abbreviation) is at the center of President Biden’s plans to push back at what he has called “the international embarrassment” of gun violence in America.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats House majority threatened by retirements, Michael Scherer, May 3, 2021 (print ed.). Retirements add yet another concern for a party facing an uphill fight to maintain control of Congress next year.

A growing list of House Democrats from competitive districts are headed for the exits, adding yet another concern for a party facing an uphill fight to maintain control of Congress next year.

cheri bustos hThe latest to announce her departure is Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), right, the former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who proclaimed her coming retirement Friday after narrowly winning reelection in a rural district along the Mississippi River that supported Donald Trump.

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), who has been exploring another possible gubernatorial run, put out word Saturday that he would be making a “major announcement” this week, potentially putting at risk his St. Petersburg seat, where he ran ahead of President Biden in 2020.Two other accomplished battleground incumbents — Reps. Filemon Vela Jr. (D-Texas) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) — announced their plans to leave earlier this year, joining Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who is giving up a closely-contested seat to run for the U.S. Senate. Several more in competitive areas, including Democratic stars like Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) are also seriously considering runs for higher office later this year.

The exodus comes as the party struggles to maintain or extend the narrowest congressional majority in decades — currently six seats, which will grow to seven in coming days as a newly-elected Democrat, Troy Carter from Louisiana, is sworn in.

Democrats have little margin for error to keep control, even as they simultaneously will be working against a redistricting cycle that is likely to favor Republican officeholders.

democratic donkey logoThe Democratic departures are likely to make it easier for sometimes-partisan mapmakers to draw maps that favor Republican pickups. They also mean that Democrats will not fully take advantage of incumbency, with its fundraising and name recognition benefits. In 2018, the last midterm shake-up, 91 percent of incumbents won reelection, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

This time, Democrats will be the ones fighting historical head winds that tend to punish the president’s party in midterm elections. Since 1910, the party in the White House has gained House seats in a midterm only twice: in 1934, after the election of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and in 2002, when President George W. Bush was leading a response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. President Bill Clinton lost 54 seats in his first midterm. Barack Obama lost 64. Donald Trump gave up about 40.

Amid these grim odds, retirements have long been viewed by party strategists as a key early metric of just how challenging an election cycle will be. bane for Republicans in recent midterms, playing a major role in the 2018 Democratic takeover of the House, which followed an exodus of 33 GOP members — nearly twice as many as Democrats.

Daily Beast, Commentary: U.S. Captured, Tortured, and Cleared Him. He’s Still in GITMO, Spencer Ackerman, May 3, 2021. Abu Zubaydah was a human guinea pig for the CIA’s post-9/11 torture. Almost 20 years later, as the U.S. moves on, he’s still trying to get out of Guantanamo.

daily beast logoIt’s been 19 years since U.S. forces captured Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn and declared him one of the senior leaders of al Qaeda. It’s been 15 years since the CIA quietly revoked that assessment once it was done torturing him. Today, Huseyn, a forgotten man, remains locked inside Guantanamo Bay, a living symbol of the permanent damage wrought by the War on Terror.

As the Biden administration performs the latest government review into closing Guantanamo, attorneys for Husayn, better known as Abu Zubaydah, have decided they’ve waited long enough. They filed a petition on Friday with the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention seeking his release from his 19 years of captivity. They want the panel to exercise its “urgent actions” procedures to appeal to Washington for his freedom, citing his counsel’s “serious concerns for his physical and mental health and welfare [stretching back] for years.”

U.S. Election Rigging, Capitol Riot, Domestic Terror 

 

capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool was just one example of the racist and anti-Semitic imagery on display at the riot. The noose is a racist symbol of the lynching of Black Americans. (Photo by Shay Horse  via NurPhoto / Getty).


washington post logoWashington Post, Fla. Republicans rushed to curb mail voting. Now some fear it may hurt GOP, Amy Gardner, May 3, 2021.  Republican lawmakers are reversing statutes that their own predecessors put in place, curtailing a practice that millions of GOP voters in the state use, despite former president Donald Trump’s relentless and baseless claims that it invites fraud.

republican elephant logoVirtually every narrow Republican victor of the past generation — and there have been many, including two of the state’s current top officeholders, Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, and Sen. Rick Scott — owes their victory, at least in part, to mail voting.

ron desantis oNow, some Florida Republicans are reacting with alarm after the GOP-dominated state legislature, with DeSantis’s support, passed a far-reaching bill Thursday night that puts new restrictions on the use of mail ballots.

Not only are GOP lawmakers reversing statutes that their own predecessors put in place, but they are also curtailing a practice that millions of state Republicans use, despite former president Donald Trump’s relentless and baseless claims that it invites fraud.

Even as Democrats and voting rights advocates accuse the proponents of Senate Bill 90 of attempting to suppress the votes of people of color, these Republicans say their own political fortunes are in peril, too.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rejection of 2020 election results becomes defining GOP loyalty test, Ashley Parker and Marianna Sotomayor, May 3, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans have embraced the baseless claims that President Biden did not defeat Donald Trump, with potential ramifications for the midterms and the 2024 election.

Debra Ell, a Republican organizer in Michigan and fervent supporter of former president Donald Trump, said she has good reason to believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

“I think I speak for many people in that Trump has never actually been wrong, and so we’ve learned to trust when he says something, that he’s not just going to spew something out there that’s wrong and not verified,” she said, referring to Trump’s baseless claims that widespread electoral fraud caused his loss to President Biden in November.

In fact, there is no evidence to support Trump’s false assertions, which culminated in a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. But Ell, a Republican precinct delegate in her state, said the 2020 election is one of the reasons she’s working to censure and remove Jason Cabel Roe from his role as the Michigan Republican Party’s executive director — specifically that Roe accepted the 2020 results, telling Politico that “the election wasn’t stolen” and that “there is no one to blame but Trump.”

Nearly six months after Trump lost to Biden, rejection of the 2020 election results — dubbed the “Big Lie” by many Democrats — has increasingly become an unofficial litmus test for acceptance in the Republican Party. In January, 147 GOP lawmakers — eight senators and 139 House members — voted in support of objections to the election results, and since then, Republicans from Congress to statehouses to local party organizations have fervently embraced the falsehood.

In Washington, normally chatty senators scramble to skirt the question, and internal feuding over who is to blame for the Jan. 6 insurrection has riven the House Republican leadership, with tensions between House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, spilling into public view. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is facing a Trump-aligned primary challenger in her 2022 race, inspired by her call for Trump to resign after the Jan. 6 attack and her later vote to convict him over his role in inciting the insurrection.

Local officials, too, are facing censure and threats — in states from Iowa to Michigan to Missouri — for publicly accepting the election results. And in Arizona’s largest county, a hand recount of 2.1 million votes cast in November is underway by Republicans who dispute the results, in yet another effort to overturn the results of the November contest.

capitol mob

Pro-Trump rioters and insurrectionists ar shown after storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and threatening lawmakers unless they overturned November elections and reinstalled Trump for four more years following his repeated claims via social media that he had won re-election and was being deprived of the right to rule because of fraud that was never prove in more than 60 lawsuits by Trump and his allies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: The politicians who tried to overturn an election — and the local news team that won’t let anyone forget it, Margaret Sullivan, right, May 3, 2021 (print ed.). While Sunday shows keep margaret sullivan 2015 photobooking the lawmakers who undermined democracy, one public radio station decided it wouldn’t shrug off the damaging lies of election denialism.

The journalists at WITF, an all-news public radio station in Harrisburg, Pa., made a perfectly reasonable decision a few months ago.

They decided they wouldn’t shrug off the damaging lies of election denialism.

They wouldn’t do what too many in Big Journalism have done in recent months: shove into the memory hole the undemocratic efforts by some Republican elected officials to delegitimize or overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Too many Sunday news shows repeatedly book the likes of Kevin McCarthy, Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson without reminding viewers how these members of Congress tried to undo the results of the election — and encouraged the Trumpian lies about election fraud that led to the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol less than four months ago. A rare exception is CNN’s “State of the Union,” which hasn’t booked a single member of the so-called Sedition Caucus since January.

“There’s a kind of clubby atmosphere on these shows, part of the Beltway Bubble mentality, in which it’s become almost impolite to raise the topic of the insurrection,” Princeton University history professor Kevin Kruse told me.

“CBS This Morning,” for example, sent out an email alert last week touting its exclusive interview with Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), one of the seven senators who voted against certifying the election results in Pennsylvania. Scott blasted President Biden for “spending us into oblivion” and mocked him for not achieving bipartisanship — yet interviewer Anthony Mason never mentioned that Scott had literally tried to overturn Biden’s election.

“109 days after Jan. 6, ‘history will remember’ is a complete joke,” Matt Negrin of “The Daily Show” tweeted last week. He added: “These media outlets want you to forget.”

But Harrisburg’s WITF has gone a different route: They want you to remember.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Liz Cheney slams Trump’s attempt to brand 2020 election ‘the Big Lie,’ Colby Itkowitz and Marianna Sotomayor, May 3, 2021. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), right, pushed back Monday against former liz cheney opresident Donald Trump’s attempt to commandeer the term “Big Lie,” commonly used to refer to the false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, and accused him and those who perpetrate the falsehoods of “poisoning” democracy.

Trump released a statement Monday morning asserting: “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!” The statement came as an oversight board for Facebook is expected to rule this week on whether to allow Trump back on the social media platform after he was suspended in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

washington post logoWashington Post, Romney booed at Utah GOP convention before failed vote to censure him, Paulina Firozi, A resolution to censure Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) for voting to remove former president Donald Trump from office was defeated by a 798-to-711 vote

washington post logoWashington Post, As U.S. seeks help at the border, Mexico gains leverage, Nick Miroff and Mary Beth Sheridan, Mexico’s ability to limit migration has given its government significant sway over an issue that is a political vulnerability for President Biden. Three consecutive U.S. administrations have turned to Mexico for help with immigration enforcement at moments of crisis along the U.S. southern border, and when Vice President Harris meets virtually with Mexican leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday, the United States will once more arrive in need of a favor.

Since President Biden took office, the number of migrants taken into U.S. custody along the border has soared to the highest levels in nearly 20 years, surpassing 172,000 in March. His administration has opened more than a dozen emergency shelters to care for record numbers of teenagers and children arriving without parents. Biden’s handling of the migration influx at the border ranks among his worst-polling issues, and he has tasked Harris — his party’s heir apparent — with leading an international effort to address the root causes of migration and stem the flow.

Mexico is central to that plan, underscoring what has become a growing U.S. dependence on Mexico to carry out immigration enforcement functions at a time when such measures are subject to frequent legal challenges in U.S. courts or politically unpalatable to Democrats.

Proof via Substack, Investigation & Commentary: Trump's Insurrection Is in Arizona Now, Seth Abramson, May 2, 2021. This exposé on the aftermath of the January 6 Capitol attack in Arizona reveals that seth abramson headshotthe newest battleground for Trump's domestic insurgency is the Grand Canyon State. Will it turn violent there, too?

The Washington Post has called Kelli Ward, the chair of the Arizona GOP, a “leading voice” in the Stop the Steal “movement” orchestrated by Ali Alexander, Alex Jones, and Roger Stone. But seth abramson proof logoper the Post, days after Ward’s January 2021 reelection as chair of the Arizona GOP—an election Ward won by just 42 votes—she faced calls for an audit of her victory by defeated challenger Sergio Arellano.

Those familiar with Ward won’t be surprised to learn that, despite being the chief proponent of post-election audits in the presidential race, Ward quickly rejected calls for an audit of her election, insisting, per the Arizona Republic, there is “no procedure, process or rule that allows for that.”

seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionBut rules had never stopped Ward before. And they’re certainly not stopping her now, as she coordinates the movement of Trump’s insurgency from Washington to Arizona.

Seth Abramson, shown above left and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism,legal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

 

From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter at House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on March 25, 2021 via YouTube.From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter testified remotely in March (Credit...Energy and Commerce Committee, via YouTube).

ny times logoNew York Times, Business News Live Updates: Facebook to Announce Whether Trump’s Account Will Be Restored, Staff Reports, May 3, 2021. Former President Trump was locked out of Facebook facebook logoon Jan. 7 after he used social media to incite a mob to storm the Capitol. Here’s the latest economic news.

  • Warren Buffett’s successor at Berkshire Hathaway is likely to be Gregory Abel.
  • Apple and Epic Games head to court over app revenue.
  • Prices are rising at the supermarket, drugstore and lumber yard.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook’s Oversight Board has decided the fate of Trump’s account. Here’s everything you need to know, Rachel Lerman and Heather Kelly, May 3, 2021. The board’s decision is expected within days. Trump was indefinitely banned from the social media site in January. It’s been four months since former president Donald Trump was last allowed to post on Facebook, after CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he was banned “indefinitely.”

Now the Facebook Oversight Board, an outside group funded and created by Facebook to review the social media giant’s thorniest policy choices, has made a decision on the case. It is expected to announce on Wednesday whether Facebook can uphold its suspension of Trump or if it has to allow him back on the site.

facebook logoThe board will announce its decision on this case — its most significant by far — at approximately 9 a.m. Wednesday. The ruling is being closely watched by politicians around the world, as well as social media researchers and other tech companies that similarly banned Trump in January.

Facebook was the first major social media platform to suspend Trump indefinitely in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, and its decision was met with praise by many critics who believed the company had let him dodge its normal rules and policies. But others decried the decision as “censorship” and said it set a dangerous precedent for how world leaders communicate online.

These are the platforms that have banned Trump and his allies

Facebook, the Oversight Board and Trump have periodically outlined their thinking in blog posts, news releases and on social media. Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming ruling.

What is the Facebook Oversight Board?

The Facebook Oversight Board is a group created by Facebook to which users can appeal important company decisions. Though it is funded by a $130 million trust created by Facebook, the board says it is an independent and neutral third party. Its goal is to review moderation decisions made by the company and decide whether they were “made in accordance with its stated values.”

First proposed in a 2018 blog post by Zuckerberg, the Oversight Board is the company’s attempt to have an outside authority handle difficult decisions. It formally started deliberating in October 2020 and has also been called “Facebook’s Supreme Court,” though it has no government affiliation or legal standing. The board is currently made of 20 people from around the world who are experts in things like journalism, misinformation, freedom of speech and extremism, though only 19 are participating in this case. The original goal was to have 40 members total, and more will continue to be added.

The board was created to appease critics who thought power over the world’s largest social network and its 3.45 billion monthly users (including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) was too concentrated in a group of Facebook executives, specifically Zuckerberg. However, critics say it outsources individual decisions without creating meaningful internal change and shields Facebook from responsibility for difficult decisions.

So far the board has ruled on Facebook moderation decisions around blackface, threats of violence and covid-19 misinformation. It has overturned Facebook’s decisions six times, upheld them twice, and was unable to complete a ruling once.

How does the board’s decision work?

First a case has to be referred to the board, either by Facebook itself or through direct submissions from users who disagree with Facebook taking down their content or leaving someone else’s up. The board selects a panel of five of its members, including at least one person from the country where the case is based. They are not named publicly so they cannot be lobbied. Members have all gone through training for the job, which is not full time, and approach the decisions as precedent-setting legal cases, even though the process is not part of any legal system.
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The panel meets over Zoom and considers Facebook’s own lengthy Community Standards bylaws and consults with outside experts and organizations. The affected account holder can also submit a statement, and there is a public commenting period for any regular people to weigh in. The Trump case received more than 9,000 public comments, almost as many as all the board’s past cases combined.

The panel tries to reach an unanimous decision, but technically it needs only a simple majority. It then takes its decision and presents it to the full board, which can overrule the finding if a majority of board members disagree with it.

In the Trump ruling, the board’s decision will have two parts. First it will say yes, Facebook can continue to ban Trump, or no, it has to let him back on. Its decision on whether to uphold Facebook’s ban is binding, according to the board’s bylaws.

The board also goes further than that simple ruling and makes broader policy suggestions to Facebook. Those suggestions — which can include things like asking the company to add policies around issues like hate speech or bullying, or whether world leaders get different treatment — are not binding, and the company does not have to follow them or take them into consideration. However, Facebook has so far been open to the suggestions. In its first ruling, the Oversight Board made 17 recommendations and Facebook said it was “committed to action” on 11 of them.

The board will post a written version of the decision to its website that will include a detailed explanation of what it considered and how it reached its conclusion, as well as the public comments.

If Trump is allowed back on Facebook, he could still run afoul of its policies and be removed again over future posts, as the decision does not exempt him from Facebook’s rules. If Facebook adopts any guidance from the board on how to handle political figures, that could help guide future decisions about his posts and account.

The former president issued a press release Monday morning repeating his baseless claim that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. He referred to the election as “THE BIG LIE!”

How did we get to this point?

Tension had been building between Trump and Facebook for nearly six years before the company indefinitely suspended him after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. In 2015, then-candidate Trump posted a video calling for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. In a controversial decision, Facebook declined to remove it. Instead, that internal decision eventually led to the company’s “newsworthiness” policy, which created an exception for some posts that violated guidelines to nevertheless remain online because they carried public-interest value.
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Facebook’s policies were constantly tested throughout 2020, when Trump posted misleading information about the coronavirus and bombastic statements about protests taking place across the country. In a May post, Trump referred to protesters as “THUGS” and wrote, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Though Twitter was Trump’s go-to social media site, the former president also regularly used Facebook to spread messages and often cross-posted on both Twitter and Facebook.

Twitter labeled a similar tweet on its site with a public interest notice, but Facebook left it untouched. Employees and advocates called for Facebook to take harsher action and in June, Zuckerberg announced the company would label posts that violated hate speech and other policies, even from politicians. And it would also remove posts that attempted to incite violence or suppress voting, with no newsworthiness exception.

Facebook did begin labeling some of Trump’s tweets, but it faced mounting pressure from critics saying it wasn’t doing enough, as well as from some conservative politicians and pundits who called its actions “censorship.”

djt biden resized smilesThe breaking point came Jan. 6 when Trump posted a video on Facebook and Instagram, and other social media sites, telling rioters to go home. But in the video he also said, “We love you, you’re very special.” Facebook suspended the president for 24 hours. The next day, Zuckerberg announced the suspension would be indefinite, saying, “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.”

Later that month, Facebook said it would refer the decision to the Oversight Board to make the final call. “Many argue private companies like Facebook shouldn’t be making these big decisions on their own,” the company wrote at the time. “We agree.”
What does this mean for other tech companies?

twitter bird CustomTwitter and YouTube took similar action on Trump’s account soon after Facebook. Trump’s account remains available on YouTube, but he’s blocked from uploading new videos. YouTube’s suspensions usually last only a week for a “first strike,” but the company will keep Trump’s in place until the “risk of violence has decreased,” CEO Susan Wojcicki said in March. YouTube’s analysts will determine when the risk is low enough by looking at government statements, whether there are police buildups and the level of violent rhetoric elsewhere on YouTube, Wojcicki said.

Trump had millions of views and followers on YouTube, but the platform wasn’t used as directly as Twitter was. Instead his campaign used the site to post official videos that were shared around the Web by supporters. The campaign also bought prime ad space on YouTube’s homepage the week of the election.

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

washington post logoWashington Post, 147.5 million vaccinated, as of May 3, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 55.2 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 44.4 % of the total population. See about your state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Moderna agrees to supply U.N.’s Covax with 500 million vaccine doses, Erin Cunningham and Brittany Shammas, May 3, 2021. India’s vaccine shortage will probably last for months after the government failed to properly plan for a second wave of coronavirus infections, the head of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer said.

Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of India’s Serum Institute, made the remarks in an interview Sunday with the Financial Times. He said he has been “unfairly” victimized as India’s covid-19 outbreak surged and vaccinations sputtered, due in part to a domestic shortage of vaccines.

A group of scientific advisers to India’s government also said they warned officials in early March that a more transmissible variant was spreading in the nation of some 1.3 billion people, Reuters reported. Authorities, however, refrained from taking more drastic measures to prevent a surge.

washington post logoWashington Post, Police officers’ hesitancy to get coronavirus vaccine poses safety risks, Isaac Stanley-Becker, May 3, 2021 (print ed.). Low immunization levels among police officers threatens not just their own health, but also the safety of people they’re responsible for guarding, monitoring and patrolling, experts say.

Police officers were among the first front-line workers to gain priority access to coronavirus vaccines. But their vaccination rates are lower than or about the same as those of the general public, according to data made available by some of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies.

The reluctance of police to get the shots threatens not just their own health, but also the safety of people they’re responsible for guarding, monitoring and patrolling, experts say.

At the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, just 39 percent of employees have gotten at least one dose, officials said, compared to more than 50 percent of eligible adults nationwide. In Atlanta, 36 percent of sworn officers have been vaccinated. And a mere 28 percent of those employed by the Columbus Division of Police — Ohio’s largest police department — report having received a shot.

washington post logo

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 3, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 153,498,053, Deaths: 3,216,383
U.S. Cases:     33,180,441, Deaths:     591,062
India Cases:    19,925,604, Deaths:     218,959
Brazil Cases:   14,754,910, Deaths:     407,775

ny times logoNew York Times, How Can the Olympics Protect 78,000 Volunteers From the Coronavirus? Motoko Rich, May 3, 2021 (print ed.). Volunteers for the Tokyo Games are being offered little more than some masks, hand sanitizer and social-distancing guidance that may be hard to abide by.

Japan FlagFor Olympic host cities, one of the keys to a successful Games is the army of volunteers who cheerfully perform a range of duties, like fetching water, driving Olympic vehicles, interpreting for athletes or carrying medals to ceremonies.

If the rescheduled Tokyo Games go ahead as planned this summer, roughly 78,000 volunteers will have another responsibility: preventing the spread of the coronavirus, both among participants and themselves.

For protection, the volunteers are being offered little more than a couple of cloth masks, a bottle of sanitizer and mantras about social distancing. Unless they qualify for vaccination through Japan’s slow age-based rollout, they will not be inoculated against the coronavirus.

“I don’t know how we’re going to be able to do this,” said Akiko Kariya, 40, a paralegal in Tokyo who signed up to volunteer as an interpreter. The Olympic committee “hasn’t told us exactly what they will do to keep us safe.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: India’s vaccine shortage to last months, warns top manufacturer, Erin Cunningham, May 3, 2021.

    • Moderna agrees to supply U.N.’s Covax with 500 million coronavirus vaccine doses
    • Analysis: The populists and nationalists failed during the pandemic. But they weren’t the only ones.
    • E.U. proposes easing travel restrictions for vaccinated visitors to boost tourism

 

U.S. Crime, Police, Race, Courts

 United Nations

Newsweek, Independent Commission Calls U.S. Police Killing of Blacks 'Crimes Against Humanity,' But Lacks Enforcement Authority, Meghan Roos, May 3, 2021. An independent commission announced its findings on April 27 with the publication of a detailed report that alleges the existence of systemic racism inherent in police violence against Black Americans, which they argue constitutes crimes against humanity.

Although the commission has no enforcement authority, it made specific referrals to the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government and the U.S. Congress, among others.

newsweek logoIn the U.S., the referrals included a call for reparations, action to review and retool existing law enforcement policies, and passage of legislation to hold law enforcement officers accountable when Black individuals die as a result of their encounters with police.

At the international level, the commission called upon the global community to support ICC investigations into systemic racist police violence in the U.S. under Article 7 of the court's Rome Statute, which covers crimes against humanity.

Though nations like Australia, Mexico, South Africa and the United Kingdom are among the Rome Statute's list of 123 signatory countries, the U.S. is not. America's lack of ICC membership means the ICC has significantly less jurisdiction over the U.S. than it does over its member states.

The killing of George Floyd (shown below at left along with his convicted murderer, then Police Officer Derek Chauvin) in May, an event captured on video that went viral, sparked protests across the nation, which inspired calls from relatives of Black Americans who have been victims of similar police conduct to request reviews of the institutions and workplace cultures that allow this violence to fester.

Floyd's death inspired debate at the U.N.'s HRC, which decided in June to create a report assessing how systemic racism and police conduct impacts Black individuals around the world.george floyd derek chauvinBut Floyd's family members and others who pushed for the inquiry had wanted the HRC to focus on those issues specifically in the U.S. In response to the U.N.'s global focus, three organizations—the U.S.-based National Conference of Black Lawyers, the National Lawyers Guild, and the International Association of Democratic Lawyers—came together to launch an independent commission of their own, which was officially named the International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States.

The commission's resulting 188-page report was funded by the National Lawyers Guild Foundation.

The commissioners wrote that they believed launching an independent inquiry was necessary because of the way the U.N. backed away from focusing on systemic racism and police conduct in the U.S. The report said the U.N. did so in response to pressure from the U.S. while the country was led by former President Donald Trump.

The commission's resulting 188-page report was funded by the National Lawyers Guild Foundation.

The commissioners wrote that they believed launching an independent inquiry was necessary because of the way the U.N. backed away from focusing on systemic racism and police conduct in the U.S. The report said the U.N. did so in response to pressure from the U.S. while the country was led by former President Donald Trump.

american flag upside down distress"After succumbing to enormous pressure by the U.S. and its allies, the HRC instead directed the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to prepare a report on systemic racism and violations of international human rights by police against Africans and people of African descent throughout the world," the report said.

Jamil Dakwar, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Human Rights Program, said the U.N.'s decision to pursue an international report "ultimately was watered down" from the initial request for an inquiry with a U.S. focus, which the ACLU supported.

The independent commission's report "really came as a way to further document and press for international accountability that we asked for last summer," Dakwar told Newsweek.

The recommendations serve as a reminder that the U.S. is not a member state of the ICC. The country's relationship with the ICC has fluctuated since the court's early days of existence in the late 1990s, with Democratic presidents tending to support the court's objectives more so than Republican presidents.

Former President Donald Trump struck an unfriendly tone with the ICC while he was in office, going so far as to place sanctions on some ICC officials. Biden rescinded those Trump-era sanctions after taking office in January.

While the U.S. has supported select ICC efforts over the years, the country would need Biden's signature and support from two-thirds of the Senate in order to become an ICC member state. That kind of supermajority is unlikely in a time of heightened political polarization, when the Senate is equally split between Democrats and Republicans.

Though there are some actions the ICC can take involving U.S. citizens, the commission's ICC recommendations carry less weight than they would if the U.S. was in full cooperation with the court.

us senate logoInstead of observing police violence in America from afar, Hinds said the commission decided to "mobilize the international community to hold the United States to account."

"We can provide an objective statement of the reality that experts have shown in terms of the United States government holding itself up to be the bastion of human rights, while the objective evidence states to the contrary," Hinds said.

Though the U.S. isn't a member of the international court, it does have U.N. membership, Hinds pointed out.

"The United States does not want to be condemned before the United Nations, or before the international community," he said.

"After succumbing to enormous pressure by the U.S. and its allies, the HRC instead directed the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to prepare a report on systemic racism and violations of international human rights by police against Africans and people of African descent throughout the world," the report said.

Jamil Dakwar, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Human Rights Program, said the U.N.'s decision to pursue an international report "ultimately was watered down" from the initial request for an inquiry with a U.S. focus, which the ACLU supported.

The independent commission's report "really came as a way to further document and press for international accountability that we asked for last summer," Dakwar told Newsweek.

He said it is important the public understands that the commission's report is entirely separate from the U.N. inquiry the ACLU joined in requesting, though Tuesday's report reiterates those earlier calls for the U.N. to focus its attention on allegations of racist police conduct in the U.S.

For their report, the 12 commissioners from countries around the world collected testimony from family members and attorneys of 43 Black individuals in the U.S. who were killed during encounters with police and one other Black individual who was paralyzed after he was shot by police.

The commission posits there are two law systems in the U.S., one for Black citizens, one for white citizens.

"Under color of law, Black people are targeted, surveilled, brutalized, maimed and killed by law enforcement officers with impunity, as being Black is itself criminalized and devalued," the report said. "After hearing the testimony and reviewing national data, the Commissioners conclude that both the relevant laws and police practices in the U.S. do not comply with the international human rights obligations of the U.S."

washington post logoWashington Post, Chauvin’s ‘particular cruelty’ should mean harsher sentence, AG argues, Timothy Bella, May 2, 2021 (print ed.). Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder and manslaughter charges, deserved a more severe sentence after he inflicted "gratuitous pain" on George Floyd last year, said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D).

The Minnesota attorney general is seeking a harsher prison sentence for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin due to the “particular cruelty” he showed in the murder of George Floyd last keith ellison o smallyear, according to court documents filed Friday.

Keith Ellison (D), left, argued in a legal briefing that Chauvin, who was convicted on murder and manslaughter charges last week, deserved a more severe sentence after the officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes and showed a lack of remorse for the 46-year-old Black man as he yelled out for his mother while detained.

“Mr. Floyd was treated with particular cruelty,” Ellison wrote in the 26-page briefing to Hennepin County District Court. He added, “Defendant continued to maintain his position atop Mr. Floyd even as Mr. Floyd cried out that he was in pain, even as Mr. Floyd exclaimed 27 times that he could not breathe, and even as Mr. Floyd said that Defendant’s actions were killing him.”
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Chauvin, who is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25, faces up to 40 years in prison for second-degree unintentional murder. Judge Peter Cahill would have to find there were “aggravating factors” in Floyd’s death to go above the 12½-year sentence recommended under state sentencing guidelines for the murder charge of someone without a previous record. Prosecutors did not say in the filing how much time they are seeking Chauvin to serve.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. inquiries prompt hopes for police reform, fears of delays, David Nakamura, May 3, 2021. By launching federal investigations into police departments in Minneapolis and Louisville, Attorney General Merrick Garland has sent a clear message to local law enforcement agencies that their relative impunity during the Trump administration is over.

Standing in front of an American flag, Garland framed his actions as the start of an effort to rebuild trust among marginalized communities and police. “We undertake this task with determination and urgency,” he said, “knowing that change cannot wait.”

But Garland also has set up a potential expectations gap with civil rights activists and progressive politicians who have warned the Biden administration that a mere return to Obama-era strategies to combat abusive policing is a recipe for failure and disappointment.

The mass social justice protests that swept through American cities last summer — following the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis — coalesced around a demand for a wholesale reimagining of law enforcement, including calls to dramatically defund police departments and significantly scale back the use of prison sentences for low-level offenders.

washington post logoWashington Post, Black man enslaved by White restaurant manager should be awarded more than $500,000, court says, Lateshia Beachum, May 3, 2021. Through violence, threats and intimidation, the manager coerced a Black man with intellectual disabilities into working more than 100 hours per week without pay.

A Black man with intellectual disabilities who was enslaved for five years at a restaurant in Conway, S.C., should be awarded double the amount of restitution from the White man now imprisoned for the crime, according to a recent court ruling.

As part of his 2019 guilty plea to a forced labor charge, Bobby Paul Edwards, 56, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered by a court to pay back John Christopher Smith $273,000 in unpaid wages and overtime compensation at J&J Cafeteria.

The Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled on April 21 that the previous amount decided by a district court “had erred” in not accounting for federal labor laws entitling him to $546,000, or double the amount he was owed from his imprisonment between 2009 and 2014. Through physical violence, threats and intimidation, Edwards coerced Smith, 43, into working more than 100 hours per week without pay, The Washington Post reported.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Clarence Thomas, Long Silent, Has Turned Talkative, Adam Liptak, May 3, 2021. The Supreme Court’s orderly telephone arguments, prompted by the pandemic, have given the public a revealing look at its longest-serving member.

clarence thomas HRJustice Clarence Thomas, right, who once went a decade without asking a question from the Supreme Court bench, is about to complete a term in which he was an active participant in every single argument.

Justice Thomas’s switch from monkish silence to gregarious engagement is a byproduct of the pandemic, during which the court has heard arguments by telephone. The justices now ask questions one at a time, in order of seniority.

Justice Thomas, who joined the court in 1991, goes second, right after Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., asking probing questions in his distinctive baritone.

“It’s been a lemonade out of lemons situation,” said Helgi C. Walker, a lawyer with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who served as a law clerk to the justice. “I’m just thrilled that more people get to hear the Justice Thomas that we all know.”

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, EPA will propose a sharp cut in hydrofluorocarbons, powerful greenhouse gases used for refrigeration, Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni, May 3, 2021. The new rule, targeting a set of greenhouse gases called hydrofluorocarbons, which are thousands of times more powerful than CO2, would establish new enforcement regime under the Environmental Protection Agency.

Unlike many of the administration’s other climate initiatives, there’s broad bipartisan support for curbing hydrofluorocarbons, pollutants thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming the planet. Congress agreed at the end of last year to slash the super-pollutants by 85 percent over the next 15 years as part of a broader omnibus bill.

washington post logoWashington Post, Four families separated at U.S.-Mexico border during Trump era to be reunited, DHS secretary says, Adam Taylor, May 3, 2021.The reunions will mark the beginning of a process that will stretch on for months and possibly years, as separated parents are ferried back to the United States from around the world.

us dhs big eagle logo4More than a thousand families remain apart, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The parents were deported alone, mostly to Central America, in 2017 or 2018. Their children have since grown up with relatives across the United States.

Some of those children were so young when they were taken from their parents that they barely remember their mothers or fathers. Others have forgotten the indigenous dialects with which they once spoke to their parents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Swiss Billionaire Quietly Becomes Influential Force Among Democrats, Kenneth P. Vogel, May 3, 2021. Hansjörg Wyss, who recently dropped his bid to buy Tribune Publishing, has been a leading source of difficult-to-trace money to left-leaning groups.

He is not as well known as wealthy liberal patrons like George Soros or Tom Steyer. His political activism is channeled through a daisy chain of opaque organizations that mask the ultimate recipients of his money. But the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss has quietly become one of the most important donors to left-leaning advocacy groups and an increasingly influential force among Democrats.

Newly obtained tax filings show that two of Mr. Wyss’s organizations, a foundation and a nonprofit fund, donated $208 million from 2016 through early last year to three other nonprofit funds that doled out money to a wide array of groups that backed progressive causes and helped Democrats in their efforts to win the White House and control of Congress last year.

Mr. Wyss’s representatives say his organizations’ money is not being spent on political campaigning. But documents and interviews show that the entities have come to play a prominent role in financing the political infrastructure that supports Democrats and their issues.

While most of his operation’s recent politically oriented giving was channeled through the three nonprofit funds, Mr. Wyss’s organizations also directly donated tens of millions of dollars since 2016 to groups that opposed former President Donald J. Trump and promoted Democrats and their causes.

washington post logoWashington Post, The battle for 1042 Cutler Street, Eli Saslow | Photos by Libby March, May 3, 2021 (print ed.). As landlords and tenants go broke across the United States, the next crisis point of the pandemic approaches.

In the covid economy of 2021, the federal government has created an ongoing grace period for renters until at least July, banning all evictions in an effort to hold back a historic housing crisis that is already underway.

More than 8 million rental properties across the country are behind on payments by an average of $5,600, according to census data. Nearly half of those rental properties are owned not by banks or big corporations but instead by what the government classifies as “small landlords” — people who manage their own rentals and depend on them for basic income, and who are now trapped between tenants who can’t pay and their own mounting bills for insurance, mortgages and property tax. According to government estimates, a third of small landlords are at risk of bankruptcy or foreclosure as the pandemic continues into its second year.

For Romeo Budhoo, the essence of his problems came down to one house: 1042 Cutler St., a three-story square box built in 1901, with faded green siding and fresh graffiti spray-painted on the windows. The house (in Schenectady, NY), had been sold four times out of foreclosure, condemned by the city, and scheduled for demolition when Budhoo first saw it after immigrating to New York from Guyana in the early 2000s.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: For Biden, 44 confirmations down, only 1,156 to go, Fred Hiatt, May 3, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration is winning praise because it managed to get 44 appointees through Senate confirmation and into their offices by its 100th day.

Yes, a job well done. Now, only 1,156 to go!

If you detect a note of sarcasm, it is not directed toward the Biden folks. They have indeed managed to scale up quickly, especially given the obstacles they faced: a pandemic, an impeachment trial and an unprecedented absence of cooperation from the outgoing administration.

That administration, at this stage, had secured only 28 confirmations, and President George W. Bush had managed only 34. President Barack Obama had done better by his 100th day with 67 confirmations, but President Biden has submitted more nominees for Senate consideration (220) than Obama (190), Bush (85) or Donald Trump (72).

Moreover, Biden has installed an impressive 1,500 appointees in positions that don’t require confirmation.

But step back and ask: Why in the world do we require 1,200 government officials to go through the time-consuming, often unilluminating and even counterproductive Senate confirmation process? And why do we designate 4,000 jobs as patronage appointments, a number unmatched in any other democracy, to turn over every time there is a new president?

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Stranded on Trump Island, the GOP lets Biden play the long game, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, May 3, 2021 (print ed.). In a democracy, any serious governing project is also a political ej dionne w open neckproject. Presidents who want their achievements to endure know they must create majorities to sustain their visions over time.

Franklin Roosevelt did it. Ronald Reagan did it.

Now, Joe Biden is trying to do it.Trump sped up two trends that began gathering steam in the 1990s: the steady shift of well-educated and professional voters toward the Democratic Party, and the move of White working-class voters to the GOP. Biden won in 2020 partly because he cut into Trump’s working-class margins a bit, but largely because he swept increasingly diverse suburban areas that were at the heart of the Democrats’ gains in the 2018 midterms.

As long as the vast majority of GOP politicians refuse to break with Trump, they will be tethered to his minority coalition. A comeback will be tough if moderate middle- and upper-middle-class professionals continue to associate the party with Trump, far-right extremists and the Jan. 6. attack on the Capitol. It’s why reducing the size of the electorate is the GOP’s most visible initiative.

This creates a vulnerability Biden hopes to exploit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Cindy McCain and the torment of perfection, Karen Tumulty, May 3, 2021 (print ed.). The first impression that many Americans, myself included, got of Cindy McCain was as a presence at her husband’s side during the brutal 2000 GOP presidential primary. The wife of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) was beautiful, serenely composed, never a wrinkle in her expensive designer knit suits nor a single platinum lock out of place.

In short, she seemed . . . perfect.

That word shows up a lot in Cindy McCain’s new memoir, a slim but bracing volume titled “Stronger: Courage, Hope & Humor in My Life with John McCain.” But in her telling, this illusion of perfection was a torment, one to which many women, whether or not they live their lives as she did on a public stage, are likely to relate.

It led, among other things, to McCain’s addiction to pain medications and her denial of the high blood pressure that led to her having a stroke that nearly killed her in 2004, when she was not yet 50.
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During an interview with me for a Washington Post Live event last week, McCain said she decided to write the book in the past year, as she continued to deal with the grief of her husband’s 2018 death amid the isolation imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, which she has spent mostly at the ranch they shared in Arizona.

“I just started putting things together and working with someone to really put the story down on paper,” she said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi’s archbishop says prominent Catholics who support abortion rights should be denied Communion, Reis Thebault, May 3, 2021. The Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone was careful not to name any Catholics in his latest letter calling for Holy Communion to be withheld from public figures who support abortion rights.

Nancy Pelosi But the 17-page missive from the archbishop of San Francisco may have important implications for one of the archdiocese’s most famous parishioners: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi, right, a California Democrat and high-profile Catholic, has long supported women’s right to access abortion care — and, for nearly as long, she has come under fire from those who say her views contradict the teachings of the church, which considers abortion a grave sin.

Even though Cordileone, among the country’s most conservative Catholic leaders, did not mention Pelosi by name, his letter implies that figures like her should be denied Communion, the holiest of the religion’s sacraments.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Kristi Noem Is Rising Quickly as a Republican Prospect for 2024, Jonathan Martin, May 2, 2021. Ms. Noem, right, the governor of South Dakota, has fused Trumpism with a down-home-conservatism spin, both stirring support and prompting eye rolls within the G.O.P.With Republicans hungry to cultivate their next generation of national leaders, it is not a Capitol Hill comer or a veteran battleground-state politician who is stirring kristi noeminterest by fusing Trumpism with a down-home conservatism spin. It is the first-term governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, a rancher who delights in sharing images of herself shooting pheasants and riding horses.

republican elephant logoMs. Noem began drawing wider attention last year for cozying up to President Donald J. Trump — so much so that she inspired suspicion that she was angling to replace Mike Pence on the 2020 ticket — and hosting him at a July 4 Mount Rushmore event where she gave him a model of the monument with his face included. Her defiance of coronavirus restrictions and her eagerness to project a rugged Great Plainswoman image helped her come in second in a 2024 straw poll of far-right conservatives looking for candidates if Mr. Trump doesn’t run again.

But her approach to politics has sometimes made for rocky relations with her base. Late last month, she got herself into a showdown with the Republican-controlled State Legislature over her veto of a bill barring transgender girls from school sports. And as some party leaders were pressing her to resolve that fight, she prompted eye-rolling at home by inserting herself in an unrelated skirmish — over Lil Nas X’s “Satan Shoes.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Widespread Commodity Shortages Raise Inflation Fears, Alan Rappeport and Thomas Kaplan, May 3, 2021. For products as diverse as lumber and microchips, price increases are filtering through the economy.

The shortages — and the price increases they are eliciting — are being watched closely by the Biden administration, which is under increasing pressure from industry groups and businesses to take steps to ease them. Automakers want the White House to help them get the semiconductors they need to make cars, while the housing industry is asking for tariff relief.

Pressure to intervene could intensify as the administration pushes for a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure investment package that includes money for building roads, bridges and electric vehicle charging stations — all of which could become increasingly expensive if prices keep rising.

  • New York Times, President Biden’s plan to raise taxes for rich investors isn’t hurting stocks. Why?

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: May is a big month for Biden’s agenda on the Hill, Jacqueline Alemany, May 3, 2021. Policing reform, voting rights and infrastructure are the biggest agenda items. The 100-day sprint might be behind the administration but the laundry list of priorities outlined by President Biden during his joint address to Congress means lawmakers are going to have a busy month.

During his address last week, Biden set some new ambitious timelines and urged Congress to move faster on ongoing legislative pushes. The president called on lawmakers to expand Medicare coverage and allow Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug costs by the end of the year; reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act “now”; and pass legislation this year to create a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” farmworkers and those granted temporary protected status for humanitarian reasons.

But more imminently, the president urged passage of police reform by the first anniversary of George Floyd's death on May 25, send voting rights legislation that already passed the House through the Senate and to his desk, and administration officials had previously set Memorial Day as a deadline for “real progress” on its infrastructure proposal.

 

Media, Philanthropy, Education News

 ny times logoNew York Times, Social Media as ‘Godsend’: In India, Cries for Help Get Results, Suhasini Raj, May 3, 2021. With a health care system past the breaking point, online grass-roots networks have sprung up to get aid to people who need it.

india flag mapRajni Gill woke up with a slight fever in mid-April, the first warning that she had Covid-19. Within a few days, she was breathless and nearly unconscious in a hospital.

Desperate to arrange plasma treatment for Ms. Gill, a gynecologist in the city of Noida, her family called doctors, friends, anyone they thought could help. Then her sister posted a plea on Facebook: “I am looking for a plasma donor for my sister who is hospitalized in Noida. She is B positive and is 43.”

The message, quickly amplified on Twitter, flashed across the phone of Srinivas B.V., an opposition politician in nearby Delhi, who was just then securing plasma for a college student. He deputized a volunteer donor to rush to the blood bank for Ms. Gill.

“The administration and systems have collapsed,” Mr. Srinivas said. “I have never seen so many people dying at the same time.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Verizon Near Deal to Sell Yahoo and AOL, Edmund Lee and Lauren Hirsch, May 3, 2021 (print ed.). In making the deal with the private equity firm Apollo, Verizon is acknowledging verizon logothat it couldn’t compete with Google and Facebook for digital ads. Instead, it will concentrate on building a 5G network.

Verizon once saw media as the future, the linchpin of a strategy to give customers something they couldn’t get elsewhere at a time when all mobile offerings were essentially the same. It has a different vision for the future now.The phone giant, signaling that it has given up on its media business, is near a deal to sell Yahoo and AOL to the private equity firm yahoo logoApollo Global Management, two people with knowledge of the matter said on Sunday.

aol america online logoThe transaction would be the latest turn in the history of two of the internet’s earliest pioneers. Yahoo used to be the front page of the internet, cataloging the furious pace of newwebsites that sprang up in the late 1990s. AOL (formerly America Online) was once the service that most people used to get online.

But both were ultimately supplanted by nimbler start-ups, like Google and Facebook, though Yahoo and AOL still publish highly trafficked websites like Yahoo Sports and TechCrunch.

washington post logoWashington Post, Apple and Epic Games meet in court on Monday. Here’s everything you need to know, Shannon Liao, Reed Albergotti and Mikhail Klimentov, May 3, 2021 (print ed.). Court battle could forever change how apps work at 9:00 a.m. EDT.

apple logo rainbowThe tech battle between Apple and “Fortnite”-maker Epic Games is headed to court. On Monday, a judge will begin hearing arguments over whether Apple is running a monopoly in its App Store and whether it should be allowed to take a 30 percent cut of revenue from purchases made using its in-app purchase system. The case could change the way we use our smartphones.

The trial is due to start Monday and last about three weeks. U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers is overseeing the case. It’s being held in federal court in Oakland, just across the bay from San Francisco.

The general public can listen to the trial via teleconference. Details on how to listen in will be posted on the court’s website. Evidence entered into the trial will be viewable at this Box link. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Community college saved my life. Thank you, Joe Biden, for trying to make it free, Jen Balderama, May 3, 2021 (print ed.). When I was 18 years old, community college saved my life. It was the mid-1990s, and I was a ballet dancer — or had been, until a series of injuries, exacerbated by an eating disorder, made it clear that to continue dancing would mean years of struggle and pain.

So I quit. But quitting didn’t end my problems. I still had bum ankles, and a damaged sense of self. Having for years devoted almost every conscious hour outside school to training and performing, I found myself rootless, grieving and dangerously depressed.

Then in the mail one day, a catalogue: City College of San Francisco, it said.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, As U.S. seeks help at the border, Mexico gains leverage, Nick Miroff and Mary Beth Sheridan, May 3, 2021.Mexico’s ability to limit migration has given its government significant sway over an issue that is a political vulnerability for President Biden. Three consecutive U.S. administrations have turned to Mexico for help with immigration enforcement at moments of crisis along the U.S. southern border, and when Vice President Harris meets virtually with Mexican leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday, the United States will once more arrive in need of a favor.

mexico flag1Since President Biden took office, the number of migrants taken into U.S. custody along the border has soared to the highest levels in nearly 20 years, surpassing 172,000 in March. His administration has opened more than a dozen emergency shelters to care for record numbers of teenagers and children arriving without parents. Biden’s handling of the migration influx at the border ranks among his worst-polling issues, and he has tasked Harris — his party’s heir apparent — with leading an international effort to address the root causes of migration and stem the flow.

Mexico is central to that plan, underscoring what has become a growing U.S. dependence on Mexico to carry out immigration enforcement functions at a time when such measures are subject to frequent legal challenges in U.S. courts or politically unpalatable to Democrats.

 washington post logoWashington Post, New militant checkpoints on key roadways choke off parts of Afghanistan, Susannah George, Aziz Tassal and Sharif Hassan, May 3, 2021. The outposts frustrate military resupply efforts, stifle the provision of government services and undercut confidence in the country’s elected officials.

 

May 2

Top Headlines  

 

U.S. Election Rigging, Capitol Riot, Domestic Terror 

 

 Virus Victims, Responses

 

More U.S. Politics, Governance   

 

Media News

  

World News

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

Top Stories

Indian leader Narendra Modi (File photo)

Indian leader Narendra Modi (File photo)

washington post logoWashington Post, India sets pandemic record with more than 400,000 new cases, Joanna Slater, May 2, 2021 (print ed.). Experts believe that number will climb even higher, an unimaginable burden for a health system already under siege with hospitals pleading for oxygen. The powerful resurgence in India is a reminder that the coronavirus is far from controlled around the world, even with vaccination rates up in many places.

india flag mapAfter a devastating week of soaring infections, India reported more than 400,000 new cases Saturday, a global record. Experts believe that number will climb even higher in the coming days, an unimaginable burden for a health system already under siege with hospitals issuing pleas for oxygen.

India’s experience underscores a sobering paradox: Even as the United States and Europe move away from the darkest days of the pandemic, other countries are engaged in a desperate struggle against the virus.

The powerful resurgence of infections in India — a country where cases had ebbed just months earlier — is also a reminder that the coronavirus is far from controlled around the world, even with vaccination rates climbing in many countries.

It remains unclear how large a role coronavirus variants are playing in the pandemic’s grip on India. But the staggering numbers themselves are leaving the country increasingly isolated.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats House majority threatened by retirements, Michael Scherer, May 2, 2021. Retirements add yet another concern for a party facing an uphill fight to maintain control of Congress next year.

A growing list of House Democrats from competitive districts are headed for the exits, adding yet another concern for a party facing an uphill fight to maintain control of Congress next year.

cheri bustos hThe latest to announce her departure is Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), right, the former head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who proclaimed her coming retirement Friday after narrowly winning reelection in a rural district along the Mississippi River that supported Donald Trump.

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.), who has been exploring another possible gubernatorial run, put out word Saturday that he would be making a “major announcement” this week, potentially putting at risk his St. Petersburg seat, where he ran ahead of President Biden in 2020.

democratic donkey logoTwo other accomplished battleground incumbents — Reps. Filemon Vela Jr. (D-Texas) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) — announced their plans to leave earlier this year, joining Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who is giving up a closely-contested seat to run for the U.S. Senate. Several more in competitive areas, including Democratic stars like Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) are also seriously considering runs for higher office later this year.

The exodus comes as the party struggles to maintain or extend the narrowest congressional majority in decades — currently six seats, which will grow to seven in coming days as a newly-elected Democrat, Troy Carter from Louisiana, is sworn in.

Democrats have little margin for error to keep control, even as they simultaneously will be working against a redistricting cycle that is likely to favor Republican officeholders.

The Democratic departures are likely to make it easier for sometimes-partisan mapmakers to draw maps that favor Republican pickups. They also mean that Democrats will not fully take advantage of incumbency, with its fundraising and name recognition benefits. In 2018, the last midterm shake-up, 91 percent of incumbents won reelection, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

This time, Democrats will be the ones fighting historical head winds that tend to punish the president’s party in midterm elections. Since 1910, the party in the White House has gained House seats in a midterm only twice: in 1934, after the election of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and in 2002, when President George W. Bush was leading a response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. President Bill Clinton lost 54 seats in his first midterm. Barack Obama lost 64. Donald Trump gave up about 40.

Amid these grim odds, retirements have long been viewed by party strategists as a key early metric of just how challenging an election cycle will be. bane for Republicans in recent midterms, playing a major role in the 2018 Democratic takeover of the House, which followed an exodus of 33 GOP members — nearly twice as many as Democrats.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats signal they’re open to concessions on infrastructure, Matt Viser, Annie Linskey and Seung Min Kim, May 2, 2021 (print ed.). The move to approach Republicans, a sharp shift from Democrats’ strategy on the covid-19 relief package, reflects President Biden’s desire to head into 2022 with a bipartisan achievement.

President Biden and top Democrats are signaling privately they are willing to make concessions over Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan, or break it into chunks, if that will attract even a handful of Republican votes and allow them to notch a bipartisan win, people familiar with the strategy say.

The president spoke recently with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and suggested he was contemplating her counteroffer of roughly $568 billion more seriously than he viewed the Republican response to his covid-19 relief legislation, which he dismissed quickly as inadequate.

Top Senate Democrats are regularly meeting with their Republican counterparts, and some have adopted a mantra — “slow, steady and piecemeal” — to signal their willingness to seek bipartisanship on smaller-scale bills, even if that doesn’t square neatly with Biden’s initial vision of immediate transformational chang

 

U.S. Election Rigging, Capitol Riot, Domestic Terror 

 

capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows near the Capitol Reflecting Pool was just one example of the racist and anti-Semitic imagery on display at the riot. The noose is a racist symbol of the lynching of Black Americans. (Photo by Shay Horse  via NurPhoto / Getty).

 

Proof via Substack, Investigation & Commentary: Trump's Insurrection Is in Arizona Now, Seth Abramson, May 2, 2021. This exposé on the aftermath of the January 6 Capitol attack in Arizona reveals that seth abramson headshotthe newest battleground for Trump's domestic insurgency is the Grand Canyon State. Will it turn violent there, too?

The Washington Post has called Kelli Ward, the chair of the Arizona GOP, a “leading voice” in the Stop the Steal “movement” orchestrated by Ali Alexander, Alex Jones, and Roger Stone. But seth abramson proof logoper the Post, days after Ward’s January 2021 reelection as chair of the Arizona GOP—an election Ward won by just 42 votes—she faced calls for an audit of her victory by defeated challenger Sergio Arellano.

Those familiar with Ward won’t be surprised to learn that, despite being the chief proponent of post-election audits in the presidential race, Ward quickly rejected calls for an audit of her election, insisting, per the Arizona Republic, there is “no procedure, process or rule that allows for that.”

seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionBut rules had never stopped Ward before. And they’re certainly not stopping her now, as she coordinates the movement of Trump’s insurgency from Washington to Arizona.

Seth Abramson, shown above left and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism,legal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Seeks to Empower Poll Watchers, Raising Intimidation Worries, Nick Corasaniti, May 2, 2021 (print ed.). As Republican lawmakers seek to make voting harder and more confusing, they are simultaneously making a push to grant more autonomy to partisan poll watchers.

This effort has raised alarm: In the past, poll watchers have been used to intimidate voters and harass workers, often in ways that target people of color.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rejection of 2020 election results becomes defining GOP loyalty test, Ashley Parker and Marianna Sotomayor, May 2, 2021. Republicans have embraced the baseless claims that President Biden did not defeat Donald Trump, with potential ramifications for the midterms and the 2024 election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: The politicians who tried to overturn an election — and the local news team that won’t let anyone forget it, Margaret Sullivan, right, May 2, 2021. While Sunday shows keep margaret sullivan 2015 photobooking the lawmakers who undermined democracy, one public radio station decided it wouldn’t shrug off the damaging lies of election denialism.

The journalists at WITF, an all-news public radio station in Harrisburg, Pa., made a perfectly reasonable decision a few months ago.

They decided they wouldn’t shrug off the damaging lies of election denialism.

They wouldn’t do what too many in Big Journalism have done in recent months: shove into the memory hole the undemocratic efforts by some Republican elected officials to delegitimize or overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Too many Sunday news shows repeatedly book the likes of Kevin McCarthy, Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson without reminding viewers how these members of Congress tried to undo the results of the election — and encouraged the Trumpian lies about election fraud that led to the violent assault on the U.S. Capitol less than four months ago. A rare exception is CNN’s “State of the Union,” which hasn’t booked a single member of the so-called Sedition Caucus since January.

“There’s a kind of clubby atmosphere on these shows, part of the Beltway Bubble mentality, in which it’s become almost impolite to raise the topic of the insurrection,” Princeton University history professor Kevin Kruse told me.

“CBS This Morning,” for example, sent out an email alert last week touting its exclusive interview with Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), one of the seven senators who voted against certifying the election results in Pennsylvania. Scott blasted President Biden for “spending us into oblivion” and mocked him for not achieving bipartisanship — yet interviewer Anthony Mason never mentioned that Scott had literally tried to overturn Biden’s election.

“109 days after Jan. 6, ‘history will remember’ is a complete joke,” Matt Negrin of “The Daily Show” tweeted last week. He added: “These media outlets want you to forget.”

But Harrisburg’s WITF has gone a different route: They want you to remember.

washington post logoWashington Post, Newsmax apologizes to Dominion employee for falsely alleging he manipulated votes against Trump, Amy B Wang, May 2, 2021 (print ed.). The conservative news network Newsmax has apologized to an employee of Dominion Voting Systems for baselessly alleging he had rigged the company’s voting machines and vote counts against President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

dominion voting systemsIn a statement Friday, Newsmax said it wanted to “clarify” its coverage of Eric Coomer, the director of product strategy and security at Dominion, who filed a defamation lawsuit against the right-wing network in December. After the election, misinformation about Coomer’s supposed role in manipulating the vote proliferated on right-wing sites, including Newsmax. Coomer said he had been forced into hiding after receiving death threats from Trump supporters, who believed Trump’s false assertion that the election had been stolen from him and that Coomer had played a role.

On Friday, Newsmax said there was no evidence such allegations were true.

“There are several facts that our viewers should be aware of,” Newsmax’s statement read. “Newsmax has found no evidence that Dr. Coomer interfered with Dominion voting machines or voting software in any way, nor that Dr. Coomer ever claimed to have done so. Nor has Newsmax found any evidence that Dr. Coomer ever participated in any conversation with members of ‘Antifa,’ nor that he was directly involved with any partisan political organization.”

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Half of Republicans incorrectly think there’s evidence Biden didn’t win legitimately

Newsmax also noted that “many of the states whose results were contested by the Trump campaign after the November 2020 election have conducted extensive recounts and audits, and each of these states certified the results as legal and final.” The statement ended with an apology for any harm caused to Coomer and his family.

In exchange, Coomer has dropped Newsmax from his defamation lawsuit, the Associated Press reported. Representatives for Coomer did not respond immediately Saturday to requests for comment. NPR and Forbes reported that Coomer had reached a settlement with Newsmax, but his attorneys did not disclose the details.

In his lawsuit, Coomer alleged that Newsmax, along with other right-wing news outlets and public figures, had “elevated Dr. Coomer into the national spotlight, invaded his privacy, threatened his security, and fundamentally defamed his reputation across this country.” Other defendants include the Trump campaign, former Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani, conservative podcast host Joseph Oltmann, conservative political commentator Michelle Malkin and the right-wing One America News.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is a huge gift, Bill Palmer, right, May 2, 2021. Newsmax just formally confessed that the “Big Lie” about the 2020 election is indeed a big lie, and that there was no conspiracy to rig bill palmerthe election against Donald Trump. It now seems likely that other major right wing propaganda outlets will end up having to issue similar confessions.

We can sit back and lament about how the “damage” has already been done. We can lament about how extreme right wingers still aren’t going to believe it, even now that their favorite propaganda outlets are confessing they made it up. But none of that helps us in any way, shape, or form.

bill palmer report logo headerInstead, we can recognize that Newsmax just handed us a huge gift, and we can use it to our advantage. While the extreme right wingers who bathe themselves in these lies may not ever change their minds, we can use the Newsmax confession to make sure that voters in the middle don’t fall prey to the lies being told by extreme right wingers.

Modern elections tend to be decided by whether or not voters in the middle fall for whatever big lie the right wingers (and the worst of major media outlets) are pushing in any given news cycle. In 2016, voters in the middle fell for the lies about Clinton’s emails. In 2020, voters in the middle didn’t fall for the lies about Hunter Biden. It’s a big part of why those two elections had such different results.

So as we head into the 2022 and 2024 elections, let’s put this huge gift from Newsmax (and presumably other upcoming right wing propaganda outlets) to good use. We can use it to educate voters in the middle, so they end up voting wisely. This is how elections are won and progress is delivered – not by lamenting about “damage.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

ny times logoindia flag mapNew York Times, Global Virus Cases Reach New Peak, Driven by India and South America, Lazaro Gamio and Alexandria Symonds, May 2, 2021 (print ed.).  Led by surges in the two hotspots and Eastern Europe, the average number of new daily cases has exceeded 800,000 for more than a week.

India now accounts for more than 40 percent of the world’s new cases. The country’s death rate has followed the same dramatic curve, with more than 3,000 people now dying every day. Analysts say even those grim numbers may be undercounted.

washington post logoWashington Post, 144.9 million vaccinated, as of May 2, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 54.2 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 43.6 % of the total population. See about your state.

washington post logoWashington Post, Police officers’ hesitancy to get coronavirus vaccine poses safety risks, Isaac Stanley-Becker, May 2, 2021. Low immunization levels among police officers threatens not just their own health, but also the safety of people they’re responsible for guarding, monitoring and patrolling, experts say.

Police officers were among the first front-line workers to gain priority access to coronavirus vaccines. But their vaccination rates are lower than or about the same as those of the general public, according to data made available by some of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies.

The reluctance of police to get the shots threatens not just their own health, but also the safety of people they’re responsible for guarding, monitoring and patrolling, experts say.

At the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, just 39 percent of employees have gotten at least one dose, officials said, compared to more than 50 percent of eligible adults nationwide. In Atlanta, 36 percent of sworn officers have been vaccinated. And a mere 28 percent of those employed by the Columbus Division of Police — Ohio’s largest police department — report having received a shot.

washington post logo

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 2, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 152,907,113, Deaths: 3,208,543
U.S. Cases:     33,146,015, Deaths:    590,707
India Cases:    19,557,457, Deaths:    215,542
Brazil Cases:   14,725,975, Deaths:    406,565

 ny times logoNew York Times, How Can the Olympics Protect 78,000 Volunteers From the Coronavirus? Motoko Rich, May 2, 2021. Volunteers for the Tokyo Games are being offered little more than some masks, hand sanitizer and social-distancing guidance that may be hard to abide by.

Japan FlagFor Olympic host cities, one of the keys to a successful Games is the army of volunteers who cheerfully perform a range of duties, like fetching water, driving Olympic vehicles, interpreting for athletes or carrying medals to ceremonies.

If the rescheduled Tokyo Games go ahead as planned this summer, roughly 78,000 volunteers will have another responsibility: preventing the spread of the coronavirus, both among participants and themselves.

For protection, the volunteers are being offered little more than a couple of cloth masks, a bottle of sanitizer and mantras about social distancing. Unless they qualify for vaccination through Japan’s slow age-based rollout, they will not be inoculated against the coronavirus.

“I don’t know how we’re going to be able to do this,” said Akiko Kariya, 40, a paralegal in Tokyo who signed up to volunteer as an interpreter. The Olympic committee “hasn’t told us exactly what they will do to keep us safe.”

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

ICE logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Harris-led effort to stem migration relies on tactics that experts say have flaws, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Kevin Sieff, May 2, 2021 (print ed.). Vice President Harris has kicked off U.S. efforts to deter people from leaving Central America’s “Northern Triangle” countries through programs designed to create more economic and political stability in the region.

Facing a surge of illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Biden administration has said it is seeking to demonstrate a commitment to improving conditions in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras as part of an effort to reduce the flow.

kamala harris portraitBut similar campaigns under previous administrations have failed to make meaningful progress, leading to cyclical spikes at the border since 2014. And high-level corruption among government officials has complicated U.S. efforts to negotiate with leaders who have little political will for reform.

“The overarching challenge is, they [the Biden administration] really want to change the conditions on the ground that are pushing people to leave, and some of that requires really fundamental changes to how governance and institutions work in these countries,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. “And that’s a hard thing for the U.S. government to do.”

Harris, right, is tasked with leading U.S. negotiations on migration, taking on a role that Biden had under President Barack Obama and one that carries significant political perils. This week, she met virtually with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei and community leaders. She is scheduled to meet with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador virtually on May 7 and is expected to travel to the region as early as June.

The White House has yet to release a detailed plan for her diplomatic efforts, but Harris has pointed to Biden’s efforts under Obama as a model, focusing on the “root causes” of migration, including corruption, poverty and violence.

  • Washington Post, Biden cancels border wall projects Trump paid for with diverted military funds, May 1, 2021

ny times logoNew York Times, From the Past, a Warning About Today’s Extremists, Neil MacFarquhar, May 2, 2021 (print ed.). Almost four decades after officials dismantled the Order, a violent far-right group, experts see chilling echoes of the present.

ny times logoNew York Times, With 23 Candidates, Special Election in Texas Is Headed for Runoff, David Montgomery and Edgar Sandoval, May 2, 2021 (print ed.). The front-runner was Susan Wright, who was endorsed by Donald J. Trump and is the widow of Representative Ron Wright, who died of Covid-19 in February.

Susan Wright, the Republican widow of a congressman who died of Covid-19, emerged on Saturday evening as the front-runner in a tight race to replace her husband in Washington.

republican elephant logotexas mapStill, Ms. Wright, whose husband, Ron Wright, died in February, could not avoid a runoff for the state’s Sixth Congressional District, which includes mostly rural areas in three Northern Texas counties and a sliver of the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan region around Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington.

Ms. Wright, who was assisted by a last-minute endorsement from former President Donald J. Trump, captured about 19 percent of the vote, far below the 50 percent required to avoid a runoff. It appeared she was headed to another contest with Jake Ellzey, a fellow Republican. Jana Lynne Sanchez, a Democrat, followed closely behind in third place.

The results disappointed Democrats, who had hoped to tap a reservoir of shifting demographics and Hispanic and African-American growth in a district where Mr. Trump won by only three percentage points in November.

Ms. Sanchez, who ran a tight race against Mr. Wright in 2018, held an election gathering at her home in Fort Worth and vowed to keep fighting for progressive values. The Sixth District was once a Democratic stronghold, until Phil Gramm switched party affiliations in 1983, turning the district into a reliable bastion of Republican strength for decades.

In February, Mr. Wright, who had lung cancer, died after he contracted the coronavirus. His wife was an early front-runner to replace him, but her chances of outright victory narrowed after the field grew to 23 candidates, including 11 Republicans, 10 Democrats, a Libertarian and an independent.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Why Kristi Noem Is Rising Quickly as a Republican Prospect for 2024, Jonathan Martin, May 2, 2021. Ms. Noem, right, the governor of South Dakota, has fused Trumpism with a down-home-conservatism spin, both stirring support and prompting eye rolls within the G.O.P.With Republicans hungry to cultivate their next generation of national leaders, it is not a Capitol Hill comer or a veteran battleground-state politician who is stirring kristi noeminterest by fusing Trumpism with a down-home conservatism spin. It is the first-term governor of South Dakota, Kristi Noem, a rancher who delights in sharing images of herself shooting pheasants and riding horses.

republican elephant logoMs. Noem began drawing wider attention last year for cozying up to President Donald J. Trump — so much so that she inspired suspicion that she was angling to replace Mike Pence on the 2020 ticket — and hosting him at a July 4 Mount Rushmore event where she gave him a model of the monument with his face included. Her defiance of coronavirus restrictions and her eagerness to project a rugged Great Plainswoman image helped her come in second in a 2024 straw poll of far-right conservatives looking for candidates if Mr. Trump doesn’t run again.

But her approach to politics has sometimes made for rocky relations with her base. Late last month, she got herself into a showdown with the Republican-controlled State Legislature over her veto of a bill barring transgender girls from school sports. And as some party leaders were pressing her to resolve that fight, she prompted eye-rolling at home by inserting herself in an unrelated skirmish — over Lil Nas X’s “Satan Shoes.”

 

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Verizon Near Deal to Sell Yahoo and AOL, Edmund Lee and Lauren Hirsch, May 2, 2021. In making the deal with the private equity firm Apollo, Verizon is acknowledging that it couldn’t compete with Google and Facebook for digital ads. Instead, it will concentrate on building a 5G network.

Verizon once saw media as the future, the linchpin of a strategy to give customers something they couldn’t get elsewhere at a time when all mobile offerings were essentially the same. It has a different vision for the future now.The phone giant, signaling that it has given up on its media business, is near a deal to sell Yahoo and AOL to the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, two people with knowledge of the matter said on Sunday.

The transaction would be the latest turn in the history of two of the internet’s earliest pioneers. Yahoo used to be the front page of the internet, cataloging the furious pace of new websites that sprang up in the late 1990s. AOL was once the service that most people used to get online.

But both were ultimately supplanted by nimbler start-ups, like Google and Facebook, though Yahoo and AOL still publish highly trafficked websites like Yahoo Sports and TechCrunch.

washington post logoWashington Post, Apple and Epic Games meet in court on Monday. Here’s everything you need to know, Shannon Liao, Reed Albergotti and Mikhail Klimentov, May 2, 2021. Court battle could forever change how apps work at 9:00 a.m. EDT

apple logo rainbowThe tech battle between Apple and “Fortnite”-maker Epic Games is headed to court. On Monday, a judge will begin hearing arguments over whether Apple is running a monopoly in its App Store and whether it should be allowed to take a 30 percent cut of revenue from purchases made using its in-app purchase system. The case could change the way we use our smartphones.
When and where is the trial taking place?

The trial is due to start Monday and last about three weeks. U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers is overseeing the case. It’s being held in federal court in Oakland, just across the bay from San Francisco.

The general public can listen to the trial via teleconference. Details on how to listen in will be posted on the court’s website. Evidence entered into the trial will be viewable at this Box link. 

WMR's Hollywood, Show Business Commentary: Hollywood's good, the WMR's Hollywood, bad, and the ugly, courtesy of John Barbour's entertaining memoir, Wayne Madsen, left, May 2, 2021. Comedian, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallactor, comedy writer, film critic, and documentarian John Barbour has led the consummate Hollywood full life and experience. And this editor was excited to have had dinner with John in Las Vegas during WMR's recent jaunt to Hollywood and back.

John's iife and times as a Canadian emigré to the United States (legal and undocumented) and a successful Emmy Award-winning television pioneer are laid out in Your Mother's Not a Virgin: The Bumpy Life and Times of the Canadian Dropout Who Changed the Face of American TV!  Each chapter of this 700-plus page book is a time machine-like snapshot into a bygone era of film and TV.

In "Hollywood PoliTrivia" and our re-vamped column, "WMR's Hollywood," this editor was only able to imagine what life was like during the Golden Age of Hollywood. John actually lived and breathed it. Barbour found himself in an acting class with Jack Nicholson, who walked out of it saying to the instructor, "I don't think this is for me."

Barbour was the creator and co-host of America's first reality TV program, "Real People," which aired on NBC from 1979 to 1984. The format, which featured ordinary people, not actors, paved the way for other reality shows, eventually including NBC's fateful "The Apprentice," which propelled Donald Trump from sleazy real estate and casino celebrity to sleazy politician and president of the United States.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Taliban warns of counterattacks as original May 1 deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal passes, Susannah George and Sharif Hassan, May 2, 2021 (print ed.).The Taliban issued a warning to U.S. and NATO forces of possible counterattacks as the original May 1 deadline for the complete withdrawal of foreign troops passed, stoking fears of increased violence in response to President Biden’s extension of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to Sept. 11.

Taliban fighters are prepared to “take every counteraction” that the movement “deems appropriate against the occupying forces,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, in a statement Saturday. Mujahid said the group’s leadership had not yet made a decision on how to respond to the delayed pullout, and he said its fighters would not act before a consensus is reached.

Afghans are bracing for an increase in violence as foreign forces withdraw from the country, and the Pentagon has warned that U.S. forces may be at risk of attack with the May 1 deadline’s passage.

 

U.S. Crime, Police, Race, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Chauvin’s ‘particular cruelty’ should mean harsher sentence, AG argues, Timothy Bella, May 2, 2021 (print ed.). Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder and manslaughter charges, deserved a more severe sentence after he inflicted "gratuitous pain" on George Floyd last year, said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D).

The Minnesota attorney general is seeking a harsher prison sentence for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin due to the “particular cruelty” he showed in the murder of George Floyd last keith ellison o smallyear, according to court documents filed Friday.

Keith Ellison (D), left, argued in a legal briefing that Chauvin, who was convicted on murder and manslaughter charges last week, deserved a more severe sentence after the officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes and showed a lack of remorse for the 46-year-old Black man as he yelled out for his mother while detained.

“Mr. Floyd was treated with particular cruelty,” Ellison wrote in the 26-page briefing to Hennepin County District Court. He added, “Defendant continued to maintain his position atop Mr. Floyd even as Mr. Floyd cried out that he was in pain, even as Mr. Floyd exclaimed 27 times that he could not breathe, and even as Mr. Floyd said that Defendant’s actions were killing him.”
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Chauvin, who is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25, faces up to 40 years in prison for second-degree unintentional murder. Judge Peter Cahill would have to find there were “aggravating factors” in Floyd’s death to go above the 12½-year sentence recommended under state sentencing guidelines for the murder charge of someone without a previous record. Prosecutors did not say in the filing how much time they are seeking Chauvin to serve.

 

May 1

Top Headlines  

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance  

  

World News

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

Top Stories 

washington post logoWashington Post, Elizabeth Warren, in new book, muses on why she didn’t win, Annie Linskey, May 1, 2021. In late 2019, Elizabeth Warren had skyrocketed to the top of the Democratic primary pack, and late one evening, after a town hall and lengthy photo line, she ducked into a bar for a hamburger with her husband, Bruce Mann. “Babe, you could actually do this,” Mann told her. “You could be president.”

elizabeth warren 2020 button croppedWarren allowed herself to imagine what her inauguration would look like: photos lines instead of balls, “pinkie promises” for the country’s little girls, all 81 of her policy plans ready to become law. But the moment faded; Warren’s poll numbers plummeted, and she withdrew in March 2020, never finishing above third in any primary contest.

democratic donkey logoNow, in a new book, Warren is reflecting on why she failed — in an unusually public way. “In this moment, against this president, in this field of candidates, maybe I just wasn’t good enough to reassure the voters, to bring along the doubters, to embolden the hopeful,” Warren concedes. Known for her steely confidence, Warren admits that possibility is “painful.”

She offers this rare glimpse of dashed hopes in Persist, to be published in early May, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. The book, and an expected round of accompanying interviews, will mark a reemergence of sorts for Warren, whose profile has been relatively low during the Biden administration after a campaign in which she was a major, sometimes electrifying figure.

Warren attributes her loss in large part to her fumbling effort to explain how she would pay for her sweeping health plan. And she says that “I had to run against the shadows of Martha and Hillary,” referring to the failed candidacies of Martha Coakley for Senate and Hillary Clinton for president, suggesting that Democrats were wary of nominating another woman they feared might lose to Donald Trump.

he book is coming out as Warren, like the left wing of the Democratic Party in general, is at a crossroads. Some in the party blame liberals for the party’s disappointing defeats in House and Senate races, even as some of their ideas are being championed by Biden.

World Crisis Radio, Commentary: Corrupt media still covering up for GOP's fake infrastructure offer, which represents just $189 billion or only 8% of Biden's $2.3 trillion planned investment, Webster G. webster tarpley 2007Tarpley, Ph.D., host, right, May 1, 2021. Media sacrifice truth and national interest to their imbecilic cult of bipartisan cooperation with the criminals of January 6.

Increased taxes on wealthy must include levies for solvency of Medicare, which will begin to run out of cash in 2024; Four additional years of free public education will help make US competitive with world; productivity depends chiefly on quality of education and infrastructure, but GOP is committed to destroying public education; Biden marks 50 years of Amtrak in Delaware.

Barr Justice Department blocked search warrant for Giuliani last year, but charges now appear imminent; 100 million Americans now immunized for Covid

Law&Crime, Republican State Rep. and Substitute Teacher Arrested for Allegedly Kneeing Boy in Crotch During Religious Rant: ‘Check His Nuts for Him, Please?’ Colin Kalmbacher, May 1, 2021. A Republican state legislator in Kansas was arrested on Thursday after allegedly kneeing a boy in the crotch while substitute teaching amidst a series of religious-based rants directed at his students.

mark samsel mug 2According to The Kansas City Star, Rep. Mark Samsel, 36, right, who represents the City of Wellsville in the Sunflower State’s legislature, was charged with misdemeanor battery and booked into the Franklin County Adult Detention Center. He has since posted $1,000 bond and issued a series of social media posts to defend himself.

republican elephant logoThe incident occurred on Wednesday when Samsel was substitute teaching at the Wellsville High School, about 45 minutes southwest of Kansas City. Students reportedly filmed numerous videos of the Republican opining on a variety of topics including suicide, anti-LGBTQ bigotry, sex, masturbation, and religion.

The Star reviewed many of those videos — some of which are being shared on social media. In one such video, Samsel tells the class about “a sophomore who’s tried killing himself three times” allegedly because “he has two parents and they’re both females.”

 

Virus Victims, Responses 

ny times logoNew York Times, Global Virus Cases Reach New Peak, Driven by India and South America, Lazaro Gamio and Alexandria Symonds, May 1, 2021. Led by surges in the two hotspots and Eastern Europe, the average number of new daily cases has exceeded 800,000 for more than a week.

India now accounts for more than 40 percent of the world’s new cases. The country’s death rate has followed the same dramatic curve, with more than 3,000 people now dying every day. Analysts say even those grim numbers may be undercounted

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. aid arrives in India as vaccine shortages hinder response, Erin Cunningham, May 1, 2021 (print ed.).  Emergency medical aid from the United States and other nations began arriving in India on Friday as the South Asian country’s crushing coronavirus outbreak continued to spiral and vaccinations in multiple regions ground to a halt because of dwindling supplies.

india flag mapA U.S. Air Force transport plane carrying oxygen cylinders, N95 masks and rapid diagnostic tests landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi on Friday morning, the first of several shipments that the White House pledged to help India combat the pandemic.

Chinese state media said the first batch of 25,000 oxygen concentrators pledged by Beijing to India also arrived Friday, the Associated Press reported.

“Just as India came to our aid early in the pandemic, the U.S. is committed to working urgently to provide assistance to India in its time of need,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday on Twitter.

India’s Health Ministry on Friday reported another record number of new cases, logging 386,452 infections over the previous 24 hours.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Announces Restrictions on Travel From India, Live Updates, Staff Reports, May 1, 2021 (print ed.). The Biden administration said the restrictions, which came on the advice of the C.D.C., would go into effect next week.

India is facing a devastating virus outbreak that claims over 3,000 lives daily, with hospitals short on beds and people desperate for oxygen. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoWashington Post, 144.9 million vaccinated, as of May 1, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 54.2 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 43.6 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: May 1, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 152,660,508, Deaths:3,202,247
U.S. Cases:     33,132,439, Deaths:   590,523
India Cases:       9,549,656, Deaths:  215,523
Brazil Cases:    14,665,962, Deaths:  404,287

Riding Back Into Recession, Staff Reports, April 30, 2021. The eurozone economy contracted by 0.6 percent over the first three months of the year as the still-raging pandemic prompted more lockdowns. However, recent signs suggest that its fortunes are already improving. Here’s the latest on the economy.

  • Europe’s economy shrank by 0.6 percent in first quarter.
  • Volkswagen’s gag falls flat as the S.E.C. begins an inquiry.
  • The labor secretary suggests that most gig workers should be classified as employees.
  • AstraZeneca’s vaccine has brought in $275 million in sales so far this year.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

ny times logoNew York Times, See How Few People It Takes for a State to Lose or Gain a House Seat, Denise Lu, May 1, 2021.  States can lose a House seat over a small number of people. In New York’s case, the number would fit in one subway car. Take a look at other record margins.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosNew York would have kept its 27th congressional seat had the state counted 89 more residents in the 2020 census. In other words, if 89 more people filled out the census form last year — enough to fill a single New York City subway car during off-peak hours — the state would have stopped its eight-decade streak of declining congressional representation.

That’s an extremely small margin for a state that counted more than 20 million people last year.

Every 10 years, a state’s population determines how many seats it gets in Congress, and sometimes, a small number of people can make a big difference. Here’s a look at just how many people it can take to change — or almost change — representation in Washington.

Associated Press via U.S. News, Alabama Debates Removing Confederate Flag From Coat of Arms, Kim Chandler, May 1, 2021. Rep. Laura Hall has introduced legislation to redesign Alabama’s coat of ap logoarms and remove the Confederate battle flag.

Every day that Keith Jackson put on his Alabama state trooper’s uniform, on the sleeve was a reminder of the state’s racist and painful past: The Confederate battle flag, which is part of Alabama’s coat of arms.The African American law enforcement officer, who is now retired, said for nearly 30 years he wore on his uniform the flag of the Confederacy. It was the same flag that flew when the state fought to keep his parents in segregated schools and the flag that white students would carry during fights at his older brother’s high school.

“It was a painful symbol for my parents. It turned into a painful symbol for me when I realized what it meant,” Jackson, 57, said, recalling his childhood and learning about the flag.

Jackson spoke at a public hearing this week in favor of a proposal by Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville, to redesign Alabama’s coat of arms. The bill is not moving forward this legislative session, but House State Government Committee Chairman Chris Pringle said they want to study the idea and work on possible alternatives.

“The battle flag brings with it so many negative connotations. Alabama is always struggling with its image in that respect. If we want to move forward and have a more positive image, I think that it’s a beginning, a small beginning,” Hall said.

Daily Beast, Commentary: Guys Like Gaetz ‘Don’t Think They’re Paying for Sex,’Prostitution, sugaring, or being a trophy wife may be a matter of degree, Jessie Sage, Updated May 1, 2021.  Likewise with paying for time, paying for attention, paying for fantasy fulfillment, or paying for sex.

daily beast logoA lot of men like to think that they’re paying for something else, but women who have done the work say there’s no question that sex is part of the package—along with emotional labor.

While Matt Gaetz denies purchasing sex, he admits to having paid for hotel rooms and flights for lovers: “I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner.”

His scandal has been free advertising for the sugar daddy site Seeking Arrangements, which claims to match beautiful young women (sugar babies) and successful older men (sugar daddies) in “mutually beneficial relationships.”

While the direct exchange of sex for money (i.e., prostitution) is against the site’s terms of service, Seeking Arrangements doesn’t shy away from asserting on its front page that the benefit for sugar babies is being pampered.

“Indulge in shopping sprees, expensive dinners, and exotic travel vacations,” the site promises. You can guess what the benefit is for the daddies, including Gaetz, who is alleged to have used Apple Pay and Cash App to pay multiple women from the site for sex—and also a 17-year-old girl—with payments funneled through his close associate Joel Greenberg, who the Beast reported this week drafted a confession letter, while trying to purchase a presidential pardon from Roger Stone, admitting to those payments he made for himself and his friend Matt.

ny times logoNew York Times, An Oregon lawmaker who let protesters into the State Capitol was charged in the breach, Maria Cramer, May 1, 2021. Surveillance footage shows State Representative Mike Nearman opening a door to let protesters into the Capitol, in Salem, last year.

A Republican state legislator from Oregon who was captured on surveillance video allowing demonstrators to enter the State Capitol in December was charged on Friday in connection with the breach of the building, which led to a conflict between officers and protesters.

The lawmaker, Representative Mike Nearman, 57, was charged with official misconduct in the first degree and trespassing in the second degree, according to court documents.

Marion County prosecutors said in court documents that Mr. Nearman, “being a public servant, did unlawfully and knowingly perform an act which constituted an unauthorized exercise of his official duties, with intent to obtain a benefit or to harm another.”

On Dec. 21, while legislators were in session, Mr. Nearman calmly walked out a side door, allowing several demonstrators, many of them unmasked and holding American flags or pro-Trump signs, inside the State Capitol, in Salem. The moment was captured by widely circulated video surveillance of the breach.

Mr. Nearman kept walking as the protesters went inside and were quickly confronted by local and state police officers, who were shoved by some of the demonstrators as they struggled to get into the building.

The footage showed protesters knocking off the hats of police officials and striking at officers, some of whom wore riot gear.

At least five people were arrested during the breach, according to The Associated Press. One man was charged after he blasted police officers with bear spray.

ny times logoNew York Times, Why a $10,000 Tax Deduction Could Hold Up Trillions in Stimulus Funds, Conor Dougherty, May 1, 2021. The fight over a tax break known as SALT is a case study in the age-old conflict between constituent politics and national policy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Secret Rules for Drone Strikes Outside War Zones Are Disclosed, Charlie Savage, May 1, 2021. The release of the 2017 policy — with redactions — stemmed from open-records lawsuits by The Times and the A.C.L.U.

The Biden administration has disclosed a set of rules secretly issued by President Donald J. Trump in 2017 for counterterrorism “direct action” operations — like drone strikes and commando raids outside conventional war zones — which the White House has suspended as it weighs whether and how to tighten the guidelines.

While the Biden administration censored some passages, the visible portions show that in the Trump era, commanders in the field were given latitude to make decisions about attacks so long as they fit within broad sets of “operating principles,” including that there should be “near certainty” that civilians “will not be injured or killed in the course of operations.”

At the same time, however, the Trump-era rules were flexible about permitting exceptions to that and other standards, saying that “variations” could be made “where necessary” so long as certain bureaucratic procedures were followed in approving them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Texas voters cast ballots with House vacancy in the balance, David Weigel, May 1, 2021 (print ed.). Voters in north Texas will start to fill a congressional vacancy Saturday, after a scrambled 23-candidate contest, the last-minute intervention of former president Donald Trump and a gruesome, false robocall condemned by multiple campaigns.

Strategists with both parties considered it highly unlikely that any candidate would win more than 50 percent of the vote Saturday, making a runoff likely — potentially a contest between two Republicans, if their turnout is high and the Democratic vote splinters.

The ex-president initially stayed out of the race, which pitted Wright against several Republicans claiming the MAGA mantle.

Brian Harrison, the former chief of staff at Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services, ran on a return to Trump’s policies with the slogan “Always America First.” Dan Rodimer, a former wrestler who lost a 2020 House bid in Nevada, touted his Trump endorsement in that race to argue that he was the only candidate ever supported by the former president, and he campaigned outside early-vote centers alongside a cardboard cutout of Trump.

The race got nastier Friday, when Wright’s campaign flagged the FBI about a robocall, with no identification, that told voters she had murdered her husband to get his life insurance payout. Ellzey and other rivals immediately condemned the call, which also recited Wright’s home address.

Republicans, Democrats and minor-party candidates are competing in a single primary across the 6th Congressional District, a seat that has been empty since the Feb. 8 death of Republican Rep. Ron Wright after a battle with covid-19. Wright’s widow, Susan, an experienced party activist, secured Trump’s endorsement this week, with the former president briefly participating in a Thursday night call on her behalf organized by the Club for Growth.

“You will be very happy with this vote,” Trump said, adding that Wright’s husband “is looking down, and he is so proud of Susan.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Matt Gaetz scandal takes a strange new turn, Aaron Blake, May 1, 2021 (print ed.). While seeking a pardon, Gaetz's ally wrote a letter in which he admitted to having sex with a 17-year-old girl and implicated Gaetz in the same conduct. The question is: Why?

 washington post logoWashington Post, Tracking Biden appointees, Harry Stevens and Madison Walls, May 1, 2021. President Biden’s transition has been slower than previous ones. We are tracking 789 government positions among about 1,200 that require Senate confirmation.

  • omb logo management and budget seal Custom372 positions have no Biden nominee.
  • 48 picks are awaiting formal nomination.
  • 86 nominees are being considered by the Senate.
  • 38 have been confirmed by the Senate.
  • Additionally, we have identified 245 appointees so far who are serving in termed positions or who were held over from previous administrations.

 

World News

washington post logoWashington Post, Taliban warns of counterattacks as original May 1 deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal passes, Susannah George and Sharif Hassan, May 1, 2021.The Taliban issued a warning to U.S. and NATO forces of possible counterattacks as the original May 1 deadline for the complete withdrawal of foreign troops passed, stoking fears of increased violence in response to President Biden’s extension of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to Sept. 11.

Taliban fighters are prepared to “take every counteraction” that the movement “deems appropriate against the occupying forces,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, in a statement Saturday. Mujahid said the group’s leadership had not yet made a decision on how to respond to the delayed pullout, and he said its fighters would not act before a consensus is reached.

Afghans are bracing for an increase in violence as foreign forces withdraw from the country, and the Pentagon has warned that U.S. forces may be at risk of attack with the May 1 deadline’s passage.

ny times logoNew York Times, Apple Is Violating Antitrust Laws With Its App Store, E.U. Says, Adam Satariano, May 1, 2021 (print ed.). By forcing app developers to use its payment system and comply with other rules, Apple broke European Union competition laws, regulators said.

European Union regulators on Friday accused Apple of violating antitrust laws by imposing unfair rules and fees on rival music-streaming services that depend on the App Store to reach customers.

Amid growing scrutiny of the tech industry worldwide, the case will be an important test of a government's ability to force one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies to change its behavior. Europe is seen as a global bellwether on tech policy, but Apple has vowed to fight the charges.

apple logo rainbowWith its ability to make or break the business of app developers, Apple is one of the digital economy’s most important gatekeepers. Any app downloaded to an iPhone or iPad — from Tinder to Instagram to Candy Crush — must comply with the company’s rules and guidelines, including using Apple’s payment system and sharing up to 30 percent on any sales. If not, a company risks losing access to millions of Apple customers.

Apple says tight oversight of the App Store ensures customers download high-quality apps, protecting users from viruses, fraud and buggy software. But companies including Spotify, the music streaming service that filed a complaint two years ago that set off the European Union’s investigation, have grown frustrated with its powerful position. They argue it allows Apple to undercut competitors to services like Apple Music and charge an unfair tax on developers.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Bolsonaro has insulted many other countries. Now Brazil needs their help, Terrence McCoy, May 1, 2021 (print ed.). Global leaders’ reaction to Brazil’s devastating coronavirus outbreak has been muted, compared to the rush of support given to India.

brazil flag wavingTwo developing countries, enormous in population and geography, in the grip of devastating coronavirus outbreaks. Hospitals running out of supplies. Patients turned away. A new jair bolsonaro brazilvariant everywhere. Outside help desperately needed.

For India, upended by record infection rates, the world has responded. The White House this week touted the delivery of more than $100 million in supplies. Singapore and Thailand sent oxygen. Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the United Kingdom would do “all it can.”

But for Brazil, which has buried some 140,000 coronavirus victims in the past two months, the international response has been more muted. President Jair Bolsonaro in March called on international organizations to help. A group of state governors asked the United Nations for “humanitarian aid.” The Brazilian ambassador to the European Union begged two weeks ago for help: “It’s a race against time to save many lives in Brazil.”

 

U.S. Crime, Police, Race, Courts

josh duggar mug

Josh Duggar is seen in this booking photo following his arrest in Arkansas on Thursday, April 29, 2021.

CNNCNN, Josh Duggar arrested, indicted on child pornography charges, Dakin Andone and Gregory Lemos, May 1, 2021 (print ed.). Former reality TV star Joshua Duggar has been arrested on federal charges related to the possession of child pornography, according to the US Attorney's Office in the Western District of Arkansas.

Duggar allegedly downloaded material that depicted the sexual abuse of children under the age of 12, the US attorney's office said in a statement. Duggar allegedly possessed the material in May 2019.

Duggar, the oldest son of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, whose family was the subject of the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting," faces two charges, the indictment shows -- one count of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. He faces up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 if convicted, the statement said.

Duggar was arrested in Arkansas Thursday, according to the statement. He appeared in federal court Friday via video conference and pleaded not guilty to both charges.

"We intend to defend this case aggressively and thoroughly. In this country, no one can stop prosecutors from charging a crime. But when you're accused, you can fight back in the courtroom -- and that is exactly what Josh intends to do," Duggar's attorneys Justin Gelfand, Travis W. Story and Greg Payne said in an email to CNN Friday.

Duggar is set to appear in court again on May 5 for a detention hearing. The trial is currently scheduled for July 6, Judge Erin Wiedemann said.

This is not Duggar's first time making headlines.

TLC canceled the reality television show in 2015 after reports surfaced that Duggar allegedly molested girls when he was a teenager. Duggar was never charged in relation to those allegations.
That same year, Duggar admitted that he had used Ashley Madison, a website designed to help married people cheat on their spouses, after his name was released when the website was hacked.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar posted a statement on their family website about the "very serious accusations" Duggar is facing.

"We appreciate your continued prayers for our family at this time. The accusations brought against Joshua today are very serious. It is our prayer that the truth, no matter what it is, will come to light, and that this will all be resolved in a timely manner. We love Josh and Anna and continue to pray for their family," they said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chauvin’s ‘particular cruelty’ should mean harsher sentence, AG argues, Timothy Bella, May 1, 2021 Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of murder and manslaughter charges, deserved a more severe sentence after he inflicted "gratuitous pain" on George Floyd last year, said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D).

The Minnesota attorney general is seeking a harsher prison sentence for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin due to the “particular cruelty” he showed in the murder of George Floyd last year, according to court documents filed Friday.

Keith Ellison (D) argued in a legal briefing that Chauvin, who was convicted on murder and manslaughter charges last week, deserved a more severe sentence after the officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes and showed a lack of remorse for the 46-year-old Black man as he yelled out for his mother while detained.

“Mr. Floyd was treated with particular cruelty,” Ellison wrote in the 26-page briefing to Hennepin County District Court. He added, “Defendant continued to maintain his position atop Mr. Floyd even as Mr. Floyd cried out that he was in pain, even as Mr. Floyd exclaimed 27 times that he could not breathe, and even as Mr. Floyd said that Defendant’s actions were killing him.”
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Chauvin, who is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25, faces up to 40 years in prison for second-degree unintentional murder. Judge Peter Cahill would have to find there were “aggravating factors” in Floyd’s death to go above the 12½-year sentence recommended under state sentencing guidelines for the murder charge of someone without a previous record. Prosecutors did not say in the filing how much time they are seeking Chauvin to serve.

 djt looking up

Palmer Report, Opinion: No, Trump and his people aren’t going to magically “get away with it all,” Bill Palmer, May 1, 2021 The DOJ just raided the homes of Rudy Giuliani and Victoria Toensing in relation bill palmerto their roles in the Trump-Ukraine scandal. The DOJ also just filed a multimillion dollar suit against Roger Stone. And the DOJ has a cooperating witness in Joel Greenberg who has stated in writing that Matt Gaetz is guilty of everything. This past week has finally shattered the defeatist “they’re going to get away with it all” narrative, right?

You’d think. But the most defeatist of liberal pundits are already trying to find ways to spin all of these developments as somehow either bad or pointless. Some of them are insisting that because Bill Barr paused the probe into Rudy, it gave Rudy time to destroy the evidence against himself, which means Rudy is magically getting away with it all!

bill palmer report logo headerNothing comes within a million miles of working that way, of course. The Feds have typically obtained someone’s electronic communications from their service providers before a raid even occurs, and it was reported this week that the Feds have had his electronic communications since 2019. If Rudy did destroy any of his phones, then not only was that evidence not actually destroyed, it means the Feds can tack on obstruction of justice charges on top of everything else.

You can go down the line and poke holes in every one of the doomsday deflections being floated by the most defeatist of pundits. They say that Joel Greenberg won’t be viewed as reliable witness by a jury. And they’re right. But if Greenberg’s claims about Matt Gaetz are true, then Greenberg can surely point the Feds to receipts, paperwork, and other more reliable witnesses who can corroborate it all.

The bottom line is still the same thing that it was back in November. If Trump had won the election, or if he had come close enough to convince the courts to give him the election, then he and his people would indeed have gotten away with it all. But the minute Trump was declared the loser of the 2020 election, it was a guarantee that he and his guilty associates would all go down. It’s just how things work. You’d have to be lost in a total haze of defeatism to somehow convince yourself otherwise.

Yet we still have a segment of liberal pundits who decided a long time ago that defeatism is their brand, because doomsday proclamations are always good for getting attention. Liberal political punditry is such a perversely upside down industry, the liberal pundits who feed you the doomsday stuff are actually lauded for supposedly telling it like it is, whereas liberal pundits who factually point out that not everything is on fire are accused of just telling you what you want to hear.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI was aware prominent Americans, including Giuliani, were targeted by Russian influence operation, Ellen Nakashima, Shane Harris and Tom Hamburger, May 1, 2021. The FBI became aware in late 2019 that Rudolph W. Giuliani was the target of a Russian influence operation aimed at circulating falsehoods intended to damage President Biden politically ahead of last year’s election, according to people familiar with the matter.

Officials planned to warn Giuliani as part of an extensive effort by the bureau to alert members of Congress and at least one conservative media outlet, One America News, that they faced a risk of being used to further Russia’s attempt to influence the election’s outcome, said several current and former U.S. officials. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter remains highly sensitive.

Correction: An earlier version of this story, published Thursday, incorrectly reported that One America News was warned by the FBI that it was the target of a Russian influence operation. That version also said the FBI had provided a similar warning to Rudolph W. Giuliani, which he has since disputed. This version has been corrected to remove assertions that OAN and Giuliani received the warnings.

Law&Crime, Three Cops from Two Law Enforcement Agencies Accused of Firing Guns During Booze-Fueled Night; Two Have Since Been Fired, Colin Kalmbacher, May 1, 2021. Three off-duty members of two North Carolina law enforcement agencies stand accused of firing their weapons within the city limits of a small town during an alcohol-infused night in early April.

According to Raleigh-Durham-based ABC affiliate WTVD, two off-duty Chatham County deputies and one Siler City police sergeant were discovered by members of the Pittsboro Police Department after callers reported shots fired near several civic buildings. 

 

 

April 2021 News

 

 JIPLogo


Editor's Choice: Scroll below for our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative April 2021 news and views. 

 

April 30

Top Headlines

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

  

U.S. Politics, Governance

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

 

Top Stories 

Indian leader Narendra Modi (File photo)

Indian leader Narendra Modi (File photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Announces Restrictions on Travel From India, Live Updates, Staff Reports, April 30, 2021. The Biden administration said the restrictions, which came on the advice of the C.D.C., would go into effect next week.

India is facing a devastating virus outbreak that claims over 3,000 lives daily, with hospitals short on beds and people desperate for oxygen. Here’s the latest.

washington post logoWashington Post, In India’s devastating coronavirus surge, anger at prime minister grows, Joanna Slater and Niha Masih, April 30, 2021 (print ed.). As he surveyed the thousands of people gathered at an election rally in eastern India on April 17, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared jubilant. “Everywhere I look, as far as I can see, there are crowds,” he said, his arms spread wide. “You have done an extraordinary thing.”

At the time, India was recording more than 200,000 coronavirus cases a day. In the western state of Maharashtra, oxygen was running short, and people were dying at home because of a shortage of hospital beds. In Modi’s home state of Gujarat, crematoriums were being overwhelmed by the dead.

Those scenes were just a prelude to the devastation now unfolding in India. It is recording more infections daily than any other country since the start of the pandemic. Hospitals are turning away severely ill patients, and their relatives are frantically searching for medical oxygen.

Coronavirus has crushed India's health system. Patients are on their own.

For Modi, the most powerful Indian prime minister in five decades, it is a moment of reckoning. He is facing what appears to be the country’s biggest crisis since independence, a calamity that is challenging his vision of a proud, self-reliant nation. Modi’s own lapses and missteps are an increasing source of anger. As coronavirus cases skyrocketed, Modi continued to hold huge election rallies and declined to cancel a Hindu religious festival that drew millions to the banks of the Ganges River, despite pleas from health experts

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani pathetically begged FBI agents to investigate Hunter Biden when they raided his home, Bill Palmer, April 30, 2021. If you’ve been wondering what Rudy Giuliani did when the FBI showed up at his door with a search warrant and began seizing all of his electronic devices, now you have your answer. Rudy himself has inexplicably revealed just how pathetically, andbill palmer report logo headerderangedly, he behaved when the Feds showed up.

Rudy Giuliani appeared on Tucker Carlson’s white supremacist hour on Fox News and spilled the beans on himself. Rudy said that when the Feds entered his apartment and began taking his devices, he begged them to take Hunter Biden’s hard drives as well.

 

Virus Victims, Remedies

ny times logoNew York Times, Faith, Freedom, Fear: Rural America’s Covid Vaccine Skeptics, Jan Hoffman / Photographs by Erin Schaff, April 30, 2021. Resistance is widespread in white, Republican communities. But it’s far more complicated than just a partisan divide, “So have you gotten the vaccine yet?”

The question, a friendly greeting to Betty Smith, the pastor’s wife, lingered in the air as the four church women sat down for their regular Tuesday coffee and conversation at Ingle’s Market.

Mrs. Smith hesitated, sensing a chilly blast of judgment from a never-mask, never-vax companion. She fumbled through a non-reply.

Recalling the moment later, she sighed, “We were there to get to know each other better but the first thing on the table was the Covid vaccine.”

The subject makes her husband, the Rev. David Smith, even more uncomfortable. “Honestly, I wish people wouldn’t ask,” he said, chatting after Wednesday night prayer at Tusculum Baptist Church. “I think it’s none of their business. And it’s just dividing people.”

As the beautiful Appalachian spring unfurls across northeastern Tennessee, the Covid-19 vaccine is tearing apart friends, families, congregations, colleagues. “It’s a muddy mess,” said Meredith Shrader, a physician assistant, who runs an events venue with her husband, another pastor, and who notes that the choice has become about much more than health care. “Which voice do you listen to?”

Communities like Greeneville and its surroundings — rural, overwhelmingly Republican, deeply Christian, 95 percent white — are on the radar of President Biden and American health officials, as efforts to vaccinate most of the U.S. population enters a critical phase. These are the places where polls show resistance to the vaccine is most entrenched. While campaigns aimed at convincing Black and Latino urban communities to set aside their vaccine mistrust have made striking gains, towns like these will also have to be convinced if the country is to achieve widespread immunity.

But a week here in Greene County reveals a more nuanced, layered hesitancy than surveys suggest. People say that politics isn’t the leading driver of their vaccine attitudes. The most common reason for their apprehension is fear — that the vaccine was developed in haste, that long-term side effects are unknown. Their decisions are also entangled in a web of views about bodily autonomy, science and authority, plus a powerful regional, somewhat romanticized self-image: We don’t like outsiders messing in our business.

According to state health department statistics, 31 percent of the vaccine-eligible population in Greene County has gotten at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, still below Tennessee overall, which has one of the lowest rates in the country, and far below the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s national tally of 55 percent. While many older residents have been inoculated, now that eligibility is open to all adults, vaccination sites are almost desolate.

Still, conversations here show that for many people, resistance is not firm. Roiled by internet fallacies, many hunger for straightforward information from people they trust. Others have practical needs, like paid time off to recover from side effects, which the Biden administration has urged employers to offer, or the opportunity to get the shot from their own doctor.

What’s also lacking is a groundswell that might encourage the hesitant to make the leap: Many people who have gotten vaccinated are remaining tight-lipped.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. aid arrives in India as vaccine shortages hinder response, Erin Cunningham, April 30, 2021.  Emergency medical aid from the United States and other nations began arriving in India on Friday as the South Asian country’s crushing coronavirus outbreak continued to spiral and vaccinations in multiple regions ground to a halt because of dwindling supplies.

A U.S. Air Force transport plane carrying oxygen cylinders, N95 masks and rapid diagnostic tests landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi on Friday morning, the first of several shipments that the White House pledged to help India combat the pandemic.

Chinese state media said the first batch of 25,000 oxygen concentrators pledged by Beijing to India also arrived Friday, the Associated Press reported.

“Just as India came to our aid early in the pandemic, the U.S. is committed to working urgently to provide assistance to India in its time of need,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday on Twitter.

India’s Health Ministry on Friday reported another record number of new cases, logging 386,452 infections over the previous 24 hours.

washington post logoWashington Post, 144.9 million vaccinated, as of April 30, 2021, the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 54.2 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 43.6 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 30, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 151,250,369, Deaths: 3,182,157
U.S. Cases:     33,044,068, Deaths:     589,207
India Cases:    18,762,976, Deaths:     208,330
Brazil Cases:   14,592,886, Deaths:     401,417 

ny times logoNew York Times, The Many Ways Colleges Are Handling Covid-Complicated Graduations, Rukmini Callimachi, April 30, 2021. With vaccinations on the rise, many universities are planning in-person commencements, sowing frustration on campuses sticking to online ones.

Her first reaction after receiving the email from the University of Tampa announcing that commencement would be conducted online was to cry. Across Florida, larger colleges were announcing plans for in-person graduations — so why not hers?

Then 22-year-old Allison Clark dried her tears and turned to Instagram, asking: If Tampa hosted an in-person graduation, would they attend?

When 80 percent of the respondents said “Yes,” she and two classmates created a GoFundMe and started selling tickets. They were quickly overwhelmed as classmates and their parents pitched in more than $25,000 — significantly more than the $12,000 price tag for the convention center they are renting for their self-funded graduation, now scheduled for next week.

There will not be too many do-it-yourself graduations, but across the country, parents and graduates will confront commencements in May that are as atypical, modified and sometimes contentious as the past school year has been. 

WJLA-TV (Washington, DC), Pentagon says no to parking permit for Rolling To Remember, Scott Taylor, April 30 2021. The U.S. Department of Defense has denied a parking permit to the American Veterans or AmVets to stage a rallying point at the Pentagon ending a 32-year-old tradition on Memorial Day weekend for Rolling To Remember.

Now AmVets will try and secure RFK Stadium as an alternative staging area.

AmVets Executive Director Joe Chenelly tells the 7 News I-Team he received a call from the Pentagon Friday afternoon saying "A gentleman at the Pentagon told me that after careful consideration, our permit application was denied. He said considerations involved the continued spread of COVID-19 in the region and the nature of our event being that we are proposing a large gathering for an extended period of time."

The Pentagon released a statement Friday night that read:

Unfortunately, the department has disapproved AMVETS permit request. The department took into careful consideration all aspects of AMVETS request, to include the current Health Protection Condition status on the Pentagon Reservation; substantial community transmission of COVID-19 in Arlington County, Virginia; number of Americans fully vaccinated across the nation; nature of this event with its decreased ability to maintain physical distance; and large crowds in one location for an extended period of time. This event draws national attention and participation; therefore the risk of exposure from participants from other communities extends well beyond the National Capital Region.

If COVID-19 conditions permit, the department would gladly consider supporting a future event request from AMVETS, potentially as soon as this Labor Day weekend.

The department looks forward to supporting future events with AMVETS, and as always, we appreciate AMVETS' support of our veterans, their families, and their communities, including promoting better awareness of veterans' issues, as well as AMVETS continued support for our missing-in-action service members.

For almost a year the organizers of Rolling To Remember have been waiting for the Pentagon to sign off on a parking permit for a Memorial Day weekend event that will bring in thousands of veterans and their motorcycles to the District.

Two weeks ago, the 7News I-Team reported the U.S. Defense Department was holding up what seems to be a simple decision to allow or deny thousands of military veterans to use its parking lot for a staging area for Rolling To Remember.

It’s the same parking lot the huge event has been using for the past 32 years.

AmVets is in charge of the event and happens to be a Congressionally-chartered veterans service organization, representing the interests of 20 million veterans.

"We have not heard from the Pentagon from the day you called them the first time," said Joe Chenelly the National Executive Director of AmVets. "That's been a few weeks now.

The Pentagon continues to decline the I-Team’s request for an on-camera interview. It did admit it revoked a parking permit for AmVets after approving it in March.

The Pentagon's denial comes on the heels of the Smithsonian announcing last week that it will reopen eight of its facilities to the public in May, starting with the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly on Wednesday, May 5.

Additional museums and the National Zoo will open Friday, May 14, and Friday, May 21. Also on Friday, the United States Holocaust Museum announced that it plans to reopen on Monday, May 17 with reduced visitation, required face coverings, temperature checks, social distancing, and other safety measures.

I-Team Reporter Scott Taylor asked: "These military vets are coming to Washington, D.C. regardless if the Pentagon participates or not, correct?"

"You are absolutely right," said Chenelly. "We are seeing it on websites and social media all over the place. Much smaller groups. They're planning their own smaller rallying points and they're coming in."

Which means a potential traffic nightmare for the District. Multiple staging areas all over the DMV before thousands of veterans on motorcycles head over to the National Mall.

AmVets says it has a plan B and is working to move its main staging area to RFK Stadium instead of the Pentagon.

"It's very disappointing and for our members," said Chenelly. "There's been shock and deep disappointment expressed to us."

Sources tell 7News someone very high up at the Pentagon doesn't like the optics of this event during a pandemic. AmVets tell the I-Team the Metropolitan Police Department and the D.C. Mayor’s Office is working with it to help make Rolling To Remember a success.

 

U.S. Politics, Governance

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: The false and misleading claims Biden made during his first 100 days in office, Glenn Kessler, Adrian Blanco and Tyler Remmel, April 30, 2021 (print ed.). After four years of a presidency that swamped Americans with a gusher of false and misleading claims, the Joe Biden era has offered a return to a more typical pattern when it comes to a commander in chief and his relationship with the facts — one that features frequent spin and obfuscation or exaggeration, with the occasional canard.

Among the most notable falsehoods of President Biden’s first 100 days in office was his claim — which he made three times — that Georgia’s controversial Republican-backed election law had shortened voting hours.

The claim was one of two uttered by Biden to earn the Fact Checker’s “Four Pinocchio” rating, reserved for whoppers — the other being his wildly off-base statement, borrowed from the campaign, that federal contracts “awarded directly to foreign companies” rose by 30 percent under President Donald Trump.

More typical for Biden, when he uttered a false statement, was some subtle truth-stretching.

He spun that if Congress passed his infrastructure plan, “the economy” would create 19 million additional jobs; only 2.7 million of those jobs could be attributed to the proposal itself. He asserted that as vice president he helped craft an $800 billion strategy to help Central America; it was $750 million.

Through April 26, Biden has made 67 false or misleading statements, according to a Washington Post Fact Checker analysis of every speech, interview, tweet or public statement made by the president. That compares to 511 such statements in Trump’s first 100 days.

The Biden era has offered a return to a more typical pattern — one that features frequent spin and obfuscation or exaggeration.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s quest for a new normal: Can he restore calm and still make progress? Marc Fisher, April 30, 2021 (print ed.). If President Donald Trump was bombastic, President Biden is soft-spoken, almost demure. If Trump was impulsive, Biden is deliberate. Still, the nation’s political dynamics remain largely unchanged, as do its primary problems.

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

Law&Crime, Judge Rules Jared Kushner’s Apartment Company Repeatedly Broke Consumer Laws With ‘Widespread and Numerous’ Violations, Jerry Lambe, April 30, 2021. A Maryland judge ruled that an apartment company co-owned by former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner violated consumer protection laws by charging improper fees to tenants, engaging in debt collection without the requisite licenses, and misstating the condition of its apartments, The Baltimore Sun reported Thursday evening.

Administrative Law Judge Emily Daneker issued a 252-page decision classifying violations by the company JK2 and its successor Westminster Management as “widespread and numerous.”

ared and his brother Joshua Kushner each own a 50-percent stake in JK2, per legal filings obtained by The Sun.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed in 2019 by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh. Frosh opened an investigation into the company and its partners after tenants filed a lawsuit alleging they were being charged inappropriate fees and ProPublica and The Baltimore Sun reported on rental practices that experts said were unlawful.

Law&Crime, Police Suspect Human Smuggling After Finding More Than 90 People Inside Houston Home. They Fear Some Have COVID-19, Jerry Lambe, April 30, 2021. Law enforcement officers in Texas discovered more than 90 people inside a Houston house that investigators currently believe is part of a human smuggling operation.

Edwards said that of the 91 people inside the home, about five were women and the rest were men. There were no children found inside the home, with the youngest inhabitant probably being in their “early 20s,” he added.

Law&Crime, Michigan State University Dumps Football Recruit Charged with Sexual Extortion of Juvenile Girl, Alberto Luperon, April 30, 2021. An 18-year-old in North Port, Florida is facing criminal charges that he sexually extorted a girl. Steffan Lamar Johnson has also lost out on a college football career.

The events unfolded after police say the father of a juvenile girl told them Johnson threatened his daughter. The girl rejected the defendant’s advances, and the defendant is alleged to have responded by saying he would post video of the girl performing a sex act on him. Both victim and suspect were minors at the time of the video, police said.

 

April 29

Top Headlines  

  

U. S. Insurrections, Domestic Terrorists

 

Biden Address To Congress

 

Virus Victims, Responses

  

U.S. Politics, Governance  

 

U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

World News

Israel FlagNew York Times, Dozens Dead in Stampede at Religious Celebration in Israel

 

 

Top Stories

joe biden congressional speach resized 4 28 21

President Biden delivered his first address to Congress on April 28, with the historic background of two women in the traditional leadership for such addresses: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at right, the host, and Vice President Kamala Harris. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden pitches ambitious investment and tax plans as he recasts role of government, John Wagner, Eugene Scott, Colby Itkowitz, Reis Thebault, Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). Biden frequently went off script in Washington’s most choreographed event.

‘America is on the move again,’ president tells nation in speech; Biden urges Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by anniversary of Floyd’s death next month; Biden calls to ‘end democratic donkey logoour exhausting war over immigration;’ Photos: The scene at President Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress.

President Biden on Wednesday pitched his ambitious, trillion-dollar-plus investment and tax plans as he recast the role of government in American lives. He promoted his agenda in a prime-time address to the nation and a slimmed-down joint session of Congress as the pandemic imposed health restrictions in the House chamber with smaller number of lawmakers.

In the Republican response to the president’s speech, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will credit the Trump administration and the GOP for coronavirus vaccines and the economic rebound, insisting that Biden is reaping the benefits. “This administration inherited a tide that had already turned,” Scott will say, according to excerpts of his speech.

Trump attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, center, former President Trump, left, and Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky (file photos). 

Trump attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, center, former President Trump, left, and Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky (file photos).  

ny times logoNew York Times, Firing of U.S. Ambassador Is at Center of Giuliani Investigation, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Kenneth P. Vogel, April 29, 2021. Prosecutors want to scrutinize Rudolph W. Giuliani’s communications with Ukrainian officials about the ouster of the ambassador, Marie L. Yovanovitch.

rudy giulianiTwo years ago, Rudolph W. Giuliani finally got one thing he had been seeking in Ukraine: The Trump administration removed the U.S. ambassador there, a woman Mr. Giuliani, right, believed had been obstructing his efforts to dig up dirt on the Biden family.

It was a Pyrrhic victory. Mr. Giuliani’s push to oust the ambassador, Marie L. Yovanovitch, not only became a focus of President Donald J. Trump’s first impeachment trial, but it has now landed Mr. Giuliani in the cross hairs of a federal criminal investigation into whether he broke lobbying laws, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The long-running inquiry reached a turning point this week when F.B.I. agents seized telephones and computers from Mr. Giuliani’s home and office in Manhattan, the people said. At least one of the warrants was seeking evidence related to Ms. Yovanovitch and her role as ambassador, the people said.

In particular, the federal authorities were expected to scour the electronic devices for communications between Mr. Giuliani and Trump administration officials about the ambassador before she was recalled in April 2019, one of the people added.

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Investigators Search Rudy Giuliani’s Apartment and Office, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Maggie Haberman, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). Prosecutors obtained the search warrants as part of an investigation into whether Mr. Giuliani broke lobbying laws as President Trump’s personal lawyer. The search warrants mark a major turning point in the long-running investigation against Rudy Giuliani.Federal investigators in Manhattan executed search warrants early Wednesday at the home and office of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who became President Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer, stepping up a criminal investigation into Mr. Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, three people with knowledge of the investigation said.

Justice Department log circularThe investigators seized Mr. Giuliani’s electronic devices and searched his apartment on Madison Avenue and his office on Park Avenue at about 6 a.m., two of the people said.

The execution of search warrants is an extraordinary action for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president. It was a major development in the long-running investigation into Mr. Giuliani and a remarkable moment in his long arc as a public figure.

As mayor, Mr. Giuliani won national recognition for steering New York through the dark days after the Sept. 11 attacks, and earlier in his career, he led the same U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan that is investigating him now, earning a reputation as a hard-charging prosecutor who took on organized crime and corrupt politicians.
In recent years, however, his image has been tarred by his effort to help Mr. Trump to dig up dirt in Ukraine on President Biden’s son and Mr. Trump’s repeated attempts in court to overturn the results of the 2020 election with baseless claims of widespread fraud.

Mr. Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert J. Costello, called the searches unnecessary because his client had offered to answer prosecutors’s questions, except those regarding Mr. Giuliani’s privileged communications with the former president.

“What they did today was legal thuggery,” Mr. Costello said. “Why would you do this to anyone, let alone someone who was the associate attorney general, United States attorney, the mayor of New York City and the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States.”

The federal authorities have largely focused on whether Mr. Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs, who at the time were helping Mr. Giuliani search for damaging information on Mr. Trump’s political rivals, including Mr. Biden, who was then a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

F.B.I. agents also executed a search warrant on Wednesday morning at the Washington-area home of Victoria Toensing, a lawyer close to Mr. Giuliani who had dealings with several Ukrainians involved in the hunt for information on the Bidens, according to people with knowledge of that warrant. The warrant was for her cellphone.

Ms. Toensing, a former Justice Department official, has also represented Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch under indictment in the United States whose help Mr. Giuliani sought.

The investigation of Mr. Giuliani grew out of a case against two Soviet-born men who aided his mission in Ukraine to unearth damaging information about Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of an energy company there. Prosecutors charged the men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and two others with unrelated crimes in 2019, and a trial is scheduled for October.

Prosecutors have examined, among other things, Mr. Giuliani’s potential business dealings in Ukraine and his role in pushing the Trump administration to oust the American ambassador to the country, a subject of testimony at Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial.

ahmaud arbery

ny times logoNew York Times, Suspects in Ahmaud Arbery’s Death Indicted on Federal Hate Crime Charges, Katie Benner, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). The charges are tied to the death of Mr. Arbery, above, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while jogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year.

Justice Department log circularThree Georgia men were indicted on federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges in connection with the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while georgia mapjogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

The deadly encounter helped fuel nationwide racial justice protests last year, and the charges are the most significant hate crimes prosecution so far by the Biden administration, which has made civil rights protections a major priority.

The suspects — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and William “Roddie” Bryan, 51 — were each charged with one count of interference with Mr. Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race and with one count of attempted kidnapping.

The charges are tied to the death of Mr. Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while jogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

Daily Beast, Bombshell Note: Gaetz Paid for Sex With Minor, Wingman Says, Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger, April 29, 2021. The Daily Beast has obtained a confession letter that Joel Greenberg wrote after asking Roger Stone to help him obtain a pardon.

A confession letter written by Joel Greenberg in the final months of the Trump presidency claims that he and close associate Rep. Matt Gaetz paid for sex with multiple daily beast logowomen—as well as a girl who was 17 at the time.

“On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,” Greenberg wrote in reference to the 17-year-old. “From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18. I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman.”

djt march 2020 CustomThe letter, which The Daily Beast recently obtained, was written after Greenberg asked Roger Stone to help him secure a pardon from then-President Donald Trump.

In late 2020, Greenberg was out of jail and in communication with Stone. A series of private messages between the two—also recently obtained by The Daily Beast—shows a number of exchanges between Greenberg and Stone conducted over the encrypted messaging app Signal, with communications set to disappear. However, Greenberg appears to have taken screenshots of a number of their conversations.

“If I get you $250k in Bitcoin would that help or is this not a financial matter,” Greenberg wrote to Stone.

“I understand all of this and have taken it into consideration,” Stone replied. “I will know more in the next 24 hours I cannot push too hard because of the nonsense surrounding pardons.”

“I hope you are prepared to wire me $250,000 because I am feeling confident,” Stone wrote to Greenberg on Jan. 13.

In a text message to The Daily Beast, Stone said that Greenberg had tried to hire him to assist with a pardon but he denied asking for or receiving payment or interceding on his behalf. He did, however, confirm he had Greenberg prepare “a document explaining his prosecution.”

They know he paid me to pay the girls and that he and I both had sex with the girl who was underage.

— Message from Joel Greenberg to Roger Stone

In the private text messages, Greenberg described his activities with Gaetz, repeatedly referring to the congressman by his initials, “MG,” or as “Matt.”

FBI logo“My lawyers that I fired, know the whole story about MG’s involvement,” Greenberg wrote to Stone on Dec. 21. “They know he paid me to pay the girls and that he and I both had sex with the girl who was underage.”

As part of the effort to obtain a pardon, Greenberg wrote multiple drafts of his confession letter. The Daily Beast obtained two typed versions and an earlier handwritten one. Certified forensic document examiner and handwriting expert Wendy Carlson compared the letter to writing samples obtained through two public records requests. She said it was her professional expert opinion that the person who authored a 2019 financial disclosure for Joel Greenberg, as well as Greenberg’s 2020 board of elections form, was the same as the author of the letter.

“The person who authored the forms has been identified as the person who authored the letter,” Carlson said.

In those letters, Greenberg detailed his relationship with Gaetz. He confessed to paying young women for sex. And he claimed that he, Gaetz, and others had sex with a minor they believed to be 19 at the time. Greenberg said he learned she was underage on Sept. 4, 2017 from “an anonymous tip” and quickly contacted Gaetz.

“Immediately I called the congressman and warned him to stay clear of this person and informed him she was underage,” Greenberg wrote. “He was equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation.”

Justice Department log circularGreenberg continued in the handwritten draft that he “confronted” the then-17-year-old and explained to her “how serious of a situation this was, how many people she put in danger.”

“She apologized and recognized that by lying about her age, she endangered many people,” he continued. “There was no further contact with this individual until after her 18th birthday.”

But after she reached the age of legal consent in Florida, Greenberg reestablished contact.

As The Daily Beast previously reported, about five months after her 18th birthday, Gaetz, left, sent Greenberg $900 in two Venmo transactions—one titled “Test” and the other titled “hit up ___.” The blank, however, was a nickname for this girl, and Greenberg paid matt gaetz o Customher and two other women a total of $900 about six hours later.

In his confession letter, Greenberg also admitted he facilitated Gaetz’s interaction with college students—and paid them on his behalf.

“All of the girls were in college or post college and it was not uncommon for either myself or the Congressman to help anyone [sic] of these girls financially, whether it was a car payment, a flight home to see their family or something as simple as helping pay a speeding ticket,” Greenberg wrote.

A partial record of Greenberg’s Venmo and Cash App transactions suggests that payments were usually for a lot more than “gas money.” The Daily Beast identified more than 150 Venmo payments from Greenberg to women, as well as more than 70 additional payments on the Cash App, that were generally between $300 and $500—though some exceeded $1,000. The Daily Beast also talked to 12 of the more than 40 different women who received money, and they all said they understood Greenberg was paying them at least in part for sex.

Greenberg, a disgraced local politician in Florida, currently faces a sweeping 33-count indictment that ranges from stalking to sex trafficking. In March, The New York Times revealed that the initial investigation into the Seminole County tax official expanded as agents looked into his role in arranging paid sexual encounters for his friend, Matt Gaetz.

Federal prosecutors have not criminally charged Gaetz—or even publicly confirmed the expansion of their probe. While Gaetz acknowledges the existence of the investigation, he denies having sex with an underage teen. But at some point, Greenberg began to cooperate with investigators, a development his lawyer has suggested poses a serious problem for Gaetz.

That defense lawyer, Fritz Scheller, declined to comment on this story, citing attorney-client privilege.

Gaetz’s office did not respond. However, Logan Circle Group, an outside public relations firm Gaetz has hired, sent the following statement:

“Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex nor has he had sex with a 17 year old as an adult. We are now one month after your outlet and others first reported such lies, and no one has gone on record to directly accuse him of either. Politico, however, has reported Mr. Greenberg threatening to make false accusations against others, which seems noteworthy for your story and in fact sounds like the entirety of your story. Congressman Gaetz has had no role in advocating for or against a pardon for Greenberg and doubts such a pardon was ever even considered.”

The Politico article does not say Greenberg was threatening to make false accusations against others, but does say that an associate claimed Greenberg had warned friends that “everyone is going to need a lawyer.”

In the final months of the Trump presidency, Greenberg and Stone exchanged several texts about a pardon over the encrypted messaging app Signal. While images show that the pair frequently set messages to automatically delete, Greenberg regularly took screenshots of their communications.

Stone, who received a presidential commutation in July but at the time had not yet been pardoned, communicated with Greenberg for months about his desire for a pardon.

The messages show that in November, the pair discussed putting together a “document,” which later took the form of a confession letter and background missive about all the ways in which Greenberg had been loyal to Trump. In their early conversations, Greenberg told Stone that the letter was “about 8-10 pages” and asked if it should be shortened.

“No,” Stone replied, “use as much space as you need to tell the story fully but be certain to include your leader ship [sic] for Trump prominently.”

Greenberg almost immediately responded that he had “killed” himself for Trump. “And I’ve killed my self [sic] for Matt,” he said.

 

roger stone headshot

Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone caught allegedly seeking $250,000 bribe to get Trump to pardon Matt Gaetz pal Joel Greenberg, Bill Palmer, right, April 29, 2021. This evening the Daily Beast broke the bill palmerbombshell that Joel Greenberg wrote a letter confessing that he and Matt Gaetz both had sex with an underage girl. If Greenberg’s claims can be substantiated, then Gaetz will go to prison for sure. But it turns out Gaetz may not be the only one.

bill palmer report logo headerTwo weeks ago it was reported that Roger Stone, shown above, was hanging out with Greenberg and Gaetz, at Greenberg’s hotel, during the weekend that Greenberg allegedly paid for sex with an underage girl. Then a week ago it was reported that Gaetz paid Stone $5,000 in nonsensical consulting fees, which was a red flag given that Stone is apparently a material witness in the case against Gaetz.Now the Daily Beast is reporting that in late 2020, Joel Greenberg offered Roger Stone $250,000 to convince Donald Trump to pardon Greenberg and Gaetz. Stone replied that “I hope you are prepared to wire me $250,000 because I am feeling confident.” Greenberg committed a crime by offering to pay for a pardon, and Stone committed a crime by acknowledging that he wanted to get paid if he was able to make the pardon happen.

Roger Stone is claiming that the $250,000 was a legal retainer, and that he declined it. But Stone isn’t a lawyer, so this was obviously not a retainer, and the text messages show that Stone made clear that he wanted the money.

Will Stone now claim that he was merely joking, or that his text messages have been fabricated by someone on the other end? This just keeps getting uglier for him.

 

 U. S. Insurrections, Domestic Terrorism 

ali akbar alexander stop the steal

Proof via Substack, Investigative Commentary: Did Convicted Felon, Violent Insurrectionist, and Stop the Steal Leader Ali Alexander Say His Group "Owns" the GOP State Legislature in Arizona—Which seth abramson headshotNow Holds All Maricopa County Ballots? Seth Abramson, left, April 29, 2021. It's a desperately important question, now that Republican legislators in Arizona have hired a highly dubious Florida outfit to search for "voter fraud" in the 2020 election.

It's a desperately important question, now that Republican legislators in Arizona have hired a highly dubious Florida outfit to search for "voter fraud" in the 2020 election.

seth abramson proof logoWhat’s happening in Arizona right now is genuinely scary. You can read all about it from the Associated Press here. The question you may have, one you’re done reading, is whether the Arizona legislature—at least its Republican components—is “owned” by an insurrectionist criminal enterprise (Stop the Steal) now under the leadership of Ali Alexander, an unscrupulous radical Trumpist who’s currently hiding from the FBI.

{Note: Proof previously covered this pressing state-level issue in this recent article.}

You’d want to know all this as a way of determining whether 2020 ballots in a critical battleground state are currently in the possession of individuals committed to Trump’s “Big Lie”—and finding “voter fraud” in Arizona even if it doesn’t exist. The purpose of doing so? According to former crack addict, current insurrectionist, and longtime Stop the Steal mega-donor Michael Lindell, their chief goal is to reinstall Donald Trump in the White House by August of 2021 and destroy Joe Biden’s administration entirely.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

charles herbster djt resized facebook

 seth abramson headshotProof via Substack, Investigation/ Commentary: Insurrectionist Nebraska Gubernatorial Candidate and Future Federal Witness Charles W. Herbster, Flanked By Former Trump Campaign Managers, Publicly Swears Fealty to Trump, Seth Abramson, left, April 29, 2021. Trump dispatched his chief propagandists to Nebraska—with the result that the ex-POTUS has extracted a seth abramson proof logopublic loyalty oath from a man who could testify against him in a federal criminal prosecution.

Has the most infamous witness tamperer in U.S. political history—Donald Trump—just struck again? It certainly looks that way.

Put bluntly, why else would both Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign manager and his 2020 presidential campaign manager now be barnstorming Nebraska with an obscure Republican gubernatorial candidate, Charles Herbster, shown at right above, more than a year before the GOP primary there?

washington post logoWashington Post, In Whitmer kidnapping plot, extremists also wanted to blow up a bridge, feds say, Jaclyn Peiser, April 29, 2021.  Last September, as two would-be kidnappers made their way to the vacation home of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), right, for nighttime surveillance, the pair made a pit stop at a nearby highway bridge, according to prosecutors.

gretchen whitmer o smile CustomThen the two members of an extremist anti-government group, Adam Fox and Barry Croft, allegedly looked for the optimal spot to “mount an explosive charge” underneath — all so they could blow the bridge up to stall police trying to reach Whitmer’s home.

The kidnapping plot never came to fruition, as Fox, 40, Croft, 45, and other extremist group members were arrested and charged in October. Now, the pair and one other defendant, Daniel Harris, 23, face new charges, including conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction and federal firearm violations, in the newly detailed scheme to explode the bridge.

“The defendants engaged in domestic terrorism,” said an indictment filed on Wednesday after a grand jury in the Western District of Michigan court added the new charges.

Lawyers for the defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Federal prosecutors rarely distinguish violence or threats from extremists in the United States as domestic terrorism because there is technically no federal domestic terrorism law. But after the insurrection on Jan. 6, and amid a rise in threats from right-wing extremists and white supremacist groups, the Justice Department has signaled a new push toward battling domestic terrorism. 

brian sicknick

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors release video of rioters spraying Officer Sicknick in Capitol attack, Spencer S. Hsu, Aaron C. Davis, Dalton Bennett, Joyce Sohyun Lee and Sarah Cahlan, April 29, 2021. The video has been played in federal court at hearings for men charged with assaulting Sicknick, above, by spraying a chemical irritant.

Julian Elie Khater, 32, of Pennsylvania, and George Pierre Tanios, 39, of W.Va. are charged with assault on a federal officer with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to impede or injure an officer and other related counts. Neither man is charged in Sicknick’s death, which the D.C. medical examiner’s office concluded was the result of strokes.

The videos show the moments when Sicknick was sprayed and capture him trying to wash his eyes after being hit.Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani’s insurance, Bill Palmer, right, April 29, 2021. Back when the Feds appeared to be aggressively closing in on Rudy Giuliani a year and a half ago, he was asked during a TV bill palmerinterview if he was afraid that Donald Trump would leave him twisting in the wind. Giuliani responded that he had “insurance” in case that happened. Sure enough, the criminal case against Giuliani never did close in on him – until now.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s the thing. Rudy never sought a pardon before Trump left office, and now Trump can’t help him (if there were a “secret” pardon in place all this time, there’s no way it would hold up legally). So Rudy is simply screwed. If he still has insurance against Trump, can it possibly still be worth anything? It’s not as if Rudy can use it to blackmail Trump into pardoning him or making the DOJ case go away.

But Rudy may still have one way to use his “insurance” if he does indeed have such a thing. Rudy’s only way out of this mess is to cut a plea deal against everyone else involved, including Donald Trump. In such case Trump would be tempted to use whatever dirt he has on Rudy to try to blackmail Rudy into not flipping on him. In turn, if Rudy has even uglier dirt on Trump, he could use it to get Trump to back off from blackmailing him.

One way or the other, this is likely to get ugly between Giuliani and Trump. Giuliani will end up with a de facto life sentence in prison unless he flips on Trump. These two men will likely end up playing a game of chicken with each other ahead of any such deal, and they could end up leaking portions of the dirt they have on each other, in the hope of getting the other to back down.

1100 Pennsylvania Ave., Investigative Commentary: Conspiracy theorist confab returning to Doral, Zach Everson, April 29, 2021. Trump pardon recipients Flynn and D’Souza headlining AMPFest 2021; previous renewals featured Proud Boys leader, fake video of Trump shooting reporters

A conference that in the past has featured anti-vaxxers, Qanon promoters, and top officials in the Trump Administration is returning to one of former President Donald J. Trump’s properties.

Earlier this month, the pro-Trump American Priority announced its AMPFest would return to Trump Doral in October, where it was held in 2019 and 2020. Featured speakers so far include Trump pardon recipients former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and conservative auteur Dinesh D’Souza.

Tickets to AMPFest21 cost $450 to $3,500, while rooms at Doral start at an $209 a night. The Trump Spa also is offering AMPFest21 attendees $20 off all spa services of 60 minutes or longer. Sponsorship levels run from $12,500 to $60,000. Trump’s share of the revenue at Doral in 2020 declined 42 percent compared with 2019 according to his financial disclosures

The 2020 edition of AMPFest featured appearances by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), the freshly pardoned Roger Stone, and Proud Boys chair Enrique Tarrio. 2019 highlights included former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a fake video of Trump shooting up his critics and members of the media (as reported by Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman for The New York Times), and attendees chanting for “war!” (as Alice Wilder reported for ProPublica and WNYC’s Trump, Inc.).

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump supporter found guilty of threatening to kill members of Congress after Jan. 6 insurrection, Shayna Jacobs, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). Brendan Hunt, an enthusiastic Trump supporter who called for killing members of Congress days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, was found guilty Wednesday of making a death threat against elected officials.

It took the jury in his case about three hours to reach a verdict, finding that comments Hunt, right, made in a disturbing video posted online two days after the U.S. Capitol riot amounted to a genuine threat to murder elected officials in Washington.

He faces up to 10 years in prison.

brendan huntThe jury also concluded that menacing social media posts Hunt made in 2020 — including one directed at Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), then the Senate minority leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — did not rise to the level of criminality.

Trial opens for Trump supporter accused of threatening Democrats in case tied to Jan. 6 insurrection

Hunt, 37, was charged with one count of making a threat to assault and murder a United States official. He was arrested Jan. 19, a day before President Biden’s inauguration, after the FBI received a tip about his video, titled “KILL YOUR SENATORS: Slaughter them all.” The clip had been posted on BitChute, a hosting site popular with far-right conservatives, after the deadly riot in Washington.

The case centered on several disturbing social media posts and uploads that Hunt’s lawyers said were removed from the Internet before his arrest. The defense also argued that the elected officials he targeted were not aware of his comments at the time.

Hunt did not participate in the Capitol riot, nor did he contact their offices or tag the lawmakers’ social media accounts in any of his controversial posts, according to testimony and evidence.

“The fact that they didn’t see any of those posts because he aimed it at them, because he sent it to them, that’s reason to doubt,” Hunt’s attorney Leticia Olivera argued in summations.

Trump supporter argues alleged death threats against leading Democrats were fueled by pandemic boredom

Hunt’s prosecution in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn has been seen as a test of how far violent speech can go before it crosses a line into criminality. His lawyers argued that his comments, made from his Queens home, were constitutionally protected and that, while offensive, they were not legitimate threats.

Prosecutors said at the trial that Hunt’s remarks were specific. He offered detailed descriptions of how he wanted to end the lives of the people he claimed were complicit in “stealing” the election from former president Donald Trump. To support the case, the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn offered evidence that appeared to illustrate Hunt’s deeply rooted racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic beliefs.

Hunt took the witness stand in his defense Tuesday, telling the jury he was not to be taken seriously when he talked about gunning down elected officials. In his testimony, he said his comments were in line with “this sort of rhetoric going on at the time” on the Internet.

 

Biden Address To Congress

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Top 5 takeaways from Biden’s American Families Plan, Heather Long, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). Biden has an ambitious plan that would greatly expand the U.S. government’s role in daily life. It will be tough to pass — and make the changes permanent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tim Scott seeks to balance role as dealmaker on policing and critic of Biden agenda in GOP response, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). When Sen. Tim Scott delivers Tim Scottthe GOP response to President Biden’s first address to Congress on Wednesday night, he will again find himself trying to manage a tricky political balancing act.

republican elephant logoAs the Senate’s only Black Republican, Scott (S.C.) loyally defended Donald Trump’s policies while speaking out against some of his most egregious statements. For the past year, he has led the difficult task of negotiating police reform legislation with Democrats. Now, with the GOP still reckoning with its path back to power and its approach to race, he has been tapped by party leaders to make the case against a popular new president.

A decade into his congressional career, the 55-year-old raised by a single mother in a poor suburb of Charleston has become a figure of considerable respect and power inside the Senate, where he has stayed above many of the nasty internal fights racking the post-Trump GOP.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden’s big bet: That he can remake economy with no bad side effects, Heather Long, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). With the American Families Plan and others, Biden gambles that he can improve lives without unleashing years of inflation, slower growth and less incentive to work

President Biden, fresh off a victory on a large stimulus package, is pitching another $4 trillion in spending to make bold investments in the nation’s physical infrastructure and human capital in an effort that he says will spur growth, create a more equitable economy and make the United States more competitive with China — without any negative side effects.

It’s an experiment that hasn’t been tested in the modern U.S. economy. This year and next, forecasters are predicting a burst in hiring and growth that will rapidly heal most financial wounds from the pandemic. But how Biden’s big tax and spending proposals would affect the economic recovery for years to come is much debated.

 washington post logoWashington Post, White House proposes $1.8 trillion package of education, safety-net programs, Jeff Stein, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Laura Meckler and Caroline Kitchener, April 28, 2021. Universal preschool and free community college are among the initiatives that would be paid for by tax increases and IRS changes, but the plan faces strong resistance from Republicans.

joe biden oThe White House on Wednesday unveiled a $1.8 trillion spending and tax plan aimed at dramatically expanding access to education and safety-net programs for families, the latest effort by President Biden to try to turn some of his campaign promises into new policy.

The package cannot be implemented without congressional approval, and many Republicans have offered a cool reception to the scope of tax increases and spending that Biden has tried to advance. But the White House’s new “American Families Plan” provides Congress with details of the president’s domestic agenda, setting down markers for negotiations later this year.

Biden’s plan proposes a suite of domestic policies that would collectively represent a marked change in how Americans interact with the federal government.

  • Washington Post, What’s in the spending plan

  

Virus Victims, Responses 

ny times logoNew York Times, After a Year of Loss, South America Suffers Worst Death Tolls Yet, Julie Turkewitz and Mitra Taj ,April 29, 2021. As vaccinations mount in wealthy countries, the crisis in Latin America — and in South America in particular — is taking an alarming turn for the worse.

Latin America accounted for 35 percent of global coronavirus deaths last week, despite having just 8 percent of the population, according to Times data.
The recent surge could potentially threaten the progress made well beyond the region’s borders. In the capital of Colombia, Bogotá, the mayor is warning residents to brace for “the worst two weeks of our lives.”

Uruguay, once lauded as a model for keeping the coronavirus under control, now has one of the highest death rates in the world, while the grim daily tallies of the dead have hit records in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Peru in recent days.

Even Venezuela, where the authoritarian government is notorious for hiding health statistics and any suggestion of disarray, says that coronavirus deaths are up 86 percent since January.

As vaccinations mount in some of the world’s wealthiest countries and people cautiously envision life after the pandemic, the crisis in Latin America — and in South America in particular — is taking an alarming turn for the worse, potentially threatening the progress made well beyond its borders

washington post logoWashington Post, 142.7 million vaccinated, as of April 29, 2021, is the number of people who have received at least one dose of the vaccine, covering 53.4 % of the eligible population,16 and older and 43 % of the total population. See about your state.

covad 19 photo.jpg Custom 2Worldometer, World & U.S. Coronavirus Case Totals (updated: April 29, 2021, with some governments reporting slightly lower numbers than the totals here):

World Cases: 149,438,606, Deaths: 3,151,867
U.S. Cases:     32,927,091, Deaths:     587,384
India Cases:    17,997,267, Deaths:     201,187
Brazil Cases:   14,446,541, Deaths:     395,324

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden delivered on vaccines. Now the hard part — getting people to get them, Annie Linskey, April 29, 2021. Americans’ vaccine hesitancy and desperate needs overseas are posing greater challenges. President Biden offered voters a singular promise when he campaigned for the White House: He would do a better job on the coronavirus pandemic than Donald Trump.

Accepting the Democratic presidential nomination in August, he pledged that “the first step I will take will be to get control of the virus that’s ruined so many lives.” Declaring victory three months later, he said, “I will spare no effort — or commitment — to turn this pandemic around.”

Now, 100 days into his presidency, Biden can point to a host of figures showing that he has kept his promise, from plunging death rates to soaring vaccination numbers. But the hard part may be just beginning, as the mission switches from churning out vaccines to getting people to actually get them — especially the reluctant, the remote and the disadvantaged.

washington post logoWashington Post, The CDC changed its mask guidance for vaccinated Americans. Other countries are taking different approaches, Claire Parker, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). With some countries rapidly inoculating their populations against the coronavirus, and pandemic fatigue deepening, a common question has reverberated around the world: When can the masks come off?

In the United States, fully vaccinated individuals can now leave their masks behind when walking, jogging, biking or dining with friends outdoors, federal officials said Tuesday. Ditching a mask at small cdc logo Customoutdoor gatherings is also deemed safe, but the CDC still recommends masks for indoor activities.

More than 52 percent of eligible people in the United States have received at least one shot, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance followed calls from public health experts to relax mask mandates outdoors, where transmission is less likely. But officials warned that crowded outdoor events — like sporting events and concerts — are still dangerous, so both vaccinated and unvaccinated attendees should keep their masks on.

Studies show that wearing masks is one of the most effective ways to reduce coronavirus transmission. Some public health experts argue that societal immunity isn’t yet high enough to take them off — particularly since vaccines are not 100 percent effective and questions remain about whether vaccinated people can transmit the virus. Some experts suggest that wearing a mask even if vaccinated can send a powerful signal to unvaccinated individuals — such as children — to do the same.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vaccine Skepticism Is Rooted in Beliefs, Not Ignorance, Sabrina Tavernise, April 29, 2021. Identifying the psychological traits behind skepticism may help officials convince the sizable minority of Americans who don’t want a coronavirus vaccine.

For years, scientists and doctors have treated vaccine skepticism as a knowledge problem. If patients were hesitant to get vaccinated, the thinking went, they simply needed more information.

But as public health officials now work to convince Americans to get Covid-19 vaccines as quickly as possible, new social science research suggests that a set of deeply held beliefs is at the heart of many people’s resistance, complicating efforts to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control.

About a third of American adults are still resisting vaccines. Polling shows that Republicans make up a substantial part of that group. But political polarization is only part of the story.

In recent years, epidemiologists have teamed up with social psychologists to look more deeply into the “why” behind vaccine hesitancy. They wanted to find out whether there was anything that vaccine skeptics had in common, in order to better understand how to persuade them.

They borrowed a concept from social psychology — the idea that a small set of moral intuitions forms the foundations upon which complex moral worldviews are constructed — and applied it to their study of vaccine skepticism.

What they discovered was a clear set of psychological traits offering a new lens through which to understand skepticism — and potentially new tools for public health officials scrambling to try to persuade people to get vaccinated.

Skeptics were much more likely than nonskeptics to have a highly developed sensitivity for liberty — the rights of individuals — and to have less deference to those in positions of power.

Skeptics were also twice as likely to care a lot about the “purity” of their bodies and their minds. They disapprove of things they consider disgusting, and the mind-set defies neat categorization: It could be religious — halal or kosher — or entirely secular, like people who care deeply about toxins in foods or in the environment.

Scientists have found similar patterns among skeptics in Australia and Israel, and in a broad sample of vaccine-hesitant people in 24 countries in 2018.

“At the root are these moral intuitions — these gut feelings — and they are very strong,” said Jeff Huntsinger, a social psychologist at Loyola University Chicago who studies emotion and decision-making and collaborated with Dr. Omer’s team. “It’s very hard to override them with facts and information. You can’t reason with them in that way.”

These qualities tend to predominate among conservatives but they are present among liberals too. They are also present among people with no politics at all.

Conspiratorial thinking is another predictor of vaccine hesitancy, according to the 2018 study. Conspiracy theories can be comforting, a way to get one’s bearings during rapid change in the culture or the economy, by providing narratives that bring order. They are finding fertile ground because of a decades-long decline in trust in government, and a sharp rise in inequality that has led to a sense, among many Americans, that the government is no longer working on their behalf.

 

Jobs, Governance, Politics

ny times logopaul krugmanNew York Times, Opinion: Helping Families Will Help Create Jobs, Paul Krugman, April 29, 2021. Parents in other rich countries can take paid work because they have affordable child care. In the U.S. such care is prohibitively expensive.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Economy Rebounds as Pain Caused by Pandemic Eases, Staff reports, April 29, 2021. The country’s G.D.P. grew 1.6 percent in the first quarter, a 6.4 percent annual rate, on its way to returning to pre-pandemic levels by summer.

The economy shook off some lingering effects of the pandemic as spending grew, bolstered by stimulus and an easing of restrictions.

Looking ahead, economists said they expected to see even better numbers this quarter.

“It’s good news, but the better news is coming,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “There’s nothing in this report that makes me think the economy won’t grow at a gangbusters pace in the second and third quarter.”

The expansion last quarter was spurred by stimulus checks, he said, which quickly translated into purchases of durable goods like cars and household appliances.

ny times logoNew York Times, Florida G.O.P. Passes Voting Limits in Broad Elections Bill, Patricia Mazzei and Nick Corasaniti, April 29, 2021. The election overhaul bill in one of America’s most critical battlegrounds adds to a national Republican push to reduce voting access.

Republicans in the Florida Legislature passed an election overhaul bill on Thursday that is set to usher in a host of voting restrictions in one of the most critical battleground states in the country, adding to the national push by G.O.P. state lawmakers to reduce voting access.

The bill makes Florida the first major swing state won by former President Donald J. Trump to pass significant voting limits and reflects Republicans’ determination to reshape electoral systems even in states where they have been ascendant. Mr. Trump carried the state last year by more than three percentage points, other Republicans also performed strongly, and the party raised new hopes of its ability to appeal to Latino voters.

But Republicans in Florida argued that its elections needed to be more secure, despite the fact that voting unfolded smoothly in 2020 and arguments by Democrats and voting rights experts that some of the new measures would disproportionately affect voters of color. Now the state is on the verge of weakening key parts of an extensive voting infrastructure that was slowly constructed after the state’s chaotic 2000 election and was rapidly enlarged last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new bill would limit the use of drop boxes; add more identification requirements for those requesting absentee ballots; require voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, rather than receive them automatically through an absentee voting list; limit who could collect and drop off ballots; and further empower partisan observers during the ballot-counting process. The legislation would also expand a current rule that prohibits outside groups from providing items “with the intent to influence” voters within a 150-foot radius of a polling location.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden, in Georgia to Promote Economic Agenda, Visits Carter, Jim Tankersley, April 29, 2021.  A day after his first address to Congress and set to mark his 100th day in office, President Biden met with former President Carter. President Biden visited former President Jimmy Carter, an old friend, as he traveled to Georgia on Thursday to pitch his $4 trillion economic agenda.

A day after using his first address to Congress to urge swift passage of his plans to spend heavily on infrastructure, child care, paid leave and other efforts meant to bolster economic competitiveness, Mr. Biden held a drive-in car rally in Duluth, Ga., for his 100th day in office.

The president promoted the $1.9 trillion economic aid bill he signed into law in March and pitched the two-part plan for longer-term investments in the economy that he has rolled out over the past two weeks. His audience included people in about 315 cars. His remarks were briefly interrupted by protesters calling on him to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Mr. Biden thanked Georgia voters for electing Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who tipped the balance of the chamber to Democrats in January and enabled him to pass a far more ambitious economic rescue package after taking office than what would most likely have been possible with a divided Congress.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats break with White House to push Medicare expansion, Tony Romm and Seung Min Kim, April 29, 2021. Early pledges from party lawmakers to include the expansion as part of President Biden’s families plan threatened to create more political tension around a package that is already facing no shortage of it.

Roughly 100 House and Senate Democrats led by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) publicly had encouraged Biden in recent days to include the overhaul as part of his latest package, known as the “American Families Plan,” which proposes major investments in the country’s safety net programs. Yet Biden opted only to propose additional subsidies for Americans who purchase their health insurance, disappointing many lawmakers who still otherwise support the White House’s blueprint

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Republicans view 2017 tax law the way Democrats view Obamacare: As a signature achievement they will fight to keep, Paul Kane, April 29, 2021. Republicans have taken an aggressive approach to President Biden’s plans to finance his roughly $6 trillion agenda: Don’t mess with their 2017 tax cuts.

roger wicker twitterEven before Biden formally unveiled his plans, Republicans sent a message that they consider the 2017 law that slashed personal and corporate tax rates as a sacrosanct measure that they’ve no intention of gutting.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) explained this ethos in unusually blunt fashion when he returned to the Capitol on April 12 after Biden met with a small bipartisan group of lawmakers involved in infrastructure issues, telling the group he was targeting the very taxes that Republicans slashed four years ago.

“Clearly there are parts of his program that are non-starters for Republicans. The pay-for, I view the pay-for as a problem,” Wicker told reporters in the Capitol after that meeting. “I view the 2017 tax bill as one of my signature achievements in my entire career.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Tracking Biden appointees, Harry Stevens and Madison Walls, April 29, 2021. President Biden’s transition has been slower than previous ones. We are tracking 789 government positions among about 1,200 that require Senate confirmation.

  • omb logo management and budget seal Custom372 positions have no Biden nominee.
  • 48 picks are awaiting formal nomination.
  • 86 nominees are being considered by the Senate.
  • 38 have been confirmed by the Senate.
  • Additionally, we have identified 245 appointees so far who are serving in termed positions or who were held over from previous administrations.

 

U.S. Crime, Police, Race, Courts

ny times logoNew York Times, A Sharp Divide at the Supreme Court Over a One-Letter Word, Adam Liptak,  April 29, 2021. In an immigration ruling that scrambled the usual alliances, the justices differed over the significance of the article “a.”The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the government must comply strictly with a requirement that immigrants receive detailed notices about their deportation hearings.

The 6-to-3 decision featured unusual alliances, with the three conservative justices most committed to interpreting statutes according to their plain words — Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett — joining the court’s three-member liberal wing to form a majority.

The case concerned a 1996 federal law that allows immigrants subject to deportation to apply to stay in the country if they meet various criteria, including that they had been continuously present for at least 10 years. The law stops that time from accruing once immigrants receive “a notice to appear” for a deportation hearing listing various kinds of information, including the nature of the proceeding and when and where it will take place.

The question in the case was whether the government had to provide all of the information at once or could do so piecemeal. Justice Gorsuch, writing for the majority, said the statute’s use of the article “a” in “a notice to appear” was crucial.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Declines Immediate Release of Video in North Carolina Shooting, Richard Fausset and Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, April 29, 2021 (print ed.). Andrew Brown Jr. was killed last week by sheriff’s deputies. The ruling delays for at least 30 days the release of the footage in the shooting of Andrew Brown Jr., who was killed last week by the county sheriff’s deputies.
A North Carolina judge on Wednesday declined to immediately release the body-camera footage in the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr., agreeing with a prosecutor to delay its public dissemination for at least 30 days.

The Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office and lawyers for a group of media outlets, including The New York Times, petitioned Judge Jeff Foster to release the videos in a hearing that came after days of demands by protesters and elected officials to make the footage public.

Judge Foster denied the release altogether to the media outlets, saying they did not have legal standing to request the videos, but ruled that the authorities must show the footage to Mr. Brown’s adult son, Khalil Ferebee, and his immediate family within one degree of kinship, plus one lawyer licensed to practice law in the state of North Carolina. The authorities must do so within 10 days.

In arguments before Judge Foster, the local prosecutor, Robert Andrew Womble, said the body-camera footage shows that Mr. Brown struck deputies with his car while trying to escape and that deputies did not begin firing until after that moment.

Members of Mr. Brown’s family, plus one of the family’s lawyers, were shown 20 seconds of redacted footage on Monday. Chantel Cherry-Lassiter, the lawyer, said the footage showed Mr. Brown sitting inside his car, hands “firmly on the wheel,” when deputies began shooting.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Inside the ‘Cult-Like’ Camp Where Women Had to Hug Abusers, Pilar Melendez, April 29, 2021. Multiple women have come forward to say famed psychic Edgar Cayce’s long-running summer camp in Virginia was a hotbed for pedophilia.

Daily Beast, Women Who ‘Found’ Lady Gaga’s Bulldogs Arrested Along With Alleged Dognappers, Blake Montgomery, April 29, 2021. The dognappers have been charged with robbery and attempted murder for shooting the singer’s dog walker.

daily beast logoThe people who allegedly stole Lady Gaga’s two French Bulldogs in February and opened fire on her dog walker have been arrested.

The woman who dropped the Frenchies off in an alley just days after their disappearance was also arrested, with footage of the pooches’ return becoming key evidence. Police had advised the pop star not to pay the $500,000 reward she had advertised for Gustav and Koji’s repatriation.

TMZ first reported the news, and the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed to The Daily Beast that five people were arrested in total.

On February 24, as Lady Gaga, real name Stefani Germanotta, was in Italy working on a film, multiple people pulled up beside her dog walker Ryan Fischer, told him to give up the pooches, and, when he would not, shot him several times.

Fischer spent weeks in the hospital but has since been discharged with a good prognosis. French Bulldogs have become a hot commodity in recent years, with a single pup fetching up to $10,000.

 

World News

ny times logoNew York Times, Navalny’s Network Crumbling Under Kremlin Pressure, Anton Troianovski, April 29, 2021. Associates of Aleksei A. Navalny, right, said they were shutting down their nationwide network of regional offices on Thursday even as the imprisoned Russian opposition leader vowed, in an online court appearance, to keep fighting the “emperor with no clothes” in the Kremlin.

alexey navalny 2017Disbanding Mr. Navalny’s 40 regional offices became inevitable in recent weeks, an aide to Mr. Navalny said, amid the Kremlin’s latest efforts to stifle political dissent, adding that some of the offices may continue to operate as independent entities. Prosecutors are seeking to have Mr. Navalny’s movement declared an extremist organization. A Moscow court this week Russian Flagordered Mr. Navalny’s groups to halt all public activity, including participating in political campaigns or referendums pending a final ruling in the extremism case.

“Alas, we must be honest: it’s impossible to work under these conditions,” the aide to Mr. Navalny, Leonid Volkov, said in a YouTube video, warning that continuing to operate would expose supporters of the opposition leader to criminal prosecution. “We are officially disbanding the network of Navalny offices.”

The demise of Mr. Navalny’s network of regional offices — from Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea to Vladivostok on the Pacific — represents the end of an era in Russian politics, when the opposition leader had controlled the country’s most formidable nationwide political infrastructure dedicated to toppling President Vladimir V. Putin.

ny times logoNew York Times, Dozens Dead in Stampede at Religious Celebration in Israel, Isabel Kershner and Eric Nagourney, April 29, 2021. An estimated 100,000 people had gathered to celebrate the holiday Lag b’Omer. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the incident a “terrible disaster.”

Israel FlagA stampede at a mountainside religious celebration in Israel that drew tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews has left dozens dead and scores more injured.

By some estimates, about 100,000 people were crammed together late Thursday to celebrate a holiday on Mount Meron in northern Israel, despite warnings from the authorities about the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

The deadly crush began after some revelers started fleeing the scene. The Magen David Adom ambulance service later reported that 103 people had been injured.

As dawn broke in Israel, the newspapers Haaretz and The Times of Israel were reporting that at least 44 people had been killed. Haaretz said more than 50 others had been injured and that 20 of them were in critical condition. A video said to have been taken right before the stampede showed a mass of people in ecstatic celebration, moving almost as one to the music.

The pilgrimage was held despite warnings from Israeli health officials that it could become a Covid-19 superspreader event. That is what appears to have happened in India this month when a vast Hindu celebration was permitted to take place.

April 28

Top Headlines  

 

 Biden Address To Congress

  

U.S. Political Probes, Commentaries

 

Virus Victims, Responses

 

U.S. Politics, Governance  

 

U.S. Capitol Insurrection, Riot

 

More On U.S. Crime, Courts, Race

 

U.S. Media News

 

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joe biden congressional speach resized 4 28 21

President Biden delivered his first address to Congress on April 28, with the historic background of two women in the traditional leadership for such addresses: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at right, the host, and Vice President Kamala Harris. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden pitches ambitious investment and tax plans as he recasts role of government, John Wagner, Eugene Scott, Colby Itkowitz, Reis Thebault, Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan, April 28, 2021. Biden frequently went off script in Washington’s most choreographed event.

‘America is on the move again,’ president tells nation in speech; Biden urges Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act by anniversary of Floyd’s death next month; Biden calls to ‘end democratic donkey logoour exhausting war over immigration;’ Photos: The scene at President Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress.

President Biden on Wednesday pitched his ambitious, trillion-dollar-plus investment and tax plans as he recast the role of government in American lives. He promoted his agenda in a prime-time address to the nation and a slimmed-down joint session of Congress as the pandemic imposed health restrictions in the House chamber with smaller number of lawmakers.

In the Republican response to the president’s speech, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will credit the Trump administration and the GOP for coronavirus vaccines and the economic rebound, insisting that Biden is reaping the benefits. “This administration inherited a tide that had already turned,” Scott will say, according to excerpts of his speech.

Trump attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, center, former President Trump, left, and Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky (file photos). 

Trump attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, center, former President Trump, left, and Ukraine President Vlodomyr Zelensky (file photos). 

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Investigators Search Rudy Giuliani’s Apartment and Office, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Maggie Haberman, April 28, 2021. Prosecutors obtained the search warrants as part of an investigation into whether Mr. Giuliani broke lobbying laws as President Trump’s personal lawyer. The search warrants mark a major turning point in the long-running investigation against Rudy Giuliani.Federal investigators in Manhattan executed search warrants early Wednesday at the home and office of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who became President Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer, stepping up a criminal investigation into Mr. Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, three people with knowledge of the investigation said.

Justice Department log circularThe investigators seized Mr. Giuliani’s electronic devices and searched his apartment on Madison Avenue and his office on Park Avenue at about 6 a.m., two of the people said.

The execution of search warrants is an extraordinary action for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president. It was a major development in the long-running investigation into Mr. Giuliani and a remarkable moment in his long arc as a public figure.

As mayor, Mr. Giuliani won national recognition for steering New York through the dark days after the Sept. 11 attacks, and earlier in his career, he led the same U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan that is investigating him now, earning a reputation as a hard-charging prosecutor who took on organized crime and corrupt politicians.
In recent years, however, his image has been tarred by his effort to help Mr. Trump to dig up dirt in Ukraine on President Biden’s son and Mr. Trump’s repeated attempts in court to overturn the results of the 2020 election with baseless claims of widespread fraud.

Mr. Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert J. Costello, called the searches unnecessary because his client had offered to answer prosecutors’s questions, except those regarding Mr. Giuliani’s privileged communications with the former president.

“What they did today was legal thuggery,” Mr. Costello said. “Why would you do this to anyone, let alone someone who was the associate attorney general, United States attorney, the mayor of New York City and the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States.”

The federal authorities have largely focused on whether Mr. Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs, who at the time were helping Mr. Giuliani search for damaging information on Mr. Trump’s political rivals, including Mr. Biden, who was then a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

F.B.I. agents also executed a search warrant on Wednesday morning at the Washington-area home of Victoria Toensing, a lawyer close to Mr. Giuliani who had dealings with several Ukrainians involved in the hunt for information on the Bidens, according to people with knowledge of that warrant. The warrant was for her cellphone.

Ms. Toensing, a former Justice Department official, has also represented Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch under indictment in the United States whose help Mr. Giuliani sought.

The investigation of Mr. Giuliani grew out of a case against two Soviet-born men who aided his mission in Ukraine to unearth damaging information about Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of an energy company there. Prosecutors charged the men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and two others with unrelated crimes in 2019, and a trial is scheduled for October.

Prosecutors have examined, among other things, Mr. Giuliani’s potential business dealings in Ukraine and his role in pushing the Trump administration to oust the American ambassador to the country, a subject of testimony at Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Feds raid Rudy Giuliani’s home – and Donald Trump should be quaking in his boots, Bill Palmer, right, April 28, 2021. This morning the Feds raided Rudy Giuliani’s home in New York bill palmerCity and seized pretty much everything. They didn’t arrest him, but it’s now clear that that’s coming. This is not only bad news for Rudy, it’s bad news for Donald Trump.

Federal criminal investigations tend to take a very long time even when they remain active. But based on how the case against Rudy was reportedly heating up about a year and a half ago, only for nothing to happen since, it’s now clear that the case was on pause until Trump was gone – and now it’s back in action with a vengeance.

bill palmer report logo headerIt’s not clear if the case was on pause because the Feds wanted to wait until after Trump was out of position to pardon Giuliani, or if Bill Barr forced the Feds to put the case on ice. Either way, the New York Times says today’s raid is part of the same dirty foreign money case that the Feds have been building against Rudy since at least 2019.

Here’s the thing about today’s raid. The Feds would already need to have really damning evidence in hand against Giuliani in order to obtain this kind of search and seizure warrant. In other words, they’ve already got him nailed. In fact the Feds have likely already obtained external copies of much of Rudy’s electronic communications that were seized today; this is partially about seeing if he’s tried to destroy that evidence on this end, and whether they can nail him for obstruction, which is an way easy to force him to realize he needs to cut a deal.

rudy giuliani recentSo now Rudy Giuliani, right, whose home has just been raided, whose devices have just been seized, and who ostensibly has just enough lawyer marbles left to know that he’s headed to prison, has to make a decision whether to cut a deal against Trump. Giuliani is 76 years old and in visibly worsening cognitive health; if he goes to prison for any length of time it’ll be a de facto life sentence. His only chance of not going to prison is if he helps send Trump to prison.

Here’s another thing to consider. If Merrick Garland’s DOJ has decided to reactivate the criminal case against Rudy Giuliani, then it’s surely decided to actively pursue criminal cases against all of the Trump era henchmen. This comes shortly after the DOJ filed a multimillion dollar suit against Roger Stone. Are we supposed to believe that the DOJ is now pursuing all of Trump’s henchmen, but not pursuing Trump? It’s time for Trump to be quaking in his boots. This is in addition to the widely documented criminal cases against Trump in New York and Georgia.ahmaud arbery

ny times logoNew York Times, Suspects in Ahmaud Arbery’s Death Indicted on Federal Hate Crime Charges, Katie Benner, April 28, 2021. The charges are tied to the death of Mr. Arbery, above, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while jogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year.

Justice Department log circularThree Georgia men were indicted on federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges in connection with the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while georgia mapjogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year, the Justice Department announced on Wednesday.

The deadly encounter helped fuel nationwide racial justice protests last year, and the charges are the most significant hate crimes prosecution so far by the Biden administration, which has made civil rights protections a major priority.

The suspects — Travis McMichael, 35; his father, Gregory McMichael, 65; and William “Roddie” Bryan, 51 — were each charged with one count of interference with Mr. Arbery’s right to use a public street because of his race and with one count of attempted kidnapping.

The charges are tied to the death of Mr. Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was shot to death while jogging through a South Georgia neighborhood last year

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump supporter found guilty of threatening to kill members of Congress after Jan. 6 insurrection, Shayna Jacobs, April 28, 2021. Brendan Hunt, an enthusiastic Trump supporter who called for killing members of Congress days after the Jan. 6 insurrection, was found guilty Wednesday of making a death threat against elected officials.

It took the jury in his case about three hours to reach a verdict, finding that comments Hunt, right, made in a disturbing video posted online two days after the U.S. Capitol riot amounted to a genuine threat to murder elected officials in Washington.

He faces up to 10 years in prison.

brendan huntThe jury also concluded that menacing social media posts Hunt made in 2020 — including one directed at Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), then the Senate minority leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — did not rise to the level of criminality.

Trial opens for Trump supporter accused of threatening Democrats in case tied to Jan. 6 insurrection

Hunt, 37, was charged with one count of making a threat to assault and murder a United States official. He was arrested Jan. 19, a day before President Biden’s inauguration, after the FBI received a tip about his video, titled “KILL YOUR SENATORS: Slaughter them all.” The clip had been posted on BitChute, a hosting site popular with far-right conservatives, after the deadly riot in Washington.

The case centered on several disturbing social media posts and uploads that Hunt’s lawyers said were removed from the Internet before his arrest. The defense also argued that the elected officials he targeted were not aware of his comments at the time.

Hunt did not participate in the Capitol riot, nor did he contact their offices or tag the lawmakers’ social media accounts in any of his controversial posts, according to testimony and evidence.

“The fact that they didn’t see any of those posts because he aimed it at them, because he sent it to them, that’s reason to doubt,” Hunt’s attorney Leticia Olivera argued in summations.

Trump supporter argues alleged death threats against leading Democrats were fueled by pandemic boredom

Hunt’s prosecution in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn has been seen as a test of how far violent speech can go before it crosses a line into criminality. His lawyers argued that his comments, made from his Queens home, were constitutionally protected and that, while offensive, they were not legitimate threats.

Prosecutors said at the trial that Hunt’s remarks were specific. He offered detailed descriptions of how he wanted to end the lives of the people he claimed were complicit in “stealing” the election from former president Donald Trump. To support the case, the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn offered evidence that appeared to illustrate Hunt’s deeply rooted racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic beliefs.

Hunt took the witness stand in his defense Tuesday, telling the jury he was not to be taken seriously when he talked about gunning down elected officials. In his testimony, he said his comments were in line with “this sort of rhetoric going on at the time” on the Internet.

washington post logoWashington Post, As a candidate, Biden promised ‘results, not a revolution.’ Then covid changed everything, Ashley Parker, April 28, 2021 (print ed.).By the time Joe Biden ascended to the presidency, he was prepared to fundamentally overhaul the role of government in a nation battered by the coronavirus, racial inequity, economic woes and climate change.

By the time Biden ascended to the presidency, he had refashioned himself as a transformational leader — a president prepared to fundamentally overhaul the role of government in society on behalf of the nation’s working men and women.

The pandemic — which had killed half a million Americans by the beginning of his second month in office — provided an organizing principle for Biden’s presidency and a clear mission for him to manage. But the coronavirus also exposed deep-seated inequalities, from systemic racism to a fragile middle class, just one illness or missed paycheck away from free-fall.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Politics Live Updates: Biden To Address Congress, Staff Reports, April 28, 2021. President Biden, who will cross 100 days in office this week, will use his speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night to issue an urgent call for action as America recovers from a devastating pandemic.

On Biden’s agenda: unveiling plans for a vast expansion of the country’s child care system. A sparse audience in a locked-down Capitol will listen to Biden’s address.

ny times logoNew York Times, Officials Fear Spread of Virus as Migrants Go Untested at U.S. Border, Frances Robles and Miriam Jordan, April 28, 2021. The Border Patrol says it lacks the means to test people at crowded processing stations.

More than 170,000 migrants crossed the border in March — many coming from countries still grappling with high infection rates — but the Border Patrol is conducting no testing for the coronavirus during the several days that the newly arrived migrants are in U.S. custody except in cases where migrants show obvious symptoms

washington post logoWashington Post, India reports more than 360,000 covid-19 cases, a new global record, Erin Cunningham, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). In some cities, makeshift crematoriums have been erected to cope with the growing number of dead. Over the past week alone, according to official figures, more than 2,000 infected people have died in India every day.

India on Wednesday reported another record number of coronavirus cases and deaths, nudging its official covid-19 death toll past 200,000 as the virus coursed through urban centers and out into rural areas, leaving broken families and communities in its wake.

india flag mapIn a new gl